Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CPSIA BLOG-IN

The new law governing children's items and items that children use goes into effect on February 10. Today has been deemed CPSIA Blog-In Day by some Etsy sellers. While I'm not an Etsy seller yet, I aspire to be someday, so I thought I would join in on the Blog-In. Go here to see the original Etsy call-to-action. The following is directly from the blog-in details. I did not write it myself, but thought it was too good not to share. (The original authors encouraged bloggers to share it, I wouldn't otherwise.)


As parents and concerned citizens I’m sure most of us at one time or another have been confronted with the question of lead poisoning. But have you asked yourself what your government is doing to protect your children from lead contained in toys? The answer? They're banning toys, taking books from schools and libraries, hurting low income families, killing entrepreneurial spirit and risking putting the economy in an even greater depression than we've seen in decades. I'd like to introduce you to their solution: the CPSIA.

Do you know about the CPSIA? No? Then I ask you to take a few minutes to find out about it.

The CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of laws that will come into effect on 10 February, 2009 and will impact many, many people in a negative way. Make no mistake, this is very real. View it for yourself. If Forbes, the American Library Association and numerous other media are paying attention, perhaps you should too. 

How will these new laws affect you? Well, here are a few examples: 

To the Parents of Young Students:
Due to the new law, expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren't originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under 12.

To the Avid Reader:
Due to the new law, all children's books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them. That’s okay though, there's always television. Our children don’t need to learn the love of reading after all.
Article from the American Library Associationhttp://www.wo.ala.org/districtdispatch/?p=1322

To the Lover of All Things Handmade:
Due to the new law, you will now be given a cotton ball and an instruction manual so you can make it yourself since that blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it's passed testing. It won't even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.

To the Environmentalist:
Due to the new law, all items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can't sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can't even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.

To the Second-Hand Shopper:
Due to the new law, you will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for second hand. Many resale shops are eliminating children's items all together to avoid future lawsuits.

To the Entrepreneur:
Due to this new law, you will be forced to adhere to strict testing of your unique products or discontinue to make and/or sell them. Small businesses will be likely to be unable to afford the cost of testing and be forced to close up shop. Due to the current economic state, you'll have to hope for the best when it comes to finding a new job in Corporate America. 

To the Antique Toy Collector:
Due to the new law, you'd better start buying now because it's all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase. “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe.”http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123189645948879745.html

To the American Economy:
Already struggling under an economy that hasn’t been this weak in decades, the American economy will be hit harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake. 

To the Worldwide Economy:
Due to this new law, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses. 

If you think this is exaggerating, here is a recent article from Forbes
http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/16/cpsia-safety-toys-oped-cx_wo_0116olson.html

And for those of you prepared to be stupefied and boggled, The New Law
http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html

Did you know? If this upsets or alarms you, please react.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Imagination or just copying?

As I mentioned in my last post, I am interested in Waldorf philosophy, but I actually liked having some knowledge of pop culture growing up, and didn't feel limited by knowing about cartoon characters. My daughter doesn't recognize a lot of characters on sight, and definitely doesn't associate any specific storyline with any characters. I was pondering this yesterday when we were sitting in the play area of the McDonald's. It was the closest indoor play area to me, and we had been cooped up way too long in the cold weather. As we ate our lunch, I watched 4 little boys playing. They seemed to be about 3-5 years old. It became apparent that they were acting out scenes from Star Wars. I am probably overly-familiar with most Star Wars plots, but the  action didn't look familar. My thought at the time (and I still lean in this direction) is that they were acting out scenes from the Clone Wars. Since these are cartoons, some parents seem to think they are appropriate for all ages. One of the reasons I think they were acting out scenes and not making it up as they went along is that any time one of the boys varied from the "script" another boy would shout "No! that's not how it goes!"

So, my question is this: Is it impressive that they were able to remember complex plot lines in order to act them out in the play area of McDonald's or would it be far more impressive at their ages if they were acting out a story of their own making? (From what I could tell, the boys knew each other in sets of two. Each set appeared to be strangers to one other.) I'm leaning toward, gee, can't kids be allowed to be kids? Star Wars really isn't for the preschool set.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

natural toys vs. affordable toys

I've been trying off and on to write this post since August. I had recently started this blog, and then started reading other blogs and kind of got caught up in a whirlwind of "we have too many toys," "we have too much plastic," "I'm not raising my daughter naturally enough!" Et cetera. 

To set the stage, I need to explain that on my side, my daughter is so far the only grandchild. On my husband's side, she is (at least currently) the youngest of 3 and her cousins are nearly 7 and 4 years older than she is. So on both sides, we have doting aunts, uncles and grandparents and on one side, we have massive quantities of hand-me-down toys and clothes. I grew up with hand-me-downs and actually have always found them a helpful and inexpensive way of getting stylish clothing that I wouldn't have access to otherwise. Just like my mom before me, I'm a stay-at-home mom and I have to use my resources wisely. Hand-me-down and consignment/thrift work for me.

I grew up in a fairly natural way - we had a huge garden that provided much of our food, my mom baked most things from scratch (including cakes - I know I can taste the preservatives in a box cake), we lived in the woods and played in the trees. Many of my childhood memories involved making my own toys (although I wouldn't have thought to call it that), like a stove out of a cinderblock or doll diapers from poplar leaves (they have just the right shape). Still, though, when I read the pop culture lists of "if you're a child of the 80s" many of the items resonate for me even if I didn't own them. And I loved my Strawberry Shortcakes and Cabbage Patch Dolls - so much, in fact, that my nursery is decorated in a Strawberry Shortcake theme.

So when I get the chance to go through my niece and nephew's old toys looking for our new ones, sometimes I get caught up in wondering what pop culture thing is going to resonate for her in 20 or 30 years.  This often causes me to take way too much. My basement is filled with several sets of Little People (the new ones, not the old wooden ones I remember and love), all kinds of Sesame Street stuff, numerous Disney movie playsets, and other things I don't remember.

These are just the things I haven't introduced yet. There is a shelf in her closet with 9 cubby-holes and each cubby has a bucket (actually I use plastic dishtubs) that has toys sorted by theme or use. So there's a block bucket, and a bucket with figurines, and so on. I rotate these buckets as the mood strikes. Sometimes a bucket will last in the living room for weeks and sometimes we trade out several times in a day. It probably goes without saying that most of these toys are plastic and many are electronic (although I have a tendency to remove batteries or not notice if they don't work).

When I was introduced to Waldorf philosophy last summer by reading blogs and then doing my own research, I started to panic a little. We definitely have too many toys. But what I was reading indicated that we also had the wrong toys and that to have the right toys, I'd have to get MORE toys! And what was I to do with all the toys that we'd been gifted with? I've read many solutions, but I know myself well enough to wait and see if the storm settles a little before taking drastic action. Especially since the primary solution I read about was to throw toys away or give them to charity or sell them. This wasn't just for hand-me-downs, but brand new Christmas presents! I knew that throwing out perfectly good toys that some who loved us had taken time to pick out was NOT a solution I could live with.

The other problem with having the wrong toys is that the "right" toys are all so expensive. No, I don't want my kid playing with plastic play food (she puts everything in her mouth and I'm concerned about lead), but the wooden alternative alternatives are expensive and they're still painted. I'm still working on learning to make my own fabric and felt food. Playsilks look like so much fun, but the cheapest ones I could find were still high (how to talk the hubby into expensive replacements for free stuff?). Blocks are great, but ours are all plastic (and very cute, but again with the chewing). I love getting my Magic Cabin and Nova Naturals catalogs, but I'd be nuts to think we could start buying much of anything from them. Besides, a lot of those toys are still imported, and while I respect why people buy them, I'm also looking at environmental inpact. And hand-me-downs have a lower impact over new stuff regardless of how it's made.

In the midst of my parenting angst, I came across two posts that made me feel better for not being the mom I thought I would be and gave me ideas for what to do next. The Rowdy Pea wrote a great post on expensive Waldorf toys and great ways to make them yourself. (That was part 1 and part 2 is here. I love her ideas and her links.) Now that I'm rereading these posts, I wish I had more time to do some of these things for the big birthday we have in two short weeks!

I found the Rowdy Pea's post through this post at Unplug Your Kids. She lists many more ways and resources for making your own toys. She also talks quite a bit about the acquision bug and where it comes from. I felt much relieved of my "peer" pressure after reading this post.

So, I still haven't decided exactly what I'm going to do with all those toys. I don't think it's a problem to dole them out over time. And it's not really creating a consumer situation, because they were given to us when they were no longer needed by the previous owners. I think in time we'll drift more toward handmade, but I'm still ok with pop culture icons showing up now and then. I don't think my imagination has been limited by them!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Save Handmade Toys!

If you read this blog regularly, you know I'm a fan of handmade toys. I've learned about a new law going into effect on February 10, 2009 that will affect the sale of handmade toys in the United States.  This law was designed to protect our children from harmful materials like those that caused the recalls in late 2007. The way this law is written, though, will cause countless companies who were not a part of that scandal to close their doors. The law requires expensive testing on each item that is sold to children under 12, which sounds great in theory. In practice, though, only the companies who were the problem in the first place will be able to afford the testing and stay in business.

Please take a few moments to research the situation and if you feel strongly about keeping handmade toys on the market (and would like to continue being able to buy and sell used clothing and toys) please contact you Senators and representative. You can find out more at Cool Mom Picks and at Handmade Toy Alliance

Thank you!

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Go-To Meal

I actually love to cook. I love food (as I'm told people can tell since I talk about food all the time). Unfortunately, I have a lot of distractions and can't seem to focus enough to cook a full meal most of the time. My husband also loves to cook, so that works for us at dinner. Lunch around here is usually leftovers from the excellent meal we had the night before. There are days, though, when we just don't have anything left to heat up.

That's when I pull out my trusty Flavor-wave (especially in summer, because it doesn't heat up the house) and cook the breaded chicken breasts we buy in bulk at Sams Club (Tyson breaded chicken breast tenderloins). I originally started buying them because they're only 3 points each on the Weight Watchers system. They are yummy, cheap and healthy. Usually I just heat up a can of green beans to go with them (adding in some kind of garlic seasoning while they cook), but if we're really lucky there are some leftover baked potatoes in the fridge. Leftover baked potatoes make excellent hashbrowns, which I also season with garlic. I've recently remembered the giant rosemary bush out my front door, and started adding a little rosemary while they cook.

Tonight we're going a little crazy and having the chicken with tator tots and canned corn. I realize that probably makes it all a little less heathy, but it's simple and quick. I've also served the chicken breasts with leftover spaghetti, which gave it a caccetori/primavera feel.

What's your favorite go-to meal?