Posted tagged ‘sandra steingraber’

Two books for mums

October 8, 2011

Have you ever slept on the floor? In a hammock? On a sofa? In the street? In a park?

This blog is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is about two astonishing books about raising kids and the world (for more info about my book Homemade Kids click here)

Where I live in the UK – or rather the people I visit in the UK – tend to have quite similar lifestyles. Sometimes they feel cramped in flats but often that’s the clutter of possessions or their healthy children growing taller and wider slightly faster than seems possible.

There’s a new book out though which shows photographs of where children sleep – places all around the world, and quite different to the room my two girls share. (The pic by the way is by me of a hammock war – Lola, 13, is winning but KJ, about 3, and Nell, 10, look as if they may find a way to turf her out!).

It is unusual for a middle class family to pile their over eight-year-olds into one room. But I went to boarding school and one of the only redeeming factors of that experience was knowing that it was quite fun to share a bedroom – you could chatter and swap stories as you lay in bed, or just be still and go to sleep knowing you weren’t alone. (And if Lola did get her own room then Pete and I would be forced out of our office, the sunniest place in the house and thus ideal for working in during the winter months.)

One to share
In  DailyGood: Where Children Sleep: James Mollison’s Poignant Photographs there’s a staggering range in the ways our kids live. As one review puts it: “here’s a curious look at where children sleep by the Kenyan-born, English-raised, Venice-based documentary photographer James Mollison.”

One to keep
American biologist Sandra Steingraber got bladder cancer long before she had her children. That experience led to her uncovering frightening information about how chemicals are compromising our bodies in Living Downstream. Her next book, Having Faith, was a wonderful look at pregnancy as her daughter gradually developed in uterus. The latest – and for me, the best – is Raising Elijah.

One wit has already dubbed Raising Elijah as “all about silent playgrounds” in reference to the work Rachel Carson did revealing the dangers of DDT (think Silent Spring).

As children have joined Sandra’s family she’s used her scientific training to empower her to tackle all those big childrearing questions we all struggle with – what food they should eat, what screens they should watch, what places they should play. But she asks the small questions as she tackles far bigger issues, such as intergenerational equity, national security, climate change.

I am in such awe of Sandra that I don’t want to precis her arguments.

She is genius at making science easy to understand, and fascinating too. Towards the end of Raising Elijah (by the way her boy was not named after a weirdy beardy from the Old Testament, but a 19th century abolutionist) she calls on mothers to make a bigger effort to look after the world .

“Ultimately, the environmental crisis is a parenting crisis. It undermines my ability to carry out two fundamental duties: to protect my children from harm and to plan for their future. My responsibility as a mother thus extends beyond push mowers and cotheslines to the transformation of the nation’s energy systems along renewable lines. Fine. With joy and resolve – and accepting the full severity of the situation … – I hereby devote myself to the task.” (p283/hardback/ Raising Elijah by Sandra Steingraber)

To find out more, look at Sandra’s website,  or even a facebook page.

Over to you
Let me know if there are any books about parenting, or for children, that you really rate, as I love to share these and keep up-to-date. Thanks, Nicola x


Any super dry tips?

October 3, 2011

This blog is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. For more info about my book Homemade Kids click here

Using hangers to dry in a small space (off the swing) and then move straight to the wardrobe saves time.

Like buses, good ideas always seem to come in quick succession.

I’ve been trying to find ways to keep my electricity costs down (do this and you can pretty much bet it’s also good for the environment) and save me time.  Reading the amazing American environmentalist, Sandra Steingraber’s new book, Raising Elijah (more on this in another post), she suggests that using clothes hangers to dry clothes outdoors, or in, saves time.

Well it means you sort the clothes as you pull them out of the washing machine so that they are dried ready to go straight into a wardrobe. This is genius. Sandra also points out that it means your family’s clothes also last longer (no spoiling by the tumble dryer) and causes you less stress (because you don’t have to struggle to match stray socks, tangled jumpers or even need to iron shirts and blouses).

Hanging up the washing is hard for small people, so they can't help as well as I'd like.

I was just thinking about doing this when I had a house guest, Chris, to stay from Australia who has two children (now almost grown up). He saw my crowded drying line and noticed my “Is it going to rain?” panics. So as a leaving gift he presented me with 20 plastic hangers that can do the drying/hanging job. He also taught me the three-shake rule – to shake out the creases before you hang the garment up – and a clever technique with clothes pegs to stop the hangers being blown off the line.

Actually I can hang clothes up fine on a washing line, but my children and partner find it hard. This technique with hangers makes it much easier for shorter and (dare I say it) kack-handed people to hang up wet clothes.

What a result.

Bye bye tumble dryer
Another good tip – now long ago adopted at Mayhem Corner – is to use a yacht dryer to dry clothes in small spaces. It’s also a good way to dry cloth nappies, marry socks, keep underwear and hankies together and the fastest way of removing 20+ items if rain does threaten. Maybe take one along as a flat warming or new baby present…

Helps ease asthma too
Sandra Steingraber even advocates drying the washing indoors at night for health benefits. Damp, warm air is much more comfortable for an asthma sufferer to breathe (like her son Elijah) than centrally-heated dried-out air. As I normally put my washing machine on in the morning and then curse it for making me late (because I like to hang up the washing before leaving home), this new schedule could better suit my own timetable as well as ease my daughter Nell’s asthma symptoms.

Do you have any other clever household tips that have revolutionised a really dull task?

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