LIFESTYLE

Nature's Healing Power

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As I mentioned in another blog post, when our family moved to North Carolina a year ago, the beauty of the place inspired me to better care for the environment.

More honestly, I was struggling with anxiety and a bit of depression upon our arrival. I felt sad most of my pregnancy and had a tough case of the baby blues in my postpartum period. I wasn’t working out like I had been and I stopped wanting to socialize with friends. The sadness during postpartum was then compounded with the stress of moving our family of five across the country, I just wasn’t in a great place upon our arrival. I began to regularly go on walks and runs along the  beautiful wooded trails and I discovered that I would return home happier and inspired. Each day lifted my mood and eventually, the feeling stuck.

While I always knew that nature had healing properties, I recently learned it was a studied form of therapy. The field of ecopsychology, sometimes referred to as nature therapy, studies the positive changes nature can have on a person’s psyche. Ecopsychology experts believe the health of the planet is inextricably linked to the psychological health of humanity, both individually and collectively (Theodore Roszak).

While a walk in the woods is nice,  several studies have found  that a mere glimpse of nature from a window or even photographs of nature can help people's overall mental health and life satisfaction (Ulrich).

While a walk in the woods is nice, several studies have found that a mere glimpse of nature from a window or even photographs of nature can help people's overall mental health and life satisfaction (Ulrich).

When I started connecting to nature, it healed a part of me and in return I felt compelled to do more to help it heal and maintain its beauty.

Practices like composting, improving our recycling, and reducing our single-use plastic consumption slowly helped me feel I was giving back to the Earth. When you appreciate nature’s beauty and healing properties, protecting its health is a natural reaction.

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There have been many times this past year when I needed to connect to nature to overcome struggles from anxiety, grief or loneliness. I loved this connection that I felt everyday in North Carolina. I will miss the immediate calm felt by simply opening the door to our backyard and taking in North Carolina’s breathtaking beauty. But knowing this effect doesn’t require a huge yard or a nature trail gives me assurance that when I need it, nature will be around the corner wherever I go.

Plus, I can’t wait to check out all of Houston’s natural beauty that I haven’t previously experienced!


Places in Houston I am most excited to explore

Where are your favorite nature escapes in Houston (or elsewhere)?

















































Back To School: Sustainable Accessories

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It is hard to believe that the time to start planning for our kids to go back to school is here. Along with the school-required shopping list, a lot of us are also thinking about what lunch box, backpack, snack containers, water bottles, and clothing items will be best for our kids’ return to school.

While using what you already have is the first priority, we are always researching the most sustainable options out there for purchase. To cut down on the length of the post, we are doing back-to-school as a multi-part series. Here, we are focusing on backpacks and lunchboxes and have rounded up our favorites here!

Backpacks

Fjall Raven

With the Swedish mantra in mind, “Straight backs are happy backs,” Fjällräven created the first Kånken in 1978 to spare the backs of school children, as back problems had begun to appear in increasingly younger age groups. Fjall Raven also considers sustainability from its design and materials to its production. These bags are intended to stand the test of time. Their designs are simple but come in a wide variety of colors. I made the mistake of asking Wil which color he wanted, so he might be sporting a black backpack this year (sigh!). I am hoping that adding a few colorful patches will liven it up!

*They are currently having issues with counterfeit bags so only purchase through their website or a certified retailer (a list of these is available on their website).

SHOP FJALL RAVEN KANKEN BACKPACKS HERE

Parkland

Parkland has the cutest, most vibrant prints! They carry many different sizes of backpacks, lunch sacks and even fanny packs! The exterior fabric of all Parkland products is made from 100% recycled water bottles. The vegan leather diamonds on their bags are made from apples. The recycled polyester they use is supplied by a partner in Shanghai, China, who is a global leader in producing recycled fabric. They are committed to ensuring our factories follow international standards regarding labor, wages and safety practices. They believe in being very hands-on with our manufacturing process and work very closely with our factories.

SHOP PARKLAND HERE

Lunch Boxes

For lunchboxes, the most sustainable options are ones that have promote the least amount of packaging inside. Here are a few of our favorite reusable snack bins, lunch boxes and bento boxes… all fabulously green options!

Planet Box

We love PlanetBox for our kids because of their simplicity for both the kids and for Mama (the one who packs lunch). With three kids, its so nice to already have the containers built into the lunchbox so I don’t have to worry about what is washed and what isn’t. As a former preschool teacher, I can also attest to it being nice to open only one item versus multiple containers or snack packages. Don’t even get me started on Gogurt Packs or those Danimals drinks that would both inevitably spill all over my hands (or even my clothes) when helping the students with their lunches!

We decided to get the Rover version for its many compartments but they also have two other sizes depending on what your child prefers. They are all very durable and dishwasher safe! I purchased the accompanying lunchbox to solve the problems of where I would put the silverware, napkin and drink! They have so many cute options!

SHOP PLANETBOX HERE

ECOlunchbox

Another favorite! The lunch bins are probably better for older kids lunches but the snack bins are perfect for any kid or adult’s snack time. If I packed a lunch, it would be in one of these since I am not going to carry a lunchbox around, and it would fit nicely in a purse or backpack. I often carry one of these out to dinner for takeout!

SHOP ECOLUNCHBOX HERE

Getting ready to go back to school is such an exciting time. I miss the routine that school provides as a parent and seeing my child meet new friends and learn new things warms my heart. This year, I am especially excited since we will be returning home to Houston from a year away in North Carolina. The kids will meet the children they will become lifelong friends with! My husband grew up in Houston and we still regularly hang out with the friends he met in preschool and elementary school!

Happy Back to School!

x, Amy

Potty Training: a waste-reducing milestone

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This year we have saved 339 pounds of food scraps from entering landfills by composting with CompostNow,  changed our purchasing habits to avoid most plastic packaging and started recycling what plastic we do accumulate through TerraCycle. But with 20 billion disposable diapers dumped into landfills each year (EPA), accounting for more than 3.5 million tons of waste, we might have accomplished our most waste-free change yet… potty training our 2.5 year old! 

Potty training is no easy feat, so following someone’s sage advice is wise. When I potty trained our oldest, I devoured Brandi Bruck’s book, Potty Training in 3 Days and followed her method to a tee. I had my in laws take Joseph for the weekend so I could give my full attention to Wil. We packed up our diapers to say goodbye and didn’t watch television or any screens for three days. I made the perfect potty chart for him (see below) with presents purchased for every eight stickers on his chart, and we gave him a treat for every time he went pee pee or poo poo. It was very organized and worked perfectly. He was potty trained in 3 days. 

Wil with his potty training chart when he was 2.5 years old.

Wil with his potty training chart when he was 2.5 years old.

I’m embarrassed how low-grade this looks compared to Wil’s. Like I said, this was last minute!

I’m embarrassed how low-grade this looks compared to Wil’s. Like I said, this was last minute!

Poor middle-child Joseph did not get the same treatment. I decided day of to start the training while our nanny was on vacation. It was me, Joseph, Isabel, and Wil in the house in the middle of the hot North Carolina summer. We were probably going to be inside all day anyways, so I was determined to accomplish something useful. I used Bruck’s method in my own revised, realistic way, and with what I already had in the house. I ripped out a sheet of paper from “The Secret Life of Pets 2” coloring book to use as his potty chart (it also had stickers in it). I threw some underwear on him with a short shirt. You want a short shirt so you can easily see if they start peeing. We already had the Baby Bjorn seat insert and Baby Bjorn step stool, so I took him to the bathroom and showed him how to pull down his pants, sit, and go potty on the toilet. 

We modified Bucks’ rules of potty training and allowed him to watch TV (Mama was in survival mode)!

We modified Bucks’ rules of potty training and allowed him to watch TV (Mama was in survival mode)!

I told him Thomas on the underwear he was wearing did not want to get wet. I also said, “Let me know when you need to go pee pee or poo poo and then you can get a treat and sticker” about a hundred times the first day. Brucks recommends giving one treat for pee and two treats for poop and a sticker on the chart for every time the child successfully gets something in the toilet. He got really excited about getting so many treats and stickers so  he was regularly going in the toilet when he was thinking about it, but he also had many accidents ( especially poop accidents). Because I was alone with all three kids all day, I ended up letting him watch a lot of TV for my own survival (seen in pic). I think that slowed down his initial training because he would get distracted by the screen. The first days were MESSY, but finally by the fourth day he really started to get it and would go on his own without me asking. He was even successful on our first outing to a birthday party (seen below). Bucks recommends not going on any outings until at least 3 days into potty training.

First outing post potty training. A birthday party at a local farm.

First outing post potty training. A birthday party at a local farm.

It’s fun to see your child’s personality come out during the potty training process. Joseph is a very exuberant, determined, and independent little boy. He now refuses to have me help him in the bathroom and says, “NO, me!” and closes the door when I try to help. After he goes I can always hear him applaud himself with a “Yay!”. I am so proud of him and know that he feels proud of himself. Because I decided last minute to do the potty training, I wasn’t prepared with toys for every eight times he successfully went potty. I think this was fine because he remained excited enough about the stickers and treats. I had told him when he filled the coloring page full of stickers, then he would get a new toy. We chose a fire station by Green Toys that he LOVED, and knew he got because of his hard work!

Joseph and Isabel playing with his new fire station.

Joseph and Isabel playing with his new fire station.

Two down… now only one to go (maybe in a year or so!).

our Potty training essentials


I am no expert, but please comment if you have any questions about potty training!

x,

Amy