Going Green as a Mom of Two

Caring for the Environment While Caring For Two Children: Progress and Possibilities

I wanted to be eco-conscious, but I was a mom on the go. Here's how I found a happy compromise.

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I come from a family that is very eco-conscious. I, too, want to do my part to help the environment, reduce my carbon footprint, and help improve the quality of the air and the earth around me.

I am also the mother to two children under the age of five, who are very attached to their favorite plastic straws. When I pulled one of them out of my diaper bag the other day, my brother audibly gasped and said, full of dismay, "Tell me you're not using disposable straws." One would have thought I'd grown a second head or suddenly sprouted wings. The very next day, he and his fiancee showed up on my doorstep with a reusable straw and water bottle in tow.

They've never bought me anything so meaningful and personal, so I knew the gift was full of meaning. I'm happy to report that we seamlessly made the switch and my kids have never once questioned the difference in drinking instrument.

That's not to say that I haven't noticed a slight shift in myself. In my college years, I could create bags of waste and never think twice about it. I took too-long showers and lugged cases of water bottles up to my fifth-floor dorm room, never once considering the harm I was doing. Yet, all of that inconsideration changed when I had my first baby.

Suddenly, it wasn't just my world I was living in. It was hers. Then, when my son was born two years later, it was his, too. I felt an ingrained sense of responsibility to make sure I was creating a home, environment and planet that was the best for them. I researched baby shampoos until my eyes crossed trying to find one that was free of parabens and all harmful chemicals. I stayed up all night making containers of homemade baby food because I was convinced that the store-bought brands weren't healthy enough. I was a mama on a mission, and nothing could stop me.

Then, those babies became toddlers. Preschool started. There were dance lessons, playdates, library storytimes, worksheets and more to juggle. It was all I could do to make it through the day without retreating into the laundry room (the only room with a door that locked) and sitting against the door taking deep, calming breaths while the little ones played in the living room and made a general ruckus of everything I had tried to neatly contain.

As I became more harried and more overwhelmed, my eco-consciousness began to wane. I began using more disposable items because they were quicker to grab. We ate off paper plates because I didn't want to tackle a sink full of dirty dishes. I made up a million and one excuses for my behavior, which was growing increasingly shameful as the rest of my family was taking on a newfound interest in all things green.

My brother, already the most nature-loving relative among us, became a vegetarian and has remained that way for more than a year. He bikes to his work 10 miles each way and goes on long hikes, dictionary in hand, whenever he can. He hired a repairman to fine-tune his HVAC system so it's more efficient and draws less energy from the house. He even convinced our uncle, his landlord, to allow him to install solar panels on the family homeplace down the road where he lives. Since then, he's told us anecdotes about energy savings, efficiency and waste. It's been eye-opening, to say the least.

It's also convinced me to find a way to balance the two sides of my psyche: the one that wants to be as good as possible to this Earth, and the one who is honestly just in a hurry and trying to hold it all together until dinnertime. I'm seeking to consume less, create less waste and use reusable items, such as straws, whenever possible.

I may not be able to commit to cycling with my two children in tow every time we want to visit the library or trek to the museum across town. I might not be at a place in my life where I can go on mile-long hikes with the kids in a carrier (I know it's possible. I just don't think my inherited bad back can conquer it quite yet.) But, I can do small things that make a big difference, and I can wake up every day committed to getting it right. For the planet. For myself. For them.

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10 Photos You Have On Your Camera Roll Of Your S.O. When You've Been Dating For More Than A Year

A wide range from "Aw" to "WTF?"

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My boyfriend and I just hit the year and a half mark of dating, even though it seems like we've been together forever. Over the months, we've taken many pictures together... from football games, to his track meets, to holidays. Although we may have a lot of pictures together, I definitely have a lot of candids of him in my camera roll. If you've been dating your partner for as long as I have or longer, then you'll probably notice you have these same pictures in your photos as well.

1. The awkward first photos together

We laugh at these now, especially this one. Why am I so pale compared to him? It was July! And also, we noticed not to long ago that I was sweating under my arms and his underarms were sweating on me... what a great first time meeting!

2. The ones for VSCO

Every girl who has a significant other posts them onto their VSCO. VSCO is like Instagram, but more has more aesthetically pleasing pictures and there are no "likes." The pictures that include my boyfriend on my VSCO ranges from him holding a bunny to him holding my hand while we went ice skating.

3. Them sleeping

I have so many pictures of my boyfriend sleeping (I promise it's not as weird as it sounds), I just think he's so cute when he's fast asleep while cuddling with me.

4. The embarrassing ones they want no one to see

He's going to kill me when he sees this... but we all have those embarrassing Snapchat pictures that we start to send each other because we've gotten more comfortable with one another.

5. The ones for Facebook

The good looking pictures so you can keep yours and his family updated on how you two are doing. I took my boyfriend to a baby bird meet and greet since he loves birds and has one for a pet. I posted this cute picture of him and his new friends on Facebook so my family can see our adventures together.

6. Old pictures

One of the best parts of dating someone is finally seeing their old pictures. Although, sometimes they may make you cringe... like the one I posted above of my boyfriend after prom in his sophomore year of high school.

7. Their accomplishments

My boyfriend pole vaults for his college and he's really good at it. He just went to division III nationals in March because he qualified! I'm always at his meets so I make sure to get him on video in case he or anyone wants to see. I always try to snag a picture with him too because I'm always so proud.

8. The straight up ugly ones

He sure knows how to make me laugh. And I know he's going to be mad at me for this one too but I think it's a talent that he can do that with his stomach! Sorry, Adam, I promise I still think you look good when you send me these snaps for the most part.

9. But you have the hot ones too

He may be funny and sweet, but he is pretty good looking too. I know us girls keep some attractive pictures of our S.O.'s so we can remind ourselves of what a great looking partner we have.

10. FaceTime screenshots

If you and your lover go to different colleges like my boyfriend and I do, then FaceTiming happens a lot. Sometimes I get some great screenshots, like the one above, to make fun of him later.

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Different But The Same: Navigating My Life as One of Three Siblings

I couldn't be more different than my two siblings, but on some levels we're more alike than I thought.

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I am the oldest of three lively, loving and faithful siblings. My sister is seven years younger than me and my brother is nine. Two of us shared a room growing up, and the other lived just down the hall. In a lineup, we're unmistakably related. We share the same nose from our grandfather, the thin hair of our great-grandmother and the thick Italian eyebrows of our mother.

Deep down, we're all cut from the same cloth. Our moral compass, foundation and background are the same. We'd answer alike if you were to ask us our favorite childhood memory, how an elder should be treated, what to say and do at the dinner table and what is essentially right and wrong. All three of us are driven academically, hunger professionally and seek to mine the most good out of every day. Yet, on paper, we couldn't be more different.

Take my sister, for instance. She's the librarian at our local elementary school. We can't go to the local diner, the swimming pool or even walking down the road without scores of children recognizing her, running up to her and giving her a bear hug. There are entire circles of people who only know me for who I am in relation to her. I'll admit, when she first got that position, I went the entire summer long feeling as though I were walking in her shadow, though I eclipse her by half a decade of experience. There's a reason she's so well-known and loved, though. My sister is unfailingly kind, generous with her time and attention and genuinely invested in the young people she serves. She devours books, classic television shows and the family homeplace she shares with her high school sweetheart turned husband.

Then, there's my brother. He was in middle school when I got married, so our time together as adolescents was shorter, but we're more alike than it may seem. It's from him that I got my love of folk music, thrifting and antiques. He's an avid environmentalist and programs coordinator for our local arts council. In a world obsessed with smartphones and tiny screens, he takes walks with his fiance with a dictionary in hand, discovering new words and worlds as they travel. They hike every weekend, hole up and work on crosswords at their tiny cottage in the woods and spend all the time they can in their favorite mountains. In fact, they will likely relocate there or to the west coast when they tie the knot this September. He's outdoorsy, worldly and hyper-aware of how every decision he makes affects the world.

That bring us to me. Though I'm older than both of them in age, I feel as though I fall right in the middle of my brother and sister in terms of our interests and ideals. Like my brother, I love being outside and spend as much time in nature as possible. Yet, as the mother of two, I depend on disposable diapers and eat off paper plates to save time and money. Like my sister, I love nothing more than curling up with a great book, but as a technical writer and proposal manager, my life has me behind a screen more often than not. I read on my laptop into the wee hours of the morning, though like her, I spend many hours reading board books to children myself, though it's in the comfort of my home and not the local library.

At our core, we're wildly unique but I love the common thread woven between all of us. I love that our parents treated us all the same and made sure that what they did for one, they did for another. We all grew up feeling cherished, protected and loved beyond measure and for that, I'm eternally grateful. As we grow older together, we're learning from each other, exploring each other's interests and cultivating our own personalities in the process. It's a beautiful thing, doing life with these two. Thankfully, we all live within three miles of each other, so we get to unfold daily mysteries together on a regular basis. I couldn't imagine a better way or place to live.

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