Archive for the ‘Parenting Tips & Tools’ Category

One-Day Tuesday Special Savings!

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Save 80% on Stoo Hample’s Book of Bad Manners, today’s “One-Day Tuesday” special discounted item.

Was $15.99, Today (06/22/10) Just $2.97!

Price goes back up tomorrow (06/23/10). Shop Now!

It’s a boy! And a girl!

Friday, June 18th, 2010

After nine long months of dreaming, planning, building, and decorating, we’re finally ready to announce our big news: Chinaberry had twins!

Meet Jake & Ella, the newest addition to the Chinaberry family. Created by the original Chinaberry kids, Elizabeth and Evan (some of you may remember them from our earlier catalogs way back when), Jake & Ella brings our mission of raising children with love, honesty, and joy to a new generation of discerning parents.

When Chinaberry launched its first catalog almost (gasp!) 30 years ago, our message and values attracted a community of people who were decidedly noncomformist. From vegans to homeschoolers, homesteaders to tree-huggers, our customers back then didn’t exactly swim with the mainstream. But over the years, as “Chinaberry babies” started having babies of their own, we have happily witnessed a slow but meaningful culture shift among parents. “Tree-hugger” is a badge to be worn proudly, and urban-dwellers are planting their own backyard organic farms. “Unschool” play groups are popping up across the country, and everyone seems to be talking about making healthier, more conscious food and lifestyle choices. It would seem, Chinaberry parents, that we’ve all done something right after all.

Now, catering specifically to those with babies and toddlers in their lives, Jake & Ella offers distinctive, sustainable toys, wellness products, and resources for nurturing creative, compassionate children. With a focus on environmental and social responsibility, Jake & Ella draws on three decades of Chinaberry’s experience to help the new generation of parents make natural, conscientious choices for their littlest ones.

Beyond its online boutique, Jake & Ella’s blog and social networks are building a community of unconventional and thoughtful parents, ones who wish to give their children the knowledge and inspiration to make the world a healthier, more wholesome place for all of us. From the latest news in environmental health to alternative thinking on child development, Jake & Ella’s online communities cover topics often ignored by the mainstream but essential in navigating the increasingly complicated business of raising a healthy family today.

Celebrate with us! Stop by our store, peruse our blog, connect with us on Facebook for interesting news bites, special offers, enticing contests, and banter with like-minded people. And if you like what you find, please let your friends know! Now through July 31, 2010, we’re offering a special deal for our Chinaberry family: Spend $50 or more at Jake & Ella and get $10 off your order. Just enter the code CBFAMILY during checkout to receive your discount!

We know you’ll be as smitten with our exciting new bundle of joy as we are…

Words of Wisdom From Patricia Clifford

Friday, May 28th, 2010

“The work will wait while you show the child a rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.” - Patricia Clifford

Gifts From My Mother

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Recently, while cleaning someone else’s bathroom floor, I thought to myself, ”My mother would have had a fit.” Although the middle of the floor had been kept clean, the sides, corners, and behind the door hadn’t been cleaned in years. I was taken back to my teens, with my mother telling me how important it was to clean thoroughly, and me arguing back, ”Who cares; no one ever sees it anyway?” She was teaching me the right way to clean, and as a teen, I was arguing for the easy way. Now, years later, I was witnessing what happens when you don’t know how to clean properly. Not only had I never thanked my mother for teaching me this valuable skill, I had argued with her about it.

My mother passed away before I owned a house, was married, or had children. While she was alive, I was in frequent touch and told her how much I loved her, but while cleaning this bathroom floor, I realized she gave me so many gifts I had never really thought about — gifts I use or benefit from to this day. So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mother for all the gifts I didn’t know were gifts:

• Teaching us that a clean house is important, but family time was more important.

• Showing us that people were more important than things. No matter what broke, spilled or went wrong, you always asked ”Are you ok?” before you asked about the things.

• Having us work beside you until we could do the job right by ourselves.

• Making us clean the kitchen and stay there until everyone was finished. At the time, I thought you were just trying to make sure the whole job was done and no one said, ”That’s not my job.” Now I realize you were also creating bonds between us siblings.

• Making us go to our siblings’ activities. This increased our circle of support and helped keep us out of trouble.

• Teaching us to be polite to older or lonely people — sometimes that is the only chance they get to communicate all day.

• Being there to listen when we needed someone to listen (I doubt anyone realizes what a gift this is until their mother is gone), and listening to us with your full attention — not only to us but to our friends as well.

• Believing in me. To this day, I think of you when I am having challenges.

• Teaching me how to iron, stand up straight, and swim.

• Enjoying my company and biting your tongue when I came up with my grand philosophical ideas.

• Letting me learn and accepting that Chemistry was as hard for me as Spanish was for you.

• Showing me that even after failures or problems, we can pick ourselves up and go on with life.

As we approach this Mother’s Day, I hope we can all take the time to think about the intangibles gifts from our mothers and the other important women in our lives.

Enjoy the Ride

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

My younger son is now of driving age, and I hesitantly let this inexperienced, newly permitted driver take the wheel on a recent weekend get-away. We left at rush hour, because why wouldn’t you want your 15-year-old kid to have his first freeway experience at the busiest time of the day with the sun setting directly behind him so he can’t really see if the brake lights ahead of him are on or not!

After nearly putting my foot through the floor a few times, I forced my shoulders back down to a normal position and settled in for the ride. I did my best to give directions with plenty of notice so there were no last-minute lane changes, and gently suggest slowing down ahead of time rather than waiting until there were only inches to spare between us and the next car. As the busy city freeway gave way to the less traveled rural roads, I was struck by how the changing landscape mirrored the changing stages of life with my children.

As a new parent, I often felt frazzled, with never enough time to get everything done and never feeling sure I was doing things ‘right.’ Then, without my realizing it, the ‘rush hour’ days eased into a little slower pace. The elementary school years were filled with wonderful discoveries and hours spent together. As we passed through the countryside with its softly rolling hills, we started to climb to higher elevations much like the challenges of middle school. Projects became more difficult, friends came and went, and like our ride, first there was a gentle slope, a dip into a small valley, another slope, and then the tumultuous teen years, full of steep inclines, sharply twisting roads, and the uncertainty of what might be waiting around the next corner.

Finally, we reached the summit and began to descend through the now rocky landscape, just as my boys have turned into young men with deep voices trying to find their own place in the world. Now, as I sit up late at night waiting for them to come home, or have a ‘discussion’ on why it is so important to do their very best in whatever they attempt, whether it seems completely irrelevant to them or not, I think about that trip. The rough, unforgiving landscape gave way to the vast, open desert, the infinite vistas filled with the same promise of adventure and discovery my boys have waiting for them in the future. And just as my baby boy did fine on that drive (we arrived with all our parts intact), I am reminded that my boys, too, will do fine no matter where life takes them. I can’t control it all; I can only offer my voice of experience when needed or wanted and sit back and enjoy the ride.

Family Talk Conversation Cards

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

I’ve used lots of conversation starter tools with children (and adults!), but these are my favorite. Maybe that’s why they’ve won more awards than I have room to list! Anything that gets families talking together these days deserves an award, don’t you think? Each of the durable conversation decks is attached to a cool carabineer clip, making them ultra portable. Whether you’re at the dinner table, in the car, or in a waiting room, just draw a card, read the question, and let the fun begin. Great for family get-togethers! I’ve used the Family Talk cards at the dinner table with kids from 5 to 55, and nobody wanted to leave the table! The deck includes 100 cards, and here’s a sample: ”If you could do any job in the world for one day, what would you choose and why?” (5+ yrs.)

#15365 - 100 3.5” x 2.25” cards
Our price $9.95

A Green Halloween: Costumes, Candy, Pumpkins and More

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

By Christine Dell’Amore
National Geographic Green Guide for Everyday Living

The sheer waste of Halloween is enough to make any environmentalist scream. From individually packaged treats to cheap one-time costumes, the holiday is usually anything but sustainable.

“Halloween is a great time to have fun with family and friends but it generates a huge amount of throw-away waste,” Kim McKay, a green-living expert and author of the National Geographic True Green book series, told the Green Guide by email.

So “why not make your Halloween as natural as possible … ?” McKay said.

You can enjoy the holiday in a way that’s less frightful for the Earth with these tips:

Make Homemade Halloween Costumes and Decorations

Homemade Halloween costumes and decorations can both save you money and prevent another witch hat from reaching the landfill. The Center for the New American Dream, a Maryland-based nonprofit that encourages responsible consumerism, compiled this list of conservation-minded costumes…

Read the full article here: http://www.thegreenguide.com/home-garden/holidays/green-halloween

Finding Gratitude Every Day

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

When I was a child, my father made a ritual of coming into my sister’s and my bedroom for our goodnight prayers. These weren’t the prayers recited by rote in school or church, but rather his own words to convey what he wanted to say at the end of the day. Even now, I can still remember at least part of this same-every-night prayer. As we lay there in a darkened room, he always started by saying ‘Thank you’ for a myriad of things: our health, shelter over our heads, food on our table, a good school…’ Then he’d segue into various appeals for continued good health, happiness for all of our friends and neighbors, peace in the world, etc. To my child-like sensibilities, it seemed that good health, shelter, and a good school were things that everyone had, and priority should be placed on the ‘request’ part of his spiel. But there came a night when my big sister piped in with her thanks for something, and before long, I was adding my own thanks to the line-up: for my rabbit, the fact that it was summer, or the fun hide-and-seek game with the neighborhood kids my parents had let us stay out past dusk to finish.

It seems that no matter our religious or spiritual inclination, it is part of the human condition to ask or say a prayer for something. Even if we don’t make a big, elaborate deal of it, we ask for you-name-it: good weather for the company picnic, a victory for our team, an improvement in the economic climate, the end of the drought in Africa, etc. But I think that giving thanks just doesn’t happen as often as making a request—at least it sure doesn’t with me. I find myself whispering a plea much more often than I acknowledge something for which I’m grateful. Yet I’ve committed myself to finding gratitude every single day, and that’s probably because my father made it part of our lives as kids. Having learned early on that I have countless things to be grateful for, I can almost always find a bright side to even the lousiest day. My bet is that we all have a myriad of things to appreciate. Whether it’s the roof over our heads, the rain on our thirsty garden, the luxury of being able to fill up the gas tank, or the fact that we still have our eyesight, the list is nearly endless.

And that’s why I think that Thanksgiving is one of our most meaningful and sweetest holidays. Hopefully, we take the opportunity to reflect on the good things in our lives. It gives us the chance to build a celebration around one single quality: gratitude. It gives us the chance to move beyond the ingrained sense of self-entitlement so many of us in our country have and look at life from a position of a grateful ‘I have’ rather than ‘I want’—a position that will not only enhance our own lives as well as our children’s, but will truly make the world a gentler and more caring place.

Interview with Susan Magasamen

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Interview with Susan Magasamen, author of The 10 Best of Everything

When I read Susan Magasamen’s book The 10 Best of Everything, I found myself lusting after her job a little. Just as we at Chinaberry scour the nation for books and other treasures to enrich people’s lives, this woman has made it her mission to find destinations for families. While we’re searching for life-changing stuff, Susan’s out and about “testing” ice cream shops and campgrounds! (Sigh . . .) We just had to find out more about this woman and her amazing job, so we’d like to introduce to you Susan Magasamen!

Janet: What words of advice would you like to share with our readers for having the best family vacation of their lives?

Susan: Incorporate everyone into the planning!  This will make the trip something adults and kids are interested in and are looking forward to!  If you can start the planning early enough, it is great to introduce films, books, art, music and other aspects of the culture prior to the visit.  We also find that after the trip there is always a heightened interest in a new topic. For example, we just came back from a trip to Vienna and discovered our kids had a real interest in opera.  We are now renting operas!

Another tip is to allow for the unexpected and change your plans! No matter how much reading and research you do on a place, it is never the same as being there and experiencing it firsthand.  That is really the wonder of travel…the unexpected and the expected exceeding your expectations.

Janet: As I read your book, I wanted to dog-ear every page because all of your incredible “finds.” I especially loved reading about the “best road trips.” If you could only go on ONE of these road trips this summer, which one would you choose and why?

Susan: As you know, this book is a compilation of other people’s experiences!!! We have families sharing their favorite places in California, another exploring Boston, or a folklorist talking about Philadelphia. The “best road trips” are amazing and I would like to do all of them.  Hmmm, right now I think I would like to take my family to The Ultimate Florida Keys Vacation. This is the trip from Deb Kirkland and her two boys.  They planned an adventure-packed, nature-filled week, from hand-feeding the rays to an alligator show.

Janet: Out of all your experiences, from checking out wilderness hikes to resorts in the Key West, which was the most memorable for you personally?

Susan: Throughout the book we share travel stories of famous folks — from scientists and artists to poets and explorers.  I loved hearing about the places and experiences that helped shape their lives. This was very inspiring to me and reminded me that as a parent you have an opportunity to expose your children to what they might become in their lives. Elizabeth Spires’ visits to authors’ homes was very moving to me. As a writer, I relate to the way she got to understand the writers by seeing where they wrote. Often we don’t get the biography or background of things. When you have the opportunity to see where someone wrote something, what inspired them, what their life circumstances were, it helps to understand yourself, the world and perhaps even your place in it a little bit more.

Janet: During the course of putting together this book, what surprised you the most?

Susan: How much people love ice cream! And also how important time spent together is for families. As we travel, visit and see new things together, we create memories that last a lifetime.  I come from a family of five girls. Whenever we get together we still talk about some of the crazy trips we have taken.  I remember once my sister and I took our young children to Colorado to what we thought was a dude ranch.  It ended up being a disaster of a place.  So our husbands and kids all banded together and we went on a road trip all the way to New Mexico.  We had the time of our lives!  Again, expect the unexpected.

Janet: What’s the biggest mistake you feel parents make when planning family vacations?

Susan: Overbooking and pushing kids to “learn.” When your kids are engaged, interested and active, they will have a great time.

Janet: What is #1 on your Wish List right now for your next vacation?

Susan: We want to see the Northern Lights!  We’re thinking about going to Norway to do that.  Interestingly, this has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. At supper one night I said I really wanted to do this, not thinking anyone else would be interested. As it turned out everyone was! We’ve all done our homework now and have found a really cool website that reports on the Lights like a weather report!

Janet: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?

Susan: The biggest and best piece of advice I can give is to take naps!  Usually when kids are bored they are tired.  If you can take a rest, eat a great snack, and get something to drink, you can get back in the groove.

Cherishing Our Kids’ Faithful Companions

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Last week, my husband and I were clearing out Ben’s room to get ready to put in a new floor. Out came clothes, toys, games, furniture, and lots of other stuff. This all got piled into our room, and we wondered how in the world all this stuff ever fit into his room in the first place! The old, icky carpet and pad came out practically in a jiffy, really, compared to how long it took to take everything else out!

One of the things we dragged out while muttering under our breath was a black chest that had been in Ben’s room for ages without being opened. The reason we hadn’t opened it for so long was because of the pretty intricate Lego creations sitting on top of it. Once we carefully moved these, we were ready to open it.

And voila, inside were many of the stuffed animals from years past! Coco, Freddy, Bubbles, loads of Beanie Babies, as well as many more friends I did not recognize. The ones I did remember were faithful companions, loved for ages, squeezed at night, cuddled whenever necessary,  and who even accompanied us on our travels.

This picture, from about 5 years ago, shows two of these faithful companions on a trip back East. The black Lab in Daniel’s arms is a smaller replica of our own black Lab. The stuffed version was chosen not long after we adopted Buca, and now resides safely in Daniel’s room. Ben’s koala friend was made at one of those build-your-own-stuffed-animal parties and became his dear friend for quite a while. Although it’s hard to tell, this marsupial companion is dressed in a soccer outfit that coincides with the beginning of Ben’s fervent interest in the sport, bringing back those memories and making finding it all the more special.

While my memory-loving heart melted at seeing these stuffed animals, the more practical side of me was so glad to have photographic proof of how near and dear these companions were to my sons, especially since my guys are  growing up too quickly, in my mind anyway, and toward things other than stuffed animals. And although these stuffed animals made the cut of what to return to the less cluttered room, who knows where they will be in a few years?

If you can think of it, next time your little one clutches a faithful companion to his or her heart, grab your camera and record this moment of sweetness for posterity. While the stuffed animals may not be found in a big cleaning years later, the photo can last much longer.