Thursday, February 15, 2018

Aluminum-Free Deodorant: A Comparison

For about a year now, 
I've been exploring the world of aluminum-free deodorant. 
The common term for these are "natural" deodorants, 
but I'm wary of the term natural because it's not a regulated term 
(neither by the FDA nor the USDA), 
and literally anything can be legally called "natural." 
E.g.: the most toxic fatal pesticide can be legally labeled "natural." 

So instead, I'm calling this aluminium-free deodorant. 
Because really, that's what they all are: without aluminum. 
There's a LOT of back-and-forth on the dangers of aluminum. 
Some studies say it has no danger. 
Others warn it can cause breast cancer, alzheimers, etc. 
To this I say: 
"Better safe than sorry." 

Before I dive into this comparison, 
here are four important notes:

1. Aluminum-free deodorants are NOT antiperspirants. 
Aluminum is what turns a regular deodorant into an antiperspirant, 
by plugging the sweat pores.
So the first step in trying aluminum-free deodorant 
is accepting that you will still sweat
It just shouldn't stink. 

2. I only use aluminum-free deodorants about 50% of the time. 
I use them as my "stay-at-home-mom" deodorant, 
good for grocery shopping, errands, parks, kids playscapes, etc. 
Or when I was working, my "quiet office day" deodorant. 
However, if I'm meeting up with a friend
 or have something going on in the evening, 
I will use my Dove deodorant, 
which is 12% aluminum. 
If I need heavy-duty protection, 
usually big-gathering parties  
or running a race, 
I use my Clinical Secret deodorant, 
which is 22% aluminum. 

3. I am not comparing effectiveness. 
Deodorant effectiveness varies greatly by person. 
Our sweat is highly impacted by genetics, hormones, and diet. 
What works for one person may not work for another. 
For example, TOMs deodorant does not work on me AT ALL,
 thus I've excluded it from this roundup, 
because I never wore it for more than a few days. 

4. I have not tried any "paste" deodorants. 
I like my swivel-ups. 
Some people love creams. 
For example, Grace Patton raved about SoapWalla's deodorant cream
but the idea of having to "slather" something on my armpits really grosses me out. 

The Great Deodorant Comparison: 

Lavanila Deodorant 

Availability: Lots of places! 
Sephora, Ulta,, Amazon, etc.

Cost: ~$15

Scents: Very strong scent, 
but lots of different types to choose from. 
My favorite is grapefruit and my least favorite is lemon. 

Consistency: Powdery. 
It dries out super quickly. 

Application: Very difficult. 
Because it's so dry, I really struggled to apply this deodorant. 

This was the first aluminum-free deodorant I was introduced to 
(by various bloggers), 
and I'm baffled how this is a favorite. 
It's very difficult for me to apply 
and I think the scent is too strong. 
Perhaps if you despise sticky or tacky deodorant? 
But to me it was too dry. 

Ursa Major Hoppin Fresh 

Availability: Very Limited. 
Amazon, Dermastore.

Cost: $18

Scent: Very light 

Consistency: Smooth, almost slick 

Application: Easy. 

This is one of my favorite deodorants. 
The scent is light and the application is super smooth. 

Agent Neuter Holi(Stick) No 3

Availability: Limited. 
Amazon, Nordstrom, Dermastore, Anthropolgie

Cost: $21

Scent: Less than lavanila, but more than ursa major

Consistency: Sticky and tacky

Application: Decent

I didn't love this one. 
It was super tacky, which meant I kept applying more, 
because I wasn't sure I was covering my armpit with one swipe. 
It's probably due to the over-application that I used this stick up super quick. 
Normally I have several months with a deodorant stick, 
but this was gone in less than a month (and that's at 50% usage!)

Kopari Coconut Deodorant 

Availability: Very Limited. 
Amazon, Nordstrom, Anthropologie

Cost: $14

Scent: Very light 
I was very worried that it would smell "coconut-y" 
like coconut oil does. 
(And I'm not crazy about coconut smells.) 
This does NOT smell like coconut. 
It is very light and I was pleasantly surprised by that. 

Consistency: Slick

Application: Super easy. 

Another of my top favorite deodorants. 
Probably squeaks out over the Ursa Major only because of the price 
and because I can get it at Nordstrom. 


And that is my roundup so far. 
When I'm done with the Kopari, 
I may try Origins Deodorant

Any other recommendations? 
Requirements: Swivel-up, non-aluminum, non-TOMs

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Toy Rotation v2

The last time I blogged about Toy Rotation
we were in our old townhome, 
so it's about time I give an update. 


First of all, I continue to love Toy Rotation. 
It takes a bit of planning and setup up front, 
as well as a bit of enforcement and adjustments early on, 
but once the system is in place 
and everyone knows the rules, 
it is magical

1. Renewed Interest
Bringing out a "new toy" sparks a renewed "whoaaa!" 
and hence follows a great period of occupied play
The duration differs from kid to kid 
and also differs from toy to toy. 
e.g.: Bringing out Oliver's workbench means maybe 10 minutes. 
Bringing out the box of misc toddler toys can mean 30+ minutes. 
Which is useful for, say, decorating graham cracker houses with Aaron. 
(That post here.)

2. Less Cleanup 

Less toys = less cleanup. 
Do I need to say more? 

How many toys do you put away

This answer changes. 
Before Christmas I regularly left out about half of our collection. 
After Christmas, I had enough of the mess. 
Nearly every single toy is put away except the big things. 
(Rollercoaster, Slide, Soccer net, Basketball hoop, Tent)

Where do you store the toys

This is the hardest part. 
It wasn't until last month 
when I did a minor basement reorg 
that I feel I finally have our storage complete. 

For us, the key is having them all in the same place
First of all, it's a good reminder of how much we have 
(too much!). 
It also provides a way for Aaron and Oliver to "go shopping." 
They come in and browse everything to select their "new toy." 


I've read a lot of different moms' takes on Toy Rotations. 
I've heard of moms laying out the new toys like Christmas morning. 
Or bringing up boxes of new stuff 
and letting the kids uncover the new treasures themselves. 

For us, I find one-at-a-time is best. 
Aaron can have one toy out, 
and then when he wants something new, 
he has to pick it up all by himself
before he gets the new ones. 
And if he doesn't want to pick it up? 
Fine, I don't care.  
No new toys! 

Oliver, of course, is trickier. 
I tend to get a new toy out for him 
only when he really needs to be occupied 
with something other than the television. 
E.g.: I'm sick all day 
But this process has uncovered some new favorites, 
like he lovvessss Mr Potato Head. 


I honestly don't know how moms live without toy rotation. 
I constantly see social media shots of toy rooms 
(and kids' bedrooms!)  
filled to the brim with toys 
and I'm like: 
"How do you not spend 99% of your day picking this up?" 

Well, I guess I have to back up. 
There was a time when our basement was in a constant state of disarray 
(see photo here
but once we added the rollercoaster at Christmas, 
it felt too much to have it a mess all the time. 

I'm clearly much happier with it now than I was before!

Friday, February 9, 2018

7QT: Smoke Detectors and Toad Detours

Another round of 7 Quick Takes. 
Which should be renamed
 "7 things too short for their own blog post." 

1. Smoke Detectors 

By now you should know that This Is Us' 
beloved star Jack Pearson dies 
from a combo of George's Crockpot 
(the most hated appliance in TV history) 
but also the lack of batteries in the smoke detector. 

This got me thinking. 
In our 2,400 sqft house, 
we have only two smoke detectors (both ionization only), 
because when it was built in the 1960s, 
codes were much more relaxed (or nonexistent).

Nowadays, it's required to have a smoke detector in every bedroom 
and on every level of the house. 
(reference here
Additionally, all homes should have both ionization and photoelectric, 
to sense the two different types of fires. 

As of this weekend, we are up to code! 
I ordered 5 of these 10-year-life, dual-sensor 
smoke detectors from Target ($20 apiece), 
one for each bedroom 
and one for the basement. 

Is your house up to code? 

2. Toad Detour

Our local nature center has an annual spring event 
where volunteers come and guard the roads so that the toads 
can cross safely from the nature center 
to go mate in the reservoir.
The volunteers are responsible for 
"saving thousands of toads and toadlets from being hit by cars" 
(photo & website here)

I thought this was adorable. 
If I didn't have small children to care for, 
I would love to stand guard 
and tell cars they have to deter to save baby toads! 
Can you imagine all the pissed off Philly drivers? 

3. Expensive Shit 

I love skin care products, 
and particularly love testing out the random samples 
that come with any Nordstrom beauty order. 

Of course, it's also fun looking up the price.
Just the other day I was enjoying Dior's DreamSkin Advanced
and even considered buying it until I realized it was $115/ounce. 

My favorite though is Sisleya Eye Contour
It is $210 per half ounce. 
Or $420/ounce. 
For $420/oz it better come with some 
damn magical fairies who apply the shit for me. 

4. Submitting "bids" in marriage

Speaking of marriage,
 I saw this article about marriage "bids." 
How every request in marriage has a subtext of a "bid" for something, 
and the key to successful marriages are those 
who turn "towards" their partner for bids, 
rather than away. 
I thought it was a clever take on marriage communication. 

5. Wall Art 

I want to start decorating the walls 
of our family room and master bedroom. 
(Home Tour first floor and second floor
A few problems: 

1) Both rooms are very big, long rooms, 
which means huge expanse of wall space. 
And I really don't care for busy gallery walls. 

2) It's hard for me to pick out art, 
because I only want sentimental pieces. 
100% of our current wall art is either 
our wedding pictures 
or pictures taken by friends on their special DSLR cameras. 

the photo my friend took of the cherry blossoms in DC. 
Currently hanging in our living room

So... how do you pick out wall art? 
Where do you shop? 
What do you look for? 

6. Rice Box

For years I have refused a "sensory box" for my kids because 
Then I finally gave in and 

A solid hour of pure total occupation 
while I made dinner. 

Granted, I still find rice on my floor 2 days later. 
But still SO AWESOME. 

7. Weaning. 

Guys I 'm kind of done breastfeeding. 
Or I'm ready to start wrapping it up. 
Oliver is currently - checks calendar - 21 months old. 
In January I dropped the wake-up feed 
(without any complaint from Oliver) 
so we are down to nap and bedtime only. 

Last night at bedtime, I told Oliver "no nursing." 
He snuggled into my chest
and peered up at me with big sad eyes and a quivering lip. 
And as a single tear descended down his cheek, 
he raised his hand and made the sign for "nursing" 
I am powerless. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Stay at Home Mom who never Stays Home

I am a stay-at-home-mom 
who never stays home. 

We are always out of the house in the mornings 
and try to be out of the house during the Great Void 
(the time between nap and dinner). 

In fact, if we do have to stay home 
(usually sickness) 
my first reaction is FEAR. 
How will I get through a day at home?!?!?!?!

Of course, every now and then, 
we have a random day home that works out. 
(One example here.) 
But that is very much so the exception. 

So where do we go? 

Obviously this list is highly specific to the
 western / northern suburbs of Philadelphia. 
And we could call this a 
"Philadelphia Suburb Activities for Stay-at-Home-Moms
but I imagine most big cities around the nation have some variant of these things. 

Good weather, here we are!


Location: literally everywhere.  
We have 6 in a 10 minute driving distance. 
Parking: usually great 
Price: FREE 
Hours: all the time

We are at the playground all. the. time. 
Playgrounds are my favorite place to kill an hour. 
I'm not sure if all areas are so great in the playground department, 
but the Philly suburbs have an outstanding variety of spaces. 
Some better for Aaron's age, some for Oliver's age, 
but most have something for both. 

Elmwood Zoo (local zoo) 
Location: Norristown (intersection of 76/476)
Parking: Free. Lots of availability during the week
 (weekends can be very limited parking) 
Price: $15/visit 
or get a full-year family pass for $60 on Black Friday (Normal $120)
Hours: Open year-round.

Small enough zoo that at the end of a quiet weekday, 
the parrot may come out to play in the playground with the kids

This tiny zoo is perfect for toddler/preschool age. 
It is super small and perfectly designed for little people 
(e.g.: a crawling tunnel by the gophers) 
The playground is also top notch. 
In the spring/fall, we go here at least once a week 
to kill an hour between nap and dinner. 
It is a perfect 1-2 hours visiting spot. 

Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education
Location: Manayunk 
Parking: Lots and free 
Price: FREE 
Hours: Open year-round

I blogged about this in my donations post
340 acres in the city limits of Philadelphia. 
It's a beautiful hiking place and 
the boys love exploring. 
A mile hike here takes us an hour, 
and is a great morning activity in the spring or fall. 

Splash Pads 

Location: Houston Playground in Andorra
or Montco Community Center 
or Mt Airy Playground
Parking: Varies 
Price: FREE 
Hours: Summer only. Verrrrrrry unpredictable. 

I know splash pads are everywhere in the south, 
but up here with our short summers, 
they are in short supply. 
I love this tiny one located at the Houston Playground in Andorra
 tucked away behind a residential neighborhood. 
(Andorra is the neighborhood next to Roxborough/Manyaunk.)

Indian Orchards Fruit Picking 
Location: Media (off 476 Blue Route)
Parking: Very limited (like, 5 spots)
Price: varies.  
Sometimes they charge a basket fee, sometimes not. 
Prices vary with produce picked 
Hours: Spring/Summer/Fall. 
Definitely call ahead!
Their fruit is organic and thus extremely seasonal as to what's available. 

This tiny organic orchard is so picturesque its insane. 
Family-run business tucked away on a one-lane dirt road that I never find on the first try. 
When we went in the fall they were almost picked over, 
but the guy there took us around to the individual trees he knew were still good. 
This is good to kill an hour. 

(I've also heard this place referred to as the anti-Linvilla 
because Linvilla is such a clusterfuck 
and this place is so small and quiet). 

Merrymead Farms
Location: Lansdale (off 476 Northeast Extension) 
Parking: tons 
Price: Pay-per-attraction 
Hours: Check website, we only go in the fall 

Disclaimer, this place isn't my favorite. 
It's usually overrun with school trips 
and the hayride/corn maze feels a little pricey 
(I don't remember how much exactly, 
but I just remember thinking it was pricey) 
but its a good fall stop for the kids. 
It's definitely smaller than Linvilla 
(hell, anything is smaller than Linville). 
We do the corn maze, 
get apple cider donuts, 
see animals, 
and end with the hayride. 

Philadelphia Zoo (the big zoo) 
Location: West Philly 
Parking: Fills up quickly on weekends and then you have to park on the street 
which you do NOT want because this is NOT a good section of Philly. 
It's also expensive ($15/car) 
Price: Pricey. $19/child or $23/adult. 
Family membership $135
We were gifted giftcards and then purchased a family pass on Black Friday for 50% off. 
Hours: Open year-round

This zoo is huge and definitely is a multi-hour investment. 
I would say it's not even worth it until the kid is at least 4 or 5. 
It's also really fun without kids, just sayin'.

When it's too hot or too cold

Location: Every town 
Parking: Usually good 
Hours: Most open 10am-evening

We LOVE libraries. 
We loved our library at our old house 
and we love our library at our new house. 
They are very different but both outstanding. 
Both have such an abundance of kids toys 
(and both have a Thomas train table) 
We go once a week in the mornings for storytime, 
but often come here in the evenings too to fill the Great Void. 
In the winter, we are at the library all the time

Location: Conshohocken (right off 476/76) 
Parking: Somewhat limited, get there when it opens 
Price: $6/1st kid, $4/extra kid, $1/adult, small credit card fee 
Hours: 9:30-11:30 M-F 
Snack (included in price) served at 10:30
Free coffee. 

This place is perfection for toddlers. 
Aaron has outgrown it, 
but it is so perfect for Oliver's age 
that I'll take him at least once a week while Aaron is at preschool. 
I'd say it's best starting at 1 up through age 3. 
There are stuff for crawlers, too, 
but it gets busy and then its tough for the crawlers. 
Oliver just lights up when he gets in here. 

Smith Playhouse 
Location: Fairmont Park in Philadelphia 
Parking: Limited. Get there when it opens. 
Price: FREE 
Hours: Open year-round 

the basement which I affectionately refer to as "the dungeon"

Another place I blogged about in my donations post
It's a huge mansion with every single floor dedicated to kids toys. 
The basement (pictured) is Aaron's favorite, 
setup like a city with "roads" to zoom on 
complete with traffic light.
They LOVE IT. 
Also, the architecture of the place is gorgeous. 

This place also boasts the largest playground I've ever seen in my life. 
However, because it is so large, 
I rarely take the boys out unless I have someone else with me. 

Location: East Norriton 
Parking: Lots and free
Price: $6/child for 1 hour 
Hours: Thursday & Friday 9:30-12:30

I'm sure there are variants of this kind of place everywhere. 
A giant warehouse of indoor bounce houses. 
It's great for preschool age but less so for toddlers. 
Aaron can do everything on his own 
but I have to help Oliver with everything. 

Sky Zone Toddler Time Program
Location: Nation-wide, but in Philly region they are in Oaks (out on 422)
Parking: Lots and free
Price: $7/child for the full time 
Hours: Tues,Thurs,Fri,Sun 9:30-11:00 

This nation-wide trampoline park is Aaron's favorite. 
It's perfect for the preschool age. 
It's tougher for Oliver's age because 
even though the toddler time maxes at age 5, 
there's a huge range of kids, 
and the big kids jump hard
while the littlest get jostled a bit. 
With one child, I wouldn't take until at least 3. 
With Aaron and Oliver, 
I let Aaron go jump and stay close to Oliver. 

The Little Pod

Location: North Wales (off 476 Northeast Extension) 
Parking: Lots and free
Price: $10/kid 
Hours: open at 10am till ??? 

I'd say this place definitely peaks around age 3 or 4. 
Oliver is just starting to get into it. 
Problem is that it's among the pricier play places, 
and they start charging once the kid is a year old. 
So suddenly we jumped from $10 which was fine, 
to $20 which is meh. 

Regal Summer Movie Express
Location: King of Prussia 
Parking: Lots and free 
Price: $1/person 
Yes you read that right. $1/kid and $1/adult!!! 
Hours: Tuesday & Wednesday, I believe starting around 9:30 or 10 
(check website)

This is such a great program. 
It's so cheap too. 
If the kid only sits through an hour, so what? 
You only spend $2. 
There may be a few newer movies scattered in, 
but many are 5-10 years ago. 
I only wish they had more preschool options, 
as most of the movies are geared towards older kids. 

(To determine whether a movie is age-appropriate, 
I rely heavily on Common Sense Media
which is an outstanding free resource. 
You just search a movie 
and it tells you the exact age to start the movie, 
as well as gives very specific details about said movie
e.g.: name-calling, sensitivities to young viewers, adult jokes, etc)


Other big favorites around Philadelphia: 
Please Touch Museum (outstanding for toddlers). 
Franklin Institute (great for preschool and up). 
Camden Aquarium (great for preschool and up). 

But we don't have memberships to these so we don't go often enough. 
That said, I just learned that the library allows us to check out family passes, 
meaning we could take a family of 4 to the Franklin Institute completely free (GASP). 

What are your favorite places to take kids?