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Christine Gardner's Posts

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A car-free mom gets her muscles — and mind — in shape for summer

I've started running a few times a week. Each morning, I grab the clothes I've set out the night before and finish getting dressed in the garage, because I don't want to wake my family. Then I go into my neighborhood and run, although running is a misnomer. Really, it's more of a jog -- and sometimes just a walk. These legs are made for parenting. These jog/walk sessions don't have anything to do with being beautiful and thin, although I could do without the little mommy-skirt bathing suit. In large part, running is just a prelude to cycling. For …

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This family is sticking with eco-alternatives

This summer, my family and I took an overnight trip to Chicago that started out pleasant enough. We were well packed and tidy. Just before boarding our train, my husband took a few pictures of us, joking that this would begin our slow descent into madness. Consider the alternatives. Photo: iStockphoto Descent into madness. That turned out to be pretty accurate. We have a long and storied history of not doing things like other people. Instead of driving in a nice air-conditioned car complete with DVD for entertaining our daughters, we boarded a crowded Amtrak train. Instead of hailing cabs, …

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Toxic fun

Once again, it turns out plastic toys from China are more than just an eyesore -- they're a hazard. A toy recall of 86 Fisher Price products, including several branded toddler favorites like the Dora and Elmo, was issued yesterday because of a lead-paint hazard. After scrolling the list, I decided my kids were safe -- for now. At least I think so. My kids have a ton of toys, mostly bought by well-meaning relatives, and I hate almost all of them. They're ugly. They're noisy. And now we can add dangerous to the list. Great. I recently started thinking …

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On the difficulties of going veggie

I love bacon. Sure, meat is murder and all that, not to mention it's contributing more emissions than most of us slightly green carnivores would like to admit, but it is tasty. And filling. I learned that last bit in June when my family gave up meat at the slight urging of vegetarian Gristmillers responding to my query about the best ways to green my family life. It took me about three tummy-rumbling weeks before I learned veggie burgers satisfied my craving for hearty food. In a month's time I came away with conflicting thoughts about meat. For instance, kids …

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Do parents lose or gain by taking kids outdoors?

I'm a little bitter about not playing soccer. Or softball. Or piano. I did take dance lessons, but the name "Klutzy Chrissy" didn't happen by accident. My parents preferred to send me outside. Even in our Detroit neighborhood, which developed a reputation during the last 30 years of offering a wide assortment of crack houses, my friends and I explored the alleys while making sure to wear shoes as protection from broken bottles. Ah, nature. My parents certainly didn't view themselves as the last of a dying breed. But as the National Forum on Children and Nature works to get …

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My bike and kids

The Bike-To-Work-Week gods had plans for me ... even though I don't actually work. On Mother's Day, May 13, a wheel fell off my stroller. Walking is my main mode of transportation, and I love it. Even with its distance limitations, pushing a stroller felt like a safe alternative to driving and less annoying than taking the bus. My daughters, 18 months and 3, are too old for us to justify buying another stroller and too young to walk the two-mile roundtrip to downtown, the playground, or the library. Since I gave up driving almost a year ago, I've ignored …

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Can a mother survive without antibacterial wipes?

A few Sundays back, the newspaper seemed to spill an overwhelming number of cleaning-product coupons onto my living-room floor. "It's like They know," my husband said. "They're on to you." "They" are the companies selling household liquids and powders for a little spring cleaning. And the secret my husband thought they'd discovered? I had decided to purge my pine-fresh scents and 99.9 percent germ killers in favor of a few products our "great-grandparents used," as advised by green-parenting maverick MaGreen. Here's a little secret the cleaning companies don't want to promote on daytime TV: This older, less-expensive version of cleaning …

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Dare this mom to change her life

Few things are less environmentally friendly than kids. You know it's true. They stand as examples of our populating an overpopulated planet. They need a lot of stuff, or at least that's what other parents and Babies 'R' Us tell us. And nothing says "earth hater" more than the billions of dirty diapers now calling landfills home. But here's the thing: Before kids, I wasn't much of an environmentalist. It wasn't until I birthed my children and moved them to suburbia that I finally made the decision to strive for a simple, sustainable existence. If I was going to stay …

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Can a mom in middle America survive a month without a car?

Not 20 minutes after the Amtrak clerk said our train would be at least an hour late -- "probably much more" -- I almost caved. "We could rent a car and drive home," I thought, and maybe even muttered. "Nobody has to know." I had just hit my breaking point. Carolyn rides the bus. Photos: Christine Gardner My husband, Steve, and I were pushing our two daughters along a searing sidewalk built precariously close to a major road, beer-bottle shards crunching underfoot. We were in Illinois' state capital of Springfield, just 70 miles from our Normal home, and I was …

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