Recycling – List of Things To Recycle

I was curious about what I can recycle via my neighborhood’s recycling program.  Turns out I could have been recycling a lot more than I have been!  

Many communities in Northern Virginia, like mine, contract their recycling out to CSI Disposal and Recycling Services.  This includes Reston, Leesburg, and Loudoun County communities like Lansdowne, Cascades, and Countryside.  You’ve probably seen (and heard!) their big red trucks.   

With CSI, residents put their unsorted recyclables out for pickup.  CSI staff then manually (yes, a human being does this!) sorts through the recyclables, discarding the trash that can’t be recycled. I didn’t realize how many things could be recycled. 

I called CSI and a very nice woman gave me the following list of recyclables:

  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Plastics – #1 and #2 only (look on the bottom of the container)
  • Metal food and beverage containers, like aluminum cans
  • Paper – newspapers, magazines, loose paper, junk mail, etc.
  • Cardboard, like packing, cereal, and shoe boxes, and milk cartons

The city of Leesburg has a great detailed list of do’s and don’ts for recycling.  The CSI rep said that their rules are the same at every site, so the Leesburg site should apply to anyone whose neighborhood uses CSI. 

Here’s the Leesburg site: 


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Summer Tips: Swimsuits, Razor Bumps, and Sunscreen

Here are a few tips to celebrate the start of summer. 

1) Land’s End has “slenderizing” swimsuits designed to make you look a size smaller.  I went with the “Control Separates Swim Mini” since I need some extra help this year, only six months after my third C-section.  The “Hi-neck Slender Swimsuit” did a good job on my mid-section, but the solid color didn’t do enough to camouflage.   

Sears has a Land’s End section in their retail stores.  They have several suits, but not all the styles and colors that I wanted.  If you don’t find what you want there you can order at the Land’s End kiosk in the Sears store to avoid shipping charges.   

2)  Use Tend Skin lotion to prevent razor bumps.  My OB/GYN recommended this to me, and it really works (if you remember to use it.)  Use it at least once a day and you won’t get ingrown hairs.  You can find it online, at Sephora, or at high-end spas. 

3) I highly recommend continuous spray sunscreen.  I prefer the transparent, no-rubbing-required kind; the lotion kind requires rubbing and can be drippy.  Wal-mart has the best deals; you can find it for under $7.  My kids have very fair skin, so the continuous spray saves me about three minutes per kid per day!

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On Crocs…

My kids and I love our Croc shoes.  My two-year-old daughter and I have purple ones and my four-year-old son has sea blue ones.  Yes, technically they are ugly, but what they lack in style they make up for in personality!

 I like that the kids can wear them without socks, thus reducing the amount of time I spend hunting for, putting on, and washing socks.  With three kids this time and effort can really add up! 

They are also easy to clean.  Last year I bought Serena some huarache sandals that smelled horrible by the end of the summer.  My sweet little angel had feet that smelled like a turd wrapped in burnt hair, to quote Anchorman.  Crocs are bacteria and odor resistant, and you can wipe them down with bleach. 

One word of warning:  I was told that they are top shelf dishwasher-safe.  They even mention this on the Crocs site:  I did this and they came out at least one half size smaller, so watch out! 

I bought our Crocs at Nordstrom for $24.95.  They’re the same price at, but you avoid the $8 for shipping.  I also found kids’ Crocs at Dick’s Sporting Goods, but they were $5 more and they didn’t have the sizes and colors that I needed. 

p.s.  If you decide to order from Dick’s, note that their website is  I thought it was just and got a nasty surprise.  My son was with me, and I just about had a heart attack.  Thank God they had a warning page saying that it was an adult site.

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More On the War Against VPLs…

An update to my thong post:  I bought my first pair of Spanx the other day.  I got a pair of Spanx “Higher Power” panties in an effort to smooth my mid-section for some low-cut pants. 

Overall I give them a big thumbs up!  They gave gentle support from just under my bra down to the middle of my thighs.  They stayed in place with no roll down from the top or ride up from the bottom.  They were pretty comfortable, even though I normally can’t stand any pressure on my stomach. 

The coolest/strangest thing was their gusset crotch that lets you urinate without taking off your Spanx.  It felt incredibly weird – like peeing with your clothes on – but it actually worked with no mess.  What a great idea; obviously these were designed by a woman! 

At $34 the Higher Power panties aren’t cheap, and they’re cumbersome enough that I wouldn’t want to wear and wash them every day, but they’re a great solution for a special occasion outfit.   

I also tried the Spanx trouser socks.  They were excellent too, though not necessarily worth the added cost ($10-12).  I am, however, intrigued by their reversible, two-colored trouser socks.  Those might be worth the additional investment. 

You can order Higher Power panties and trouser socks from or get them for the same price in the Nordstrom hosiery section.   

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Serena’s Special Day

I had an amazing day yesterday.  Although he usually is at home on Thursdays, my four-year-old went to daycare because of a special event.  I decided to take my infant in too and have a girls-only day with my two-year-old, Serena.  It was a girls-only treat – “Serena’s Special Day” – and it was a blast! 

Serena is a gentle, sweet soul, who is very independent and happy to play on her own.  She’s the classic second child who idolizes her big brother and lets him call the shots most of the time.  She’ll speak up (scream) for herself when there is a major issue, but in general she is calm and unassuming.  To be the star of the show for a whole day was unsettling, unfamiliar, and thrilling for her.  

We started the day with a little shopping at Target and Kohls, then headed to a brand-new community center in our area for some indoor swimming.  The pool has water fountains and a slide for preschooler-size kids, and we had a great time going down the slide and pretending to be mermaids and sharks.  After that we had lunch with Daddy, followed by her nap.  Then we read books in my bed and watched a video before going to pick up her brothers at daycare. 

It was so much fun – for both of us, I think.  Serena got some attention that she didn’t even know she was missing.  She loved the activities and the undistracted one-on-one time with me.  She isn’t very articulate about her feelings yet, but she seemed very happy all day and I got several extra snuggles last night. 

For me, being able to focus on her all day was a treat.  Maybe it’s partially the impact of the Virginia Tech shootings this week, but I’ve been treasuring my time with the kids and holding them a little tighter lately.  Having a special day with my daughter seemed incredibly poignant and precious to me yesterday.   

I’ve set a goal of trying to take one of my kids for a “special day” each month, and I’m going to try to fit in some shorter alone time activities with them more often.  They’re wonderful together, but being with them separately helps me appreciate and enjoy them in a new and special way. 

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Kids Yes, but Squalor No

I was sweeping the floor the other day when my baby started crying, wanting to eat.  I hurried to finish up with the dustpan when my mother said, “Leave that, honey.  The children come first.  The kids always come first.”   

This is truly the way that my mom raised us:  housekeeping took a back seat to living life.  I always felt this as a child, although I didn’t appreciate it fully until I was a mom of my own.  I totally agree:  the kids should come first. 

The flip side of my mother’s “kids first” philosophy was that my parents’ house was pretty much always messy.  We kids cleaned our bedrooms once a week and the whole house was cleaned when company was expected, but other than that tidiness wasn’t a priority.  Our house was generally sanitary, but it was incredibly cluttered with the detritus of six busy people.  As a kid, I appreciated the extra quality time provided by the “kids first, chores later” philosophy, but I was also a bit embarrassed when my friends came to visit.   

Now that I am the co-head of a household, I struggle with finding the right balance between putting my kids and life first yet keeping the house relatively clean.  I get edgy when the house is a sty, yet I cringe when I hear myself yell things like “just a minute, babe!  Mommy needs to finish these dishes!”  I want to have a home where kids can get messy, have fun, and play freely, but I get pissed off when it takes hours to get the house clean again. 

There seems to be a continuum with pristine cleanliness on one end and utter chaos on the other.  The truth is, I can’t really specifically say where my ideal point on this line is, but (apologies to Justice Stewart) I know it when I veer from it.  

Here are some principles (coping mechanisms?) that I generally endorse.  I can’t say that I follow them all the time, but they have been helpful. 

Contain your mess:  If your house is big enough, contain the kids’ toys and mess in general in their bedroom or playrooms.  If possible, keep your house’s entryway and a front room clean so that pop-in visitors can be entertained in relative cleanliness. 

Clean as you go:  I go back and forth on this one.  I am so Type A that if I try to clean as I go I feel like a hawk waiting to swoop in and clean up puzzle pieces or Candyland cards, which is annoying and vaguely creepy for the kids.  

Clean with the kids:  Kids and cleanliness aren’t mutually exclusive.  They need to learn how to clean, and cleaning helps teach responsibility and respect. 

Clean away from the kids:  I try to clean during naps and daycare so that I’m not constantly cleaning during the day.  I stay at home to be with the kids, not be near them. 

Clean before fun:  Nothing comes for free in our house.  The TV doesn’t turn on, for example, until the kids pick up the family room floor. 

Hire a cleaning service:  If you can afford it, hire some help.  It will increase your quality of life immensely.  I love knowing that it’s never been more than two weeks since my toilets were cleaned.  Every other Wednesday I literally thank God for my cleaning lady.             

Cut yourself some slack:  I still haven’t solved this issue in our house.  I do what I can and try not to get too wound up about it. 

And now I’m off to clean the kitchen…

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Food Allergies – Tips and Tricks for Egg- and Dairy-Free Cooking

Through my son’s experience I realized how difficult food allergies can be, especially for children. 

Allergies, asthma, and eczema are all related (who knew?!?).  With my husband’s history of allergies and asthma and my eczema, my kids inherited the genetic equivalent of the allergy “perfect storm”.   My son started out with eczema and wheezed a lot when he was sick, which was often.  Since we figured out his allergies and medications (which have been reduced over time; now he’s just on Singulair), he has been a very healthy kid! 

Birthdays and parties in general are some of the trickiest situations for kids with allergies.  Here are a few tips I’ve learned about party fare and egg-free baking. 

  • Note that eggs are used for both leavening and binding, so you’ll need to experiment on what works best for your purposes.

  • For Bisquick pancakes, corn bread mixes, and mixes in general, I use this equivalent:  1 Teaspoon baking powder, 1 Tablespoon water + 1 Tablespoon vinegar (added as the last ingredient) = 1 egg.  You won’t be able to taste the difference!  (Another tip: let the Bisquick mix sit for five minutes for smoother pancakes, without bubbles.)

  • For cakes, I’ve had moderate success with chocolate box cakes by combining the substitution above with a yeast substitution.  Now I stick to cupcakes and Cherrybrook Kitchen box cake mix.

  • Cherrybrook Kitchens has an excellent chocolate chip cake mix; the cake itself is so-so, but the chocolate chips make it great.  All Cherrybrook Kitchen products are free of eggs, dairy, trans fats and nuts.  You can find it at Whole Foods or order through Amazon.  Be warned, though: each cake mix box only makes enough for one cake layer.

  • Vegan recipes are a great source of egg- and dairy-free meal ideas.  It seems to me that vegan recipes taste better than altered regular recipes. 

  • For great cupcake recipes, check out Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  It’s a great, fun book of cupcake recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  They also have a great blog at .  I’ve only tried vanilla and chocolate so far; both are great. Make sure you sift your dry ingredients or they’ll taste like corn muffins!

  • Canned icing (like Betty Crocker) is often dairy and egg-free.

  • Many ice creams have egg in them; be sure to read the ingredients! Two non-egg favorites are Breyer’s All Natural Vanilla and Edy’s mint chocolate chip.

  • Earth Balance margarine tastes great and has no dairy, egg, hydrogenated oils, or trans fats.  It’s so good we just eat it for the taste. We find it at our Wegmans in the organic fridge section, on the bottom shelf.

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