First shopping trip – Clothes for the kids (Success!)

Mr. Research (my husband) and I packed the kids into the minivan and made the 15 minute drive to the mall. SillyMonkey was determined to skip his nap and DramaLlama had just woken up from his morning one. As predicted, SillyMonkey fell asleep in the car while DramaLlama was cooing and screeching to the classical music playing through the minivan speakers.

SillyMonkey was in desperate need of new socks.

Finding a matching pair of socks for him (or finding any socks at all for that matter) was starting to become a very difficult and elusive task. Mr. Research and I would play the unspoken game of slyly trying to make the other one go on the hunt for his socks.

“Hey honey, I dressed SillyMonkey and all he needs are shoes. Can you put them on him while I finish dressing the baby?” (note: I never said the word socks or he’d be on to me like white on rice)

“Does he have socks on?” (oh he already knows what’s up)

“Just find him a pair and put his shoes on, I’m getting DramaLlama ready.

“Oh don’t worry about the baby, I can take care of him. You got SillyMonkey ready so I’ll get the baby ready.”

“No, no, no. I already started getting him ready. It’s fine. Just help SillyMonkey.”

“Really, I don’t mind. I’ll dress the baby.” says Mr. Research while reaching for the baby.

What both of us is really saying is “I don’t want to look for those damn socks!”

The point is, SillyMonkey badly needed socks. DramaLlama needed pants and both needed a couple of shirts.

We arrived at the mall and SillyMonkey arose from the dreaded 5 minute car ride nap and perked right up like he’d been asleep for hours. He knew within the depths of the mall lay a small train that can take you twice around the food court and charge you $5.

“I wanna ride the train, mama!” exclaimed my 3-year-old.

“Sure, but we have to go to the store first to find you some socks and new clothes.”

Mr. Research and I buckled the kids up in the Sit and Stand stroller and made our way into the mall. This marked the first shopping trip I was taking while truly being serious about not buying any clothes made in China. So yes, I was totally going to be looking at every label. The kids were actually being extraordinarily cooperative, which was a blessing! The first store I went into was Benetton. It’s usually on the pricey side for kids clothes but sometimes they have awesome sales and I usually take full advantage of them. So we walk in and I start browsing, I’m not seeing anything that catches my eye. The one sweater that I might have thought about buying was $56 and totally made in China. So that’s a big fat “No” on both price and where it’s made.

I decide to go to Hanna Andersson. I think to myself, “This is going to be totally awesome, it’s all pricey Swedish organic cotton stuff, I’m going to have to distract Mr. Research so I can buy whatever I want!” Yeah…..it was a total bust. There was plenty that was very cute, but every single item I touched was Made in China! Ugh! It was actually pretty frustrating. The only thing I picked up in the store that was actually made in Sweden was a pair of moccasins. How can companies be charging so much for their clothes and claiming to be all organic and Swedish and then be made in China? I must be missing something, but it was sure eye-opening.

So there I was having just walked out of two children’s stores and still totally sockless. I decide to go to the next closest store, which happened to be Janie and Jack. Ah, for sure this expensive children’s store would have what I was looking for. I saw a cute yellow rain jacket (that we totally didn’t need but it was seriously too cute to not contemplate buying) and it was made in China. And so were the other 5 knit sweaters I looked at! At that rate I was going to be leaving empty-handed yet again. Socks, mittens and hats were all made in China too.

By now SillyMonkey was itching to run around the mall like a crazy person. He wanted to go up and down the escalators so Mr. Research grabbed him and they both went to have some quality daddy-son-escalator time. I kept browsing because I couldn’t believe that everything in that store was made in China. And I was right. I found two pair of pants and a button-down shirt that were made in Bangladesh. Not bad, pretty sure they don’t have to install suicide-prevention nets in Bangladesh factories. ***runs to research and make sure*** I’ll take them!

I got out of the store and SillyMonkey and Mr. Research were nowhere to be found. I stood around waiting for them to emerge and then DramaLlama started to lose it. I unbuckled him and we played around until Mr. Research and SillyMoneky appeared bearing Auntie Annes Pretzels. I’m totally jealous but I’m on a boring low-carb diet so I can’t have any. It’s not organic but there were no organic options at the mall so we continued on our merry way. SillyMonkey was insisting on walking, and he was being really good the whole time, and DramaLlama declared his hatred for the stroller and refused to go back in. So I was holding a baby and pushing around an empty behemoth of a stroller. Awesome.

Gap kids was our next stop. The first 5 items I was interested in were all made in China, including this adorable navy blue chunky knit sweater on super sale for only $15! I would have bought it in a heartbeat if it were made anywhere else. Sigh. But I did manage to find a pair of pants and overalls for DramaLlama. Another success. I was getting hungry and SillyMonkey was begging to go ride the train so we decided to go up to the food court and split up. I took DramaLlama along to find something to eat and Mr.Research took SillyMonkey to go ride the train and then play in the indoor play area.

Slim pickings for this mama who’s on a low-carb diet. I got blah food and sat down to blah eat it but DramaLlama had other plans. After much struggle, I was able to eat about 40% of my food and entertain the baby at the same time. He ate organic puffs and flirted with every person who cared to look his way. He’s a cute one and knows it, so it’s pretty funny seeing him work his baby mojo and get people to fawn all over him. Nothing makes a mama more proud than people fawning over her kids.

Mr. Research and SillyMonkey made their way back to my table and we set off on one last stop. H&M usually has really cute and trendy kids clothes for unbeatable prices so I was a little worried it’d all be made in China. Admittedly, I’d never bothered to look before. We made it to H&M and of course the line at the register was ridiculously long as usual. I was unphased and I continued to the children’s section to start my browsing. Success! Almost everything I was looking at was not made in China! Huzzah. Socks! Glorious Socks! Thank goodness they were made in Turkey. I bought two packs along with a few sweaters for SillyMonkey.

DramaLlama fell asleep in 0.2 seconds after being strapped into his car seat…… my goal in life is to get these boys to nap at the same time. Maybe one day…

If I were to rate the difficultly of finding clothes that were not made in China, I’d have to say it was very mild. Actually it was more mildly annoying than it was difficult. There were plenty of clothes that were not made in China, and plenty of alternatives and options so it really wasn’t challenging at all. The only difficult thing about it was having to walk away from a seriously cute piece of clothing that I would have bought in a heartbeat if it were not made in China. There didn’t seem to be one particular store that had all its clothes made in China or not made in China, so really no consistent pattern, I just had to look at the label of every single item I picked up regardless of the store. Inexplicably, it seemed like every knit sweater I picked up was made in China. Totally random and weird but I seriously could not find one knit sweater made elsewhere.

Overall, I’d call the shopping trip a great big success!

This is going to be one tall order!

A few days ago, after putting my two kids to sleep and putting the house back in order, I collapsed on the bed and snuggled under the covers with my husband to watch some TV before we fell asleep. We were watching the Daily Show per usual and on this particular episode they had a segment that really struck a chord with me. It was about a Chinese factory having to install nets to prevent Chinese workers from jumping to their death as a means of escaping factory life. Not exactly a comforting image to have before falling asleep.

I looked around my bedroom and wondered how many things in that room were made in China, if I was honest with myself, probably most of it. I mean what’s NOT made in China these days? It’d be easier to list the stuff Not made in China than it would be to list the things that were. My sight then uneasily settled on my iPhone4 that was laying on the nightstand right next to me.

Yep, that was definitely made in China, and probably came from the very factory they were talking about on TV. I felt ashamed and outraged….deeply deeply ashamed. I realize this is some very heavy stuff I’m talking about now, and I’m usually very light hearted, but this was seriously upsetting and really solidified my reasons for not buying anything made in China from that point on.

Part of me always knew that the conditions of workers in China had to be difficult, and that’s putting it lightly. I knew they would not be able to mass produce things on such a cheap and large scale without making some serious sacrifices, but I guess I just chose to not think about it.

I’ve been wary of Chinese products for a while now. Since the birth of my first son in 2008, I’ve been reading labels a lot more closely and paying attention to where things are made and what materials are used to make it. I insist on buying BPA free. I thought that was enough, until I discovered one afternoon while reading a magazine in a doctor’s waiting room that I also had to pay attention to Phalates and PVC.

To put it bluntly, I was not very enlightened on the subject before having children. I was your typical middle class working American young professional, I worked hard for my money and wanted it to stretch. I had student loans and car payments to make. When it came to my food and home products I never paid much attention to labels and just assumed if it was on the shelves then it must have passed some rigorous government testing and rules to make it safe for me to purchase and/or consume.

Something about having to start feeding my son solids got me thinking about what I was putting in his mouth. I looked around at the food we bought and ate, none of it was organic. I started reading about why one would want to buy organic in the first place. It always just seemed like over-priced pretentious food for pretentious people. I was floored by my ignorance. I immediately started buying organic food, or at least what I thought was organic (more on that later). I had a hunger to educate myself on the safety of the products I used on my son, what I bathed him in, the lotion I slathered on him, the diaper creams, the shampoos, the toothpastes….the list goes on and on…

Did you know there’s a whole website dedicated to giving a safety score to everyday products we use on our skin and bodies? I had no idea. I found this site and started searching for the products I had in my bathroom. I panicked and threw out all the skin products I had for him and ran to the nearest Whole Foods and bought him organic and chemical free products. I keep trying to educate myself, and every day I learn how much I actually still don’t know. It’s exhausting. I try my best and I’ll keep trying. I feel much more enlightened than I did 3 years ago for sure, but I know there’s still so much for me to learn and so much for me to find out. I find myself becoming more and more “crunchy” (I hate that word) with every passing day. I now cloth diaper my youngest son whereas I used Huggies on my oldest. I’m slowly replacing all the plastic in my house with glass or stainless steel or ceramic. I’m really trying but I know there’s still so much for me to do and this blog is dedicated to my journey of “doing”.

Which brings me back to the whole China thing. I used to shy away from products if I knew they were made in China. I’ve read too many recalls for things laced with lead and/or cadmium to know that many cheap products from China come with a steep price health-wise. But to be honest, I was only half-heartedly doing it. I think I was most surprised when I was browsing through the aisles of Buy Buy Baby and came across a box of Baby MumMums. Displayed across the front of the box was the word “Organic”. Yes, this seemed like a great product to buy for my 8 month old. I take a peek at the label…..yep, Made in China.

Many products that claim they are organic are still made in China, and maybe I’m a serious skeptic here, but really, how organic can they be? I have a hard time believing that China would have the same organic standards we have here in the US, and don’t get me started on the mislabeling and intentionally misleading advertizing on so called organic and natural products here in the US.  Also, on that same note, I read an article a while back about organic farms in China, it’s not good news for the Chinese people. To sum the article up, organic farms are very limited and the organic produce it produces is strictly available to the elite and/or rich and none are available for the general public. So basically I am now on a mission. I am on a mission to take responsibility for the products I buy.

  • know how mistreated Chinese workers are. You’d have to be living in a cave not to be aware of that.
  • know that the safety regulations on Chinese products are just not good enough.
  • know that I want to buy organic products that do not contain harmful chemicals for me and my family.
  • know I want to also be as environmentally friendly as I can be during this process.

So my personal challenge is to buy only organic, earth-friendly products that do not contain harmful chemicals, and are Not Made in China. I know this is going to be one heck of a tall order. It’s going to take some serious research on my part, and a lot of effort (and money…), but I’m willing to do it and blog about it in hopes of maybe helping others find alternative products to the everyday chemical-laden, China-made products we use. I will try my best. I’ll be posting about my successes and failures and I’m anticipating quite a bit of failures. I’ll be researching and shopping for NMIC products as they run out in my household and as needed for the family. Guess I can kiss Thomas the Tank Engine toys goodbye! I’m going to try and compile a list of all the products I used to buy and the new chemical-free, not made in China products I use to replace them. I’ll be learning as I go but hopefully you’ll be learning right along with me. Or if you already know maybe you can just tell me and save me the hassle! The one thing I am sure of is that every time I look at a label and see Made in China, those suicide-prevention nets will be the first thing that pop in my head and that image alone will make me drop that product, turn around and keep looking for a better and more humane alternative. It’s a matter of principle.