Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Monday, December 16, 2013

capturing health information in a changing world


Ever since I started graduate school in 2006, I have tracked the development of health information (HI) technology. At that time, the top story in the field of HI was about the rapid and effective response of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to Hurricane Katrina. Unlike other citizens, veterans were able to maintain their health records, prescriptions, and test results, despite having to evacuate the Gulf Coast for surrounding areas, often even to other states.

Seven years later, health informatics is a changing field, and most of us are now familiar with the concept of pharmacy and laboratory computerization for our prescriptions and test results to sync with our charts at doctors' offices. Now there are many stories of advancement, from local health departments around the country attempting to sync data with hospitals and the CDC to help epidemiologists track disease development, to advancements in the rest of the country's electronic medical records (EMR) such as those in the Hurricane Katrina story.

With the many improvements in health care technology comes a responsibility for updated education if you aim to work in the field, as I do. I took a health informatics course in graduate school and was fascinated with the field and all that is required to be knowledgeable in the subject. While I maintained general knowledge on the subject during my time in the field of public health, I am interested in increasing that knowledge upon my return to the field from my time as a mother and birth doula.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

natural birth stories: review, giveaway, and discount!

Author's Note: You can read more about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood on my site here. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to find out how you can get your own copy of Natural Birth Stories.

When I was nearing the end of my first pregnancy, I picked up a book one day that my mom recommended called Spiritual Midwifery. It was the first time I'd read any book that Ina May Gaskin published, and I was hooked from the start. Reading the stories of those women's natural births was empowering; it quelled my anxiety while also raising my belief that I could give birth without medical pain relief.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

rebuild your gut & immune system post-antibiotics: resources

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or nutrition expert, so please use your own judgment when making decisions about your health.


At the start of 2013, I shared our plan for rebuilding our daughters' good gut bacteria after they were put on antibiotics for upper respiratory infections. I had no idea how popular the article would become. If Dr. Google were the way we followed epidemiological trends in this country, I would say for sure that the overuse of antibiotics and their after effects are of primary concern among Googling parents.

If you haven't read that post yet, I recommend you start there. In that article, I delve into the how and why antibiotics can damage your or your child's gut and immune system, and I give some simple ideas for repairing it. Today I'm following up that post by focusing on more solutions, i.e. extensive ideas for rebuilding your digestive and immune systems. I'm sharing a list of e-book resources to provide ideas and strategies for detoxing, meals, skincare, natural health, and further rationale for your post-antibiotics healthy diet and lifestyle.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

about that time I had an IUD for two days

 A few months ago, I had an IUD for a brief moment. I struggled with whether to write about my experience here, but then Jamie (aka the grumbles) blasted through with all her badassery and Hell Yeah Unicorns, and I was inspired to share my story, although luckily my story is not nearly as horrible and gory as hers. Sorry Jamie.

I am sharing my experience because my story wasn't one of the many I read about prior to getting my IUD. As a doula, I want my clients to have as much information about birth so they can make their own empowered choices. I support whatever those choices are, so long as they are accompanied by corresponding evidence. I feel the same about your reproductive choices, Reader. The More You Know, and all that jazz.

...............................

Last night I watched Lena Dunham's show Girls for the first time. We got the first season from the library, and because binge-watching is our favorite way to get into new shows, we watched three episodes in a row. I am really not quite sure how Girls is related to the rest of what I'm writing about today, but somehow it seems vaguely intertwined. Something about solidarity, mothering our female friendships, hoes before bros, or along those lines. Plus, it's really hard for me to start out by saying "So y'all, about my vagina..." and this side note is my way of stalling.

...............................

So ya'll, about my vagina.

Looking back, I can't even remember exactly why I thought the IUD was the way I wanted to go, except that I was sick of swallowing The Pill's nasty hormone cocktail, and hormone-free birth control seemed like a good option. What I had read about diaphragms wasn't all that gung-ho either, so I figured in the realm of the sucky contraception options available, maybe ParaGard would be okay. ParaGard is the IUD made of copper, and my gynecologist assured me it's been on the market for a long time and is substantially improved from previous versions. I asked a few friends who used it, did some brief questioning of Dr. Google, and then jumped in, vagina-first.

{Warning: some graphic details will follow. Put down your sandwich}.

I'm not exaggerating when I say IT HURT LIKE A BITCH to have the IUD put in. Something about expanding a balloon inside my uterus to check its size (BLARG! hmhmhmhhmhm...I can't hear you...), then some bleeding that resulted from her pinching me from the inside. Yup, you read that right. She stabbed me in my uterus. Ever been poked in an internal organ while under no anesthesia? Doesn't feel great, amiriteladies?

Let me put it this way. I have experienced two unmedicated births, and this experience was hands-down more traumatizing. With my births, I was fully expecting the pain, and I knew it was natural, serving the amazing purpose of bringing my babies to my arms. That kind of pain I can handle. But the kind of pain where she doesn't bother even telling me it's going to hurt, beyond a flippant "this will sting a bit" as she was putting her hands in me, is another story. Once I started up my Lamaze breathing, she glanced over my splayed legs with a half-alarmed, half-annoyed look and said "You're not going to pass out, are you? I've had some women pass out on me and fall off the table." OH REALLY, thaaaaaat's quite interesting. Maybe you could have mentioned that in addition to the sting. A bee stings. This was not a sting.

I went home feeling a little shaky and tried not to think about it.

Cut to a morning less than 48 hours later. I was making eggs in a cast-iron skillet, and even when still cool, it felt hot to the touch. I ran over to the sink and scrubbed my hands clean, but the itchy, burning feeling didn't subside. The closest I can come to describing the feeling is that it's like accidentally touching fiberglass. You can't see the stuff, but it hurts acutely like you want to remove a splinter right away. My hands stayed swollen, splotchy, and red all morning.

I didn't yet connect the trouble to my IUD (Would you have? Three feet away inside me, it seemed like a non-issue), but I did consult Dr. Google with the query, "Why is my skillet giving me hives?"

[This part in the story is where I should probably pause and tell you that no earlier than a week before this problem, I had an exchange with my husband about how I never wear earrings because they are so itchy and uncomfortable. He postulated that like his mom and sister, I probably had a mild nickel allergy. It explained so much, including why some earrings were bothersome and others were not.]

Back to my kryptonite skillet. Google revealed the most common answer to be that modern iron skillets are sometimes plated in nickel because it is virtually indestructible and a good conductor of heat. Aha! That piece of information also helped me understand why our smaller heirloom skillets weren't posing a problem to my hands. They were likely made prior to nickel-plating.

What I hadn't yet figured out is why I suddenly was more allergic to the skillet now. What had changed? The IUD was made out of copper, not nickel...or so I thought? Not so fast, oh-ye-who-trusts-pharmaceutical companies. With some digging, I turned up others saying they had spoken with reps at ParaGard, who explained that while the IUD is coated in copper, it is actually comprised of a nickel core. Say what?

It's not difficult to understand why they chose this make-up because nickel is quite cheap compared with copper. What might be more difficult to understand is why it isn't written ANYWHERE ON THE PACKAGING that nickel is in the ParaGard. Is it still tough to put it together when you hear that nickel is one of the most common allergies? It's no surprise to me that ParaGard isn't advertising the nickel in their product when so many women would potentially be excluded from its use.

I immediately called the doctor, who was actually also surprised to hear that nickel was in the ParaGard. I would have almost preferred her saying "OH, you didn't tell me you were allergic to nickel! Yes, I know about it." She agreed that I should come in immediately and have the offending IUD taken out, which I did. While I may not have had any unicorns dancing around, I definitely saw Bob Marley's three little birds doing a happy dance around me on my way out of the clinic.

It's okay Bob, I'm not worried about a thing any more.

...............................

When I told my cousin this story, she pointed out how much worse it could have been if I had paid for that IUD. So true! Did you know those things can cost upwards of nearly a grand? I didn't until I had it taken out. I won't toot my horn too loudly with this next bit of info, but we have no copay for office visits. As in, I walked in and got the IUD, then two days later I had it removed, and it cost me zilch. But for people who are paying out of pocket, you'd think that medical personnel would be more committed to discovering the ins and outs of their expensive products. What do you think?



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

we are the FDA

Welcome to the September 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Safe
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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FDA Quotes

I steer clear of giving too much advice to new parents; what I know, they either won't understand or aren't ready to hear yet. Besides, being a mom for five years doesn't make me a parenting expert, and I am far too aware of the foibles I've made along the way to feel I would be any good at telling others what to do. There is an exception to this no-advice rule, and it's concerning the food and drug choices we make as parents. Here is the sum total of that advice: as a parent, you are the funnel by which all materials will reach your children. You are the screen, the poison detector, the regulation. In essence, YOU are the FDA.

One difficult truth I learned in public health graduate school is that the FDA is an agency under extreme political pressure to make profit-based rather than evidence-based decisions. The integrity of their decision-making process has come under scrutiny in recent years for good reasons. The FDA has repeatedly been accused of or directly confessed to succumbing to pressure by Congress, whose members are funded by big companies peddling myriad faulty products.

Note that this pressure isn't exerted by one political party or another; it is a problem that crosses the aisle. Even easier to demonstrate than the political pressure is the whacky organizational make-up of the agency where food is concerned. Let's take frozen pizza as an example; if you want inspection information about a frozen pepperoni pizza, you should seek out the USDA, but if you want the same information about a cheese pizza, go to the FDA. The same could be said about egg regulation, which this article cutely and aptly calls "scrambled."

The problems in FDA regulation aren't limited to processed food but rather extend to sunscreen (see EWG's July 2013 letter to the FDA here), cleaning products, produce, seafood, vitamins*--which the FDA doesn't currently regulate at all (see footnote about vitamins below)--etc. Problems aren't limited to the FDA either. There's bad news for other regulatory agencies as well. Take the FTC (please!), which regulates all advertising, including for children's and infant products, but chooses to provide less regulation and more frustrating "guidance."

A particularly frustrating example of this lack of adequate FTC regulation concerns infant formula. Back in the late 1980's, pediatricians were outraged at a change in formula advertising to direct-to consumer-as opposed to doctors; some pediatricians even went so far as to boycott formula companies. The AAP then and now recommends against direct-to-consumer advertising, but they wield no regulatory power, and even though other countries have banned the practice, the US (via the FTC) continues to allow it.

Why were pediatricians so up in arms? They knew what could (and did) happen; formula companies now manage the information you receive and lead women to believe failure to succeed at breastfeeding is normal and expected. The hazard boils down to this likelihood: if you don't do your own research to become educated, you know only what they want you to know. Perhaps more importantly, you don't know what they don't want you to know.

What all this evidence means, unfortunately, is that parents can't rely on the federal agencies** to protect us; we need to do our own research when making decisions about purchases, particularly when they are for our children. If you're looking for a place to do such parenting research, Environmental Working Group is a good place to start.

*Should you take a multivitamin? This Harvard School of Public Health website discusses the evidence both for and against synthetic supplemental vitamins.

**It's not all bad news at the federal agencies of health protection. The CDC does a fantastic job of relaying transparent and evidenced-based data to the public. I highly recommend checking out their website for child-related health and safety information.

Author's Note: This post was shared with Works for Me Wednesday.

***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon September 10 with all the carnival links.)
  • Stranger Danger — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her approach to the topic of "strangers" and why she prefers to avoid that word, instead opting to help her 4-year-old understand what sorts of contact with adults is appropriate and whom to seek help from should she ever need it.
  • We are the FDA — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger makes the case that when it comes to food and drugs, parents are necessarily both their kids' best proponent of healthy eating and defense against unsafe products.
  • You Can't Baby Proof Mother Nature — Nicole Lauren at Mama Mermaid shares how she tackles the challenges of safety when teaching her toddler about the outdoors.
  • Bike Safety With Kids — Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs shares her tips for safe cycling with children in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • Spidey Sense — Maud at Awfully Chipper used a playground visit gone awry to teach her children about trusting their instincts.
  • Watersustainablemum explains how she has used her love of canoeing to enable her children to be confident around water
  • Safety without baby proofing — Hannabert at Hannahandhorn talks about teaching safety rather than babyproofing.
  • Coming of Age: The Safety Net of Secure AttatchmentGentle Mama Moon reflects on her own experiences of entering young adulthood and in particular the risks that many young women/girls take as turbulent hormones coincide with insecurities and for some, loneliness — a deep longing for connection.
  • Mistakes You Might Be Makings With Car Seats — Car seats are complex, and Brittany at The Pistachio Project shares ways we might be using them improperly.
  • Could your child strangle on your window blinds? — One U.S. child a month strangles to death on a window blind cord — and it's not always the obvious cords that are the danger. Lauren at Hobo Mama sends a strong message to get rid of corded blinds, and take steps to keep your children safe.
  • Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit) — Creating a safe, smoke-free home not only gives children a healthier childhood, it also helps them make healthier choices later in life, too. Dionna at Code Name: Mama (an ex-smoker herself) offers tips to parents struggling to quit smoking, and she'll be happy to be a source of support for anyone who needs it.
  • Gradually Expanding Range — Becca at The Earthling's Handbook explains how she is increasing the area in which her child can walk alone, a little bit at a time.
  • Safety Sense and Self Confidence — Do you hover? Are you overprotective? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses trusting your child's safety sense and how this helps your child develop self-confidence.
  • Staying Safe With Food Allergies and Intolerances — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is sharing how she taught her son about staying safe when it came to his food allergies.
  • Don't Touch That Baby!Crunchy Con Mom offers her 3 best tips for preventing unwanted touching of your baby.
  • Playground Wrangling: Handling Two Toddlers Heading in Opposite Directions — Megan at the Boho Mama shares her experience with keeping two busy toddlers safe on the playground (AKA, the Zone of Death) while also keeping her sanity.
  • Letting Go of "No" and Taking Chances — Mommy at Playing for Peace tries to accept the bumps, bruises and tears that come from letting her active and curious one-year-old explore the world and take chances.
  • Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives tips on preventing choking in babies and toddlers along with Montessori-inspired tips for preventing choking in babies and toddlers who have older siblings working with small objects.
  • Keeping Our Children Safe: A Community and National Priority — September has many days and weeks dedicated to issues of safety; however, none stir the emotions as does Patriot Day which honors those slain the terrorist attacks. Along with honoring the victims, safety officals want parents to be ready in the event of another disaster whether caused by terrorists or nature. Here are their top tips from Mary at Mary-andering Creatively.
  • A Complete Family: Merging Pets and Offspring — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the ground rules that she laid out for herself, her big brown dog, and later her baby to ensure a happy, safe, and complete family.
  • Be Brave — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about helping her kids learn to be brave so that they can stay safe, even when she's not around.
  • Catchy PhrasingMomma Jorje just shares one quick tip for helping kids learn about safety. She assures there are examples provided.
  • Know Your Kid — Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassfras refutes the idea that children are unpredictable.
  • Surprising car seat myths — Choosing a car seat is a big, important decision with lots of variables. But there are some ways to simplify it and make sure you have made the safest choice for your family. Megan at Mama Seeds shares how, plus some surprising myths that changed her approach to car seats completely!
  • I Never Tell My Kids To Be Careful — Kim is Raising Babes, Naturally, by staying present and avoiding the phrase "be careful!"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I forgot my mantra



I love that quote by Jeff Goldblum in Annie Hall. I don't always get Woody Allen's jokes, but I get that one because it so accurately represents how I feel. I would try to meditate, but I'm certain I would forget my mantra because my pursuit of meditation would be so poorly executed. You see, I'm an ideas girl. I leave the execution of details to my life partner. We make a great team, he and I.

My church is a small congregation, and we take a break over the summer due to so many families traveling and to give our pastor some much needed time off. During the summer months, they invite speakers on Sundays to discuss any number of topics not covered over the rest of the year. Our family typically skips these non-sermons because we also need time off, but this Sunday covered spiritual meditation/prayer so we decided to give it a try. I felt I could use some lessons on learning to quiet my mind, for I lack the discipline to do so on my own. Even as I type this sentence, I'm thinking "I wonder if I have a load of laundry in the washer." Focus, girl!

It was an interesting experience just to converse with the other people who came. As it turned out, their reasons might not have been so different from my own. I have been contemplating how best to assist a family member who seems to be experiencing a mental decline lately, and it was the primary reason for my desire to meditate that day. During the candle lighting for concerns and celebrations, another member of the congregation stood up and asked us to pray for him as he helps his mother and father move into a smaller home. Then after the service, Nate called his parents and discovered his dad was also spending that weekend helping his mom move into a smaller home. Does it ever feel like you're being spoken to, LOUDLY, if you would just stop to listen?

The other immediate benefit of meditating, apart from the always wonderful shared experience I get from church, was that once I quieted my mind, solutions for a bunch of half-answered problems that have been floating around my mind suddenly jumped out at me. Could it be so easy? Whenever I have a problem, I could just sit quietly and empty my mind of thoughts, and the answer would jump out?

My theory has yet to be tested, but I like where this line of thought is headed. Slow down. Stop trying to think so much, and you might do some actual thinking. What stands out to you about this concept? Have you done any meditating?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

spring cleaning and preparing, part two

We love that tulips are so popular in New England spring.

Welcome to the May 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Emergency Preparedness
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their plans to keep their families safe. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***

Last spring I wrote a post about how we created and maintain a bin of emergency supplies. Today I'll cover the another important part of emergency planning, creating a family communication plan. Ready.gov has a family communications website with some ideas, and I've broken those tips down for you.

Creating an emergency communication plan:
  1. Identify an out-of-state contact. In the recent Boston bombing, we had intermittent cell phone service within the city, so if we had been at the Marathon, we wouldn't have been able to reach each other. However, if you designate a person out-of-town that everyone will call, you can get updates through that intermediary. Be sure to tell that person of your communication plan.

  2. Teach your child a contact number, either your cell phone or the designated contact person's. Children ages five and up are able to memorize 10-digit phone numbers. There are some great ideas out there for how to go about helping them memorize it.

  3. Make sure your child knows how to use the phone in your home. In our house, we only have cell phones, and mine automatically locks, so I had to train Genevieve how to unlock it herself and call 911, then I had to do it again this week when I got a new iPhone.

  4. Distribute your plan to your local emergency contact, a neighbor you trust, and your child's school, along with a letter to your child in case of an emergency. 
If you've made a bin of supplies and created a communications plan, consider learning additional ways to keep your home and family safe and finding escape routes. You can also make your stockpile larger in a frugal way by preserving your own food. We are trying not to eat canned food as much as possible due to concerns over BPA, so I've been storing lots of fruit jams and pickled veggies that can be canned using a boiling water bath. Get started with my round-up of canning resources.

***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon May 14 with all the carnival links.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

on not becoming The Goops

Alternate title: But I still refuse to eat snails.

Have you read French Kids Eat Everything yet? I'm not finished with it, but it's already a game-changer for us. A lovestruck Nate turned to me at dinner last night and wistfully said, a hint of a glistening tear in his eye, "This is just how I wanted dinner to be." Okay, I'm kidding about that. That kind of husbandly praise is the stuff of dreams...

With how much I talk (read: gloat) about feeding my kids real food, it might surprise you I have a lot to learn about teaching kids to eat well. Yes, I usually manage to get my kids to eat healthy food, BUT I have come to dread meal time due to their whininess, messiness, disregard for normal decibel levels and decent personal space, and sibling rivalry that accompany every meal. I was becoming a cross between a hair-raising psycho and a punch-drunk lunatic at dinner, getting into immature discussions with my kids about who was going to get the purple plate and which child would be allowed to sing the third verse of the rainbow song.

Then, the clouds parted, and this book fell into my lap. Or something like that.

But, seriously y'all, I was skeptical at first about whether the tricks in this book would work for us. I have employed some aspects of attachment parenting, and one of them that I associate with the trend is to offer children choices and let them articulate their preferences and control aspects of their food world. If I had to pick one thing I've learned in the last week, it's that the science does not agree; in fact, it suggests children aren't capable of deciding what they should eat, and these decisions actually stress them out.

But the proof is in the pudding: how did the experiment work for us? I am dumbfounded by the fact that not only did these fancy tricks work, but they have made ME enjoy food more. Who could have thought that was possible?

Here's a nutshell about why I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, with a few caveats (so maybe, one enthusiastic thumb and another regular thumb):

Caveat first: I don't have as many ingrained issues with food as the writer apparently does [Example: she is a self-professed lover of McDonald's. Gag me with a spoon.], so I had trouble identifying with her tendency to whine about her great luck. She seemed to have begrudgingly taken on the challenge to feed her kids French food--WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE AND MARRIED TO A FRENCHMAN--whereas I look at these opportunities to mold and change my kids as fun experiments. To me, a person who doesn't thank her lucky stars that she can benefit from the wisdom of the best foodies in the world has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. But then again, I try never to judge a woman for a reaction to her mother-in-law's advice.

Having said that, I learned loads from this book. I've only been to France once and then only to Paris, but even after a few days there, I learned easily that the French have figured out how to make good food. They enjoy food so much and so well. What I didn't know was that they have many rules about what, when, and how to eat. Being someone who likes to cook and eat--and someone who is sometimes painfully attempting to teach my kids good manners--I appreciate a culture that is willing to take time in crafting good, well-mannered eaters.

I also didn't realize how many bad American eating habits I have--and even worse--that I'm passing down to my kids.  I had become resigned to my fate, forgetting--or perhaps never knowing to begin with--that I have role in their meal-time education (Rule #1). Could it be as simple as they were misbehaving because they weren't aware that there were meal-time rules?


French Food Rules

Food Rules
Illustration by: Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything

Here are few of the rules she discusses in the book that I am most taken with (in my own words):


Up the formality! 

The French lay a tablecloth (!!), even for small children; they forgo paper napkins and sippy cups, opting instead for glasses, cloth napkins, and real silverware; and they announce the beginning of the meal with a quick phrase, "To the table!" When everyone is seated, they say "Bon appetit!" to signify that everyone may begin eating. My kids love rituals so took to these improvements like buttah. Vivi sets the table with a purpose, as though she has been lying in wait for the chance to be given this task. We've always said a blessing, which is now like icing on the cake instead of the only ritual.

Documentation of our first foray into tableclothing. It's a Kenyan wrap skirt. Cute, huh?


Respect each other...and the food! 


Imagine a meal with small children in which you don't have to endure loud interruptions and whining. Wonderful, right? How is this magic accomplished??

Actually, it isn't that hard. Once I got started, I figured out quickly that the rules I was implementing were exactly what they were already doing at school. Duh. If they say "But I wanted the purple plate!," I say "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." If they say "I don't want tabbouleh!," then I say "You don't have to like it, you just have to taste it." And after both of those phrases, they pipe in with "That's what my teachers say!" Oh, right.

I can't believe I didn't use these rules sooner. I always imagined that if I stopped them from jumping around and yelling, I would somehow be stifling their joy. But while I previously would have used my "Let kids be kids!" go-to parenting rule, I now realize that what I was doing was robbing everyone, including myself, of a chance to eat a peaceful meal. By stopping the chaos, I offer respect to my dinner guests and myself--and to the food we are eating, for that matter.

Plus, I've added an element of fun by asking them a few questions about their day, like their favorite thing, something they didn't like, a funny part of the day, and a time they helped someone. Both of the girls relish this time to shine with everyone listening. And I relish the opportunity to start new Mom catchphrases.


No food bribes or rewards (Rule #2). 

This rule is actually harder for me than I had thought. In my opinion, this rule exempts the once-a-year bribe of "If you do well at the doctor, you can have a lollipop!" But it also means that you can't stuff your kid's face with animal crackers every time you're in line at the bank. You can't jump into the car knowing you're going to get stuck in traffic and bribe your kids with fruit snacks and chips to make it the duration. You can't swoop in after your kid falls down or doesn't get the purple plate and say "If you eat your peas, you will get a popsicle!" What I failed to realize is that I was teaching my kids to fill their voids with food, and by doing that, I was making their relationship with food emotional. Yikes.


No snacking (Rule #7). 

This rule is tied with the rule above. "It's okay for them to be hungry" has become my new internal mantra. Once I attempted to stop our constant snacking, it occurred to me I had been teaching Charlotte to be a snack monster (see: toddler terrorist post). Her hunger monster still rears its head on occasion; however, just as I wouldn't back down when I tell her it's time to brush her teeth, I feel confident that keeping her from simple carbs and sugary juice is going to pay off in the end when she learns to reward her patience with satiety instead of stifling it with empty calories.


Eat family meals together (Rule #4).

I always wanted to enact this rule, and I had done it sometimes, but I admit there were many occasions that I would spend their meal doing dishes or reading blogs in the kitchen instead of sitting with them. Now I look upon meal time as an important part of their education and sit at the table with them, even if I on rare occasion am not eating a meal myself (and I try to make sure I am eating with them). When they are finished with the meal, I let them have time to blow off steam and be silly (read: not at the dining room table), and I take that time to do my quiet recharging or cleaning.


I've been reciting a poem to the girls called "The Goops" that my parents recited to me as a child, and it has taken on a new meaning lately. Turns out that "The Goops" is actually a series of books written in the early 1900's to teach children manners, so it's no wonder it stands out now.

The Goops 
by Gelett Burgess (1900)

The Goops they lick their fingers,
The Goops they lick their knives,
They spill their broth on the tablecloth-
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew,
And that is why that I 
Am glad I'm not a Goop--are you?


the goops
Image credit: Gutenburg.org
Author's Note: I shared this post with Tasty TraditionsWorks for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

how babies are born: a conversation with my daughter

The worried look, caught on camera

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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Update (10/22/13): We've added a new favorite book to the library of sex education called It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends. It has illustrations of a bird and bee talking to each other on each page, which were cute and provided some comic relief for the material to keep the conversation light.

I was planning to write about preschool gender roles today. In fact, I had the post all ready to go on the submission deadline. That morning, my almost-five-year-old daughter actually began our first tough conversation. How's that for timing? Apropos to nothing, Genevieve turned to me with a furrowed brow at the breakfast table and said "I don't want to grow up! I want to stay a kid forever because William said that Mommies have their tummies cut open for the baby to come out. Is that how babies come out, Mommy?"

Before I get to my response, let's break down her announcement. My first reaction is "Oh, sad!" because at that time of the day, I hope for my child to ponder the best way to get more cereal on her spoon, not worry about the fate of her uterus in a few decades. My second reaction is "Thank goodness!" because I'm so happy she feels comfortable to bring up these subjects to me.

Without even a sip of coffee, I managed somehow to keep head firmly attached to shoulders. I calmly explained that first of all, having babies was not something she needed to worry about now because only grown-ups have babies. Then I told her that although some babies are cut out of their mother's womb (as I've discussed in the past, we use anatomically correct language), it's not how most babies are born. I told her that babies are usually born from a mother's vagina, and it's usually a wonderful and happy day when it happens.

She looked a tiny bit less frightened. Then I asked her if she had any more questions. Boy, did she ever.

"Yes," she replied firmly. "Sometimes I feel a rumbling in my tummy. Is that a baby floating around?"

Oh, sad! No, I reminded her, only grown-ups have babies in their wombs. Clearly we needed to go over digestion again, so I began telling her all about how food is broken down for nutrients in the stomach, and waste travels through the intestines to become poop. Her eyes widened and her expression softened to one of curiosity and wonder. Mommy was talking about poop! She had lots of questions about how poop is made and the reason we sometimes have gas (admittedly we call gas a "toot").

From this experience, I take away the importance of follow-up questions and making sure I understand why she wants to know the information and that she understood my responses. My daughter is almost five, and next year she'll be in kindergarten, so I know there are more talks to come before that first day of school. I want her to know she can always come to me when she has questions about how her body works or if kids at school tell her information she doesn't think is correct or feels needs clarification.

Later that day, I went to the library and picked up a few books that have started and continued quite a few discussions about the human body this week. To my surprise, she will sit through an entire lengthy book on the subject! This proud mama looks forward to the many more conversations to come.

In case you'd like to pick up some books, here are the ones we've read so far and liked:


Above all, I want Vivi to be excited about how amazing her body really is and hopefully never rarely embarrassed by her bodily functions. Her question was a good reminder to me that once is not enough for a discussion about her body. We're never going to sit down and have THE TALK because I plan to have many age-appropriate talks over her childhood. I consider this conversation a doorway to a new beginning for us.

Have you had "the talk" with your preschooler? What can you share about the experience?


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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn't Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she's explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she's learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren't so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she's had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller's Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter's horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges--when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Protect your kids from sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who'd want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn't have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.

Monday, March 04, 2013

tea in a pouch almost as good as the real thing: {guest post}

As I've mentioned in the past, I'm an avid tea drinker. But up until recently, I had relied on the prepackaged bags. Once I splurged on loose tea I was hooked, but I will admit it is considerably less convenient to use my tea ball than just grabbing a bag. I'm happy to learn from the writer of today's guest post, Rebecca Nolan, you don't have to sacrifice quality for convenience. Thanks Rebecca! 
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Most genuine tea experts drink only loose leaf tea—and for a very good reason: The best teas typically aren’t bagged. (Let me reiterate that “most” tea experts don’t drink bagged tea; sure as the world you know an expert who does, but he is, pardon the expression, an odd ball.)

The experts realize, having visited a few tea processing and packing centers during their careers, that most commercial tea bags are filled with tea fannings and dust. That is, the bags are filled with the detritus of the good stuff, which was packaged and sold as loose leaf tea.

Think of it this way: when you finish off a box of cornflakes, the bottom of the box has a layer of dust. Because the dust consists of crushed corn flakes, it ought to be as good as the whole flakes, right? So why do you tend to quit pouring the cornflakes before the dust gets in the bowl? Because dust doesn’t taste as good as flakes!

The story is the same with tea in tea bags. It consists of tea leaves that have been crushed, torn, and otherwise reduced to small pieces. They have much less surface area in proportion to their edges, so freshness and nutrients bleed away. That’s an apt metaphor—bleeding. The crushed leaves bleed to death before they can redeem themselves as flavorful agents in a tea cup.

Perhaps you keep tabs on your favorite tea store to make sure it is buying from a good wholesale black tea seller. Go one step further: See if the store is stocking quality tea in tea pouches. That’s right, it is possible to have your quality tea and contain it, too—in tea pouches.

Sounds like snobbery, I guess. Tea bags are no good, but tea pouches are OK! Yet it is true. It is possible to enjoy a tasty cup of tea brewed inside a pouch. A good wholesale blooming tea seller is apt to handle pouched tea, too.


Biodegradable Tea Pouches
Image Credit: Wild & Bare Co.

The difference is not that “pouch” sounds more dignified than “bag,” though it does. There are three genuine differences between bagged and pouched tea:

First, tea pouches are bigger. This is a case of where bigger is better, because the extra space gives tea leaves room to be fully infused. Many of the best pouches are pyramid-shaped as well, which further enhances circulation.

Second, the best pouches are not bleached, a process that can lead to tea tasting bleached, too. They usually are of a silken material and are hand-stitched to keep any mechanical residue from tainting a cup of tea.

And third, tea pouches are not filled with tea leaf residue but with full-flavored loose leaf tea. Some of the pouches have herbs and spices for additional flavoring. They come in single or double serving sizes.

So, yes, herbal tea experts sing the praises of loose leaf tea, but I bet in a pinch they will brew a cup of quality pouched tea. It can be as pleasurable as the real thing.


Want to stay connected to other tea lovers? Check the Tea Twitterati 100, a list of the 100 most active tea industry social media users. The regularly updated list is posted on the website of quality tea supplier Wild & Bare Co. 

Editor's Note: Wild & Bare--yes, this is the actual name of a tea company!--didn't pay me anything for me to include the link. I just love tea and wanted to share! This post is part of Tasty Traditions and Fight Back Friday.

Monday, January 21, 2013

chicken soup: for your soul and health

Last week I said I would post a chicken soup recipe the day after my antibiotics post. In truth, that post took such a long time to search for and read articles, write, edit, and double-check sources that I didn't leave myself much other time for blogging. Then I also attended a birth that took a huge amount of physical and emotional work, so I took a few days off from blogging. I'm back with the promised chicken soup. I hope you had a nice weekend! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

rebuilding your gut & immune system after antibiotics

IMPORTANT: Please do not put your children on Miralax to prevent or treat constipation. PEG (Polyethylene Glycol), the active ingredient in it, has been reported by FDA to cause neuropsychiatric episodes. Read this article for more information.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or nutrition expert, so please use your own judgment when making decisions about your health.

When the girls were prescribed antibiotics last month for complications from upper respiratory infections (Charlie also had conjunctivitis. They were a mess!), our pediatrician was surprised at the lack of antibiotics (or medical chart at all) in their history. To be honest, at the time I was disappointed they needed antibiotics; note this article in the journal Pediatrics that discusses over-prescription of antibiotics for upper respiratory infections. I was hoping it would be asthmatic bronchitis (viral) that we could treat with rest, NSAIDs, and/or steroid inhalers.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

superfoods to the rescue!

By now you've probably heard about the nine superfoods. If you read goop, you got an email in your inbox last week with a list of the foods and some recipes to make them. I'm doing the traditional short-lived New Year's health kick, so I thought I'd follow suit and add my own superfoods recipes into the mix.


Avocado Egg Sandwich

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

get your flu shot!

Ottawa Public Health

"Mieux est l'ennemi du bien"
{Perfect is the enemy of good}
-Voltaire

I try to practice a "live and let live" mentality when interacting with people. I find it doesn't bode well to push my advice on others; if they don't want to hear what I have to say, they aren't listening and will come away feeling like I'm a bully, not a help. However, when I consider not telling people about why the flu shot is a good thing, I'm forced to reconsider my stance. "Live and let die" is perhaps a more apt description of what I'm doing.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

roof permits are hard to come by...

Between the Lincoln logs, Duplos, and wood blocks, we've got lots of building going on 'round here. If only Charlie would let us put a roof on it...

video


The kids are enjoying their new holiday loot, and meanwhile Nate and I are dividing our time between college bowl games (nearly done! phew) and basement shuffling. New year, new stuff! Purging seems to be a disdained activity in many households, but I know I'm a broken record when I say I love rotating my belongings.

How are y'all holding up? Any resolutions? I'm going with the standard "more exercise, less sugar" routine. And maybe some L-glutamine to help my tummy along...

I'm also going to try to take some sage advice and keep my list of regrets down to a minimum. I love the "what is my legacy?" and "who will be there with me?" questions he poses in that HuffPo article. Thought provoking to be sure.

Hope you're having a splendid start to the new year!
xoxo
~J

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

homemade room and linen spray

We are moving in a few weeks. I don't want to get into too much about it now, lest I jinx the process, but sufficed to say there are lots of cleaning and arranging movements happening around here. Hence all the talk of purging. I've also been getting this house ready round the clock for new potential renters to come check it out.

Monday, September 10, 2012

who's afraid of the big bad germs?

Image credit: Prevention article about air freshener

Newsflash: Antibacterial soaps are bad, and public toilet seats are cleaner than your kitchen sponge!!

I'll never forget the first time I heard that antibacterial soap might not be the wonder cleaning cure it's touted to be. I was a freshman in college, and my new boyfriend was learning about the subject in his microbiology class. It occurs to me college freshmen must be the primary target group for changing beliefs and attitudes because I only vaguely remember feeling momentarily taken aback about the news, and then I quickly accepted it and moved on.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

thoughts on "natural" skin care & the oil cleansing method


I'll get to the tips in a moment, but first I have to tell you what led me to ponder this subject in the first place, when it's so out of my typical element. Stick with me--we're going somewhere. During my girly weekend, I happened upon the Bobbi Brown makeup counter in a Lord & Taylor department store. How I wound up there is in itself a small novel.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

more breakfast to go: carrot raisin bran muffins

Sundays are the best when we don't have an agenda but just meander through the day. This weekend almost required lazy days because of how rainy it's been. But the girls didn't let a little rain stop their fun. They loved playing in it!




Monday, July 16, 2012

parenting tip: simple self-esteem building tricks

3 Ways to Build Self Esteem

When it comes to teaching my kids about reading, real food/healthy eating, and the joys of playing in their natural environment, I am like a duck to water. I am supremely confident in my ability to convey my love of these subjects in a way that will instill a lasting passion in my kids too. However, when I was asked to write about how I let my children's confidence shine, I struggled at first about how to put my actions into words. Building my kids' self-esteem has been a tougher parenting task for me. Click here to read more!

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