Category Archives: Health
I hate to call any food endeavor on which I embark a “diet”.
But, I guess how I’ve been eating for the last 3+ weeks qualifies, since I’m counting carbs.
It took me a bit, but I figured out that I need at least 80 net carbs daily to NOT lose weight. My goal is NOT to lose weight; it’s to maintain or to gain weight more slowly. By 21 weeks, I had gained 22 lbs. Once my morning sickness was over (bless God) I was packing on two pounds a week, all while eating GOOD FOOD. Now, I’m eating MORE good food, but fewer carbs.
Here’s my history:
- I have veinous problems. I have varicose veins including up into my lower abdomen. More weight gain is even harder on weak veins. And my particular kind of veins increase my risk (moderately) of hemorrhaging during birth. Not good.
- I also want to limit the stress on my heart during pregnancy by limiting weight gain. (I have Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, which is fairly benign, but worrying symptoms ramp up during pregnancy.)
- I have a history of macrosomic babies. My smallest was 8 lbs 13 oz. My largest? 10 lbs even. Large babies increase one’s risk of hemorrhage.
- This is my 6th baby. For every baby >5, a mother’s risk for hemorrhage increases quite dramatically.
- I am planning a home birth and want to maximize my chances for success — to actually BIRTH in our home, not have to transfer due to blood loss.
- I did a similar diet under an OB for my last birth — I gained zero weight from weeks 28 onward — and the baby was STILL 8 lbs 13 oz.
- I have never had gestational diabetes but for baby #5, my oral glucose test (the nasty syrup) was “borderline-borderline” for GD, and I figured that a lower carb, no-sugar, high-protein diet wouldn’t hurt anything. It didn’t.
- In pregnancies #1-4, I gained 37-50 lbs each, ALL WHILE EATING A HEALTHY, WHOLE-FOODS DIET. My first OB told me that, for some women, their bodies go into “starvation mode” and operate with extreme efficiency, grabbing onto everything it possibly can and storing it as fat. He was pretty certain that that is what my body does. I did a food diary for him for a month (as I recall — it was 16 years ago!) and he was impressed with my diet. The only thing he recommended was taking out fruit. I didn’t, which is why I probably gained those 50 lbs.
- With pregnancy #5, on the lower-carb diet, I gained a total of 17 lbs, produced that 8 lb 13 oz baby, and recovery was immeasurably smoother for me, post-pregnancy. It was fairly easy to lose that extra 10 lbs, as opposed to being faced with a whopping 40 lbs to lose. I didn’t even have to try to lose those 10 lbs. They just melted off with a return to my regular metabolism, plus nursing.
For this pregnancy, in a couple of weeks, my midwife — who does offer the syrup-based oral glucose test, which I declined — is going to test how my body handles a “normal”/high amount of carbs via a large meal. I’ll go into her office at 7:30 a.m., and we’ll do a blood draw and test my blood-sugar levels. (She’s also going to re-test a couple of other things that were abnormal in an earlier blood test.) Then, I’ll go home and eat a “regular” breakfast — not one that contains 100 grams of glucose like the oral glucose test though it will be higher in carbs than I would normally eat for breakfast; I’ll probably eat eggs and a homemade muffin or two and shoot for 50 g carbs or so. Then, she’ll re-test my blood at 10:30.
We’re testing mostly out of curiosity. No matter what the results are, I’ll still maintain my current diet.
So, what am I doing in this “current diet”?
- Eating about 75-100 grams of protein daily, which is very similar to the Brewer/Blue Ribbon Baby Diet. (However, I’m not tracking my protein consumption down to the gram.) I eat 3-4 eggs every breakfast. I eat meat at lunch and dinner. My snacks tend to be high-protein, as well — nut-based or plain yogurt.
- Limiting myself to about 80 grams non-fiber carbs daily. (I have discovered that with fewer than 80g, I lose weight, which is not the goal.)
- Eating an additional 30+ grams of dietary fiber carbs daily.
- Eating at least NINE servings of veggies daily.
- NOT tracking fat consumption. At all. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that this is a high-fat diet.
- Sticking to foods that are MOSTLY Paleo: veggies and meats. However, I do eat some dairy and some legumes, which most people eating a strict Paleo diet, don’t. Many Paleo adherents don’t eat any nightshades, either: tomatoes, potatoes, etc. I eat virtually no potatoes, but I often eat tomatoes. I’m not avoiding nightshades. (In a Paleo diet, the goal is to train your body to burn FAT for energy, and for it to NOT rely on sugar-carbs for energy. That is how one can eat a high-fat diet and not gain weight. A Paleo diet is also healthy, long-term, for one’s pancreas as it profoundly limits blood-sugar.)
- NOT counting calories.
- Keeping my sugar-intake extremely limited. This is all sugars, including honey and naturally-occurring sugars in fruit.
- Drinking 80-100 ounces of water daily. This is in ADDITION to other liquids I may drink. I actually shoot for a gallon of water daily (128 ounces) but rarely hit that goal.
- Taking supplements in addition to the foods I eat: 6400 IU vitamin D, 1000 mg cod liver oil, 1200 mg calcium, 600 mg magnesium, 250 mg Horse Chestnut extract, a multivitamin, and 500 mg vitamin C. Some of them are chewables, which accounts for the 3g carbs for my vitamins if you view my sample daily diet PDF. If I take an extra vitamin C chewable, that adds another 2g carbs.
Here is a sample of what I eat, daily (click for PDF). A few notes:
- Yes, I drink coffee. Two mugs of half-caff. I put organic half & half in it, along with stevia.
- I do use a kitchen scale for many foods.
- I use this website: Self NutritionData to calculate the content of most of my foods.
- I usually don’t include ingredients in my daily tally, but on the opposite page of my spiral notebook, I do some serious figuring to many recipes in order to figure out the carb and fiber grams per serving. Yes, this does require some math. No, I don’t mind.
- Some things I have to estimate. For instance, we go out to eat about twice a month. I made a rough estimate of 60 grams carbs plus 10 grams fiber for a recent (splurge!) lunch at a Mexican restaurant. This was for beans, corn tortillas, and some tortilla chips that went along with my shredded beef tacos. But… some restaurants — chains, especially — publish their nutrition data online. For instance, I ate a Double-Double Protein Style Animal Style (with “wheat allergy” noted) at In ‘N’ Out Burger. No fries. I drank water. That felt like a splurge, but I found out online that it as only 8g carbs plus 3g fiber.
- My go-to snacks:
- Organic celery sticks with sunflower butter (I get sunflower butter from Trader Joe’s. Yes, it has a small amount of sugar in it).
- A half, large avocado
- A handful (two ounces) of raw almonds
- There are a few gluten-free, low-sugar, high-fiber snack or protein bars — like ProMax LS or ThinkThin Or Kit’s Raw Organic — and I do buy a few of these to eat in a pinch. But, I tend to shy from packaged snacks.
- At the end of the day, especially if I need more carbs, I will sit down with a bowl of plain yogurt with blueberries or — if my carb count has been REALLY low for the day — 1/2 cup of g.f. granola. It’s odd to consider, but if you truly stick with virtually all veggies, nuts, and meat during the day, by the end of the day, you will have to eat a relatively carb-heavy snack or meal to KEEP yourself from losing weight.
- I will admit that, once this month, I splurged at Yogurtini. I eat frozen yogurt about once a month from the store. Yogurtini’s no-sugar-added flavors do NOT contain aspartame (they are sweetened with maltodextrin, sucralose, or other “non-sugar” sweeteners) but they DO contain artificial colors. This is not a choice that anyone should make on a regular basis, but I’m just keepin’ it real and honest here and admitting to my yogurt consumption. One five ounce serving (including a scoop of fresh blueberries) ran me about 22 g carbs and 7 g fiber.
Here’s part of a message I wrote to a friend, who has an 11 month-old with NO teeth, and is trying to figure out some non-milk ways to add protein to his diet.
For little ones, this sounds a little crazy, but I like serving beans. Of course, too much beans will make anyone gassy… But a small amount is a great source of protein. Garbanzo beans are the least gassy of all beans and have a very mild flavor that is appealing to most babies.
Also, you can use a blender or mini food processor to mash up beans and even meat. It’s really easy, actually, to make your own baby food. Put some cooked brown rice, some cooked beef (stewed works well), some cooked garbanzo beans, and some spinach — raw or cooked — into the blender (or some other healthy combination you think he’ll like — cooked squash, chicken, oatmeal is another idea, or plain yogurt*, blueberries, and oatmeal) and blend to process. Put it in an ice cube tray, and when frozen, pop out and put the cubes in a Ziploc. Then you’ll have quick little portions. I’ve even saved store-bought babyfood jars, and in the a.m., put 2-3 cubes in the jar in the a.m., and by lunch time, they’re thawed and ready to eat.
When I make babyfood, I will often just set aside an unseasoned portion of whatever I’m making for the family either to grind up for baby’s dinner that night OR I’ll save brown rice one night, beef the next, squash the next, etc. and then when I have small bowls in the fridge of a good babyfood combo, I will put them in the blender and make the babyfood.
I do that, though, because I’m cheap + healthy. Gerber and Beechnut typically have so many crappy additives, especially in the stage 2 & 3 meals, but the organic baby food is SUPER expensive. And once you get in the habit, it literally is about five minutes extra of your time to make and freeze babyfood cubes.
For babies younger than 11 months, it’s even simpler, as you should only use one food at a time — steamed carrots, baked squash, etc. When your baby is around 7-8 months, they can usually tolerate a simple combination of two foods at a time. The older they grow, the better able they are, typically, to digest more complex food.
Making your own babyfood is more trendy than when I started to do it, nearly 15 years ago. Responding to consumers, the are now a number of babyfood cookbooks, “kits”, and other supplies… Although I love cookbooks and kitchen gadgets, I find most of that stuff to be kind of a waste of money. Just take plain versions of what YOU eat — provided that you eat healthy, whole foods — and prepare it as babyfood. Voila! No cookbook needed. And if you have a blender or a mini-prep food processor and some ice cube trays, you don’t need any special gadgets.
*And, yes, I know I just said “non-milk” and there was a reference to yogurt in there. It appears that her little one MIGHT have a sensitivity to milk — but milk sensitivities can be tricky. Is it just lactose? Lactose is milk sugar. In honest, fully cultured yogurt, there is virtually no lactose; the yogurt cultures “eat” the milk sugar, and the resulting fully cultured yogurt has no lactose. Same with hard, aged cheeses — like cheddar. The process eliminates lactose. But, if a child has a sensitivity to casein or whey or another milk protein, you’re up a creek, and even yogurt won’t help; you have to quit all milk products altogether.
The bad news is that I was up with my four-year-old in the middle of the night. We tried a number of things to stop her incessant cough, ending in the tea. I didn’t start with tea because she doesn’t really like it, and there were a couple other things I could try first. They didn’t work this time, but the good news is that the tea did.
My husband had a childhood full of asthma and tends to somewhat panic when our children cough, as he immediately correlates coughing with, “MY CHILD CAN’T BREATHE AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE NOW.” I appreciate his sympathy, and frankly, his urgency regarding coughing has kicked my rear end into gear a number of times when I would be content to just let my kids cough it out.
For everyone’s benefit, I now try to identify coughs better:
- Is this asthma and my child really can’t breathe?
- Is this a “wet” cough because my child is on the recovery-end of an illness and s/he is coughing up mucus (which is a good thing)?
- Or are they just coughing incessantly and it’s disrupting their sleep, spreading germs, and not having any productive effect?
Fi’s was the third. She miserable, unable to sleep, had been coughing for several hours to the point where her stomach muscles were aching from coughing so badly. And weakened stomach muscles often = puking in our home, and I determined that for her peace, to keep food in her stomach, and to reduce the chance of the cough spreading to the other six in our family, we needed to address the cough.
First, we tried an oregano oil breathing treatment. “My” oregano oil breathing treatment works AMAZING WONDERS on my 11 year-old son’s asthma. It is also fabulous for deep-down lung pain and infection. Fiala’s cough seemed more upper-respiratory, so I didn’t have much hope that it would work for her, but I thought I’d try.
Oregano Oil Breathing Treatment
This requires a nebulizer, typically used for albuterol breathing treatments.
Into the medicine receptacle of the nebulizer, place:
- ONE DROP ONLY of pure oregano oil
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- One dropperful of 250 ppm colloidal silver (or, colloidal silver at LEAST 100 ppm)
- Turn the nebulizer on and breathe deeply. Inhale and hold for a few seconds. Repeat for 3-10 deep breaths. This DOES put a little tickle at the back of one’s throat, and breathing oregano oil is kind of a learned skill. However, if my young children can do it, you can, too!
- Alternately, you can put 2-3 drops into a large mug, fill it with boiling water, and breathe the steam deeply for as long as possible.
Oregano oil is an amazing product that is virucidal, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. It is also anti-parasitic. I’m uncertain WHY it works on asthma, and there is less research on oregano oil’s effectiveness on asthma (unlike various funguses, bacteria, and viruses, which has been studied and proven effective numerous times).
Colloidal silver has effectiveness against a variety of viruses, bacteria, and funguses, as well.
Secondly, we tried:
Simplest Cough Remedy
My daughter Fiala, in particular, is super-suceptible to yeast/candida overgrowth, so I limit her sugar intake, including honey. And even though honey is good for just about anyone for a wide variety of reasons, I’m still leery of sugar, even natural sugars. So, I would never give a whole 2 tsp to anyone.
Our favorite “medicinal” honey is from Y.S. Organic Bee Farms and is called Super-Enriched Honey. It is raw and unpasteurized and contains pollen, propolis, and royal jelly. It is really thick and has an unusual taste. I find it pleasant, but if you’re expecting a honey-taste found akin to that found in the McDonald’s honey packet, you’ll probably be startled.
I simply scoop up a small spoonful of honey and let the child slowly lick it. Consequently, when anyone coughs even a tiny bit in our home, they tend to come running with a certain proclamation of, “I need a honey spoon!”
When neither the herbal breathing treatment nor honey was doing any good, I brewed up a batch of my no-cough tea.
Into a wire mesh tea ball, place:
2 tsp loose chamomile flowers
- 1/8 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1/8 tsp licorice root powder
- optional: 1/2 tsp dried peppermint leaves
- optional: 1 tsp dried mullein flower (verbascum thapsis)
- Place tea ball in a very large mug and pour boiling water over the top. Let steep 10-15 minutes, then stir well.
- Sweeten with honey (especially if you didn’t use a “honey spoon” to stop the cough) or stevia, or simply don’t sweeten at all, as the licorice root lends a sweet taste.
- Put 1/4 cup of the brewed tea in a smaller mug and let child sip slowly for 10-20 minutes.
- If cough hasn’t stopped, repeat with 1/4 cup doses.
- This may take up to ONE HOUR for effectiveness — in other words, 3-6 doses of 1/4 cup each over the course of an hour, until coughs subside.
- Extremely effective for stopping coughs for 3-4 hours. So, repeat throughout the day as necessary, trying to re-dose before your child returns to violent coughing.
(For readers local to the Phoenix area, all of the tea ingredients can be found at Sprouts. All of the herbs — except the mullein — can be found in the bulk spice area. Mullein flower can be found, packaged, hanging close to the “regular” tea and herb area, God’s Garden Pharmacy brand.)
What the ingredients are and why they work:
- Chamomile (matricaria recutita) flowers have antianxiety, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-spasmodic properties, mainly due to chamomile’s natural phytonutrient, chamazulene. The “anti-inflammatory” and “anti-spasmodic” characteristics especially important for calming coughs.
Thyme (thymus vulgaris) is a strong antiseptic. Its natural phytonutrient, thymol, is actually the active ingredient in classic Listerine. Thymol is also an active ingredient in most naturally-based antiseptic cleaners. For coughs, thyme is effective not only in destroying germs, but it is a powerful anti-spasmodic and has bronchial-clearing properties. (Thyme oil is extremely strong and should be used with caution. However, using a pinch of the dried herb itself is safe for just about everyone, pregnant women and small children included.) Thyme does have somewhat of an unpleasant “green/herbal” taste in tea; however, do not omit it!!
- Fennel, in general, is truly a miracle plant. It is by far one of the most nutritious and helpful plants one can consume — from bulb to stem to feathery top to seed. I personally cannot understand why it is not at the top of “Superfood” lists! Fennel, as well as being anti-spasmodic, is also a pain-reducer, fever-reducer, and has antimicrobial activity. It soothes upset stomachs and speeds healing of muscle strains (including muscles sore from incessant coughing!). Fennel’s “magic” properties are largely due to the phytonutrients creosol (also found in chaparral and creosote) and alpha-pinene. (Again, use the whole herb — fennel seed, not fennel oil, which is extremely strong and dangerous, if used incorrectly.)
- If you have ever had Throat Coat tea by Traditional Medicinals, licorice root is the main ingredient, followed by mullein. Licorice is extensively used, world-wide, as a remedy for an astounding number of ailments, from lupus, to cancer, to diabetes, to chronic fatigue syndrome, to HIV/AIDS and more. Its effectiveness is primarily from the naturally-occurring phytonutrient glycyrrhizinic acid which, among other properties, acts as an incredibly effective immune stimulant. For our purposes here, licorice root relieves the dry, tickly feeling associated with hacking coughs — as well as shortens the healing time needed to recover from illness.
- Peppermint has properties helpful to those with coughs and colds — however, the flavor rather clashes with the flavors found both in thyme, fennel, and licorice root. Peppermint contains the phytonutrient menthol, long known for relieving coughs and other respiratory disorders. An alternate tea, especially if your child enjoys the mint flavor, would be simply chamomile and peppermint.
- Mullein (verbascum thapsus) has soothing, emollient effects via its plentiful, naturally-occurring mucilages. It also reduces inflammation via natural tannins. Mullein promotes expectoration, meaning it loosens phlegm in the respiratory tract, causing coughs to be more effective.
I dearly hope that some readers find this useful. If you do, post a comment and let me know!!
After a flurry of almost daily blog posts, this last week, I’ve ground nearly to a halt.
…has been consumed by the CSA — the farm share I’m coordinating for Crooked Sky Farms. It is wonderful, and I’m glad I’m participating. I’m certainly not regretting agreeing to be the coordinator — largely because I got two HUGE crates of produce out of it. Literally: Nine heads of Romanesco; four bags of baby lettuces; four huge (probably 2 lb each) bunches of carrots; two bunches of Swiss chard; about four lbs of red potatoes; 13 tangelos; three bunches of baby Hakurei turnips; and four bunches of “grilling” onions (onions with small white bulbs and very large but tender green tops). Part of this was my share, and part of it was — I think — people just not taking all eight of the bunches of produce allotted to them… Or something. I think the farm threw in some extra produce, just in case. And all those leftovers were even with me finding buyers for the produce that should have gone to two people who didn’t show! Anyway, that’s a good probably 40 lbs of fresh, organic, local produce, all for me — for my family. Ah-MAY-zing. Some of it we’ve eaten, some is in the fridge, and some is now in the freezer. However, it has been a lot of work, especially when one person canceled beforehand, and then the aforementioned two people didn’t show… I was supposed to have a minimum of 20 paying customers in order for the farm to deliver to me. I ended up with 16. Ack! But my contact at the farm has been very gracious and they haven’t dropped us or anything. But I am being encouraged to try to drum up more business. I’M TRYING!! I really am. Since Wednesday, I actually found two more full-time members (one is an airman from Luke AFB who calls me “ma’am”), and then another guy who wants to sign up for only the 2nd half, and two or three more week-to-week people, and at least a couple more potential CSA members… Plus the eggs. So many people wanted eggs, and I’ve found two people within a mile and a half who have eggs that I’m selling. Again, that’s GOOD, but it’s more work. More bookkeeping. More keeping track of this and that…
- And the seed giveaway. That took a lot of time, just regulating!! Especially on the second day, I had a lot of comments… I was trying to respond to everyone who asked questions, send e-mails to folks who hadn’t followed the instructions… Um, I gave that up after a while. But, the seed giveaway was fun!!
- My heart has been worrying me. I have Wolfe Parkinson White syndrome, where there is an extra nerve connecting the left (I think) atrium and ventricle, which produces a wonky feedback loop. It is benign — though I just can’t help but thinking it CAN’T be good, long-term, for one’s heart to beat wrong — and normally, I have 5-10 episodes (weird/hard/thumpy heart beat, heart stops for a few seconds, or it races for 10 seconds or so, etc.) while my heart resets itself. But, while I’m pregnant, it happens… I don’t know… 30? 50? times a day, sometimes for multiple minutes on end, especially when I’m just sitting down (after standing) or just lying down. At my midwife’s insistence, I saw my cardiologist (whom I really love — he’s my favorite doctor for anything, ever), and I wore a 24 hour Holter monitor a few weeks ago. I finally got the results this week. And they essentially said, “Why, yes, you are having quite a few PACs, but it’s OK. See you again in April.” And that made me feel a lot better.
- My pregnancy is going well. I am now 21 weeks along. All-day “morning” sickness finally ended about three weeks ago, to my great relief. I’ve gained 20 lbs already, which is not good… That’s more than I gained with my whole pregnancy with Fiala. In what is a recurring theme in any weight gain I typically incur, I do eat good food — not junk; I just eat too much of it. Even if my midwife doesn’t suggest it, I think I’m going to do a counted-reduced-carb diet — herder-gatherer Paleo — which is almost how I eat anyway… just that from weeks 28 – 40 (or whenever), I’ll be extremely careful. After about week 28, nothing new develops in the baby; she will simply put on weight and whatever is already there matures. So, it’s less critical that a mother gain weight. In case it sounds worrisome that I’m planning on “dieting” while pregnant, I did this with my last pregnancy (Fiala): I gained a total of 17 lbs and she STILL came out at 8 lbs 13 oz. I would have felt badly if she was scrawny… But she wasn’t. And I became a bigger believer than ever in eating high-protein and low-carb in the last trimester. With my first two pregnancies, I gained nearly 50 lbs, so I know that, left unchecked, that’s probably where I’d end up. I just feel better and recover faster when I’m not toting an extra 20-30 lbs, postpartum.
There are a lot of resources (including recipes) on the internet for all sorts of natural cleaners. I still get asked frequently, though, about what I use.
So, here’s what I do.
First, gather your ingredients:
- Baking soda. I buy baking soda at Costco in 13.5 lb bags, about $6.50 per bag.
- White (distilled) vinegar. I also buy this at Costco. It comes in a 1.33 gallon size, about $3.75.
- Essential oil. I buy this at Sprouts — there are a lot of online resources for essential oil, too. Depending on the oil, it will run you $4-15 per 0.5 oz dropper jar. I typically buy tangerine or lavender, both because I like the scent and because they’re one of the less-expensive varieties. Various essential oils are supposed to accomplish various things (for example, lavender has disinfectant properties and is calming), but I just buy them for the scent.
- A natural, phosphate-free dishwashing liquid. I like the kind from Trader Joe’s, but you can find it just about anywhere. Method, Meyer’s Clean Day, Seventh Generation, even Clorox Green Works is fine. Just not Dawn or Palmolive or the like; they contain chemical detergents and dyes and scents that aren’t good for you or for the environment and just don’t work when you’re using it as an ingredient to make a household cleaner.
Now, make your cleaners:
- For my Everything Cleaner: Fill a 32 oz squirt bottle about 60% full of white vinegar. Add about 20 drops of essential oil. Add about 1 tsp dishwashing liquid. Top bottle with filtered water. Shake gently. This cleaner literally works on everything non-porous: toilets, counter tops, windows, mirrors, stainless steel, whatever. And, it’s non-toxic, so use it without fear in the kitchen. The vinegar is a disinfectant, so if that’s important to you, let the cleaner sit on the surface for a while before wiping down. If you notice streaking on windows, mirrors, and stainless steel, you’re using too much dish soap.
- For things that need scrubbing: Baking soda. That’s it. If you want to get fancy, fill a bowl with baking soda and add 10-20 drops of essential oil. Store in a shaker jar. Use this to clean out tubs, sinks, cook tops, ovens, etc. This also works as a stink-remover on carpet and furniture. Sprinkle, let sit for a while, then vacuum off.
- For floors: A squirt of dish soap in a bucket of hot water. For floors that are NOT a natural stone, add a cup of white vinegar. You don’t need a fancy, expensive floor cleaner.
- For laundry: For about two years, I made my own laundry soap; I don’t any more. I now buy Costco’s Kirkland brand “environmentally friendly” laundry detergent. It is scented (much to my surprise when I first purchased it). To the bottom of each tub of laundry, I add 1/2 cup of baking soda. I fill the fabric softener compartment with white vinegar. The white vinegar is especially effective if you live in an area that has hard water, and/or if your family suffers from eczema and you need all soap residue removed from clothing. If your washing machine does not have an extra rinse/fabric softener cycle, when your clothes are washed, run an additional rinse cycle, adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar. I use regular ol’ unscented bleach on my whites. I do not use fabric softener in the dryer. Don’t need it. Our clothes aren’t as highly scented as if I were using Tide and Downy, but they are CLEAN and what I’m doing is better for our skin and our environment, not to mention cheaper.
Where I do use purchased cleaners:
- Murphy’s Oil Soap. I still use this on wood surfaces like kitchen cabinets.
- Method Wood For Good Furniture Polish. I like the scent, I like the shine. It works well.
- Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. You can use bleach or even baking soda, but the Cling variety of toilet bowl cleaner is still my old standby.
- Dishwasher detergent. I typically buy Palmolive Eco+.
There are folks who make their own dish soap, their own dishwashing detergent, their own laundry detergent… I have experimented with all of those. But from a cost + effort + effectiveness, at least for now, these are the things I have found to be the best choice for our family.
I love NPR.
In one of my favorite YouTube videos ever, Blimey Cow posted the hilarious “You Might Be a Homeschooler If…” video last year that went viral, at least among the homeschool community.
In it is a line that says something like, “You might be a homeschooler if your mom listens to NPR and votes Republican.”
HA! That’s so me. The radio in my truck is almost always tuned to 91.5 FM, KJZZ, which has acoustic jazz in the evenings and NPR programming in the daytime. I appreciate the in-depth reporting and the broader perspective than the snippets of typical radio or TV news provides.
In my Facebook feed this morning was a story I was really pleased and surprised to see from NPR:
The story was pretty basic, and referred listeners to their doctor for further help, which is kind of a laugh, as virtually all MD programs in the United States are woefully inadequate on the connection between diet and behavior — or even diet and basic physical health!
However, it makes me pleased that this topic is receiving national press and attention: What you eat can affect your body and mind.
The link for this story has been shared on a number of different health-and-diet related pages to which I subscribe, on Facebook.
What has been interesting to me — and a bit distressing — is that I have read a fair amount of argument about WHERE to start with dietary changes for children, and WHAT diet is the best. Everyone has an opinion and many are strident about it and have rude, unkind words for those who don’t agree with their particular beliefs.
I understand that. I really do. After seeing the monumental changes that came about in my young son’s behavior and health after being diagnosed with celiac disease more than ten years ago, and seeing the positive effects that have come about in our family’s lives as a result of my ongoing search for ways for us to eat and live more healthily, I UNDERSTAND.
If you see dramatic improvements firsthand, it alters your perspective. And, in a way, you can’t help but think that EVERYONE should do what you’re doing, because you begin to think that EVERYONE would benefit. And, you think philanthropic thoughts about it. You think, “It would be BETTER for everyone. It would be BETTER for the environment! It would be BETTER for our nation’s health. It would be BETTER for our farmers. It would be BETTER for our economy.”
And, you might even be right!!
But, at a certain point, it becomes divisive.
Literally, repulsive. It repels me when someone tries to proselytize me to Nourishing Traditions and insists that there IS NO OTHER WAY. I’ve un-liked certain Facebook pages and un-followed a number of blogs which routinely state that I’m a fool if I’m not eating/doing/making/following their way.
That’s the part that bothers me: The insistence that one person/method/diet is THE ONLY WAY and that I’m clearly an uneducated rube who is throwing away the health of myself and my family if I eat even one thing outside of that method.
That really bothers me.
I was thinking of it, just a bit ago, along the lines of Christianity.
I go to the Vineyard — Vineyard Church Phoenix, which is a kind-of non-denominational, Holy Spirit-filled, fairly casual, high-involvement church which prioritizes worship (“contemporary” worship with a full band — guitars, drums, et al) and healing ministry. I really love my church. I ADORE my church. I love the “DNA” of my church. I love my pastor. I love the people with whom I serve and learn. I could bore you (or perhaps scare you) with how passionately I enjoy my church. I wish more people would attend it. I wish more people would experience the benefit I’ve received by participating in the Vineyard for the last 23 years.
However, I’m aware that my church is not the ONLY way to worship.
I have a dear cousin, an amazing woman — younger than me — who is a Benedictine nun in the Catholic church. We couldn’t possibly be on more divergent Christian paths, but there is a kinship, a core identity, we share. Everything I hear from her — her comments, our rare conversations, stories I read about her, makes my spirit soar.
But, again, how we practice our Christianity is extremely different. In fact, if we sat down and compared fact sheets regarding our respective Christian practices, I’m sure we’d find much over which we disagree.
I have observed, in my advanced years , that one’s practice of Christianity, what speaks to one’s own heart, will vary greatly depending on history, personal preference, personal priorities, personal convictions, personality, and more.
I mean… I WANT more people to join my church and share my experiences; I want others to benefit like I have.
But on the other hand, I cannot say, “My church is the only way to worship.”
There is more than one viable, healthy way to practice Christianity.
There is also more than one way to eat healthily! There is more than one way to live healthily!
I don’t necessarily have to be a card-carrying member of the gluten-free, GFCF, Feingold, Nourishing Traditions, WAPF, Paleo, GAPS, organic, WHATEVER to be healthy.
And, honestly, it really turns me off when anyone — who is not Jesus Christ Himself — says, “My way or the highway.”
But… on the other hand…
I do believe that there are basic truths. I do believe in the God of the Bible. I do believe that there are basic tenets, basic laws established by God that exist. There is truth. Not all roads are equal. It does matter what one thinks and believes and how one lives one’s life. I don’t believe that everything is relative.
So… it sometimes feels like a hard balance to find: Having beliefs with conviction which express themselves in practice, in daily living, and knowing in my heart that it is WORTH the effort and WORTH telling others about. Yet, not being the guy on the corner with a megaphone screaming, “Follow my way or DIE!!”
And not thinking ugly thoughts about those dogmatic folks on the corner with their megaphones…
I keep waiting for life to return to normal.
I used to think that “a rut” was the worst thing that could happen to one’s life.
I now have turned 180° — or at least 160° or so — and have discovered that there is a reason it is called “Domestic Bliss.” That is because when home life is wonderful, it REALLY IS wonderful. Philosophers can devise witty sayings about how boring healthy families are, but when it comes down to it, if you have one, it really is lovely.
This past spring and summer was perhaps my most wonderful ever in my 39 years. Well, I was 38, back then. Everything was just right. Parenting was going great. I thought my husband was fabulous. I had the garden of my dreams. I had enough “spare” time to sneak in novel about once every 2-3 weeks, which, in my experience and for my personality is just right; more reading than that means I’m not getting enough done in my home and family; less reading than that means I’m stretched too thinly and stressed out. We had just sold our house for more than we thought possible and had found the exact right place — right size house, right size lot, right location — for an amazing price. I had lost about 20 pounds and was feeling great, and down to the same size I was before I had my first child, 15 years prior. Other family relationships and friendships were sailing along at a beautiful clip. Friends even purchased tickets for our family’s first-ever Disneyland trip. Can you get much better than that?
I don’t think I’m a pessimist — truly — but I am enough of a realist to realize, even in the midst of all this amazingness, that it would probably not last forever. It was one of those seasons where my prayer was, “God, please don’t let me forget this lovely season, especially if You’re gearing me up for hard times.”
And hard times have, indeed, come. But, not exactly in the way that I had envisioned.
The good news is that I still think my husband is fabulous. I have, in fact, grown in love and appreciation for him in the last couple of months.
By early October, my mother was sick, in the hospital, and appeared near death.
We were also in the throes of a remodel — a MAJOR remodel of about 40% of our “new” home — which I envisioned would take us about five weeks.
We also had a serious issue surface with one of our children… Really serious, the sort of thing where it is just a deep, hard ache in a mother’s heart.
Then our dog got sick, a resurgence of Valley Fever.
Then my computer broke (I’m typing on my husband’s laptop), on which my children do about 1/3 of their schooling.
And… other things compounded my various challenges — like a dear friend (whose two sons are the best friends of two of my sons) moving out of state. And a few other dear, long-time friends feeling led by God to become involved in various other ministries — leading them OUT of “my” church. This put a hole in my heart, as well as made things logistically difficult, as I am now the lone worship leader for the 6-12 year-olds at church; no one with whom to share that responsibility…
AND THEN, I found out I was pregnant with our sixth child. And while that has been a huge joy — theoretically — I feel like crap, 24/7, and that just makes everything… extra-challenging.
And my mother did die, on October 18th. That was hard. It still is, especially when my four-year-old, Fiala, pipes up at lunch, scowl ensconced firmly on her face, “I don’t want Grandma to live with Jesus any more. I want her to be here.”
We are still remodeling, nearing our 11th week of that massive project. The good news is that I have a working kitchen. I still don’t have a back splash, there is still some touch-up to do, I still don’t have a working sink in our powder room, and the legs of our built-in breakfast table (envision a bar, only larger and more rectangular) still need to be trimmed and stained. AND, as I was dreaming — again — of the massive yard sale I’d have to enable the purchase of new furniture, it hit me like a ton of bricks that my Furniture Money would probably have to become Pay the Midwife Money. Maybe that’s stupid, but it was one of those reality checks that made me groan, “Aw, man…”
My child with the “issue” is now in counseling, and though we’ve just begun, I think that will be really helpful. Sometimes, it helps a child to hear truth from a different, non-parent source. My husband and I are fighting — and winning, I think — not to feel like Giant Failures in Parenting. Still, it’s been a blow to my confidence as a mother to have to call in the experts…
Our dog is still ill, but at least she hasn’t died. The vet said that he rarely sees dogs with her blood titer level, because, “Usually a dog doesn’t get to that level; they die before then.” But, she’s on antifungals. Sweet pup. We’re not out of the woods, and it was hard to admit to my husband that I didn’t ask the vet to call in a three months’ supply of meds, which we could have done, and which is less expensive than buying it month-to-month, because I’m still not sure she’ll make it three months… We’ll see.
My computer is still broken, which is making me feel like a bad homeschooling mom, because my kids haven’t done math nor typed anything in about a month. Grant and Wesley also read from the encyclopedia on my computer…
The Sunday before I had the spate of friends become displaced from my life, in early August, the presence of God fell on me very powerfully during worship, and I felt God calling me to serve Him, and Him alone, for His sake — not for what I get out of my relationship with Him or out of my Christianity; not simply because I was following my pastor (though I have a wonderful pastor — two of them, actually — absolutely amazing men of God who are excellent teachers and amazing leaders…) I just felt Him calling me to Himself, no matter who does what, and when, nor what goes on around me.
I have really been clinging to that, and thankful to Him for preparing me.
I’m 11 weeks pregnant, and I still need to actually TALK WITH and MEET WITH my midwife, rather than exchanging phone messages. I don’t know why, but I think I’m kind of dragging my feet about that. It’s just one more thing that will go on the plate… Know what I mean?
I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of complaining.
And I keep reminding myself how LOADS of people — billions of them — have it worse than I do. In many ways, things really aren’t bad at all! They’re just challenging, and I don’t enjoy being challenged. I really don’t.
So! That’s where I’m at.
Thanks for reading. I wish I had something clever with which to tidily wrap up this post, but my stomach hurts too much to think of what that might be. I think I’ll go make myself a piece of toast.
“Jean Marie,” read the very short text from my husband.
I was at a red light when I read it, out doing errands with my 13 year-old son, Grant. It was five days after my mother had passed. Her name was Jean Elaine.
“Wha…???” was my response, aloud.
I called my husband. “Are you saying that if we have another baby, you want to name her after my mother? You know I hate the name Marie.”
Our youngest turned four in October. I will turn 40 in June of next year. I’ve wanted “just one more” for a couple of years now… It just never felt like our family was complete. I wanted one more shot at having a home birth. I wanted one more baby to nurse. I just… wanted another baby.
My husband? Not so much. I would bring it up about once every six months — enough to let him know it was still on my heart, but not enough so that it was nagging. It’s not a good idea to nag one’s husband into having a baby, I figured. We needed to be in it TOGETHER, wholeheartedly.
“It’s already too noisy in here,” he would say.
“WHAT??” was my kind response. “You’re vetoing the life of a child based upon the noise factor??”
“Yes,” he replied with finality. “And I’m not ashamed to admit it. One more baby would send me over the edge, noise-wise.”
I couldn’t help but persist, “But a baby doesn’t make much noise. A three year-old makes a lot of noise.”
“Yes,” he agreed, “But that baby grows up to be a three year-old.”
“But by that time, Ethan [our oldest, who is 15] will likely be out of the house.”
“That doesn’t count,” he replied, “Ethan hardly makes any noise at all.”
I had to admit he was right about that.
So, when the thought would surface, as it often did, I would just submit the whole thing to God, to His plan, to His timing… I spent much time wondering if that was just the way He made my heart: That I would always long for another baby, and that I was to funnel that into encouraging and equipping other mothers in their efforts to birth naturally. And, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I could be a grandmother before the decade is out. Maybe He was preparing my heart for that.
About a week prior to that text, I was at my mother’s bedside, praying. She had been in the hospital for nearly three weeks. She had had a series of strokes, plus the doctors had discovered a large, vegetative growth on one of the valves of her heart, which was likely sending off bits of itself around her body, resulting in the strokes, as well as threatening the viability of her heart. She had been in poor health before those incidents: complications from Marfan Syndrome, two extensive back surgeries, a nerve problem similar to multiple sclerosis (CIDP), a half-paralyzed diaphragm that caused one lung to continually fill with fluid… And on top of THAT, she had aspirated a bunch of fluid and now her good lung was full and not functioning well.
It was a hard time. During the first two weeks, I was at the hospital nearly every day. The last week, I was there almost 24/7. She needed someone continually at her side, and as good as the care in the hospital was, they just couldn’t provide that. My stepdad took many days off from work — he works part time as a school music teacher — and is not in great physical health himself. My sister works a “part time” job that is just a few hours shy of full-time, plus has a two-year-old daughter. My older brother flew in from Texas for a time, and my younger brother drove down from Portland… But eventually, TJ had to fly back to Texas, and Brian felt like he was behind the eight-ball, knowing how to care and advocate for our mom. Everyone pitched in as they could; everyone spent hours with my mother; everyone spent nights at the hospital. We called on friends and extended family to fill in the odd hours when no immediate family could be present. But in the last week, I was the one able to be there most often.
I was continually thankful, especially that last week, for children who are acquainted with our routine enough to manage fairly well without me. My dear husband, too, felt very strongly that someone should be with my mother continually, and was very supportive of me being there so much. I was also thankful that, with our move, I was less than two miles from the hospital. And for us homeschooling, which lends a great deal of flexibility to our schedule, further enabling me to be there.
“And…” I reluctantly prayed, “I have to admit your wisdom, God, in not allowing me to have a baby, much as I have wanted one. If I had an infant right now… or even a two-year-old, this would not be possible. Instead, I am able to be here at my mom’s bedside when she needs me.”
I was incredibly thankful for that.
During her last weeks, my mom would drift in and out of lucidity. She would often be asleep, and visitors and conversation continued in her room. It was always pleasant. One of my favorite things about that time is the peace and kindness present in the room, by the Holy Spirit and His work in my mother’s life. I had so many great conversations with family members and with friends who had come to spend some time with my mother.
My husband and I have five children; most of my parents’ friends know that. And when one has “a bunch” of children, it is frequently asked of me, “Are you going to have any more?” As a response to that question, one of the several times it was posed to me there in the hospital by a visitor, I responded by saying that only a few months ago, my mother had said to me, unprompted, “I know you and Martin aren’t likely to have any more children. And I think that for most families, six children would be problematic. But I want you to know that I think it would be fine if you have more children. If any family should have more children, it should be yours.”
After I related that story, my mom, with eyes closed — I had thought she was asleep! – piped up weakly, “It’s because you’re such a good mother.”
Back to the conversation following the text from my husband, I continued, saying, “I’m really glad you are… amenable to the idea of having more children, but I’m not pregnant. I would know.”
He responded, “I was just going to the bathroom…”
Let me interject here to say that my husband’s work-bathroom-break-prayer-times have always been inspirational to me. How often have I, as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five, thought — or said, “I just don’t have enough time for a ‘real’ quiet time.” However, I have long known that Martin uses those few minutes of alone-time, purposefully to check in with God. It doesn’t take long, really, to reconnect with Him. Martin prays about what’s on his mind. He listens to anything the Father might say in return, all accomplished within a few minutes in the middle of his busy day. I now do similarly.
“…and I feel like God spoke to me,” he continued. “If you are pregnant — and I think you are — and if it is a girl — and I think it is — we’re going to name her after your mom. I’m not tied to the middle name, but her first name will be Jean.”
I was shocked.
“But I’m not pregnant!” I repeated.
“Go get a test,” he responded.
“What if I am?” I asked, “Are you going to have a hard time with it?”
“Nope. God spoke to me. I already dealt with it. It’s all good.”
I really don’t like that saying: “It’s all good.” But in this instance, I did.
I also have to interject a positive note for serving a God who SPEAKS, a God who speaks TODAY to the people He loves, if their ears are tuned to His voice, not only through His Word — the Bible — but directly from His Spirit into our spirit, into our thoughts, into our lives, RIGHT NOW, words of significance to where we are in our daily lives, in our minute-by-minute concerns, in our current needs. What if we didn’t? What if my husband didn’t? What if I got pregnant and he was upset? That had been my lone concern about becoming pregnant: I’d be thrilled, my husband would be distressed and worried, and I’d have to spend nine months reassuring him that it would be OK, and knowing that we weren’t in unity… I didn’t know if I could handle that. But, in a few minutes, within the space of a bathroom break, God spoke to my husband and changed his mind entirely on the subject.
“Go get a test,” he repeated.
And I am.
Baby Jean will be born likely the end of June, next year, just after my 40th.
So. I can’t say that my scalp never flakes, but I don’t really have dandruff. However, I have had an itchy scalp, um, forever. I have used dandruff shampoo since childhood, and assumed that it would be part of my routine forever.
I had discovered that salicylic acid-containing shampoos (like Neutrogena T-Sal) work better than… uh… whatever makes the blue dandruff shampoo blue.
Four or five months ago, though, I learned about the “no ‘poo” movement: People “washing” their hair with baking soda, and using apple cider vinegar as a conditioning rinse. I already buy my baking soda — which I use for everything — in 13.5 lb bags from Costco, and apple cider vinegar (raw, organic, unfiltered) in quarts. So, I had the supplies on hand, and was already a fan of them. Plus, I am always on the lookout for ways to make our household more natural. I suspected that my normal regimen of Suave clarifying shampoo for the first wash, Selsun Blue Naturals for the second wash, and Herbal Essences None of Your Frizzness conditioner didn’t meet any benchmarks for “more natural”, and on my low-priority list at the back of my mind, I’d been wanting to figure out a replacement for them. Win-win, all the way around, right?
So, I did no ‘poo for a few weeks and hated it. It’s not so much that it didn’t work, exactly. It’s because I have so much darn hair — it’s thick and reaches the small of my back — that the process took FOR-EV-ER. Working enough baking soda into my hair to wash all of it required a LOT of baking soda and a LOT of time. Then, it’s hard to rinse out. The apple cider vinegar rinse helps with that because the acid neutralizes the soda. However, I am already trying to minimize my water usage in the shower; I could languish in a hot shower pretty much perpetually, but know that it is wasteful. All that water draining as I’m trying to get enough soda into my hair to wash it, then enough water in my hair to rinse it… I just could never get all of the soda out, even using up an entire water-heater full of hot water in the process.
As a consequence, my hair would feel heavy afterward, and I hated that.
I had read that there is an adjustment period where your hair needs to get “used” to not being stripped of its oils, etc., like normal shampoo does, and thought that, maybe, that’s what was happening to my hair. But, I find myself suspicious of this because:
- Baking soda strips stuff of oil. That’s one reason it’s an effective household cleaner.
- I deeply suspect that the “adjustment period” is not your hair balancing out, but you, as a person, finally getting used to how weird your hair feels after “no ‘poo”ing.
So, I shelved that idea. Chalk me up as Not a Convert to No ‘Poo.
One thing I had noticed, though, was that my scalp was NOT itchy, at all, while doing “no ‘poo”.
I had already recognized that at least one of my children (Audrey) is “allergic” to Suave shampoo. It makes her head peel. I’ve know that for years. Literally, about four years. With a slowly-dawning “duh”, I thought, “Maybe my shampoo is what is making my head itch. Maybe I need to switch shampoos.” For nearly my whole life, I have used a clarifying shampoo as my first wash — I am not looking for frou-frou in my shampoo; I just want my hair clean. If I’m going to splurge, I save my $$ for conditioner. Therefore, I use the cheapest clarifying shampoo I can find: Suave. Hmmm… If it makes Audrey’s scalp peel, maybe I have the same problem, and that’s why my head itches. <facepalm>
I shopped for various natural shampoos, to give it a go.
Lemme tell you, I hated that. The cheapskate in me CRINGES over the per-ounce cost of natural and organic shampoos and conditioners. And, I had a reasonable fear that I’d plunk down my $15-20 dollars for two bottles of stuff that
- wouldn’t clean my hair,
- would make my scalp still itch, and
- would totally waste my money.
Finally, I settled on Everyday Shea, mostly because I liked the info provided on the bottle, and it was 32 ounces, and about $10, which is a fair price for such a large bottle. I’ve read some glowing reviews of it, but I’m here to tell you that stuff is CRAP.
- It doesn’t clean worth a darn,
- I had to use a good quarter to half-cup of both the shampoo and conditioner each time, to get a good lather on the shampoo, and to feel like the conditioner was being spread through my hair.
I had to stop using it, which made me groan at the waste. I tried using it a few washes even after I knew it wasn’t working for me, just to try to get my money’s worth, but I just couldn’t continue. Then, I tried — ahem — passing it to my children, because maybe their standards were lower than mine. But everyone — husband and children included — uniformly reported, “This stuff is weird. It’s so watery. My hair doesn’t feel clean. Do I have to use this?” Now, the bottles — FOUR OF THEM, mind you, because I thought that if one variety of it didn’t work, maybe another did — are just sitting around my house (and yes, that’s $40 worth of crappy shampoo and conditioner), because I can’t bear to throw them away, but neither could I, in good conscience, give them to anyone.*
Nature’s Gate, which, while somewhat expensive on the outset (about $6-7), at least comes in healthy-sized 18 oz bottles, so the cost per ounce was lower than most of the other options. It’s not organic, but it is sulfate-free, paraben-free, butylene glycol-free, and more. I’m not sure — at all — which of those — if any — is what was making my scalp itch. But, I thought it was likely to be at least one of those things.
I must say that, initially, I didn’t want to buy Nature’s Gate because I bought some, years ago, and the stuff smelled exactly like Old Spice, and it was a SSTROOOONGGGG scent. So, I’d smell distinctly like a man whenever I used it. That’s a no-go, even though I liked how it worked. But, in the store, I noticed that there were several new varieties of their shampoo, and it had that chipper “New Improved!” graphic, and I hesitantly picked it up. I opened the cap to smell. Wow! It smelled GREAT. I plunked two bottles in my cart.
I’m happy to report that, a few months later, after using both the Aloe Vera and the Jojoba versions of Nature’s Gate shampoos and conditioners that
- It cleans my hair, on ONE wash, even if it’s been several days since I last washed my hair.
- I don’t have to use a ton of the shampoo, just a normal amount.
- The conditioner conditions well, and even with my long, thick hair, I don’t have to use a gallon of it, either. It’s thick and rich.
- It doesn’t make my scalp itch. I am itch-free, and no longer need to use dandruff shampoo.
- And it smells great. Not like a man at all. But, my hubby likes it, so it doesn’t smell girly, either.
Overall, I’m very happy with Nature’s Gate shampoo and conditioner. It’s still pricier than my penny-pinching self likes to pay. BUT, it’s cheaper than dandruff shampoo. And, I have been pretty successful buying it on sale. Locally, to the Phoenix area, the everyday price at Bashas’, of all places, is LESS than at Sprouts, $6 vs. $7-something. But, from the 25th of April (today) through the 2nd of May, all of Sprouts’ vitamin and bodycare goods are 25% off, so if you’re interested, it might be a good time to buy… (And, NO, I’m not paid by Sprouts to say this; I just like shopping there.)
*Although, if anyone I know IRL is reading this, and wants to try it, even after my thumbs-down review, you’re welcome to. I’ll give you my bottles.