Dealing with Mold

We’re in the middle of a DIY kitchen renovation.  The renovation is going great and will be over shortly, but the story of how it all started is an interesting one.   Back in September 2011 as Hurricane Irene was dumping lots of rain on the East Coast, Steve and I did a walk-through of our basement to see if we had any leaks.  We have been in our house for almost 5 years and (knock on wood) have never dealt with flooding in our basement, but these were exceptional circumstances.  

Steve made a disturbing discovery when he found that the plywood subfloor from the 1st floor underneath our sink area was not only wet but had large moldy spots.  After more investigation, he determined that our dishwasher had been slowly leaking for years, probably since it was installed which was before we even moved there.  Since it was a slow leak, our floor never flooded and the water just kept soaking through to the subfloor unbeknownst to us.

We had a mold problem.  Any area that stays continually damp will grow mold.  Mold spores are in the air, just looking for a nice damp place to take up roots and grow.  The real question was how to get rid of the mold and was it dangerous.  Most mold is no the scary black mold kind, but you can still have severe allergic reactions to common molds in the air and in your house.  After a phone call to a mold remediation company, not only was I shocked at how much they wanted to charge ($650!) to test what type of mold it was, I was scared that we were going to make everyone in our house gravely ill.  Fortunately, Steve, as my the voice of reason, convinced me to relax and found a less expensive service company that came out to determine what type of mold we had.  It turned out to be nothing of concern, but we still needed to get rid of it.

The issue was that the mold was growing underneath the kitchen cabinets, and we didn’t know how extensive the problem was.  The only way to figure it out was to take out the cabinets to see the floor and the walls.  Removing the cabinets meant removing our Corian countertops.  You can see where this is going.  We were going to need new countertops.  Once we made the decision, Steve started sawing the countertops into sections for easy removal.   He ended up replacing a significant portion of the flooring, painting not-so-bad areas with mold paint, rebuilding the sink cabinet, and replacing some drywall.  We were smart enough to have him do all this work with windows open, fans open, plastic hanging in doorways and no kids in the house.  Once you start working, you disturb the mold and into the air it goes.

Now we were mold free and trying to decide how to fix up our kitchen without breaking the bank.  As the ideas grew, we ended up in the throes of a full-scale remodel.   It has taken us a while to figure out a plan on how to make our ideas a reality, but we wanted to be cost-effective and make decisions that work for our budget, tastes, and capabilities.  The result is beautiful new cabinets, a layout that meets our needs and lighting that is bright and more effective.  And while people may look at us and question why it has taken so long, we are “this close” to having a high-end kitchen on a low-end budget.  Stay tuned for how we did it.

* picture source


Cleaning Chemical Free

I have written in the past about my commitment to use non-toxic cleaners to clean my home.  I admit that I do have a few exceptions.  I still use bleach in my sinks and my toilets, diluted with water, to disinfect.  I also still use glass cleaner for windows and mirrors and dishwasher soap for my dishwasher.  Other than that, my cleaning supplies consist of water, vinegar, baking soda and elbow grease.  Now before you question the cleanliness of my house, I assure you that we live in a clean and sanitary environment.  We just don’t have to worry about inhaling dangerous fumes, absorbing nasty chemicals through our skin or our kids finding their way to toxic chemicals that could have fatal outcomes if ingested (don’t worry – I keep the bleach, etc locked up on a high shelf).

I was reassured with my decision when I read the Environmental Working Group’s list of worst household cleaners for your health.  They include the following – note that a Simple Green product is on the list:  

  • Mop & Glo Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner
  • Tarn-X Tarnish Remover
  • Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Target’s Up & Up and Walmart’s Great Value

Included in this list are cleaners to avoid.  That list is so long, you might be left wondering what you should be cleaning with.  Fortunately, they also have a list of the best green cleaners.  While these may still not be great for your health and aren’t as safe as water, vinegar and baking soda, they are good alternative for what you might be using now.

Johnson’s Baby Wash is Toxic for your Baby

The frugal consumer that I am attempts to buy non-perishable items in bulk as much as possible. We are Costco members, and until recently, I have bought my baby wash at Costco. Costco used to sell Aveeno Baby Wash and recently switched to Johnson’s Baby Wash. We decided to give it a try. What an awful mistake that has been!

We’ve been using the product for about a month, and it just clicked that recent skin issues with both of my kids can be linked to the product. Both Gavin and Skylar have keratosis pilaris, which is a very common, no-big-deal, skin condition. We moisturize their skin and ignore it. I’ve noticed that it has gotten really bad with Skylar in the last few weeks and have been a little surprised because it usually improves when the weather gets warmer. Then I noticed that Gavin developed a big patch of dry skin on his side. Next, Skylar has developed a rash on her chest and knees. At her well-check last week, I asked my dr about it. The first thing that he asked me is if I used Johnson’s Baby Wash.

When I said yes, he wasn’t surprised. He said that it is the worst product you can use on your little ones. He has seen more skin issues with that baby wash than anything else on the market over the years. The rash is the result of severe dry skin from the baby wash, same with Gavin. I immediately went out and bought our old trusted Aveeno Baby Wash and will not use any J&J product on them ever again.

Even more disturbing is that some of J&J’s baby products, including the Baby Wash “contains the formaldehyde-releasing preservative quaternium-15, as well as the chemical byproduct 1,4-dioxane. Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens.” Apparently, this information isn’t new, and J&J has gone as far as to phase it out of their products in some countries. Guess what. The US isn’t one of them. To get the non-toxic product, you need to but the J&J Natural Baby Wash. J&J’s response to this study’s results is a commitment to phase out these chemicals in the next 2 years. That’s a long time to wait for non-toxic soap.

Am I relieved that Gavin and Skylar’s sensitive skin have flared up in these rashes? Yes! If not, we would still be using carcinogenic soap on them. Stay away from J&J’s baby care products. Despite their fancy slogans and cute baby pictures, J&J is NOT committed to what is best for our children.

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for You?

The answer is yes and no.  

I’ve been hearing the past couple of years that we should avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) because our bodies process it differently from natural sugar.   I started wondering if this is really true.  Do our bodies use HFCS differently from any other sweetener?  The answer from reputable research organizations is a resounding no.  When you examine the chemical properties of HFCS, you’ll understand how this claim is impossible. 

HFCS is a combination of glucose and fructose.  Glucose is the form sugar takes when it is being passed around in our blood to be used as energy.   A blood sugar reading is essentially the amount of glucose in your blood.    Our bodies do handle fructose differently than glucose.  When fructose enters our body it goes to our liver where it is converted into glucose if energy is needed or released into the bloodstream as is.  The real problem is that fructose does not stimulate insulin production like glucose.  Insulin controls the hormone leptin.  Increased leptin levels leads to a feeling of satiety or fullness and tells our brain to stop eating.  You can see where this is leading.  If we consume food and drinks with high levels of fructose, our bodies aren’t registering that we are full, which leads to overeating and, consequently, weight gain. 

But wait.  Remember that glucose is also in HFCS, and glucose does increase insulin levels which will help to tell us we’re full.  It’s also important to know that fructose is half the sugar in sucrose, or table sugar, and it is the sugar that we consume when we eat fruit.  Fructose is a natural forming sugar that we will consume no matter what we eat.  The claims that HFCS is bad for you because our bodies digest it differently started from research studies that DID prove that we have a higher potential to gain weight consuming fructose over other sugars, but you need to remember that HFCS isn’t just fructose.  HFCS with equal amounts of glucose and fructose will have the same effect on your body as sucrose (or table sugar). So, why is HFCS still getting a bad rap?

BECAUSE IT IS IN EVERYTHING!  HFCS is not only found in sugary drinks like soda and juices, but you can find it in bread,  cereal, condiments, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, spaghetti sauce, etc.  I could go on and on and on, but the takeaway is that HFCS is processed foods, even foods that you wouldn’t think of, it is still there.   The real problem is not HCFS, but the excessive consumption of HCFS.   Try and stay away from as much processed food as you can to avoid excessive sugar intake in general.  It’s impossible to avoid HFCS or sugar completely, but its harmful effects are the same as regular old sugar, so the advice is the same.  Everything in moderation. 


*picture source

What Pregnant Women Don’t Want to Hear

Every pregnant woman has received a comment that makes them think, “Did you really just say that to me?” It’s annoying and disappointing. It might make you feel bad about yourself or even angry. I always wonder why this person didn’t think before he or she spoke. I admit that coming from a man, it’s more forgivable but coming from a woman, especially a woman who has experienced pregnancy, it’s shocking. Here are some of my favorites that have either been said to me or to others:

Me: I’m pregnant!
You: Oh no.
Seriously, did you just say “oh no”? I don’t care what my tone is or what I’ve said before this moment, but you should always be happy for someone who is pregnant. If not already, the pregnant woman will be excited for this new baby, but she won’t forget your reaction.

I knew you were pregnant. Your face looked fuller.
No pregnant lady wants to be told that she has gained weight in a part of her body other than her belly. Weight gain is mentally difficult to deal with even in pregnancy. Never make comments on a pregnant woman’s growing size unless it is to tell them how cute they look.

You’re just as big as [insert name here]. (and yet you’re 2 months earlier in your pregnancy)
Again, no pregnant woman wants to be told they look big. She knows how big she is.

You shouldn’t be picking up your kids.
Pregnancy is not a disability. Of course, I’m going to pick up my 1-year-old daughter. I’ll pick her up whenever she wants to be picked up.

You’re too sensitive. It must be the pregnancy hormones.
Yes, that first trimester is a bitch when it comes to fluctuating hormones. Beyond that, you’re pretty much the same person. Everybody has good days and bad days. It’s not because I’m pregnant. It might because you just told me how huge I am.

Are you trying for a girl? (said to the mom of multiple boys)
Yes, no, maybe but mostly just none of your business.  This comment is so rude.  Most people I know do not taking having a baby lightly.  It’s a decision that is made not based on a desire for a son or a daughter but a desire to expand their family.   Who cares if they have a gender preference.  If they want to share it with you, they will.  Don’t make assumptions.

Patience and 2 Year Olds

Who’s 2 year old has a problem with listening? As a parent, this act of defiance has to be our first introduction into frustration with our children. Up until now, everything is excusable – they’re too young, they don’t understand, etc. Then suddenly one day, they do understand and they ignore you anyway.

Stop drinking the bath water.                                                            
Don’t flip the light switch on and off 80 times.
Don’t throw food. Don’t throw toys.
Don’t push your sister.
Don’t sit on your sister.
Don’t hit your sister.
Don’t hit the dog.

The list of requests and instructions that are just blatantly ignore have us frequently asking, “Are the tubes in his ears really working?” Every once in a while, he’ll do exactly what we ask. We’re comforted that there isn’t a problem with his hearing but more frustrated the next time he doesn’t listen because we know that he can. I guess this is what is known as the terrible twos. It’s frustrating and draining and an intense exercise in patience.

I know that it is a phase that will hopefully end or ease soon. In the meantime, I need to dig deep and find that unending pool of patience that will help me keep my cool and not yell (so much). When I’m really close to losing it, I try to remember the sweet moments – the way he always runs over and gives you a kiss when you say ouch, the way he wakes up from a nap and climbs into your lap for a never-ending hug , the way he crawls into bed with you in the morning to snuggle, the way he is constantly picking up his sister’s sippy cup off the floor and handing it back to her. He’s a sweet, sweet kid, and I love him to bits. I just wish he would keep the water in the bathtub.

*Picture source

The Things We Do for Charity

Ok, so maybe we didn’t make a huge personal sacrifice yesterday, but it was still not something we were looking forward to.  Every year, my sisters, my husband and I walk in an MS Walk.  It’s always around mid-April when the weather is a little bit questionable.  We’ve been blessed with a beautiful day for the walk in the past. We’ve had cold years.  We’ve had windy years.  This year was our first cold, windy and rainy year. 

After weeks of drought, the rain returned with a vengeance on one day where we really needed it to stay away.  We all secretly hoped the others would say let’s just not walk this year, but no one stepped up and off we went.  Dressed in a windbreaker and poncho, I spent the first half of the walk holding my poncho hood up to keep the cold rain from hitting my face.   It was an easy decision to only do the short loop – 2.7 miles and get out of the rain as fast as we could.  After the walk, it took a good 45 minutes before my hands would work properly after being frozen stiff.

I’m either proud of myself for sucking it up and participating or embarrassed that I actually voluntarily walked in the cold rain for so long.  I haven’t decided.  At the end of the day, the National MS Society got our donations, and we have a good story to reminisce about during next year’s walk.  Hopefully, yesterday’s experience will be the worst we ever have.