Posts Tagged ‘health’

What’s a Green Bean?

A funny thing happened at the grocery store this weekend.  Our cashier held up a bag of green beans and asked me what they were.  Really?  She may have only been a teenager, but she really didn’t know what green beans were?  I get it, some of those produce items can be more obscure, and it’s understandable that someone may need to ask for help.  For example, how many of you know what what Jicama looks like?  Or the difference between Collards, Kale or Mustard Greens?  Steve and I walked out both thinking the same thing, even Gavin knows what green beans are.   That’s when I realized that I think that I might be doing something right.

Grocery shopping with kids is not always a great experience, especially when your kids are no longer content to sit in the cart and people-watch.  Gavin is 3 now and Skylar is 17 months.  My usual approach is to put Skylar in the top of the cart and throw Gavin in the back.  As we get near the end of the shopping trip, that area gets smaller and smaller with our purchases and understandably, Gavin wants to get out and walk.  I usually let him.  In anticipation that this will happen, I try to plan shopping trips for times of day where there will be less people at the store.  Gavin is starting to listen pretty well and understands that he needs to stay close to me, but the urge to run down that open aisle is sometimes just too much to resist.  I try and keep him occupied by having him help me pick out food to buy.

He is especially excited to help in the produce section.  We buy a lot of fresh produce, especially in the summer months, and Gavin has developed some strong opinions on what we should put in our carts.  He never seems to like my picks for blueberries or bananas, but I have been successful in steering him in the right direction.   In the last couple of shopping trips, he has actually made requests for certain produce.  This past week, he was very upset that we did not buy any grapes, in the starting-to-cry upset kind of way.  It’s because of him that we got the green beans in the first place.  He thought that I forgot to get them.  He was also very particular about which heads of broccoli to bag.  I’ve been using his assistance in my produce selections purely to keep him occupied and close by me.  It’s hard to pick out the perfect potatoes when you have a 3 year old running towards the carrots, but it dawned on me that I’m offering an education of sorts that I never realized. 

He is learning about all the different types of fruits and veggies that are available.  He loves to ask what certain items are and wonders why we aren’t buying them.  Prior to this phase, we used the produce section to practice naming colors.  We also talk about preferences.  For example, it’s ok that Mommy only likes the red grapes, but it’s great that I’ve tried the other colors too. It’s because of Gavin’s curiosity that we bought a broccoflower a few weeks ago.  I do have to be careful because he likes to sample things before they are bought and washed.  A few weeks ago, I bent towards him to hear what he was saying to me and got a huge whiff of cilantro on his breath.  He was snacking on cilantro leaves!  (He also loves basil and mint.)  Most importantly, buying produce is a regular part of our shopping trip, and he is engaged and aware of these purchases on a weekly basis.  He is learning that fruits and vegetables are a standard and expected part of our diets.  Hopefully, these early lessons will not only teach my kids what the different produce items are but that it is the norm to include them in your weekly shopping trips.  Now, if only I could get Skylar to understand that the ear of corn needs to be cooked before she can eat it, everything would be perfect.

Your 1st Pregnancy versus Your 3rd

Last night, I was thinking about how different my viewpoints are on pregnancy now that I am on my 3rd set of 9 months compared to the first time around.  This whole self-reflection was triggered by a blog post and a doctor’s visit.  Yesterday, I had a maternity checkup and when the doctor asked me how I was doing, I told her that I have a lot of round ligament pain now and frequent backaches.  For those of you that don’t know, round ligament pain is a feeling like you’re being stabbed with a knife on your side just above your hips but below your belly  It’s pretty common in pregnancy as the ligaments stretch but have been quite excessive for me this time around.  As for my backaches, my doctor was realistic and said, “I don’t expect you not to carry your kids around.”  She did suggest that I invest in a maternity support belt to help with both issues.

Now what does this conversation have to do with a blog post?  I had just read a blog post written by a woman who is 1 week further along in her first pregnancy than me who bought a maternity belt to help with her own aches and pains.  I don’t scoff at any woman’s pregnancy aches and pains, but I had to chuckle a little bit at this one.  She is very physically active and her baby belly is as small as mine was at 12 weeks.  I can’t believe how tiny she is!  She looks like she’s bloated from eating a Big Mac and large fries for lunch.  How is it possible that she could need a maternity belt?!  That’s when I started remembering how your perspective changes with different pregnancies.

Take morning sickness for example.  In your first pregnancy, you survive morning sickness and think that you get it.  You really understand what morning sickness is all about.  The truth is you have no idea the severity of your suffering because you have nothing to compare it too.  Morning sickness sucks no matter how bad it is, but you may not realize that it really wasn’t that bad until you’ve gone through it a 2nd or even a 3rd time.  How annoying and insensitive is it when a mom can’t show sympathy for someone with morning sickness because she went through it and survived?  Maybe that mom’s experience wasn’t as bad as hers.  It’s hard to really understand the varying degrees of morning sickness until you have felt something different.

Sleep is another great example.  I actually don’t have sympathy for a first time mom who complains about her lack of sleep.  In your first pregnancy, your only sleep interruption is you.  Maybe you have to get up and pee, maybe your uncomfortable, maybe you wake up because you’re hungry, but you never wake up because another baby is crying and screaming for you at 2am.  You never have to start your day at 5:30am because your kid is awake and ready to play.  You never have to wait until you’ve put your child to bed for your own bed time.  You can nap or lie down and rest whenever you want.  I remember in my first pregnancy, I took a nap every day leading up to the arrival of my son.  This time around, I’m terrified that I will be exhausted before those nighttime feedings even start.

Waiting for you baby. Here is where I do have complete sympathy for the first time mom.  Waiting for your first baby can seem like it takes 9 years not 9 months.  The time just cannot go by fast enough until you can hold your baby in your arms.  In this 3rd pregnancy, I would like time to slow down a little bit so I can start preparing for having a new little one.  I felt like I blinked I was starting my 3rd trimester.

Everybody’s pregnancy experience is unique, special and exciting.  I try very hard not to tell a new mom how it’s really going to be because her experience is her own and shouldn’t be tainted by other’s stories.  I can’t help but look back on my own experiences and appreciate how much wiser I feel for having been there done that.  Although, I’m sure something new will pop up that will make feel just as inexperienced as I was the first time around.

Do You Know Which Cow Your Milk Came From?

Unless you’re a dairy farmer, you probably don’t know. I don’t know either, but I do feel lucky that I can at least check out the cows that provide my milk.  I buy my milk from Merrymead Farm. It’s an adventure when I take the kids with me to buy milk.  You can walk around and check out a giant hog, some rabbits, donkeys, goats, peacocks, chickens and all the cows.  Sometimes the cows are out grazing in the field.  Sometimes they’re in the barn eating.  You can watch them line up to be milked.  You can even watch them during the milking process.   5 feet stands between you and your potential milk source.  If you’re lucky, they might even amble up to the window and moo at you. This scenario is more than enough for me to feel comfortable with how the cows are treated that produce my milk. 

All that aside, the real goal of any dairy farmer is to get his cows to produce as much milk as possible.  That can be accomplished with rBST injections, with painkillers do dull any discomfort, and unnatural diets that increase the amount of physiological issues requiring medication.  All bad methods, and yet common practices in the commercial production of milk.  Remember – rBST, painkillers, antibiotics all end up in your milk.  Research shows that cows will naturally produce more milk when they are happy and content.  I can’t even cite one source because there are so many out there.  I dare you to google it.  Any woman who has ever breastfed probably understands this fact.

Yesterday, I read an interesting and somewhat entertaining article about alternative approaches that some dairy farmers are taking to keep their cows happy, and they are seeing positive results.  Chiropractic sessions to avoid painkillers.  Water beds to take some of the pressure off their joints.  Misting in the barns to cool down the animals.  Even naming the cows can help them produce more milk. 

Cows may not be the smartest animal on the planet, but they too feel pain and discomfort.  They respond positively to human interaction and good treatment.  While I’m not suggesting that we all run out and find a dairy farm that gives its cows daily massages, but it can’t hurt to know what kind dairy farm is producing your milk.  A little education might change your mind about where to invest your milk money.

The Importance of Sleep

We all know that sleep is important. A restful night’s sleep enables us to perform our best cognitively and physically. It also helps us to maintain a healthier body weight. As every parent knows, sleep is sometimes elusive. We’ve all been there. Those first 3 months of a newborn’s life can make you feel like you’re going to die from lack of sleep. Then teething starts. Your kid gets sick. He has a bad dream. All sorts of scenarios crop up that interrupt your night of sleep, but these scenarios also interrupt your kid’s good night of sleep as well. For babies, that’s ok. They’ll make up for it during the day. For older children, the repercussions are more challenging.

Gavin is going through a transition. Some days, no nap is needed. Other days, it’s required. On the days, that he won’t nap, the result is a lot of crankiness at bed time and difficulty going to sleep and/or staying asleep. On the days that he does nap, the result is an extremely difficult time going to sleep and a very early wake up. On the days we get it wrong and he ends up overtired, he is whiny and has very low impulse control, which translates to lots of time-outs due to hitting, kicking and pushing his sister, throwing toys and talking back. Those nights might also yield a night terror and an eventual request to sleep in our bed. My mom-guilt gets me on these days because I get so frustrated with him, and yet, I know that it is the exhaustion manifesting itself.

I am trying to enforce at least a ½ hour of quiet time at nap time in hopes that maybe if he is tired enough, he’ll fall asleep or just get some rest. The last quiet time he had, after about 20 minutes he called for help. When I got into his room, all of his lights were on, the fan was on high, his books were strewn all over the floor, his closet doors were open, and he had his snow pants on. You can see that it is going well.

As we deal with this transition, I’m trying to find some patience despite my own over-tiredness. I know that these difficult moments will eventually pass. Until then, I’ll celebrate every night of uninterrupted sleep that lasts past 6am – for him and me.

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.