Talking to Kids about Marijuana

Happy and Healthy

About a month ago my family took a road trip to southern Colorado primarily to explore the Great Sand Dunes National Park. As luck would have it, the weather didn’t entirely cooperate, and we awoke to freshly fallen snow on our first morning outside the dunes. Recalling that a few friends had mentioned a nearby alligator and reptile rescue (yep, in Colorado – there are geothermal springs), we decided to head there instead of to the dunes that day.

While at the rescue, my 9-year-old son had a chance to hold a young alligator. After getting a few pictures snapped (ha, no pun intended), the alligator handler filled out a certificate of bravery for Julian and had the alligator bite the paper to “make it official.” He then asked my son to hold out his arm for a real alligator bite to show his friends that he really did hold one. Julian thought momentarily, then extended his arm. The handler started laughing a little bit and waved his arm away saying, “When you get older, people might ask you to do dumb things just for their entertainment. They’re called your friends. But you don’t have to do it. You can say no.”

That made me think about how as my kids enter their teenage years (it’s coming up so fast), they will likely encounter other kids who suggest they do X, Y, or Z — and marijuana may very well be one of those things.

In 2014 marijuana became legal for adults 21+ in Colorado. As a result of this, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) was tasked with educating the public about the health effects associated with retail marijuana use. Good to Know Colorado is the nation’s first public education campaign regarding the legal, safe and responsible use of retail marijuana. The campaign also helps parents and other adults learn the facts so they can have a positive, effective conversation with youth about not using retail marijuana before age 21.

Did you know that a child’s brain is still developing until age 25? For the best chance to reach their full potential, young people should not use retail marijuana. Using marijuana before age 21 can have negative health effects such as: decreased athletic performance, difficulty learning and memory issues, impaired judgment, and it’s harder to stop using marijuana if you start at a young age. For more information about the health effects of marijuana on youth, visit the Good to Know website.

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, first-time use of most substances, such as drugs and alcohol, among youth peaks during the summer months of June and July. That’s why it’s important for parents to start talking with their kids NOW about marijuana to ensure their children understand the reasons why and how to say no to retail marijuana.

Start the Conversation

The Good to Know website is an excellent resource when it comes to learning how to talk to your kids and encourage them to say no, while staying positive and maintaining a good relationship with your kids. For most parents, talking to their kids about drug and alcohol use doesn’t come naturally. And although it may be easy to tell kids to “just say no,” it’s not always that easy for kids to actually do it.

Good to Know offers a lot of great tips for parents to talk to their kids and advice on how to help kids find a way to say no that works for them, including:

  • Role-playing with kids is a great way to practice saying “no.”
  • Many kids don’t realize saying “no” can be as simple as saying, “If I get caught, I won’t be able to do sports, theater, dance, etc.”
  • You can also encourage your kids to use you as an excuse to avoid marijuana use. For example, “My parents would ground me for the summer.” This is especially effective for pre-teens.
  • Make sure you have the conversation more than once.

See below for more tips on how to talk to your kids about underage marijuana use.

talkingtokids1

Parenting comes with its challenges at all ages of development, which is why as we enter those tween/teen years, I’m thankful for resources such as this one to help me tackle an otherwise possibly difficult subject.

For more information about talking to your kids about underage marijuana use, please visit the Good to Know website at GoodtoKnowColorado.com/Talk.

This post is sponsored by Single Edition Media on behalf of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Opinions are my own.

Making Some Headspace and a Meditation Challenge

Light at the end of the Tunnel

Being present. Living in the now. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

I will share more about this in the posts ahead, but for now all I feel comfortable saying is my anxiety has returned periodically in one form or another. As I look for new ways to address it, I have begun exploring meditation as a viable option.

My husband Jody joined the Headspace community eight months ago in an effort to work with anxious feelings of his own. If you aren’t familiar with HeadSpace, it is “a gym membership for your mind” or simply a course of guided meditation, delivered via an app or online.

When I found myself troubled with anxious thoughts or life issues in general, Jody would periodically say to me, “I think meditation could help you.” Being the stubborn Taurus that I am, I mostly rebuffed his well-intentioned suggestions, but could also see the positive effect Headspace was having on him. I decided to reserve the right to remain intrigued, but also aloof.

I continued to think about it. I read studies about meditation and anxiety like, “Research from 163 DIFFERENT STUDIES suggested that mindfulness-meditation practice had an overall POSITIVE EFFECT on improving anxiety and stress.” And, “Research in people with clinical levels of anxiety has found that 90% experienced SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS in anxiety.” From Harvard, a recent study by Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, found that “a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability.” Research from John Hopkins suggested the same results.

Eventually I decided it certainly couldn’t hurt, and I signed up for the Headspace free 10-day introductory session. I jumped in with both feet. The first day I did two meditations back to back, hoping that would help speed up my progress! (If I’m going to do something, I’m going to go all out. Go big or go home and all that.) I was tempted to do all 10 in a day if it would have made a difference, but after talking to Jody I decided that, much to my chagrin, slow and steady really is the trick with meditation. So I backed off to once a day.

I’ve been meditating using Headspace for more than 40 days now (mostly consecutively, but I have taken a some days off here and there). I’m currently 10 days into a 30-day program specifically for anxiety. I’d say I’m definitely still in the beginning stages — learning to quiet this mind of mine is not an easy task — but I am learning tools to deal with the mind chatter. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I think this is/will be good for me.

For those of you who are interested, I’ll continue to keep you posted about how it’s going.

TAKE THE CDG MEDITATION CHALLENGE:

If you are interested in trying out meditation (for any reason at all – doesn’t have to be to deal with anxiety or depression), I encourage you to try Headspace‘s free 10-day introduction. (By the way, I’m not affiliated with Headspace at all.) It will give you a taste of what the program is like. And if you do try it, I’d love to hear what you think! You can leave me a comment below to let me know you’re in or feel free to email me. Either way, I’d love to hear about your progress. I’ll post again in a few weeks so that anyone who’s taking the challenge can share how it’s going for them! You are worth taking 10-20 minutes per day to do something positive for yourself!
Or maybe you have another meditation app or practice that you follow. I’d love to know that too, so please share with me. I’m always looking for new ways to challenge and better myself.

photo credit: Light at the end of the Tunnel-2 via photopin (license)

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I’m going to ShiftCon

Two weeks from today I’ll be in Los Angeles to attend the first ever ShiftCon — an eco-wellness social media conference. The focus of ShiftCon is health, wellness and the environment — three of my biggest passions! I wasn’t sure about going at first since I haven’t been as big a part of the blogging world as I used to be, but when a wait-list ticket opened up several weeks ago, I decided to throw caution to the wind and bought my ticket. Not only that, my husband Jody and I decided to make it into a short family vacation so the four of us are all heading to LA!

ShiftCon

I’m excited to participate in ShiftCon for many reasons including that some of my old blogging buddies will be there and especially because the focus is on topics that mean so much to me. “ShiftCon was created to give wellness and eco-friendly bloggers a place to network, share ideas, learn from experts, empower one another and organize their efforts into activism.” In addition to great content, inspirational speakers and health-conscious brands and sponsors, the food provided will be organic and/or GMO-free. How can I not get excited about that?!

Some of the workshops I’m particularly interested in include:

  • Living the Waste-free and Plastic-Free Life
  • The Future of Labeling GMOs
  • Real Food on a Budget
  • Pesticides — What You Need to Know
  • Why Are We So Allergic?

I’m sure I’ll be Tweeting and/or posting on Facebook about what I learn at the conference and plan to blog about it after the fact as well.

Are you going to ShiftCon? Let me know if I’ll see you there!

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Your Cash Register Receipt May Contain BPA

Disclosure: This post was created as part of the BPA in Receipts Campaign in which I am a financially compensated blogger. The opinions are my own and based on my own experience.

Cash register receipt

Keeping your family healthy and staying away from nasty chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) — a nasty endocrine disruptor — at the grocery store can be a daunting task. But there is new research (#ad) that shows that it’s not just the food that could contain BPA, it’s the cash register receipts as well. Specifically it’s the thermal register receipts that are the issue. That kind of paper feels really soft and slippery, because it’s made with BPA, a chemical that’s been banned or severely restricted in countries including Canada, France and China.

Ninety-four samples of cash register receipts were collected from 12 grocery store chains and analyzed for BPA. The receipts came from 82 stores in 66 cities and 17 states. Of the 94 samples that were analyzed, BPA was found to be present above the sample reporting limits in 27 of the samples. That’s 28.7% or over 1/4 of the samples that contained BPA. That might not seem like a huge number especially considering most people don’t handle receipts that often. However, if you think about the checkout clerks who are touching receipt after receipt as they hand them to the customers for eight or more hours per day, that adds up to a lot of BPA exposure.

Naturally Savvy reports:

Winn-Dixie, the grocery store chain popular in Southern states came in with the highest level of BPA concentrations above the sample reporting limits. All of the concentrations found on Winn Dixie receipts were above 1,000 mg. Ten Winn Dixie locations were sampled. Kroger and Safeway, the nation’s two largest grocery chains, also tested positive for high levels of BPA.

If you as a consumer want to avoid BPA in cash register receipts, you can simply refuse them, but I’m not sure what the answer is for the store clerks who have no choice but to handle them regularly. Perhaps wear gloves or better yet, get your company on board with using receipts without BPA.

Personally, I do most of my shopping at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage (it helps that it’s a couple blocks from my house) and I recall seeing a notice posted at each checkout counter that their receipts do NOT contain BPA. Hopefully more companies will follow suit.

Disclosure: This post was created as part of the BPA in Receipts Campaign in which I am a financially compensated blogger. The opinions are my own and based on my own experience.

I am a runner, but I wasn’t always…

If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.Priscilla Welch

Loathing Running from an Early Age

Over a year ago, when I was considering adding some form of exercise into my life, my well-intentioned friend Rebecca — a runner — suggested that I start running. I told her I’d only run “if someone was chasing me with a knife.” And I kind of meant it.

I’d hated running since high school freshman gym class when — at the end of the semester — we had to run “the mile.” The distance of a mile seemed impossibly long and I dreaded it for months. After grudgingly completing it, I remember getting terrible shin splints, probably due to running in my Keds. They were very painful and took a long time to heal. So yeah, it was easy for me to decide running was NOT my thing. I’d rather do just about anything than run.

Catalyst for Change

Fast forward 20+ years (OMG) to July 2013. My local unschooling group planned a moms’ night out that included a hike of Mount Sanitas in Boulder. Hiking is something I usually enjoy so I was up for it, even though I was a little nervous since it was a 3.1 mile moderate to strenuous hike with +1,323′ net elevation gain. While I eventually made it to the summit that evening, that hike showed me that I was in terrible shape. I had to stop to rest several times along the trail and even felt light-headed and needed to sit down and eat an energy bar along the way. It was kind of discouraging to find out I was so out of shape, but it was also the kick in the pants I needed to start doing something about it.

I decided that come what may, I was going to give running a try. If other friends could do it and enjoy it, maybe I could too. I wasn’t sure how due to my history, but I was open to it. Instead of doing a couch to 5K program (which I had tried and failed at in the past), I decided I would just put one foot in front of the other and follow my body’s cues. If I felt like I could run, I would run. If I needed to walk, I would walk.

My daughter Ava helped me pick out a new pair of tennis shoes — black with bright pink laces. My previous pair was white (blah) and who knows how old since I never actually used them to run — they could’ve lasted forever!

My First Run

Exactly one year ago, on July 24, 2013, I went for my very first run. And guess what, I didn’t hate it! I ran, I walked, I ran, I walked. It was hard, but it felt good. And, most importantly and surprisingly, I wanted to do it again.

I started going for runs a few times a week. I’d get dinner ready for my husband Jody and the kids, then when he’d get home from work, I’d pop out for an evening of running. It helped that I found a few really pretty places to run near my house. Granted I needed to drive a few miles to get to the pretty spots to run, but I figure if I’m more likely to run if I drive somewhere first, then it’s worth it to do so. The distance I could run without walking became longer and longer and what initially seemed impossible — running a WHOLE mile without walking — became a reality. I was on my way!

Races!

In October 2013, I did my first 5K (3.1 miles) race, along with my husband Jody and friend Heather. I pushed too hard in the beginning up a hill and ended up having to walk part of the course, but I finished.

In November, while in Kansas visiting family for Thanksgiving, I did another 5K race — this time on my own. It felt good and I was able to run for the whole race. I didn’t run as much over the winter, but tried to get at least one run in a week.

Somewhere in there I also went to a running store to get fitted for shoes. The ones I had weren’t good for my running form (I’ve been experiencing some pain during my runs) and after they checked me running on a treadmill, they were able to get me in shoes that worked for me. I got a shiny new pair of Brooks and they’ve been awesome.

In April 2014, I did another 5K race with my mom, followed by my first 10K (6.2 miles) race — The Bolder Boulder — with my friend Sarah in May. Aside from stopping at the aide stations to drink, I was able to run (albeit slowly) the entire race. I was pretty proud of myself.

The last race I’ve done to date was on July 4 in Crested Butte, Colo. The family and I were planning to go there for Independence Day week, and I saw there was a 1/3 marathon (8.56 miles) race (the Gothic to Crested Butte 1/3 Marathon) happening, so I signed up for it. I’m not sure I would do that race again, but I’m happy to have completed it. There was a lot of elevation gain on the first half (not to mention the altitude was 4,000 ft. higher than where I live) and I definitely did a fair amount of walking on that one, but that was OK with me. My only goal was to finish it and I did!

Looking Ahead

I’m setting my sights on a half-marathon (13.1 miles) trail race next, maybe in November so I won’t have to train through the heat of the summer. After doing the 1/3 marathon, I feel confident that I can do a half, but I also know I have a lot of training ahead of me to get to that point.

The crazy thing for me has been how much I enjoy running. I’m not setting any speed records and I have no desire to, but I am running for me and doing it on my terms and I think that makes all the difference.

I love this quote my friend Heather shared with me when I was first getting started and someone asked me if I was a runner now. I said I didn’t feel like one yet, but I hoped to be one someday.

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” — John Bingham

I never in my wildest dreams would have expected to be a runner. And yet, I am. I am a runner. And I like it.

I hope to write about running again soon so I can share more about what has worked for me on this journey. Stay tuned.

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Essential Oils Safety and FAQ

essential oils

Essential oils safety info:

Keep Out of Reach of Children. Treat essential oils the same as medicine. Oils can be painful or harmful if used in the eyes or if large quantities of the wrong oil are ingested.

NEVER put essential oils in the eyes, nose or ears. Essential oils are too strong for the delicate tissues in the ear drum and canal. If you have an earache or ear infection, it is best to apply around the ears or drop the essential oil on a cotton ball and put that in the ear.
After application, be attentive to things like rubbing the eyes, areas around the eye, eyelids, handling contact lenses, or touching the interior of one’s nose. The skin is most sensitive and prone to irritation around the genitals and mucous membranes.

Irritation. If you experience any irritation with an oil, DO NOT wash it off with water. USE a carrier oil (any vegetable oil) to dilute the oil. Water will drive the EO in deeper, while a carrier oil will dilute it.

“HOT” oils. There are certain oils that are considered HOT oils and can/will cause skin irritation if not diluted. Oregano should ALWAYS be diluted heavily and even then, only applied on the soles of feet. Some other hot oils include: cinnamon, cassia and marjoram. For children: Protective Blend and/or Peppermint may feel hot as well. Peppermint is actually cooling, but it may feel uncomfortable for kids unless diluted.

Some Essential Oils Are Photosensitive. Some oils are photosensitive meaning they react to radiant energy or light such as natural sunlight, sunlamps, or other sources of UV rays. An adverse response appears within minutes, hours, or days after first application and exposure. These oils are primarily citrus oils and include angelica, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Wild Orange, and Tangerine. The result is a dark pigmentation or a rash on the skin. Bergamot contains bergaptene, a dominant photosensitizer, and can cause severe reactions. When using photosensitizing oil, wait a minimum of six hours before exposing skin to UV rays. The stronger and more lengthy the UV ray, the longer the wait should be.

Use care when applying oils to infants and children. After application the child should be supervised and areas where oils were applied should be clothed until the oils have been sufficiently absorbed to protect from cross contamination. A baby might easily grab their foot after oils were applied and then rub his or her eyes.

Pregnancy. Aromatherapists generally agree that no oils topically (externally) applied at ordinary amounts have ever proven harmful to a developing fetus. However, pregnant women might want to consult a physician or licensed aromatherapist prior to using essential oils. If there are specific oils that pregnant women should be concerned about, it will be noted on the oil bottle from most reputable suppliers.

**Much of the information above was taken from Everything Essential.**

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Should essential oils be diluted?
I think it is wise to always dilute essential oils when applying topically. There are certainly times when I don’t, but most of the time I add a carrier oil and think it is best to do so! I really like the fractionated coconut oil because it doesn’t leave my skin greasy. EOs are volatile, which means they evaporate quickly, so when you don’t use a carrier oil, you will lose a lot to evaporation. The carrier oil holds the essential oil to your skin so you can absorb it, like a slow release tab, if you will. Using a carrier oil also helps to avoid reactions from the intensity of the essential oil or sensitization from over exposure. EOs are really potent and little bit goes a long way!

What is considered a dose in essential oils?
1-3 drops is a dose for adults. Less than a drop (a finger swipe over the bottle) is often sufficient for children. With essential oils, less (more frequently) is more than a large dose one time.

What is a carrier oil?
A carrier oil is any vegetable oil. Olive, coconut, jojoba, almond, etc. Essential oils are not true oils (no fat content), but they mix with oils, not water. I prefer to use fractionated coconut oil which has the fat content removed and stays in liquid form even when it’s cold. It absorbs really well on the skin.

Essential oils aren’t TRUE oils?
No, they aren’t true oils. When they were being classified (a long time ago), they were a lot like oil with their properties, but they contain no fat. They are simply aromatic compounds!

Why are *these essential oils expensive?
This brand of oils does cost more than some brands, and there are several reasons why. It’s a pure product — you use less of a pure product than one that is full of fillers, so there isn’t any savings there from buying less expensive oils. Also, the chances of having a reaction to other brands is a lot higher because of the fillers (including synthetics!) in those brands. That is how they keep costs low; synthetic essential oil is a lot cheaper than the real deal, and they don’t have to put on the label that it contains synthetic ingredients or components! With these oils, you get the assurance of a pure product with amazing customer service, support as you learn how to use the oils as well as truly an amazing product. They wouldn’t be the company they are (the largest EO company in the world) if they weren’t putting out anything else but the best. And there are ways to get the oils discounted and even free, and that certainly helps when on a budget!
*Due to recent FDA-regulations, I can no longer list on my blog the brand name that I use, but I’m happy to share if you contact me or subscribe to my newsletter.

How long do you find the oils last? Not in terms of using them up, but staying fresh? I assume they expire at some point.
There aren’t any impurities in *this brand of oils so they last a REALLY long time (years — like, decades)! The thing to watch for is oxidation, so it’s best if oils are kept out of the sun and with the lids on. Our oils have expiration dates on them to be in compliance with the FDA as they are considered supplements, but that doesn’t mean that they “go bad,” if that makes sense. The citrus oils are cold-pressed so those tend to oxidize the fastest, so you’ll probably want to use the citrus ones within about 2 years.

What is the Modern Essentials book and where can I buy it?
Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils (a third party resource guide) is perfect for anyone looking to know more about essential oils and how they can be used in everyday life. Whether you are a beginner or a long-time essential oil user, this book is designed for you. It covers all of this company’s single oils and blends, as well as many, many medical conditions and the suggested oils, and really is the only book you truly need to use your oils safely and effectively. I get my Modern Essentials book from Aroma Tools: http://www.aromatools.com/Default.asp.

Where does this company’s oils come from?
They source their essential oils from around the world and believe in sustainability and humanitarian efforts. Just to give you a few examples: Vetiver comes from Haiti, Lemon and Bergamot from Italy, Lavender from France, and Jasmine from Southern India.

What happens to all of the plant leftovers from lemons, etc.?
This company purchases the essential oils from those families that have been growing those citrus fruits for generations, but the families can utilize the other parts of the fruit as well. the farmers can use the rest of the product for other purposes like compost or what have you. For arborvitae, for example, the leftover shavings are used for compost and the water used for the distillation process is reused as well for other purposes (not for distilling more oils). The farmers and our company are really in this to be good stewards and make it possible for oils to be around for ages and ages to come!

What if I have an allergy to a certain plant in an oil. Can I still use them?
I would do a patch test on the inside of your elbow to make sure you don’t have a reaction. A tiny touch (not even a full drop) on the inside bend of the elbow and wait at least 12 hours to make sure you don’t have a reaction. Many people that are allergic to certain plants don’t have reactions to the essential oils because the proteins in the plant are not present in the essential oil, but that doesn’t mean that one should start dousing themselves in an essential oil that they have a known allergy or intolerance to the plant or family of plants without doing a patch test first.

— To read more about essential oils — including why I use them and some of my favorite oils — click here.

— Due to recent FDA-regulations, I can no longer share on my blog what brand of essential oils I love and trust or the many stories of how these oils have benefited my family and friends, BUT I can email that information to you. If you’d like to learn more about the certified pure essential oils that my family uses daily, subscribe to my newsletter below and I’ll fill you in on all the details.

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The Importance of Breastfeeding in Natural Disasters: a recycled post

This post originally appeared on my blog on May 28, 2008. I am reposting it here today as a reminder of the important role breastfeeding plays in the event of a natural disaster. Whether it’s Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Chinese earthquake in 2008, the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the Japan tsunami in 2011, etc., breastfeeding during a disaster can save lives.

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May 28, 2008

By now many of you have probably read about police officer Jiang Xiaojuan of China who became a national, and then international, hero practically over night. After the devastating Chinese earthquake on May 12, the 29 year-old mother of a 6-month-old son, was called to duty. What she encountered when she reported for duty was babies crying in hunger and that’s when her maternal instincts kicked in. Jiang breast-fed the infants separated from their mothers or orphaned from the earthquake, at one point breast-feeding nine babies.

Jiang Xiaojuan“I am breast-feeding, so I can feed babies. I didn’t think of it much,” she said. “It is a mother’s reaction and a basic duty as a police officer to help.”

Jiang doesn’t believe what she did was noteworthy. “I think what I did was normal,” she said. “In a quake zone, many people do things for others. This was a small thing, not worth mentioning.” The local media, however, named her “China’s Mother No. 1” and there are many others around the world praising her efforts as well.

On MOMformation at BabyCenter, Betsy Shaw wrote:

It’s stories like these, stories of ordinary people performing extraordinary, selfless acts in times of tragedy, that make all this bad news just a little bit easier to digest. They also make me proud to be a mom.

Would you do, could you, do the same if you were in a similar situation: lactating in the presence of many hungry babies?

Of the 73 responses there, the vast majority said they would do the same and breastfeed another woman’s baby, though interestingly enough, many also said they would not want a woman they did not know breastfeeding their own child.

A few of the people who commented at BabyCenter, as well as one at Milliner’s Dream expressed their concern about the possible transmission of HIV/AIDS through breast milk. There is conflicting information on what the risk of infection is if the woman is HIV positive, but, as another commenter at Milliner’s Dream noted, Jiang would have likely known her HIV status having just recently given birth 6 month ago.

Over on Broadsheet on Salon.com Jiang was named “Hero of the Day.” Sarah Hepola says:

As the death toll soars past 50,000, it’s nice to have a little good news to celebrate. You can remember Jiang next time someone complains about the evils of women popping out their boobs in public.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes at The Moderate Voice found the story to be “beautiful” and said:

Most every night, I stay up late-late, long after everyone else is sleeping. I fly over the internet, looking, looking, trying to find something beautiful or restorative to share with you here at TMV, so either you go to sleep with a beautiful idea or image, or wake up with one.

Tonight, finding something beautiful in this wide and groaning world, was easy. Because there is Jiang Xiaojuan, a young provincial policewoman.

She went on to add:

As a mother who nursed til her offspring was practically old enough to go to school, and as the mother of a grown daughter who while nursing her own child also gave her nourishing milk to my ailing elderly father (expressed, not nursed), I feel certain we stand with many mothers worldwide who salute Jiang Xiaojuan profoundly.

It’s a mystery women don’t often speak of publicly, what it’s like to nourish another human being or many from one’s own blood and bones. It is, one of the greatest honors in the world.

I think, despite the restrictive and suspicious regime of China, it’s people like Jiang who really represent the true spirit of modern China, the compassionate soul.

Tonight, it was easy to find a beautiful story to tell you. I would that it were as easy on all other nights too.

It is stories like these of this selfless mother that remind us not only of the power of human kindness, but also how important breastfeeding can be in an emergency or natural disaster.

Melissa Kotlen Nagin notes on the Breastfeeding Blog on About.com:

Unfortunately, natural disasters are out of our control, but women like Officer Xiaojuan remind us about yet another important benefit of breastfeeding. We’re typically so focused on the health benefits and lose sight of the bigger picture. Here is the International Lactation Consultant Association’s position paper on Infant Feeding in Emergencies, which is a wonderful resource.

Tanya at The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog recently wrote a post dispelling some myths about breastfeeding in emergencies. She also shares:

In a disaster such as the one in Burma, breastfeeding can be a life-saving act. Why? In emergencies f*rmula is often not available. If it is available, water supplies are often compromised. F*rmula mixed with contaminated water can cause diarrhea and dehydration, which can quickly become life-threatening to infants. Power to sterilize and refrigerate f*rmula is also often not available.

Sometimes, well meaning humanitarian efforts result in such an influx of f*rmula that efforts to protect and support breastfeeding are disrupted. This is such a concern that in 1994 the World Health Organization adopted the following policy, urging member states to “exercise extreme caution when planning, implementing, or supporting emergency relief operations, by protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding for infants,” and to ensure that f*rmula is distributed only under specific conditions.

We often like to think of ourselves as untouchable here in the United States, but Hurricane Katrina was just three short years ago and was another instance where breastfeeding saved lives. From an open letter to health care providers attending to families affected by Hurricane Katrina: The Role of Human Milk and Breastfeeding:

Human milk is a valuable resource that can not only protect the vulnerable infant from disease, but can also promote psychological health and comfort during stressful times. Human milk reduces pain and promotes more rapid healing after injuries and infections. While maternal health is of great importance, it should be recognized that even the malnourished mother will produce milk of good quality for her infant.

To learn more about the important role breastfeeding plays in emergencies, please visit the links below.

I will close by adding that I think what Jiang did was amazing and I’m so glad to see breastfeeding receiving such positive attention. I hope she has already been reunited with her son (that relatives were caring for) or will be soon and that her breastfeeding relationship with him can continue to thrive.

And lastly, just a friendly reminder that BlogHers Act/Global Giving is continuing to accept donations for the Chinese earthquake victims as well as other maternal health causes.

More information:
Keep Abreast – Breastfeeding ensures survival in a disaster
Black Breastfeeding Blog – Breastfeeding Saves Babies During Natural Disasters
La Leche League International – Keep Breastfeeding: Supporting Mothers After Natural Disasters
KellyMom – Infant Feeding In Emergencies

One more important breastfeeding note – The Food and Drug Administration on Friday warned women not to use or purchase Mommy’s Bliss Nipple Cream, marketed by MOM Enterprises Inc. of San Rafael, California.

The cream, promoted to nursing mothers to help soothe dry or cracked nipples, contains ingredients that may cause respiratory distress, vomiting and diarrhea in infants, the agency said.

Mothers whose children may have suffered adverse effects because of this product should contact the FDA’s MedWatch at 800-332-1088. – CNN report

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Make a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake at Home

If you are like me, St. Patrick’s Day always brings back fond memories of slurping McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes as a child. The green-tinted ice cream, the cool mint flavor, the whipped cream, the yum! I think it was also a welcome reminder that spring was right around the corner.

As a kid, I never worried about what nasty ingredients might be lurking in my shake. I just knew it tasted good. But now living in the information age as an adult and mom to two kids, I am more conscious about the things we put into our bodies. Sure, we eat “junk food” now and then, but I generally try to keep healthy foods in our home so we can easily make good choices.

When I saw the HuffPo’s article about the 54!!! ingredients (including High Fructose Corn Syrup, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, and artificial vanilla flavor), 820 calories, 135 grams of carbs and 115 grams of sugar in McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes, I knew I could make a healthier and just as tasty version at home with far fewer ingredients and no artificial dyes or HFCS. (Read a post I wrote about the problems with artificial colors.)

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I used organic vanilla ice cream, 2% milk, mint extract, and a bit of frozen spinach for color. There were 10 ingredients in the ice cream, plus the milk, mint flavor (three organic oils) and spinach makes a total of 15 ingredients! If you add whipped cream on top, that’s about 5 more ingredients or less if you whip your own from whipping cream.

Homemade Shamrock Shake Recipe

  • A few large scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • About a cup of milk (add more if needed)
  • Several drops of mint extract
  • A handful of frozen or fresh baby spinach (for coloring)

Blend until well combined and pour into glasses. Add whipped cream on top if desired. Serve and enjoy!

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The kids, hubby and I all agreed that they were better than McDonald’s version (which *ahem* we did recently partake in) and so easy to make at home.

Now you don’t have to wait for St. Patty’s day to roll around once a year. You can enjoy delicious mint shakes year-round!

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The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree

The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing,
we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger,
but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.
–Robert Cushing

It’s no secret that anxiety has played a big role in my life. It’s something I’ve blogged about time and time again over the past two-plus years as I diligently tried to find a solution that worked best for me and to let others who might be dealing with this know they aren’t alone.

Around the time when I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), I recall asking my (then) therapist, “Why is this just showing up now out of the blue?” And she replied that it was probably something I’d been dealing with for a long time, but it took time for the symptoms to compound in number and severity until I reached the point where I sought out help and was eventually diagnosed. At the time I wasn’t sure I believed it, because the whole thing still felt like it came out of nowhere to me. However as time has passed and I’ve reflected on various events in my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since childhood — I just didn’t know it then.

This is where this blog post gets a little tricky for anonymity reasons. How much can I share without sharing too much? Ya see, I have my reasons to suspect that one of my children also is dealing with anxiety. I had hoped that this wouldn’t happen to either of them and certainly never expected it when they were still so young, but now here it potentially is — staring me right in the face (literally). And why should I be surprised, right? The apple never falls far from the tree and all that, but yet I sure hoped those apples would.

While there has been no official diagnosis, after talking to a friend, reading the book “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Anxiety,” reading the blog Child Anxiety Mom, and searching my soul, my suspicions have certainly not lessened. When I compare some of the things I did and experienced in my adolescent years with some of the things my child is experiencing/doing now (but at a seemingly accelerated rate than I did), it seems obvious to me that anxiety could be playing a factor. I won’t go into detail as I don’t think that would be fair to my little person, but if you have questions email me directly and we can discuss it further there.

I’m not sure what the next step will be, but this is a subject that certainly weighs heavily on my mind. Everything I’ve read says the sooner anxiety is dealt with, the better. And I believe the more I read, the more likely I will figure out what direction we should take. I’d been considering therapy, but perhaps other things — such as The Anxiety-Free Child Program or simply reading more of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Anxiety (I admit I just started it) or perhaps another visit to the pediatrician (now that I feel I have more pieces of the puzzle) — would be useful as well.

“Courage is saying, ‘Maybe what I’m doing isn’t working;
maybe I should try something else.’”
— Anna Lappe

Then again it’s entirely possible that anxiety isn’t what’s going on with my child or perhaps it is just one part of the whole picture. After all, I’m not a psychologist or doctor, yet I am a mom who knows her child better than anyone else. I also know what it’s like to live with anxiety and if my child is experiencing this, I want to figure out what’s going on sooner than later. I don’t want to just assume X, Y, or Z behavior is “just a phase” and it will pass or that he/she is simply acting out or trying to manipulate me. I’ll continue to do my research and try to get to the bottom of this. Nobody should have to live their life in fear.

Photo credit: apdk via Flickr

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HAS CRUNCHY DOMESTIC GODDESS RETURNED FOR GOOD?
If you are wondering if I’m back to blogging again on a regular basis, I have to say your guess is as good as mine. 😉 I will continue to write when I feel moved to write. Now that I’ve gotten my first “return from hiatus” post written, perhaps that will be more often. 🙂 Like I do with many things in my life, I will take blogging one day at a time. Thank you if you’ve stuck around in my absence. It truly does mean a lot to me. xo.

Newly Identified Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Leach into Food Packaging: Guest Post

I’ve decided to take a little break from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but wanted to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. For a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

Today’s guest post is from Alicia Voorhies who blogs at The Soft Landing.
Post image for Newly Identified Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Leach into Food Packaging

Newly Identified Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Leach into Food Packaging

Emily Barrett of Environmental Health Perspectives recently provided a great synopsis of an updated review of food contact materials and their potential to leach endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) into our food.

Author of the review, Jane Muncke, didn’t mince words when issuing her findings, calling into question the current means of estimating the true level of exposure to EDC’s through food contact materials.  Her conclusions included the following major points:

  • Food packaging is an underestimated source of chemical food contamination
  • Migration into dry foods can be considerable
  • Substances of concern, like endocrine disrupting chemicals, are widely used in food contact materials
  • Risk assessment of endocrine disrupting chemical food contamination is challenging because exposure and effect assessment are not always straight forward

Muncke’s insights have caused me to carefully reconsider which food packaging I choose for my own growing children. Based on her article, I’ll be investigating benzophenones (a known carcinogen) and organotins, two groups of suspected EDC’s, which are legally used in the United States and European Union.

And as Barrett pointed out, we now have even more motivation to choose fresh foods over processed ones.

The guidelines do not consider the collective numbers and toxicity – alone or in combination – of all of the chemicals that can leach from the packaging, the author points out.* In a chemical mix, individual health effects may be magnified. Printing, ink, adhesives, recycled cardboard and the plastic containers can all introduce unwanted chemicals into a single food product, creating a mix with additive or synergystic effects. What’s more, the chemicals may degrade over time or form new compounds that migrate into food. These can go entirely unmeasured since it is nearly impossible to identify and test for them all.

Kids may be at particular risk. Not only are their bodies still developing and hence susceptible to environmental insults, but they tend to eat more packaged foods, a more limited diet and more food for their body weight than adults do. There are similar concerns for pregnant women and their fetuses, as well as obese adults, whose bodies may process these chemicals differently from their trimmer counterparts.

Tips for Reducing Your Exposure to EDC’s in Food Packaging

  1. Avoid PVC in plastic food wrap:  ask your butcher to prepare the cuts of meat you want and wrap it in paper.  Most butcher or freezer paper is coated with wax or polyethylene which are better alternatives. As for blocks of cheese, look for packages with Ziplok style closures, and plastic packages that have been heat-sealed, because most of these bags are made from polyethylene.
  2. Buy fresh or frozen produce packaged in polyethylene bags:  BPA is found in most epoxy linings of aluminum cans, glass jar lids and the bottom of some frozen cardboard boxes – although there a few BPA-free options available
  3. Choose jarred foods when possible – especially those with space between the lid and the food
  4. If you do choose to purchase foods packaged in plastic, do not reuse, cook or heat food in them – even if recommended by the manufacturer; this may include some microwavable meals, so just remove them from the plastic container and heat in glass
  5. Look for non-recycled cardboard boxes when ordering takeout meals like pizza, as they are less likely to contain BPA.
  6. Bring your own reusable coffee cups and to-go containers for leftovers and skip Styrofoam altogether

>> Read the complete research study: Endocrine disrupting chemicals and other substances of concern in food contact materials: An updated review of exposure, effect and risk assessment in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

>> Related link: The Breast Cancer Fund has recently released a new study about BPA in food containers.

Photo Source: Flickr via _anh

Alicia Voorhies is a Registered Nurse who left the rat race to pursue her dream of owning a business. She traded working as Director of Nursing in an organization for disabled adults to relax and enjoy her love of medical research in alternative health ideas. She was immediately attracted to the mysteries of toxic plastics and their effect on children and quickly learned that avoiding endocrine-disrupting chemical in common household products can be overwhelming.  While searching for safe alternatives, she quickly realized how limited the available information for parents was – and that’s how her education-based company, The Soft Landing, was born.

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