Health and Wellness

Getting Oily

From the desk of: Erin

 

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Regarding “natural” living, I’d like to think of myself as “practically and skeptically crunchy”. For instance, I see the benefit of whole, unprocessed foods, but I’m not entirely sure that pumping supplements in addition to eating real food is the way to go. We diaper(ed) our babies in cloth diapers, but for bedtime they wear/wore  disposable because they stay drier. And I’m not anti-medicine, but if there is an alternative that might be cheaper, safer, and has been used successfully for centuries, I’ll give it a try.

I recently took up an interest in essential oils and aromatherapy. I follow a number of blogs about clean/green/natural living and those that use essential oils are kind of evangelical about it. Eventually, their sermons wiggled into my brain and I decided to try some out for myself. If it doesn’t do harm, why not?

I didn’t want to drop a boatload of money on this venture, so I limited myself to four oils and a diffuser (bought for a discount on Groupon). After doing some reading and inquiring on an essential oil forum, I decided on lavender, lemon, tea tree, and a “Germ Fighter” blend that includes clove, cinnamon, rosemary, lemon and eucalyptus. I also happened to have rosemary, lemongrass, eucalyptus, sweet orange and peppermint on hand from some attempts at cold remedies, homemade cleaning recipes, and bug spray.

So it has been two weeks and a whole lot of learning and reading. Here is what I have tried and the results.

  • FOR CONGESTION – BigKid has allergies and the congestion is back. I diffused eucalyptus and tea tree oil.  A few hours after each diffusion, his congestion decreased noticeably. After 24-hours (4 diffusion sessions), he could breathe easily through his nose, though he wasn’t entirely cleared up. I can probably couple this with something topical, but I am hesitant to use topical treatments often.  FINAL VERDICT: I think that he would still be stuffy otherwise. I say yes, this worked.
  • FOR RUNNY NOSE – Babe is teething hard and drippy, drippy, drippy. I mixed 1 drop each of lemon, lavender, and tea tree oil into 3 Tbs. coconut oil and have been rubbing it on his back twice a day. I would say the drips go away within an hour, but come back a few hours later. Maybe the snot-volume is less? In 24-hours, he is not nearly as runny as before. FINAL VERDICT: Maybe. I’ll definitely keep trying this.
  • FOR TEETHING – Teething!!! ARGH!! This guy suffers big time. I can’t find the recipe for a homemade teething balm that I used, but this is similar. Instead of clove oil, I used “Germ Fighter”. When he gets extra chewy on his hands, I rub some of this on his gums. I try to do it only once a day. It really seems to bring him relief, until the next day, that is. FINAL VERDICT: Works.
  • ACNE – I was blessed with two lovely zits on my forehead, just millimeters away from each other. Though I would have preferred to not have any zits, these couldn’t have been better placed for a more scientific approach to experimentation. They were so close that they would be treated the same way and they showed up on the same day. I rubbed one drop of undiluted tea tree oil on one and left the other alone. A week later, they were both diminished and still matched each other. FINAL VERDICT: This did not work.
  • BEDTIME CALM – I diffused lavender in BigKid’s bedroom during our bedtime routine to help calm him. He seemed to be staying up later and playing more actively than before. I went to an essential oil forum and asked about kids having an opposite reaction to lavender and a handful of people said that they had a kid who was energized by the scent (while a second kid in the same family was not). Interesting. So I stopped diffusing lavender and suddenly he was going to sleep an hour earlier. I was running the diffuser in our room at night, too. I’m not sure we slept better, but I haven’t done it consistently enough to know for sure.  FINAL VERDICT: NOT FOR THE KID. Maybe try again for the adults.
  • MOSQUITO BITES – We recently went camping and came back home with a healthy dose of mosquito bites. I rubbed lavender on them instead of suffering through the itch. Usually, for all of us, the itch seemed to go away within minutes and seemed to last fewer days. FINAL VERDICT: Do it again.
  • FOCUS – Currently, I am diffusing orange and lemon in the office for some focus and maybe a little energy. I have finished this post without too much mental effort, but I am still looking forward to a nap. FINAL VERDICT: Maybe try again? Maybe try a different oil?

It has only been two weeks, but I”m kind of liking the experimentation. So far, many things have worked. I’ll continue to learn and read and maybe report back.

Have you ever used EOs? What for? Did they work?

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Yuck!

From the desk of: Erin

 

Regarding that 30-day “ab challenge“?

1. I’m six days in and I am learning I really dislike sit-ups. Bring on more planks, please.

2. I seriously doubt my abs will look all sweaty and rock hard like the photo on the website. They should use photos of people who started the challenge from scratch. Talk about unrealistic expectations.

That is all.

Vacuums

From the desk of: Erin

It turns out that my brain must need a specific quantity of goop to mull over. Now that my super huge work project is done and I have have outsourced a percentage of my childcare, I have a continuous stream of thoughts about experiments and projects that immediately filled the void and took residence in my brain.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to writing about or exploring the rest of the year:

1. Essential oils- beneficial or bogus?
2. 30-day “ab challenge” – Will I keep up with it? Will I see results? Are 30-day challenges really a good idea?
3. How possible would it be to truly cut out processed foods? Explorations in cheese, bread, and pasta making…
4. I started working on my 7 “art” projects requested by others. This is also turning out to be a way of reading/ re-reading classic books.
5. Poetry – reading various genres/ authors, responding, contemplating…
6. Anything else that excites me along the way.

What new or old projects are you excited about? If you ever feel like sharing, join us in writing or just comment below!

Hello Again and the The Great Illness Battle

by Erin

Hi. It’s been a while. The baby is finally in day care and after a year of complaining that I haven’t had any time to do work, here I am not doing work. But considering my last post was in January, I think that’s okay.

It is the end of May. It is feeling like summer around here after a pretty extended winter chill, BigKid had his last day of preschool, and Babe turned one-year old. What do all these things have to do with each other? Illness (or the lack of) has been on my mind. Back in January, I mentioned that I was on a rampage against viruses. I am happy to report that we survived the winter and school year with Babe and BigKid remaining infection-free. Husband also managed to escape illness. I, however, was not so lucky in the wellness department. Given the way I was treating myself  while (unsuccessfully) balancing full-time baby care, part-time preschooler care, and part-time small business owner, it is not surprising.

We are no strangers to viruses in this house. BigKid and Husband both constantly suffer from sinus/allergy issues. When BigKid was a baby there was a period of three months when he was on antibiotics before eventually getting tubes in his ears – we did not want to repeat this with Babe. So, my whole goal this year was to prevent illness instead of just treat symptoms. This list is a little prevention/ a little treatment. While I can’t say exactly which of the list below worked (very unscientific, I know), I know that (a combination of) SOMETHING worked.

1. SLEEP – This one was my big failure in regard to my health, but I have always been protective about my kids’ sleep. Here are recommendations about children and sleeping via the National Sleep Foundation.

2. ELDERBERRY SYRUP – Next to sleep, I think the addition of this into our daily routine had the greatest effect. BigKid took it every day. We gave him extra doses when we started to hear sniffling. We took it when we felt run down or felt like something was coming on. It is best known as an immunity booster.

3. MIRACLE THROAT CONCOCTION – This one was for the adults of the family. The moment we got a tickle in our throat, I whipped up a batch of this. It was nasty, nasty, nasty, but it burned so good. Every single time we put it to use it seemed to work. At most, I think one of us used up to four doses – two days of one spoonful in the morning and one at night. (Side note: for kiddos, raw honey plus any ingredient in this concoction that they will tolerate can help with sore throats.)

4. RUNNY NOSE ROUTINE – We are learning that Babe has a hellish time with teething. He suffers from all of the symptoms websites list for teething. So, there was a lot of snot coming out of his nose this winter. Snot has the potential to lead to congestion, then infection. Snot was not allowed in my house. My plan of attack included raising his mattress on an incline and giving him Hyland’s cold tablets. The mattress would usually stay inclined for about two weeks. Then it would go down for three days. Then it would have to go back up. This lasted for about three months. The cold tablets were usually used for half a day before the faucet-like dripping would stop. Given that this is homeopathic remedy, it may not work the same for all kids. (Their teething tablets, for instance, do not work on my kids).

5. HUMIDIFIERS – This is pretty standard in our house all winter long. Every bedroom has one. They are especially good for preventing sore throats and runny noses. They are work intensive because of all the cleaning, but they are well worth it.

6. LAVENDER- So, I do have to admit, BigKid wasn’t entirely infection-free. On his LAST DAY of school, he came down with strep throat…something that had been going around his class for two weeks. He didn’t eat anything, he had a fever of 102, and his throat hurt. He was miserable and I didn’t help much because I didn’t treat the fever until late in the day. I wanted to make sure a) the fever was doing its job burning out the infection, and b) he had fever at the doctor’s office so there was no doubt he was sick. About an hour before leaving for the doctor, I rubbed lavender oil on his feet.

I have been doing a lot of reading about essential oils lately, and I finally decided to take the plunge and experiment. The day the oils arrived in the mail was the day BigKid was sick. So I quickly looked up fever treatment and went to rubbing. Whether it was the oil or the nap he took, about three hours later (prior to taking the first dose of antibiotic), the fever was gone, BigKid was eating, and happily playing (vs. sitting like a giant, hot, miserable lump on the couch).

 

Overall, I feel pretty good about our health so far. Not counting myself, we have only had one non-checkup visit to the doctor. Hopefully, with both kids in daycare now, I can finish the year strong as I build my immunity back up.

What about you? How do you prevent illness? What is your go-to “nip it in the bid” treatment?

APRIL: Cultivate Creativity!

April is here, and with it a new resolution to add to the mix. This month’s resolution is all about cultivating creativity. Seems appropriate, too, as Spring – the season of creativity and rebirth – is getting into full swing. But before we explore this month’s theme, let’s take a moment to recap the previous resolutions’ progress.

 

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January was about getting organized. Much progress was made as I was moving into my new loft apartment during that month. (Read this post for more details.) And I’m still making progress in the organization arena. In fact, I finally got the rest of my office/craft room furniture last weekend. I’m currently working with getting that space organized and made efficient in preparation for this month’s resolution. These monthly resolutions are like gifts that keep giving. And each one benefits the others. It’s a beautiful synergy that’s happening here. Yeah!

 

February was about experimenting with healing my body through diet/nutrition. This has proven to be an amazing and ongoing adventure that is changing my life and my health in ways I never imagined. I worked a fairly restrictive elimination diet for two months. You can read about that experience here, here, here and here. This month I’m making even more changes to my diet with a new experiment in nutrition. You can read about it soon on my personal blog: Experiments In Bliss.

 

March’s resolution was to get my body moving. I had already been working with regular physical exercise, and am continuing to do so on an almost daily schedule. I’m doing strength/toning work an average of five days a week. I don’t have a car, so I walk almost daily, and my pace is a fairly brisk one. I’m trying to keep up some cardio work, too, though since my rebounder died a couple weeks ago, my cardio routine has been on a brief hiatus. (I did just get a temporary rebounder this weekend that I am hoping will last me until I can afford the very fancy (read: expensive) one that I am coveting.) I am cultivating my home yoga practice as well, and teaching two classes a week to boot. So, I feel like I’m working this resolution pretty well. I do hope to build on it even more as the weather warms up and I can get outside in the sunshine more. You’re absolutely invited to join me!

 

During this month I have become increasingly aware of how one can learn a lot about a person by the way they approach their fitness program. I have noticed that despite the increased physical difficulty of my Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis workouts, I continue to work diligently on the mat to perfect my form. In the past I would often speed up my movements using momentum to get the thing finished and to be able to say I did my workout. Of course, that negated at least some of the benefits of working out in the first place. I have noticed that I no longer do that. When I work out now, I actually try to slow myself down and work my body with the very best form possible for each movement in the series. I don’t beat myself up if I need to take breaks, but before I break I ask my body for five more repetitions. Sometimes that is all I need to continue through the discomfort. If not, then I take a break without guilt or shame knowing that I am doing the very best I can do. As a result my body is becoming steadily stronger with more endurance. This is being reflected in other areas of my life, as well. When I feel challenged by my work or by life, in general, I feel more capable of gracefully and agilely mastering those challenges. And that is a great feeling. Thank you, exercise!

 

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So that brings us up to date. April, as I mentioned, is about cultivating creativity. And I have been celebrating the ultimate creative endeavour all weekend: my birthday! This was a nice, big, round birthday. A birthday that carried me through the gates of a new decade of living. I am 40 now. That’s right … 4-0. As a child I had very definite ideas of what forty was, and the gist was that it was old. But, I’d like to send a message to my younger self:

 

Forty is not old. Forty is freakin’ awesome! I feel better than I ever have. I am comfortable in my skin and in control of my life … well, as much as I care to be. I have long been aware of the fact that I am a late bloomer, and I am embracing that fact wholeheartedly this birthday. I’m only just getting started. My mojo is just starting to rev. And I’m not going to let a number slow me down. Got it? Good.

 

Ahem .. so we were talking about creativity. This month’s resolution is to do something creative every week. Make actual artist dates a la The Artist’s Way. Have some kind of finished project to show for my efforts at least once a month. This couldn’t have happened at a better time. I’ve been feeling very removed from my creative spark, but also very nostalgic for it. This is one of those times of year when I start feeling the rush of the Busyness of Everyday beginning to snowball into an avalanche of Too Much To Do that bears down on me in a most uncomfortable way. So, it will be a good challenge to make some time for a little creative play amid all the work of living. I’ll be posting my finished projects either here or on Experiments In Bliss, so stay tuned for updates. However, if any of you have any suggestions for creative experiments, I’m absolutely open to hearing them.

 

How do you express your creativity? How do you carve creative playtime out of your busy schedules? How are you doing with your own resolutions? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line in the comments below to share your experiences.

 

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I hope you’re all having a beautiful Spring full of showers and flowers.

 

xoxo,

melanie

Energy through Food

OR How I Learned to Start Hydrating and Love Water

by Erin

(Note: I started working on this post and found it was getting very long. To avoid reading fatigue, this will come to you in two posts. First, my personal results. Second, a little research behind the strategies. Stay tuned.)

So, I have been working on my five “get energized” strategies for less than a week and I have already felt a HUGE difference. I’m still tired; my eyes usually have that fuzzy, heavy feeling behind them. That probably won’t go away entirely until these work projects are done…but, my body! My body feels better. Less heavy. And you know that feeling when your brain just kind of buzzes and you know you should be concentrating and doing work, but you just. Can’t? That’s gone, too. Here are some other observations:

Strategy: Eat protein and/or whole grains within thirty minutes of wake up

For me, it wasn’t so much changing the types of food I eat for breakfast, or adding breakfast to my routine. I was in pretty good shape there. My biggest problem was not delaying breakfast, which is easy to do with two young kids around. Before, I would nibble here and there as I fed the both kids and got Big Guy ready for preschool. I probably wouldn’t get a full breakfast in until about three hours after wake-up and well after some energy stores had been used.

I have found that I still don’t quite eat a meal within that thirty minute time frame, but definitely within the first hour. I can’t say that I notice much physical difference with this change, but my mood is better. Some protein + whole grain examples: a hard boiled egg on a whole wheat English muffin and cream cheese, sprouted wheat toast and sunflower seed butter, oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas.

Strategy: Fill up my water bottle and drink it throughout the day

My relationship with water before was casual. A little here, a little there. I didn’t really pay attention to intake. But, oh, the magic of water. This is what I attribute most of my good feelings to. General wisdom says to drink about eight cups a day. Nursing moms should drink about thirteen. While I am not checking off each and every cup I consume, I am pretty sure I am getting close to thirteen by consciously drinking water at breakfast and dinner, finishing my water bottle, and having my daily tea. While I have made a few other changes to my routine these past few days, I am pretty sure hydration is the reason I feel light and focused. An added benefit is that those circles under my eyes seem diminished and I know it’s not due to extra sleep. There is one downside, though:

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Courtesy of xkcd.com

Strategy: Take my multivitamins at lunch instead of breakfast

I am probably taking vitamins (multi, fish oil, and turmeric) more regularly now, but I can’t say I notice any difference with this one.

Strategy: Make an effort to have a protein + fiber snack during that afternoon drag from about 2-4 p.m.

I think I pretty much did this before, but now I am making an effort to focus on the type of food. Some easy choices are apple/banana + peanut butter, yogurt + granola, or a fruit + nut trail mix. While I don’t think this was much of a change for me, I can say that I am pretty sure I am in a better mood near the dinner hour if I have had a snack. I don’t know if it really boosts my energy… I still prefer to take a 20 minute nap in the afternoon.

Strategy: Drink a glass of milk before bed

The theory behind this one is to give your body a little nourishment before the night time fast, which should improve your sleep. Unfortunately, I think I lose the benefit by working late on the computer and sometimes waking up to feed the babe. Still, it’s a good habit to form. Hopefully I can reap the rewards in the near future.

Do you have any success with any of these? What other ways do you use food to increase energy?

More Energy: Part 1

by Erin

I’m tired.

There are many reasons why this is the case but the two biggest are 1) I have a 9 month old who is just now (more often than not) sleeping (almost) all the way through the night, and 2) in an attempt to grow my business, I have been blessed with more work than I should really be taking on right now, with only about nine good daytime hours in a typical work week to actually work. That means some late nights. So there is some context (whining) for you.

What to do about it?

Get more sleep. But that is just not possible right now.

After some extensive research (about 20 minutes of internet searching), I have compiled a list of strategies that may help boost my energy and don’t include increasing caffeine intake. Rather than take on all items from my list at the same time, which is sure to fail, I will be gradually adding them into my daily routine. First up: food. (Those who know me would not find this surprising.)

So over the next few weeks, I plan to:

1. Eat protein or whole grains within thirty minutes of wake up

2. Fill up my water bottle and drink it throughout the day

3. Take my multivitamins at lunch instead of breakfast

4. Make an effort to have a protein + fiber snack during that afternoon drag from about 2-4 p.m.

5. Drink a glass of milk before bed

Most of this should be pretty easy; a lot of food  I need should already be on hand. It really comes down to being mindful about eating at certain times of the day. I’ll check in later with some whys (because that fulfills another resolution) and observations.

How about you? Can you add one or all of these into your routine? Tell me how it works for you.

Now, I am off to bed.