Reinventing the Wheel

The Wellness Wheel by Heidi Nielson

As I have mentioned a few times previously, I tend to try and make my challenges more difficult than they need be. One skill that would greatly reduce this bad habit is the power of delegation. As a first time mom, I have plenty on my plate to deal with daily. Attempting to completely makeover my career from scratch in a way that provides me ample time to nurture my family…has begun to feel like an exercise in futility.
In my dreams I have a beautiful, resource rich website that connects families to valuable information and supportive community. And with our combined financial voting platform, backing ecologically and sociologically sound companies, we could impact real, sustainable changes!
Lofty goals when I’m currently only able to carve out a handful of hours a week to commit to this project. Luckily there are some awesome groups who’ve already gotten the ball rolling. The following are a few industrious folk I find fascinating.

WellnessMama.com
I have to admit I was actually a little bit discouraged when I first discovered Katie’s blog, because her web presence is so similar to the original AlcheMysticMama concept. And she’s leaps and bounds ahead of me on organizing what is currently a chaotic heap of information I would like to share. So here’s to finding inspiration in her awesomeness with a link to her fabulous sea salt spray recipe:

DIY Sea Spray for Healthy Skin Sea Spray for Skin

The Honest Company
I found this company while searching keywords “groovy baby” for party ideas, thought they sounded great and promptly forgot about them. Then, a couple weeks later, my mom got some free samples in the mail after a friend’s recommendation. We LOVE the products! I’ve been super diligent when it comes to cloth diapering for both the ecological and economical reasons, but muggy summer weather has brought on a recurring diaper rash that is exhausting my patience. Now I can relax freely while the cloth diapers are getting deep cleaned, with these bio-degradable, chemical free, plant-based disposable diapers as our back ups. I will definitely be following their blog (and not just because of my girl crush on co-founder Jessica Alba 😉 )

OffbeatFamilies.com
One of my friends introduced me to this site while I was pregnant. This is THE site to get trendy, indie parenting ideas and swag. My favorite feature is their maternity portrait submissions.

Photo by Vida La Vida Photography.

Mamapedia.com
Warning: this site can be habit forming!
This site is similar to Groupon or Living Social, with a focus on items and services that they feel would most benefit today’s busy mamas. Plus a vibrant community forum. My favorite conversation right now is The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling.

CafeMom.com
I just found out about this online community this week. An acquaintance of mine said she found support and excellent resources concerning the vaccination debate here. I can already tell that I’ll be logging some serious discussion hours here, since finding like-minded parents has proven to be a task akin to the proverbial “needle in a haystack”.

SurThrival.com
And now, a more masculine feeling resource for the holistic men in our community. This supplement supply shop is Daniel Vitalis’ baby. His name first popped up on my radar when i was experimenting with raw foods at The Tree Of Life. In my ongoing search to maintain a balanced lifestyle, this man’s knowledge has continued to stay current. For such a young man, he has accessed a vast wealth of health information, most of which he shares freely in his many YouTube videos and podcasts.

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Plentiful Peaches

What better way to celebrate the on coming summer heat, than with some homegrown fruit? A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to get an invitation to learn some preserving techniques in exchange for relieving my friends of some of their surplus fruit. A win-win situation if you ask me;) With my mother there to help with my son, (he’s active enough now to be a little bit too helpful in the kitchen) I got a full afternoon of peach prep and preservation information. This was the real deal, can’t buy the book on this kind of knowledge, from a woman who began her love-hate relationship with the peach when she was a little girl peeling peaches on her grandparents farm.20130622-105227.jpg

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Above are a couple of pictures capturing the glory of our friend’s urban peach tree at peak performance. The zoom shot was taken by her lovely 3 year-old grand daughter, and is leaps and bounds better than any of my photos.20130622-105335.jpg

When making preserves or jam (we decided to make jam rather than preserves, which retain more whole fruit pieces), you can utilize the hard, almost ripe fruits alongside the really ripe ones. This will give your jam a little bit more consistency. You can even press the peels to make peach jelly, but two batches of jam and some brandied peaches were enough work for one afternoon.

Rough Recipe:

5 lbs peaches (peeled and quartered)

6 cups sugar (Crikey! Next year I’m gonna try Tera Warner’s Raw Jam Recipe)

*1/4-1/2 cup water (this is optional depending on how juicy your peaches are at prep time, a little extra liquid can prevent them from burning)

1. Place peaches and water in a large pot and set the stove to about med-high. Bring the peaches to boiling and then stay on a high simmer for about 30 min-1 hr. You want to cook the peaches until they stop foaming.

We aren’t exactly sure about the reasoning behind the foam or why you want to cook it off. The closest guess we could muster was that it is a chemical reaction related to the acidic nature of the peach. (I would love to hear something more scientific from any of you chemists out there:)

2. Once the foam has been boiled down, it’s time to add the sugar. Lower the heat again to around med-low, so the jam just barely simmers for about another hour. (I can’t be sure on time b/c I had kind of zoned out from all the hypnotic stirring action at this point)

3. After you’ve lowered the heat, and burning is less likely, you can go ahead and sanitize your jars and lids. This is as simple as placing them in boiling water for a minute or two. Be sure to check the lids for any nicks or irregularities that might compromise a secure seal.

4. When the jam has thickened up a bit and looks and smells divine, pour immediately into your sanitized mason jars or other glass containers and gently place the flat piece of the lids on top. As the jam cools you’ll hear the lids “pop” into place as the cooling liquid creates a vacuum within the jar; which signals that the lid is now safely sealed and ready to be tightened and stored.

Below is a pic of a few of our finished products. The first batch came out a rich caramel color because I wanted to experiment with turbinado sugar, which is supposed to be less processed than the traditional variety. (Now I’m hearing that’s debatable) The turbinado also lent a slightly richer, almost caramel flavor to the jam.

Yield: about 16-20 small jars, 8-10 large jars

Nutritional Info: So delicious I don’t want to know, lol, but at least there’s some phytonutrients in there, right?

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This last picture is of some brandied peaches we made a smaller batch of as well. And you can see us removing sanitized mason jars from the pot of boiling water with tongs in the background.20130622-105615.jpg

So far we’ve enjoyed our jam with hot biscuits and challah bread, mmmmmm. Plus we’ve been indulging in fresh peaches and cream and dousing our pancakes with the extra brandied peach syrup. I think maybe I’ll try modifying my raspberry bar recipe to make a peach variety next, as well as some peaches and cream popsicles.

Anybody else have a great peach recipe they’d like to share? I would love to hear them!

Categories: sugar plums & gumdrops | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Help!

At six and a half months postpartum, I’ve finally hit a wall. I’ve had my fair share of emotional ups and downs over the past several months, but our little family has managed to survive and even thrive thus far.

Now, exhaustion has crept into every nook & cranny of my body. Which I find hard to fathom because I get at least eight hours a night plus a nap most days. (yes, I usually still wake up at least once to change a wet diaper)
Is it really that emotionally draining to be on constant high alert during my waking hours playing the role of primary care provider to my son?

Somehow, in this liberated, feminist-friendly day and age, isolated nuclear family units seem to be the norm for couples wishing to make a cooperative effort to raise their children. I was under the impression that the new grandmothers in the family would be more hands on, what with all the “it takes a village” talk while I was pregnant. Of course, some of their efforts to help out have been thwarted by my stubborn refusal to just do things “the way they have always been done, and everyone’s turned out just fine”.

Well, I want better than “just fine”. I want the best. As I mentioned in earlier posts, this perfectionistic attitude can lead to procrastination when an overwhelming multitude of possibilities present themselves. And here we are, a true American melting pot of parenting practices.

Is it really necessary to vaccinate if I plan to unschool my son? And if so, how do I weed out the superfluous ones (like maybe chicken pox?) And how long can I wait to decide on any of them?

And since I mentioned unschooling, there’s a hot button topic a rarely mention, because I’m still not sure I’m up to the task; even though I’m certain we need an alternative to public education, and private schools tend to be a pricey religious gamble.

Is it possible to eat wholesome, organic meals and still have the time and money to indulge in regular, family-friendly entertainment and activities? And do we want to participate in the normal consumer-driven activities which dominate the majority? Or is it true that the best things in life are free?

These are just a few of the parental concerns plaguing my brain lately. Again I long to live someplace where everyone agrees on a few main tenets. However, I am thankful to have access to some of the creative innovations afforded by our freedom. Now, if I can just sift through the muck and the mire to find true parenting gold.

Baby steps!

Right now, I’m going to refer to my Mother’s Day post:
Exercise/Nutrition/Community
Repeat daily as needed, till sanity is restored.

Oh, and happy belated Father’s Day to all the rockin’ dads out there. Whether my dad realizes how much I actually learned from all his ramblings or not, I remind myself often that consistency is key with children, as with ourselves. Time to be the change I wish to see.

Anybody else with me?

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Guilt, O Tenacious Fungus of my Soul

Thank you Stephanie Sprenger of “Mommy for Real” for voicing my exact emotional state as of late. (This post’s title and inspiration come to you, through me, thanks to her timely Mamapedia post 😉

I have always dealt with guilty feelings concerning one thing or another in my life. I blame my mother for utilizing guilt as a tactic for coercing me into “choosing” to do what she wanted. And I feel guilty for naming this blame! But I have also come to realize that my mom was simply acting based on the way she was handled as a child. With this knowledge I can now consciously choose to break this particular guilt cycle in my parenting techniques.

Yay! One source of guilt felled and two more take it’s place like the fabled hydra of Herculean fame. How many mamas wake up in the wee hours with chores and whole laundry lists of shoulda, woulda, couldas? And just about the time you take a breath because you feel like you’ve done everything within your power to be a great mom, someone has to go and pop off their opinion that maybe you’re doing too much. Or maybe you’re a great mom at the expense of being a great partner, or business woman, or artist, or friend; whatever you excelled at prior to the life altering event of childbirth.

Is there a chance that American society will be more cohesive in regards to parenting practices in the future? Right now I feel pulled in a thousand different directions in my efforts to be a whole person, who happens to have added “mommy” to the many facets of her personality. Right now parenting feels like an uphill battle against the majority opinion. I have found like-minded allies, but for some reason those closest to me don’t realize how they undermine my confidence in my abilities.

France’s parenting skills have been in the spotlight recently thanks to the polite, well mannered results of consistent conditioning. I read Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting
when I was pregnant, which left me feeling a little disillusioned when my son didn’t begin sleeping through the night at 3 or 4 months. This is because we co-sleep, which I adore and would trade a brief midnight breastfeeding session for the traumatic “crying it out” technique any day of the week. I do however intend to implement a fairly French approach to meals. I have a rather broad palette and plan to introduce foods as we eat them, with an emphasis on veggies initially, rather than catering to immature taste buds.

Having the freedom to choose our personal parenting practices in this way is a bit of a blessing and a curse. If we all follow the general guideline of safety first and remember that anytime we point our finger at someone else we’ve got three fingers pointing back at ourselves, then maybe we can begin to practice the same compassion towards our parenting peers as we wish to cultivate in our own homes.

Categories: Confidence | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Just Give Me A Reason

Thank You Pink! This song is so beautifully heart felt and perfectly relates to where my partner and I are right now. I feel hope that we will survive these nights of sleep deprivation and generalized crankiness. Who knows, we might even be stronger for it all if we just hang in there and keep giving, just a little bit’s enough;)

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Circle Game

This past memorial weekend was a series of highs and lows in rapid succession. Some things I would rather just forget, like our first (and I pray last) encounter with bedbugs. While other new adventures will gladly leave lasting impressions.

The highlight of our holiday was our first successful camping trip. Thanks mainly to our creatively cooperative camp mates. With a new baby there is an almost constant theme of “I wish I had been more prepared”. Camping flips this phrase upside down and inside out. Societal pressures regarding appearances and developmental norms fade to the background as survival skills and creature comforts take the forefront.

This years trip brought home the reality of just how high maintenance I really am, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Now that I have chosen to be honest with myself, I can begin to manifest the things I need to make life more enjoyable. Like a minimum of 10 camping buddies to spread supplies and chores among, minimizes everyone’s work load.

These recent events and the SurThrival website have inspired my next posting series: Summer SurThrival: A.K.A. Glamping (glamorous camping). Some projects and topics I will be playing with include natural sunscreen, bug repellents, and camp snacks.

Get excited! And enjoy this Joni Mitchell song that’s been circling round my brain 😉

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Daily Dental Ritual

Last week I wrapped up my first blog series, The Happiness Project, with a few suggestions I’ve found helpful in maintaining a, mostly, sunny disposition postpartum. Technically the twelfth tenet happy people tend to follow revolves around basic body care. This is an important topic in my opinion, so I would like to spend a little extra time expounding upon the various ways we can freshen up our daily hygiene routines, naturally.

A discussion with a dental hygienist, and seasoned mother, in my most recent anatomy & physiology course reminded me how vital it is to have a daily dental ritual. The moment that sticks with me most is her response to the question,

“How important is flossing?”

“You only need to floss the teeth you want to keep,” she recommended with a grin.

Zoiks! I want to keep all of my teeth. What’s more, I want my son to have beautiful teeth set in strong gums.

The 6 steps outlined by Daniel Vitalis in the video above are an excellent platform to launch your own, personalized, oral hygiene routine. Six steps sounds tedious, and would be if you did all six two-three times every day. The beauty of these suggestions is that you you only need to do a few daily, with the option of trying all six for an occasional deep cleansing routine. Plus steps 2 and 6 are essentially the same, swish your mouth with salt water.

I think when I try the full routine at home I might switch the second saltwater rinse with a diluted Dr. Bronner’s mouth wash. This is what I use now in place of alcohol-based mouthwashes, which can dry your gums out and subsequently lead to periodontal disease. The alkalizing property of Dr. Bronner’s. soap also supports the healthy bacteria population necessary for healthy digestion, while alcohol-based rinses kill all bacteria non-descriminitly. The easiest way to dilute the Bronner’s is to wash your hands after flossing and scoop some of the sudsy water from your hands into your mouth before rinsing them completely clean. I particularly like the tingly fresh feeling of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap, 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint, 32 Ounce Bottle

Another factor to consider when vying for pearly whites is diet. Tooth decay occurs from the inside out as well as the more commonly combated superficial plaque and tarter. Strong, anecdotal, evidence supporting this theory is provided by Healthyfitmom on her YouTube channel.

I’m going to save the dairy rant for another day, but let’s suffice it to say that there are many sources of dietary calcium; dark leafy greens and almonds are a couple of my favorites. And building healthy bones relies on a specific balance of minerals in your body. So if you load up on calcium but are deficient in magnesium, potassium, or vitamins D & C (among other nutrients) your body isn’t able to utilize that calcium effectively. Food sources of calcium are more readily absorbed and utilized than supplemental pills and powders. WebMD has a great article outlining foods rich in calcium and some recommended daily allowances.

Have fun,

And may the Floss be with you:)

Categories: Body | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

My First Mother’s Day

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Yay!

So far, so good.

Things I have found helpful in maintaining my sanity (more or less)

1. Walking outside.

It’s amazing how a little fresh air and sunshine can quickly shift my son and/or me out of a funk. Plus the added benefit of exercise has been proven to boost your mood more long term.

2. Singing.

Whether I’m jamming Michael Franti or twinkle twinkle little star, singing puts a little extra skip in my step. And the fact that my son thinks I have the best voice in the world is great for my ego 🙂

3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

This is always important, especially as we go into the summer months here in Texas. Dehydration can be responsible for headaches, crankiness, and some of those “mommy moments” like putting the keys in the freezer or temporarily forgetting your middle name. Thirst can be confused with hunger (if you’re breastfeeding it’s probably both) so be sure to drink sips of quality water throughout the day. ( tap water tends to leave me feeling more thirsty so I’ve started reaching for spring & RO waters at the store)

4. Omega Fatty Acids

These are super important natural mood balancers. There are both plant and animal sources, with varying levels of 3:6:9 oils. Omega Brite fish oils has been a life saver! I chose this brand after researching a bit because of their high DHA levels and relatively low cost.

5. Letting go of “perfect”
I have left many projects hanging in the past because I got overwhelmed by all the little details. As a parent now, I’m in for the long haul. I don’t prepare as many home cooked meals as I’d like to. I have hardly written anything in my son’s baby memory book. And my daily beauty routine is out the window (although i have added a new urine hair soak to the mix, I hear it’s all the rage in France;) Even so, I am more confident now than any other time in my life, that I am strong enough to help my son grow vital and vibrant.

6. Community

I have new levels of respect for my mother now that I have a real life frame of reference. And despite our differing opinions about most child rearing topics, I wouldn’t be who I am today without her. And I feel so blessed to have online community resources connecting me to other like-minded ladies, near and far. Listening to the trials and tribulations of other mothers calms my incessant worrying so that I am able to enjoy more of this precious time with my baby.

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Cultivating Spirituality

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This week’s project is centered around cultivating spirituality in daily life. Growing up in the Presbyterian church, God and sacred space were distinctly defined and relegated to specific times and places in which to worship. The more I study religious belief systems, the more the lines separating them seem to blur.

I hesitate to label myself with any one religious affiliation, because I feel I have learned something from every path I have explored. Depending on the particular day and life event I may lean towards any number of influences.

I feel we are all walking similar paths.
We all eat, sleep, dream
We all have desires; wealth, vitality, love

As long as we strive to be compassionate, generous and loving, then I have hope that we can find some common ground.

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Commitment

Commitment… I have been the princess of procrastination the majority of my life. “If things get tough, take a nap and try something different when you wake up.” This has been my basic working mechanism in the past, which is fine if you are interested in leading a mediocre life.

There have been some golden opportunities come my way that I was either too afraid, or perhaps just darn lazy, to take off and run with. Now that there’s a little human being relying on me to show him how to be successful, I realize I’ve got to make some changes.

The nine months leading up to my son’s arrival were like a mini crash course in commitment. Everyday there was something new happening to physically remind me of my new role as nurturing mother. I have now advanced to Motherhood 101 : Lessons in Commitment, to be repeated as long as we both shall live.

So far, there have been days where I feel completely overwhelmed by all the little details involved in being a great mother. When I take a moment to breathe I remember that half of the things I think I “should” do are other people’s ideas of what a mother is supposed to do. The biggest struggle I’ve dealt with thus far has been doubting my abilities due to others good intentions.

Today is just as good as any to make and renew resolutions. So, here goes:

I commit to listening, trusting, and following my intuition

I commit to eating seasonally, locally and sustainably as possible while enjoying vibrant, vitalizing foods

I commit to letting go of trying to be the “perfect mother” and relax into being a great mom

I commit to being the kind of person I would like to be friends with

I commit to having fun

I commit to being financially savvy

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