Reducing Your Family’s Carbon Footprint

Lately, rather than working on my blog, I have spent many nights reading news articles about politics and becoming increasingly frustrated by our new president’s executive orders, which are quickly changing our world, and not for the better.

As a concerned parent, I am taking action in what small ways I am able to.

An issue that has been on my mind for a while now and is becoming more and more imperative to address is the issue of climate change and protecting our environment.

There is a large body of research showing that climate change is REAL. Records prove thatthe Earth’s average temperatures are rising steadily every year and most scientists agree that increased carbon emissions are the main contributor to this rise in global temperatures. There are too many references to list here but if you would like to learn more about all of the research that has been done and published after peer review please go to http://www.pubmed.com and search for key terms “climate change,” “environmental change,” or “global warming.”

If you would like to see what it looks like to live in a country with little pollution control try googling “China pollution.” The images that come up are horrific.

Also check out this recent article in the Huffington Post which contains a powerful set of images of what our very own country looked like before the Environmental Protection Agency was formed.

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Total Emissions in 2014= 6,870 Million Metric Tons of CO2 equivalent. Statistic and graphic courtesy of the EPA.

Unfortunately, rather than making the reduction of greenhouse gases a priority, our current administration appears to be taking our nation back to these times.

While our leaders may not think global warming is important, as individuals we can make small modifications to our lives that will reduce our carbon footprint and help in the long run. Some of these changes are harder than others, but if you think of it as an investment toward your children’s (and grandchildren’s) future, it is all worth it.

Here are 5 ways that you can reduce your family’s carbon footprint and help protect our environment:

  1. Vehicle based changes.

Unless you drive an electric vehicle that has been charged by clean energy, your vehicle is a primary source of carbon emissions. It is unrealistic, and also may not be the greenest option for everyone to trade in

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Courtesy of Nissan

their vehicle for an electric one. The manufacturing process of a new
vehicle alone produces a significant amount of waste and greenhouse gases. If you are in the position to purchase a new vehicle however, consider a fuel efficient, low greenhouse gas model (i.e. flex-fuel, hybrid or electric).

 

Don’t worry if you are not able to purchase a new vehicle at the moment (myself included). By properly maintaining your current vehicle, getting scheduled oil changes, tune-ups and checking tire pressure, you are not only creating a safer ride for you and your family, but you are ensuring that your vehicle is at its most fuel efficient.

Another car related modification you can make to reduce carbon emissions is to drive SLOWER and more thoughtfully. Rapid accelerations use significantly more gas, so does unnecessary idling. Try consolidating trips so you are driving less and always carpool when possible.

  1. Home based changes.

Heating, cooling, and lighting your home are the main sources of carbon emissions. If you have small children, keeping a moderate ambient home temperature is essential to their health and well being so rather than cutting the use of these things, consider making energy efficient improvements to your current systems. Newer and more efficient gas and electric water heaters and boilers are good investments because they will cut your energy bills and reduce carbon emissions. Insulation of walls, weather stripping doors and windows, and replacing or shielding drafty windows will also significantly reduce heating and cooling energy and make your home more enjoyable. Lastly, replacing halogen and fluorescent light bulbs with ultra efficient LED lights is a sound investment. LED lights cost more initially, but they last for many years and use a fraction of the energy that other light bulbs use.

net-zero-home

Image from blog.drummondhouseplans.com

Here is a helpful calculator to determine your savings from LED bulbs:

http://www.waclighting.com/calculator

If your budget permits, install a home solar energy system. Solar energy produces 91% less CO2 than natural gas powered energy and 96% less CO2 than coal. This requires a significant investment upfront, but companies are offering great financing deals and most energy companies charge less for solar energy and some even allow you to sell extra energy generated by your home back to the grid.

  1. Lifestyle changes.

Walk, bike, or use public transit more! Kids love getting out and getting some fresh air. Busses and trains are often a big hit with toddlers and young children as well. Not all American cities are easily commutable img_6962without a vehicle, but foregoing your car, even for small trips will make a huge difference. Plus, if enough people begin walking, biking or using public transit, cities begin adapting their focus to supporting these needs of their residents. Additionally, the extra exercise is good for your health!

 

Recycle, reduce, reuse, and consume less. One easy change here is to use reusable grocery bags. Many people already do this and some cities now charge you for grocery bags if you do not bring your own. This significantly reduces waste and also saves energy required to produce grocery bags.

For kids lunches, invest in reusable storage containers and lunch bags rather than packing food in disposable plastic or paper bags.

Be mindful about your consumption. This is a hard one with kids because they are constantly outgrowing clothes, getting new toys, and just require a lot of stuff in general. Consider buying used goods or using hand me downs from family and friends. When your children outgrow clothes and toys, find organizations or families to donate items to so they can be reused rather than end up in a landfill.

  1. Dietary changes.

Food production, packaging, and shipment are huge contributors to greenhouse gas production. Supporting local organic farming is one way to reduce your carbon footprint here. Hit the farmers markets, consider joining a CSA, and/or support smaller independent grocers who carry locally grow
n produce and other food products. Remember, organic options are not only healthier for you, but they are also greener options since a significant amount of energy is required to produce the pesticides, hormones, img_2141and antibiotics used in conventional farming.

If you are able to, start a garden! Kids love gardening and it can be so rewarding and educational for the whole family.

Lastly, eat less meat. Beef and lamb farming specifically are big producers of methane gas. Eating smaller portions and reducing your frequency of consumption will be better for your health and better for our environment.

  1. Take action!

Become active in your community by seeking out and supporting green businesses or those with plans in place for reducing greenhouse gases. For example, instead of going out to dinner at Outback Steakhouse or The Cheesecake Factory on your next date night, consider trying the new independent restaurant with the chef that is committed to using local and sustainable ingredients.

Start a conversation with your children about climate change and the importance of conserving our environment. I take the opportunity to discuss climate and natural habitats for animals with my daughter every time we visit our local zoo. For example, when it is hot out the polar bears are not very happy in their exhibit. On colder days, the polar bears are active and happy. Using this real life example, she now understands that polar bears thrive in colder climates and she understands the img_0057importance of reducing global warming.

Work with your local school, church, or other community organization to create a plan for reducing carbon footprint. Set goals and create a detailed plan to get there!

Lastly, make your voice heard. Call your senators and representatives and let them know that you are concerned about your environment. Urge them to pass measures that reduce carbon emissions.

Calculate your current carbon footprint here:

https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/

What are some ways that you are reducing your carbon footprint? Please share.

 

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Have you tested your water for lead?

Recent news of the Flint water crisis has brought to light many issues with our water works programs throughout the US. That combined with the fact that many American cities have outdated plumbing means that our drinking water may contain elements that can be harmful for human health.

Lead in water is currently the main concern because it is known to cause brain damage and other serious adverse health effects. Lead is especially dangerous for young children and the developing baby in pregnant mothers. Most notably, lead exposure in young children can cause learning and attention deficits, increased risk of ADHD, anemia, and in extreme cases, even death. For more info see the EPA’s guidelines for lead contamination of drinking water.

People who are most at risk for exposure to lead from water are those who live in homes built before 1986. Drinking from public fountains that were placed before 1986 or that are not properly maintained could also potentially be a source of lead and other water contaminants.

What many people do not realize is that even if a water source is pure and clean, lead and other heavy metals can leach out of pipes, plumbing fixtures, and solder if the water does not contain anti-corrosive chemicals. For more on this, the CDC has a helpful fact sheet.

The situation in Flint is extreme and very sad, but it has led to more awareness of the matter and now lead in water has been discovered in many other cities across the US, including our very own city of Portland. To read about the widespread nature of lead contamination of water, USA Today had a great article.

Portland is known to have a pristine water source, the Bull Run Watershed, and residents have fought hard to keep the water free of as many additives as possible, such as fluoride.

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Copyright: portlandoregon.gov

Well, it turns out that our ultra soft water is highly reactive with metal pipes and fixtures that are commonly found in older buildings, homes and even our schools. As a result, we are experiencing our own water crisis of sorts, that seems to be isolated to a subset of homes and public buildings, likely due to outdated plumbing .

We live in an older home that was built in the early 1900’s. When we moved in, I had the water tested for lead immediately. The home’s plumbing had been recently updated so that was reassuring, but it’s impossible to see every pipe and fitting as well as those feeding into your house. We utilized the free water test offered through Multnomah County and it came back negative. It was a big relief!

That was several years ago. Since then our city has experienced issues with e coli contamination of the water and as a result, they have increased the chlorine in the water. It was enough to cause a noticeable change in the taste and the smell so we have been using water filters for our drinking water. Interestingly, when not counteracted, the increased chlorine makes water even more corrosive to pipes putting you more at risk for lead contamination. It’s important to know that water filters can reduce chlorine and other heavy metals, but they can vary in their efficacy and lifespan so it’s important to check the specifications. The particular filters that we have been using do NOT filter out lead very well, unfor01_edit-180x180tunately.

The best thing that you can do for your family and for piece of mind is to have your water tested and to use filters as much as possible. I was fortunate to be able to try a home water testing kit by Test Assured.

IMG_9513.jpgIt was very easy to perform (in fact, I let my assistant Penny help me with one of the tests) and I was able to get an immediate answer. This particular testing kit also measured lead, the presence of bacteria, pesticide, iron, copper, nirtrates & nirtrites, chlorine Level, pH level, alkalinity and hardness. All of our measured valued matched what has been published by our water bureau from their own water analysis, which was reassuring. In addition, our water was still lead free! The pesticide test was a bit more ambiguous in the reading and it is unclear which pesticides it measures, but hopefully out water filters minimize any potential exposure there.

If you are interested in having your water tested for lead, I would first check with your water bureau to see if they offer a free lead test. If you live in the Portland Metro area, here is the link to request a free test. Another great resource for lead testing, advice, and support can be found at http://leadsafeamerica.org.

I will also be giving away a 10 in 1 at home testing kit which detects lead and other contaminants that was donated by TestAssured. Visit our Facebook page to enter to win!

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Super Sparkly Christmas Ornaments

My daughter is SO excited about Christmas this year! She is finally old enough to fully understand what is going on. The moment that Thanksgiving was over and I gave her the green light to start getting ready for Christmas, she was all about decorating and making crafts. It’s a great way to entertain her during the day as well and it has really helped to cut back on screen time.

Our first official Christmas craft was to make these ornaments for our tree.My mom was visiting for Thanksgiving and helped the kids with this project. It was fun!

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We made a salt based dough with cinnamon scent based on a recipe we found on another blog with some slight modifications:

http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/1057575/stocking-stuffers-you-can-make-with-kids

*Rather than cutting holes in the shapes for twine to hang them, I chose to glue ribbon loops to the back of each one, this way they lay flat and do not twist and turn once hung on the tree.

*Because my kids were too impatient to let the paint dry, and then apply glue prior to glitter, we applied the glitter directly to the wet paint, hoping that it would be enough to make the glitter stick. In hind sight, I should have mixed some glue in or used a spray glue after we glittered to really set the glitter prior to hanging, because the glitter is already beginning to come off. Learn from my mistakes!

Here is a summary of our materials used and methods

Materials:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup very warm water

10 drops cinnamon fragrance oil (more or less depending on personal preference) or cinnamon powder is oil is unavailable.

Glitter

Paint and brushes

Elmer’s Glue

Ribbon or twine

Glue gun (if available)

 

Method:

Combine the flour, salt and warm water. Mix until fully combined and dough forms.

Add the fragrance oil or cinnamon powder. Nead in.

Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick (use a lightly floured surface and roller).

Cut various shapes using cookie cutters. We found great cookie cutters for $1 each at Sur La Table!

Place the shapes on a cookie baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees F for 2.5 hours.

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Let your child or children have fun painting the shapes with non-toxic paint! Mix in a little glue to help the glitter stick or have an adult apply spray adhesive after the glitter is applied. Apply glitter and voila! Super sparkly shapes!

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The hardest part will be waiting for these to dry. My son loved checking on them and he kept asking if they were ready to go up.

Prior to hanging, glue the twine or ribbon loops onto the back of each ornament. A hot glue gun would be quickest but you can also just use lots of ol’ fashioned Elmer’s Glue.

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Once dry, hang on your tree and be proud of your work!

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Our growing family

img_3416I had been feeling like I should start looking for a real job again. You know, one where I might be able to actually use my degree. A job with benefits, a retirement fund, and other perks. But no. Life said no, not yet.

We were not trying to conceive, in fact, if anything we were actively trying not to conceive, though obviously not hard enough. Suddenly I found myself having to wrap my head around going through it all once more, the aches and pains of pregnancy, the labor and delivery of the baby, breastfeeding another child, and just dealing with chaos for at least another two years or so.

A third child at this point would not change too much. We are lucky to have the space in our home to house another child. We already own a minivan, ha! Sure there are added expenses associated with another child, but the tax benefits should help offset those costs. We can do this!

These are the thoughts that have been bombarding my brain for the past two months. I realize that it will be a huge change in our lives and a new trajectory for our family will have to be established.

My experience with my last two kids has given me the confidence to know that I can do this, but I’m not going to lie… it is still scary!

Rather than focus on all of the things that we no longer will be able to do, I’ve been focusing on my goals for this pregnancy and my plan for tackling life with 3 kids.

One thing that I would like to be better about this time around is exercise!

I was in great shape prior to getting pregnant with my first, but then never really got back into a regular exercise routine after that. In the months leading up to this pregnancy, I had started to workout more and I was hiking and walking and getting out for more physical activities. I could see the changes in my body and my wellbeing. It felt good. Plus, exercise has been proven to be good for fetal development!

This first trimester has been rough and has really wiped me off my feet, but I am slowly getting out of this energy rut and eager to resume a more active lifestyle.

After giving birth to two children, I am not so worried about the labor and delivery of this baby. It’s not going to be fun, but I’ll get through it. If anything, I’m more worried about how my youngest will take it. He is my baby now and he gets very jealous and possessive of me. My daughter on the other hand has baby fever so she will be a great help and will enjoy showering the baby with love.

Babywearing! There will be a lot of babywearing when the new baby arrives. Babywearing so I can still play with Shea and take him to classes and playdates while Penny is at school. Babywearing so I can do chores and take care of other household duties. I don’t think I could manage a third child without babywearing, so I am thankful to have that skill set.

One last thought… A big difference with this pregnancy compared to my others, is that I am not working! Having worked through my last two pregnancies, pretty much up until the day that I gave birth, this is a very different experience. If I am tired, I can rest. If I am hungry, I can make myself a snack. My stress level is nowhere near what it used to be (despite my kids driving me mad sometimes). It is really an ideal situation for me that hopefully translates to a healthier pregnancy.

Wish me luck and please share your stories!

I’d love to hear from parents with multiple children.

How do you do it?? What is your advice?

 

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The Neuroscience of Babywearing

There are many reasons to wear your baby and if you were to ask parents or caregivers that practice babywearing why they do it, you would get a variety of answers.

In the scientific community babywearing has been studied in the form of kangaroo care, primarily for premature or low birth weight babies. In some studies, kangaroo care was found to be as effective or even more effective than neonatal intensive care, and for the most part, positive outcomes have been associated with kangaroo care (for more on this see Conde-Agudelo and Díaz-Rossello, 2016).

This is very impressive and important information, but the majority of babywearers are wearing full term infants into toddlerhood. So what does this mean for the average babywearer?

To my knowledge there have not been any hard scientific studies on the effects of babywearing on child development. Most of the current research and information out there is funded and supplied by baby carrier companies.

As the culture of babywearing becomes more mainstream, I imagine that scientists will begin to perform studies on the benefits of wearing infants and toddlers, but in the meantime I’d like to share my own personal observations on the effects of babywearing that are mostly rooted in the principles of neuroscience and human physiology.

Less stress for babies and caregivers

If you were to look inside the brains of the baby being worn and of it’s wearer, my guess would be that the important neural circuit at play would be the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis or HPA axis. This is commonly known as the stress response circuit and over activation of the HPA axis early in life can contribute to lifelong issues with vulnerability and stress. HPA axis dysregulation has also been associated with mood disorders, digestion issues, altered immune responses, and addiction.

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By wearing your baby, you mimic the comforting position of being held in arms, while still maintaining some of your freedom, being hands free to do things. Another benefit of having them attached to you is that you can better pick up on their cues to meet their needs quicker and more effectively. A happy, less stressed baby will not experience HPA axis over activation, and could potentially have a reduced risk for related disorders as an adult. Additionally, the happy baby can then in turn lower the caregiver’s HPA axis activation, improving mood and overall level of stress in the caregiver as well. (For more on the HPA axis and it’s role in development see Flinn, et al., 2011)

May help with PPD

Some degree of postpartum depression (PPD) is commonly experienced after birth. This is a condition that is complicated and is thought to involve the stark drop off in hormones antepartum, fatigue and feeling overwhelmed (as easily experienced in the early days of caring for an infant), as well as struggles with the transition into motherhood.img_1893-1

There is significant anecdotal evidence from the babywearing community (based on chatter in Facebook babywearing groups) that babywearing may help lessen the degree of PPD or help treat it altogether. This is likely due to the fact that using a baby carrier can make many facets of early parenting so much easier. For example, babywearing can help with breastfeeding since nursing in a carrier allows for nursing on the go. One doesn’t have to feel like they’re putting their life on hold just because they had a child. You can nurse in a carrier while shopping, even walking full stride down a busy NYC street, and your baby will be happy (and so will you).

Wearing your baby promotes bonding with your little one and timg_3731hat love and sense of accomplishment can be very positive and mood lifting. This is due in part to the reduced cortisol levels that the wearer experiences, as well as the release of oxytocin and dopamine from the constant baby hugs. Also, I’m pretty sure that baby carrier naps cause the release of endorphins in parents because there is nothing like the feeling of a sweet little baby sleeping all cozy and cuddled up against you. Of course, you do not need to use a carrier to experience your baby nap close to you, but it sure makes life easier and more enjoyable when you don’t feel confined or trapped in one spot. You can still go on with your life, taking a moment every now and then to look down, breathe in some magical sleeping baby dust, and then continue with whatever you were doing.

Lastly, by joining babywearing groups online, parents build new friendships and find a network of support. Maybe your friends aren’t having kids yet, or maybe your friends do have kids and are super busy with their own lives so you are feeling alone in your journey. The babywearing Facebook groups always have active members to chat with because babies have crazy sleeping schedules and people from all over the world participate in these groups so when you’re up nursing your baby at 3 am, you might find yourself chatting with a mum in England! Talk about 24 hour support!

Neuroplasticity

As we learn new things our neurons are forming new connections, strengthening some connections and pruning others. This is a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. It simply means that that our brains are constantly rewiring based on our experiences. You may have heard that playing chess, doing Sudoku puzzles, or learning a new language can enhance your brain function or neuroplasticity, and indeed they can, but so can learning any other new thing!

For the developing infant, babywearing is a great wimg_6668ay to enhance your baby’s neuroplasticity because they are constantly being stimulated by you when they are held close to face level. Even if your baby is just a newborn and not very interactive yet, hearing your voice helps them learn language, watching your facial expressions helps them learn emotions,and your movements are always challenging their vestibular system!

For the wearer, babywearing is also a great way to challenge your brain as you learn how to use a baby carrier. Using a soft structured carrier is probably the easiest carrier to learn for a babywearer, but even then, there are still many opportunities to engage your mind as you work to find the correct fit, adjusting straps and buckles, positioning your baby, and also learning to navigate in your new physical space once your barnacle is attached to you.

Learning to wrap, however, I would consider an advanced skill of the mind and body. It requires you to memorize sequences of movements (aka passes) that ultimately result in your baby wrapped up tight into a nice little package, sometimes on your front, other times on your hip or your back. It requires balance and physical strengthimg_8197-1, especially in your core muscles. It also requires good spatial reasoning, being able to predict where along the wrap to start, how much fabric you will need to finish the carry and the ability to improvise when your spatial planning is off 😉 With research, practice, and determination, wrapping parents often learn 10-20 different ways to wrap their babies. That equals a whole lot of new synaptic connections!

In summary, there are many ways to meet your baby’s basic needs, but babywearing allows the parent or caregiver to be hands free, giving them a sense of freedom or ease while actively tending to their baby. Babywearing can promote good emotional health in babies and parents as well as provide ample stimulating learning scenarios for healthy brains.

Go babywearing!

References:

Conde-Agudelo A and Díaz-Rossello JL. (Aug 2016). Kangaroo mother care to reduce morbidity and mortality in low birthweight infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (8)  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD002771.pub4/epdf

Flinn MV, Nepomnaschy PA, Muehlenbein MP, Ponzi D (June 2011). Evolutionary functions of early social modulation of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis development in humans. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 35 (7): 1611–29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21251923

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Crock Pot Apple Butter

One of the perks of living in the Pacific Northwest is that we live in apple country! I remember growing up in Southern California and hearing that our apples came from Washington. I would think to myself “wow, that’s so far away!” And now, we basically live there! Just to be clear, Oregon does have it’s fair share of apples too. In fact, we were just about to plan an apple-picking excursion when my husband came home from work with a large cooler full of apples and pears that a co-worker gave him. They were from his family’s organic orchard.

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The first apple recipe that I decided to try was a cock pot apple butter. It was my first time making apple butter but this recipe was so easy that I’m sure I will make it again.

When I cook, I always try to have Penny help me as much as possible along the way. She is only 4 years old, so not quite coordinated enough to use a knife, but she understands that knives are sharp and that she should keep her hands out of the way while I chop. That being said, she often likes to stand next to me while I cut fruits and veggies and when I give her the green light, she’ll grab some for herself or help transfer them to their cooking vessel. This is a very small and easy task, but it really helps Penny feel involved in the cooking process and it also helps to familiarize her with all the fruits and veggies that we eat and understand how they taste different when cooked or raw. We also use this opportunity to talk about the nutrition that each offers. It’s never too early to get your kids interested in their nutrition and health!

We started following a basic recipe that called for 5 lbs of apples and 4 cups of sugar but once Penny measured out the 4 cups of sugar, I added more apples.

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I just kept on adding apples until our 6 quart crock pot was full. My estimate was about 6-7 lbs of apples. I cored them but left the skin on. If they had not been organic, I would have peeled them and discarded the skin. Seasoned with cinnamon and clove and set to high at first and then low overnight, these apples simmered for a long time and melted down into a delicious mush that smelled so amazing! The next day, I took an immersion blender to it to smooth it out even more.

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Then we canned them by carefully filling jars with apple butter, cleaning the rim and capping them, then boiling for 10 minutes.

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I explained to Penny that the heating helps kill any bugs (bacteria/fungi) that would normally make food spoil and it also helps remove any oxygen from the jars to create a tight vacuum seal. She enjoyed learning the science behind it and she stood around as the jars cooled so she could observe the “pops” in the lids as they sealed.

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Here is the recipe we followed:

6-7 lbs organic apples, cored, large diced, skin on

4 cups sugar

3 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp salt

For canning:

10-12, 8 oz glass jars with lids and bands for preserving

large stockpot with boiling water for processing

Method:

Add all ingredients to 6 qt crock pot. Cook on high for 1 hour, then low for the next 9-13 hours. We left ours cooking overnight. Blend until smooth. Fill each clean jar with apple butter leaving at least 1/2 inch space. Clean the rim. Apply the lids and tighten. Submerge in boiling water for 10 minutes. Allow to cool at room temperature. Store indefinitely (preferably away from light), share with friends and family, and enjoy!

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Dairy and Soy Intolerance

I encountered my fair share of difficulties nursing my first child. I will have to create a separate blog post just for that story because while I struggled so much, I also learned a TON and this helped me feel prepared for anything with my second.

Of course, you never know it all…

Shea was super calm and mellow in the beginning. He seemed to nurse well and was gaining well. My supply seemed adequate but I drank mother’s milk tea just in case since I struggled with an inadequate supply with my first. All was great until we hit the 6 week mark. Some fussiness is expected as babies become more and more aware of their environment, but it was as though he had become a colicky baby overnight. Also, there were some unusual signs that something was just not right.

His poop had been green and watery (sorry TMI!) and very frequent, going just about after every single feed. He had pretty terrible baby acne (something that Penny never had). He spit up often and there was a thicker, mucousy quality to his spit up that was strange. He seemed gassy and uncomfortable but would not pass gas and burps were really hard to get out. Nursing was suddenly different, with lots of unlatching and fussing after just a few minutes of drinking. Lastly, in the evening, when I tried to get him down for the night, he would just stare at me wide awake as I held him wrapped tight in my woven wrap, bouncing or rocking, white noise blaring in the background. This was usually my quick fire, fail proof trick! If I stopped, he’d start wailing. This seemed to go on for hours! My husband would take a shift so I could eat dinner and shower and then I’d be back at it until he finally passed out from exhaustion.

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Baby Acne

I remember thinking “what happened?” “how did we ruin this baby?”
From my web searches I suspected that a forceful letdown was to blame. Indeed, the mother’s milk tea that I had been drinking somewhat regularly was causing me to have oversupply so that was the first thing to go. Cutting that out did help with the forceful letdown issue and Shea started nursing a little better but the green watery poops continued and so did the fussiness.

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How I would put Shea to sleep early on. 

Then a friend suggested that I try cutting out dairy. To be fair, this was something that my mom had suggested too, even with my first, but I refused to listen. I was having a hard time believing that breast milk could change so much based on diet. Basically, I didn’t know anything about breast milk…yet.

“Could it really be the dairy?” I thought.

I was desperate at this point and willing to try anything so I cut out cheese and milk for a day and immediately noticed some improvement.

Then one day for lunch I shared a giant bowl of steamed edamame with Penny for lunch and this time I not only got green frothy poop but there was blood too. That was enough to freak me out and with a little google searching, I quickly learned that a dairy allergy also usually encompasses soy.

After being vegetarian for over 15 years, I had consumed a very large amount of dairy and soy in my life. I always considered my diet to be a healthy one, of course not knowing any better. I often substituted tofu (soy) for meat in recipes and I had a weakness for soft cheese.

After the bloody poop scare though, I cut soy as well as dairy and I started noticing improvements in poop, fussiness, sleep, baby acne, and overall mood. It was like he was a different baby!

There were some days that felt like he had relapsed and I would begin to question whether it was really the dairy and soy. With more digging and trying to understand his allergy, I learned that there are many hidden sources of dairy and soy in our food. I basically had to cut out most processed foods and be careful with vegan dairy free products (because most are soy based). As a starving nursing mom, this was so hard!

Our pediatrician understood our troubles and was on board with avoiding dairy/soy, but he didn’t seem to think that it was a serious issue. Sure, it was not a true allergy per se since exposure never caused him to have difficulty breathing or go into anaphylactic shock, but it was clear to me that it was making him miserable and he was a normal happy baby when I wasn’t eating it.

As any scientist (and hungry cheese loving mama) would do, I challenged every few weeks and he always fell back into the same pattern— irritable, digestive issues, skin rashes, and sleeplessness. It became clear that not only did he have issues with dairy and soy, but he was really sensitive to it. Even a tiny bit of cheese or a little bit of soy sauce could send him into a downward spiral of sleepless nights and GI problems.

Our pediatrician mentioned that most children outgrow these sensitivities around 9 months of age. However, at his 9 month checkup he was not much better. We were then told that he would most likely be fine by 18 months of age but that did not happen either.

As Shea got older and more mobile, I noticed other disturbing effects of the dairy and soy. It seemed to make him more aggressive and hyperactive. For aggressiveness, he would often hit me when I had him wrapped on my front or randomly walk over and hit his sister. The hyperactivity came in the form of constant running. It was as though he would become unable to walk, just in a state of constant jogging at a minimum. People would tell me, “that’s normal, he’s just being a boy,” but these behaviors would come on with dairy exposure like a light switch and as soon as it cleared his system, he’d be back to my sweet, calm boy. I had no idea that food allergies could also cause hyperactivity and effect other social behaviors but this is a common observation in kids with food sensitivities.

Another interesting discovery that I feel is worth mentioning is that despite having a severe dairy and soy intolerance from an early age, Shea tolerated a dairy based formula from Europe called Holle, just fine. My supply had dropped once I returned to work and I was feeling really stressed about being able to feed him since I knew that regular formula was not an option. The hypoallergenic formulas had an awful smell to them and my son would not take them easily. Then my boss suggested that I try Holle. I had no idea that it existed because it’s not distributed in the US, but I found it on eBay. At first I was apprehensive about purchasing baby formula on eBay, but the retailers had lots of reviews and I was desperate for a formula that worked so I gave it a shot and he did great on it!

holle

Holle formula was tolerated just fine.

The fact that he could have formula whose first ingredient was cow milk only further confused me at first. Did he really have a dairy intolerance or was it something else? It just didn’t make sense that he was fine with 12 ounces of European dairy based formula, yet he’d get so ill from nursing after I had had a chinese food dinner or a bite of a quesadilla. I still don’t have answers for why this was so, but I have some ideas, of course.

One of the main differences between Holle and Infamil or Similac is that it uses organic dairy that is Demeter certified. I had no idea what this meant but I had heard that European organic farming practices are much more stringent than in the US. With some self education, I learned that Demeter farming practices use environmentally and ecologically friendly methods to care for soil, plants and animals. This means no use of artificial or synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms or unnecessary additives. Additionally, Demeter cows are not de-horned like American dairy cows. So it appears that this way of cultivating dairy cows makes a much more digestible and tolerable milk!

We are now at 21 months of age. He is finally showing signs that his sensitivity is easing up. I say this with caution because we have been down this road many times. He’ll seem ok with a little bit of dairy at first and then he reaches his threshold and he turns into a monster until we stop the dairy. But, it looks like this is the real deal this time. Shea has been having a little bit of cheese, or some yogurt, or some soy each day for a week now and so far he has not lost his tummy or his mind. He is still reacting to it, but it seems manageable, at least with this low level of exposure.

Interestingly, this improvement has happened to coincide with him starting a new and more potent probiotic. I started giving him a probiotic when he was a little over 1 year old but did not notice much improvement with it. The new probiotic has over 6x the amount of good bacteria in it and different strains too. It’s hard to know for sure if the probiotic is what is making this dairy trial tolerable because he is also in the age range for outgrowing this type of allergy, but I think it is.

I know that there is still quite a bit of work to do in terms of promoting proper gut health and helping Shea outgrow this food sensitivity, but at least there is a light at the end of this 21 month long tunnel.

If you are also have a milk/soy protein intolerant baby make sure that you check this blog for lots of helpful info and cooking ideas!

http://www.mspimama.com/p/milk-soy-protein-intolerance.html

For more information on the formula that we used, please see:

http://www.holle.ch/en_GB/

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Vitamins

a.k.a. Vitadims, Viamins, Vy

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Do you give your kids vitamins?

I can be a bit vitamin obsessed with my own health so as soon as my kids were old enough to start taking vitamins, I enthusiastically started supplementing. At first it was just vitamin drops that our pediatrician prescribed. Vitamins A, C, and D.

At my daughter’s 12 month check-up they checked her hemoglobin levels and she was low. Following an excruciating blood draw (my first of many kid’s blood draws to come), our doctor diagnosed her with iron-deficiency anemia and prescribed iron drops. Oh, and because our water does not contain fluoride, my daughter started fluoride drops as well. So just like that, I had an infant taking 3 different supplements, two of which had to be given at different times of the day because they interfere with absorption if taken together (fluoride and iron).

Taking vitamins became routine for us and Penny thrived on the iron drops. I noticed immediate changes in her mood, appetite and sleep. Without the iron drops, she would become a cranky melting-down child that refused to eat much and was obviously over-tired but could not ever sleep!

Well, iron worked really well for us but it did not come without side effects, namely constipation. Despite a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, I decided to try fiber gummies for kids once Penny was a toddler and could chew well. They worked well and helped keep her regular so fiber gummies joined the daily regimen.

When Penny was around 2 years of age, I realized that I had options with our multivitamin. I could give more than just the limited A, C, and D that the drops had to offer. I was excited to shop for the best kids vitamin out there and start my daughter on a more complete supplement, preferably all natural.

When I scoured the vitamin section of our health food store, I found that most of the formulations had little to no iron. With Penny’s history of anemia, these were just not an option for us. Out of at least 10 different brands (yes, I sat in the isle and read every bottle) there was only one that had 50% of daily iron, which was way better than the usual 0-10%. So that was the one that I bought and we loved it at first (it’s called Rainbow Light Kid’s One, contains 5mg iron).

After being on iron drops for over a year at that point, I figured that I could safely take Penny off of them and give her the multivitamin containing half of her needed iron, with her diet making up for the other half. Well, I was wrong. Within 6 months of no iron drops, Penny’s anemia came back. To this day it is a mystery as to why she is so susceptible to anemia!

Some background factors may be at play.

  1. I was vegetarian through my pregnancy and anemia was detected in the third trimester, after which I started iron supplements. So she was probably born with low iron stores to begin with.
  2. I was vegetarian through the first year of nursing Penny so my milk may have been lower in iron than meat eating breastfeeding moms.
  3. Anemia runs in my family so there may be a genetic component
  4. Penny is a picky eater, especially when it comes to meat.
  5. We live in an industrial neighborhood so environmental exposure to heavy metals that can interfere with iron storage and blood cell health may be at play.

We will probably never know the answer as to why, we just know that Penny is prone to anemia so a more complete multivitamin was in need in order to avoid the iron drops.

I finally just asked our pediatrician for a recommendation and he suggested Flintstone’s Complete with Iron. There are several formulations of Flintstone’s vitamins. The Complete with Iron formulation (it comes in a red box) has the highest iron content of any kids multivitamin that I’ve found to date (18 mg ~100% for a 4 year old). This is what I’ve been giving for the past couple of years despite my preference for all natural brands. We still reach times when iron drops are needed and I will give a small amount, usually about 25% of what was originally prescribed, just to quickly bump back up to normal.

You may be wondering how I know when iron is low… The truth is, I don’t know most of the time. The only way to know for sure is to have blood drawn and a full panel run and that is hard on the child and not always fully covered by insurance. Signs that I look for in my child include irritability, trouble sleeping, pale skin, and the most obvious sign that our doctor mentioned to me was pale gums. They should be nice and pink! Keeping track of how much iron rich food my daughter is eating is also very helpful in predicting whether or not she needs additional iron.

Once little brother was born, we pretty much followed the same pattern of vitamins because he too was slightly anemic at 10 months of age! I had him checked early since I noticed behavioral signs and knew what to look for after dealing with it for so long with Penny. I was much more careful about iron during my pregnancy with him and accordingly, his anemia was not as severe. In fact, he quickly bounces back to normal by just giving his Flintstone on a regular basis. He loves to eat meat too, unlike his sister.

One new variable that my son introduced to our vitamin regimen was the fact that he is dairy and soy intolerant. This means that a major source of calcium is missing from his diet. He does still get calcium from breastfeeding. However, I have chosen to give a calcium supplement as well, just in case. Penny caught wind of his extra gummy and now she demands a calcium vitamin too, of course. With calcium, it can also interfere with iron absorption so I give it at a separate time from both iron and fluoride. This means that I often forget to give calcium and that’s ok because my kids do eat other non-dairy forms of calcium, and too much calcium can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.

A few other supplements that I feel are important are are Omega-3/DHA and probiotics, as well as Vitamin C, and Echinacea during cold season. I give Omega-3/DHA when our diet is lacking in the fish department and probiotics mostly to Shea to help him with intestinal health, especially after eating a bit of dairy or soy.

I realize that all of this may be unnecessary. Our diet is pretty well rounded and all of our nutritional needs should be covered. But, we are talking about kid’s diets here and even though I serve them well balanced, healthful meals, they often pick and choose and don’t get everything they need. So for now, I’ll continue to be the crazy vitamin lady, potentially wasting my money. My kids see them as a special treat anyway.

Do you give your children any supplements? If so, which ones and why?

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Flintstones Children’s MultiVitamin Supplement With Iron Chewable Tablets 


L’il Critters Fiber Gummy Bears

Drosophila Trap

It’s summer and that means lots of delicious fruit is in season! And, if your home is anything like mine, we always have to have fresh fruit available for our essentially fruitarian children. This combined with our warmer temperatures and indoor food waste bin, means that we have basically created an ideal breeding ground for fruit flies (aka drosophila), ack!

I tried using a commercially available trap and it caught some flies but then stopped working. It was pretty inexpensive, can’t remember exactly but under $5. However it could add up quickly when you have to keep replacing them every few days to remain fly free. Luckily, a friend told me about this DIY trap. I realize that this is not my invention by any means, but it works so well that I wanted to share this with you in case you are in a similar position. Plus, I’ve been working out the kinks to get it to work optimally!

So here you go:

How to make a drosophila trap

What you’ll need:

Glass jars (clean and odor free)

Apple cider vinegar (unfiltered is key!! Braggs brand or knock off equivalent work best)

Dish Soap (citrus scent or possibly other fruity scent, but lavender scent did not work as well, environmentally friendly solutions work well and are better for our oceans)

Paper (any kind will do from printer paper to card stock, not sure if color reduces effectiveness, so to be safe stick with white)

Tape (clear scotch tape works fine)

Instructions:

Add a drop of soap and some apple cider vinegar to your glass jar. You should have about 3/4-1″ of liquid on the bottom. Adding a little water is fine but it should smell strongly of vinegar.

Make a cone out of paper and add a piece of tape to retain shape. Trim down excess paper. Place in jar and tape into place.

Set your traps near fruit or other fly hotspots and trap some flies!

Don’t forget to empty your traps and start fresh every few days while flies persist. They become ineffective at attracting more once a few dead ones have been sitting there for a while. My guess is that once dead, the flies release a repellent. If you dump them out and start fresh,  the traps start working again. Happy drosophila trapping!

Sprinkler fun!

We have had a slow start to our summer but our temperatures are finally reaching the HOT spectrum these days. When it gets too warm out, we tend to stay indoors, in the dark, with fans running because we don’t have air conditioning. It can be pretty depressing actually, not what you’d imagine for a nice sunny day. Our back yard is partially shaded but it basically just gets too hot to be outside for more than a few minutes.

Our first water toy purchase for the kids was a kiddie pool. They enjoy it but it gets pretty filthy quickly, and it’s a lot of work to clean it out so we haven’t been using it much.  Plus, our cold tap water is SUPER cold so I always have to plan ahead (something I’m not great at) and fill it up earlier in the day so that it can warm up enough for them to use in the afternoon.

Enter our new whale sprinkler (named Olivia by my daughter). We were not actively searching for one, but I had been considering buying a sprinkler for water play. We were mostly just poking around a fun local kids shop when my daughter found it and begged me to buy it. I am so glad that I did because we love Olivia! For set up, it took just a few minutes to blow up (we used a bike pump for this). Then, you just connect it to a hose. Easy peasy!

What I love about Olivia is that she deflates and folds down for compact storage. It is also easy to control the sprinkler intensity. My kids preferred it on a lower setting but it can spray pretty far too.

Here are more details on Olivia:

Product name: Sprinkler Buddies- Giant Whale Inflatable Sprinkler (by Toysmith)

Retail: about $16

Also comes in Octopus form!

Toysmith is a PNW company and you can support a local PDX business by purchasing this from Grasshopper! http://www.grasshopperstore.com/

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