Thursday, January 31, 2013

Miriam Lee

English: Acupuncture needles. Deutsch: Akupunk...
English: Acupuncture needles. Deutsch: Akupunkturnadeln. Fran├žais : Aiguilles d'acupuncture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I already had another post ready for today. But, I couldn't let this Month of Courage pass by without mentioning Miriam Lee, a courageous acupuncturist who helped legitimize acupuncture in this country.

Miriam Lee was born in China in 1926. She became a midwife and then studied acupuncture under Master Tung Ching Chang, who came from a long line of acupuncturists, famous for only using a small number of acupuncture points.

When she immigrated to CA in the 1950's, the only job she could get was working in a factory. Her co-workers started coming to her her with their health problems. So, she started offering acupuncture treatments to her co-workers before and after her shift.  Influenced by her teacher Master Tung, she discovered that she could successfully treat her American patients using a protocol of only 5 acupuncture points. By using so few points, she was able to treat up to 17 people an hour!

The story goes that so many people came to her house for treatments that her porch steps eventually broke! Finally, a sympathetic doctor allowed her to share his office space. In 1974, she was arrested for practicing  medicine without a license. Her arrest and trial prompted CA to recognize the legitimacy of acupuncture as an alternative medical modality and forced the state to adopt regulations.

Most importantly, Miriam Lee demonstrated that it was possible to set up a high traffic clinic in the middle of a Working Class neighborhood and provide access to cheap health-care to folks who can't get it elsewhere. Her work inspired the Community Acupuncture Movement.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Growing Power...Transforming Communities

As someone who grew up on a farm and who finds great joy in eating delicious, local food, I've been thrilled to see the recent surge of interest in Urban Farming.

One of the most interesting Urban Farms, I 've heard about is 3 acre farm in Milwaukee called Growing Power. I first heard about the farm when I stumbled across an article claiming the farm has produced 1 Million Pounds of Organic Food on 3 Acres. I was intrigued.

Will Allen grew up in Maryland and spent much of his time outside of school helping his father farm. While playing professional basketball in Belgium, he started a garden, so he and his teammates could have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. He spent a lot time talking to Belgian farmers and learned several different farming methods from them.

He eventually ended up in Milwaukee and discovered a site in the middle of the city which was zoned for agriculture. Three giant greenhouses sat on the site, once home to a flourishing floral industry.

He bought the land and began experimenting with aquaponics, a method of farming where fish are grown in water that is then filtered and cleaned by plants and continuously repumped through the system. Tilapia and Yellow Perch are raised in the Growing Power's aquaponics system designed by Allen for less than $5,000. Many similarly-sized commercial aquaponics systems cost close to $50,000.

Amazingly, Will Allen can feed 10,000 people on his 3 little acres without using pesticides for herbicides. All of the plants grown in the aquaponics system don't require fertilizer because of the nutrient rich "waste water" from the fish. There are numerous worm bins throughout the property which create incredibly fertile compost. The rest of the vegetables are grown in a soil mix made primarily with this compost. Over 150 varieties of crops are grown at Growing Power.

One idea that I think is particularly brilliant is using compost to heat the Hoop Houses during the Winter. Most of Growing Power's Greenhouses and Hoop Houses have aquaponic systems in them that need to be heated. But, a few have only Winter crops growing in them. These Hoop Houses are surrounded by compost piles on the outside as well as large piles inside on both ends. The steam from the active piles heat the inside of the Hoop Houses, even when there is several feet of snow on the ground.

The farm has provided needed jobs for the area and most importantly has helped feed residents in the food desert of Milwaukee's Inner City. Visitors to Growing Power's Main Headquarters and Training Center will find also find bees, chickens, ducks and goats on the farm. There are now 5 different Growing Power locations in Chicago and two more in Milwaukee.

Allen's successful model of farming in being replicated across the country, including ECO City Farm (in PG County right outside of D.C.). At Growing Power's Training Center, they offer a Commercial Urban Agriculture Program which is a series of 5, 3-day weekend seminars taught from January through May.

Growing Power always offers an on-going intensive program for those interested in learning how to farm using sustainable methods. Over 6 weeks, participants work 6 days a week at Growing Power's Headquarters. All very exciting stuff!

This video gives you a chance to peek inside Growing Power's inspirational walls. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Heifer International and Valentine's Day

Is it too early to talk about Valentine's Day? I wanted to share with you one the most inspirational organizations I know (Heifer International) and one of my ideas for how to support this organization this Valentine's Day.
This gift is perfect for a Sweetie who is "socially conscious" and would prefer not to get a massive bouquet of red roses grown in Columbia or Ecuador. Instead of dropping $60 on flowers and a card, why not give a simple gift that has the power to change entire communities? For almost 70 years, Heifer International, has been fighting hunger and poverty one cow at a time.
The idea is that you are purchase an animal (or a share of an animal) in someone's name. These animals are given to a family struggling with poverty. When the offspring of the animal is born, they are then "passed" on to their neighbors. So on and so forth...

The animals provide the families with income to better their lives and you have provided the gift recipient with the knowledge that their gift has the potential to change lives. There is a very powerful book called Beatrice's Goat (it tells the real-life story of how a little girl got the opportunity to go to school because of her family's involvement with "Heifer International").

You can have fun coming up with creative ways of pairing your donation with something tangible (possibly edible).

Here are some of my ideas...

1. If you buy a share of a goat (starting at $10)...also give a bar of goat milk soap.

2. If you buy a hive of honeybees ($30) ...also give a bunch of honey sticks.

3. If you buy a flock of chicks ($20)...also give some peeps (you know those cute, fluffy marshmallow baby chicks).

4. If you buy a flock of ducks ($20)....also give a cute rubber duckie.

5. If you buy a trio of rabbits (a share for $10 and all 3 for $60)...also give a chocolate bunny (I've started seeing them in stores already since Easter is so early this year).

6. If you buy a share of fish fingerlings ($30)...also give some Swedish fish.

You get the idea? Let your creativity run wild! And if you decide to support Heifer International this Valentine's Day, please tell me about it!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mushroom Gardening with Children

Oyster Mushrooms 8
Oyster Mushrooms 8 (Photo credit: portmanteaus)
It is always heartening to hear about companies coming up with clever, sustainable ideas. One such company, Back to the Roots, has created an easy mushroom kit that starts fruiting after only 10 days.

In 2009, two recent MBA graduates, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, stumbled upon the idea of "growing mushrooms on used coffee grounds". Typically, mushrooms are grown on tree logs, but oyster mushrooms also do well growing growing on a "waste" material that usually ends up in the land-fill.

Arora and Velez knew nothing about mushroom farming, but when they found a free source of coffee grounds, they began experimenting. They started selling their oyster mushrooms to Alice Water's Chez Panisse and Whole Foods. Peet's Coffeehouse ended up paying them to haul away their coffee grounds, which means that Back to the Roots (BTTR) not only got their mushroom substrate for free, they were making a little bit of revenue from the exchange. Last year, BBTR, diverted 3.6 million pounds of waste from the land-fill!

After much tweaking, BBTR, designed a simple Mushroom Garden that only requires you to mist it with water twice a day. You cut open the window, mist using the spray mister included, sit the kit on a window-sill and then harvest your pearl oyster mushrooms! You can grow up to 1 1/2 lbs of mushrooms per box and will get at least 2 crops, maybe more. You can use the mix of left-over mushroom roots and coffee grounds as a soil amendment for any outdoor plants, when you are finished harvesting your crops. Pretty cool, right?

Each kit costs $20 and can be found in many Whole Food, Home Depot, Safeway, Nordstrom, Bed, Bath and Beyond stores. Or you can buy it directly from Back to the Roots. They even have a kit that you can decorate yourself. Talk about a cool hands-on Science Project for children. I can't wait to get ours!
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Important Things

English: Mr. Keller
English: Mr. Keller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In honor of the snow that fell yesterday in the D.C./NOVA/MD area, I thought I'd share one of Mattie's poems about snow. As I mentioned here, Mattie Stepanek is one of my heroes.

During his short 14 years (spent mostly in a wheel-chair), he wrote 6 poetry books and worked tirelessly on promoting World Peace and visibility for people with disabilities.

Former President Jimmy Carter spoke at Mattie's funeral and said these words,

We have known kings and queens, and we've known presidents and prime ministers, but the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known in my life is Mattie Stepanek. His life philosophy was 'Remember to play after every storm!' and his motto was: 'Think Gently, Speak Gently, Live Gently'. He wanted to be remembered as "a poet, a peacemaker, and a philosopher who played".

If you can, go out and play in the snow today and think of Mattie.

Important Things

When I grow up,
I think maybe
I will be a snowman,
Because when it
Snows outside,
I'll already be cold
And like it.
And children will
Play with me,
And laugh
And sing
And dance
All around me.
And those are important
Things to have happen
When you grow up.

-Mattie (December 1993) Age 3
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Homemade Bathtime Paint

I haven't been doing many Art Projects with my toddler since making Valentines with her last year. Honestly, she's still has a tendency to put chalk and crayons in her mouth and has turned up her nose at several projects I've introduced, so I haven't been pushing much Art Making.
With this recent cold spell, we've been spending our days indoors. I decided to introduce some sensory baths to give her something new to do. I love the idea of letting her get nice and dirty and then being able to immediately wash everything off without having to go anywhere.
I squirted some organic baby bubble bath in some clean yogurt cups, mixed in some cornmeal and added a few drops of food coloring. Nothing original, but super easy and quick. I figured most of the paint would not be going in her mouth, so the food dye was okay.
I filled an paint palette with the paint and threw in some old brushes and sponges. She sat in the bathtub with no water in it for 45 minutes completely engrossed in painting herself and the tub. Then, I slowly added the water and she stayed for another 45 minutes. Success!!!
This is a terrific Middle-of-the-Day-You-are-so-Getting-on-my-Nerves Kind of Day Activity.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Midwives are My Heroes

My friend who recently became a Midwife posted this video on Facebook. I thought it was a great introduction to Midwifery as it is practiced in the United States today. I believe working as a Midwife is a powerful political act and I am grateful for all those women (and men) who sacrifice having a normal life (and schedule) to help women give birth with the dignity and respect every woman deserves. Midwives are my heroes.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Making Sense of the Senses

beautiful butterfly
beautiful butterfly (Photo credit: Amy Berry)
Our eyes are for looking at things,
But they are also for crying
When we are very happy or very sad.
Our ears are for listening,
But so are our hearts.
Our noses are for smelling food,
But also the wind and the grass and
If we try very hard, butterflies.
Our hands are for feeling,
But also for hugging and touching so gently.
Our mouths and tongues are for tasting,
But also for saying words, like
"I love you," and
"Thank You, God, for all of these things."

                            - Mattie Stepanek, April 1995, age 4

I am just in awe of Mattie writing such beautiful words at such a young age. Four years old. Incredible. His story is one of the most inspiring I have ever read and helps me through those whiny, self-pitying moments.  Here is the post, I wrote earlier this month about him. He is one of my Heroes.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Daughter's First Science Project

My parents gave me a Microgreens Kit for Christmas. I'm attempting to eat 6-8 servings of vegetables and fruit each day and instead of spending loads of money on organic greens in the Winter, I figured it would be more fun and cheaper to grow our own. I thought it would be a cool Science Project. I was right.

Nye-Nye LOVES to use a spray-bottle. For the first 5 days, you need to spray the seeds every 12 hours and keep them covered. My daughter may spray them a little bit more than necessary. But, her enthusiasm hasn't seem to hurt their growth. She gets so excited when we remove the cover to see how much her seeds have grown. It's pretty amazing.

After 5 days of darkness, you then uncover the tray and put it in sunlight for another 5 days. Typically, no more watering is necessary, although it is a good idea to check the growing pad every day just to be on the safe side. We are letting our first crop get a little bit bigger and forgot to water it after day 5. All the plants fell over on their side. They all mostly perked up after we watered the growing pad again.

Due to my child's love of spraying, we plan on starting another crop. We first grew Arugula and a Basic Salad Mix. Next up is a Spicy Salad Mix.

I set up the kit without my child around. She's not quite at the point of being able to help with carefully soaking the growing pads and evenly sprinkling a tablespoon or so of the seeds over the soaked growing pad. One of the most important things you need to do is check the ph level of your water and adjust the water accordingly. Set-up takes about 10 minutes. It takes less than 10 minutes a day to spray them twice. Talk about low maintenance.

It may seem expensive spending up to $20 on a pound of seeds but you are only using a tablespoon of seeds at a time. My kit is from The Sproutpeople and I have been very, very happy with it so far! It's such a cheerful act growing little plants in the Winter!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Putting the Movement Back

MLK Memorial
MLK Memorial (Photo credit: alvesfamily)
Today, is a special day. Not only are we remembering the Courage and Conviction of Martin Luther King, Jr. but our 44th President is being Sworn-in for a second term. In honor of MLK Day occurring on the same day as his Inauguration, President Obama is calling for a National Day of Service.

I'm thinking that something simple we could do would be to go for a walk on one of the trails along the Potomac and pick up trash. It would be fun to see the Capital Building and all the Monuments across the river (and not have to deal with all the traffic and people). The wonderful blog Kidfriendly DC has a list of tons of activities for children in DC celebrating the Inauguration.

One of my favorite things about living in the NOVA/DC area is the bookstore Busboys and Poets.  The bookstore is run by the staff of Teaching for Change, a non-profit devoted to providing "teachers and parents with the tools to transform schools into centers of justice where students learn to read, write, and change the world." Pretty exciting stuff.

"Teaching for Change" is a amazing resource whether you are a teacher or a parent unschooling, homeschooling or just encouraging your child to become a life-time learner. In honor of MLK and President Obama's Inauguration, I want to mention the book Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching.

When I was teaching at a Friends School, I discovered this book; it's full of some very brave and sometimes very ordinary people and deserves to be read and used in every classroom. There are tons of primary sources from such activists and writers as Leonard Peltier, Marcus Garvey, Ward Churchhill, Sonia Sanchez and Gwendolyn Brooks. Not only are there lessons on lesser known part of the African-American Civil Rights Movements but the Native American, Latina, Asian-American, Gay Rights and Women's Right Movements are also examined. There are numerous ideas for teaching students from Pre-School until High School.

I can't wait until my daughter is a little older and I can start using this fantastic resource!
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Friday, January 18, 2013

Toddler Fun with a Big Blue Exercise Ball

My mom's exercise ball
My mom's exercise ball (Photo credit: cbcastro)
One of Nye-Nye's favorite things to do at 21 months is to bounce on my Big Blue Exercise Ball. I was looking for a fun way to get her energy out and for me to get a little exercise.

In the beginning, I sat her either on my lap or between my legs and bounced her high in the air off of my lap. She would squeal with delight at bouncing so high. It was so much fun! After I got dizzy 4 or 5 weeks ago after bouncing for a few minutes, I realized that my pregnancy had progressed to the point  of it being time for me to give it up.

So now, I either lay her flat on her stomach on the ball and keep my hands on her back or she sits up on ball and I hold both her hips. She then has to use all her muscles to attempt to stay on the ball. It's hard work!

It is not for the faint of heart. I would NEVER play this game in front of my very nervous Mother-in-law. It gets a little out of control and Nye-Nye sometimes lands on the floor (softly). But, I know occupational therapists often use Exericse Balls in their therapy (probably a little less wildly), so I feel little guilt when she falls. Plus, we are both laughing so hysterically and having such a blast that I can't help myself. I'm so proud of my Fearless Little Girl.

What does this have to do with the Month of Courage? Sometimes as a Mama, you just have to take some deep breaths, be brave and let your kid get a few bumps and bruises.
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

25 Week Update

On Friday, I will be 26 weeks pregnant. I figured that for those who are actually interested, I'd give you an update with how this pregnancy has been progressing. If talking about pregnancies bore you, you may want to skip this post. I had a photo to go with this post, but I continue to have difficulty with Blogger letting me upload my own photos. So, no belly shot.

This pregnancy has felt very similar to my first (with a few exceptions). I lucked out both times and didn't develop any Morning Sickness (I'm kissing the ground in gratitude). My main complaint during both pregnancies has been exhaustion. I'm definitely feeling even more exhausted this time around. But, I know the main culprit is the rascally 21-month-old in my house who still struggles with some serious sleeping challenges. I'm not getting as much REM sleep as I need which is causing me a few more aches and pains (especially first thing in the morning).

I think acupuncture, 1-2 times a week, has really helped prevent any migraines for the last 2 months. I had about 7 or 8 migraines during my first 4 months (when I wasn't getting as regular acupuncture treatments). Thankfully, only one of those migraines resulted in me Praying to the Porcelain Gods for numerous hours. Unfortunately, Nye-Nye witnessed it and became very upset (which re-inforced my feeling that she won't be able to handle seeing me labor). She has gotten hysterical when she has seen me in pain or crying, so off to her Grand-parents' house she will go when my contractions begin.

Around Thanksgiving, I had 5 days of mild cramping. It happened while we were packing and moving, so I just ignored it. On the 4th day, I started getting concerned and went to my Midwives. Everything looked fine, so we just chalked it up to exhaustion and doing to much. Now, whenever I get a little bit of cramping, I drink 2 glasses of water, take 2 Tylenol and attempt to rest for 2 hours. "The Rule of 2" is what my Midwives call it.

The only other health issue I experienced is some strange dizzy episodes. My blood pressure continues to be great (if sometimes a little on the low side). After several times of experiencing severe dizzy and blurry vision (and even vertigo once), I realized the importance of eating a HUGE breakfast. Now, I try and eat a large bowl of oatmeal (sometimes two, if I'm sharing with my daughter), at least one cup of Greek yogurt and 1-2 hard boiled eggs. Trying to get in my 80 grams of protein a day!

I drink 1-2 cups of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea (with Nettle, sometimes with Hibiscus) a day. Nye-Nye loves the taste and always wants a few sips, so I let her decide whether we should drink it hot or cold. Both taste delicious.

My Midwives have strict Nutritional Guidelines. I have no problem eating the amount of veggies and fruits needed, it's just cutting sugar completely out of my diet has been difficult. I like to have some brown sugar on my oatmeal and two spoonfuls of sugar with my Earl Grey first thing in the morning. It's also been a challenge to cut out wheat completely from my diet (I definitely have my cheat days). Not eating white rice is also difficult when you are married to an Indian. 

I'm struggling with finding enough time to exercise as much as I need. Hopefully, our family can re-establish some kind of exercise schedule. We were doing well in December, when I was swimming a few times a week at night, but then we got off track. I've been having mini Dance Parties and walking up and down the stairs for 20 minutes at a time on some nights. Sometimes, I join Nye-Nye when she has her yoga video going, but I really miss swimming.

Prenatal yoga classes in our area are outrageously expensive, so regular class attendance is out of the question. I haven't established a regular walking schedule in our new neighborhood (which is on my ASAP Must-Do List). I know it will help. Of course, I spend my days chasing after a toddler, but I know I'm still not exercising enough. I think it's time to buy another pedometer!

I have been pretty good about doing my daily cat and cow exercises and getting my kegels in (all recommended by my Bradley Class ). I just have to be careful because if my kiddo sees me doing cat and cow, she wants to jump on my back.

One of the most amazing things about this pregnancy has been my daughter's reaction to it. She adores giving kisses to my belly and says "hello" to her sissy several times a day. She went to my pre-natal appointment at 17 weeks and heard the baby's heart-beat with the doppler. Every since then she loves lifting up my shirt, pointing to my belly and saying "heart-beat." Her favorite book is "Baby on the Way." She loves hugging my belly. I totally melts me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Eating Dates and Shorter Labor Times

A Medjool Date.
A Medjool Date. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you are pregnant and haven't heard about the study showing that eating dates in the last 4 weeks before labour can significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour and shorten the amount of time spent in active labor, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Here is the abstract from the Study...

"We set out to investigate the effect of date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera) consumption on labour parameters and delivery outcomes. Between 1 February 2007 and 31 January 2008 at Jordan University of Science and Technology, a prospective study was carried out on 69 women who consumed six date fruits per day for 4 weeks prior to their estimated date of delivery, compared with 45 women who consumed none. There was no significant difference in gestational age, age and parity between the two groups. The women who consumed date fruit had significantly higher mean cervical dilatation upon admission compared with the non-date fruit consumers (3.52 cm vs 2.02 cm, p < 0.0005), and a significantly higher proportion of intact membranes (83% vs 60%, p = 0.007). Spontaneous labour occurred in 96% of those who consumed dates, compared with 79% women in the non-date fruit consumers (p = 0.024). Use of prostin/oxytocin was significantly lower in women who consumed dates (28%), compared with the non-date fruit consumers (47%) (p = 0.036). The mean latent phase of the first stage of labour was shorter in women who consumed date fruit compared with the non-date fruit consumers (510 min vs 906 min, p = 0.044). It is concluded that the consumption of date fruit in the last 4 weeks before labour significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome. The results warrant a randomised controlled trial."

Pretty amazing, right? I'm definitely going to be stocking up on my dates.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Our Rumpus Room

Playground clock
Playground clock (Photo credit: yooperann)
I've tried really hard to limit the amount of plastic crap that comes into our house. But, recently, I made an exception....a rather large exception.

My in-laws asked us in November what they should get the Kiddo for Christmas. I tried to think of something that would bring my daughter hours of enjoyment during those long, endless Winter Days. Originally, I was thinking about a light-box. Then, I was honest with myself. What does my daughter love to do? As sad as it makes my Inner-Artist, making art is not high on her list of things to do. What is? Dancing, running around and being physically active.

That's when I had an Idea. Why not turn our unused Den into a Rumpus Room? Why not bring a Child's Playset inside? Who says they can only be used Outdoors? So, that's what we did. We asked my in-law's to buy a large hunk of over-priced plastic crap to help our child burn off some of her energy.

It has been a challenge occupying her during the Winter because she's definitely a Night-Owl. Her usual schedule is 8:30am-9:30pm, so there are many hours left in our day when all the cool kids' places are closed, she is still ready for action and going outside is not an option.

I am proud to say we FINALLY cleaned up the storage boxes enough to set up the Playset. There are still tons of boxes around the edges of the room but there is plenty room for her to slide down her TWO slides without running into anything. It's good enough. Sometimes that's all you can do.

I am happy to report....Our Rumpus Room is a hit! Nye-Nye is in love. And, I am so in love with the fact that we now have a way for her to be active after the Sun says Good-Night.

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The Good Work of KIVA

Kiva Site
Kiva Site (Photo credit: consnam)
Continuing along with my Month of Courage is one of my favorite organizations (besides WWF and Heifer International). KIVA is a non-profit committed to fighting poverty through empowering people to start and improve their own businesses through micro-loans. Each borrower shares a brief bio and photo; there are thousands of stories of courageous people trying to better their lives and the lives of their children. Many of them of are women.

To find a borrower, you can look at specific countries or particular sectors like: Agriculture, Education, Food, etc.... You can even use a filter to search for an attribute like: Fair Trade, Green practices, Underfunded areas or Conflict Zones.

Since it's founding in 2005, Kiva has distributed $256 million throughout 60 countries - many of these loans were lent in $25 increments. They have a 98.8% repayment rate. I've been a lender for several years now and highly recommend it to everyone.

Donating in someone's honor makes a wonderful gift. If you donate $25 in someone's name that person then can keep re-lending the $25, every time it's paid off. It's truly the gift that keeps giving.
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Herbs for a Cold, Cough and/or the Flu While Pregnant

Getting sick is never fun. It's especially not fun when you are pregnant. There is also the danger of contracting the flu while pregnant (which can cause some serious future side-effects for your fetus). I am taking my Elderberry Syrup religiously, but I know my immune system has been compromised due to over a year and a half of sleep deprivation.

It's frustrating because two of the herbs I ALWAYS use should be avoided (Yarrow and Thyme). I haven't really found an awesome resource for all the herbs you CAN use while pregnant, while trying to fight a cold or the flu. So, I have to come up with a list for myself. Here's what I have gleaned so far...

Herbs to Avoid

Sage (sore throat)
Wild Cherry Bark (cough)
Elecampane Root (cough)

Herbs that are Okay

Elder Flowers (fever)
Elderberries (flu and colds)
Linden (when you feel a cold coming on)
Red Clover (chest complaints)
Slippery Elm (sore throat)
Mullein (sore throat, cough)
Chamomile (fever) - I can't use because I'm allergic to it
Onion Cough Syrup

Boneset (raises body temperature to kill cold viruses)

Obviously, you want to get the okay from your Doctor or your Midwife, first. And, you may want to do your own research. But, hopefully, this will help you get a leg up. Take care, don't forget to wash those hands and good-luck staying healthy!

Friday, January 11, 2013

For Brand-New Mamas...Postpartum Herbal Sitz Bath

One of my College Friends gave birth to her first child and I am gathering together some herbs to send to her. Daily sitz baths can be incredibly helpful when recovering from childbirth. I was paranoid about developing some awful infection and so I took mine religiously. No issues. I definitely swear by them.

Here are some herbs that can be included in a "Postpartum Herbal Sitz Bath"

  • Rosemary
  • Yarrow
  • Comfrey
  • Plantain Leaves
  • Calendula Flowers
  • Lavender
  • Uva Ursi
  • Violet Leaves and Flowers
  • Shepherd's Purse
  • Lemon Balm
  • Lady's Mantle
  • Burdock

Some people also add Sea Salt to the mix which sounds perfect for those aching muscles.

I've made different batches, depending on what I had available. But, I always make sure to include Comfrey and Calendula and either Rosemary or Yarrow.

In the next month or two, I'll start gathering together my stash in preparation for the arrival of our second daughter. I'll probably wait to add the Comfrey, Violet Leaves and Flowers and Plantain because my sister should have some growing in her yard by the end of April.

When it comes time to make the tea, fill a giant soup pot with water. Let the water come to a boil (which will take a LONG time) and then turn off the heat. Add herbs and cover with a lid. Let it sit for at least an hour (hopefully longer). Over-night is the best.

Strain (if you put herbs directly into the pot) or remove the sachet of herbs and refrigerate.

An easy way to make a DIY sachet is to use a worn but clean kitchen towel. Add several handfuls of herb onto the middle of the opened towel. Close towel tightly with a string or thin ribbon. When you drop it in the water, you won't have to deal with the hassle of straining out all the floating herbs.

To use...fill up 1/2 your sitz pan with the tea and the other 1/2 with warm water. Or put the tea directly into your spray bottle for use after every trip to the bathroom. I made several batches and used them for several weeks.

This is an easy and very helpful gift to any New Mamas in your life. Fill up a few Mason Jars with the herbs, add some ribbon and a note and let the healing begin!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Autism and The Horse Boy

This film came out a few years ago and is a powerful testament of the love a parent feels for their child. It follows a couple, Rupert and Kristen, as they literally travel the length of the world seeking help and understanding for Rowan, their autistic child. The three make an awe-inspiring trek across Mongolia in search of healing.

It's beautiful seeing the amazing connection this child has to the animal world - The Horse Boy is an important reminder that each and every person has special gifts to share with the world.

Rupert and Rowan are now working to help "bring the healing effects of horses, nature and supportive community to autism families." Horse Boy World is their foundation. There is tons of interesting information on what they are calling "Horse Boy Learning." Workshops, books, ideas for teaching autistic children. Tons of fascinating stuff.

Do yourself a favor and get cozy one night this winter and watch this film about one courageous family.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Climbing to Heaven" by Mattie Stepanek


I was meaning to share this poem after the shootings at Newtown. It was written by someone whose short life was full of tremendous courage and hope. If you haven't heard the name, "Mattie Stepanek", yourself a favor and read a quick biography about him.

I profiled his mother, Jeni, last year during my Month of Courage. You can read my post here.

I have a few of Mattie's poems, I'd like to share with you, during this Month. They are all from his book of poetry entitled Journey Through Heartsongs that I randomly stumbled upon in the library. It never ceases to amaze me how books always find you.

Climbing to Heaven

In the winter, trees reach
Up to touch the sky.
Without their leaves,
The trees look like hands
And fingers stretching up
So, so, so high.
And if you look at the
Tallest tree in our backyard,
You can see that it is
So, so so close to Heaven.
Perhaps we could go out
And climb
Up the tree,
Up the hand,
Up the fingers,
And into the sky.
Then, we could just step
Through the clouds,
...And into Heaven.

                    -Mattie, January 1996

Mattie wrote these words when he was 6 years old. His life is an inspiration to all. An old soul, if there ever was one.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Month of Courage. 2013.

Very soon after the beginning of Catoctin Mountain Mama, I decided to organize my blog around a Monthly Theme. My Monthly Themes were inspired by my time at a Friends School. Some Months have been more successful than others.

This Month, I plan on sharing people and organizations who inspire me. All have demonstrated Courage one way or another. Here is my Round-up of posts from last year's Month of Courage. Hope you find a something that moves you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Make Compression Socks Your Friend

i got compression socks.
i got compression socks. (Photo credit: Corinna A. Carlson)
During my last pregnancy, I taught at a Montessori Preschool until I was 8 months pregnant. I was literally on my feet all day (except for 20 min for lunch and the 20 minutes I took a nap during my break).

It was fantastic exercise but I started getting some weird leg pain at 5 months. My midwife recommended that I start wearing "Compression Socks" (the kind that Nurses and Elderly people often wear) every day. They were amazing. I had no swelling in my feet until I was 39 weeks pregnant. I have the same shoe size as I did before I was pregnant.

I kept wearing them every day even after I left the job. Luckily, I had a pair of my Grand-father's, so we didn't have to plop down $50 on a good pair. I washed them every night, after I got they were dry and ready to wear the next morning. (Note: Those pink socks WERE NOT my Grandfather's, although I'm sure he could of rocked them).

Are they sexy? No. Are they cheap? No. But, if you are either on your feet all day or are sitting down all day, "wearing Compression Socks while you are pregnant" is totally worth it. Definitely get a pair.

I'm not nearly on my feet as much this pregnancy, but I just noticed some minor swelling at night once or twice. Time to bust out my special socks! I've wore size 8 1/2 shoes since I was 13. The vain part of me would like to stay that way!

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Crazy Easy, Crazy Good: "Lamb Orzo with Kale and Tomato Sauce"

Tomato sauce
Tomato sauce (Photo credit: Aelle)
My husband and I had one of those nights, the day after Christmas. We needed to go to the Grocery Store but didn't have the energy. We kept opening and closing the fridge door...hoping, magically that a meal would appear.
I then glanced over to the shelf and noticed some Orzo. My husband then reminded me that we had very small amount of Lamb left over from Christmas dinner. It wasn't enough to feed one person, yet alone two (and 1/2...the 1/2 being our toddler). We had a few leaves left of Kale and a jar of Tomato Sauce. Bam. Inspiration struck.

I thought of the Kale, he added the Tomato Sauce. It was fast, easy and so, so good! Cheers to and out of the kitchen!!!

Cooked Lamb (about 1 cup minced)
Orzo (about 8 oz)
Kale (about 3 leaves)
Tomato Sauce (1/2 a jar)
Spices of Your Choice
1. Cook Orzo for 9 minutes or whatever your directions say.
2. While the Orzo is cooking, mince up your Lamb and cut your Kale.
3. Two minutes before your Orzo is finished throw in the Kale.
4. Drain the water from the Orzo and Kale.
5. Put Orzo and Kale back into the pot and add the Tomato Sauce. Reheat. Add whatever Spices float your boat. Enjoy!
This "15 minute meal" was a hit with all three of us. Our 21 month old, ended up eating an entire bowl of this for dinner and for lunch the next day. Can't wait until we have some more left over Lamb!!!

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Elderberry Syrup for Flu Season

Honey & Elderberries
Honey & Elderberries (Photo credit: debcll)
It sounds like the Flu Season has really begun in earnest here in Northern Virginia. So, I wanted to share again how to make "Elderberry Syrup" for your family.

In 2011, Medical News Today reported how German scientists had found that extracts of "Sambucus nigra" had been shown to inhibit "the growth of influenza A and B viruses and bacteria associated with upper respiratory tract infections."

If taken before being infected with the flu virus, Elderberries can help prevent infection. If taken, AFTER being infected, Elderberries can help reduce the length and severity of your infection. Pretty nifty, right?

Since making my first batch of Elderberry Syrup, Nye-Nye and I have both been taking a tablespoon of Syrup every day. It's safe for pregnant women and children, over the age of 1 year old (just remember to run it by your Doctor first).

Whenever it seems like we start coming down with something, I up the dosage to 4-5 tablespoons a day. The one time I ran out of syrup and I took awhile to make some more, we both got sick. Otherwise, we've had a healthy Winter (so far).

As I wrote in this post, my daughter enjoyed helping me make the Syrup.

She helped pour the 1/2 cup of dried Elderberries I got from Frontier Herbs into the pan. She carefully added the tablespoon of crushed ginger, the cinnamon stick, and the 5 cloves to the mix. She then stirred the mixture for a few minutes (totally unnecessary...but she was having so much fun).

Together we added the 2 cups of water and then I put the pan on the stove. I covered it and brought it to a boil and then down to a simmer for 15 minutes.

She watched as I strained the mixture and used a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid from the berries. "HOT, HOT, HOT," she reminded me. Together, we sampled the syrup after it cooled.


I agree.

We've since made several more batches, some of which did not include the ginger, cinnamon stick or cloves. Those batches didn't taste quite as yummy. I definitely recommend adding all three of those ingredients.

I bought 1 lb of dried Organic Elderberries from Frontier Herbs which at $21 seemed expensive. But...when you look at an 8 oz bottle of Commercial Elderberry Syrup costing $16, you quickly realize how much money you can save by making your own!

The pound of Elderberries made enough Syrup for our family for 2 months. I just went to order some more from Frontier and found out they are already out of the Organic Elderberries.

Lesson ALL the Elderberries you need by September. Mountain Rose Herbs was out by the beginning of October.

I bought 3 lbs of the wild-crafted berries sourced from Poland (non-Organic). Frontier Herb serves numerous health food stories from around the country, so I'm hoping that they are very responsible about where they picking their berries. I can't wait until the berries arrive and we can make another batch.

If you are interested, check out this simple video on how to make your own! It's easy and fun to make with children (even toddlers). Enjoy and stay healthy this Winter...

Welcome 2013

English: Fireworks on the Harbour (Sydney) 2008
English: Fireworks on the Harbour (Sydney) 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's always takes a few months for me to grow accustomed to writing the date of the new year. 2013. Nice to meet you.

I was planning on sharing some photos from our Holidays including some of the presents we ended up making. But, I appear to be having some difficulty uploading new pictures to my blog, so that will have to wait.

Ironic since I FINALLY have a nice working camera for the first time since our camera broke in June. Thanks, Papa Bear for such a thoughtful present!!!

Hope you had a joyful Holiday season!

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