Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life: April 2013

Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life is about paying attention to what it is that we do on a day to day basis and how we impact each other and the planet. We will talk about all of the things that we do here at home to make ourselves and the world a better place.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day!

We passed a quiet Earth Day together today.  The kids wore the Earth Day shirts they had painted (although they were too busy playing in the dirt for me to get a picture of them).  Elliott and I spent a few delightful minutes on the couch together, folding a giant stack of wash cloths that we use for so many things around the house.  The kids took turns sitting on my lap at the sewing machine zig zagging cloth wipes for the potty.  Several of our old ones had worn out, and we keep running out between diaper loads.  I often find this type of sewing tedious, and had considered buying more, but since I already had the supplies, and the time, I decided it was more in the spirit of the day to make them ourselves.  I'm glad we did.  The kids really enjoyed getting to work on the sewing machine.  I sewed the cover for the cushion for Papa's rocking chair.  A friend and I reupholstered our two rocking chairs nearly 2 years ago now, but I'd never gotten the cover for his cushion made.  I finally had time and energy this afternoon, so I dug out the fabric and worked on it.  It isn't completely done yet, but I'm waiting to find out if Papa wants more foam for his cushion or if he wants it to stay as is before finishing it.  The children played outdoors all afternoon, soaking up the sunshine of a still rare (this spring) warm day.  Papa worked from home and neither of us drove anywhere all day.  And we finished the day off with a vegetarian dinner that was lovely!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

A Dozen New Cloth Wipes

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Parenting 101: Don't Say Don't!!

The toddler years are firmly upon us at our house, and Elliott is acting every bit of his nearly 2 years old!  While a lot of this time can be lovely, a lot can be tumultuous.  One thing that can be especially frustrating for tots is that their language and cognition skills have yet to catch up with their physical abilities, and their more grown up desires.  This is one of the big things that leads to temper tantrums and "acting out" at this age.  For a toddler, they are having the equivalent of an Italian vacation after having taken Italian 101 in high school.  Even the things they do understand can be confusing when they are combined with things they don't understand.  And imagine how frustrated you would feel if you were in Italy and everything you tried to tell someone was misinterpreted, or at least required lengthy clarification through gestures, limited words, and facial expressions!

There are some strategies to help children through this time, though. While it is important to use a broad vocabulary with children throughout their lives, when trying to negotiate a specific point with a toddler, use specific, simple words.  Be clear and concise.  Ask questions! Use gestures and show instead of just using words.  Point at things and ask, "This one?"

Another really important point to remember is that the word "don't" is kind of lost on toddlers.  Most of them are just cognitively not at the point of being able to register and understand this word in the early years.  Plus, saying "Don't XYZ" doesn't tell them what they should be doing.  Instead, as my children know well these days, tell them what you DO want them to do!

In fact, telling kids what you DO want is a good idea at every stage. Actually, it is just a good tip for communicating in general.  Even my husband likes it when I tell him what I DO want him to do instead of just nagging about what I don't want him to do.

So, remember, don't say don't!!!

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Baby Steps

Welcome to the April edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival - Going Green cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month, we write about going green and environmentally friendly living. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.

When people come to our home, or talk to us about our lifestyle choices, they are often surprised by the amount of sustainability built into our lives.  What isn't sustainable in our home, we have goals of changing.  To be honest, we live at a level of sustainability that most people find intimidating, at least.  But what many people miss about our lifestyle is this:

We didn't always live this way.

Once upon a time, we were standard issue Americans, with a house full of plastic stuff we didn't use or need, trading up for "better", eating processed foods, using coupons to get cheap paper products, getting horrible gas mileage, and on, and on.  So, how did we get from standard issue to where we are now?

We made one baby step at a time.

Because that is the only way to make lasting changes.  We started out, once upon a time, eating salad with dinner every night.  We increased our vegetable consumption.  We didn't buy organic, we didn't worry about GMOs.  We didn't do microgreens.  We bought raw veggies at the regular grocery store, and we made a salad every night.  And it was a big step for us, at the time!  Slowly, from there, we made one change at a time, until we reached the place in our lives where we are now.

At various times, we have made many changes.  Some of them were:

trading in our gas guzzlers for cars with better mileage
trading in houses with lots of extra room for snug little houses
trading in disposable diapers and wipes for cloth diapers and wipes
trading in paper towels and tissues for cloth wipes and hankies
trading in plastic wrap, plastic baggies, aluminum foil and other disposable kitchen products for reusable containers
trading in plastic toys for cloth, wood and metal toys
trading in plastic in our clothing (polyester, nylon, rayon, acrylic, acetate) for natural (biodegradable) fibers
trading in plastic in our home for glass, metal and wood
trading in conventional foods for organic
trading in processed foods for mostly made from scratch foods
trading in commercial cleaners for plant based soaps and water, baking soda and vinegar
trading in commercial laundry soap for soap we make ourselves, using environmentally friendly products
trading in fabric softener for drier balls
trading in 100% heated drier use for using the clothesline as often as possible
trading in traditional light bulbs for CFLs
trading in a lot of our toilet paper use for cloth wipes
trading in disposable feminine care items for reusable cloth products
trading in battery operated items for non-battery operated items whenever possible
trading in standard batteries for reusable batteries in the battery operated items we kept
trading in the big trash can for a small trash can and a recycle bin (our family of 5 uses about 1 standard kitchen bag of trash per week)
trading in throwing food scraps in the garbage for a compost heap
trading in buying new for buying used whenever possible
trading in one time use products for reusable products whenever possible
trading in traditional toiletries for plant based and less toxic toiletries
trading in gardening and household chemicals for non-chemical options
trading in the formula option for breastfeeding

And I'm sure there are many more trades we made along the way.  These changes were made over the course of about a decade, by the way.  Some changes were made in tandem, but the majority were made one at a time.  We made a change until we were comfortable that it was a habit, and we could do it without concentrating on it anymore.  Then we worked on a new change.  And this is how we continue to become more green, every day.  Because the only way to make lasting, meaningful changes, is to make them one baby step at a time.


  Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating eco-friendly living solutions into their everyday lives. We hope you will join us next month, as the Simply Living Blog Carnival focuses on Daily Lives!
  • Green Renovating: A Lot, A Little, Not So Much - Laura at Authentic Parenting ponders about the many things that have an impact on eco-friendly renovating
  • Growing Native in My Flower Beds - Destany at They Are All of Me takes the guilt out of her flower habit by switching from high maintenance flowers to native plants which not only lessens her gardening load, but also benefits the local wild life.
  • Baby Steps - Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares how her family became more sustainable, one step at a time.
  • A Greener Holiday - Sara from Family Organic discusses the overwhelming amount of "stuff" that comes with every holiday and talks about how to simplify instead.
  • Forcibly Green--Obligatory Organic - Survivor at Surviving Mexico talks about her family's evolution from passive to active green and sustainable living.
  • Giving It Away - Juliet Kemp of Twisting Vines writes about the role of Freecycle, the giant karmic lending library, in her simple and green living.
  • Simply Sustainable - Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses her family's attempts to live in harmony with the earth by living simply and more sustainably.
  • How Does Your Yarden Grow - Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassafras writes about an ongoing permaculture project, converting her grass lawn into a mower-free paradise.
  • Green? - Is it about ticking the boxes? sustainablemum shares her thoughts on what being green means in her life.
  • Using Cloth Products To Reduce Household Waste - Angela from Earth Mama's World shares how her family replaced many disposable household products with cloth to reduce their household waste.
  • Going Green in Baby Steps - Joella of Fine and Fair shares some small, easy steps to gradually reduce your environmental impact.
  • Are You Ready To Play Outside?! - Alex from AN Portraits writes about gardening, and playing in the dirt, and how it's O.K. to get dirty, play in the dirt, play with worms, for both adults and kids.
  • Lavender and Tea Tree Oil Laundry Booster - At Natural Parents Network, Megan from The Boho Mama shares an all-natural way to freshen laundry.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Food Intolerances: Our Journey

I talk to people often who have questions about our food intolerances and allergies.  How did we know we were allergic or intolerant?  How did we figure out what foods we could and couldn't eat?  How did we go about cutting foods out to figure it out?  So, I find myself telling the story again and again.  And I know that for all of the people who ask me, there are others out there wishing there was someone to ask!

Before our second child came along, I would have told you that we had no food issues in our immediate family.  My husband's mother had Celiac Sprue, diagnosed later in life, but my husband, myself and our daughter had no issues whatsoever.

And then came Walter.  And Walter was the most unhappy baby in all the land.  Walter started out with a posterior tongue tie, which took us 7 weeks to diagnose.  We were doing our best to breastfeed, but it wasn't working because he couldn't maintain suction.  So, I was pumping round the clock, while caring for an inconsolable newborn and a 2 year old whose world had just turned upside down.  After about 2 weeks, it became evident that I could not pump enough milk to give him breastmilk exclusively, and we began to supplement with a hypoallergenic formula.  Two weeks later, Walter was projectile vomiting formula (no breastmilk, just formula), had a red ring around his bottom, had stomach cramps, could barely sleep, and was all around miserable.  I was told that he was forming an allergy to the formula, and since he was already on the most hypoallergenic formula there was, that if I couldn't get enough breastmilk to feed him, I was to have him admitted to the hospital so they could feed him there.  Luckily, I had friends with pumps and the milk was supplied for the next 3.5 weeks until we diagnosed the tongue tie, had it snipped, and were able to nurse full time.

And then we had a little respite.  Sort of.  Walter still had crazy reflux.  Crazy, crazy reflux.  If he wasn't on 2 types of reflux meds simultaneously, he didn't sleep.  And those who know me will know that I don't medicate my kids unless it is absolutely necessary.  So having a newborn on 2 different reflux medications is not on my list of things I happily do.  But this baby was just miserable.  He didn't want to be worn in any of my carriers.  He wasn't sure he wanted to be held, even.  But putting him down meant eruptions of breastmilk from his poor little body.  His stomach cramped constantly.  I would be holding this little tiny baby, and he would start wailing, while his little body scrunched against me and his stomach would become as hard as a rock.  He would scream and flail.  Nothing could make it better, and nothing would calm him down.  Then, a few minutes later, his stomach would soften, and he would calm down again.  This went on day and night.  He would wake from a sound sleep, screaming in pain at the stomach cramps.  And the gas!  Oh my word!  All babies have gas.  This is just a fact.  And when I would try to warn people about Walter's gas, they would laugh like I was some prude who didn't know that babies get gas.  But Walter didn't have those cute little bubbles of gas that smell a little like milk at worst.  Walter had old man gas that smelled of rotten eggs so much that he once cleared about a 12 foot circle at a play group.  I think he was about 3 weeks old at the time.  And then there was the diarrhea/constipation cycle.  He would go days and days (and days) without having a bowel movement.  We would all wait and wait for it.  And then, when it would come, it would be dripping from all over him.  Many people claim that breastfed babies don't get diarrhea.  Those people are wrong.  Diarrhea in breastfed babies is runny, high in volume, lacks the "seeds", and is brown or green in appearance.  Until Walter was about 4 months old, pretty much every bowel movement required a bath.

Two year old Sofi would gather supplies for me while I held a baby, dripping in poo, over the kitchen sink.  She would bring the diaper pail, and I would strip his clothes off.  She would bring a dish towel, and I would lay it in the bottom of the sink and start the water.  She would get the baby's towel, a clean set of clothes, and his body wash if it had been left in the bathtub.  Then she would push her high chair over to the sink and stand next to me while I washed off all of the mess and rinsed him clean.  Then she would hand me things as I got him dressed.  I'm not sure what I would have done without her!  I still feel that way most days.

So, after three months of a baby who rarely slept, who vomited constantly (even with medication), who had stomach cramps and constipation and diarrhea and was just generally miserable, I finally gave in to a friend who said, "Kellie, you have got to take this baby off of dairy!"  We made a plan and went cold turkey off of dairy for 10 days.  Within just a few days, we had a different baby.  He was actually happy sometimes!  He slept some.  He stopped throwing up all of the time.  And, let me just take this moment to point out that there is a big difference between a baby who spits up, and a baby who vomits.  He stopped having nasty diarrhea and actually had some nearly normal bowel movements!  We knew we must be on to something.

But, you don't just give a food up and assume it worked.  No, you have to test it.  Scientific process and all.  So, after about 10 days, I sat down with a big, cold glass of milk.  Wow!  That glass of milk changed my outlook on life in ways I didn't even realize at the time.  First of all, my system revolted at this addition.  I lay in bed that night, feeling my stomach and intestines swelling and throbbing as that milk slowly made its way through my system.  You see, the normal response to drinking a glass of something is to move it through your system in a matter of minutes.  But, that milk had slowed my system to a crawl.  For weeks, I could feel with my fingers where that milk was in my system because of my swollen intestines.  I realized that first night that I would NEVER drink another glass of milk so long as I lived.

And let me be completely transparent here.  There are people who never drink milk, and people who drink too much milk, and all manner of people in between.  I drank a half a gallon of milk or more a day, and ate cheese, sour cream, blue cheese dressing, and any other kind of dairy you can think of on pretty much a daily basis.  So realizing all at once that I would NEVER drink another glass of milk again as long as I lived was PRETTY HUGE for me!

Within hours, my baby had become fussy again.  By 18 hours later, he was a mess!  Cramping, vomiting, constipated, screaming, not sleeping - the whole nine yards.  That glass of milk was definitely the culprit!

So, we knew the dairy had to go for me and Walter.  At that point, we were still naive enough to think that we could keep it in the house for Sofi and Micah, but not use it for me and Walter.  That lasted about 6 months.

And what do you do when you can't have dairy?  Well, you go out and buy dairy replacement products!  So we bough soy based margarine.  We tried several different types of milk substitutes - which were all terrible to me at first, by the way.  We bought soy based snacks since I had lost the milk protein.  I basically went from consuming dairy every day to consuming quite a bit of soy every day.  And while my stomach and intestines eventually recovered from the glass of milk experiment, Walter never did.  He never seemed to get past his old symptoms this time.  We were perplexed.

And then another friend said, "I hate to tell you this, but most people who can't tolerate dairy, also can't tolerate soy."  I did my research, and this is a fact!  So, the soy replacements went.  And Walter began to get better again!  The diarrhea was mostly gone.  We were able to discontinue one reflux medication.  He began sleeping sometimes!  The stomach cramps were mostly gone.

But still, there was something.  It happened after the weekend, a lot of the time.  It was obvious that there was something else that we were eating that was bothering him, but not something we ate every day.  This took a lot more trial and error.  We eliminated several of the top allergens, one at a time, with no improvement.  Finally, we eliminated corn - including my soda habit.  And I had a totally different baby!  Not only did he sleep, and poop, and keep food down - he actually giggled!  He played!  He was HAPPY!  It was such an amazing transformation!  He began gaining weight, as well. I forgot to mention this before, but while he was born my heaviest baby to date, he quickly dwindled on the growth charts.  When we would weigh him around exposures to dairy or soy, his growth would cease, even while he ate a normal amount.

So, we lived without dairy, soy or corn.  It was an adjustment for us, and there was quite a learning curve.  For instance, we had been off soy for probably four months before we realized that the tuna in water we regularly ate was actually in soy broth, not water.  To get tuna that is not in soy, we actually have to spend two to three times the amount of money that we would for regular tuna.  We had to learn that while a food at a restaurant might seem safe, it was never safe to assume that it was.  For example, would you have guessed that the meat at Subway almost all has dairy and soy in it as fillers and flavor enhancers?  And we learned that if we aren't reading it in writing, that we cannot assume that people working at a restaurant actually know what is in the food; like the manager at an Arby's who assured me that their wheat bread didn't have any dairy or soy - it was only "wheat and bread."

And no matter how diligent you are, there are always contaminations.  We once bought a giant jar of peanut butter marked "processed in a facility with (other allergens)" and were sick for a month before we figured out what the culprit was.  We learned pretty quickly that having our contaminants in the house at all just didn't work.  If Sofi had butter on her toast, it would somehow end up in mine or Walter's mouth - probably just from a little spot of it on the counter or table where it had been prepared.  So everyone in our house learned to live without these things.  And our lives improved in unimaginable ways.  While many people we knew were astonished to learn that we didn't eat so many foods, and couldn't imagine living without them, we couldn't imagine going back to the constant illness, the screaming baby who didn't sleep, and the tension in the house that went with all of that.

Another note in this time frame; we spent plenty of time at doctor's offices during these months.  The allergy clinic did a blood test on Walter for the foods that I said he couldn't eat, and it came up negative for food allergies.  The GI doctor tested his stool and it tested positive for blood, which the doctor informed us indicated that he had food allergies.  No one could tell us what he was allergic to, and there are no test for sensitivities or intolerances that are reliable (and yes, I've spent hundreds of desperate dollars testing them out).  So, we were on our own, working through the process of elimination and monitoring symptoms.  But we KNEW that there was a problem directly related to food and through researching and maintaining the diet ourselves, we were able to achieve the results the doctors wanted to achieve (remove symptoms and allow Walter to gain weight) although they were not so willing to entertain the idea that the symptoms were related to food.

So, this is how our life went on for 2 years.  We ate our diet.  Walter grew, was a mostly happy little man.  And we were a happy little family again.  Except...  except that we just felt like we were missing something...  And we watched, and noted, and tried to figure it out.  Finally, I decided that we were going to try going off gluten.  This seemed to big and difficult, considering how little we could eat already.  I was afraid.  I was intimidated.  But I was also determined.  I hadn't come this far in the journey to getting my little man healthy only to ignore symptoms that I saw because I was intimidated.  I knew we could do it - there was just a large part of me that didn't want to do it.

These two pictures were taken about two months apart, with us going gluten free about six weeks before the second picture.  You can see that he is already gaining weight, and his hair is getting thicker.
This picture was taken about 6 months after the second picture above. Look at how much more hair he has, and how thick and curly it is!
In the end, it turned out that going gluten free was the easiest transition we had made yet, for all it seemed so intimidating!  We had already learned so much about food sensitivities, and how to be safe, and how to look out for hidden ingredients, and all of the other pitfalls, that gluten didn't seem nearly as hard as the original eliminations had.  And we saw such an incredible difference in Walter!  After being off gluten for only a matter of weeks, his bowel movements changed.  I realized after seeing them change that up until that time, there had been blood in his stool every day.  I just thought that was what his stool looked like!  It was truly a miracle to have him off all of those foods and watch him become a totally different person who felt and looked healthy, revitalized, and full of energy!

Over time, him symptoms have changed.  I've become so used to watching for the differences from foods over the years, that I see things that other people would write off as different things in a four year old boy.  For instance, starting when he potty trained, Walter would have accidents ONLY when he had an exposure to one of his allergens.  He still will wet the bed ONLY when he has been exposed.  He has a tendency to lose impulse control when he has gotten an allergen.  I laugh that he is the poster child for ADD when he gets something, but he has gotten better at coping over the years. His behavior is still off, his emotions run high, and he has a harder time coping with day to day things when he has had an exposure.  Over the past year, he has begun developing a rash on his body when he comes into contact with gluten.  And in general, he can just seem rash, defiant, and uncooperative when he has a contamination.  He also gets dark circles under his eyes when he's had a contamination.  He still gets stomach cramps.  I no longer accompany him to the bathroom, but sometimes when he gets something, he will yell and cry as he has a bowel movement.  He has learned that when he gets a contaminant, he doesn't feel good and he doesn't like it.  So he is very responsible for his own well being in this area, and willingly avoids foods that have these things in them.

Elliott, also has several food sensitivities.  He can't have all of the same things as Walter - except that we learned recently that Walter can't tolerate hemp and hemp milk is the only milk substitute that Elliott does tolerate.  Elliott also can't tolerate rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or eggs.  He is also iffy on peanut butter.  His reactions are similar to Walter's, but not as intense.  He has always slept quite a bit more than Walter did.  He doesn't get the insane mood swings that Walter does with contaminations.  He gets cramps, but not as badly.  He has always gotten rashes from various foods, which Walter didn't as a baby.  And Elliott's reflux wasn't as bad as Walter's, although he did still require medication as a baby.

And in the middle of all of this, we discovered that I am allergic to milk.  This explained SO much of my life!  And, I finally allowed myself to be convinced by the helpful people in my life that if both boys were reacting to the same foods in my breastmilk, that I also have a problem with those foods, or they wouldn't have passed through my milk in pieces big enough to be recognized as dairy, soy, corn or gluten.  Had I been processing them properly, they would have been recognizable only as breastmilk.  Eliminating these allergens from our diet, our toiletries, and everything else we come in contact with has cleared up my acne (although I immediately break out again if I have dairy).  It has helped tremendously with my skin health over all, and with my dandruff (although it is always bad, it just isn't as bad).  It has helped my mood to become more stable.  It has helped the lives of our entire family to be more calm and happy.

At this point, all of us eat the same diet when we are together.  Sometimes Papa or Sofi will eat something on our no list when they are out somewhere without the rest of us, but for the most part, we've learned that we all feel better without these foods in our diets.

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