Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life: May 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.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Parenting 101: Finding a Routine or Rhythm

One parenting tool that I have seen work time and again, but which is so difficult for many parents to adopt, is having a daily routine or rhythm.  This simple technique can improve so many aspects of daily life, including moodiness (in both parents and children), power struggles, eating problems, bedtime struggles and sleep times, and so much more.

Many parents struggle with the idea of a routine.  They feel as though they are not organized enough.  They have a varied schedule during the week and so a daily routine seems impossible.  They feel like it is too much work to maintain the same routine day after day or it seems like a chore.  They feel that a routine is too constraining and doesn’t allow the child to follow his or her own lead, or that it doesn't leave time for impulsive play.  However, a daily rhythm or routine can work for ALL of these people.

The trick is to not make it too rigid, if rigid doesn’t work for your family.  Now, I will also say that if your family needs rigid, by all means, go for rigid!  When Sofi was a toddler, rigid was the name of the game.  She had to be eating by certain times every day or she just couldn't handle life.  So I had alarms set for snack and meal times to remind me to start cooking before she lost it.  It worked well for us at the time and it kept a lot of peace in the household.  Luckily, the boys haven’t needed so much structure and Sofi has grown into being able to wait longer to eat.  So the past several years we haven’t been so rigid.

So, how does one go about making a rhythm for their family?  Start off with some utensil for making a list - pen and paper, computer, smart phone, whatever works for you.  See how flexible this is already?!  Now, think about what your family already does every day.  Probably, you eat a few times.  Perhaps there is a nap involved.  You probably all go to bed at some point.  Perhaps there is another daily event, like homeschooling, that typically happens every day.  Perhaps you brush your hair and teeth every day.  Perhaps you typically - even for part of the year - play outside every day (or your kids do), or just have a free play period every day.  Just jot all of that stuff down.

Now, start putting it all in order of how you usually do these things.  Include anything that anyone does, even if it happens simultaneously.  Our day typically looks a lot like this:

Daddy wakes up early.
Sofi wakes up.  Daddy may send her back to bed or it may be late enough for her to stay up.
Daddy and Sofi hang out and make their breakfast.
The boys wake up.
Mommy wakes up and gets dressed.
Mommy makes breakfast for anyone who hasn’t eaten yet.
Daddy leaves for work if he hasn’t already.
Everyone eats breakfast and cleans up the table.
Structured homeschool activities (math, spelling, sight words, whatever we happen to be working on at the time).
Kids get dressed.
Brush everyone’s hair and teeth.
Free play.
Lunch time (anywhere between 11 and noon).
Elliott naps while the big kids play and Mommy does chores or computer work.
Afternoon free play and Elliott wakes up at some point.
Dinner prep.
Eat dinner - ideally between 5:30 and 6:30.
Bedtime alarm goes off and we do bedtime routine.

So, you can see, the only things on my list with any times attached are lunch and dinner, and even they are a bit flexible.  The bedtime alarm does go off at 7:30 every night, but if we are still at the table, we run late for bed.

Also, we tend to only follow this routine during the week - the weekend has its own sort of routine.  And, we don’t follow the routine to a T every day, either.  On Tuesdays, for instance, we have swim class after lunch.  But, we simply replace the portion of the afternoon routine that we would normally do with the Tuesday swim class routine - we don’t overhaul the entire day because of the change.

Our routine is very flexible, but it allows the kids to feel that they have some control over their days.  They know what is coming.  They know what to expect.  There is no struggle most days, because they know what will happen and they don’t fight it.  And if there is a part of the day that they fight - we figure out what the struggle is and how to make it less struggle for everyone.

Another nice part is that if there is something I need to happen every day, or that I’d like to add in to our day, I just look at the routine and figure out when it would be best for that to happen, and set a reminder on my phone.  Then, it just becomes habit since it is part of the routine, and we all get adjusted to it.

Does your family use a routine?  What does it look like at your house?

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Add in the Positive

One of the biggest obstacles I see to people adopting a healthy lifestyle is that it is so hard to give up the many unhealthy habits they have picked up along the way.  It is hard to picture a life without junk food, disposable plastics, chemical laden cleaners and toiletries, or whatever your vision of a healthy lifestyle entails.

I think that for our family, one of the things that has made the changes so much easier for us is that we rarely look at our changes as giving up.  We almost always look at our choices as adding in, or replacing a habit.  As I’ve said before, our first healthy lifestyle change was to add in a salad at dinner every night.  We didn’t give up any other foods to add in that salad, but we were very careful to always have a salad with dinner.  Even if we ate frozen pizza for dinner, we ate a salad with it.  This was a small change, but it was one that we could do.  Even if we had a bagged salad because we didn’t have time that day/week/month to cut up veggies, we were careful to have our salad!  It really wasn’t hard once we got going with it.  We learned all sorts of fun things that we could add to lettuce to keep it interesting.  We didn’t worry at the time about organic, or gmo, sugar content, fat content - nothing but adding in that serving of raw fruits and veggies to our day.  And it worked!  Both my husband and I - the only ones in our family at the time - got healthier.  We both stuck to it.  It even improved our relationship to have a goal that we were working at together.  And that one small addition was such a catalyst for change in our lives that we could have never predicted at the time.

Over the years since then, I’ve seen and heard many a tale about how people want to be healthier, eat better, feel better, etc, but it is just so overwhelming thinking about overhauling their entire diet, routine, etc.  The secret is not to overhaul your routine, diet, or whatever, but to simply ADD IN one healthy habit.  Once you have got that habit mastered, and you feel good about it, just add in another!

One of the places where this has a huge impact is diet.  Adding in one healthy dietary habit can change so much in your life that you don’t even realize.  Some ideas of things to add in are:

*Make sure to eat 5 - 8 servings of fruit and veggies per day.
*Eat a serving of fruits and veggies at every meal.
*Eat a snack of fruit or veggies first before reaching for a sweet or salty snack.
*Eat a salad with dinner every night.
*Eat nuts or trail mix as a snack first, before reaching for a less healthy snack.
*Try out a new healthy food every week.  If you like it, you’ve added something new!  If you don’t, you aren’t committed to eating it again.
*Have a meatless dinner night once a week.
*Commit to making a meal plan or menu every week, two weeks, or month.
*Replace part of your white flour with whole grain flour when baking.
*Replace a white flour product with a whole grain alternative.  Not all whole wheat products have the consistency of typical whole wheat.  Try some new things and see what you like or don’t like!
*Learn to cook from scratch, if you don’t know how to already.  Commit to making one meal a week from scratch.  Or, learn to make your favorite meal from scratch.

There are many other habits that can fall under this category.  Just pick one and start today!

What will you change today?


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Parenting 101: Use Your Words

One of the best tools in the parenting toolbox for toddlers is "Use your words!"  This should be your mantra as the parent of a toddler!  Using your words teaches your toddler how to express him or herself in constructive ways to help the world around them make more sense and to help them get their needs met more easily.  So if you really want to help your toddler through all of the rockiness and trauma that can accompany the time between about 18 months and 4 years, you really, really need to

Use your words!

Yes, you read that correctly.  You need to use your words, as a parent.  As a parent, it is very important that you are talking, talking, talking to your children.  The more words a child hears, the smarter that child will be and the larger a vocabulary that child will have.  Not only that, using real world applications for words teaches your child how to interact with the real world in a real way.  Reading books is a great way to expand a child's knowledge, but talking them through an everyday situation can be far more valuable.

One of the best, and least used applications of this theory is the temper tantrum.  One sage piece of toddler advice, passed on to moms over and over is to ignore temper tantrums.  This may work for some families.  It may get the child to stop throwing tantrums.  I've never seen this happen, but perhaps it does.  Another approach, and one that we have seen major success with, it to try talking to your child as the tension mounts.  Asking questions or even just verbalizing for the child that you understand the problem can often quell the rising tide of emotion.  This is not to say that you have to agree with or give in to the child, but just acknowledging that you know what they are communicating, you understand their frustration, and that you are sorry that it has to be that way can often take the situation down to a tolerable level.

For example, Elliott has lately reached a very proprietary stage.  The words "mine, mine!" come out of his little mouth quite often these past few weeks.  And when his older siblings refuse his shouts for whatever toy they are playing with, he gets quite upset.  Rather than force his siblings to give up the toys they are playing with, we have talked our way through the situation with Elliott.  "Elliott wants the tractor?  Yes, I understand that you want to play with the tractor.  It is Walter's turn with the tractor right now.  Elliott can have a turn in a minute when Walter is done.  And Elliott is upset?  I understand, Elliott is sad about the tractor.  It will be Elliott's turn in a minute."  Going through this scenario actually does help to calm him down about 8 times out of 10.  Just being understood helps him greatly.  Typically, we also try to find an alternative toy for him in these situations, but it isn't always possible and sometimes he just has to wait.

The greater pay off, though, happened this morning.  I was upstairs getting dressed and ready to come down for the day.  Daddy had just left for work and all 3 kids were playing downstairs.  From my room, I could plainly hear them enjoying themselves when suddenly I heard that patter of toddler feet and Elliott demanded, "Tractor!  Tractor!"  Walter responded with complete kindness, "I'm playing with the tractor right now, Elliott!"  There was a brief pause and then, Elliott exclaimed, "Turn!  Turn!"  Walter calmly replied that Elliott could have a turn with the tractor in just a minute - and then followed through.  Elliott, for his part, was able to feel that he had communicated his needs, been heard and understood, and was able to wait the minute for his own turn with the tractor, without having a tantrum.

And in case you missed the other huge part of this equation - Walter, at 4 years old, knew how to handle the situation calmly, fairly, and appropriately, because while helping Elliott we have also modeled for Walter and Sofi how to compassionately help someone - even when we aren't prepared to give them what they want.

So just remember, parents - use your words!!!

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Picky Eaters and Food Allergies/Intolerances

I'd really like to share a part of my own personal food journey with my readers.  This is something that has been tossing around my mind a lot lately, and I really feel like it is something that is greatly misunderstood by people who do not suffer with food allergies.

Picky eating and food allergies go hand in hand.  Food allergies and intolerances literally mess with our body chemistry and give us all sorts of crazy signals.

To start with, foods that we cannot tolerate can actually invade our brains and make us crave the very foods that make us sick.  It seems self-destructive to just crave cheese, knowing that it will make us sick.  But we are not making a conscious choice to want the food that will make us sick!  It is a battle with our body to NOT want these foods.  This is one of the things that can leave us really needing support from those around us.  Watching someone else eating what you are craving but shouldn't have is just as difficult as trying to quit smoking while sitting next to all of your friends smoking at the bar.

For another, having food allergies can make our stomachs more sensitive, and make it more difficult to digest foods - especially if we are eating foods that we aren't tolerating!  And even after we find out about our intolerances, depending on how much trauma our bodies have been through, it can still be a struggle to eat different foods throughout our lives.

And last, babies and children who have food intolerances are often naturally more hesitant with new foods - even without social pressures.  Some in the scientific community feel that this may be an instinctive protective measure.  It has been found several times that many children with food issues begin eating later in infancy, and are picky eaters as children.

As I've said before, I have a dairy allergy that I was diagnosed with at 29 years old.  I have had it my entire life.  And yes, I mean allergy, not lactose intolerance.  Yet, I managed to live 29 years without knowing that I had any type of food issue.  In fact, if you had asked me before I found out about the dairy allergy, I would have told you that I was one of those lucky people who didn't have any trouble with food - dairy specifically - except that I was very particular about what I would eat.  And I always have been.  But after finding out about the allergy and eliminating dairy from my diet, I feel like a completely different person.  It turns out, you just feel what is normal for you.  You don't actually know what normal feels like for anyone else.  And normal for me felt pretty hellish - though I had no idea at the time.

I could talk about lots of effects that eating dairy my first 29 years of life had on me, but the part I really want to address here today is the picky eating - because I think this is an aspect of food allergies that is often overlooked and misunderstood.  So I'd like to give the perspective of an adult who has dealt with this for over 33 years now.

I almost never drink water.  It is this giant point of contention in my life, and one that I get so tired of justifying to others.  But I just cannot do it.  And I've never been able to.  I am married to Mr. YouNeedToDrinkMoreWater.  The week before we were married, my mom traveled out and stayed with us to help us prepare for our wedding.  After just a day or two of listening to Micah try to persuade me to drink more water, she said to him, "I stopped trying to get her to drink it when she was 1.  I've never seen another baby who wouldn't drink water."  And that is the summary of my relationship with water, right there, folks.  My entire childhood, I was told that I just didn't like water - that I'd rather drink Kool-Aid.  I was told that I was just too stuck up to drink water.  I was told that I was just stubborn.  I was told several things about why I wouldn't drink water.  And when I would reply, in the only capacity that I could as a child, that drinking water made my belly hurt, I was ridiculed and told how it "really" was.  Even as an adult, I was ridiculed when I said that drinking water upset my stomach.  I was told that I just wanted an excuse to drink Coke all the time.  I was still ridiculed, laughed at, told how absurd that was and that water couldn't upset anyone's stomach.  All well and good, except that it upset MY stomach.

And then, at 29, I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy, and I eliminated all dairy from my diet.  And the most amazing thing happened.  I can actually tolerate a small amount of water in a day!  But just a small amount.

And I learned a little something about my body that has FINALLY helped me to articulate to people my dilemma with water.  When I eat dairy, my digestion slows to a crawl.  If I eat a bite of cheese, you can trace it through my intestinal tract from the outside of my body for up to 2 weeks.  Sometimes, you can even see it from the outside of my body.  This is because my entire digestive system swells around that bite of cheese (or other dairy).  So I have learned that when I have a stomach full of dairy, my stomach swells up and undigested food just sits there - sometimes for days.  I lose all appetite.  Sometimes it takes me two meals to finish an entire sandwich after an exposure.  There is just not much room for food in such an inflamed stomach.  And when I was on a steady stream of dairy, my intestines were also always swollen, full of undigested food and acid.  It was quite uncomfortable.  And water, well...  pouring water into the vat of acid and undigested food in my stomach was an absolutely miserable experience.  It raised the level of acid in my stomach and made it burn.  The water against my swollen tissues caused burning, nausea, and sometimes actual pain.  And it still does, if I have had a dose of dairy!  In fact, even when I have not recently had a dairy exposure, my stomach is still so hypersensitive that it is still leary of water.

Yet, people feel the need to lecture me all the time about my water consumption.  I really need to drink a gallon a day.  I really need to try.  Am I sure it isn't just a sugar addiction?  Have I ever tried drinking water with lemon?  What about with honey?  Is it just an excuse?  Have I tried spring water?  What about filtered water?  And on, and on...

Just a note - I am 33 years old.  I know my body.  I know what it needs.  I have learned more about nutrition in the last 4.5 years than most people will learn in their lifetimes.  Yes, I know about water with lemon.  Yes, I know it is important to stay hydrated.  No, I still cannot tolerate water.

And then I look at my 4.5 year old son.  I watch him pick at his food.  He loves crunchy veggies.  He loves fruit.  He likes meat, as long as there isn't anything that even looks like fat on it.  He likes plain rice, potatoes, pasta, oatmeal, and sometimes quinoa.  He drinks almond milk hand over fist at meals.  He loves salmon patties.  But he doesn't like most cooked vegetables.  He doesn't trust any food that is mixed up.  He can't stand to have his applesauce touch anything else on his plate.  He eats what the rest of us are eating for dinner 2-3 nights per week, depending on what is on the menu.  And he rarely drinks water.

I get the conventional wisdom from all sides that says I am not a short order cook.  He needs to learn to eat what everyone else is eating.  He will eat when he is hungry enough.  He needs to learn to be a more adventurous eater.  I need to just make him eat what the rest of us are eating.

But then there is my own inner voice that is so tired of people giving me a hard time about what I will or won't eat.  There is my own experience of being a child and being forced to make a choice between eating something that upset my stomach or going hungry.  There is my own experience as an adult, who still didn't know what the problem was, and being ridiculed for not eating what everyone around me thought was delicious, amazing food.  And there is a large part of me that is still angry at the people who try to convince me that I just don't know my own body or what is good for me.

Having food allergies is hard!  I think that having food intolerances is almost harder because there isn't reliable testing for it, and people take cramps, diarrhea, and other general symptoms much less seriously than, oh, say, a peanut allergy that can kill you.  But having to deal with the picky eating that can result from having a food allergy or intolerance is almost the worst!  Having the world at large feel free to judge you by what you are and aren't capable of choking down is one of the more degrading aspects of food issues.

And this is what I try to bear in mind when I look at my little man, searching the dinner table for something that looks appetizing.  Is it as fun to feed him as it is to feed his sister and brother who are always eager to try new foods?  Honestly, no.  But is it just as valid for his distressed little stomach to want to take it slow and stick to foods he knows won't bother him?  Absolutely.  So, he is allowed to make himself something else or to ask for a (premade and frozen) burger patty or salmon patty while I am cooking something that the rest of us will enjoy.  Because his food issues are something that he is already struggling to overcome on his own - and will for the rest of his life.  I don't need to be one of the people who ridicules him for not eating steamed veggies.

The pictures in this blog are nearly 3 years old.  That was how far back I had to go to find pictures of my man eating.  Sofi and Elliott have tons, taken all of the time, because eating is one of their favorite things.  Walter, on the other hand, has tons of pictures doing just about everything else, instead.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Parenting 101: The Magic Timer

The Magic Timer is this miraculous invention, created by I couldn't tell you who.  But, I CAN tell you that it works!  It works ridiculously well.  One thing that really helps children to make transitions is a predictable event.  Some things come with their own event to make the transition easier - Mommy arrives at the babysitter's, it is time to get ready to go home.  Some things do not - what signals that it is time to stop playing at the park, or in the bathtub, or that it is time to let our brother have a turn with the cool toy?  This is where the Magic Timer comes to the rescue!
What is this Magic Timer, you say?  Where can you get one?  Does it cost $19.99 plus shipping?  Heck no!  The Magic Timer can be any timer you have available!  A kitchen timer will work - even the one attached to your stove or microwave if the kids can hear it from where they are.  If you don't have one of these, there are apps for your smart phone or programs for your computer that will work.  A wrist or pocket watch with an alarm will work.  A stop watch isn't ideal, because it doesn't usually ding, but it can work in a pinch if that is all you have.

How do you use it?  When you are about ready to make a big transition with your child that you know the child is not going to make easily, you whip out your timer and follow these three easy steps!

1. Say, "We are having so much fun at the playground, but we are going to have to leave in about 3 minutes, so I can start cooking dinner.  I'll set the timer for 3 minutes!"  You set your handy timer, and the countdown begins.

2. If you know this is a particularly tough transition for your child, give a few more reminders as the timer counts down.  "Ok, we have one more minute before the timer goes off!  Hurry and go down the slide again as fast as you can!"

3. When the timer goes off, draw the child's attention to the timer before you turn it off.  Then, ask them to wrap up their activity in a way that works for them, and highlight what you are going to do next.  "The timer is going off!  It's time to come down from the playground!  Do you want to slide down the slide, or walk down the steps?"  When the child has chosen and followed through, because it is still fun to go down the slide or the steps or what have you, then move on to the highlighting.  "We are going to go inside and make some dinner!  Are you hungry?  I'm hungry.  We'll have some yummy green peas!  While I make some rice, you can stir your pans on the floor!"  Whatever gets your kid excited about what you are doing, this is what you need to be highlighting.  Talk about it together the entire way into the house.  Don't look back.

The magic timer works really well for a number of different transitions.  We use it nightly for bedtime.  There is an alarm on my phone that goes off when it is time to get ready for bed.  No matter what we are doing when that alarm goes off, my kids know that the time is nigh.  If we are eating dinner still, they finish up, clean up their spots, go potty, and head upstairs.  If we finished dinner an hour ago and they are crafting or playing, they know when the alarm goes off it is time to clean up, go potty, and head upstairs.  No muss, fuss, or arguing.

We use it for long car trips, so the kids know when we will be stopping.  I've set it to help them wait for dinner to be done, or Daddy to get home, or when I'll be ready to do a requested activity with them.  I've set it to help mediate a toy sharing issue.  I've set it for leaving activities or friends' houses.  The Magic Timer is just a great tool that kids can count on.  It can't be argued with - Mom didn't say you had to get out of the tub, the timer just went off so bath time is over!  It is predictable - once the timer is set, it always goes off.  It is a definitive - time to make dinner is very slippery for a child who can't tell time yet, but knowing that the timer is going to go off lets the child get comfortable with the situation knowing that there will be a definite signal when it is time to go.

Does it work every time?  Well, sadly, as in all things parenting, it isn't going to work every single time.  The initial use of the timer is something that will need to be worked at.  The younger the child, the less they will grasp the concept of the timer at first.  In my experience, children do catch on pretty quickly to the timer, even at a young age.  But, the first time it goes off, they will need to be shown exactly what is going on, and instructed (gently) in exactly what it is that is expected of them in response to the timer.  But keep your patience up, keep the Magic Timer a positive experience, and in very little time it will be one of the best tools in your parenting toolbox.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Firefighter Training Homeschool Curriculum

Welcome to the May 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Emergency Preparedness
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their plans to keep their families safe. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
My daughter has just completed her first "year" of homeschooling, which seems like a silly thing to say considering that we've been teaching her at home her whole life.  But, she completed all of her goals for first grade.  One of our favorite units, which we broke into two parts, we called "Firefighter Training."  Sofi love, love, loves firefighters, and anything firefighter related.  She tells everyone that she will be a firefighter when she grows up.  So, when we needed to talk about safety related subjects - as required by law in our state, and just for common sense purposes - I tried to make it more fun and pertinent for her by calling it Firefighter Training!

Firefighters need to be able to cope with all types of situations.  We have learned that pretty much all firefighters have to not only know how to fight fires, but also need to be trained as paramedics.  Most of the time, when a 911 call comes in, the local fire department also responds.  Often, at the scene, paramedics and police officers need the strength and specialized tools that a fire company carries - even if there is no threat of fire.  So, it was important for my little firefighter to know how to cope with all manner of emergency situations - not just how to aim a hose at a fire.

For our unit, we covered the following topics:

I. List of emergencies to prepare for.
A. Fire
D. Earthquake
E. Flood
F. Winter Weather
G. Extreme Heat
H. Downed Power Lines
I. Wild Animals
J. Gun safety
K. Being lost
L. Injury 
M. Sneaky People

II. Know how to identify warnings
A. weather sirens
B. Weather app

III. How to prepare for each emergency
A. Fire
1. Discuss Exit Strategy
2. Make a Map
3. Know meet up destination
1. Stay under sturdy cover
2. Stay away from windows
3. Stay away from tall objects
1. Take cover in a low lying area
a. basement
b. bathtub
c. ditch
2. Protect head, neck and back
a. mattress
b. hands
D. Earthquake
1. Drop to hands and knees and crawl to shelter
2. Shelter under sturdy tables during quake
E. Flood
1. Do not play alone near lakes, ponds, rivers or streams
2. Do not play in water drainage ditches
3. Do not go into water that you cannot see through
4. Do not go into water that has debris floating in it.
F. Winter Weather
1. Wear warm clothing
a. Long underwear
b. Long sleeved shirt/sweater
c. Warm socks
d. Snow boots
e. Warm coat
f. Gloves or mittens
g. Warm hat
h. Scarf
2. Stay dry
3. Avoid frostbite
a. Keep skin covered
b. Keep extremities warm
4. If outside, be careful walking on surfaces that could be slippery
a. Porches
b. Sidewalks
c. Parking lots
d. Snow
e. Frozen waterways
5. Keep an Emergency Car Kit
a. Antifreeze
b. Wiper Fluid
c. Cat litter
d. Scraper
e. Flashlight
f. Water
g. Snacks
h. Blankets
i. Fix-a-flat
j. Jumper cables
k. Flares
l. First aid kit
m. Candle
6. Build 72 Hour Kits
7. Discuss Emergency Plans
G. Extreme Heat
1. Stay out of direct sun
a. stay in shade if outside
b. use water to cool down
i. sprinkler
ii. swimming pool
iii. wading pool
c. park car in shade
2. Use air conditioning or fans inside
3. Use windows or air conditioning in car
a. do not leave children or pets in parked cars
b. do not play in cars
c. cover car seats
d. metal on cars may burn
H. Downed Power Lines
I. Wild Animals
J. Gun Safety
K. Being lost
L. Injury
1. Bumps and bruises
2. Scrapes
3. Cuts
4. Broken bones
5. Falls
6. Fainting
M. Sneaky People (Name borrowed from www.hobomama.com, material borrowed from www.safelyeverafter.com)
1. I am the boss of my own body, and other people are the boss of theirs.
2. Know name, address, phone number and parents' names.
3. Safe grown ups to ask for help.
4. Never go anywhere with anyone or take anything from anyone you don't know without asking a parent first.
5. Always check first with a parent before going anywhere, or getting into a car with someone even if it is someone you know.
6. No one should ever look at or touch the area that your bathing suit covers unless you ask them to.
7. It is ok to not be nice to someone if they are hurting you or giving you the uh-oh feeling.
8. We don't keep secrets from our parents.
9. We all have a magic voice in our heads called our conscience, and it is always best to listen to it, especially if it is telling you uh-oh!

Some of these topics were pretty cut and dry.  Downed power line? Stay away from it, make sure the toddler and the dog are in the house, tell a grown up.  Some of them were a bit scarier.  If you are ever in a public place and someone starts shooting a gun, you run and hide - and it is ok to go without Mommy and Daddy, just HIDE.  The overlying theme - "and then come tell an adult."

The segment that was the most fun, was making our 72-hour "Emergency Kits."  We worked together to make lists of what types of things we would need for an emergency.  My kids are young - 4 and 6, so I didn't want this to put scary ideas in their heads, like terrorist attacks, or bombings, or what have you.  So, we focused on more natural disaster type things that would necessitate similar precautions.  We talked about what we would need if there were a blizzard that knocked our power out for a few days.  How would we stay warm?  How would we cook?  What kinds of foods could we easily prepare and eat with minimal water or energy consumption (that would still work for everyone's allergies and keep us all safe)?  What if there were a big flood and we had to evacuate?  What would we need to take with us?  Where would we go?  Who would be our contact person so that if Daddy were at work an hour away and we all had to evacuate immediately without having time for Daddy to come home first?

It was really wonderful how many of these questions my kids were able to answer on their own.  They are really very aware of what goes on around them, and how things work.  They were even able to help me make a menu for a 72 hour kit that would meet everyone's nutritional and allergen needs.  Then we had the fun of collecting the items we would need to make our 72 hour kits, and everyone got to pick out a new backpack to store his or her things in.  All of the backpacks are stored together in a little used closet, along with a bin of food and bottled water.  We also compiled lists of emergency needs for the car and the van and assembled them.

This was such a fun unit for us to do, with a lot of hands on time!  We covered the wintery subjects in the fall and the summery subjects in the spring when it warmed up.  Then we talk about them and reinforce them often.  My little firefighter found that she was able to cope with a lot of scary topics, with a minimum of tears, and learn what she needed to know to keep herself safe!

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon May 14 with all the carnival links.)

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Mom Hacks Monday: How I Make Laundry Detergent

We've all seen the different homemade laundry detergents floating around the internet.  Some people make liquid.  Some people make powder.  Some make a little.  Some make a lot.  We've been making our own laundry detergent for quite a while now - so long, that I don't remember but I know it's been well over a year.  I've looked at various recipes, and liked and disliked things about many of them.  I've tweaked and adjusted here and there and these days I am quite happy with the recipe we use.  So, I thought I'd share my own edition of homemade laundry detergent with all of my readers!

I started off with the basic soap, washing soda and borax recipe.  I found that it worked well, but that it didn't leave the clothes quite as bright and shiny as I would have liked.  Also, it was a pain in the butt for us to make small batches of laundry detergent all of the time.  We are a family of 5, going on 6, with one still in cloth diapers.  Also, we don't use very much in the line of paper products, so we have about a load a week of extra laundry from hankies, cloth napkins, not paper towels, and cleaning cloths.  So when I saw this large batch recipe, I was excited.  It also contained oxygen cleaner, which I was excited about, because I thought it might help to brighten up the laundry.  However, there were some things that I wasn't over the moon about.

For starters, I don't use toiletries or cleaning products that won't tell me what they contain.  No ingredients list?  Not coming in my house.  So, Zote Soap is out for me.  At a minimum, I don't think I've ever seen an ingredient list.  Also, I don't use Ivory, which is the general replacement, because it contains "fragrance" which is basically a nice way to say, "really nasty chemical ingredient that you actually don't want to know what we make it from, but it makes you smell yummy!"  Our choices are also limited by our allergies, as we can't use soap with dairy, soy, corn or gluten in it.  Yes, all of these things are regularly used in toiletries.  Our pick for soap is Kiss My Face brand Olive Oil and Aloe soap.

Another ingredient that bothered me was the fabric softener crystals.  Fabric softener is just nasty stuff all around.  There are many ways to achieve the same results with less toxic materials.  We'll talk about that a different day.  For today, suffice it to say that I didn't want this in my laundry detergent.

So, I used recipe from How Does She? and omitted the fabric softener and used Kiss My Face soap instead of Zote.  So my recipe looks like this:

1 (4 lb 12 oz) box of Borax Laundry Booster
1 (3 lb 7 oz) box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 (3.6 lb) container of Oxygen Cleaner
3 Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Bar Soap, 8-Ounce Bars
4 lbs Baking Soda

The first thing I do is to grate my soap.  I use my good old fashioned crank operated food processor.  You can also use a hand grater like one would use to grate cheese, or a food processor.  Our hand crank processor has an attachment that really powders the soap, which makes it dissolve well in the washer.  I grate one bar, add it and one third of each of the other ingredients to a large tin (the type people gift popcorn in at the holidays), and let the kids stir it well.  Then I do this again for the other two bars.  Then I take a turn mixing and make sure it is all mixed well.  Sometimes I add some essential oils to scent the detergent, but usually not in such a big batch.

My fancy popcorn tin to hold it all.

This laundry soap is what we use for everything - including the cloth diapers.  My mom gave me the handy dandy 1 tablespoon scoop from something she purchases, and it is just perfect to store in the tin.  We use 2 scoops for a large load of regular laundry and 4 scoops for the diapers.  We wash the diapers on warm, but pretty much everything else on cold.  The detergent does really well on all of our laundry.  I'm actually surprised sometimes at the things that easily come out of the kids clothes (and the diapers).  The one difference is that she claims that hers lasts a year to 18 months, while ours lasts closer to 2 - 3 months!  But, our family is nearly three times as big as hers and we wash a load of diapers every other day or so.  Either way, we are saving pretty significantly over the commercial brand we used to buy and not using sls or any other ingredients that we don't like.

Do you make your own detergent?  What recipe do you like?

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Parenting 101: The Snack Tray

I am not going to claim, by any stretch of the imagination, to have invented the snack tray.  However, I am going to tell all of the first time parents out there about them, and how they work.

This tray fed all three of my kids for an afternoon.

Toddlers, and even preschoolers, can be interesting people to feed sometimes.  They never seem to want much of anything to eat.  They often eat two bites and are done.  Getting them to sit down long enough to eat something can be a struggle.  And giving them a largish something to eat can turn into a mess very quickly.  So, how does a mom make sure that her kids are getting a good variety of foods without struggling?  The snack tray!

The snack tray is any type of a dish (you probably want a break resistant type) that is compartmentalized into small sections.  Many people use ice cube trays, muffin tins, or other plastic serving or storage dishes with compartments.  The tray is filled with a small amount each of a variety of snacks.  Then, the tray is placed out on a table or other low shelf area where the child can easily access it.  The tray is generally left accessible during the majority of the day, allowing the child to grab a snack without really interrupting their play.  It is a really great way to get some extra food into a child who may not yet have the cognitive ability to sit still long enough to have longer snacks or meals.  It is also a good way to ensure a variety of food in the child's diet.

Some snack tray ideas include:

*Thawed frozen veggies - my kids love green peas or green beans.
*Fresh fruits, cut into bite sized pieces - stick to hardy types, though, or monitor throughout the day to be sure they haven't gone mushy in the tray.
*Cooked or canned beans - chick peas, kidney beans, pinto beans
*Raisins or dried cranberries
*Other dried fruit, if it is age appropriate for your child.
*Nuts, if age appropriate
*Dry cereal bites
*Baby "puff" type snacks
*Muffins or biscuits, cut into bites
*Bagels cut into bites
*Sandwiches or wraps, cut into bites
*Tater tots
*Cheese cubes, if you can eat that kind of thing
*Hard boiled egg, cut into bites - again, if you can eat that kind of thing
*Baby carrots, if age appropriate
*Bell pepper strips, if age appropriate
*Celery sticks, if age appropriate
*Diced eggplant, tomato, avocado (be handy with a wipe if you venture there), sweet potato, zucchini or yellow squash, cucumber, or turnip.
*Pomegranate seeds (technically called arils)
*Sliced mushrooms
*Chopped broccoli or cauliflower florets, if age appropriate
*Melon cubes
*Crackers, graham crackers, animal crackers

Really, the possibilities are endless!  If it will fit in the cup and your child can grab it and eat it with little fuss, go for it!  When using snack trays, I often keep a wipe laying out next to the tray for the child to wipe his or her hands on, or for me to snag and help wipe them.  Sippy cup next to the tray as well and the power struggle over food may just be over for you!

*One side note, do NOT be discouraged if it takes a few tries for your little one to figure out how to use the snack tray without attempting to play in the snack tray.  It is not the least bit unusual for the snacks to disappear into the play dishes, or to become a smear somewhere.  Just go slow at first, make the foods you offer easy to clean up, and model, model, model how we use the snack tray.  As the child understands the system more and more, you will be more and more free with what you can load it up with and how closely you have to monitor it.

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