Category Archives: Healthy Habits

Preschool Playdate: Health Day

Playdate: April 7, 2016
Theme Inspired by World Health Day







Print your own posters HERE

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme: used the posters from WHO to introduce the two aspects of diabetes prevention: eating well and staying active. Also used some food pictures to introduce the idea of “sometime” and “anytime” foods.
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity – part of storytime!! You have to download the book 🙂
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers – ^^^ 🙂

The story and the activities were all from THIS great health website, offered in conjunction with Sesame Street.

This is a downloadable book from the above link.  The sweet peas had fun playing along with Elmo as we talked about Sometime and Anytime foods, and activities that are good for a healthy lifestyle.


Print your own book HERE – look for the link on the right side for the “Get Healthy Now Show”

I chose the literacy activity to reinforce the “eat healthy” concept.  We emphasized letter recognition in this sorting game. Sweet Peas would look at the food card, then name the item and tell the first letter of that word. Then they would sort the food into the correct cup. I prints the food group names in bold letters. Next time we do this I will be sure to underline the starting letter.

This was a good reinforcement of the position concept we worked on last week.
image2 (1)Find and print your own sorting activity HERE

I chose the math activity to reinforce the “be active” concept. This was a fun way to do math and get the sweet peas moving. First they rolled the die that showed the physical activity. Then they rolled the number die to find out how many times to do that action.

Find and print your own cubes HERE

We used our Touch+Feel box for today’s activity. I chose bumpy and smooth produce so that we could also do some sorting. The activity was to reach into the box and see if they could figure out what they were holding without looking inside. These kind of sensory activities are so beneficial for little ones!! Plus, they all had fun sorting! We also talked about all the heart healthy “anytime” foods and the “sometimes” snack in the box.
image4Find the instructions for the “Mystery Food Box” HERE

This activity emphasized the sometime/anytime concept introduced in the book.  I thought it made a great distinction that we will continue using with our sweet peas so that there is less of a struggle when we say “no” – it’s okay to say no because we all agree it is a “sometime” food. Sometime foods are fatty, sugary, or salty…so we only eat them sometimes. Isn’t that great?

For today’s craft, we made good use of all the circulars that come in the mail!! We had some pre-cut food pictures ready, plus some complete circulars and scissors for the older Sweet Peas that wanted to cut out their own pictures. Once they picked out some pictures, they sorted their foods into “sometime” (fatty, sugary, salty) and “anytime” groups and made a collage to take home.

We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards

This week the fun activity was making the anytime/sometime food chart. I even got a picture of a sweet pea enjoying her chart in her play kitchen after playdate…so glad that these ideas resonated!!

Doing it all…or not.

I am so honored to have been invited to do a homeschool mom feature on the Homegrown Adventures blog – I am so inspired by that mama on a weekly basis! While I work on completing the interview questions Irina sent me, one in particular really stood out.

Her question that really got me thinking, and I want to write about it today…”How do you do it all?”

My answer is…I don’t.

Number 1: My husband is incredibly supportive of the homeschool journey. Although he isn’t doing any instruction (yet!), he gets the value of what we are providing our children, as well as the importance of activities outside of our home. He makes it possible for us to offer our children individualized instruction, while also providing them with the opportunity to interact with larger peer groups.

Number 2: We are blessed with outside help. The only thing I really have to do in our school day is teach our children. We have ladies that come in 4x/week for a few hours to help with the housework and meals. The days they are not at our home, our Sweet Peas are old enough to help out now. They take turns helping to prepare meals and clean the kitchen, and we have a chore system that works when we use it – LOL.

Number 3: My daily priorities are flexible, and evolving!! This has been a learning curve for me – actually relinquishing the standard of “doing it all” and taking more of a “wait and see” attitude. My “all” meant that I tried to instruct our children and do every activity every day, keep up with all the groups I was in, establish myself as a blogger, and also take the lead in event organization…it was too much. Crazy Mama was showing up far too often. Suffice it to say I do not like her. She yells too much and she forgets that the people in front of her are children. She is also a very short-tempered wife – none of us like her very much.

Once I adjusted my expectations, Peaceful Mama was free to show up and remain present. I took a day to myself to make a list of what was really important to me. No surprise: my family came out on top.

As far as the school day, I had to decide what my absolutes were…what did I **have** to get done every day in order for our children to progress in their learning and growth? And then, what was the fluff…the subjects that are nice to have in our schedule, yet no one is going to fall completely behind if we do not do not complete them every day? And, beyond that, recognizing that we homeschool…so we can be flexible. If it didn’t get done today, we can catch up later in the week.

The best thing I learned to do a few years ago was to plan “catch-up” weeks into the year. I also schedule “reading weeks” every five weeks. A “reading week” means that all our children have to do is keep up the math and reading schedule…everything else takes a break. It is nice to have a week with less pressure and more playtime – it helps keep the focus consistent throughout the whole year, instead of taking 2-3 week breaks because we are all brain-fried, and then taking another week or so to ramp back up to our full schedule. Our consistency has been hugely improved since I adjusted my expectations for our school days.

What about the rest of the day? Ideally, schooling is only 6 hours per day for the five children I homeschool. Sleeping, so that I can make room for Peaceful Mama, is my top priority. Next, I try to prepare our school day before our Sweet Peas wake up. If we can start early, we finish early. They get to play and I can take care of emails and writing/editing during the day so that I am not up late at night.

The third part of that was figuring out that I don’t have what it takes to be a top blogger. I am not willing to “bleed on the page”, so to speak, and reveal all my dirty secrets and/or private life on the internet, I don’t have the time or energy to court sponsors and deal with the paperwork/taxes, nor will I spend the time it takes to interact with a large audience because our children hate it when I am on the phone or computer instead of interacting with them. Besides, it’s part of practicing what I preach. If I am limiting them to two hours a day of screen time, then during their waking hours, I want to hold myself to the same standards. Releasing that freed me from the pressure of “I have to post daily”. So what if I miss a day when I usually post?? No one is going to complain about it…so no big deal.

And finally, I made the decision to step back from so many birth groups. I have the desire to be at every meeting every month, and attend groups in other areas so that I can stay connected and be a force for change in the birth community. I had to come to terms with stepping back…realizing and accepting that the world is not going to end if I missed a meeting. Yes, I do miss seeing some of my favorite people. However, being present for our children is my strongest desire: they are only in our homes for such a short period when you consider the length of a lifetime.

I stopped attending one group altogether, and adjusted my expectations so that I didn’t fret about missing a meeting here or there. What a huge relief it was to focus on attending only two consistently, and then leave the others to a “wait and see” outcome. If all the stars line up for me to attend, I go…if not, then I don’t and I enjoy the time with our Sweet Peas.

Since our children are onto a new season of greater independence, I am able to do volunteer work again. They attend classes for two-hour stretches; they don’t particularly care if I am sitting outside the door waiting for them. Their father is able to do it, so he does. Doing volunteer work fills my cup just as much as attending birth-related groups, and I can do that without the Sweet Peas feeling like I am cheating them on time when I go out at night.

Now comes the task of compacting all of these sentiments into a shorter answer for Irina’s blog feature. For today, I figured that writing it out and sharing my journey with our crew of faithful readers was a good first step to finding a shorter answer.

I do want to take a minute to thank all of you that are regular readers. It has happened a couple of times…just when I think about giving it all up, one of you will send me an email that encourages me…so here I am – still – three years later for our family blog. I appreciate those of you that take the time to read and interact…it’s great to know I am not writing into the great void. Thank you.

Humor – not funny.

I mentioned this last week: Often, when I lose my cool, I reflect back on it and wish I could have used humor instead of reacting the way I did.

So last week, after an icky incident on spring break with another adult, I finally resolved once and for all to stop wishing and do something about it. (Spring Break story HERE)  I started poking around the internet for tips on “how to be funny”, “learn to be funny”, and “funny one liners”.

Guess what I found out? Humor isn’t that funny.  Well, the consensus is that it is if you are born with it.  If not, you have to learn it; the theory of learning humor surprised me.  You either have to learn the theory, and then you’re always looking for a place to apply it (which negates the whole idea of “being present” if your mind is always racing ahead). The other option is to memorize good jokes. I can’t see how knowing a funny joke is going to calm me down enough to diffuse sticky situations. For one, it takes time to tell it…and maybe I won’t always have that kind of time.

THIS article opened with an interesting quote: “Humor is criticism cloaked as entertainment and directed at a specific target…”  It was not the only article to mention that humor uses hostility, bitter truths…umm, wow – definitely not what I had in mind.

My goal is not to criticize or “make fun”.  When I reflected some more, I realized that what I really want to be able to do better is to diffuse tension.  To that end, when I looked up funny one-liners that might serve me, many of them were insults, albeit funny ones!

So maybe my goal isn’t to “be funny” after all. I think a more accurate intention is to become adept at diffusing tension.  For now, sticking to my opera voice or using funny accents is what I am going to keep using with my children…but what to do when it comes to adult interactions? I am thinking that if I break out in operatic song in public, I will be promptly carted away by security personnel…

It seems like my mantra of “Live Love” is going to have to be more present in my life on all occasions, not just when I am interacting with my family and friends.  If I had asked myself, “How do I speak with love?” before opening my mouth a couple of weeks ago, then maybe I wouldn’t have sounded irritated when I made my request.

So here is the affirmation I came up with:


Heart Collage by Courtney Darby

So now it’s printed and up on my affirmation wall that I look at every morning when I brush my teeth.  Here’s hoping that it sticks in my brain, and that all my interactions are laced with more love this year.




Gluten-Free: Disney California Adventure Park

Our older Sweet Peas got to dance at Disney California Adventure on March 5th with their dance school, Talent Factory based in Tempe, Arizona. It is always such a great day for our family.  We go in early and stay as late as the collective Sweet Peas can handle. Sometimes we close down the park; this year they were toast by 8:00 pm.  Then again, they rode more rides than ever before, so they were definitely tired out!!

The first time we did this “field trip” with their dance school, I was freaking out about feeding our gluten-free children at the park.  What could they eat? Where could they eat? Wouldn’t the opportunity for cross-contamination be theme-park proportioned?!?

Instead of continuing to freak out, I made a phone call to the park. After a few minutes on the phone with one of the park’s dining reservations specialist, my mama bear was able to calm down.

1.) You can bring your own snacks.

2.) There are gluten-free dining options in the parks.

3.) A chef will come out and personally take your order and prepare the food themselves. They will give you a run down of the menu items that suit your allergy. (They have been able to accommodate gluten, dairy, and nut allergies for our family.) They take care to avoid cross-contamination.

4.) Our children have never gotten sick after spending a day in the park and eating at Disney restaurants.

In the past, we have enjoyed Ariel’s Grotto and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta (overviews HERE). An annual family favorite is Wine Country Trattoria. We first ate there as part of the World of Color ticket; and have returned for lunch even when we don’t have to eat there for the Color show.


Image Source:

This is the first year when our server took our order and we never saw the chef. Nonetheless, she was versed in the gluten-free menu, took our order, and adjusted it accordingly so that our gluten-free kids only ate gluten-free foods.  They also have amazing gluten-free rolls!! Puma and Night Owl ate them heartily!


My Cuattro Pomodoro with micro-greens and gluten-free spaghetti


Puma’s penne pasta with butter and shaved parmesan, and one of the amazing gluten-free rolls


NIght Owl had the bolognese with gluten-free spaghetti and shaved parmesan

Another “safe’ place for gluten-free families to get some snacks is Mortimer’s Market.  They feature several different options for fresh fruits and vegetables, and they also offer hummus. There are no gluten-free crackers in the hummus pack, but you could dip the carrots and celery in the hummus, or BYOGFC 😉


Say hello to Khanh for us – he was very nice and knew lots of Disney trivia!!


Night Owl with his favorite – red delicious apples!! We asked – a lot of the produce is locally sourced – yeah, Disney!!


Fruit is naturally gluten-free: this case had watermelon, mango, and pineapple on ice. So refreshing on a hot day!


More good options: carrots+celery, hummus, pickles, grapes, apples+caramel

We continue to be impressed with the amount of options and the level of consideration offered to families that travel in spite of their food allergies. I generally have anxiety about traveling with our family, and we pack A TON of snacks for the car/hotel because God-forbid we get stranded somewhere, without a place to feed the sweet peas! (I’m kind of kidding, but I’m not – my allergy-mama tribe feels me, right?)

It is nice to just enjoy the park and not be completely obsessed or over-anxious about all the ways they might get sick from accidental ingestion or cross-contamination.  It’s safe to say that we will continue to participate in this trip and enjoy our fun-day at the park!

We will see what next year will bring – we found out that Otter loves roller-coasters…maybe she will be tall enough to try out some Disney screamers next year!! And then God only knows how late we will be staying in 2017 😉

For more gluten-free Disney 411 check out these posts:

TOP 10 Gluten-Free Options from Chip and Co. blog

Eating Gluten-Free in Disneyland from the Disney Food Blog


LODGING: On a side-note, we stayed at the Embassy Suites Anaheim South. They offer complimentary breakfast every morning…our kiddos enjoyed krispy rice cereal, eggs, oatmeal, omelettes, breakfast potatoes, fresh fruit and lots of bacon!! They even offered almond milk, although none of our kiddos drink it, if I had read the menu under “beverages” I could have had some (decaf!) coffee.

Here is a sample of their children’s grill menu available for lunch or dinner. We tried both the gluten-free pizza and the gluten-free pasta – both were good. They don’t have gluten-free hamburger or hot dog buns, so Night Owl had his hot dogs without buns both evenings. I watched him for a reaction (sometimes hot dogs have fillers even when the menu says “all beef”) but he didn’t have a reaction. Phew!


I am enough: How the struggle with self-worth affects our children

True confession: I am a Birth Without Fear fangirl!!

I started following the FB page way back in 2010 when it first started as a simple message that birth without fear is possible. Since then, the message has expanded to support and validate all birth journeys, the postpartum period, and the crucial role that fathers/other partners play in the family.

My first experience hearing the founder, January Harshe, was in April of 2013 when she spoke at a MommyCon mini offered in Phoenix, Arizona. It seemed like maybe she was nervous, and then she found her voice and delivered a powerful message about being supported in birth choices. Come to find out later, our group in Phoenix got to see the first BWF presentation ever!! Super-cool.

Later that year, I got to see her again in LA for another MommyCon event, and then in 2014 we traveled to Austin for her second Birth Without Fear conference – it was life-changing for me. 2015 ushered in a year of “Meetups” – one-day events designed to bring the best of Birth Without Fear to more communities. Although we didn’t get to a meet-up last year, Puma and I did get to see January speak at a fabulous Club MomMe event, the Fall Family Fest at the LA Botanical Gardens.

Listening to the amazing @january_harshe from @birthwithoutfear speak @clubmomme #FamilyFest #BestDayEver #birthwithoutfear

A photo posted by Sweet Pea Births (@sweetpeabirths) on

Imagine my delight when I found out that there was going to be a meet-up right here in my backyard in February!! Super-yeah…especially when I found out that the keynote speaker was going to be Jade Beall, the amazing and conversation-shifting photographer from Tucson, Arizona.

Jade did not disappoint.  Her message of body positivity, and the way she wholeheartedly embraced the changes of pregnancy – OMGosh – I hope that there was not one person in the room who left without believing in their deepest cell that their post-pregnancy bodies are inhabited by goddesses of the highest order.  She gushed over the rolls we try to hide, the beautiful stretch marks that shine with the pride of growing life, and showed us the beautiful human body through her lens.

Flashback to my own journey with food and semantics: Since I struggled so much with body image, and I am a huge believer in positive thinking, I knew that the words I used about my body would be very likely to influence my children. I have made a concerted effort to talk about my food choices in relation to the amount of activity I do. I don’t eat less because I am on a diet, I eat less because I am not as active as they are. I make green food choices and smoothies because those foods give me energy, not because I’m on a “diet”. When we talk about their bodies, we use the words like, “muscular” and “strong” and “healthy” when we talk about shapes, sizes, and foods we are buying for them to eat.  Will they add health? Or do we avoid them because they compromise our health?  I try so hard not to make it about weight and body shape/size.

So as far as the food conversation, I hope I am already on the right path with our children.  What Jade gave voice to, and it applies to body image as well as the bigger picture of motherhood, is the idea that if we are tearing ourselves down with our words, imagine what it does to our children (loosely paraphrased):

If mama is talking crap about herself, MY QUEEN, then what am I?

If MY QUEEN is not worthy, what is going on in my world?

To our children, we are the whole world.  We are their mothers – we are beautiful in their eyes simply because they love us!! How amazing that the universe placed this wisdom in my path this week, “You know how when you get to know someone you see their inner beauty and stop noticing how they look on the outside? I wonder if that’s how kids see everyone all the time.”

Um…YES…until, as someone wisely pointed out, they are taught to judge.  Unless we tell them we are unworthy, they do not see us as unworthy. Until we give them the words that exclude everyone except the photoshop images in glossy magazines – they do not know their mothers are anything but the most beautiful mother in the world.

Here are more gems from Jade’s presentation:

  • The story of growing a human and pushing it out/birthing is not restricted to one body type.
  • Who likes lies? Truthfulness is so empowering. What is so wrong with cellulite? What’s wrong with being human?
  • Today this is me. It is enough.
  • All of us together in our skin are beautiful in our diversity.
  • Love yourself – love yourself – love yourself. It is the key to awesomeness and to being able to live the life you want to live.
  • Self-love is a complete practice.

And my favorite: “As soon as we are free from the shame, our epicness can happen.  Epicness enters your body, and amazing things start to happen.”

After Jade concluded her presentation, January shared her keys to embracing body love: start replacing the negatives with the positives.  Instead of waking up and naming all the things we don’t like about ourselves, find some things you already love about yourself. Then, start the day with those affirmations of what you love about yourself. Little by little you will find that your conversation about who you are starts to shift.

She made the great observation that body-love and self-acceptance has a bigger effect beyond ourselves and our families…it’s about people.  Everyone is struggling & judging in one way or another.  Skinny, fat, pink, purple, there is no magic formula to being happy – everyone has a story they are telling themselves that colors their perspective.

Here are the gems I wrote down from January’s follow-up to Jade’s presentation:

  • What am I worried about?
  • I’m the only one in this body. I’m the only one on this journey.
  • The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you can be to others.
  • When you use your voice, you give other women the power to use theirs.

What both of these ladies touched on matters in such a deep, profound way to mothering. Can we love ourselves enough to teach our children the gift of self-love? We have heard this, read this, seen this over and over: Actions speak louder than words.

If we tell our children to be confident and that we love them just as they are, will they believe us if our actions towards ourselves completely contradict our words? When we have a double-standard, one for them and one for us, how will they know which one is right?  If the current state of our collective self-esteem is any indication, self-loathing wins that battle every time.

I left the event on Saturday with a renewed commitment to be body positive and to live in self-love every day.  I am actually excited to release this body shame and allow my own EPICness to take a firm hold.  It’s been rooting around in there, trying to get a good hold since hearing Jennifer McClellan of Plus Size Birth in Austin…now it’s time to really plant it in the tilled soil and start to thrive.  I am the Queen of my queendom…in all the world, only one.


How about you? How can you embrace your EPICness today? What is one small step you can take towards self-acceptance?

I invite you to be curious – say one thing you love about yourself and hold it inside you today.  The QUEEN of the tribe can be as radiant on the inside as she is on the outside.  The little people who love you already see you as a shining star – own it – breathe it – live it.  See what happens – what kind of epic will you unleash today?

Get to your own Birth Without Fear Meetup this year!! Find the full schedule HERE.

Making More Space for Peaceful Mama

It is good to know that all of us regular, real mamas struggle with the similar things. If you have read some of my previous posts about parenting, you know that I am constantly striving to find more space for Peaceful Mama and less opportunity for Crazy Mama to come crashing into our day.

I have learned a breathing technique through the Birthing From Within classes that I am mentoring that has helped me keep Peaceful Mama around, even when we are in the throes of a temper tantrum and my biggest trigger is happening: I HATE it when our children hit me. Talk about a “donkey on the edge” moment – nothing has me seeing red faster than that.

(Side note: we do not spank our children, nor do we allow them to watch violent movies/shows/videos. I chalk this behavior up to a lack of words. I have seen our older two outgrow it, so for now, I have the same belief with that our younger two will outgrow this phase/behavior as well. It is usually an expression of frustration, anger, tiredness; or sometimes it is a result of something they ate: too much sugar or a food dye that slipped in somewhere.)

The coping mindset is called Non-Focused Awareness. It invites the person to observe what is going on around them without judgement – it’s simply calling out the stimuli and naming it.  Here is an explanation from eHow:


When I apply this theory to the screaming Sweet Pea in front of me, I replace the word “pain” with the word “anger” .  Instead of creating more space for anger, I can keep that “pie piece” of anger pretty small by taking stock of what else is happening in the interaction in front of me.

I don’t use all the stimuli the instructor talks about in the video. In my “donkey on the edge” moment I ask myself what I am seeing, hearing, touching…without holding on to any of these thoughts. Then I check in with my breath – am I making a deliberate outward breath?

So it goes something like this:

What am I seeing? “Sweet Pea”

What am I hearing? screaming

What am I touching? hand hitting me

BREATH: where is my outward breath?

Running through these questions in my head, and then simply tracking the observations, slows me down so that I don’t react by yelling. For me, this is finally the little nugget that can keep Peaceful Mama around when Crazy Mama is jumping at the opportunity to find her way into our day.

I have noticed that taking the time to say our child’s name in my head reminds me that this is a little human that I love, not a screaming minion that doesn’t love me because it is hitting me.

Now it’s your turn…start by noticing what you are seeing – hearing – touching – BREATH as you sit here, reading this post.  If you have your phone next to you, set a timer.  Before you start, remind yourself to suspend judgment – just call it as you see it – hear it – touch it.  Then breathe!

Take one minute to give it a try, and then practice it as many times as you need throughout the day to get a good feel for this coping mindset.  Suppose you use this the next time you are in your frantic moment, that edge between keeping it together and losing control, might you add a new trick to keep your Peaceful Mama around? It is certainly working for me – wishing you all the best!

If you would like me to lead you through a practice on Google+ or Skype – email me!! We’ll set up a time and date to meet online and I would be happy to share this practice with you.  My email: sweetpeafamilies{at}gmail{dot}com

Wishing you a Peaceful Mama day!!

Mama Cloth and More

Here is some food for thought for those of you with biologically female children: feminine hygiene products. Do you know what you are going to do about them when it’s time for your daughter to start her monthly cycle?

Being that we offer childbirth classes that appeal to people striving to live a natural, green lifestyle, I tend to hear about all the latest in green living trends from my colleagues. About four years ago, one of my colleagues asked me if I have ever heard of menstrual cups, and since I hadn’t she proceeded to tell me all about them.

My first thought was, “GROSS!” Why on earth would I want to deal with that when there was the convenience of hygiene products available at the pharmacy?

Some of the reasons she gave me were that tampons were not made with organic cotton, so there was the possibility of exposing the body to chemical pesticides, the cotton was bleached during the production process (more chemicals), and then she mentioned reducing the amount of waste in landfills.

My mind was more open to the idea, however, I wasn’t convinced that I should make the switch and deal with more of a bloody mess every month. Then…little by little, I learned some more and started to re-think my stance.

The next time I learned more about alternatives to feminine hygiene products was when I participated in an event with my friend Shannon Gusé. She was a selling her “mama cloth”, another alternative to conventional products. Her reusable pads are made with love from soft flannel and PUL (super absorbent and leak proof). Here is an excerpt from her blog on Shannon’s Cloth & More:

“My own journey began several years ago when I was looking for a solution to painful, heavy menstruation, and I discovered the idea of cloth menstrual pads.  My research led me to discover that disposable products often times have chemicals in them that alter the body’s chemistry, leading to heavier flow and longer duration – necessitating the purchase of more products, much to the manufacturer’s delight.”

When she mentioned that it might be possible for my cycle to be less painful and shorter, I was finally ready to at least try something different. I approached it as I do with many other things: I might as well try it – the worse that could happen is that I would get a no, and at least in the process, I would learn something.

So I bought a few mama cloth pads, and sprung for a menstrual cup. Much to my delight, my monthly cycles were shorter within a couple of months. Unfortunately, I was having “user” challenges with the menstrual cup, so I settled into a routine of using mama cloth at home and tampons if I was leaving the house.

My big “a-ha!” moment was last summer when we were traveling. I decided to forgo the reusable products for convenience sake, and even forgot to bring the tampons I still used when we left home. I ended up buying a different brand and figured it should be fine.

By day two of using those tampons, I had a horrible headache that would not go away and I was having terrible cramping. I couldn’t figure out why I was so sick…until I realized that the difference was probably the product. I went back to simple sanitary pads for rest of the cycle, and not surprisingly, the headache went away and the cramping subsided after I stopped using the tampons.

After that experience, I was more committed to figuring out how to use the menstrual cup and definitely making more use of the mama cloth. Last week, THIS article and linked video started making the rounds on social media.  It’s nice to see that this kind of information may be starting to reach people beyond those that like to do things the “natural” way simply for the sake of being green and natural.

We are now in a time when fertility issues are experienced by more and more women, and I have to wonder, how much of it is related to the fact that we are putting chemicals next to our reproductive system since puberty, for going on three generations?

And not only are the chemicals next to our reproductive system, but they are sitting on some of the most absorbent membranes in the body. Really – they are…

If you have read down to this part of the post, you may be shaking your head in disbelief like I did the first time I heard all of this information. However, good on you for reading anyway, so I am going to leave you with this excerpt from an article by the National Institutes of Health:

The Vaginal Route of Exposure

“Female sex organs evolved to be self-cleaning.6 The vaginal canal is richly endowed with blood vessels and produces mucus that protects against and washes away harmful microorganisms.7 As a mucous membrane, the vagina is capable of secreting and absorbing fluids at a higher rate than skin, as are some of the external portions of the vulva, including the clitoris, clitoral hood, labia minora, and urethra.7,8,9

“Most of the vagina is covered with multiple layers of dead and dying cells that do a lot to protect it against infection, but [this] is nowhere near the thick leathery surface of our skin,” says Cone. “The vaginal epithelium … is highly water permeable in a way our skin is not.”

Because mucous membranes in the vagina and vulva rapidly absorb chemicals without metabolizing them, researchers have even explored the possibility of delivering drugs vaginally.10 One study found that vaginal application of estradiol, a synthetic estrogen, resulted in blood serum levels 10 times higher than those following oral dosing.11 But while rapid absorption works well when a patient needs a drug delivered rapidly, it may also expose women to higher levels of chemicals from feminine hygiene products than manufacturers intend.”

Read the complete article HERE 

I hope this has opened your heart and your mind to the possibility that maybe your family can start exploring alternatives to conventional feminine hygiene products. Even if you don’t make the switch yet, I encourage you to start reading more and seeking more information.

What do you think?
Let me know your thoughts about all this in the comments – thanks!

Tuesday Tip: Household Help

Ah, the new year!! Lots of promise and commitment to home organization….ring a bell?  I am so encouraged by this new season of having four capable children that I am jumping on the home organization bandwagon lifestyle this year.

The idea for this started brewing when I saw my friend’s system for having her children help with chores around the house. She made hers super-fancy: typed out the chores, pasted them on colorful cardstock, laminated the cards…I am not very ambitious in that regard…I just wanted something that I could use for our Sweet Peas.

Daunted by the idea sitting down and coming up with a chore list, I did nothing.  Then along came a tweet yesterday, with a link to THESE amazing home organization charts from

I printed out the “Daily Cleaning Checklist” thinking that this would be a good list for my jobs to do after I finished homeschooling for the day…and then lightbulb!! Here was a good working list to start with for the chore rewards I had been wanting to do!!

So I sat down with my index cards from the Dollar Tree, a sharpie, and started writing.  I did not use all of them for the children…there are some that I want to do (sort mail) and some that are part of the daily chores they already do as part of helping out because we are a family (making the bed, clearing up after meal times).  I did put a couple of kitchen items in there so that the Sweet Peas would have incentive to really clean other areas in the kitchen after they had finished with the dishes in the sink.  And quite frankly, since little hands are typically helping with meal preparation (read: things get spilled), the kitchen floor can use a good sweep after every mealtime.

I started by making 15 cards so that each of my five homeschoolers can pick out three chores a day.  The expectation is that they will do their chores before our school day ends at 3:00 pm.  When they are finished, they hand me their cards, I check their work, and then record their daily “pay” in my planner as long as everything is satisfactory, or they get a chance to re-do it with or without my help as the case may be.  At the end of the week, they get to collect their “wages”.

And…I was so excited by our first day results yesterday!! I love having the house tidy, I love having the Sweet Peas help, and they are so excited to be earning spending money!  Puma and Busy Bee are saving up for their Europe trip, the boys want to save for Pokeman cards, and Otter just likes the idea of having money.

I hope that you are blessed by the handy charts as I have been.  I was also inspired by the chart on 31 days of decluttering.  After experiencing the loss of family members, and seeing all the work that goes into closing down their homes; and just the waste of energy and time trying to filter through all the accumulated possessions of our lives, I really want to get on top of this in 2016. I adjusted the 31 day chart for a year, and then every day THIS year, I will start paring down what we have.  I am looking forward to releasing the things that we do not use for someone else to enjoy who might actually enjoy them rather then letting them sit in a closet or drawer or box for another year.

Want more inspiration?  Here are some charts that show age-appropriate life-skills, kitchen skills, and chores from 30 Handmade Days:

Tuesday Tip: Favorite Mac+Cheese Recipe

I love it when our Sweet Peas get involved in the kitchen and meal planning.  Night Owl’s reading skills have exploded over the last few months. I found myself sitting with him at the kitchen table on Saturday night, reading through Catherine McCord’s Weelicious cookbook, definitely one of our favorites.


Next to a chicken finger recipe he wants to try, we found THIS gem of a recipe. At it’s most basic, it’s a four-ingredient dish, and it doesn’t require any extra prep* outside of measuring the ingredients.

What’s to love:

  • It’s easy to make gluten-free and vegetarian by substituting ingredients
  • It takes 35 minutes from start to finish
  • Easy clean-up: the rice cooker container + 3 measuring cups
  • It’s a crowd pleaser!
  • A child can prep it by themselves and proudly tell the family, “I made dinner!”

How we made it work for our family:

  • We used gluten-free pasta – the Trader Joe’s penne pasta held up really well and also reheated well
  • We used a vegetable broth instead of the beef broth called for in the recipe
  • We cut the salt
  • We subbed whole milk for rice milk
  • We did actually use a real shredded cheese mix from Costco 🙂

Night Owl and I made it on Saturday evening, and served it with a side of 4-bean chili (another fave Weelicious recipe HERE) that I defrosted from the freezer. YUM!!!

I decided to try it again on Sunday to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.  Yes, it’s a legitimate win!! We are adding this to our roster of regulars.

As a bonus, I was able to steam broccoli to serve on the side in the steamer portion of the rice cooker while the mac+cheese recipe was cooking. It didn’t get overly cooked since there is not a lot of water to convert to steam in the cooking process – most of it was absorbed by the pasta in the cooker.

I hope you and your Sweet Peas will enjoy this recipe as much as we did! Leave me a comment and let me know if you try it, and if you made any adjustments that worked for your family!

*P.S. We usually make our own vegetable broth…if you make your own broth, then that would be a prep step! Since I was too impatient to defrost a freezer bag of veggie broth, we used store-bought this time.  Next time we make this, I will pull a bag of broth out of the freezer in the morning 🙂

Tale of a Chiro Convert

We invite our chiropractor to come speak to all of our childbirth prep class students.  If you had told me 7 years ago that this was going to be true, I would have laughed you out of the room.  Here is my story – maybe it will help you understand why people choose chiropractic care if you are on the fence about going to go see one for care.

I was terrified of chiropractors.  In my mind, they were back-crackers.  I have a vivid memory of my childhood dance instructor, who I revered, going ballistic when she saw some of my classmates walking on each other’s backs.  She admonished us to NEVER risk injury to our back, or we would live to regret it when an injury prevented us from dancing, or doing anything else we wanted to do. There was no way a back-cracker, or “chiroquacker” as I called them, was ever going to touch me!!

As an adult, I became a student of yoga.  This study also emphasized the sacred spine, the lifeline of all health. Except, our instructors had a working relationship with a chiropractor and there was a reciprocal discount between the studio and his office. I chalked it up to a crazy idea and I wanted nothing to do with chiropractic care.

Fast-forward to July 2009.  I was pregnant with Charger, and at my 32-week check with our one of our OBs, he informed the student nurse that the baby was breech. No thought to mention to me that I might want to do something to change that.

Before our 36-week appointment, I had growth ultrasound to see how big Charger was. I consented to this because my primary OB wanted to know if she would need extra hands during the birth “just in case” – Night Owl was an easy 11 pound, 1 ounce delivery – surprise! She didn’t want any surprises this time. The ultrasound showed that Charger was still breech!!  The ultrasound tech mentioned that if he was a persistent breech, my doctor would want to schedule a cesearan.

Cue FREAK OUT!!! I was speechless at the idea of a surgical birth and recovery with two toddlers running around. I looked for everything I could on the Internet to see what I could do to get this baby head-down.

At our next appointment, I took the list I had compiled and went through it with our primary OB.  She checked off the ideas she was comfortable with, and I set all my intention on having a vaginal birth with a head-down baby. (Read more about that HERE.)

The combination of things we tried got Charger into a transverse position. That position was still most definitely a cesarean birth – there is no other way to birth a baby who is lying sideways in the uterus. Last on the list of things to try was to have a chiropractor do “The Webster Protocol”.

As things worked out, all three people I asked for a recommendation gave me the same name: Dr. Kevin Ross. So with a wish and a prayer I went to see him.  To my surprise, he was very kind and took the time to explain to me what chirpractic care is, what it isn’t, and what I might expect from The Webster Protocol (click HERE for an explanation of what it is from Dr. Ross).

It wasn’t as scary as I had imagined – my back was still in one piece and I actually walked better after my first adjustment. And, The Webster Protocol worked for us!! I think I had a total of three visits before Charger turned head-down on his own, and then I kept going 2 times a week to make sure things stayed balanced.  He was borh eight days after turning head-down.

What really sold me on continuing care with our chiropractor was the new baby check that we did around 10 days postpartum.  I had a huge and painful learning curve when I was breastfeeding with Puma, and another painful initiation of breastfeeding with Night Owl.  It took 6-8 weeks with both of them for nursing to be less painful. Before that, it made me cry every time I nursed on the left side.  It’s a miracle that we breastfed at all: if it wasn’t for the fact that I had seen it as a child and an amazing support system, we would have quit after the first week.

Charger and I started out the same way – it was excruciating to nurse on the left side.  Dr. Ross did one little tiny adjustment on Charger.  The next time I put Charger to the breast to nurse – flowers bloomed and angels sang. It was a miracle!! Pain-free!! And it never hurt again.

After that, I was hooked.  We continued care all through Otter’s pregnancy.  Being pregnant with my fourth, and having a 6, 4, and 2 year olds to care for was a little daunting given the demands of pregnancy in my body.  There had been days with all three previous pregnancies where I literally crawled around the house in the evenings because walking was too painful.  When I could “walk” in late pregnancy, I waddled. I believed my body did not like being pregnant.

That pregnancy taught me the benefits of chiropractic care as the body changes through pregnancy. It was my best pregnancy ever!! I had more energy, I was virtually pain-free, and I was able to walk from day one until the day of her birth *without* waddling. It turns out my body needed some pubic bone adjustments along the way to resolve that excruciating pain that made me crawl or waddle in late pregnancy. Dr. Ross also did “Webster checks” every session to make sure that my body would encourage a head-down baby. By that time, he had also started using KST in his office, and that allowed me to connect with our Sweet Pea in a whole new way.

Our whole family has been going to see Dr. Ross for 6+ years. Daddy Bruss and I are in the best health – we rarely get sick, and when we do, it doesn’t last very long.  We have also learned much more about natural living with Dr. Ross’s guidance – his wisdom has forever changed the course of our family’s health.

The biggest beneficiaries are our children. From an early age, they are learning that their body is a wonderful machine with the ability to heal itself.  As soon as something is misalinged, Dr. Ross does a child-appropriate adjustment and they are off and running. The same holds true for them: they are rarely sick. For the most part, rest and hydration kick any illnesses in less time than is typical. They are also learning that their body is capable of healing itself. Medication is rarely necessary, so they are not learning that drugs are a panacea for every ache and pain.  First we ask Dr. Ross, and then we usually follow whatever course of action he recommends based on their needs.

In fact, one of our pediatricians thinks we had left the practice since it was so long between visist with them. I chalk it up to saying our prayers, taking our Juice Plus, drinking lots of water and getting adjusted 🙂

So that’s our story. Please leave me a comment if you have any questions about our experiences.

Find out more about Dr. Ross and his practice HERE