Friday, January 31, 2014

Family Herbalist Course Giveaway {on JH}

I'm sharing this exciting giveaway I found out about with you in hopes that I, or you, win!

Check out this AMAZING course here:

And you can get details about the giveaway here:

Good luck! Act fast, they draw the winner this afternoon!!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

New Year Goal #2 - Unwiring

I have had my fill of how much of life is online. Everyone, including me, always has their face in their phone, tablet or some kind of device that's connected to the rest of the world.  I can't do it anymore. I used to use the excuse that I needed to be on Facebook for business. Every time I said it, I knew it wasn't true and that there would be a time when I couldn't do it anymore.

I'm fascinated by how different life is because of the internet. I love the internet. I remember when AOL was the way to connect online. I jumped right in and sucked it all up...kept up with the evolution and find it to be the most priceless tool yet the most destructive habit. It's a love hate relationship.

Maybe my moms generation had their own things that distracted them from us. In fact, I'm sure they did. But it seems like there's something different about being distracted from your kids with the internet, especially Facebook. It's always there, it gives instant satisfaction and gratification, it's easier to be online than be fully present in real life.

I just can't zone out to life anymore. My oldest is going to be 4 and I feel like he doesn't even know the real me. When I think about that I am just totally gutted. That's time we can't get back. How has that affected him? Surely it has on some level. Yep kids are resilient. But they are still kids with a deep need for their parents, and if they are told over and again "one more minute" "as soon as I'm done here" "I just can't right now" that DOES something to them.

Other moms can balance it all. I can't. I don't like how/who I am when I'm online all the time. I don't know who it is, but it's not me. I'm not sure I will ever be able to find a balance. I'd like to think after I take an undetermined amount of time away from Facebook that I can go back and not get sucked back in. I honestly don't know if it's possible.  If I know myself, and I think I do, I won't be able to really come back. Maybe it depends on just how long I stay away and just how much I grow while I'm gone. I guess we'll see.

I also used to tell myself that I needed to be on Facebook to stay connected. Really? Come now. No one before Facebook kept in touch ay? Excuses excuses. It's true it's great for seeing and sharing pictures. But email will do that too. And it's great for seeing what people are up to and sharing what I'm up to. But email and that thing you can use to call people will do that too. For me, it's especially great for learning learning learning more more more and for sharing helpful life changing information. But all the unread books I have here and having a blog can give the same results.

Really though, all those great things about Facebook at the expense of my kids? I have been choosing those things over my kids? Those things are more important to me?? Surely not. Yet month after month....

After having slowly removed so many irons from the fire, I'm baffled that I had so many in there. I don't know how they even fit. It's nice to have more interests and dreams than I can count but this isn't the season for most of them, almost all of them. This is the season for being a wife and mom. That's pretty much it. It has taken awhile for me to realize that. Obviously I need something outside of those things to keep me balanced and I have things lined up. Just one thing at a time though. The mom "job" is the most important one I will ever have. These kids are growing fast. Really really fast. One day they will be out in the world on their own and my presence, or lack there of, day in and day out will have some affect on the adults they become. A large affect, if we are being honest. That's pretty huge. Yet here I've been not really doing my job. That's how it feels. I know moms always essentially bash themselves. Is that innate or something? It's like a constant battle to make sure I'm being realistic. Sometimes it's just the devil telling us complete BS. But there is our gut feeling and that is there for a reason. The Holy Spirit places things on our hearts for a reason. So I'm not saying I'm some awful mom who can't do anything right because that's crap. I do a fine job, if I do say so myself, and I do say. BUT I know without a doubt I can be doing a way better job in some areas and I've finally arrived to a point where I can be honest about it and DO something about it.

I'm sharing all of this in case it is helpful to someone else out there. I read The Unwired Mom and next week Hands Free Mama's book arrives. I know Hands Free Mama's blog and almost everything she rights hits home and is helpful so I know the book will be too. I think those books (and blogs) might end up being a great starting place for anyone needing help with being more present in their real life. Because let's face it, Facebook isn't real life. Yea it's highlights and glimpses of a real life but it's not real life. Real life is in 3D. Real life is full of things you can touch, smell and taste.

So we shall see what happens. I plan to still write blog posts here and there. I even have a new Facebook account. Sounds silly doesn't it? Feels silly to even say it. But this one is unattached to almost everything that my original account is attached to. I am only keeping 2 friends for very specific reasons revolving around my "Natural Living" group on there. And I'm in a few other groups that have proven to be priceless sources of information. However, I may very well still be too distracted by all the natural health information I can get there so I will be keeping a very close eye on myself, staying honest about what exactly I'm doing, etc. If I have to deactivate my non-distracting account, I will do it. I'm honestly a little dubious that I can have this unattached account but, again, I'm finally in a place where I can be real about it and accept my faults. It's a big fat we shall see for now then! We shall see how I do with an unattached account (no really, I'm not going to accept your friend request, I'm sorry. Please don't take offense.) and how I do back in the 3D world. I'm psyched! And a bit nervous. My entire life as a mom has existed with Facebook involved somehow. (Talk about feeling silly saying something.)

Hands Free Mama's "Hands Free Pledge":

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Year Goal #1 - Tai Chi Chuan

I have always been drawn to the slow, mindful, meaningful moves of Tai Chi Chuan. You know, the moves you sometimes see old folks doing. I think the first time I ever saw it was in a movie; I wish I could remember which one. I'm pretty sure there was a nicely kept park involved as well. I can almost smell the freshly cut grass and hear the birds. Almost...we are just coming out of record low -49 (real feel) temperatures here after all.

Tai Chi Chuan or Taijiquan is centuries old. It is an ancient Chinese method of exercise for health, strength and longevity. Tai Chi is "moving meditation". How intriguing, no?? It combines postures and movements into a flowing form which in turn stretches and strengthens many of the body's muscles and tendons, not to mention enhancing blood circulation. Tai Chi stabilizes balance, increases flexibility and reduces stress. The slow soothing movements of Tai Chi incorporate deep breathing and the relaxing postures will cleanse the mind and the body each time the gentle flowing movements are carried out.  This practice is also said to unblock and encourage the proper flow of "qi", an energy force that flows throughout the body.

There are several different aspects to Tai Chi compared to other types of exercise. In Tai Chi, the  movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles remain relaxed not tensed, the joints are not fully extended, and connective tissues are not stretched. 

It sounds like it could also be called "medication in motion" because there is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has some value in treating or preventing many health problems. This Harvard webpage has a lot of cool information in terms of how it works, evidence for how a low-impact exercise like this can actually strengthen muscles, and a long list of health issues it can help, including arthritis, breast cancer and hypertension.

It can be practiced by all ages and body types and you don't need any special clothing, skills or equipment. All you need is the desire and time to practice.

I have a DVD that I used to learn the basics but I've been wanting to take a class with a professional to make sure I'm doing it right. Two weeks from today I finally begin a 6 week class near me! I can't wait to learn more and feel the benefits of this age old exercise! I will share how it went and what I learned when it's over. 

Three cheers for putting action towards goals!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Polyfaces: A Documentary about Polyface Farm

I want to move to Virginia to be near this farm. I started peeking at real estate just to get an idea and it looks very doable, especially because it comes with being near the Appalachian Mountains. MOUNTAINS! They complete me.

Why would I be serious about wanting to move my family away from almost all of our extended family to be near a farm? Because what they are doing and the food they are providing is that important. This is a game changing farm. They are doing things the way things used to be done plus taking advantage of this technological age without compromising the mission. 

We will have a farm one day and we will farm like this. Maybe it will provide food just for us, or us and a few other families; maybe it would grow to be something bigger than I imagine. Whatever God has planned, we are game. Real, healthy, crap-free food is just that important to me. I am in charge of feeding my family. What goes in their bodies either helps or hurts them. Food and water is what makes a little body grow. From the moment my kids come into my life, I am in charge of what nourishes them to grow into a newborn. Then they arrive and the milk I produce causes them to grow into infants. When we start introducing solids I decide what solids go into their bodies. Food either nourishes or depletes. It REALLY is that important and that big of a deal. 

Here is a 9 minute trailer for the documentary:
And a couple things just from the trailer that I want to highlight. (Because I get geeked out over stuff like this.)
1) They talk a couple times about the symbiotic relationship the farmers have with the animals and land. We just need more of this. That's all there is to it. I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, I have no plans to become one unless I find the need to head to the Gerson Institute. I like vegans. Quite a lot actually. Peter Ragnar is my favorite raw vegan ever. I just don't think everyone needs to be vegan and I think when we stop being such narcissistic humans, symbiosis between the land and all food sources is not only possible but meant to be. 

2) The little girl devouring the tomato while her dad talks. Priceless. And yes. Just a thousand times yes. 

3) A couple fabulous quotes:

"I would like to see more people be responsible for their own actions. Not point the blame on someone else. 'You did this to me.' Well, it's what you're putting in your body and what you're doing and what you're doing to your kids and your economy and environmentally."

It's really true. My husband is in electrical construction and I stay home with the kids. We live in a normal size 3 bedroom ranch. We're not swimming in money by any stretch of the imagination. Once we understood how truly important food is to our health and our growing children's health, we made changes. Good food is at the top of our list of purchases we will try like hell to not skimp on. There's a handful of bloggers out there that shared how they eat good on low income. Just Google eat well (or good or organic) on tight budget." Here's a great one where they even paid off debt while eating paleo. We have learned it mostly comes down to priorities. It reminds me of something David Wolfe said in a documentary (Food Matters, perhaps?). Basically that we have our priorities backwards. That we would rather spend money on fancy cars and big houses than on quality organic raw food. We would rather have the latest fashions hanging in our closet than to nourish our children with rich food sources. That's a tough pill to swallow, I know. We might not have a big house or a fancy car but we have our own vices/strongholds. That is a profound statement to me though because there's so much truth in it. And it affected both of us enough that we made changes. I mean, our kids only grow up once. What we put in their bodies helps make them strong or weak.

Lastly a quote from Michale Pollan, author of The Omnivores Dilemma, "The idea that we can take beautiful food off the land and heal it at the same time; that's a very hopeful lesson because it's bigger than food or farming. It suggests that as long as the sun shines, there is a free lunch and that you can capture that energy and run it through a system and not diminish the world."

That's just good stuff.

More information on the documentary here.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lemon Balm: An All Natural Valium? (Lemon Balm Tea Recipe)

Stress. Stress. Stress.

Everyone has some. A lot of people have too much of the bad kind (yes, there's a good variety!). Some people don't get it under control and it becomes the catalyst for a whole myriad of health problems.

I had always heard how detrimental too much stress can be, but it took a while to sink in. I have been slowly working on my stress levels ever since I finally "got it".  Yoga, meditation (try, Tai Chu Chuan Yang Style 24, saying "no" to things I want to say yes to but know how much more full it will make my plate, etc. This is a work in progress and will likely be for some time.

Thankfully, God planted a pharmacy for us quite some time ago. All we have to do is learn what plants (or minerals, etc) are available for what ails us. Amazingly, there is almost always more than one "aid" out there for us. They can come in the form of dried herbs or liquid extracts, homeopathic remedies or simply FOOD. It's truly fantastic how many options we have to get healthy and then THRIVE.

I want to highlight Lemon Balm today. It is in the same family as sage, mint and marjoram. Melissa officinalis or lemon balm has been around and been used by many cultures for centuries. The Greeks used it to calm their nerves and alleviate anxiety and insomnia. It's also used to improve appetite and ease gas and bloating after eating. Lemon balm has also been shown to shorten healing time and prevent recurrent cold sores when used in a lip balm, as well as reduce agitation and improve symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's. It has also historically been said to be a fever reducer, antibacterial, spasmolytic, hypotensive, memory-enhancer, menstrual-inducer and possess thyroid-related effects (meaning those with thyroid conditions will likely want to avoid it until they have regained thyroid health).

Some studies on this plant to note include one double-blind placebo-controlled study that looked at lemon balm and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and their anti-anxiety effects. The study found that a lower dose (600mg) of lemon balm and valerian effectively reduced anxiety but a higher dose (1800mg) was associated with a small increase in anxiety. This is a prime example of natural medicine where more does NOT always mean better.

Another study, done in children, studied the effects of a lemon balm/valerian combination on sleep problems and restlessness. More than 900 children were studied, and the combination was found to improve sleep problems in 80% of children and restlessness in 70%.

A couple other studies regarding help with digestive discomfort include a small study which found that a blend containing lemon balm, spearmint and coriander alleviated the severity and frequency of  abdominal pain and discomfort of IBS better than placebo. Another study found that breast-fed infants with colic who were given a blend of fennel, lemon balm, and German chamomile twice a day for a week cried less than other breast-fed infants with colic.

Lemon Balm extract was even featured on Dr. Oz several months ago.  He shared that "it works similarly to prescription stress medications like Valium, binding to brain receptors that calm you down and reduce anxiety."

You can grow this in your garden, or in a container on your patio if you don't have a garden. You can even grow it indoors. I get pretty excited about plants I can grow all year round!

Once the plant is ready you can use fresh or dried leaves to make a tea, extract or tincture...and even a spritzer!

Lemon Balm Tea Recipe/Instructions:
1. Gather 5 loosely packed cups of leaves
2. Rinse them in cold water and set aside
3. Boil 6 cups of water
4. Submerge the leaves in the boiling water, steep for 5-10 minutes
5. Remove the leaves and pour some into a mug to drink or into a glass container to cool in the refrigerator if it's summer and the thought of hot not so pleasant.

Of course, you can also simply buy the extract!

I have found Mountain Rose Herbs to be a very trustworthy and reliable source for high quality herbs, extracts, tinctures, oils and the like.  You can find 1oz ($9.25) and 4oz ($30.50) sizes of their Lemon Balm Extract here. They also have monthly specials so it's possible it will pop up on sale!

There's also another company I have come to love called Trilight Health. What's fantastic about them is that they offer three different ways that you can get free product from them via "Rewards Points". I think Walgreens has something like this? Each reward point = $1. How to earn: 1) Spend $25 get 1 point (spend $50 get 2 points etc.) 2) Write a product review, get 1 point 3) Get 25 points for every first time customer that spends $50+. Nice! Their lemon balm comes in 2oz and is $14.95.

Do you grow lemon balm? Have you used it to help with anxiety?

***The information provided herein should not be construed as a health-care diagnosis, treatment regimen or any other prescribed health-care advice or instruction. The information is provided with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in the practice of medicine or any other health-care profession and does not enter into a health-care practitioner/patient relationship with its readers. The publisher does not advise or recommend to its readers treatment or action with regard to matters relating to their health or well-being other than to suggest that readers consult appropriate health-care professionals in such matters. No action should be taken based solely on the content of this publication. The information and opinions provided herein are believed to be accurate and sound at the time of publication, based on the best judgment available to the authors. However, readers who rely on information in this publication to replace the advice of health-care professionals, or who fail to consult with health-care professionals, assume all risks of such conduct. The publisher is not responsible for errors or omissions.***

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Would You Trade the Stretch Marks?

I have two little boys, 3 1/2 and 1 1/2. My first was born naturally and my second was born via the first gentle cesarean in the Chicagoland area after my little stinker refused to turn head down. My pregnancies were very similar. I didn't have any real aversions to certain foods. I just wanted to eat it all. All the food. Which actually wasn't very different from my life prior to becoming pregnant.

My biggest "complaint" would definitely have to be heartburn and the acid reflux that sometimes came with that. Um, yuck. All worth it though and I would take it again and again, especially after learning the details of our first doula's hyperemesis gravidarum where her organs began shutting down by the end of the pregnancy. Yep. Bring on the occasional night time chokes please!

I gained around 50 pounds with both boys. I had plans to really keep that under better control with our second but it didn't seem to happen. Both times I never hit the 200lb mark but wow was I ever close! This was an interesting experience for me, especially the first time.

Judging by the comments of others, I spent most of my life appearing skinny. I say "appearing" because I grew up in the 80s and 90s and I'm not sure if you noticed but ads and media really bombarded the public with half naked skinny women (and it seems to have only gotten worse as the years go by). Not surprisingly, that gets into the deep inner psyche of the vast majority of young girls and as far as I can tell it never completely leaves. So while others found me skinny, I didn't see quite the same thing. So tipping the scales at almost 200lbs was....confusing and worrisome. Yes, even knowing I was creating life! I know how absurd it can sound to some people who don't "get it".

There are times when it is relatively easy to ignore this societal voice in my head and other times well, not so much. I have noticed that it all depends on who I'm listening to.

Did I make the mistake of turning on the TV?
Was I looking too close at the magazine covers in the check out line?
Was I looking in awe at pictures on Facebook of an old high school friend who was in a bikini 4 months post-partum?
Was I staring a little too discriminatingly close at my stretch marks?
Was I doing a sit up and trying to find where the muscle began?
Did I focus on my muffin top for more than 3 seconds?
Was I trying in vain to remember what my belly button used to look like?


Did I look at my boys and remember how I would do it all over again, every time, if it was the means to these two precious ends?
Did I look at the scale every month and watch that ever so slow but steady drop and see that I could do it? Even if it took longer to get off than it took to put on!
Did I let the boys jiggle my stomach and just watch them giggle and laugh?
Did I stare at my stretch marks and remember how it felt every time the boys moved or had the hiccups?

Sometimes it requires a lot of effort to tune out that inner teen. I have to stop and center just to see where I'm at and what's going on. Then I can get back in the right mindset and move forward, happily!

Finding the amusement in the entire situation helps. Seriously, they find my stomach can I not laugh with them? It also helps to remember how THEY see me. Those stretch marks and fluff are part of their mama, whether those "flaws" are there or not, they think I'm amazing. They love to play with me no matter what I look like. They find me both full of love and knowledge. For such little beings those two things add up to the most powerful person they know. I find that amazing.

I don't want them to grow up watching me scrutinize my body. I want them to see me find the humor in it, accept it as it is and even find it flawfully beautiful. It seems to me that would give them a healthier lens to view the rest of the women in this world.

When mama isn't having an issue with her body then neither is anyone else of relevance. We can get on with life. Which is a good thing because there's plenty of baseballs for me to throw, bases for me to jump on, hoops for me to slam dunk in, rocket ships for me to countdown in and dirt for me to roll around in!

I hope that all you mamas out there can find a way to shush your inner teen and love yourselves. See yourselves as they see you, which is honestly beautiful and don't forget to stay in the picture!!! I know you would take those stretch marks again and again if it meant your babies are your babies.