Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Happy (Herbal) Halloween!

Some of you have probably heard that the first witches were actually probably women who specialized in the use of herbs to heal a variety of maladies. When used properly, herbs can be highly effective medicines, which is probably why medieval doctors felt so threatened by them. Anyway, in tribute to our favorite holiday of potions and cauldrons, I'm going to share a few of my favorite herbal remedies with anyone who happens across this blog today.

Comfrey- This is a highly effective styptic (stops bleeding). We have it in our first aid kit and it has come in very handy a few times. One time we were up in the mountains building a campfire and Malamute cut his finger on a saw. It wasn't life threatening, but it was bleeding quite a bit. I applied a little comfrey powder and the bleeding stopped right away. It does burn a bit going on though. Cayenne powder is also a highly effective styptic. Dr. Christopher's Herbal Legacy Syllabus contains a fascinating account of an eight year old who was accidentally shot when he played with a gun while his parents were gone. One of Dr. Christopher's students lived next door, heard the gun shot and ran over to investigate. She found the boy with two gushing wounds and quickly put a tablespoon of cayenne powder into a glass of water and made the boy drink it and then called an ambulance. The emergency room attendant said that the boy would probably bleed to death in the time it would take for him to reach Primary Children's Hospital which was 18 miles away. However, when he arrived, the boy was not only alive, but coherent and no longer bleeding. Dr. Christopher treated four other gunshot victims with cayenne that year, all lived.

Arnica- This is great for pain and for wound healing. I've used it on a number of "ow-ies" Duckling has had and it always helps him heal up quickly and stops the pain quickly so he doesn't cry for very long. After Malamute's cut from the saw closed up, we used it on him and also had a very quick heal. One of my personal favorite forms of arnica is Mountain Rose Herbs Injur-Heal Balm. This is also in our first aid kit. Never leave home without it.

Slippery Elm Powder- Malamute has a number of food sensitivities and if he eats dairy or tomatoes he tends to react quite badly with a lot of lethargy and general malaise. I found out about this handy little remedy from, an online version of Mrs. Grieves Herbal. I have found this to be highly effective in getting the irritation out of his gut and solve the reaction. I always keep this on hand, just in case...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Hurricane Sandy

The other day Malamute told me about how the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment’s “The Old Guard” stood watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier through Hurricane Sandy. In truth, I hadn't really thought much about what the Old Guard would be doing during Hurricane Sandy, because they guard the tomb through everything. But when I stopped to think about it, this is truly remarkable.

For those of you who don't know, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a monument that represents all of the servicemen and women who have died without being identified or have gone missing in action. Becoming a guard for the Tomb is a highly selective process and only those who meet the most stringent requirements make it.

Guarding the tomb at all time represents (and here I'm starting to get teary, and I don't think it's just the pregnancy hormones) that no matter what happens to a serviceman, whether he's never heard from again, died in a POW camp, or the body was never found, that he will always, always be remembered and honored. Just like your comrades in arms have your back in this life, they will continued to have your back in the hereafter. Forever.

And forever means even in a hurricane. And so, the Old Guard's steadfast watch represents their commitment to never forget those who have been lost, even when it's difficult.

But I think it means something even more than that. Frankly, we've become a nation of whiners. And whenever we hit a problem, we complain about how we can't do this or that and how hard things are. The Old Guard is a breath of fresh air. Here are people who aren't going to let anything stop them from fulfilling something isn't even just a duty, but an act of love and compassion. Even a hurricane won't stop them from their goal.

So, even though the members of the Old Guard will probably never read this blog post, let me say, I salute you. Thank you for giving your best not only to your fallen comrades, but to the rest of us. I know that the spirits of those long gone have been with you in your darkest hour.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What Everyone in "The Hunger Games" Needed

But one day I'll have to explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why they won't ever really go away.- Katniss, Mockingjay

Why does everyone in The Hunger Games need the Emotional Freedom Technique? Well for starters, when you read the case studies in The Promise of Energy Psychology by David Feinstein, Donna Eden, and Gary Craig, it reads like a litany of traumas experienced by characters in The Hunger Games: veterans with PTSD so severe they can't sleep at night, victims of ethnic violence from Kosovo who have seen their families murdered and endured torture and rape, even a case study of a middle-aged woman who was ritualistically abused with electric shocks as a child (reminiscent of Johanna Mason in Mockingjay). The amazing thing is that all of these people were able to experience a healing with EFT that allowed them to no longer be bothered and disturbed by the terrible memories of what they had experienced, often within relatively short periods of time. On the more every day side, it has also helped a number of people with phobias, depression, anxiety, addictions, and food issues.

EFT is based on a couple of key principles:

1. The amygdala often hijacks the body and brain after a traumatic or stressful event. The amygdala is the part of our brain that is activated when we experience something stressful or traumatic. The amygdala sends messages to our body to help us deal with stress (fight, flight or freeze). Unfortunately, after the trauma has already past and is no longer a threat, the electrical pathways of our brain often stay routed towards the amygdala meaning that that stress response stays switched on triggering that fight, flight or freeze reaction over and over and over again, even when we're not actually being threatened. When a war veteran hears a loud noise and finds that he's smashed a chair through a window, that's an over active amygdala. When a victim of a violent crime sees, hears, or smells something harmless that reminds her of the incident and freezes up, that's an over active amygdala. Even though we're not actually being threatened, when we experience something that brings up some memory of a stressful or traumatic event, the electrical impulses of our brain trace the familiar route to the amygdala and we react as if we are in imminent danger.

2. We can re-route these electrical impulses away from the amygdala by applying repeated pressure (in the form of tapping) to acupuncture/acupressure certain points on the body. And here is where most Westerners get turned off. We're always interested in hearing about the next drug that is available, but we turn up our noses when people start using more Eastern terms like "energy" or "meridian" or "chakra". But for just a moment, let's at least consider that modalities that have been successfully employed for thousands of years by physicians in Eastern countries just might be as relevant as the latest psychotropic drug to hit the market that comes with a list of warnings about side effects. EFT is actually very similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, something I was working with on my own when I first started this blog. The main difference is that EFT adds the additional step of tapping to re-route electrical impulses of the brain. A therapist working with EFT will do a bit more set-up to help you work through a particular memory and its accompanying emotional layers and aspects, but in its most basic sense, EFT involves recalling a traumatic event, repeating an affirmation to help you re-focus your emotions and tapping pressure points to interrupt the flow of electrical impulses and re-direct them away from the amygdala. The memory then stays with you, it doesn't go away, but it no longer activates the stress response.

So what have I been doing with this?

Well, a few weeks ago when we decided that things had gotten so bad with Malamute's job that we needed to quit and that as unstable as his boss is, we knew we wouldn't get paid for any of the time he worked that month, my friend Emily told me about EFT. I looked for a book at the library and found one, but it had a pretty long wait list. I placed a hold anyway and it showed up about the time I found out that Baby #2 is on the way. I must confess that I didn't even read for a couple of days. Then I picked it up and WOW!

I have been tapping for everything from my appetite issues to things I remember from junior high. I tap when I'm feeling anxious or depressed. I tap on Duckling when he has tantrums. I feel a lot better and even Malamute has noticed how much my mood has improved. Tapping has stopped a few of Duckling's tantrums very quickly. I've also slept better at night too. Often when I wake up to go to the bathroom, my mind starts wandering to all these stressful things and I have trouble getting to sleep again. I find the tapping and repeating affirmations has been very effective in calming me down and getting me back to sleep.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Crash Course in Cloth Diapering

I love cloth diapers. Love, LOVE, LOVE cloth diapers. I think they are not only practical, economical, clean, and environmentally friendly, but really, really cute as well. Maybe you've entertained the thought of giving cloth diapers a try. Maybe you've even done a bit of investigating and been overwhelmed by the options. If so, know that it's not you. Cloth diapering has made HUGE strides since the days when my parents stuck themselves and me with diaper pins and pulled on those ugly plastic pants. There are sooooo many options out there now, so if you're feeling overwhelmed it's completely understandable. (And even if you have no interest in cloth diapering, this is my blog and I've been wanting to do a cloth diapering post for a while, so your only choice at this point is to stop reading if I'm boring you. Otherwise, you are going to get the said crash course in CD-ing.)

The actual diapers themselves:

Prefolds: Prefolds are cloth diapers that come in various sizes and do not need to be folded in any fancy way, except in thirds to be placed in a diaper cover, like this:

Prefolds mostly come in cotton, but you can find them in hemp blends. I do not recommend hemp diapers as they are very slow to dry and develop a weird smell. Cotton is the best diapering material out there. Newborn size prefolds with newborn size covers are the most ideal option for cloth diapering a newborn baby as they will fit a lot better than small size covers which usually start at 8-10 lbs.

Flats: Cotton "birdseye" weave flats are the "old school" diapers that used to require a lot of folding and pinning. 

Now, you can fold them in quarters and then fold them in half and put them in a cover, much like a prefold. (This is what I do.) Flats have a number of advantages. First they are cheap. You can get a set of flats for about a $2 a diaper and use them from birth until potty training. They also dry really fast too since they are thinner and gain absorbency by folding. They are great as a simple "one-size" solution. Please, please, PLEASE for the love of all that is good in the world, DO NOT BUY GERBER FLATS!!!!!! Let me say it again: DO NOT BUY GERBER BRAND FLATS!!!!!! Gerber flats that you see in Babies R Us are made to be burp cloths not diapers. They are only about 3-ply thickness and you will be in trouble! Deep, deep trouble! I highly recommend Osocozy (available on Amazon) or Green Mountain Diaper flats.

Pocket Diapers: These are inserts of various types of materials that snap into a cover. They often come in microfiber or fleece. Please, please, PLEASE for the love of all that is good in the world, DO NOT BUY MICROFIBER OR FLEECE DIAPERS!!!!! I'll say it again: DO NOT BUY MICROFIBER OR FLEECE. These are synthetic materials that can cause your baby to have rashes. They dry faster than cotton inserts or refolds, but they get residue on them after a few washings and have to be "stripped" (i.e. remove the gunk) before they can be used again. Without fail, when I hear someone say they tried cloth and their baby developed a rash, they have been using microfiber or fleece. Cotton is the very best material for diapering.

All-in-ones: This is basically a reusable cloth disposable. The PUL cover and the diaper are all-in-one (thus the name), so you  just put the AIO on the baby and when it is dirty or wet, you toss it in the diaper pail, wash and then reuse. They use snaps or velcro, so no pins are needed. AIO's are great for babysitters and daycare centers. Many brands come in different sizes, but bumGenius makes cotton one-size AIO so you can adjust the size with the snaps as your baby grows and don't need to buy new ones every time baby hits a growth spurt. The most common type of AIO has been microfiber or fleece (see the above if you need a warning on this again), but cotton AIO's are becoming more and more popular. Green Mountain Diapers has a great selection of cotton AIO's. For all their convenience, there are a couple of downsides to AIO's. One is that they dry slowly because they are on the thicker side. The other is that they do cost more than a prefold or flat and cover set-up, running about $15-$25 per diaper. If any of you out there are reading this blog and have a more or less unlimited budget for CD-ing, you could afford to spend somewhere in the range of $800 on diapers to have 3 1/2 dozen AIO's on hand so you never have to add anything to a cover. Otherwise, you might consider getting just a few for when you have a sitter over.

Fitted Diapers: These are diapers in various sizes that are designed to fit without any folding at all. 

Most fitted diapers fasten with snaps, though some require pins. Some people really like fitted diapers. But they're pricier than flats or prefolds and you still have to use a cover, which means double the snapping, something Duckling won't hold still for.

Diaper Covers (The things that hold the diapers onto the baby's bottom.)

PUL: PUL stands for "polyurethane laminate", a waterproof chemical. Many diaper covers are made of polyester material with lots of cute pictures on them. with a PUL coating. Some covers have the PUL exposed so that it touches the diaper directly, some have an extra layer of polyester added over the the laminate so the PUL is hidden. PUL covers can be washed in your washing machine. They are cheaper than many wool covers. They don't last as long as wool covers though and they do use chemicals. PUL covers come in wrap style (meaning they wrap around and fasten in the front like a disposable) and use either snaps or velcro as fasteners. Velcro is really quick to use; easy on-off. The problem with it is when your little sweet pea figures out that he can easily take his diaper cover off. I favor snaps myself. PUL covers come in various sizes, but also in one size covers that are adjustable in size for babies six weeks to three years.

Plastic/ Nylon Pants: These are the "old school" cover option. They're little pants made of nylon or plastic that you pull on and off. They're usually pretty cheap, but not very cute. My dad says they were something of a nightmare with especially messy, runny diapers because they pull down and get the mess everywhere. I've never had that problem with wrap style covers.

Wool: I didn't think I would like wool initially. The covers I found when I was pregnant the first time didn't look very cute and they were way expensive. Most wool covers I found were soakers, meaning they are the pull on and off type (no fasteners) which require pins. Wool also has to be lanolized to keep its waterproof quality. But, I LOVE my wool covers! The first thing was finding covers that I liked. I found one-size wrap style covers with snaps through Etsy. MamaBear Babywear makes really cute wool covers from up-cycled wool sweaters and they aren't much more than PUL one-size covers when you buy a five pack. I have found that lanolizing actually hasn't been hard at all. While wool has its drawbacks, it also has lots of benefits. It's really breathable, which is why even moms who live in hot climates still use wool. Wool covers are also made from soft, merino wool which isn't scratchy or irritating. Wool covers don't have to be washed until they get messy. If they are just damp, you can just air dry them and use again. They last longer than PUL covers and I have found them to be even better at stopping leaks than PUL. So, yeah, I love my wool. =)

Accessories (Fasteners, liners, etc.):

Pins: These are pretty obvious. (Don Diego: Do you know how to use that?  Alejandro: Yes. The pointy end goes in the other man. - The Mask of Zorro. Except the idea with cloth diapering is to put the pointy end in the diaper and not in anyone else.) Some moms don't mind pins, but I decided to opt out. It's simpler not using pins and Malamute has been a lot more comfortable with diapering Duckling when he's not faced with puncture wounds. =) Duckling is a wiggle worm too and I have done so many diaper changes in motion that using any kind of fastener would have been next to impossible.

Snappis: These are a new thing for keeping cloth diapers held together; kind of like pins but without the sharp pointy end. 

These are three sided fasteners that fasten much like an ace bandage. Again, my kid never stops moving, so I just snap the covers on and let him go.

Wetbags: "What do you do when you're out and about?" This is a question about CD-ing that seems to scare the crap (no pun intended) out of people. Seriously, it's not that scary when you have a PUL lined wet bag. (Haven't seen wool ones yet.) You simply take the dirty/wet diaper and place it in the wet bag and take the diaper home. Once home, you spray it off with your sprayer hose (that you have attached to the toilet previously), throw it in the diaper pail and launder as usual. I do NOT sit at home and cower about going out places and needing to change a diaper. 

Flushable Diaper Liners: All that being said, flushable liners can make going out and about a bit easier. If your baby messes, you take out the liner and flush it down the toilet. (If you have a septic tank, you may or may not be OK to flush.) I actually don't use flushable liners much, since I don't feel a strong need to. However, once Baby #2 shows up, we will use them some because they are great for protecting your cloth diapers from lots of meconium stickiness. I have heard a number of moms say that flushable liners make CD-ing newborns sooooo much easier. I can't comment with complete authority on this though since Duckling spent the first two weeks of his life in the NICU in disposables and by the time he was home, he was past the meconium phase.

Doublers: Basically an extra piece of cloth you add in with the diaper to increase absorbency. Especially good for night time diapering. While you can buy doublers, you can also use newborn prefolds on a bigger baby as a doubler in combination with an appropriate size diaper and cover.

Cloth Wipes: Yep. There are even cloth wipes. You get a tiny little spray bottle, fill it with a bit of soap and water and and spray that onto your fantastic cloth wipes and/or baby's tush to help with cleaning up the mess. I really like Osocosy's flannel wipes with the cute little rainbow colored stitching around the edges. Some people like the two-sided wipes that are smooth flannel on one side and terry cloth on the other. Every kind of cloth wipe you can imagine is available on Amazon. Green Mountain Diapers also has an impressive selection. You could probably find them on Etsy too. I personally think cloth wipes should replace toilet paper. They're more durable and soft.

So there you have it folks. A crash course in cloth diapering.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Healthier Alternative to Toblerone Chocolate Oranges!!!!

I LOVE Toblerone Chocolate Oranges. I always have. Especially the dark chocolate ones. For years I wondered if there could be any sort of alternative to the high sugar original. At last I have found one. My go-to favorite chocolate candy making recipe has become Chocolate Covered Katie's 3 Ingredient Chocolate Bars. So, take your 3 Ingredient Chocolate Bars and mix them up, but then add 4 drops of orange essential oil and mix it up. This is very inexpensive, especially when you get it from my new favorite essential  oils shop (Much thanks to my friend LaRisa for telling me about it.)  Pour your chocolate into chocolate molds, freeze for about 15 minutes or until fully solid (raw coconut oil solidifies VERY quickly).

A word of caution if you use raw cacao powder. Raw cacao powder is even more stimulating to the body than regular cocoa powder, so make sure to eat these only during the earlier parts of the day. I highly recommend investing the money in buying unrefined coconut oil in a large bulk bucket from Mountain Rose Herbs if you are going to use a lot of it. You will not finder a purer coconut oil for a better price.

I can't recommend unrefined coconut oil enough for chocolates. In addition to being full of healthy fats and being a fantastic anti-fungal, it is soooooo ridiculously easy to use and set that you can't go wrong in chocolate making. =)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pregnancy Update: Week 6

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook have already heard that Malamute and I are expecting Bundle of Joy #2 in late May. Since this is my first completely mostly raw and mostly vegan pregnancy, I have decided to open up about it and do some periodic updates on this blog.

So, here we are at week 6-ish. I had a positive test exactly a week ago. The thing that has been most difficult is the lack of appetite I have had ever since I had my positive test. Let me back up a bit.

When I was pregnant with Duckling three years ago, I had terrible morning sickness. I was nauseated by everything except the thought of junk food which wasn't good for me and we couldn't afford anyway. I ate hardly anything during my first three months of pregnancy (and much of what I did eat came back up) and lost 15 lbs. in about six weeks. In the middle of that last pregnancy, my husband and I changed our diet and now eat mostly raw and mostly vegan. I was feeling great before the positive test but since finding out that I'm actually pregnant, I seem to be having some post-traumatic stress disorder about eating. I'm not actually feeling nauseated, it's more that I've lost my appetite. Every time I even think about food, I remember how sick I was three years ago, and every time I eat something, I'm afraid it will make me sick, even though I'm not actually feeling nauseated. I went hungry as a kid because my parents couldn't afford food sometimes, so I have been wondering if this is compounding the problem. On top of being pregnant, I am still nursing Duckling some, though he has started to back off more, so I have even greater needs for food.

The truth is that it's been difficult to eat enough food (I know, some people's problems...), though I have been forcing myself to eat. I've been having extra green smoothies for more folate. To be honest, Malamute and I had a bit of a tiff today because hearing me say that I don't want to eat anything right now scares him to death because we're trying to prevent any more birth defects. (Fortunately, the neural  tube seals up in the third week after conception, so I was following my normal, ultra-high folate diet in blissful ignorance in the previous weeks.)

I am starting to show a little bit. (Yes, I know showing a little for me means that I still look tiny to you all.) My breasts don't hurt as much this time around either, so that's been nice.