Baby gifts I wish you wouldn’t give me

 
Since I’ve been on a bit of a parenting theme, I thought I would share something else I was passionate about in that vein – gifts that I  would rather not have that nevertheless seem to be very commonly given.  Followed by some useful suggestions if you are considering gifting to a family with a new addition.  Here is my list of “no-no’s”:

1). Newborn sized clothes (and other clothing mishaps):

It might seem to be the most intuitive gift you can give a new baby, but it really is not that helpful.  Many of us know someone that has had a baby and given us some hand me downs.  Chances are we already have a good stash of clothes to fit the baby by the time he or she arrives.  If you really must buy us clothes, consider buying in the 6-12 month range, and purchasing from a second hand store.  Some of us who have big babies don’t even end up using our 0-3 month clothes for very long.  Furthermore, there really is no need to buy “new” clothing items for babies at this age, as many items in the thrift shop will be new or like new anyway.  Some people’s babies completely bypass certain wardrobe items based on seasonal inappropriateness of sheer size of the baby when they were born.  It is just super wasteful to buy new items when you can re-use.

And if you do buy us clothes, please consider buying us functional items.  We don’t need fancy dresses and awkward coveralls that will just sit in the drawer because they are difficult / impractical to use. Get us some onesies, soft pants, or zippered sleepers.  Do not even consider buying me something with buttons.  Snaps I will tolerate.  Buttons?  Seriously, it’s 2015 here.  Take a look at the item and see if it will be difficult to get on and off of baby, or if it will impair their movement at all.  If the answer to one of these questions is yes, it will likely just sit in the drawer and go to the thrift shop.  

Finally, please avoid buying things that say “little princess” or “Daddy’s MVP” – just no.  It may sound cute to you, but many of us don’t like to genderize our kids this way.  Best to buy items that don’t have text at all, just fun colours and patterns please!

2).  Thick polyester blankets, those “blanket & buddy” sets, and stuffed animals in general:

You know what I’m talking about.  Those god awful thick, sweaty sets that come with a blanket and a matching stuffed animal, or any other such mishap.  Babies don’t do well in polyester blankets.  They don’t allow baby’s skin to breathe.  Cotton / natural fibres only, please.  And we don’t need a matching stuffed animal to go with it.  In fact, just no stuffed animals in general.  Especially if I have an older child as well, because then it just ends up in their already massive collection that began when they were a newborn getting matching stuffed animals and blanket sets.  And everyone thinks we need a blanket, so we end up with 10 blankets that take up half the closet.  If you are going to buy us blankets, go for the Aden & Anais swaddlers or other such muslin lovelies.  Especially because they are too expensive for me to justify purchasing myself!

3).  Baby related knick knacks:

It’s sweet and all, but it’s just another thing that I have to dust, and that eventually may get thrown on the ground and broken by my children.  There is going to be enough baby related stuff around that serves a functional purpose, that I don’t need to add to the clutter with a decorative item.  Please just leave that stuff in Pier 1 and walk away.  Walk.  Away.

“So what can I get you, then?”

Well, I am so glad you asked.  If you know someone with a new baby and you want to help out by gifting, here are some ideas for you, in addition to the suggestions already mentioned above.

1). Money.  Seriously, write us a check.  So many things come up last minute that you weren’t expecting.  You may have bought something that didn’t work out and need to purchase a different item.  There are so many large items that you need as a new parent that you can’t expect any single person to fund in their entirety, so it’s nice to pool money towards these things.  Not to mention just the ongoing costs of things like diapers or a diaper service, formula for moms who are unable to breastfeed, food for that super hungry new breastfeeding mama, childcare costs……the list goes on.

2). Food.  Come by with some yummy take-out.  Prep us some freezer meals.  Give us some restaurant or grocery store gift cards.  We always need to eat, and it is so lovely to not have to worry about cooking a meal when welcoming a new addition.

3). A quality toy or activity for my older kid.  Read: an educational and preferably quiet toy or activity, hopefully not composed of cheap plastic.  Or better yet, come take him out to the park to play.  He is likely feeling neglected with all the extra attention going to baby.  Showing him some love is showing some love for the new baby, as the emotional balance hangs by a thread in the early days.  The more balanced everyone is feeling, the more quality time can be invested into the new life.

4). A one of a kind, handmade item for baby.  If you really feel the need to give us a token for the new arrival, consider purchasing something that is special, ethically sourced, and uniquely crafted – or handmake yourself.  Again, make it something that baby can use later on and not just for a few days in the early weeks (ie. don’t knit me a sweater that only fits up to ten pounds – if you put that much effort into something, I want to be able to use it)!  One beautiful idea of something to purchase is a Bamboletta doll or something similar (there are many beautiful creations for babies on Etsy).  Something unique and made with love, that this child would use for years to come.  And something we definitely could not afford to purchase for ourselves!

I hope this list helps you in your search for that “perfect gift” for the new arrival in your life.  Your loved ones will thank you for your thoughtful consideration, and you will feel satisfied that your gift is being used to it’s full potential!  Happy gifting 🙂

My “DIY” Home Birth!

So for all of you who have been wondering what I’ve been up to for the past nine months, well – I’ve been growing a baby ;).  And I just had the most fantastic home birth, unassisted by a licensed practioner.  That’s right, no doctor, no registered midwife.  Tell on?  I shall!

My most recent birth story really begins at my first birth, which was an emergency cesarean that likely could have been avoided.  I went through a typical “pit-to-distress” scenario where the doctors rushed my labour after my waters had broken (likely due to an unnecessary membrane sweep the day prior on my EDD).  After I “failed to progress” in the timeline the doctors would have wanted, I was given an epidural and pitocin, both of which inhibited any feeling of the urge to push – so I proceeded to push in a guided fashion for more than five hours before they decided he was “stuck” and took me to surgery.

After he was delivered, I spent two hours separated from him while my husband struggled to figure out where I was or what was happening that was preventing my connection with my newest family member.  I remember crying for my baby and receiving zero sympathy from my attending nurse, all the while being threatened with my baby receiving formula if I “didn’t recover from the anesthetic soon enough.”  I was denied the initial moments of what would have been extremely beneficial skin to skin contact, which I feel impaired my breastfeeding relationship and bonding with my newborn son.  I will never forget the grief that was our separation during this time.

[My first kiddo after the surgeon took him out.]

After this traumatic birth, I was determined to become more informed on birth in general, and not to ever experience unnecessary trauma like this again.  I researched and researched, and soon found that the hospital policy of keeping mom and babe separated, along with all the unnecessary interventions I had experienced, were not evidence based practice at best, and unethical and borderline abusive at worst.  

So I went seeking registered midwives to attend my birth, as I hoped the experience with them would be less medicalized and more conducive to natural childbirth, with less interventions and more direct support for our family.  Like, say emotional coaching and support for both myself and my husband that would leave us feeling more confident in trusting the natural process of birth and coping with the physical sensations and experiences involved.

My experience with the midwives seemed to be going well, but I was disappointed to learn that most registered midwives in the province would not do an out of hospital VBAC as they found it too risky due to increased chance of uterine rupture at the scar site, and a repeat of whatever conditions had necessitated my cesarean in the first place.  This made me slightly uncomfortable, but my midwives agreed to attending the birth at a hospital that had more up to date practices that would allow mom and baby to recover together after a cesarean, should that become necessary again.  I also looked into my legal rights and had put together a substantial birth plan that would leave me with the confidence to refuse and unnecessary interventions anyone tried to push my way.

However, at 36 weeks, my midwifery team abruptly informed me that they would not be able to stretch their resources to attend my birth at my chosen hospital, and should I wish to continue with my birth plan, I would have to transfer my care to a different midwifery with seven midwives on staff.  My trust was broken, as I felt that my midwives should have forseen this difficulty in their practice prior to offering my this option for my birth.  I felt, if they are going to back out of this, what other issues am I going to have when it comes time for my birth? And how am I going to connect to an entire new team of seven midwives with only a month before my due date?

I also was unhappy to hear them applying the term “high risk” to my delivery, as from my research, I was actually a very good candidate for a VBAC considering it had been almost three years from my last delivery to my conception date, and that I had gone to full dilation and pushed during my first birth.  All of these conditions allowed for a much smaller risk in uterine rupture (which is already a very small risk to begin with), and post cesarean related complications.  Furthermore, given that I was basically induced due to the membrane sweep prior to my first birth, I likely had not gone into labour at the right time, which had opened the door for complications in the first place, which had then been exasperated by all the interventions applied. Thousands of women have had perfectly natural, successful VBACs with similar histories to mine.  Yet I was “high risk”?  This was another red flag for me, as it seemed their classification of me as such was not based in sound evidence, andwould  likely lead to more fear based unnecessary interventions.

I left looking for other options, and my immediate thoughts were to contact a private “traditional birth attendant” who would attend an HBAC and approach my birth with evidence based information based in instinctual birth and traditional methods.  We had considered this path to begin with, as it was recommended highly from a few acquaintances, but had balked initially at the cost – a traditional birth attendant is not covered by MSP as they are not a registered medical practitioner.  A birth supported by such a professional is considered “unattended” in our province.

Well, contact her I did, and what a magical journey we began after doing so!  My birth attendant came directly to my home for my pre-natal visits, checked up on baby and I with traditional, non-invasive methods (for example, checking baby’s heart rate with a stethoscope instead of utilizing the possibly damaging ultrasound based audio doppler, and avoiding unnecesssary vaginal exams).  We discussed how a hospital birth actually can actually increase health risk and mortality for women and babies, due to the unnecessary and escalating scale of interventions that are applied and encouraged there – induction when going past your due date, treatment with drugs and painkillers that reduce your natural connection to your sensations and your instinctual urges (not to mention crossing the placenta and affecting baby), discouragement from eating or drinking normally when your body may in fact need such nourishment to promote your strength and wellbeing – among many others.  Not to mention the fact that you are naturally more comfortable in your own home environment, which psychologically leads to an increased ability to “open” into your birth and push that baby out.

We decided on having a water birth in a home birthing pool with zero interventions unless one became necessary for emergency purposes – in which case i would be transported by ambulance to hospital.  I had hired a doula months earlier who would continue to support me for my home birth – trained in hypnotherapy and energy work on many levels, my doula would be there to support me emotionally through painful sensations, helping me to feel safe in the physical experience of labour – we discussed how she would be there to help me psychologically open myself to trusting the natural birth experience and avoiding the urge to seek interventions that my body did not need.

We also discussed how important it was for me to have my husband more involved and empowered at this birth.  The hospital birth was such a helpless experience for him, feeling powerless to do anything when constantly ordered around and interfered with by nurses and doctors – and then being left alone with our newborn while I “recovered” elsewhere.  I wanted him to feel like he was doing something to make a difference in the process – like he was supporting his family and having some control in the experience.  Our birth attendant was happy to support us in this way by coaching my husband on what he could do for us during the birth.

My baby “cooked” for a week past my EDD, which was perfectly natural and not a cause for concern for my traditional birth attendant.  It is not natural for all babies to spontaneously emerge at exactly 40 weeks – some babies need more time in the womb, and ovulation dates are rarely exactly determined in the first place.  So we happily proceeded to wait until she was ready, which was a beautiful, clear spring morning on a Saturday.

I woke at 6 am with mild crampy contractions, and knew it was the day.  I made french toast for myself, hubby, and my three and a half year old son, woke my husband up leisurely and told him it was time.  Boy, were we excited for this brand new experience!  After breakfast, we headed to a local park and spent some time enjoying the outdoors.  My friend, our birth photographer, happily met us at the park and snapped some shots.


[Calling my doula]

[Watching my son play happily on the playground]

I called my doula and birth attendant and around lunch time I was feeling like it was time to get home.  I ate a small delicious meal on the couch.  My sensations were getting stronger, closer together and very regular.  Another friend who is also a doula came by to be with us also – my doula, friend and I laboured together in my living room while my husband busied himself tidying and taking care of us.  My friend and doula did a beautiful traditional aboriginal smudge with me using sage and cedar, which I felt truly helped me release many of my remaining tensions and fears.  

[Smudging]

My son played with his Nana outside while my labour continued progressing.  It was so important having my son there for us, as we felt that he would learn so much, and feel more comfortable being there amidst all the action, rather than spending the night away at another house feeling curious about the goings on.  I also felt strongly that seeing a peaceful, lovely, natural birth would help him heal on some level from the trauma of his own birth.  We had prepared him for it by talking a lot about what birth was like, watching birth videos, and very much normalizing the process rather than allowing fear to permeate.  He was calm and curious during the whole process, and my doula would help connect him to the birth and to me and Daddy throughtout.

[Big brother staying amused in the earlier stages]

I moved to the bathtub on suggestion of my doula when sensations were getting harder to cope with and impossible to talk through.  This helped ease the intensity somewhat, and we had the lights dimmed.  I felt an intense pressure in my head, and my doula guided me through a visualization that involved sending light up and out the top of my head, and back in again to swirl around in my belly.  This eased the intensity of this pressure immensely!  At this time I started also feeling quite nauseous and threw up a couple times.  In hospital, this had been a cause for concern which had me hooked up to fluids immediately.  At home, we moved past this right away as just a natural part of the process.

[My son stopping in while I was in the bath]

My birth attendant had arrived, and I was feeling increasingly overwhelmed by my sensations, although still coping very well through my doula’s amazingly intuitive coaching and the support of my husband who I now had holding my hand through each sensation.  He felt happy and confident to be there for me when I needed him close.  My doula described later how he was seemingly thrilled that I needed him to be there for support.  At the hospital, I had felt so paralyzed in fear and pain that I hadn’t wanted him touching my body at all.  At home, if he let go of my hand, I felt like I immediately lost stability.

We moved with some difficulty to my bed where I felt I could labour more in comfort, as I was feeling increasingly exhausted with sitting up in the bath.  The sensations were almost one on top of the other at this point and so intense I found myself longing for painkillers!  I was however very thankful that they weren’t available to me, as I knew I didn’t “really” need them, it was just old conditioning peeking through.  I was glad to be home where I could be in the comfort zone I needed to push through without drugs.

As an aside, I want to speak to the incredible benefit that is having a doula present that you are in tune with.  My doula knew just what I needed on a deep, spiritual level, and spoke to it or brought it for me without question, allowing for as peaceful and uninterrupted a labour as possible.  All I needed to do was connect with my sensations and focus on being strong in the moment.  She was there to suggest to my husband what he might do to assist me, and to support him as well if he needed a break.  I can’t say enough how valuable a well chosen doula is for a healthy, natural birth, at home or in hospital.

Just as I felt I couldn’t handle a single other sensation, and while I was wondering what pushing would be like and when I would know it was time, my body just transitioned immediately into pushing – I pushed without thinking, and my mucous plug loosened and my waters broke on the bed.  I knew it was time to push and didn’t even have to choose to do so – my body just did it on it’s own without any conscious input, and it felt amazing!  I knew it was time to push my baby out!  We had progressed so quickly that we hadn’t had time to set up the birth pool – however, I didn’t feel I could have maneuvered myself in it at this point anyway and was happy staying where I was.

Not once was I checked for dilation – a practice which has proven largely unnecessary and invasive.  Not only can you introduce pathogens to the mom and baby if you do so, but you can disturb the natural peace and progression of things without any proven benefit. The only thing a dilation check can do is really promote a questioning of an “appropriate” timeline for your birth, which raises anxieties and creates unnecessary expectations.  Not to mention creating a great deal of discomfort.

I immediately felt the need to be on all fours, but was also quite exhausted at this point.  We found a solution which had me supporting my upper body on the rocking ottoman from my nursing chair, which was the absolute perfect tool for my experience!  I could rock myself gently between pushing, easing tension on my lower back, and keep myself in an all fours position without using much arm strength.  My doula put a lovely cool cloth on my forehead which helped ease the heat and preasure I was continuing to feel there.



At this point my husband recalls that he was surprised at the strength in my hand, finding he had to squeeze back so I wouldn’t crush his fingers – all those sitcom births with moms crushing hands had actually found a bit of truth there amidst the ridiculousness of dramatized births.  I found myself going into a loud, guttural roar during my pushes and thought “Wow, my throat is going to be wrecked after this,” but not caring at all.  I needed to growl!  My doula encouraged my son to “make the sounds with mommy”, and he was happy to growl along with me as I pushed his sister out. I truly believe it was a beautifully illuminating and powerful learning experience for my first child.

After about an hour of pushing, we could tell it was close – my birth attendant encouraged me to push gently to avoid tearing.  As I felt I barely had any strength left in my body, everyone hoisted me up onto a special birth stool that my attendant brings to all her births.  I pushed my little girl’s head out on the stool and my attendant told hubby to “get ready to catch your baby!”  Her shoulders came out easily and she slipped gently through husband’s hands onto the towels on the floor – we weren’t prepared for how wriggly and slippery she was!  He quickly scooped her up and passed her to me – I almost dropped the slippery little love also but was supported by all the lovely ladies around me.  She almost immediately wanted to check out my breast, and she was so lovely to behold.  I enjoyed holding her for some moments, and then my birth team hoisted me up to recover and birth my placenta on my bed.

[Hubby watching baby girl crowning!]

[My lovely slippery baby girl!]

The placenta came out without issue, and we delayed clamping her cord until an hour later.  It was so wonderful to snuggle up right in my own bedroom with my lovely baby and not to have to worry about anybody poking or prodding us with unnecessary procedures.  I was brought beautiful nourishing food, along with a piece of my placenta to swallow.  I was so well taken care of that all I had to do was savour snuggling up to my newest little munchkin.  A friend came shortly after the birth to encapsulate my placenta right in my home.  



I can’t express enough how empowering it was for my husband and I to have our HBAC.  My husband continually expresses his amazement with how my body just knew what to do, and how incredible it was to just be supported in trusting the natural birth process.  I birthed my lovely 9 pound 6 ounce baby girl with no interventions – only love, emotional support, and very gentle coaching during the last stages of pushing, and my baby was here!  She was lovely and pink and wonderfully healthy and alert.  Breastfeeding started easily and quickly.  A night and day experience from the hospital.  My birth attendant stayed with us overnight to make sure my bleeding slowed and that we were comfortable.  We were so well supported and loved, and continued to be for the weeks following – having meals and other things delivered and being checked on regularly.

I am so thankful for my beautiful natural birth, which has allowed me to heal from much of the emotional trauma of my first.  I strongly recommend home birth to everyone – it is such a wonderfully empowering and healthy experience that I wish every family could have in their lifetime.  If it wasn’t for my wonderful traditional birth attendant, this natural birth may not have been possible for me, due to the unreasonable restrictions and unsubstantiated fears of the medical profession.  I am eternally grateful for her knowledge and experience which allowed me to have faith and confidence that traditional birth, as nature intended, is possible for most women, and in actuality the healthiest way to have your baby – despite what the medical community may try to tell you.  You CAN trust your body to do what it needs to do to grow and birth your baby, and you may just have an enlightening experience if you do so!



Pictures by the lovely Mitra Suri Bullock 

Some additional reading:

The Evidence for Doulas

Traditional Midwifery & the VBAC

Educational Articles on Natural Childbirth

Cloud Dough (and Playdough)

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So have you all seen this “cloud dough” circulating on Pinterest? I tried it with my son today, and it was so much fun! It is basically flour with oil that creates a wonderfjl fluffy textured dough that you can mould to a degree. A great sensory play activity, and when combined with essential oils can be used therapeutically as well!

Here’s the recipe:

8 parts all purpose flour
1 part liquid vegetable oil
OPTIONAL:
8 drops essential oil of choice per cup or so of flour (we chose lavender for it’s calming qualities)
1-2 parts powdered tempera paint for added colour

In a very large bowl or the container you are planning to store it in, measure out your flour. Next, drop the essential oil (if using) into the unit you are using to measure your liquid oil. Add the oil, and then pour that mixture into the flour. Mix it in with a spoon, and then your hands until the oil is evenly distributed. It will always be chunky / crumbly in nature, but there shouldn’t be any ‘wet’ chunks that are mostly oil.

And go to town! While your kiddo has fun shaping and feeling the dough, they will also enjoy the aromatherapy benefits of the oil that you choose. Take a look at AromaWeb for some info on the qualities of different oils.

Oh. And you may have a mess afterwards. In case that wasn’t obvious ;). Put down a towel!

Looking for a traditional playdough recipe? Well I’ve got the one we’ve been using for you here as well. It is a fantastic recipe that turns out great every time (sorry this one does NOT work great in ‘parts’ – feel free to double it, it works fine!):

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When I say stir constantly, I mean constantly. If you stop stirring, your dough will get hard, crunchy spots. Stir until it gets to the (even) consistency you would expect from playdough. It will get pretty sticky and intense to stir, get ready for a forearm workout ;).

This stuff keeps for ages because of the salt and tea tree oil. Ours had been going for three months before I made a fresh batch. That being said though, to be safe, toss it if anyone really really sick has been playing with it! But it shouldn’t really go “bad” very fast, it’s likely to be left out and accidentally hardened first ;).

That also being said, you can always knead in a bit more water and oil to an older batch to liven it up a bit!

Hope you enjoy your sensory play with the kiddos!

DIY your own Natural Sunscreen EASILY and CHEAPLY!

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UPDATE: (July 21, 2014) I have now posted a preferred sunscreen recipe for you HERE. I have found that the recipe below, although providing adequate sun protection, does not reliably emulsify every time, and sometimes develops a grittiness or chunky quality over time. Apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

So it’s that time of year again where we may think about starting to reach for the sunscreen when spending long periods of time outside. As many of us have now realized, most traditional sunscreen is quite toxic, and (ironically) contains many carcinogens. And if you know this, you know that the natural alternatives are NOT cheap. You are looking at twenty to thirty bucks a bottle for some of the store-bought alternatives.

Now, this wasn’t acceptable to me, so I thought, hey, why don’t I try making my own? Understandably, it is one of those ‘riskier’ DIY exploits to jump on. I felt like, man, if I screw this up, I might end up with a wicked sunburn. Yikes! And myself and my immediate family members (including my two year old), are pasty white.

BUT, after some substantial research, I decided it was worth a shot. So, last year, I whipped up a batch and tried it out. And it worked AMAZING. I was overjoyed to find that neither myself, my husband, or my son burned while wearing it. That being said, we weren’t spending all day on the beach in Florida. We are looking at a couple hours at a water park with moderate amounts of clothing on. I am one for everything in moderation, and I include my sun exposure in that category – I am just not one for baking in the sun all day.

BUT, I do know of some Moms who use very similar recipes and find it is also pretty good for heavier sun exposure. That also being said, just know that I am not PERSONALLY attesting to this.

My recipe relies on two active ingredients that are said to provide a physical barrier to harmful UV exposure. These ingredients are zinc oxide and extra virgin coconut oil. Some folks use just the coconut oil with decent success, but since my pasty skin is so vulnerable, I really felt I needed to add in the zinc oxide as well.

You do need to source the zinc oxide in an unusual location, as it is not something that is widely available in most stores. You can buy zinc oxide online HERE at New Directions Aromatics, or locally at The Soap Dispensary or another similar soap making shop. Please make sure that the zinc oxide you use is non-nano, which basically means it is not readily absorbing through your skin into your bloodstream. While it is a less toxic alternative, it is not completely benign, and should not be used internally or inhaled.

Alternatively if you just cannot source the zinc oxide powder, I have a suggestion (not as toxin free, mind you, as it includes petroleum products) using diaper cream below – wait for it :). Not my first choice, but an option!

Anyways, after that lengthy introduction, here is my recipe for sunscreen that supposedly results in around 20-25 SPF:

1 part non-nano zinc oxide powder
1 part food grade aloe vera gel
4 parts extra virgin coconut oil
OPTIONAL: Add 10 drops per half cup of sunscreen citronella essential oil to make your sunscreen double as a mosquito repellent.

IMPORTANT: Mix in a well ventilated area, with a mask on. Once mixed, the zinc oxide is fine, but it is NOT to be inhaled as it can accumulate in your lungs. Not to scare you, but just wear a mask like this one and you will not only look wicked awesome, but you will be perfectly fine 🙂

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PROCESS UPDATED ON MARCH 4, 2014:

Start by melting your coconut oil in a double boiler (see my FAQ for an explanation). Add your zinc oxide, and mix well until there is not much left stuck on the bottom of your bowl. Next, transfer this mixture to a food processor (the sunscreen is REALLY hard to clean out of the processor afterwards, so if your budget allows it, I would have a separate food processor for your body products), and blend for at least five minutes.

Add your aloe vera gel (I personally like Lily of the Desert’s products) and citronella. Blend for another five minutes. The aloe vera is in there to be soothing to sun exposed skin, as well as acting as a bit of a liquefier for our mixture. It is not 100% necessary to functionality of the recipe, so if need be, you can omit it. I just find it is a nicer product with it included. The citronella acts as a natural mosquito repellent – and it smells nice, too 🙂

NOTE: It is not advisable to hand mix this recipe, as the zinc oxide tends to just separate if not mixed very vigorously with a processor. If you find that, when applied, your sunscreen contains a lot of white flecks, rather than being more uniformly white, you may need to process it longer.

*If you absolutely cannot find zinc oxide powder, you can use Penaten or some other zinc oxide based diaper rash ointment, and mix in double or triple the amount you would have used if you had the zinc oxide powder. I don’t recommend this health wise, as there are petroleum products in these creams, and the zinc is not likely to be non nano, but if you need to, it’s still better than the toxic regular sunscreen, and a LOT cheaper than the store bought naturals!

And there you have it! This sunscreen will go on a bit white-ish (especially if you use the diaper rash cream) but I find that to be the case with most store bought natural sunscreen as well. This recipe also is not waterproof. You WILL need to reapply after a swim or spending a lot of time in a water park. You just can’t make a waterproof sunscreen that is satisfyingly free of major toxins. So keep this in mind! And it IS greasy. That is just the nature of pretty much all natural, physical barrier sunscreen. I haven’t found any, storebought or not, that is not greasy to some extent.

If you find you get a burn using this sunscreen, either consider upping the amount of zinc oxide you use (just stir in some more into your current batch if you need to), or apply it more often. Another problem could be that you are applying the lotion “too thin” – you want to make sure you have a thicker layer on, as this is a BARRIER sunscreen, not a chemical based one.

I hope this recipe works for your family, and saves you some money too!

Have a Natural, Eco-Friendly Easter!

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So I have been looking around at the Easter stuff in the stores these days out if curiosity’s sake, and I’ve gotta say – yikes! Landfill bound, much? I mean, it’s been this way for years, but holy cow – when did Easter become a time for eating crap and throwing plastic in the landfill?

We are not a Christian family – BUT we still celebrate Easter in the kid-centred, egg hunt-y sort of sense, while also still recognizing and appreciating the traditional meaning from a perspective of maintaining knowledge. So while we are not really celebrating Easter in terms of Christ, we are certainly working at developing an understanding that the holiday should NOT in our family become a tradition of waste and junk food.

I have always enjoyed the Easter egg hunt – my mother was particularly creative with hers every year and I sometimes had to look pretty hard to spot all the treats. With my child, though, I really don’t want to lay on the chocolate as thick. I noticed some behavioural and physical consequences of OD-ing on chocolate this Christmas time with my toddler (read: hyperactivity, irritability, frequent urination, cravings), and am definitely going to strive not to allow that to happen this Easter. So what are my alternatives?

Have an egg hunt without the candy.. Chances are, if you start your kids on a tradition of the scavenger hunt for eggs WITHOUT any candy inside, they will find the hunt itself to be rewarding and fun, and won’t expect any chocolate at all. Let’s start traditions that are about events, and not about candy! One fun tradition I have seen emerging along with the egg hunt is making “Easter Bunny tracks” out of flour.

But what should I use as the eggs? You have lots of options here. You can paint egg shaped rocks and hide them in the garden or your favourite forested area. You can also buy and paint wooden eggs that you find at craft stores, or make 2D eggs out of felt and fabric paint, and re-use them year after year. Hide them away as you would your other holiday decorations! Another idea is finding some of those plastic eggs second hand through thrift stores or places like craigslist. If you need something new, there’s a great company called Eco Eggs that make vegetable based, compostable “plastic” type eggs that are more eco-friendly than others. You can also dye and hide real eggs using natural food colourings or onion skins. There are plenty of ideas for this on Pinterest (see below for the link to my board) and just through googling! Hehe. I still like saying googling.

“I really want to fill the eggs with something.” Okay, I get it! Your kids are expecting something to be inside. Consider putting some change inside each egg that the kids can use to buy something later. Have kids that like marbles or fancy rocks? Consider putting these in your eggs. Put pieces to a new puzzle inside each egg. For older kids, and for those involved in Christian celebrations, consider writing parts of the story of Jesus’ resurrection in each egg to read together. Or, if you really want treats, try making some mini cookies and putting these inside eggs. You can also “trade-in” non-fillable eggs for items that you keep in a special basket, or for home baked healthier treats.

One thing I really enjoy about Easter is getting back into nature. The easter egg hunt is one way to get outside during your celebrations. You may also want to consider planting some flowers or vegetables as part of your celebrations. If you start your seeds now, you should have some sprouts ready for transplanting by Easter weekend. For an extra Easter-ish feel, consider sprouting some seeds in empty, decorated egg shell halves!. Think about skipping the egg hunt altogether and do a flower hunt in your local park or forested area – try to spot as many different colours and varieties of spring blooms as you can! Or do a bird search, talking about and spying (with binoculars, even) as many species of birds as you can. Bring some birdseed along to scatter! Take along a notebook to do some sketches and write down your finds.

Buying some bouquets for family members? Consider picking fresh wildflowers, or buying flowers individually and tying your bouquet with twine instead of all of that horrid cellophane. Think about buying some nice bulbs that can be transplanted to the garden, in an eco-friendly, biodegradable pot. And definitely consider buying locally grown flowers when possible. Many communities have flower festivals in spring that you might consider attending.

Make sure your family members know, well in advance, how you feel about candy and junk. Grandparents love to spoil, so if you don’t want your kid to eat a huge chocolate rabbit, tell them in advance not to buy him one. Consider planning your event with your extended family’s involvement so that they know they can celebrate in other meaningful ways other than buying your kid a bunch of garbage. Maybe someone wants to knit him an Easter sweater? Or DIY him a fun set of homemade bunny ears? Or consider asking relatives to buy Easter themed books instead of treats.

If you plan on attending community events, make sure you find out what kinds of practices you will be supporting if you do. Is there going to be a balloon release? Stay far away or protest it and suggest alternatives (bubble blowing, seed scattering, visit Balloons Blow.org for options) if so, these are incredibly devastating to our ecosystems. If there is an egg hunt, are there volunteers available to ensure that there are no stragglers left in the forest or park to pollute the area? If not, consider offering to organize a team to do so! Are there appropriate facilities set up for recycling? Do what you can to ensure you are taking part in a sustainable celebration, and not a waste creating one.

Take a look at my Pinterest Easter Board for some specific Easter themed, sustainable, crafty DIY ideas!

I hope you all have a wonderful, happy Easter, with lots of time with family and friends. What are your ideas for a sustainable Easter celebration?

Cleaning with Toddlers & Small Children

After finding a nifty list of suggested chores for kids, I figured I could blog some thoughts I have about cleaning with kids. I have a two year old who loves to copy Mommy, which sometimes works as an advantage OR a disadvantage when cleaning your house – depending on how much time you have to be patient while they explore the task, or whether you just need to get it done in a hurry!

If you involve your child with cleaning behaviour from a very early age, they will be more likely to internalize the values associated with having your living space clean, and chances are they will be more likely to independently engage in the same behaviour when they are older. The earlier they can be come involved with taking care of their living environment, the better – IMHO!

If you clean your house with toxic and poisonous chemicals, you likely will be keeping toddlers and small children out of your cleaning routine. Nobody wants their kids breathing in / mouthing these kinds of cleaners. BUT if you start making your own safe cleaning products, you will feel more comfortable involving your kids in these activities. Got a kid who likes to use a spray bottle? Your all purpose vinegar spray cleaner is perfectly safe for them to use, and fairly gentle on the skin. Have them spray the mirror or floors for you and help you wipe it!

One thing my two year old loves to copy is sweeping the floors – so much so that we bought him his own mini broom to help sweep. He is now at the age that he even targets pieces of dirt – usually just flings them around to another part of the kitchen, but it’s pretty cute to watch 🙂

Kids usually love doing the laundry, too – you can have them add the laundry soap, turn the dials, press the buttons, and transfer the clothes from one machine to another. Folding laundry can be fun – start them with washcloths and hand towels! Finding the matches for socks can be a thrilling exploit for a two year old ;). My LO also loves taking the clothes to the proper bedrooms and putting them in the drawers. Especially the underwear, for some reason!

If you have a LO who loves to copy, but you can’t have them involved in the task either for efficiency’s sake or safety – try and have them either pretend with some imaginary / distracting objects, or give them an empty bottle to “spray” or “pour” with. If you are using a bucket, give them their own empty bucket to carry around. Be creative – it will work to your advantage later if you have tried to have them involved in the task in their own capacity rather than dissuading their participation!

If your munchkin has not taken an interest in cleaning and tidying, sometimes singing a song or making the activity into a game can be helpful. My LO loves counting, or singing the ABC’s – this has been a great strategy when completing a task involving steps. “Score a goal” with dirty socks or when putting toys in bins. Sticker charts can be a great initial motivator, too.

I thought I would make up my own list of the hierarchy of easier to more difficult “cleaning” tasks, and out them in categories, rather than lump them into age ranges – every little cutie develops at their own rate and has varying levels of interest in household activities. This way you can pick and choose from the list by category of interest! Check it out:

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CAUTIONS & CONSIDERATIONS:. I wouldn’t have a toddler shaking around the powdered scouring cleaner, as breathing in the dust from it is not super great for you – but it is certainly FAR safer than any other scouring cleaners you would purchase commercially! Your school aged kids should certainly be able to use this cleaner with supervision. If you involve your small children in mixing some of your cleaners, watch out for recipes with a lot of powdered dust floating around – have them wear a scarf over their face if they are joining in.