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

“Beauty” Regimens I No Longer Perform

20140528-215510-78910454.jpg…….because it’s unnecessary, and I don’t care what “you” think. That’s right, I said it. I really don’t care what you think, and I don’t think anyone should have to care about it. And if it bothers you that I don’t do these things, well, I think you are sweating the small stuff, baby 😉 Let loose, and check out what I don’t worry about in terms of my beautiful body anymore:

Shaving. Yup, I don’t shave. Anywhere. I personally think it’s ridiculously unnecessary. Sure, if you have hair somewhere that is functionally or hygienically getting in your way, take it off. Like a beard, for example – I get that. It gets food in it. It hangs in yours or your girlfriend’s mouth, yeah. If I had a beard I would probably trim or shave from time to time so it didn’t get out of control. If you are a championship swimmer and you want to cut a few millisecs off your time – raze away. But do I need to spend countless hours of my lifetime stripping minor, non-irritating hair from my pits and legs? And other uncomfortable areas? God, NO! My hubs does NOT care (really, he really really doesn’t) and I don’t think he should. My legs are actually softer without shaving, and I certainly don’t have stinky armpits. In fact, the hair actually binds to my deodorant to make it more effective, IMO. Be strong and resist the brainwashing, ladies! We don’t need to be hairless.

Styling my hair with product. I keep my hair on the short side, although I am waffling on the style lately. My hair has very little volume, and has a lot of weird little flicks and waves in it. But I am NOT spending my time putting product in it anymore. 1). Because I can’t get behind using the kinds of toxic products that it takes to give my limp hair more shape, 2). I can’t be bothered to waste my time making alternative products for it, because I don’t care. If it’s clean and brushed, it is soooo not my problem if you think it looks ‘weird.’ It’s hair. It’s unique. It doesn’t need to look like the overly coiffed hair in commercials. But just FYI, I will eventually be posting a recipe for chia hair gel. It is pretty cool stuff…and fun to make with the kids. Stay tuned.

Applying make-up. So you may have noticed I don’t have any make-up recipes on the site yet. I confess, it’s because I don’t wear it. Ever. My complexion loves me for it. No pimples, no problems. Why do we need to look like dolls? Why? Make-up is super time consuming and annoying to apply (especially eyeliner, holy hell), and creates a vicious cycle of clogged pores and irritated skin cells that fight back and then need to be squelched again under another layer. I really don’t get the whole make-up thing. Well, okay, I do, I guess, maybe you want to impress someone….and I will probably figure out some basic recipes for those of you who may need it. But I am not rushing on that, because I really don’t think you need it. And I will probably only go as far as lip tint, rouge and mascara. I would be more thrilled if y’all would just let your natural loveliness out 🙂

For fun, check out this article on “How to Liberate Yourself From Make-up”.

Dying my hair. So I think it goes without saying that if I am not styling my hair with product, I am certainly not dying it. Dying your hair is an incredibly toxic process (Don’t believe me? Read THIS). It was fun in my youth to play around with crazy colours, but that is soooo done. And I am not interested in covering my grey, which has actually started to come in, by the way (hmmmm, maybe kids really do give you grey hair). You know, I actually kind of like it! I look at it as my wisdom and experience shining through. I earned that grey. And I wouldn’t cover it up for a minute. I think we need to remember that we can age gracefully and without shame. Be proud of your grey – it’s who you are, and it’s beautiful.

So okay, maybe I am extra crunchy for being this way. Then CRUNCH AWAY, I say. Take control of what is really important in your life, like eating healthy, staying active, respecting the earth we live on, being mindful and present, and enjoying each moment and person in your life like this is your last day on earth. And lastly, being kind and compassionate to one another, and teaching our children to do the same. When you think about how important all of these things are, make-up and hair dye seem a little ridiculous, don’t they?

What parts of your beauty routine have you thrown to the curb?

Disinfecting Naturally

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When I wrote my last post on lathering action, I felt compelled to write another piece on disinfecting your home. Many critics of natural cleaning methods always seem to come back to one point – “So how do you make sure you kill bacteria and viruses in your home?” Well, the solutions are, in keeping with tradition here, pretty darn simple.

First of all, I want to start off with a bit of a plea to the public. Can we give up on the idea that our homes need to be 100% “free of germs”? I really think we need to let go of that one. Yes, I know, we have endured years of advertising that claims we need to eliminate “99.9%” of the bacteria on our household surfaces. But you know what? Modern science is telling us that this may NOT, in fact, be a wise decision. We need to be more realistic, and look at the facts more closely.

You may have heard about “superbugs”, and antibiotic resistance. This has been a pretty hot topic over the last few years. Explained simply, this basically means that, through years and years of persistent and excessive antibiotic use, many bacteria have become tolerant of them and have been surviving better despite antibiotic treatment. The “germs” are getting stronger, and resisting the tough methods we are using to eliminate them. Why is that?

Well, when you treat bacteria with an antibiotic, it does not necessarily kill off every organism. And the ones that remain are generally the strongest, most resilient ones. Eventually, more and more of these resilient strains start to reproduce, and you are left with tougher and tougher bacteria that require stronger and stronger methods of elimination.

And guess what – medical professionals are running out of options faster than these superbugs are growing. It is a definite area of concern, especially within hospital environments where sterilization is necessary and mandatory for successful surgeries and invasive procedures.

Now let’s apply this same theory to your home. When you bleach or apply alcohol or sanitizing, antibacterial wipes, and other very potent disinfectants to your surfaces, guess which bacteria remain behind? That stronger “0.01%” that your product is not killing off are the ones who are left to reproduce. And those are the ones that are least likely to be affected by your disinfecting solutions. See where this is going? By applying unnecessarily strong disinfectants in your home, you actually may be breeding stronger bacteria. At the very best, you are leaving the strongest behind.

Not to mention the fact that bleach and other antibacterial chemicals can be very dangerous for children and pets, and are generally disconcerting for me to have in my home at all. Fumes from bleach are harmful to the respiratory tract, and ingestion of it can be deadly. And these substances negatively impact the environment when they go into the groundwater (bleach especially so).

Furthermore, there are lots of bacteria and microorganisms that may be of benefit to our bodies and immune system that live in our environment (not to mention within and on our own bodies). We need a healthy amount of “gut flora”, and even our skin has a layer of protective microbes that are undesirably killed off by things such as hand sanitizer and cleaning with bleach.

All of that being said, it leads me to this. How do I eliminate ALL of the bacteria in our home? I don’t. That’s right, you heard me! I don’t. I clean my home to an acceptable standard that eliminates health concerns, but I don’t make it a personal goal to just kill off all of the microorganisms in my house. My goal is to keep my home healthy and disease free. Can you do that with natural cleaning methods? Absolutely. How do I do that? Read along!

First, hand washing is a must in my home. Whenever we come in from being out in the community, or from playing in the dirt, we wash our hands. With regular soap. Using soap has been widely demonstrated as the best method for eliminating harmful bacteria and viruses from your hands (and body). Why? Because you are scrubbing them and physically removing the germs rather than just ‘killing’ them. It is this physical, mechanical removal of microorganisms that is the most effective method of cleaning.

Second, when I want to do more of a disinfecting type job (cutting boards, countertops, doorknobs, bathroom surfaces), I use vinegar and tea tree oil. These two are my best germ busting buddies. The natural acids in vinegar actually cause about 80% of bacteria and viruses to become inert. And tea tree has natural antimicrobial properties. Plus, it smells nice. I also use baking / washing soda and borax to clean things like toilets and bathtubs. For further reading on these methods, check out my article and recipes HERE.

Do I kill off 100% of the bacteria with these? No. But the sodas and borax, being naturally abrasive, physically remove most anything of concern. And I use soap, get in a good scrub, and physically remove bacteria and viruses on the surfaces that really count, like dishes.

Should you eat lunch off of my toilet seat? Mix up a batch of chicken soup in my bathtub? Prrrobbbbably not. There might be a few stragglers on there, and I certainly don’t clean them after each use. And seriously, ew. But you aren’t going to die of a staph infection because you didn’t chemically destroy all of the bacteria on your toilet. As long as you aren’t scratching your bare butt and then eating a sandwich, you are probably good to go.

I am also a firm believer in the fact that our immune systems need practice to become effective. If you lived your whole life in a completely sterile environment, and then tried to function in the real world, your body would probably react incredibly negatively to even very mild strains of bacteria and viruses.

If you have items of concern that you really think need a thorough disinfecting, first, scrub them well with soap to physically remove microorganisms, and then allow them to soak in a sink full of full strength white vinegar, or just spray them down with it and let sit. Hydrogen peroxide is also a beneficial disinfectant – I don’t use it much because I am satisfied with my vinegar, but I have researched that wiping with vinegar, and then following with hydrogen peroxide (NOT both together), kills off most microorganisms of concern. If you own a dishwasher, it also likely has a setting to sterilize – using your detergent and super hot water as active agents. You can also boil things that are heat tolerant (do NOT boil plastics).

So, long story short, I think it is time to rethink what “disinfecting” means in your home. We really don’t need to kill everything off – we can live in harmony with a few microorganisms and be perfectly healthy (in my opinion, more so). Here’s to hoping we can collectively reach a new level of comfort with what constitutes “clean enough” 🙂

For further reading on the topic, check out these links:
Does vinegar kill germs? – David Suzuki Foundation
Non-toxic Disinfecting – David Suzuki’s Queen of Green
Does vinegar really kill household germs? – ABC Health & Wellbeing
What is bleach and why is it dangerous? – Sustainable Baby Steps

Saying goodbye to suds

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As I’ve been sorting through some of my recipes, I’ve been compelled to write about one characteristic that is missing from some of them, compared to their store-bought counterparts: SUDS! Bubbles, lather, foaming action, whatever you want to call it, some of my recipes do lack this frothy bubbly stuff that many of us attribute to the effectiveness of a product.

Don’t get me wrong, I still use traditional soap in some recipes, which can produce a fair amount of bubbles and lather. It is this lathering action that can be really helpful for physically getting dirt and grime off your hands and other surfaces. But in some cases, the excessive amount of suds that you get with commercial products are just simply not necessary. And if you are looking for truly natural, non-toxic solutions, I hate to be the bearer of difficult news, but you may have to let go of the suds a bit.

The reason behind this is because chemical surfactants (the things that give your products their sudsy action, above and beyond what a typical soap might do) are one of the most toxic ingredients in many cleaning and bath products. And to my knowledge, other than mixing egg whites in with a recipe (ummm, which would not be advisable if you are looking to disinfect), I have not found any super bubbly non toxic alternatives that I am comfortable with.

(See this article for more information on toxic surfactants and other chemicals in your home.)

One of the products I’ve had to give up on the suds with is my dish soap. My dish soap recipe became a solid if I wanted it to have more suds, and then eventually would lose its sudsiness fairly quickly. I was not into using the solid version (too difficult to mix in with the water), so I liquified the recipe and there is not much suds at all now. It still has soap in it, but it doesn’t lather much when diluting it with the sink water. And you know what? It still cleans my dishes really, really well. And in conjunction with the vinegar rinse, actually probably sanitizes them superiorly to regular dish soap. And it doubles as a kitchen de-greasing spray.

I also gave up suds on my hair. I could not find a shampoo alternative that would not be drying, that involved natural suds (ie. soap). It took a bit of getting used to, but I am now completely comfortable with my “no poo.” The only time I find I need suds in my hair is after a haircut – and then I just use my body wash (which is essentially castille soap, glycerin and water).

You know what else I gave up? Bubble baths for my kid. There was nothing available that was satisfyingly benign to me (short of adding egg whites to my recipe, again, which I am not comfortable with and doesn’t seem very practical to me) and I figured, why the heck does he need bubble baths anyway? He has tons of fun just splashing in the water with his bath toys. So we don’t do bubble baths anymore.

And you know what? We are all clean and happy. It took a bit of adjusting for my hubs with the dish soap and no-poo thing, but now he is completely content with them. Especially because it is so much cheaper ;). The sans bubble bath is probably more an adjustment for the grandparents, really, am I right?

You really don’t always need suds to get clean, and when they so often come with a toxic load, I am very happy to say ‘goodbye to suds’ in certain arenas. Do we still wash our bodies with soap? Yuuuppp. I am a firm believer in plain, vegetable oil based soap. Dr. Bronner’s is amazing stuff. But you don’t need bubbles for everything! I say it’s time to let go of the need for so much lather. What about you?

PS: Stay tuned for “sanitizing your home without bleach or alcohol.”.

Also, check out THIS great read by Crunchy Betty on ditching bubble bath.

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?

Jayne’s Sick Tricks

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With the stress of my recent move, and this being the season for it, I’ve just been hit really hard with a massive head and chest cold. I thought I would share with you some of the many natural remedies I use when myself or a family member gets sick, as this has been the persistent theme of my last two weeks!

Let me start by saying these recommendations are by no means a replacement for, or to be taken as, professional medical advice. These are simply the methods I have researched, applied, and found to be useful in my family. I recommend doing your own research for anything that you are not completely comfortable trying. That being said, however, most of these remedies are pretty benign, and unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding (if so, you should really research ANYTHING novel you attempt trying with your body) they should be fairly innocent!

So let’s start off the list with my first recommendation:

The best, and most effective time to hit viruses and bacteria with natural remedies is at the initial onset of symptoms.. As soon as you feel that first throat tickle, that early sniffle, or any symptom that you suspect to be the beginning of something, hit it with all you’ve got.. Once something really has a hold of your body, it is much harder to boot it out, and often times you end up in for the long haul. I’m not saying you shouldn’t bother with herbal and natural remedies if you’re right in the thick of it, only that it will work better next time if you kick it out before it gets in the door :). Some of these remedies will prevent flus or colds from catching hold altogether if used early and effectively.

Herbal / Homeopathic Supplements I have used and found helpful (You can find these at your local health food store):

1). Oil of Oregano: This tastes awful, but it works. This herb has caught on like wildfire, so there are a lot of sub-par versions floating around. Make sure to buy organic, “wild” oregano. If it is super cheap, beware. You generally get what you pay for. Follow the directions on the label. Take this at first onset of symptoms. If you are right in the middle of a cold or flu, I personally wouldn’t bother much with it. There are some alternatives below.

2). Elderberry syrup: This remedy can be taken at onset of symptoms (for best results), or if you are fully ill. This is a powerful natural antioxidant and source of vitamin C that boosts your immune system’s ability to fight off infection. Plus, unlike oregano oil, it doesn’t taste nasty and is sold in dilutions safe for kids. Have fresh elderberries around? Eat ’em up, yum! They will work even better 🙂

3). “Respiractin”: For ANY respiratory concerns, including those brought on by colds and flu, such as coughs, wheezing, asthma related symptoms, this supplement is amazing. Filled with a mix of herbs that are natural respiratory tonics, they support your lungs in healing and expelling mucous. I have used this for myself, my husband, and my son. It can be used acutely to give fairly quick relief, or preventatively. Follow directions on the label.

4). “Stodal” by Boiron (Homeopathic): I used this homeopathic preparation for treating my toddler’s cough. It actually seemed to help quite a bit. I don’t claim to truly (other than surface level) understand how homeopathy works, but it definitely does for our family. I have used several of Boiron’s remedies on my son with success. Try this one out. I even found it at Walmart.

Food based remedies and relief:

1). Immune Boosting, Sore Throat & Tummy Tea: I make my own immune boosting, sore throat, cough, and tummy trouble treating tea for my family when we are sick. You can also include any of these (organic, please) ingredients in your cooking, in as close to raw form as possible, to achieve their immune boosting benefits. The ingredients and what they benefit are: peppermint (tummy), a few cloves (tummy, throat), a few slices of lemon with peel on (throat, immunity), raw honey (throat, immunity), sliced raw garlic (immunity), sliced, raw ginger root (tummy, immunity), fair trade, cracked apart cinnamon stick (respiratory tract).

My son won’t drink this tea, he is extremely picky about beverages. But I sneak a lot of the ingredients into other food dishes that i make, especially honey, cinnamon and garlic. If you aren’t into the garlic taste, you can skip it, but it is really beneficial for your immune system, so I highly recommend keeping it in if you can handle it.

2). Avoiding milk, cream, yogurt, and cheese as much as possible.. These dairy products are known to increase mucous production, which is not something you need during a cold or flu. It is best to avoid them when you are sick for that reason, unless you have a kid that you just really need to get some food in and one of these is the only thing he will take. Otherwise, best to steer clear until that mucous dies down!

3). Aloe vera inner filet gel:. This is a great remedy for sore throats, and upset stomachs. Also works great for heartburn, FYI. I like “Lily of the Desert” products the best. Do make sure it is the inner filet and not the whole leaf, as the whole leaf tends to purge your bowels.

4). Oil Pulling with Coconut oil: This is a traditional technique used for generations, involving swishing in the mouth, for about 15 minutes (yes, minutes, get comfortable), about a tablespoon of oil. I put some extra virgin coconut oil on a spoon, let it melt in my mouth, and swish. If you are really stuffed up, this is a bit uncomfortable as you have to keep opening your mouth to take a breath. BUT, that being said, this can be a excellent reliever of congestion and toxin build-up in your lymphatic system, so it is believed. Do not swallow the oil afterwards – although it can be beneficial to also eat raw coconut oil, spit it out this time. Supposedly it is “pulling” toxins from your system, so you would not be benefitting in swallowing them.

5). Making Vitamin C and Antioxidant Filled Smoothies: I love blending up a bunch of fruit and nutritious goodies into a smoothie for myself and sick family members. Load it up with fresh berries, apples, oranges, and leafy greens (you can’t even taste them with the fruit). Add some honey, a bit of lemon juice, cinnamon, coconut oil, and chia seeds for extra benefits such as immune boosting power, omega fatty acids, and protein to name a few. Plus, your little ones should love it, and it’s a great way to get some yummy, vitamin rich fluids in. I love my electric hand blender for this!

Other Tricks:

1). Breathe deeply during a hot shower, or using a hot steam humidifier: Inhaling steam has powerful benefits for congestion, both in your head, and chest. Stand or have your sick kiddos stand in the shower, or if too little, busy them with an activity in the hot bathroom. Try and engage in this for at least ten minutes, and consider purchasing a humidifier for nighttime and nap time use. They are relatively inexpensive, and I found mine to be supremely helpful in reducing my son’s nighttime coughing episodes.

2). Add some eucalyptus oil to your steamy experience by adding some in a sink or bowl of hot water and breathing it in, or buying a therapeutic aromatherapy diffuser and filling a room with it that way. Eucalyptus is amazing for clearing congestion. For my toddler, I used a diffuser, and put a few drops of the oil on his bedtime snuggle buddies. For adults, you can also add peppermint oil, although this is not recommended for young children, as in some rare cases it can actually work backwards and increase mucous production. If you find this is the case for you, just go back to straight eucalyptus.

3). Make your own vapour rub: See my article on making your own vapour rub HERE.. Put it on the chest and on the feet.

4). Engage in some lymphatic massage to drain your sinuses and ear canals. Watch THIS video for a thorough explanation of an amazing massage technique that truly works to relieve congestion. Have a little one with an ear infection? Try this lymphatic drainage technique several times a day before trying antibiotics if you are comfortable doing so. Some parents swear by this method for naturally treating ear issues in little ones. Make sure to oil up your hands to make the procedure more comfortable for sensitive skin.

So there you have it, a look into my repertoire of sick tricks. What do you use in your home as natural remedies for colds, flu, and allergies? Do you prefer natural remedies, or do you feel safer with drugstore remedies? To my displeasure, I know I had to cave and rely on some Benylin for some nighttime relief this time around, as this head cold has been particularly nasty. If you do prefer natural remedies, when do you throw in the towel and run to the pharmacy? I hope some of these remedies work for you, and that you stay relatively healthy during this cold and flu season.

Get your ‘Green’ on WITHOUT the toxins!

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I know it can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of all the fun green coloured treats on St. Patty’s Day. But did you know that food colouring can be quite toxic to your body, especially yellow colouring (which is often mixed with blue to make your lovely green hues)?

There have been studies done which demonstrate not only carcinogenic and disruption of certain natural functions in animals, but ADHD like tendencies in children exposed to drinks containing food colouring. (Please do some basic research on the topic if you have the time, it’s best not to blindly trust my blogger opinion). So, if you are overloading on these colourants on holidays like today, you could be dealing with toxic bods and some hyperactive kids to boot. Doesn’t sound very celebratory to me!

Never fear, though, as always, I have some alternatives for you!

Today, for breakfast, we made “green eggs” (minus the ham) simply by adding some pureed kale to our scramble. You can add pureed kale to a lot of dishes (including just a bowl of yogurt) to green it up! It really doesn’t add a lot of flavour (or texture, if you puree it fine enough) and you are adding lots of great vitamins and minerals instead of yucky toxins. Spinach also works, but I find kale to be slightly superior if you have the option! If you want a burst of flavour, add some pesto!

Apparently matcha (a kind of green tea) can also be sprinkled into icings and sauces to add a green hue without much flavour. You can buy a box of the tea bags, and just rip one open when you need it – or make the tea and use the water (although you might get a little more of a yellowish hue this way).

If you are making a milkshake or a dip, you can also add avocado for a mild flavour and a decent colour burst. Make sure you add some lemon juice as well so your avocado doesn’t brown as fast! Or just serve up some fresh guacamole as a dish on its own 🙂

If you want to keep it even more simple, just serve some foods that are naturally green, such as those listed above, or: cucumber, celery, green salads, zucchini, grapes (pleeeeeease make sure these are organic), green apples, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and seaweed. Serve up some minty cocktails if you are wanting an alcoholic drink (mojitos, anyone)? The leaves are so vibrantly green you shouldn’t need a colorant to add more!

So we’re keeping it safe by lowering our toxins (green should really be a healthful food option, should it not?). BUT, please also remember to keep it safe this St. Patty’s Day by NOT drinking and driving – find a safe way home by deciding on a designated driver, taking transit, calling a cab, or a volunteer designated driver service. Plan ahead so you aren’t stuck with a difficult decision!