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

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.

Dr. Oz’s DIY Baking Soda Toothpaste Faux Pas!

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Okay, so I was watching Dr. Oz today as it was mentioned to me he was doing a special on uses for baking soda. Expecting to give him a nod after seeing some repeats of some of my favourite tricks, I instead was horrified to see what his colleague demonstrated as a whitening toothpaste.

What Dr. Oz had concocted is absolutely NOT something I would EVER recommend brushing your teeth with. Baking soda on teeth? YES. Kudos for getting this far. BUT – and here is where my warnings about utilizing acids and bases properly when mixing household and body products come in – baking soda + pureed strawberries + lemon juice for your teeth? WHAT? NO!

Let me tell you why.

First of all, what is happening here is you are scrubbing your teeth with lemon juice, which is an acid, known for stripping the enamel from your teeth.. Insert annoying game show buzzer here. Hello, cavity time! And then, as is absolutely NOT recommended, you are applying an abrasive substance (baking soda) immediately upon weakening the enamel, further stripping your teeth. You should never brush your teeth with ANY toothpaste immediately after weakening the enamel. AND you are adding some sugar in the form of the strawberries, to sit on your teeth and rot. Will your teeth get whiter? Probably, baking soda does a great job at that. Will you get cavities? I’m gonna say yuuuuppp.

At the very best, the acid of the lemon juice is combining with the base of the baking soda, causing a chemical reaction and creating a completely inert substance with none of the cleansing and antibacterial qualities of baking soda (which is really the only ingredient of the three you should be applying to your teeth). I was completely baffled by this recipe being propogated by someone who should know better.

Do you know what I have for you instead of this DIY disaster? My own brilliant whitening toothpaste recipe, which utilizes baking soda (a natural whitener, cleanser and antibacterial agent) and coconut oil as the active cleansing and protective ingredients (coconut oil has been shown to have some amazing protective benefits for teeth). I already posted it a while back for you here, but I will make it easy on you and include it below as well:

NATURAL, FLUORIDE FREE, WHITENING TOOTHPASTE:

4 parts baking soda
2 parts extra virgin coconut oil
1 part vegetable glycerin*
A few drops (to taste – depending on quantity – unfortunately you may have to experiment) peppermint essential oil. I find about 3-4 drops per 1/4 cup of paste does the trick.

*Please make sure this is vegetable glycerin, and food grade if possible. Other forms of glycerin are largely made with petroleum. You don’t want that in your mouth any more than you want fluoride in there, IMHO.

Mix mix mix! It helps to add the coconut oil, peppermint and glycerin first, and then mix in the baking soda part by part. If it is too thick, add more glycerin or oil. Too runny? More baking soda! Mix until you get your desired consistency if the ratio doesn’t turn out right. I find it varies a bit based on quantity. The exact ratio doesn’t change the effectiveness very much (unless you are widely changing it).

If your coconut oil is too hard to mix as is, heat it a bit in a double boiler first – but don’t allow it to melt completely, or your toothpaste will separate too much after mixing.

Try your toothpaste out! I just scoop it directly out of a small mason jar with my toothbrush (wetted a bit). Use generously, and expect some drool ;). Seriously. It makes me drool a bit. Saltiness, maybe? Anyway. Moving on….

So please, don’t believe everything you see on TV.. This recipe of Dr. Oz’s may have had some devastating effects on your teeth. Do some research (and feel free to research my ingredients as well) before you try any personal care products!

Greening your Home: Reduce Waste!

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Due to some recent health complications, and some time constraints due to moving, I have unfortunately had to bow out of the Queen of Green’s springtime volunteer green coaching project. I am super bummed to not be able to contribute to the level that I wanted to, but I thought I would blog on my personal journey with waste reduction this week, to complement the module the current green coaches are taking their families through.

Let’s take a journey through my ideas for waste reduction in the home, as well as some of my future aspirations!

Ways I currently reduce waste in my home:

Ahem….this first one is obvious: I DIY my household cleaning and body products, reducing and eliminating a LOT of plastic waste.
I do not use paper towel or other disposable cleaning products. I use washcloths, towels, and a microfiber mop.
I used cloth diapers for my son.
I use washable menstrual pads.
I use cloth napkins at the dinner table.
I bring my own cloth bags to the store, and I do not put my produce in plastic bags. I have reusable plastic bags at home that I store my produce in. I have had the same bags for many, many years now. If I don’t remember to bring my own bags to the store, I ask for paper bags, fill them right up, and use them to line my under the sink compost container.
I use compostable bags for any of the garbage I DO put out to the curb. Yes, I buy them. No, they aren’t cheap. But I do it!
I try when I can remember to bring my own containers for leftovers to restaurants.
I do not use plastic wrap, and I wash my plastic bags when I do use them. You can wash plastic bags hundreds of times over if you are careful! I store most food in reusable containers.
I do not buy bottled water, instead I have a wonderful countertop filtration system from Aquasmart which I LOVE. Only problem with this is the disposal of the filters after they are done. I could work on this….
When I can find what I need, I buy clothing and household items secondhand. I am a huge fan of thrift stores and craigslist!
I buy clothing only when I need it. Read: a current item is breaking apart and un-mendable, or I have changed size drastically. I do not shop for fashion, unless I REALLY have to attend a fancy dress event (most of my wardrobe is casual and practical). I try to buy mostly cotton or other natural fibers.
I donate used household / baby items and clothing or sell them on craigslist.
I tell others about my aversion to plastic and buying everything new to discourage them from buying me anything in that vein!
I carefully consider the packaging whenever I am shopping for a new item, or when buying groceries. Anita’s Organic packages most of their products in paper. I love their flours, grains and popcorn!
I buy durable, quality items, instead of cheaping out. I make sure I am buying something that will last, and at the very least is made out of biodegradable, sustainable materials when possible. No use sending something for recycling or to the trash sooner than it needs to go.
I do not rush out to buy the latest electronic gadget. I use my cell phones, cameras, and the like until they are DONE (ie. broken, or unusable due to software requirements). I was the longest of any of my friends to convert to a touchscreen phone, and I only did so when mine was garbage. This was after several large mishaps that I managed to salvage it from.
I recycle as much as possible from the items I do buy with packaging. I wash ALL of my food containers and recycle them, no matter how nasty the contents. No trashing just because I don’t feel like dealing with spoiled food. I seek out options for recycling items my curbside collection won’t take.
I have had to momentarily stop personally composting, but for the time being am adding 100% of my food waste to my municipal yard waste bin. Find out if your city will take your food scraps! Most are on board with this now.
I grow many of my own vegetables seasonally, reducing the packaging required to ship / deliver them to the store.
I bake a lot of take along snacks, to reduce the need to grab for a wrapped granola bar or the like.
I do not giftwrap, and choose to buy green gifts when I can. If I absolutely need to wrap something, I will use one of my coveted gift bags that I have collected from gifts from others, or I will drape some sort of cloth or blanket over it that I take home with me afterwards. This works great for kids.
Some of you may groan at the next one, but I maintain the belief that it’s okay to let it mellow if it’s yellow, and flush it down when it’s brown. Why do I need to flush away every pee? Especially my hubby’s or son’s that don’t even accompany any TP? I really think that folks should get on board with this, to save a TON of water.

Finally, when shopping, I consider “Do I really need this?” when making decisions, and try to curb the desire to buy for the sake of a deal, promotion, or novelty. I think about whether I can use something at home in a similar way, borrow something from a friend or family member, or just do away with the idea altogether.

The list likely could go on, but let’s call it a day there! Hopefully some of my habits have given you a few suggestions!

Some of the things I would like to improve upon:

I want to replace tissue with reusable hankies. I have been lazy in getting around to sewing up some hankies in appropriate, nose friendly fabric.
There are a select few things I cook wrapped in aluminum foil. I just have not found a way around it that I have found an acceptable alternative, especially for barbecuing! Still researching this! Any suggestions would be appreciated.
I would like to start cooking some meals in bulk to allow for quick, nutritious lunches on the go, to replace some of the canned soups and packaged burritos my son eats. Granted, it is very hard to switch him onto new foods, which has made this process doubly hard to be motivated for. Think: I just spent 8 hours cooking and my son won’t eat it, and I now have ten jars of it in the freezer. I generally cook slow, nutritious whole foods meals most of the time, but occasionally I need something quick. This is a tough one!
I need to find a better source for bulk foods in my area, that is affordable, and offers organics. I find it challenging to find a local source for certain bulk organic foods.
Oh, those yogurt containers! These make up a large portion of our plastic recycling. I have not found a bulk organic source, and I do not find it affordable to make organic yogurt from scratch. Hmmm….any suggestions?

How have you been successful or challenged in your waste reduction goals in your household? I would love to hear your stories!

Stop buying me plastic junk!

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So today, after going through much of my house in preparation for a move, I really felt motivated to write a thought piece. A thought piece on all the junk I’ve been finding in my house, and my plan to avoid more of it in the future!

Let’s start with a list of all the utter junk and garbage I have been finding in my house:

1). Half used, expired, and unusable personal care products (largely leftover from my pre-DIY days).
2). Expired and half used medications.
3). Broken, random plastic items like toys & parts from toys, parts, lids, thingamajiggers that belong to nothing, that “I wonder what this is from?” kind of junk. The kind of stuff you keep for three years, throw out, and then discover what it belongs to three days later.
4). Tupperware containers without lids, and lids without containers. Poor lonely storage items without their romantic partner.
5). Random computer parts, accessories, and old broken cell phones.

The list DOES, unfortunately, go on. However, I am going to stop there, as I think you can get a sense of the kind of stuff I mean. The kind of stuff that really mostly cannot be recycled, up-cycled, or anything. Just garbage. Yes, a few of the containers from personal care products can be recycled, but things like lotion and toothpaste tubes, lip balm dispensers, and all of those lovely impossible to clean, random plastic items are just going to the LANDFILL. And that bothers me, a LOT.

What also bothers me a lot is that I have not been in control of how a lot of these items have entered my home. You know what a lot of people like to give as gifts? Bath and body products! I have never really figured this out. Most people have very personal tastes in these kinds of things to begin with, not to mention skin sensitivity issues, etc. But people seem to love to dish these things out come gifty time. And you smile and nod and say “Ooooh and ahhh, this smells yummy, yada yada…..” But I then am left thinking, great, another lotion to stick in my cupboard. And plastic packaging to eventually hit the landfill. (Ironically, I did give some of my homemade products to family members this year, but all in glass containers, and not wrapped, and with a “love it or lose it, at least you got a nice mason jar” kind of attitude).

Not to mention when you have a toddler, and people then find it entertaining to give your kid crappy little dollar store toys that break in a week, overpackaged big, silly electronic items that flash and are super annoying (and then eventually hit the landfill), and horrible books involving Elmo and other television characters that I have to then sit and read over, and over, and OVER to my very enthusiastic young son.

If you have noticed a pattern here, it’s that I am really, really tired of bringing stuff into my house that I don’t really care for or even use, and then have to shoulder the burden of eventually throwing it in the trash or try ridiculously hard to find an obscure recycling centre for it when it eventually breaks down.

What I am really trying to say is: STOP BUYING ME PLASTIC JUNK!

In fact, please do not buy me anything at ALL with any kind of plastic or non-recyclable material in it unless I have specifically expressed a personal interest in owning it, to you. Directly. I try very very hard to minimize my use of plastic in my house, but it makes its way in there anyway, and then I feel guilty for trashing it.

This is why I make my own personal care and home cleaning products. (Among other reasons, of course). This is why I buy wooden OR second hand toys for my kid. I buy food products in glass or paper packaging if at all possible, and I bring my own bags to the store. I research the products I bring into my home very carefully, considering all sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives before purchasing something. I cloth diapered my child. I use cloth menstrual pads. I compost all of my food waste and use biodegradable garbage bags for any waste that does make it to the trash bin. If I take a drive, I make sure to get everything done in that location all at once, to minimize my footprint. I use a regular vacuum, a regular broom, and regular cloths to clean up messes. No swiffers or paper towels here.

All of this takes some additional effort, and I would hope that people who know me would understand this, but it sometimes doesn’t seem to be the case. I find that many people just don’t think about things like this to this level of scrutiny. I don’t mean to be rude, I don’t mean to be unappreciative, (really, really I don’t) but I really need to stop this influx of plastic into my house, because I am drowning in it. So it is my plea to everyone to please help me with my goal of plastic reduction – this is the biggest gift to me you can give.

Some ideas for gifts to give to us plastic free folks who may challenge your gift giving creativity once in a while:

1). Experiences – Buy us a membership at a place we regularly visit. Movie tickets and a babysitting offer for a night out. A night at the symphony. Something we would probably love to do, but likely wouldn’t buy ourselves, or would appreciate not having to budget for.
2). Bake or cook for me – I would love some of your home baking or cooking! One less meal I have to cook is a big blessing.
3). Buy me a plant for my garden – Please make it one that is easy to care for, and buy it in a compostable or biodegradable pot.
4). Buy me a gift certificate to my favourite Natural foods store, book store, or soap making store. And iTunes. Good ol’ iTunes bucks, we loves us some good new tunes to drown out the children’s songs constantly twirling our brains. Oh, and can you see if they sell gift certificates in paper or electronic format? I don’t know why they started making all gift certificates look like debit cards, but it is extremely unfortunate for our planet.
5). Offer to watch my kid for a bit – Mommy and Daddy don’t get much alone time that doesn’t involve household chores or being too exhausted to do anything at all. We would love for our kid to spend time with you so we can rest our weary minds and return to parenting with our creativity and patience topped up!

Oh, and if you buy me flowers, PLEASE do not bring them to me wrapped in three layers of plastic! Egads! It breaks my heart to have these wonderful, natural, fragrant lovelies brought in my house, only to be shrouded in something that is destroying the good earth they were grown in.

Want to buy something for my kid?

1). Buy him a class or an experience – Yeah, I know it’s more fun for YOU when you give him something flashy that he oogles at immediately after you give it to him. But in all likelihood, he will get more enjoyment (and intellectual benefit) from participating in an activity or event that he enjoys. And we won’t have to factor it into our budget!
2). Buy him wooden, educational toys – Okay, so you want him to have something physical. First of all, you might want to check with me about what he is into lately, as his interests do vary from time to time. Then find him something made sustainably and out of natural materials. Healthier for him, too!
3). Buy him a quality book – By quality, I am hoping it doesn’t involve a cheap storyline with hashed out TV characters. I really don’t want to hear what Elmo has to say for the 100th time.
3). If it’s gotta be plastic, and I have ASKED YOU for it (remember, I have to have asked you for it if it involves plastic) buy it on craigslist – Please, if I have asked for something that involves plastic, can you try your best to find it second hand for me, and then brag to me about the wicked deal you got? I would love that, and my kid can’t tell the difference between new and used toys anyway.

Oh, and please, no more tea. My tea cupboard is ridiculous. Yes, I have a tea cupboard. An entire shelf devoted to tea. I could open my own tea shop here.

Hopefully, if you feel the same way, you can share this article with your friends and family. I am saying it for you, so maybe they won’t take it as hard 😉

Apple Pie Oatmeal With Quinoa

Here’s a tasty, easy, hearty winter breakfast recipe for you – even I, a not-so-big-oatmeal-fan, LOVE this one. And so does my “selective” toddler! It’s super yummy, packed with nutrients (blackstrap molasses adds a lot of great vitamins & minerals to the dish), and will keep you full while you tackle your morning!

Instructions in the photo! Hope you enjoy!

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