Baby gifts I wish you wouldn’t give me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3).  Baby related knick knacks:

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

“So what can I get you, then?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Cleaning your mirrors

I often get asked how I clean my mirrors and windows without leaving streaks or using harsh chemicals / alcohol based cleaners. Back in my ‘chemical days’, I never had much luck with Windex – I found this left extreme streaks, no matter how much or little I tried to use. I couldn’t understand how this was such a popular product, as it never seemed to work for me!

Well, in my natural cleaning days, I started to use two tools to clean my mirror – my All Purpose Vinegar Spray – which is basically just half water, half vinegar, with some tea tree if desired – and a great window cleaning micro fibre cloth, like this one:

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These cloths are AMAZING – you can even use them with straight water, but I find the vinegar solution gives it an edge. There is something about the weave on these particular cloths that make them work so well. I can’t vouch for all mirror cleaning cloths, only these in particular! They are super durable. I also use them to shine up my faucets! You can buy one here – I also have them available for purchase at my DIY parties.

And there you have it – mirror and window cleaning without chemicals! Gotta love it 🙂