Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mother Guilt

I'm having one of those days where I feel like I'm pretty sure I don't deserve to have children. I'm tired. I've had a crick in my neck for the past three days and it's affecting my sleep. I've been working late to finish several articles before we go on vacation ONE WEEK FROM TODAY. The house is a mess. Declan woke up on three separate occasions last night with nightmares. And this morning I yelled at Finn for spilling his milk at breakfast. I. Feel. Horrible. I know nothing is to be gained by the Guilt Trip, but will I ever learn? Probably not.

In fairness, Finn was playing with toys at the table, something he has been told not to do over and over and over. . . .again, which resulted in the spill. And it all happened while I was trying to get breakfast over with, lunches packed, snacks packed, sunscreen on, everyone out the door to school, and prepare for a meeting.

So while Finn went up to his room and changed out of his milky pajamas into clothes, crying all the while that he "wanted Daddy," I got down on my hands and knees, sopped up the mess and cleaned the floor, I seethed. Was I seething at myself or at him? I find I lose it more with them when I am out of control in my own life. They're suffering for my poor planning, poor timing, poor whatever. And I hate it. UGH.

Finn gets over things pretty quickly. After he came back down and we discussed for the 50 bazillionth time that we don't bring toys to the table, hugs restored his happiness and he went off to school seemingly unscathed. Not so for me. I have dwelled on my behavior all morning. Whatever happened to not crying over spilled milk? You'd think with all of the other challenges our family has had, I'd have a little perspective. Apparently not.

Sometimes being self-employed and working at home stresses me out as much as working full-time used to create stress. To be home or not to be home? That is the question. You think you get it right, but it's really all just a big guessing game. One of my friends told me once that she's a better parent because she works. I found that when I worked full-time after Declan was born, I couldn't get my head in the game at work. And when I was at home, I was worried about work. What was my problem? Why couldn't I do what so many other mothers do? I still ask myself that. Should I be able to run the house, work part-time, serve on PTA committees, volunteer for school activities, run errands, and generally get done what needs to be done without breaking a sweat? It seems like everyone else can do it, and many of them work full-time. What is my problem?

An incident involving mother guilt happened this winter that has been causing me angst ever since. It involved me and another person who had an e-mail conversation about a third person and their personal choices about parenting. Lame, I know. A fourth person came into the e-mail chain and was upset about the conversation--rightfully so--because even though the conversation wasn't directed at her, she is in the same situation. Bottom line: I have no business commenting on other people's choices in life. Heck, I can't deal with my own.

Why would I bring this up now? Because I've been fretting about the whole thing for months because I hurt a friend's feelings. And besides, who am I to pass judgment anyway? What could I have been thinking? Even if I had my own house in perfect order, which of course, I don't; never made a mistake, which of course, I always do; never second-guessed my decisions about work/life balance, which I do all the time, I still should not be making judgments about other people in any regard.

And so, a little spilled milk has caused all of this angst and reflection today. Right now I just want to go over to Finn's school and give him a hug and tell him I'm sorry. And SM, I don't know if you still read or if you've gone away because of what I wrote, but please know, I feel terrible for having those thoughts, for verbalizing them and that I hurt your feelings/made you mad. I am so sorry.

I hate it when I learn things the hard way, especially, when like Finn, I know better. Hmmm, except that supposedly I have a few more years of experience.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Living Organically, Part 6: Corrections & Miscellaneous Chatter

In my continuing effort to spread misinformation across the blogisphere, I'm here to announce that I posted the wrong name of the sunscreen we use. I wrote that we use Aubrey Organics. We don't. It's not because I don't like Aubrey Organics--I do. They have a fine line of skincare products. It's just that what's sitting here in front of me is Alba Botanica brand. Alba. Aubrey. I'm easily confused.

So, my bottle says, really and truly, Alba Botanica Kids Sunscreen. SPF 30+. Water resistant. No one has been burned yet using this one so it gets a thumbs up from me.

I thought I'd also update you on the Crystal Stick. The weather is getting warmer and the Crystal Stick is getting tested in new ways. It definitely doesn't protect against wetness, but I knew that it wouldn't because it isn't an antipersperant. So I'm experiencing wet underarms--not my favorite thing. But the odor factor seems to still be good. Eamonn said he is smelly after one of his rides, but then again, he said he used to be stinky after his rides when he used commercial deoderant/antipersperant, too. My guess is that nothing can stand up to that sort of exercise factor--we're talking hours out on the bike, not just 60 minutes of bouncing around in the basement to Turbo Jam like I do. I asked Eamonn if we should revert back to our old deoderant/antipersperant during the summer. He said no. We're holding fast in our commitment to chemical free living, baby! People may talk about our underarm rings, but we're chemical free! If the kids comment, I'll know we do actually stink. Last summer when we were in Leadville waiting for Eamonn to finish the mountain bike race, some really stinky guy with a sleeveless shirt came and stood right next to us. Then he raised his arm right over our heads to shake hands with someone. I nearly fainted, but of course, I didn't say anything. Finn, however, has no such filter. "UGH! What's that SMELL???" He shrieked it. So my guess is if we do ever get smelly, we'll hear about it.

I was also thinking about other things that we've read about and that we do to try to steer clear of chemicals, toxins, etc. Here's a bizarre random sampling:

Teflon/Non-stick. We got rid of all of that. There was a scandal awhile back about how Dupont knew Teflon gave off toxins, but never made the public aware. It has to do with the surface being heated over a certain temperature. It actually made birds keel over dead. It might be too little too late for me, and all of the Garvins, though. Does anyone remember the Christmas Tara mashed the potatoes right in the Teflon pan and there were bits of Teflon in the mash? I know she tried to tell people it was pepper, but it wasn't. We're probably all radioactive now. At any rate, good things to cook in are stainless steel and cast iron. People shy away from cast iron because they think they have to do all sorts of stuff to it. You really don't. You just don't use soap. After you finish cooking, wait for it to cool, then take a stiff brush and scrub it out with straight water. You might need to wipe a little oil around in it when you first get it, but when you've made as much bacon as I have in your pan, you'll find it stays well-seasoned. There are other non-stick surfaces out there, but they're pretty much just Teflon under another name.

Lawn chemicals. I can't remember if I talked about this already or not. I think I did a little. There are tons of organic lawn options out there now. Chicken poop for nitrogen, vinegar for weed killer, etc. I'm not overly knowledgable about lawn care, but I do know that I don't want to spray something on the lawn and then have the kids roll around on it. Declan actually got a rash from something they sprayed at the school. And, as the school district said to me when I called about it, "It washes away after the rain," it's still getting down in the dirt. It's still there. It doesn't just go away. It evaporates or is absorbed by something. I don't want that something to be the boys. The school district said to me, "But it's just a little bit." Yeah, so if we're getting a few chemicals here, there and everywhere, what is the cumulative effect? I don't think there's anyone anywhere that is tracking these things all together. Anyway, we don't spray our backyard and we got an exemption from our homeowners association so they won't spray our frontyard. It was interesting because the only reason they gave us the exemption was because of Finn. If we didn't have a kid who'd had cancer in our house, we would have been forced to have the lawn treatments. Not sure what I think of that.

Man, I'm just like Andie McDowell and her obsesion with the garbage barge in Sex, Lies and Videotape, only slightly less famous and beautiful.

I can't conjure any other random thoughts right now.

The bottom line is that while our armpits may be wet and we have dandelions growing in our yard, in the end, does it really matter? Will that make someone not want to be my friend? I hope not, but if so, then it is what it is.

As a different sort of update, Finn had his first post-port-removal clinic visit last Thursday. His counts were stellar--ANC = 5900 or so. In fact, I recently had bloodwork done and Finn's blood counts are higher in literally every area than mine. The competitive side of me thinks: darn it. But the mother side of me says: yay! My kid has healthy blood! He did have to get a finger stick, which he was not at all happy about, but we'll try numbing it next time to see if that helps.

Finally, Finn is going to lead the Survivors' Lap at the local Relay for Life on Friday, June 13th. What a sweet thing it is to be able to say "Survivor" and "Finn" in the same breath.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hope you didn't run out to the store!

Clearly, I'm still on the learning curve, too. As I was running a bath the other night (I like to sit in there and soak until I'm a prune), I happened to take a gander at two of my Jason products--bath/shower gel and hand soap. ARGH! Both of them contain two chemicals that EWG isn't too happy about: Sodium Myreth Sulfate (really the same thing as Sodium Laurel Sulfate) and Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine.

This really bums me out (if anyone actually says that anymore) because I love my Jason soaps. I take my baths very, very seriously. Now I've got to start the hunt all over again. The Jason products were reasonably priced, too. Ah, well. Such is life.

And a quick answer to Beth who asked about sunscreen. We have tested a zillion different "natural" kinds of sunscreen with varying results. Several times we have found that the natural versions don't actually protect that well, so that even after lathering up, we still get a little pink. Now, I have read that our bodies need about 15 minutes of peak-time sun exposure every day to maintain sufficient vitamin D stores. But after that, get covered up. These days we're having good luck with a brand called Aubrey Organics, their kids' version (we all use it though--I don't think the sunscreen knows I'm of legal age). No burns so far with this brand.

Well, heck, I'll let you know how the search for a new bubble bath and hand soap pans out. Sorry about that.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Living Organically, Part Five: You are What You. . .Wear?

Heck, I didn't know what to call this one.

First, sorry for being MIA for more than a week. I had to go to Denver this week for a client meeting and then drove home Wednesday night in a blizzard. Seriously, I thought I was going to be spending the night on Vail Pass in my spring clothing. Of course, I had all of my winter gear in the back, but it was pretty bizarre that when I left Denver, is was 79 degrees. On top of the pass, at nearly 11,000 feet, visibility was zero because of the driving snow. I was unamused. I did console myself with the fact that if I did indeed get stranded, I was accompanied by two dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts I was taking back to Tara, Craig and Garvin, and Declan, Finn and Eamonn. So there's my confession for the week--I let my kids eat doughnuts. And the next day they had sugary cereal because they wanted the Indiana Jones goodies from the box and I bought it. A fine example of healthy living, right there.

Second, for Anna in Illinois, the type of spray bottle I use for the vinegar. . .I started with those small personal care size bottles, but I was refilling them so often it was driving me crazy. So at WalMart, in both the cleaning area or the automotive area, they sell large plastic spray bottles. Now I have several around the house--one for each bathroom and the kitchen. I've had no problems with them malfunctioning so far! Sorry it took me so long to answer and leave you hanging with your rusty bottle.

Chemical Free Body
OK, so the next thing I wanted to talk about is the kinds of chemicals we put on our bodies, and how to avoid them. I read an article that said the average woman puts about 150 chemicals on her body a day through things like soap, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, makeup and verious and sundry moisturizers.

Again, one of my fave sites is the Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org. You can go to their site and run reports on different products to see what they rank the top and bottom of the list. I need to do that for sunscreen because the products change so quickly.

Anyway, all of the body products were one of the last things we changed. I hadn't given it much thought. But don't they (who is "they" anyway) say that your skin the biggest organ of the body? Pretty much everything we rub onto ourselves gets absorbed, doesn't it? And so, since we were changing all of the other things in our lives--the food, the chemicals, etc.--it just seemed natural that we should go ahead and do all things health and beauty-related, too.

A lot of the "healthy" grocery stores put out a publication called Better Nutrition, or its equivalent, and you can pick up the magazine for free at the store. Raisin Rack in Westerville always had some freebie mag that had good info in it. Vitamin Cottage had a new copy when I was in there a few weeks ago and it just happened to be a special "beauty" issue. I'm going to post pictures of the various products I use, but I still switch around somewhat. Sometimes I'll get attached to something only to be unable to find it the next time I go to the store (that probably won't happen if you have access to a bigger store like Whole Foods though). So I'll try something new. So what you'll see is what I'm using right now. It may be different next week!

But first, here's a list of the stuff you should try to avoid. This was, again, a learning process for me. I'd throw something into my cart only to discover it still had some objectionable ingredient in it. I still have to remind myself to stop and read the labels. It will probably always be like this because I'm just a forgetful person. Just ask Eamonn.

So, avoid products with:
-Diethanolamine (DEA)
-Momoethanolamine (MEA)
-FD&C color pigments
-Imidazolidinyl urea and DMDM hydantoin
-Polyethylene glycol
-Propylene glycol
-Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and soidum laureth sulfate (in most toothpastes)

I probably spelled some of those wrong. Basically, I adopted the same attitude towards stuff for the body as I did for food: If I didn't recognize an ingredient, I steered clear of it. Or I went and looked it up online first to see what the heck it was. Because there are actually totally inocuous things that have crazy names. But the bottom line was--we didn't want to put any chemicals on our bodies. And so we don't. Except for those times I roll around in the Krispy Kreme box.

Hand Soap, Sower/Bath Gel and Lotion
I've used the Jason brand of products for many years now. It's one that I've stuck with pretty consistently.

I like their consistency and they're pretty reasonably priced. Also, our local grocery store carries them and I don't have to make a special trip anywhere.

One thing I have noticed about "natural" soap products, things like bath/shower gel and dish soap, is that they aren't as foamy--the bubbles don't stay around as long. This is because they don't have whatever chemical it is that makes the super foamy reaction. So that was something to get used to.

For shampoo and conditioner, I've used Nature's Gate Organics for awhile. I like the consistency of the conditioner, especially. It keeps me from getting too frizzy!

They make all different "flavors." I usually like lavender for various body products, but sometimes I have to take what I can get.

Right now Eamonn is using Avalon Organics tea tree oil shampoo--helps control any flakiness (hope he doesn't mind me saying that in public). If you haven't ever heard of tea tree oil (which I believe is the basis of most of the Melaleuca products because I think Melaleuca actually means tea tree oil in some language), it's a marvelous thing. For example, if you have, not to be gross, a toenail fungus, don't take any of those crazy oral drugs that cause liver damage. Nope, get yourself some tea tree oil, I actually have Melaleuca oil, and dab it on your toenail. It takes awhile to work--the nail has to regrow, but that would be the same for the oral drug, too. It's not going to cure an existing bad nail--you grow a new good one. So why not do it the natural way is my train of thought these days.

The point of all of this is: For every chemical out there, there's a natural solution, that probably existed before the chemical was even invented. It probably works as good as, if not better than, the chemical, it's potentially cheaper, and it's not going to kill you, which rates highly in my book.

I know I already talked about laundry, but here is a picture of the Melaleuca laundry detergent and fabric softener. Several of you e-mailed about this to order (Lisa, I still haven't heard about the international ordering issue) it, so here's what you'll be getting.

This is Lemon Brite, also from Melaleuca. Apparently I use more Melaleuca products than I remembered. Anyway, it's a dish soap and one of the better natural alternatives because I feel like it keeps its bubbles well. I like bubbles. I also like the way it smells.

For the dishwasher, I use powder from Seventh Generation. I forgot to take a picture of it and I'm too lazy to go do it now. Picture a box with one of those little pour things on the side--just like Cascade, except the box is white and the product won't put chemicals all over your dishes. Apparently using natural automatic dishwashing powder is especially important for cancer patients. I don't know why though. It's something "they" say, you know. So I do it.

Next up: Toothpaste

We haven't used floruide toothpaste for a long time. Heck, maybe that's why I got my first cavity, although the dentist says probably not. He said, "You're just getting older." I'm never going to him again. Anyway, there are varying beliefs about flouride. Google it, check it out and draw your own conclusion. I can't have your cavities on my conscience. I've got my own to worry about. Well, just that small one anyway.

Of all the things we've changed in our lives, the toothpaste was the hardest for me. I was a diehard Crest girl and when you've never had any cavities, why mess with perfection? But I switched us anyway. At any rate, for a long time we used Tom's of Maine, and we still have some of that around. But I'm about 99% sure that Tom's has the dreaded SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate) in it. I don't know a ton about SLS except that the FDA has suggested manufacturers stop using it--but it's not mandatory to stop.

So what we're shifting over to is, drumroll please, Melaleuca. I really like their toothpolish. I like the way it feels and tastes. I'm a big fan.

This what the boys use. Also no flouride. We also don't do flouride treatments at the dentist. They think we're crazy. I can imagine some eye rolling from here. But, everyone has to do what they think is best for their family. Apparently in our house that means eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts and then brushing with non-flouride toothpaste. There are probably a lot of conclusions that can be drawn from that situation right there.

This is what I use for the boys' shampoo: Earth's Best. This was another one that was hard to change because who doesn't love the smell of Johnson's Baby Shampoo? It smells so good you want to nibble on their toes. But then I looked at the ingredients. . .

This is Eamonn's shaving cream and I think he was relieved when I bought this brand. Tom's of Maine makes toothpaste and shaving cream. . .in nearly identical packages. And there was that one horrible morning that Eamonn tried to brush his teeth with his shaving cream. Someone at Tom's needs to rethink their packaging stragegy.


I hate my skin. And I feel like I'm always looking for THE thing that's going to shrink my gigantic pores and get rid of my wrinkles. Let's face it--it ain't happening. Quite frankly, my most hated part of the day, right behind trying to decide what's for dinner every night and realizing that half of the ingredients I need are either frozen or on the grocery store shelf instead of in my cupboard, is washing my face at night. Oftentimes, if I haven't worn makeup, I just skip this step. I hate it. I don't know why. But for those times when I do wash my face, these Avalon Organics products are my current faves. I've tried a bunch of different stuff, but this seems to work best right now. Until I get a new batch of wrinkles and have to move on to something else.

But, speaking of wrinkles, I used to look and look for some sort of special under eye cream to put on at night in addition to moisturizer. For awhile I used a product from Arbonne,which is supposedly all natural, but they used parabens, one of the big chemical no-nos. And then I was talking to a friend and she said, "I use. . ."

Yes, that's coconut oil(also called coconut butter). Well, heck, I had that in my pantry. And that was that. I started using it at night and I'm quite pleased with it. Eamonn actually uses it, too--he comes from a wrinkly stock of people and was getting paranoid he'd turn into a Sharpei any day now. And the good thing about the coconut oil is that it doesn't clog your pores. I had problems with these little things called milia--little white bumps I'd get under my eyes where moisturizer was clogging my pores. I have no problems with the coconut oil. Plus, if you're getting ready for bed and you're hungry, you could eat it. Do a search on coconut oil--there are tons of health benefits from it. Erin even makes her popcorn in it.

And finally, the natural replacement product that I'm most psyched about. . .

The Crystal. Hats off to Paige for finding and road testing this. I had seen it in magazines and in the stores before but I always thought it was some crazy gimmick. You use this instead of deoderant/antipersperant. Antipersperant is one of the most alarming things we put on our bodies--all of that aluminum and other chemicals right onto a very sensitive part of your bod.

My entire antipersperant-wearing life, I've had a rash under my arms--heck, I know this is probably way more than you ever wanted to know about me. Tell you what, I'll go on about the armpit issues and spare you the tampon discussion and we'll call it even, OK? So, where was I? Right, my armpit rash. So let's see. When did I start wearing antipersperant? Maybe 6th grade, 12 years old? So for 28 years, I had a rash. I thought it was normal. Then I started hearing more and more disturbing things about the stuff. Then my sisters stopped using it. So I did the same. And I stunk. But my rash went away. I went back. Rash. Stopped. Stunk. What's a girl to do? I began experimenting. I tried all sorts of natural deoderants. I stunk. They might have worked on a 20 degree day where I did nothing more than drive around in the car. But last through something like a workout? Forget it. Stink. Stank. Stunk. As the Grinch would say.

After spending the boys' college funds on my Great Deoderant Experiment, I figured I was destined to a life of rashes or stinkiness. Then along came Paige who, just like those girls at Glamour magazine, did a road test and gave a thumbs up. I dove in and bought the Crystal, too. It uses natural salts to stop you stinking. And it works. It worked all winter and it even works during a workout. It will be interesting to see how it pans out during a hot summer. I'm still in testing mode. But for now, it's a thumbs up. Eamonn also uses it. I don't smell him and he doesn't seem to smell me (or maybe he's afraid to tell me), which is, I hope, a huge relief to those of you who were VERY disturbed by my earlier posts where I said we no longer wear deoderant.

And as for makeup items, don't laugh, but I use those Bare Minerals that are always on the shopping channel. I love them. I need to do more research on them, but I think they're pretty clean. Anyway, lots of companies are coming out with mineral-based makeup lines and you can get them at places like WholeFoods. Again, too lazy to take a picture.

I also forgot to say what bar soap we use: Melaleuca, Platinum. Love it.

I know there are tons of typos, but I'm going to bed!

Next topic: Homeopathy. Ooooo, we're really getting into the voodoo now!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day! Mayday!

Oh yes, it's May 1st. Isn't this the day where we put on our summer clothes and dance around a May Pole? Great! See you there!

Let me just dig my winter coat back out first. . .

I did do a clean house Q&A below . . .