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2.03.2016

Choosing the Right Carrier: Pouch Slings


Pouch slings have an interesting history... and I mean recent history.

When Isabel was born they were easy to find, and there were several companies making cute, high quality ones- Peanut Shell, Hot Slings, Kangaroo Korner, and New Native, to name a few.  I believe New Native and Hot Slings still sell decent pouches, but most others have changed focus or gone out of business.
Sub optimal pouch sling use- I really needed to flip the shoulder a lot more to snug up the rails.

I think this was, in part, due to two things.  1) pouches have to be sized just right in order to function optimally, and that is hard to do when ordering over the internet (which is how most are sold), and 2) they are (unfortunately) closely associated by many to the Infantino Slingrider, which was linked to at least three infant deaths back in the mid 00's. 

I am here to tell you that this is a grave injustice.  In fact, lately I have been on a bit of a mission to resurrect the pouch sling.  Why would I do that?  For a few reasons.
  1. Pouch slings are super easy to use
  2. They are safe (and function very, very differently than bag slings) when used properly
  3. They are super cheap
  4. They are super compact
  5. They can be used from newborn through at least early toddlerhood, depending on the fabric used
As I mentioned in this post, my first ergonomic carrier was a pouch sling, but I didn't know how to use it right.  Which, you know, was kind of my own fault, but in my defense that was before my default was "google it."  Which just makes me feel old, but whatever.

My love for pouches was actually rekindled recently when I took my VBE exam.  We have to demonstrate practical knowledge of all carrier types, so I dug out my old pouch to practice with, and I was super impressed with how easy and comfortable they are when you know how to use them.

Which is half the battle with any carrier- how do I use it?  How do I make it as comfortable as possible?  How do I use it safely?  How do I pick one when I can only look online?
My SIL and my niece in an adjustable Hot Slings pouch.

Let's start with how to pick.  Here is an overview of a few available brands and why you might or might not consider them:
  • Seven Slings- This is the sling that every pregnant mom gets a "free" coupon for when they buy their first maternity clothes.  I say don't let the whole "free sling" thing win you over.  They are okay slings, but they aren't free.  They charge you $15 for shipping.  And you can very often find them at second hand stores and sales (esp. child specific ones) for as little as $1.  If you are going to spend more, get a better sling.  These are thin and cheap feeling, and fairly slick (which means harder to adjust and hold and adjustment, and also easier for baby to pop the seat and slide out).
  • Hot Slings- These fall in the pricier end of the spectrum (the sling in the above picture is a Hot Slings pouch), but they have one real advantage- they are adjustable.  So instead of making a semi educated sizing guess, you figure out which of their two sizes you need, then adjust the pouch using the straps pictured.  Biggest drawbacks of this one?  Well, IMO, besides being higher priced, the only major issue are that the straps aren't so pretty.  But if you can live with that, Hot Slings are a great option.
  • New Native- These are still available, but with super limited colors, and only from Mom4Life (which has changed hands since, but Heather, the founder, was the person who first taught me about babywearing and sold me my Peanut Shell).  These are simple, basic, well constructed pouch slings that are mid priced and come in conventional or organic cotton.  
  • The Swaps- This is a good place to start with any type of carrier.  On facebook look for Babywearing on a Budget and The Babywearing Swap (which you will see referred to as "the big swap"), to start.  As you delve into different brands of carriers or learn more about the babywearing scene in your area you will find more swaps specific to different brands or areas, as well.  Be patient, and don't be weirded out about buying used.  Most people baby their carriers (although it helps to learn what questions to ask and what warning signs to look for) and broken in carriers are often far softer than brand new.  When looking for pouch slings used be aware of the different brands, and make sure both you and the seller triple check the size.
As for comfort, safety, and use, I love me some Youtube videos.  Beware, though, anyone can make a video, and just because there is a video doesn't mean it's safe.  This video is the best one I have come across for using a pouch sling for a newborn.  I do NOT recommend a cradle carry outside of using it to nurse (and returning to the upright position) because it is very difficult to do safely.



Pouch slings can also be used with toddlers, typically in a hip carry (although I still carry 25lb Violet in the front carry, as hip carries make me feel off balance... either is safe, so do what you feel comfortable with) up until they exceed the weight limit of the sling, which is typically 35lbs.  In fact, one of the reasons I love pouch slings is because they shine from infant to toddler- for infants, they provide a nice, simple carrier without too much fabric that provides ample, comfortable support, and for toddlers they are good for what toddlers typically want... quick ups, and equally quick downs.

Pouch Sling Summary

2.01.2016

Choosing the Right Baby Carrier- An Updated Series

I have had a carrier guide on my blog for ages, but it was horribly out of date, and if you have had any contact with the babywearing world at all in the past 10 years, you know that it changes quickly.  In the past five years carrier choices have increased exponentially, and safety regulations have changed to keep up.  As I struggled to edit the old post to reflect these changes, I realized it was just too much.  So instead, I am going to do a series.

In this first installation I will be giving an overview of babywearing and a comparison of some of the very basic characteristics of each type of carrier.  In future posts (which I actually hope to bang out in the next few days, but you know, #life) I will go more in depth on the pluses and minuses of each type of carrier, plus a few of my favorite examples.

First, my babywearing background (aka "why should I listen to this chick?").

Back in 2006, when I was pregnant with Isabel (my oldest), I bought myself two babywearing devices- a Baby Bjorn Active and an Ultimate Baby Wrap (which is a stretchy wrap, similar to a Moby but with rings at the end).

The week before Isabel was born I tried out the Ultimate Baby wrap.  I only had the directions it came with.  I didn't have a YouTube video, a helpful friend, a babywearing group... not even an overbearing relative to help me.  I got so frustrated I threw it out.  Not even joking.  I literally threw it in the trash.  Hormones, amiright?

So Isabel came and I gave the Bjorn a try.  I was not impressed- within 5 minutes of putting it on my upper back hurt, and I didn't like the way Isabel's arms and legs just kind of dangled out in space.  I was ready to write off babywearing forever.

Thank goodness for Amber and Moms Joining Moms, which is a group run by Loma Linda University's Perinatal Institute.  For starters, she introduced me to several of the topics that I eventually became passionate about and seriously influenced my parenting philosphy.  But more pertinent to this post, she introduced me to the world of ergonomic carriers.

What does ergonomic carrier mean?  Ergonomic, when applied to anything, means that it is designed to provide optimal comfort and reduce stress to the involved body parts.   When applied to baby carriers, it includes several types of carriers (many of which will be summarized in a chart later in this post).

My first ergonomic carrier was a Peanut Shell pouch sling (Peanut Shell, as a company, still exists, but unfortunately their stellar pouch sling is no longer in production).  Again, I had no help in figuring out how to use it, which was really unfortunate.  I managed to make it work, but looking back now I could have gotten so much more out of it had I known how to use it right.  Even so, I loved being able to be at least somewhat hands free while still holding my baby.  But Isabel was an extremely independent toddler, so I didn't feel the need to expand my carrier stash as she got older.

Fast forward a few years- I'm expecting my second.  I decide to use cloth diapers (this is relevant, I promise).  As I was researching cloth, I stumbled upon a local meetup group that had regular get-togethers and a very active online discussion board all about cloth diapers... and baby carriers.  That turned me on to various types of carriers and also introduced me to different local vendors I could shop from, so before Oliver was born I bought a Baby K'tan (which is like a pre-tied stretchy wrap) and a ring sling, and shortly after he was born I made myself a Mei Tai and WON a Moby.  I felt like a babywearing master- I thought I had so many carriers! (me now laughs at this thought)
I lived in my Moby, and I absolutely adored my K'tan for running errands, but stretchy carriers have one major limitation- as baby grows, they sag, and eventually they are no longer comfortable, so soon I was only using the Mei tai.  One day at a consignment sale a friend of mine was like "you know you can put him on your back in that."

#gamechanger

I started putting Oliver on my back all the time, but I didn't like the way the ruck straps dug into my shoulders (and I didn't know about tying tibetan then, although I doubt my DIY Mei tai had long enough straps).  Eventually I finally bit the bullet and bought an Ergo.

This was a big deal.  This was before Tula or Kinderpack were nationally known- Ergo and Beco were really the only names in the game at the time, and I felt like pretty hot stuff.  Plus it was more comfortable for back carries and SO much easier to use.

I wore Oliver in that Ergo until he was nearly 4 (shhhhh... he was probably past being too tall to be in it safely, but I didn't know that at the time, and he was never a leaner thank goodness).

Fast forward again another two years.  After much, MUCH thought on the matter I bought a woven wrap.  Then I joined BWI (babywearing international, a volunteer run group that promotes safe babywearing), became a VBE (volunteer babywearing educator), and the rest is history.

It is no secret that I practice attachment parenting with my own kids, but I think it is to peoples' detriment when they brush babywearing off as something only AP parents do.  Anyone can, and should, wear their baby- if only for those first few months before baby is mobile.  I could go on for hours about why wearing your baby is better than pretty much all other means of baby conveyance available.  Beyond being beneficial to both baby's development and mother's post birth recovery, it is easy, it is convenient, it is lighter than carrying around the "baby bucket," it is less bulky than a stroller, and it is far better for baby physically, developmentally, and emotionally than leaving them in any other device.  It can be as simple as keeping a pouch sling in the car for errands and as cheap as a $20 Infantino Mai Tei.  You don't need a "stash" of different carriers to choose from, you only need what works for you and your family.  Which leads to my chart (look ma, I made a chart!).

I made this handy dandy chart to summarize (and in all fairness, sometimes overly so) the major types of carriers on the market today, which should help provide at least some guidance as you navigate these waters.  Over the next few days I hope to post more specifics on the different carrier types.

That isn't even ALL the carrier types, but it is a good place to start.  The only other type I have experience with is the onbuhimo, which I hope to post about eventually (and review the Fidella onbu I recently got).

Posts on Specific Carrier Types:
Pouch Slings



11.19.2015

Weekly Herb HIghlight: Wild Violet (Viola sororia/Viola spp)

I think it's pretty obvious I love violets.  I mean, I did name a child after them.
 Sorry, couldn't help myself.  But that's not the Violet I mean.  This is.

Violets (Viola sonoria, or the common blue violet) grow wild all over my yard.  After the dandelions they are the first pop of color in the spring, first with their bright green arrow shaped leaves and then with their cheery violet (not blue, but not purple either, but somewhere in between) flowers.  The blooms thrive in the shady spots under trees, along buildings, or next to ledges where they can get some sun, but not too much.  Violets do not love to be hot or dry- ever heard the phrase wilting violet?  The blossoms are as fragile as they are beautiful, and won't last long if exposed to heat or sun.

Another interesting tidbit about violets- they reproduced both sexually and asexually.  Because violets bloom so early in the spring they run the risk of missing pollinators altogether.  Not a great survival strategy.  But they get around this by also sending out runners to form new plants, which is why violets often grow in large clusters.  Violets (other than Viola odorata, or sweet violet, I believe) also have no fragrance, and bees and hummingbirds are less attracted to the muted violet color, so all in all it was a good idea for them to develop a backup plan.

Both the leaves and the blossoms are edible.  The leaves are pleasantly spicy and make a good addition to a salad blend, or can be cooked and eaten in place of spinach.  I use the blossoms to make a beautiful pinkish jelly every spring.  Another fun fact- why is the jelly pink?  Violets blossoms are a natural litmus test.  Add acid and they turn pink (and the jelly recipe I use calls for lemon juice), add a base and they turn green.  I've also used them to color a simple syrup you can use to make fun colored cocktails.

See, super useful, and we haven't even gotten to the medicinal uses.

(oh, btw, go easy on eating the blossoms, they can have a laxative affect)

Nutritionally, the leaves are really high in vitamin C and beta carotene.  According to Lise Wolff (who I was privledged to take a plant walk with earlier this fall during a herbal conference) 100g of violet leaf (which isn't a whole lot) contains 20,000 IU of beta carotene (4x the RDA of 5000 IU) and 264mg of vitamin C (roughly 3.5x the RDA of 75mg).

The leaves are slightly mucilaginous, which is something to keep in mind when you first try them- they will be a tiny bit slimy.  This is good for you, but also most mucilages break down with heat and time, so after cooking there should be less of a slime factor, and raw the slimy feeling is only a suggestion in your mouth as you chew the leaves.  This mucilage makes violet leaf tea excellent for sore throats.

One of the more serious uses for violet is for treatment of any type of fibrous mass, particularly in the breast tissue.  I have used it to treat pernicious clogged milk ducts (fresh leaf made into a poultice and applied to the breast, as well as drinking violet leaf tea) but others have seen success with things as serious as breast cancer (this would be an opportune time to say I am not a doctor and I'm not telling you to make any serious decisions, my only goal is to inform).

Overall, violet leaves are just good for you.  They are mild enough to give to children for things like headache and fever as they seem to aid the lymphatic system, but they are strong enough to fight tumors.  They help support several systems of the body.  It has been suggested to me in the past that they are just a weed and I should be pulling them out of my yard.

I'd rather the violets pushed out the grass, because until I get a cow grass is pretty useless to me.

Note: While I talk mostly about Viola sororia, most of this information is generally recognized as being true for all wild growing violets.

Sources:
Viva Violets!  by Lise Wolff

300 Herbs: Their Indications & Contraindications, Matthew Alfs

Edible & Medicinal Wild Plants of the Midwest, Matthew Alfs

Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG

11.17.2015

When in doubt, say something.

I've had this affliction my entire life where things I don't necessarily wholly mean (or things that I mean but that aren't kind) just tumble out of my mouth before I have a chance to think about them.  It has caused lots of hurt feelings, I am sure, and lots of sleepless nights for me as I analyze every piece of every conversation to make sure I didn't unintentionally offend the person I was speaking to.

Then for a while my defense was to say less.  To keep my mouth shut and not risk making anyone mad.  It would save me tons of stress, I told myself.  And sometimes that was true.  But not always.

The past weeks have been kind of odd for me.  Well, the past months really.  Lots of things are changing- little things, but cumulatively they are making me feel a little disoriented.   My grounding practices (namely choir practice and yoga) have been completely upended and don't feel like they are serving the same purpose for me they have in the past.  There was a confrontation in a group I am in (sorry to be vague, but I literally have to be) that I was both in the center of and outside of, and a friend was hurt by it.  And last tiny thing, but I said something on Facebook that to me sounded completely innocent but was taken the wrong way by a few people.

So, what is my point, what does this have to do with speaking up?  I don't mean complain.  I think there is far too much complaining as it is, I don't want to add to that pool of negativity.  I'm not going to complain about the changes in my yoga classes or my church choir (or my whole church, for that matter...).  I am going to try to accept them and let that experience help me learn and grow as a person.  I am talking mostly about honesty and forgiveness.  If you did or said or didn't do something that you feel hurt someone, fess up.  Explain, ask for forgiveness, and then move on.  In both of the cases I mentioned above, I did, and it at the very least made me feel better.

Another time it's not okay to keep quiet- when a friend or family member is struggling.  We've all done it, be honest.  Sometimes you feel like you have nothing to offer.  Sometimes you don't know what to do or say.  Or, lets face it, sometimes not saying or doing anything is the easy thing to do.  I say that's not acceptable.  Ask how they're doing.  Let them know you can lend an ear, at the very least.  Let them know they can ask for help, even if you don't know what to offer.  Sometimes the mere fact that you said something can lift their spirits.

And the one last time it is not okay to keep quiet- when the people around you are spouting hate and  that you don't agree with.  Whether in facebook or real life, don't be afraid to speak up.  I speak, of course, (at least at the moment) of all the hateful stuff being said about Muslims at the moment (phew, isn't it nice that I can be specific again?).  The second that you and your denomination/faith/culture can say it has never committed atrocious acts against others (hello Slavery, the KKK, the murder of millions of Jews, the Crusades, protesting the funerals of military heros... I could go on), THEN you can condemn an entire race or creed of human beings.  Here's another thing to remember- if you are condemning all Muslims, it is extremely likely you have never actually met a Muslim, like, in real life.  If you have and you can still condemn them, well then I don't think there is any saving you.  But when you have actual faces to put with an entire otherwise abstracted group of people, when you know these perfectly kind, perfectly normal, family oriented, lovely people there is no way you could condemn their entire religion because of the acts of a few extremists.  There is danger, no one disputes that, but do we run in fear and condemn thousands of refuges, some of which are children, to die needlessly?  I can't actually do anything about this, but I can speak my mind.  And so should you.


11.11.2015

Spruce Essential Oil; or Info That Might Actually Make Your Life Better

As I mentioned in my last post, I am working on posting more.

Not blogging, for me, is not usually about whether or not I have something to say.  Once in a very blue harvest super moon, that is it, but usually it is something else: lack of time, lack of mental energy, complete inability to sit down at a computer without a toddler climbing me like Mount Everest.  But most of the time it's the lack of confidence that anyone cares what I have to say.
So you tell me... is a Spruce Christmasy enough for you or is that a part of the PC agenda too?
For example, I thought about addressing the stupid Starbucks red cup nonsense.  I have a lot of opinions on that (in a nutshell, if it bothers you you are ignorant and probably elitist and dare I say a bit un-American, and that Starbucks' decision to use a minimalist design had nothing to do with political correctness or attacking Christmas or anything except that the marketing department likes minimalism... oh and btw the CEO of Starbucks is Jewish).  But that topic has gotten enough press and I am heartened by the fact that I know no one personally who gives a rats ass what the Starbucks cup looks like.  Plus why should my opinion on that matter?  I mean it matters, in that I am entitled to an opinion, but one of my big issues lately has been with everyone feeling their half baked uninformed opinions are important, and thus worth airing on a public, anonymous, international forum.  When you're a blogger with your own opinions, that is a hard feeling to resolve with your own actions.  (and welcome to a tiny glimpse of the circular logic hell that is my brain)

I don't remember if I also mentioned I have kicked up my herbal studies as well, but I have.  I know I have posted sporadically in the past about my herbal meanderings, but I am taking a much more focused and much more methodical approach as of late.  As a small part of that, I have decided to highlight weekly one herb and one essential oil that I feel is 1) underrated, and 2) of potential use to most people in one form or another.  In light of the first criteria I won't be covering essential oils like lavender, most of the citruses, or peppermint (among others) or herbs like (again) lavender, plantain, nettle (well, maybe not nettle, I go back and forth...), elderberry, or dandelion (plus a few more). 

Disclaimer- I am not a doctor.  Nor am I a trained aromatherapist.  I am merely an essential oil enthusiast, so please do your own research before using anything claimed to have any health benefits at all, even if it is from me (ha).  Also, full disclosure, some of the info I cite below comes from Dr. Gary Young's book Essential Oil Pocket Reference (in other words, it is a Young Living publication).  I say this because there is general disdain for any information that comes directly from an MLM essential company.  I sometimes share such disdain, in fact.  BUT I think that to completely disregard the entire works of a prominent name in the field of essential oils simply because he was able to turn it into a successful company would be a mistake.  Instead I take the information from him and balance it out with other sources, like Robert Tisserand.  Full citations can be found at the end of the post.

The top of my list?  Spruce.  (which, I didn't even do that on purpose... get it... Christmas... spruce)  After lavender and the citruses, Spruce is probably one of my most frequently used oils.  The main reason for this is that it can be used safely around small children in place of oils like eucalyptus and peppermint, and in fact has many of the same effects- it is expectorant and can help open airways, as well as being antibacterial (Young).  (more on essential oils that are safe around children here, and why to avoid eucalyptus and peppermint around small children here). 

I diffuse a blend of citrus essential oils and spruce, with their strong antibacterial properties, during flu and cold seasons and any time someone in my home is sick or has been exposed to someone who is sick.

But one of the biggest reasons I love spruce is for its grounding qualities (Young).  I will openly admit that I allow my kids some screen time.  We live in Minnesota, and we travel a lot, and I have a son who wakes up at like 5:30 in the morning, and all of this leads to me, for survival purposes, allowing limited screen time.  That sometimes borders on too much.  From my experience screen time has different affects on different kids- my nine year old daughter can self regulate and I rarely see negative affects on her, but my seven year old son would play on something with a screen all day every day (and half the night) if allowed, and the more he plays the more out of control he gets.  Only out of control isn't exactly the right way to describe it... he gets cranky, touchy, emotional, entitled, and super bratty.  So when I know he has had too much screen time, aside from turning everything off and strongly suggesting he go outside, I diffuse spruce essential oil.  In my opinion, it makes a huge difference (and there is no research on this, nor have I even found it alluded to anywhere specifically, but because of its grounding affects the connection made sense in my brain and my own experience has born it out... plus everyone needs grounding and it is safe, so why not?). 

Spruce is also well known for its ability to release emotional blocks, especially those held in the throat, jaw, and chest (Young).  I have less experience with this affect, although that is kind of the purpose of this project, now isn't it- so I learn something new as well.  In fact, I have been carrying a lot of tension in my jaw lately, so perhaps I will try some diluted spruce essential oil on my jaw before I go to bed tonight.  (find dilution guidelines here)

Contraindications:  As said above, there are none known, although you should always exercise caution while pregnant or breastfeeding or if you have any medical conditions.  Essential oils specifically are prone to cause contact reactions or sensitivity.  Do not apply any essential oils topically to children under the age of two unless under the supervision of a well trained holistic health care provider.

Have you ever used spruce essential oil?  What do you use it for?

Sources:

Essential Oils and Children- http://www.learningabouteos.com/index.php/2014/02/07/essential-oils-and-children/

Avoiding Menthol Containing Essential Oils Around Children- http://www.learningabouteos.com/index.php/2013/08/06/menthol-containing-essential-oils-and-children/

Properly Diluting Essential Oils- http://www.learningabouteos.com/index.php/2013/08/07/properly-diluting-essential-oils/

Young, Gary; Essential Oils Pocket Reference, Life Science Publishing, 2014

11.03.2015

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up?

Likely you've heard of "KonMari" or Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up already.  The book alone has sold millions of copies and been on the New York Times Bestsellers List for 52 straight weeks (more or less since it was published last October) as I write this.  One KonMari facebook group I am in boasts nearly 30,000 members, and there are so many other groups I didn't even bother to count them because I just kept scrolling... and scrolling... and scrolling and they kept coming.  Oh, and there is talk about turning it into a prime time comedy (which has already been done in Kondo's native Japan).

But magic?  Magic is a strong word.  When you say magic around the likes of me, you'd best have a wand (or better yet a sonic screwdriver) hidden up your sleeve.  You don't just throw around a word like magic.
Going all KM on my books.  I did get rid of some, believe it or not.
Let's rewind a minute though.  Do you ever have times in your life where you do something or try something just because the universe seems to be telling you to, and no other reason?  I do.  Pretty often in fact.  Either I'm completely bonkers or the universe has a lot to say to me (the jury is still out).

I was talking to a friend about clutter.  Specifically about clutter and kids and getting them to clean it up.  She mentioned that her daughter was sometimes resistant to cleaning up even though she only had a few toys.  I was like "that sounds amazing."  Her next words- "Try KonMari.  It will change your life."  I didn't even wait for her to explain (full disclosure- this was a facebook conversation) and started Googling.  Decluttering.  Sounds great.  But special folding?  Unpacking my purse every day?  KEEPING MY SOCKS WITH THE REST OF MY CLOTHES???  That last one especially was a deal breaker.  I am KNOWN for my revolutionary system of keeping the entire family's socks within spitting distance of their shoes.

But I'm down with some decluttering, and I have a pretty open mind, so I ordered the book and joined the facebook group.  Now, in the KM groups it is pretty taboo to talk about other systems (mention Flylady in a KM forum, I DARE you), but at the same time I was reading about capsule wardrobes and I was totally intrigued.  Basically, a capsule wardrobe is a mini wardrobe of pieces that you love (for each season, not your entire wardrobe like total)that is limited to around 37 pieces (different people use different numbers), INCLUDING shoes (well, pairs of shoes...).  I, like 99.9% of females in this country, will openly admit that up until that time I wore about 2% of what I owned.  I had a full closet, yet never felt like I had anything to wear.  As such, the concept of the capsule wardrobe was appealing- a small number of clothing that more or less coordinate with each other (and that isn't always a criteria for choosing an item, but it tends to just happen), and that I love.  Not just tolerate, not just keep around because I think I might need it or fit into it or magically like some day, but really, truly love.  Every piece.  Having a bigger wardrobe was obviously not working, so why not try the obvious?  I hadn't read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up yet, but I knew it meant getting rid of things you didn't like (or that don't "spark joy") and that clothing was the first category- I picked that much up from the facebook page, at least, so I figured why wait for the book.

(btw, wait for the book, don't be naughty just because I was)

I got rid of so. many. clothes.  This article told me that once I had whittled my wardrobe down to only things I truly loved, that my style would be obvious.  I have always struggled with finding my personal style.  I want to be #allthethings- pretty, feminine, tough, sexy, innocent... and I am attracted to both dark and light, color and neutral.  So I had doubts that this would work on me.  But did it ever.  I weeded.  I was diligent.  I sorted into two piles- "absolutely no" and "maybe, but try it on first."  I didn't even know it yet, but I was following a KonMari principle.  You have to touch it to know if it truly sparks joy.  I got rid of 4 trash bags of clothes.  Then I tried on every single item in my keep/maybe pile.  Every one.  Some more got cut that didn't fit right or didn't flatter, and when I was done it was so very obvious.  A lot of black and grey.  Some green and blue.  Edgy but still girly.  Girly but still willing to punch you in the throat (jeez... violent much?).  It was, in fact, kind of magical. (and no, I didn't get down to 37)

Fast forward to today.  There are five KM categories and you have to go in order- clothes, books, papers, "komono" (ie "everything else" or miscellaneous), and sentimental.  I finished sentimental today.  No doubt I'll spend the next few weeks fine tuning, and I have a few more loads of donations and trash that need to GTFO of my house, but I'm done with the big work.  I've been breaking another rule, though (don't do it!!!).  I've been reading the book as I go, just making sure I stay ahead in the book of what I am doing in my home.  So today, after finishing sentimental, I read the sections on storage and "the magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life."  Kondo says, and I am paraphrasing, that if you look at the things that you kept and the things you have liked to do your whole entire life (particularly during your childhood), you can learn so much about yourself that it can lead to drastic life changes.

I am a 35 year old woman who still doesn't know exactly what she wants to do when she grows up.  It's a thing.  But as I read the aforementioned passage, I thought, "huh, what did I like to do when I was a kid?"  I liked to read, and I liked to write.  Not four hours before I had ccme across a big stack of journals from high school and college.  I didn't read them, but I flipped through them and was amazed at the amount of writing I did during that time in my life.  Even when I was actively blogging I didn't write as much as I did then.  Since having kids I haven't focused on writing at all (I still read like it's my job, but that's a lot easier) other than this blog, and as we all know it has been seriously neglected for longer than it would be polite to mention.  But tidying my house, looking at the things I have kept, it is so strikingly obvious to me now.  I love words.  When I sorted my kids' school papers, I favored their journals and reports over paintings.  I have more books in my house than photographs.  So the signs are just as clear- writing needs to be a priority in my life again.  Even if I only journal, or journal and blog, and nothing ever comes of it.  It needs to happen.

So magic?  I'm a believer.  Not only do I now know what my priorities are, I have a clean, peaceful, uncluttered space with which to pursue any of my interests (honestly I'm pretty excited about my craft area, too- I don't think I have ever had all my craft supplies organized and in one area before).  So thank you KonMari, thank you Marie Kondo, and that you The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  You have sparked joy and life back into this poor writer's soul.

Oh, and I will make a prediction.  Thrift stores are about to get very, very full.

And yes, because I know you're dying to know.  I moved my socks.

2.27.2015

The essential oils I keep around, and what I use them for.


#alltheessentialoils !!!
I am an herb girl at heart, I won't lie.  Essential oils, by comparison, seem very exotic.  It has only been recently that I have embraced the power of essential oils.  Now, there is a wide variety of maladies that you can use essential oils to treat (although I strongly recommend contacting an aromatherapist for more in depth treatments, and even for more pedestrian uses please consult a reputable book or website... more on that in a moment).  But to me the most amazing thing about essential oils is how they affect the mind and the spirit.  When my kids are cranky, when they have a hard time settling down or staying asleep, or when they are listless, essential oils are my first defense.  When I am feeling bogged down or sluggish, they lift me up.  When my mind is racing they can calm it down.  They calm anxiety and lessen depression.  It is really a marvel- all from plants.

But I'm raving too much, back to the nitty gritty.  What do I consider absolutely essential in my kit?  In my opinion, everyone should have the following oils around:
  • Frankincense
  • Lavender
  • Mandarin (or any citrus, or all the citruses, but at least one and this is my favorite)
  • Tea Tree
  • Peppermint (Do not use on or around children under 6, even to diffuse, but Spearmint is similar and safe to use around children over 2)
  • Eucalyptus (Do not use on or around children under 10, even to diffuse)
  • Clove (do not, I repeat do not, use this for teething... or any topical use on kids under 2)
  • Ravensara (Agathophyllum aromatica or Ravensara aromatica, NOT the similarly named Ranintsara or Cinnamomum camphora)
 And these oils are nice to have around:
  • Bergamot
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Spruce
  • Thyme Linalol (the linalol bit is important, esp if you're using it around kids)
  • Cinnamon (works as a blood thinner, so do not use if you have clotting issues.  Even if you diffuse it)
  • Clary Sage (has an estrogenic affect, so avoid if you should be avoiding estrogen, eg. if you are pregnant or suffering from certain cancers)
I feel I gave decent warnings re: use around children for the above oils, and regarding any other major health issues they may affect.  HOWEVER, read about them thoroughly before using them yourself.  Do not take my word that they are safe or effective.  And please do not take the word of any specific company.

General warnings- Essential oils should be used sparingly around kids under 2.  Topical use should be avoided altogether for kids under 2.  Diffusing is my favorite method of use, and what I do 95% of the time. Please dilute appropriately for age any time you use topically (see sources below for dilution rates)

K, now that I got all of THAT out of the way (phew! but we want to be safe, right?), what do I do with all of these?  Just a few quick examples of what I do (see above re: not listening to me, though).

Frankincense- gives a general feeling of well being, can be calming for after something traumatic.  Also anti-inflammatory and useful in skin care.  Good for coughs.

Lavender- this is popular for a reason.  It smells amazing, for one thing.  And it has been clinically proven to enhance relaxation and lessen anxiety.  It is safe for use around children of all ages (not topically under 2) and is one of the ONLY oils that can be used neat (in moderation, not on children, and only if you know what you are doing).  It also happens to be anti-inflamatory and antibacterial.  So yeah, this one gets used a lot.

Mandarin (or any citrus)- citrus oils are another awesome and widely used oil.  They are cheap, easy to obtain, and other than the fact that most are phototoxic (ie don't use them on your skin if you're going to be in the sun, you will burn badly... and mandarin is NOT, which is one of the reasons it's my fave!) they are safe for use around children of all ages.  They uplift the spirit, lessen anxiety, and are antibacterial.  They also bust grease like no one's business... as well as melt plastic, so be careful with them.  DO NOT ingest citrus oils, no matter what you hear, unless under the direction of an aromatherapist.  If you want lemon water, buy a lemon!

Tea Tree- Tea tree oil is another that is hugely popular, especially with parents, because it is antifungal, and who hasn't suffered from a yeast issue when you have one in diapers?  Here's a tip, though- DO NOT waste your oils by putting them in the wash.  Your washer is huge.  You would need huge amounts of tea tree oil to kill the yeast in your diapers.  It is better to use properly diluted tea tree oil on the rash itself.  A balm made from tea tree oil can also be useful on ring worm.

Peppermint- Because of the menthol content, peppermint is not recommended for children under 6.  Otherwise, this is a generally safe oil that can be used to treat nausea and headaches and that has an energizing, invigorating scent.  As I said above, spearmint has similar affects and is safe for children over 2.

Eucalyptus- Do not use eucalyptus on or around children under the age of 10.  Because of one of it's constituents (1, 8 cineole) it can cause small childrens' breathing to slow dangerously or even stop.  However, for children over 10 and adults it is an extremely effecitve decongestant and expectorant.

Clove- As I said above, do NOT use as a teething remedy!  Otherwise, clove smells really good and is a great oil to diffuse during flu season, as it is anti viral.

Ravensara- Ravensara oil is a STRONG antiviral.  It is the kind of oil that I think is important to keep around and hope you never have to use it.  I bust this one out in case of actual flu, Norovirus, or fifth disease... the kinds of nasty viruses kids tend to attract.  And then I would only diffuse unless under the direct supervision of an aromatherapist.

And I will avoid going over the second list, because really, if you're going to keep and use essential oils, you need to do your own research.  I only meant to pique your interest and show the wide variety of applications of a few oils.  Although I will add, I totally want to put Roman Chamomile on the "must have list."  I only got it myself recently because OMG the price... it is like gold (and coincidentally, my daughter left a bottle OPEN the other day and 1/3 of what I just bought evaporated into nothingness... on the same day I spilled a half a bottle of goldenseal tincture, which falls into the same "OMG pricey" category), but now that I have used it I see why.  It is so soothing and relaxing, and it is safe to diffuse around kids of all ages.  My big kids have been having issues sleeping lately and a combination of lavender and roman chamomile has made a huge difference.  Like we all (well, all but the nursing mama!) are getting a full night of sleep again.

Anyway, here are some resources to begin your research on essential oils, including where I buy what.

Websites:
Learning About Essential Oils- this is THE website (and there is a facebook discussion group as well) when it comes to learning about the safety of essential oils around children.  If you go to the home page (the page I linked to) and scroll down you'll see a box that includeds many of their most popular posts- I specifically want you to read "Children and EO's" if you have children, and "Diluting EO's."  But honestly every one of those is worth a read.

Mountain Rose Herbs- a great source for affordable essential oils (mostly organic) and hydrosols (in addition to herbs and other fun stuff).

Verditas Botanicals- this is a local (to me) company that makes great, high quality organic essential oils.  I get 99% of my single oils from them and Mountain Rose Herbs.

Books:
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, by Valerie Worwood
Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child, by Valerie Worwood
Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand

(those are the books I own, and therefore can recommend, but there are other recommendations on the Learning about Essential Oils Page)








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