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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.

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.

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)


The evolution of my natural remedy kit

My entire natural remedy kit.
I have posted the contents of my natural remedy kit before, in the Herbal Remedies I keep on Hand series (huh, I never got to infections, did I?).  But really, that was like 3 years ago.  And to be honest, I may have overdone it.  I didn't need some of the ones I had, and I ended up throwing quite a bit away (but really, have you gone through your conventional medicine cabinet lately?  The same is probably true).  So I have really narrowed it down.  Kind of.

I say kind of, because my kit has a lot in it.  And I mean a LOT.  But I have branched out more.  It contains homeopathic remedies, lots more essential oils (I am really just breaching the surface of their usefulness), and even a few conventional drugs.  Because I'm all for herbal remedies, but I feel just as strongly about the value of mainstream meds, and when your son is running a fever of 104.3 peppermint tincture just ain't gonna cut it.

I digress.  I'm going to give a quick overview of what I keep around now, what I would use it for, and how I store it.

Level 1 of my home remedy kit.

Level 1:  (that makes it sound like a video game, which is fun, right?)
  •  Essential oils.  Ha, yeah, that is one bullet item.  If you can't tell from my pictures, fully 1/2 of one of the trays is essential oils.  But I'll go into those in more detail in another post.
  • Tinctures.  Same as above- if I tell you all of them and what I use them for, this will turn into a novel.
  • Homeopathic remedies.  Now these I will get into here.  I am working on figuring out if I need more, and if so which ones.  At the moment my "stash" consists of: Arnica (for trauma, bruising, etc), Boiron's Coldcalm (its for colds, yo), Hylands Calm and Restful (super helpful for kids who have a hard time sleeping), Homeopathy for Kids' No More Monsters (ditto... no idea why I have both), Hylands Teething Tablets (for teething... you see a pattern here?), and Hylands Tiny Cold Tablets.  Why homeopathy?  For one thing, I've found it to be super effective.  With the exception of the cold calm (I took it when I had a cough while pregnant with Violet, that I suspect wasn't a cold at all) all of them have been effective at what they are recommended for.  Also, there are readily available formulas that are safe for tiny babies (labels say 6 months and up, but definitely confer with your doctor).
  • Pipettes.  I really only have pipettes because a few essential oils I get in 4 oz bottles that do not come with the reducer caps, and only because I used those oils a lot in my shop.  I wouldn't call them necessary.
  • 4 oz glass cobalt glass spray bottles (amber glass would work too).  For making essential oil sprays.  I am not exaggerating when I say putting the wrong essential oil in plastic will melt the plastic.  Now, I have put bergamot and lemon (citrus oils are super melty) DILUTED into a plastic spray bottle before so that should be safe, but glass is just always better if you can get it.
  • 15ml amber bottles with reducer caps (that's what the little plastic deal in the top of the bottle that makes the essential oil come out one drop at a time), for making custom essential oil blends.
  • 1 oz amber dropper bottles, for mixing up custom herb tincture blends.
  • Labels.  Anything you mix up you should LABEL with the ingredients and date, as well as dose and who it is for, if applicable.  Example- my cat has a cold.  I mixed her up a bottle of diluted goldenseal tincture and labeled it "Kitty's FRV meds, 2 droppers 2x per day" and the date.  That way I'm never guessing.  Guessing and any medicine, holistic or otherwise, is bad news bears.
  • Bach's Rescue Remedy.  So far as my opinion on this one goes, the jury is still out.  I bought it because it was recommended for post partum healing, but I don't know if it helped.  I was taking this, arnica, and placenta caps and yes, I had a fantastic post partum period, but I don't know if it was any of those or the simple fact that I gave myself permission to just rest for those first few weeks.  But many people swear by it, and it is safe for babies and pets.
  • The extra pads for this diffuser.  That is the diffuser I use in the kids' room, and the one I try to remember to grab when we travel.  It's simple, cheap, and effective.  Throughout the rest of the house I mostly use candle diffusers (also cheap), but it's generally not a good idea to leave a lit candle in a kids room while they sleep.
And I nearly forgot to explain my storage solution.  I used to keep it all in a make up bag.  But the bag was far too small, so I had some things scattered all around my house.  I actually had no idea what essential oils I had because they were everywhere.  I finally found THIS container at Target.  When I got it home I was initially disappointed my tincture bottles and some of my larger essential oil bottles wouldn't fit standing up, but now I actually like them better laying down.  Plus you can add more levels to it- I'm looking at adding a 3rd level for just whole herbs.  Just trying to figure out what to store the herbs in, as jars would definitely make the entire unit too heavy.

ALSO, clear is no bueno when it comes to storing herbs and essential oils, and it isn't very pretty, either.  So I painted the inside with some craft paint I had.  It was a pain because I had to sand all the surfaces first, and even though the paint said it was fine for plastic it didn't stick very well.  But I still think it looks cute, and I plan to do it again some day with legit plastic paint. 

I'll go over the contents of level 2 soon, as well as more details on the herbs and essential oils I like to keep around.


A love letter to cloth diapers

Diapers.  I want to share my love for my you before it slowly fades away.

Because we all know (well, at least I know, I've been through this before) it will fade.  The romance will slowly dissolve into tolerance, then resentment, and we will likely part ways.  I predict the relationship ends in about a year and a half (at least I hope...).

In fact, the first sign of problems with our relationship has already manifested.  I now have to rinse you.  How inconsiderate; why is it I have to do all the hard work in this relationship? 

(yes, I know, you take all the crap) 

For now I will put up with it and keep hoping you change.

So before the romance dies, I would like to publicly proclaim my love.

Oh my dear cloth diapers,

How I love thee.  Four and a half years ago, when we parted ways, I thought it was for the best.  I was frustrated with stuffing your insides into you every two days (wow, that sounds way dirtier than I intended, I apologize to my more delicate readers), and none of you were very cute (there, I said it).  You were getting old and pilly and the spark was gone.  I no longer felt that little tingle of excitement, that flutter, when I put you on baby's bum.  Yes, you were still helping me save money and the environment, but that can only take a girl so far, you know?

I had no idea I'd take you back.  I was DONE.  DONE I said.  But it wasn't you (at least not all you...) it was me.  More specifically, me not having any more baby bums to put you on.  Then, as fate would have it, we changed our minds and decided another baby bum might not be so bad.  And when I saw those two little lines, my first thought may have been "I need to start buying diapers!"

So the love affair was rekindled.  Having previously proclaimed there would be no more baby bums in this household, I had gotten rid of everything baby save a few fitted diapers and a few carriers that held much sentimental and little monetary value.  I could have been frustrated, but I was excited to start over.  THIS time I would only buy the really important things for baby.  THIS time I would avoid all the junk.  I made my short list of needs, and at the very top was you, dear cloth.

This time you had changed.  Fitted diapers!  No more stuffing! And this time, dear cloth, we decided to take things slowly.  Instead of rushing into a fully committed relationship, as we did last time, we started with a few diapers when the bum was two weeks old.  Then a few more.  But as my love was rekindled, more and more diapers found their way onto that dear baby bum, with very few regrets.

Of course, our love has evolved over these short months.  Fitted diapers were fantastic when that delicious little baby bum was tiny and relatively still.  But as it began to squirm and roll, we both realized that the two step we had been doing wasn't going to work for much longer.  So we reconsidered pockets and stuffing.  Even the stuffing has been different this time, though.  You are so pretty that I could stuff you all night long (alright, that one was totally intentional...).

I love you alone.
I love you with a tshirt or peeking out from under pants.
I even love you all stacked up.

Oh how I love you.  And even though I know our time is fleeting, I will live for today. 

I will carpe diaper. 


Violet's Frenectomy

Violet pre frenectomy.
I know I know, I've been MIA.  I hope you didn't send out a search party.

I won't even lie to you and say I've been caught up in the rigors of caring for a new baby.  Because really, she's pretty easy.  And squishy.  And delicious.  If anything I spend too much time just squeezing her.  Less so now, because she is CRAWLING (that, if anything, is the biggest indicator of me sucking, because I only blogged like 3 times during pregnancy and once since she was born) and is too busy destroying my house to be squished.  Anyway.

Not everything has been easy.  I was really, really hoping for an easy, drama free breastfeeding experience with this baby.  I did not get it.  But you know, that's life, right?  After feeling like my nipples were being sucked off my body for 6 months, I finally decided that if I wanted to do this long term I needed help.  I was frustrated because I had already seen an LC who had pronounced her lip and tongue tie free.  I was sure that I was doomed and there was nothing I could do.  While lamenting this on my local breastfeeding support group's facebook page, I was encouraged to talk to another LC- one who has a working knowledge of oral restrictions (ie lip and tongue ties).  So I called one.

And let me just say, she was awesome.  She did a house call, came the day after I contacted her, and it wasn't even expensive (if you are looking, many insurance plans cover lactation consultants, and you can use HSA money to pay for them at the very least).  She said she could see the tongue restriction the second she walked in the door, when Violet smiled at her.  However, Violet was being her typical 6 month old self and was allowing NO ONE to look in her mouth beyond that, so she had to confirm the tongue tie after Violet fell asleep on my lap and never got a good look at the lip. 

With that confirmation, I set out to find a dentist who would be willing to revise a 6 month old.  It's harder than you would think.  Not all dentists (and hardly any doctors) will revise tongue ties and even fewer will do lips.  And to make it even worse, many won't do older babies- they claim that if the baby is healthy and getting enough milk, there is no reason for the proceedure.  Thankfully the LC gave me a referral.  They were able to get me in right away, and when the dentist really pinned Violet down to check her mouth out (easily the hardest part- kids that age hate being held down) discovered a pretty significant upper lip tie.

Fantastic.  After being told she was FINE and feeling like there was something wrong with me, I had been nursing a baby with a tongue AND lip restriction.  For six months.  And now I had to help hold down her strong and justifiably pissed off little body as the very nice dentist took a laser to her squirmy little head.  I can assure you that is 10x as horrifying as it sounds.  BUT it was fast, and she calmed down quickly after it was done.  She was able to nurse right away and I could feel the difference, even then.  They told me to give her tylenol as needed, but she never seemed fussy or in pain once she calmed down.

However, we were not out of the woods.  After tongue and lip tie revision you have to stretch the tongue and lip.  Every day.  Three to five times.  Picture, if you will, wrestling an annoyed 20lb cat and forcing its mouth open.  It was that fun.  But if you don't stretch the incision site it will heal shut and you'll have gone through the pain and the $$$$ of the proceedure and have nothing to show for it, so stretch we did.

As for nursing, it got better, then it got worse for a while.  Because of the stretching, she got super touchy about me touching her mouth.  And because we took so long to revise, she was used to nursing with her upper lip pulled in.  I have to gently pull it out while she was nursing, but because of her aversion to me touching her mouth she pulls back and clamps down harder.  I don't think I need to paint you a picture of how that feels.  So most of the time I try to coax her into getting the best latch she can muster right off, then leave it be, although she is starting to let me touch her lip again.

Would I do it again though?  For sure.  The only thing I would change is that I would punch the first LC (not really... but really) and get a second opinion sooner.  And obviously revise sooner.  But what's done is done, and there is hope that her latch will gradually get better and that the extensive deep nerve damage done to my nipple (only slight exaggeration...) will eventually heal.  Because I am still in this for the long haul.


Violet's Birth Story

It's been over 4 months, it's time.

Actually, I wrote a good part of her birth story... the important parts... over here at Her View From Home a few weeks ago.

I don't think there is much that I would add.  So check it out and I'll leave you with an adorable baby.
Violet on the day she was born!


Having a Baby- the Tough Questions

It is no secret that, when compared to the mainstream, I have radical practices and beliefs when it comes to how I care for and manage my family.  Why is this?  Because I was born questioning everything.

When my children first started getting sick- nonstop, awful, obviously-not-run-of-the-mill-sick- I was repeatedly told "this is normal" and "kids just get ear infections" and "your son probably has asthma, just deal with it."  But I can not just accept something like constant illness as normal, so I started asking questions and, when my pediatrician could supply none, I started searching for them on my own.  Thanks to much reading and asking and (thankfully) an open minded pediatrician we figured out the problem.  My kids were allergic to milk and wheat.  It was a simple solution to a draining period of illness.  But was this something a doctor brought up on one of their many visits?  Not once.  Even though it is suspected that at least 50% of children who suffer from repeated ear infections are allergic to milk, and that their infections would stop altogether by simply avoiding milk, it was not brought up.  Instead the doctors talked of "official" asthma diagnosis, inhalers, antibiotics, and tubes.  Surgery, over something as simple as eliminating dairy.  If that doesn't sum up the current state of our healthcare system, I don't know what does.

Thankfully I had the strength and the sense to start doing my own research.  On my own I found out the link between frequent upper respiratory illnesses and dairy and asked my pediatrician if they could be tested for food allergies.

And so started my own personal revolution.  My research on food allergies led me to whole foods and a huge host of natural healing methods.  After a mere 8 months of elimination and healing and focusing on properly prepared real foods, my children could again consume dairy and wheat.  Even though Izzy still cannot consume conventional fluid milk without regressing a little and still has obvious reactions to over-consumption of sugar, their lives have more or less returned to normal, and we eat a roughly 80/20 real food/"other" food diet.

(yes, longest intro ever, I'm not actually talking about food today...)  But I will also admit that, after the onslaught of learning and dietary changes that followed that chapter of my life, I had had enough.  At least for a while.  Issues that I had not researched I conveniently ignored and I decided it was okay to just rest on my laurels for a while.  And I can honestly say that, due to the intensity of my journey in the months before, that was okay.  And since my kids were mostly vaccinated by the time we figured out what was going on, I had more or less ignored the issue until recently.  But because of this current pregnancy and the issues I had with my children I realized recently that this is NOT an issue I can ignore any longer.  So I started to read.

But as much as I'm not here to talk about food today, I'm also not here to tell you whether or not to vaccinate your child.  No one on the planet should listen to me re: this topic.  But I am here to ask you some questions:
  • Why is it that any parent choosing not to vaccinate is asked "did you do your research?" (and that's if the person is being kind...), but no one asks this of parents who choose to vaccinate?
  • What do you know about the effectiveness, safety, and ingredients of vaccines?
  • Why has the number of vaccinations absolutely skyrocketed in the past 30 years?
I didn't even intend for this post to be about vaccines- my intention was to make this point: take nothing at face value.  Do nothing without thought.  Your life, up until the months before you conceived your child, only affected you, and someday you will no longer be around.  But the second you decide to have a baby your life and your decisions suddenly take on a much larger significance.  Every decision you make not only affects your own offspring, but possibly even THEIR children.  Do not let this incite guilt, but do let it encourage you to question EVERYTHING.  From vaccines to circumcision, to baby food and formula, anything that enters or touches or even comes near your child becomes worthy of your questions, and what other people think of you no longer matters.  Because people thinking you are crazy is so much less important now than the well being of that little person you are carrying.


Saving Money Before Baby: Evaluate Your Daily Spending

Before I get into saving on cribs and birth and all of that nonsense, I thought it would be good to start at the beginning.

You see, pregnancy is long.  Actually, I'll let you in on a little secret- your pregnancy doesn't actually last 9 months.  It's more like 10.  There, I ruined your day :)

But really, you have lots of time.  No need to run out and buy anything baby related for the first several months.  In the first and much of the second trimester the more prudent thing to do would be to evaluate your current financial condition and spending habits and make some changes.

Because even if you're as frugal as the day is long, you're going to need some money to spend on baby.  And if you're currently spending every penny you make (or worse, going into debt) and living paycheck to paycheck, you're either going to be pinched or you're going to go further into debt.

Now, I'm no financial whiz.  In fact, for this step I'm just going to tell you to clean financial house- for the particulars I strongly suggest going to an expert.  Dave Ramsey is a popular one.  I also like Melanie Hobbs.  I will, however, share a few of the ways I've saved money around my own home.
  • Cancel your cable/satellite (but don't give up TV if you don't want).  This one took me a long time to figure out.  No, it's not hard to cancel your cable, but I'll let you in on another secret- I LOVE TV.  I understand it's shortcomings.  But it is my second favorite form of entertainment, and I won't give it up completely.  About a year ago I actually called the satellite company and had the service turned off, then immediately called them back and had it turned back on.  Because one of my small joys in life is sitting on the couch in the morning with a cup of coffee and watching the news.  And while you can stream pretty much everything now, you still can't stream the news (in clips you can, but not as one ongoing program).  So I balked.  It took me months to come to the following realizations- 1) 99.7% of what I watch is on network TV, and 2) network TV is still free.  So for the price of a $28 set top antenna I was able to get most of the channels I watch for free.  That one time purchase saved me about $1200 a year.
  • Stop buying mixes, coffee creamer, expensive cereal, and other luxury food items.  Start learning to either do without or make them at home- you will save tons, and the at home versions are almost always healthier.  You're not going to want to learn to make things from scratch once baby is here, but if you learn it now you may be okay continuing after the birth, or you can make bulk batches and stock up beforehand.
  • Start meal planning.  Just planning what you eat each week can save you tons of money, because it prevents you from impulse shopping and from needing to make spur of the moment trips to the store throughout the week.  Take into account what's on sale at the store, what's in season (and therefore cheaper), and what's already in your pantry, and spend a little time planning once a week, or even once every few weeks.  Then carefully make a grocery list and stick to it!
  • Do not be afraid/ashamed to buy things second hand.  Craigslist is your friend, as is the Goodwill and the Salvation Army.
  • Borrow before you buy.  The old saying "neither a borrower nor a lender be" only applies to money.  If you don't have a friend you can borrow from, look for rental places.  
  • Get your energy use in check.  Do you run your thermostat high in the winter or low in the summer?  Get over it and start adjusting to a slightly more, ahem, seasonally appropriate temperature.  That alone can result in big savings- we reduced our thermostat 4 degrees last week (from an already chilly 68 to a cold but still tollerable 64) and our propane usage went down by almost half (we monitor how much we use each week).  You can also turn your fridge temp down (most run them too cold), make sure you're turning off printers or anything with an "on" light, and not leaving your phone or laptop plugged in all the time.
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