Your Metro DC resource for Natural Living, Holistic Parenting and Family Wellness

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1
Outdoor Classrooms
2
Lyme Disease: An Epidemic
3
Screens and your children: A family therapist’s take on video games (+giveaway)
4
Moms speak out: what Mother’s Day really means (+ giveaway)
5
Musings on Mother’s Day
6
Bike to School Day 2014
7
Addressing allergies naturally
8
Celebrate Screen-Free Week May 5-11
9
DC Birth & Babies Fair returns Saturday
10
Getting clear on air quality

Outdoor Classrooms


How does your school garden grow?

Spring is a busy season for gardeners and, as the past few weeks have been busy for this parent just learning about school gardens. Three local schools with some amazing gardens have inspired me to take a more active role in my children’s school gardening program.

The non-profit group NoVA Outside held its third annual Early Childhood Outside conference on April 26 at Westlawn Elementary in the Falls Church section of Fairfax County. The morning began with an interactive keynote titled “Dancing Through the Natural World: Nature and Child-Initiated Choreography” given by Amanda Whiteman, Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist, from the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts . It was followed by several workshops and hands-on sessions, including the presentation “The Benefits of Outdoor Learning in the Elementary School” by two kindergarten teachers at the school, Carol Hunt and Libby Hagen.

Westlawn elementary  hill Discovery

The Discovery Area that these teachers were instrumental in building at Westlawn includes a garden, a digging area and hill, weather-resistant cabinets with small parts toys for creative play, several learning stations, and an Earth Loom designed by Cheryl Corson Design (like the one that was recently built at Brookside Gardens in Maryland) into which children can weave flowers, leaves, grass anything they dream up. The courtyard at Westlawn offered up even more great opportunities for learning, including a vernal pool.


Westlawn elementary EarthLoom

Westlawn elementary garden

Westlawn elementary loose parts

Westlawn Elementary outdoor play area

I got even more inspired a few weeks later when I learned about another wonderful school garden from Christy Przystawik of Feeding Families Well. Christy teaches and coordinates the garden program at Peabody Elementary for the FoodPrints program of FRESHFARM Markets. She was so taken with the gardens at Stoddert Elementary in NW DC when the school held a recent inservice that she offered to take me on a visit.

Stoddert Elementary School garden - sign

Stoddert’s full-time garden coordinator is a position funded in part by DCPS and in part by the school PTA. Ms. Kealy works with two different grade levels per month, teaching each class two times per week so that they children can see things growing and changing. The lessons are an hour long and fit into the schedule as science. The classroom teacher stays during the lesson to assist or to break the class into two small groups.

Stoddert Elementary School garden compost

The garden is maintained in part through weekly Monday afternoon open work times that might see 20 children and their parents as well as larger workdays a few times a year.

Stoddert Elementary School garden Kealy

Over in north Arlington, Tuckahoe Elementary has a robust outdoor learning program thanks in part to PTA funding that supports a garden maintenance coordinator and to the school’s outdoor learning Exemplary Learning initiative that allocates a part-time position to Nancy Libson to create and implement outdoor curriculum. I hope to visit Tuckahoe soon, but one look at the Tuckahoe Discovery Garden and Outdoor Classroom website will have many a natural-minded parent drooling, and Nancy has many more lessons she told me she hasn’t even put up yet on the already-impressive outdoor curriculum page.

We here at Mindful Healthy Life would love to know about other great gardening and outdoor education programs in DC-area schools. We’d especially like to know about public schools that have made experiential learning work despite pressures to prepare students for standardized tests. Wonderful learning can occur through hands-on means, but those approaches might not be so apparent to teachers who haven’t had adequate training.

Please share in the comments (see the thought bubble in the green circle at the right toward the top of the post) or on our Facebook page about other schools or programs we should check out, or feel free to submit a piece about the program at your school.

 

 

Lyme Disease: An Epidemic

Lyme disease is on the rise in our area, and it’s something to think seriously about as you head outdoors this season. Untreated Lyme can turn into chronic illness that can take a long time and significant effort to reverse.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and today’s guest post on Lyme disease is from Shep Saltzman, R.N., L.Ac., of Vienna Complementary Medicine.

What is Lyme disease?  Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. The disease is named after Lyme Conn., where a large breakout of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis occurred. The Rheumatoid Arthritis was caused by a bacterial infection identified as “Borellia Burgdorfi.” Borellia Burgdorfi is carried by tiny deer ticks that feed on the blood of a deer. When a deer tick bites you, it transmits Borellia to you as it feeds on your blood. Once the Borellia gets into our body, it causes Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is reaching epidemic proportions. It is very easy to get Lyme and it takes energy, time money and planning to avoid it.

What is the peak time for Lyme disease? April through October is the peak time for Lyme disease. Cold weather kills many of the ticks that spread the disease. Now is the beginning of the peak Lyme disease season.

Why is Lyme disease occurring more often now? We come in contact with deer more often. The forests and wooded areas that deer live in are being developed. It is common for people to have deer eating their plants, even in suburban subdivisions. One deer can host hundreds of ticks, and as the deer graze and feed near our homes, they spread ticks. The ticks often jump off the deer, and attach to small rodents like squirrels, mice, chipmunks, and our pets.

Small rodents run all over our property, and ticks jump off them, and wait in the grass, bushes and gardens, for us or our pets to happen by, and attach themselves. We can easily be exposed to ticks from our dogs, cats and horses, all of whom can get Lyme disease.

Do all tick bites cause Lyme? No, only ticks that are infected with Borellia. The problem is knowing if a tick is infected. There is a red erythema (bull’s eye) with tick bites that indicates possible Lyme. However, only 50% of the tick bites have a bull’s eye, so the bull’s eye is not reliable.

The tick bites do not hurt, or itch, and most of the time you have no idea you have a tick bite unless it is in a place you can see or someone else can see.

Lyme banner

What are Lyme disease symptoms? The symptoms are vague and like so many other conditions that Lyme disease is called the Great Imitator. Common signs are: migrating joint pain, bulls eye erythema, fever and flu like symptoms, brain fog, headaches, attention disorders, anxiety. See the CDC for signs and symptoms.  Severe Lyme can cause paralysis, loss of voice, debilitating fatigue, and even death.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed? There are several blood tests that identify Lyme disease; the most common is a Western Blot, and another is the Elisa. Both are often inaccurate. They often indicate that you do not have Lyme disease, and you do (known as a false negative). Some tests won’t show Lyme if not enough time has passed. If the test shows positive, it is usually correct.

There are also PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), LDA (Lyme Dot Blot Assay) and 31 KDA Epitope tests.

There are specialty labs like IGeneX that do Borellia cultures. These tests are much more expensive, but they are the most accurate.

Indirect blood tests like CD4/CD8 and CD57 are good indicators of Lyme. They indicate significant pathogenesis, but they do not specifically identify the pathogen.

It is best to work with a doctor that has extensive experience with Lyme to know what the best tests are for you, if you suspect Lyme or co-infections (described below).

Muscle testing, also known as Applied Kinesiology, is an energy test that can also detect Lyme disease. I always test my patients for Lyme and co-infections, with muscle testing.  I find Lyme often precedes auto-immune conditions like: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Psoriasis, Rosacea, and IBS.

Diagnosis is somewhat difficult, and there is often disagreement amongst doctors and other health care professionals whether someone has Lyme or other  tickborne co-infections.

Do ticks carry other diseases? Yes, Bartonellosis, Babesiosis,  Erlichiosis, Ricketsiosis are all possible co-infections that can occur from the same tick. If a tick has these other infections, they can spread it to you, if you get bit.

How is Lyme disease treated? Initially, in the early stages, antibiotics are effective and are usually prescribed. Unfortunately, the antibiotics are often prescribed for only 2 weeks, and a patient may need 6-8 weeks for the most effective results.

Chronic Lyme, which occurs if Lyme is not treated or diagnosed in a timely manner, is much harder to treat. Antibiotics are prescribed, but additional use of herbs and homeopathic remedies can beused in lieu of antibiotics or in addition to antibiotics. Often herbs and homeopathic remedies are more effective, and sometimes antibiotics are more effective. Sometimes an integrative approach is best.

It does matter which antibiotics are used. There are different types of antibiotics, and many factors affect the correct choice of drug.

Babesia, Bartonella, Rickettsia  and Erlichiosis co-infections require different treatment from Lyme. All these conditions need to be diagnosed and treated. A separate lab test is available for each co-infection.

How can you prevent Lyme Disease? In order to prevent Lyme disease, you must realize that it is spread by contact with ticks. So take prevention seriously.

Lyme - deer tick on q-tip

Deer ticks are very small, so be vigilant about checking all over your body and your children’s bodies after spending time outdoors. The sooner you remove a tick, the better, but it must be done carefully. Tick removal kits and specialized tweezers like Pro-Tick can be purchased online and sometimes at nature centers.

How to remove a tick: Go to http://www.igenex.com/files/should_know.pdf for detailed instructions. Remove it carefully according to these instructions and keep it for possible testing.

And consider the following means for prevention.

1) Pets commonly spread Lyme. Do not allow your pets to sleep in your bed, on even go on your bed. Your pets will have ticks if they go outside, especially if they run free. Examine your pets for ticks, and remove them, whenever you find one. There are vaccinations for pets for Lyme. There are tick collars, and tick sprays.

2) Lawns and gardens can be treated with Permethrine, a chemical that will kill ticks but may be a carcinogen and/or endocrine disruptor, according to Healthy Child Healthy World but that may be less easily absorbed into skin than DEET. Ask an exterminating company about what is available. Lawn maintenance is a very effective way to cut down on the tick population. Keep the grass cut low; ticks do not like sun and get dehydrated by it. Ticks prefer shaded areas like bushes and shrubs. Wear gloves when you garden, and wear shoes and socks as well. Bare skin is what ticks are looking for.

3) Camping and hiking: Many tick prevention sprays that you might spray on clothes contain the poison DEET and may cause eye or skin irritation or more general harm. There are a variety of more natural products you can use on your hands, ankles, neck and behind your ears to avoid tick bites. WebMD has an overview of several products reviewed by Consumer Reports  and has a discussion of more natural products. The Environmental Working Group has a Guide to Bug Repellents that recommends not using a combination repellent and sunscreen.  See also the EWG guide to bug repellents for kids.  Finally, there are also many recipes for DIY bug sprays using essential oils like geranium oil and others , including this tick oil recipe from Primally Inspired

4) Do not attract deer to your property with deer salt-licks and other plants they love. Deer are fun to look at, but they do carry ticks, and those ticks do cause Lyme and other tickborne infections.

5) Do not keep wood piles and leaves on your property anywhere near where you, your children or pets spend time. These are breeding grounds for small rodents and ticks. If you stack firewood for fires, get a metal rack, and stack them carefully and off the ground to minimize breeding of mice, rats and other rodents.

Lyme cannot be spread by saliva but is a bloodborne disease that can be spread through sexual contact.

For information, see:

The information in this article is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis. If you have any concerns about a tick bite, symptoms of Lyme disease or any other health issue, contact your healthcare provider.

shep1About the author:

Shep Saltzman, RN, Licensed Acupuncturist, owns Vienna Complementary Medicine (www.vcmedicine.com) and also sees patients at Vital Mind/Body Therapies in Del Ray, Alexandria.

 

Screens and your children: A family therapist’s take on video games (+giveaway)

Bring up the topic of “screen time” at the playground or sports practice, and chances are you’ll catch some parents rolling their eyes, either because 1) they can’t stand screen time in principle or because of how it makes their kids behave and/or 2) give in to it out of habit or perceived necessity, or 3) think that limits on it are overrated and are sick of hearing they need to change fix something in their homes that isn’t broken.

Wherever you stand on the issue at this particular moment in time, it’s worth noting that last week was 
Screen-Free Week
. For suggestions on going screen-free, see the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

We’d love to hear in the comments and on Facebook if you participated – and how.

P9-c6c76 (627x800) (1)For the other 51 weeks, if yours is not a completely screen-free home, and if you have children aging into the videogame years, what’s a good rule of thumb?

In today’s guest post, family therapist and mom of four Emily Griffin offers some tips on how to play along, if you’re going to play at all!

Emily’s post is adapted from a radio show that can be found at www.The-American-Family.com.

My recurring segment on The American Family is entitled Mindful Parenting . I recently took on the video game debate and made some suggestions for how video games can reasonably be integrated into a family routine.

In my household, video games are the coveted reward, the one thing my two older sons can agree on for “down time” after a week of busy school schedules, sports, and chores.

video games child

Many parents struggle with how to allow – or even if to allow – video games for their children. When we hear about kids playing for hours on end, sitting in front of the screen, it scares many parents into feeling like there’s no room for opening that Pandora’s box they may never be able to close. Also, some of us treat games on iPads as if they’re not video games. Let me be clear that when I refer to video games here, I’m talking about all electronic games. Even the ones on your phone.

Here are some guidelines to use for allowing video games, if you can believe that they don’t have to poison your child. These are my opinions, based on my experience in raising 4 boys, two of whom are now 14 and 7. (The other two are under the age of 3).

  • Check out the games yourself. Do a Google search. You will find detailed information and plenty of opinions on how old someone should be to play it (besides the rating on the box). Common Sense Media  is a great go-to for parents regarding anything media-related.
  • Allow yourself to enjoy playing. Yes, I said it. YOU can play. Just accept that you may be terrible. Your kids will delight in your mistakes, which can humanize you in their eyes.
  • Let your kids be the experts. Sit back and watch when you can, asking questions to figure out what’s going on (you may or may not have a clue once they’re finished telling you). But at least you noticed and cared.
  • Be open to learning something about your child. Watching how they play can give you a new perspective on strengths that your kids possess, which you can reference the next time they need help figuring out something like a math problem.
  • Video games require patience, problem-solving, persistence, creativity, quick thinking, cooperation, teamwork, and hand-eye coordination. Help your kids get the most out of the skill-building elements.
  • Limit the time for playing. Kids don’t need to play for hours on end. The warning on the box of one of my seven-year-old’s games says take a break every 30 minutes or 20 minutes if playing in 3D mode.  I like to use a general rule that even on the weekends for my 14-year-old, two hours is the max. I may let him go back to it later if he’s had a really productive day and deserves a bonus of some kind. My 7-year-old can play for an hour at the most. I don’t recommend allowing video games on the weekdays.
  • With kids under age 10, be sure they have plenty of non-electronic playing time. Kids need to explore and experience the real world. I’ve worked at schools where I’ve noticed that kids who played video games often and excessively had a hard time with patience. They demand instant gratification. They constantly needed stimulation and attention. This is not conditioning you want for your child and it will possibly lead to a needy, annoying personality.
  • Use the games to help reinforce fantasy vs. reality. Make sure the children grasp that if they try to jump from one building to another in real life, they’d most surely be in the hospital in a lot of pain. Don’t take all the fun out of it, but do check in periodically to make sure they get the idea.
  • Be clear on which games they can play, and stick to it. Pay attention to when they may be ready for a game that’s more advanced, and this will help them to respect your guidelines, even if at a friend’s house.
  • Finally, be intentional with building character with your kids. You need to be able to trust that they know right from wrong in most situations, and you are the one who has to teach them. Use their media exposure and real life examples to build on their understanding of how to treat people. When you do that, you can feel more secure in knowing that they will keep things separated and make safe decisions (like not trying to act out a violent video game inappropriately).

So, to wrap it up, use your reasonable judgment and trust your kids. You may be pleasantly surprised by how you enjoy that time with your kids, as well as enjoying the game yourself!

Emily Griffin is a native Washingtonian, wife, and mother of four biracial sons in a blended family. She is the founder of Happy Parents, Happy Babies, LLC, which is her private practice devoted to in-home parent counseling, coaching, and support in the DC area.

Emily is offering a free 50-minute consultation to one lucky winner. Consultation will be held at a meeting location within 10 miles of Takoma Park (zip code 20912).
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Contact Emily at emilygriffinlicsw (at) gmail (dot) com for a free 20-minute phone consultation or learn more at www.happyparentshappybabies.com.

Follow Emily on Twitter at @HappyP_HappyB

 

Moms speak out: what Mother’s Day really means (+ giveaway)

For lots of us, Mother’s Day brings more than a bouquet of organic roses; it brings up a lot of emotion about our role as daughter, mother, partner and more. Other than Scary Mommy.com‘s hilarious take on what mothers really want, most of the emails I saw about the day from blogs and businesses were beyond cheery. If I watched commercial TV, I expect I might have been overwhelmed by images of silk and sweets. The richness and complexity of this day often isn’t given adequate space. Read More

Musings on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day buzz is everywhere. Crafts you can do, teas you can drink, meals you can prepare or enjoy prepared by someone else. Does any of it feel very inspiring?

What do you really want for Mother’s Day? What feels good and true? If the day brings up tough emotions, how do you cope?

My husband typically has his Ultimate Frisbee spring tournament on Mother’s Day, which also typically comes at the end of Teacher Appreciation Week. I used to be a high school teacher but am pretty clear I could never again handle the stress of that job. It’s really important work, and it makes me a little sad to feel like I can’t serve in the capacity I always wanted to without detriment to my health.

I sometimes I feel the same way about mothering!

So last year, with my husband gone all day on Mother’s Day, I was feeling pretty grumpy and sorry for myself.

But really, I was blessed. A friend offered to come visit me with her husband who helped watch my kids (and hers!) so that she could do some energy work on me. It made a huge difference and opened me up to joy that had felt elusive. It felt like the start of some real transformation. It was truly the best gift I could have gotten.

This past month I got into another funk with so many responsibilities hitting at the same time, and I got a respiratory  infection to boot. Elizabeth Shoop of Holistic Intuition is someone I met through that angel friend of mine who came over last year. Elizabeth has been a great resource for me, and last week, just when I needed it, she was kind enough to email me to tell me about an audio talk she found useful. It was a Healing with the Masters talk with Carol Looka practitioner who does Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

I finally listed to the talk earlier this week, and it was like unzipping a dark cloud and seeing that the blue sky was behind it all the time!

Child running in field

Carol Look is a licensed social worker and clinical hypnotherapist who combines Emotional Freedom Technique with Law of Attraction work in her Attracting Abundance practice. I got some great insights about self-sabotage and some wonderful clearing from the tapping protocol she led on the audio talk. Afterward, I instead of stewing about how much I had to do and how little time I had to do it, I actually felt like taking a walk in the woods, doing yoga, eating vibrant food.

The talk was a game-changer for me. It would be great for anyone feeling at all stuck, whether you’ve ever heard of EFT or not. I am going to listen to the audio again before it expires in three days! And I’m going to keep reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington, which is also inspiring me to be true to what really matters, and to return to the insights on being present and setting intention that I got from Abundant Mama Shawn Fink at a recent Lil Omm journaling workshop.

With all this support and wisdom behind me, I feel ready to take on Mother’s Day solo this year. The kids and I may head to Sun & Moon in Arlington for Family Yoga at 3:00, or I might try to find some kind of performance we can all enjoy. That evening 7-9 p.m. there is a great mother’s day yoga class at Lil Omm in NW DC.  Whatever I do, I’m going to try to hold onto the wisdom I have within me, and breathe.

***

If you’re expecting or have recently had a baby, be sure to check out Beloved Yoga‘s Love Your Baby Day at the Reston Studio on Saturday, May 10, 1-4 p.m.!

***

How do you plan to spend the day on Sunday? What feels good for you? What do you really want for Mother’s Day? What should other DC-area moms know about for a gracious day?

Please share in the comments or on Facebook!

 

Bike to School Day 2014

Not only are moms around the country lobbying legislators today for clean air as part of the Moms Clean Air Force Mama Summit, but thousands of children are out in that air today riding their bikes or walking to school as part of Bike to School Day. Talk about walking the walk!

It was a beautiful morning for DC-area families to participate today. Ironically, we could walk to school every day if we’d decided to attend the language immersion magnet school located in my neighborhood instead of the  hands-on Expeditionary Learning school two miles’ drive away.

Bike to School Day Bikes

Both schools are great, but we love our EL community and have stayed their, driving the kids in the morning and letting them ride the bus in the afternoon. My son finally learned to ride a bike at the end of last summer. He was excited for October’s Walk to School Day when my husband pulled my daughter in a trailer along  the longer. Our school is only two miles away, but it’s a hilly ride through traffic and a much nicer but longer ride along the bike trail, so it takes a good 30 minutes or more, even for my in-shape husband.

He had to be out of town today, and I’m not well enough right now to bike my preschooler daughter with the trailer weight. I didn’t anticipate being able to get the kids out of the house in time to walk two miles by 8 a.m., and since my son is congested from seasonal allergies to boot, we just parked a few blocks from the school and walked the rest, per the assistant principal’s recommendation.

It’s amazing how even that small amount of connecting to your community and moving your legs can change your perspective. We got a chance to feel a part of the neighborhood and to enjoy the lovely Wetlands Learning Lab our school built in 2012, now grown in and lush. There we were greeted by the principal and assistant principal who gave the children school-imprinted water bottles and reflective stickers for their wheels along with stickers to wear during the day. They were so excited!

Wetlands Learning Lab elementary school

Last year at this time, my daughter and I were doing an outdoor parent/child class through Washington Waldorf School. We hadn’t been hiking much as a family at that point. The first week of the class, shortly into our hike she asked, “Where are we going?” It seemed to her like there must be some kind of destination; the idea of enjoying the journey for its own sake was new to her. She asked the same question the following week, but by the end of the class, you could see how comfortable she had become with the trek and how excited she was about all the things we might see and hear along the way.

Washington-Waldorf-School-outdoor-Sun-Garden-program-rainy-hike-300x224

Between health issues and the snowy winter, we’ve lost our way, so to speak, and haven’t done much hiking since New Year’s Day. Today’s short walk to school helped me remember what even small steps can do to shift what you think of as “normal.” I hope we can get our feet moving more as soon as the pollen counts are down.

Now that my daughter is almost four and I’m hoping to get stronger, I’d like to look into a Wee Ride Co-Pilot or a Trail-A-Bike that she could pedal so that by October 8, 2014, the next Walk to School Day, we might be able to go as a family, even if I am solo parenting that day.

For more information on Walk and Bike To School Day, visit http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/

We’d love to hear your stories about walking and biking to school! Share in the comments or on Facebook, or write up something to inspire readers in advance of Walk to School Day on October 8, 2014.

Addressing allergies naturally

The pollen count in the DC area went through the roof last week and will be continuing to climb for at least the next several days, according to both Pollen.com and Weather.com’s Pollen Forecast. Some of us don’t much notice except for the green film on our cars and perhaps a little stuffiness in our nose, which is getting a filtering workout with all the junk in the air.

Others react more strongly. For allergy sufferers, beautiful spring days wreak havoc on our respiratory systems. It can start at any time. For my son, his first experience of allergies was four years ago, when he was five. We’ve been on a journey since the second year to strengthen his system.

If this year’s pollen is causing you troubles, here are some natural remedies you might want to consider to help treat the acute symptoms and also to bolster your immune system and reduce reactivity.

  • Nettle and Eyebright (herbs)
  • Vitamins C and D
  • Elderberry
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Turmeric
  • Quercitin
  • Essential oils – eucalyptus can help open breathing passages and there are many other oils to help with seasonal allergies
  • Homeopathic blends for allergies, molds, tree pollen, etc. or focus on the specific symptoms and consult a book to see what fits
Taking homeopathy
I always recommend seeking the advice of a trained healthcare practitioner to discuss the right remedies for your child. Ones who use muscle-testing or applied kinesiology might really be able to find the remedy that will yield the best response.
A good practitioner can check for food sensitivities — which might be causing an inflammatory response — as well as other causes for the symptoms. It could be as old as preconceptual or in-utero issues, as I think it is partly with my son, or there could be a reaction to long-term exposure of chemicals, pollutants, mold or even synthetic fragrances. If you have not tried eliminating dairy, that’s a good place to start as it causes lots of people to make extra mucus.
Over-the-counter and prescription allopathic medication might help in the near-term, but if it’s putting undue stress on the liver, it might actually weaken the body’s ability to flush out toxins and could contribute to a worsening of the problem in the long-term.
Natural remedies
Gentle ways to help a child detox include:
  • Starting the day with warm water and lemon, or warm water and a few drops of unfiltered, raw apple cider vinegar
  • Baths with Epsom salt and dead sea salts (use a chlorine filter for the water)
  • Neti pots nasal rinses or nasal sprays — simple saline, xylitol, homeopathic, or those with colloidal silver if you’re comfortable with that
Other modalities that might help include bodywork, such as
  • Acupuncture (some practitioners can use needle-less approaches with children)
  • Osteopathy and craniosacral therapy to calm the central nervous system
  • Chiropractic to address structural issues that may contribute to poor drainage
  • Massage techniques and reflexology

And allergy elimination and energetic techniques like NAET, BioSET, NMT and Total Body Modification can also help reset the body and change its reaction. We’ll be looking for more posts on these alternative measures and will add more links and directory listings in the near future.

Finally, look at your home.

  • Rid your living space of any synthetic fragrance products — especially laundry detergent but also cleaning products
  • Keep the windows closed until the pollen counts go down and wash everyone’s hair as soon as they get inside
  • Consider investing in an air purifier

This is our fourth season with my son’s allergies, the second year we’ve worked ahead of time to prevent them through acupuncture, energetic medicine, bodywork, supplements, air purification, and more.

The duration of his allergies last year was much shorter and the intensity decreased, but he did still have to stay inside for several days and experienced some eye puffiness in addition to redness and tearing. This year, his eyes have still bothered him and have teared some, but so far we have not seen the puffiness of years past, and he’s not had to limit his outside time nearly as much.

My hope is that eventually his system will become strong enough and clean enough that it will not react so severely to the onslaught of air pollutants we get in the springtime. I think my many years of using allopathic allergy and sinus medications only contributed to health problems by artificially masking the symptoms of inflammation while stressing my system even more. A clean diet and other modalities have instead gone after the causes of inflammation.

What works for you?

Celebrate Screen-Free Week May 5-11

May 5-11, 2014 has been designated as Screen-Free Week, a program of the  Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood 

 

screen-free week

 

If you’ve been waiting for a reason to unplug your family, take advantage of this week! (And if you haven’t been waiting for a reason, check out this NPR piece on how plugged-in parenting is negatively affecting our kids).

Maybe the weather will cooperate, and with a little planning you can extend after-school playtime all the way up to the time your kids help you make something fun for dinner.

See what’s growing in the garden. Weed it. Or plant seeds for the first time.

working in the garden

Plan a picnic. Or just eat outside at a restaurant where you can’t see CNN or ESPN from the patio.

If allergies are keeping you from getting outside this week, consider spending some craft time to make mother’s day art projects for grandmothers, or get a jump on father’s day!

If going off screens seems nearly impossible, and you feel like you need some kind of input that is not you or your children with just each other (because not afternoon is full of skipping around the room with smiles), at least try just a soundtrack instead of the whole visual feast that is whatever movie your kids are begging for. Children could draw what they hear people singing about and make their own storybooks, act out the music with puppets, act it out in costume.

If you find yourself about to cave, consider limiting screen time to watching family videos or photo slideshows. (A little bird told me that Shutterfly has 40% off photobooks and other stuff through Tuesday, May 6 at 11:59 p.m.!)

And heck, I might even let my son read about Screen-Free Week on my screen for a few moments. I could print something, but if he gets to read on the screen and click a few times, that might buy me some, well, buy-in on skipping screens for the rest of the week. And maybe his little sister will listen to him.

Those of you out there who don’t have full-time childcare but still manage to regularly eschew screens of all types, please do let us all in on how you make it work! (And still feed your family. And bathe, at least sometimes.)

We’d love to hear in the comments and on Facebook about works for you. And for the rest of us, please let us know if you’re choosing to participate this week or not and why. Share your strategies and status updates! Or, better yet,
just share your planned-for strategies, then put down your device, and forget the updates until the week is over!

 

DC Birth & Babies Fair returns Saturday

Last year’s inaugural DC Birth & Babies Fair was a huge success and a great opportunity for expectant moms and newly postpartum moms. It was exactly what I wished I’d been able to attend before I became a mom 8 years ago. Having first had a c-section (after planning a birth center birth) and then a homebirth four years later, I felt like the Fair was a wonderful mix of all the resources a Metro DC mom might want to know her options and feel supported.

I took my toddler with me to the fair to staff a table for the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network, and I was beyond impressed with the class offerings and the exhibitors, not to mention the beautiful Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital (near Eastern Market), where the event will be again this year on Saturday, May 3, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

DCBBF banner

Lindsay Gonzales of DC Birth and Babies FairI was honored when event organizer and childbirth educator Lindsay Gonzales asked me to sit on the fair’s Advisory Board with a great group of women representing all aspects of prenatal and postpartum care. Earlier this week, I asked Lindsay to share a bit with our readers about the origins of the event and her plans for this year’s event.

Q: What made you decide to put on this event in the first place?

Lindsay: The story of where it came from was a mix of my experience as an expecting mom and as a childbirth educator. When I was pregnant in DC and alone without family nearby, I felt there was a lack of resources, that there just wasn’t that much out there for me. When I became a childbirth educator, I realized just how many wonderful resources there really are that many families don’t know about.

I realized there was a real disconnect. There’s a challenge for families to connect with resources, and I wanted to make those connections easier.

Birth Options Alliance (BOA) was one of the first resources I did connect with, and I immediately felt a strong sense of connection to their mission and that they were a great resource for families. When I created the event I wanted to support BOA and their mission. This year, the proceeds from the raffle will go to Birth Options Alliance, which has a Yahoo email group, information about birth options, and local provider lists for every kind of prenatal, birth and postpartum service you might want, including doulas, breastfeeding resources, loss support, and mood and anxiety support, among many other times.

DCBBF expo

Q: What was the size of last year’s event, and what’s new at this year’s event?

Last year we had around 350 attendees and 100 professionals. With 23 programs — 10 drop-in clinics and 13 classes — and some 40 exhibitors, I think we’ll have over 100 professionals on site.

The drop-in clinic is something new we’re trying with hands-on sessions. Each hour we’ll have chat with one expert and a comfort session. They will be in the same place room so people can come for comfort and listen in on expert advice at the same time!

DCBBF RoundBelly Wellness

Q: Who’s been helping you?

Lindsay: The composition of the advisory board is very deliberate to be able to have someone representing early parenting and natural living, postpartum doula work, a midwife, birth doula, parent counselor. I wanted to have people bringing in different perspectives from the full range and scope of what we’re trying to represent. This is about being our happiest and healthiest in these important times. One of the best things about the Fair is that it touches on people’s health across the spectrum of wellness. It’s about women and their families feeling their best mentally and physically and even spiritually.

Q: I could not believe it when I heard on April 3 — exactly one month before the event — that you had to have an emergency appendectomy. How has that affected your planning this year?

Lindsay: Fortunately, my surgery was laproscopic, so it could have been worse, and I’ve turned a corner in recovery in the past few days, which is good.

When something happens, like unexpected surgery, it’s so helpful to have everyone come out to wish you well and offer support. It’s actually been a really great experience. Not every kind of event would work like this except for this community coming together.

Last year, everything was a big experiment and just a hope, and there was still so much support. We saw this need, and there were so many people willing to volunteer their time and expertise not even knowing if it would work and how many people would come.

Organizing an event in partnership with doulas, midwives and parenting experts is the most supportive thing anyone could ever do! Everyone involved is involved because they want the families of the DC area have the best experiences of pregnancy birth and parenting. We’re all united with the same focus.

DCBBF Sleep Well Solutions Eat Sleep Love

The website for the DC Birth and Babies Fair is http://www.dcbirthandbabiesfair.com/.

Registration for the event is $10 per individual or $15 per family. Use the promotion code birthandbabies to save $3.

Photos taken by Kea Dupree Photography and used with permission.

Getting clear on air quality

What do you do when your daughter comes home from school with her hair and clothing infused with scent, and her teacher assures you there are no Glade inserts or other synthetic air “fresheners” in her trailer? In my case, I thanked the teacher for her kind offer to stop wearing perfume but, thinking it’s not likely that this sweet woman is the cause of something that pervasive, I would be doing some research on air quality issues in our county and in general.

Hand sanitizer

After we attended a birthday party in a play gym and I left with hair that had the same smell that permeates my daughter’s hair and clothing every day at school, I concluded that it has got to be the hand sanitizer! I had to step away when they squirted the kids’ hands with it.  Sure, I’m much more sensitive than others to noticing these things, but  just because kids and other adults don’t pick up on the smell, that doesn’t mean the synthetic chemical agents don’t exist or that our kids should be regularly exposed to something that might have endocrine disruptors or other toxic agents. I expect to soon spend some more quality time at the Environmental Working Group‘s website to get clearer on where I should focus my concern. But there are also a lot of other great organizations working on air quality, especially in the next few weeks.

 

Child with breathing treatment

 

April 28-May 2 is Clean Air Week or Air Quality Awareness Week. The Metro DC/Baltimore-area non-profit organization Clean Air Partners is sponsoring a Twitter chat focused on air quality and respiratory health on Wednesday, April 30, 12-1 p.m. The chat, which will include regional organizations, health experts, and influential voices, will “seek to educate people on how to protect themselves from poor air quality and what they can do to reduce the threat it poses.” Follow @CleanAirPartner and use the hashtag #AirMatters. To learn more, check out Clean Air Partners’ Air Alerts, Haze Cams, and tips for reducing pollution.

 On a national level, next week the non-profit organization Moms Clean Air Force is sponsoring Mama Summit 2014 on Wednesday, May 7 with rallies at state capitols and in other cities across the country. Locally, the closest events to DC are in Frederick, Maryland and Harrisburg, PA. There is a Virtual Summit and ways to get involved all week, including a Twitter chat on Monday, May 5 at 11:30 a.m. that will include EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and partnering organizations Clean Water ActionClimate ParentsEvangelical Environmental NetworkHealthy Child, Healthy WorldWomen for a Healthy Environment. Participate with the hashtag #MamaSummit and follow the organization at @CleanAirMoms.

Moms Clean Air Force suggests on Tuesday, May 6 to write a letter to the editor or a blog post on the subject “this Mother’s Day I believe that being a good mom means being an active and engaged citizen” and on Friday, May 9 to add your voice to the organization’s Thunderclap.

Blue skies

I’ve joined the Environmental Health & Asthma subcommittee of my school district’s Safety and Health Advisory Board and look forward to learning what efforts our county has made with respect to indoor air quality … and also to outdoor air quality, especially during renovations and tearing-down of old schools next to newly-built schools.


high school being demolished 2

Let’s hear what action you’ve taken and what progress you’ve made in your district! It would be great to share resources across Metro DC school districts.  Leave a comment below or contact us about a more in-depth guest post.

Copyright © 2015 Mindful Healthy Life. Created by MtoM Consulting.

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