Cuddle & Kind

Cuddle & Kind

The amazing folks at Cuddle & Kind reached out to me a while back to ask me to review their products as well as their site. I was unfamiliar with the company so did a little research first, and what I learned about them made me proud to partner with them to bring you this post.

Cuddle & Kind has to be one of the best fair trade, socially conscience companies in existence. It was started by a mother and father who wanted to instill in their own children  a sense of kindness and responsibility. Cuddle & Kind’s primary mission is to provide meals to children, children around the world and here at home in the US.

The way they raise the money to feed all these hungry children is to make adorable hand knitted dolls. What makes their mission even more wonderful is that they employ over a hundred artisan women in Peru to hand knit their dolls. This provides the women with a livable income to raise their families and improve their homes.

c+k_quality_doll

Cuddle & Kind was nice enough to send me one of their dolls, and since I have a young son who loves stuffed animals I requested they send me Scout, their male white tail deer. Casey loves Scout, who he quickly renamed Bucky, and has been sleeping with him ever since. The doll is made with high quality yarns and vibrant colors. Bucky the deer has now gone on several adventures outside with Casey into the woods behind out house as well as spent several days in the tree fort. The doll still looks brand new.

For every doll that Cuddle & Kind sells through their website it provides 10 free meals to children as well as pays their artisans in Peru. So far the company has been able to provide 210,598 meals to children as of this post. Their goal is a big one! They want to provide 1,000,000 meals a year to children every where.

Be-kind-print-framed blog

Besides their adorable dolls they also sell artistic prints suitable for framing and hanging  in your child’s room. Each print sold provides 5 free meals. The print I received was colorful, cute as could be, and made of good paper stock. My son loved the print because Bucky was part of the illustration.

If you want to learn more about this wonderful company or purchase one of their darling dolls for your child, a niece or nephew, or as a shower gift for someone who is expecting, check out their fun website here, www.cuddleandkind.com

To see more about Scout the Deer and one of the prints click on the YouTube link below!

**I was not paid money to endorse Cuddle & Kind. I received a free doll and a free print for the purposes of reviewing and sharing with my subscribers.

Love,
Tina

Apparently, I’m Not Mary Poppins

Apparently, I'm Not Mary Poppins

Apparently, I’m Not Mary Poppins

Today my youngest son, who never gets in trouble, came home with an Oops Slip from his teacher with tears in his eyes. His teacher had yelled at him and made him cry in class because he mumbled, “This sucks,” when she handed him a packet of math papers where each sheet had about 30 problems on a page. It was the second from last day of school for the year and when Casey saw all those math problems that were to keep him busy he genuinely mumbled the words, “This sucks.”

When I first saw the note my immediate response was to laugh. Really? This was worthy of a note home? Then when I found out that she yelled at him and made him cry in class I was kind of angry. I snapped a pic of the note and posted on Facebook with the comment,

“As a teacher in the inner city I wish a kid grumbling over a huge pack of math papers was the extent of my problems.”

I honestly expected others to rally behind me, and I know my coworkers would have. But within a minute or two of the pic being posted my fellow mom bloggers started slamming me. I shrugged my shoulders. Then my own sister slammed me as well. Wow, that caught my attention. I deleted the post from Facebook and texted her.

“You really think this was a big deal? In the past couple of years I have had several children with emotional impairments flip their desks upside down and give me the middle finger. I had a student try to set my classroom bathroom on fire by stuffing toilet paper into the space heater unit. I had a student squat and pee on my carpeting every time he didn’t get his way. I had a student sneak my cell phone and toss it into the toilet. I’ve had subs leave me notes telling me they will never come back. To have a kid tell me something sucks wouldn’t even draw my attention, let alone make me stop and take the time to write a note to send home.”

That was when my sister texted back:

“Yeah, but you work in a totally different situation. It’s like working in a war zone vs. being Mary Poppins. It’s not the same.”

Her words hit me like a brick. I was Mary Poppins once upon a time. I really was. I was young and fresh out of college and believed that all children were sweet and innocent and just a gentle coaxing and a happy smile from me would always keep them on the straight and narrow.

Now, however, I am twenty years in and while I don’t actually work in a war zone there is no denying I have had some truly tough kids over the years. There have been kids who have kept me from falling asleep at night as I tried to figure out the best way to reach them. There have been kids I have cried over because I felt that nothing I did could reach them. There have been kids I worried about when it was time for the weekend and would they have enough food to eat. There have been kids who I went out and purchased clothing for because their families couldn’t afford the uniforms. There have been kids who are so angry and have such a chip on their shoulder you have to stop and pause and think what on earth could have done that to a child not yet ten years old.

I have gone to war with some of my students in an attempt to save them from their own negative opinions about themselves. So have my coworkers. Luckily I have a pretty good group this year, but there are a couple of teachers I work with who are truly deserving of a Silver Star for Bravery in the Face of Adversity. We are in the trenches together and we work to build a family that supports each other when the day is too hard and the tears come or the frustration bubbles over. Still, even if the Mary Poppins shine has been worn off our weary eyes we all know that what we are doing is important.

My job can be exhausting, and yet so incredibly rewarding when they get, they really, really get it! There are days my job makes me want to hit my head against a wall, and then there are the days when one of my students walks up and gives me a hug, not because I need it, but because they do. There are days when I am so tired I have to drag myself into my classroom, and then there are the days when a student will write me a note telling me that I am the best teacher ever and will I please be his teacher next year, too.

Being in the trenches isn’t always easy, but strong bonds are made there. Our students need us. They count on us to be there and provide structure and routine to their days, even the one who peed on my carpet and the one who threw my phone in the toilet. Sometimes the ones who truly drive us crazy are the ones who need us to love them and support them the most.

So does this mean I think my son should be punished for saying “This sucks?” No, not really, but I did tell him that he shouldn’t ever say it again in school. In my classroom this comment sincerely would not have drawn my ire. In my classroom as long as my students aren’t using true vulgarities or racist comments they are allowed to speak freely because so often they just need their voice to be heard regardless of the vocabulary they use.

I need to remind myself that where I live and where I work are two different situations and people will approach these situations with different perspectives, and fellow mom bloggers will approach this situation from their own perspective. So even if I get slammed for this post, even if other moms tell me I am wrong, I’m okay with that. My eyes have seen both sides.
~Tina

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Hello Fresh~Easy Meals for Extremely Busy Moms

Hello Fresh Unboxing & Review

As a working mom I live to find ways to make my life easier. One of my hardest jobs day in and day out is putting a healthy meal on the table five days a week. I try to meal plan, I really do. I go to the market and buy healthy foods, I really do. But then life happens. I forget to take the meats out of the freezer. The beautiful produce I bought gets shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten about and spoils. Suddenly in a time crunch out of desperation I am popping frozen chicken tenders and steak fries into the oven because we need to eat something and we only have forty minutes before we have to run out of the house to go to baseball practice or piano lessons or where ever it is we have to go.

When I learned about the Hello Fresh company I was definitely intrigued. First of all, I love pretty much anything that comes from a box, hence my Boxycharms, Fabfitfun, and Popsugar subscritions. But, what I found most appealing was that this company was going to provide my family with three healthy week night meals, all proportioned, loaded with vegetables, and with meats that are hormone and anti-biotic free. Plus, the best part! They cook in about 35 minutes. A quick dinner in about half an hour, what mom wouldn’t love that?

As awesome as it sounded I wasn’t convinced I needed this service. Then, fate smiled on me and sent me a $40 off coupon in my Spring Fabfitfun box. Obviously a higher power wanted me to try this out, and who am I to argue with a higher power. (Yes, I know that is total malarkey but whatever, just go with it. I was looking for any excuse to order!)

So I ordered my first box. It came a week later. The company makes sure you know your delivery day so you don’t leave it out too long. Mine was delivered on Thursday after 4:00. When it arrived everything inside was still cold and yes, fresh, even though it was 85 degrees outside. The food is packed with lots of ice packs that are reusable. The food is packed in individual meal bags and they are careful to separate all meats from your produce using a cardboard layer to prevent cross contamination.

I was truly impressed with the quality of the food. Nothing was past its prime. We have now made two out of the three meals and thoroughly enjoyed them both.  I have already placed my order for next week and while I may not order them every week I am sure one or two times I month I will be placing an order.

You can pause your deliveries or cancel out right at any time. To get 3 Meals for a family of 4 is $129 a week, and to get 3 Meals for a family of 2 is only $69 a week. Plus, I have the same coupon code to offer to my followers that I was able to use. To save $40 on your first box just click the link below!

http://www.hellofresh.com/?c=HRQU9T

Also, if you want to see more about my first box or see how quickly the first meal prepared just click on the videos below!

Finally, if you really love the meal and want to cook it again in the future each meal comes with a recipe card with photo step by step instructions and an ingredients list so you can replicate them again on your own!

Disclaimer ~ I was not paid to review this product. I purchased my boxes with my own money, minus a coupon I received from Fabfitfun. All opinions are my own.

Yes, Mommy Loves You…Now Please Be Quiet

Yes Mommy Loves You Now Be Quiet

Yes, Mommy Loves You…Now Please Be Quiet

Boys, can you keep it down, I’m trying to grade papers. Seriously, I need you to keep it down! What? What do you need to tell me now? Oh, your friend Charlie drove the teacher nuts today? Wow, you don’t say. Sarah picked her nose and put it on Jackson. That’s fascinating. No, I didn’t roll my eyes, really that was fascinating. I really don’t want to hear about how Tyler accidentally rolled over on his new baby sister. I need to finish grading these papers. I have a lot of work to do. Mommy loves you, but will you please be quiet.

You hit 17 out of 30 balls at the batting cages. Awesome! Can we talk about this after I finish cooking dinner? I’m glad you think your new baseball bat, the one that cost a $100, is the reason why you are hitting so much better this year. Yes, I know your bat is blue and Jessie’s is yellow. Yes, I have seen them. I saw them at your frist practice and I saw them at the field cleanup. I already know that dad said no to the cleats. You really don’t need them. I know you think they are cool but you don’t need them. No, you really don’t have to explain it to me again. I remember from the first four times you explained it. Yes, I remember seeing the baseball bat that was $539 at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I was there, too. Now why don’t you go outside and toss some balls to your big brother. Yes, mommy loves you too…now go outside.

I know all your friends have iPhones. No, you may not have one. Why? Because you already have an iPod. I really don’t want to have this conversation again. If you need to make a phone call while you are at school you can go to the office, or borrow one of your friend’s phones since apparently they all seem to have one. Just out of curiosity when was the last time you tried to call me while you were at school? That’s right, never. No, I am done talking about this. I told you, if you get a part time job and can pay for your share of the bill then you can have an iPhone, but until then stop asking. Yes, I know, I am mean. I’m the meanest mom in the whole world. Now go away!

What on earth is all that yelling about? The neighbors can hear you all the way down the block. I’m on the phone and I need you to keep it down. Wait, why is your brother tied to a tree? Stop picking on him just because he is smaller than you. I mean it, let your brother loose. No, I’m not yelling at you, I’m yelling at your big brother. Why are you crying? I said I’m not mad at you. Okay, okay, stop crying. Oh dear lord, I need a drink.

Boys! Stop all that screaming. If you don’t be quiet right this second I swear I will ground you both from video games for a month! I don’t care if he hit you in the head with a Thor hammer. I don’t care if you hit him because he broke your Lego set. Life isn’t fair. Get over it!

That’s it. So help me god if you two don’t get into those beds by the time I count to three I will make you both sleep outside on the deck. I won’t even care if you get eaten by a coyote. One, TWO…I mean it…I’m counting to three!

Please tell me this isn’t just my house. Seriously!
~Tina
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Why do Boys Love Their Underwear?

Why Do Boys Love Their Underwear

For years at my house every evening had “naked time.” It happened right after dinner was cleaned up. We would tell the boys to go put on their pajamas and before they put on clean jammies their would be a solid fifteen minutes of two boys running back and forth through the house butt naked and doing the cracker dance. What is the cracker dance you ask? It was a goofy dance that would make their little peckers bounce up and down. Seriously!

Don’t ask me why this happened every night. I tried to put an end to it many, many times, but boys will be boys and apparently little peckers need some free time too.

Now my boys are older, and naked time no longer happens. Instead what we have is underwear love. My oldest loves to put on a clean pair of boxer briefs and wrap up in a blanket and nothing else. He would spend the entire day dressed like this, if I let him, playing his video games. He actually puts up a big fuss when I tell him to go put on real clothes, as in a shirt and pants.

My youngest one loves to take his clothes off at the end of the day and run around the house in his Batman underwear and a cape. I have to admit, it is rather cute when he does this, but at the same time, I worry about what this means for the future of my boys.

I have visions of my oldest sitting on a couch wearing a pair of boxers playing Xbox when he is 30 surrounded by trash and empty pizza boxes, and my youngest on a NY subway wearing superhero underwear, a cape and a mask trying to avoid being arrested as the cops from Law & Order SVU chase him around.

I am seriously hoping this is just a phase. Someone please tell me this is just a phase.

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When Mom Comes Home From a Long Day at Work

When Mom Comes Home After a Long Day at Work

Pull the car into the garage.

‘Thank god I am home. I really need to relax,’ I think to myself.

Walk through the door.

‘I can’t wait to change out of these clothes and do some Pilates.’

Enter house and trip over shoes left in the middle of the walkway.

‘Ugh, why can’t the kids ever put there shoes on the rack?’

Remove coat and attempt to hang in closet.

“Mom, what’s for dinner? I’m starving?” My teenager is always starving. Then again so is the little one.

‘Crap, I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer.’ “Dinner is Tortilla Soup,” I say, “but it is going to be a while.”

Put frozen chicken in the microwave to defrost.

“Mom, we have spirit day tomorrow. I need you to wash my shirt.”

Grab laundry basket and start rummaging for dirty clothes in all the bedrooms because there is no way I am running the washing machine for one shirt. Hear the microwave beep as I enter the laundry room. Check the chicken and see that it is still frozen and stick it back in the microwave.

“Mom! Mom! Mom help!” calls the youngest.

Find child stuck head down between bed and wall. Two feet are waving frantically in the air. Rescue child and retrieve stuffed tiger.

Casey stuck Casey Stuck 2

“Mom,” the oldest calls out. “I need help with my homework.”

HomeworkLook at math homework and realize I have no freaking clue what to do. I haven’t done this crap in 20+ years. Turn on the computer to ask Google.

Microwave beeps. Take chicken out and set it on the stove.

“Mom, can I have a snack?” asks the youngest.

“Not now, I am making dinner.”

“Please, I’m so hungry.”

“Mom, are you going to help me?” oldest asks.

“Hold on.”

Give little one a bowl of grapes.

Phone rings. Oh joy, it’s the insurance adjuster disputing the quote from the mechanic. Hang up and call repair shop. Spend 20 minutes on phone playing go between.

Husband walks in.

“What’s for dinner?” he asks.

Hand him the phone and tell him to take care of the car.

“Mom, I need help.”

“Just do the math problems you can right now. I’ll help you with the rest later!”

Oldest starts grumbling but at least he goes to his bedroom.

tortilla soup

Spend half an hour making chicken tortilla soup.

After dinner clean kitchen, load dishwasher and put leftovers in a Tupperware.

Toss laundry in dryer. Put a load of towels into the washer.

Read with youngest for 20 minutes and sign his homework calendar.

Spend 40 minutes relearning algebra so I can show the oldest how to do it. Really, is he even going to need to know this stuff anyway?

Casey relaxing

Fold laundry and put it all away. Stick towels in the dryer.

Find youngest relaxing on my bed watching Teen Titans Go.

AJ shirt

Give oldest his freshly washed shirt.

“Thanks, Mom!”

Sigh loudly when youngest spills a Costco sized bag of Goldfish crackers all over the kitchen floor. Even though he just had dinner not that long ago he is already hungry again.

Pick up the crackers on top of the pile to put back in the bag (goldfish are expensive). Sweep up the rest and put them in the trash.

Go through the bedtime routine with the youngest. Yell at the oldest to stop playing around and take a shower.

Finally get both boys in bed.

Watch 5 minutes of The Walking Dead that was DVR’d a week ago and decide I am too tired to finish it tonight.

wine and sleeping pills

Chug a glass of wine and a sleeping pill.

As I lay there I think to myself, “I can’t wait to get home from work tomorrow. I really need to relax. Oh, and I need to do some Pilates.”
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Pregnancy & Bringing Home Baby when you have a Chronic Illness

Pregnancy & Bringing Home Baby when you have a Chronic IllnessAdvice for Pregnant Women Dealing with a Medical Condition

I am a woman with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have had two children, and I learned a lot from both of my pregnancies.  What I learned was that when you have a medical condition you must learn how to take care of yourself even as you are taking care of the sweet little baby.

My story is a tale of two pregnancies.  Pregnancy #1 I was ignorant of the special needs I would face and because of that I paid the price.  Pregnancy #2 I was much wiser and the same day I found out I was pregnant I went straight to the internet to research my own condition, look for help, and make a major To Do List of things I knew were problems the first time and how to fix them.

*Disclaimer-I am not a doctor, just a mom with a chronic condition sharing my experiences and how I helped myself to have a better pregnancy the second time around.

1.  Don’t expect your specialist to be up to date on all things pregnant with your particular disease.  This was the problem I faced with my first pregnancy.  My Rheumatologist is a specialist in RA.  My OB/GYN is a specialist in baby making, but not in RA.  As a result I had two doctors treating two different conditions but no one looking at the big picture.

My RA doctor told me to give up all of my medications during my first pregnancy except prednisone.  As a result I went into a major flare up early on in the pregnancy, never went into remission, and was on bed rest from month five till the end.  The prednisone dosage had to be raised again and again to try and control the disease and caused me to blow up like a whale.  I know all women gain weight when they are pregnant, but I didn’t even look human anymore by the time I was induced I was so swollen and bloated.

When I found out I was pregnant the second time I did my own research by visiting sites from trusted medical institutions and even contacting the pharmacies themselves. Turns out I could safely take one of my medications, Day Pro, without harm to the baby during the first and second trimester! I was on Day Pro when I conceived my first but gave it up because my rheumatologist told me too.

By being able to keep my condition under control during the early stages of the pregnancy it allowed the disease to go into remission naturally and by the time I had to stop taking the meds I was fine.

2.  Refill all of your medications prior to delivery.  I didn’t do this with my first and after I had the baby, I went home to a medicine cabinet that had no medicine it in.  I called the Rheumatologist to refill my prescriptions and was told that the doctor would need to see me first, and the next available appointment was two weeks away.  I was in agony.  I had been induced three weeks early on purpose so I could get back on my meds to start controlling the disease and now had to wait!!

The same day I found out I was pregnant with my second I grabbed my pill bottles and marked the calendar to remind myself to refill all of them (twice), even the ones I couldn’t take until after delivery.  This time when I came home from the hospital I had a two month supply of everything I needed to take care of myself.

3.  If pain is one of the factors of your disease then never leave home without the stroller.  A baby is only 7-10 pounds, that isn’t heavy, right?  But then the diaper bag also weights about 4-5 pounds as well.  Plus, you are currently suffering from blood loss, and you just had a baby.  Trust me your body is not working at 100%.

I made this mistake taking my first to the hospital for a repeat blood test.  I left the stroller at home because it was just supposed to be an in/out procedure.  But hospitals are big, and the test that needed to be done was a mile from the door I entered.  Not to mention I just walked half a mile from the parking lot to get to the hospital.  By the time the test was done and I managed to hobble back to the car I was near tears from both the pain in my arms and back, the pain in my girly parts, and the stress I was feeling for being so stupid as to not bring the stroller.

4.  Create a list of easy but healthy dinners to be able to have ready for when you get home from the hospital.  This is advice that is given to all new moms to be, but it is extra important for those suffering from a chronic condition, as your fatigue level will probably be higher than that of a healthy individual who just had a baby.  Chronic fatigue is actually a side effect of RA and can really sap your energy at times.  Having easy to prepare foods is very helpful and with a little thought you can still meet your nutritional needs.

Examples:

    1. Rotisserie Chicken (Store bought), box of Organic Rice Pilaf, bag of frozen vegetables that steams in the bag.
    2. Stir-fry made from boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins or precut beef strips and a bag of frozen oriental blend vegetables.
    3. Store bought packaged organic salads and fruit cups.
    4. Prepackaged frozen lasagna with vegetables that steam in the bag.
    5. Fresh cod fillets that can be baked in the oven with just a bit of seasoning and served with a packaged salad.

Also, have a pile of local restaurant take-out menus stacked by the phone and put the ones that deliver on the top of the pile.

5.  Stockpile diapers and formula.  When you first come home from the hospital with your new baby the last thing in the world you want to do is make a grocery store run or go to the local drug store at nine o’clock at night because you have run out of needed supplies.  You will want to have exactly one package of newborn diapers and then several packages of Stage 1.  Unless your child is a premie, your baby will outgrow newborn diapers by the end of the first week most likely.

As for formula, if one of the top priorities is to get yourself back onto your needed medications as quickly as possible, then the odds are high you will be unable to breast feed because the drug will pass from your milk into the baby.  You will need to talk to your doctors and perhaps even contact the drug company themselves to find out if you can breast feed and take your meds.

My RA drugs made my milk toxic.  Ready to Feed formula is expensive, but I actually recommend having it on hand for the first week.  Yes, this is being lazy, but you just had a baby, being lazy for the first week or two while your body recovers and hormones stabilize is perfectly acceptable at this time.

6.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  With my first pregnancy my husband returned to work the very next day. For financial reasons he had too. I was suddenly home alone, feeling incredibly poorly, with a newborn that needed constant attention.  Instead of having a magical first week at home bonding with my beautiful new baby I was exhausted and on the second day I had to bundle up the baby and go to the store because the kitchen was empty.  My inducement had been unexpected and as a result I didn’t have ready made meals and other needed items in the house. It honestly never crossed my mind to call my parents, my sister, or one of my friends to ask if they could pick up the needed items for me.

When you suffer with a chronic condition for most of your life you tend to try hard not to let it interfere with your day to day actions. As a result you become almost fiercely independent to the point of not really respecting your illness and doing what is best for your own health.

With baby #2 I was smarter.  When grandparents, aunts, and others offered to swing by with a meal I happily said yes. When I realized something had run out I called my husband at work and told him to pick up whatever was needed on his way home. If I knew someone was coming over to see the new baby I politely asked if they could pick up a carry out from a restaurant that was on the way and we would reimburse them when they arrived.

7.  Have your partner do one of the nighttime feedings. When you have a chronic condition getting your rest isn’t just good for you, it is essential, since a loss of sleep will usually aggravate your illness. Because my husband had to work it was my responsibility to do the 2:00 am feeding, but he then did the 5:00 am feeding since he was already up getting ready for work. This allowed me to ability to sleep from 2:30 straight through to 7:00 when I had to wake up to get my other child off to school.

8.  Don’t be afraid to let your child cry it out. When you are pregnant you are inundated with techniques for teaching baby how to sleep through the night. I have friends whose children still weren’t sleeping through the night even when the child was almost three years old.

If my health is in the tank then I can’t take care of my own children. I needed my rest for medical reasons. So, my babies always slept in their own crib right from the very first night. The truth is babies are not quiet sleepers. They coo, gurgle, whimper, fuss, and even cry, all in their sleep. I am a light sleeper. The single night that baby #2 slept in our room in his bassinet I didn’t get a wink of sleep. The next night the bassinet was rolled into the living room since baby #2 and our first were going to have to share a room once baby #2 started sleeping through the night.

Also, as long as the babies were fed, dry, and all their basic needs were met, I let them cry. I did go in the room to check on them, I rubbed their back, I made a shushing noise, but I did not pick them up. My first was sleeping through the night at 11 weeks.  My second slept through the night at 10 weeks. My first cried it out for two nights. My second only cried it out one night. Those nights were hard, I won’t lie, but once they were done they were done and I had sleeping children. I know there will be moms out there who will read this and think how selfish I was, how cruel I was, but maintaining my health was just as important as maintaining the health of my babies. I would be no good to them if I were bed ridden or in the hospital.

I really hope this helps someone out there. I truly wish I had known all this before my first pregnancy. I might have enjoyed it more, but I learned these lessons the hard way which made me so much smarter for when I was pregnant the second time.
~Tina
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Vaccinations Don’t Cause Autism~But there are a Thousand Toxic Substances the Just Might

Vaccinations Don't Cause Autism

Intro~ I am not a scientist or a doctor. I am a mom of 14 years and person who has been educating children for 24 years. I worry about my children as well as my students. I want their futures to be filled with endless possibilities and good health. I have observed greater health challenges to my students over the years in increasing numbers. I have spent a great deal of time researching the environment and what is surrounding our children. I wanted to get real facts, not pseudo science or jump on band wagon trends that are meaningless. I also learned that the more I learned the more I needed to learn as information is constantly changing and updating. 

I am not an expert, but I have some knowledge that I really want to share because I want all children to be safe and healthy.

I also felt that vaccines were getting falsely blamed. I teach in a district that has a huge population of foreign born and we service immigrants from around the world. Some days I feel like I teach at the United Nations. My classroom is filled with faces that are  many shades of brown, black, tan and ivory. The children of my classroom are beautiful. Some also come from third world countries that aren’t always as medically advanced. When my children were born the issue of their being vaccinated wasn’t an issue for me at all. I knew that I could carry home to my babies any number of potential illnesses and I wanted them protected. ~

Jonus SalkIn the 1950’s Jonas Salk was a hero. His vaccine changed the lives of people around the world. Huge crowds of people all over the US wait in lines to protect their children from the ravages of polio. Similar scenes played out over the course of history as different vaccines became available and people were desperate to protect their children. polio-vaccine-line-1956-chicago

Forward to 2015 and many Americans today have no memory of what a real “outbreak” looks like. Ebola came to the US with a big fanfare and quickly left with little more than a whisper. Many people were left asking, “That’s it! What was the big deal?”

In October of 2009 I was one of many parents standing in a line that lasted four hours to get the H1N1 vaccine shots for my children and for myself since I have a compromised immune system. Just a few nights before I had sat in front of the news and cried as they showed the beautiful faces of perfectly healthy children, who had been fine one minute and then fighting for their lives just a few hours later, before finally succumbing to the deadly flu virus. One little face had haunted me the most, a little blond hair boy with bright blue eyes, who reminded me of my own sweet little boy who was only two at the time.

But even H1N1 at the end of the day didn’t turn out to be big pandemic that people were expecting. So again people blamed the CDC and WHO of being the little boy who cried wolf. Still, in just 2009 there were 274,304 hospitalizations from H1N1 and 12,469 deaths attributed to the virus. That number might not seem that impressive to you, unless your loved one was on the list.

autismo-autismeBut back to my original argument, vaccines don’t cause autism. A simple statement of truth is that vaccines have been around for generations. Autism was first identified in 1943, and it was extremely rare, only eleven confirmed cases at the time.

If you look at the history of how long people have been getting their shots and consider those numbers globally, and then look at the history of the number of people affected by autism, the numbers just don’t add up.

Autism is a condition that has come to the national forefront only in the last two decades.  As a young teacher in the early 90’s I had never heard of autism, but I was very familiar with Down syndrome, Aspersers, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other cognitive impairments. In 1993, however, autism was unknown to me and my fellow teachers, yet every person I knew in 1993 had been vaccinated, as well as the children who attended my public elementary school. If they weren’t vaccinated they were excluded from school until they returned with proof of their shots.

In the past 25 years something has happened to our environment that has caused the number of cases of documented autism to skyrocket. Part of that may be better and earlier diagnosing of the condition, but that alone can’t explain why the numbers are now staggeringly high.

What has changed in the past two to three decades that has the power to reach everyone in this country, young and old, rich and poor, urban, suburban, and rural?

If you really stop to look at it, the biggest change to happen to the US and other first and second world countries is chemicals.

In 1976, President Ford signed into law the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. At the time there were fewer than 62,000 registered chemicals in the US and the country was fresh off the DDT scare. The law was passed to protect people from existing chemicals and regulate the safety of future ones.

To say the law failed is an understatement. Lobbyists and Chemical companies spend millions to find every loop hole and to make sure those loop holes don’t get closed. Today there are 84,000 registered chemicals in the products we use. Do you know how many chemicals the US has banned? In all this time it has only banned 11. Australia and the European Union have banned more than 1,100 in just personal care products alone.

The US doesn’t require testing to be done on chemicals. If a certain product does make people sick the FDA can’t demand a recall, only suggest one, and the EPA has no recall power at all. These are the agencies that are in charge of keeping us safe! Agencies with essentially no real power at all.

Many of the products that are around today have little in common to the original formulas that came out decades ago. Detergents, shampoos, fabric softeners, and cleaning products that have been around for generations are all different. Every time a product comes out with the claim, “Cleans even better,” or “New and Improved” what it really means is they just added new chemicals to the product. Do the clothes look brighter? Yes. Is my floor shinier? Yes. Is my hair softer? Yes. Is my body wash creamier? Yes, but what is the cost to our health, to our reproductive systems, to our hormones, and most importantly to our children?

As adults we come into contact with toxic substances every day, but our body mass helps to protect us. Think of medication. All meds are based on body weight, this is why you have adult and child sized doses. But a child takes the same bubble bath that an adult takes. A child uses the same amount of shampoo, the same amount of sunscreen. Children are actually exposed to greater amounts of cleaners because they spend so much time playing on the floor and on surfaces that adults don’t use.

Not only are these chemicals in our cleansers and hygiene products but they are in our food. We have all heard about how you can’t buy rainbow colored crackers in Europe, and that soda is made using cane sugar, and use of GMO crops has been limited thus far. I have heard more than one person grumble about how products are better in Europe and if companies can make healthier versions of their food for over there, why can’t they do it here?

That is a great question. If crackers can be colored using natural ingredients in the UK, why can’t the same natural ingredients be used in America. Why does American yogurt get colored using Red #5 and Blue #2 but British yogurt remain in its natural uncolored state? Personally I view it as an insult to American children that food, especially processed snack foods, must always be made into primary colors.

Children in Europe just might be benefitting from their countries stricter chemical laws. According to the Washington Time’s, autism rates in Europe have reached a plateau. Studies from 2010 have shown that the rates of new cases of autism in Europe have remained the same as 2004, where as  the US rates of new cases of autism in that same time span have continued to grow. The study does not focus on chemicals as the cause of autism, but then again, it is nearly impossible to find a study on chemicals and autism because the sheer numbers of chemicals is overwhelming. People are exposed to so many chemicals it is impossible to study a single chemical and its affects in isolation, which is essential to having concrete results.

This is why all the studies that have been done in the past few decades come out with results that say “it seems to suggest that this chemical causes cancer,” or “results show a correlation between chemical A and this illness.”

So what is a parent supposed to do? How do we protect our children from 84,000 registered chemicals?

The truth is you can’t do anything about the world beyond your front door. Even if people ban together and start to demand change from the government it will still be years and years before change is reflected in the environment surrounding us.

The only change you do have control over is what happens inside your own home and how you choose to spend your money. Nothing changes the way a company behaves faster than the spending patterns of the American consumer.

When it comes to food, buy as much organic and non-GMO as you can afford too. Once upon a time you could only do this at Whole Foods, but today Kroger, Costco, Meijer, and even Target have lines of organic foods available for a lot less than what it costs at Whole Foods. I’m not knocking Whole Foods, they were the front runner in the organic industry and we owe them a debt of gratitude, but the truth is you average person really can’t afford to shop there.

Also, always buy hormone free diary products and as much hormone free meat as you can afford to. Children’s bodies are entering puberty earlier than ever before because milk, cheese, and meats are loaded with growth hormones to make the animals produce more milk and meat. This is an example of chemicals being used where we can actually see the visible results right in front of us.

When it comes to cleaning stick with plant based cleaners as much as possible. Many great companies are out there working hard to produce amazing products that work and keep us safe. For laundry care, search out detergents that are formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane free. Also, only purchase products that are fragrance free or scented with essential oils.

In personal care products avoid: SLS (sodium lauryl  sulfate), parabens, pthalates, fragrance, dyes, sodium chlorides, formaldehyde, MEA (monoethanolamine), DEA (diethanolamine), and TEA (triethanolamine) and fragrance. There are many studies you can Google to show a correlation between these chemicals and endocrine illnesses, hormonal imbalances, and reproductive complications as well as others.

After reading all of this some of you may be feeling overwhelmed and clueless where to start and what to do next. Below you will find links to websites to help you get started in the next direction, as well as companies I find to be trustworthy.

Books to Read:

Healthy Child Healthy World by Christopher Gavin

Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World by Phillip Landrigan

The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You by Jessica Alba

Safer and Greener Products:

Earth Friendly Products at http://www.ecos.com/

Method at http://methodhome.com/

The Honest Company at http://www.honest.com

Tom’s of Maine at http://www.tomsofmainestore.com/

Burt’s Bees at http://www.burtsbees.com

Babyganics at http://babyganics.com

 I hope you find this information useful but more importantly I hope you don’t just take my word for it. Purchase the books listed above or click on the many references I cited below and find out for yourself. If you have more to add please share it in the comments. If you are too busy to do your own research but want to have a safer environment in your home then check out the websites I listed.  Most of these products are sold in stores as well as online. Many can be purchased at Target and I personally buy my Ecos laundry detergent and Honest Shampoo and Body Wash at Costco for much cheaper than what they sell it for elsewhere.

References:

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families www.saferchemical.org/resources/tsca.html

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics www.safecosmetics.org

Consumer Product Safety Commission www.cpsc.gov/businfo/8002.pdf

Food and Drug Administration www.safecosmetics.org/downloads/FDA-regulatory-short-comings_Cosmetics_Jul2010.pdf

FDA vs EU http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=346

Top 10 Chemicals Most Likely to Cause Autism and Learning Disabilities by Robyn O’Brien http://www.robynobrien.com/_blog/Inspiring_Ideas/post/Top_10_Chemicals_Most_Likely_to_Cause_Autism_and_Learning_Disabilities/

Autism rates rise in U.S., plateau in U.K. by Cheryl Wetzstein http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/16/rate-of-autism-rises-in-us-hits-plateau-in-uk/?page=all

Activities For the Best Snow Day Ever

Activities for the Best Snow Day Ever

 

Snow days can be just as over whelming as they are wonderful. What starts off as, “Yay! We have the whole day off!” can quickly turn into, “Mom, I am so bored,” or, “Mom, he’s looking at me!”

What every busy mom needs is a plan of action. Or, put better, a plan of FUN! So below is an easy and very loose schedule with some fun activities using things you hopefully have in the house.

Morning:

pancakes2

Start the day with a pancake breakfast.  I love to buy the big bag of Krusteez Pancake mix from Costco.  A trick I have learned to make them fluffier and thicker is to swap some of the water for milk. If the batch you are making calls for 2 cups of water I will swap ½ a cup of it for milk and add in one tablespoon of vanilla extract. Get the children involved in making the batter. One can be the scooper, one can be the mixer, and if you have fresh strawberries or bananas one can slice the berries with a plastic knife. Having pancakes on a snow day is great because pancakes on what should be a school day just doesn’t happen in my house. Top with butter and syrup or fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Peter PanNext, it is time for a morning movie. The children can pick the DVD of their choice (preferably a long one), and pajamas, teddy bears, and blankets are a necessity.

I love the $5 rack of DVD’s at Target. There are many great movies that have been made that children today don’t even know about. As a teacher I can honestly recommend some tried and true winners. All are available on Amazon and are a great alternative to watching Frozen for the hundredth time.

  • Matilda
  • A Little Princess
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (with Gene Wilder!)
  • Holes
  • The Secret Garden
  • The Sandlot
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • The Tale of Desperaux
  • Peter Pan (2003 edition staring Jason Isaacs as Captain Hook and Mr. Darling)
  • Nanny McPhee
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Because of Winn Dixie (Dave Mathews is great eye candy for mom)
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Never Ending Story
  • Baby’s Day Out
  • And finally, Mary Poppins

Midday:

resized 600After a quick lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Annie’s Mac & Cheese, (It’s a snow day. Easy is the rule of the day.) it’s time to go outside. Snowballs, snow angles, and forts are ready for the making. If you have a teenager send him or her out to snow blow the driveway or help dig out the car.

Things to keep in mind:

*Everyone MUST go to the bathroom before putting on snow suits.

*A tissue needs to be shoved into coat pockets. Cold air means runny noses.

*Snow piles created by snow plows are totally big enough for little ones to slide down on a sled.

*Absolutely, under no circumstances, are children allowed to dig a cave into a giant snow mound.

To make playing in the snow more fun fill a spray bottle with water colored with food dye. Little ones can paint the snow while you are shoveling. If you have two water bottles make a red and a blue so the children can double spray and make purple!

hot chocolate2After snow play is the mandatory cups of hot chocolate. Any brand of hot chocolate will do. I like to fill the cups ½ full with hot water to dissolve the chocolate and then add cold milk to cool the cups down so the kids don’t have to whine that it is too hot or risk burning their mouths. Of course, marshmallows, whipped cream, and a dusting of cocoa powder make the hot chocolate seem all the more magical.

Around this time the children are ready for some quiet time. This is when I send each child to their own room to read books for about an hour. It will also give me a chance to clean up the kitchen and have a cup of tea. The bribery to get the children to do this is the promise of video games after quiet time. When Casey was too young to read but too old for a nap I used to insist on quiet time. This was simply him, in his room, playing quietly with toys. He’d play with Legos or his action figures, look at his books, or more often, look at the new Lego catalogs of all the things he wanted to get. I am a huge believer in children knowing how to self entertain.

Since it is a snow day, I will let the kids play video games for about two hours. I know a lot of moms will say that is too long, but as long as they got exercise outside, did a little reading, and have eaten lunch, why not let them have fun.

Other Activities to Fill the Day:

Board Games ~ Uno, Spot It, Trouble, Chutes and Ladders, and Scrabble

Make a movie ~ Let the kids dress up and make their own movie so when Dad gets home from work he can see what they did. I suggest putting your camera on a tripod so the children aren’t picking it up and possibly dropping it. Or let them make their own music video that they can share with grandma and extended family.

Arts & Crafts ~ If you are brave enough, you can let them paint with water colors. I admit I am not a “painting” kind of mom. I prefer Play dough. Yes, it crumbles and falls on the floor, but it will dry rock hard in about an hour and then can be swept up easily. I am all about the easy.

Build a Fort in the Living Room ~ Pull out the sofa cushions for walls, grab blankets for the roof, and turn chairs around to add structural support. Draw the blinds, turn off the lights and add flashlights to make it even better. The only rule is that everyone has to help put the room back together when play is done.

Bake Cookies ~ Just like the pancakes, assign tasks to different children and make a batch of your favorite cookies.

Roast Marshmallows ~ If you are lucky enough to have a fire place then it is time to pull out the left over marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate and toast them over the hearth. Even if the chocolate and graham crackers are long gone toasted marshmallows all by them selves are still yummy and fun to make.

Dinner Time:

This one is a no brainer! It is time to call the Pizza Deliver Guy and have him bring a hot pizza, bread sticks, and a big salad to your front door. It’s been a long day and it is time for mom to relax!

~Tina

 

Taking Care of Mom: So Mom Can Take Care of Everyone Else

Taking Care of Mom

It is no secret we are all tired.  If you are a mom with or without a forty hour a week job you are exhausted.  If you are like me you are only getting about six hours of sleep a night…on a good night!  If you are like me you are only getting about four of those so called good nights a week at most.  So what can we do to cope with our sleep loss?  What can we do so we don’t look like an extra from The Walking Dead?

Here you will find a list of things that has helped me to make it through the day.  Hopefully some of these will help you too!

Get as Much Rest as Possible:

I know what you are thinking.  Duh!  If I were getting enough rest already I wouldn’t be wasting my time reading this blog.  But are you really getting the most rest that you can?

  1.  Stop drinking caffeine around noon.  I know this is a hard one, but I recently gave up all my caffeine drinks after lunch time and I have noticed a difference.  My brain seems to quiet down faster once I go to bed at night instead of replaying the day over and over or worrying about all the things I need to do the next day.No-caffeine after 222
  2. Take a melatonin supplement with dinner.  Melatonin doesn’t work like a sleeping pill, and it is all natural so you don’t have to worry about dependency.  However, it does take several hours to kick in so if you take it at bedtime it will be too late.
  3. Consider buying a white noise machine or downloading an App.  I have an actual white noise maker in my room but it is too loud for my husband.  Instead I use the App “Relax Melodies” which is free through the iTunes App Store.  I set it on my bedside table on a volume that is just loud enough for me and it works great.  The two sounds I use each night Relax Melodies 2are Thunder and Oscillating Fan.  For me just the sound of my husband breathing is enough to keep me awake at night, not to mention every time one of my boys cough, sneeze, or talk in their sleep.  I just don’t need to hear all that.  So a white noise machine blocks those sounds out for me.  Now if I can just find a way to block his snoring.

Take Care of Yourself:

 I know you hear this one all the time too, and trust me I have rolled my eyes more than once by some of the helpful articles I have read.  Here is the truth, I don’t have time to cook from scratch daily.  I don’t have time to buy fresh produce every couple of days.  I can’t afford to buy 100% organic all the time.  Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking AGAIN!  And exercise! Hah!  Screw that.  However…

  1. Probiotics are our friends.  I love all those little active bugs.  They keep things on track.  I have been eating Greek yogurtNaked Juice 2 for years, but recently I added Naked Juice to my morning breakfast and I buy the ones that are Boosted with Probiotics.  Both of my boys just had colds with fevers.  Usually I catch everything they get.  Not this time.  I was shocked.  My class has had some kind of bug running back and forth through it and I have yet to catch it.  I am giving full credit to my Boosted Naked Juice along with my Greek yogurt.
  2. Turn on the music and turn it on loud.  It just happens.  Before you know it you are tapping your toes, shaking your rear, and bopping along.  As far as I am concerned any movement is good movement, even if it is just my bad dancing.  Plus loud music will help to drown out your children’s whining.
  3. Take your vitamins.  Many vitamins actually make me sick because the doses are too strong for my system, but I love my Flintstones with Iron.  It is just enough to stop my anemia (which is a side effect of my Rheumatoid Arthritis) but not make me positively ill.  Even better, toss in a Krill Oil supplement.  All the benefits of fish oil but no yucky fish burps!!
  4. Stick a banana or an apple or a Kind Bar in your purse when you leave the house.  It helps you to avoid a quick pop-in to the drive thru or shove a candy treat in your mouth.  If you are PMSing, though, just eat the chocolate and call it a day.
  5. Drink lots of water.  I have learned from experience that it is really easy to confuse dehydration for exhaustion.  I keep a refillable water bottle on my desk at all times and I never leave the house without one.

Get Yourself the Right Tools

  1. Dry Shampoo!  Seriously, I don’t know how I ever lived without this stuff.  I used to use my Treseme all the time but Rockaholic Dirty Secret 2recently I discovered Bed Head’s Rockaholic Dirty Secret Dry Shampoo.  OMG!  This stuff is amazing.  I use it on clean hair to add volume and texture as well as on three day old hair to keep it fresh and looking good.
  2. Concealer.  I love the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser.  It is a great little product that is super cheap and super effective, and it fights fine lines.  I actually buy two shades of this.  I use the one called Brightener for highlighting and then Light Pale to cover any imperfections.  The little sponge applicatorsInstant Age Rewind2 make using it a piece of cake.
  3. A small emergency kit for your purse.  I used to carry my PAK with me where ever I went but there is no denying that the PAK is rather large since I had purchased the original version.  Then one day I found the perfect replacement.  Pinch Provisions make a tiny little bag that fits in the size of your palm filled with mini-emergency items for her.  I then took a couple of their items out that I don’t really use and swapped them for items I need all the time, like my eye drops and nail clippers. It’s perfect for the busy mom on the go!
  4. Eye serum and face cream.  I am currently using a really fancy eye serum thanks to a Fabfitfun box, but trust me once itRoc runs out I will not be buying another since it costs $88.  Usually I just use Olay Regenerist products and Roc Retinol for my day and night moisturizer.  Whether you have wrinkles or not that stuff works incredibly well and I am a big believer that it is never too early to start.  Life is rough.  Life is exhausting, and all those sleepless nights and times spent worrying over one problem or another will begin to show up on your face.

So there you are.  My attempt to share a little knowledge gathered from forty years of life experience and time spent being really, really tired and still having to go to work.  Let me know if any of this advice helps you.  It’s nice to know I am not just talking to myself.  Also, if you have any great suggestions please share!

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