Family Moving Tips & Tricks

It’s summertime, and summer is a good time for folks with kids to move, as school isn’t in session. Today I thought I’d write a few things about moving to help make the transition a little easier for all – advice that can help throughout the year as well!

Moving is stressful. Even if it is a good move, it still entails work, planning, changing addresses, and if moving out of town, changing doctors, banks, places to shop, etc. If you have kids things can get tougher, as their needs beg to be addressed too.

Involve children in the planning and moving process, so that they get a chance to transition in a healthy way. If they’re old enough, you can also include them in the choice of a new home and neighborhood. After you close on the house, take them to your new home a few times, and let them help plan their new room. What color to paint, where to place the bed, where to put the toys. This way, they can look forward to the move, knowing that they are helping. If your move is not local, kids can still plan out things on paper, and choose colors. You might even engage them in planning other rooms!

If your move is local, plan on cleaning out drawers and cupboards that are in your new house, so that each time you drive over, you can take a load of everyday items and put them away. When the actual moving date arrives, you’ll already have, for instance, a pretty operational kitchen in which to work. You’ll still have plenty of boxes to unload, but from the get-go you’ll feel more at home.

If your move is not local, plan your packing so that items end up in boxes that can be earmarked for certain rooms, and label them accordingly. This way, you can have the movers deposit boxes in their appropriate rooms. If you know the box has items you need fairly quickly, mark the box accordingly. It will save you from opening a lot of boxes just to find the needed items. Also remember to bring along with you all records of vaccinations and other medical information for the whole family, including pets!

Remember to take care of your body. Get enough rest, eat well (even if you are “emptying the refrigerator,” you can cook and freeze some good meals to eat before the move, so that you can forego eating out or eating store-bought frozen meals. These can also be made ahead, before the crunch of moving is upon you. Also remember to save your back, legs, and hips by bending and moving properly. It’s easy, when stressed, to just do things helter-skelter, but by bending and moving correctly, many problems can be averted.

When move-in day arrives, remember to check the boxes that are placed in your new home, to make sure they are where they belong. Movers are pretty good at this, but usually some end up in strange places. Better for them to move the boxes than you!

Make the beds as soon as possible, and treat your child to some form of normalcy – a bedtime story, a bath, cuddle time – on that first night, to help them feel at home. Also, make their room the first priority, so that they have a familiar and comforting place to call their own. Throughout the coming week or so of unpacking, enlist their help to unpack toys, set up a play area, and help with other boxes where their help can be appreciated – putting away towels, unpacking their books, putting away clothes, etc. Remember also to take time each day to be with them in some meaningful way for them. Relationships are vitally important, and are easily forgotten in the bustle of activity!

If your child’s behavior starts becoming unusual, it just may be because of all the changes coming into their life. Take breaks, explore the neighborhood, find playgrounds and schools, meet neighbors, and help your child become more comfortable in their new setting. If you live close enough, also invite over friends from the old neighborhood, so that friendships can continue even from a new place.

Take breaks from arranging/re-arranging things. Sometimes distancing yourself from the chaos helps with the sorting and organizing. Don’t buy a lot of new stuff too quickly. Live with what you have, and then you’ll have better clarity about what you might need to replace or to purchase. Above all, have fun! Moving can be a great experience if you let it be so!

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Seasonal Allergies in Spring

After the long 2014 winter, we finally find ourselves in spring and that means seasonal allergies are back. To reflect how prevalent seasonal allergies in spring are in the U.S. we have put together the seasonal allergies infograph for 2014. Today 45 million or 14% of Americans live with some form of nasal allergies and over half of Americans test positive for allergens.

Luckily there are a number of remedies to suppress your seasonal allergies. For example, leaving your shoes outside will keep allergens from entering your house, vacuuming  your house once a week, and eating things like onions or hot peppers can act as natural remedies to your spring allergies. You can also look at using allergy testing kits (link) and indoor air quality testing kits to see whether or not allergens are in your home. Seasonal allergies in spring make a lot of people feel ill. Using natural remedies can really help keep your allergies in check.

 

Seasonal Allergies infograph

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Are plastic containers for food storage safe?

Plastic – it’s everywhere, right? Yup. Can’t really get around it these days, but it’s important to do so when and where you can, and one of the most important places to say goodbye to plastics is in the kitchen. (Also, avoid plastics for babies and young children and pregnant moms – but that’s another post!)

Why? I use plastics in the kitchen all the time!

 Most plastics contain BPA (Bisphenol A). This chemical is used to strengthen many plastics and food storage containers, like the linings of most food cans. Unfortunately, this chemical has shown to be correlated with breast cancer, prostate cancer, hyperactivity, diabetes, and early puberty to name a few. To make matters worse, pregnant mothers can pass on these plastics and their consequences to their babies through the womb.

But I now have BPA-free plastics – aren’t these safe?

 No. Unfortunately, BPA has been replaced with bisphenol S (BPS), a potentially more deadly plastics chemical. Neither chemical, before being used, was properly tested, so now the situation is thought to be worse than before. In addition to BPA/BPS, phthlates, vinyl chloride (aka polyvinyl chloride), nonyl phenol ethoxylate, polyethylene, and polystyrene are some of the other plastics that can be found in the kitchen. Plastics are numbered – some are considered “safe” and others aren’t. However, a good rule of thumb is to avoid plastics in the kitchen altogether.

So, what am I to do?

 We live in a society that values fast-food eating, pre-prepared meals, and microwave cooking, all to save a little time. Some suggestions:

  • Avoid processed and packaged meals
  • Limit usage of canned food and drinks
  • Steer clear of soda bottles and water bottles
  • Store foods in fabric bags (for produce), and in glass containers (for the rest of your food). Remember canning jars? They make wonderful storage containers! For smaller items you can find glass containers with lids at most grocery and general purpose stores.
  • If you purchase food that comes in plastic, transfer it to a glass container when you get home.

That sounds like work!

It is, but once you’ve assembled the proper containers, it becomes quite simple, actually.

Statistics point to the fact that the average person – you and me – has approximately 2-3 grams of plastic in the body…these levels are rising with continued use of plastics, as is the occurrence of infertility, birth defects, breast, prostate, and testicular cancer, and heart disease. It’s impossible to remove all plastics from our lives, but we can make a concerted effort to reduce their impact in our lives and in the life of the planet.

Check out our  stainless steel kitchen appliances that are a great healthy way to prepare food.

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Creating a healthy chemical free lawn for your family

Lawn Care

Spring is here, and the grass is growing again. We love seeing the greening of our world around us at this time of year, but along with the greening comes mowing, mulching, fertilizing, and other outdoor yard maintenance activities.

A healthy lawn has few weeds and pests. If it has a lot of them, there is a good chance that your soil isn’t as nutrient-rich as it should be. A soil test is a good way to determine what is needed. They can be found at local outdoor stores, or you can order one through your state’s agricultural extension office. Knowing the acid/alkaline balance of your lawn is pretty important, as it will let you know what nutrients to supplement with, and help you spend your money and time wisely. Most soils have a pH between 5.5 and 8. If your soil is less than 6 it is too acidic and will benefit from the addition of ground limestone. If your soil is too alkaline, or above about 7.5, it is too alkaline, and will benefit from adding sulfur.

In addition to supplements, all lawns benefit from a yearly dose of fertilizer. This can be accomplished with the addition of compost, or with slow-release or natural organic fertilizer. If you are reseeding, pay attention also to the area you are planting the grass in – is it sunny? Shady? Do you live in an area that gets a lot of water? Too little water? There are grass strains to address just about every type of lawn need.

Weeds

Even the healthiest lawns have them, but before you hit them with your favorite chemical weed killer, consider this: Herbicides and pesticides are now showing up in mother’s milk, which means our smallest members of society are ingesting these chemicals from the get-go. These chemicals are washing into our streams and watersheds, and then back to us. Also, if you have young ones playing on your yard, they can pick them up via touch, ingestion, and inhalation. There are healthier ways to control weeds than using chemicals. Please consider physical removal, hitting them with boiling water, or hitting them with vinegar before using toxic chemicals. We will all benefit!

If you find that you can’t get rid of the problem or don’t have time to do the above, consider hiring a company that practices Integrated Pest Management, and only treat the areas that need attention, not the entire yard.

Mowing

The verdict is in. If you clip your lawn really short, the result will be a lawn that is more susceptible to drought, weeds, and infestation. Let your grass grow a little bit!   By waiting to cut when your grass is 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches long allows the roots to grow deeper, helps retain soil moisture, and inhibits weed growth. You don’t need to wait until the grass is really leggy, though. It’s better to mow often and cut off no more than 1/3 of the grass at a time, and do let the grass clippings stay on the yard. The clippings will help replenish nitrogen in the soil as they decompose.

Watering

All lawns need water, but using water wisely is always a good idea. It’s also better to water deeply once a week and then let it dry, than to water daily a little bit at a time. Case in point – I thought watering daily was a cool thing to do in summer, especially – what I ended up with was a healthy crop of mushrooms growing in my yard instead of healthy grass! How much water is enough? Try watering about an inch per week (you can put out cans to measure this amount, then shut off the water). Or you can let nature do the work, let your grass brown up during the dry months, and watch it re-green in the fall when cooler weather and more moisture arrive. It’s a matter of preference.

What will the neighbors think?

 No matter how you manage your yard, the important thing to remember is that it’s yours to play in, relax in, and enjoy. As long as you don’t let your yard look like a weedy field, I doubt your neighbors will mind. I know a number of yards that have been transformed into lovely gardens, and others that have been transformed into natural habitats for wildlife. That’s pretty cool as well!

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Air Fresheners – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Let’s start with the bad and ugly, as that is what is on the market in great abundance.  I have yet to find anything that is natural, organic, and not harmful to our health.

The EPA has identified several ingredients that are in commercially produced air fresheners.  These include petroleum distillates, formaldehyde, p-dichlorobenzene, and aerosol propellants for canned air fresheners.  Other possible additives include ethanol, phenol, and benzyl alcohol.  Added to these are the fragrances, which for the most part are a combination of synthetic chemicals.

I’ve been using them for years.  I thought they were fine!

No, they really aren’t.  The toxic mix can cause ailments such as asthma, cancer, liver damage, anemia, and hormonal disruptions.  Furthermore, the scents that are put in air fresheners don’t really freshen the air.  What they do instead is fool our nervous system by masking the odor, thus altering our perception of smell.  These chemicals can also work by laying down a film in our noses that keeps us from smelling the offending substance.

That’s not good.  What do I use instead?

Good question.  There isn’t really anything on the market that I can really recommend.  An internet search does suggest some home remedies, which I’ll pass on here.  These are the best options right now, in no particular order, and all could be used in a bathroom or in any other part of the house.

1.  Make a pomander.  Poke holes in an orange with a small skewer and stick cloves in the holes.  Then cure in the oven at a low temperature (200 – 220 degrees) for about an hour, before setting out.

2.  Put out a potpourri of dried herbs in a nice bowl, using such things as lavender, rosebuds, sage, bay leaves, lemon verbena, citrus peel, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and cloves.

3.  Get creative with baking soda.  By itself, baking soda is an excellent odor absorber.  If you mix in a few drops of an essential oil, it becomes a nice air freshener as well.  Maggie, who has a blog called Smashed Peas and Carrots, suggest that you can put this mixture in a mason jar with a ring lid closer, and instead of capping it with a solid lid, poke some holes in a piece of wax paper and screw that onto the top of the mason jar.  Try lavender or lemon essential oils, or just mix some vanilla into the baking soda.  If you have issues with a glass container, especially around children, or in the bathroom, you could use a plastic cup and hold the wax paper on with a rubber band.

4.  Another suggestion specifically for the bathroom comes from Crunchy Betty – keep a bottle of eucalyptus oil by the commode, and add a few drops to the toilet bowl before going “number two.”

5.  Why not make your toilet paper roll a vehicle for essential oils or perhaps some vanilla?  Just add a drop or two to the inside of the roll.

I hope one of these alternatives works well for you.  If you come up with another workable idea, feel free to write to me about it, and I’ll post it here on the blog, with kudos going to you!

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What’s in your perfume?

I’ve been talking about air fresheners lately, which leads me to this:  What’s in your perfume?  It smells nice, but what, exactly, is that scent made of?  According to the National Academy of Sciences, 95% of fragrances are derived from petroleum, and there is no government agency to regulate what goes into making scents.  Scientific analyses, however, have identified the following compounds in many fragrances.

1.  Ethyl alcohol – colorless and odorless, it is a carrier for other ingredients, as it evaporates quickly.  It can cause respiratory tract and skin irritation in susceptible people.

2.  Coumarin – naturally occurring in tonka beans, coumarin is in the majority of fragrances, but is usually synthetically derived from coal tar.

3.  Benzyl Benzoate – a synthetic chemical that is used in fragrances.  It can also be in artificial flavors, preservatives, and solvents.  For some, benzyl benzoate can cause both eye and skin irritation, and the chemical may have some culpability in the development of breast cancer cells.

4.  Phthalates – a particular type of chemical compound that I’ll talk about in depth in a later blog, but the long and the short of it is that phthalates are known endocrine disruptors.  You really don’t want them in your life anywhere, and willfully slathering on phthalates is a questionable activity at best.

5.  Essential Oils – or not.  Many perfumes use synthetically produced essential oils instead of the real McCoy.

6.  Aldehyde – typically derived from petroleum.

There are typically between 50 and 100 fragrance chemicals in one particular scent so the list above is definitely on the short side, but I just wanted to give you a taste of what you are smearing on yourself when you apply perfume or any scented product, for that matter.  Taken as a whole, they are capable of causing central nervous system disorders, cancer, birth defects, allergies and asthma.

No, we don’t need to go live in a bubble, but we can make smarter choices.  Won’t you join me in doing so?

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Pajama Talk – How to shop for chemically safe pajamas

Clothes have changed.  They’ve gone from being made exclusively from cotton, wool, and silk to being made from fancy blends, synthetics, and even recycled materials.  With this has come an infusion of chemicals into our clothing.  I’ll cover more of this in general in a later post, but for now I want to focus only on sleepwear, as a good night’s sleep is the best way for us to rejuvenate, and the sleepwear we choose is part of that equation.

Two words will do it here:  Buy organic.  PJ’s, nightgowns, footies – whatever your preference, make sure it’s organic.  Cotton is your best bet.  Organic cotton has no chemical flame retardants or other nasties in it, and is the top pic.

It’s ugly!  My choices are limited!  Help!!!!

Yes, all of the above can be an issue.  But really, which would you rather have?  A lovely negligee embedded with toxic chemicals close to your skin, or soft organic cotton that helps promote your long-term health?

How about clothes with bamboo?  That’s natural!

They sound good, but on further exploration, the bamboo – even organically grown bamboo – is processed in a chemical soup to make it soft.  Until they can come up with a non-toxic way to process bamboo, I don’t recommend using it.  (Not for bedding, either!)

What about silk?

It is important to look nice for you loved one from time to time.  We all benefit from a little passion in our lives.  Enter silk.  Silk, ramie, or other natural fabrics can be just fine.  So splurge on these if you want to look ravishing from time to time and get a healthy night sleep.  Non-dyed silk is a better choice, but mental health can be just as important as physical health, so this splurge I’m on board with. Just don’t wear them all the time.

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