Category: Blog

Well, hello there to any old friends who happen upon this post. It’s been over a year since I last wrote anything here. Wow. Where does the time go? I’ve been feeling the itch to get back to my blog, or as I like to think of it now- an online scrapbook. So a little bit about what has been going on in the time since I last posted…

Joshua turned 5 and David turned 2.

I’m amazed at what they learn and how quickly they are growing up. They are the most wonderful part of our lives. They challenge me to be a better person and a better mom every single day.

Ed and I quietly celebrated 10 years of marriage in June (now it’s almost 11). I’m thankful every day that I found such a good man. We are both thankful for the love and support we get from our families, and watching our parents enjoy spending time with our children is just wonderful.

Other snippets- I’m working hard to be the best teacher that I can be. It’s so fulfilling to think about how I have grown as an educator over the years. I couldn’t be happier with where my career is right now. In the last year I have kept up with cooking healthy foods for my family and trying to keep exercising for my own health. I haven’t been able to swim as much as I would like, but I really look forward to getting back in the water this summer. If it ever warms up! There’s a freeze warning tonight. Also, we are looking forward to planting our garden this year, the boys loved it last summer, especially making pickles. I started couponing because daycare is expensive, and I’m having fun learning about how to get good deals at the grocery store. I started reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and completely fell in love with the series and tore through it. I met one of my goals by learning to paddleboard last summer!

Oh, and I cut my hair. I have never had short hair, but I wanted to do something fun with it!

So, if you somehow found this and have read it, what have you been up to since the last time we talked?

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About the Ergobaby Organic Carrier

The Ergobaby Organic Carrier is a soft structured carrier that’s versatile enough to use from infancy on up to four years old, with three comfortable carries. I’ve carried both of my big boys in front carries so they could snuggle to sleep while out and about, or on my back for big adventures or to soothe an overtired child. Made of 100% Oeko-Tex certified organic cotton, it also comes with a hood that’s UPF 50+. I have found the Ergobaby Organic Carrier to be a very comfortable babywearing experience for baby and parent!

Our Experience

Babywearing is an essential part of my life as a busy working mother of two small children because this is the best way I’ve found to be able to meet both of their needs at the same time! My baby wants me to hold him while he naps, but big brother wants me to play? No problem! I’ll just snuggle my baby in the carrier while I push my big boy on the swing. My toddler needs to eat supper, but it’s my baby’s fussy time of night? No problem! I can safely keep baby close to me on my back and sing, sway and dance while I cook. With the Ergobaby Organic Carrier I’m able to keep my baby close while still giving special attention to my other child or doing household tasks. I also love to be able to carry my baby in places where strollers are difficult to navigate like the aquarium, fairs and festivals, on hikes or even at tractor pulls (we spend a lot of time at tractor pulls!).

Good for Baby, Parent and Planet

I have found this carrier to be very comfortable, and because it is easily adjustable I’ve been able to wear it as I lose weight and as my baby gains weight. According to their website, “The award-winning design holds your baby in an ergonomic, natural sitting position.  The padded waistbelt ensures baby’s weight is evenly distributed between your hips and shoulders while the adjustable, cushy padded shoulder straps provide you with ultimate comfort.” This is truly the most comfortable carrier I’ve ever used, and I love that it’s made of organic cotton so I know it’s safe for my baby’s sensitive skin and for the people who grow the cotton it’s made of!

Buy it!

You can purchase your own Ergobaby Organic Carrier at Ergobaby for $135. My carrier is Chocolate Brown, but shop around the site before you decide — I love so many of their designs and colors! Their carriers make great gifts for the new parents (or even grandparents) on your list!

WIN IT!

For your own chance to win an Ergobaby Organic Baby Carrier, or one of the 26 huge prize packages we’re giving away, come back to this post on November 6th when our Rafflecopter widgets will go live for your chance to enter! Or you can visit Natural Parents Network on November 6th to see and enter to win all of our fantastic prize packages at once!

Disclosure: Our reviewer received a sample product for review purposes.
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Welcome to the November 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Feeding Your Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared recipes, stories, and advice about food and eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Over the past year, my life has undergone a huge change: I lost a lot of weight. I embarked on this journey as a way to improve how I feel, and the amazing way I feel is what keeps me on track. I started swimming three days a week over the summer, following the Zero to 1650 program, and I’ve been able to continue swimming about once a week now that I’m back at work. I believe that my success is due in a large part to swimming, but it’s also due to completely changing my eating habits.

Let me just say before I go any further: I don’t care what anybody else weighs. I didn’t feel healthy or happy where I was physically, so I made a decision and I changed my life. I have never felt healthier or happier about my body than I do right now at age 32 as the mother of two children. I feel strong, energetic and athletic. A year ago I had no idea that this is where I’d be today! And it’s not really about the number on my scale. But 75 lbs lost is the best way I can quantify the change.

So, what do I eat? How did I change my eating habits? I have always been a proponent of cooking at home, sourcing local and sustainable foods and sharing family meals. I tend to cook healthy, but I just love food! I realized that I needed a better way to control my portions, so I went back to following the Weight Watchers guidelines and counting my Points Plus. I’ve followed Weight Watchers a few times over the years with varying success, so I didn’t sign up for the official program because I didn’t want to spend the money. Instead, I found How to get Weight Watchers for Free and started the program. One of the criticisms of the Weight Watchers program that I have heard is that it relies on processed food, but the truth is that you can follow the program and cook the majority of your meals at home. I can eat anything, and I choose to eat real food. Over the past year, I’ve found some tricks to keep myself on track and I’m sharing them here!

1. Find great recipes on Pinterest! I discovered that Pinterest made Weight Watchers easier than ever before because there are tons of healthy homemade recipes there. Check out my Weight Watchers Points Plus board for a bunch of healthy recipes. Through Pinterest I’ve also found some great Weight Watchers Friendly sites including LaaLooshEmily Bites and Skinny Taste. These are my go-to sites when I want to try something new, and the best part is that my husband and children will usually eat these recipes with minimal complaints!

2. Make Substitutions! There are some foods that I love but I know that I’ll eat too much of them. Instead of cutting these foods out completely, I make substitutions so I can enjoy something similar. Instead of eating slice after slice of homemade pizza, when I’m making pizzas for my family I use portabello mushroom caps as mini pizzas. I just flip them over, scoop out the gills, fill them with sauce, cheese and toppings and bake them. I can eat a whole bunch of them with no guilt! I also use mushroom caps in place of hamburgers, and with all the toppings I actually prefer them to beef burgers. I use spaghetti squash instead of pasta and enjoy a big portion. Instead of cream cheese or dip, I use plain cottage cheese. Instead of sour cream, I use Greek yogurt. I don’t even miss the old versions.

3. Plan Ahead for Supper! Each Saturday I plan a menu for the coming week and shop accordingly. (Sometimes I even am organized enough to post my menu plan online.) I don’t just plan a main course for dinner, but I also plan what vegetable side will go along with it. When I have a stocked fridge it’s easier to make sure I serve fresh veggies and salad. I also shop mid week to replenish our fruits and veggies. I like to plan a few quick meals and a few that are more involved and then choose whatever I have time to make in the evenings.

Who’s the “Smart One” now?

4. Plan Ahead for Lunches! I was afraid that I would get off track when I went back to school in the fall, so I spent a few days over the summer cooking and freezing meals for lunches when I didn’t have time to pack them. I froze individual portions and labeled them with the Points Plus values so I would be able to grab my own frozen convenience food instead of buying the processed version. Right now, my freezer contains portions of Quinoa & Sweet Potato ChiliTurkey Pumpkin White Bean ChiliWhite Turkey ChiliButternut Squash Posole, and Mexican Style Zero Point Soup. I plan to make some Pumpkin Lentil Stew, Turkey and Sweet Potato ChiliWinter Minestrone and Chicken Pot Pie Soup in the coming weeks to add to the freezer. I love that I have individually portioned comfort food now that the weather is getting colder!

5. Treat Myself on Occasion! The one thing that I really love about Weight Watchers is that it is realistic to my life. If I want to have birthday cake or a piece of pie or some ice cream, I can. I just need to make adjustments to what I eat during the rest of the week. Sometimes I indulge, and sometimes I don’t. Either way, I know it’s fine. I also have rewarded myself for reaching weight loss goals with things like buying a new bathing suit or goggles, a new waterproof watch to time my mile, or a new cookbook.

I mentioned earlier in the post that I feel wonderful. That’s what keeps me on track with swimming and Weight Watchers. My life has literally changed for the better. Now I feel like I have so much energy! I enjoy chasing and playing with my kids. I love to take my boys outside and go for walks with them. I even plan to get back on skis this winter after about 5 years off of the slopes! I couldn’t be happier with my new lifestyle, and I love that I’m modeling active, healthy habits for my children.

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In 2013, I started a new journey toward healthy happiness. I was feeling unhealthy, exhausted and frumpy after giving birth to my two beautiful children. I wanted to have the energy to keep up with my busy boys, and I wanted to feel better in my own skin. I wasn’t a fan of exercise in general but I absolutely love to swim. My mom finally convinced me to start swimming again at our new local YMCA pool and gave me a year’s membership for my 32nd birthday. I went in with high hopes but felt crushed after I could barely make it one length of the pool without gasping for air. I loved synchronized swimming and mermaids when I was a child, and I never stopped swimming, but I only swam for fun. I was sorely out of shape but determined to swim.

I found the Zero to 1650 program from Ruth Kazez, which renewed my hopes that I’d be able to start swimming laps. I started the program at the YMCA and then moved to my parents’ pool when the weather warmed up. I remember that first swim in their pool: watching the sunbeams dance on the bottom of the pool, listening to nothing but the little sounds of my splashing, and knowing my children were safe and having fun playing with my mom. I fell in love with swimming there and swam my first continuous mile, all breaststroke, in August of 2013. I continued to swim throughout the summer and into September before heading back to the YMCA.

My whole outlook changed. I had so much more energy and I felt great. I was excited to exercise and raring to go when my children wanted to play. I started looking forward to taking walks with my family and I also decided to change my eating habits. By my younger son’s first birthday in October 2013, I was 75 pounds below my heaviest weight. I had lost all of that weight slowly but steadily, swimming regularly and eating a mostly healthy diet following Weight Watchers. I can’t say enough about how wonderful I feel now.

Throughout the year, Laura of Pug in the Kitchen and I have been chatting about swimming, incorporating healthy routines into our families and encouraging each other. I was so excited when Laura told me about her idea for a new blog link up to share our health and fitness progress in 2014: Mighty Mommy Mondays! We’ve decided to challenge you on a weekly basis.  Claim the Mighty Mommy title for yourself, every day, not just Mondays. Every week, we’ll host a link up for you to tell us what you’re doing to take care of your health; workouts, menu plans, how to keep your family active, etc. I’ve set a few goals for 2014, but my biggest is to swim a total of 50 miles this year. I even started a new blog to chronicle the process: Mighty Mermaid Mommy!

Have you set a healthy goal for 2014? Share in the comments and/or go write a post about it and come back to link it up here! Feel free to use our Mighty Mommy Mondays badge in your posts or on your side bar, with a link back here, to spread the word. In the spirit of community and encouragement, please take some time to visit the other posts linked below and see what kind of goals everyone else has set for 2014. And don’t forget to come back here or to Pug in the Kitchen every Monday to share your progress!

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Way back when I first started reading green blogs about four years ago (which is ancient history in internet time), the very first blog that I began to read religiously was Crunchy Chicken, written by Deanna Duke. I checked out what Deanna was up to each day when I got home from school, and on weekends she was my first online stop when I got up in the morning. Crunchy Chicken was (and still is) hard-core green with a lot of entertainment and a touch of reality, too.  Her posts were fun to read as well as informative, and I found tons of support, camaraderie, tips and even friendship in the comments of her posts. But what I love the most about Crunchy Chicken is that Deanna encourages me to go even farther into sustainability by hosting challenges like Freeze Yer BunsPioneer Week, and the Diva Cup Challenge. Whenever I read about a new challenge that she’s come up with I think “I’m not sure if I can do it, but I know Crunchy Chicken will make it fun so I’ll join in!”

All of that gushing is the long version of me explaining why I was so excited when Deanna asked me to be part of her blog book tour for her new book The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You. I had really high expectations for her book based on years of reading her blog, and she did not disappoint. Though I found the overall tone of her book to be more serious than her blog, it really appealed to the science nerd in me. I loved the premise that Deanna gets herself tested for a variety of toxic substances, makes tons of lifestyle changes and then gets tested again at the end of the project to see if her levels improved. I’ve often wondered if all of these little moves toward sustainability and reducing our toxic exposure are really worth it, if they really do add up, and Deanna sets out to answer that problem.

The book is written almost like a series of blog posts, with each chronological chapter broken up into multiple subsections on everything from picking out house plants, finding non-toxic pajamas for her kids, buying a new vacuum or choosing Christmas lights. Since I hardly ever have more than 20 minutes to sit down and read, and often much less than that, I found this style of writing to be appealing. My reading didn’t feel so fragmented because I was often able to begin and finish a subsection in one sitting. The sections are also clearly labeled (sometimes with tongue-in-cheek titles) which makes it user-friendly when I want to reread something on, let’s say, the problems with parabens and phthalates.

I was so happy that Deanna showed the reality of how difficult it can be to make these changes to her lifestyle. Lack of accurate labeling, constant internet research, difficulty finding safe products in stores and the need to make compromises were some of the challenges Deanna dealt with throughout the course of her project. She honestly discusses which products she loved and which she didn’t, and she names names, which I think is really important. She also includes recipes for homemade products when she found those to be the best for the job.

As I said earlier, what I really appreciate about Crunchy Chicken (I’m sorry Deanna, that’s your name to me whether you like it or not!) is how she always challenges me to do a little better, be a little more sustainable. After reading the section of parabens and phthalates, I went into my bathroom and started reading labels. I admit that I have become a little lackadaisical when it comes to personal care products and never really focused on the dangers of their ingredients, besides “fragrance” which has always bothered my allergies. The majority of products that I use are Burt’s Bees, on which I was pleased to find the disclaimer “Never any parabens, phthalates, sulfates or petrochemicals,” so that made me feel a little bit better. But when I picked up 21-month-old Joshua’s toothpaste, that was the real shocker. He uses “toddler toothpaste” which doesn’t have any fluoride (fluoride and fluoridated water is also detailed in the book) so I figured it was safe for him to swallow. Imagine my surprise and outrage when I found both methylparaben and propylparaben on the label. This is a product that is marketed specifically for toddlers, and it contains parabens!

Deanna challenges me to do better, so here are five resolutions that I have made after reading her book:

  1. Find a new toxin-free toothpaste for Joshua
  2. Try out crystal deodorant for myself, and switch Ed to Certain Dri
  3. Switch to toxin-free bar soap, and try out shampoo bars
  4. Try coconut oil as a moisturizer
  5. Switch to Ecover dishwasher tablets

So, you’re probably wondering if Deanna’s quest to remove toxins really was worth all the trouble. Well, I’m not going to spoil that surprise! Go ahead and read The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You and find out for yourself.

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Welcome to the January 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When I first read about October Unprocessed and the challenge to quit processed food for a whole month, I thought it would be a piece of homemade cake. I reasoned: We already eat mostly homemade food, I usually cook from scratch, and we already pretty much eat that way. It was the “mostly,” “usually,” and “pretty much” that caught me.

In the very beginning, it was tough to avoid all food that didn’t pass the “kitchen test,” meaning that it was something I couldn’t make in my own kitchen with regular ingredients. It was really hard to give up store bought bread, cereal, crackers, salad dressing, snacks, even boxes of “organic” mac and cheese. It was a lot harder than I realized it would be and I ended up eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, more than usual.

As the month went on, I got more and more used to skipping the processed food. I felt great and lost weight without even trying, getting five pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight. I was so thrilled with the change! But there were still some things I missed, and I confess to eating too much Halloween candy on November 1. It was also more time consuming to eliminate all of the convenience food. November and December are particularly busy times at work and at home, and after such a restrictive month I slipped too far in the other direction, eating too much junk food and feeling sick and miserable.

I made the decision to make unprocessed food a permanent lifestyle change. I feel like I’m currently in the metaphorical detox stage. I’m craving ice cream, peanut butter cups, and fried chicken. And I’m not even pregnant! I was the only family member participating in the month of October, but now I’m bringing in the rest of my family and changing our lifestyle for the long term.

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