Monday, August 30, 2010

Baking Soda is my Friend and Other Updates

Coconut Oil

I am no longer stinky! I added baking soda to my coconut oil and it is great! I didn't measure it (shame on me!)but I added enough to make it just a tiny bit more liquid-y than a paste. It has been hot and I have been moving furniture and so far so good. I find that I do not feel "fresh" by the end of the day but had Tom do the smell test and he says I just smell like coconut.

No Shampoo

This is driving me a little crazy. Some days I have the most incredible hair! A few days ago it was wavy and shiny and lovely. Other days it is a frizzy, ugly mess. I suppose I had days like that when I was still using product though. I have started adding a dab of coconut oil to my hair when I wear it down and that seems to help a lot.

oil Cleansing for my Face

This is going fine. My skin is just the same as always. I am going to continue this method because it works really well at getting make-up off and I like that it is chemical free. It hasn't changed my skin at all though.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I smell and my hair is frizzy

Haha! Well, the title is not completely true. I thought it was time for an update on my new natural cleansing techniques.

Oil Face Cleaning Method

This is going well. My skin does look better. I have not had any major breakouts. However, this method draws the blackheads out more and I notice them. When I notice them, I pick at them. When I pick at them, they get all gross! So, I need to leave my face alone. I think if I can do that, my skin will look great!


Eh. This is going okay. I haven't given this a completely fair shake because we spent a week in the pool and now the top of my head id braided so my hair is doing different things. My hair is cute with the front braided and curls nicely. It feels a but dry and oily. However, it looks like I have put mousse in it. This one needs some more time before I can decide one way or the other.

Coconut Oil Deodorant

This worke beautifully for 2 weeks! I smelled perfectly lovely. However, over the last few days I am stinky! I decided to mix some baking soda in with the coconut oil and so far so good. I will keep you posted.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Traveling with a Toddler

We just returned from a vacation in the Dominican Republic. It was amazing. Those who know us, know that we are pretty well traveled. We have volunteered throughout the developing world (Egypt, Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mexico, India, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Vietnam). We love the bustle of big cities, the calmness of the county side, and all of the craziness in between. We have experienced floods, animal bites, tropical storms, malaria, dengue fever, earthquakes, and many other adventures. We have also met the most incredible people, seen the most beautiful sites, and experienced some of our best moments in life while traveling. I even wrote a book about it "DON'T SLEEP NEAR THE MANZANILLO TREE: HOW TO VOLUNTEER ABROAD INDEPENDENTLY AND SURVIVE"

When I got pregnant we decided to get away “one last time” but decided to try out a resort in the Cayman Islands. It was very different from our usual travel but it was a very wonderful time. We still prefer our old ways but this was fun too. Regardless, we thought we would not travel for years!

Having Baby E in our lives has transformed many things (our eating, our philosophies on parenting, our quest to be more natural, etc) but it did not change our ability to socialize dramatically. We have still been able to go to parties, to have lovely dinners out, and vacation. E is adaptable and loves an adventure. Being a “natural” family made it all pretty easy!


Being able to breastfeed E had many advantages.

1. We didn’t have to worry about washing bottles/cups, buying/storing/preparing formula, and/or buying/storing milk.

2. I found it made the adjustment easy. E nursed A LOT this trip. She nursed when she was excited, tired, over stimulated, and maybe even of she got homesick. It helped so much to have something so comforting and familiar for her.

3. It was really nice because I didn’t feel like I needed to worry about being modest. I did not see any nursing but saw plenty of bare breasts on the beach (so many implants)! Occasionally, someone would notice and gasp “oye!” and then smile and continue on. I am not sure if they were surprised to see nursing, to see nursing in the Ergo, to see a white woman nursing, or to see a big baby nursing . . . they were surprised but no one was ever offended

4. It gave me a chance to bond with a few local people. I was reading the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (part of my LLL leader training) on the beach and a random jewelry seller began going on and on and about how wonderful breastfeeding was “it is the love and the food that only mothers can give”

5. It made the take off and landing on the airplane tears free


Cosleeping worked great because E was totally comfortable in the bed at the hotel. We had a king sized bed (we are used to a queen) so the first night E must have turned side-ways, tried to find me, and rolled clean off the bed! That was kind of sad but she was 100% fine and we all snuggled closer together from then on. Ella slept beautifully from 9pm-9am each day (with nursing in between of course).

Cloth Diapering

This certainly saved us money (we paid about $10 to have the diapers washed by the cleaning service) but I think it was probably just as easy as disposables would have been. They were super easy. We used them, stuck them in a wet bag, and had them washed once. However, we felt good knowing that we weren’t putting garbage in the landfills of such a beautiful location.

Baby Wearing

The Ergo was a life saver. We forgot the Ergo when we went camping last week and it was a disaster (I used a pair of Tom’s PJ pants as a makeshift sling!) I loved being able to wear Ella. I watched people struggle with strollers at the airport, at meals, and even on the beach. We just strapped Ella on and were able to take walks, contain her when she wanted to “watch” the birds with her hands, and when she was feeling sleepy while we were out.

On our 3rd day, we got brave and decided to hop on a local bus and ride an hour to the nearest town. It was great to have the Ergo for the bus and the stroll we took through the town. The town reminded me of Accra (the capital of Ghana) with it’s color buildings, open gutters, and beautiful gritti-ness. It was a bit stressful because we worried about the baby (the pollution, the traffic, the germs). But, I am so glad we experienced it and so glad we had an easy way to carry her around.

Natural Cleansing Methods

This one was probably a little harder. I had to bring our baking soda shampoo, vinegar rinse, oil face wash, and coconut oil deodorant. Also, I keep all of these in random containers so there were a few tiny leaks (good thing I wrapped everything in some recycled plastic bags). It would have been easier to just use the free shampoo at the hotel. However, I am glad we stuck with our natural methods because it allowed us to reduce our chemical exposure and reduced the chemicals that were released into the water shed. I also found that they worked great. We smelled fresh the whole time. Though, this was not more trouble than bringing my own expensive fancy hygiene tools like some people do.

Electronics Free

We made this an electronics free vacation (partially by choice and partially because we forgot our outlet converters!). We used no TV, IPOD, computers, or phones on the trip. It was great to read, chat, and just hang out as a family. When we got home we went back to our electronics right away but hopefully we will spend less time on them in the coming weeks.

We did a lot of things in the natural way. But, this post is not to brag, it is to show that it can be done pretty easily. But, for full disclosure, we also did some not-so natural things:

1. Baby E spent every day in the pool and often lapped up the chlorine. E LOVED the pool. She loved to walk down the slop until it reached her chin, she loved to jump off the edge while holding our hands, she loved to have us hold her tummy while she “swam”, and she loved climbing in and out of the pool. In an attempt to minimize chlorine exposure, we showered about twice a day.

2. Baby E sampled her first juice. Not only did we give her juice but we let her take sips from my Pina Coladas (sin Rum of course). E really loved this treat and spent one layover walking to any person will a straw in a cup begging for their drink. Ha!

3. Baby E also watched her first TV on the long plane ride home. She was ALL over the place so we tried some "Finding Nemo". She watched it for about 20 minutes. I hope not to turn to this as a strategy anywhere other than plane rides. We’ll see though!

4.I ate dairy. A.lot.of.dairy. At first it was by accident. I was half way through my fish before I realized it was covered in butter. The resort was all-inclusive and had amazing food. All of the food had some sort of butter or cheese on it though. I decided it wasn’t worth the stress and went a little cheese happy. Now Ella has eczema on her face and legs! I am strictly dairy free again so hopefully it will go away soon. It doesn’t seem to bother her though.

5. Ella left DR with a pretty dark tan. We applied a lot of sunscreen and the last two days put her in long sleeved pants and shirts (poor thing!) She never burned but I do feel like it is not great that she got so tan. She looks adorable though!

Overall, this was a fantastic vacation. We played in the ocean (one day she asked to nursed while I was waist deep in the waves. We rocked back and forth while I fed her in the bright, clear water), we did aerobics on the beach, we read, we played, we let E roam and followed our little explorer. Tom went deep sea fishing and caught a fish. I had 2 massages and a facial. We also met some great people (Chef Ramon was our favorite). We also got to practice our Spanish and were surprised by how much we remembered!

I am so excited that it is still possible to travel with the baby. We certainly aren’t ready to grab our backpacks and travel by tro-tro but we can relax in a beautiful place. As soon as E is old enough, I can’t wait to take her to volunteer somewhere. In the meantime, I think we will enjoy this new type of travel.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Coconut Deodorant

Wow! I bought some Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and am putting a few dabs in my armpits instead of deodorant and it is wonderful! I started this new method on the first day of a camping trip. I went 24 hours outdoors and smelled fine! By 36 hours I could smell a slight odor but Tom says he could only smell the coconut oil. Tom has switched to it as well. I did a similar smell test with him and found the same results.

Why Stop Using Deodorant?

1. It is cheaper
2. It smells nicer (coconut oil smells divine)
3. Antiperspirant are actually a cause of armpit stains on clothing. Sweat reacts with sweat to create yellow stains (I had no idea!)
4. Most deodorant contains aluminum. This has been linked to some health issues. There is no conclusive evidence but this is a possibility and avoiding it makes me feel good.

Here are some other blog posts on coconut oil deodorant (some have mixtures but I have just been using the oil straight):

Here is bonus info on the many uses of coconut oil:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Elevated Lead Levels

Baby E just got her lead levels back and she rated a 7. The "action" level is 10. It is good that she is below the action level, but the CDC says there is no safe level of lead. Apparently there are several studies that show lead levels below 10 cause impairment. I am having trouble finding the text of the studies but the CDC mentions the results as do several newspaper articles and blogs. I have heard that there is a 1-2 drop in IQ correlated to each increase in lead (I do not know if this is accurate or not). The CDC says "There is no evidence of a threshold below which adverse effects are not experienced. Thus, any decision to establish a new level of concern would be arbitrary and provide uncertain benefits." If any of you have links to these articles feel free to send them along.

My Pediatrician does not seem to be very concerned but wants her retested in a few months. He was telling me how high levels were before lead was removed from gasoline. However, after doing my research, I got a second opinion. This second doctor told me she does not accept anything above a 3 for her patients. My current doctor is not alarmist (which I love) and it occurs to me that I misread his calmness for lack of concern. Regardless, I have decided that I need to take action on this.

I am having a very hard time with this. I am trying not to worry but my stomach ties in knots when I think about this. Ella had a seizure earlier this year (common with high fevers but also a sign of lead poisoning) and she couldn't sit through song time at Baby Gym today (which doesn't mean A THING . . . I know that). I just have to keep reminding myself that everything else is normal. She is advanced in most areas and behind in none. This is so frustrating though. I feel helpless. I don't know what is causing it. I feel like I can't fix it. We spend a lot of energy preventing exposure to toxins. We buy local and organic, we make our own cleaning supplies, etc. We have also decided not to worry about every tiny thing and let her experience her environment. But now, I realize something I didn't worry about is making her lead levels high and potentially causing permanent damage. Is it because I let her put things in her mouth? Is it because we spend too much time playing in the dirt? Is it because I give her water instead of just handing her a damn juice box? I hate this.

I also struggle because I worry that I am over-reacting since she isn't at an "actionable" level. But, even the CDC says 10 an arbitrary number. I just want the lead to go away.

What Are the Options in DC?
I called the water company and found out that all homes can have lead tests done on the water once a year for free! This is very exciting and I encourage everyone to take advantage of this. We have our kits set up to test our water tomorrow. However, I am horrified by this article which states that DC and the CDC covered up data which showed that DC water levels were dangerously high. "The nation's premier public health agency knowingly used flawed data to claim that high lead levels in the District's drinking water did not pose a health risk to the public, a congressional investigation has found." This does not effect us but increases our distrust of the system.

I also found out that the Department of Health inspects your home for free with levels over 10. They will do it for levels under 10, but I was told that if they found an issue they would cite me. I would then need to fix the issue in a set amount of time or I would be fined! Instead, they offered me a program that will send someone to my home, test for lead dust in 3 locations, then teach me how to clean lead dust. They are scheduled to come tomorrow.

How Does A Child Get Elevated Lead Levels?

I thought that peeling paint, unfiltered water, and toys from China were the only ways a child could be exposed to lead. We do not give Ella toys that could contain lead, we filter our water, and we thought we had taken care of any peeling paint. Instead, it appears that even freshly painted homes can create lead dust. This dust is apparently sticky and difficult to clean. Little one's like Baby E get it on their hands and toys. When these go in their mouth, they are exposed to lead.

Here is a great summary:

These are the sources of elevated levels that the above site lists:

"House Paints: Prior to 1950, lead-based paint was used on the inside and outside of most homes. It was used to make several colors, including white, and was known to dry to a hard durable surface. Though the use of lead in paint was reduced during the 1960's, it wasn't until 1977 that federal regulations virtually eliminated lead from paint for general use. Homes built prior to 1977 are likely to contain lead-based paint.

Soil: Soil near heavily-used streets and roads may contain lead as a result of past use of lead in gasoline. Lead may also be found in the soil next to houses where the exterior was painted with lead-based paint. Lead buildup in the soil can contribute to high levels of lead in household dust.

Drinking Water: Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of corrosion or the wearing away of materials that are in the water supply system and household plumbing. These materials can include lead-based solder, brass and chrome plated faucets and in some cases, lead pipes that connect to the service line.

Additional Lead Sources: Old toys, some imported toys, lead-glazed and/or lead-painted pottery, leaded crystal, inks, plaster, hobby and sport activities where molten lead is handled (lead sinkers, ammunition, stain glass work, etc.), and clothing contaminated with lead from the workplace are all possible sources of lead."

Ways to Decrease Lead

This is a work in progress for me because I am still learning what to do. Here are the best tips I have received:

1. Filter DC tap water
2. Repair any peeling paint
3. Wash hands before all meals
4. Ensure toys are not lead based
5. Run water for 1-2 minutes before using it
6. Do not use water from the hot water side for cooking

DC city pipes are made of lead in many places. The CDC has found that partially replacing lead pipes actually increases lead levels. Interesting I thought.

I hope that the people who come tomorrow will be able to give me more tips.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ants: I failed

I failed. The ants were really bad. They crawled on my dishes. They crawled on my walls. They crawled on me. I have spent few weeks waking up, smashing ants, and trying natural methods. All of it has failed miserably. I took out the RAID and sprayed those feisty ants. I had to spray the RAID 2 days in a row but the ants are gone. I feel bad about this holistic failure but this is a journey and today I had to make a tiny detour to MainstreamLand. If they come back, I will try some new holistic methods. I ran out of peppermint so maybe that would have been successful if I had persisted. I will try that first next time. Oh well!

Skin update

The Oil Cleansing Method is going well. It takes 2 minutes to wash my face. I had no idea how long that feels! It is nice because I make sure I get those 2 minutes to just relax while I massage my face and put the hot towel on it. It sounds so silly to type that a 2 minute break feels good!

Things I like so far:

1. Skin feels soft
2. Relaxing
3. Feels nice
4. Cheap
5. Toxic free
6. It gets my make-up off better than soap did

Things I dislike:

1. I have to use soap to get the oil off of my hands
2. I still haven't figured out how to breath with the cloth on my face
3. I get all wet and the floor gets wet from the wash cloth (probably user error!)

Things that are neutral:
1. So far I haven't noticed any changes in mt acne

I have done this a few times in the shower and a few times at the sink. I much prefer the shower. One of the main reasons I prefer the shower is that when I look in the mirror, I end up picking at my face. It seems to work better for me not to stare at my face while I clean it.

I am excited to see what happens over the next few weeks. My skin looks the same so no photo.

No Shampoo- brushed straight

I decided to try something new with my hair. I have been combing it after my shower and then letting it dry without scrunching it up. My hair feels amazing when I do this. I don't love the look but maybe I will in time. I am completely amazed at how soft and healthy my hair feels. I have not had any itchiness or discomfort.

This is not the best shot (it was 8pm and I had been cooking in hot kitchen) but it gets the idea across.