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What essential oils should you buy? Which ones are the best?

what essential oils to buy

Essential oils are a super hot topic right now.

So hot that I’ve seen scathing comments when people mention they should or should not use a specific brand. So many ladies seem to go from helpful to knock-down-drag-out in two seconds flat.

And it’s unfortunate, this great divide. Because we all just want the best for our families health!

It seems that a few years ago, when I purchased my first essential oils (lavender, lemon, and tea tree) that there was no controversy in the natural health world, or maybe I was just oblivious to it. I was excited to find a product that I could use in my natural medicine cabinet to complement the herbs I already used.

I began to happily use them, and then I got stopped in my tracks. I was told I bought the wrong kind, that I could be hurting myself and my family by using them.

Then I was told it was ok, but I was using them wrong.

Next up was that again, I had purchased the wrong brand, AND I could use them like I had before.

Let. Me. Tell. You. I think I’ve been spun around a few different times over the last few years and I feel like I finally have my head on straight.

I will not participate in the brand wars and I will err on the side of caution when it comes to neat and internal usage. (Unless I am under the care of a qualified aromatherapist or someone trained in EO use.)

 

Let’s cover a few basics:

What are essential oils?

They are natural oils found in plants that are usually extracted through a process called distillation. Essential oils are highly concentrated and it takes many, many pounds of plant material to produce them. In the case of lemon essential oil, it takes about 83 lemons to produce one ounce of oil. Lavender essential oil uses about 9 pounds of flowers to produce just one ounce of essential oil, and 250 pounds of Bulgarian rose petals are used to make one ounce of essential oils.

Essential oils are convenient as they are easily stored and carried when traveling. They are good for the budget since all usage is counted by simple drops and there are about 600 drops in a 30ml bottle. And they are effective for multiple uses; from cleaning the home and getting rid of pests, to calming nerves, taking care of headaches, and fighting illness.

 

So which brand is best?

I think if I had a dollar for every time I have been asked this question my house would be paid off! Or I could at least buy a freezer full of grass-fed beef to feed my family for a year.

There are two big players in this arena of course, both multi-level marketing companies, (MLMs are like a pyramid, people sign up to become reps and sells the oils, earning a percentage of the sales, many times it’s as high as 50%. They also sign up other people under them to sell the oils and make percentages of their sales.) and there are smaller guys out there stressing they have good oils too.

Let me just tell you, there are multiple “good” brands out there! Companies who source their oils to the best of their abilities, making sure they are pure and unadultered. There are certified aromatherapists that blend these oils for each brand to create healing blends, each a bit different from the next.

The prices between all of these oils can vary widely depending on the source, and is often why people assume one oil is better than another.

I have personally decided to use oils from multiple companies and this works out best for me.

I currently have oils from four different companies and it works out great for me. Here’s why:

  • Many of my single oils are purchased less expensively from a company I know and trust.
  • I have a blend from one of the bigger EO companies that I can’t diffuse due to too much cinnamon in it, (it makes me dizzy and light-headed) but a blend from another company (used for the same purpose) doesn’t cause me issues at all.
  • On the other hand, it’s reversed for a different blend of oils! The lower priced option bothered me, but the pricier option didn’t.

My advice would be to find what works for you!

 

How should we use them?

Oh golly gee.

This issue is almost hotter than the brand war itself.

  • Should you, or should you not ingest essential oils?
  • Can it be done safely?
  • Should you put them on your skin without a carrier oil? (called “neat” use)
  • How often should you use them?
  • What resource should you use to use them?

Personally, I’ve learned a lot about essential oil use from my master herbalist program through Vintage Remedies. It’s not a cut and dry issue and I think everyone should do research through several places before coming to a decision that works for them.

The good news is that if you want to take the aromatherapy course through Vintage Remedies you can take it for FREE when you purchase the Healthy Living Bundle.

Seriously.

I wasn’t planning on spending money for more natural living ebooks right now (when I have about 30 I still need to read!), even though I normally take any chance I get to stock up on books. But when I saw that the VR aromatherapy course (a $95 value) was being offered as a bonus to everyone who purchases the bundle, I didn’t give it a second thought. I purchased it last night and already have a few books on my kindle to dive into and I really wanted to make sure you knew about this sale too! (It’s over on Monday – or whenever they sell 30,000 bundles. Which from what I heard, it’s selling like hot cakes. As it should.)

While I feel I have a good handle on essential oils from my course and other research, I really want a better grasp on using them for health and healing. For that reason I’m all in!

As a side note – the other bonuses are pretty amazing in this bundle, which costs just $29.97 (but I paid $10 more to get the Kindle versions of all of the books. It worked out perfectly that I picked up a used Kindle Fire from friends earlier this week!). Last night I spent 20 minutes going through and ordering free herbal products from TriLight Health, free glass straws, a free amber bracelet, as well as a few other natural products. And I can’t wait to watch the Making Herbs Simple course in a couple of weeks! (I’d watch it now, but ain’t nobody got time for that at the moment!)

Anyways, if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty and figure out how to effectively and safely use essential oils, this aromatherapy course is for you!

Course description:

This course covers the use of essential oils in body care, as antimicrobials, for green living, in traditional aromatherapy, and even addresses the myths and facts surrounding the controversial internal use of these potent oils! Course content is delivered in the interactive student portal through audio lectures, PDF downloads, video demonstrations, interactive quizzes, and a personal course instructor for feedback, guidance, and encouragement! Once you begin, you’ll have a full 90 days to access the course content, which includes reviews of scientific studies and over 45 aromatherapy formulas for natural health.

This program includes video demonstrations, online quizzing, audio lecture delivery, and other features which require high-speed internet access for optimal benefit. Satellite internet is not compatible with our online quizzing feature. All of Vintage Remedies’ programs are self-paced, and upon course completion, you do have the option of purchasing extended access or upgrading to an advanced course at a discount.

 

And you can totally take it when you pay just $29.97 for the bundle. Plus you get tons of other cool stuff like popular ebooks on health, free stuff from companies, and view-able courses online.

I am an affiliate for the bundle, so when you make a purchase through my link, I’ll get a commission. It doesn’t cost you more, but totally helps me run this site. Or buy grass-fed beef for my freezer (cause y’all know that I haven’t purchased any lately!). And this is the coolest bundle I’ve seen yet.

Anyways, I’ll be chatting more about how I use essential oils in the coming weeks. Hopefully we’ll also be learning about them together through the VR course!

What I really buy at the supermarket (confessions of a real foodie)

eating whole foods

Something happens when a person starts looking at the foods they buy and they meals they eat after realizing that whole foods leads to better health outcomes. All of a sudden they feel badly, or secretive, if they eat something that isn’t considered “real food” or “nourishing”.

But did you know that stress (or feeling worried about the ingredients in your food) while eating has a disastrous effect on digestion?

Did you know that we are not only what we eat, we are not only what our animal products eat, we are what we digest.

So one might gather that eating food under stress, even of poor quality, might be worse for us than if we ate it under a relaxed and pleasurable state.

In my last newsletter I asked what topics you all might want me to write about and the one response I got many times over was how to eat when you’re in survival mode. Or how to eat when you don’t have the time/money/resources.

Everyone moving to a whole foods diet wants to be able to cook everything from scratch, buy only organic produce, and organic/grassfed animal products. We see others doing it and we see other bloggers doing.

I have done it.

I have learned how to source my food from farmers and farmer’s markets, traveling all over town and making special trips for the foods I desired. I’ve made all of our meals, snacks, and desserts in my kitchen. I have gardened and preserved a majority of the food we eat.

If I’m honest, I like when I’m able to say that! I take pride (maybe sometimes too much pride) in how my family eats. But on the other end of pride, can also be shame. We feel shame that we know better than to eat like this. (been there) We can feel shame that our income isn’t high enough to purchase the farm fresh milk, meat, and eggs or that we’re so busy that our time in the kitchen is at a bare minimum. (been there too)

We can feel so much shame that we hide from each other what we’re really eating.

Let’s be real with each other, shall we?

I want to be able to talk about food here without shame, knowing that each of us is in different stages of life and in different places in our journey to whole foods. Sometimes that journey moves forward in leaps and bounds, other times at a crawl, and some days may feel like you’ve taken a giant step backward.

My goal in buying food for my family is to make it work for my lifestyle, my budget, and my sanity. 

The above is what I bought today at the supermarket. I decided on my way home that I needed to share it with you, so it most definitely isn’t staged. If I had planned on it, I probably would have made different purchases.

Produce:

  • bananas
  • organic apples
  • red, orange, and yellow bell peppers
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • kale
  • snap peas
  • corn on the cob
  • organic potatoes
  • strawberries
  • butternut squash

Dairy:

  • organic butter
  • cheese sticks
  • 2 single serve yogurts as treats for my littles after we shopped

Meat:

  • chicken breasts
  • nitrate free bacon
  • breakfast sausage
  • deli turkey meat
  • pepperoni

Pantry goods:

  • black beans
  • white beans
  • diced tomatoes
  • salmon
  • salsa
  • mustard
  • basmati rice

“Junk” foods:

  • Doritos
  • Cereal
  • Fruit snacks

These foods (some already in our freezer/pantry) will be made into dinners like:

  • tacos with homemade shells
  • aussie chicken, rice, corn on the cob, and asparagus
  • homemade chicken strips, potatoes fried in coconut oil, and green beans
  • homemade pizza for movie night (unless I’m over exhausted from little sleep at night in which we’ll order out)
  • salmon patties, crispy potatoes, broccoli
  • butternut squash soup

Just showing that picture is enough to give me pause. I want to quickly explain why I bought meat from the store and not the farm, to tell you the Doritos are for Todd (they are…but I’ll have some too), and to make it seem like this week at the store was unusual for me. To tell you that I’m currently unable to make multiple stops per week, or multiple trips to the store as my littlest one screams through most car rides. That I’m also unable to purchase grassfed beef, raw cheese, and pantry staples in bulk due to financial constraints as I have taken most of this year off from working at home.

That some weeks I’m able to purchase different foods depending on if I’m able to get to my preferred grocery stores, but some weeks all I can get to is our “country-bumpkin” grocer who carries only the main essentials and rarely anything organic.

Do those reasons really matter though? Why must I feel like I need to put on a front?

What kind of crazy world do we live in that there are moms out there who feel bad for spending an extra quarter to get their cheese pre-sliced? Why should anyone feel like a failure for picking up a package of sandwich cookies now and again? And, really, since when is one’s worth, intelligence, or intention all wrapped up in a decision to use Velveeta? … What you buy at the grocery store does not reflect your compassion, your brilliance, or how much you love your kids. It really doesn’t.” 

- quote from “No Shame in Being Real” by JessieLeigh from Parenting Miracles

In no way do I want you to think that I eat a “perfect diet”. Sure, some days I’m a heck of a lot closer to it than other days, but know that I am, most likely, just like you. I believe that food is the foundation to good health, but it’s not the only thing that keeps us healthy. Our state of mind and our stress levels can increase or decrease our health the same way our diets can, and it’s finding the balance that works for us that’s most important.

When we know better, we do better, but let us strive for progress, not perfection if it isn’t within our means. And let’s enjoy our food without shame shall we?

oreos and whole foods

What seasons of your life have you had to relax your whole foods standards?

Do you ever feel badly for how you eat? Why?

 

A simple form of exercise that can transform pain levels with Endometriosis

by contributing writer, Melissa.

exercise and endometriosis

All the time I had Endometriosis, throughout my teens and twenties, I had a huge aversion to exercise. To me, Endometriosis and exercise just didn’t go together. It meant: pain! and I didn’t need any more of it…. thank you very much!

So, when someone suggested that exercise was actually a really large part of any form of healing for the body, I tried really hard to incorporate it into my day. I started with walking as I felt this would be easy enough to handle. It did seem to offer some benefits but inevitably, the weather would change and I would stop going and then it was really hard to get back into the habit. I am sure you know what I mean!

I then decided to try some at home DVD packs. Out came Zumba and dance DVD’s which seemed really fun but even those, left me with inner pain and aching which wasn’t encouraging me to carry on. I focused my energies on other forms of natural balance but exercise was always put on the back burner…..

Over the years, I had managed to reduce my Endometriosis pain substantially through diet but there was always a hidden guilt factor in knowing that I wasn’t incorporating exercise into my routine. I knew it was important for my bones, muscles, heart and immune function but somehow I struggled to find something that felt good and was a chore for me to do each day.

Through my online business, I have been lucky enough to meet many amazing women and one of those women was Allannah. She has been a Yoga Teacher for the last 15 years and explained to me how she doesn’t experience any pain with her Endometriosis since becoming a Yoga Practitioner. I was instantly interested. She seemed to understand the deep connection with Endometriosis and exercise and had found a way to provide some real benefits, without causing pain or discomfort.

I decided to try it for myself and discovered some amazing benefits with Yoga that I never got from walking or any other forms of exercise. I was lighter, freer and felt far less stressed after each practice. It was the perfect form of exercise for Endometriosis, not just because of these benefits but because anyone could practice it, regardless of where they were at during their healing journey.

See, for me, I could only really take up more intense forms of exercise once I had followed other principles of healing, such as changing my diet and cleansing. Before getting pain relief from these methods, I simply couldn’t bare the thought of doing any form of exercise as it always felt too hard and tiring. What is great about Yoga is that it doesn’t require much energy and the poses Allannah teaches for Endometriosis are gentle and really enhance healing.

Yoga also works very closely on the peripheral nervous system and actually de-stresses and calms the mind. With anxiety and worry being such huge emotions experienced with Endometriosis, it is so vitally important to let those emotions free themselves from the body. Every vibrational thought we have affects our cells, so we need to find ways to reduce any stress or anxiety emotions going on.

Since joining in on Allannah’s practice for Endometriosis, I have felt somehow more connected to my being, myself and my body. I have gained a strange kind of inner awareness and a state of calm. This has been a huge benefit for me since starting my business and studying all at the same time.

 

I highly recommend Yoga for Endometriosis as the best form of exercise and if you can find a teacher like Allannah, who knows about the condition and knows which poses really provide the best forms of healing, even better.

Super snacks for women

Woman running a marathon and looking very happy
Much of my adult life has included easy and convenient grab and go snacks such as cheese sticks, a small container of yogurt, cheese and crackers, yogurt and granola, and more cheese and more yogurt.For me, fruit and dairy were automatic go to for a filling snack.  Though they are good choices, these days my body isn’t tolerating fruit or dairy at all due to the sugars.  Initially I was a big hangry (yes, hangry….you know, hungry AND angry) about it, because isn’t fruit supposed to be so good for us?  Yes, but when our body becomes so challenged with immune issues, the fructose can be a bit much.

Dairy and I have long since had a hit or miss relationship, so I always appreciate the confirmation of Nutrition Response Testing to give myself the current What’s So on what should/shouldn’t be going into my body.

For the past 8 weeks of having no dairy, fruit or grains in my diet to support my health, I’ve created some super easy nutrient dense snacks that have become my new go to’s.  There are also many a resource online when it comes to repatterning your brain to eating a grain-free diet.  What I have found interesting is that I actually eat less than ever before because I’m not hungry and don’t have any cravings.  When I do get hungry it’s because it’s time to eat, not because my brain is doing a sugar dance.

3 Easy Super Snacks for Women

  • Grain Free Granola-served either with full fat coconut milk and a hint of liquid vanilla stevia, or alone.  This granola gets clumpy so you can easily grab a bite.  This vanilla one is a favorite of mine.
  • Turkey Cucumber Wraps are another new favorite.  I slice a cucumber into quarters and wrap each piece with a thin slice of roasted turkey breast, such as Applegate Farms. Yum!
  • Lettuce wraps are an easy way to fill up with a lot of flavor, textures and protein.  We put everything from tuna or egg salad to salami or sliced chicken breast in a big piece of bibb or romaine lettuce with sprouts, cucumber, mayo, mustard or hummus and sunflower seeds for a hearty snack or light meal.  I find if I want to make a meal out of it, making 3 of them fills me up, and 1 is the perfect quick snack.

The third piece is to start getting that snack food doesn’t mean packaged, refined and processed foods. We can do some work ahead of time (which is really no different from the time it takes to pull off the road to grab something while on your way somewhere).  It’s like getting that breakfast food doesn’t have to be a bowl of cereal, a pancake or a Pop-tart, as dinner re-heated from last night would suit just fine.

Keep in mind your goal is to fuel your body with a variety of color (your carbs), a protein and a healthy fat.  It helps to meal plan and grocery shop with those three categories in mind.  You’ll never go wrong or worry about having the wrong food in your refrigerator when using this as a guideline.

The common housewife’s guide to making mozzarella

by contributing writer Natasha

Cheesemaking used to scare me. Then I lived in a foreign country where cheese was not readily available. It’s really true that necessity is the mother of invention. Did you know that powdered whole milk can be reconstituted and made into cheese? It’s not as smooth as cheese made from fresh raw milk, but it is very doable. And when you haven’t eaten any cheese in three months, it’s even delicious!

When we moved home and bought dairy cows, I made my first batch of mozzarella with fresh milk straight from the tank. Um, yum, y’all. Seriously.

I’m not a fantastic cook, nor am I good at following directions (there may be a correlation there) but even I can handle this simple cheese. The biggest thing to remember is that cheesemaking is not a science (no matter what the books tell you!) it’s an adventure. And as long as you stick to the ingredients given, you can’t mess it up too bad. Even if your mozzarella turns out crumbly, lasagna is very forgiving.

The common housewife's guide to making mozzarellaMozzarella is a great starter cheese because the ingredients are minimal, and the directions simple. You’ll need:

The best milk to use is unpasteurized raw milk but any milk will do. The only kind that doesn’t work is milk that has been UHT (Ultra-High Pasteurized) to extend its shelf-life.

Fun trivia: Mozzarella was originally made from Water Buffalo milk in southern Italy.

For rennet, your best bet is to order cheesemaking rennet online. Unless you have a cheesemaking store in your town, you’ll probably only find “Junket Rennet” which is not strong enough to congeal the curds. If Junket is the only available rennet, use 1-2 whole tablets instead of 1/4. Liquid rennet  is easier to measure but doesn’t last as long. Tablets can be stored in the freezer and retain their strength for years.

Fun trivia: Legend says rennet was first discovered by an ancient traveler who used a re-purposed calf stomach as a flask for his milk. When he went to get a drink, the liquid had formed curds. Today some rennet is still made from the lining of calf stomachs, but it is more popular to use the vegetable alternative.

Citric Acid can be found at any grocery store in either powder or tablet form. It is basically concentrated citrus. Most cheeses use either citric acid, lemon juice, or vinegar to help curdle the milk.

I use Real Salt in all my cooking, but any salt will do.

The tools needed for mozzarella are also simple:

  • large stockpot
  • cooking thermometer
  • slotted spoon
  • knife
  • colander
  • microwaveable bowl

Ready to make cheese?

Step One: Measure 1 cup water and add 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid. Measure 1/4 cup water separately and dissolve the rennet into it. (easy so far, eh?)

Step Two: Pour milk into stockpot and add the cup of water/citric acid solution. Mix thoroughly and turn on medium heat. You’re shooting for 90 degrees, which doesn’t take too long, so keep an eye out! Stir enough to keep the milk from sticking. The milk may begin to curdle. No worries.

cheesemaking 2

Step Three: Once you have the milk at 90 degrees, remove it from the heat and stir in the rennet solution. Keep stirring for thirty seconds. When your thirty second are up, stop the milk from moving, cover and set a timer for five minutes. Don’t touch the pan. You’re letting the rennet do it’s job.

cheesemaking

Step Four: When your five minutes are up, uncover and look at your milk. If the rennet did its job correctly, the milk should have formed into a soft jelly-like substance that is slightly separated from the whey (the whey is the watery substance around it). If the milk is still liquid, cover and leave it an additional 5 minutes. If it still has not set, your rennet may not have been strong enough. You can still use the milk, just heat it back up to 90 degrees and add new rennet. (Yes, I know this from experience!) When it is set, take your knife and softly cut the curds, making sure you slice to the bottom of the pan. Cut a grid-like pattern.

Cheesemaking 4

Step Five: Heat the curds to 105 degrees. Stir gently if needed. The curds will be loose and soft. Treat them nicely!

Step Six: Using your slotted spoon, lift the curds gently and place them in the colander. Spin the colander, allowing the whey to finish draining off.

Cheesemaking 6

Step Seven: Place your curds in a microwavable bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. If you have an especially strong microwave, you might want to start with 30 seconds.

cheesemaking

Step Eight: Carefully (it’ll be hot!) knead the cheese, adding your teaspoon of salt and mixing it through. Knead very gently and do not over-knead. The more you mess with the cheese, the tougher it will get (though still yummy, I promise!). If your cheese is very stretchy, it’s done. Form it into a ball, pat it gently, and tell yourself good job. If it isn’t stretchy yet, return it to the microwave for 30 second increments until it stretches easily. Form it into a ball, let it cool, and cut yourself a slice.

cheesemaking

And all that leftover whey? Don’t throw it away! It’s perfect to stick in smoothies, bread, or soups.

Troubleshooting: There are two common complaints when making mozzarella cheese. The first is that the cheese turns out crumbly instead of smooth. This can be caused by using pasteurized milk, or from using too much citric acid which can make the curds separate too quickly. The cheese is still perfectly edible. If it’s not pretty, just shred it up and use it as normal.

The second is that the cheese turns out tough and slightly yellow. This is caused by too much rennet, microwaving it too long, or from over-kneading the cheese. It’s still super yummy. No worries. Melt it on your pizza and enjoy.

Cheesemaking isn't a science, it's an adventure!

 

Have you ever made cheese? What are your best tips?

The small joys-making the best of living with Hashimoto’s

When I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I was relieved. I finally had answers to what was going on with my body.

For those that aren’t familiar with Hashimoto’s, it’s an autoimmune condition that swings between hyper and hypothyroidism. It’s a roller coaster of symptoms and emotions. You never know how you are going to feel each day.

My goal has been to heal and to get into remission. However, during the process I have had to learn to find the small joys to get through each day, making the best of living with Hashimoto’s.

living with hashimotos

This has proven to be a more difficult task than I would have guessed. Yes, on good days, I am up and running with the best of them. It’s the bad days that I struggle. I struggle with frustration about how I can be fine when I wake but after breakfast have symptoms so severe I want to curl up and hide from the rest of the world. This really isn’t an option for me and I’d dare to say most people living with an autoimmune disorder.

I’ve realized that even on bad days, there are so many joys around me. Looking at each of them helps take the focus on what I can’t do or what went wrong. It allows me to look at the blessings that surround me and allows me to be thankful.

I’ve stopped beating myself up for the things I didn’t accomplish.
I’ve started looking at what I did get done.

I no longer blame myself for what my body is doing.
I look at how my body is healing instead.

I don’t get upset with people who ‘don’t get it”.
I’m thankful for the people who love and support me each day.

Each day really has become a gift to me. It’s another day to live life and look for the joys around me. Before I roll out of bed I thank God for another day as there is no promise for tomorrow.

Some days it’s easy and others days it is a struggle to look at the good. But, all it takes now is to see a colorful sunset or the opening bloom of a flower to make me stop and think about how blessed I am. The little gifts around me in a not so perfect body.

I don’t plan on living the rest of my life with Hashimoto’s. However, I pray that I can keep the same attitude of finding the joy in each day as I move forward  in healing.

Living with an autoimmune disorder is a struggle, what helps you get through the tough days?

 

 

When the words won’t come (and a rainbow baby birth story)

I’m sure many of you long time readers have noticed my absence over the last year, and especially over the last few months. Although I do write, I hardly consider myself a writer, and yet writing is where I find my greatest healing.

Many of you also know that I got pregnant late last summer, after a miscarriage and two more years of infertility. And with my pregnancy it seemed that I just couldn’t get my thoughts out. I tried many times, but it all came out jumbled, barely making sense to even me. I choose not to write about my children and pregnancy here on my blog as I know how very hurtful it can be to hear pregnancy updates when you want nothing more than a baby of your own. I also make this choice because women who are hurting can sometimes say very hurtful things (I know I’ve said things I shouldn’t), and opening up about my children often times brings about hurtful comments directed toward me.

I stopped writing, even for myself in my journals, which saddens me because I so wanted to make sure I remembered every moment of this pregnancy.

I still don’t know what to write or where to start, but I know that making myself put words to screen is important. I have to start somewhere.

One of our most difficult battles is between what we know and what we feel.

 

I’m in this weird place where infertility and loss are still deeply etched into my heart. The pain is still fresh, though far from new.

Yet I am ever so grateful that our little boy is here, finally here. The gratefulness I feel each day is often overwhelming. His sweet little head has caught more of my tears than I can count. Tears of joy and love for this new little soul. Tears of sorrow as I remember our little one I wasn’t given the opportunity to care for.

These conflicting emotions making it difficult for me to know how I feel, let alone write it down.

There is this saying in the babyloss community that “After every storm there is a rainbow of hope”, and before I share a bit of my pregnancy and birth story, I want you to know, the baby isn’t always the rainbow. You can find healing and your rainbow of hope without a “rainbow baby”.

This pregnancy was the hardest by far, both emotionally and physically. I was put on progesterone immediately after a positive pregnancy test, more for “insurance” that my levels wouldn’t drop since we didn’t know the cause of my miscarriage. (Though I’m fairly certain it wasn’t due to low progesterone.) Having the progesterone as backup lessened my anxiety a bit and I am grateful that it was available for me. The downfall was that the high levels of progesterone also triggered migraines that rendered me almost useless, laying in bed, at least twice each week for 18 weeks. The nausea was far worse this pregnancy as well and for weeks I maintained a mostly vegan diet and left much of the cooking up to Todd.

rainbow baby pregnancy

 

I was so thankful for my contributors during this time as I had little time to write while spending most days laying on the couch. I was also thankful for friends that knew what I was going through during this pregnancy as they had been there before.

Soon after our holiday break however I began to experience symphasis pubic dysfunction which is, if I may add, horribly painful. Progressively getting worse, even with weekly chiropractic adjustments and medical massage every few weeks, it became difficult to walk, sleep, stand, or sit in the same place. I was truly amazed at how chronic pain was affecting every aspect of my life! I could barely cook, clean, or even put my kids to bed as the stairs bothered me so much.

But I was surrounded (both virtually and in ‘real life’) by supportive friends. The culmination of this support in the way of a Blessingway.

blessingway food

 

 

blessingway bracelet

 

Blessingway henna

And then on April 17th, two weeks before my estimated due date, it became time for our little guy to be born.

the birth of my rainbow baby

 

My water broke early in the morning on the 16th yet I had no contractions all day long. Labor didn’t start until after midnight on the 17th, with active labor beginning within an hour of the first contraction. I was surprised at the pain this time as my previous birth went so smoothly and I was able to focus and relax during each contraction. I was expecting another peaceful birth, especially since we had planned on having him at home, but the pain sometimes seemed more than I could manage and I knew I was fighting with my self, both mentally and physically. Within a couple of hours Todd called the midwife, even though I thought I still had plenty of time left. It’s a good thing he did because an hour later when she got there we knew baby was coming soon.

The contractions were coming one right after the other with little to no break in between so I went into the birthing tub… which slowed them right down. Heh. Looking back I think that he would have been born sooner had I not gotten in the water (my midwife agreed!), and yet I also think it was helpful as I worked through a lot of the emotional aspects of birthing a baby after loss.

I had spent so much time during my pregnancy just trying to make it through the pregnancy that I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the actual birth. This time I knew how quickly pregnancy could go wrong, how quickly devastation could come in and take everything away. I needed that extra time to process.

In the end, with help from my midwife, and the worst labor pains I’ve had, I was finally able to pull my baby up out of the water and hold him in my arms. My baby was finally here.

birth of a rainbow baby

 

 

encapsulated placenta

 

rainbow baby

He’s currently growing big, and faster than our other two grew! Only two months old and long enough for 6 months clothes. These newborn days are both difficult and fantastic all in one moment. We are learning how to be a family of five, I’m learning how to leave the house with more kids than I have hands.

I also wonder how I live in this moment yet still honor the struggle of my heart and the baby I never held but for a short time in my womb?

How do I work to enjoy the hard parts of parenting and never take it for granted?

And how can I claim struggles of infertility when my arms hold three and others struggle for one?

This dance of emotions is confusing at best.

 

I truly love this space I’ve created online and the community that has become of it. I can’t ever imagine not writing here. Though after having planned on only taking a few weeks off of all my admin and editor responsibilities, I’ve realized that even that has been too much for me right now. Women take a maternity leave for a reason.

post partum

As you may remember, I have dealt with adrenal fatigue, finally beginning to see some healing before I conceived last summer. I’m finding that I need to spend more time relaxing (read: napping!) and enjoying and less time on the computer right now. I need to make my health the prime focus in this season as I continue to deal with a few post partum issues (joint pain and plantar fasciitis) so that I can later continue to pursue my passions (like blogging!). My plan for now is to take July off from any blog responsibilities, checking email only weekly and maybe sending out a quick letter to subscribers every couple of weeks.

It may seem like blog suicide, but since Google killed half my traffic in January and Facebook only shows my updates to a few hundred instead of the 10k + that like the page, I’m thinking it can’t get much worse!

In the meantime, I have a few more contributor posts to publish, and you can always follow me on Instagram or subscribe to my personal account on Facebook. (I don’t accept friend requests, but you can follow my public posts)

I plan on catching up on my to-read book pile and spending some time outside and at the beach! I pray you have a fantastic summer. 

 

Summer Berry Harvest : How to use local U-Picks to your advantage!

Summer Berry Harvest :: How to use local U-Picks to your advantage!
(Written by contributor, Renee)

This is the time of year that people just crave fresh produce. I love eating seasonal. When summer hits, my body hasn’t had fresh strawberries, blueberries, cherries, or raspberries since the previous summer, and I just savor them more. I enjoy them to the fullest!

Summer Berry Harvest :: How to use local U-Picks to your advantage!
If you are so blessed to live in an area where farmers open their fields up to let you pick your own produce, take advantage! The prices per pound are drastically cheaper than what you are going to find at the store – and even the farmer’s market. And the experience is one you will look forward to every year. If you are unsure of any U-Pick farms in your area, I found THIS site quite helpful in locating the ones around me.

Summer Berry Harvest :: How to use local U-Picks to your advantage!
Here are some ways to take advantage of your local U-Pick season:

    1. Resist the urge to go on the first day of picking. The picking will be easier and more abundant about a week or so into the picking season for most things. In my experience the only exception would be cherries, whose season is only about a week anyway so go as soon as those are ready!
    2. Plan on going first thing in the morning, especially if you live somewhere very warm. This is not only to ensure you don’t overheat, but you will avoid all the late morning and afternoon bug pests. And especially with something like strawberries and cherries that get picked over very fast, you will be getting the best of the best.
    3. Bring your own containers. When I go in, I’m going for a haul. I’m talking 40 pounds of strawberries. 60-70 pounds of blueberries. I don’t want little pint containers. I want buckets that I can easily carry, and that hold a lot without damaging the fruit. Big plastic buckets, old plastic ice cream containers, etc work well. Some U-Picks offer decent containers you can borrow. Just check if there is a limit or a price on them.
    4. Plan to go on a day when you have time to tend to your haul right after picking. You don’t want to go picking and then let it sit in your garage or home for the next day or so until you can get to it. You want to come home right away, get them washed up, and prep them for what you plan to use them for. A simple wash I like to do is just plug up your sink and start filling with water. Add in a few big shakes of baking soda and vinegar with a squeeze of a full lemon and swish it around.
    5. Freeze, freeze, freeze! Do you know how much frozen fruit costs at the store? A lot! Get that fruit up on some baking sheets after you wash them, and freeze them flat. Once frozen you can dump them into plastic freezer bags and stack them up in your deep freezer. Use them for your smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or baking. You will never have to buy another freezer bag of fruit!
    6. Dehydrate! Wash up part of your haul and get them right onto your dehydrator trays to go for a few hours. Store the dried berries in airtight containers to add to your granola, oatmeal, yogurt, or trailmixes. If you don’t have a dehydrator do them on the lowest setting in your oven. I only recently got a dehydrator and have done them in the oven for years.
    7. Jam! I’m actually not much of a jam maker, although last year I did make blueberry jam for the first time and it was the most amazing thing I ever tasted! Hit up Google – there are many recipes using natural pectin, or even no pectin, and all using either very low if any sugar or natural sweeteners like honey.
    8. Eat them fresh. There is just nothing like fresh picked fruit. You can make your fruit last longer by giving them a quick baking soda and vinegar bath. Eat up all you want while they are in season! That is what they are there for! Stock your body up on the antioxidants so you have a storehouse once the long winter sets in.

So tell me! What do you go picking this time of year?

Three natural tips to overcome insomnia

This is a Type-A Parent paid post to discuss sleep issues, and to share a new insomnia resource from the National Sleep Foundation.

dealing with insomnia

There’s no sugar-coating it, insomnia stinks.

Through my life I’ve had plenty of nights here and there where I didn’t sleep well. Usually it had to do with something I ate or drank, sometimes due a stressful situation, and other times due to taking a nap during the day. So when I dealt with chronic insomnia I didn’t really know what to do.

Of course the worst part was that I was completely fatigued and had major brain fog during the day so I had a hard time following through on any treatment protocol I thought of.

It began with my miscarriage almost three years ago. At first I couldn’t fall asleep (which is very common due to emotional and physical stress as well as the hormonal changes) and within a month or so I was also waking up each night only a couple of hours after I had fallen asleep. This went on for a year and a half, five hours of sleep was a good night. I was a walking zombie during the day and it was affecting just about every part of my life! I was grumpy to those I loved, scatterbrained and forgetful, and so consumed and overwhelmed with my own life I was a horrible friend.

Over the course of about two months, following the tips below, I was finally able to sleep again, getting 8-9 hours of sleep each night.

1. Get tested

I always knew that some nutrients are associated with a good nights sleep, but I figured that wasn’t my problem as I ate quite a healthy diet. But in my quest to figure out why I always felt so horrible my doctor ran a myriad of tests. Come to find out, I was deficient in both Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D and began supplementing right away.

It wasn’t a quick fix, but within the first week I began to remember my dreams again, something I hadn’t done since my miscarriage. I also felt like the sleep I was getting was a better quality, deeper sleep. So if you’re dealing with insomnia, make sure to check with your doctor and get tested for common nutrient deficiencies.

We also found through testing that my thyroid was running on the slow side and my adrenals weren’t functioning very well at all.

If you have chronic stress in your life, it’s probable that you might be dealing with adrenal fatigue, with insomnia being one of the major symptoms.

2. Go to sleep earlier

Going to bed early has been a difficult thing to do in many seasons of my life, whether it’s dealing with a baby/young child or staying up late to work and write. I was really good at trying to squeeze in a few extra hours to my day and after bedtime seemed like a great way to do it. Especially when I was most likely dealing with minor adrenal fatigue in the beginning and my second wind (boost of cortisol) hit me around 11pm. All of a sudden I had plenty of energy, a clear mind, and a quiet house.

I knew that going to bed earlier was probably going to be helpful, but I began to experience that 11pm wakeup, even when I went to bed 30-60 minutes earlier. What I found was that I needed to be in a deep sleep by that time for my adrenals to chill out and rest as well. So we began going to bed by 9:30pm most nights and that seemed to take care of my inability to fall asleep as well as waking up soon after I fell asleep.

3. Cutting back on night snacks

I don’t know if this is the same for everyone, but I began to sleep so much better after giving up my nighttime snacks! Granted, I still snack at night sometimes, but when I was still dealing with middle of the night waking (I woke around 2am and couldn’t sleep again until 4am) it was immensely helpful to not snack at all, especially anything heavy or in mass quantities.

I do know that the body works to repair and detoxify at night and when it’s busy digesting it may not function as well as it needs to in other areas. My body may have needed that time of rest so that it could fully heal. So for a couple of months I made sure I ate dinner before 5:30 to make sure digestion was well on its way before I fell asleep.

 

Of course, there were other things I did as well, like:

  • cut out caffeine
  • light exercise in the morning when possible
  • no napping after 11am
  • no sweets after lunch
  • limited my schedule to allow for extra rest for my adrenals

I still have nights of insomnia, but instead of every night, it’s only once or twice a month. I finally feel good and can think a lot more clearly!

How have you dealt with insomnia?

natural tips for insomnia
Be sure to check out a new resource from the National Sleep Foundation at sleepfoundation.org/insomnia – a good place to start if you think you have insomnia or aren’t sleeping. The National Sleep Foundation is your trusted resource for everything sleep – understanding how sleep works & why it’s important, learning healthy habits, creating a relaxing bedroom & bedtime routine, & finding solutions to your sleep issues.

Gluten-free rhubarb pie

(Written by contributor, Jessica)

Well, it is finally spring! It seemed to take extra long for this past winter to end.

I have been patiently, well really not so patiently, waiting for warmer weather that would start to bring in local produce. One of our first crops in my garden is rhubarb.

rhubarb pie

I remember when I was little I thought rhubarb was the most disgusting thing ever. That is, until I had a really awesome rhubarb pie!

Most rhubarb pies have had an ‘eggy’ feel and I just can’t stand eggy! This recipe is just right.

It is also not overly sweet and combined with the tart rhubarb, it is just right.

If you need a pie crust recipe, check out this one I posted earlier. It is gluten-free but you can also sub cup for cup white flour if you are not a gluten-free family. I am a big fan of the Namaste gluten-free flour blend, I can get it at Costco. And, as much as I love Bob’s Red Mill products, I do not enjoy the gluten-free flour mix for a pie crust.

gluten free rhubarb pie

Gluten-free rhubarb pie
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert

Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp. of gluten free flour*
  • 1½ cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 2 Pie Crust

Instructions
  1. Stir flour and sugar together.
  2. Add egg and beat thoroughly.
  3. Fold in rhubarb
  4. Pour into pie crust and top with other pie crust.
  5. Pinch together edges and put a few slits in the crust to allow pie to breath.
  6. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 350 and cook for 50-60 more minutes. (If you didn’t use my gluten free pie recipe your pie may be done sooner as butter crusts take longer to brown)
  8. * I use a gluten free flour mix but rice flour with xantham gum works just fine.

Another really helpful tip I always follow when baking a pie is that I line my oven with foil or bake on a baking sheet. It never fails, that when I forget to do this, my pie leaks all over my oven. I have much better things to do than clean my oven, so I opt for foil!

I’d love to hear from you, what are your favorite ways to use rhubarb? 

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