Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There is No Turning Back

First came Sandy.  Then Newtown, CT.  In the span of a few short weeks, fear and grief became the predominant sentiments governing our everyday lives.  Unimaginable natural and then man-made violence shook our world to its core.  There is no more denial.  Climate change is here.  Gun violence is out of control.  How did we get here?

Like waking into a very deep and dark nightmare, it seems many of us are opening our eyes to things we have long ignored.  Living a wasteful, toxic lifestyle suddenly came back with the force of a storm we could never have imagined.  Years of increasingly lax gun control legislation and rising rates of mental illness and pharmaceutical treatments brought us to a cliff we had never imagine looking down.  And, in an instant, we fell.

There is no going back.  There is no silver lining.  There is destruction and fear.  We are terrified with each and every passing day.  Malls, movie theaters, restaurants, and schools are no longer safe.  Our homes, our lives, our property can no longer be protected from the dangers around us.  And we - each and every one of us - bear responsibility.

We can draw into ourselves.  Focus on appreciation and gratitude for what we have and for what has not touched us personally.  Or we can realize that we are one and that what has already happened has changed our lives forever.  We can stand up and take action.  We need involvement and we need community.  We need to personally take action.  We need to contact our government officials and take a stand.  We need to actively engage in our local communities.  We need to get involved in protecting our future.  We NEED to change our lifestyles, to make sacrifices, to give of ourselves.  Simply sharing a post on Facebook or Tweeting something into the universe will not change it.  Only real, live action will.

Will these tragedies move you to live differently?  Will you engage or retract?  Will you drive deeper into a disconnected or virtual world or will you engage?  The more we busy ourselves with distractions, the bigger our problems grow.  We are all responsible.  And we all need to act.  Together.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Why Kids Should Eat Organic: The Science

"Organics No Better."   "Save Your Cash: Organic Food is Not Healthier."

You've seen the headlines. You've heard the stories.  The media is notorious for asserting that the claims about organics are not valid because they are not backed up by science.  So it's time to listen up: a study by University of California, Davis scientists being published in the journal Environmental Health is here to tell you differently.  Let's cut to the chase:

"Based on the dietary data we collected for different age groups, potential exposure to environmental toxins through the food consumption route is a real and significant concern particularly for children in their preschool and primary years, with a high proportion of this age group estimated to exceed benchmark levels for a number of contaminants with known effect on health."

Let's sit down and read that again.  "Real and significant concern" and "exceed benchmark levels for a number of contaminants" should jump out at you.  So, let us look at the study:  Researchers examined exposure to multiple food contaminants among groups of children ages 2-4 and 5-7 years old and older adults.  They looked at 11 toxic compounds: acrylamide, arsenic, lead, mercury, chlorpyrifos, permethrin, endosulfan, dieldrin, chlordane, DDE, and dioxin.  The toxic compounds were assessed for cancer benchmark levels to determine exposure levels among children.  And here's where things get scary:  "cancer benchmark levels were exceeded by all children (100%) for arsenic, dieldrin, DDE, and dioxins.  Non-benchmarks were exceeded by >95% of preschool-age children for acrylamide and by 10% of preschool-age children for mercury."  

How on earth are our children becoming so toxic?  Study researchers argue that "food may be the primary route of exposure to contaminants from multiple chemical classes such as metals (mercury, lead, arsenic), persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (dioxin, DDT, dieldrin, chlordane), and pesticides (chlorpyrifos, permethrin, endosulfan)."  Our chemical-laden food supply means that there is no mysterious agent poisoning our children, it is on their plates, in their lunchboxes, at OUR dinner tables.  And the exposure to these environmental toxins have been linked to "cancer, asthma, lead poisoning, neurobehavioral disorders, learning and developmental disabilities, and birth defects."

What foods are the greatest offenders?  The study cites conventionally produced "tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, dairy, pears, green beans, and celery."  The study's researchers also recommend "consuming organically produced dairy and selected fruits and vegetables to reduce pesticide intake, consuming less animal foods (meat, dairy, and fish) to reduce intake of persistent organic pollutants and metals, and consuming lower quantities of chips, cereals, crackers, and other processed carbohydrate foods to reduce acrylamide intake."

Those are some strong words and some sage advice from scientists, including a professor of Public Health and a professor of Epidemiology.  No science to support why our kids should eat organic?  The next time you hear that, be sure to ask the messenger to check their sources.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Climate Crisis Happening Inside Our Bodies

The devastation of recent storms and global warming have finally resonated with many Americans that the planet is in bad shape.  Our over-consumption and lack of concern for pollutants and chemicals in the environment are starting to set off some red flags for large sectors of our population.

But an equally dangerous climate change of sorts is happening within our own bodies.  The chemicals in our environment from not only our air and water, but from our food, our cleaning products, our personal care items, our furniture, our homes, and everything around us, is polluting our bodies with dire consequences for the future.  From GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our food to plastics and toxins in our homes, we are creating an internal environment that endangers not only us, but future generations.

A recent study published by Brown University researchers found that "more than half of women of childbearing age had median or higher levels of at least two of three pollutants that could harm [fetal] brain development."  Known pollutants such as mercury, lead, and PCBs are finding their way into our blood streams through our food and our households.  For women of childbearing years, the accumulation of toxins grows with age and the exposure for our children in the womb is on the rise.  "We carry a history of our environmental exposures throughout our lives," warns the study's lead author Dr. Marcella Thompson.

But at what critical point do we start to heed these warnings?  Hurricane Sandy wrought mass destruction here on the East Coast and opened many eyes to the overwhelming power of nature and the dangers of global warming.  We should already be noting, with alarm, the growing rates of autism, allergies, learning disorders, and chronic health issues among our children.  The statistics are alarming, but we continue to muddle through.  Those on the front lines, many of us moms, are the ones who are starting to stand up and fight to protect our children and to heal our future.  I continue to believe that it is moms who will make the real difference in our toxic world, I can only hope that our actions will hold the urgency that they truly require.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stress Hangover?

You feel tired, achy, and burned out.  Your head pounds.  It feels like you had a few too many drinks.  But that's not it.  Perhaps you had a few too many night wakings with the kids.  Financial or personal stress.  Health struggles.  Or even a natural disaster.

This week, I have a stress hangover.  And, as a parent, I bet you know exactly what I'm talking about.  It's easy to get overwhelmed with stress when you have kids to juggle, a lack of sleep, and very little balance in your life.  Add to that a few other challenges and BAM! it hits you.

October was a busy month for Holistic Moms, with our Natural Living Conference, Holistic Living Month, HMNRaising Auction and so much more.  On the heels of all of the busy-ness, Frankenstorm Sandy decided to pay us a visit.  The storm tore down trees and power lines, took lives and homes, and devastated the Northeast.  We had no power, heat, internet, or phone for nine days and a fire in our home in the middle of it all.  But we got off easy.  Still, waiting on hours-long gas lines, searching supermarkets for food, and generally trying to stay warm maxed us all out.  And then the blizzard hit, dropping more than six inches of snow on top of it all.  And then the kids got sick with hacking coughs and colds.  And then, for a little added bonus, one of our dogs had a Lyme disease relapse, complete with paralysis and tremors.  Let's not even talk about work and our offices being closed for more than a week, please.

You know when people say that stress is bad for you?  They're not kidding!  I don't even need a night of partying and drinking to feel this bad.  So how to we find our way through when the stress starts to pile higher than we had ever imagined?  For me, it starts with being present.  Present in the moment that is.  I have spent many nights of late lying in bed awake, my mind racing with the stress of all that has happened and how to make it through.  But bringing my mind to the present, to the moment, and to all that we have to be grateful for here and now immediately creates a sense of calm.  Being present and in gratitude helps me to breathe and be still.  And that is the first step in restoring balance amid the chaos.

Stressful times call for nurturing.  Your desire to curl up in bed, drink a hot cup of tea, or create a quiet space, are natural instincts for coping.  Honor them.  Find a way to rest and sleep.  Nurture your body through with warming, healing foods.  Drink tea and soup, as they are easy on your digestive system.  Find solace in (healthy) comfort food without guilt.  Boost your immune system, as stress takes its toll.  Take time to give your body the support it needs.  A few of my personal favorites include probiotics, fish oils, and Vitamin D.  Seek out healing therapies such as chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage.  And find quiet moments.  Try to create still in your family to regain balance.  Curl up with your kids and connect.  When we ground ourselves and our families, we can pull through the challenges.

Don't dismiss those feelings of overwhelm or your own stress hangover.  Embrace the sign to slow down and  nurture yourself.  The holiday season is almost upon us.  If you stay present and nurture yourself, you might avoid the stress hangover altogether.  As for your standard hangovers, try bananas and lots of fluids.

Have a stress hangover cure?  Please share!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sandy's Silver Living

Here in New Jersey Hurricane Sandy has been shockingly devastating.  Despite the harsh warnings of an impending "Frankenstorm", it's safe to say that few of us were really prepared for this.  From Manhattan to the Jersey Shore, neighborhoods have been torn apart.  Decimated.  Leveled.

Even miles from the shore, fallen trees and downed power lines have left millions of area residents without heat or electricity.  Gas is in short supply.  Looting is rampant.  Price gouging imminent.  It's hard to know who is safe, which way is up, where you can get help.

But Sandy has brought everyone out of their homes.  With no power and no internet, with roads unsafe to drive and gas in short supply, our neighbors are out and about.  They are walking down the street, viewing the damage and stopping by to say hello.  Neighbors are chatting and sharing their stories.  Towns are gathering together in warming and charging stations in local libraries and fire stations.  People are lending a hand to help a neighbor, volunteering to boost relief and recovery efforts, and reaching out in ways that seemed all but lost.  We share food and warmth, conversation and connection.

Sandy has helped us to rediscover community.

Whether standing on a coffee line one hundred people deep or charging our cell phones at a local station, people are connecting face-to-face.  We are being reminded that there is great power in our in real life community.  When social media goes down, our attention turns to the true source of community - real life.  We share together in our struggles and ask for help from one another.  And we realize that there is still power right on our streets.  Not electric power.  Not online networks.  But the power of people to do good, to help out, and to make us feel connected amid the chaos.  Power to move branches, put out fires, bring a hot meal, or hold a warm hand.

It's not the photos of the damage that move us, it is the images of humanity coming together.  It's seeing the rescue workers bringing people to safety.  It's watching the volunteers bring food and warmth to people in need.  It's what we do in communities across America.  And it can't be replaced by a Facebook post or a Tweet.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The New Face of Bullying

As parents, many of us are well aware of bullying.  Bullying in our schools, on our sports teams, and online.  As adults, we are even familiar with workplace bullying.  Employers bully employees, employees bully each other.  

What is bullying?  "Bullying is intentional aggressive behavior. It can take the form of physical or verbal harassment."  Bullying is "unwanted, aggressive behavior . . [that] is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time."  "Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose."

One of the things that continues to shock and surprise us here at the Holistic Moms Network is the ongoing efforts to bully our 501(c)(3) non-profit community.  Yes, you heard me right.  Individuals, groups, activists, and others who want everyone else to share their soap box, to take their stand, to agree with their views, use whatever means that they can to intimidate even non-profit organizations into complying with their demands.  They flood social media, they hijack Facebook pages, they bombard Twitter accounts, and they insult, accuse, argue, and forcefully project their ideas, regardless of whether or not you agree until or unless you become their victim.

The Holistic Moms Network is build on a foundation of diversity and tolerance.  As an organization, we are not here to blame you, attack you, or make you feel guilty for the choices that you have made in your life's journey.  We provide a supportive community for parents to share and connect.  A place where you can learn and become aware, so that you can make informed choices.  Whatever your choice, it should be an educated one and one that works for your family.  Your family is not my family.  Your knowledge, resources, and personal values are not mine.  We hope for and advocate for choices that support natural health - health for individuals, for society, and for the planet.  But we are not going to bully anyone into taking a particular stand, nor do we appreciate those who insist on bullying our members and our community.

You may not like our community or our members for this reason.  You may dislike our meat-eaters if you are vegan, or our vegans if you are Paleo.  You might criticize how we birth, how we feed our families, or what type of healing modalities that we use, or don't use.  But at the Holistic Moms Network, we like to teach respect.  We believe that respect is a value that every generation needs to learn.  Are there many great causes out there to be taken up?  Of course.  Are there many single-issue groups that share your passion, whatever that may be.  But they are not Holistic Moms.  Those issues may or may not be part of holistic living and they are not, in and of themselves, our mission.  We are about creating support and community for parents who share an interest in holistic living.  And in supporting such a diverse and widespread community, we negotiate the very challenging road of tolerance - a place where bullying cannot survive.

Most importantly, the tactics of bullying do not create positive change.  They do not open people up to awareness-raising.  They shut people down.  They create fear and intimidation.  They put people on the defensive and generate feelings of negativity.  Even if your cause is noble, bullying will not further your mission.  It is compassion and understanding that create change.  As Buddha said "Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity." 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nurturing Holistic Living: Simple Steps

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao-tzu

Living a green and natural lifestyle is something many of us aspire to.  But when we look around and feel a sense of overwhelm about the many areas of our lives where change would be required to reach our goal, we freeze.  We give up.  We shrug it off.

Change is hard.  Resistance to change is normal.  Change threatens our routines and our everyday lives.  Change demands more thought and energy.  Changes requires that we be present and attentive to what we doing, saying, and thinking.  It pulls us out of autopilot and puts us back in control.  And for many of us, autopilot is just easier.  Even if we're heading for a crash landing.  Ironically, it is when we're about to crash and burn that we will try to embrace change.  But there is always the danger of waiting just a little too long.

Why is it that we fear change, fear control?  Perhaps because it involves responsibility.  We know that if we are going to make a change, we need to take responsibility for our actions and own them.  We need to understand the implications of our lifestyle - whether in terms of diet, fitness, wellness, or sustainability - and claim ownership for any mess that we have created.  It's easier to keep puttering along and turn a blind eye than it is to confront something and make a difference.

But as Lao-tzu once said, the journey does indeed begin with a single step.  We can own up to doing better, a little bit at a time.  We can change one simple thing and therein take control of something about ourselves or our lifestyle that isn't working for us.  We can own it, control it, and live it.  One step at a time.

This month, we celebrate changes toward natural and holistic living all month long.  October is Holistic Living Month here at the Holistic Moms Network - an chance to take one step or many toward achieving our lifestyle goals.  Don't let the fear of change paralyze you into inactivity.  Come join Holistic Living Month on Facebook or Twitter and discover some simple actions that you can take each and every day to help live a more natural, more sustainable life.  You might just find yourself journeying along with us!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Prop 37 Matters


Each and every day the average American is consuming a considerable number of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Estimates show that 70 to 75% of all processed foods in your local supermarket contain genetically modified ingredients. From soda and chips, to infant formula and baby food, these GMOs are entering our bodies with little understanding of the impact they are having on our health and wellness, in the short- or long-term.  "Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), corn (88%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres)," according to the Institute for Responsible Technology.  These genetically modified foods have been linked to toxic and allergic reactions, organ and tissue damage in animals, cancer, and infertility.  More than 40 countries around the world ban or at least label products that contain genetically modified organisms.

However, GMO products are widely available in the United States.  The presence of GMO ingredients is largely hidden from the American public.  Are we simply denying the possible threat or is there a larger force behind this lack of transparency?  Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and creator of the new documentary Genetic Roulette, states that "the overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists were that genetically modified foods were inherently dangerous and could create allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems and of course they should be labeled because they are a food additive."  But corporate influence is at play here.  Biotech companies stand to lose millions of dollars if GMO ingredients are required to be labeled or if the public refuses to purchase GMO food products.  

Proposition 37 in California is the Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, a November ballot initiative that would require the labeling of GMO products.  If Prop 37 passes, California would be the first state in the country to require GMO labeling and industry giants fear that the rest of the country will follow.  Who is this corporate opposition?  As Katherine Spiers reports, those opposing Proposition 37 are "Conglomerations of the nation's biggest GMO producers, namely Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont. The Grocery Manufacturers Association is also a leading opponent of the cause, in terms of money given and stated purpose: the president of GMA called defeating Prop 37 "the single highest priority for GMA this year."  In addition, Spiers points out that "some of America's favorite snacks are throwing money into the anti-37 pot. The companies include both Pepsi and Coca-Cola (professional rivals coming together for one cause, like The Avengers of Frankenfood), Nestle, Kellogg, Hormel, Bimbo, General Mills, and ConAgra, the company behind Gulden's, Jiffy Pop, Swiss Miss, and dozens more."  Many of these food giants also own natural product subsidiaries, such as Cascadian Farms, Horizon, and Larabar, and yet their parent companies are spending thousands to prevent Prop 37 from passing.

Why it matters to you.  
You may not live in the State of California, but Prop 37 is a symbolic David vs. Goliath piece of legislation.  If parents and consumers can wield the power to educate themselves about GMOs, protest their inclusion in our food supply, and force food industry giants to label items containing GMOs, a foundation will be laid for many other states to follow.  That is not to say it won't be a fight elsewhere.  Nor is it a guarantee that the food industry will decide to change their ways.  And labeling may take years, including more than a few additional legal battles.  What's at the core of Prop 37 is that it's a "right to know" law.  It demands corporate transparency and empowers people to become informed about their food supply.  It is essential to our wellness and our future.  Not just for the great State of California, but for all of us.

Friday, September 14, 2012

All About Coconut Oil!

We had a fabulous #HolisticMoms Twitter Party this week all about coconut oil with @DeliciousObsess and @HybridRastaMama. There were links flying everywhere, so we are reposting all of this great information so that you can enjoy it more easily!

Join us every Tuesday, 10 pm EST at #HolisticMoms for fun, fabulous, and informative chats!

Why Coconut Oil? - http://bit.ly/RWR62U
333 Uses for Coconut Oil - http://bit.ly/Q654yP
165 + Uses for the Coconut Palm Tree - There's More To It Than Oil - http://bit.ly/NSCjXQ
Coconut Oil and Acne - http://bit.ly/QsdvAG
Coconut Oil and Blood Type O - http://bit.ly/PRQb05
Coconut Oil and Cholesterol - http://bit.ly/O2vwVw
Coconut Oil and Dementia (Including Alzheimer’s) - http://bit.ly/QoWL2N
Coconut Oil and Digestive Disorders/Colon Health - http://bit.ly/P51p0p
Coconut Oil and Head Lice - http://bit.ly/Tvi5o2
Coconut Oil and Sun Protection - http://bit.ly/P43rzT
Coconut Oil and Oil Pulling - http://bit.ly/OZknHt
Coconut and Pregnancy http://bit.ly/Q65Agc
Coconut Oil as an Herbicide (AKA Weed Killer) - http://bit.ly/NhQpQP
Coconut Oil For Hashimoto’s and Thyroid Issues - http://bit.ly/NhQqo5
Coconut Oil Unleashed – Reader Questions Answered - http://bit.ly/U1YyHH
Eating Traditional Foods and The Blood Type Diet http://bit.ly/Qsf7KH
How to Consume Coconut Oil Plus Coconut Candy Recipes - http://bit.ly/NhQvbp
Let’s Talk About Fats Baby http://bit.ly/UAl2Sj
Nipples, Lady Bits, and Coconut Oil – Oh My! - http://bit.ly/PceaK5
Treating Bug Bites and Bee Stings with Coconut Oil - http://bit.ly/U1YEiu
How To: Coconut Oil Toothpaste: http://bit.ly/RWRcHJ

General Coconut Oil Post: http://bit.ly/vOOUtC
52 Uses for Coconut Oil: http://bit.ly/wJzkxi
122 Uses Post: http://bit.ly/LaoThq
Coconut Oil Hair Treatment: http://bit.ly/IP78oN
Coconut Oil for Dogs/Pets: http://bit.ly/Lr7KEg
Coconut Oil and Alzheimer's: http://bit.ly/HCbb6e
Goitrogens and Thyroid: http://bit.ly/No3C61
The Saturated Fat Myth: http://bit.ly/HOlLXe
Blood Sugar and Fertility: http://bit.ly/NQ4IeL
Hashimoto's Disease: http://bit.ly/RxrsNU
Finding Balance with Diet, Nutrition, and Happiness: http://bit.ly/tWh11u

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is Organic Better? Fact Checking: Beyond Politics

As the country gears up for an intense political campaign season, we see more and more calls for "fact checking" on the claims made by our presidential candidates and their running mates. The candidates are out to sell themselves for your vote and the information that they are trying to convey to you, the voter, is couched in whatever light they feel will best make them glow. Skeptical voters are wary, though, and take their claims with a grain of salt.

It should be no different when you see the screaming headlines about natural health. When claims of "organic food is no better" or "breastfeeding increases allergies" jump out at you, step back and start to fact check. The sound bites, the headlines, and TV teasers are there to get your attention, not to provide you with in-depth, thoughtful consideration of the real issues and facts.

The hot topic this week has certainly been the much-talked-about study from Stanford University claiming that organic food is no more nutritious than its conventional counterpart. The media pounced on the opportunity to warn people against spending their precious paychecks on organic brands and acted as though the wool had been pulled over consumers' eyes by organic food advocates. But step back and do some fact checking before you run with the claims. For starters, the study did not conduct any new laboratory tests on current produce. In fact, it was a meta-anaylsis, meaning that the research conducted was a compilation of already-existing data from prior studies, with study conclusions drawn from this overview. In other words, there was no scientific comparison of the nutrient density of an organic apple versus a conventional apple. That being said, the meta-analysis did find that organic produce contained more phosphorus and phenols than conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables. Researchers discounted this discovery saying that the findings were either statistically insignificant or that Americans already had adequate levels of these compounds in their diets and that such increased levels would not confer any additional health benefits. But let's look a bit closer.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, "Phosphorus is an essential mineral that is required by every cell in the body for normal function". Adequate levels of phosphorus are essential for bone healthy and density, and the absorption and balance of phosphorus and calcium are necessary for well-being. Poor gut health, celiac disease, common conditions such as yeast infections, as well as the use of steroids and some pharmaceuticals may also inhibit phosphorus absorption in the body. Unfortunately, Americans may take in excessive amounts of phosphorus, in the form of phosphoric acid, which can negatively affect bone density and contribute to conditions such as osteoporosis. According to Dr. Lawrence Wilson, "phosphoric acid is another harmful type of phosphorus compound that is very acidic and can erode the teeth, damage the stomach and intestines, helps destroy the bones, and should always be avoided," quite unlike the necessary mineral phosphorus. Media reports on the Stanford study are unclear about the level of detail at which this difference of phosphorus levels in organic foods were addressed, but it is certainly worth noting.

The New York Times also reported that the study found that "organic produce . . . contained more compounds known as phenols, believed to help prevent cancer, than conventional produce" and found the difference to be "statistically significant". Natural phenol antioxidants, such as those found in cranberries and red wine, have shown to have considerable positive impacts on health, although our understanding of how they work is limited. The study researchers insisted the result should be "interpreted with caution", but the finding is no less relevant.

Even more interesting, the actual study did point out that organic produce was much less likely to contain pesticide residues (by more than 30%) and that organic meats and poultry were "less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria," according to the New York Times. As many critics of the study have pointed out, consumers often choose organic not simply because of perceived nutrient density, but because of what organic foods do NOT contain: genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, artificial flavorings, and high fructose corn syrup, among others. Organic food sales are also driven by a commitment to environmental sustainability.

As parents we need to embrace the skepticism that we approach politics and government and apply it to the many sources of information that abound. Media snippets never tell the whole story. They, like political ads, are designed to catch you attention and create an emotional response. Pull the curtain back and investigate before you make informed decisions, whether in politics or with regard to health and wellness.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Green Back to School: #HolisticMoms Twitter Party

We had a busy and informative #HolisticMoms Twitter Party last night with special guest Green Child Magazine @GreenChldMg on Greening Back to School. So many great links for information and resources got passed around that it was impossible to catalog all of them and chat at the same time. So we’re sharing our list of all the articles that were posted during the party. Get a cup of tea and maybe a square (or two) of chocolate and do some reading! Not the same old back-to-school information, we have ideas on how to form a walk to school bus, how to clean up the air quality at your child’s school, fundraisers that you can actually get excited about and a whole lot more!

Enjoy the links and join us each week at #HolisticMoms on Twitter, Tuesdays 10 pm ET for fun, information-packed parties about holistic living!

Green Child Magazine’s Green Back to School Issue

Eco-Friendly School Fundraising

Helping Kids to Make Friends

Getting Into School Routines

Holistic Tips for Back to School

School Supplies Pose Toxic Threats

Quelling Back to School Anxiety

Seeds of the Month for School

Bringing Green Values Back to School

Non-Toxic School Supplies

Safe Lunch Gear

Cleaning Up School Air Pollution

National Walk to School Day

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Toxins in School Supplies

Encouraging Kindness in Kids

Eco Back to School Picks

Tips for Starting School

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Brand Behind the Brand

Natural products advocates and consumers are up in arms this week as they discover that many of their favorite brands are spending money to defeat Proposition 37 in the State of California. Prop 37 is a ballot initiative that would require labeling of products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Calls for boycotts and protests are on the rise against many popular natural brands. But the issue is not so simple, as Marc Gunther points out on GreenBiz.com. The problem lies in the fact that these popular natural product companies, such as Naked Juice, Honest Tea, and Cascadian Farms are owned by food giants (Pepsico, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, respectively) who are fighting hard to block Prop 37. Collectively, these agricultural behemoths have spent more than $20 million to date to defeat the initiative.

This does not mean that the natural brands are on board with their parent companies. Many of these brands, from Cascadian Farms to Larabar, are speaking out to defend their commitment to organic, non-GMO products. But the power of "Big Food" makes the small voices of these operating divisions far less compelling. The take-away from all of this, as Gunther points out, is that "consumers who purchase natural and organic food should be aware that they are supporting big food companies that want to deny them the right to know about GMOs in their food."

Many independent, mission-driven natural products brands are quickly gobbled up by massive corporate giants who want a piece of the green market, but who lack the commitment or passion for true sustainability. Whether in the food world or the personal care industry (i.e. Burt's Bees is owned by Clorox, Tom's of Maine by Colgate-Palmolive), preserving small business is essential for consumers who have a passion for safe, non-toxic, and organic products.

The beauty of technology is that more and more of this information is coming to light via the internet. Social media has driven a remarkable information age for consumers and is making corporate transparency even more essential. As the natural products industry is flooded with companies seeking to capitalize on consumer demand, consumers are starting to decipher a specific set of criteria for their buying habits. The "natural" label is no longer compelling enough. Consumers - and particularly Holistic Moms - want to know more than the quality of ingredients (i.e. certified organic, GMO-free), but the social and corporate responsibility of the brand behind the product. As consumers begin to shop with new standards and recognize that their dollars are feeding food giants even when buying from their "organic" divisions, this becomes a driving force for those with a passion for natural living. Prop 37 might be overrun by "Big Food" but consumers wield a new power that these brands are going to have to pay attention to, sooner or later.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

No More Tears for J&J: Baby Steps are not Enough

Cosmetic industry giant, Johnson & Johnson, announced last week that they would take action to remove cancer-causing chemicals in its products by the end of 2015. The product reformulation will include reducing the quantity of carcinogen 1,4 dioxane in adult products; phasing out formaldehyde-releasers; limiting parabens to methyl-, ethyl- and propyl-; and phasing out the use of triclosan, Diethyl Phthalate (DEP), polycyclic musks, animal derived ingredients, tagates, rose crystal and diacetyl from fragrances from all products.

Many in the green community are applauding these efforts and calling on other major cosmetic brands to take the lead. “Today’s action by Johnson and Johnson is another example of a company responding to their customers and the public interest community,” said Nneka Leiba, senior analyst with Environmental Working Group. While these may indeed be positive baby steps, the holistic-minded parents we have spoken to are not crying any more tears for Johnson & Johnson. In fact, they're flat out disgusted. Looming questions about the brand's integrity, transparency, and trustworthiness remain. And even with these baby steps, parents are wondering why even small amounts of 1,4 dioxane will remain in the products and why parabens will continue to be used in the reformulations.

Trust in corporate America has indeed imploded. Scandal after scandal, combined with access to resources, information, and social media, have raised the level of distrust among consumers to new levels. Corporate financial strength and stability are no longer the fodder of consumer trust. According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, "engagement-oriented behaviors that are more societal in nature, such as treating employees well, putting consumers ahead of profits, and transparency, are vital to building future trust."

This is most powerfully evident in the natural products industry. Holistic Moms are not interested in brands who do not have a sincere commitment to health, wellness, and sustainability. Nor do they want to support brands pumping out "greener" versions of highly toxic products for our families. Instead, they want integrity and transparency to a degree many brands are not willing to provide.

Fortunately for Holistic Moms, there are companies and products who will meet their standards. Among them are our select Sponsors, including Earth Mama Angel Baby whose Angel Baby Shampoo was recently ranked "Best for Baby" by ecosalon. Not only are the ingredients natural and non-toxic, but the brand itself is dedicated to using "the highest-quality, certified-organic or organically grown herbs and oils for our teas, bath herbs, gentle handmade soaps, salves, lotions
and massage oils. Our products are 100% free of toxins, cruelty-free, gluten-free, vegan, and free from all artificial preservatives, fragrances and dyes."

When industry giants face this tidal shift, it will indeed be overwhelming. But those companies who have built their foundation on a truly natural, organic platform and positioned to gain trust in a way that much of traditional corporate American can no longer attain.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Too Tired to Be Green

There are days when you’re just too tired. Too tired to walk out to the compost pile. Too tired to wash the cloth diapers that are piling up. Too tired to pull the weeds from your organic garden. Too tired to be green.

Why? Because you’re a parent. Parenting is some seriously exhausting work. And there are days where whipping up a healthy, sustainable meal seems unachievable. When you forgo the farmer’s market for convenience food. When you just want to have it easy.

Does that preclude you from making positive change? Of course not! We are all entitled to our lapses and reality checks. Being a parent provides more than enough challenges. For holistic-minded parents, it can be a double-edge sword. The health and well-being of our families is exactly the incentive and motivation we need to live greener and more sustainably. But the sheer volume of energy that parenting demands leaves us with fewer and fewer resources to achieve our goals. What’s a tired holistic-minded mom or dad to do?

First, take baby steps. Whatever changes you are trying to make to live healthier or greener, take them one step at a time. The more radical the change, the slower you may have to go. When you are juggling too many new tasks or habit it’s like a house of cards – just one more and then entire effort can come falling down. Commit to one change until it feels routine and then take the next step.

Be prepared. Stock your home with things that will make green living easier, even when life seems overwhelming. Match up a few batches of non-toxic cleaners and stock them in your cabinet for little spills and big messes. Keep organic versions of convenience foods on hand for those times when things get crazy. Or better yet, cook extra whenever you have the time and freeze or store accordingly, for future use.

Lose the guilt. Feel guilty about not living up to our own ideals is not only self-defeating but often creates a downward spiral. Once you feel bad, you simply start throwing in the towel (and paper towels at that!). Acknowledge that you are always doing the best you can in the moment with the resources that you have. When calm returns, think about what you can pre-plan or prep to keep you on track for achieving your goals, even when stress or unexpected events come your way.

Fill your own cup. When you have down time, sleep, eat well, or make time for exercise, it’s easier to handle all of life’s challenges. And it’s easier to take on the prospect of making positive changes. Connect with friends or a local support network to help stay on track and to address your own needs. Social connection can make a world of difference!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lightning Strikes vs. Natural Health Products

Curious about natural health? Intrigued by herbal and nutritional supplements? Or perhaps you have already embraced natural living. You take vitamins, food supplements, even herbal remedies. But your conventionally-minded friends and family gasp "Is it safe?"

It's fascinating what we perceive as safe and trustworthy and what we don't. In American culture, lab-manufactured products, particularly by doctors and scientists, seem to garner far more trust that those created by Mother Nature. Interestingly, there is in fact a much greater risk of death associated with the use of pharmaceutical drugs than there is in using natural food supplements. Although the WHO "estimates that about 60% of the world’s people uses herbal medicine for treating their sicknesses," those in Western culture still tend to perceive natural supplements as risky.

A new study released by the Alliance for Natural Health gathered data on potential risk assessments of death from a wide range of causes, from lightning strikes and motorcycle accidents, to smoking and asbestos exposure for individuals in the UK. The data should put the fears of your friends and family members to rest. For example, UK individuals were "797,940 times more likely to die from smoking than from taking a food supplement." Winding up in a UK hospital posed a similar death risk as a tour of active military service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Individuals were 36,625 more likely to die from preventable medical injuries than from taking an herbal medicine. Overall, residents of the UK were "about as likely to be hit by lightning" as they were to "die from taking herbal remedies or dietary supplements."

Interesting as well is a 2008 report that shows that just 35% of those surveyed on behalf of the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had ever used herbal remedies, with the largest participating group being women. Although 6 in 10 respondents felt that herbal remedies were safe, only 40% believed that they were safe because they were "natural".

Perhaps the new risk assessment report will help alleviate some of the safety concerns for holistic remedies and empower more people - and particularly women, who spend 2/3 of healthcare dollars - to embrace alternative remedies. Researchers are working on expanding their data results across the European Union to assess individual risk further. In the meantime, it's safe to say that herbal and food supplements pose minimal risk for most of us.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Breastfeeding in the US

This week we are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week at the Holistic Moms Network. We kicked off the week with an amazing Breastfeeding Twitter Party to show support to the tune of 20 million impressions! There are indeed reasons to be optimistic about breastfeeding in America. And yet, some of the current statistics are more than a little disappointing - and challenge us to come together to build new solutions.

According to the CDC's Breastfeeding Report Card for 2011, 74.6% of babies are ever breastfed here in the United States. By 6 months of age, the percentage breastfed drops to 44.3%, by one year it's just 23.8%. Although the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, just 14.8% of American babies reach that goal. States with the lowest percentage of babies ever breastfed include Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Those with the highest percentages of ever breastfed babies are California, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, each with percentages over 85%.

What other factors seem to correlate with these "ever breastfed" rates? The CDC report does not offer as clear an answer as we might hope. Among the top four states for ever breastfeeding, the percent of live births occurring at Baby Friendly Facilities ranges from a low of 3.22% (VT) to a high of 14.49% (CA). The number of IBCLCs per 1,000 live births also varies from 11.13 (VT) to 2.73 (CA). California, however, has an outstanding number of FTE's (Full-Time Equivalents) or "professionals dedicated to the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding." In each of the top four states, the percentage of breastfed infants receiving formula before 2 days of age remains below 25%, with Vermont at the lowest level with just 8.5% receiving formula. Sadly, the percentage of live births occurring at Baby Friendly Facilities is 0 (yes, zero) for 20 states, according to the CDC: AL, AZ, AR, DE, DC, GA, IA, KS, LA, MD, MI, MS, NV, NJ, NM, ND, OK, SC, SD, and WV.

Of course, the CDC report does not tell the whole picture. Cultural and social obstacles to breastfeeding, workplace policies and legislation, and statistics among home-birthing parents are not addressed in these figures. What the CDC report does show, however, is that an effective strategy for promoting breastfeeding must tackle issues on several fronts, including mother-to-mother support, health department and government policies and action, access to professional lactation consultants, exposure to breastmilk substitutes and more.

This week, it is important for all of us to engage our strategies, share our passions, and brainstorm together to help achieve our sharing objective of protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding - for now and for the future. There are many fronts to address the challenges, but the rewards will last many lifetimes.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Breastfeeding and Social Change: Share Your Voice!

It has been an interesting year for breastfeeding advocates. There have been highs, such as the State of Massachusetts banning formula samples in hospitals, and lows, including the backlash from the now infamous Time Magazine extended-breastfeeding cover photo. Breastfeeding moms continue to be asked to cover up, go elsewhere, or consider weaning their “older” children. Women still lack many rights when it comes to nursing. But what we see in all of this is a wealth of conversation and a groundswell of connection among people striving to normalize breastfeeding.

What makes this groundswell possible? Community. Real community. Connecting – both in person and online – make people more able to affect social change. The act of gathering is in and of itself transformative and when we connect, face-to-face and virtually, our common ground is found and we can share ideas, create action plans, support each other, and literally create a cultural and social shift.

Virtual community has been radically transformed in the past decade by technology and through the evolution of such social media networks as Twitter. Globally, millions of people can share information and ideas instantaneously in powerful ways. As Malcolm Gladwell noted in The New Yorker, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter may well be “our greatest source of new ideas and information.” Raising awareness is undoubtedly the first step in evoking change. Social media and virtual networks enable us to engage in awareness-raising, the goals of which “is to build understanding in the wider community . . . to highlight your work and its importance, and to persuade others to become involved as concerned individuals, allies and activists themselves.” The downside to social networks, however, is the superficial level of engagement. People may flock to causes and networks online because the level of participation and the action required to do so is so minimal. “Social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires,” argues Gladwell. Engaging in real life communities, such as the Holistic Moms Network, is what moves people beyond low-level participation into a higher level of social activism.

And yet it is the level of “weak-tie” engagement which lays the foundation for activism and thus is a necessary and vital tool for creating change. Low-level virtual connection makes in-real-life engagement more possible by exposing the channels, resources, and communities that exist to build stronger levels of interaction and foster action. By showing the power of our virtual community and “normalizing” the goals and importance of an issue, we can begin to affect social change.

On the cusp of World Breastfeeding Week we plan to do just that. On Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 the Holistic Moms Network, along with our Sponsors Divine Mama Bars, Earth Mama Angel Baby, and Motherlove will host our second annual World’s Biggest Breastfeeding Twitter Party at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT, #HolisticMoms, #Breastfeeding. By gathering the supporters of breastfeeding, the parents, organizations, professionals, agencies, and activists into a virtual community event, we can help to normalize breastfeeding, raise awareness, and build weak-tie connections to pave the road for stronger activism and change. Simple participation is all that is needed to showcase the support and power for normalizing breastfeeding. But real action comes when we strengthen those weak-ties and connect with those who are also engaging, building a format for collective action.

Join us and be heard! And then take your knowledge and connections into a plan for action. Join us on Twitter and then dive into World Breastfeeding Week with the passion and commitment we need to make powerful change!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Diabetes and Phthalates

What is your daily beauty routine? Does it look like a tidal wave of chemicals? Probably not to you. But that may be exactly what it is.

The average woman uses as many as 515 chemicals on her body in her daily beauty and makeup routine. Yes, 515. From SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate) in her shampoo to Propylene Glycol in her deodorant, the exposure is staggering. Many (if not most) of these chemicals have been implicated in a wide range of health concerns, from cancer to hormone disruption and infertility. Although the powers-that-be claim that these chemicals are safe in such small doses, what exactly does daily exposure over a lifespan add up to? That may just be the million dollar question.

Now a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives adds another concern to list. Researchers James-Todd et al. have discovered that women with even low levels of phthalates in their bodies have an increased risk of diabetes and insulin resistance. Those with the highest level of phthalates had nearly double the the odds of diabetes.

Phthalates are "plasticizers", according to the Environmental Working Group, and have long been know to disrupt the endocrine system. Phthalates help lotions feel smooth and silky, and give cosmetics such as mascara flexibility. They are commonly found in many cosmetics, including popular brands of nail polish, fragrances, and hair sprays, among others. Although some brands have begun to phase out phthalates in response to health concerns, many have continued to ignore the warnings. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report "A Little Prettier" tested a sample of these brands, with mixed results.

What you can do: read your labels! Understanding natural beauty products is essential for making healthy choices for you and for your family. Know the risks and use your power as a consumer to support brands and products that are safe and non-toxic.

Want to learn more? Join us at the 2012 Natural Living Conference on Saturday, October 13th in Chicago. Natural beauty expert Todra Payne will conduct a workshop on Understanding Beauty Labels to help guide you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Little Changes Matter

Some days it's easy to be in this green/holistic space and feel nothing but overwhelm. Juggling work, kids, family life, and more means we don't always opt for the greenest, healthiest, or most sustainable choices. And the day itself can be filled with more choices than we like. A hectic morning start with a fussy child can mean we opt for convenience just to get out the door. And, if we are just starting our journey into living greener and healthier, those choices may seem foreign and harder to adapt to. It's easy to feel like we're not doing enough. And then to feel guilty.

What we need to do, no matter where we are on the journey, is to step back and appreciate the little successes we have each day. Even the small choices matter - for us and for our families. Maybe our workout went out the window when life got busy, but playing outdoors with the kids means we broke a sweat and got some exercise. Perhaps cold cereal helped us get everyone off to school or camp, but a green smoothie later on helped ramp up the nutrition for the day. How can you take baby steps to wellness each day that matter? Here are some simple things you can do - and celebrate - to assure your success:

An organic apple a day (in season, of course). Americans love apples. But according to the Wall Street Journal, 98% of apples in a recent test showed positive results for pesticide residue. Traces of 48 different pesticides were found in the sample, including 5 unapproved pesticides. Samples were taken after "washing" under cold water for 10 seconds, to mimic common household practices, and then tested for pesticides. The numbers are not pretty. What you can do: go organic. Feel good each day by swapping out your conventional apples with organic ones. Simple and satisfying. No guilt.

Use one reusable bag a day. We all know plastic is bad for the environment. But how much energy do you save by using just one reusable bag instead of a plastic one? It takes approximately 0.5 megajoules to create and dispose of just one plastic bag. Every two days, you can save one megajoule of energy. What does that mean? One megajoule is enough energy to power a 100 watt lightbulb for a little over 2 hours 45 minutes. One megajoule is approximately the amount of energy an adult man burns, on average, in 3-4 hours. That's quite a bit of energy for one bag. Not to mention what you are saving from the landfill.

Take a 10 minute walk. Sure, an hour of power pumping at the gym would be fabulous. But perhaps that doesn't fit into your schedule. Try a brisk 10 minute walk. Or a few. Just 10 minutes of brisk walking each day can burn off the calories in one small chocolate chip cookie, not to mention improve your fitness level and overall health. If you can take more than one 10 minute walk each day, even better. With a little one in a sling or stroller, you can go 10 minutes without too much fuss.

Buy local. Whether shopping in a supermarket or browsing your farmer's market, you can make a big difference each day by buying local. The average head of spinach or bunch of carrots travels 1,800 miles to get to your table. Because of food miles (the distance our food travels), "we currently consume 20 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce two calories of food energy." The closer to home, the better for us and for the planet.

Find something simple you can do each day on your natural living journey and lose the guilt. Holistic living is about making the best choices we can for healthy, sustainable living. Sometimes the big things aren't possible but even baby steps have an impact!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cultivating Independence

"Mommy, I do it." These simple words can be the start of an exciting moment or the prelude to a power struggle or potential meltdown. From toddlers to adults, our kids want our support but also need to discover how to do things independently. One of the biggest challenges for a parent is knowing when to step back and let your child figure it out for herself. We want to step in, make it easier, and use opportunities as "teaching moments". But sometimes, we just need to stand down.

Cultivating independence is a learning experience for both parents and kids. From infancy on, we can find little steps that we can take to give our children room to grow and develop, while at the same time helping them to feel empowered and build a sense of self-confidence. How can we help our children become more independent? Here are some simple ideas to set them on their own paths:

Allow your child to experience frustration. Allow your child to fail. We tend to live in a praise-heavy culture where "good job" and awards have become meaningless. School coaches hand out medals just for showing up and gold stars pop up everywhere. Over-praising and working to "guarantee" success present their own challenges. Children need to try - and to fail. If we allow children the experience of frustration, we give them the opportunity to problem solve. We give them the chance to dig deeper, try harder. We also allow them to fail and to realize that failure doesn't define them, nor does it mean complete destruction. It is very difficult for us, as parents, to watch our children struggle and fail, but we need to remind ourselves of the power and sense of accomplishment your child will feel when the task has been conquered or achieved.

Give your child unscheduled time.
Make room for free play. Do you hear "I'm bored" all too often? Are you kids used to a hectic schedule of school, sports, activities, and playdates? Free time gives children a chance to explore and to learn independent play. Kids who can choose how to spend their time will learn to venture into new territories, explore their imagination, and develop their creativity. Passive entertainment is not going to build their independence. Get them outside to explore the world, let them pick a book to get lost in, or provide them with creative outlets where they can put their independent thoughts into action.

Honor your children. Honoring our own parents is not about blindly accepting all of their choices or beliefs, but about treating them with respect. The same goes for our children. Honor their voices and opinions. Get on their level when you speak with them and take their thoughts and ideas to heart. Validate their feelings and allow them to express their emotions openly and to work through them, even when they are not pleasant. Children who are validated will build self-confidence and will learn to manage a wide range of emotions and moods throughout life, without seeking outside influences for confirmation.

Giving your children room to grow and develop a sense of personal independence is one of the greatest things we can give our children. Happy Independence Day indeed!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Don’t Use Your Words

A Guest Post by Sarah MacLaughlin, Holistic Moms Network member and author of the award-winning book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children.

"Use your words,” is an oft-repeated request in U.S. households and schools these days. Maybe it is a step up from yelling “Stop hitting your sister/friend,” but it’s probably not the most effective route if you want to teach conflict resolution skills and emotional literacy. More on that later. First, a little about how you, as the grown-up, can improve your communication skills with less words. A forty year-old study by Dr. Albert Mehrabian showed that much of communication is nonverbal. That’s certainly worth paying attention to!

So try not using your words. And don’t ask children to use them either. You first—here’s a few ideas for responding to children without any words at all.

Use your body. When you are working with young children, keep in mind how much smaller and shorter than you they are. My motto has always been: “Get low and stay low.” You can also use your physical self to stop problems before or as they are happening. Step between the children who are in conflict, crouch down and make eye contact with each one. Place your hand on a child’s shoulder to keep them from careening toward another. Cup your hand between the biter and the one about to receive.

Use body language and facial expression. Sometimes we overworked and stressed-out grown-ups don’t keep tabs on our facial and body language. Thinking about our own problems can leave us with arms crossed and a grimace on our face—and we don’t even know it! Stay mindful of what your expression might look like. Children often interpret a furrowed brow or blank face as an angry one. Keeping your body relaxed and a smile on your face may be the easiest invitation for cooperation you’ve got! You can also send a quick message by shrugging shoulders or putting up your hand in a “stop” gesture.

Use touch. In our litigious society, we have become very “hand-off,” and not necessarily to the benefit of our young ones. While children should be taught the difference between good, bad, and scary touch, they should not be left untouched. A pat on the shoulder, a hug, or rub on the back can convey understanding and encouragement. It is, however, best practice to ask first if you are working with, or taking care of, children that are not your own.

A last tip from Dr. Mehrabian is to pay attention to your tone. While words alone have the least impact, the clearest message can be sent and received when our tone, body language and words, all match. This means that you shouldn’t add a question mark, or even a questioning tone to a directive statement. Refraining from using sarcasm is also a good idea. Kids don’t get it and it can be quite insulting. Try to aim for a warm, engaging tone. When you need an authoritative or attention-getting tone for safety purposes, it will have more impact if it has not already been well used.

And why not ask a child to “use their words?” First of all, it’s become a pat statement, much like, “good job.” It’s just not specific enough. Plus, it doesn’t honor the fact that she would be using her words if she was capable of doing so. Typically children are hitting, or grabbing, or yanking in the scenario where you request words. Please assume that if they had it in them to share their feelings verbally, ask before taking, or ask for a turn, they would have already done so. When they don’t, for whatever reason, it is a signal to you that they require guidance in this area. Offer this guidance kindly, and see what happens.

When you use your words, say, “I’m going to help keep everyone here safe,” “Looks like you want a turn, let’s ask your sister about that,” or “Please come back and check in with your friend.” Or use one of the nonverbal suggestions above. You won’t have to say a thing.


Special Giveaway!

Please comment on this post about using or not using your words with your child, so that you can enter to win an ebook copy of What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children, in the format of your choice: PDF, epub, or Kindle format. Sarah will be giving away one copy at each blog stop and will announce it on the comments of this post at the end of the week. (Other stops during this Blog Tour are listed on Sarah's blog here: http://sarahsbalancingact.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html) Be sure to leave your email so we can contact you in case you're the winner!

Also, be sure to enter at Sarah's site (http://sarahsbalancingact.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html) for the Grand Prize Giveaway: a Kindle Touch. Winner will be announced at the end of the tour after July 15th.

About The Author

Sarah MacLaughlin has worked with children and families for over twenty years. With a background in early childhood education, she has previously been both a preschool teacher and nanny. Currently, Sarah works as a licensed social worker with foster families at The Opportunity Alliance in South Portland, Maine.

She also teaches parenting classes and consults with families. In addition, Sarah serves on the board of Birth Roots, a perinatal resource center, and writes the "Parenting Toolbox" column for a local parenting newspaper, Parent & Family.

As reflected in her book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children, Sarah considers it her life's work to promote happy, well-adjusted people by increasing awareness of how children are spoken to today.

In a busy modern life, while Sarah juggles her son, her job, her husband, her family, and time for herself, she's also aiming for: mindful parenting, meaningful work, joyful marriage, connected family, and radical self-care. She is mom to a young son who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice about What Not to Say. More information about Sarah and her work can be found at http://www.saramaclaughlin.com.