When it comes to germs, are you a pacifist or warmonger?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a live and let live kinda girl – a pacifist if you will. For the most part that philosophy carries over to germs too. I don’t obsessive-compulsively clean my house (ha! far from it.). I don’t carry around antibacterial hand sanitizer. I don’t worry about my kids washing their hands after playing outside. I don’t balk about them being around another kid with the sniffles. I don’t buy antibacterial soap (although it’s almost impossible to find one that’s not these days!), nor do I own a bottle of Lysol. I figure it’s good for their immune systems to be challenged (in moderation) on a regular basis so that they build up immunities and their bodies learn how to fight infection. Heck, even the New York Times agrees A Little Dirt is Good for You (a very interesting read by the way).

Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg
Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg

For the most part, we live pretty healthy lives. Sure we get a cold every now and then, but true knock-you-on-your-butt-kind-of-illnesses are pretty rare in this house. That is until a couple of weeks ago.

A little over two weeks ago Ava started out with a cough, congestion and runny nose and a few days later the rest of us followed suit. Runny, stuffy noses, coughs, and the phlegm, oh, the phlegm! I ended up having to go to the doctor because the mucus I was trying to cough up was so thick it was lodging in my throat and I was having serious difficulty breathing. (How’s that for anxiety producing?! Like I needed help in that regard.) I started taking a prescribed drug to help thin up my mucus and began drinking a whole lot more water. I also took some homeopathic and herbal remedies (Cold Care, Kick-Ass Immune Activator, and Lymph Mover, just to name a few), as well as gave some to the kids (Elderberry Syrup, Cough Control, Sinus Relief). Jody (who’s not as concerned about treating himself using natural remedies) started on his own regimen of OTC (over the counter) meds. We also cut dairy out of our diets, were taking our vitamins and probiotics, drinking tons of tea and water as well as some fruit and veggie smoothies and kombucha, and even trying hot toddies (Jody and I, not the kids). Nobody was showing signs of getting better. There’s nothing like waking up day after day expecting to feel some improvement, like you are finally on the road to recovery, and then realizing you feel just as crappy and worn down as the day before. It gets old.

Finally, after two weeks of coughing and a runny nose, Ava is mostly recovered. Jody, Julian and I however are still fighting it and, on top of the crud, Jody and Julian developed the stomach flu today. (!!!) Nothing like getting hit when you’re down, eh? Ugh. But Ava’s recovery gives me hope that the other three of us will, at some point, hopefully in the next few days (pretty please??), recover from it too (and also reassures me that it’s likely a viral infection – which is what my doctor suspected – and not bacterial so antibiotics would be useless at this point).

This is, by far, the worst and longest we’ve all been sick at the same time and, seeing how many of my friends and their kids, both locally and elsewhere in the country, are suffering from illnesses lately as well, makes me wonder what the heck is going on? Could these be some type of superbugs or at least new viruses unlike any we’ve seen before? Is my lackadaisical attitude towards germs now biting me in the butt? Should I be arming myself with Lysol and spraying my house into a toxic-smelling box of germ-killing goodness? Of course that goes against everything I just said and would definitely contribute to the whole superbug phenomenon. Is there a fine line – a balance between the two?

How do you handle germs in your house? Are you a pacifist or a warmonger? And when the ickies do infiltrate your home, what methods do you use to get them out and everyone healthy again? I’m not reaching for the Lysol yet, but the longer this goes on, the more tempted I get.

Questioning Earth Hour and a reminder to beware the candles

It’s that time of year again. Earth Hour 2009 will be celebrated from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. (your local time zone) this Saturday, March 28.

Last year I wrote about Earth Hour and asked everyone to participate and turn off his/her lights for just one hour. I also gave tips for making it a fun family event, and, without giving it too much thought, suggested lighting candles as an alternate lighting source. The problem with this idea has come to my attention since then on more than one occasion, but most recently Crunchy Chicken wrote about the negative impact of paraffin candles in her Earth Hour bashing post.

For those of you not intimately knowledgeable about standard paraffin candles, paraffin is essentially hydrocarbon, or a heavy alkane fraction distilled straight from crude oil. Even if 80% of your electricity comes from coal and fossil fuel fired power stations, burning candles is very polluting and certainly very greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions intensive, even more so than electric lighting. In other words, for every paraffin candle that is burned to replace electric lighting during Earth Hour, greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the one hour are increased by 9.8 g of carbon dioxide.

That’s a rather disturbing thought, no?

She continues,

Beeswax candles, on the other hand, can be considered “carbon neutral” in the sense that, even though it produces carbon dioxide when burned, it’s carbon that is naturally cycled through the ecospheric carbon cycle – not from fossil fuel.

So if you do plan on burning candles this year while participating in Earth Hour (or really if you plan to burn candles at all anytime), please make sure they are beeswax candles. An even better option though is to just hang out in the dark for an hour. :)

Aside from the candle issue, I have to admit I’m torn on the efficacy of Earth Hour. While I believe it has the power to affect change, I think if people, businesses, corporations and governments just do this one thing – turn out their lights for one hour – without changing any other of their habits, it’s really moot. And I question how many people are doing it just to be a part of something trendy and make themselves feel good. Turning out our lights for an hour isn’t going to solve global warming. However, if everyone uses Earth Hour as a springboard to take another step and another step and find little changes they can make to live greener and more sustainably, then it’s a great thing.

I’m trying to lean towards optimism rather than pessimism and keep the hope that each and every person who participates in Earth Hour is not doing it just to pat them self on the back for one evening, but that he/she realizes this is only the first step of many (MANY!!) to make a real difference in the future of our Earth.

Like I said in my post last year,

Earth Hour doesn’t have to end at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, you can incorporate it into your everyday life by doing little things like:

  • turn off lights when you leave a room;
  • switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs;
  • turn off appliances when not in use;
  • unplug things like cell phone chargers, the toaster, microwave and TV when they aren’t in use;
  • use less hot water;
  • switch to green power.

So what say you? Are you in? And what steps do you/will you take beyond turning off your lights on Saturday night?

And suddenly I’m a soccer mom

It seems like just yesterday Ava was small enough to fit into my arms, but this weekend my baby girl had her first soccer game. And just like that – I’m a soccer mom (and wife to a soccer coach to boot!). ;)

I don’t know if I look like a soccer mom. What do soccer moms look like anyway? I’d take a pic of myself and let you make the call, but since we’ve all been sick with some nasty colds the past several days and I haven’t had a haircut in months and may now be sporting a mullet (gah!) and thus am hardly feeling photogenic at the moment, I think I’ll pass. ;oP

Anyway, Ava and daddy had their first soccer game this weekend. The kids were up against a much more experienced team and while they weren’t able to pull off even one goal (bummer), they had fun and I had a good time watching them and snapping pics (I even dusted off my SLR for the occasion) until a certain little someone pulled me away to the playground. ;)

This is how we’ll be spending our Saturdays for the next eight weeks and that brings a smile to my face.

Here are some pics of my little soccer player (in the purple pants) and coach hubby (with the shaved head and the green shirt). Mouse over the pics for captions or click to enlarge.

I know I haven’t participated in a while (photography just hasn’t been in the cards for me lately), but I’m counting this as my Best Shot Monday post and choosing the last pic as my BSM for this week. For more Best Shot Monday pics, visit Mother May I.

Michelle Obama to grow White House organic victory garden

ABC News has reported the Obamas are going to plant a vegetable garden at the White House*. The New York Times also announced that work on the organic garden will begin as early as tomorrow when Michelle Obama, accompanied by 23 fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, will begin digging up a section of the White House lawn to begin planting. Although the 1,100 square foot garden, set to be located in the south grounds, will be out of the main view of the house, it will still be visible to the public on E Street.

First Lady Michelle Obama recently told Oprah‘s O magazine about her garden plans:

We want to use it as a point of education, to talk about health and how delicious it is to eat fresh food, and how you can take that food and make it part of a healthy diet. You know, the tomato that’s from your garden tastes very different from one that isn’t. And peas – what is it like to eat peas in season? So we want the White House to be a place of education and awareness. And hopefully kids will be interested because there are kids living here.

Who will take care of the garden?
In addition to the White House grounds crew and kitchen staff, Michelle mentioned to The New York Times that nearly all family members will play a part in maintaining the garden.

Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said laughing. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

What will they grow?
The 1,100 square foot plot will feature a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits to include 55 varieties of vegetables, a patch of berries and two bee hives for honey. The organic seedlings will be started at the executive mansion’s greenhouses. “Total cost for the seeds, mulch, etc., is $200.”

The organic garden will feature raised beds “fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs.”

Organic seedlings? White House compost? Natural pest control? I’m sorry, but I know I’m not the only one who is absolutely ecstatic over all of this?! :)

In fact, groups like Eat The View and The WHO (White House Organic) Farm, as well as author Michael Pollan and chef Alice Waters, have been advocating for a White House garden pretty much from the time President Barack Obama was inaugurated and I bet they are all whooping it up right about now.

What will they do with all of that food?
Eat it, of course. The White House chefs will be planning the menu around the garden. Eating locally and in season? Aiiiieee! Be still my heart!

This is not the first time a vegetable garden has been planted at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Eleanor Roosevelt had a Victory Garden planted in 1943 during World War II and there were gardens before that as well.

Hopefully the Obama’s new garden will inspire the people of our country to begin growing even little bits of their own food. Gardens come in all shapes and sizes – from little pots in a window, to bigger pots on a balcony or porch, to a little raised bed in the sunny spot in your backyard, to a community garden plot, to a much bigger plot. Every little bit helps us live more sustainably, protect our food supply, and reduce our carbon footprint. Perhaps sweetest of all, food grown in your own backyard tastes so much better because it’s fresh and hasn’t made a week or two-week long journey half-way around the world!

What do you think? Will the new victory garden start a resurgence in gardening in America? Has that resurgence already begun? Have you planted a garden in the past? If not, do you plan on it this year?

*Thanks to Nature Deva for the tip-off!

BlogHer 2009 or bust???*

BlogHer '09 In Real Life
*Alternately titled: My Neuroses About BlogHer
Last year, as a blogging friend of mine and I sat at home on our computers attending BlogHer in Second Life instead BlogHer in real life in San Francisco, we made a pact that we would do whatever it takes to get us to the BlogHer Conference in 2009. Neither of us have yet to experience the awesomeness that is the BlogHer conferences. Sure, last year we participated in some of the BlogHer in Second Life events and that was a lot of fun, but nothing, I can only imagine, like actually attending the conference IN REAL LIFE, WITH REAL WOMEN.

Unfortunately, life circumstances beyond her control have made it difficult if not impossible for my friend to attend BlogHer this year. I really wanted to go with her, but I understand that there’s just not anything she can do to change it for this year.

I, on the other hand, was told yesterday that CEs (BlogHer contributing editors) had just one day left to register for the conference. Still unsure whether or not I would make it to Chicago in July, I filled out my registration, held my breath, and hit send. For all intents and purposes I could be at BlogHer in July. I’m now registered! But I can’t say with 100% certainty that I will be there.

I’m still working on some health issues and while I’m definitely seeing improvement and am pretty sure I will be doing a lot better by July, it’s always a crap shoot, ya know?

Also, due to the fact that my good friend can’t attend, I have no idea who I could room with. I wanted to stay with someone I’ve known in person, who really knows me (more than just what I put out on my blog). That’s not an option at this point, so what do I do? Post a BlogHer roomie want-ad and hope that I get someone I’m compatible with? Am I making too big of a deal out of the roomie situation? Does who you room with really matter?

I worry too that going without a close friend will leave me to fend for myself, something I’m not the best at doing. I’ve never been a social butterfly. I worry that everyone will already have their groups of friends they hang out with and that I won’t find a group to be a part of. Again, it’s probably silly, right? But it’s a fear of mine nonetheless.

My other concern is over how my son (who will be 2 1/2 at the time) will do without na-na (nursing) for the several days I’ll be gone. It will be my first time ever being away from my kids overnight. We’re working on night weaning with Julian right now and I don’t think that will be an issue come July, but what about nursing during the day? Maybe he’ll decide he’s done while I’m gone. Maybe that will be OK. Maybe he will start back up again when I return. Oh, there are so many questions.

And then there’s the question of how will I pay for my trip? Should I try to secure a sponsor or two to help with airfare and hotel? It certainly would make going a lot easier if I had some help paying for it. It all just seems so overwhelming.

I know, logically, that my kids will be fine, that my husband Jody is totally capable of caring for them in my absence. I know too that I could be fine at BlogHer. I might be nervous. There might be some uncomfortable moments for me, but I think that overall it would be an amazing experience. I mean, that’s why I wanted to go in the first place, right? To experience the awesomeness of it all. To meet the many women I’ve corresponded with only virtually over my past 4 years of blogging. To learn more about writing and to be inspired to be a better blogger (something I could really use as of late).

So what do you all think? Am I up for a trip to Chicago this summer or should I just lock myself in a padded cell? Will you be there (at BlogHer, not in my cell)? Do you want to sponsor me? And does anyone need a roommate? ;)

Lastly, please welcome Crunchy Domestic Goddess’s newest advertiser Turtle Park Tots. Jennifer, the owner of Turtle Park Tots, is a mom of two boys (similar in age to my two kids) and lives near me in Denver. Please stop by and check out her selection of organic bibs, changing pads, and baby and toddler blankets.

Whole Wheat Honey Pizza Dough Recipe

I got this delicious whole wheat honey pizza dough recipe from my friend *Heather (A Mama’s Blog) a few months ago and have been enjoying it regularly ever since. It’s quick, easy and sooooo good. My family loves it too!

Whole Wheat Honey Pizza Dough

4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 tablespoons honey
2 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix yeast, water and honey and let stand 5 min.

Combine flour through cornmeal in a large bowl.

Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir up a bit, then add in olive oil. Knead until everything is well combined. If it seems a little dry, you can add a bit more water at this point, but I don’t generally need to.

Cover dough in a bowl with a towel in a warm place for 30 min.

Punch down and roll out dough, add toppings and bake @ 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done.

Makes enough dough to cover one whole cookie sheet (which is what I do) or (probably) two round pizza pans. I usually end up with a little extra dough too that the kids like to roll into balls and eat or last night I used the extra dough to make a big cinnamon roll for the family to share for dessert.


* Recipe adapted from MyRecipes

Note: You should be able to use more wheat flour and less AP flour, but you might need to adjust other ingredients (like add more oil) to make the consistency work.