I’m going to ShiftCon

Two weeks from today I’ll be in Los Angeles to attend the first ever ShiftCon — an eco-wellness social media conference. The focus of ShiftCon is health, wellness and the environment — three of my biggest passions! I wasn’t sure about going at first since I haven’t been as big a part of the blogging world as I used to be, but when a wait-list ticket opened up several weeks ago, I decided to throw caution to the wind and bought my ticket. Not only that, my husband Jody and I decided to make it into a short family vacation so the four of us are all heading to LA!

ShiftCon

I’m excited to participate in ShiftCon for many reasons including that some of my old blogging buddies will be there and especially because the focus is on topics that mean so much to me. “ShiftCon was created to give wellness and eco-friendly bloggers a place to network, share ideas, learn from experts, empower one another and organize their efforts into activism.” In addition to great content, inspirational speakers and health-conscious brands and sponsors, the food provided will be organic and/or GMO-free. How can I not get excited about that?!

Some of the workshops I’m particularly interested in include:

  • Living the Waste-free and Plastic-Free Life
  • The Future of Labeling GMOs
  • Real Food on a Budget
  • Pesticides — What You Need to Know
  • Why Are We So Allergic?

I’m sure I’ll be Tweeting and/or posting on Facebook about what I learn at the conference and plan to blog about it after the fact as well.

Are you going to ShiftCon? Let me know if I’ll see you there!

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Your Cash Register Receipt May Contain BPA

Disclosure: This post was created as part of the BPA in Receipts Campaign in which I am a financially compensated blogger. The opinions are my own and based on my own experience.

Cash register receipt

Keeping your family healthy and staying away from nasty chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) — a nasty endocrine disruptor — at the grocery store can be a daunting task. But there is new research (#ad) that shows that it’s not just the food that could contain BPA, it’s the cash register receipts as well. Specifically it’s the thermal register receipts that are the issue. That kind of paper feels really soft and slippery, because it’s made with BPA, a chemical that’s been banned or severely restricted in countries including Canada, France and China.

Ninety-four samples of cash register receipts were collected from 12 grocery store chains and analyzed for BPA. The receipts came from 82 stores in 66 cities and 17 states. Of the 94 samples that were analyzed, BPA was found to be present above the sample reporting limits in 27 of the samples. That’s 28.7% or over 1/4 of the samples that contained BPA. That might not seem like a huge number especially considering most people don’t handle receipts that often. However, if you think about the checkout clerks who are touching receipt after receipt as they hand them to the customers for eight or more hours per day, that adds up to a lot of BPA exposure.

Naturally Savvy reports:

Winn-Dixie, the grocery store chain popular in Southern states came in with the highest level of BPA concentrations above the sample reporting limits. All of the concentrations found on Winn Dixie receipts were above 1,000 mg. Ten Winn Dixie locations were sampled. Kroger and Safeway, the nation’s two largest grocery chains, also tested positive for high levels of BPA.

If you as a consumer want to avoid BPA in cash register receipts, you can simply refuse them, but I’m not sure what the answer is for the store clerks who have no choice but to handle them regularly. Perhaps wear gloves or better yet, get your company on board with using receipts without BPA.

Personally, I do most of my shopping at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage (it helps that it’s a couple blocks from my house) and I recall seeing a notice posted at each checkout counter that their receipts do NOT contain BPA. Hopefully more companies will follow suit.

Disclosure: This post was created as part of the BPA in Receipts Campaign in which I am a financially compensated blogger. The opinions are my own and based on my own experience.

Hannah’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Essential Oil Cookies

Pumpkin On Guard cookies
Perfect for fall, these gluten-free cookies are a little piece of awesome. Made with pumpkin, spices and a couple essential oils, they are sure to be a hit in any crowd. Bake them up and watch them disappear! A big thanks to my friend Hannah Gaitten for sharing this amazing recipe with me.

Gluten-Free Flour Blend
mix well and store in an airtight container
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup potato starch
1/2 cup almond flour (not meal)
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp xantham gum

Hannah’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Essential Oil Cookies

makes approx. 3 dozen cookies
Ingredients:
2 cups Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see above recipe)
1 1/2 cups sugar (sucanat or organic cane sugar)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 T cinnamon powder
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup butter OR coconut oil for dairy-free, melted
1/4 cup applesauce
1 egg
1 T vanilla extract
20 (+) drops *Protective Blend Essential Oil (this is the generic oil name)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 and prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
Mix wet ingredients until smooth in a large bowl.
Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix well until combined. Batter will be like cake batter — much thinner than cookie dough. If it is too thin to hold its shape once dropped on the cookie sheet, add more flour — 1/4 cup at a time — until the batter can hold its shape (but will not be stiff).
Drop cookies (about 1/8 cup/2 tablespoons each) 2 inches apart on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. You will have several batches to bake.
Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes — cookies will be soft but will have a matte finish, not glossy.

Frosting:
Powdered sugar
Butter or coconut oil, melted
Water or milk
Vanilla extract
*Wild Orange Essential Oil
Mix powdered sugar (make your own by blending sugar in a high-speed blender) with a little liquid (you can use milk, water, melted butter, coconut oil, vanilla extract) and Wild Orange Essential Oil. You can drizzle it over or smear it on the cookies. This frosting takes the cookies to a whole new level of yum!
Amy’s note: I used about 1 cup of powdered sugar with several tablespoons of melted coconut oil, a tablespoon of vanilla extract and enough water to get the right consistency, plus 10 drops Wild Orange EO.

Hannah notes that the cookies should NOT be stored in an airtight container as they will congeal together and form one giant cookie if you do. However, they can be frozen and thawed later, provided that you lay them flat and be sure they are not touching each other, in the freezer. Enjoy!

About the Oils:
(Please note: Due to recent FDA-regulations, I can no longer share on my blog the brand of oils I love and trust. If you’d like that information, please join my newsletter — link at the bottom — and I will happily share with you via email.)

Protective Blend Essential Oil

  • Ingredients: Cinnamon, Clove bud, Eucalyptus globulus, Rosemary, Wild Orange
  • This blend addresses: Bacteria, Immune system support, Mold, Topical disinfectant, Virus

Wild Orange

  • Properties: Antibacterial, Antidepressant, Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Antiseptic, Carminative, Choleretic, Digestive, Hypotensive, Sedative, Stimulant

*Please note that only high-quality essential oils should be ingested and they will be labeled as safe for ingestion — not all oils are.

Here is Hannah’s inspiration for this recipe, which calls for wheat flour.

If you are interested in learning more about how I got started on essential oils and some of my favorite oils and blends (here’s a hint: one of them is the Protective Blend), check out my essential oils page.

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My Unschooling Interview on Mile High Mamas

IMG_6605

A few weeks ago, I was honored to be interviewed about my family’s experiences with unschooling for the popular Denver-based blog, Mile High Mamas. In honor of back-to-school time, Mile High Mamas ran a three-part series featuring some non-traditional schooling methods including homeschooling, unschooling and a post about charter schools.

If you ever wanted to know more about how the kids and I go about our unschooling lives, what drew me to unschooling, my thoughts on getting into college, and my favorite things about unschooling, I encourage you to read my interview.

Have more questions for me about unschooling? Leave a comment and I may address them in a future post.

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Talking about Unschooling with Barb Lundgren

Barb Lundgren

I recently had the opportunity to attend a free talk about unschooling by Barb Lundgren, a mother to three (now) adult unschoolers. Barb is also the founder of the Rethinking Everything Conference and the editor of Home Education Magazine, devoted entirely to unschooling.

The talk was at the co-housing community of Nyland in Lafayette, Colo., and was facilitated by Leslie Potter of Pure Joy Parenting.

Barb Lundgren and Leslie Potter

I took some notes and would like to share a little bit about what I took away from the evening. It may seem a little disjointed, but I just wanted to put these thoughts “out there” for anyone who is interested in learning more about unschooling and/or how children raised with unschooling might “turn out.” Some of my thoughts which expand on Barb’s may be interspersed.

Regarding whether kids need to learn to do X, Y, or Z at a certain age

Traditional parenting assumes there is a certain time for each thing to happen in a child’s life. Unschooling, on the other hand, relies heavily on TRUST. You have to trust that your children will learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it.

  • It’s not uncommon for unschooled kids to learn to read later than kids who go to school. One of Barb’s sons didn’t learn to read until he was a teen. Once he did, however, he read the Lord of the Rings trilogy twice in about six weeks.
  • A boy attended a Sudbury School, where children are allowed do pursue whatever interests them. This boy was very interested in fishing and spent all of his time fishing and learning about fishing until he was 17. At age 17, his interests shifted. He left fishing behind and moved onto computers. He started his own computer software business and by age 21 sold it for $1 million.
  • John Holt, an educator and author who coined the term “unschooling” was asked, What do ALL kids need to know (in terms of academic measure)? His answer: Nothing.
  • This isn’t about academics, but is one of my own examples of kids learning to do something when they are ready. My kids were never interested in learning how to ride bikes. While many kids are on two wheels by age 5 or 6 or even 3 or 4, mine had no such interest. They rode their scooters and were plenty happy with them. Then all of a sudden this summer (at ages 7 and almost 10) they decided they wanted to learn to ride bikes. We got them each a bike (because they’d long outgrown the ones we got when we *thought* they’d learn to ride) and within about 5 minutes of my husband running up and down the street with them, they were doing it on their own. We’ve since gone for many a family bike ride.

Family bike ride
Like I said previously, unschooling is based on trust. It is about living life on our own terms. Barb said, “You have to believe your child is here to enjoy his life.”

Being free leads to responsibility and accountability.

On Control and Anger

The number one reason people experience anger is that they feel like they are being controlled. This applies to children as well as adults. Think about it this way: If someone (your spouse, for example) told you it was time to get off your computer and go to bed and you were in the middle of something that was important to you, how would that make you feel? You would want your spouse to support you, not tell you what to do when and how to live your life. Your child probably feels similarly. Try to put yourself in your child’s position. Think about how you would want to be treated. Perhaps there’s a way to talk about it kindly without demanding they follow your orders ASAP.

Irritation opens the door for communication. If one member of the family is doing something that bothers another, have a family meeting. Involve everybody. Discuss it. Come to consensual solutions.

On Video Games

Video gaming used to stress Barb when her children first started playing them, but then she made it into a challenge of sorts. Could she do better than the video game? She’d ask her kids questions like, “Who wants to go camping?” or say, “Let’s have a party.” That way she was still getting quality time with her kids.

If you miss your child because they are spending so much time on their computer, Xbox, etc., let them know. The next time they aren’t playing a game, tell them you miss them.

It may be reassuring to some parents that Barb’s kids no longer play video games or watch TV as adults, but they watched a lot of TV as teens. Of course that’s not to say that all kids will stop playing games or watching TV as adults.

On College

Because there is so much information available on the internet — between Google and YouTube, one can find the answer to most anything — the only reason college would be absolutely necessary is to become a traditional physician, an engineer or a lawyer.

Many unschoolers seek out entrepreneurial opportunities.

How Do Unschooled Kids Turn Out?

As mentioned previously, many unschoolers choose to forego college in pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities.

In Barb’s case, one of her children is now a business owner, one is an organic farmer and one is the founder of a sustainable community. Barb pointed out to me, however, that it’s impossible to duplicate another’s unschooling experience. She said, “Unschooling is successful and deeply satisfying when deeply listening and connecting to one another. That will produce radically different experiences for each.”

Interested in learning about what other grown unschoolers are doing? The blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write has a page called Unschooling Grows Up: A Collection of Interviews by grown unschoolers.

quote_Holt_made_to_learn

Final thoughts

Unschooling is based on TRUST. I can’t emphasize that enough.

You don’t have to feel secure in unschooling. You just need to “feel secure in loving your child.”

Barb’s book and website recommendations

  • Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear by Pam Leo
  • Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently–Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage by Kyle Pruett, MD and Marsha Pruett, MD
  • Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood by A.S. Neill
  • Enjoy Parenting by Scott Noelle

More thoughts from Barb can be found here:

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I am a runner, but I wasn’t always…

If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.Priscilla Welch

Loathing Running from an Early Age

Over a year ago, when I was considering adding some form of exercise into my life, my well-intentioned friend Rebecca — a runner — suggested that I start running. I told her I’d only run “if someone was chasing me with a knife.” And I kind of meant it.

I’d hated running since high school freshman gym class when — at the end of the semester — we had to run “the mile.” The distance of a mile seemed impossibly long and I dreaded it for months. After grudgingly completing it, I remember getting terrible shin splints, probably due to running in my Keds. They were very painful and took a long time to heal. So yeah, it was easy for me to decide running was NOT my thing. I’d rather do just about anything than run.

Catalyst for Change

Fast forward 20+ years (OMG) to July 2013. My local unschooling group planned a moms’ night out that included a hike of Mount Sanitas in Boulder. Hiking is something I usually enjoy so I was up for it, even though I was a little nervous since it was a 3.1 mile moderate to strenuous hike with +1,323′ net elevation gain. While I eventually made it to the summit that evening, that hike showed me that I was in terrible shape. I had to stop to rest several times along the trail and even felt light-headed and needed to sit down and eat an energy bar along the way. It was kind of discouraging to find out I was so out of shape, but it was also the kick in the pants I needed to start doing something about it.

I decided that come what may, I was going to give running a try. If other friends could do it and enjoy it, maybe I could too. I wasn’t sure how due to my history, but I was open to it. Instead of doing a couch to 5K program (which I had tried and failed at in the past), I decided I would just put one foot in front of the other and follow my body’s cues. If I felt like I could run, I would run. If I needed to walk, I would walk.

My daughter Ava helped me pick out a new pair of tennis shoes — black with bright pink laces. My previous pair was white (blah) and who knows how old since I never actually used them to run — they could’ve lasted forever!

My First Run

Exactly one year ago, on July 24, 2013, I went for my very first run. And guess what, I didn’t hate it! I ran, I walked, I ran, I walked. It was hard, but it felt good. And, most importantly and surprisingly, I wanted to do it again.

I started going for runs a few times a week. I’d get dinner ready for my husband Jody and the kids, then when he’d get home from work, I’d pop out for an evening of running. It helped that I found a few really pretty places to run near my house. Granted I needed to drive a few miles to get to the pretty spots to run, but I figure if I’m more likely to run if I drive somewhere first, then it’s worth it to do so. The distance I could run without walking became longer and longer and what initially seemed impossible — running a WHOLE mile without walking — became a reality. I was on my way!

Races!

In October 2013, I did my first 5K (3.1 miles) race, along with my husband Jody and friend Heather. I pushed too hard in the beginning up a hill and ended up having to walk part of the course, but I finished.

In November, while in Kansas visiting family for Thanksgiving, I did another 5K race — this time on my own. It felt good and I was able to run for the whole race. I didn’t run as much over the winter, but tried to get at least one run in a week.

Somewhere in there I also went to a running store to get fitted for shoes. The ones I had weren’t good for my running form (I’ve been experiencing some pain during my runs) and after they checked me running on a treadmill, they were able to get me in shoes that worked for me. I got a shiny new pair of Brooks and they’ve been awesome.

In April 2014, I did another 5K race with my mom, followed by my first 10K (6.2 miles) race — The Bolder Boulder — with my friend Sarah in May. Aside from stopping at the aide stations to drink, I was able to run (albeit slowly) the entire race. I was pretty proud of myself.

The last race I’ve done to date was on July 4 in Crested Butte, Colo. The family and I were planning to go there for Independence Day week, and I saw there was a 1/3 marathon (8.56 miles) race (the Gothic to Crested Butte 1/3 Marathon) happening, so I signed up for it. I’m not sure I would do that race again, but I’m happy to have completed it. There was a lot of elevation gain on the first half (not to mention the altitude was 4,000 ft. higher than where I live) and I definitely did a fair amount of walking on that one, but that was OK with me. My only goal was to finish it and I did!

Looking Ahead

I’m setting my sights on a half-marathon (13.1 miles) trail race next, maybe in November so I won’t have to train through the heat of the summer. After doing the 1/3 marathon, I feel confident that I can do a half, but I also know I have a lot of training ahead of me to get to that point.

The crazy thing for me has been how much I enjoy running. I’m not setting any speed records and I have no desire to, but I am running for me and doing it on my terms and I think that makes all the difference.

I love this quote my friend Heather shared with me when I was first getting started and someone asked me if I was a runner now. I said I didn’t feel like one yet, but I hoped to be one someday.

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” — John Bingham

I never in my wildest dreams would have expected to be a runner. And yet, I am. I am a runner. And I like it.

I hope to write about running again soon so I can share more about what has worked for me on this journey. Stay tuned.

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