Making Some Headspace and a Meditation Challenge

Light at the end of the Tunnel

Being present. Living in the now. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

I will share more about this in the posts ahead, but for now all I feel comfortable saying is my anxiety has returned periodically in one form or another. As I look for new ways to address it, I have begun exploring meditation as a viable option.

My husband Jody joined the Headspace community eight months ago in an effort to work with anxious feelings of his own. If you aren’t familiar with HeadSpace, it is “a gym membership for your mind” or simply a course of guided meditation, delivered via an app or online.

When I found myself troubled with anxious thoughts or life issues in general, Jody would periodically say to me, “I think meditation could help you.” Being the stubborn Taurus that I am, I mostly rebuffed his well-intentioned suggestions, but could also see the positive effect Headspace was having on him. I decided to reserve the right to remain intrigued, but also aloof.

I continued to think about it. I read studies about meditation and anxiety like, “Research from 163 DIFFERENT STUDIES suggested that mindfulness-meditation practice had an overall POSITIVE EFFECT on improving anxiety and stress.” And, “Research in people with clinical levels of anxiety has found that 90% experienced SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS in anxiety.” From Harvard, a recent study by Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, found that “a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability.” Research from John Hopkins suggested the same results.

Eventually I decided it certainly couldn’t hurt, and I signed up for the Headspace free 10-day introductory session. I jumped in with both feet. The first day I did two meditations back to back, hoping that would help speed up my progress! (If I’m going to do something, I’m going to go all out. Go big or go home and all that.) I was tempted to do all 10 in a day if it would have made a difference, but after talking to Jody I decided that, much to my chagrin, slow and steady really is the trick with meditation. So I backed off to once a day.

I’ve been meditating using Headspace for more than 40 days now (mostly consecutively, but I have taken a some days off here and there). I’m currently 10 days into a 30-day program specifically for anxiety. I’d say I’m definitely still in the beginning stages — learning to quiet this mind of mine is not an easy task — but I am learning tools to deal with the mind chatter. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I think this is/will be good for me.

For those of you who are interested, I’ll continue to keep you posted about how it’s going.

TAKE THE CDG MEDITATION CHALLENGE:

If you are interested in trying out meditation (for any reason at all – doesn’t have to be to deal with anxiety or depression), I encourage you to try Headspace‘s free 10-day introduction. (By the way, I’m not affiliated with Headspace at all.) It will give you a taste of what the program is like. And if you do try it, I’d love to hear what you think! You can leave me a comment below to let me know you’re in or feel free to email me. Either way, I’d love to hear about your progress. I’ll post again in a few weeks so that anyone who’s taking the challenge can share how it’s going for them! You are worth taking 10-20 minutes per day to do something positive for yourself!
Or maybe you have another meditation app or practice that you follow. I’d love to know that too, so please share with me. I’m always looking for new ways to challenge and better myself.

photo credit: Light at the end of the Tunnel-2 via photopin (license)

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Future vaccine may prevent ear infections

A new vaccine that may someday prevent ear infections (otitis media) in children is currently in the works. The vaccine is still a ways out from being tested on children, but the results on chinchillas have been promising so far.

Photo courtesy Tandem Racer
Photo courtesy Tandem Racer

The needleless vaccine, developed by Dr. Lauren Bakaletz, a researcher at Nationwide Children’s hospital, is administered by way of a drop of liquid rubbed into the skin on the outside of the ear.

Dr. Bakaletz says it works by activating cells just under the surface of the skin, called dendritic cells. When this liquid touches the skin, it touches off a response throughout the body.

“These cells deliver it to the lymphoid organs where it can generate an immune response. So really harnessing a power that’s there all the time, but you’re doing it in a way that’s now directed toward a specific disease,” says Dr. Bakaletz.

It seems only natural that moms, especially those of young children, are having some strong reactions to the news of this possible future vaccine. Some of the those I’ve seen from moms thus far include excitement and curiosity, as well as disbelief, frustration and cynicism.

An anonymous commenter on News Anchor Mom said, “Don’t you think we should be looking into the CAUSES of these ear infections rather than just adding yet ANOTHER vaccine to the list? Neither one of my children have ever had an ear infection. They are now 4 and 2.”

Karissa, another commenter, said, “Wow! What an ingenious idea! I am always leery of giving more vaccines but ear infections are the worst! It seemed like for years one of my three kids always had one. The kids were miserable, and couldn’t sleep or eat. … I’m interested to see what happens with this.”

Yet another commenter, Emily from Randomability said, “This sounds promising and it doesn’t go into the ear either. My only concern would be long term side effects.”

Catherine Morgan shares a lot of the same thoughts and concerns that I have regarding this vaccine and vaccines in general and wonders how many is too many.

I wonder how many pharmaceutical companies are bothering to invest in research to actually cure diseases that kill children? Because, why should they bother wasting money on cures for drugs that only a small fraction of children will ever need (buy), when they can make billions on new vaccines for non-life threatening illnesses that can be sold to every child?

Regardless of how you feel about autism, food allergies, or processed foods…When it comes right down to it, pharmaceutical companies are making vaccines that they believe can be most profitable for their companies. I think there comes a time when we (the parents and the consumers) need to decide that we don’t need to vaccinate every child for every illness that they may or may not get.

The thing is our immune systems need to develop by actually fighting off these infections, viruses and diseases on their own. We are already becoming a society with more and more people suffering with auto-immune diseases (like MS, Lupus, Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, Arthritis, Celiac Disease, just to name a few). Personally, I would rather risk my child coming down with the flu, the chicken pox or an ear infection and fighting it off now, than risk their immune system failing them when they really need it later.

Is there a vaccine that we would ever say no to?

A vaccine to end conjunctivitis (pink eye)?
A vaccine to prevent poison ivy?
A vaccine to prevent runny noses or sore throats?
A vaccine to end diaper rash?

Where do we draw the line? How many vaccines is too many?

Interestingly enough, I first learned about this vaccine via an email that was sent to me from a media relations specialist (MRS). She mentioned that she could put me in touch with Dr. Bakaletz so I took her up on her offer and sent her a list of questions that I and other women (both bloggers and non-bloggers) came up with. Some of the questions included:

  • What are the possible side effects of the vaccine? – asked by Beth of The Natural Mommy
  • Who will be the manufacturer of this vaccine?
  • What are the ingredients?
  • Could this vaccine create resistant strains like antibiotics do? – also asked by Beth of The Natural Mommy
  • What are you trying to prevent with the ear infection vaccine – ear infections, the number of children who need tubes in their ears or deafness? – asked by Kayris of Great Walls of Baltimore and Kate

The response I got from the MRS was that the questions were “a bit too detailed for Dr. Bakaletz to answer given where she’s at in the development of her vaccine at this point.” However, she encouraged me to submit some more general questions, so I said:

  • I’d love to know how long the vaccine will be tested (on animals and humans) before it is deemed safe for public use and/or if she knows what the possible side effects are.
  • What prompted her to pursue making an ear infection vaccine?

Again, I was told, “Unfortunately Dr. Bakaletz couldn’t answer your specific questions.” However, she did forward on to me some general information from Dr. Bakaletz. This response left me a bit frustrated and wondering why I was told I could be put in touch with the doctor in the first place.

Whether you are excited about the prospect of this vaccine or not, it will not likely be available any time soon. Dr. Bakaletz notes, “most vaccines have taken 25-30 years from discovery to development, so I can’t really predict how soon the transcutaneous vaccine would be available since we’re still so early in terms of our experience with this vaccination approach.”

In the meantime, children will continue to get ear infections and treating them with antibiotics is not always (in fact, not usually) the best course of treatment. According to this recent Health News article, “Repeated use of antibiotics to treat acute ear infections in young children increases the risk of recurrent ear infections by 20 percent, according to researchers in the Netherlands who called for more prudent use of antibiotics in young children. … Antibiotics may reduce the length and severity of the initial ear infection, but may also result in a higher number of recurrent infections and antibiotic resistance, the researchers stated. Because of this, they said, doctors need to be careful in their use of antibiotics in children with ear infections.” You can read the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for treating ear infections here, which include:

  • Minimize antibiotic side effects by giving parents of select children the option of fighting the infection on their own for 48-72 hours, then starting antibiotics if they do not improve.
  • Encourage families to prevent AOM (acute otitis media) by reducing risk factors. For babies and infants these include breastfeeding for at least six months, avoiding “bottle propping,” and eliminating exposure to passive tobacco smoke.

SafBaby also suggests parents of children who suffer from ear infections might want to look into chiropractic care as an alternative to antibiotics.

Cross-posted at BlogHer.

The dangerous overuse of antibiotics and creation of superbugs

For nearly the past month, my family and I have been battling a doozy of an upper respiratory infection, also known as a cold or the flu. It started with my daughter and quickly spread to my son and husband and finally to me all within about a week’s time. The coughing, the phlegm, the runny nose, the aches, the fever, the gastrointestinal issues – we shared it all. Isn’t family great?!

Throughout the several weeks of what was pretty much hell for me, all I wanted was something that would make it all better – a magic pill, an elixir, anything. Yet as I had suspected, when I saw the doctor (both for myself and later for my son), she confirmed that it was a viral infection not a bacterial infection, which means antibiotics won’t do a darn thing to make it better. (More about virus vs. bacteria.) With viral infections, you just need to wait out the illness (usually one to three weeks) and do whatever you can to make the symptoms more bearable – drink lots of liquids, get lots of rest, etc. I was disappointed there was no quick fix (it’s seriously hard to care for your sick family when you feel like the walking dead yourself), but I accepted it and focused on doing what I could naturally to help us all feel better.

It seems not everyone is as accepting of a viral diagnosis as I was. According to the blog Antibiotic Misuse and Resistance, “Seven out of ten Americans receive antibiotics when they seek treatment for a common cold!” because the patient “pressures the doctor into prescribing an antibiotic to get a quick fix to his/her illness.” The problem with this, of course, is that “antibiotics won’t cure a cold because colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria.”

The overuse of antibiotics is a real problem. Jane Collingwood from Psych Central notes in The Common Cold: Facts and Myths, “antibiotics usually do not help a cold. Antibiotics work against bacteria, while most colds are viral.The overprescription of unwarranted antibiotics has caused our bodies to develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When you really do have a bacterial infection, antibiotics may not be able to treat it. They may actually make colds worse by killing the ‘friendly’ bacteria and creating an environment more hospitable to the virus.”

If that doesn’t convince you and you are still wondering why you can’t take an antibiotic “just in case,” here’s why.

There are big problems with the cavalier use of antibiotics. When bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic, while many are killed, subsequent generations of others may develop characteristics that allow them to resist being killed. While the antibiotic kills off the weakest bacteria, antibiotic resistance allows the stronger, resistant bacteria to continue multiplying. The eventual result can be “superbugs,” which are very hard to kill and may only succumb to extremely powerful antibiotics. Such antibiotics pose a greater risk of significant side effects that may require hospitalization and are much more costly. Some superbugs go on to cause devastating and even fatal infections that are incurable with current antibiotics.

Another tip to remember that’s helpful in preventing superbugs is that if you are prescribed an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, be sure to take the full course of it as directed. “Don’t stop the medicine just because you begin to feel better. Not taking the entire prescription may allow resistant bacteria to thrive and not be completely killed off.”

Nurse Barb sums it all up nicely when she says, “the next time you go to see your health care provider and they tell you that you don’t need an antibiotic, be grateful, this could ultimately save your life in years to come.”

Some of the things I did for myself and my family that helped us deal with our virus were:

  • Cut out all dairy products (to reduce mucus) and greatly reduce sugar and flour consumption
  • Drink a lot of fluids, especially hot tea with honey (honey has been proven effective in treating coughs, especially in children though should never be given to children under 1 year old)
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier at night
  • Eat a lot of homemade chicken noodle (or rice) soup
  • Rest as much as possible
  • Spend time in the steamy bathroom to help break up phlegm
  • Normally I prefer using cloth handkerchiefs (better for the environment), but I finally broke down and started using disposable tissues so we wouldn’t reinfect each other with dirty hankies lying around the house
  • Use a neti pot to clean out the sinuses (BlogNosh has a humorous tutorial on how to use a neti pot)
  • Frequently wash hands with regular soap (not antibacterial) and water
  • Use herbal and homeopathic remedies

More tips can be found at the Crunchy Bunch for treating colds naturally and Kelly the Kitchen Kop has a list of Home Remedies for a Cold & Ear Ache / How to Avoid Colds, Flu, Ear Infections & Antibiotics.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a doctor, nor am I giving medical advice here. If you or your child is sick, I recommend visiting your doctor to get the correct diagnosis and then using your best judgment.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

The “magic stick” is a must-have for every mommy’s medicine cabinet

When Ava had recently turned 3 years old, she was playing at a friend’s house when she slipped and fell forehead first smack dab into the corner of a wooden decorative box. The goose egg on her head began to form as immediately as the tears began to stream down her face and my friend immediately went to get the “magic stick.” She rubbed it on Ava’s head as I comforted her, and it greatly reduced the amount of swelling and bruising, helped with pain and was also a great distraction.

The “magic stick” is technically known as Hyland’s Bumps ‘n Bruises Ointment with arnica, “the most widely recognized homeopathic medicine for bruising and swelling right on the spot.” It comes in a tube and is easily applied to bumps on the noggin or pretty much anywhere else on the body.

We bought our own “magic stick” not long after that incident and have used it several times since, including last night when Julian took a header into the coffee table. Unfortunately he didn’t just smack his forehead, but his teeth too and we’re visiting a pediatric dentist tomorrow to make sure everything is OK.

In addition to reducing swelling, bruising and pain, it also acts as a good distraction to the injured child. It’s also a lot easier and quicker to use than applying ice to an owie. (Have you ever tried to get an upset toddler or preschooler to hold ice on a bump? It doesn’t happen.) And the fact that we call it a “magic stick” makes it even more appealing to the kiddos.

I highly recommend the Bumps ‘n Bruises stick for every parent’s medical arsenal. You can buy Hyland’s homeopathic products at most health food stores like Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage and they may also be available at Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, but I’d call ahead first.

A tip to keep the ointment stick from getting too mushy (which can happen especially if it’s warm out) is to keep it in the refrigerator. That’s where ours is, at least until the next bump comes along.

Also, if you missed my post about children’s sunscreen safety, I hope you will check it out. It’s something all parents should be aware of.

A letter to my body

BlogHer has unveiled a new topic area: Body Image and is encouraging everyone to write a Letter to Our Body.

Hello dear body o’ mine,

It’s been a while since we talked so I thought I’d take this opportunity to chat with you for a bit.

My bicep in 2005First of all, thank you for sticking with me all of these years. You’ve done some amazing things over the past 32 years and put up with some crap from me and yet, despite that I don’t often acknowledge your greatness, you keep on keepin’ on.

You proved yourself awfully resilient from an early age when you endured three eye muscle surgeries (for strabismus) before you/I were even 2 years old. You rose to the challenge when, at age 6, I stepped on a piece of wood while in a lake, and was on crutches for a few weeks while you healed yourself. You stayed remarkably healthy and strong throughout my middle school years when a bag of Funyons and a candy bar was often considered a “cooler” lunch than a sandwich and apple. And you kept on truckin’ throughout high school when I got us up before school for 7 a.m. band/flag corps practice, then went to school, then had drill team practice after school, then did homework and often worked until 10 p.m. at K-mart. You are a machine for getting by on so little sleep and still functioning well enough to get good grades throughout high school.

Then there were the college years, where I was often an emotional wreck, ate crappy cafeteria food, pulled all-nighters cramming for exams, not to mention the experimentation with drinking and smoking (cigs, cloves and other). I know there wasn’t a huge amount of either of the two, regardless thank you for responding so well the majority of the time, and keeping me on the straight and narrow even though I have a serious family history of addiction. You don’t know how thankful I am for not falling victim to it.

After college I began to wise up a bit and understand that you deserved better. I started drinking water instead of soda and even went the vegetarian route a few times. However, I admit exercise was not then and is still not one of my biggest priorities. You deserve better from me in that regard.

When I got pregnant for the first time, I believed in you to help me through a natural childbirth. And while I did the best I could with the cards dealt me (HELLP syndrome), I ended up having to be hooked up to machines and on drugs (magnesium sulfate) that I never knew existed. Even though I was seriously sleep deprived and bed-ridden and drugged, you stayed strong for both me and my baby girl. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for that.

After Ava’s birth, you recovered from anemia and, as Ava grew older, I started to pay closer attention to the foods we ingested, both for her health and for yours. Instead of frozen dinners, I opted for more whole, organic foods. I think this helped you, my body, a great deal when I got pregnant with my second child.

Knowing that I wanted a home birth this time around, I was willing to do just about any and everything to keep you in the best shape possible so that I could to achieve that, which meant eating more protein throughout my pregnancy, going for acupuncture, and drinking some nasty concoctions of Chinese herbs. All of it paid off when I went into labor on my own without any symptoms of HELLP.

You proved yourself to be a birthing warrior when you gave birth vaginally to a 9 1/2 lb. surprise footling breech baby boy in our bedroom at home. No drugs, no machines, just pure hormones, endorphins, love and determination. You were amazing. Again, thank you for doing exactly what you needed to do to have a healthy baby.

These past nearly four years of motherhood have caused some wear and tear on you, this I know. Sleep deprivation can be hard on a body, as can breastfeeding hunched over with poor posture. I will do my best to honor your cues as to when you need sleep and to be mindful of my posture. I know I need to take care of you to be able to take care of my family.

I hope to have a long run with you, dear body, and I pledge to continue to nourish you with good foods, save the occasional sweet treat. I gotta be honest, I think you do love your chocolate. ;) I pledge to exercise more. I can’t promise anything fancy, but I can do more frequent walks and at least that is something. I also will try to take some time to honor you on a regular basis and appreciate you for the wonderful life you give me.

You are an incredible thing, my body. You are strong, resilient, healthy and amazing, and I thank and love you.

Sincerely,

Amy
(Crunchy Domestic Goddess)

An interview with yours truly

Jenny at Mommin’ It Up was recently interviewed by another blogger and had so much fun with it, she decided to carry it on herself. I told her I was game to play along so she sent me my own set of questions. Here they are, with, of course, my answers.

If you’d like me to interview you, leave me a comment stating you’d like to be interviewed and I’ll send you your own set of questions. :)

1) You are the Crunchy Domestic Goddess. How did you get to be so Crunchy?
While I think I always had some crunchy tendencies, they really didn’t start fully emerging until I became pregnant with Ava. At that point I started becoming more aware of the foods I was eating and how they would affect my health as well as my baby’s. I learned about organic foods for the FIRST time. I started researching natural childbirth and eventually took Hypnobirthing classes. I also learned about attachment parenting, which felt to me, like a natural way to raise my children. Over the past three years, I’ve become progressively crunchier as I’ve learned more about various things like vaccinations, homeopathy, home birth (which I had with my son), acupuncture, placentophagia, growing my own organic garden, composting, natural cleaning products, cloth diapers, baby wearing, the DivaCup (which I haven’t tried yet), and the list goes on and on. I really feel my kids were the impetus for letting my crunchiness blossom.

2) You met your husband on the internet. What was your first “face-to-face” impression of him?
Uh, my very first impression after I flew across the country to meet him was – “Oh my gosh, what have I done?” ;) Honestly, it was very awkward for the first several minutes and I started wondering if I could somehow get an earlier flight home. But after we hung out for the first hour or two, the awkwardness faded and we completely hit it off. In fact, I ended up extending my visit for a few more days because I did not want to leave him. That first meeting was almost 10 years ago now.

3) You take some amazing pictures! Do you have one or two all-time favorites you can share with us?
Aww, shucks. Thank you. :) Share one or two? You’re kidding me, right? Do you know how many photos I have on my computer?! Well, neither do I, but the point is – there are a LOT. A LOT! OK, OK. Just for you, I will try to narrow it down and find a few of my favorites. ;)

This sunset picture is definitely one of my favorites and I got it by being in the right place at the right time AND actually having my camera with me. I find it’s often hard to have everything come together like that, so I feel I lucked out.
Colorado Sunset 2005

I have tons and tons of pictures of Ava that I love, so it’s really impossible to choose a favorite, but I really like this one from when she had just turned two. She just looks so sweet and innocent. I actually had it one blown up to a 16 x 20.
Ava - age 2

Here’s one of my favorites of Julian – in a cup – from when he was 4 months old. Hard to believe he’ll be turning 1 next month!

Julian 4 mos.

4) You seem to be passionate about a variety of things – breastfeeding, attachment parenting, photography, etc. If you could only choose ONE thing to advocate for, what would it be?
Again with the choosing just one thing. You like to make this tough on me, don’t ya?
If I had to choose only ONE thing to advocate for, it would be for an overhaul of the current childbirth system in our country. I would advocate for the normalization of birth and a serious decrease in the over-medicalization that has taken over the institution.

5) Tell us, O Crunchy Domestic One, what’s your favorite non-mommy, non-blogging related thing to do for fun?
Sleep. Seriously. I miss my sleep. If not sleep, then definitely photography. :)

Now it’s your turn. If you want to be interviewed, leave me a comment including the words “Interview me.” I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions. If you don’t have a valid email address on your blog, please provide one. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.