Wednesday Walkthrough: Ice Ice Baby (Doll)

My mom recently bought a new baby doll for my daughter. The doll is hypo-allergenic, and it comes with instructions on how to properly clean the doll so as not to stir up allergies or asthma (neither of which my daughter has, but it doesn't hurt to have a clean toy, right?). The first instruction says to seal the doll in a plastic bag and throw it in the freezer for 24 hours.

The freezer? Really?

As I've started searching around on the web, I'm finding that the freeze-the-toys practice is more common than I thought. Apparently it's best for killing dust mites (which trigger asthma), but it's also great for killing germs.

Well, that's easy enough. Another easy, quick step to living a healthier life and not having to spend a ton of money in the process. I think all my daughter's stuffed animals are going to have to start a routine of camping out in our freezer. Hmm, wonder what my hubby's gonna say. :)


Skip the Mask; Grab a Plant

With all the buzz about swine flu going around, the temptation to wear a mask is making people more aware than ever of what they're breathing. First of all, wash your hands! I know, that has nothing to do with breathing, but it seems to be the universal best preventant of H1N1, so do it . . . often!

Okay, back to what we're breathing. Did you know the peace lily ("The peace what?" You know, those plants you get when a baby's born, when you go to the hospital, or when there's a funeral. The ones with long green leaves and one or more white lilies unswirling their white petals as they reach toward the sun . . . yeah, those plants!) is ranked as one of the top ten air-purifying houseplants?

We all learned in elementary school that plants take the CO2 and turn it into oxygen. But our teachers didn't spend much time teaching us that plants can take a lot more than just carbon dioxide out of the air. It turns out, plants are one of the the most effective filters for clearning the air of toxins too. A study in Australia found that air toxicity levels decreased by 75 percent with just six plants added to a room. Seventy-five percent!

It gets better! The same article states: "The World Health Organization blames bad indoor air for nearly 3 percent of diseases. Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, where air is more polluted than outside and can contain more than 900 volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, according to the EPA."

So think about getting some greens to clean up the air in your home. Put one in the office to filter the toxic flame retardants in your PC, laser printer, and TV dust. Make a peace lily a must-have for the baby's room. And consider buying a bamboo palm with your next new furniture purchase to filter all those new-furniture chemical smells and retardants lurking within the upholstery. For an easy-to-read chart that targets toxin sources and the plants to combat them, check out this guide.

Some plants to consider to get you started (you'll have to look these up if you don't recognize their names, but that's why God invented Google, right?): Eureka palm, peace lily, lady palm, bamboo palms, and rubber plant. Happy planting (or in my case, happy trying-t0-remember-to-water-so-my-plants-don't-die-and-my-husband-scorns-my-plea-to-buy-another-plant-to-replace-it-because-"You'll just kill it.")

**And if you're having trouble keeping your peace lily alive (my thumb is more of a murky yellow rather than green), try tea!


Wednesday Walkthrough...your bathroom scale

In the quest to find balance and choose the road (rather than a ditch on either side), magazine article titles with promises to lose "30 pounds in one month" make me cringe. Those theories can't be healthy, and there are usually some serious (i.e. impossible) lifestyle changes that would discourage the normal person from following through, or that would send an OCD person into rehab.

So, when I read an article that claimed to lose an exorbitant amount of fat in a short amount of time, I scanned the bold subtitles with the intent of scoffing at the recommendations. Instead, I found some interesting research that lured me to read the article in its entirety. The article focused on one source of obesity--toxic fat; and it suggested two steps toward eliminating it--increase your omega-3 intake and reduce your refined carbs and vegetable oil intake. The basic premise is that increasing omega-3s will fight the toxic fat in your body (fat from refined carbs and vegetable oil is toxic to your body, so your body creates fatty cells to store the toxins to keep your body alive--fat to store fat, yum!)

One article explains: "the underlying cause of chronic diseases (like allergies, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Lupus, etc.) comes from the increased production of a natural fatty acid called arachidonic acid (AA), which can be toxic at high concentrations. Oddly enough, accumulation of excess body fat is your body’s initial attempt at protecting you, by encapsulating or trapping the toxic fat in your fat cells. The problem is that the toxic fat doesn’t stay trapped forever. Once it begins to spill into the bloodstream, Dr. Sears says you now have Toxic Fat Syndrome (TFS)."

Dr. Barry Sears is the man behind this research, and while I don't agree with all that he says (e.g. "if you're fat, it's not your fault" or "eat less or exercise more is meaningless"), I think there is some good truth to pull from this research--increase your omega-3s. That's something we all can do. This is one of those cases where you don't "throw the baby out with the bathwater." Yes, the Zone Diet (purported by Dr. Sears) is difficult to follow; yes, I disagree that a person can shirk responsibility for their obesity; BUT, yes, there is great value in increasing your omega-3 intake. So, baby step number one: buy some fish or flax oil and add it to your daily routine (I drizzle flax oil on my baby girl's toast in the morning; I take fish oil with my breakfast.) It's easy; it's something you CAN do!

Great sources of omega-3s: Fish oil (if you take capsules, you can freeze them so that the oil doesn't float to the top of your stomach and give you yucky fish burps); flax oil (be sure to keep heat-sensitive flax oil refrigerated, and don't cook it in your food--drizzle it on top of things like salads or breads so that it maintains its structure); walnuts (5 a day keeps the doctor away).

Not bad; not too big of a lifestyle change; feasible; something that you could do/afford.


Wednesday Walkthrough...your child's playroom

This week I had my first visit from a Parents as Teachers rep. Parents as Teachers is a program offered by our public school where they send a representative to your home once a month to gauge how your child is developing and suggest ways to increase their learning. Since this was our first meeting, it mainly centered around answering questions and evaluating where my baby girl is on the growth, ages and stages chart.

One of the handouts she gave me during our session caught my eye. It's simply titled "Your Role as a Parent," and it suggests three primary roles that a parent is supposed to take on for his/her child: 1) Consultant 2) Authority 3) Designer. Designer caught my eye. I am a designer for my child. The handout elaborates, "As a designer, you provide interesting play materials and experiences that promote your child's natural curiosity and problem solving."

Designer. I've never thought of myself as a designer. I investigated more. The dictionary defines designer as "one who creates and often executes plans for a project." Designer and creator go hand-in-hand. Creation didn't end at conception; it continues as a living member of my job description as a mom.

Suddenly my flippant attitude about playtime metamorphosed into a desire to meet the challenge and DESIGN the most creative and learning-filled play room/time possible. Maybe it's the writer in me, but a challenge to design, to create, to take an empty room and make it a world of learning inspired me. An indignation rose up within me to be the best designer of my child's playtime possible. It's not just about burning the time until the next meal or nap; it's a world of creativity where every color, shape, movement, etc. counts for an opportunity to learn and problem solve.

I only remember moments of my childhood, but what stands out to me are the feelings that swelled within when I was given a crayon to draw on a new sheet of paper, a toy with buttons and doors that opened and closed, a play set made of wood with swings, ladders and bars. That sense of possibility. Oh the things I could do with those objects.

My goal is to cram as many possible of those swells of desire into my daughter's childhood. My pledge is to never impede my child's ability to learn because of my laziness to provide an atmosphere of learning and creativity.

What about you, dear reader? Please share with all of us some of your favorite designs--activities you've planned or decorations you've deliberately used in your playroom to tickle the imagination and release creativity.


It's Wednesday. . .in Guam, right?

Today's Wednesday stroll takes us off the water filtration system path (to give me some time to conduct more of my own research), and down a path that I am equally as excited about. Today, I want to share SvelteGourmand.com with you--a website that I believe is closest to the heart of On Finding Balance than any other blog I've read thus far--especially concerning balanced eating.

photo by JP Pagan

SvelteGourmand's desire is to provide a site where the balance of eating well and staying slim is accessible to anyone. Like this blog, they believe that a healthy lifestyle is a step-by-step (not leap-by-leap) process that anyone can find success in. They do not/will not promote binge or extreme dieting. In fact, their website even says:

Celery sticks and diet soda? Not here. At SvelteGourmand.com, we’re passionate about really good food—and how you can stay slim and healthy eating it.

Contrary to what some health and diet websites would have you believe, you really can have a hanger steak, sip a glass of Cabernet and even splurge on a cupcake while keeping the numbers on the scale in check. How do we know? Because we’re living proof that good and good-for-you can go hand in hand.

Eat well and live well: we’ll show you how. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink and prepared to be informed and inspired. Bon appetite.

Don't just take my word for it. Check out this interview where one of the founders of the site, Camille Noe Pagan, shares her heart and passion concerning this new venture.

I've already found myself engrossed in the entries on more than one occasion. Titles to tempt you include:

Not only do I feel empowered to enjoy the food I'm eating; I've also found this website to serve as a virtual support system where I can join with others and realize that I'm not alone. Plus, I find myself reading facts and information that I have heard before and being encouraged that I'm not the only one out there thinking this way. Please, stroll on over to SvelteGourmand.com and enjoy!