Health & Wellness

Beating the January Blues

January 6, 2014

January Scene

While I always love the fresh start a new year brings, January has been a hard month for me since I became a mom — and I’m really feeling it this year. Our Christmas vacation was lovely, but not long enough. Just as I was beginning to think I might get to my list of “stuff I want to do while I have some extra time over Christmas,” that time was gone. And the extra days together as a family, with no school to think about and fewer work-related commitments, are hard to say goodbye to. Yesterday I realized I needed a concrete plan for addressing my January blues.

Although it doesn’t sound very inspiring, the first thing I’m doing this week is making sure I have what I need to be organized. I’m trying to manage so many details every day right now and feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. Keeping it on paper (or gadgets) declutters my mind, and that goes a long way.

I have a few celebrations to look forward to this month, including B’s birthday and a small party for a friend. Planning for special events like these will lift my spirits as I get back to the regular routine. I’ve also got exciting longer-term goals and plans for 2014, and I know that reminding myself of these and working on them step by step will motivate me.

January is also good time for a little pampering. While it’s hard to imagine adding anything else to my schedule right now, I’m going to commit to something that feels a little decadent: an aromatherapy bath by candlelight one night, a pedicure or facial or massage…

The last part of my plan is to sit myself down, take a deep breath, and refocus my attitude. I want to be grateful — I have so much to be grateful for! I want to be hopeful. I want to be excited about what this new year will bring.

Amazing how just writing this down in a post was helpful. What about you, friends? Are you feeling the January blues? Do you have a strategy for overcoming it? I’d love to hear!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


by Kathleen O’Beirne

Coping with Loss

The twinkling lights in the neighborhood, the ringing bells outside every grocery store, and the plethora of peppermint-flavored foods point to one thing: the most wonderful time of year is fast approaching. I’ve always loved that sense of cheerful bustle during this season, but over the past couple of years, a more subtle but equally palpable feeling accompanies my joy: the pang of loss.

I don’t think I’m alone in experiencing a mix of emotions during the holidays. This is the time of year to cherish loved ones and celebrate; when someone is missing from this otherwise happy scene, you can’t help but feel some sadness. It may be a dear friend, a sweet grandma, a beloved sibling or parent that has passed away. Sometimes it’s the devastating first Christmas without a spouse or child. And sometimes, it’s the loss of a baby that should have been.

Last December, my husband and I were expecting. Although we have three healthy children, we had suffered two consecutive miscarriages prior to this pregnancy — so this time around, my doctor had prescribed some medicine to help, and I felt very sick and pregnant. Every time my stomach reeled with nausea, my excitement grew. After all the pain of our two previous losses, I thought we’d finally turned a corner. We knew our other children would be beside themselves with joy, and we started planning how we would break this awesome news.

I’ll never forget holding my husband’s hand and staring helplessly at that dark, blurry screen as the kind technician whispered softly, “I’m so, so sorry.” I couldn’t believe we’d lost another child. Miscarriage is a different kind of loss; it’s the loss of what could have been. I have family and friends who have babies about the age our child would have been, and it’s hard not to think, “Oh, this is what he’d be doing about now.” And I’ll admit it: Sometimes it’s hard to hold those other little babies.

Ten to twenty percent of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage, which means many women carry this unique kind of grief. Often, miscarriages happen before the couple has told family and friends, and they often occur at home without the support of medical professionals. In addition to the emotional toll, there is the physical element: Miscarriage can feel like a mini labor, and the recovery can be almost as slow-going as a full-term pregnancy — minus the cute baby and the extra help, gifts, and meals. This last miscarriage was medically complicated and left me so drained that I ended up reaching out to friends and family to help with carpools and meals. The extra support really made an emotional difference for me.

Over the past week, I’ve thought more about the three little souls we’ve lost to miscarriage, and I can honestly thank God for the wisdom their losses have taught me. I am far more in awe of the mystery and miracle of life than I ever used to be, and I think (or, at least, I hope) that I’m more sympathetic to those who suffer from infertility, miscarriage, or any type of loss for that matter.

Whether it’s a call to a friend who’s missing her departed brother’s Christmas cheer, or bringing over a batch of cookies to the widow across the street: I want to be more mindful of those experiencing feelings of loss at this time of year. The holidays are about spreading joy and dispelling darkness with light, and I find the more I reach out to others in need, the better I cope with my own feelings of loss.

I’m curious to hear how others cope with loss during this season. Do you share it with others or deal with it on your own? Would you appreciate having others reach out to you, or would you find it intrusive?

Image: Kathleen O’Beirne


Vegetarian Dishes

I could live on green salads pretty much every day — if you just threw in a little dark chocolate, a slice of homemade bread with raw cheese on occasion, and some fresh seafood here and there… I do enjoy red meats and poultry, but I feel best when my diet is mostly plant-based.

Meanwhile, I live with a trio of meat-lovers. My husband — who tried years ago to be a vegetarian and made himself ill in the process — feels better on a high-protein/meat-based diet. Our daughters seem to take after him — one in particular: Stick a homemade beef stew in front of S, and she’ll eat all the chunks of meat out of it and leave everything else.

While meat will remain a staple around here (ours comes straight from the farmer when available, and I try to only do organic and grass-fed at the grocery store), good meat is expensive, and I see no reason to have it on the table every night. So I’ve been wanting to build a repertoire of vegetarian and vegan meals I can turn to that will satisfy my carnivorous crew.

Sadly, I’m running into some trouble. My husband and daughters don’t like cheese, apart from a little bit on pizza. They do not like squashes of any kind. They are bored by the steamed broccoli I cook a million times a week; when they eat a few bites of something else green, I consider it a minor miracle. I’m certain there has to be some mouth-watering meatless dishes out there…but where to find them is the question.

Recently, I checked out a recommended vegetarian cookbook from the library and chose two recipes that sounded promising: a curried eggplant and chickpea dish, and sauteed bok choy and soba noodles. Even though no one in my house likes eggplant, I had two in the fridge that needed to be used, and I figured cutting them into small cubes and dousing them in some powerful spices might fool everyone.

As it turned out, the eggplant wasn’t the problem: The recipes themselves were mediocre. B ate the curry, but he wasn’t nuts about it. H ate everything but the bok choy; S refused both dishes. I wasn’t thrilled with either of them. The cookbook has since gone back to the library.

Meanwhile, I’ve created a Pinterest board to start pinning recipes that look deserving. They don’t have to be main courses; I’ll settle for side dishes. But I’m looking for restaurant-quality recipes here, no ho-hum stuff — dishes that won’t bring sighs and whines and won’t make me feel like I just wasted two hours of my life.

So, friends, I’m coming to you: Hit me with the best vegetarian recipes you’ve got. (Raw is fine; vegan is fine, too, though I’m averse to margarine and some of the substitutions used in vegan dishes.) Hoping that, between us all, we can round up some inspiring dishes!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


What Big Girls Do: Veritey

October 16, 2013

Amy and Adrienne

Say hello to Adrienne Peres (right) and Amy Ziff (left), two women who saw a need and did something about it. In January, they launched Veritey, an online resource for people looking for the best “clean” products for themselves and their families. The site caught my attention because I’m always looking for the healthiest stuff I can find, which is much easier said than done. Whether it’s researching natural makeup, non-toxic cleaning products, gifts for my kids, or water filters, I want resources I can trust that will point me in the right direction — and Veritey looks to be one of those places. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Adrienne about her mission to help people like you and me find the best products out there!


Zoe Saint-Paul: Adrienne, have you always been interested in health and wellness? Were you always diligent about the products you purchased?

Adrienne Peres: Yes, I have, although my interest has evolved over the years. Like many people, I spent a considerable amount of time incorporating a healthy diet and exercise routine into my life, as well as regular visits to the doctor. However, over the past few years, I’ve thought much more deeply about “product health” — what I use for me, my family, my home — and how it impacts our health and our environment. I try hard to be a conscientious consumer, but it’s so hard to understand what products are truly “good” versus just marketing hype (a.k.a. “greenwashing”).

Veritey’s mission is ambitious: You run a wide range of product reviews and are building a community on the site. What inspired you to launch Veritey, and what are your hopes for it?

Veritey was created because two moms couldn’t find easy, concise information about what products are good and effective. Amy and I worked together for 10 years, first at an e-commerce startup in New York and then at Travelocity. We would often talk about the issues we faced in researching products and how much time it took. In addition, my family has a long history of breast cancer, and I’m very interested in finding ways to reduce the likelihood of developing the disease. A healthy lifestyle — food, exercise, and smart product choices — all contribute to reducing risk. Our hope for Veritey is to build awareness that we are all responsible for being smart consumers and for what we allow into our homes and lives.

Veritey Founders

How does Veritey differ from other product review sites out there — such as Environmental Working Group (EWG), GoodGuide, Mighty Nest, etc.?

Great question! We look at ourselves as curators. Many of the sites out there are quite massive, and it’s difficult to find an answer to the question, “What should I buy?” Veritey does just that. We have a rigorous vetting process that involves researching, analyzing, and testing every product (we have 50 separate criteria, plus a Science and Expert Panel to inform our research), so that we can say with certainty that a product is not only good but effective.

What should I be most concerned about when I’m deciding on a product?

Be concerned about what’s not on the label! For example, cosmetics companies don’t have to tell us what all the ingredients are: flavor, fragrance, and “trade secret” ingredients are exempt. Even though the FDA does require certain facts and legal grounds for a company to have something considered a trade secret, the company can add “and other ingredients” at the end of the ingredient declaration. Ingredient disclosure laws don’t apply to products used at “professional establishments or samples distributed free of charge,” and companies don’t have to declare a “masking agent” (an ingredient used to cover up a nasty smell) if it is “in a product at an insignificant level” — although this level is not defined. (For additional clarification, see the FDA’s site.) We recommend looking for conscientious manufacturers that are very upfront about disclosing exactly what’s in a product, as well as their sourcing and production process.

Do you have a team of reviewers? How do you select the products you review?

Amy and I are the final reviewers and arbiters of what goes on the site. We do have a group of interns and volunteers who help us get through some of the vetting process, and we have a community of Veritey fans and followers who are always recommending new products that they love. We select products based on categories where we see a strong need. Veritey launched with product density in the categories of Baby & Kids, Bath & Body, Beauty, and Household Cleaners.

What goes into determining the rating a product receives?

We look at many different criteria, ranging from ingredients to sourcing to production process to labor practices to product efficacy. We’ve built a database of thousands of chemicals and ingredients, which helps us quickly verify whether an ingredient passes our screening. When we have questions about a particular factor, we contact the manufacturer. We also rely on our Science and Expert panel, which is composed of leading doctors, scientists, and researchers. This panel informs the way we think about some of the thornier questions that come up from our investigations.

Amy and Adrienne2

How long does it take between hearing about a product and getting a review up on the site?

It depends. Sometimes the process is very fast, such as when manufacturers are clear and upfront about their products and have been certified by upstanding entities (the Non-GMO Project is one example). Other times, it can take a while because we really dig in on ingredients and processes, and that research is time-consuming. It’s one of the reasons Veritey started in the first place: It’s challenging to do this research on your own.

Can you share some of your favorite products — the ones you think are the best of the best?

To be honest, we love all of the products on our site! We’ve tested and tried and used these products over time, so we’re fans of whatever we feature. And you can read about “Why We Love It” with every single product.

Where do you see Veritey in five years?

We’d love to spark a movement that shifts market share to companies who are pioneering a purer path. By voting with our dollars, we can make manufacturers accountable for their products. And that level of accountability needs to extend to our government as well: We want to see laws enacted that provide transparency and accountability for products — laws that are often found in Canada and Europe but not here in our own country. We’re entrepreneurs, so we see this combination of capitalism and idealism (what we’ve termed “Capidealism”TM) as the best way to move the needle.


Thank you, Adrienne, for not only telling us about Veritey, but for devoting your time and talents to helping us all find healthier products. Friends, I’ve signed up for Veritey’s newsletter and joined the site so I can ask questions and share information; check it out for yourself and keep Veritey in mind when you’re looking for the best stuff for you and your family!

By the way, this is the third installment of my “What Big Girls Do” series; you can read the other two here and here. The story behind this series is this: Whenever I’m about to do something that scares the pants off me, I whisper a prayer and say to myself, “Zoe, this is what big girls do.” And then I make the leap. It always helps! And that’s the spirit I hope to capture with this series. I interview women who are doing creative, courageous, inspiring things, and I hope their stories ignite your own dreams.

Images via Adrienne Peres


Real Food

It’s time to resurrect the Ask SlowMama series! This is where I get to don some of my favorite hats all at once: advice columnist, life coach, counselor, consultant, big sis, woman with an opinion. Ha! If you’ve got a burning question — whether it’s practical, personal, or even something about me or this site — please drop me a line. If I post your question on SlowMama, I’ll never use your full name — just initials, first name only, or a pseudonym (your choice) — so fear not.

Here’s a question I received recently on a subject near and dear to my heart:

Where you would tell someone to start who’s interested in eating healthier but isn’t sure where to begin? Should they go whole hog (er, so to speak)? Make small changes? Organic vs. local?  What is the single most important change you could make to your diet?

I wish more people asked this question! Changing your diet is one of the hardest things to do, because eating is emotional, cultural, habitual, and practical. It’s also one of the single best things you can do to improve your life.

There are probably as many answers to this question as there are dietary approaches, but if I were helping someone figure out where to start, I’d first ask a few more questions to better assess where the person is in terms of his or her diet. Some people are drinking three sodas a day and eating fast food; some rely on frozen entrees from the supermarket much of the week, or live with relatives who serve triple helpings of pasta every night; others may already be eating pretty well but want to take it to the next level.

If I had to give a single piece of advice that applies to everyone, no matter who they are, it would be the seven words that open Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That pretty much sums it up, and every reputable eating philosophy out there embraces it.

But so that I can keep blathering on about one of my favorite subjects, let’s go a bit further:

If you’re addicted to soda and eating fast food and junk food, my advice would be to start substituting your three worst habits with healthier options — so, instead of soda, choosing water, natural juice, or natural carbonated beverages; instead of late-night chip binges, choosing home-popped popcorn with a little sea salt; instead of the regular fast-food stops, brown-bagging it for lunch or finding new restaurants with healthier options.

If you’re already past that and are cooking at home and choosing restaurant meals wisely, I’d suggest you start significantly reducing your intake of refined sugars and flours. Elimination often doesn’t work without substitutions, though, so honey, maple syrup, stevia, and xylitol can be used in place of refined sugar, and whole grains can be used in place of white flours.

And if you’re already well on your way with all of these steps, the next thing you can start to think about is the kind of meat you’re consuming, the kinds of fats and oils you’re using, incorporating fermented foods into your diet, and paying more attention to super foods.

I don’t advise going whole hog when it comes to changing your diet. It almost never works; most of us need to make gradual changes so we can get used to eating differently, hang on to some of what’s familiar and comforting while we’re at it, and allow our taste buds to adjust.

I do think organic is better, generally. I wrote about the complexities of organic vs. local food a while back, and how I myself go about making these decisions.

While there are dietary principles that work across the board, I don’t believe there is one diet that works for everyone. For that reason, it’s important to pay attention to what makes you feel better as you make changes. Some people do okay with dairy; others do not. Same with meat, gluten, alcohol, etc. It’s also just as important to pay attention to the things that help you eat better, such as cooking at home, eating with others at the table, and dealing with emotional issues that cause cravings and binges.

One of the most helpful things you can do when trying to make dietary changes is to seek out blogs, websites, and cookbooks that can offer recipes and encouragement. One place you might start is Andrea Howe’s blog “For the Love Of…“: Andrea recently started a clean-eating lifestyle and is now writing a series, “31 Days of Clean Eating Made Approachable and Affordable,” on how she did it. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to her search for healthier eating habits and be inspired by her practical ideas.

Readers, I’d love to hear from you: What’s the single biggest change you’ve made to your diet, and how did it affect you? Where do you want to go next with improving how you eat?

And don’t forget to send along any questions you want me to address in an upcoming Ask SlowMama column!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


by Christine Nelson

Honey For Sale1

When I want a sweetener for myself or my family, honey is my first choice. It not only tastes great, it provides antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. I feel good serving such a wholesome product — and yet, once I became a beekeeper, I learned that the honey we often buy in stores isn’t always so wholesome.

First, the bad news…

Find any average beekeeper, and chances are good they use a range of chemicals on their hives. Pesticides are used to kill the varroa mites that can take over a hive and kill the honeybees; antibiotics are used to treat certain diseases. The type and amount of chemicals will differ from beekeeper to beekeeper: One Pennsylvania State University test on beehives in 2008 found 70 different pesticides existing in the hives they tested and unprecedented levels of fluvalinate and coumaphos — pesticides used to combat the mites. Not so wholesome. In addition, honey can be overly processed, destroying its health benefits (more on this later).

While there’s no scientific evidence linking these chemicals in honey to health problems in humans (which would be difficult to prove anyway), it makes sense to me to limit my family’s exposure to them. Just as I try to avoid unnecessary chemicals in foods like vegetables and meat, it makes sense not to have them in my honey as well.


What to Look For

The good news is, there are beekeepers that treat their honey well and use chemical-free methods to keep their bees and hives healthy. So how do you find their wholesome honey? It may require a little work up front, but once you find honey that is healthy and delicious, you can become a regular customer. You really want to look for two things in particular:

1) Honey should be raw, which means unheated and unfiltered. Did you know that honey is naturally antibacterial and doesn’t need to be heated to be a safe food product? Unfortunately, many beekeepers — especially those with lots of hives — will often heat their honey so it flows more quickly, which makes the processing faster, too. Heat can also make honey less cloudy and more clear — something consumers generally look for. But heat can destroy the beneficial antioxidants and enzymes in honey and change the flavor. Cloudy honey can be good honey!

2) Honey should be free of unnecessary chemicals, or as free as possible. You don’t want to choose honey where the beekeeper uses chemicals on the hives on a regular basis. The word “organic” is generally not used for honey like it is for other foods; instead, beekeepers who use no pesticides or antibiotics may call their honey “treatment-free.” The best way to find out is to ask the beekeeper if they use chemicals on their hives, and if so, how often. Depending on your area and its honey market, you may or may not have to pay more for “treatment-free” honey.

Raw Honey

Where to Find It

I first look to my local beekeepers (a farmers’ market is a great place to start). Many times, smaller beekeepers won’t use the terms “raw” or “treatment free” on their labels; you have to talk to them personally, just like you might talk to a farmer about his produce. Ask about what treatments, if any, they use for their honey, and whether their product is raw. Don’t be afraid to press if the answers are not forthcoming — in a friendly way, of course!

Local honey is a great choice, because you know more about the environment in which it was made: If a farm uses a heavy dose of chemicals on its produce, bees will likely pick these chemicals up as they collect nectar and pollen — and you might want to avoid the honey that results.

Meanwhile, it’s not uncommon for foreign honey to have been tampered with: The FDA has found numerous cases where honey imported to the States from foreign countries included added sugar and other ingredients. (Manuka honey from New Zealand, famous for its health benefits, is often not the pure stuff being advertised.) And then there’s the report from a couple years ago showing that a great deal of honey in American grocery stores is not real honey at all.

Most mainstream supermarkets carry honey made by large commercial beekeepers and their bees. Even if it’s real honey, the larger beekeepers are more likely to use pesticides and antibiotics: With a large number of hives, they don’t have the time to inspect each one for disease or pests, so they simply treat them all. If you have a favorite store brand, call the company and ask how they take care of and process their honey.

It’s unrealistic to expect a 100% guarantee of pure unadulterated honey, because bees can fly far and pick up who knows what in the environment. But by being an educated and discerning consumer, you can find honey that’s much closer to the way Mother Nature intended.

Do you shop around for wholesome honey already? Where have you found it? Would you spend the extra time and money to find raw, untreated honey?

Images: Christine Nelson. Christine is a stay-at-home mom in central Massachusetts. She shares her home with one husband, two kids (ages 14 and 9), one dog, two cats, a rabbit, chickens — and honey bees.


Healthy Green Smoothie

September 10, 2013

Green Smoothie from A Beautiful Mess

I’ve mentioned before how a generous friend bought us a Vitamix as a gift, and now I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do without one. I used to hear about how great these machines were, but I couldn’t imagine spending that much on what looked like nothing more than a powerful blender. My mistake was underestimating just how much a powerful blender can change your life.

While you can make soups, sauces, dressings, nut butters, milks, and more in a Vitamix, I’m still mainly using it for smoothies and shakes. For a mama who’s always trying to get more vegetables, fruits, and super foods into her family’s diet, smoothies are my secret weapon. I make at least one or two a day. (I also made a lot of non-dairy ice cream this past summer.)

Even if you’re still slumming it with your Cuisanart 7-speed (ha), I’ve got a green smoothie recipe to share with you today that any decent blender should be able to handle if you chop up the ingredients well enough. And it just might convert the most hardened healthy-smoothie skeptic:

Healthy Green Smoothie

(This recipe has been adapted to the point you can barely recognize it from a recipe card I picked up at a WholeFoods Vitamix demo.)

  • 1 cup pineapple (fresh or frozen)
  • half a banana (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup ripe mango (fresh or frozen)
  • half a cucumber
  • half a ripe pear
  • 1 cup kale or spinach leaves (or a combo)
  • 15 mint leaves
  • juice from 1 lime
  • approx 1/2-1 cup coconut water (or just H2O)
  • 1 Tbsp chia or hemp seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp maca powder (optional)

Add all the ingredients to your blender and mix it up! If your fruit is mostly fresh instead of frozen, be sure to add about a cup of ice. This makes enough for 2-4.

I take many liberties with this recipe, making substitutions and using less or more of any given ingredient, depending on what I have on hand: You could add berries, protein powder, etc. The pineapple and mango are really what make the recipe, though, so I recommend using at least one or the other. Both fruits add a lot of sweetness, so you shouldn’t need any additional sweeteners — but if you do, add some honey. You can omit the antioxidants (chia seeds, hemp seeds, maca powder) or use other ones instead. As it is, this is a great dairy-free smoothie with no added sugars.

Got any favorite healthy smoothie recipes to share? I’d love to hear them!

Image: I accidentally erased my smoothie images (nice, Zoe…), so this one comes from A Beautiful Mess. Be sure to check out all their yummy-looking green smoothie recipes!


Zoe & Daughters

To mark World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7, many bloggers have been sharing their breastfeeding stories online. There’s even a new blogger-launched campaign getting press called “I Support You,” started by my friend Jamie Grumet and two other blogger moms, inviting women to show their support for each others’ choices when it comes to feeding their children. (Read more about “I Support You” here, here, and here.)

Not long ago, I wrote about why I think breastfeeding continues to be a controversial subject. That post followed my own story about why I “dry”-nursed my adopted four-year-old daughters, which tens of thousands of people so far have showed up here to read. If the general topic of breastfeeding sparks interest, debate, and judgement, adoptive breastfeeding takes it to a whole other level.

Rachel Garlinghouse — a new friend of mine and a blogger, author, and adoptive mother of three — just wrote a great post about why she wanted to breastfeed her adopted babies — but didn’t. Her reasons? Adoptive breastfeeding is still uncommon, there’s little support for it and few resources, and it takes a lot of work. Her last reason really struck me:

Finally, the truth is that some women don’t feel that they have earned the right to breastfeed a baby. We didn’t create ‘em, grow ‘em, birth ‘em. We didn’t endure morning sickness, stretch marks, heartburn, weight gain, sleepless nights prompted by an ever-filling bladder. Our scars aren’t physical. Instead, many of us quietly battle disease, infertility, miscarriage. We have to prove our worth as a parent to our adoption agencies with background checks, home inspections, interviews, questionnaires, and training. We are questioned at every turn. To commit to breastfeeding takes an immense amount of confidence and dedication, which is hard for some adoptive mothers to come by when the journey to motherhood has been nothing but knock-after-knock, question-after-question, demand-after-demand.  Some perceive that adoptive breastfeeding is un-natural or inappropriate for the woman who hasn’t birthed the baby (“some” including social workers, the child’s biological parents, friends, family, and health care professionals).

Sad, but true.

Even I — the eldest of 10 breastfed children and a “crunchy” mama to be sure — wasn’t very knowledgeable about adoptive breastfeeding. I had planned to use donor milk if we were referred a baby. I didn’t know much about inducing lactation naturally and never imagined the role nursing could play in the attachment process of adopted toddlers and preschoolers. Live and learn, right? It makes complete sense to me now why an adopted mom would consider breastfeeding and how she can (try to) make it happen.

Promoting breastfeeding is important: Generally, it’s the healthiest option for a child, and it’s one of nature’s ways for a mother and child to bond. But there are many good reasons women choose (or have to take) alternate paths. My daughters weren’t breastfed as infants. I’m sad they missed that, but I’m also extremely grateful that, in a country where children frequently get sick and die in such circumstances, their first mother was able to obtain hospital-grade formula for them.

No matter how you feed your little ones, what matters most is the love and care with which you do it. And when there are so many mothers around this world who struggle just to keep their children alive, it seems to me we should be grateful we even have these choices and support each other along the way.

If you ever need support for your feeding choices, feel free to reach out to me and my contributors here at SlowMama, or any of those compassionate mamas behind the I Support You movement.

Image by B of me and my “dry”-nursed daughters

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Girls at Restaurant

Restaurant outings were one of the things B and I were prepared to let go of when we became parents — and certainly there’s been a lot less of it over the past nine months — but happily, from the get-go, our girls were excellent in restaurants: comfortable, well-behaved, interested. Waiting is not their forte, and some restaurants are more child-friendly than others, but we take them out at least once a week and it’s almost always a good experience for all.

One thing I’ve noticed time and time again, however, is how dull (and unhealthy) children’s menus are. In many restaurants — and I’m not even talking about chain restaurants here — we’re handed kids’ menus full of things my daughters pretty much don’t eat (or won’t eat). It’s sad to me that people who run even the most chic little restaurants seem to assume that all young children will only eat chicken fingers/nuggets, french fries, mac n’ cheese, hamburgers, and pizza. My girls do like a couple of those things, but they also like many other foods because of what they eat at home. We end up ordering from the regular menu almost every time for them and splitting it in two.

S&H in Restaurant

I think it’s great to have separate menus for children — after all, they generally eat less than adults, and certain flavors and foods aren’t as appreciated by kids (umami, oysters, and olives come to mind). But it seems to me that menus geared toward little ones could be a lot more creative and delicious. Children are more open to trying new things when they’re in a different environment, so why not challenge their palate a bit? And why not give parents some new ideas for what they might feed their kids at home?

I’m curious about what you think of children’s menus if and when you dine out. Do you think chefs should put a little more thought into them? Anything you think would be a good addition?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


Pull Up a Chair

July 12, 2013

Manuka Honey

I’ve always loved honey. Growing up, my father kept bees, and I remember many trips to the honey shack to watch him extract the golden nectar, hoping we’d get a giant, gooey section of honeycomb to enjoy while we visited.

My father, a rural physician at the time, used honey on patients’ bed sores and other skin ailments with great success, so I wasn’t surprised when I read about how effective manuka honey can be for boils and infections — including the dreaded MRSA.

Manuka is a tree found in New Zealand, and honey made from its nectar has been used for generations for its powerful antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial properties. Doctors around the world use it for trauma wounds and skin sores, including on burn patients in Iraq. Studies have also shown that it works on drug-resistant infections, which is good news for anyone with MRSA, a strain of staph on the rise that is resistant to many antibiotics. Even the FDA has approved a line of honey-based products, including a wound dressing treatment called Medihoney, a component of brown algae covered in manuka honey.

After reading a blog post about how a woman cured her MRSA infection with manuka honey (after nothing else worked), I got my hands on a bottle. Doctors think the infection I landed last week is MRSA, but even if it’s not, I figured the honey could only help. In fact, it was only after I applied the honey that the infection finally opened and started to drain (gross, I know!), and I’ve been applying it ever since to aid with the healing. (I’m on antibiotics, too, but it’s hard to know if they’re working; time will tell!)

Anyway, with drug-resistant strains of staph on the rise, it’s good to know about natural substances that might help.

For our drink today, why not something with…honey? This drink, called Anna’s Banana, sounds so simple and yummy: vodka, honey, lime juice, and banana, blended with ice. Sounds like something that would make me feel a little better about my wound!

Here’s my high and low of the week:

Low: Spending four hours in the hospital on Tuesday dealing with the above-mentioned  infection. I had to take the girls with me, because that’s what happens when you live far away from any family who can watch them last-minute.

High: Even though I had to bring the girls, they did so well. They waited quite patiently in each office, held my hand when I had my blood drawn, and sat still in the surgeon’s office when he stuck a giant needle in my leg and drained the ugliest sore this side of the Mississippi. Their presence made me braver. When I was tempted to get down about the fact that I haven’t been able to walk normally, I kept reminding myself that I’m so fortunate to live where I do and have access to good care; so many people around the world don’t. And another high: I finished my book! Now on to the next one on my list…

Bonus question: What was the name of your first pet? Mine was Peanut, a pony I got as a birthday present when I was seven. Sadly, he perished in a barn fire before I could even learn to ride him, and I never did want another horse. Gosh, this wasn’t supposed to be a depressing question!

Alright, let’s cheer up! Grab a honey drink and tell me about your week. I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul