Potty Training Day One

I guess he’s ready. That’s what today told me.
I had prepared by:
1. Cleaning out his little potty in our bathroom that seems to accumulate dust and hair.
2. Making “candy” I could feel happy about giving him as reward (info later in post).
3. Putting a bin of books next to the potty.
4. Moving the bathroom rug to a spot cozy enough for his feet to rest, and my body to sit on for the better part of the day reading books and waiting.
5. Placing a timer in the bathroom to be set every thirty minutes to “try.”
6. Rolling up the living room area rug so the house would be concrete floors only, for easy accident clean up.
7. Reading three different potty training books over the weekend. All very different perspectives; I gleaned bits and pieces from each one.
8. Making sure my schedule was completely clear this week, so we could stay home all week and focus on this task.
What I did NOT do:
1. Buy pull ups or underwear.  I decided to just wait to see how the first few days went.  I’ve heard from several friends that the best potty training method is to spend a dedicated week working on it, and to have the toddler naked from the waist down.  This makes frequent potty visits easy, and makes them very, very aware of any accidents they have.
We have cloth diapered Jax since he was born, so he is used to the feeling of soft, cotton fabric against his skin (we use prefolds, not the moisture wicking fancy diapers).  It means he is also used to the feeling of wet, smushy cotton against his skin.  I felt that underwear would just feel the exact same to him as his cotton diapers, and wouldn’t “tell” his brain that something was different and he needed to pay attention.
Plus I’m not planning to take him out of the house this week.  If things go well, I will figure out if I want to use disposable or cloth pull ups, or underwear, or whatnot.  That part is still a bit overwhelming.
When we woke up this morning, I let him know I was going to help him learn how to use the potty today. He seemed nonchalant.  I reiterated this idea several times over the morning while we ate breakfast and tidied up the house.
Prior to today, we’ve been reading potty books for a couple months now.. We have spent time talking about how he will grow up and learn to use the potty, and practicing sitting on his little plastic potty in our bathroom (usually when I’m going using the toilet he will sit on his potty with his clothes on).  
However, he also knows that when he grows up, he will learn to drive a car and use sharp knives, and as a firstborn without older siblings to model for him, he seemed prepared to wait until we let him know the time was right for either one.  I felt that without some prompting, he might not realize that the time for peeing in the toilet was coming along much sooner than driving a car.
After breakfast I took off his diaper and put him in just a tee-shirt.  I let him know he wouldn’t wear a diaper or shorts today, so he could learn to use the potty. At my suggestion, he willingly went over to try.  Shortly after he sat down, he started crying that he didn’t want to. I thought perhaps it was the newness and suddenness, since he is a person who likes clear expectations and accomplish-able tasks.
So I busted out the reward concept. I told him if he put his pee or poopy in the toilet, I would give him candy.
That was an instant motivator, and for the next hour he pretty much refused to get off the potty because he was determined to get candy! (A rare treat around here).
I tried suggesting he take little breaks and try again later, but the minute he got up, he would go back in to try again to get candy. He seemed a bit discouraged.  Then my mother in law texted me to give him lots of water. Eureka.
I filled up a sippy cup with juice (Odwalla carrot and blueberry apple which is squeezed fruit and pulp), and another sippy with herbal tea that Jax loves. After downing a good amount of each, about thirty minutes later he went! I was using the toilet at the same time, and reading him books. He announced that he went pee, and he had!  Two bits of homemade candy and he was a happy camper.
“You can have more when you put more pee or poopy in your potty!”
The second time he was successful, he was sitting at the table to eat, then told me he needed to pee. He got down from the table, ran to the bathroom, and peed in the potty again.
He spent all morning visiting the potty of his own accord, saying he needed to pee. I would guess he sat on the potty perhaps every 10-15 minutes without any prompting (though I was prepared to do so).  I had set the timer a few times, but each time he had already visited the potty several more times than the timer indicated, so I stopped using it.
Before nap time, he had peed in the potty six times and had zero accidents. The last four pees were without any help from me at all. He just kept trying, and when he was successful, he came running to tell me and get his candy.
All that focusing must have worn him out because he took a three hour nap, and of course his diaper was wet after naps. (I have zero expectations in the sleeping dry area until he masters awake dry first).
After that long nap, Daddy came home. Daddy is way too much fun these days, so Jax had one pee accident on an upholstered chair, and a second pee accident in the bath (no surprise there).  Then he went to bed, so Daddy didn’t get to see him go in the potty, and we didn’t have any successes following nap time.  Considering how well the morning went, I at least feel certain that he’s ready, and we’re on the right track.
He didn’t poop all day, in any location.  He’s in bed now, and I’m curious to see if he will poop during the night (which he otherwise hasn’t done for over a year), or first thing in the morning, or what will happen.  This is a kid who usually poops 2-4 times per day, and is never constipated.  I feel certain he didn’t poop today because he hasn’t figured out how to do it in the potty, not because he didn’t need to go.  In fact, I bet several of the times he would say he needed to pee, and would try, but not go, was his body wanting to poop.
Update: He woke at 10:30 pm tonight with a poopy diaper. It took him a long time to fall asleep tonight, likely because of his lengthy nap, so I imagine he pooped while he was trying to fall alseep.  He’s clean, and back to sleep again now. Hopefully no more poopy tonight!
I feel pretty upbeat about how today went. I had prepared myself for accidents all day long, and perhaps one successful pee in the potty.  Having made as much quick progress as he did, tells me he is physically and developmentally ready.  Now the two of us just have to figure this out together!
The candy I made him is from the lovely book “From Scratch” by Shaye Elliott.  It’s a cookbook for “whole foods”, which I would describe as a way of cooking that is truly from “scratch.”  She doesn’t have a recipe asking for salsa on top of something, and she even has recipes for things like homemade mayonnaise.  I get frustrated by just how much “food” sold in the grocery store seems to have more artificial ingredients than it does actual food.  I also know that Jax already eats a lot of fruit and dried fruit, so rewarding him with raisins wasn’t going to be an adequate motivation.  In the recipe book, Shaye says a friend of hers developed this recipe when potty training her toddler, and it seemed like a great idea to me.
The recipe is simple and located online here:
– Butter (organic, free range if possible) – saturated animal fats from healthy animal sources have actually been shown in recent years to be necessary for physical and dental health, especially in children
– Cinnamon (I get my spices from Mountain Rose Herbs online, as they are organic, fair trade, and about 25% of grocery store prices).
– Honey (I use local, raw, unfiltered honey)
The recipe has you blend it up, put it in a pastry or ziploc bag, cut the corner, squeeze into little “buttons” on parchment paper, then freeze.  Once frozen, it was easy to scrape them into a glass jar and store it in the freezer (bonus, Jax can’t reach it there).  I gave him two candies each time he peed in the potty, and plan to give him three or four for poopy in the potty.
I haven’t tried to think about having to stop with the candy once he’s got the hang of it. I will just take one parenting challenge at a time, thank you!  Potty training is big enough right now.
The books I read are the following:
1. Let’s Get This Potty Started  review (written by a child psychologist, my favorite)
2. That’s How I Roll review (very brief, perhaps a fifteen minute read, my least favorite)
3. The No-Cry Potty Training Solution review (by the same lady who wrote the No-Cry Sleep Solution, which I found very helpful when Jax was tiny)
1. This book was my favorite, because the parenting advice I’ve found most helpful so far, is essentially developmental insight or psychological explanations for a child’s stage or behavior.  Every child is different, which we hear all the time.  But this means that you could read one hundred pieces of specific “do this, this way” advice, and perhaps one or two might “work” for your child.  I’ve found that if I can understand what his basic development need is, or what is “behind” his behavior, I am able to discover with a unique solution to address that need, rather than addressing the behavior.  God in my life helps so much too, because I truly believe that of my best parenting solutions have been something I heard God whisper to me to try.
The book talks about basic toddler personality types, and how to help channel those in regard to potty training. It does not suggest any particular method or “how to”, and also emphasizes that kids are physically/emotionally/mentally “ready” at different times, and if they aren’t ready, you just aren’t going to have much success, so better to try again in a few months.  She talks about how this takes time, and the “do it in one day” methods tend to fail.
The book doesn’t have the greatest reviews on Amazon, my guess being that people wanted something more “how to.”  For me, it was perfect.
2. This was my least favorite.  She has a very clear cut “how to” and reiterates that parents who attempt her method and fail, have left out one of her steps. She says you can’t leave any of them out, or you will fail. She also tries to be funny, but I didn’t find her funny.
Here’s her method in a nutshell:
– Take toddler to store and let them pick out super cool undies, any kind they like. Also get plain white boring undies.
– Tell toddler today is the day, and don’t change your mind about it, or go back, ever, this is the no going back day from this day forward, no matter what happens.
– That same day, take away toddler’s sippy cup and move them to a normal cup, even if they still spill their cup all the time, because if they just “sip” on their sippy cup all day, they won’t quickly fill their bladder up like they would with a normal cup, which will prevent their bladder from getting full and making them need to go potty.
– Buy the seat that goes on the normal potty, not a potty chair, because you don’t want to have to clean the potty chair.
– Buy M&Ms or candy of your choice. Give them one candy for “trying” (sitting on the potty), two candies for pee, and three candies for poop.  Also have a “big” toy item ready to give them after a few days of good success.
– Put their cool undies on. Take them to the potty every 30-60 minutes. Encourage them to drink water. When they have an accident, throw away the cool undies that got dirty, and put the plain white undies on. Explain the cool undies can’t be cleaned and they have to learn to keep them clean or they will be thrown out.  It is okay if this makes the toddler cry because you want them to have motivation to keep the cool undies clean.
– Stick with it. First day expect 10-12 accidents, and maybe one success. Second day expect 4-6 accidents and several successes. By day three, toddler should be having 1-2 accidents per day and everything else success.
– Your kid will be potty trained with a week or two at the most.
There were just too many things that grated on me (besides the forced humor).  Some kids might be intimidated by the big potty, and want a little potty, and that’s okay.  I also felt that sitting on the big potty while Jax sat on his little potty was helpful to him.
No matter what I do, Jax always spills a normal cup within three minutes of getting it, no matter how exciting the contents of the cup are.  He also only drinks water or fluid when he is really thirsty, then he drinks a LOT all at once.  So I don’t see a reason to take away his sippy cup (which is really a stainless water bottle with a straw, not a true sippy).  I also don’t see a reason to make too many big changes to a toddler all at once.  If they are at all attached to their sippy, as many toddlers are, I wouldn’t want to make that huge change at the same time I was making another huge change (potty training).
I can’t lie to my kids. I don’t like using “stuff” or throwing away their stuff, as a method of “training.” It seems more like threats or punishment, which isn’t generally advised for potty training.  I also think that peeing in undies would be a big physical awakening to a kid who’s used disposable diapers, but no change at all for a kid who’s been in cloth.
Finally, some kids just aren’t going to be ready when the parents think they are, or want them to be.  So the instruction to stick with it and never go back just isn’t reasonable.  If the kid is really struggling and you are having all sorts of resistance, it’s better for everyone to just stop and wait a few months to try again.  There are developmental issues affecting the capability of the child to toilet train, just like their capability to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, and anything else a parent might want (or not want!) their child to accomplish.
3. Pantley’s book is broken down in a “quick” section and a longer section.  You can read the quick section and not read anything else, unless you have a particular area of struggle you want a bit more detailed advice about.  Reading both sections feels incredibly redundant, as there are identical sentences and paragraphs, some of them just fleshed out a bit more with an anecdote, joke, or tiny bit more detail.
She seems to take a middle ground approach. She gives some ideas of different ways to try things, emphasizes pausing if the child doesn’t respond well, and emphasizing it can take time not to try to rush or pressure the child.  She has a combination of how-to’s, but not as specific as book #2; and some developmental insight, though not as thorough or helpful as book #1.  She also says it might be helpful to clear your schedule for a week or several days in a row, to focus on it, and that works for some kids who are developmentally ready.
Surprisingly, none of them even mention the idea of partial nudity (waist down) as being a method that works for many toddlers and parents.
They all agree not to punish accidents or other unwanted potty behavior.  They all agree that nighttime and nap-time dryness is a physical and physiological development that cannot be rushed or altered.  They all take the tack that you just have to wait and one day the kid will do it, and it should happen before age six, but commonly does not happen until age four or five, years after the child is day trained.
My sister, and other friends I’ve known, have spent a bit of time with a three or four year old, to help them night train (especially boys who sleep heavily).  When the parents go to bed (maybe 10 or 11 or 12 at night), they wake the boy and take him potty. They also set an alarm for somewhere around 2/3/4 am to take the child potty again.  My sisters have both been able to night-train their four year olds using this method.  So while it’s not necessary to expect a two-year old to be dry through the night, it may also not be necessary to just “wait and see” until a child is six, for them to figure it out on their own.
I’m proud of Jax, and I’m also at peace knowing that I’m not pushing him for something he’s not ready for. He showed me today that he is ready, so now we just get to walk this journey together, however long it takes him.  In the mean time, I’ll keep making butter buttons.

Eating Rain + Imperfections


Then he took the camera from me and shot his very first photos.  I have to say, I’m impressed.  Especially considering he didn’t even look through the lens.

One of the things that is important to me with photos, is to show people who they really are.  Hopefully, what they really are like on the inside; what their face looks like when they gaze at one they love, how they laugh, and how their family looks when they are together.  It’s a gift really.  It’s also the primary reason I don’t do a whole bunch of skin smoothing and various “photoshopping” of skin and shadows.  I do it sometimes, for random zits, for certain types of shoots, or people who ask for it (and pay extra for it since it’s really time consuming).  But I truly believe that people are beautiful.  And I think it’s important that we embrace who we are.  And if we don’t like something about ourselves, maybe it’s something we can improve upon and maybe it’s not.  When I look at the faces of those I love, I don’t see wrinkles and grey hairs and too-big noses.  I just see deep inside them, and their face to me IS them.

So I didn’t lighten my under-eye circles in this photo, or smooth my eyebrows that needed to be plucked.  I did remove a zit from my forehead because it isn’t always there, it just happened to be that day and I’d rather forget about its appearance.

But this is the way my son sees me every day.  This is how my face looks when I’m gazing happily at him (which I am in this capture).  And with every wrinkle and grey hair, he knows it’s me.  (Actually I pluck out the grey hairs so they aren’t apparent quite yet).  (I embrace many of my imperfections but am still in denial about that one).

Potty Time… Our Cloth Diapering System

We’ve cloth diapered since Jax was born.  There were a few reasons that sent me in the direction of cloth diapering were:

Cost (about $500 to purchase our stash that will take us from newborn through around two years old, and all can be re-used for future children),

Gentleness (I have extremely sensitive skin, so I wanted to put the softest, most chemical-free product I could on Jax, in case he inherited my sensitive skin but had no way to tell me),

and Eco-Friendliness (this was the least important issue for me, but I’m glad not to be throwing 7,000 diapers into our landfills and water supply, which is the average use from newborn through potty training).

The biggest obstacle of course, for most people, is POOP.  Honestly, you have to wipe a baby’s poopy butt no matter what kind of diapers you use.  And that’s the worst part.  Rinsing it off in the toilet is just not that much harder.

The second major obstacle is TIME.  To wash and fold all that extra laundry.  For us, it hasn’t been that hard.  I wash diapers twice a week, and I do my normal laundry once a week on a separate day.  When Jax was a newborn, we had to wash diapers daily, but that was because we had purchased a limited supply of cloth diapers, and didn’t have enough to go more than a day and a half without washing.

And I’m happy to report, that even though most people I knew didn’t believe we’d stick with it, we have.  And I love it.  I love folding the fluffy, fresh-smelling diapers when they come out of the dryer.  I love walking outside to hang them on the line to sun out the stains (only for EBF exclusively breast fed poop – once Jax started eating solids, his poops don’t seem to stain the diapers anymore).  I love that I’m not putting a bunch of petroleum and chlorine bleach and scratchy paper and adhesive on my son’s skin.  And it’s just not that hard to rinse off the poop and do two loads of laundry a week.  I’m so glad we chose this option.

We do use a “more” natural disposable diaper for overnights.  I tried many different kinds of overnight options, because once Jax started sleeping through the night (mostly), I no longer wanted to wake him up with a diaper change in the middle of the night.  I found several cloth options that held all the wetness in, but he would always wake up in the morning with his skin all red from the wet touching him for so many hours.  Due to my skin sensitivities, I’m only using natural fibers in his cloth diapers.  There are “stay-dry” polyester inserts that could solve our problem, but I’ve chosen not to use polyester on Jax since it irritates my own skin.  So we disposable at night, and that seems to have solved the problem.

We also disposable on vacation, because I’m not going to wash diapers in someone else’s laundry machine, or lug heavy wet bags of nasty diapers home with me after a trip.

What the baby does while I’m hanging out his laundry.

Wipe solution.

1/2 cup Almond Oil
1/2 cup Dr. Woods Lavender Castile Soap
20 drops Lavender essential oil (for fragrance)
20 drops Tea Tree essential oil (natural antiseptic and anti-bacterial)

Swirl mixture in bottom of gallon jug.

Add one gallon boiled water (sterilized).

Put stack of cloth wipes in cloth wipe warmer, pour solution over wipes to fill container.  Keep remaining solution in refrigerator to keep it from becoming stale.


Wrangling the squirmy ones who want to crawl away.


I still need to get his pants on.  Toys sometimes keep him still.



We use Planet Wise large wet bags to hold dirty diapers.  We have two of them.  One holds dirty diapers. When it’s full, it goes in the laundry with the diapers.  The clean one comes out to get filled.  And the cycle continues.

Also, I decided to order the wet bags to match the room they’re used in.  In this case, we have always changed diapers in our room, on our bed.

Our diapers are from a local cloth diaper store, because having a local small business owner to help solve cloth diapering problems is a MUST.  We use unbleached cotton prefolds and Bummis nylon covers.  They were literally the only waterproof diaper covers I could find that weren’t polyester.  And they’re discontinued as of a couple months ago, which I discovered when I hopped online to order a few more.  Some hunting led me to Dappis, which are basically the same thing, thank goodness.

Our cloth wipes were sewn out of cotton flannel by my mother-in-law. They work SO MUCH nicer than disposable wipes, and aren’t full of a ton of chemicals.

We use this wipe warmer, designed especially for cloth wipes (the top of the box is completely open, rather than made with a small hole for a package of disposable wipes).  I do have to tell you that somehow, (poor design), water got into where it attaches to electricity, and corroded it.  Luckily I have a husband who could patch the problem area and solder a new cord onto the box.  So while this is the only cloth wipe warmer on the market, I’m not sure I can completely recommend it.

Show above from top left: Stack of medium size cotton prefolds, wipe warmer, stack of “fancy” hemp fitteds and all-in-ones (AIOs), basket of snappis/rash cream/miscellaneous baby stuff, wad of Bummis, stack of wipes and changing pads.

And then there’s the poop about to be swirled down the toilet.  Runny EBF newborn poop can be laundered without rinsing, as it is completely water soluble.  It’s also so runny that the diapers tend to absorb it like they would urine, so you couldn’t really rinse it off if you tried.  “Transition” poop where baby has some solids but still a lot of breast milk, is the worst.  It’s this gummy gluey stuff that doesn’t want to come off the diaper.  The best thing to do is lay the diaper, dirty side down, in the toilet bowl where it can soak.  About five minutes later, it’s softened enough to be easily sprayed off.  Toddler poop, or even transition poop where baby has increased intake of solids, can be a formed lump just like adult poop.  It literally shakes off into the toilet.  So easy.  There’s also bio-liners, which are sort of like a dryer sheet, which lay inside the diaper.  The liner shakes off into the toilet, taking all poopy mess along with it.  Since spraying diapers isn’t that big of a deal to me, once I got past the learning curve, I haven’t paid the extra money for the disposable bio liners.

This is the handy sprayer to rinse the poop off into the toilet.  It works surprisingly well.

Shown above:

Two different cloth changing pads.  The polka dot one is very large, with a flannel top and waterproof (slippery) bottom.  I keep this style in the diaper bag, to lay over the fold-down changing stations in restrooms.  It nearly covers the whole thing.  The plain white one is flannel on both sides, with a waterproof middle.  It’s more stiff and sturdy, and it’s what we use at home to protect the bed.  I have about four of these, because when Jax was a newborn, pretty much every poopy diaper managed to get a mess on the changing pad.

Top center is a plain white nylon and spandex waterproof diaper cover.  These are not the heavy, stiff, rubbery ones of my childhood.  They are silky and have soft openings with gentle elastic.  They can crunch up into a tiny little ball, so they’re easy to store, and don’t add any bulk when worn.  We own these in three sizes: newborn, small, and medium.  At twenty pounds, we moved Jax up to the medium.  These are the Bummis Whisper Pants that have been discontinued.  The Dappis that arrived today look almost identical, but have larger leg holes (which I don’t like, because larger leg holes leak runny poop).

Bottom center is a GroVia “all in one” diaper.  We call these the “fancy” diapers.  They go on and off with little snaps, and behave just like a disposable.  They’re called “all in one” because they have a soft cotton inner layer combined with a waterproof poly/nylon outer layer, all in one piece.  We use them for babysitters, and for church on Sundays.  We use them at church because it’s easier, and because they are smaller, so they fit better underneath Jax’s fancy slacks.  The cotton prefolds are pretty bulky, and make Jax need larger sizes of pants.

Bottom right is a hemp fitted diaper.  “Fitteds” are soft fabric shaped with elastic and closed with snaps.  They still require a waterproof cover.  These hemp diapers are way more absorbent than the cotton prefolds, and they wick moisture away from the skin better than cotton as well.  I use them when I know we’re going to be out of the house for a while, and I don’t want to be changing diapers while we’re gone.

Top right is a plastic Snappi.  These hold the cotton prefold diapers closed.  They are much easier and safer than safety pins.  They do eventually stretch out, or break, so they will have to be replaced between children.  Since they cost about $3, and I only own two or three of them, that doesn’t worry me.

The diaper rash ointments shown are safe for cloth diapers. Most standard rash creams have petroleum in them, which can build up on cloth diapers and prevent them from being absorbent.  Cloth diaper safe creams use natural oils.  These are the two favorites we’ve used, after trying several.

This happened while I was taking photos of my diapering supplies.  He had tissue paper in his mouth when I found him.

After trying many cloth overnight diaper solutions, we settled on disposables at night.  It wasn’t necessary until Jax started sleeping through the night.  At that point, I didn’t want to wake him up with a diaper change.  Or, if he woke on his own, I didn’t want to reinforce the waking with a diaper change.  Prior to him sleeping through the night, hemp prefolds or hemp liners or the fitted hemp diapers worked great.  They would stay on him three to five hours with no issues.

Once we got longer than five hours at a time, and I wanted to leave him in a diaper for eleven hours straight, we had a problem.  Our problem was that the natural fiber diapers (cotton and hemp) were not adequately wicking moisture away from Jax’s skin.  So he would wake up in the morning with a red bottom from so much wetness on his skin all night.

Because I’m allergic to polyester, I’m avoiding it for Jax.  There’s many polyester cloth diapers that would solve our overnight problems, but I’m not using them, for now.  Plus, the overnight diapers are expensive, and part of why I cloth diaper is because it’s cheap.  I was spending $20 here and there, several times, trying to find a workable overnight solution. 

So I bought a “more” natural disposable, and we’ve been using it overnights. The problem I have with it, is when it gets too full, it leaks all over the place.  At least with the cloth, I could put enough layers on to keep him from leaking.

So I’m not thrilled with either solution.  Perhaps I’ll figure out a remedy at some point!  For a while, I put a cotton prefold OVER the disposable. The disposable wicked away moisture, and the cotton prefold absorbed once the disposable started leaking.  It actually worked pretty well.

This is the nursery and “changing table” that we’ve used as such only a handful of times.  It’s so much easier to change him on the bed where there’s more space for his squirmy butt!

This is the wet bag in the bathroom next to the nursery.  It matches the girly decor in that room (which belongs to my sisters).

And when the diaper change is all done, we tickle and giggle and play.

From the Farm: Natural Bug-Bite Remedies

Since there are no fire ants in Kentucky, I have been enjoying the luxury of sitting in the grass. Jax loves to sit between my legs, pulling up the grass and weeds. He was wearing pants, but I had on shorts. And inevitably, even though there are no fire ants, something bit me.

I’m guessing it was a small spider since within two minutes it made a tiny red dot surrounded by a raised white welt, and redness streaking outward from there.

I got a little nervous since it really stung, and the skin was reacting so quickly and visibly.

Kristin calmly took care of me. She put tea tree oil on a cotton ball, and I scrubbed the surface of the skin everywhere it was enflamed. Then she made a paste of baking soda and water, mixing it with her fingers in a tiny cup. I spread just a fingertip’s worth of the paste on top of the welt. In about two minutes, the stinging, itchy, burning sensation was completely gone. In another few minutes, the red dot and welt were also gone!

Now I gotta try this at home the next a nasty fire ant takes advantage of me.

| Filed under health, natural, the farm

From the Farm: Natural All-Purpose Household Cleanser

Jax and I are staying at a friend’s farm in Kentucky for two weeks to help her while she’s on pregnancy bed rest.

It is so beautiful and peaceful here. And I’m learning a lot.

During my pregnancy with Jax, I made efforts to get toxic things out of my body and home, one step at a time. There’s a lot of things I still want to eliminate, but it takes time to find affordable, effective replacements.

Household cleansers were a big one on the list. They are expensive, hurt my throat and lungs, and are so dangerous if ingested. And I had a feeling more natural solutions didn’t need to have the price tag of Method or other brands.

I purchased a book called Super Natural Home. They suggested using a spray bottle of vinegar and a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide to clean most things around the house. You can’t mix them together. Instead, spray one on the surface, wipe down, then spray the next one, then wipe clean. Tests have shown this process kills more than 99% of household germs, and is more effective than traditional chemical disinfectants. And, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are super cheap.

We’ve been using those products since.

One day I came home and my lungs felt like burning. Benjamin admitted he had used the old chemical cleansers to clean the bathroom, even though he had been using vinegar for months. It shocked me how noticeable the difference was, after a few months of going without the strong chemicals.

But I was still stuck on one thing. I hate the smell of vinegar. I am a high-olfactory person (super sensitive to smells). And I dread cleaning my house, having to bear the smell of vinegar.

My friend Kristin has the solution. She mixes vinegar and water, half and half, in a small spray bottle. Then she adds about a tablespoon of dish soap (preferably a natural one, or you can skip this step), and about a tablespoon of orange oil. Don’t bother measuring; just pour a bit in. The orange oil removes the vinegar smell and gives your cleanser a delicious fresh citrus scent!

I have been using this cleanser around her house since I’ve been here. If it was possible to fall in love with a cleanser, I have done so. It has also made me eager to clean, so I can enjoy the delicious fresh smell of oranges!

I have used it in the bathroom and the kitchen, on counters, floors, mirrors, toilet, greasy kitchen residue, inside the refrigerator, and more. The only thing I wouldn’t use it on would be something you wouldn’t use water on, like wood furniture.

The orange oil has only two ingredients: orange peel extract and emulsifiers.

Kristin also uses the mixture as a bug repellent and bug killer. I have sprayed it on ants, flies, and spiders, and it either kills them within minutes, or it slows them down immediately, making it easy to kill them and clean them up with paper towel or toilet paper. She had me put straight orange oil on a cotton ball and wipe it in the back corners of the kitchen counter to deter little black ants from coming inside. It worked.

With this homemade cleanser, you have a disinfectant, degreaser, bug repellent, and air freshener all in one! And it is made from dirt-cheap, earth-friendly ingredients!

I can’t wait to get home and clean my house!

Update: I’ve been asked to do the math on the cost of this stuff. I’m not the best at math but here’s what I got.

Water: one cup, not priced
For the sake of this post we’re assuming water is free. You can add your local cost of water if you wish.

Vinegar: one cup, $0.3125
($5 for one gallon on Amazon; 16 cups in a gallon)

Nature’s Wisdom Orange Oil Concentrate: 1 Tbsp, $0.453 or 1 tsp $.151
($29 for one quart on Amazon; 64 Tbsp in a quart)
If you don’t plan to use this for killing bugs, you could reduce the Orange Oil to 1 tsp (about one cap full)

Seventh Generation biodegradable dish soap: 1 Tbsp, $0.06
($18 for six 25 oz bottles on Amazon; 50 Tbsp in 25 oz)

To mix a solution with one cup water, one cup vinegar, one Tbsp orange oil, one Tbsp soap, costs $0.8255. A 24oz bottle would cost $1.21.  If you only used one tsp orange oil, that would reduce the cost of a 24 oz bottle to $0.79.

I did not include the cost of a reusable spray bottle. I found a cute one I liked on Amazon for $5.

As a comparison, on Amazon, Lysol antibacterial kitchen cleanser is $3.19 for 22 oz. Clorox Clean Up with Bleach is $7.75 for 32 oz (perhaps this is cheaper in stores? I don’t remember cleansers costing that much).

Another note from a friend: use baking soda for things that require scrubbing!

| Filed under health, natural, the farm

From the Farm: Milk

I’m staying on a friend’s farm for two weeks to help her around the house while she’s on pregnancy bed rest. I’m learning a lot, and some of it is rather shocking.

There are so many controversies and strong opinions regarding food. What foods are good for you, bad for you, healthy, unhealthy.

Most everyone I know, myself included, says they try to eat healthy. But what does that mean? That the package says “Lowfat”? “Gluten-free”? “No trans fats”? That we include fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal? That we avoid sugar? Limit carbs? That everything we eat has to be labeled “organic”? That we raise chickens in our backyard?

The whole thing is so overwhelming and hard to navigate. And whoever the experts are that “know” seem to be changing their minds all the time.

“Eggs have too much cholesterol – stop eating them!”

“Eggs are the good cholesterol that helps fight the bad cholesterol!”

“Soy is chock full of protein and super good for you.”

“Soy is loaded with phyto-estrogens that hurt the natural hormone balance in your body.”

And on and on it goes.

And worst of all, it seems the things I decide would be best, such as shopping for organic, locally-grown produce, or organic, free-range meats, are financially out of reach. So I close my eyes and try not to learn too much, so I don’t know how truly bad the “good” things are that I eat. When I face the reality of the toxins and pesticides and antibiotics and steroids that are in my food, and how trapped I am into eating that way because of our finances, I feel like I’m slowly killing myself with every meal and I can’t stop.

I have experienced amazing success in seeing my body healed of several chronic (10-15 yr) issues under the care of my naturopathic doctor, a PhD in clinical nutrition. Issues I tried unsuccessfully to treat for years with traditional medicine and doctors. That story is for another post. But because I’ve experienced such amazing results using the vitamins, supplements, and dietary changes he has recommended, I trust his opinion.

He told me I should never eat commercial pork, because it too often has parasites that will not be killed by cooking, and will go undetected in my body. He told me not to eat commercial chicken and turkey, because the amount of hormones in them is a major cause of serious female hormone-based problems like uterine fybroids, ovarian cysts, breast cancer, uterine cancer and more. He believes it should be illegal what is done to our meat. Even if you’re not an animal-lover who protests the treatment of our food animals, you might be inclined to protest what it’s doing to your own body. To your children’s bodies.

On this farm they have two milk cows. They are treated how you picture an old-timey farm cow: tied by a long rope to a stake in the ground, out in the grassy fields. The stake gets moved once a day, and the cows get brought in twice a day to be fed alfalfa while they are machine-milked. Each cow gives about one-fourth gallon per udder, or “quarter” as they are called. A good milk cow with all four quarters working well gives 2-3 gallons per day. She needs to have a baby calf to start lactating, and can have one baby per year. She can go up to three years between calves and still lactate. She can get mastitis (plugged milk ducts leading to infected udders) just like a lactating woman. She will live 15-20 years and can be milked that entire time as long as she has calves periodically.

Cow manure has a three-day life cycle of bacteria growth. So here on the farm, they let the cows graze all day in one area, then drive them into a new area each afternoon. It moves them away from their own feces while it passes through the bacteria cycle and dries out sufficiently the cows can be brought back to the same area without breeding disease and ingesting their own manure (which in turn affects their health, and the safety of their milk).

This isn’t even remotely close to the situation for the milk we buy and drink from the grocery store. Those cows are continually kept in concrete stalls where they cannot move around. They stand in their own feces until the stalls are hosed down with strong chemicals. They eat the cheapest feed possible, which reduces the nutritional quality of their milk. They are given hormones to stimulate milk supply, and milked multiple times per day. Instead of two to three gallons per day, they produce ten or more. Because they stand all day long in feces and are depleted from steroids and over-milking, they get sick frequently. So they are given a constant stream or daily dose of antibiotics to keep them alive in spite of the sickly sitution. Finally, this takes such a toll on their bodies that their life expectancy, despite constant antibiotics, is only three to four years, one-fifth of what it should be.

So then I asked the next question, what about pasteurization? Here on the farm, they drink raw milk from their cows. This means the milk is drawn by pumping machines into sanitary, covered containers, to keep out flies or other contaminants. Then it is strained to be extra sure nothing has gone into it like a stray hair from the cow.

It is refrigerated immediately, and left in its original form. The cream naturally rises to the top and can be spooned off to make whipped cream, or mixed back in to drink whole. Keep in mind that your body desperately needs good fats to function properly, so fat is not the enemy of your waistline (sugar and empty carbs are, but that’s a story for another day).

So Daniel, Kristin’s husband, gave me the scoop on pasteurization, and it is an interesting one.

People used to live in the country, and either milk their own cows, or get milk from a close neighbor. The milk would be consumed before it spoiled enough to cause illness.

Cities started to form, moving people further from the country, and thus the milk source. The milk started spoiling before drinking. Since refrigeration was still not common in every day homes, the solution was simple: move the milk source close to the people again.

Who capitalizes on this need? The beer and alcohol breweries, already located in the cities. The mushy leftover from processing grain into beer was going to waste. The beer factory owners discovered that cows could eat the mush, called swill, without it killing them. Soon, hundreds of cows were being kept in close, confined quarters in diaries right next to the breweries. They were called “swill dairies.”

In those filthy, cramped dairies, cows were no longer naturally kept from disease by grazing (and moving away from their feces) on open farmland. The swill dairies became breeding grounds for disease, which slowly infiltrated the milk. Simultaneously, the nutritional quality of the milk plummeted, because of the residue the cows were being fed.

The situation worsened. The demand for milk in the cities was increasing, and the swill dairies couldn’t keep up. They found if you diluted the milk with water, it still had a milky-looking color, and customers couldn’t tell the difference. Then they found, if you diluted it further, and it began losing its color, you could add chalk dust to make it white again. People were used to shaking up their milk to mix the cream back in, so perhaps they wouldn’t notice the slight separation caused by the chalk, once they shook it up.

Prior to this, milk was considered one of the best things to feed babies, because if its high nutritional value, and ease to which babies adapted to it from mom’s milk. So when babies went from drinking whole, creamy, high-protein milk from grass-fed, free-range country cows, to drinking half-chalk, watered-down milk from swill-fed, bacteria-ridden, sickly city cows, babies stated dying. By the thousands.

It took a while to trace down the reason for the epidemic-level deaths of infants. Because of the tie to milk, swill dairies were investigated, and forced to close or clean up the filthy conditions. Most were eventually outlawed.

At the same time, Louis Pasteur and others working on this problem (and other problems of disease), invented pasteurization. If you boil the milk hot enough, they found, it kills disease and becomes safe to consume.

And finally, refrigeration showed up not long after and solved the milk spoilage problem as well.

Daniel, my friend here, said, “You can take a huge vat of milk, chuck some manure patties in, boil it up, and drink it without it making you noticeably sick. That’s basically what was happening then, and it’s still not far from what’s happening now. Does that make pasteurized milk safer or better for you than raw milk? Instead, you can raise your cows and handle your milk in such a way that it prevents disease from the beginning, AND retains all it’s nutritional value, instead of losing a lot of it by boiling.”

He also told me that milk lactose (present in all forms of milk, including human milk), requires lactase in order for the body to digest it. When the milk is pasteurized, it destroys the lactase, leaving behind only the lactose, which is indigestible to the human body. And hence, the lactose intolerant dilemma for many people (who can often drink raw milk with no issues, since it still has lactase).

It’s the same reason why there’s strict guidelines for handling of human breast milk. Sterilize the bottles and the pump.
Breast milk is safe on the counter for four hours. It is safe in the refrigerator for four days. To reheat it, either hold the bottle underneath warm (not hot) running water, or put the bottle in a pan of warm (not boiling) water away from the stove top. Too much heat, and the milk loses its most important nutrients necessary for the baby. Additionally, the lactase could be destroyed, making the baby’s body unable to digest or tolerate the milk.

I’m sure there’s a lot more than the bit I’ve learned and described. This is probably just scraping the surface. Daniel recommended the book, “The Untold Story of Milk”, for a thorough history and biology lesson that steers clear from some of the abrasive opinions of some raw milk advocates.

My body doesn’t handle milk well, so I switched to almond milk and hemp milk for drinking and cooking. I can tolerate dairy in small amounts, like cheese or butter, but avoid large quantities like milk or ice cream. Yogurt I adore and can eat because the yogurt bacteria must make it digestible for me.

I drank a glass of the raw milk here, hoping I could handle it, but no. I still had lots of stomach cramping a few hours later. So my issue with dairy must be something other than the lactose/lactase problem. I’ve also noticed Jax spits up within 24hrs of me having a lot of dairy. It runs in my family, so it’s not unexpected, just disappointing.

But that cold glass of milk was so, so delicious. And I’ve met the cow it came from. Her name is Flo.

| Filed under health, natural, the farm