Sweet Deals for West Mi Mamas And The Monkies They Love

At the beginning of this month, I launched a local alternative to daily deal sites like Groupon or Living Social that will be focused on West Michigan Moms and kids.  My goal is to connect local families with businesses that they’ll love by offering amazing deals!

 

Wouldn’t it be awesome to pay $30 for someone to come clean your house?

 

Or

 

A screamin deal for a family photo shoot and beautiful pictures to hang on your walls?

 

What about…

 

Half off your favorite restaurant for a cheap date night?

 

We’re working on deals like these as well as sweet deals on

dance classes, karate, fitness, salons, activities and so much more!

 

We’ll be taking suggestions too!

So let me know what you’d like to see.

 

To get the scoop on these fabulous deals sign up at

WestMichigan.DealMoms.com

Oh, and come find me on Facebook too

 

West Michigan Link-Up

Natural Living Moms and Eat Local West Michigan will be hosting a weekly link-up every Thursday. So if you blog about local businesses, deals, etc, etc, please feel free to link up below!

*Linky closes one week from today. So if you have other posts coming up in your blog schedule you’d like to link, feel free!

But before you do, let’s cover the ground rules. Unfortunately link ups such as this are getting watered down with stagnant traffic. In order to make sure this doesn’t happen please make sure you:

  1. Link to a specific, recent post relevant to the West Michigan area. This can include things like reviews, general discussion, tips on buying locally, events, etc.
  2. Link not to your homepage, but directly to your post.
  3. Make sure to include a link to this post! Collaborating with bloggers is a two-way street, we’re showing links to your site, make sure you link to this post and let your readers know what it’s about. (or simply copy and paste this at the bottom of your post: What to find out more about what’s going on locally? This post is linked to the West Michigan Link-Up at Natural Living Moms, where you can see what everyone else is up to!)
  4. Please publish your post with the above mentioned link to NLM. So going back in every once in a while and adding it isn’t a major cause for concern, but y’all…….then the link to NLM never hits your subscribers.
  5. Not mandatory, but if you’re looking to help increase the traffic for us local bloggers, read the other posts and share then via social media and sites like stumble upon. That’s just good blog kharma that will come back ten fold. 🙂

Enter away!

Cabbage in your Bra

Photo Credit EdithCereal

Last month Dear Hubs and I drug (dragged?  Sorry, grammar is not my strong suit…) our 5 little ones out of bed around 4am (I should say early one morning, but seriously, 4am is the middle of the night!) to board a plane to Houston to visit our favorite Texans.  I had planned this endeavor and rehearsed it in my head over and over.  I had terrible dreams of what could go wrong… AHHH! WHERE’S GABRIEL!?!?! Oh there he is on the plane to Acapulco…  I even practiced my belligerent   “HELL NO!  TSA agent on a power trip, you can keep your hands OFF my daughter!”

What I did not plan for, was a raging breast infection at 4am the morning I’m supposed to shuffle my little herd through security and onto a 3hr plane ride…

When I went to bed around 11, it was only slightly achy, not even enough to really think about.  But when the alarm went off at 3:50am, I was shaking so hard from the fever that my teeth were chattering, and it felt like someone took a sledge-hammer to my chest!  It brought tears to my eyes, just nursing my little one that morning.

Then in the back of my mind, I recalled a nugget of info that I read a while back, and tucked away in my brain for a moment such as this…  Cabbage!! I always try a natural remedy before heading to the Doctors office.  Mostly, it works out and we get better on our own.  Even so,  I had little faith that stuffing my bra with cabbage would do much, but at 4am, there were no other options!

So on our way to the airport, (thank God for 24hr grocery stores) I purchased a head of green cabbage.  Immediately the cool leaves relieved some discomfort and within 5 minutes, I could feel the pain draining out of my body and the fever lifting.  I was shocked!  I should have a little more faith in mother nature though 😉

And in case you wondered, no, you cannot bring a bottle of water through security, but a head of cabbage is no problem!

“Here’s your purse ma’am, your shoes…and… your head of cabbage?”

I’ve been trying to do a little research to see why cabbage helps with a breast infection.  I have an Herbal PDR, but it didn’t have any info on cabbage relating to breast health.  I know cabbage is a storehouse of nutrients, but couldn’t pin point exactly what it does in your bra.

I did find some info on cabbage and weaning.  Some claim a connection between cabbage and decreasing your milk supply, so I guess I would do your own research, and only use cabbage short-term.  And of course, you should always consult your doctor with any medical condition or treatment.

What home remedies have you used to help with mastitis?

A Balanced Approach

Recently we went to a circus (ok, it was actually over a year ago, I was too busy having a baby to make it to the circus this year).  My favorite act is the tight rope walker, because I feel like I can relate!  We’re all so amazed when she makes it from one end to the other without ending up can over cabeza, hurtling towards the ground!  But then she climbs on a little bike and grabs a stack of plates!  That’s me!  Just put a toddler on her back, newborn in her arms, and give her a few baskets of laundry to drag behind and then maybe she’ll have a glimpse of what my life looks like!  Only, sometimes I do loose my balance and end up can over cabeza!  Lord help me that when I fall, I land on my pile of unfolded laundry and not the plastic soldiers…

A friend who’s a newly wed and a new Mom asked me how I do it all? And I had to be honest, I don’t!   I don’t do it all because I can’t possibly do it all. It’s a balancing act!   I’ve been feeling slightly overwhelmed and tired lately (ZzzZzz..snore…huh? Oh, yeah, balance post..) and I’m just barely keeping all my plates in the air.  Since she wasn’t privey to the internal struggle going on in my head, I had to explain…

 

When a Mom first starts learning about the dangers of processed foods

and all the toxins that are attacking her children at every waking

moment,  she usually does one of 2 things…

Everything!

Or

Nothing!

 

I have a very good friend with a house full of awesome kids!  And when she first started to realize all the toxic dangers in pantry and the hazardous chemicals in her bathroom, she threw EVERYTHING out!  The next day she bought a share of an organic grassfed cow, began grinding wheat, making her own butter, soap, and even deodorant!  Not a single processed or packaged item entered her house!  But her husband family revolted.  The change was too drastic, the constant battles and the long hours spend in the kitchen, began to take it’s toll and very quickly she was totally burnt out and ready to quit it all as quickly as she started…

And I have another friend who I love dearly and desire for her to join me in my crusade for healthy whole living!  So I forwarded her article after article about the health benefits of this or the dangerous side effects of that…  And she began to understand what I was seeing!  Soon she began forwarding me articles!  She even asked to borrow some of the books I’ve read about slow food or greener living.  And a few weeks later, brought them all back to me, looking a little haggard… “It’s all too much.” she told me  “It seems like everything is dangerous and is going to give me cancer so why bother at all…”

What both of these women are missing is balance!  It’s too easy to get overwhelmed or to bite off more than you can chew.

I’ve thought a lot about the subject of balance…  I tend more towards the get overwhelmed and give up camp.  But, as the keeper of my home, I know God is calling me to something better for my family.  So I keep my eyes on my goal.

Back to our circus performer… the point I want to make, is that this acrobat keeps her eye on the goal.  You know, ‘Don’t look down!”.  She’s got it all under control because 1) she’s focused and 2) she has just what she needs, nothing more!

What’s your goal?  Where do you want to end up?  Ask yourself what’s most important.  What do you want to spend your time on?  When your kids are grown, what do you want them to remember about the time they spent at home?  What simple changes can make the biggest impact on your health? What kinds of healthy things might have to get put on the back burning for a little while, so you don’t end up can over cabeza?  Ask the questions often and reevaluate your family’s needs/goals.

For me, my goal is to feed my family simply, so that we’ll have plenty of time to get outside and do other things we enjoy.  I don’t want to spend my whole day in the kitchen.  And I value my sleep too much to give that up so I can get up early to prepare my soaked grains or rinse my kefir…  at least at this point in my life.  Those are both things I’d like to do, but my stack of plates is already precariously balanced…

 

I know that, right now, if I try to stack it one plate higher, they’ll all come crashing down around me.  So I take the newest great idea that I just found on my (other) favorite blog, and leave it on the shelf for another day.  I don’t allow myself to get stressed out about the things I can’t do now.

 

 

God blessed me with this family and ultimately, I have to trust Him to provide for us!  So my constant prayer is

Lord, give me the tools I need
to be the best Mother I can be,
and give me the wisdom and humility
to allow you to fill in all the gaps.

Kick it!

Throw Away Your Television.

photo credit: clickflashphotos

 

“Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I liked to take a minute just sit right there
And tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air”  (add in your own synthesizer noise here)

Ok, don’t pretend that you couldn’t sing the rest of this song from memory!  In fact, I bet I couldn’t stop you from singing it and that it will in fact, be stuck in your head all day now.  He he he… you’re welcome.

Aren’t you so glad that you have this important tidbit permanently embedded into your cerebral storage space?  How many afternoons I wasted, staring at the boob tube.  I wish I could reprogram by brain and replace all the theme songs, junky toy jingles, and mounds of TV trivia, with important things!

Well, this is my story all about how my life got flip turned upside down…  (ok sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

I knew I wanted something better for my kids.  I knew that watching TV significantly delayed cognitive development.  So my oldest never watched any TV until she was well over 2 (unless you count watching Lord of the Rings with Daddy @ 7 days old.  A love of LOTR is an obligatory part of being a member in our family).  But as any Mama knows, the rules get relaxed as you have more children.  As I got busier with keeping house and raising our growing family, I all too often, reverted to the old standby babysitter… the boob tube.  And I justified it because I only allowed them to watch educational tv shows.

But even then, I began to notice, my normally polite girls DEMANDING certain toys or junk foods.  The childrens’ song writer turned child advocate, Raffi said “These companies want to turn America’s kids into sales agents to nag Mom and Dad.” The last straw was when my then 4yr old began singing fast food jingles when we drove past McDonald’s, Burger King or Subway!  At a time when her brain is like a sponge, what was I allowing her to absorb?

So, I immediately tossed out my TV and never looked back!!

Ok…… not quite……  I have to admit, it wasn’t that simple.  It was a process of baby steps (like most things with natural parenting, baby steps make it doable).  We started by only watching TV as a family in the evening and not allowing the kids to watch it during the day.  And then, when they switched to digital TV, we just never bothered to get a converter box.  That was a Godsend!  It forced me to take the next step and cutting out all commercial TV.

As a side note, did you know that the real dangerous part is the commercials anyways?  Surprised me a little, but really, it makes sense; those commercials during kids programming are beyond irritating!  Those toys never do what they show in the commercials. Mouse Trap was such a let down as a kid.  It took 20 minutes to set the trap only to knock it down and have to set it all back up again!

So, no converter box = no TV shows.

Instead we have a great selection of DVDs.  I’ve carefully chosen a few movies that I feel benefit my kids when they watch them in moderation.  (My 4yr old thinks she lives in a musical.  She sings about going to the potty, she sings about how much she dislikes squash, and she sings about how much she HATES to go to bed – though that one is more like a funeral dirge.)

Not having the option of watching TV all the time forces my kids to get creative.  And that leads to all kinds of interesting made up games!  And when they play those games, they learn all sorts of important life skills like…

Piloting an aircraft with no wings,

 

How to corral a herd of fuzzy haired ponies,

 

Or how to defend your self with only a stolen turkey baster……

Hey!  I was looking for that!!!

But in all seriousness, I don’t have to tell you that time spent in front of the TV is time they aren’t spending working on important things like problem solving, good communication, developing their imagination or learning to work together with a 2yr old dead set on knocking down your fairy castle.

So, just give it a try, commit yourself to 1 week without TV.  If you need to, do something to force yourself to keep that resolution (unplug it, put it in the garage, or hid the remote!).  You’ll realize, it’s easier to do than you thought.

I’d love to hear how your TV free week went?  What was the hardest?  Was it easier than you thought?  Did you give in a little or did you stay strong?  Did you kids have a blast making up a crazy game instead of vegging??

Go for it Mama!  You can do it!  One baby step at a time.

Adventures in Gardening

My family and I just moved to our ‘soon to be’ hobby farm last fall.

We moved so we could do things like raise livestock and grow a great big garden. When we lived in a neighborhood, we always turned a little earth and plopped a few garden center veggie seedlings in the ground around mid May.  That never yielded much success… …….as soon as my squash would start to flower and it would look like our patience was about to pay off, a grub would come along and hollow out the stalk of my little plant, or when the green tomatoes were just starting to turn a beautiful shade of red, I’d forget to water them, then to make up for the self-inflicted drought, I’d water the heck out of them and cause them all to split.

Sob stories of my unsuccessful gardening like these are many!  I joke about having a black thumb, but that was really just my excuse not to learn the art of organic gardening.Rhode Island Red

When we moved to the country,  we knew that it was time to get serious about developing a supply of food that our family could depend on. Last fall we started out with chickens!  (That’s been a learning curve!  But perhaps a good story for another post……)

And all winter long, we’ve been dreaming of spring! Reading every gardening book I can get my hands on, mapping out my veggie plot, and pouring over seed catalogs, waiting for the moment that first little green leaf would poke itself through the earth and sing promises of summer abundance!

We began in early February…  My husband built this set up in our furnace room.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Within a few days, our tomato plants of varying variety began to emerge!!  Followed shortly by the cabbage.  And after giving up on the pepper plants (notice them stacked up on top of each other at the back.  I didn’t water them for WEEKS), about 6 weeks after planting them, they began to sprout!

We figure that half(or less) of our seedlings won’t make it to maturity.  So we’ve planted enough to give us some replacements when the inevitable happens.

After further reading, I’m not convinced that starting seeds early is going to be worth the trouble.  Sounds like you really have to baby the transplants.  I learned new vocabulary like ‘hardening off’ which is the process of getting little seedlings used to being outdoors a few hours at a time.  Sounds like a lot of work to me!  Transplanted seedlings are the vegetable equivalent of a Mama’s Boy……..  Maybe the extra attention will pay off and I’ll end up with the Bill Gates of tomato plants, but I’m wondering if all this hand holding and coddling with be worth my time {shrug} Time will tell!

So, while the jury is still out on the topic of starting seedlings indoors, I found a few plants that I can actually plant outside now!  Here in West Michigan, our avg date of last frost is around mid May.  (Find last frost dates)

When to Plant

Plants are classified as very hardy, frost tolerant, tender, and hot weather.  Very hardy plants can be seeded directly in the ground 4-6 weeks before avg date of last frost and frost tolerant plants can go in 2-3 weeks before last frost date.  Tender plants go in the ground right around the last frost, and hot weather plants 2-3 weeks later.  Knowing what veggies to plant when will allow you to get started earlier than you thought, and also protect vulnerable plants from the colder weather.

I found a wonderful resource from Mother Earth News.  They have garden planning software that will tailor a planting calendar to your area.  And then it will even e-mail you when it’s time to plant or harvest something!  I’ve had a lot of fun playing with my 30 day free trial.  After that it’s only $25/yr, a steal for all the helpful tools that it has!!

Success with Succession Gardening

I also found a great book, ‘Starter Vegetable Gardens’ that includes plans for gardens of all sizes.   One thing I love about this book is, it gives you ideas of what to plant after your cool weather crops are finished.  That way there will never be an unproductive empty spot in my garden!

The idea behind succession gardening is that once a plant has been harvested for the season, you can plant something in it’s place that won’t need the same nutrients that the first plant has already depleted from the soil.  It’s a give and take relationship between the 2 plants!

Another form of succession gardening is crop rotation.  The idea is simple, by changing things up, pest and disease won’t have a chance to set in!  No need for nasty chemicals. Also, certain plants will deposit nutrients into the soil and you can follow it up with a plant that will need that nutrient.  No need for artificial fertilizer.

Found this neat chart while researching companion planting:

 

credit to http://robbinscabin.blogspot.com

 

Can’t we all just get along?- Companion Planting

While a ‘Spaghetti Sauce’ garden sounds cute, it doesn’t work well.  Suggestions to plant tomatoes and oregano together aren’t based on anything scientific.  Tomatoes and Oregano both need the same nutrients from the soil at the same time.  Neither one will be happy in a bed together.   Instead plant carrots with your tomatoes and watch how each plant thrives!

(Seeds of Change has a great chart that lists companions and their benefits)

A fun example of a companion garden is an ancient combination that was discovered by Native Americans called the ‘3 Sisters Garden’; corns, beans, and squash.

Corn becomes a natural trellis for the beans to climb.  Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall soil fertility by providing nitrogen that the corn will need in years to come.  The bean vines also help support the corn plants, making them less likely to fall over in a gust of strong wind.  Shallow-rooted squash vines become the ultimate organic mulch, choking out would be weeds and keeping the soil cool and moist. Spiny squash plants also help discourage insects from attacking your corn and beans.  At the end of the season, the left over stalks and vines can be turned into the soil to replenish lost nutrients and improve the overall quality of the turf.

Corn, beans and squash also work well together in your body!  Corn is great source of carbohydrates, the dried beans provide the protein, balancing the  corns lack of important amino acids.  Finally, squash yields both vitamins from the fruit and healthful, delicious oil from the seeds

And here’s one of those beautiful natural teachable moments!  With a little research online, you’ll come up with a treasure trove of ideas to dig a little deeper into this technique with your kids; a great segway into Native American history.  Your kids will love to grow an Indian Garden.  And then (maybe…..fingers crossed…) they’ll enjoy eating the beans and squash they grew.

photot credit: Mother Earth News

 

Feeling overwhelmed?  K.I.S.S.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by all the gardening lingo and the millions of different things to consider!  But I think there’s really no such thing as failure in gardening. Any flop is a lesson learned. The important thing is that you dig in and learn a little something about providing something fresh and healthy for your family!  A great place to start is with something as simple as a “bag garden“.  Mother Earth News site has a simple plan to get you started.  All you’ll need is a few bags of organic topsoil and some seed packets!

My Mom has done this with great success for a few years in a row.  She works full time and would rather spend her free time chasing horses and Grandkids than pulling weeds.  And this works for her.

Here we go!

So, we’re off to a good start over here…  My seeds are sprouting (well, most of them).  And my garden tools are gathered up and ready to roll.  As soon as we get an afternoon with some sun, my 5 little monkeys and I will begin turning up the dirt!  We’ll start out with some very hardy seeds like broccoli, kale, lettuce, potatoes, and onions.  And gradually as the weather warms, we’ll add things to out plot one by one.  One thing is for certain, I’m going to learn A LOT more about gardening this summer and I’ll be certain to fill you in on what flops and what flourishes.

Now get off the computer and GET OUT AND GO PLAY IN THE DIRT!!