Goddess Provisions Spirit-Enhancing Subscription Unboxing & Review: March 2016

Crunchy Parent-Goddess Provisions March 2016

About Goddess Provisions

Goddess Provisions is a subscription service, created by the owners of Vegan Cuts. Goddess Provisions is a monthly lifestyle box for women. They send products to nourish your inner goddess and grow your spiritual practice. Boxes feature a mix of 4-6 full size items, spanning across the categorizes of aromatherapy, apothecary beauty products, superfood snacks, teas, crystals, books and more. All items are 100% vegan and cruelty-free.

Boxes cost $33 per month, which includes shipping. There are discounts for multi-month subscriptions. I purchased this box and was not compensated in any way for this review, although review may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. For my other Goddess Provisions unboxing and reviews, starting with their very first box, look here.

Goddess Provisions: March Unboxed

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing of the March Goddess Provisions box, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The box came well-packaged, and everything was received intact. As always, I loved the bright and informative enclosure card. Goddess Provisions does an exceptional job of highlighting their featured brands and products, as well as weaving the theme into the box. This month’s theme was “Self Awakening” and focused on the crown chakra. Goddess Provisions included products to help awaken the goddess within each of us.

Crunchy Parent Goddess Provisions March 2016 unboxing review-house of good juju & nicobella organics

The box was jam packed with items to support this month’s theme. The first item that I snapped out of the box was a House Blessing/Cleansing Herb Kit http://www.houseofgoodjuju.com/shop/house-blessingcleansing-herb-kit from House of Good Juju (2 oz., $7.00). I found this tin of botanicals, resins, stones, and wood to be intriguing. At first I thought that perhaps it was to be burned like incense or smudging herbs. Looking more closely at the House of Good Juju description, the tin is to be used as part of a multi-step ritual to cleanse or bless a home or space. During the ritual, the contents of the skin are scattered and tossed around the space. This is a way of blessing a space that is new to me. It was an interesting discovery in the box.

I couldn’t help but grab the next item with excitement (as evidenced by my tearing it open before even remembering to take the photo of the complete box-oops!). The Nicobella Organics Omega Munch looked like a bag full of brownie chunks (2 oz., $5.95). In truth, the bag held delicious crunchy chunks of organic chocolate, walnuts, and flax seeds. The week that the Goddess Provisions box arrived, I had been logging a lot of hours at the hospital with an ill family member and the Omega Munch was the perfect snack to toss in my bag to have with me. It was rich, chocolaty, satisfying, and completely delicious. The Omega Munch is organic, gluten free, and as the name suggests, it is packed with Omega-3s.

Crunchy Parent-Goddess Provisions March 2016 review chakra love, purple frog patches, your joyologist journal

The next item that I found in the box was a continuation of a new trend for Goddess Provisions. For the first several boxes, Goddess Provisions had included a small crystal in each box. These last two months, there seems to have been an evolution to incorporate crystals in the box in new ways. This month Goddess Provisions sent a beautiful necklace from Chakra Love.

Chakra Love necklace closeup

Chakra Love necklace closeup

I received a blue lapis stone necklace, representing the heart chakra (value $25.00). I could not find the exact necklace online, so it may have been exclusive to the box. Other necklaces from the Chakra Love line can be found here.

I loved the next discovery in the box, in large part because it was completely unlike anything that I have seen before. The Air Awakening air fresheners from Purple Frog Patches offer an easy alternative to chemicals (12 patches, $15.00). One of the founders of Purple Frog Patches was diagnosed with a rare cancer at age seventeen. The experience enhanced his appreciation for the role that environmental toxins play in our over health and well-being; motivating him to find an alternative to chemical air fresheners. As a rare cancer survivor myself, the desire to decrease the toxic burden on one’s body resonated strongly with me. I do not use any artificially fragranced air fresheners or candles in my home, yet I had never seen anything like the Purple Frog Patches before. These personal air fresheners come on a pad of 12 self-adhesive discs. To use, a circle is removed from the pad and bent to pop the aromatherapy capsule and release the essential oils into the air. The pads can then be stuck anywhere that needs some freshening. The Air Awakening patches blend peppermint and eucalyptus to give a bright, fresh scent to any area that needs a pick-me-up.

The final item in the box was a mini gratitude journal from Your Joyologist (value $10.00). The bright red color is a mood-boost on its own, but the “Gratitude is My Attitude” emblazoned on the front is a great reminder to reflect on life’s blessings. The lightweight journal is perfect for tucking into a pocket or purse. The simple, lined pages are ready for any thoughts that you my wish to explore or reflections that you want to hold onto.

Goddess Provisions: Overall Impression

Goddess Provisions March 2016 whole box

I am always excited to discover new products through subscription boxes, and this month’s Goddess Provisions box was packed with items that were new to me. The Nicobella Organics Omega Munch was undoubtedly the most delicious, but the house blessing kit and aromatherapy air freshening pads may be tied for the most novel products for March. The items in this month’s box have a total value of $62.95. I think that the value is great for the $33.00 purchase price. The curation stayed true to the self-awakening theme, with items to lift one’s spirit and environment.

What do you think of Goddess Provisions? Do you like the changes to the crystals in the box? If you want to get your hands on your very own Goddess Provisions box, sign up at Goddess Provisions. I’m also looking for some new boxes to review in the months ahead. If you have a request for a specific box or a type of box (e.g., kids, food, beauty) that you would like to see me review, please let me know.

As a reminder, there is still time to enter the Crunchy Parent MommyCon ticket giveaway. MommyCon is another great way to discover natural, crunchy products as well as to learn about natural parenting topics and to meet like-minded people.

If you would like to see the most recent Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes for other great crunchy-friendly subscription or gift ideas, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos or reviews, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com and the Crunchy Parent YouTube channel!

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MommyCon Chicago 2016 Review

mommycon chicago 2016

It’s such a great experience when you find yourself among like-minded people, discussing topics from a shared perspective. It was a big moment for me in my earlier parenting years when I attended the La Leche League 50th anniversary conference, and for the first time found myself surrounded on a large scale by experts, vendors, and parents who shared and supported many of my parenting values.

I was so excited to attend the MommyCon Conference in Chicago earlier this month to see if I could capture some of that same magic, and to consider if such events were still relevant to me as a parent of older children. I am happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

MommyCon gives a lot of focus and attention to topics of interest to parents of young children, such as breastfeeding, babywearing, and cloth diapering. It was evident that they also emphasize issues pertaining to older children, in addition to the well-being of parents themselves.

Before I dig in to all of the nitty gritty, here is a breakdown of the MommyCon basics

MommyCon is a conference and expo aimed at “forward thinking parents with a natural flair.” The conferences are held on multiple dates throughout the year at different venues around the country. Tickets for upcoming MommyCon events can still be purchased, and the code CRUNCHY16 will knock $5.00 off of the ticket price. ***BONUS Spoiler*** Tomorrow I will be posting Part 2 of the MommyCon Review, which will include a giveaway for 2 free tickets to an upcoming MommyCon 2016 event of the winner’s choosing.

Chicago was the second stop of the 2016 schedule. Parents from near and far converged upon the convention center, many wearing their babies with them at the one-day event. Tremendous effort was put forth to make sure that babies and young children were comfortable throughout the day.

Caring for the Big and Little MommyCon Conference-Goers

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MommyCon had play areas set up in the back of many of the large lecture spaces so that children could remain entertained while the adults listened to speakers.

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There were also craft stations in the hallways for older children to flex their artistic muscles when they were in need of a creative outlet. New this year, MommyCon offered a drop-off care option at the Chicago location for children ages three and up, although this is not available at all of the conference locations this year.

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In addition to keeping children active, MommyCon catered to their other needs as well. The conference provided fully-stocked changing stations where babies could be diapered in complementary (healthier) sposies. Wipes were also provided free for all the mini conference attendees.

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Stonyfield sponsored an eating area where babies and children (and parents) could enjoy a snack of yogurt. MommyCon also had water stations in the hallways where reusable water bottles could be refilled, and where cups and cold water were available as needed.

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Mystery bags hanging out in the hallway

MommyCon provided snack bags on several tables in various hallways, free to anyone who had the munchies. These bags were not labeled in any way though and they went quickly, so you needed to be made aware of their presence and act fast if you wanted one.

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Revealed! Snacks for those in the know.

Nurslings could of course snack wherever and whenever they wanted. For those benefiting from a quieter, less stimulating environment, MommyCon had a “ladies & babies only” nursing lounge for some private snuggle time, as well as a Quiet Room for a good long nap.

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MommyCon Talks & Topics

MommyCon had packed the day’s schedule with presentations covering topics of interest to parents with children of all ages. They had four larger conference rooms in addition to three smaller, topic-specific rooms exclusively targeting sleeping, feeding, and woman-centered issues. At any given moment, conference attendees could select from among 3-6 different presentations on topics ranging from cloth diapering 101, breastfeeding for the working mom, infant massage, car seat safety, toddler wearing, picky eaters, body positive images, baby led weaning, and more. It was sometimes difficult to choose between subject areas, but I tended to stick with parent, older-child, and family-oriented discussions since they were most relevant to me.

Vagina Village at MommyCon 2016

Vagina Village draws a crowd

The talks held in the larger conference rooms had plenty of seating available, as well as the aforementioned child play areas in the back. New to 2016, MommyCon introduced “Vagina Village,” a smaller room hosting presentations specific to women, such as intimacy post-children, talking to young girls about their periods, and supporting care of mothers postpartum and beyond. Many of the talks here were standing room only as listeners sat on the floor and spilled out into the adjacent hallway. With such an enthusiastic response, I hope that MommyCon will give some of these topics more premium space at other venues, and in future years. It was clear to me that in addition to learning about their babies and children, MommyCon visitors really want to learn about mommy too.

As a parent of older children (ages almost six through thirteen,) a standout session was “The Period Talk Unraveled” by Meg Eldridge from generationMe. Meg gave parents thoughtful tools for helping their daughters feel comfortable, prepared, and knowledgeable enough about their periods to respond to their cycles from an empowered position; without fear or embarrassment. She encouraged ways to normalize and acknowledge this milestone, and to create a positive culture around this aspect of womanhood that is often complained and joked about in our society, rather than honored or respected. Meg spoke about the many reusable menstrual products available today.

Meg from GenerationMe MommyCon 2016

Meg of generationMe shows some of the reusable products in the exhibitor area. Photo Credit: Katie Hovland www.katiehovland.com

I was rather intrigued by “period panties” that have an absorbent panel to catch any leaks and avoid embarrassing middle school moments or unnecessary laundry challenges. During the Q&A session following Meg’s presentation, moms shared some of their experiences with reusable menstrual cups, and discussed how to talk to their young children about menstruation (since moms never seem to have a moment alone in the bathroom and the topic has a way of coming up). Meg also handed out a mommy-specific tip; informing us that the Soft Cup menstrual cup is even safe and tidy to wear during intercourse (who knew?).

In a session focused on natural products for the whole family, Jenny Duranski of Chicago’s Noktivo natural nail salon spoke about the lack of regulation in the United States with respect to the ingredients in personal care and beauty products. She encouraged parents in attendance to become more aware, and to make simple changes in the products that they use to help maintain safer healthier homes, and safer healthier families. She highlighted two of my favorite resources, the EWG Skin Deep Database and the Think Dirty app as starting points to become more conscious of what is in the products that we buy and put on our bodies.

As many of you know, I am rather passionate about making healthy choices that support wellness. I am likewise always in support of products that are effective, affordable, and allow people to feel nurtured and beautiful. I was delighted to see this topic presented at MommyCon, and I hope to see healthy home products and green beauty explored even more at future MommyCon events.

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I also very much enjoyed the presentation about positive body image by photographer Jade Beall of A Beautiful Body Project. Beall showed dozens of her powerful images, capturing women’s bodies as they really appear in all stages of their adult lives; from pregnancy, nursing, postpartum, and on through to grand-motherhood.

Beall focused on the liberating, educational, and cumulative effects of projecting real images out into our society, rather than accepting mainstream photoshopped “celebreality” pictures as truth. To highlight the assertion that honesty in images can change society’s views of beauty, Beall demonstrated that a Goggle image search for the term “beautiful body” is now peppered with Beall’s “true beauty” images amongst the scantily-clad photos of starlets and swimsuit models (warning: link contains nudity). This concrete example showed that grassroots efforts to promote realistic images of women and beauty, change the definition of beauty over time.

Stay Tuned….

Tomorrow I will continue my review of MommyCon’s Chicago stop, talking about the Vendor Expo, giveaways, and gift bag. I’ll also have a giveaway of my own to share; two free tickets to the MommyCon 2016 event of the winner’s choice (enter here).

If you don’t want to leave anything to chance, you can still get a $5.00 discount off of your ticket purchase for any remaining MommyCon 2016 dates with the code CRUNCHY16. If you are feeling lucky, be sure to check back tomorrow to enter the ticket giveaway. Subscribe to Crunchy Parent and you’ll even receive an email reminder when the giveaway opens so that you won’t forget.

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MommyCon 2016 the Conference for Forward-Thinking Parents with a Natural Flair Coming to Chicago! (+ Discount)

MommyCon 2016 conference schedule for naturally-minded parents

As some of you know, I began this blog almost nine years ago. Eva was in preschool at a lovely, nature-based, Waldorf school. Alina was a barely a toddler, spending most of her time snuggled up to me nursing away in a wrap or sling. The blog was my way of processing my parenting journey and connecting with other parents on similar paths. It motivated me to learn more, try new things, and share ideas and thoughts with others.

One of the big things that I did that first year as a natural family blogger was to seek out festivals, expos, and conferences oriented toward “crunchy” families. I was fortunate that it happened to be the 50th anniversary of La Leche League International that year, and they were having a big weekend-long conference in Chicago that summer to celebrate. Rich and I signed up to attend. Eva stayed with my parents and my little nursling Alina came along with us to enjoy the experience.

It has been many years since I attended that first big conference, but I still remember it as a real rallying point for me. The Waldorf school was a small, like-minded community where we found connection, but the conference felt like we were part of a larger movement. Everywhere I looked there were parents with babies, toddlers, and young children in carriers of all shapes and sizes, many of which I oogled and envied (the carriers I mean, although the children were cute too). Babies looked adorable in their little leg warmers and soft-soled shoes, which were still “fringe” choices at the time. We parents smiled with appreciation at the amber teething necklaces and plump, cloth-diapered bottoms all around us. It felt warm and familiar; as though all of the people behind the usernames in the natural parenting forums had leapt forth from the screens and materialized right before me.

Alina crawls around the conference room floor while mommy learns about medication and breastfeeding.

Alina crawls around the conference room floor while mommy learns about medication and breastfeeding.

The sessions that we attended at the conference spoke of topics that resonated strongly with us and our hunger for guidance and validation on our parenting path; gentle child birth, creating a natural family living community, informed health choices, parenting spirited children, breastfeeding with confidence in the face of challenges, co-sleeping, and more. I learned so much about the decisions ahead of me and processed a great deal about the milestones that had already passed; some of which had turned out differently than I had hoped.

Fangirling on Day 1 of the LLLI Conference in 2007. That's Peggy O'Mara and a starstruck me.

Fangirling on Day 1 of the LLLI Conference in 2007. That’s Peggy O’Mara and a starstruck me.

Rich and I walked with wide eyes and broad smiles down the aisles in the exhibitor’s area. All of the beautiful products that I had spent hours admiring online were right in front of me where I could touch them and ask questions about them. I was shown how to use the Moby wrap that I wore on the second day of the conference to back-carry Alina with ease (a maneuver that I had lacked the confidence to try previously). I admired adorable cloth diapers in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. I looked at beautiful nursing jewelry. I felt in my element in a way that was so rare and so needed at the time.

Happy toddler being back carried in my Moby Wrap-I learned something new!

Happy toddler being back carried in my Moby Wrap-I learned something new!

I am at a different point in my parenting journey now. My first baby turns thirteen next week. My littlest one is almost six. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, cloth diapers, and potty learning are all in my rear view mirror. I still continue to be a crunchy parent whose thoughts are often occupied with how to parent mindfully; what is healthy for my family, and where is my supportive tribe. The specific questions evolve, but the driving philosophy remains the same.

When I resurrected my blog a year ago it reignited a spark and a drive to learn more, to try new things, and to share more along my natural parenting journey and my journey as a naturally-minded person. That is why I was so excited to learn about the opportunity to attend the MommyCon Conference, an annual gathering across the nation that brings together, “forward thinking parents with a natural flair.” This, without question, is my tribe. I was so excited by the prospect of what MommyCon had to offer through their conferences that I went through the process to become a member of the MommyCon Media Team, to help other like-minded parents learn about and experience MommyCon.

MommyCon has already kicked off their 2016 schedule with their conference in Atlanta. In just two weeks they will be headed to Chicago. I am so excited that I will be there to connect with other naturally-minded parents, and parents-to-be. The schedule of speakers and list of vendors has been announced. I am already trying to decide how to choose between the amazing sessions topics which range from postpartum care, cloth diapering, treating childhood illness, positive body image, babywearing, creating intimacy among partners, and all things in between.

As a mom of (relatively) older children, I greatly appreciate that MommyCon has remembered that parenting mindfully extends beyond those first few years. The 2016 theme is “Growing Together” and can be seen in the range of topics being presented. MommyCon had the wisdom to clearly indicate which topics are best suited for parenting children in their first year, second year, toddlerhood and beyond; as well as topics focused on moms and those that are great for dads. The schedule layout makes it easy to find topics in your area(s) of greatest interest.

I think that one of the most challenging lessons for me to learn as a naturally-minded, child-focused parent was the importance of self-care (I’m still working on it). I am especially heartened to see the emphasis that MommyCon has placed on this topic and I hope that every mom in attendance makes time to fit in at least one session that focuses on her needs as well.

Of course, as much as I want to learn new things and meet other parents, I cannot wait to check out the exhibitors and see the great products and concepts that they bring to the show. MommyCon has lined up almost 100 exhibitors to help families feed, wear, clothe, diaper, celebrate, and care for their children and for themselves in a natural, mindful way.

MommyCon has also set up rooms to focus on areas of special interests; the Babywearing Lounge showcases over 40 different popular baby carriers that attendees can see, try on, and receive input about from certified BabyWearing Studies instructors. The Cloth Diaper Resource Center demystifies cloth diapering allowing attendees to see the many different types of cloth diapers available and learn about how to choose the ones to best meet their child’s needs and their budget. Experts are on-hand to discuss issues such as cloth diapering, car seat safety, promoting positive sleep habits, and more. MommyCon even offers stocked diaper changing stations, a feeding lounge, and play stations to meet the needs of even the tiniest conference attendees. Of course I saved the best for last, all attendees receive a gift bag from event sponsors and the event will end with over $10,000 in giveaways.

Tickets for the Chicago conference on March 5th had sold out but 400 more tickets were just added and are going fast. The code CRUNCHY16 will take $5.00 off the price of each ticket. If you have young ones who might want to have their own fun while you learn, the Chicago conference is also offering a Littles Make + Play Camp for children ages three and up. Kids can engage in supervised art and craft fun and creative play during individual sessions or for the whole day.

For those who make not be located close to the Chicago conference location, MommyCon will be hosting many other conferences across the country throughout the year in addition to more specifically focused conferences highlighting babywearing and infant feeding. The code CRUNCHY16 will reduce ticket prices by $5.00 for all locations.

I am counting the days until the Chicago event on Saturday March 5th. Can I look forward to meeting you there?

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Haul Video: Vitacost Natural, Organic, Gluten-Free Food

*I purchased all of these items and receive no compensation from Vitacost for this post, although post may include affiliate links. What follows are my honest opinions*

If you read my post about Barganic Alerts you know that I am really passionate about making natural, green-living choices accessible to anyone who desires to make them. Throughout my evolution as a parent and as a person, one of my goals has been to seek out healthier foods, which for us includes prioritizing organic foods, avoiding GMOs, and respecting our gluten and dairy sensitivities. This can add a lot to our food cost bottom line, but it is well worth it to me; better health is priceless.

The desire to buy the best food that we can afford has moved me to research the resources available to us in our community and through the interwebs to stretch our dollars. There are a few online retailers that I have found who offer very competitive pricing on high-quality natural, organic, and food allergy-friendly food items. Vitacost is a retailer that I shop with often for supplements, personal and home care items, and nonperishable foods. Not only is the value very good, but they offer an extensive range of products that are not always available to me locally.

Recently I got an email from Vitacost promoting a 20% off all food and beverages sale. This was the motivation that I needed to place a big order. I also went through ebates and earned an additional 4% off of my purchase. You can see the complete haul video above.

There were a few items that I bought that were not included in the sale. Specifically, the raw, organic honey was actually part of a buy one, get one 50% off special, making it an even better deal. The Spry gum was not part of any additional sale beyond the regular Vitacost price, but we needed it and by piggybacking it onto this order, it shipped free.

In the video I talk about a few things that I wanted to link to to if you wished to learn more. First, I mentioned that I store my bulk grains in large food-grade plastic buckets with Gamma Seal lids. They provide an air-tight seal that keeps out moisture, critters, and prolongs freshness. They are a workout to get on the bucket at first, but after the initial set-up they are very easy to open and close. I love them.

I also mentioned a few recipes in the video that I make using some of the products that I ordered. These include my versatile gluten free flour mix, my favorite green smoothie, and my gluten free/dairy free banana bread with hemp seeds and chocolate chips.

I encourage you to do your own research to see how pricing compares to what is available near you. To give a sense of the prices during this deal, I have provided a sample of my purchase prices below. The promotion is no longer active, but Vitacost frequently offers various deals. You can sign up for their emails to be alerted of sales.

Prices are before tax and do not reflect the additional rebate received through ebates. For ease of comparison, I have converted pricing for “bulk” items into price per ounce or per pound as appropriate.

Lundberg Organic short grain brown rice $1.72/lb.
Arrowhead Mills organic brown rice flour: $1.52/lb.
Vitacost potato starch $1.60/lb.
Vitacost tapioca starch $1.60/lb.
Nutiva organic raw hemp seeds: $0.60/ounce
Glutino GF crackers: $2.74/box (4.4 oz.)
Ener-G GF pretzels: $2.39/bag (8 oz.)
Kinnikinnick GF graham crackers $3.29/box (8 oz.)

So what do you think, are these prices a good value for your area? If you want to give Vitacost a try, you can save $10 off your first purchase through this link. Do you have any healthy food resources to share?

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 6 (The One Where Radiation Tries to Ruin the Valentine’s Day party)

Crunchy Parent- Alina's preschool valentine's party & my last week of radiation

If you want to read earlier posts from the Cancer Series or learn more about why I am posting these personal blog posts years later, you can do that here. This particular excerpt comes from the private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org at the time surrounding my cancer diagnosis and treatment. It highlights the emotional and logistical struggles that I was moving through at the time as I tried to be present as a mom to my three young children while fighting cancer in my spare time.

This entry was originally published on February 16, 2011 following my 24th round of radiation.

Tomorrow (Thursday) will be my final day of radiation. It was supposed to be today but that whole blizzard snow thing a couple weeks ago pushed it back a day. I can’t say that it’s coming too soon. I’ve been exhausted once again this week. From what I understand the radiation, or at least the way they’re doing the radiation for me, builds up over time so that the largest doses of radiation are reserved for the end. I’d have to say that it feels that way. On Valentine’s Day, my beloved valentine put the kids to bed and took care of all of the other nighttime tasks while I crawled into bed at 7:00 pm and slept clear through to 6:00 the next morning. I still woke up feeling like someone had filled my body with sand.

Actually, Valentine’s Day was it’s own little comedy of errors, although in the end it was delightful. Alina had a party in her classroom at 10:30, which is of course not too compatible with my 10:15 radiation time. Knowing this, several weeks back I changed this one and only treatment to 9:30 so that I could make the party. I even anticipated the whole “Monday meet with doctor day thing” and asked about pushing my sit down with Dr. Radiation to Tuesday this week. Sadly no change could be made because she was not going to be in this Tuesday. She promised instead that we would make it a quick meeting. In truth, our check-ins usually are pretty quick, but last week she was running crazy late and I sat around waiting for almost an hour before they told me to just go home and try back the next day. I was a bit anxious tacking the appointment on to what was already going to be a day when I was tight on time.

Anyway, I got to the Cancer Center at 9:30 on Monday, only to be told that my radiation machine was down and was being repaired. Now, it’s not exactly my machine or I assure you that I would have already received the bill for seven million dollars, but radiation is a pretty exacting process. I do need to have my treatment done using the same machine every day. I also have five little permanent black tattoos scattered across my legs and a custom mold to navigate my lower half into on the radiation machine so that they can position my body in the absolute same way every time. There is no “close enough” when it comes to this whole radiation game, so when I heard that the machine was down, my heart sunk. It was not helped much when the tech said, “We thought for sure that they’d be ready by the time that you arrived, but we were wrong.” (evidently).

I hung out in my hospital gown for a bit and then the tech ran in and said that they were going to use a different machine. She said that it used different films but that the doctor had approved it, so I was good to go. I did not really feel good to go on the different machine with the different films (I want to do cancer just right, thank you very much). The Universe must have sensed my hesitation because as the tech was walking me to the different machine all the other techs started shouting, “No No No! He’s done. She can get on the other machine!” So the tech leads me back to my machine and I jump on. She starts to get me all positioned and another tech comes over the intercom and says that they haven’t calibrated the machine for the day yet so I need to jump off, and it will be about ten more minutes. I am crying inside. On any other day I could roll with this, but all I can think of right now is sweet, little Alina excited for her mama to come to her party, and I can’t get there because, cancer.

At this point the tech takes me to see Dr. Radiation so that I can at least get the appointment part out of the way while they ready the machine. As I’m waiting to be seen by her I borrow the phone (because I’m in a hospital gown this whole time with my phone locked up in the Women’s Changing Room). I make a quick call to school to relay the message to Alina’s teacher that I will be late, I just don’t know how late. I’m having visions of a very disappointed Alina when all of the parents file into the classroom and her mommy just isn’t there.

I meet with Dr. Radiation who is aware of my tight party schedule. I’m trying to figure out some way that I might be able to run over to the 10:30-12:30 party, drop Alina off at home with Rich and Asher after school, scoot back to radiation, and then back home to get the kids to hightail it back to school by Eva’s class party at 2pm. I really don’t think that there’s any way for me to make the pieces fit. Dr. Radiation suggests that if I can’t make it work they can just skip my treatment today and add another day on at the end of my run. I don’t even want to wrap my brain around moving this much-anticipated radiation finish line back another day, but it’s really a non-issue. I am scheduled to be done with my radiation treatments on Thursday and I already have my follow-up MRI and CT scan scheduled for Friday morning so that I can have the results in time to meet with my surgical oncologist next week (sigh).

Dr. Radiation gives me the once over. This is our last official weekly appointment. From here, we just cross our fingers and hope that it did what it was supposed to do. Dr. Radiation says that she wants to see me again 4-6 weeks post-op, and gives me a farewell hug. The tech scoops me up and runs me back to the machine while telling me that they have only done my “energies” on the machine but that at least it’s ready for me. I have no idea what the first part means, but I understand the “ready” part and so I hop on. They do what they do and I’m changed and running out to my car in a flash, which is no easy task because my leg really hurts these days. In all, I left the Cancer Center approximately five minutes earlier than I would have on any other day when I hadn’t moved my appointment up 45 minutes (best laid plans…).

The running was worth it. Despite my racing heart and knotted stomach, my sweet girl was sitting in a circle with her friends as the teacher ushered them through a singing game. I made it to school in time to see Alina skip around the circle of her peers as a little pink blur with her braided pigtails bouncing and her smile beaming as everyone sang “A Tisket, A Tasket.”

A Tisket, A Tasket.....Alina skips around the circle to put a valentine in a friend's basket

A Tisket, A Tasket…..Alina skips around the circle to deliver a valentine to a friend’s basket

After the song we ate fruit salad from the shared party goodies and some gluten free banana bread that I had baked and brought to the party to share. I got to spend time with her while she played outside, watching her run and seeing her smile framed by rosy, wind-kissed cheeks. We came home for a quick lunch, and then were back at school again to enjoy more fun and games at Eva’s party before returning home for the remainder of the day, which I can now scarcely remember due to the exhausted stupor.

Party #2 with Eva's class

Party #2 with Eva’s class

All things being equal, it was a pretty successful Valentine’s Day. Last year the girls and I spent the entirety of Valentine’s Day in bed. They were both home from school with whooping cough, and I was on week 19 of my bed rest stint with Asher’s pregnancy. They missed their class parties and valentines from friends, and I couldn’t have come to school for their parties even if they had been there. By comparison, this year was a step up, I guess. Next year I’m aiming for total health and well-being for us all, and maybe five conscious minutes with my husband to wish him a happy day too.

My sweet boy's first Valentine's Day outside the womb.

My sweet boy’s first Valentine’s Day outside the womb.

So in summary: Radiation=tired. Almost done. MRI and CT on Friday to see how things look following the radiation. Meet with my surgeon next Wed (the 23rd).

Anticipated needs for assistance in the near future: 1. if anyone is coming up this way from the St. Louis area and can bring a cooler of milk from our donor, that would save us a really long drive; 2. our school carpool partners are going to be out of the country for the first half of March, which will also encompass my surgery date. If any of our school friends wouldn’t mind dropping Eva off at our house at the end of the school day at any point from 3/1-3/15, that would be a big help to cut down on multiple trips to/from school. All the driving and coming and going with Asher and Alina in tow really saps my energy (see above) and also requires me to wake Asher up from his naps every day.

Thanks all!

So today’s video is a flash mob, because I have a bizarre fascination with them. I know that it’s a bit late on the notice, but if someone wants to organize the doctors, techs, and other patients at the Cancer Center to bust out into a flash mob tomorrow when I finish treatment, it might just make the whole five weeks worth it….After surgery, I’ll be tumor free. No cancer for me…….

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 5 (The one where I wean my baby)

If you want to read earlier posts from the Cancer Series or learn more about why I am posting these personal blog posts years later, you can do that here. This particular excerpt comes from the private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org at the time surrounding my cancer diagnosis and treatment. It highlights the emotional and logistical struggles that I was moving through. I was trying to reconcile the attachment parenting choices that I wanted to make (i.e., exclusive breastfeeding and child-led weaning) with the gravity of the illness that I was facing, coupled with my intense desire to do everything in my power to increase the likelihood of the success of my cancer fight. It recounts my attempts to meet my infant son’s nutritional needs in a way that was healthy for both him and for me.

Although I did not know it at the time, in addition to Asher dealing with a mommy who had cancer, I was dealing with a child who had multiple food allergies and feeding delays (we still attend feeding therapy regularly four+ years later). This is our journey through weaning. I am posting it here to relay my experience and my story. It is not to be construed as medical advice, or any kind of advice for that matter.

This entry was originally published on February 9, 2011, approximately three weeks after I began my radiation treatments.

Let’s cut to the chase. I’m tired. Actually today is better than the past two days have been, which is why I have the energy to at least get to item #26 on my “to do” list for the day and post a little update. Undoubtedly, the fact that three weeks ago Eva was home sick the whole week, and two weeks ago Alina was home sick the whole week, and last week the Blizzard of the Century kept everyone home most of the week all contributed to my general exhaustion. I think there’s more to it than that. I’m not sure if the current fatigue is due to the radiation itself or to the need to get to radiation every day or both. I’m hoping that at least a big part of it is due to the need to get to radiation every day, and will thus be temporary.

I go to radiation every morning right after I put Asher down for his nap. This means that the time that used to be my least parentally-demanding portion of the day is now unavailable to get laundry, dishes, cleaning, cooking etc. done. Nevertheless, all of those things are just sitting around still waiting for my attention later in the day without regard to how tired I am feeling. This brings me back to the radiation itself. I do think that the actual radiation is making me tired too. The last two days I woke up wondering how soon it would be before I could get back into bed, and my limbs felt a bit too cumbersome to both lift and move. Bleh. But enough about the tired, let’s move on to the next thing.

Weaning. It’s been almost 48 hours since Asher last nursed. It makes me sad. He’s doing pretty well with it overall, but it makes me sad. And did I mention the sad? In a quiet moment, I took this video of me and Asher on my third day of radiation, when I knew that our days of nursing were numbered. Rich offered to take it for me, but I really wanted to just remember what it looked like to gaze down at Asher while he nursed to sleep. He always rubbed his hand back and forth across my stomach while nursing. I think that it was his comfort object. I guess that’s the best reason to have a soft mommy belly.

To clarify, according to several of the most respected breastfeeding authorities, it is believed to be safe to continue nursing through radiation. In fact, the only instance in which nursing is thought to be contraindicated with radiation is in the case of breast cancer. Even then it is believed to be okay to nurse on the side that is not receiving the radiation. Tuck that away as an interesting fact, because both the nurse at the radiation oncologist’s office and the La Leche League leader with whom I spoke told me otherwise. If I hadn’t challenged them based upon other research that I had done, both they and I would have continued to believe this incorrect information.

So, you ask, if it’s safe to breastfeed then why am I weaning? (Side note: Did you all know that Rich, Alina, and I were the “faces” of La Leche League’s national capital campaign in 2007? We were. Did you know that I have spent every day of the past 8+ years either pregnant or nursing or both? I have. Do you still wonder why I’m tired? I don’t.).

Jokes aside, breastfeeding is very important to me for many many reasons and has been a big part of my mothering relationship with each of my babies. I was not eager to wean Asher so soon. In fact, I have never weaned my children. I followed the girls’ lead on that, but by the same token it is very important to me that I do everything that I reasonably can to restore and maintain my good health so that I can mother my children until they are parents themselves.

I had the very strong feeling that I needed to stop nursing to allow my hormones to regulate. My body does not seem to respond well to the hormone fluctuations associated with pregnancy/nursing (menopause is going to be FUN!) I didn’t want to make this fight any harder on my body than necessary. I also wanted to conserve my body’s energy for healing rather than producing food. In addition, I was hoping that not nursing at night would allow for better sleep, because radiation is exhausting and my body needs the sleep time to repair from the damage done by the treatment. Most importantly though, was my desire to be able to really pursue cleansing and detoxifying my body following radiation, cancer killing, surgery, etc. I can’t detox while still nursing, or my body will dump the toxins into my milk, and then into my sweet boy, and that’s not a good option. So, here we are at weaning.

Now, this is an appropriate time to remind all that both of the girls are on gluten and dairy free diets as they seem sensitive to gluten and dairy. Asher too showed sensitivities to gluten, dairy, soy, and nuts through my milk, so I rarely ate any of those. This presented me with the challenge of what to feed him if my milk, and soy or dairy-based milk substitutes weren’t going to be an option, and he was heretofore exclusively breast fed. I tried him on some food (mushed avocado and applesauce). That was a disaster. He hated both, and clearly kept trying to figure out how to get the liquidy evil off of his tongue (he tried gagging, drooling, crying, etc.) He also got all rashy, and the whole thing was generally bad news.

My next step was to look into breast milk banks to see about acquiring alternative human milk for him (before you judge: just how well do you know the cows making milk for the local grocery store? I figure that at least we’re talking the same species here). Well, guess how much milk from a milk bank costs. Just guess…..Okay, so milk from a milk bank costs four dollars AN OUNCE. So after writing Alina a bill for three trillion dollars and talking with my insurance company who said that they would not cover the expense because Asher did not have a medical need (no, just the lady who MAKES the stuff), I looked into other resources. I found two, well, actually three.

1: Friends who know people who lactate 2: milkshare.com 3: Eats on Feets. The latter two are organizations designed to connect moms in need of donor milk with women willing to donate milk. Through these three channels I have been able to find four generous and kind women who have agreed to provide milk for Asher. They have also provided me with copies of their pertinent medical tests and patiently answered all of my many questions (there are questionnaires to guide moms through what to ask potential donors).

Now my freezers are stuffed with milk for Buddy, and we’ve been able to take on the weaning process. *FYI for those still concerned, we follow the recommended procedures for flash pasteurizing Asher’s donor milk to kill potentially harmful viruses or bacteria. This surely degrades some of the amazing health benefits of breast milk, but it seemed to be a reasonable and responsible compromise versus formula feeding. Check out this video if you too want to learn how to flash pasteurize for some such reason.

**Second FYI, no I can’t find donors who are gluten, dairy, and nut free AND other mothers do things like take medication or drink caffeine GAK! The loss of control has me reeling, but I’m trying to be very zen about it all. That said, Asher has developed a white coating with a big white spot on his perfect formerly-pink tongue since starting donor milk, any suggestions? (I don’t think it’s thrush by the way, but what do I know?).

Weaning has been a series of fits and starts (Ha! I so did not mean for that to be a pun, but I guess it is. Yuck. I don’t even like puns. Anyway, moving on). At first we started with night weaning and after a bunch of sad and screamy nights it seemed to be going pretty well. Then Asher got the cold that Eva and Alina had. That put the kibosh on the weaning and he was back to nursing at night.

He never really took a bottle, but we were able to get him to consider using a sippy cup. He was taking in about 6 oz. of donor milk each day, and nursing the rest of the time. Over the past few weeks we have worked his donor milk intake up to 25-30 oz. per day, although he was still nursing once or twice a night.

Last night, Rich and I finally got our acts together enough to flash pasteurize milk and set it on ice in our room in anticipation of Asher waking up. I warmed the milk in our sink and fed Asher that when he woke up at 2:30am rather than nursing him, and voila! Just like that it’s been almost two whole days since I’ve nursed.

I’m not ready for it. I knew that in a way I would probably never be totally ready to wean my last baby because it means closing a chapter on a very special and unique aspect of mothering. I really was not prepared for it to happen so soon or for this reason. That said, I feel confident in my decision. I know in my heart that if the adult Asher was talking to me right now he’d say, “Mom, I’ll be okay. Take care of yourself.” That doesn’t mean that I don’t still have tears streaming down my cheeks as I write this.

I will note though that it hasn’t been all bad. For 10.5 months Asher has almost always fallen asleep nursing. Whenever he is tired or hungry he makes a rather violent horizontal dive bomb for my chest to make his desires known. Since the weaning process has progressed, Asher has stopped diving to nurse when tired. He now cuddles his head against my shoulder, a move that he had previously reserved for Rich. Now, after I give him his sippy of milk before bed or naps, I stand up and hold him. He snuggles into me and I get to kiss his head and tell him how much I love him, before putting him down to sleep. It’s not the same as nursing him to sleep, but it is still loving and special, and I know that he feels cared for by his mom. I’ll take that.

That all got way longer than I’d planned. Sorry. According the MyLifeline.org, I’m supposed to try to end on an entertaining and uplifting note. Here, I like this. Enjoy.

-C

*******************************
As a final note, I cannot possibly post this without extending a very heartfelt thank you to the many mothers who fed my son when I could not. It was the greatest possible gift that we could have received at that time; making it easier to do something very difficult. I will never forget it.

I wanted to share this story that I came across today. It is from a mother who donated milk as a way to connect with, and honor the baby whom she lost (I do not know this woman, only her story). Donation is a beautiful and special gift from child-to-child and from mother-to-mother.

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More Crunchy Giveaways: Cloth Diapers, Menstrual Cups, Wool Dryer Balls, and More!


Newsbie Pix / Foter / CC BY

I am amazed by all of the great crunchy giveaways that I’m seeing everywhere. Where were these when I was building my cloth diaper stash? I’m excited to see menstrual cups becoming more widely accepted, they really are the greatest thing since sliced bread, if you ask me (and sometimes I sing their praises when people don’t even ask). Cloth dryer balls too? So simple and natural, yet I hear so effective. I must admit to not having tried them yet, even though I’ve made scads of wool balls for play (two-part tutorial here and here if you want to make your own). I’ll be crafting some plain ones for dryer use soon after we move into our new house next week, and I am happily reunited with all of my fluffy wool. Saving energy by cutting dryer time will be much appreciated on that electric bill. But enough of my chit chat, go enter and win yourself some great prizes. Good luck to everyone!

1. Cloth Diaper Geek and Green Planet Baby Giveaway: Win one of two prize packages; the winner’s choice of either a Diva Cup menstrual cup and a Glad Rags cloth pantyliner or a Glad Rags Daytime and Nighttime Set Total Value: not stated Enter Until: Friday August 7th

2. Cloth Diaper Whisperer Pink Lemonade Menstrual Cloth Giveaway: Win a $25 Pink Lemonade Menstrual Cloth Prize Package. Total Value: $25.00 Enter Until: Wednesday August 5th.

3. Dirty Diaper Laundry Lena Menstrual Cup Giveaway: Win a Lena Cup Menstrual Cup Total Value: approximately $39.95 Enter Until: Thursday August 6th.

4. Keeper/Mooncup Giveaway: Win a Keeper or Moon Cup Menstrual Cup Total Value: approximately $35.00 Enter Until: Monday August 31, 2015 at 10pm EST.

5. Not Quite Crunchy Mommy Wooly Naturals Wool Dryer Ball Giveaway: Win a set of six organic wool dryer balls. Total Value: approximately $25.00 Enter Until: Wednesday August 12th, 12:00 AM CST.

6. Grinning Cheek to Cheek Glow Bug Cloth Diaper Giveaway: Win a Glow Bug Cloth Diaper of your choice. Total Value: not stated Enter Until: Monday August 10th,11:59 PM CST

7. Latched on Mom Kushy Tushy Giveaway: Win a Kushy Tushy AI2 Cloth Diaper. Total Value: $24.99 Enter Until: Tuesday August 18th

8. Viva Veltoro Accessorize Your Stash Giveaway: Win a prize package featuring Buttons Cloth Diapers, LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls, and Spray PalTotal Value: over $150.00 Enter Until: Monday August 17th,10:59 PM CST

**Some of the above may be affiliate links. I don’t actually think that any are, but ‘m not 100% sure, so I’m going with better safe than sorry on this one**

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services. They are not endorsements, nor am I compensated in any way. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted**

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Barganic Alert: Kloverbox Limited Edition Back to School Box

Klover Box BTS box

You may be familiar with Kloverbox from the Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. They are a recently launched subscription box service featuring natural, cruelty-free and organic beauty, health, nutrition and home products. Kloverbox has just announced that they are launching their first ever kids special edition box.

The Kloverbox Kids Back to School Box will only be available for purchase from today through Friday August 7th according to their Twitter release. The link above lists a 8/9 order deadline, but you might want to order by 8/7 to avoid possible disappointment. The box is specifically designed for children ages preschool to age 8. It will contain an assortment of goodies, including eco-friendly school essentials, organic health & nutrition, and some additional unique finds. Kloverbox will also be asking for the child’s gender, name and age to personalize the assortment, which has me wondering if monogramed items will be included.

Boxes cost $50.00 and will ship in late August/early September. This is a one time purchase and will not initiate a rebilling subscription through Kloverbox. For those who are as intrigued as I am, Kloverbox will reveal a spoiler on their Facebook page next week. Are you going to order one or more for your kids (and how is school right around the corner)?

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services. They are not endorsements, nor am I compensated in any way. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted**

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My Great Big Herbal Adventure-Part 1

Arizona Herbalism Trip-yerba mansa stand at the hot springs

Back in April I wrote about going on a big trip out to Arizona for an herbal learning experience with clinical herbalist Michael Cottingham of Voyage Botanica (a bit more about Michael here). Michael was a student of the late, renown herbalist Michael Moore. He is continuing the tradition of herbalism through online courses as well as destination herbal intensives on topics such as essential oil crafting and native medicinal plants of the southwest. Right now, Michael and many of my former classmates from Arizona are enjoying another long learning weekend in New Mexico. I wish that I could be out there with them, deepening my understanding and appreciation of plant medicine. Since I cannot, I thought that I would write a bit about my Arizona trip so that I could savor and share all of the memories.

Before launching into that I should say that this trip was a big, thrilling deal for me. Years ago I would have not felt the freedom to leave my family and spend time away by myself, learning about a topic of interest to me. I feel extremely fortunate to have taken this trip. I learned so much and was inspired in many areas of my life. It also gave me an extremely rare change to unplug as a mom and reconnect with myself as an individual, which then allowed me to return home better than I left. I realize that a lot of people reading this blog may not have the time, freedom, or resources to go off on such a trip today. I hope that it at least plants a seed of an idea that maybe someday you can take a similar adventure, or maybe today you can think of a little something attainable that might allow you to recharge or feed the creative fire within you.

I have a delightful mama friend who I first met when our oldest daughters were attending a parent-child class together at a Waldorf school. We discovered that we had a lot in common, not the least being attachment parenting tendencies, as well as an enjoyment of cooking, crafting, healthy living, and a general overall drive to learn how to do new things. That connection has remained strong over the years, and we often find that we will encourage new interests in one another. She might mention a topic of interest in passing and then move on to something else only to find that I rediscover it down the line and renew the interest for her or vice versa. Through this relationship we have been partners in crime in many adventures that we might not have had the courage or follow through to pursue on our own. She had first introduced me to Michael Cottingham and then I later mentioned hearing about this trip. We both let it rest for a while as a bit of a pipe dream. Some time later, she brought it up to me again. Somehow through travel miles, and car rentals, supportive spouses, and a sense of adventure, we found ourselves heading halfway across the country to Arizona to learn more about herbalism and medicinal plants.

Sun-dappled yerba mansa leaves

Sun-dappled yerba mansa leaves

When we finally made our way to the private hot springs reserve area that would be the home for the class, we began with the group sitting in a large stand of yerba mansa, learning about the plant and its uses as an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory herb. It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by the plant, and to reach out and feel the leaves, nibble the plant, and smell the fragrance all around us. If you have an interest in learning more about this magical plant, you can hear a sampling of the type of teaching that we received from Michael in this video:

One of the many hot spring pools throughout the property

One of the many hot spring pools throughout the property

After several hours developing a relationship with yerba mansa, we toured some of the rest of the reserve area, viewing the hot spring pools, and being taught about various plants as we walked by them. Michael shared a bit of information about mindful wildcrafting; taking care not to gather plants when too tired or distracted. He emphasized the importance of being present when harvesting, and use good guides to help identify plants and to become aware of “lookalikes” that may potentially be harmful.

Mesquite reaching upward

Mesquite reaching upward

Desert Plantain

Desert Plantain

Chaparral (aka larrea or creosote)

Chaparral (aka larrea or creosote)

We saw numerous plants native to the desert region including mesquite, desert wolfberry (similar to goji berries), tamarisk, desert plantain, and chaparral. You can read herbalist Sevensong’s insightful monograph on chaparral here. Michael guided us through the medicinal uses of each plant, encouraging us to touch, taste, and smell as appropriate.

Infinity symbol near the hillside

Infinity symbol near the hillside

Jewelry at the Source Well

Jewelry at the Source Well

Precious rocks at the gated garden

Precious rocks at the gated garden

It was clear that the private reserve area has been cared for by many over the years. Although the buildings on the property were rustic, they were sufficient to meet all of our needs. All throughout the property were beautiful natural gifts, formations, and symbols large and small that showed reverence for, and resonance with the beauty all around.

In addition to teaching us to recognize and utilize the various plants, Michael also took care to speak with us about ethical wildcrafting, developing relationships with private land owners who might allow one to harvest medicinal plants from their land in areas where wildcrafting is not allowed, and ways to give thanks to the plants and to the Earth for the gift of plant medicine.

The long first day of travel, walking, and learning began to wind down. Many of the students who had come by car had pitched tents to camp on the grounds. Since we had come by plane and rental car (and I do not own a tent or camping gear) we had intended to stay in a motel in a small town 20-30 minutes away, but when we had arrived we learned that there were rustic casitas on site that we were welcome to use for our stay.

Our casita for the stay

Our casita for the stay

We took a quick look at the casitas and realized that unfortunately we did not have what we needed to immediately take advantage of the offer. The casitas had only bare mattresses on the concrete floor and a string of Christmas lights and a small table lamp (on the floor) for illumination. They also has a series of nails sticking out of the wood beams along the wall and ceiling to allow us to hang up our clothes as needed to keep them away from the vermin (I mean, the four-or-more-legged casita keepers).

We decided that we really would much prefer to stay on-site for the remaining nights, even if that meant roughing it more than we had originally planned for. We wanted to be able to enjoy the hot spings, gather and process plant material, and build relationships with our classmates without the pressure of transporting back-and-forth to town to sleep. We decided to take the first evening to gather supplies and prepare. After a restorative soak in the hot springs, we drove out to town and headed for the biggest super store. We bought food, water, and sleeping bags. We then hit the clearance rack for the warmest nightgowns, lounge pants, small blankets, and scarves that we could find since the casita was not climate-controlled, and the temperature in the desert at night was shockingly cold. Once we had all of our spoils in the car, we went out for a quick bite to eat (quick because we were so exhausted from the day that by the time the food arrived at the table, we just packed it to go). We then made our way to our motel where we crashed hard in preparation for an early start the next day.

I will continue with day two of my herbal adventure in Part 2.

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 2


Counse / Foter / CC BY

As I’ve mentioned before, this blog began in its original version back in 2007 when I was a crunchy parent trying to live a healthy and mindful life with my husband and two children. The blog got sidelined when we were faced with a series of health challenges that started in the summer of 2008. I kept thinking that life would settle down and I could return to my writing at CrunchyParent.com, but amidst the years of chaos we forgot to pay the annual web hosting fee. As a result, the blog content vanished. I had backed up some of my posts, but far from all. Those that I saved are on a computer that has been languishing in storage with the majority of our possessions while we have been living with my parents and house hunting these past nine months. I hope to retrieve and re-post some of what I had written in the past because I think that it provides context, perspective, and maybe even helpful information.

Until I am able to post some of the “greatest hits” from CrunchyParent.com of yesteryear, I wanted to periodically share some of what I had written on a private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org, a free website service for individuals with cancer, back when I was going through my cancer treatment and early recovery. For more about why I’m revisiting my cancer treatment days and to read part 1 of The Cancer Series, take a look here.

The following entry was initially written on January 26, 2011 five weeks after I had received my diagnosis and almost two weeks into my radiation treatment.

Radiation warning sign

Radiation #9

I had my ninth session of radiation yesterday, which I only know because the nurse told me that, right before saying that I’m almost done! I’m not sure how 9 out of 25 equals almost done, but I appreciate her optimism.

I meet with the radiation oncologist once a week to discuss progress, symptoms and whatnot and yesterday was the day. It is supposed to be Mondays but she was not in on Monday so I guess Tuesday was the day this week. Before leaving for treatment in the morning, Rich asked me if I had any questions that I wanted to bring up when I saw the doctor, and I did….

Question #1: Lymphedema-what is my risk and what if anything can I do to minimize this? (See here if you want to know more about lymphedema. Don’t go to Wikipedia unless you want to lose sleep trying to remove the images from your brain).

Question #2: Radiation-why is nothing done to protect the rest of my body during the daily x-rays and radiation treatment? Haven’t they heard that radiation can cause cancer?

So here are the answers…secondary lymphedema can result from damage to the lymphatic system following radiation, removal of the lymph nodes, surgery etc. Although my lymph nodes have not been impacted by my cancer they may be compromised by radiation (scar tissue) and the whole lymphatic drainage system will be disrupted by the tumor removal. The surgeon should be able to comment more about the degree of the disruption. In any case, I am at a lifelong risk of developing lymphedema in my leg although the doctor suspects that it would be mild and hopefully transient. To prevent this I have to try to avoid overuse/underuse of the limb (e.g., standing for long periods of time, immobility during lengthy air travel, etc.); infection (cuts on my leg, pedicures at a salon), and injury (no sharp objects for the kids and a suit of armor for me). She also wrote me a prescription to be evaluated at the lymphedema clinic at the hospital to discuss anything else that I can do before or after treatment to reduce my risk.

Now for #2…I can’t help but notice that every day I walk into a room with a great big door that bears a rather threatening-looking sign saying, “CAUTION very high radiation area.” I recognize that the picture above shows a sign with a less aggressive warning but that’s only because my sign is in a restricted area and I don’t bring my fancy phone with me when I enter the restricted area. I was unwilling to enter the restricted area later to snag a scary-sign picture because I’m basically a rule follower (*unless the rules make no sense, in which case all bets are off). Anyway, every day I pass the scary sign and enter the room and lay down on the strange table under the giant machine with the robotic arm and whirling parts and I have only a hospital gown to protect me from the beams so strong that they warrant their own special sign and an eight inch thick door. Asher has his thumb x-rayed and I had to wear an iron apron, yet for this daily adventure, nothing.

So the doctor tells me that the beams are targeted and that there is some minimal internal scatter but no protective garment would impact that. There is some external risk as well, but I’d have to wear a protective garment the size of a house to provide sufficient protection so no luck there either. She adds however, that the residual radiation is less than I would receive flying on a plane from New York to LA (which I did every day for 25 days straight LAST month). So, asked and answered I suppose.

There you have it, my first official update. Mylifeline.org has kindly provided me with tips for making my update “great.” In brief: 1. Post a new photo with updates for more visual appeal (check); 2. Write the truth. People want to know what’s really happening. (yup); 3. Even though the truth may be hard news or a serious setback, try to end the message on a positive note. Can you share a special memory from the past, or an endearing moment from the day? (*I would like you all to take a moment to recall an experience in which I may not have exactly been an unabashed rule follower. One might spring to mind without too much difficulty). 4. Add a video from YouTube. Copy and paste the embed code from the YouTube video and post it into the content area of your Connecting Update. Okay, there were a whole lot of instructions there that I don’t understand. I’m sure that Rich can translate later. In the meantime, check this one out. Nothing to do with cancer, but it makes me laugh:

Oh wait, I just re-read the instructions and I think that’s what I just did. Woo hoo!

Love to you all!
-C

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