Saturday, October 18, 2014

15 Immune System Boosters and Illness Fighters for Kids

As a mom in the trenches of our first illness of this season, boosting my kids' immune system is really fresh in my head, we've just recuperated! From the past five years of experience, we have a pretty large arsenal of first aid and have more or less figured out what works best for different types of symptoms as well as what helps prevent an illness from materializing when first symptoms are present. 

I certainly do not know it all, but I prefer to keep our kids and ourselves off of drugs of any sort. Medical treatment only when absolutely necessary. These tried and true immune boosters have helped keep us out of the doctor's office many times (even though our doctor rocks) and are definitely less expensive than over-inflated medical bills! These remedies help with everything from regular sniffles to a full blown respiratory infection that's tougher to beat. 

I've noticed in friends, family, and acquaintances in real life and online - that regular medical treatment often results in lingering symptoms that do not go away for weeks or months, or worse - side effects that are worse than the illness itself. One thing I noticed is rather predictable with these natural remedies though, there are no side effects, we get over illnesses fairly quickly, and there are no lingering symptoms. 

Here are all of our little secrets to staying well or treating acute illness through the New England fall/winter/spring, in no particular order...

1. Breastfeeding | FREE
It's no secret that breastfeeding boosts a baby's immune system. I don't know how we would have survived illness with little ones if it wasn't for breastfeeding, my first until she turned 2 and my second is almost 3 and still nursing once or twice a day. All kinds of goodness here, breast milk full of probiotics, it is antiviral, and it is full of vitamins and minerals.

2. Sunshine/Vitamin D | FREE, $4 - $20
Getting vitamin D naturally from proper sun exposure is best of course, but not always possible when the kids are bundled even for the few minutes of sun they get in cold weather. If you get supplements, make sure it is in the form of vitamin D3, not synthetic D2. For younger ones, you'll do well with hiding some liquid D3 drops in their drink. This is just common sense because vitamin D deficiency has been directly linked to being susceptible to the flu (see here and here).  

3. Sleep | FREE
It's absolutely essential for the body to have adequate sleep to have a strong immune system, especially for children (see here). Overworked, tired little bodies are more susceptible to disease. It may be tempting in this modern age to schedule your children for every available activity, but consider that their health and rest are more important and should be guarded. This is just one of gazillion reasons we love homeschooling, our learning revolves around a healthy lifestyle and not an exhausting schedule. 

4. Probiotics | $15 - $50
Since our immune system cells are largely contained in the gut, probiotics are naturally a great way to boost immunity. Not to mention they address many unwanted symptoms such as IBS, recurrent yeast infections, bloating and other digestive issues. Probiotics may also help with absorption of vitamin D3, minerals, and other nutrients. Not all probiotics are created equal though! Most do not survive the acid in your stomach before they reach the intestines. Make sure yours is not just one most commonly marketed strain like acidophiclus. Some of the most effective strains are lactobacillus reuteri (as found in breast milk) and bacillus coagulans

5. Vitamin C | $1 - $20
I'm sure you already know Vitamin C is great to ward of colds and flu, but did you know that most vitamin C supplements on the market are derived from genetically modified organisms? It's usually made from GM corn. Your best bet is just buying some organic lemons and incorporating that into recipes (such as this yummy, healthy dessert) and smoothies. If you must supplement though, invest in a whole food, real vitamin C supplement such as this

6. Elderberry Syrup | $5 - $30
I have heard so many great things about elderberries from other moms that I had to finally try it. I am getting on the bandwagon, this stuff is amazing! I don't know what it does, but it works fast and is great for cough and anything that affects respiratory system. I bought this syrup but plan on making my own out of whole dried elderberries with this recipe, which will be cheaper for the amount it yields.

7. Wild Cherry Bark Syrup | $10 - $20
I love this locally made (to me) remedy from Vermont, this syrup does wonders for lingering, persistent, or "whooping" coughs, especially when kids have trouble sleeping. It was recommended by a naturopath and I'm so thankful to have it on hand for the winter season. 

8. Colloidal Silver | $10 - $50
Not really an "immune booster", but it stops anything viral in its tracks and works well to bring high fevers under control and kill the culprit. You have to be sure of correct dosage according to the label. The best thing is, it has no particular taste and can easily be mixed into some water or a green smoothie. Be sure to follow with probiotics as this is a natural antibiotic and can wreak havoc on digestion! Just be sure to buy the right kind, NOT ionic silver or protein suspended, you want real colloidal silver, we buy this one and it's amazing for infection of any kind (it's cheaper on Swanson). We've used it for viral infections and for tooth infection. Unlike antibiotics, it kills bacteria, viruses, and parasites without harming your cells and does not breed antibiotic resistance. 

9. Olive Leaf Extract | $10 - $15
Olive leaf extract is miraculous! Let's see: antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal - great for any internal infections. It did wonders for an aching tooth I once had. Antioxidant, lowers blood pressure, contains anti-cancer compounds apigenin and luteolin (remember, all of us have cancer cells). You have to use your head and figure out dosage for a child, it's definitely not something to be taken regularly.

10. Gaia Kids Wet and Dry Cough Syrups | $15 - $20
At the recommendation of our doctor we got these syrups for lingering cough last winter, both the dry cough and the wet cough. It's great for those night time coughing spells, one dose and baby is fast asleep! It really calms things down and gradually gets rid of cough for good. Not cheap, but in our humble opinion worth it for the relief we see in our kids. 

11. Cod Liver Oil | $8 - $40
This is a supplement that is great to take daily all through the year, cod liver oil has a ton of benefits and is great for overall health. During flu season we up the dosage and skip less often than summer. I notice a difference in my own health when I take it and when I don't. Not to mention it's great for skin, nails, teeth, and hair! 

12. Echinacea | $5 - $20
An alcohol-free liquid echinacea formula is a great immune system booster and is great to mix into the kids drinks. This is a great preventative measure to implement through the winter. I use liquid echinacea in smoothies for the whole family!

13. Smoothies | varies per serving
Of course what you put in a smoothie can also boost the immune system. Berries, spinach, lemon, apples, ginger, carrots, chia seeds, cucumber, and cinnamon are all great healthy ingredients. To make it yummier and more tolerable for the kids you can add a little banana or mango, raw milk would be great if you have any. 

14. Fruits and Veggies
Of course fruits and veggies in their raw or lightly steamed form are awesome! I stock up on broccoli as my kids surprisingly like it steamed. Carrots to munch on. Slightly sour green apple slices. Sauteed cabbage. Raw sweet peppers. Sauteed cauliflower. Green peas. Offer a variety of veggies throughout the day regularly and they will learn to like them. 

15. Humidifier | $25 - $150
There is no way around it, indoor air will become really dry in the winter with the heat or furnace on. This can really dry out nasal passages and prolong illnesses, not to mention it makes viruses more easily transmittable indoors. We run a humidifier every night in the winter and sometimes throughout the day when we are sick. This one has served us well for 6 years and I loved it, though it recently died (hoping I can fix it). Meanwhile I keep the air moist by hanging well towels to dry and boiling water on the stove top.

*  *  *

Whatever you do, keep in mind that it is a proven fact that sugar suppresses immunity and triggers inflammation. Being surrounded by it everywhere makes it really hard (ask me how I know), but try to focus on a real-food diet with plenty of organic veggies and whole fruit, legumes, as well as healthy fats, and organic or grass-fed meats. Also, it's great to have a non-toxic hand sanitizer with you at all times to use when you can't wash hands. If you're home, triclosan-free soap will do the trick!

Last but not least, in a crazed and "fast-lane" society, we really really need to guard our children and families from being over-scheduled. When stress hormones rise in children and adults, immune system response is lowered. Kids need lots of creative free play time and rest to thrive!

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Talk to your trusted healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding your health. 

Contains affiliate links to where we usually shop, your purchase supports Eco-Babyz at no extra cost to you and helps offset some of the cost associated with pouring our time and energy into this site. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Luxe Baby Shower Giveaway Event | $1400+ in prizes!

Are you expecting a baby or already holding your little new arrival? You are going to love this amazing event in partnership with six luxurious baby brands! We are excited to share it with you and to give you an opportunity to own these wonderful, high quality products. 

It's hard to find the best and most functional products for baby in an overwhelming sea of cheap disposable consumer goods. We have hand-picked some of the best "Luxe Baby Shower" items that are consistently well rated by other parents, saving you some time researching. A little bit about each of these great sponsors and prizes... 

Jané USA: The winner will surely be impressed with the fully loaded Jané Rider that radiates elegance and ease. The patented fold on the Rider is designed for those of us who often find our hands full and our minds elsewhere, compressing the stroller to 30% of its upright size. With the kick of your foot you can unfold your stroller with the seat on or off and forward or rear-facing.
Adjustable rear suspension, adjustable handlebar with six settings, corrosion resistant anodized aluminum chassis, and long stroller basket are among the superb features. High quality washable fabrics and a water, wind, and stain resistant canopy to top it off. The seat is built for children around four months of age all the way up to 40lbs. and with the addition of the Micro bassinet or Link-Fix adapter you can begin to use your Rider from infancy on. 
While other manufacturers make you pay for essentials like the diaper bag, rain cover and cup holder, Jané includes them standard with each Rider purchase. The Rider screams style and exudes convenience.
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Woolino: These 100% natural baby sleeping bags are made with the world's most superior natural fiber - silky soft allergy-safe Australian Merino wool and organic cotton. Perfect for children, merino breathes, regulates body temperature, manages moisture, is naturally fire resistant, non-allergenic, antibacterial, easy care and durable. The Woolino sleep bags are economical since only two sizes are needed from 2 months to 4 years old, it grows with baby and is durable enough to be passed on to younger siblings. The value and high quality makes it easy to see why it is rated a #1 BestSeller on Amazon among baby sleep bags .  

New for this fall, Woolino now also creates a baby-safe Lambskin Cuddle/Play Rug and you're among the first to find out! This new product that is not yet available on their website. Medical studies actually show that babies sleep in or on merino wool settle more quickly, wake and cry less, sleep longer and gain weight faster! Lambskins have been used worldwide for centuries to keep babies warm and comfortable in any environment. It's also the perfect playmat and is functional even when kids grow older!
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LILLEbaby: The LILLEbaby COMPLETE carrier is ergonomically designed for the healthiest hip position for baby, whether they are an infant or toddler. There truly is no "babywearing gap" for when this carrier cannot be used. Featuring adjustable neck support, an adjustable sleeping hood, a long adjustable torso, wide padded waist belt, unique lumbar support, and padding on all straps - it is a complete design. It is convenient to nurse in and evenly distributes the weight of the baby so you can babywear pain free longer. The design of this carrier truly takes into consideration the comfort of both baby and parent and behind it are years of design development and testing. An entire team of moms and dads from many vocations contributed to the making of LILLEbaby COMPLETE 6-in-1 baby carrier.
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Haba: HABA is a family owned and operated company located in Bad Rodach, Germany. Owned by Mr. Klaus Habermaass, whose father started the business more than 72 years ago, the company has grown to more than 1,400 employees in Germany, with additional distribution facilities located in the United States, France, UK and Asia.  HABA prides itself on the fact that children love playing with its toys, blissfully unaware of how this fosters their development. HABA products have been bestowed honors by virtually every German toy award and virtually all of the prestigious American ones, as well.  Their design intentions are simple: provide value and quality. HABA is one of the only toy companies that obtained the world renowned PEFC certification.  All their wooden toys that are manufactured in Germany are made from reforested timbers.
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Lässig is also a sustainable, family owned business located in Germany, dedicated to creating consciously-crafted diaper bags, kids' bags, bibs, dishware and other high-quality accessories for the modern family. In addition to being sustainable, Lässig ensures that their products are durable and made to last. Lässig production adheres to strict quality control measures and is constantly monitoring production standards. The Lässig brand embodies an ideal blend of versatility and innovation, with convenient features and chic details to combine fashion, safety and sustainability.
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gDiapers: gDiapers is redefining the diaper inside and out by giving parents the convenience of disposables and the confidence to build a better future. On the inside, our Disposable Inserts are Cradle To Cradle Certified (cm) Silver, flushable and break down in home compost (wet ones only). On the outside, the soft cotton gPants are designed to let baby’s skin breathe and come in colors and prints that parents love. The winner will have the choice of a Newborn Bundle or the Sweet Bundle (small, medium, or large), a great way to start an easy sustainable diapering routine.
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Puj: The Puj Tub is the easiest bath tub ever! Made from a soft foam that folds and conforms to almost any sink, the Puj Tub cradles and protects the baby during bath time. Hang or store the tub flat anywhere you would like...even on the back of your door and out of sight! The Puj Tub cradles and comforts baby, is mold and mildew resistant, fits in standard-sized bathroom sinks, works with pedestal and counter top bathroom sinks, Hangs flat for easy and convenient storage.
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Enter to win this amazing Luxe Baby Shower Package through the giveaway form below. 

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this post. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. By entering, Entrants agree to a complete release of Facebook. Entrants are providing information to AnaB Social, not to Facebook. Must be 18 years of age to enter. Open to U.S. residents. Void where prohibited. Participating blogs and AnaB Social are not responsible for sponsor prize fulfillment. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Being a Small Business Owner and Homeschooling Mom: Dream vs. Reality

The title sums up my life right now. It's idyllic. Well, that's what I thought some five years ago when I was dreaming of staying home with the kids, homeschooling, and owning my own photography business. Mission accomplished! We're here! Living the dream! 

Ha! Of course there is a caveat. Many of them. Clearly things cannot be perfect, this is life. I do not regret for a moment being here, but I am just now starting to get a glimpse of what I've gotten myself into, in a good way. 

You know how we often dream up the ideal scenario and then adjust our expectations when we actually get there? That's how parenting is after all. That's how business ownership is. That's how homeschooling is. I've got all three. Did I mention my husband is working three weeks away from home every month right now? Yep, I'm on my own, but somehow enjoying it. Here is our "Dream" and "Reality" scenario for a day of living and learning. 

Morning: I work on editing photos while the kids sleep soundly.
They wake up mid-morning and we have a leisurely breakfast, maybe even their favorite - pancakes I make from scratch.  
We sit outside in the sun and read with my 5 year old while my toddler plays with toys and a ball. Baby E is not at all frustrated with learning to read. Then we read a slew of fun learning books we got from the library about castles, farming, world geography, and geometry. My almost 3 year old is into it too. We color some coloring books.

We go meet up with some local homeschoolers at a playground for a couple of hours. Have a light picnic.
We arrive home just in time to have lunch and put Baby T down for a nap. 
While I work, Baby E does some coloring, drawing, and crafts - unassisted and never calls my name. I've booked one more wedding for 2015 and I feel like I've accomplished a ton of work!
Baby T wakes up around 4 and I have dinner from scratch on the table in half an hour. This leaves us enough time for some biking outside.
My mom arrives and takes the kids to a park so I can go to a meeting with a potential client/couple. 
I come back home and the kids aren't back yet. I make, vaccuum pack, and freeze a few more meals for my husband's next trip. I clean the whole kitchen. 
Kids arrive, we have a pre-bed snack (yogurt or toasted sprouted bread with raw cheddar), say goodbye to grandma, brush teeth, and read five books without kids whining. Lights out. They fall asleep in 5 minutes. So do I. Daddy/hubby is coming back tomorrow!

I'm too exhausted from the day before to wake up with my alarm to edit photos, I beat myself up over it when I wake up an hour before the kids do, instead of 3 hours. 
Ten minutes later Baby T wakes up, I try to shush him back to sleep. He falls asleep but Baby E is up and ready to learn. 
I set her up with her favorite math and phonics games on a computer next to mine in the office. 
I make a last dash attempt to at least answer any urgent bride emails (I photograph weddings!)
Baby E whines she is hungry, I bring her a dried pea snack. 
Baby T wakes up crying, wants to sleep but it's too late to do that. I distract him in their playroom/bedroom. 
I beg Baby E to play with her little brother while I finish typing an urgent email reply. 
For a quick breakfast I boil eggs, they whine but say they'll eat them with the organic ketchup. ;)
We're late for a homeschool meet-up at the park. Thankfully we're not the only ones. 
We have too much fun there and end up staying later than planned, which means Baby T is absolutely cranky and his diaper is dirty. I remember how terrible it is that he isn't potty trained yet and that I am (gasp!) using an Eco disposable for outings instead of cloth diapers. He refuses to nap and my whole mid-day work-time is out the window. 
He needs to chill, so I set them up with water-coloring while I heat up leftovers for a late lunch.
I leave them to paint for a quick 10 minutes while I check email. No new weddings booked today and I realize how darn competitive the Boston wedding photography market is, not to mention marketing here is expensive, so I'm stuck with the slow and steady growth of word-of-mouth.  
Come back to burnt left-overs and watercolors on the table. What was I thinking?!
We eat what's left of leftovers, they beg for dessert, I smother some butter on challah and call it "dessert".
I realize it's after 5 and we haven't read with Baby E today, we sit down to read in the kitchen because it's raining outside. After page two of her little reader book she says she is done. I make her read one more page. 
They ask to build an "airplane", so we do...

I turn on some audio books for the kids to listen to while I attempt to clean the kitchen and send a wedding photography quote to another couple.
I extinguish a sibling squabble, they hug and make up. I marvel at how lucky they are to have each other and remember that Baby T needs a younger sibling pronto - he is selfish (aren't we all?).
We play a math game, learn some notes on the piano, kids are hungry and have their pre-bed snack.
After much arguing I get them to brush their teeth. They fight over and rip a library book while I go shut down the computer in the office.
Mommy is angry. Mommy tells Baby E that her savings will go toward paying for that library book. Baby E cries profusely. Mommy feels terrible, but she did pull the book from her brother and she knows we don't do that. I read them one short story and turn off the lights because I can't take her sobbing anymore, we just all need to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day!

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It's definitely a challenge and a huge responsibility to have this much FREEDOM in both work and education. 

The good news is that most days are somewhere between Dream and Reality. It's never really idyllic and it's never really a disaster. Which makes it actually quite enjoyable and something I feel I can survive! We don't have a typical day. We could be at the zoo. We could be visiting with a friend. We could be at the library for 2 hours because they can't get enough of all the incredible books there. I have weeks where I have several photo sessions and weeks where I have none. I have moments where I'm frazzled and moments of peace. I guess you could call it balance, though I'm scared of using that word as I've written before. 

I am just thankful to be here, in a place that works for our family. In a place where learning revolves around our life. I salute all those that have to daily deal with life revolving around strict school and work schedules. Staying positive helps get through any hardship no matter what your living/learning situation!

Homeschooling/Unschooling mamas, what's are your days like? Do you have a rhythm to your day or a strict schedule?

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