Today, I have two important, somewhat related things to share with you. We are on a roll to get our children ready to return to school and these things are important for our children. If we don’t make a concerted effort to teach these things, they will never know.
First, I have an experiment for you. The supplies you will need are a paper plate, a tube of toothpaste and some cold cash. First, you offer any child the opportunity to earn the cash if they can do what you ask. Next, squeeze all the toothpaste onto the plate. The task to earn the money is to put the toothpaste back into the tube without altering the tube. (I would cut the end off and shovel it back in. That doesn’t count.) No one will earn the money.
The point of the story is that once words are spoken, they cannot be taken back. The damage of bullying or teasing or unkind words leaves a mark on someone. The toothpaste experiment is a great visual example of not being able to revoke unkind words. This visual can be the gate of ‘think before speaking’ and ‘if you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything.’ However you phrase it will be fine. Just take the opportunity before school starts to have the conversation about how words matter.
My second point today involves a personal story with a remarkable outcome. Our church once met in school gymnasiums. It was my habit to scan the attendees to see if there were new folks in the group. The children participated in worship and then were dismissed for Sunday school classes. I would watch to see if there were new children who might not know where to go, who were the same age as my youngest, Halle.
I would lean over and whisper in her ear, suggesting she offer to show the stranger where the classroom was. She often wiggled with dissent and I would ask how she would feel if she were the newbie. And, she would graciously comply.
Fast forward 15 years. She moved to a new city after graduation from the university and volunteered with the high school youth group at a church. The first night of youth group, each person stood and introduced himself, name, credentials, role, etc. After the introductions, there were activities for all the students. She realized there was a guy at the pin ball machine who seemed to have no friends, so she went to greet him.
His side of the story is different: He was also a college graduate and a new volunteer for the same youth group. He says he was busy talking as she introduced herself and didn’t catch her name or that she was there as an adult volunteer. He thought she was very cute but she looked young as the high schoolers so he didn’t want to be too forward by searching her out. He went to play the pinball machine. He was surprised when she came to visit with him.
They are now married and the parents of our only granddaughter. I left out several years of how he pursued her; how she was unaware that was his intent; and how he won her heart. The point is, she was willing to leave a comfort zone and include someone she thought might need help finding a friend.
Let’s encourage our children to look for the new person in the classroom and invite them to sit at the lunch table, play together at recess, discover their personality, invite the new person into a group of friends.
As parents, it is vital we not assume these actions will come automatically for our children. We must think about how to train them; model it for them; and encourage them. (By the way, how are you at finding the new people in church during greeting time and learning their names and spending 5 minutes visiting? I could improve, because it is always easy to chat with my friends, but greeting new folks is one of my favorite things about church!)
Ask questions when the children return from school about friends, new comers, with whom they ate lunch or played during recess or sat with on the bus. Asking those questions underscores the importance of the lesson.
There are so many details to parenting. We probably do well with accumulating school supplies, moving schedules into place that will transition into the school year; and being sure our children are ready. In the world of technology, it is more important than ever that we are intentional in teaching personal relationships. Living life intentionally requires effort, training and practice.
What is it? Proprioception is a constant feedback loop within your nervous system, telling your brain what position you are in and what forces are acting upon your body at any given point in time. The way that we can tell that an arm is raised above our head, even when our eyes are closed, is an example of proprioception.
In our home, we are always looking for sensory stimulation activities for Matthew. They help keep him engaged using his senses. I’m often searching for new ideas and in that search, I’ve come across some very interesting articles and information. Since he cannot move any body part on his own, we must do it for him.
We think of our senses as taste, touch, sound, sight, and smell. But there are more senses we don’t normally consider. Vestibular sense deals with balance and spacial awareness. It is also important for focus, attention, emotional regulation and visual skills. Inside your inner ear are little hair cells. And we need to move in all different directions so that fluid moves back and forth and stimulates those hair cells, and that develops the vestibular sense. That sense is key to all the other senses. If that's not working right, it can affect everything.
The playgrounds of my youth, complete with merry-go-rounds, swings, and high slides offered children the challenges and opportunities to get all these movements. Today’s playgrounds have become so ‘safe’ they are no longer valuable for creating vestibular stimulation in the extreme necessary to challenge and develop the vestibular system.
Elementary teachers are noticing children literally falling out of their chairs in class because their balance and sense of where they are in space has not developed. Moving in many directions, quickly; playing tag; rotating on the merry go round at a speed; jumping up and down stimulate the vestibular system.
In 2012 a pilot study on American fifth-grade students was conducted to see how their balance and core strength compared to an average American fifth-grader from 1984. Only one in every 12 children could meet the 1984 standard in both measures.
Weaker core and postural muscles, an underdeveloped vestibular sense, and too many consecutive hours spent at a desk without a break for physical activity tells us why a kid might fall out of their seat at school. In addition to that phenomenon, fidgeting now seems to be at an all-time high among students. Fidgeting is often the outward expression of movement starved brains.
As important as buying a new box of crayons, the appropriate number and color of notebooks, school clothes, shoes, and back packs, it is vital we prepare our children’s sixth sense for long hours of sitting still. Before school, encourage them to move: bounce on the trampoline, run around the yard, stand on their heads. After school, insist on movement to get all the wiggles out. Recesses have been diminished or eliminated to spend more time on academics. Yet, lots of research indicates more recesses (movement of all kinds) actually enhance focus, attention, and increase academic progress. If the schools don’t provide your child adequate opportunity to stimulate the vestibular system, the parent must.
Children are not the only ones who need this. Need to stay sharp? Move. Brain fog? Take a walk or get out of the chair and stretch or exercise. I’m preaching to the choir on this. I get busy with my daily routine which could easily eliminate intentional exercise. Some of my routine involves lifting, rotating, carrying, and bouncing but it isn’t nearly what my body should have.
Now that you know what proprioception is, make an effort to stimulate that extra sense. Mind and body will both benefit.
At our house, my husband claims the fourth of July marks the midpoint of summer. State Fair means school start times are next and Labor Day symbolizes Christmas is coming. He isn’t completely wrong.
Eons ago, when our children were attending school, we began at least a week before school’s start at moving bedtime forward. They had regular bedtimes in the summer but they were later because the morning start time could be more flexible. Once school started and they had to be out the door by seven, we needed an earlier bedtime.
If we have any advice to give to new parents (including our daughter and our son in law) it has been that schedules are helpful for everyone involved. How the schedule is decided is up to each family. Regardless of how it is set, it’s important: each party understands what is next and when there are issues and hiccups, it is easy to look at the schedule and see what need probably needs to be fulfilled.
This transfers from newborn aged children to school aged and even into adulthood. There have been some interesting studies to verify success comes best to individuals who have consistent bedtimes.
Consistency seems to be the paramount issue. Even differences of one hour on one night can wreck havoc in classroom behavior and achievement. The irregular bedtime routine has startling effects on metabolic disorders which result in health issues. Every one hour variance in the amount of sleep one receives from night to night yields a 27% increase in a metabolic disorder potential.
In a British study of 11,000 children (at ages 3, 5 and 7), parents and teachers were surveyed regarding the behavior and performance of children with regular bedtimes vs. those with varying bedtimes. By age 7, these children were all given cognitive evaluations to see if there was a difference in achievement in academic areas. Children who did not have consistent bedtimes at age 3 scored lower in cognitive evaluations by age 7. Mothers and teachers agreed that children with inconsistent bedtimes were also more hyperactive than their well rested peers. Emotional and social issues were more prevalent in this group, too.
Children who need more sleep are more prone to tantrums and outbursts. Have you ever been in a store and heard a child crying and think, ‘Someone needs a nap?’ As a veteran mom, I have! Maybe it is a consistent bedtime as much as a nap.
Irregular bedtimes have been found to disrupt natural body rhythms causing sleep deprivation and consequently interrupt the brain’s ability to mature and the ability to regulate certain behaviors.
One group of scientists compared inadequate sleep to jet lag for children. Studies also showed that beginning and sticking with a set bedtime improves all these downfalls. So, if your child has not in the past had a consistent bedtime, start one and stick to it for a rebound effect.
You may think you have an entire month to prepare your child for school’s start. Start now to talk about the changes necessary to start the year: school supply and clothing purchases; new schedules; new school; new expectations. And begin the process of agreeing (parent to parent; child to parent, because middlers and teens need some input on this) on what an acceptable bedtime is going to be. Talk now and two weeks before school starts, move closer and closer to that time.
When Daylight savings time changes come, we move things forward or backwards 10-15 minutes each night so the change isn’t so sudden. It’s a smooth way to ease into a new time schedule before school.
You have been warned. Give it some thought. Make a plan. Institute it! Don’t stop with the children…do yourself a favor and make a plan for yourself, too.
Summer Time Fun!
My granddaughter turned one this week. A year ago, her mother’s pregnancy and labor drove me to my knees in prayer for this little girl. We recognize our bias, but she is amazing. Her parents are tremendous mommy and daddy to her, steering her in the right direction, establishing boundaries for her, encouraging her, and giving her a schedule.
When my daughter posted a book she was reading and I read her comments, I was speechless. It inspired me to select this as the topic for this week’s article.
I don’t know how she found this book. She started reading it while waiting on something to percolate in her organic chemistry lab experiment. Quickly, I logged onto to Amazon, typed in the name of the book, and clicked on ‘look inside’. I read what I could and wanted to jump up and down in happiness.
Before I feed the title to you, here’s a little background information. Children’s Literature was one of my favorite college classes. Post college, I had the opportunity to be mentored by a woman who wrote a book on quality literature for children, ages infant through high school.
When we home schooled our children, I scoured sources of good books. Every day, we read aloud. Generally, I selected books just beyond the reading ability of the oldest child. My goal was for my children to be exposed to the world through literature. The library was our best friend. We had at least one ‘milk carton crate’ on our hearth full and often spilling over of library books which were exchanged weekly. Furthermore, I used library privileges as a bribe to motivate my children to accomplish chores. (Chores are not done so you don’t get to go to the library this week. It was a miraculous enforcer.) You should know that of my 4 children, 3 love to read. The other loves to listen to books being read but preferred throwing a ball over reading.
Drum roll: THE READ ALOUD FAMILY: MAKING MEANINGFUL AND LASTING CONNECTIONS WITH YOUR KIDS by Sarah MacKenzie. She discusses how the books she read to her children established a particular culture: from new vocabulary words adopted from stories read, to ways to discipline the brother who would not leave his sisters alone.
Her inspiration was a book I loved. Jim Trelease’s READ ALOUD HANDBOOK. Trelease analyses data to prove the statistical importance of reading aloud. His research substantiates reading aloud to your child helps them gain skills and assists them in becoming successful in nearly every area of their lives. He asserts that ‘read alouds’ are part of the foundation of parent-child bonds as well as teacher-student bonds. His book is an encyclopedia of excellent children’s literature.
The 1985 Commission on Reading declared: “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for future success in reading is reading aloud to children.” The author of THE READ ALOUD FAMILY eventually started a podcast. Her first guest was Andrew Pudewa, to whom she had listened on another podcast. His advice transformed her life. She says, “So startling were the results (of following his recommendation and reading even more to her children)—so completely transformative were the changes in our family—that five years and three babies later, I could hardly keep myself from bubbling over with the thrill of it.”
She recommends that if time is short, anything is worth giving up to incorporate more read aloud time with your family. It could be a 10 minute earlier bedtime, so there are 10 minutes to read in bed to your children; or reducing the minutes used for teaching any other subject, to allow read aloud time somewhere in the school day. The benefits are exponential. The point is to carve out time in the day to read aloud, despite the age of the child (through the teen years.)
My personal advice is to be selective in what is read aloud. Don’t just pick up any book off the library shelf. Use guides that have done the research. There are many books that discuss what books one ought to read to one’s children. In addition to Jim Trelease’s book. I’m a fan of
WHO SHOULD WE THEN READ? by Jan Bloom as well as A FAMILY PROGRAM FOR READING ALOUD by Rosalie June Slater. Other resources are: HONEY FOR A CHILD’S HEART by Gladys Hunt; FOR the CHILDREN’S SAKE by Susan Macauley; BOOKS CHILDREN LOVE by Elizabeth Wilson. Each one offers great suggestions. Every home instruction conference has new anthologies of books to be read. Catalogs from Sunlight Curriculum give age appropriate literature by grade level and of cultures around the world. These authors have studied what is available and make excellent recommendations.
MacKenzie divides her book into parts. The first segment contains (chapters 1-5), how reading aloud can change the world; being present; inspiring heroic virtue; preparing for academic success; nurturing empathy and compassion. Part two (chapters 6-11) are: creating a book club culture at home; debunking myths; setting up for success; being a literary matchmaker; mastering the art of conversation; and asking compelling questions. The third part of the book gives guidelines for literature by age and stage of life.
During the heat and humidity of summer days; after pool time or riding bicycles; when children come into the house to collapse, cool off, rather than allowing them to watch another mindless video or movie, cuddle up on the couch or sit on the floor and read together. Take adventures to parts of the world they may never visit. Create the food from the cultures to reinforce what they have read. It will expand their vocabulary, their palette, and their excitement for learning. Let the summer months (and through the academic school year) be the foundation for greater accomplishment because you read aloud.
Our daughter’s summarizing statement of this book caught me off guard. It’s what left me speechless. She says, ‘I’m so thankful to my mom who read to us every single day and my father who invented bedtime stories every night.’ We are nothing special. We read because it was free and easily available and we wanted to instill reading as a hobby. As a testimony to our daughter’s experience, she has created a shelf of board books, within the reach of her daughter. There are other shelves with books for her that Mom and Dad read. We are amazed that the Sweet One regularly pulls her books off the shelf to study. It’s a joy for us to watch the love of reading transfer from one generation to another.
If you don’t have children, read for your own benefit. It’s a great hobby that can expand your horizons and challenge your mind. I highly recommend it. Need a start? In the fall, join the pastor’s book club!
Baby, It’s Hot!
July in Iowa. There is only one way to describe it: HOT. This week, the coming days, with high temperatures and higher heat indexes mean we must be diligent in self-care. It doesn’t take much to over exert in these temperatures and have health issues.
Many of us seek and find the comfort of air conditioning during the peak of the heat. If you seek the swimming pool or are a sun goddess or work outside for your livelihood, it is imperative that you keep your cool with lots of liquids.
We have all heard the importance of drinking enough water and staying hydrated. A human body perspires, so the droplets of water will air dry, causing a cooling. With the water in perspiration, come electrolytes. They regulate muscle and nerve function, hydration, blood pressure and your body’s pH levels. Deficiencies or imbalances in electrolytes—which include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, hydrogen phosphate, bicarbonate and chloride—can cause everything from fatigue and muscle cramping to irregular heartbeat and seizures. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes; so it’s important to replace them.
There are commercial beverages available for electrolyte replacement. They are convenient. But, they are often laden with sugar.
Here are some natural electrolyte boosters to keep on hand to consume and keep your body balanced.
Sodium is one of the electrolytes that we’re quickest to lose through sweat. Luckily, ingesting salt is a quick and easy way to replace what we lose. Salt also contains the electrolytes magnesium, calcium and potassium; so it’s good for more than just sodium replenishment. Go for sea salt over table salt because it’s less processed. Himalayan and Celtic sea salts are widely available in most grocery stores. Just put a pinch in your water and drink. It’s that easy.
Packed with nutrients and low in sugar, coconut water is a great way to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes, especially potassium. There are a lot of coconut waters on the market. Look for one with minimal ingredients, especially anything that looks artificial. The minimal processing causes some of their coconut waters to turn pink when the antioxidants are exposed to light—it’s still totally safe to drink. If you have access to it, completely unprocessed coconut water, directly from the coconut, is always best!
Lemons are the queen of citrus when it comes to electrolytes. They’re a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Add that to their ability to detoxify the liver, balance pH levels and boost the immune system with vitamin C, and lemons are officially a solid addition to any drink. Squeeze a whole lemon into warm or cold water for a sour jolt of electrolytes.
No list is complete without a reminder to eat more green vegetables—and electrolyte replenishment is no exception! Leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard, beet greens, bok choy and spinach are packed with electrolytes. They are especially rich in magnesium, calcium and potassium. Celery, broccoli and avocado are good sources as well. You can add an electrolyte punch to any meal by tossing in something green.
Here's a homemade mixture that tastes acceptable without all the sugar. I’ve made and used this.
Yield: 32 ounces (4 cups, or approximately 1 liter)
Serving size: 8 ounces (1 cup)
Directions: Put all ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Pour into a container, chill, and serve!
However you decide to stay cool, be careful in the heat and humidity. Drink plenty of water, maintain electrolyte balance, and stay safe.
The Magic of Touch
For some reason, many articles about the importance of touch and hugs have crossed my path recently. After a little contemplation, it occurred to me it would be good information to share.
One of my wild dreams once all my children left the house was to be a baby rocker at the hospital. Nurses are overloaded with skilled tasks and charting and documenting responsibility and don’t have time for the desire of their hearts, to comfort babies by holding and rocking them. Apparently, volunteers can fill this vital role. Perhaps you have seen on your facebook feed, the man who holds babies.
A newer philosophy post-birth is for parents to have skin to skin contact with newborns. This has many physical and psychological benefits to the baby. One is the temperature control for the newborn. One 2014 study indicated cognitive control and psysiological organization benefits from skin to skin contact extending for a decade. The research studied the way this skin to skin contact assists in brain development.
Concluding comments in the research went so far as to say hugging our children makes them smarter. Yet babies who are denied physical touch have brain shrinkage. Additionally, hugs increase oxytocin which improves the child’s immune response. And, emotional health and stability are increased with sufficient physical touch.
It gave me pause, as I know teachers in elementary school and our churches must guard the physical touch they offer students. Inappropriate touch has moved our society to a guarded position in this issue. I’ve seen teachers who offer a hug or a special hand shake or a high five to students. It’s an effort to afford physical touch in an acceptable and appropriate manner. There must be balance in all things, surely. It saddens me that we must avoid what is an important element to growth and development because some have misused it.
An article from THE ATLANTIC found that physical touch also assists children in overcoming trauma. Specifically, children were studied who had survived a hurricane. Those who received back rub massages responded in a more positive way in reducing their PTSD.
This quote from the same article shares the positives of touch in the physiological results in one’s body:
‘According to Field, any activity that moves the skin stimulates the pressure receptors underneath it—which in turn increases the activity of the largest cranial nerve, the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve has pathways to all major organs, Field says. “It slows down the heart. It goes to the GI tract and helps digestion. It helps our emotional expressions—our facial expressions and our vocal expressions. It enhances serotonin, the natural antidepressant in our system,” she says. “So that’s why hugging is good. That’s why massage is good.”
Plus, Field says, skin stimulation and the resulting vagal activity lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol are linked to a variety of health problems, such as anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, headaches, and sleep problems; additionally, elevated cortisol is known to harm the “natural killer cells” that help eliminate viral, bacterial, and cancer cells. In TRI studies, 10-week-old babies whose mothers massaged them regularly were found to get fewer colds and fewer bouts of diarrhea as they grew.
Elevated cortisol is also known to hamper the function of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that facilitates memory and learning; as a 2005 reportfrom the National Association for the Education of Young Children notes, “children who sustain chronically high cortisol levels demonstrate cognitive, social, and motor delays in greater numbers than children with more normal levels of cortisol.” As a 2015 New Yorker story noted, when the researcher Mary Carlson conducted studies in the 1990s of children raised in Romania’s state-sponsored leagăne—institutional homes for small children that were erected to facilitate Nicolae Ceaușescu’s mandated baby boom—she found they reminded her of the socially deprived monkeys and chimpanzees she had studied in the past. The children, who were severely neglected and deprived of sensory and tactile stimulation, were characterized by “muteness, blank facial expressions, social withdrawal, and bizarre stereotypic movements.” They also had markedly elevated cortisol levels in their saliva.’
When physical touch is not available, exercise can provide similar benefits. All in all, our need for one another touches our emotional, mental, physical bodies. It’s good for all of us to have appropriate physical touch and/or movement.
II Corinthians suggests we ‘greet one another with a holy kiss.’ Let’s just substitute a holy hug for that kissing business…
Penny Pinching Ideas
If your household is like ours, you are always looking for ways to save money on purchases. I recall as a child, hearing my mother’s plans to ‘stock up’ on sheets during the ‘white sales’ of January. She was a master at knowing what items went on sale which months of the year.
As an adult, I’ve noticed there are certain times of the year particular items are best buys. Asparagus is on sale in March for $1.00 a pound one week of the year. If I want to freeze asparagus for the rest of the year, that is the week I purchase a case. Colorado peaches have a two week period mid August for availability. Before or after that time slot, peaches are from another location. We prefer Colorado peaches. We might try one or two from Georgia but my big purchases on peaches, for preservation (or gorging) come in the middle of August.
Let’s look at which items will be bountiful and abundant in the month of July. It’s no surprise that BBQ supplies are usually discounted around the Fourth celebration: potato chips, hot dogs, brats, condiments, charcoal, salad dressings are often ‘on sale’. July is National Ice Cream Month. Find some delicious treats for your freezer.
Seasonal produce include: Asian Pears, Bartlett Pears, green beans, blueberries, corn, cucumber, eggplant, figs, garlic, grapes nectarines, red onions, Valencia oranges, peaches, sweet and bell peppers, plums, potatoes, summer squash, tomatoes, watermelon.
Mattresses are largely discounted during July. By the end of the month, school supplies will frequent the shelves. The best deals are often the second week of August, but if you are picky about what you want, buy early.
Some of the items have good shelf life and it is wise to stock up. Check the ‘purchase by’ dates to help you decide what quantities are appropriate. It does no good to purchase something only to question the safety down the road.
Amy Dacyczyn, author of THE TIGHTWAD GAZETTE, described her weekly grocery shopping list. It might include a case of peanut butter (on sale, of course); toilet paper; and fruit of the week at the store. Her purchase for her family were always in bulk, for the amount her family would consume until the next time the item would be available at a discounted price. I recommend her books if pinching pennies is a necessity or hobby for you.
It’s wise of us to use our resources wisely. The widow’s mite was a prized offering to Jesus. As we use our dollars and cents wisely, we are more able to give to advance the Kingdom of Jesus. I challenge you to see this as an opportunity to make your money go further so you have more to give.
Super Natural Home
The title of this article is also the title of a book I have yet to read but have on my ‘must read’ list for the rainy days of summer. It’s a book about cleaning up your home and ridding it of the toxic cleaning supplies most of us hide in our cleaning cupboard.
We have been eating as organically as we can afford for some years. We are careful about the source of our foods. A new adventure for us is the cleaning products we use. I was originally surprised to learn the laundry detergent I normally purchase is on the ‘dirty’ list for carcinogens. I’m almost at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. I plan to do a little research before the next purchase to be sure I’m not contaminating my family with a host of toxicity.
I love fragrance as much as the next person but we have a number of family members whose airways shut down in the presence of fragrance. For some, this means avoiding the perfumed laundry supply aisle in any super market. For others, it means no scented candles or plug ins. And, for some it is as drastic as fresh flowers in a closed room.
Rather than lead you on the trail of my exploration (at least today), I want to share with you some ingredients that are considered unsafe. Sometimes, it is not just this one item, but its combination with any of the others on the list. I challenge you to join me in evaluating the ingredients on your cleaning supplies and cleaning up your own product list and home.
Here's the list:
Found in: Many fragranced household products, such as air fresheners, dish soap, even toilet paper. Because of proprietary laws, companies don’t have to disclose what’s in their scents, so you won’t find phthalates on a label. If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present.
Phthalates are absorbed through the skin. They become endocrine disruptors in some cases. Options to avoid phthalates would be fragrance free products or all natural products. Essential oils can be used with considerable caution, as they affect some folks, too. Less is more in this category.
Found in: Dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners. Percs are neurotoxins and best avoided by all of us. Products requiring dry cleaning only can be cleaned with a process called ‘wet cleaning’. Ask at your local cleaner if they offer this service.
We find triclosan in hand and dish soaps that are labeled antibacterial, as well as hand sanitizer. Some believe the use of these products has opened the door for super bugs that are resistant to antibiotics. Use simple soaps without a long list of ingredients and avoid triclosan. Currently, the EPA is studying whether triclosan can alter hormones. It is a known carcinogen.
Found in: Fabric softener liquids and sheets, most household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.” These are similar to triclosan. There is some link to respiratory issues and some who have had long term exposure develop asthma. It can also be a skin irritant. Using white vinegar as a fabric softener is less costly and equally as effective. A combination of tea tree oil and vinegar is an effective cleaner and antibacterial agent for cleaning counters.
Found in: Window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners.
This ingredient is not required by law to be listed on the label. It gives the characteristic ‘sweet’ smell to cleaning products. It’s in the family of glycol ethers. There are a host of health issues, pulmonary edema, narcosis, liver and kidney failure related to too much use of this product. Vinegar diluted with a drop of dish soap can clean windows without the use of glycol ethers.
Found in: Polishing agents for bathroom fixtures, sinks and jewelry; also in glass cleaner.
Respiratory issues can develop, especially for the elderly with ammonia based products. It’s a common ingredient and a powerful one. A better product is to use a little vodka in the cleaning solution. It evaporates quickly. Use it for cleaning not imbibing.
Found in: Scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, household tap water.
Americans have a ‘thing’ about disinfecting and we have been sold chlorine as the best germ fighting product on the market. You can find it in wipes, and most of the products listed above. It can be a serious thyroid disruptor. It’s in the water we drink to kill bacteria and can be a skin irritant. It’s every where but we can avoid it by installing filters on our water faucets and using non-chlorinated cleaning products. Baking soda combined with vinegar scours well. Borax is a good laundry product for whitening.
Found in: Oven cleaners and drain openers.
Lye can burn the skin when it is touched. This is a very powerful and potent item. Baking soda and vinegar can clean a grimy oven, blended with time and elbow grease.
Beware of Greenwashing
If a cleaning product at your supermarket proclaims itself “green,” “natural” or “biodegradable,” that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s nontoxic. In 2010 the environmental consulting firm TerraChoice Group produced a report called “The Sins of Greenwashing.” In it the group found more than 95 percent of so-called green consumer products had committed at least one “greenwashing sin,” like making an environmental claim that may be truthful but unimportant. “CFC-free,” for example, is a common one, since CFCs are banned by law. Donna Kasuska of ChemConscious offers this advice: “When gauging ecological claims, look for specifics. ‘Biodegradable in three to five days’ holds more meaning than ‘biodegradable,’ as most substances will eventually break down with enough time.”
Even if you believe you have safe and wholesome cleaning products in your home, I challenge you to go back and read the labels with the above list of ‘dirty’ ingredients. Cleaning out the not recommended ingredients will probably give you more room on the cleaning shelf and a cleaner fresher home. And, if you cannot bring yourself to throw away items with questionable ingredients, at least promise you will find a more environmentally friendly option when you have emptied the bottle.
For a natural, clean, healthy home, get rid of the dirt and have a super natural home.
Hats off to the Dad in your Life
Recently, we cleaned a closet in our one room second story. The closet is a knee hole closet, poorly designed. The doors at one end make it challenging to access the contents 15 feet from the door. The previous owner of the house might have used it as a clothing closet. Because the far end of the closet is adjacent to the stairs, there is no easy way to add another door. We store VERY remote things at the far end. The only half of the closet that has easy access has become a library.
We love books. We like the feel and the smell and the messages of books of every size and shape and texture. We have accumulated books over the 39 years of marriage. My husband used to be an adjunct professor and had a stash of books from his coursework. The upstairs library holds ‘his’ collection of American Christian History, Economics, Theology, Presidential biographies and classics.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll let you in on a little family secret. We store things differently. I have a pet peeve: I do not like to waste time looking for something. So, my storage is often labeled and orderly. I put things in particular places so I can always find them. My husband is more spontaneous and his creative side allows him to put things wherever it seems to be a good landing zone at the moment. He doesn’t seem to mind searching for things because it brings adventure to his life.
The closet upstairs was once organized but lack of time or interest means the door would be opened and books randomly added to the shelves. I don’t know who did this. It might have been the two unseen guests who live in our home named Not Me and I didn’t. I don’t recall what event or search instigated looking for something in the closet. But the result was that we got to remove all the books to fix a loose shelf.
In the process of sorting (eliminating), and reorganizing the books, I found a title that spoke to my heart. It was a gift to my husband from one of our daughters. As I was contemplating what to write this week, the Lord brought to mind this book, WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A DAD. In the introduction to the 100 reasons a girl needs a father in her life, the author write this: “The love I have received shapes the love I give and it is evident at its best in my relationship with my daughter.”
Read that again. “The love I have received shapes the love I give and it is evident at its best in my relationship with my daughter.”
The book holds 100 reasons a girl needs a father. There is a similar book which we do not own entitled WHY A SON NEEDS A DAD. I suspect it is written in the same format. It is Proverbs-like, single sentences, couplets, or sometimes contrasts. It holds great spiritual truths though I am uncertain of the author’s faith. I won’t recount the 100 ways a dad shows his love for his daughter or why she needs those efforts. You can read the book for yourself to discover his treasure trove.
Dads, the love you give to your sons and daughters reflects the love you have received from your human and heavenly fathers and it is evident at its best in your relationship with your sons and daughters. This sentence would motivate any man to be the best example he can be of all he believes. So, for the dads who have come to Christ and live by His precepts, we applaud you for the love you reflect.
Hats off to the dads who have changed the world because they are different men from ungodly fathers; to the men who looked to God as their model for fatherhood. Hats off to the dads who continue in Godly fatherhood because they had great examples in their own lives. Hats off to the dads who sacrifice so their children don’t have to. Hats off to the dads who give love in the midst of exhaustion. Hats off to the dads who pray for their children. Hats off to the dads who invest in the lives of those who do not have dads. Hats off to all the dads who listen to the woes of their children without judgment. Hats off to the dads who continue to grow in the Lord.
Hats off, Dads. You are doing a great job. We admire you and we thank you for being the evidence of a loving Father.
We celebrate the men in our lives this week, the unsung heroes in families.
Silence is Golden
Years ago, I met an exchange student from Finland. As she was preparing to leave that area, she stopped at my office and invited me to visit her at ‘home’. Finland was not on my bucket list of places to go, yet just a year later, I was invited to be an exchange ‘student’ to Finland through an entirely different group, specifically at Kaisa-Leena’s home.
When I arrived in Finland, I quickly learned one principle the natives hold near and dear. ‘If you can hear your neighbor’s ax, you live too close to one another.’ The Fins love privacy and they relish silence.
When I read about the study performed by Finnish scientists, I was interested and not at all surprised by what they discovered. This information was printed in Lifehacks and I’m just going to summarize some of the high points.
First, though, as summer is upon us, Americans feel the need to fill every moment with activity or noise. This research may be just the ammunition you need to impose some ‘quiet time’ in your life, with your children, and with your God.
‘A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.
The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.
A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.
When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.
When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.
The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.
It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.
A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech.
Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.
The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making. The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.
Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.
But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. ‘
Silence can be golden when it allows the brain to reboot, process information, and develop a positive direction. Swim against the current of culture and abandon the norm for a new and better alternative. Let’s use this information to discipline ourselves away from the noise of the world and into the quiet of replenishment.