The only three family rules you need

With children, you never know what they’re going to do on any given day. No wonder you need some great family rules!

Case in point: A few days ago, my husband and I came home from a trip with some chocolates that I’m really looking forward to. Even though we don’t do a lot of sweets for the kids, we also got them a few chocolate covered pretzels and let them have a piece the night we got back into town. So my kids knew there was chocolate on the counter.

I came to the kitchen yesterday to see that Bella Bean, my three year old (and scrounger), was about to get into the candy. I moved it to the top of the fridge (where they couldn’t reach even with a stool) and then put all three kids to bed.

The next morning, we got up and I started getting dressed. I noticed a suspicious quiet (you know what I’m talking about, parents of toddlers). Continue Reading

How play strews engage your child

After you’ve decluttered toys that no longer serve your family and downsized the number of electronic toys you have, you’ll probably have a lot more open space to play in!  To jump-start your child’s imaginative play (and get to do a little imaginative play yourself!), try a few toy strews!

A toy strew is simply leaving some toys set-up, ready for play.  It doesn’t have to be complicated!  Check out the video below where I talk about strewing. (more…)

Why electronic toys aren’t good for your kids


“If the rise in anxiety and depression are linked to a decline in sense of personal control, then play would seem to be the perfect remedy.”

– Peter Gray, The decline of play and the rise of psychopathology in children and adolescents

Play is absolutely essential for children! According to the article cited above, free play builds several skill sets in young children, including

  • Developing intrinsic motivation
  • Allowing children to learn decision-making, problem-solving, and self control
  • Giving kids a chance to learn emotional regulation

And play is just plain fun!  Without play, human beings simply can’t develop optimally.

Toys are the tools of play.  While we can play without toys, they certainly can help.

But just like the wrong tool for a job can get less effective results, the wrong types of toys can diminish the quality of your child’s play.  After all, you can’t hammer in a nail with a screwdriver, so you can’t expect to develop all the skills listed above with the wrong toys. (more…)

Elderberries during cold and flu season

elderberry syrup


Despite us all being immunized, we had the flu run rampant through our house for the first time earlier this year.  I even missed my first day of class because all I could do was sleep, shuffle to the couch to take my temperature, drink a little chicken stock, shuffle back to bed, and repeat. It was especially scary when my kids got it since at the time my youngest was under a year old, but thank God the symptoms were nothing more serious than the general suckiness that is fever, achiness, and fatigue caused by flu.

When our family first started getting hit with the flu, we took a kid (whichever was sick first; it’s all a blur now) to a clinic (because of course she got sick on a weekend).  They did a test to tell us that yep, she had the flu and asked if we were interested in Tamiflu.

I’m not averse to medicine.  I’m a chemist, and I know that there are so many new drugs that can save lives.  But we asked the doctor how Tamiflu would benefit our child before we agreed.  We were told that the treatment would shave about 12-24 hours off the course of illness, and that there were side effects associated with the drug such as nausea and vomiting or (very rarely) even mental and behavioral effects.  The risks didn’t seem worth it to only take a day off of the illness, so we decided to forgo that route.

I started researching natural remedies and preventative measures we could take to avoid getting sick and to shorten illnesses with fewer side effects.  And by research, I mean I asked Dr. Google.  I found a lot of people recommending elderberries to boost the immune system.

What I read sounded promising, but I couldn’t help but wonder,  Is this legit, or is it just hype? After all, “natural” doesn’t always mean “effective” and sometimes is actually dangerous.  So I decided to deepen my search and see what I could find in the scientific literature about elderberry use. (more…)

Minimalism, toys, and kids

clean play room

You know those days when your kid whines, “I’m sooooo boooooored!  There’s nothing to do!” and you think to yourself, You little ingrate, there’s toys all over the place.  Just pick one!

Oh wait, is that just me?

What if I told you that this kind of problem can be at least partially solved without having to go buy a bunch of new toys?

What about those days when you walk into the house and are like, “Oh em gee, there is stuff everywhere.  All these toys are gonna drive me insane!”

Oh wait, is that just me?

What if I told you that this kind of problem can be at least partially solved without getting rid of everything your kid owns?

In fact, what if I told you that these two issues have the exact same solution?


Cheap, budget friendly foods!

In Parts I and II of our food series, we discussed how to avoid pesticides in our foods, while in Part III, we looked at the nutrition of organic versus conventional food.  Perhaps your takeaway was, “That’s cute.  I’d like to have healthier food options, but they’re just so expensive!  Plus, produce goes bad so quickly.”  I’m hoping to give us options for some nutrient dense foods that are relatively cheap.

This is the problem a lot of us run into:  It seems like less healthy foods are cheaper.  A recent article in Vox discusses this very problem, and this graph, from an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirms what we already know instinctively:

The idea here is that we’re comparing cost per calorie in food.  The farther to the right a food is, the more calories it has, hence fats and oils being all the way to the right.  And the farther up the graph a food is, the more expensive it is (case in point:  you knew meat is expensive).  A lot of our processed, unhealthy foods that don’t provide many vitamins, minerals, and/or other nutrients.  These belong either in the “sugars, sweets, and beverages” category or the “grains” category.  Now, this is not to say that grains can’t be healthy, it just means that most of the products made with grains (many breads, crackers, tortilla chips, and snack foods) aren’t.  On the other hand, you don’t get a lot of calories from most fruits or veggies, but they cost nearly as much as grains, making them less economical, at least in terms of calories.

What the graph above doesn’t show is cost per micronutrients, which are vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, all that stuff.  (more…)