Tuesday, September 28, 2010


This weekend Brynn went up to her room to read a book. As she approached her open doorway, she started howling. "My room is too messy! It's too messy! It's not RELAXING!!"

Downstairs, Callie started to giggle. "What are you laughing about, Callie?"

"Well," she replied, "Brynn said she wants her room to be 'relaxing'."

"So?" I asked.

"Rooms aren't supposed to be relaxing."

"What do you want your room to be?"

Callie didn't even have to think for a second. "Playful. My room should be playful."

And it is...er...was. This weekend we painted over Callie's formerly favorite shade of orange, a color I call "highlighter orange." Her room is now back to Restoration Hardware's Butter, perhaps the most perfect shade of light yellow I've ever seen. With all the pink and turquoise in her room, it is still playful, but not quite like a highlighter.

Ahhh...today's project. Must fix Callie's chair.

My big fall project, after I finish grading papers, writing an exam, grading an exam, canning the 50 lbs of tomatoes that are staring at me, and fixing the skirt that is falling off of Callie's reading chair, will be to redecorate Brynn's room. I picked out the fabrics a couple of years ago because they were on sale for SUPER cheap at Hancock Fabrics, and luckily Brynn likes them even more now than she did then. There is a lavender basket weave and a pale lime with lavender flowers (from Laurie Smith's discontinued fabric collection -- remember Laurie from Trading Spaces?). I've added a few other purples and already purchased (during the big Sherwin-Williams sale this weekend) a gallon of Restoration Hardware Lilac. Against white, it looks like pale, pale lavender. Against lavender it looks like pale gray. Hopefully that will be "relaxing" enough for Brynn. If I'd let her choose, the walls would have been PURPLE. Not relaxing.

I'm going for a pallet ranging from white to lilac to lavender to a few purples with just a hint of lime green thrown in for interest. There will be some new furniture (which will be built be yours truly, maybe with Scott's help because he thinks I'll cut off a finger when I use his saws), lots of new fabrics, new window coverings, new paint, and a different furniture arrangement. And maybe a new floor. Whoops! Did I say that? I'm not a fan of carpet. So it may go, too. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A serious choice

A few friends posted links to a video on Facebook last week about the dangers of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). I knew that CFLs were annoying (the color is SO hideous) and I found out after installing a few in our house that the bulbs contain mercury and must be disposed of properly, but I did NOT know that the waves they emit might screw up people's health.

At first I thought it wasn't too big a deal, since we only have CFLs outside our house and in the closets. But then last night, as I freaked out while trying to find an extension cord so that I could plug in Brynn's one incandescent light in her room (which moved to a spot with no plug when we rearranged her room last week), I realized that both of my girls have CFLs in the main light fixtures in their rooms and I absolutely hate those lights. Which is why we MOSTLY have them in closets only. And apparently the kids' rooms. Oops. The color is so cold and sterile it drives me up a wall. I put the CFLs in the girls' rooms so that in case they forgot to turn of their lights (which they rarely do), we wouldn't waste a tone of electricity. And then I tried to avoid turning them on because I so despise them.

I've got to change them. First, because of how hysterical it makes me when those lights are on at night. They drive me crazy. Second, because of the mercury. Need I say more? But now, with the goofy stuff they do to people (possibly inducing migraines, worsening asthma, and who knows what else?) it's time to get rid of them.

So I'm going to replace them with LED lights which are environmentally friendly and not so unfriendly to our bodies. But these LED lights last for ten years. And they are not cheap -- think $35 per bulb, at least. So I'm making a real investment here. Which brings me to the serious choice...what wattage do I go for? 100? 75? 60? It's kind of a lot of pressure!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Stacks and stacks of pickles...pickles!

What started as an overwhelming (to my small brain) 25lbs of very muddy organic cucumbers is now...I don't know...millions? Of pickles. Stacks and stacks of pickles. Probably no two jars are alike because I just don't have the consistency to make them all the same. Plus I tend to use recipes as a guide rather than actually following them word for word. Between that and my awesome math skills, nothing ever comes out exactly how it is supposed to. This is why I don't bake cakes.

But back to the pickles. So, I thought this could be done in about three hours. Turns out it took me more like twelve. Or maybe fifteen. And my friends have the nerve to ask me for a jar of pickles! For free! Ha! Okay, so I may have already given some away.

The basic recipe proportions I followed were these: 1 cup vinegar to 1 cup water to 1 teaspoon salt. Plus some pickling spices. And extra mustard seeds until I ran out of mustard seeds. Except at the beginning I accidentally used 2 TABLEspoons of salt to each cup of liquid. Oops. So that required some fixing. Other than that, I don't think I messed it up TOO badly. Each pickle jar got a few cloves of garlic, some onions, some dried dill with seeds and some fresh dill, was packed with pickles and then had the boiling pickling brine poured over it. The jars were all boiled in a water bath for about ten minutes (yeah, probably not long enough for this altitude, so if my family croaks, you'll know why).

The girls even got in on the action. After the first round of pickling, when I realized that it was going to take me a week to process all of the cucumbers on my own, I decided to prep everything ahead of time and let the girls pack the jars one afternoon after school. Brynn packed the quart jars and Callie took care of the pints. Honestly, I usually don't like having them in the kitchen. I wish I were patient and didn't care about messes all over the floor and counter, but that just isn't me. But this?! It was kind of fool proof! Except for the shattered prep bowl! Other than that, everything was super smooth!

And now, when the girls go through a jar of pickles a day, I can't reprimand them because, after all, they did most of the labor themselves!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Non-Toxic Dentistry?

The thought that dentistry could be toxic never really entered my mind until about two weeks ago when I read something that mentioned BPAs in dental sealants. A few days later, Brynn went to the dentist for a cleaning and what did the dentist tell me she needs? Sealants. On all four of her permanent molars. "Okay. Can I get a list of the ingredients in those sealants?" I asked. Sure, they had no problem getting me a list of ingredients. First they would have to call the sales rep, though, and she had already left her office for the day. "We'll get back to you," they told me kindly.

Within a few days, I got a call from the dentist's office. They told me the brand of sealant that they use and let me know that the sealants were only 30% BisGMA (compared to 94% BisGMA, which is apparently typical). BPA is used to synthesize BisGMA and the lower percentage of BisGMA means that the sealants, when properly cured, will release fewer BPAs over the life of the sealants. It sounds like the sealants used by our dentist are the most ecological/biocompatible and least-toxic of the sealant options. I trust and appreciate and genuinely like my dentist. He made my life immeasurably better by fixing my TMJ. He is warm and kind and loving and smart and I truly think he is an excellent dentist. Even so, I am still not comfortable letting him put sealants in Brynn's mouth. The most important thing my mother has taught me about parenting is to always trust my gut. And my gut was saying no.

Why am I uncomfortable allowing my daughter to have sealants in her mouth? Why do BPAs scare me?

I am absolutely NOT an expert on this. I am just a mom who is trying to keep my kids safe. Having said that, here is what I know: exposure to low levels of BPAs can cause a variety of fertility problems along with other hormone-related problems. I am not interested in introducing something to my daughters' bodies which at some point might cause them to be infertile or, worse yet, sick.

So I did some Googling and found out about a quacky, fringey kind of dentristy called Biodentistry. Or sometimes Ecological Dentistry or Environmental Dentistry. It is relatively new and they're not a cohesive bunch yet. We'll go with the label Biodentistry. I found my local biodentist and set up an appointment to talk with him. I wish I had brought a notepad. Or a tape recorder. It was quite a lesson.

These biodentists, they're a crazy bunch. They don't believe in putting mercury in peoples' mouths. Imagine that! So those amalgam fillings in your mouth? The ones made out of silver and mercury? Yeah, a biodentist would never use those because the mercury inevitably leaches out and mercury is not something you want in your body. They also don't believe in letting mercury/silver amalgam fillings wash down the drain and into our water supply. The dentist I talked to filters his drain water to catch the fillings he removes and then sends them to a recycler who separates the mercury from the silver and re-uses the purified silver but responsibly disposes of the mercury. No mercury going back into the environment. At that point I was hooked.

We talked about root canals and why he doesn't do them (the tooth becomes like a petri dish of bacteria festering in the patient's mouth, wreaking havoc on the immune system) and we talked about alternatives to root canals...not that I ever plan on having that problem, of course. We talked about the body as a system and the part that teeth and oral health play in that system. I learned about the anatomy of a tooth and how and where a tooth can heal itself, versus where it cannot. I learned about non-pharmaceutical approaches to encouraging healing in a tooth. I began to see dentistry from a whole new perspective.

Eventually, we talked about sealants, my problem at hand. This biodentist doesn't do sealants, but he does believe Brynn probably needs something like sealants (he hasn't seen her mouth yet). As an alternative to sealants, he fills that unreachable-by-toothbrush-bristle crevice in the bottom of the molar with composite filling, much like he would fill a cavity. I asked why other dentists use sealants instead of filling the crevice with composite, and he told me that dental assistants can apply sealants, but composite requires the dentist. At least in part, it comes down to the best use of the dentist's time.

Most brands of composite filling still contains BPAs but composite material is more stable than sealant material, he said, and would release fewer BPAs over time. "Is this worth the risk of BPA exposure?" I asked him. Because I really think any BPA exposure is too much, especially considering that my children are likely exposed to BPAs in their environment every day, no matter how much I try to control it. He told me that when my child is ninety years old, he still wants her to have her own teeth. Those same teeth that are in her mouth right now. The best option we have for her to keep those teeth for another eighty three years is to fill those deep crevices with composite material. Right now, composite is the safest option out there.

Am I still slightly uncomfortable? Yes. Because I don't know what else is in composite material that will prove to be dangerous in the coming years. But my gut isn't screaming at me anymore. Next week Brynn will go in for a comprehensive exam and we will see where that leads. At this point, all I am sure of is that there will be no plastic sealants on her teeth.

Find out more about the biological dentist I visited here. For more info on biological dentistry, check here, here, or here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A New Collage Wall...or, Still Moving Back In

I am not a fast mover-inner. I thought I would do a little each day throughout the summer and be moved back into my house by now, but I am coming to grips with the reality that such a well-planned approach just doesn't fit me well. I have no, as in very close to ZERO, spices in my spice drawer. I threw most of them out before we left San Pancho because the humid air has not treated them kindly. I cook daily. Usually twice daily. I have salt and pepper. And pretty much nothing else. Refilling my spice jars was on my list of things to do...in July. Now it is nearly mid-September. Still no spices. The task seems too overwhelming.

Until yesterday, among the things that still needed to be unpacked and put away were the zillion photos pictured above. Since we are re-organizing our house a bit, this gigantic wall is now freed up to carry some photos. So yesterday, about fifteen minutes before I was supposed to pick up the girls from school, I decided it was high time to get those frames up on the wall. Fifteen minutes was not nearly enough time (surprise, surprise, I know) but the girls were actually really helpful at finishing it with me. "Hammer." Hammer. "Level." Level. "Small nail." Small nail. Callie just stood there and got me what I needed so that I didn't have to get up and down, up and down off of the step stool which would have been much better for my health, probably.

Anyway, the collage wall is done. And with one new photo, to boot! (Only one? After all those shots you got in Mexico? I know...procrastinator.) The canvas up on the top right came from Canvas by Demand, via Groupon for a great price. When I bought it, I was not really in the market for a canvas (although I plan to invest in several huge ones when the money is available) but this one was such a great price I couldn't resist. It is a photo I took of the girls and Libbie at Garden of the Gods last summer before we left for Mexico. I love it.

I think what I love most about the collage wall is that it now incorporates our wedding photos (the ones with the grey mats), plus Brynn's little kindergarten handprint, and my absolutely beloved ultrasound pictures. I really get teary when I look at them or even think about them. Those are irreplaceable images of my babies inside my body. They are fuzzy and hard to make sense of but to me they are sacred and I love that the girls and I can see them every day. To me it is an incredible reminder of God's grace and his wisdom -- that a child can be knitted together inside a woman's body. I will never get over that and I hope my girls don't either.