How Do I Protect my Family from the Sun? (A “Hippy” Mama take on Sun Exposure)

Since moving to Hawaii one of the most frequent questions that I receive on my Instagram/YouTube is about sun protection.


“What do you do to protect your child from the suns harmful rays?”

“How do you protect yourself from getting sun burn?”

“What brand of sunscreen do you use?”


april12016 055

The sun isn’t something we should have to fear. After all, the sun is the source of life! So, I want to begin by saying that a proper amount of sun is not harmful to us, in fact, it is tremendously beneficial.

Why? Well, because we need the sun for Vitamin D.

Yes, there are some Vitamin D supplements available; but from experience, they simply do not work the same. Furthermore, studies are coming to find that Vitamin D is more beneficial than we ever thought. Vitamin D affects our hormones (actually, Vitamin D is considered a hormone), proper calcium absorption, and our immune system health (amongst other things).

Vitamin D is thought of as the “happy vitamin” because it balances our hormones and makes us feel happy.

As a person who grew up in a cold climate, and moved to a tropical climate, I have first hand experience on how it feels to get a proper amount of Vitamin D verses being Vitamin D deficient.
lukes old iphone oct 15 13 095

I was taking a Vitamin D supplement back in the North east of America (3oooIU), but I was still suffering from tooth decay, depression, and a not-so-healthy immune system. Since we have moved to the tropics (and getting healthy amounts of sun) my oral health has improved dramatically. I haven’t had a single cavity! I also haven’t been ill in the last eight months, where as I used to average around 4 + illnesses in a single winter season. My mood has also changed dramatically as well.

From this experience, my husband and I have come to understand how important Vitamin D is for our mental and physical health.

So, to answer your question: I make sure to get a healthy amount of sun everyday and almost never wear sunscreen (more on that later).

BUT what about sun burn, that surely can not be healthy, right?

I remember having sunburn frequently as a kid.

mollyAs a fair skinned person I assumed that sunburn was a curse, and unavoidable. In the summer, my parents would lather my sisters and me with sunscreen each time we played outside. You would think that with all of the precaution we would have been saved from sun burned, but we weren’t. My sisters and I have had many, many sun burns. I have even had a few cases of painful, severe sun poisoning that covered my face and shoulders.

Why did I get such bad sunburns even though I was wearing sunscreen?

The simple answer: Too much sun exposure.

As the 2016 summer season is beginning I have been seeing posts on social media from loving mothers whose children recently suffered bad burns from the sun.

One mother mentioned that she and her children were out on their first beach day of the year for 5 hours, liberally applying sunscreen, but were still severely burned.

So, the burning question (pun intended) is: why?

Here’s the long answer: It’s important that we (children especially) are eased into the sun, and are only given the proper amount of direct sunlight that our skin can handle.

Let me explain:

1. Children (especially babies) are more likely to burn because their skin is so fresh and new. They need to be acclimated to the sun’s rays gradually.

2. When we spend months indoors (due to winter) and then emerge into the sun when the weather warms up again, we have to be cautious about our first sun exposure of the season. Our skin is not re-acclimated to the suns rays yet and burning can (and most likely will) occur if we aren’t careful about the amount of time we spend in direct sunlight.

3. Even after we become acclimated to the suns rays, a healthy amount of time in direct sunlight is around 1.5 hours for most fair to “medium” skinned people. After that, it’s beneficial to get into the shade.

Back when our parents were raising us there was no such thing as social media or the internet, and so, they didn’t have the same information that we have. Our parents had to follow government guidelines, doctor’s orders, and advice from their family, friends, or even infomercials. Today, many parents are beginning to understand the importance of doing their own research when it comes to everything.

Many parents have the idea that if they simply use sunscreen their family can stay in the direct sunlight for as long as they desire and not get sun burn. That is simply not the case. Too much sun exposure is too much sun exposure whether we are wearing sunscreen or not.

Furthermore, research has linked ingredients used in some sunscreens to cancer.

Yes, I know, it feels like everything causes cancer these days. I know that it feels like one-more-thing we have to worry about as a parent. I know we have a lot on our plates. I know that we don’t want to hear this, but it’s the truth. We have preventative information at our finger tips that we can choose to use or ignore; and sometimes, it feels easier to ignore it.

The first summer after my daughter was born; someone gifted me a tube of “baby” sunscreen to use on her. I remember looking at the tube and thinking “What is IN sunscreen that it can actually block the sun??” How could we block the sun with a lotion? That just didn’t seem right. I have never given sunscreen a second thought until that moment. After that, I thought: Oh wonderful, another thing to research!

What I found was that many sunscreens were harmful even though they were well marketed, and popularly used. Sadly, profit trumped human health in this instance.

(You can see a list of the best and worst sunscreens here.)

The good news is that there are a few brands of sunscreens that are OK to use.

badger
When I was questioning if I wanted to use sunscreen on my daughter I asked our Holistic MD what she thought. She said the best brands of sunscreen were made from Zinc Oxide. I researched and found a brand called “Badger” that makes safe and effective baby and adult sunscreen. Later, it was recommended to me by several other experts, and friends that I trusted. It’s also vegan and not tested on animals.

I bought a tube of “Badger” sunscreen that summer with the intention on using it. What’s funny is that we never used it. And, we didn’t use it the summer after that either.

iphonesummerfall2014 196 We simply used hats, rash guards, and blankets to cover our daughter while in the hot sun. We were also conscious of the amount of time she spent in direct sunlight.

She never once wore sun block, and she never once had sun burn.

It wasn’t until our daughter was nearly three years old that sunscreen touched her skin. It was after we moved to Maui. We realized that the sun was much stronger here, and we needed to take more precautions. She got her first sun burn, so we decided to use sun screen sparingly.

If we know that we will be playing in the direct sunlight for over an hour, we simply put a dot of sunscreen on her nose and cheeks. That’s it.

june7_makena 082

Before I let you go I want to give you a few tips for sun exposure:

Don’t be afraid of the sun. After all, the sun is the source of life. Try to spend up to 30 minutes in the sun so you can get a proper amount of Vitamin D.

Be conscious of the amount of time you/your kids are in direct sunlight. Time can fly when you are having fun. Keep track of the time, and once 1.5 hours (or the time your body is used to) goes by…get into the shade!

Seriously, get in the shade! I know it’s fun to play volleyball, body surf the waves at the beach, and build sand castles—but too much time in the sun will burn your skin, and the shade will help protect you from that.

Set up your stuff in a shaded area so that your children will be in the shade each time they return to you for snacks, toys, or cuddles.

Avoid being in direct sunlight during the hottest peak hours of the day (10am-2pm) OR be conscious of the time in the sun and limit the time.

Wear hats, and sunglasses in direct sunlight.

Use sun block when you know you will be in the sun for longer than what your body is used to but still monitor how much time you spend in the sun.

Acclimate yourself to the sun. Start by being in direct sunlight 10 minutes a day, and then 15 minutes a day, and then 30 minutes a day…and so on.

• If you live in a climate with a cold winter be aware that your skin needs to re-acclimate every summer to the strong sun.

If you are going on a vacation to a location that is close to the equator remember that the sun in stronger.

Note: This, of course, is not meant to be a “know all” blog post. I highly encourage you to do your own research and find your own truth when it comes to sun exposure. I am simply sharing what I have learned and what works for our family. Each person will have a different threshold before a burn. My mention of 1.5 hours is not for everyone…it’s a general idea. Also, 1.5 hours may be too much for daily exposure. Find out what your personal threshold is by acclimating yourself to the sun.

*I also want to mention that I am not affiliated with Badger brand sun screen and I am not getting paid to recommend their product. I simply really like their sun screen, and wanted to let other mothers know about it. 

Information: Environmental Working Group on Sunscreen Safety , Facts on Vitamin D , Harvard Study on Health and Vitamin D

“Correctly applied sunscreen reduces our ability to absorb vitamin D by more than 90 percent. (8) And not all sunlight is created equal: The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays—the so-called “tanning” rays, and the rays that trigger the skin to produce vitamin D—are stronger near the equator and weaker at higher latitudes. So in the fall and winter, people who live at higher latitudes (in the northern U.S. and Europe, for example) can’t make much if any vitamin D from the sun.” -A Harvard Study on Vitamin D (last reference above)

Watch my video on how moving to the tropics changed my health:

Check out my YouTube Channel: Its All Ways Beautiful
Also my Instagram: @ItsAllWaysBeauitful

Check out my E-BOOK on dream following + our story of how we moved to Maui here!

Finding Balance with Christmas

Hi Friends,

I want to begin this blog by saying that I am not here to tell anyone what to do.

I understand that some people really love Christmas, and I don’t want to take that away from them.

Christmas can be a fun time of year when the whole family gets together, snuggles by the fire, exchanges thoughtful gifts, and makes memories;

and that is a beautiful thing.

I grew up celebrating Christmas and have fond memories of it.

If you love the holiday, I think that is wonderful!

I am writing this blog for the parents who (like me) grew to see Christmas in a different way; and might be looking for alternative ideas to the holiday.

So, if you love Christmas this blog is probably not for you, and that’s OK. If you feel like it’s something you don’t want to read, then with love, I invite you to skip it.

Here it goes…

As a child I loved Christmas. I loved the tree, the lights, the gifts, playing with my cousins, eating mashed potatoes, wearing stockings and a pretty dress, my mother curling my bangs and accidently spraying me in the eyes with hair spray.

Those were the days.

I have happy, fond memories of Christmas.

So when did I start loosing my love for it?

Well,

Probably when we ALL started loosing a bit of our love for Christmas…

The moment we realized Santa wasn’t real.

That was a big bummer, huh?

Some of us took it better than others.

Some of us were devastated and asked the big questions like, “Does that mean the Easter bunny isn’t real?”, “What about the tooth fairy?”, “What about Jesus?”

The “magic”, that was falsely created for years; the magic that we believed in so much, was, in an instant, swept away.

It was a sad day for childhood.

We felt dooped by our parents,

we felt upset,

maybe cried,

maybe argued with our parents,

and then,

we moved on with our lives,

minus the “magic.”

Then,

as the years went by,

Christmas got a little less exciting.

We got older.

And older.

And, Christmas was like any other day of the year.

Nothing super special about it.

Until…

We had kids of our own!

Then, oh boy,

the “magic” came back!

Am I right?

 

But I have to rewind a bit here and tell you a little more about my story…

For me, in the middle stages between “I’m getting older and Christmas isn’t a big deal”, and “Woo hoo, now I have kids to celebrate with!” –I was taking a path in environmental and animal welfare. I was going down the hippy path, and seeing things a lot differently.

I cleaned up trash on the beaches, volunteered with endangered shore birds, went vegan overnight on Thanksgiving day, became a crazy dedicated recycler (did you know you could recycle your old mail?), eating organic food, buying all sustainable products, and I began studying environmental science at a local college. It became the biggest part of my life.

a_1

The first Christmas after I became environmentally conscious was a real struggle for me.

Instead of seeing the “magic”, I could only see the waste that it created.

It actually made me feel depressed,

really depressed.

I found myself wanting to skip the holiday all together.

I remember telling my family that I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas any longer, and it made them sad. I didn’t want to make everyone feel sad, or disappointed, so I went along with the holiday as usual.

As the years went by, it felt like a piece of who I was, was being sacrificed every Christmas that I celebrated.

It felt painful to me.

So, eventually I had to be true to myself and stop celebrating the holiday.

After Kaia was born, my husband and I both decided we didn’t want to do Christmas, or Santa. It simply didn’t feel like something we wanted to do. We knew it would be difficult for our families to understand, but it was what felt true to our hearts.

As we imagined, our families were pretty bummed about it. They wanted to do the usual Christmasy things with Kaia: Picture on Santa’s lap, red dress, family dinner. It was really difficult for us to follow our hearts on this. We felt a lot of pressure to go along with Christmas because other people wanted us to.

Though, over time, everyone understood.

To compromise, we decided to visit our families on Christmas day, dressed in red, and allow them to give Kaia a gift. So, that was what we did for Kaia’s first two Christmas’s, and that worked out fine.

xmas

This year was different for us.

For one, I grew, and changed a lot this year.

For two, we moved 5,000 miles away from home.

For three, I wasn’t the only one who grew this year,

Kaia grew a lot this year.

She’s almost 3 years old now.

She has turned into a kid;

a kid who would probably love Christmas.

As we walked the mall these past few weeks, Kaia would stop at all of the Christmas decorations in awe. She would get excited at the sight of a Christmas tree. She loved flipping over the display snow globes, watching the “snow” fall to the bottom. It was all exciting and fun for her.

Then something else happened…

I got excited for her.

She looked so happy, and I wanted to share that with her.

I was starting to see how simply not celebrating Christmas wasn’t the answer for us any longer.

It no longer felt “true” to me to not celebrate Christmas at all.

I could imagine Kaia growing older and feeling deprived of a major holiday. I could see a future where Kaia felt like she grew up with “weird hippy parents” who didn’t let her do any “normal” things.

Because…

No matter how “natural” we raise our children they are still going to grow up in (and be released into) THIS world… the world that we live in. So wouldn’t it be beneficial if we raise our children in a balance of the “natural” way, and the way it is now?

That was the thinking that led me to finding balance this Christmas.

So,

I put Christmas back on the drawing board,

and I thought:

“How can I do Christmas, MY way?

How can I give Kaia a Christmas that felt aligned with my heart?

How can I do this in a way that I felt would give our family balance?”

 

So, HOW are we going to celebrate Christmas?

Great question! And the truth is that I am still figuring that out.

This is what I have for now…

Santa?

I still don’t feel good about the idea of Santa. No matter how we spin it, I will still have to lie to Kaia, and I don’t like the way that feels.

So, I did some reading on what other parents have done when it came to Santa, and I found one article from HandinHandParenting.Org that was REALLY good, and gave me some perspective. The article is: here, but I will quote the important part below. First, allow me to set it up, a mother’s 5 year old son just asked her if “Santa” was real after believing in Santa for years:

“I was really torn between keeping the fun and “outing” Santa. I had spent a lot of time building a trusting relationship with both boys where “mom will always tell the truth,” and I really did not want to violate it by lying about Santa. Yet it had been so much fun!

Then I had a Hand in Hand-inspired idea! I told both boys that there is no “real” Santa but that there were many, many dads out in the world who loved their children so much that they pretended to be Santa just so that their children could have a good time. And their father was one of them. Then I asked if they could help keep Dad happy by pretending that they did not recognize him so that he could go on thinking that they believed he was Santa. They boys agreed to do this. They giggled between themselves but kept a straight face around Dad during the days before Christmas.

At the Christmas party Dad left again “to buy the paper” and the boys stepped right into character. The whole time Santa was there they played their roles beautifully, while giving the rest of us winks and smiles.”

I thought this was a wonderful idea.

For me, I am not planning on “doing” Santa with Kaia, and when Kaia asks about him, I will tell her something like the above mother did.

For some people, they might feel comfortable “pretending” Santa with their toddlers until the first time they ask if he’s real, and then tell them the “truth”. (I really do like this idea).

Some people want to go full-blown Santa, and that’s cool as well.

For me, I am happy not doing Santa, and I feel Kaia will get enough of the Christmas experience from us.

 

What about a Christmas Tree?

iphone_dec2015 328I have discovered this amazing new idea of “Driftwood Christmas Trees”. I first saw one at my friend’s house, and then a few around town. I think it’s a great idea! Not only do I not have to cut down a perfectly good tree, or buy a plastic one; but I get to have a beach day looking for FREE drift wood! What a win-win!

  • I posted a fun video (on YouTube) of us building our tree: HERE
  • Here is a “HOW-TO build your own tree” tutorial: HERE
  • If you don’t live near the beach, you might be able to order one: HERE

Another great idea that my husband had is if you have a fire place you can burn the driftwood (and brown paper bag wrapping paper), creating a cozy Christmas day fire! How cool.

Or, like us, you can bring the driftwood back to the beach when you’re finished with it OR save it for next year!

 

What about wrapping paper?

iphone_dec2015 345I left my re-useable shopping bags at home for a few trips to the local market, and collected 5 brown paper bags. I re-used those bags as wrapping paper. I added some twine, and red ribbon (to add a little fun) and then marked the gifts with colored pencil.

You can even reuse the ribbon each year, and burn the wrapping paper in your Christmas day fire (like mentioned above).

 

What about gifts?

For me, I bought Kaia 3 things (+ 4 books) that I knew she would absolutely LOVE.

I didn’t put any “rules” on the gifts (like “locally-made only”, or only made out of recyclable plastics, etc) because I feel it is SO important to show Kaia that I respect her interests and sometimes her interests are outside those “rules”.

Kaia’s Grandma, Nana, and Aunt also sent her presents that I wrapped and put under the tree for her to open Christmas morning.

(We don’t do gifts for each other out of personal preference. Some people like doing adult gifts and that is great!)

 

What about dinner?

For me, I am keeping it simple. Mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, and mushroom gravy. Easy, peasy and yummy!

What about dinner over someone else’s home? When we lived closer to home we would bring our own dinner and heat it up when we got there (since we are vegan). It was weird at first, but like anything else, the more you do it, the more normal it becomes.

 

What about “Giving?”

Christmas is about giving, and that is my favorite part about it!

I plan on doing a few charity-like things through out December. Like, visiting/donating to the local animal sanctuary, donating to the homeless here on Maui, and having Kaia choose a couple old toys to donate to kids in need.

 

What about other December holidays?

We aren’t religious, so celebrating Christmas is more of a cultural thing than a religious thing for us. I think it’s that way for many people, isn’t it? I plan on getting a holiday book explaining each tradition for each holiday in December and reading them to Kaia. I also plan on making an ornament celebrating each holiday to hang on the driftwood tree.

We are all one love- and the holidays are a great time to practice that.

(We also celebrate the Winter Solstice with a candle lighting and intention setting.)

 

What about family?

My family is 5,000 miles away and I miss them so much. Try to give your family all your presence, and love. No matter the differences you have.

 

Well, I think that’s it.

I hope you all were able to take something positive away from this blog.

That was my intention.

I also hope that any parents who were looking for new ways to celebrate Christmas more eco-consciously (or “natural”) that this blog gave you some ideas and perspective.

I am still growing, and learning, and may even add to this next year. Please feel free to comment your ideas.

Let’s grow together, and expand on old traditions!

 

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

 

Love,

Sara

 

Other recommendations:

Listen to: “Navigating the Holidays” Podcast by Rich Roll at RichRoll.Com

Watch: “The Story of Stuff” on YouTube

Gallery post format example

Donec porta mi vitae felis interdum congue, sed vitae rhoncus massa, volutpat ultrices felis eto proin eu ullamcorper urna nullam eu mi vel metus faucibus mollis. Nulla rutrum fermentum dui quis ullamcorper. Integer metus nunc, interdum non libero a, semper ligula. Continue Reading →

http://www.wordpress.org →

Link post format example

Donec porta mi vitae felis interdum congue, sed vitae rhoncus massa, volutpat ultrices felis eto proin eu ullamcorper urna nullam eu mi vel metus faucibus mollis. Nulla rutrum fermentum dui quis ullamcorper. Integer metus nunc, interdum non libero a, semper ligula.
Continue Reading →

Image post format example

Donec porta mi vitae felis interdum congue, sed vitae rhoncus massa, volutpat ultrices felis eto proin eu ullamcorper urna nullam eu mi vel metus faucibus mollis. Nulla rutrum fermentum dui quis ullamcorper. Integer metus nunc, interdum non libero a, semper ligula.
Continue Reading →

Video post format example

Aliquam erat volutpat. Duis viverra at erat ut semper. In purus nisl, luctus sed eleifend at, pellentesque ut dolor. Nunc sodales nisi sed ullamcorper pellentesque. Etiam posuere nulla eu lectus porta ullamcorper. Aenean sit amet lectus eget augue euismod ultricies eu nec risus. Continue Reading →

Standard post format example

Donec porta mi vitae felis interdum congue, sed vitae rhoncus massa, volutpat ultrices felis eto proin eu ullamcorper urna nullam eu mi vel metus faucibus mollis. Nulla rutrum fermentum dui quis ullamcorper. Integer metus nunc, interdum non libero a, semper ligula. Continue Reading →

Dear Struggling Mom

Every once in awhile I receive an email from a struggling new mama who feels hopeless, and alone, and they ask for my advice. The thing is… I don’t have advice. For the most part, all I can offer is support, encouragement, and some tips that I learned from trial and error. Because the truth is…I am there with you! I struggled to!

The biggest mistake that we make as mothers is not supporting each other by being honest about our experiences.

We do each other an injustice when we pretend that we are perfect.

We fear talking about our struggles, because we don’t want to be judged. But, the truth is, we ALL feel that way at some point, and we SHOULD talk about it.

So, I’m going to talk about it….

I struggled, and I still struggle sometimes.

If you struggle, here is my letter to you…

Dear Struggling Mom,

I want you to know that I FEEL you!

Many of the struggle stories that I hear are part of my own story as a mother.

Just because I have a blog, post high quality photographs of Kaia being cute, and talk about how sweet life is on Instagram, doesn’t mean that I am perfect. Sure, our little family is happy a lot of the time, but that doe not mean that we are always happy. The truth about life is that it is bittersweet; and that means sometimes it has to be bitter. (And, nothing is “wrong” with bitter, it’s just part of being alive!)

luke old phone pics 310So, what was my experience?

Birth was exhausting, tough, beautiful work, which left me exhausted for weeks after. I had a complication that made my recovery hell-ish, and I was stuck in bed for nearly two weeks; unable to even carry my newborn baby, Kaia.

Next came the breast feeding. Breast feeding was the most difficult thing I ever did. I remember feeling so tired, and hopeless, that I almost gave it up several times. My breasts were painfully engorged, and I couldn’t get Kaia to latch for days. She had nipple confusion, and was very fussy, and I didn’t think we would even make it to 2 months (You can read the breastfeeding full story in Ellen Fisher’s blog here).saras baby outfit 071

During this time I remember thinking “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? Other moms make it look so easy! Why am I the only one who struggles so much?”

Then came baby carrying. Let me tell you: I was NOT prepared for how physically demanding motherhood would be. I returned to my 110lb pre-pregnancy weight very fast, and Kaia was a heavy baby, weighing in at nearly 18lbs by 4 months old. I was in a lot of pain trying to carry her around. I remember the same challenges and feelings that many new moms describe when they are trying to baby wear.

I remember thinking “Why can other mothers do this? Are they stronger than me? Are their babies smaller than mine? Do their babies like the carriers?”

Since Kaia didn’t like the carriers, I ended up having to carry her in my arms almost constantly, and she only ever wanted to face outwards, never towards my chest. As I am sure you already know, that is awful for the spine, and creates horrible back pain. When she was 6 months old she finally let me use the carriers, but by that point I was in the worst back pain of my life. I finally decided to see a chiropractor when Kaia was 15 months old, and that helped tremendously.

Sounds rough, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t all that bad. I actually loved all of this. It helped me learn, and grow as a mother (and as a person).

You see, I am not telling you about this to complain. I am actually very thankful for my experience, and would not change a single thing about it. The reason I am telling you this, is so that you understand that you are not alone.

I think every mother finds themselves in this place where they had plans for how they wanted to parent, and they come to find that sometimes things just don’t work out how we expected. Sometimes our babies have other ideas of what they want, or circumstances like physical barriers that hold us back. All I know is that I tried my absolute best. That was the only thing I could do.

Taking care of a young baby is the toughest job on earth. I truly believe that. It is also the most blissful, beautiful job, but it is also the toughest. It is very physically demanding, and many of us moms are not prepared for that. The truth is that as humans we were designed to raise children in tribes.

saIn tribes, all of the women would help care for each others children. If we still lived in the tribe, this would benefit us tremendously. We would have someone to leave the baby with so we could care for ourselves, we would have a woman to ask for advice when it comes to breastfeeding, baby wearing, and so on. We would have a support group to help us through these tough moments. We would share the responsibilities of taking care of all of the babies, and children.

Sometimes, doing all of these “natural” parenting techniques without our tribe can feel unnatural (or like it is TOO much work) because we are lacking our “sisters”.

Now, that doesn’t mean that natural parenting doesn’t work, because it does. It simply means that we either must find our own tribe (or support team), accept that we are going to have to work extra hard to make everything work by ourselves, or in some rare circumstances accept that we have to make compromises with our ideals.

Don’t feel like a failure because you can’t fulfill every aspect of being a “natural” parent, instead take comfort in the fact that you are doing your best, and that you have a lot of victories to celebrate.

I’ve learned to imagine a scale in front of me that weighs how secure Kaia feels due to my parenting techniques, and I always try to keep the scale favoring the “secure” side. I’ve come to understand that I won’t be able to do it all, and that is ok.

As long as you are loving your baby, and offering your best, you are doing it right! 🙂

Sometimes we just need to hear “You are a good mom”, so I am telling you right now, “YOU ARE A GOOD MOM!”

I may not know you personally, but I know you, because I am you!

 

So, does it get better?

234Now that Kaia is a toddler we have our fair share of ups-and-downs. Most days are fun, beautiful days playing in the sun. Others are cranky, temper tantrum days, where we both are not feeling our best. I am learning how to parent a toddler, and she’s learning how to be a little human. It’s bound to get a little messy, and that’s ok.

So remember…. when you’re struggling, and things feel bitter…. Smile! Because you are not alone, and a sweet moment is around the bend!

 

With so much love,

Sara

 

PS*If there’s anything I want you to take away from this… it’s that you aren’t alone. We are all feeling this way. We are all worn out, tired, and struggling from time-to-time.

 

Are Vegan Kids Deprived?

I want to preface this blog by saying I love you all.

Everyone is deserving of love.

Everyone is deserving of love no matter what they eat, what they look like, how much money they make, what car they drive, their sexual orientation, their skin color, their species, or their lifestyle. Everyone deserves love.

The reason I am writing this blog is not to put anyone down, or to make anyone feel bad. The reason I am writing this blog is because there are parents out there who want to raise vegan families, but are afraid to. They believe that they will be depriving their children, their children will be underweight, unhealthy kids, and that they will be doing harm to them.

They believe this because of huge misconceptions out there in the media on the vegan lifestyle.

I am writing this blog to show my experience with this lifestyle, to debunk the myths, to answer questions from nay-sayers, and to encourage anyone who wants to raise their family this way.

If you think this blog will anger or upset you, please, I invite you to skip it. Don’t read it. This message may not be for you, and that is ok.

The majority of the comments that I receive on my blog, YouTube, and Instagram are encouraging, uplifting, supportive, and curious. Overall, it is a beautiful community that I enjoy being a part of.

However, lately, I have been receiving a few comments on my YouTube channel saying “it is awful to force Kaia to be vegan”, “you are depriving Kaia of yummy foods”, and “kids need meat and dairy to grow healthy.”

The comments have been mostly friendly. They don’t discourage or upset me, however, they have got me thinking… and so I am writing my thoughts down in this blog to share with you.

ds

^ Look at how happy & healthy Kaia is!!

Today Kaia is exactly 2 years and 3 months old. She is in the 95th percentile for height and weight and has been that way since she was 1 month old. She was born at almost 38 weeks gestation weighing in at 7lbs 2oz, and 19 ½ inches long.

saras baby outfit 071As a new born, Kaia was exclusively breastfed (meaning she had my breast milk + nothing else) until she was 9 months old.  Her first foods were avocado, banana, and green smoothies at 9-12 months old. She has never eaten rice cereal, teether crackers, cheerios, cookies, or any thing that comes from a box, or packet, in the baby aisle.

Kaia has never had breast milk from a cow, never eaten meat from an animal, cow milk cheese, or chicken eggs. She’s grown from a newborn to a toddler on my breast milk, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes alone. That’s it!

To this day she has healthy eyes, ears, teeth (besides the one she knocked out during a terrible fall), clear beautiful skin, thick strong hair that’s grown longer than most kids her age, she is strong, has great muscle tone, she hits every milestone, she’s happy, healthy, and enjoys eating the foods we give her!

Also, she rarely gets sick. As a young baby Kaia was never once sick, never once had a cough, runny nose, eczema, ear infection, fever, or any of the ‘normal’ baby ailments. Her first cold wasn’t until she was over ten months old, and it only lasted for two days.

Kaia has a healthy, strong immune system, which even her wonderful (and meat-eating) doctor is impressed by.

That’s not to say that I think Kaia is super human. To be fair, I also want to list some of the ailments that she did have. When she was a few weeks old she had colic for a few days, she also had diaper rash (which coconut oil cleared up), and when she was one years old she had the common flu, and roseola.

I’m not trying to convince you that Kaia is in perfect health, or that everyone should raise their child this way. What I am trying to do is show my experience with raising a vegan child, and how it is possible for vegan children to be healthy. Of course, there are also tons of other things to consider when it comes to the health of a child. For instance, exposure to environmental toxins, air pollution, pesticide exposure, GMOs, genetics, exposure to disease, cleanliness, and the amount of care, love, and skin-to-skin contact a baby receives.

If you believe that humans can’t live (or thrive) off of plant foods alone Kaia is living proof that it’s possible! I am living proof that it’s possible! Along with many other families who live this lifestyle. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of other families raising their children this way. A quick search of the hash tag #vegankids on Instagram will show you!

The truth is that eating animal products is NOT necessary to live a long and happy life!  In fact, from my perspective, eating meat, cheese, milk and eggs is not healthy, or natural at all. (There’s research to back this up as well, but we will get to this later.)

So, considering all of the above….W 085

It never occurred to me that Kaia would be “deprived” (as some people like to put it).

I, personally, was raised on processed foods, meat, cheese, milk, and eggs, and have been spending the past five years trying to rid myself of the addictions that I have to them. Does eating processed foods make our lives better? Or does it make it worse?

I see so many people struggle with ditching these addictive processed foods.

My family members, friends, past co-workers, and even my husband and I have all struggled to let go of the addictions we have to these unhealthy foods. So my question is- why would I want to start Kaia on them?

It’s no secret that processed foods are not good for our health. I think that most people know that now. Yet, we still feed them to our children, and then when they turn into adults doctors tell them that they need to change their eating habits to eat more fruits and veggies. Doesn’t that seem backwards?

When we eat these unhealthy foods in childhood we create emotional ties to them. In other words: We become addicted to them, and it becomes challenging to give them up as adults. Eating processed foods that are high in salt/oil/refined sugar changes the way that food tastes to us. Fruits and veggies suddenly taste bland. Our pallets became used to eating such unnaturally sweet and salty foods.

So, of course fruits and veggies taste bad to us! Of course we don’t want to eat them. Of course we will choose the processed foods the natural foods, right? It’s what our bodies were trained to crave.

Knowing this, how can I start my child down a path I believe will have her addicted to unhealthy foods, just as I was?

If you have an open mind I would like to introduce you to some research that may surprise you.

The China Study, and Whole are research books both written by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. In these book Dr. Campbell talks about the link between drinking cows breast milk and cancer cell growth. He also talks about how cow’s breast milk leaches calcium from the bones (even though cows milk has been marketed as a source of calcium).

Then there is Dr. Eilstein who has made a connection between meat consumption and heart disease.

If you combined these two doctor’s findings together they have found that a whole food, plant based (vegan) diet can reverse and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Isn’t that pretty amazing? What other thing on Earth can do that?

An amazing thing about these two doctors is that they both grew up on farms. Dr. Campbell actually grew up on a dairy farm, and then later was brave enough to come forward with the research that he found proving that drinking cow’s milk causes cancer cell growth.

If you don’t have the time to read the studies then I urge you to watch “Forks Over Knives”, its a documentary about these doctors on Netflix.

There is also the Physicans Committee for Responsible Medicine. This is a committee of physicians who are trying to educate other physicians on the importance of a plant based (vegan) diets for adults and children. (Read article here).

Although, more important than the research: What are our bodies telling us?

Our bodies are more intelligent that our minds. Our bodies know more than we think we know. When we eat certain foods, we can feel how bad they make us feel. You probably know the feeling- the gas, the stomach aches, the heart burn, the lethargy, the sluggishness, the weight gain, and so on. I feel that the reason our bodies respond like this to certain foods is because we are not meant to be eating them.

When I was eating a lot of processed foods I used to think that these ailments were simply a normal part of digestion. Now that I eat a whole food, plant based diet; I can feel the way digestion is meant to feel. It is painless, effortless, and I feel great.

So, what exactly am I “depriving” Kaia of? The answer, in my eyes, is food addictions, bad eating habits (and a lifetime of trying to break bad eating habits), obesity, heart disease, and cancer.

When someone comments on how Kaia should be able to choose her own foods, I try to find a way to explain the way I feel about this, but to put it into written word is difficult. So, I’ll try.

I think it’s important to say that Kaia does choose her own foods. Only…. the foods she chooses from are all from the plant kingdom. She enjoys all of the foods that she eats, and is happy when she gets her favorite foods, just like most kid are.

korance

The way my husband and I feel about processed foods, meat, cheese, milk, and eggs is that they are not exactly human foods. I don’t feel that our bodies were designed to drink the breast milk of another species, eat the cycle of a chicken, or to chase down an animal and rip it apart with our teeth.

We know that eating animal foods causes dozens of health issues in the human body, and some of them as serious as heart disease and cancer. If we were designed to be eating animal foods, why would our bodies respond so poorly to them?

A few decades ago it wasn’t publicly known that smoking cigarettes caused cancer. Doctors were even telling their patients that smoking cigarettes was OK. So many people smoked cigarettes thinking it wasn’t harmful, even teenagers. In fact, teenagers in high school were allowed to leave their classes to go smoke a cigarette.

Today? We know better. We know that smoking causes cancer. So now, instead of letting our teenagers smoke cigarettes we put them in drug awareness classes, and teach them NOT to smoke cigarettes.

I truly believe that one day it will be common knowledge that processed foods, meat, cheese, milk and eggs are bad for our health.

Until then, I have to do my best to raise my daughter in a way that I feel is best for her. Even if others feel differently, this is the way that I feel, and I have to raise my daughter accordingly.

Other parents may feel different about eating animal prodcuts, and that is ok. They may believe that eating meat and dairy is good for human health, and if they believe that they should feed animal products to their children. Every parent should be able to raise their children how they see fit. As long as children are happy and healthy that’s all that matters.

Another comment I get is that it is “terrible” to “force” Kaia to be raised on the vegan lifestyle.

My response to this is that every parent guides their children to live a life that is a reflection of their own beliefs (or philosophies) on life.

For example, parents raise their children in religions, celebrating holidays, sending them to public school, being fed meat, and so on, because the parents believe that this is what is best for them. Are parents “forcing” their children to do these things as well? Or are they just being loving parents who want to raise their children up in the way they see fit?

Raising a child on a vegan lifestyle is no different. My husband and I are raising Kaia in a way that aligns with our philosophies on life, and because we believe it is the healthiest way to eat. Why would we raise her any other way?

I feel that it wouldn’t make sense for my husband and I to believe that animals are not meant to be eaten by humans, and deserve freedom to live, and then feed them to her.

DSC_3083

DSC_3079

I also feel it wouldn’t make sense for my husband and I to eat healthy organic fruits and veggies (and believe it is the healthiest way to eat) and then feed our daughter candy, cake, hamburgers, and French fries. Would it?

Parents are responsible for our children’s well being from birth to adulthood. We are only trying to raise Kaia in a way that we feel will set her up for a lifetime of healthy habits, respect for the Earth and animals, self love, and gratitude. These are the things that I am working on in my own life, and what I would love for Kaia to experience in this lifetime.

(Above photos: Kaia feeding and connecting with the lambs at Popcorn Park… a sanctuary for unwanted animals from lions to deers to dogs.)

Another comment that I receive is that Kaia will eventually eat processed foods when she gets older.

Yes, this is probably true. Unfortunately, processed foods are a part of our society, and Kaia will probably be curious about them.

Even now, Kaia is only two years old and random strangers come up to her and give her candy bars, lollipops, cheese crackers, ice cream, you name it. We can’t even go to the bank without lollipops appearing in the drive-thru tube.

DSC_3562Kids are famous for eating junk food, aren’t they? Why is that? Kids don’t naturally eat junk food. They don’t come out of the womb in search for candy. The truth is that they don’t even know what candy is until we introduce it to them….sometimes even forcefully. I have seen many times where parents force birthday cake into a one year olds mouth to get the infamous first birthday cake photograph. But why?

Once, our family went to an open house for an Acupuncturist. They were serving vegan food, and of course we were excited. Then, one of the women looked at Kaia and said to me, “She probably won’t eat any of these healthy foods, I can get her chocolate pudding from the back.” Kaia didn’t even know what pudding was, and instead went straight for the veggies, dip, and gourmet raw foods.

Kids don’t have to eat junk food. It doesn’t have to be this way.

For now, we’ve found a way to help Kaia get the feel of what other kids are eating without compromising her health. We give her raw vegan kale chips, home made raw vegan cupcakes (that I made at her 2nd birthday party), and raw vegan cookies made from dates.

I’m sure as Kaia gets older, she will experiment and try some processed, or animal foods; but there’s no reason I need to give them to her now. I would rather give her healthy eating habits, and a place to return to after she experiments.

I plan on educating her on where her food comes from, and allowing her to make her own choices. If she chooses not to be vegan, I will support her decision. I feel the most beautiful gift a parent can give their children is unconditional love, acceptance, and support.

(Above photo: Kaia eating a Brad’s Raw Kale Chip)

The last comment I want to talk about is that Kaia will be “deprived” of “yummy” processed foods and animal products.

I have found through my own experiences that fruits and vegetables taste really good.

The reason why kids, and many adults, don’t enjoy their fruits and veggies is because they were introduced to heavily processed, artificially sweet, high in refined sugar foods.

As mentioned above, these foods interfere with the way fruits and veggies taste to us. They make them taste bland, and crappy. So, of course we would think that kids would be deprived of yummy food. Because, we don’t know what REAL fruit can taste like!

To a child, everything is new, so everything tastes the way nature intended it to. To introduce highly addictive, over sweet foods will actually be depriving Kaia from tasting the natural sweetness of real foods.

This is what I have found to be true for myself. As a kid I ate a lot of fast food and candy, which I craved as an adult. After five years of transitioning to a whole food plant based diet I can taste the difference in my fruits and veggies. They taste so much sweeter, and savory, now that I don’t eat processed foods.

Furthermore, Kaia LOVES her fruits and veggies. She gets so excited when we open up a coconut. She does a happy dance and everything!

as

You can see her joy in the photograph above. She is not a “deprived” child.

Being happy and healthy is the goal in life, is it not? If Kaia is happy, healthy, and thriving that is all that matters to me. Debating which lifestyle is best is not helpful to anyone. Every family is unique, and will live their lives differently. I’m here to show you that this lifestyle can create happy, healthy children. Let’s not create unnecessary fear. The (whole foods plant based) vegan lifestyle works for our family. It can work for your family. It can work for any family who wants to try it. There is no reason to be afraid.

If we give our children breast milk, and a rainbow of fruits and veggies (+ love and laughter), they will be ok.

It’s what they were meant to eat anyway!

 

DSC_3498

 

Disclaimer (because its 2015, and the world is crazy): I’m not saying that anyone should copy my lifestyle, and do everything that I do. Every person, and every child is unique and needs unique care. I am only showing that my daughter is happy, healthy, and thriving on this lifestyle, and that it is possible contrary to the popular belief that it is not. I encourage everyone to do their own research on this subject.