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    Sunday Spark: Hiking in the Woods





    When Adam asked me what I’d like to do for my birthday, naturally, I said I’d like to go for a hike.

    (Leaves had fallen all along the trail... beautiful!)
    We’ve been hiking together for 17 years. I’ve hiked through two pregnancies, hiked with a newborn, hiked when the snow was up to my hips and when the wind blew so hard and cold that the water was freezing in my drinking water line, hiked when the mosquitoes have bitten my ankles til they’re swollen. Together we’ve woken with the sun, put a tent up in the dark, and the rain, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, in Canada, Mexico, and several US states, and have carried everything we needed for days on our backs. Our children have been along with us for much of the journey. So when we say we’re going hiking – they shout joyously: WHEN!! It warms my heart to see how much they love the woods, too.
    See, nature is my second language. When I’m out in the woods, everything is clear, right, and okay. We could be cold; it’s okay. We could be lost; it’s okay. We could be tired; it’s okay. The energy of the trees, the synergy between sun, air, ground, plants, animals, humans… the world is condensed, tangible, reachable, when you’re in the woods. There aren't any hard, fast schedules, no expectations, no limits. Everything seems possible, and life, perfect.

    (Starting off up the AT)
    Yesterday, as usual, nature didn’t disappoint! We chose a circuit trail at the Delaware Water Gap, on the Pennsylvania side – a favorite spot since it’s not too far a drive for us, and the elevation increase from base to peak isn’t too great, so the incline is gentle – perfect for hikes with children.

    (View across the gap - Mt. Tammany straight ahead, Mt. Minsi to the right)
    We climbed Mount Minsi this time, which was a gentle incline on a mostly clear, not-too-narrow, and well-marked part of the AT. We crossed streams, past a couple of ponds and rocky outcroppings, and were treated to several beautiful views of the gap. At the top, Mt. Minsi opens up to a glorious view of Mount Tammany – still very green, as you can see!

    (View of Mt. Tammany from the top of Mt. Minsi)
    We’ve hiked Mt. Tammany with the kids in the past; it was a slightly shorter loop. The Minsi loop we chose was a ~4.25 miler up the Appalachian Trail, and down a fire lane. It was a beautiful Fall day, warm, bright, the leaves starting to fall – it was absolutely perfect for a day hike.


    (Heading down the fire lane)
    I hope you had a lovely weekend, and are enjoying the Fall. If you hike with your family, tell me about your favorite hiking spot - I'd love to hear!
    Posted: Oct 09 2011, 11:29 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Heart Attack and Women





    Hello readers; it's been a while. Today, I’m going to talk about something serious.
    1 in 3 women will develop cardiovascular disease in their lifetime and 1 in 17 women in the US will have a heart attack or hospitalization for heart disease before the age of 60.
    Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, regardless of race.
    While waiting somwhere recently, I read a magazine featurette of a woman who had experienced symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness. She mostly brushed them off, and continued on with her day. As they got progressively worse, her husband encouraged her to see a doctor, who then advised her to head to the hospital because the tests seemed slightly off. She waited at the hospital. (And waited.) While waiting, a man presented with a “typical” heart attack symptom of chest pain and was rushed ahead of her. After hours of waiting she was finally seen by a doctor, where, after more testing, determined that yes, indeed, she had a heart attack.
    After doing a bit of research online, it appears that this woman’s story is not unusual. Women are less likely to report heart attack symptoms, and when they DO report them, they are less likely to be diagnosed with a heart attack. Even when presenting with the same symptoms as men, women’s symptoms are more often diagnosed as “anxiety” than as heart disease.
    In a study at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, 230 doctors were given cases of men & women with identical symptoms; only half of the cases included “feeling anxious” or “having a stressful experience”. In the cases where stress/anxiety was included, doctors diagnosed heart disease in 56% of men compared with 18% (just eighteen percent!) of women. Men were referred to cardiologists twice as often as women and cardiac meds were prescribed to half the men, vs. 13% of the women. Gender bias at work, folks.
    A big part of the problem may be that men’s & women’s heart attack symptoms can differ dramatically. Fewer than 30% of female heart attack suffers reported having chest pain prior to their heart attack, and 43% reported having no chest pain during any phase of their heart attack. NO CHEST PAIN. And yet, according to a study done by the National Institue of Health (“Women’s Early Warning Symptoms of Acute Myocardial Infarction” Circulation. 2003) MOST doctors still consider chest pain as the most significant symptom of a heart attack in both men AND women.
    I’m not sure what to make of this. Is it possible that the popular culture belief that heart attack = chest pain (watch any TV show or movie where someone is suffering a heart attack – they immediately grab their chest & collapse, right?) is so ingrained that even doctors don’t know the facts? Yikes.
    There was a recent survey of 500 doctors, in which only 8% of family doctors were aware that men’s & women’s heart attack symptoms differ. And (are you ready?) only 17% of CARDIOLOGISTS (you know, HEART doctors) were aware of the fact that more women die from heart disease than men. What?
    Ladies, we have a problem here. Women are dying of heart attacks because they aren’t recognizing they’re having them, the people around them aren’t recognizing they’re having them, and even their doctors aren’t recognizing they’re having them.
    It’s time for some education.
    Women, men, doctors, everyone needs to be aware that the symptoms of heart attack in women can be DIFFERENT than the symptoms of heart attacks in men. We need to change the perception that chest-clutching is the main indicator of heart attack.
    Here’s how the symptoms stack up:
    Women’s Top Three Heart Attack Symptoms
    Shortness of Breath
    Weakness
    Unusual Fatigue
    Women also commonly experience these symptoms leading up to & during a heart attack:
    Cold Sweat
    Dizziness
    Indigestion
    Anxiety
    Sleep Disturbance
    Men’s Top Three Heart Attack Symptoms
    Chest Pain
    Discomfort or pain in the arm or back
    Shortness of Breath
    If you experience ANY of these symptoms, don’t ignore them. Tell a loved one, call a doctor. Don’t shrug it off, don’t just soldier on. It may not be anxiety or indigestion. 1 in 17 of you will have a heart attack before you turn 60. That’s less than 25 years away for me, and I don’t particularly like those odds.
    So, now you know the differences. But what can we do to improve our odds at suffering cardiovascular disease? While heart disease is the number one killer of women, it’s also one of the most preventable. The basics:
    Stop smoking. (21.2 million US women smoke. Seriously?)
    Lower your blood pressure. (33% of US women have hypertension)
    Exercise. (at least 20 minutes a day; even walking counts – just move)
    Eat healthy foods. (Lots of fruits, veggies, nuts, and beans. Ditch the meat & dairy.)
    Maintain a healthy weight. (62% of women are overweight, including 33% who are obese)
    Control your diabetes. (7 – 10 million US women have diabetes)
    Don’t drink too much. (limit yourself to one alcoholic drink/day)
    Reduce stress. (Meditate. Write. Yoga. Do something you like, just for you.)
    For more information on heart disease in women:
    Posted: Jul 13 2011, 08:55 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Natural Health

    Sunday Spark: This Week's Awesomeness





    Asparagus!
    I love asparagus! It’s a winner in nutrition. Per cup: Vitamin K (55.7mcg / 70% DV!), Vitamin A (1013 IU / 20% DV), Folate (68.7mcg / 17% DV), Vitamin C (7.5mg / 13%), Iron (2.9mg / 16% DV), Fiber (2.8g / 11% DV), Protein (2.9g / 6% DV)... I could continue. The thing about asparagus is that it can be tricky to prepare, serve, and make appealing to children with its tendency towards stringiness or bitterness. I’ve tried several different preparations of asparagus to make it more child-palatable. Small pieces, added to stir fry seem the most likely to be eaten. But I love eating it by the stalk, and want my kids to enjoy this as well! So, last night, I went simple & just tried tossing it into a pan with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and about a tablespoonful of dark brown sugar & water. Covered, and sauteed for ~10 minutes until tender. The kids loved it, and Adam & I did as well. It was sweet with just a bit of sour to balance it out, and super tender! So if your children are shy about asparagus, you might want to give this simple “recipe” a try!

    (Okay, I'm not a food photographer, but trust me, this was yummy.)
    Scala & Kolancy Brothers!
    This week I discovered Scala. If you saw the movie Social Network, you may remember the girls’ choir version of Radiohead’s Creep in the trailer… that’s Scala. I’ve been surfing YouTube & iTunes like a maniac looking for more by them this week. I’m hooked. It’s a mix of chorale voices (awesome) with 90’s alternative rock (also awesome); sometimes a cappella, sometimes with piano. Think: Sinead O'Connor, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Nirvana, Bjork... pared down to its essentials, hauntingly performed, how can you beat this?
    The Value of Being Not-Awesome!
    Amber at Srocel.com posted this more than a week ago, but it’s still on my mind (and I subscribed to email updates, so I’m still getting the inspired comments to her post). Amber talks eloquently and honestly about her feelings on blogging frequently, even if you’re not sure that what you’re posting is “awesome”. She says, “The other big thing I’ve learned through blogging, and really through everything that I’ve tried, is that the way to get better at something is to show up.”

    (Amber, who is, awesome)
    I commented at the time, that I usually only manage about one post a week, because I’d read somewhere that you only ever want to give your readers MORE, not less – you know, basically an aim-low approach, as not to disappoint. I do find that I often wait and wait until my post is “just right” before posting; and sometimes, in that wait, I end up not posting at all. Maybe the moment has passed, the thing I was blogging about didn’t seem so important. Sometimes, it’s because I’ve lost interest, or I’m just not sure that it’s awesome enough. Through repeated visits back to Amber’s post (because her readers leave such thoughtful comments!), I am coming around to the point of view that maybe more is better. Even if the more is less. There are several bloggers whom I read every day where I’m just so glad she posted SOMETHING, even if it’s not something I’m that interested in, or agree with, because the act of reading content in a voice I enjoy is… enjoyable. Inspiring. Relaxing. Not sure I am ready to make a commitment to daily blogging yet, but her post certainly was thought provoking. If you find yourself often with your finger hovering over the publish button, you might want to
    give her post a read.
    Roller Skating!
    Adam & I took the kids roller skating this Saturday.

    (First time standing in skates... note the death-grip)
    It was the kids’ first time, and our first visit to the skating rink in… (wait for it…) ~23 years. Yeah. The fact that we’re old folks aside, this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time!

    (Yes, I'm skating backwards, photographing myself. Yes, I'm a hazard to the roller skating population at large.)
    Perhaps what was best about the whole adventure was the fact that it had a distinct air of timelessness about it. The place was the SAME place we’d been to as kids, it still looked the same, the rental skates were the same brown & orange, they even played (some) of the same music (okay, they didn’t play In the Air Tonight, but they DID play Michael Jackson. I was satisfied). There were still a handful of people who were amazing skaters, some teenagers who hung out in groups in the middle of the rink, newbies clinging to the sides, and loners hanging back on the edge when the DJ switched to the “slow songs”. They even hosted a round of Hokey Pokey. And yes, I remembered how to spin & jump on my skates. I also fell (once). Overall, I highly recommended this as an afternoon family outing!

    (Our 3yo skating by himself!)
    The kids both started off without ever having been on skates in their lives, to within about two hours skating independently – and loving it!

    (Skating with Dad - no hands!)
    Also? Skating is a FUN way to exercise (and I'm not one who typically uses those two words in the same sentence). Now, I just need to buy my own roller skates. Seriously.
    So... What was awesome about your week?
    Posted: Apr 03 2011, 15:29 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    Hiking With Children





    We went hiking this weekend for Mother’s Day. It was the first real, long hike we’ve taken A.C. (after children); and Adam and I used to hike and backpack quite a bit B.C. (before children). We were super-excited, and at the same time, not quite sure how it would play out. Truth be told, it ended up as the perfect trip; I couldn’t have planned a better Mother’s Day if I’d tried. The children had a blast - they are naturals in the outdoors! And Adam and I rekindled our love of hiking. Can't wait to plan the next trip - even thinking of trying a backpacking/camping hike next time!

    The hike we chose this past weekend was in the Delaware Water Gap national recreation area in Northern New Jersey/Pennsylvania. It’s positively beautiful in that area (yes, New Jersey!) – breathtaking views, fresh air, even wild blueberries (though of course not yet in season). The weather on Sunday was nearly perfect – mid-60’s in the sun. It was delightfully cool for hiking with a pack (or child) on your back, though a bit chilly for the children, who didn’t have packs, so it kept us all moving. The coolness and breeze also kept the bugs at bay, which was a blessing.

    We hiked a circuit trail up/down Mt. Tammany. The whole hike was approximately 2.5mi, with an elevation gain of 1,200ft – I’d call it a moderate hike in difficulty. It had varied terrain – a bit flat, most rocky, some small boulders, some gravel. It’s a very clearly marked (blazed) trail, and well maintained. Perhaps best of all, the trail was sparsely populated, even for a holiday weekend, which allowed us the freedom to move at our own pace – taking in the sights and sounds of nature, relatively uninterrupted.

    We chose to hike the trail in “reverse” – starting at the Appalachian Trail which is a bit less steep at the beginning, crossing the cascading Dunfield Brook, transferring to the “blue dot” trail, and descending on the “red dot” trail. All told, with several brief rests on the ascent, a half hour stop at the top for lunch, a short tantrum, and a sleeping toddler strapped to my back for the descent, it took us a bit less than four hours. With a 2 year old and 5 year old, on moderately difficult terrain, I call that a huge success.

    For more information on the Mount Tammany hike, here are a few good links:

    http://delawarewatergap.org/MountTammany.aspx

    http://www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailid=HGN141-001

    http://www.purdes.com/njhiking/tammany/index.html

     

    Along the way, we enjoyed beautiful overlooks, streams, birds, new spring growth, and the peace and inner focus that I’ve only ever found with exertive backwoods hiking. We even picked up few cans left behind by less-than-conscientious previous hikers (pack it in, pack it out, folks!).

    I rediscovered my love of hiking on this trip. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed it just as much as I remembered it B.C., and perhaps even more as viewed within the new, innocent perspective of my children – who just happen to be natural hikers and gentle embracers of the beauty of nature. What a blessing to realize that we could share something we enjoyed so much, with our kids – and find that they really enjoy it too. We're really looking forward to our next trip!

    We managed to capture some of the sights along the way with our iPhones (the joys of modern technology). Enjoy!

    Posted: May 12 2010, 00:29 by kelly | Comments (7) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Family Time | Outdoors | Travel

    Staying Healthy through the Winter





    With cold weather fast approaching, and the children back in school, the thoughts of staying healthy, avoiding the dreaded flu, and keeping our immune systems at their highest level have been forefront in my mind!
    So I’ve been mulling over all the things we’ve done in the past, the things we are planning to do this year, and have been soliciting ideas from my irl, facebook, & twitter friends. All this adds up to a pretty darned good list, if I do say so myself. Though, I’m sure there are plenty more things I could do better! Here it is (not really in any order other than how they came to my mind):
    (and this photo isn't me - just looked like how I'd like to feel all year 'round!)
    Fresh Air & Sunshine – Getting outside every day, even when it’s really cold, if just for a few minutes, is so important. Not only do our bodies need the sunlight so they can make vitamin D (which is VITAL to staying healthy – please read what Dr. Mercola has to say about vitamin D & sun exposure – it may change your perspective on the sun; it did mine!), but we also need fresh air to clear out our lungs from being cooped up indoors all winter day. Most of our indoor air contains pollutants – carpet fibers, paint offgassing, cleaning products, etc. So, in addition to getting outside, periodically opening the windows throughout the winter to get some “new” air in, I recommend switching all cleaning products used indoors to natural products – castille soap, vinegar, baking soda, and tea tree oil for example, or safer chemical cleaners – like 7th Generation.

    Fruits, veggies, and berries – particularly berries
    - We try to eat organic as much as possible to avoid chemical exposure, and to boost antioxidants (organic produce has been found to have higher levels of antioxidants than conventional food)! We also are fortunate to have a juicer – and try to use it often in the winter to get the most out of our veggies in particular. I believe that food is better for you when it is raw & unpasturized; though the thought of raw veggies isn’t that appealing to most – particularly kids, so juicing makes eating your veggies easy! It also helps cut down on the amt. of food wasted – when your strawberries start to get soft, or your apples bruised, for example, I just throw them in the juicer – and no one’s the wiser – but they sure still taste great! When we can’t get to the juicer, or don’t have fresh fruits/veggies on hand, the next best thing we’ve found is
    Nuriche LiVE. And we like it so much, that we decided to start selling it!
    It’s a super-easy way to make sure we’re still getting the benefits of fresh fruits + probiotics… and it tastes good too.

    Water
    - Water, of course, is important to keep everything working in our bodies & I always feel it just flushes out the toxins… the more water you take in, the more bad stuff it takes out. We have a water filter, and I’m trying to wean myself off of bottled spring water. However, while rated highly “clean”, our township water is fluoridated, so its been a mental battle for me to switch completely off of bottled spring. But I am trying! For my birthday, my good friend got for me 5 reusable BPA-free plastic water bottles: one for each day of the work week. And I plan to get the children each a
    Kleen Kanteen
    for Christmas. So this should help!

    Washing Hands
    – We use herbal antibacterial soap by
    Cleanwell
    at our sinks, and just regular old olive oil soap in the bath. We wash before meals, after going outside, and after getting back from school/work. When we’re in the car, and can’t get to a sink, my favorite antibacterial spray is Burt’s Bees Aloe & Witch Hazel Hand Sanitizer. I don’t consider myself too much of a germaphobe, and don’t chase the kids around with antibacterial spray (oh wait, maybe I do), but these two things are free from toxic chemicals like triclosan & SLS, so I feel comfortable using them.

    Exercise
    – Okay. I’ll admit, I do not exercise enough. Or, well, at all. Sometimes we’ll get on an exercise kick where we’ll get on our running machine & elliptical every evening once the kids are in bed but we’ve never been able to get into a real routine! The kids, on the otherhand, always get plenty of exercise – of course, they always have boundless energy too. :) Its so important to long-term health, and its important for the children to see US placing a priority on exercise. This is something we ALL need to work on.

    Supplements
    – Aside from the healthy foods, getting outside, and drinking lots of fluids, we also supplement our diets with the following things; most vigilantly in the Winter:
    • Probiotic – I use Jarro brand because its what I started with when my youngest was an infant & had thrush. Comes chewable for the kids, capsulated for me, and powdered which I use to mix into smoothies, sprinkle on oatmeal, etc.
    • Elderberry concentrate – we take this daily because it is so tasty, easy to mix into the kid’s water, and packed full of natural nutrients! Additionally, it has been shown to have anti-viral properties.
    • Garlic – Adam & I take garlic in capsule form, and we make homemade garlicky hummus & soups for ourselves & the kids.
    • Echinacea – We all take this two weeks on, two weeks off throughout cold season
    • Astragalus – We all take this daily throughout cold season
    • Vitamin C – We all take this daily in the form of chewable tablets, but also unpasteurized orange juice. We boost our daily intake during cold season.
    • Vitamin D – we get out in the sun every day when its possible, but even when it is, we all also take vitamin D – in the form of cod liver oil for us, and Carlsons Baby D drops for the kids. With all I’ve been reading about vitamin D lately, I’m even considering starting to regularly visit a tanning salon in the winter months. Yes, crazy, right? And I’ve never in my life tanned, and do use California Baby sunscreen in the middle of summer when we're going to be out all day in the sun, yet the more I read, the more I’m convinced vitamin D deficiencies are the link to so many health problems… and that dramatically increasing vitamin D would be the link to much better health!

    Chiropractor
    – We try to visit the chiropractor once a month. Its been a while because our favorite chiropractor has relocated to a not-so-convenient location, but we really need to go back, particularly through the winter! I believe that having our bodies aligned improves circulation, posture, and communication of the brain with the body. Basically, if our body is comfortable it can heal itself. So I’m working on finding a new chiropractor.

    Sleep
    - With young children I know this can be a tough one. And even WITHOUT young children, with so much to do in the evenings - internet, movies, games, blogging, reading, cleaning, working... well, getting enough sleep is just not easy. But as adults we're supposed to get 8 hours of sleep per night. EIGHT! Even with both of our children now finally "sleeping through the night", I often find myself averaging closer to 5 or 6 hours per night during the week, rather than 8 (when's the last time I got 8?!). But our bodies do much of thier healing while we're sleeping. So its another thing, like exercise, that really needs focus.

    Air Purifier
    – We've always slept with a HEPA air purifier at night. Mostly for that lovely white noise sound which is so helpful in keeping little ones asleep. But also because it removes any allergenic or irritating particles in the air while we're sleeping - and we do spend a large portion of our day in one place - our bedroom - so best to make the air we're breathing (and rebreathing) as clean as possible.

    Flu shots – I think I’m back on the fence with this one. Last year, we all got the flu shot. I had to switch doctors in order to make sure everyone got the mercury-free dose, and no, we didn’t get the flu last year. But we never got the flu any other year either, and had never gotten the flu vaccine. This year, I’ll have to special order the mercury-free one (Sanofi Pasteur makes the pre-filled vials this year) – my doctor is willing to write a script for it – because neither of the practices we visit received the themerisol-free version this year. Which is another topic for another day. So, I’m still not sure about it, or the H1N1 vaccine. I’m considering getting it for myself, but since my understanding is that they haven’t produced a mercury-free version, I just don’t know that I can feel comfortable giving this to the kids. Particularly in light of my understanding of H1N1 as not being that severe in most cases of healthy children who contract it. And because I believe that things like the flu are probably GOOD for your body in the long run, because they make your immune system stronger over time, where as vaccines only boost your immunities for a brief window. But really, I’m still just not sure.
    **Update: We've decided a definitive NO on both the seasonal flu shot & the H1N1 vaccine this year; opting instead for more vigilant adherance to the above vitamin & sleep & exercise regimens to boost our immune systems naturally!**
    In spite of all of this prevention (flu shot or no), we still do get sick. So, we take:

    Umcka – It works so well (and is all natural)… it’s eerie. Of course, it could just be power of suggestion. But even still…. You start taking it 4 – 5 times per day, AS SOON AS you start feeling even a little bit ill. And then for 2 days after you’re well. I am convinced it has reduced the length of my colds, and made them easier to weather. I give it to the kids as well (just at half/quarter dose). It IS expensive, but when you’re in the midst of a cold/flu, you do what you can to feel better. And this really does help me feel better.
    Elderberry Concentrate - Yes, I listed this above. However, when we do get sick, we take this 4x per day (1 tsp at a time for adults, 1/2 tsp at a time for kids) because of its antiviral properties.

    What I don't yet do, but would like to do:

    Find an ayurvedic doctor for all of us. Its difficult finding a regular old doctor here in Southern NJ that is even willing to honor requests like special order vaccines or understands the value of extended breastfeeding, let alone being able to find a more holistic practice. I've been looking, and am still looking. I hate feeling like we're settling for second best (or third, or...) when it comes to health practitioner, but my inquiries IRL & online for a more holistic doc in this area have so far been fruitless. I'm certainly open to referrals! I think a less traditional-medicine doctor who looks at the whole person, not just treats the symptoms, would be really beneficial to us all.
    So that’s it (just a couple things, right?)! I encourage you to add to the list anything you do that isn’t mentioned, or to tell me what I’m doing doesn’t work! I’m open to new ideas, and to improving what we already do. Here’s to a healthy Winter ahead!
    Posted: Oct 11 2009, 15:32 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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