Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I Love Reiki

Starting this blog has been a reaffirmation of how much I love and rely on holistic therapies. As I've said before, having the right tools to help my kids has been of utmost priority for me in recent years and I always get super animated whenever I discover a new one, or even when I explore an existing one further and in more detail. Super animated of course is literally that - I jump up and down on my bed and my eyes get all sparkly. J cannot understand it and why would he, he's not as obsessed with this stuff as I am!

Back to the topic at hand...Reiki. A friend of mine had taken Reiki courses around the time that Z was born and had said nothing but amazing things about it. Reiki is a Japanese, energy healing technique that promotes relaxation and stress relief but also has been reputed to help heal the body in addition to the mind. Not so far fetched if you think about it as a stress free mind is probably 2/3 (if not more) of the way there to a healthy body. It involves the laying of hands on different parts of the body and its premise is that we all have energy flowing through us which needs to be replenished at frequent intervals in order for us to be at our optimum health. 

Sound easy? It is! In fact, that's the best part. 

What better tool for a caregiver to have at her disposal than her very own hands? I don't need to remember to bring Reiki with me in my ginormous handbag. Good thing too as I don't have any more damn space. It's already overflowing with the other essentials. Once you are attuned to Reiki, it is with you forever. You do, of course, have to take a course (hey, it's easy but not free!) but I assure you, it will be one of the best 5-6 hours you have spent in a long time! I love the fact that my kids are  comforted by my touch and that they also reap health benefits from it at the same time! It is also such a great way to get in touch with your contemplative side - Reiki calms the mind and helps you get grounded.  Needless to say, when you're grounded, chances are your kids will be too.

I have used Reiki for fevers, colds and even to help promote better sleep. As with all remedies, this one needs consistency and you will notice that it gets more effective, the more you use it. The most success I've had has been when dealing with localized pain relief but I have heard many a story of it benefitting others in so many ways. For optimum health however, you should really try to do it on a daily basis. For more information, have a look at the links section on my home page.

Sending positive vibes your way!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Diary of a Play Date 'Newbie'

Hi and brrrr!

It's a cold day in NY and unfortunately, it does seem like 'winter is coming' (ref: the Game of Thrones books..aha I am, it seems, somewhat up to date!).

I thought I'd venture out of natural remedy territory today and talk a little about something all parents encounter in one form or another: the dreaded first 'date' ahem play date that is :) R & Z have played with a few others kids in their short lives but these have all been children whose parents I know well and am friends myself with - I had not, as yet, dared to venture into the unknown universe that is blind dates. So, here I am, on the eve of my very first blind play date and I have to confess, I'm rather nervous. Not sure what I am most nervous about but there are a few candidates out there:

  • Will they be bored? (and more so, will they drive me up the wall as a result??) 
  • Are my snacks healthy AND yummy?
  • Is my house clean or fancy or furnished enough (it's new, well old but you know 'new' to me. I give up)
  • Will the other mom and I hit it off? (and therefore will there be a repeat play date? Preferably at her house next time..haha)

You'd think I was bloody well going on a date myself. 

I have duly prepped - cleaned up, made sure I had interesting but healthy food in the pantry and arranged a couple of different activities for them in case all hell broke loose and the kids needed intervention (activities that involved sitting quietly at the dining table, focusing on the task at hand..dream on me!).    The hitting off part I can't control..or can I? Maybe I should Google interesting conversation starters for d(m)ummies.

Why are we, as parents, so nervous about our children's social interactions? I believe the apprehension stems from our own experiences - perhaps a reminder of those awkward moments in school or university and that desperate need to belong. I touched on the concept of kids getting their cues from us in a previous post - it is really such a struggle to ignore our own hang ups and insecurities for the betterment of our children but it is something we need to try to do. For our kids are unique beings in themselves - we need to let them develop their own hang ups ;-)

So, I shall brave tomorrow with my 'confident mommy' hat on - one that will ignore the brimming arguments between my son and his friend and let them figure it out on their own. One who will encourage my child's ability to deal with conflict and to be a good host. One who will ignore the unpainted handrail in my foyer. All the while, secretly, cringing every minute until it is over!!!

Let the fun begin,


P.S Would love to hear your experiences with or thoughts about first play dates. Comment away!

UPDATE - No longer a newbie!

So, it's official! I am no longer a play date ignoramus. Yayy! What did I learn from my OCD planning and preparation? NOTHING! The boys were content to run around the house, making 'booby traps' and playing with..wait for it..hangers! I will never understand the male species. 

I even hit it off with the mom and we bonded over the importance of sleeping early. Go figure!

Bring it on play date # 2!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Baby Constipation

Deciding when to pull the trigger and start baby on solids is a tricky one. Start too soon and you might have allergies to deal with later on - wait too long and your baby won't want to try anything other than milk.

In my experience with both R & Z, waiting longer was definitely my preference. With R, I started grudgingly at 6 months with..wait for it..avocado! Very excited at the prospect of trumping the common rice cereal, I began slowly introducing different foods, following the rule of one food a week to rule out any allergies. Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived as soon after we started him on banana, my firstborn became constipated. Contrary to popular belief, constipation isn't really about a lack of stool but relates more to the difficulty in passing a stool. Quite possibly one of the worst moments of my life was watching my poor child scream in pain as he tried to poop - 'twas time to roll up my sleeves and find something safe to help alleviate his suffering.

First port of call...reflexology. After reviewing different articles on the web, I was satisfied that this was an easy and pretty harmless treatment - it involves massaging certain spots on the feet (and also hands) that correspond to different parts of the body.

Example of a Reflexology Foot Chart

This type of chart is a great tool (!) to have for any mom, new or otherwise. You can find others on the internet, I chose one I like from a  website that has some great reflexology information. I have used reflexology to help colds, coughs, UTIs and just to relax my children as well. The technique involves using your thumb to apply firm but light pressure on the spot that corresponds to the problem area. You can massage in circles or just up and down - no hard and fast rule here except that you need to do it often and for at least a few minutes on each foot per session. For constipation, refer to the points above that relate to the liver, colon, intestines, stomach and the rectum all of which have a role to play in getting the body rid of waste.

A good aid in helping with the massage is olive oil. Used often in 'desi' (the somewhat affectionate name for people and culture of the subcontinent) remedies, olive oil is a relaxant as well as good for circulation. My mom and dad frequently told me to massage the kids with oil after baths and especially before bedtime to help them sleep soundly - babies especially benefit from the closeness and warmth of their loved ones' hands and also from the therapeutic qualities of the oil. You can also add a drop or two of lavender essential oil to make it even more relaxing - very safe to use on babies and smells great!

Second port of! I ditched the bananas and looked for constipation easing foods. Topping that list was mushed up prunes  - a few spoons of the yucky stuff and baby R was happily pooping away. Other good fruits for constipation are pears, peaches and plums..all the P's (excuse the pun!). Cut dairy as it is known to make the issue worse and add lots and lots of H20!

The combination of both diet and reflexology did the trick and I was a relaxed mom again (not for long though). Needless to say with Z, I waited a little longer and went very, very slowly. In fact, she didn't really start eating properly until she was a year and she never had a problem with constipation (or putting on weight).

NB Both my kids were exclusively breastfed up until they started solids and for a good while after..I'm a big believer in breastfeeding and feel that it is sufficient for the first year but certainly know & understand that it is not possible or ideal for everyone. If you are not breastfeeding, waiting until 6 months or beyond to start solids may not be the best thing to do so please exercise caution, do your research and discuss further with your pediatrician.

Happy Feeding!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

My First Aid Box

Greetings people!

A handymom not only needs tools but good ones! I can't imagine not having some essential items with me at all times so I thought I would write up a list of what to have at hand for dealing with some of the more common ailments and first aid. Some of these can be found in your local grocery store but for others, you may need to order online or go to specialty stores (for where to buy, have a look at the related tab on my home page). Most are suitable for babies but I have indicated if not.

Aloe Vera (topical only)

Aloe is one of nature's little wonders. Cut a little piece of the flesh from inside a leaf and apply to acne, wounds, insect bites and burns and you'll find instant relief. Be careful around small children as it is very bitter and although there are certain camps that advocate eating it, I wouldn't give it to a child unless indicated by a holistic professional. 


Homeopathic Arnica is great for bumps and bruises. The easiest way to use it is to massage a little on the affected area as soon as you can. The quicker you can get to it, the less chance a bump or bruise will even form. You can also administer it in pill form and this works well for excessive muscle strain or even for preventing pain at the dentist. Many women also use it to help with post childbirth trauma and some even take it prior to labour to help with pain.

Bach Flower Kids' Rescue Remedy (avoid giving to babies but works great for children over 1)

These safe, non toxic essences are made from flowers and address emotional issues by gently restoring the body's equilibrium. There are a total of 38 different essences but the one to have at hand is the "Rescue Remedy" which is a combination of 5 of the essences and can be used in times of stress or in emergencies. Great for calming down an anxious child (& mom!).

Calendula Ointment

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!" Calendula is nothing short of a miracle - homeopathic Calendula i.e. (For more on homeopathy, see my links section on the home page). This ointment has been my saving grace for diaper rashes (for some reason the ointment works better for me, not the gel or cream) and for cuts/scrapes and even eczema. Calendula is known for its soothing properties and for reducing inflammation. (Note for new moms: I used Calendula ointment for my stitches postpartum with Z and I healed much quicker than I did with R.) 

Essential Oils

Always dilute in oil before rubbing on a child's skin (Almond is a good one). You can also put a drop or two in a humidifier.

Lavender - promotes sleep, relaxant

Roman Chamomile (beware if you're allergic to ragweed) - good for colic if rubbed on tummy. Very effective when combined with Lavender. Can also help with teething babies that are irritable - rub on their chests and tummies and can also rub gently into affected jaw

Eucalyptus Radiata (better not to use with a newborn baby. Can use after 6 months and even then very diluted) - very effective for colds and coughs. Promotes easy breathing, especially for colds with the sniffles

Echinacea - (not recommended for children under 1. If younger and you are breast feeding, you can take it yourself and it will be passed to your child)

Echinacea is a great herb to have at hand. You can buy it in tablet form or in liquid. Although some literature says there's no real difference, I am a firm believer in the tincture and you can get the orange flavoured kind (alcohol free) which my children love. You can mix it in some water or juice if you find it a little strong but I usually just drop it directly into their mouths :-) Why add more dishes to wash than you need to??!!

During a cold or any other illness in fact, giving regular doses of echinacea (I usually do a dose every hour for the first couple of days) speeds up the recovery time and if you catch it early enough, can even prevent a full blown attack. The key *and I can't stress this enough* is to dose frequently and according to weight. It's usually a drop per pound but check the label as different companies may have other recommendations.

For preventative use, dose a few times a day and follow the "1 week on 1 week off" rule as it loses its potency if administered for too long in one go.

Fennel seeds

Fennel is a great carminative (i.e. helps to expel trapped wind) and can be used for colic. Best way to dose a young 'un is by boiling a tablespoon of seeds in a few cups of water and letting it steep into a tea for a few minutes. Add to a bottle or give a few drops with a spoon. For mothers like me who wanted to exclusively bf for a given time, take the fennel tea yourself throughout the day and the benefits should pass through you. Gripe water which is big across the pond in the UK usually contains fennel but, in my opinion, giving it without the added preservatives is more effective. (Note for bf moms, drinking fennel tea can also promote milk supply).

Garlic Mullein Oil

This oil does wonders for ear infections. The garlic component fights the infection (it is a natural antibiotic) and mullein is a flower that has soothing properties and helps with the inflammation and pain. Warm the bottle by sitting it in hot water for a few minutes and then put a few drops into the affected ear every few hours for the first few days. You can plug the ear with a cotton ball for maximum benefit. I fought off a bad case Z when she was 2 with this and Echinacea and managed to avoid giving her antibiotics. Also, interestingly, she never got one after that.


Grapefruit Seed Extract is a natural antibiotic and helps fight infections in a similar fashion to Echinacea. The key again is to give often and for a few days at least. It is extremely bitter so please don't ever give it undiluted! I usually mix it in some juice (the sweeter ones are better, try mango and orange for e.g.) and give a 'shot' every few hours. 

Vitamin C

I had always heard that Vitamin C was a good preventative remedy and was also effective in warding off infections if taken in high doses. I got firsthand experience of this when I saw how giving it to Z in the early stages of her cold managed to prevent it from getting out of hand and from going to her chest (which unfortunately is the case with her every time she gets a cold. Sigh.). Sounding like a broken record I know, but you  do need to give it often for it to truly do its thing and since this vitamin is water-soluble, it is not toxic even in very high amounts. I usually give the kids a tablespoon of the liquid variety (see my Where to Buy section) every hour until I see a noticeable difference. 

Get in touch if you have any questions!



Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tools are a Handymom's Best Friends!

Hello all!

Fortunately or unfortunately, I'm a control freak. I need to know that I have tools (my favourite word these days with R & to fight nightmares, to combat fears and to deal with bullying) to help me during those challenging times (read: nights) when my kids are sick or upset and need some relief. Relief that doesn't come in a box full of toxins and guilt induced panic attacks about the long term effects on my children's development.

Natural remedies are a great asset for mothers/caregivers as in most cases, they are easily available, safe and more importantly (in my opinion) they work more effectively in the long run than regular medicines. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Be patient and committed!
Natural remedies need to be given often and are really most effective if you start using them as soon as you see a sign of something coming on. They are not for the most part quick fixes and do need some time to work. Of course with some types of holistic therapies such as homeopathy, I have seen instant results and have been amazed in fact by the speedy recovery but in most cases, you do need to do be a little patient and reassure yourself that, even if you don't necessarily see the results quickly, the remedies are working behind the scenes to strengthen your child's immunity. Quick fixes are often not long lasting and you will have noticed that although they may alleviate symptoms temporarily, the complaints usually keep reoccurring.

  • Exercise judgement and do your research!
What's the point of your blog then I hear you say! It goes without saying that the whole purpose of this blog is for me to share my knowledge and experience and to help in any way I can. However, I think the most important lesson I learnt while raising R & Z was that I needed to do my homework. At the end of the day, no one (and sorry to you traditionalists out there but this includes your pediatricians!) knows your child better than you and instinct, especially in the case of babies, is really your guiding light. Your child is unique and may respond differently to various kinds of treatment so the generic "one size fits all" approach never ceases to baffle me. The basic precept of holistic therapies is to treat the whole person and not just the ailment!

  • Love is the most important remedy of all so lose the guilt and don't judge!
One of the easiest things to do for a new mom especially is to burden herself with mountains of guilt. The kind that is all encompassing and appears in the form of a continually nagging voice telling you that everything you are doing is wrong. Ease that burden and remember that the most important thing you can do for any child is to give them lots and lots of love and affection. That nurturing manifests itself in a healthy mind and a healthy body and far supersedes anything you can give a child from a medicine chest (natural or otherwise!). So drop the guilt and don't judge yourself or others as everyone's circumstances are different and can warrant different sorts of action. 

  • Have fun and smile!
Something we all forget to do when we are worrying about our children's health :-) Try not to stress (I know it's hard, trust me!) as stress is not only bad for you but for your kids as well since they take all of their cues from us i.e. you panic in a stressful situation and chances are they will too. [Practiced as I sound, I myself am constantly struggling with this one but we can work together perhaps!]

Wishing you all oceans of happiness and health