“What is that supposed to be?”

We stopped before a crooked metal staircase that stretched up into nowhere. The plaque on the base read, “Where We Goin’?” and “Please do not climb on sculptures.” For a moment we contemplated the mysterious meaning of the twisted metal. I snapped a picture, then we moved on.

 

This morning the wind blew gently, stirring the leafy branches of the trees and the waving stalks of grass. The breeze blew mist toward us from the fountain in the center of the lake. Birds called overhead, and a blue heron watched us from where he stood in the water.

This morning I walked with my daughter, around and around the lake on a winding, narrow path. We walked through bright and sunny spots, alternated with shadowed and shady areas. We enjoyed the cool morning air, the warming summer sun, the sounds and scents of trees and water. We contemplated the towering metal sculptures that stood beside the lake’s circling path, and we enjoyed the time we set aside to spend together.

I love these leisurely walks with my family or longer wanderings by myself. A walk allows me to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, birds and flowers, trees and grass. Walking reminds me to be grateful for the grace of seasonal changes, sky and sun, wind and earth.

A walk clears my head, awakens my thoughts, clears a way for new ideas and inspiration. Walking allows me time to think, consider my purpose, and wonder where my path is taking me.

A walk with someone I care about offers a time for reconnection and conversation, sharing where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing, or just commenting on the world that turns around us.

“Look, there’s a ground squirrel.”

“Where?”

“He’s gone.”

Walking makes me feel alive and grateful for all the world has to offer. A walk encourages me to commune with the God who created that world and gives us the power and freedom of movement to enjoy it.

This morning, I encourage you to take a walk with someone you love. Find a way to step outside and enjoy the brilliance God has given us to share.

For information on the physical and emotional health benefits of walking, click here or here. For tips on beginning a walking program, check here; or for a plan on losing weight by walking, try here.

How can you enjoy a walk on this summer day? What is your favorite aspect of taking a walk outdoors?

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

baby-1531059_1280

“Try walking the hallway,” the nurse told me, her only suggestion for speeding my slow labor.

Then she disappeared down some distant stretch of the corridor, and I walked alone, slowly up and down the hospital hallway. At midnight, the other maternity patients slumbered behind their closed doors. My daughter’s dad snored in the vinyl recliner after his long shift at the grocery store. The floor felt hard and cold through my foam rubber slippers. After a few faltering trips down the hallway, I retreated to my bed where I remained throughout the rest of my 38-hour labor.

I didn’t go to the hospital expecting the busy nurses to hold my hand throughout my entire labor. I didn’t know I had alternatives to the traditional maternity ward experience, and I didn’t know I could have had someone else there to walk the hall with me.

A doula is a professional labor assistant, serving a woman in labor by providing emotional support and coaching throughout the childbirth process. A doula holds a laboring mom’s hand, walks the halls with her at midnight, and generally supports a woman to deliver her baby in a safe and welcoming environment.

“It’s my job to give a mother information,” says Mandee, a doula who has assisted with over 100 births. “When you know the pros, cons, risks and benefits; you can decide what works for you.” With the right information, a new mom is able to make decisions for her birth and baby and feel in control of her childbirth experience.

Mandee’s connection with a client begins well before meeting in the delivery room. Mandee meets with moms early in their pregnancies to establish and build a trusting relationship. She gives her clients information resources about prenatal nutrition, supplements, exercise and medications; but she asks clients to do their own research and ask questions of their doctors. Mandee is available for moms to call, text or email throughout their pregnancies when they have questions or concerns.

A doula helps clients write a personal birthing plan to detail a mom’s expectations and preferences. She works to support and encourage a dad’s or partner’s role in the delivery room. She provides a listening ear for moms to calm their nerves and help them feel prepared for the often unpredictable process of delivery.

Mandee asks that her clients call as early as possible when they go into labor. She and the mom discuss when it’s time to meet at the hospital or other birthing environment. She will assist at any birth where a medical professional delivers the baby: in hospitals, home births, and birthing centers, but Mandee points out that a doula is not a midwife. A doula doesn’t perform medical procedures like medication administration or cervical checks.

Instead, Mandee focuses on helping the client mom feel more comfortable and relaxed during labor. She advises Mom about her medication options, food and drink possibilities, and positions to make labor easier. She gives massage and provides aromatherapy, flickering candlelight, music and essential oils to relax the atmosphere. She walks the halls with her client mom, assists her in squats and other exercises, helps her soak in a warm tub. When Mom feels more relaxed and comfortable, she will generally experience an easier labor and birth.

“The cervix is a muscle,” Mandee explains. “When we’re afraid or tense, labor will take longer. Women who deliver with doulas generally have labors at least three hours shorter than average.”

Once the baby is born, Mandee stays with her client for several hours. She will help Mom understand any repair procedures, coach Mom through holding the baby skin-on-skin, or help get breastfeeding started. Mandee assists moms with bathroom trips, showering, and getting comfortable to rest after delivery.

And Mandee’s connection with her client continues for up to two weeks after delivery. She is available to answer Mom’s questions and recommend resources to help with breastfeeding and settling into new family routines. Mandee’s support and encouragement help moms recover emotionally and physically, especially when Mom has experienced crises or complications during pregnancy and delivery.

“I am the mom’s support system,” Mandee explains. “It helps to have someone available that they feel comfortable with. I help her feel confident to make her own decisions, to choose her own steps or her own timing.”

newborn-1017390_1920Looking back, I know I would have appreciated having a support system to help me through those 38 hours and the weeks of adjustment later. If I’d had someone else to walk those hallways with me, my journey might not have seemed so long.

For more information on hiring a doula, check out American Pregnancy and Dona.org. And watch this site next week when Mandee explains how to choose the right doula to assist your labor and delivery.

How would a doula help with your pregnancy and delivery? What questions would you ask when connecting with a doula?

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

dentist-1437430_960_720[1]

My teenage daughter told me the dentist numbed her mouth, then left her sitting in the chair alone for nearly an hour. When the dental assistant finally returned to the room, she told my daughter the office was double booked for the day, and they would have to reschedule her filling.

"I took the day off school to do this," my daughter mumbled through her numbed mouth. "I can't reschedule for another day."

The dentist and his assistant came back to the room and filled my daughter's tooth -- without speaking to her. Actually, she said they sat on opposite sides of the chair and argued with each other the entire time they worked.

"I don't want to go back to that dentist again," she told me when she got home.

"Don't worry. We won't," I answered.

For many people, few events cause as much worry as a visit to the dentist's office. Fortunately, introducing your child to a good dentist early can help avoid much of the anxiety associated with the dentist's chair.

"First tooth, first visit," advises Shannon, a dental hygienist. She explains that parents should take their children to the dentist as soon as the first baby tooth is on display.

At a first dental visit, the dentist will likely sit knee-to-knee with the parent with the baby lying across both adults' laps. The goal of the first visit is to help the child be comfortable with the bright lights and unfamiliar environment of the dentist's office. This time also allows the dentist to look for any developmental habits, like pacifier or thumb-sucking, that may affect tooth formation in the future and to advise parents on future dental care.

As children grow and teeth develop, Shannon recommends scheduling regular dental visits every six months. She also advises taking children to a family dentist, instead of one who specializes in pediatric dentistry, as soon as the child has all permanent teeth.

Your dentist may suggest several treatments to protect teeth as the child grows. Sealants are applied to 6 year molars and 12 year molars. These protective covers seal out bacteria and prevent decay from growing in the grooves of teeth. Fluoride treatments are brushed onto chewing surfaces of teeth once a year to protect teeth from decay.

pixabay teethIf a cavity is diagnosed, it is best to get the decay taken care of while it is small and does not affect the pulp or healthy part of the tooth. Once decay goes into the dentin, the second layer of the tooth, the cavity will grow and possibly spread to surrounding teeth as well. If that happens, a child may need general anesthesia to allow the dentist to repair and fill several cavities at once. Extensive dental repairs are painful and can make children afraid to return to the dentist in the future.

However, many families don't have dental insurance. I had selected the angry dentist who argued across his dental chair because he was one who advertised "No insurance necessary" services.

"Call your dentist and ask the cost of services like cleaning and exams," suggests Shannon. "Then set money aside every month for the dental expenses of the family. It is more expensive in the long run to skip dental check-ups and have to pay for fillings later." As another alternative, Shannon recommends visiting dental hygienist schools and training programs for low-cost preventative care. Colleges that train dental assistants offer cleanings, X-rays, and sealants at reasonable prices.

The Healthy Smiles Project and the Healthy Teeth website offer games, activities, and coloring pages that help teach children to care for their own smiles. Verywell.com posts articles on dental care and other health issues for young children.

Shannon suggests that parents ask around when searching for the right dentist. "The experiences and word of mouth referrals of other people make great recommendations."

boy-676122_960_720[1]After  my daughter's experience with the angry dentist, I refuse to go to any dentist who doesn't make me feel cared for and comfortable. I reserved money from each year's tax refund to pay for our cleanings and checkups. I found a dentist who told jokes across his dental chair and made his patients smile.

How have you helped your children feel more comfortable about going to the dentist?

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

pixabay smile

I kept my daughter's baby shoes, receiving blankets with spit-up stains, and books with her name written in the cover. I preserved her handprints and coloring book pages. In a box at the bottom of my closet, are all her baby teeth, carefully sealed in individual envelopes and labeled for the Tooth Fairy: "MY TOOF."

"People don't think they have to take care of their kids' baby teeth, because they get new ones anyway," begins Shannon, a dental hygienist, "but baby teeth are important because they hold space for the adult teeth. The roots of baby teeth guide the permanent teeth into place. Good baby teeth are necessary to maintain face shape and smiling, and for chewing and eating."

Shannon offers parents numerous ideas on how to care for our children's teeth and preserve the health and beauty of their smiles. She says dental care has to begin with the smallest children, long before they have a mouthful of pearly whites.

Beware of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

When liquids, including breast milk, pool in a child's mouth at night, the sugars in the milk or food combine with bacteria, and the decay process begins on teeth. It is important to wipe out the child's mouth before bedtime, and never put a baby to bed with a bottle, unless it contains only water.

Don't Share Spoons

Adults can experience Gingivitis, gum disease, or Periodontitis, which destroys the bones under teeth. The bacteria from an adult's teeth can be transferred to a child on shared spoons or utensils. Once that decay starts, the bacteria spread from tooth, to tooth, to tooth.

pixabay brushingBrush Your Child's Teeth

Good dental habits start early, so parents should start brushing even the smallest child's gums and erupting teeth. An infant finger toothbrush is a small plastic or cloth brush that looks like a finger-puppet and removes excess liquid from the baby's mouth. As children get older, parents should teach them how to brush their own teeth, but don't use fluoride toothpaste, and watch that children don't swallow toothpaste. Ingesting too much fluoride can cause fluorisis, which discolors teeth.

The Healthy Smiles Project and the Healthy Teeth website offer games, activities, and coloring pages that help teach children to care for their own smiles. In Saving Smiles, Part Two, Shannon will share how to introduce your child to the dentist's office and how to prevent costly and painful problems in the future.

Children grow fast. Baby teeth don't last. They end up under pillows or in envelopes labeled "MY TOOF." Children need to learn proper dental care and maintenance. The memories of their smiles will last forever.

How have you helped your children learn to take care of their teeth?

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

child-1566470_960_720[1]

The dumpster lid creaked when I hefted it over my head. I started to throw in my plastic bag of garbage, but then I stopped. Under the dumpster lid, the cardboard box from a 24-can soda pack perched on a mound of bagged garbage. I snagged the cardboard from the dumpster and ripped the UPC bar code from the corner before tossing the box back into the dumpster and adding my garbage bag to the pile.

All that summer I saved soda-case UPC's. I bought boxes and boxes of soda cans and carefully clipped off the bar code squares. By the twisted logic of marketing campaigns, I was eager to spend money on soda just to collect the UPC codes and trade them for a free duffle bag bearing the soda company logo. It made sense at the time.

It also made sense to save calories by drinking the diet soda version, sweetened with the chemical aspartame.  After drinking one can of diet soda, I usually had a headache. After drinking two cans, I experienced a buzzing dizziness and blurry vision. I kept drinking, rationalizing that I was enjoying calorie-free soda and earning a free duffle bag.

"Be aware of how food makes you feel," advises Meg, Health Coach for the Dr. Sears' LEAN Nutrition and Wellness Institute. "Explain to your children, 'I ate too much ice cream, and now I have a stomachache.' When we set an example of wanting to feel good, kids will learn that what they eat affects the way they feel."

Meg identifies three food additives we should avoid when making food choices.

IMG_0391High Fructose Corn Syrup is used to sweeten hundreds of foods we find in the grocery store. Corn syrup does not trigger the hormone leptin, which controls appetite; so when we eat foods containing corn syrup, we still feel hungry and will overeat. I found corn syrup lurking in several of the foods in my pantry, including "healthy" cereal, crackers, salad dressing, and even soup.

IMG_0401

Hydrogenated Oils have a long shelf life, so are used in many processed and fast foods. Hydrogenated oils make our cell membranes rigid so our calls cannot grow and function properly. They can cause heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. Hydrogenated oils are often disguised on food labels as "trans fats" or "shortening."

IMG_0394

Food Additives and Colors, like aspartame, MSG, food colorings and preservatives, are called "excitotoxins" because they alter brain chemistry. Ingesting chemical additives can lead to behavior and learning disorders and long-term neurological diseases. Chemical additives are common in prepared, boxed foods and my habitual diet soda.

The best way to avoid food additives is to avoid eating prepared, boxed foods. Choose foods with only a few, natural ingredients. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and dairy. Learn to cook from scratch and prepare your own homemade snacks and baked goods.

"The better you feel, the easier it is to make the financial sacrifice and buy real, natural foods," Meg advises. "You will see the benefits."

The Dr. Sears website features tips for smart grocery shopping and guidelines for avoiding food additives and chemicals.

My diet soda habit ended when I got tired of the headaches and weird side effects. The free duffle bag didn't last much longer, but ended up in the pile of another apartment dumpster.

How do you avoid foods with added ingredients and chemicals? How do you teach your children to eat healthful, nutritious meals?

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

baby-1109331_960_720[1]

The doors sighed open, sounding as tired as I felt. We passed the checkout lane where the cashier leaned against her conveyor belt and yawned. We passed the cooler where the eggs and yogurt displayed the bright colors of their packaging.

I pursued a single purpose, the only goal that could lure me out of bed to dress and drive to the grocery store this early on a Sunday morning: donuts.donuts-268250_960_720[1]

I craved golden, glazed donuts with the flaky white icing that disintegrates when bitten. I let my daughter choose the most attractive package from the bakery shelf while I selected bottled orange juice and instant coffee. Then my daughter and I moved to the cash register where the cashier drowsily pushed buttons and squashed our donuts into a bag.

"It's not realistic to eliminate all sugar," says Meg, Health Coach for the Dr. Sears LEAN lifestyle and nutrition program. "Telling children that sugar is off-limits does them a disservice, because it's impossible to avoid sugar entirely. It's our job as parents to teach balance, to help children learn to use tools and make good choices."

sign-256533_960_720[1]Meg recommends Dr. Sears' "Traffic Light Eating" as one tool to teach our children. Dr. Sears describes food as falling into three colorful categories that help children make good choices.

"Green Light Foods" are "Go Foods" that provide energy and promote growth. Greed Foods can be eaten as much as we like and include: fruits and vegetables, eggs and yogurt, milk and cheese, nuts and seeds, lean meat and fish.

"Yellow Light Foods" are "Slow Down Foods" that can be enjoyed in limited qualities. Yellow Foods include: fatty meats, pasta and white bread, homemade baked goods.

"Red Light Foods" are the "Stop and Think Foods" that demand caution and a careful approach. Red Foods are the prepackaged, store-bought foods, desserts, sugared drinks, and foods with artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated oils.

Red Light Foods are all right once in a while, Meg explained, but we don't want to begin the habit of eating them regularly.

My Sunday morning donuts fall into the Red Light category, all right for an occasional treat, but I had acquired the regular donut habit, and my low energy levels showed it.

Meg references the Sears Wellness Institute for meal ideas and recipes that incorporate more Green Light Foods. The site teaches healthy eating habits and encourages healthy choices. Meg also recommends this site for meal ideas and recipes that use real foods in budget-friendly menus.

Sometimes I miss the delicate melting of glazed donut icing. Sometimes I still prowl the bakery shelves for cinnamon rolls and sugar cookies. More often now, I stop at the coolers of eggs and yogurt. I choose fruit, cottage cheese, and whole grain bread for making crunchy toast.

But the cashier still yawns over the conveyor belt and squashes my bread in the bag.

How have your eating habits changed? What strategies do you use to help your family make healthy choices?

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail