Natural Prevention for Cold and Flu

Mother and ill daughter

During a time of stress and disruption of usual, healthy eating habits, we see a lot of colds and flu. We allow our immunity to drop just a bit, and we give bacteria and viruses a way into our system.

The steps you can take to boost immunity in your family are very simple. Maybe not as simple as taking a pill labelled “Prevents colds and flu,” but you know that wouldn’t really work anyway.

Build and maintain health for your whole family through basic habits. You just need to understand what your body needs and provide that. You are more likely to get sick when you are bending your basic rules of healthy living.

Sleep. Your first and most important step to improved health is getting enough sleep. It really is that simple. Read more about sleeping for health.

Nutrition. What you eat matters. Eating whole, unprocessed foods in the right balance gives your body what it needs to function well and fight off seasonal invaders. Which foods? Read more about how to boost your immunity with foods.

Physical Activity. Your physical activity is a factor in your ability to fight off infection. You know you need to be active, but how active for how long? Read more about guidelines for physical activity for adults and children.

Manage Stress. All of us have stress, even very young children. Your choice is in how you manage the stress. We wrote about how you can avoid the immune-suppression of stress through the mind-body connection.

Have Fun. Does it seem odd to include fun in prevention of illness? Laughter does help. In part, it helps you manage stress, but your happiness is a bigger part of the fabric of health you are weaving. Read more about how to help your family stay healthy.

Quick List for Cold & Flu Prevention

Beyond the solutions above for general health, you can give your immunity a boost during these months when bacteria and viruses are being passed around so much.

Raw Garlic. Don’t just add garlic to your cooking (though do that for the taste); eat garlic raw. Chop up or crush 1-2 cloves and either drink in warm water or add to food just before you are ready to eat it. An antiviral compound in raw garlic, allicin, blocks infections.

Apple Cider Vinegar. Drink a tablespoon of organic, apple cider vinegar in water to create an alkaline environment in your body, an environment where bacteria and viruses have a more difficult time surviving.

Vitamin D. Canada’s Food Guide has recognized that vitamin D is the only nutrient for which adults over 50 cannot rely on diet alone to receive their recommended daily dose. We sell Ddrops because of their therapeutic benefits.

Ddrops vitamin D supplement

Warm Drinks. In my family, we start with a base of chicken broth, ginger tea, or some other basic tea. We add honey, lemon, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and other spices to create what we call immuni-tea. The warm liquid and the ingredients both help boost immunity. My mother’s version was always hot water with lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. Create your own version as an easy way to take in some of the basic cold and flu fighting foods.

If you don’t manage to fight off cold or flu, you have natural choices to treat the symptoms. We love elderberry syrup, so we carry Sambucol black elderberry extract.

Sambucol for kids

 

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Holiday Stories for Solstice and Christmas

Mother reading to a child

As you create holiday traditions with your children, read to them. Read stories that explain each holiday, stories that help your children understand their role in the holiday, stories that explain how your family relates to the holiday. Read stories that spread joy of celebration. And, collect a pile of books you love to read over and over.

This year, knowing that holidays can sometimes creep up on us, I’ve posted holiday stories that you can find online at the last minute—the REAL last-minute when you can’t run out and buy a book.

It’s not too late for solstice today or Christmas next week. Here are a few holiday stories you can find online.

How to Build a Snowman with Your Sister

“How to Build a Snowman with Your Sister” is a short, sweet story of a raccoon boy and his little sister building a snowman. Read the text yourself, and look at the few illustrations. This is part of a collection at TLC (television channel). They have more stories, if you are looking for short, winter stories that aren’t necessarily connected to a holiday.

Lynn Plourde, The Blizzard Wizard

I love that “The Blizzard Wizard” is read aloud by the author in this video. Watch her reading and turning the pages of the book so you can see the illustrations. The story isn’t holiday focused, but it is a simple story of a wizard who makes snow for children who are eager for winter play. 8 minutes long.

Starhawk, A Visit to Mother Winter

“A Visit to Mother Winter” tells the story of two very different sisters who visit Mother Winter. This is one of the stories I read to my children. They are teenagers, but we read it last night for solstice. They still love hearing holiday stories. This is not necessarily a religious solstice story. It could fit into any winter holiday celebration.

If you are looking for a book, I love The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for Winter Solstice. I have this collection.

Twas the Night Before Christmas, read by Santa

This is a fun video of a Santa reading to children the story of Twas the Night Before Christmas. If you don’t have a copy of the book, this is an easy way to fit the story into your Christmas. He doesn’t show the illustrations, but you get to watch the children listening. 4:44 minutes.

My favorite Christmas movies are the Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials, like Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Those are available on DVD. If you need a Christmas movie for children quick, you can find the full movie of Winnie the Pooh and Christmas, Too on YouTube. (The books are better, but it’s there if you need it.)

Is your library still open? They might have a few Christmas stories left. Need a list? Check out Buzzfeed for 20 Children’s Christmas Books to Read Aloud. They give you a quick summary of each story AND why you should read it.

Have a bright Solstice, a Merry Christmas, and a beautiful winter holiday season.

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Lower Holiday Stress Through Compassionate Communication

Mother listening to a child

Are people around you all wound up and snappish? Despite all of the talk of happiness and joy, I find that people are more stressed and anxious leading up to the holidays. There are a lot of obligations to meet, school events, parties, cookies to bake, presents to finish, and everything starts to pile up. Our ambitions can get ahead of our capacities, and we get stressed. When we’re stressed, we might snap at others.

Underneath all of those actions, though, are often the best of intentions. We DO sincerely feel those best wishes we spread around. We ARE grateful for those teachers who open our children’s minds to new ideas. We DO feel joy when we see family members we don’t see nearly as often as we might like.

We feel those positive feelings underneath it all, but we still have that list of obligations to get through. Sometimes it is difficult to be present enough in the moment to focus on that deeper feeling.

For those stressful times to turn into negative experiences, it usually takes two people feeling bad and taking it out on another. I see that happening all around me.

On top of that, we are setting a pattern of expectations for our children. If holidays bring on a stressful time for our children, they will have a more difficult time feeling that joy year after year.

How do we stop the cycle of stress?

I suggest that you slow down just enough to bring compassion into your interactions with others. Recognize that the people around you are doing their best and falling short, just like you and I are. We all are. It’s OK! Extend a genuine smile, a handshake, a kiss on your child’s forehead as the stress starts to show around the edges.

Practice compassionate communication with your children, with the people around you, and even with yourself. That starts with listening and understanding what the other person feels.

Give yourself a break. If your expectations exceed your capacity, scale back. Let go of what isn’t working.

Have a joyful holiday season, and spread that joy to all you meet.

Are you interested in learning more about compassionate communication? A basic book that any parent can read is Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values. Another more specific to parenting is Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way. Follow the links below to IndieBound to find an independent bookseller in your area that carries either book.

Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communicationhttp://www.indiebound.org/book/9781892005038

Marshall Rosenberg, Raising Children Compassionately. http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781892005090

Fast Food for the Holiday Season

Child drinking a green smoothie

Me suggesting fast food? It’s not what you think.

If you are running around between school activities, shopping, and quick visits with relatives and friends, it gets tough to cook whole foods at the expected meal times.

In 3 minutes you can make a green smoothie. You are out the door again in 5 minutes. Smoothies make an easy, densely nutritious meal for you and your children.

Green Smoothies

Start with the base. Choose bananas, coconut water, yoghurt, milk, juice, or anything that will give your smoothie a mostly liquid texture.

Add leafy greens. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, or cabbage. Dark foods of any color each pack their own group of micronutrients and phytochemicals that are great for your health. Green plants provide antioxidants.

Add more greens. Celery, cucumber, or avocado. Go through your vegetable drawer and use what you have—except broccoli. Learn from my sad experience and don’t add broccoli. I love it cooked and raw, but it makes a bitter smoothie ingredient.

Add flavorful fruits. You can sweeten the flavor of your mix by adding an apple, mango, orange, or grapes. We keep berries in the freezer for red smoothies.

Add protein. Yoghurt can add protein but nut butter will add more. We like Almond Butter.

Add a punch of flavor. Choose a flavorway that will work with your other ingredients. Cinnamon, nutmeg, or mint add just a hint of flavor; fresh ginger adds a punch. Depending on the mix (and the spice tolerance of your children), you can add cayenne pepper and garlic. I love to add spices to my drinks.

Add superfoods. When we are missing meals, we are careful to add superfoods to our smoothies. We like hemp seeds, cacao nibs, lucuma powder, goji berry powder, and chia seeds.

Don’t add everything at once! Create a simple mix of base, 1-2 greens, 1 fruit, 1 superfood, and a few spices. Let yourself taste these beautiful foods.

4 Simple Green Smooth Recipes

Light and simple. My husband requested that I add his current favorite: coconut water, cucumber, and lime. It’s light on nutrition and substance, but this is what he craves at the moment. When the rest of the foods around you are heavy and dense, this can be very refreshing.

Sweet and spicy. In addition to your base and greens, add mango, grapes (to give it more liquid), cayenne pepper, ginger, and a short squeeze of lime juice. This is me trying to recreate mango chutney in a glass.

Green eggnog spice. Banana, yoghurt, spinach, a splash of vanilla, and nutmeg. Your mind expects the nutmeg in eggnog, and the creaminess of the banana and yoghurt does the rest of the trick.

Mint chocolate. Banana, spinach, mint leaves, splash of vanilla, and cocoa nibs. This is another simple one. I like the flavors to stand out rather than getty muddied together.

Extra Credit

Red & Green. If you aren’t in a big hurry, pour your green mix into glasses, then make a quick red mix (base plus cherries, raspberries, or strawberries) and pour that carefully on top. A thicker mix is less likely to blend at the edges. Surprise your children when they see the beautiful holiday colors in their drink.

More green smooth recipes.
http://www.ecobabysteps.com/2009/08/24/monday-morning-smoothie-easy-green/

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Gifts You Won’t Find on Amazon

Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks

Are you rushing to be ready for the holidays? Relatives visiting, parties to cook (or buy) for, neighbors to acknowledge some way, and kids’ gifts to think about. Think about this as you are rushing around.

Our rushing rubs off on our kids, but children need space for deep, open play to process the masses of information that they are taking in as they learn about their world. They don’t need toys that tell them how to play. They need the simplest of objects that can join the stories they are already telling themselves in their own minds.

A couple of years ago, my friends passed around a story from Wired’s Geek Dad“The 5 Best Toys of All Time.” This Geek Dad led with a pile of discarded box full of bits of plastic toys. These were once cool stuff and awesome gizmos, but they didn’t make the top 5 list:

  1. Stick
  2. Box
  3. String
  4. Cardboard Tub
  5. Dirt

Everyone loves the gizmos for a day—or an hour.

Are you hoping to help your child develop a somewhat longer attention span? Make sure your gifts are worthy of the attention. The best gifts aren’t much to look at in the box or under the tree. Kids fold them into their lives. To enable your child’s creativity, turn yours on now before you are tempted to grab those last-minute tchotchke and stocking stuffers that won’t even make it from the pile of gifts into your child’s toy box.

By far the best holiday gift I ever gave my daughter was cotton play cloths in a dozen colors. These lasted even longer in circulation than her most beloved Waldorf doll. I didn’t choose the those because I knew what impact they would have. I didn’t know beforehand that play cloths would be blankets and costumes and wrapping and decoration. I just liked that rainbow of color. I was satisfying my own desires!

You might not know which simple, open toy will hit that sweet spot for your child, so be prepared for a few misses as well as hits.

If you are worried that you don’t have the right toys for your child yet, let that worry go. The toys that enable happy, imaginative play are simple.

Happy holidays, and don’t sweat the toys.