Coughs and Colds

Here comes cough and cold season.

Back in the day—and I mean way, way back—moms would whip up a hot toddy for their sick chickens, like the one my friend Paula’s mom used to give her: whiskey, honey, lemon.

That wisdom slipped away with the arrival of over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.

Then in 2007, we got told that we can’t give our kids over-the-counter medicines if they’re under the age of four. Wed MD explains why (emphasis mine):

For decades, parents have relied on kids’ cold medicines and cough syrups — typically grape, cherry, or bubblegum flavored — to ease their children’s discomfort. 

However, the FDA and manufacturers now say that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under 4.

Evidence indicates that children’s cold medicines don’t really help and may pose a real (although small) risk of side effects, particularly to young children. This has cast serious doubt on a common and trusted group of medicines — and left many parents anxious and confused.

They don’t really help. And there was a dangerous downside. We had certainly seen that with allergy medication prescribed by our doctor for Gabe’s persistent runny nose in the Fall. We had seen it with the teething gel we gave to Kate when she was cutting teeth. And when I thought about it, I realized that I couldn’t honestly say that any of the adult cold and cough medicine worked for me or Shea either.

Except…we woke up with hangovers from “nighttime” cough syrup and walked like stuffed zombies from “daytime” liquigels.

So when I was pregnant with Annie and suffering from a winter cold, I reached for the homeopathics.

And they worked.

Let me clarify what I mean by “worked”.

There is a lot of evidence out there that all over the counter cough and cold medicines are ineffective, evidence which has been squashed by the mass marketing of the companies that make the meds.

See this, this, and this.

The homeopathics did not make me better. But no over the counter medicines can “cure” a cold or cough.

At 2 am, all we’re looking for is an alleviation of symptoms. Homeopathics and commercial cold and cough medicines both claim to help.

But some commercial over the counter medicines contain other things that are not so good for us and cause side effects. Most of the “inactive ingredients” in these syrups and capsules are “generally rated as safe” by the FDA, such as propylene glycol and synthetic food coloring. Generally. And most nighttime formulas use an antihistamine, like Benedryl, as the sleep agent.

This explains the Nyquil hangover. And any mom can tell you that a child’s reaction to an antihistamine is a crap shoot. Sometimes they get sleepy, and sometimes they run up and down the plane aisle like you fed them three chocolate bars before you boarded.

(Or maybe that’s just Kate?)

The homeopathics, on the other hand, have shorter, more recognizable ingredient lists. And they work. Our favorite is Zarbee’s Nighttime Cough Syrup, which is a dark honey formulation with vitamin C, zinc and melatonin. Like the old fashioned hot toddy, minus the whiskey. And it will soothe a sore throat and calm a cough. I’ve also had success with the Hyland’s allergy formula for Annie.

My girls have a cold this week and I am using the Breathe essential oil formulation from Do Terra. They get a bit on their chest and on the bottoms of their feet, plus some in the humidifier. Kate has a cough, but between the Breathe and the Zarbee’s, she is not coughing at night.

You know Dana and I are only crunchy-ish. We believe in flu shots and vaccines and antibiotics when they are needed. These are my precious babies and I am not fooling around with their health. Homeopathics are an ancient wisdom, but they come from a time when people regularly died of fevers. So we use our common sense and pediatricians who believe in a blend of the old and the new.

I do have a back-up bottle of Mucinex in the cabinet. What prompted me to sit down and write this post is that in cleaning out the cabinet in preparation for the move, I re-discovered the Mucinex—unopened and expired.


Recipe for Hot Toddy:

Zarbee’s Natural:

DoTerra Breathe:

Pennies on the Dollar


It’s October.

You wearing pink?

Dana and I have stayed away from this because even though I am a survivor of not-breast cancer and her dad passed away from not-breast cancer and America is coming to the realization that the whole pink thing is kind of a sham (where the money doesn’t go where they say and cancer-causing chemicals are sold in pink bottles), we do have boobies.

But I just read something that pushed me out of my silence. And that’s saying something. The first week of October I took a phone call from one of those breast cancer faux fund-raising companies where the person on the phone is being paid a commission based on the amount of donations they get, and less than half of the money actually gets donated to research. When I stopped the lady mid-sentence to explain that we donate to another kind of cancer, because I am a survivor, she paused and then said “So?”

This thing that made me get up in the middle of the morning on a Monday when there is laundry to do and a shower to take and Dana and I were going to repost last year’s Halloween posts because we just need a break? Here it is:

A little more than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget goes toward childhood cancers. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society allocates 8 percent of what’s donated to research for cures for kids. In the past ten years, there have been nine drug approvals specifically indicated for pediatric cancer, which is a fraction of the number of adult cancer-fighting drugs approved each year. Even though childhood cancers do account for less than 1 percent of all cancers annually, they remain the leading cause of death by disease in children…

(P)art of the problem has to do with profits. Almost 60 percent of medical research in the United States is funded by pharmaceutical companies, not by the government. Because children’s cancers impact far fewer patients than adult cancers do, the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t have a financial incentive to invest money in developing new chemotherapy drugs for children because there isn’t a way for it to get a return on the investment.”

(“Your Child Has Cancer…”, Elizabeth Foy Larson, Parent Magazine, November 2014)

What does this have to do with pennies?

For every dollar donated to the American Cancer Society, one penny goes towards childhood cancer research. One.

From the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society—covering Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which is the most common type of childhood cancer? Two pennies.

The National Cancer Institute? Using our tax dollars? Only 4% of their annual budget. Four pennies.

Wow. Our childrens’ lives are worth pennies on the dollar.

Are boobies more important than babies?

If you don’t think that’s a fair question then how about this: How many women would trade their boobies for their babies without a thought?

Right. See what I’m saying?

This is not about valuing one life more than another.

And it’s not about a “my cancer is worse than yours” contest. Yuck.

Boobies are important. But the kids need a fair shake, which is something they don’t often get in the good ol’ US of A, where we value too many things more than we value the lives of our children.

Do you have pennies? We have pennies. What if we all took our pennies, turned them in and sent the money to organizations dedicated to childhood cancer research?

You can find a list of those organizations and how they use the money at

One Hour ~ Jen

I struggle to read the stories. Not the ones where the mom made it, got help, survived. I can handle those, like the many you can find here. It’s the ones where she wasn’t helped, and someone didn’t make it, that I can’t handle. It hits too close to home.

This week it was three beautiful little girls, ages 2, 16 months and two months.

I didn’t read the story, but my mom brought it up. She has learned like the rest of us to be so very angry at these stories.

“Her husband was right across the street.”

“I know mom, but she was probably listening to the voices in her head.”

Pause. Loooong pause. Then, “Did you hear voices?”

They weren’t really voices. They were more like thoughts. What if? And one of those was What if I can’t take it anymore? I knew one thing: I wasn’t leaving my kids behind.

Yeah, it’s horrifying. And someday I will have to explain it to my kids. But I keep saying it because you need to know. From the outside I looked and sounded normal. It was my inside that was all messed up and there was a part of me that knew it and was scared and so worked very hard to keep it all bottled inside. The only one who saw a hint of it all was Shea.

And he didn’t know what to do. We thought the baby blues was something that happened in the first two weeks, not something that dogged me for years after my first two pregnancies and then exploded after Annie.

So here’s my contribution to Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s not a story, even though the stories are so important. There is strength in numbers.

But I have a suggestion. A call to action. And it’s easy.

At our local hospital, there are all kinds of classes to prepare families for the birth of a new baby. Sibling classes and daddy diaper classes and nursing classes and labor classes.

I think we need one more. One hour. One person, preferably the spouse or partner. If not, the adult who will be closest to mom after delivery.  All the information they need to recognize and intervene in case of a maternal mental health issue.

What to look for (depression, anxiety, withdrawal, inability to sleep). Who to call (first, the OB/GYN; then, Postpartum Support International). What to say (This is not your fault. You will be ok. We are going to get help).  A magnet with PSI’s 800 number to stick on the fridge.

So simple. We can grass roots it, one hospital at a time. We’d need just a few women willing to talk once a month on a rotating basis. I would do it in a hot second. For free. Because if we empower one spouse to help one mom beat back the voice in her head saying What if?, then we win.

If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety after the birth of a baby, even months and months after the birth of a baby, you can visit or call 1-800-944-4773 for help. They will help you. I promise because I know. They helped me.


PSI Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop

The Names We Call Ourselves ~ Jen

For a long time I have thought about a tattoo to commemorate that I am a cancer survivor. But for four years, I haven’t done it. The hesitation came from something I read in an illness recovery book, that we have to be careful about the way we visualize our illness and our struggle against it. It makes so much sense not to use images of violence, domination, anger, loss. A sick person does not need to bring these energies into their life.

I didn’t battle my cancer. I told it to leave. And then I shut the door against its return. I guard the door carefully, with all the things that reduce my stress and keep me peaceful: food, exercise, God, family, friends and creating.

This is not new age-y philosophy. This is ancient wisdom, reflected in the scripture of Proverbs 17:22: A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.

So even though the symbol of thyroid cancer is a butterfly–and what could be more peaceful than a butterfly–I wasn’t sure this was good medicine.

Then last week I read this*:

If we stay survivors only without moving to thriving, we limit ourselves and we cut our energy to ourselves and our power in the world to less than half…once the threat is past, there is a potential trap in calling ourselves by names taken on during the most terrible times of our lives…it is not good to base the soul identity solely on the feats and losses and victories of the bad times”.

That’s it.

For a long time, every time I said out loud that I was a cancer survivor, a voice in my head yelled “GOOD LORD! I HAD CANCER! I COULD HAVE DIED A YOUNG WIFE AND LEFT BEHIND MY KIDS WHO WOULD HAVE NEVER REMEMBERED ME!!!!”

Every time, it was like hitting a wall. Or any other metaphor that describes the moment in a perfectly wonderful normal day when something makes you remember: I have been hurt. I have been abused. I have lost. I could have died.

It took me a long time to get past that place. It took a lot of work, prayer, reading and support. That time in my life is still framed in fear and anger and doubt, but those emotions are no longer with me on a daily basis.

If I marked my body with a symbol of that time, then those emotions would permanently be present. And for the love of all that is good, why would I do that to myself?

Whatever we have survived—cancer, sexual assault, violence, addiction, loss, our parent’s ugly divorce,  our own ugly divorce—it’s part of us, but not who we are. It’s a piece of our story, but not the whole story. The story isn’t over yet and we have to choose carefully which emotions and energies we are going to carry forward.

Not just for our mental and emotional health, but for our physical health as well. Because how we feel, and what’s inside of us deep, deep down will manifest itself physically. It will make us pay attention.

If you are in the midst of surviving, in the midst of the battle for your life and your heart, soldier on. Don’t be scared of the scars you are earning. Scars heal stronger than what was there before. I’m proud of my scars.

But if you are past the battle, like I am, then we have to consider the truth in the words: There is danger in calling ourselves by names we earn in the hardest times in our lives. We can get stuck there, in the pain, fear, anger, grief, bitterness, abandonment, addiction. Or worse, bring these things forward into our future where they will constantly demand our attention and make us sick in body and spirit.

I don’t want to manifest anger, fear, illness. I want to manifest joy and health. So no butterfly.

But that doesn’t mean no ink. It just means I am waiting for the right inspiration.


For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts!– Psalm 92:4-5

*From Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes


Some truths are easy and fun. We’re not dealing with those today, because those aren’t the ones that cause us trouble.


All the time, I see these posts on Facebook that tell us to Live your truth! Find your truth! Speak your truth!

It always makes me think Why not just say “Live, Find, Speak The Truth”?

Truth is Truth—verifiable, supported by facts, actual. In a sense, the quality of Truth is one size fits all.

We can be in denial, or fear, or have strong opinions about the Truth in our lives. We can wish the Truth away, act like it never happened or try to misrepresent the Truth in our words and actions.

But none of that changes the Truth. It’s still there, squatting powerfully in the corner of our hearts, driving us to reach for anger, fear, shame. Another drink. Another bowl of ice cream.

That truth can be hard. Scary hard. Especially when it tells us that we are our own worst enemy.

Or that our lives are not going to go how we thought.

Or that a dream is not going to come true.

Or that we have experienced a pain from which it will take years to recover.

None of those things create “my truth” or “your truth”. They create the Truth. And isn’t there a kind of beauty and consolation in knowing it’s a shared Truth? Because these things happen to everyone. Which is how, in God’s wisdom, these hard truths can give us new life.

A life of recovery. A life of surviving. A life of new beginnings. A life of triumph.

Truth is not darkness. Truth is coming out of the darkness into the light.

It’s not complicated and oppressive. It’s simple and straightforward.

Even hard truths can be known, tolerated, understood. The moment we accept these hard truths in our lives, we can begin to move on from them. We can heal. We seek forgiveness. We can forgive.

And I just know, because God is good, that the more we stand on Truth, the less hard Truth there will be.

So whatever we are eating, drinking, smoking, snorting, hitting, stealing and lying about, it’s not the Truth. If it’s keeping us in the darkness, it’s not the Truth. It’s shame or anger or fear of the truth. It’s what we are letting ourselves accept, or take responsibility for. It’s how we wish it were all different. But it’s not the Truth.

The Truth is somewhere else, bathed in Light. If we seek it, we’ll be in the Light too.

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Dryer Balls

Update: Aaron is getting a dog! The Angel for Aaron page raised $12,000 in seven days. Seven. It wasn’t just money that made that happen, so thanks to everyone who donated, prayed and shared. The dog won’t be in the house for another 12-18 months, but we’ll keep you posted.


Two years ago Shea had enough State Farm points that we could get a new washer and dryer. Because I dream of appliances for years before I purchase, I already knew what I wanted: a Maytag Bravos top loader and dryer. I was going to wash twelve pairs of jeans at once. Watch my dust.

Then, at the last moment, I changed my mind and went with the trendy Whirlpool front loader and steam dryer.

There has not been one day since that I have been happy with this choice. Not. One. As my dad pointed out, there’s a reason they stopped making front loaders in the 70s.

The clothes smell. It’s because the water never fully drains from the drum, which lays on its side. The steam dryer does not help matters, even with the steam off. I have managed to conquer these issues one at a time: I use less detergent than recommended, I use vinegar as my fabric softener, I double spin the clothes and wash smaller loads at a time.

Our electric and gas bills have actually gone up with these newer more fuel efficient machines, because it takes two rounds to wash and dry every load.

So one day I searched “Make the clothes dry faster”, and found DIY Natural, which is a website founded by a husband and wife team looking to make the world a safer, cleaner place. They have an article about the power and magic of homemade dryer balls. You only need three things: 100% wool yarn, a hook and a pair of old or cheap tights.

All you do—and they have a video tutorial in case you need it—is wrap a skein of wool around and around and around until you have a ball somewhere between the size of a tennis ball and a softball. Then you stick it in the pantyhose, wash it in hot, hot, hot water, dry it on the hottest setting and poof! You have a felted dryer ball. Pop four or five of these suckers into your dryer with wet clothes and they dry the clothes faster by bouncing around and creating pockets for the hot air. They also eliminate static. And they aren’t poison, like every single dryer sheet on the market.

Dryer balls ready for felting

Dryer balls ready for felting

True story: Lesley and I were shopping at a craft fair before Christmas. A woman was selling safe cleaning products with a national brand. I was excited to see that she had dryer balls! They were white and the size of tennis balls! They were just like mine!

They were $29.

Cruise Etsy to see similarly priced balls. Yes, the ones with designs felted onto them are adorable and I wish I knew how to do that. But since no one sees my dryer balls and on more than one occasion Lizzie has mistaken a dryer ball for a chew toy, I am ok with my whatever wool was on sale dryer balls.

I gave them for Christmas presents, and people love them. My dad loves them.

So we want to give a set to one of our readers. All you have to do is comment on this post. Each post will get a number and then my kids will pull a number out of a hat.

Another true story, for a laugh before we go: after Christmas, we had a dinner party where I cooked Aunt Debbie’s ham. It made a mess in the pan, and one of our friends was trying to clean it. Finally she said “We need a dryer sheet! You put a dryer sheet in here and heat it up on the stove and this will come right off.”

My other friend leaned over to her and whispered “You aren’t going to find a dryer sheet in this house”.

How well she knows!

Determined to Get Aaron a Dog ~ Jen

I prayed this week for God to help me find ways to not think of food so often. In typical God fashion, He came large.

One of the distractions I can’t talk about yet, because it’s not a done deal and I am still not sure how it will all shake out. The next 48 hours are huge, so if you have prayer space to spare, maybe you could ask the Lord to guide our choices.

The other distraction has my heart full, full, full of love. Remember this post from last year? My good and beautiful friend Lisa wrote that post. Her son Aaron is the apple cheeked bubba in the pictures.

Aaron has autism, but that’s not the thing you need to know about him. He’s smart as a whip and has been since he was born. His eyes are soulful, deep and knowing. He’s careful too, and he knows when enough is enough, which is a lesson most adults are still struggling to learn.

When enough is enough, Aaron does two things: he stays put where he feels safe, or he runs.

If he stays put, even with determination, Lisa and her husband Steve can work with that. The therapists can work with that. The extended family and friends have learned what to do to make experiences less threatening. And we all know that coming to where Aaron feels safe is best for him right now.

But the running is a whole other thing. Aaron is tall and strong for his age, and he’s only going to grow. He can get out, over and through, just like any other boy his age. It scares the heck out of Lisa and Steve what could happen one day if he got away. Away into the street, or across a parking lot, or some place where he couldn’t tell people who he is.

So, because Lisa and Steve are very determined folks, an idea took shape. What if Aaron had a companion dog?

Lisa and Steve already have a dog, Mia. She is one of Aaron’s best friends. But Mia can’t be the companion Aaron needs because even though she loves her some Aaron, she’s the size of a sandwich.

Aaron needs a big dog. And these are the things Lisa dreams a dog could be to Aaron:

A highly trained and calm Autism service dog won’t be placing demands on Aaron the way that people in his life do. The dog can help convey the message to Aaron that he is good enough as he is, Autism or no Autism. A dog doesn’t judge behaviors. He doesn’t mind if you flap your hands, spin in circles, repeat lines from movies or spell the same words over and over again. He will probably wag his tail when you eat peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He won’t mind that you refuse to wear your scratchy school uniform and cry every time you have to take a bath. He might even distract you by being silly so that you can do the things you need to do. And, when you lay on the floor in public, because you’re overwhelmed, he won’t care about disapproving looks from strangers. In fact, he might just lick your face, nudge you to get up, and remind you that there is nothing to fear.

Last week she found out that they have been approved to get a dog from the good folks at Good Dog! Autism Companions, probably a golden retriever or yellow Labrador.

It takes…are you ready…$12,000 to train a dog like this. Well, we can’t expect a special dog for a special boy to come cheap. It’s just what it is. And as Lisa told me “Aaron WILL get a dog. We WILL make this happen.”

Lisa launched the fundraising page for Aaron on Monday at about 12:30. You know what happened next? Within 24 hours, over $3000 were donated. As of yesterday, it was $6600. It’s been blowing our minds. It’s a lot of love and determination.

Lisa and Steve are determined to provide the best environment for their son to be who he is meant to be.

Their family, friends and complete strangers are determined to make this happen for them.

We want to invite you to join in. Like the Church says, we can use our Time, Talent or Treasure, whatever we have to give.

Lisa, Steve and Aaron could use a prayer.

They could use all of us spreading the word on our social media sites.

And of course, they could use some of the money we set aside for just this type of thing.

Aaron 2

Aaron needs an Angel. Can you help?

I am still doing the Made to Crave bible study online and “Determination” was our word of the week. It became clear as the week went on that the word was not for my diet or my Bible study. It was for this effort. I apologize to the MTC community for being a bit off-topic, but this is where God took me this week: away from my pantry and scale and towards all the good in the world!

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