A Trip to the Vet


We added a new family member over Christmas break: a Maltese/Yorkie mix named Tebow Baggins (our very own hobbit!). My first trip to the vet was eye-opening. I was amazed at the amount of good, basic health information I received from someone not promoting himself as a holistic practitioner. I marveled that this kind of knowledge is so readily available for our pets and not for our children. Here are some highlights:

  1. A corn-free diet is optimal. The vet offered a premium puppy food that is "corn-free." One of the handouts explained that corn often contains aflatoxins, described as "a naturally occurring toxic chemical by-product from the growth of the fungus Aspergillus flavus on corn and other crops."

    This is common knowledge in the pet world. According to Entirely Pets, aflatoxins "can cause severe liver damage in pets, which can lead to fatality." Aflatoxins are no better for humans. See this previous post about aflatoxins in food.
  2. Soy is an endocrine disrupter. I asked if the food contained soy, knowing that a soy-free/corn-free diet is a must for our newest addition. "I'm not sure," he said. "Check the website." And then he added, "I don’t like what soy does to the endocrine system." Instead of feeling belittled, I felt validated.

    Research suggests soy is no easier on human endocrine systems. According to the research done by the Weston A. Price Foundation, "Soy isoflavones are phyto-endocrine disrupters. At dietary levels, they can prevent ovulation and stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Eating as little as 30 grams (about 4 tablespoons) of soy per day can result in hypothyroidism with symptoms." This concern with the hormonal disruption doesn't even address the GMO issue. More than 90% of all soy is now genetically modified. See this startling graph from the United States Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.
  3. Good teeth reflect good health. The vet spent quite a bit of time looking at Tebow's bite and teeth. He explained how critical his bite is to future health and suggested ways to keep the back teeth clean. It was clear that Tebow's health and the condition of his teeth were related. We are often missing this fact when it comes to our yearly physical. Our daughter's experience with having her front tooth extracted taught me the reality of this connection. Dr. Hal Huggins has written an excellent article explaining the implications of dentistry as it relates to overall health.
  4. Environment affects health. The vet asked about our environment and the breeder's environment, suggesting we be aware of any changes that might affect our puppy's health. Environmental change can bring on all sorts of health symptoms, such as diarrhea, lethargy, and mood changes. We didn’t spend much time on this subject, but the implication was clear: environment and health are connected.
  5. Vaccinations must be given carefully. The vet made it very clear. "I don't do more than one vaccination at a time," he said, explaining that too many shots at one time can overload the dog's immune system. I shudder when I think of the way we vaccinated our nine children. Their immune systems are no less fragile.
  6. Be aware of plastics. The vet expressed a concern about chewing toys and plastics. "I'm okay with rawhide," he said, but expressed his wariness of plastic chew toys. I didn't pursue the subject further, but his caution was refreshing in light of the current concern over BPA in plastics.
  7. Cleanliness is critical. The vet encouraged us to bathe Tebow, keep his eyes free of discharge, and trim his facial hair regularly. We didn't discuss the shampoo we would use; I already knew that petroleum-based, fragranced products were not an option. Here's the recipe we used for Tebow's first bath:

    • 10 oz distilled water
    • 1 tbsp. liquid Castile soap
    • 1 tsp. glycerin
    • 1 drop tea tree oil (essential oils must be used cautiously with pets.)
    • 2 drops rose geranium essential oil

    I chose tea tree oil for the cleaning benefit and rose geranium for its tick/flea-fighting capabilities. See this article for more information on this benefit of rose geranium oil.
Tebow already has brought renewed hope and joy to our home. Now let the potty training begin!


Healthy Holiday Beverages

Festive beverages such as hot chocolate and eggnog are commonly offered at this time of year. Would you like some healthier alternatives? Consider these gluten-free, sugar-free options, demonstrated by my lovely daughter Erin.

Hot Cacao Drink
  • 1 tbsp. cacao powder
  • Spices of choice (ex. nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cayenne pepper)
  • 10 oz. boiling water
  • Stevia or sweetener of choice
Blend cacao powder with spices and mix with boiling water (you can mix in a cup, or steep in a coffee press for a less grainy result). Add sweetener to taste and enjoy!

Coconut Milk "Eggnog"
  • Coconut milk (canned, homemade, or in a carton)
  • Spices of choice (ex. cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
  • Vanilla liquid stevia or sweetener of choice
Mix coconut milk with spices, to taste. (A Vitamix works best for blending, but simple stirring will work too.) Add sweetener to taste, serve and enjoy!

Bath Bonanza Gift Set Recipes

A simple gift of bath salts can be expanded to include an appealing array of luxurious, natural products. Here are a few ideas to help lend inspiration to your gift-giving plans!

Bath Salts:
  • 2 c. baking soda
  • 1 c. sea salt. Dead Sea salt is optimal, available from vendors such as SoapGoods.
  • 1 c. Epsom salts
  • 1/4 tsp. vitamin C powder. Helps neutralize chlorine and makes a nice addition to the salts. Options include Perque Potent C Guard from Natural Healthy Concepts.
  • 5-10 drops essential oil of choice

Dendritic salt, a very fine-grain salt that helps hold the fragrance of the essential oil, may be used to replace either of the other salts—just keep the ratio of salts to baking soda at 1 part salts to 1 part baking soda.

Combine all ingredients and stir to blend. Pour into mason jar or decorative container. (For decorative bottles and jars, try SKS Bottle and Packaging.)

You may also want to include a small bottle of glycerin for your recipient, with directions to add 10-12 drops to the bath to avoid dry skin. To enhance the glycerin, add several drops of lavender or other essential oil to the bottle. Glycerin can be purchased at health food stores or online. Options include Heritage Products Vegetable Glycerin from Vitacost.

Floral Bath Bag:
  • 1 9x9 square of muslin or cheesecloth
  • 8 tbsp. dried floral blossoms (chamomile, lavender, and rose petals all work well)
  • 1 tbsp. ground oatmeal or sunflower seed meal
  • 10 drops essential oil of choice (options include lavender, chamomile, and rose)

Place dry ingredients in the center of cloth. Add essential oils and mix. Gather material into a loose pouch and tie with string or yarn. (Make the string long enough to hang from the water tap in the tub so that running water will flow through the bag.)

Include directions to untie the bag and allow to float in the water during the bath. Can be used to rub on the body as well.

Bath Oil:
  • 2 tbsp. castor oil, jojoba oil, or avocado oil
  • 5 drops essential oil of choice

Combine ingredients in a decorative bottle. Include directions to add 2-4 drops per bath.


Combine all of the above and package in a reusable shopping bag with tissue paper or recyclable filler. The Original Soap Dish has some innovative ideas for packaging!

These recipes are designed to spark your creativity. Have fun experimenting. Who knows, you may end up keeping a jar or two for yourself!

The Good Old Days

It’s been a rough few weeks. Filled with grim reminders that our bodies are still in the process of recovering from a massive mold assault. I would much prefer to think of our experience as “behind us.” Even more, I would love to tell friends and family what they want to hear. “Please tell me you guys are all better.” Or, “Tell me everything is back to normal.”

The truth is, we’re not all better. And life is not back to normal.

One of my daughters accepted a job recently at a nearby fitness center. Unfortunately the front desk is within feet of an indoor chlorinated pool. Two days after she accepted the job, the doors were removed for a remodeling project. Within minutes my daughter felt dizzy and lightheaded. Hearing about a previous mold remediation only added to her trauma. She left the job disheartened. It’s been three years. Does she still have to worry about this?

Another daughter met recently with a mold-traumatized family at a nearby coffee shop. Still in their home and preparing to vacate, they carried spores with them. Within hours my daughter’s fungal symptoms flared. One of the most aggravating is a rash around the mouth. Angular cheilitis. The symptoms led to a setback that lasted nearly two weeks.

One of my sons added a significant amount of kefir to his diet, sparking a major healing crisis that left him unable to attend school. Our diabetic son Colin’s blood sugars escalated for several days. Another daughter experienced a sore throat, and the familiar questions surfaced: Was she exposed to something? Is this detox? Is it unrelated and just a “normal” sore throat?

“Just think, it used to be like this every day,” my husband said as I sat on the floor, overcome with discouragement.

He’s right. Three years ago we were in the emergency room weekly. Nosebleeds were a daily occurrence. Children were unable to attend school. My memory was shot. I would walk into a room and have no idea why I was there. Honestly, we were too sick to see how sick we were.

We’ve come a long way. I don’t mind the reminders. They keep me grounded. Grounded in reality. We were “hit” by our house, and some issues may stay with us the rest of our lives. Life may never be back to normal.

We have a choice to embrace our new normal or continually wish for life as we knew it before. Now that we’ve made it this far, I’m not sure I would go back. Would I trade all of this knowledge for the good old days?

Letting go of what is behind is the only way to embrace today. I have to choose to be thankful for the reminders that life is a journey no matter what our trials may be. It’s been a rough few weeks, but we're going in a good direction. Maybe, just maybe... these are the good old days.