All posts in “Healthy Living”

Top 4 Apps to You Put Down Your Phone and Create More Quality Time

In today’s day and age it is easy to get sucked into the black hole of the digital world. In fact I know all too well about the addictive nature of checking my iPhone and I recently came to terms with the fact that my iPhone usage was out of control.  I realized that at any slightly free moment throughout the day I would have the urge to check my phone.

This meant checking my phone while standing in line, stopped at red light (luckily not while driving, but there may be some of you out there, just sayin!), while eating, while working out and sadly to admit on occasion when a little one has been wanting to tell me something or show me something.

I’ll tell ya that last one is hard to admit, but it’s true, and I know many of you can relate.  No one wants to look back and feel regret and remorse because their iPhone took precedence over experiencing magical moments with their child.

So, as adults we need to model positive technology habits for our children.  If we are on our phones and tablets all the time, then guess what? they will be too.

What the issue really comes down to, is being able to set appropriate boundaries with ourselves. Even as adults we can veer off our intended path and lose sight of our own personal boundaries, values and expectations.  By being positive role models and setting limitations on our own technology usage, we then encourage that same behavior in our kids.

This is an opportunity for us to take a look in the mirror and ask, “Am I showing up as the type of parent, caretaker, nurturer, role-model that I want to be for my child?”.

I have a feeling that for many of you the answer to this question might bring up some negative feelings.  Possibly regret, guilt, anger, shame, etc?  Make sure to acknowledge your feelings and realize that negative feelings actually have a positive intention.  This intention is to call your attention to areas of your life that you need to change.   Who would have thought?  Negative feelings and emotions actually have a VERY useful purpose!

So, the next step is to take inspired action to create change and I’m going to give you the tools to do just that!

(On a side note, some of you may be thinking, “I don’t have a problem, my technology usage is totally under control”. If this is you, please take a look at this informative video to give you some real insight into the stats on our phone usage. Sneak peek – Over a lifetime you will spend on average about 4 years on your phone!  Shocking I know!)

Now, let’s get to the good stuff!  These 5 apps will help you let go of those negative emotions by helping you to set up appropriate boundaries with your devices so you can pass down healthy technology habits to your little ones!

1.  Moment – Helps you track how much you use your iPhone and iPad.  You can set daily limits and be notified when you go over your limit.  You can also set up the app to force you off of your phone once you are over your limit and you can track your family’s usage right from you own iPhone.   This comes in handy to for device-free dinner times! (This is the app I’m currently using.  It is eye opening when you see how much time you spend on your phone!)

2.  Checky – Free, simple app that will give you the stats on how many times a day you check your phone.

3.  QualityTime – (For Android Users)  This app is amazing because it tracks your phone usage based on where you are spending your time.  For instance, it tells you how much time you spend on individual apps and how many times you checked your phone.  This is a great feature as it gives you more accurate data to then make adjustments accordingly.

4.  BreakFree -(For Android Users) Another great app!  This app is very similar to QualityTime but in addition to tracking your individual usage you get an, “addiction score”.  Then you get tailored messages and lists of achievements to help you stay motivated in cutting down your usage.

If like me, you are ready to make a change and you are committed to the process leave your pledge or goal to cut your phone usage and create more quality time in comments below!

Here’s mine…

I Leanna Long, commit to cutting my phone usage to 75 minutes per day.  I will only check my phone only 3 times a day.  I will not use my phone in front of others, especially children. Lastly, I will not fill up my more than needed in between moments in life by looking at my phone.

I wish you all success!







First Steps to a Toxin Free Life – Interview with Mindful Momma Tali Thomason

Awhile back I wrote my piece on Fear and Mindful Parenting when I realized I was becoming very overwhelmed with all the scary ingredients in the world among other things. One of the steps I made to feel less afraid and more educated was to interact more in the Mindful Mammas and Poppas group on Facebook. After all, I knew I wasn’t the first parent to be experiencing this and could get help from some veterans.

The first thing, like any project, is to make a plan and start with basics. We’ve begun eliminating toxic products in our home and replacing them with safer products for us and Arbor. One of the key people who has helped me is Leanna Long. She is the owner of Harmonious Households and I was able to ask her a few questions that I feel could benefit others as well.

What was the defining moment when you knew you had to make a change to the products you were using and foods you were eating?

About 5 years ago, at 27 years old I was going through some major health problems.  I felt dizzy, like room spinning dizzy quite often, I had intense heartburn all the time, along with extreme bloating, belching and brain fog.  Nothing I ate made me feel good, I couldn’t sleep, I was depleted of all energy and felt anxious and irritable.  I went to the doctor and saw specialists many times over the course of 2 years. Where they did a number of tests to see if I had a possible parasite, ulcer, IBS, diverculitis, Crohn’s disease and list goes on.  All tests came back negative.  The only thing came out of these 2 terrible years was a long list of ailments I did not have, an addiction to Xanax and the necessity to take almost 3x the normal dosage of Zantac twice a day.

After I had exhausted all avenues in Western medicine I knew I could not go on living this way and that I had to take things into my own hands.  I started seeing a naturopath and an Ayurvedic doctor who started me on the healing process. I got of the meds and due to help from the doctors and my own research I discovered I have a gluten intolerance. It was great to finally have an answer but I knew I had to change more than just my diet. I did some in depth research and learned more about how the toxins in our food, environment and beauty products affect our health and quality of life. Today I am happily living a toxin-free lifestyle and have made it my mission to share my knowledge with friends, family and clients.

You’ve shared your passion with others in your business Harmonious Households. What is the first change you recommend to families when it comes to getting the toxins out of their cleaning supplies?

The biggest hurdle when switching to toxic-free natural cleaners is the mental attachment to what we like, what we know works and what is convenient. In today’s busy world it can be tough getting around to cleaning, so when we do make time for it we don’t want to deal with something that might make the job tougher.  A great first step is to create a natural cleaner that is similar to your toxic cleaner.  For example I always loved the smell of Pin-Sol.  I know terrible right?! The toxic fumes in that product are enough to give anyone a headache, and a whole list of health problems but I absolutely loved the smell.  So I re-created a non-toxic all natural version that smells very similar and does a great job at cleaning.

Here’s my solution:

2 cups water

1 cup apple cider vinegar

5 drops tea tree oil

5 drops eucalyptus oil

Tea tree oil one of the strongest natural antiseptics.  It is also germicidal, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  Bonus! It kills mold and mildew and it gives you that clean scent!  Eucalyptus is a disinfectant, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial to name a few.  It is also known to support the respiratory system which is the exact opposite effect of what toxic cleaners do to your lungs.  Of course it smells great too!  Apple cider vinegar is a natural cleaning agent with many different uses.  It’s also an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-septic and anti-viral.  With also these “anti-bad stuff” properties you can feel safe knowing you are truly getting a deep clean.

How about the changes to the kitchen pantry? What are the first three ingredients we should eliminate from our diets?

This is a tough one because there are quite a few nasty ingredients food companies add to foods that are targeted specifically towards kids.  If I had to choose only three I’d go with:

  1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which is a neurotoxin that stimulates taste buds causing us to want to eat more and more. Ingesting this ingredient also comes with a host of side effect such as, headache, chest pain and heart palpitations. MSG can be found in popular kids’ foods like Cheetos or Pringle’s.

These last two encompass a lot of different ingredients. I might be cheating here but they are really important to know about because they effect behavior along with having many other nasty side effects.

  1. Artificial flavors/artificial sweeteners: (Aspartame, saccharin, sucralose) anything with the word artificial in it is not good for you or your kids. Side effects include, allergic and behavioral reactions, headache, dizziness, memory loss, carcinogen in animals.
  2. Preservatives, TBHQ- side effects: tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, worsens symptoms of ADHD, Sulfites- side effects: allergic reactions, especially for asthmatics. There are many more I’d like to add but for the sake of sticking to the question I’ll leave it at that. If your readers would like a full list, they can sign up for my newsletter and get a free Toxic Ingredient Grocery Guide at Harmonious Households.

When I’ve switched to all natural products for my home cleaning and personal hygiene they don’t always feel like they work as well. For example, my shampoo doesn’t lather like I expect. Even though I’ve been told that shampoos don’t need to lather to work it’s what I grew up with. Are these expected experiences linked to toxins?

Tali, I think it’s important to expect some differences when switching to non-toxic products. Like you said some things may not “feel” like they work as well but we have to remind ourselves that they do work just as well or even better when you think about it.  If you can shift your perspective from missing the way your shampoo lathered up, to loving the fact that you are putting clean, healthy products on/in your body and protecting your family from potential health hazards then you’ll quickly forget about all that lather.

Are there certain brands that are easier for people who are transitioning from the products they grew up with to the toxin free versions?

I always recommend making toxin-free cleaners at home as opposed to buying supposed “all natural” brands in the store because you know exactly what is in the product since you made it yourself.  Big companies can be sneaky by labeling their product as “all natural” when there are still some toxic ingredients in there like petrochemicals or things they replace the more well-known toxic ingredients with.

Beauty products can be a bit tougher to make at home and the attachment to these products can be harder to let go of.  Just as with replacing a cleaning product, decide what it is about a product.  It might be the smell or how it tingles your scalp.  Once you know what it is that you like try and replace it with a similar product that is toxin-free.  One brand I’d recommend is Dr. Bonner’s Organic Castile Soap. This line of products has so many different uses. I use the peppermint soap as a body wash, it tingles the body and even lathers up!

If you are looking for a great smelling natural deodorant I recommend LaVanilla deodorant.  Smells great and it’s very conditioning for the sensitive skin in the armpit.

I’ve often found that natural lotions can feel watery and leave my skin feeling dry.  After a lot of trial and error I’ve been very happy with Everyone Lotion.

If my readers want to hire you for a home and lifestyle makeover how can they reach you?

Thanks Tali.  They can reach me at, find me on Facebook, follow me on Google+  or they can go directly to the Services Tab to get more details on the Healthy Home Makeover service I provide where I help families jump-start their way to a toxic-free lifestyle.


A Lesson in the Art of Patience- How the Practice of Baking is a Key Ingredient

(This article was featured in Elephant Journal.  Click here to read the published version!)

If you think about it baking takes a lot of patience.  You measure, poor, mix and then settle in and wait for your masterpiece to come out of the oven.  It is a true test in delayed gratification, especially if you can keep from sneaking tastes until it’s done.  This is why baking is a perfect undercover way to teach kids about patience.

In the New York Times bestseller book Bringing Up BeBe by Pamela Druckerman, the effectiveness of teaching patience to kids through baking is discussed. The book is a comparison of American parenting vs. French parenting and in my opinion it seems that French parents have some inside secrets into how to raise patient, independent, emotionally aware, kids who are calmly present rather than anxious, irritable and demanding.

So let’s dive in and see how this baking/patience thing is done.  As soon as French children are able to sit up their parents begin to guide them in weekly or bi-weekly baking projects.  A key element to the process is that the parents give up control over things being done perfectly.  Instead of just letting the kids help-out with a few things, the kids are allowed to crack eggs, pour sugar and eventually make the whole cake themselves. They often reuse yogurt cups to act as measuring cups and allow the kids to have fun with it within the boundaries they’ve outlined.

The disciplined nature of baking is the perfect lesson in patience because it teaches kids that there is an order and sequence to how things need to be done to obtain the desired result.  In today’s fast paced, instant gratification, technological based society teaching kids the importance of self-control and patience is imperative to their development and overall happiness as human beings.

For the French the lesson in patience does not end once the cake is out of the oven and ready to eat.  The kids understand they must wait until afternoon snack to enjoy the fruits of their labor.  This may come off as too harsh or rigid but if we think about this as a teachable moment, learning to delay satisfaction and develop the skill of patience is much more beneficial than instantly having that warm piece of cake. By having consistent baking projects for the kids French children not only become good little bakers but are also well versed in the art of patience.

A plethora of baked goods and patient children, who doesn’t want that?! Not to mention the free time you will have once they are engrossed in their baking project.

Using an activity like baking to teach an important life skill is my kinda parenting philosophy.  Fun activity + life lesson = happy kids and happy parents.

Helpful tips:

1.  Make baking a regular activity.  The more practice kids get, the more patience they will have!

2.  Don’t be a helicopter head baker, let them take the lead.  Yes, there will be a mess to clean up but we all learn through mistakes.  This shows them that you trust them and fosters independence.

3.  Set up clear expectations ahead of time.  Decide when you will eat the treat and what the boundaries are for sneaking bites before it’s baked.

4.  We must model patience ourselves.  If we can’t wait until the cake is done baking or until afternoon snack to eat it than we can’t expect that from our little one’s.

Side note:  Stick to healthy ingredients, stay away from food coloring (it’s toxic), use applesauce to sweeten and add moisture, mix in some love, patience and you’ve got a recipe for success!

Want more healthy substitute suggestions?  Check out the amazing Health and Wellness Coach Amanda Whitworth at The Savoury Soul for expert advice on how to keep yourself and your family nourished and nurtured.

Happy Baking!

I’d love to hear how you get your kiddos involved in kitchen!  Leave your comments below!