Sunday, October 9, 2011

HypnoBirthing - What is it?

Recommended resources: Hypnobirthing, Four Trimesters, Giving Birth Naturally

In essence, HypnoBirthing is self-hypnosis. It sounds wonky to some people and I realize that the name is perhaps its undoing. People have the image of hypnosis as someone being made to do stupid, silly or even dangerous things for someone else’s pleasure / gain. However, this is as far from the truth as it can get.

Firstly, one cannot be hypnotized against his/her will. If you’ve been to a hypnosis comedy show, those people who go up on stage and volunteer to be hypnotized have expressed their willingness to be hypnotized. They CANNOT be hypnotized without acknowledging that they want to. (Besides, they could always pretend to be hypnotized and no one in the audience would know it). Next, self-hypnosis doesn’t require someone to hypnotize you. Self – meaning you hypnotize yourself. Although you do not realize it, if you have ever had the experience of being so engrossed in a book or activity that you’ve lost track of time and the people around you, that in itself, is a form of self-hypnosis.

In HypnoBirthing, one is taught to face up to one’s fears and misconceptions about labour and birth e.g. that it is a painful and long drawn out affair, oft planted by the media and not-so-pleasant experiences of our friends and relatives. Strangely, people who have had difficult births seem to relish telling their birth ‘horror’ story while those who had easy births tend to keep quiet about it. Perhaps it’s the drama that holds the listener’s attention? Then, positive connotations and images are used to ‘replace’ the negative images in our minds, such as, a rose bud opening to reveal a baby inside, watching videos of calm and peaceful births. Most importantly, it teaches that births can be short, easy and relaxed.

Various breathing techniques are taught as well as when to use a particular technique, such as breathing the baby down the birth canal (as opposed to pushing the baby out). Breathing techniques are rehearsed in every class – which is important so that you can remember it. One is also required to practice on a daily basis at home. Information is given about birth positions, fetal positioning (head down is not the only thing to look out for!) and what to do if the baby is not in an ideal position. In addition, one is taught about all the possible medical terms and interventions that can potentially be offered in a hospital and includes tips on how to avoid having a caesarean – this information is very important when you are faced with a situation of having to make an on-the-spot decision about what to use / do. Some of the tools used include positive reinforcements and a relaxation CD called Rainbow Relaxation. On the whole, it is a very comprehensive course that covers almost everything and anything that one needs to know about this experience known as ‘birthing’.

It was Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an English obstetrician, who discovered what is now known as hypnobirthing in the 1920s. The discovery came about when he was called to a laboring woman’s home to assist with her birth. She was a young woman, and said to him, ‘It is not supposed to be painful, is it?’ Dr. Dick-Read went on to witness her giving birth in a calm manner, without need or want of the medical tools of that era, which at one point in time included chloroform (!?). Yes, before the invention of the epidural that was what they used to knock laboring women out. Queen Victoria was one of those who used it for the deliveries of her 8th and 9th children (, Since these women were at least semi-conscious, in many cases, they ended up needing even further assistance such as forceps and caesarean to get the baby out – simply because when knocked out, the body cannot perform the way it was created to. It’s truly a case of one (unnecessary) intervention leading to another.

After that first observation, Dr. Dick-Read went on to perform further research and was eventually one of the first doctors to forward the concept of natural birthing as it existed thousands of years ago, long before the invention of medical aids such as the epidural which led to women and doctors forgetting how to birth naturally; causing women to become ineffective at natural birthing and instead reliant on drugs (*see note below). The method teaches you that in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labour.

As noted on the HypnoBirthing website, HypnoBirthing gives you an understanding of how the birthing muscles work in perfect harmony – as they were designed to – when your body is sufficiently relaxed and you trust your body and birth to be able to perform as they were intended to. You will learn how to achieve this kind of relaxation, free of the resistance that fear creates, and you will learn to use your natural birthing instincts for a calm, serene and comfortable birth.

What you will experience in a HypnoBirthing birth is an experience similar to daydreaming or focusing, that occurs when you are engrossed in a book or a movie. You will be conversant and in good spirits – totally relaxed but fully in control. Awake throughout, you will be aware of your body’s surges and your baby’s progress; but because you will have trained yourself to reach complete relaxation, you will be able to determine the degree and the manner in which you will feel the surges. You will experience birthing in an atmosphere of calm relaxation, free of the fear that prevents the muscles of your body from functioning as nature intended them to. In this calm state, your body's natural relaxant, endorphins, replaces the stress hormones that constrict and cause pain.

Learn HypnoBirthing then go forth to birth joyfully, enjoying your calm, easy and relaxed labour. :)

"When you change the way you view birth,
the way you birth will change."
-Marie F. Mongan

I am not against the use of drugs during delivery. I am against the current abuse of drugs and medical tools in the delivery suite where doctors use them to hasten a birth when a baby is not ready to be born (induced birth), where doctors perform an episiotomy just because, where women are ‘chained’ to monitors and unable to move, where a caesarean is deemed necessary because of ‘failure’ to dilate or ‘slow’ dilation, and where doctors fail to adequately educate their patients about their options including a natural, drug-free birth and the full range of drugs available and their effects, pros and cons. Who do you blame when a caveman burns his village down if he was told of its usefulness but not of its dangers? Do you blame the giver or the recipient?

I applaud the wise use of drugs in situations such as in a life and death situation or complications or when an epidural is administered during an exceptionally long labour to give the mother some respite, and with rest, she will have enough energy left for the final leg. Yes, drugs and medical tools have the place but only when used wisely.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Johann's Birth Story

I wrote this shortly after J's birth to remember the experience and finally got round to posting it here almost 3 years later. Well, better late than never, I suppose? :)

9 Jan 2009
Woke up and discovered some staining that seems to be like show when going to the toilet. Wondered if I should cancel my lunch appointment with my friend, Erni. Decided to observe. Took a shower and sent hubby a sms about the signs.

No further signs – did not experience any contractions or further show. Started stuffing hospital bag – why didn’t I pack it earlier?? Made a cup of raspberry leaf tea and told baby J to hang in there and let me attend my old friend’s, Yining, wedding tomorrow night before he comes.

Still nothing happening, since Ginny (of Four Trimesters) mentioned that show might take a few days, I decided to proceed with day’s plan. Got changed and went to Republic Plaza for lunch.

Was having dessert when I experienced very mild menstrual-like discomfort. Went to toilet, but no show or bleeding. Hubby texted me that he’s meeting his mates for some beer and will be home around 8pm.

Left Republic Plaza and headed to Carrefour to exchange the night lamps I bought a few days ago. Was fed up when staff said I can’t test the new lamps and I have to come back if I want to exchange them again – can’t she see that I’m heavily pregnant??!! Had to explain that I’m due any time now and don’t want to make another trip here. Had to speak to supervisor before getting exchange done. Took forever and had to stand the whole time. Tiring!!

Finally could leave. On the way home, felt some mild menstrual-like cramps and backache. Nothing unbearable though. Wondered if baby J will come before the wedding dinner.

Arrived at Boon Lay MRT and felt that I had to do some last minute shopping in case baby J decides to arrive. Went to Jurong Point – rushed around to shops:
- NTUC: got a pack of rice for rice socks
- Sports shop: hunted high and low for socks with highest cotton content for rice socks
- Book shop: bought a magazine and a funny novel to entertain me in the delivery suite
- Homeware shop: got 2 pedal bins and various odds and ends.

Ended up with huge bags of shopping to carry home. Decided to take a cab home.

Home at last! Feeling pretty tired… but started preparing dinner of sausages and ratatouille. Noticed that surges are becoming more regular but didn’t time them as they weren’t bothering me at all, besides, I’m busy cooking…

Hubby texted me again to say that he’ll be late and will only be back around 8.30pm. Replied asking him not to drink too much as we may need to go to the hospital tonight.

Had another round of surges during dinner. Made an estimation that surges are occurring every hour or so. Bertil gets excited and starts singing, “my son is coming!” He asked if I think we would go to the hospital tomorrow morning or afternoon – I replied that we would be lucky if we didn’t have to go in the middle of the night today!!

After dinner, did the dishes, made rice socks (finally!), last minute tasks and packing.

Asked Bertil if he knows what to do in the delivery suite. His reply? “No.. you’ll have to tell me what to do..” *faint* oh well… at least I know what to expect now…

Surges were difficult to time. They would come persistently for 15 to 30 mins then stop, before restarting in 1 hour with the same pattern – what is that supposed to mean?? Found that slow breathing and squatting down during surges helped me feel more comfortable. Otherwise, I continued to breathe normally.

Texted Yining to say that I’m having early signs of labour. We’re on standby and probably can’t make it to her wedding.

Texted gyne that I had show in the morning and now having contractions approximately 1 in 1 hour since 7pm.

Decided to exfoliate and do a deep cleansing mask before taking a shower – just in case I wouldn’t be able to for the next 1 month! Also trimmed my nails so that I wouldn’t scratch Bertil (aren’t I considerate??)…

Gyne replied “Observe yrself at home if the contractions reach 1 in 10 min or too painful go to hospital and the nurses will inform me on yr status. Otherwise see you in my clinic at 8.45am for assessment”.

Double checked hospital bag with hubby. Vain pot me threw in more toiletries but decided to give make-up a pass.

Highlighted things in hypnobirthing book and notes for Bertil to take note of and asked him to familiarize himself with the Support Strategies cards.

10 Jan 2009
Surges felt like they have picked up speed – seems to be 1 in 20 mins. Told hubby to start timing. According to timer, surges lasted 50 secs at a frequency of 1 in 7 - 10 mins. Didn’t believe that surges were so close, thought that there must be something wrong with Bertil’s timing technique – doesn’t feel that intense. So far surges haven’t been painful, just felt like intense tightening sensations.

Kept trying to time until we both got fed up. Decided to try and get some sleep first.

Can’t sleep but still feels too early for hospital.

Went to the toilet and saw fresh blood. Surges intensified. Took deep breaths. Went to wake hubby who literally jumped out of bed. Instructed him to carry all the stuff down and I will follow once we’re ready to leave. I got changed while he was carrying the bags to the car - had to kneel on the floor several times when surges came in continuous waves.

Finally it’s time to go! When I was sure that the surges were over, I walked down the stairs to the car. A new surge hit just as I reached the car. Tried to get into the car but it was locked and hubby is still upstairs!! I swore, thinking he’s nuts to keep the car locked in the middle of the night when no one is around. Kneeled next to the car while waiting for him to arrive. He came down and couldn’t / didn't see me kneeling on the opposite side. Once he realized I was there, he got into the car and waited for me to get in. So much so for male chivalry, I thought – couldn’t he at least help me into the car??!!

Finally able to move off… called gyne on the way to Mt Alvernia and he sleepily told me to check in first, the nurses will update him.

Darn! I forgot to trim my eye brows!

Had surges in the car, tried timing them and they seemed to be 1 in 5 mins – I still thought that I wasn’t timing them correctly… Told hubby that I find surges easier to manage than menstrual cramps as they are regular and consistent.

Arrived at Mt Alvernia. Walked to the registration desk and told the nurse “I’m in labour”. Hubby tagged along behind with the bags. A guy came up with a wheelchair. I sat on it even though I felt that I could walk. Thought it would be fun to ride on a wheelchair for once. Was wheeled to the delivery suites on level 3, where the nurses asked for my name and frequency of surges. Was immediately sent to one of the suites with 2 nurses. Hubby was told to go downstairs and register while I was given a cup to collect a pee sample and a hospital gown. Went to the bathroom to pee and change – took a while as surges started to intensify even more. Nurse knocked on door to ask if I’m alright.

Finally came out of the bathroom – able to walk once the surges were over. Nurse led me to the bed and I was thinking that hubby was taking really long with the registration. Nurse was about to strap on the CTG when another surge came, I had to grip her wrist really hard. I think I must have hurt her but she was nice enough not to complain. Once CTG was on, I could lie down in the semi-supine position.

Surges came and went – I stopped counting and lost track of the time. Concentrated on counting and deep breathing. Somebody asked if I wanted gas – I shook my head. A nurse did a V.E. and announced in surprise that I was already 7 to 8 cm dilated! Wow!! I could hardly believe my ears and felt very heartened by the news! I felt inexplicably thirsty and asked for water – gobbled 2 cups of water to the nurse’s surprise.

Hubby finally came back and was just as surprised that I’m already so dilated… told him to get the birth plan out and leave it with my notes on the nurses’ counter. He also started playing the Rainbow Relaxation CD and sat next to me. Nurses left us alone after reading our birth plan.

My left hand was gripping his while my right hand gripped the bed rail as we moved through the surges. At some point, I felt hubby prying my hand open so that he could transfer my hand to his other hand. He tried to do some light touch massage on my left arm – I couldn’t decide if it was irritating or distracting so I just let him continue. A nurse came back in to free me from the CTG.

Felt a sudden need to pee and hubby helped me to the toilet – it took a long while to get there and back with frequent stops and kneeling on floor during surges. Decided that it’s not a good idea to move and that I should just stay in bed.

At some point, hubby went to replay the Rainbow Relaxation and I heard him take the opportunity to go to the bathroom. I was doing well and was ok with that… surges came while I was waiting for him to come back out… then suddenly I felt a ‘pop’ sensation and warm water flowing out – my water bag had burst!

Hubby is still in the bathroom – what on earth is he doing in there!??! Sleeping?? Could still wait until I felt an strong feeling of something moving down very quickly – a feeling that I can’t describe in words… like having an express train going through my insides, perhaps? But it wasn't painful or uncomfortable. Couldn’t wait anymore and shouted “Bertil!!” at the top of my lungs. Heard a commotion in the bathroom and hubby came running out, sounding flustered... “Get the nurses!” I said… I don’t know how he did that but a nurse came very quickly… “Water bag has broken” I told her. It felt like there was some action going on but I was too focused to pay any attention to what was happening around me. I felt an intense pressure to push and instinctively started… at some point, the nurse told me not to push, the doctor is not here yet!! I tried but couldn’t stop – the urge was just so primal - she came over and made the bed completely flat despite my protests… this will help you to stop pushing, she said. She then turned me onto my left side and I was left in this position, breathing heavily and gripping hubby's hand. I didn’t know how long I was in this position until I couldn’t bear it any longer and really really had to push despite the nurse telling me to “control” and “don’t push”. Thankfully, hubby finally spoke up for me and told her “I think she really needs to push now.”

At that moment, Dr Kee finally arrived – I was both relieved and angry that he took so long but no time and energy to dwell on it – at last I was allowed to push. Someone must have put me back up into the semi-supine position. Dr Kee asked if I wanted to feel the head – and it distracted me. It took me some effort to shake my head. I heard him say that an episiotomy is not needed. A surge came and the crowning sensation, so different from the surges that I was used to, took me off-guard and I lost my focus… “I can’t do it… I’m giving up” flashed through my mind. Just then the surge subsided and Dr Kee was still telling me to push… I couldn’t muster up any energy. We waited for the next surge and I felt something large and round (the baby’s head) coming through followed by a wet slithering movement which I assumed to be the body…

Dr Kee announced the time of birth. I just closed my eyes and leaned back. When I opened my eyes shortly, I saw Johann, lying bloodied while the cord was clamped and Bertil cut the cord… it felt like an out of body experience… I didn’t feel like I was physically present. Instead, I felt like a third party observing the scene from a bird's eye view. Reality or hormonal effect? I don't know

Johann was hastily wrapped in the green hospital sheet and given to me. When I first held him, I felt like it was “hello, stranger… so you’re the guy I’ve been talking to for the past 9 months.” The nurse squeezed out colostrum and helped him to latch on. Meanwhile, Dr Kee swas saying that my uterine contractions were very efficient and the placenta could be delivered naturally. He started massaging my uterus. I did not notice when the placenta was delivered. At some point, I told Dr Kee “I can’t believe I just did this.” He told me that I sustained a minor tear and some abrasions and stitched me up.

Things started winding down. Johann was taken to be weighed, measured and cleaned up with hubby in tow, before being returned to me. Dr. Kee ensured that we were fine, changed out of his scrubs and left.

Hubby, Johann and I were left alone to spend our first moments as a family together…

After some time, the nurses came back, cleaned me up and transferred me to a gurney as we made the transition to the wards. Hubby wheeled Johann along, while the nurses pushed me out. Just as we passed the reception desk, a nurse there said “next time, come in earlier…” On hindsight, maybe I should have done so, but then again, maybe not! This felt just right! (",)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Easy Peasy Green Smoothies

I call these easy peasy because they mostly only use 1 fruit, how difficult is that to make? I was delighted to find some of these suggestions in Victoria Butenko's books after months of dealing with recipes calling for an average of 3 fruits. She also suggests that keeping your green smoothies simple enhances your body's ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals.

Usually I don't specify which greens to use as it largely depends on what is available wherever you are located. In some recipes, I will specify it as it as influence the taste of the green smoothie. However, feel free to modify it as you deem necessary.

Greens with soft stems e.g. basil, mint, spinach can be used as it is. The ones with tough / thick stems, e.g. chard, kai lan, bok choy should have their stems removed as they are very fibrous and can sometimes change the flavour of the green smoothie (e.g. chard stems have a slight peppery flavour)

The quantity of the greens can also be altered to suit your taste.

Basic Balance
1 mango
1 cup greens
1 cup water

Cantaloupe Parsley Smoothie
3 cups cantaloupe, cubed
1 bunch fresh parsley

Parsley Maddness
4 ripe pears
1 bunch fresh parsley
2 cups water

Zesty Watermelon
4 cups watermelon, cubed
1 cup greens
Juice of 1 lime

Romanian Bananas
4 ripe bananas
1 cup romaine lettuce
2 cups water
(Note: romaine lettuce can be bitter, adjust quantity as you go along)

Sunny Island
1 mango
2 oranges
1-2 cups water
1 cup greens
(Make sure the fruits are sweet else you can get a very sour smoothie)

Going Bananas
4 bananas
1 knob of ginger
2 cups of greens
2 cups of water

Two Pears and An Orange
2 ripe pears
1 orange
1-2 cups water
2 cups greens

That's all for now! I'll add more as I try out various recipes from books and other websites. Have fun and enjoy!

Green Smoothies: Tips & More

1. Rotate your greens
Almost all greens contain a small amount of alkaloids, a type of poison. Each green’s alkaloids are different from the next one. This is Mother Nature’s way of preventing extinction: by forcing animals to rotate their greens, the plants do not become extinct. Tiny quantities of alkaloids cannot hurt you and can even strengthen your immune system. However, if you keep consuming one single green, be it spinach, kale or any other green, for many weeks without rotation, eventually the same type of alkaloids can accumulate in your body and cause unwanted symptoms of poisoning. Simply rotating your greens will prevent this from happening. Do note that there is no need to rotate the fruit as most commonly used fruits have very little or none of the alkaloids and cannot cause the same toxic reactions as greens. The simple reason for this is because fruits are intended to be eaten. It is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that the seeds are propagated and the plant will have future generations ahead of it. The purpose of rotating fruit is simply to enhance the variety of flavor and nutrition in your smoothies.

There are different strategies available: either use 1 type of green per day or a mixture of greens everyday, depending on what you prefer. Victoria Butenko recommends using a minimum of 7 different type of greens. The larger the variety, the larger the spectrum of nutrients you receive. Herbs such as parsley, basil, dill are also considered as greens. I usually buy 3 types of greens per week (depending on how large the package is) and each week has a different ‘set’ of greens.

Fruits do not contain any alkaloids so you don’t have to rotate them. However, rotating your fruits will give you more variety in terms of taste and a wider range of vitamins and minerals.

2. Fresh is best
Green smoothies keep up to 3 days in the fridge, in an air-tight container. While freshly blended green smoothies are best, if you are busy or travelling, preparing them ahead means you don’t have to forego your daily green smoothie. Something is better than nothing. If I know that I have a busy morning ahead, I will prepare my green smoothie the night before. For my husband, I always prepare his the evening before so he will always have a bottle to bring to work, regardless of what time I wake up.

Though, ideally, prepare yours first thing in the morning in the amount that you usually consume in 1 day (1 or 2 litres). Pour enough into a glass for your morning enjoyment and keep the rest in a refrigerator or another cold place.

3. Glass is best
Storage in glass containers is best as it does not contain any chemicals that will react with fruits, but it is tricky to transport.. If consuming at home, use glass. Otherwise, use BPA-free plastic bottles. Wide neck ones are best for easy cleaning. Stainless steel can work too but is difficult to clean as you can’t see if there is any residue in the bottle. Another good alternative is to use stainless steel thermo coffee mugs, which many coffee joints like Starbucks and Coffee Bean sell these days. It helps to keep your smoothie cool and since it is opaque, it slows oxidation (light oxidizes fruits and juices, that is why your fridge and freezer is dark when the door is closed) plus, you can avoid having to answer awkward questions about the colour and consistency of your drink!!

4. Savour it
Sip your green smoothie slowly, mixing it with saliva. The process of absorbing nutrients and digestion starts in the mouth, with the enzymes in saliva. This tip would actually apply to all food! Hence, the old adage to chew your food slowly and properly before swallowing! Thankfully, the blender has helped us to ‘chew’ the greens and the fruits and makes it so much easier to consume large amounts of them.

5. Always use organic – you deserve it!
The absence of pesticides and other toxic chemicals is only one of the many benefits of organic food. The most important reason is the superior nutritional value of organic produce compared to conventionally grown ones. Many conventionally grown ones lack nutrition as commercial soils are so chemically fertilized and depleted of minerals that eating the produce borne from it is really just eating for the sake of eating it, rather than for its nutritional value. Eating locally grown produce ensures maximum nutrients as they have not been languishing in a warehouse since harvest. It is also very important to get fruit that was allowed to ripen on the vine. Vine / tree ripen fruit is several times more nutritious and when consumed shortly after picking, retains significantly more nutrients.

Definitely, organic greens are a must as the leaves and stems have no protection against pesticides. If a farmers’ market is accessible, those could be an alternative. However, speak to the farmer to find out how their produce is grown and obviously avoid those who use chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Organic fruits are preferred. However, if budget is an issue, the general rule of thumb is thick-skinned fruits need not be organic, e.g. avocados, bananas, pineapples, kiwis. Pears and apples should always be organic as they are in such high demand; non-organic versions tend to have too much chemical fertilizers and pesticides. All berries, peaches, apricots and nectarines must be organic as they do not have a protective membrane that prevents pesticides from entering the fruit. A good website for such information is: which provides a condensed version of the information available on

As extracted from The fruits and vegetables on “The Dirty Dozen” list, when conventionally grown, tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals (*yikes!!), with some testing positive for as many as 67. For produce on the “dirty” list, you should definitely go organic — unless you relish the idea of consuming a chemical cocktail. “The Dirty Dozen” list includes:
• celery
• peaches
• strawberries
• apples
• U.S. blueberries
• nectarines
• sweet bell peppers
• spinach, kale and collard greens
• cherries
• potatoes
• imported grapes
• lettuce

All the produce on “The Clean 15” bore little to no traces of pesticides, and is safe to consume in non-organic form. This list includes:
• onions
• avocados
• sweet corn
• pineapples
• mango
• sweet peas
• asparagus
• kiwi fruit
• cabbage
• eggplant
• cantaloupe
• watermelon
• grapefruit
• sweet potatoes
• sweet onions

A recommendation I have received for washing greens and fruits is to add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the washing water. For non-organic produce, soak for 20 minutes; 10 minutes for organic produce. Apple cider vinegar purportedly kills bacteria and is able to remove some of the residual chemicals that regular water can’t. Part of the reason is that many pesticides are formulated to resist rain water, hence by adding the apple cider vinegar, the pH level of the water is changed and can therefore remove the pesticide(s) more efficiently.

6. Pre-prep saves time and hassle
Washing your greens ahead of time makes it so much easier and faster to make green smoothies fresh every morning. Wash them, dry them well and wrap them in kitchen towels (cloth or paper, your choice). Store them in large BPA-free plastic containers. Use ziplock bags and squeeze out all the air if there is no space in the fridge. On the average, greens stored in this manner keep up to a week in the fridge, depending on how fresh they are in the first place. Fruits can be pre-cut and stored in air-tight containers in the fridge or freezer.

Money-saving tip: whenever any organic fruits go on offer, buy loads. Then cut and freeze in single portions.

7. Use a high speed blender, e.g. Vitamix or Blendtec
Not only does this yield green smoothies with smoother texture. It is also faster, saves time (there’s no need to cut the ingredients into tiny bits) and the powerful blending breaks open the cell membranes, making it easier for the body to assimilate the nutrients.

Personally, I prefer the Vitamix as the Blendtec’s computerized blending system doesn’t sit well with me. But it is the individual’s choice. My only complaint is that all high speed blenders are so so so deafening!!

8. Drink as many smoothies as you like, experiment with sweet and savoury flavours.
There’s no limit to how many you can consume per day. Experiment with different flavours for variety. Victoria Butenko’s books have both sweet and savoury recipes to try out and she has now even launched an app detailing all sorts of possible combinations. I also like green puddings, which are similar to green smoothies, except that no or little water is used and the consistency is much thicker, like a pudding and eaten with a spoon. These are good for the days when I know I have no access to public toilets (they are hard to find in Germany!) and will save me the discomfort of holding on to a full bladder!!

9. Dried greens are acceptable
As a substitute when fresh greens are not available, that is. There are many green superfoods available and as always, ensure that they are organic and raw (i.e. processed below 40 degrees Celsius). I use Healthforce Nutritionals Vita-Mineral Green and have been told that the formulations by Dr. Mitchell May are good too.

10. The 40-minute rule
According to Victoria Butenko, don’t eat anything, not even a small cracker or candy, within 40 minutes of a green smoothie as starch and other (animal) proteins interferes with the absorption of nutrients in the gut. However, you can eat other fruits and greens (plain, without oils and other dressings) after consuming a green smoothie. Admittedly, this can be difficult at times. So my personal rule is to usually have as much green smoothie as I can first thing in the morning. If I have any leftover, I try to keep to the 40-minute rule if I can but if not, I don’t fret about it.

11. Save the starchy fruit vegetables for other purposes
Do not add starchy root or fruit vegetables e.g. carrots, beets, broccoli stems, zucchini, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, egg plants, pumpkin, squash, okra (lady finger), peas, corn, green beans, potatoes and others into your green smoothies containing fruit. They tend to combine poorly with fruits and lead to a gassy, bloated feeling.

12. Keep it simple
Don’t add too many ingredients into one smoothie, e.g. 9 different fruits and a dozen different greens. Keeping it simple maximize nutritional benefits and keeps it easy on your digestive system (not to mention, making prep work easier!). In the wild, many animals eat a mono-diet i.e. one type of greens or fruit per meal. There has to be a reason why!!

13. Learn to prepare a really delicious green smoothie
This helps you (and your family) to look forward to the next one. If your drink is not tasty, you will eventually lose heart and discontinue consuming it. Keep your taste buds happy.

14. Serve it to your children and pets
Everyone can benefit from it! Children tend to prefer sweeter, less green ones until they get used to it. Pets should consume smaller portions. Victoria Butenko’s book, Green Smoothie Revolution, and app, Green Smoothies, has good guidelines and recipes for both groups.

15. Don’t add anything except greens, fruits and water
Victoria Butenko doesn’t recommend adding nuts, seeds, oils, supplements or other ingredients as most of these slow down the assimilation of green smoothies in your digestive tract and may cause irritation and gas. While she does provide recipes with more than basic ingredients in her books, she recommends sticking to the basic green smoothie recipe in your daily routine.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Day in the Life of A....

What are some of the things that these people do in an average work day?
  • Accountant: Updates ledger / balance sheets, pay bills, chase for payments, ensures sufficient cash flow for the month

  • Cook: Menu planning, mise en place for the day's meals

  • Chauffer: Drives boss around, ensures that he / she gets to destination in time

  • Housekeeper: Tidy / clean house, deal with laundry (washing, ironing, folding), grocery shopping, prepare meals

  • Nanny: Feed baby, change diapers, gives baby a bath, plays with baby, prepares baby's meals / milk feeds

  • Secretary: Ensures boss has the necessary documents for the day's meetings, manages boss' calendar

  • Teacher: Plan curriculum, prepare teaching materials, conduct lessons, discipline students

What does a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) do on an average day?
  • Pay bills
  • Ensures expenditure is within monthly budget
  • Prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Plans meals for the week
  • Tidy / clean house
  • Deal with laundry
  • Buys groceries
  • Feed baby
  • Change diapers
  • Gives baby / children a bath
  • Plays with baby / children
  • Discipline children
  • Teach children manners, words, songs, numbers, colours, etc..
  • Drives children to/from school and activites
  • Ensures that family calendar is in order
  • Ensures that kids go to school with their bags packed with what they need for the day
So is the SAHM truly a 'tai-tai' (local term meaning lady of leisure)? If so, why does she usually work more than 12 hours a day, with no annual leave, medical leave or public holidays? Why is it that it is socially accepted to hire a maid to manage the chores and care for children - the maid is paid for doing this and it is considered decent work, yet when one does all these and more as a SAHM, it is not considered work? How many times have I been asked, when are you going back to work? Am I not working already??

Quotable Quotes

I somehow 'collect' quotes in my head. Mostly, I remember them because they are thought-provoking and/or apply to my life. I will keep editing this post as and when I come across new quotes. Meanwhile, here are some. (Where possible, I will state the author's name. However, I usually can't remember the name, so if you do know it, you can help by commenting!)
  • Do not worry that your children aren't listening; worry that they are watching.
  • The term 'working mother' is redundant. (Seen on a poster at Brewerkz)
  • It takes a village to raise a child. (African proverb)
  • To parent is not to impose, but to guide, moderate and support.
  • Raising a child is like flying a kite. Sometimes you need to pull back, but sometimes you need to let go... to really see a kite soar, you've got to let it go.
  • If you want your children to respect you, respect them first.
  • Write your plans in pencil and give the eraser to God. (Seen on a bumper sticker)
  • Bone of my bone,
    Flesh of my flesh,
    Blood of my blood,
    Milk of my breast,
    Child of my heart,
    Person of your own. (Kristin Gillespie)
  • The modern mother faces a very large problem: her own possible extinction. She has the same powers of observation, the same intuition, the same instincts, and the same love for her baby that mothers have had throughout human history. But she is threatened by a world in which it is no longer safe to be a mother.
  • "You are not a pacifier; you are a Mom. You are the sun, the moon, the earth, you are liquid love, you are warmth, you are security, you are comfort in the very deepest aspect of the meaning of comfort.... but you are not a pacifier!" (Paula Yount)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review: The Happiest Toddler on the Block

Author: Dr. Harvey Karp
ISBN: 0553384422
Publisher: Bantam
Format: Paperback
Published: August 2008
No. of pages: 336 pages
Available for loan from: National Library Board (
Price: S$22.17 (
Suitable for: Parents of 8 – 36 months old
Verdict: Recommended (3.5 / 5)

The sequel to Dr. Karp’s best-seller, The Happiest Baby on The Block, this book aims to get frazzled parents through the trying terrible two’s and three’s by teaching parents how to boost their child’s good behavior, curb annoying behavior and immediately stop unacceptable actions with a highly effective green light / yellow light / red light method for moulding toddler behaviour. Written in his trademark friendly, humourous and engaging manner, it is easy for parents to digest the information after a long day.

What I loved most are the insights it gave into my toddler’s mind – which make it a worthy read, even if the positive discipline methods don’t work. It explains why toddlers behave as they do and how to help them traverse their pre-historic world to become civilized pre-schoolers. Obviously, I don’t remember what life is like as a toddler and often assume that toddler J is a little adult and treat him as such. However, I found that it only made his tantrums worse when I tried to reason with him during a meltdown, or try to counter his escalating emotions with calm, low-key responses and lengthy explanations. The book helped me to understand that toddlers are far from being rational or logical, much less an adult. I found that he sometimes calmed down more quickly when I used Dr. Karp’s Toddler-ese and ‘Fast-Food Rule’ which is basically talking at your toddler's level when he or she is upset by using and repeating short, simple sentences and mirroring their emotions. This technique enhances the ability of children to label their emotions by providing them with the correct vocabulary. Toddler-ese needs practice and patience. It isn’t easy to master (and is sometimes embarrassing to use in public). I’m certainly no expert, but, it certainly does get easier over time. I don’t use it all the time, usually only when I feel that my normal way of defusing a situation won’t work. I noticed that it defuses potentially tantrum-causing situations. Toddler J sometimes looks at me with a ‘hey, mommy understands me so I don’t have to yell’ expression, calms down and is able to wait till I can attend to him or distracts himself with something else.

The rest of the book has lots of great reminders about how to best communicate with our toddlers so that they feel respected and loved, while we parents get the essential outcomes we need and want to keep our kids safe and our homes sane. While some of his advice is common sense, e.g. clear and consistent limits, Dr Karp gives numerous suggestions on boosting good behavior e.g. patience stretching, so parents can choose to use those they feel most comfortable with. I haven’t used his ‘clap-growl’ method yet – which I find a little too prehistoric! My main grouse is with the book’s layout because it classifies the methods into green light / yellow light / red light, yet not all methods are suitable for younger ones around 1 year old. I would have much preferred the methods to be classified by age instead of having to flip through the book to find them.

About the Author(s)
Dr. Harvey Karp is a nationally renowned pediatrician, child development specialist and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. He completed medical school training at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC, pediatric residency at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles and fellowships in ambulatory pediatrics and child development at UCLA. In pediatric practice, for almost 30 years, Dr. Karp has taught thousands of parents, from working moms to superstars like Madonna, Michelle Pfeiffer and Pierce Brosnan his secrets for soothing colic, boosting infant sleep, reducing tantrums, promoting patience and making parents and children happy.

Balancing Organic & Conventional Food

A fairly recent convert to organic products, I used to be skeptical about organic food… sure, I’ve heard all about the goodness of organic food but, like many people, was put off by the high prices. Over the past year or so, I’ve gradually become more convinced that organic is truly better: not just for our bodies, but also tastes better and is environmentally friendly. I have become more educated about nutrition, having learnt about the effects of ingredients such as sugar and salt on our bodies. It took me some time to find a balance between conventional and organic products and to buy wisely. As much as I wish to prepare everything from scratch, use 100% organic, etc… it is highly unrealistic, because like everyone else, I have constraints such as finances, time, health, and other day to day pressures.

When baby J started having solids, we started him on as much organic produce as we could afford – and it was easy to prepare his food, mainly steaming and cutting into bite size pieces or mashing. Since he eats so little, it is inevitable that our help was needed to finish the food. As he becomes older, I’ve started to include his portion in family meals and meal preparation became slightly more complicated, compounded with the difficulty of putting together a decent meal with a toddler literally hanging onto my legs. I struggled to find a balance between having a healthy lifestyle, home-cooked meals, while being time-pressured and making sure that we aren’t spending everything we have on food!

Hence, currently I purchase organic products if it is for baby J, if we are consuming it raw e.g. salads, or if it is a processed product e.g. cereals, cookies. I particularly focus on processed products because I was so frustrated trying to decipher nutrition and ingredient labels of conventional products - particularly those that list items in vague manner by using E numbers (who on earth can remember what all these numbers represent?!) or stating items like “permitted flavourings”, “permitted preservatives”. None of these tell me what I’m consuming, thus defeating their raison d’ĂȘtre! I found that organic or natural products are labeled in a manner that I can understand and tend to use better quality ingredients like sea salt instead of conventional table salt (which is a chemically derived product devoid of vital minerals) and healthier natural sweeteners like agave nectar or juice concentrates.

Ultimately, I feel so much better knowing that we are reducing our consumption of artificial flavourings, pesticides and artificial preservatives. This peace of mind and the potential savings on medical bills are worth the money spent on organic foods and natural health solutions. I have reached the conclusion that while it may be hard to go 100% organic, something is better than nothing – one just needs to determine the most suitable path to take after prioritizing financial and health concerns.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Organic? Natural? What's the Difference?

I recently had a conversation about natural vs organic produce and how it is important to distinguish between the two. Natural products can sometimes be priced as high as organic products, so whenever an organic version is available, I highly recommend choosing that over the natural alternative. One day, I came across this nifty little table on a cereal box that clears up all the confusion between organic and natural products so do read the label!

Ingredients / ProcessingOrganicNaturalConventional
Artificial flavoursNONoMay be used
Artificial coloursNONoMay be used
Artificial preservativesNONoMay be used
Artificial fertilizersNOMay be usedMay be used
Artificial pesticidesNOMay be usedMay be used
IrradiationNOMay be usedMay be used
G.M. IngredientsNOMay be usedMay be used

Furthermore, organic products are required to undergo testing in order to qualify for the certification, whereas, no certification is required for natural products.

BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop