Monday, February 29, 2016

At Home Laser Hair Removal

Today's post is a little bit embarrassing of a topic for me. Body hair.

Confession: I am a hairy beast monster. This is not new. I've been overly hairy most of my life. I am a dark haired woman of German decent. Thankfully, over the course of my relationship with my husband, I've gradually desensitized him to his hate of body hair. Don't get me wrong, he's not happy about it if I haven't shaved in a week, but he stopped saying anything about it years ago. On top of my genetic predisposition, I also have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Sydrome). My body produces too much testosterone for a woman and as a result, I also grow hair where women shouldn't. For awhile, I used bleach and depilatory creams. I quickly developed skin sensitivities to every cream on the market. Then I switched to tweezing and waxing. SO TIME CONSUMING! Finally, I gave up and started shaving my face. EVERY. DAY. I know about my hair issues, but most other people don't (or at least are too polite to say anything). Well, now you do too. My hairy little secret.

This Christmas my mom asked me what I wanted. I mentioned a few things and then started kvetching about how all I really wanted was laser hair removal. Well on Christmas morning, much to my surprise, my parents got me a Silk'n Flash and Go. I was skeptical. I had tried the No-No in the past and was supremely disappointed when all it did was burn off my hair. My dad said he had watched a video from a man who was transitioning and decided that if it worked for her it would work for me. I decided there was nothing to lose by giving it a try.

I read the manual and watched some videos on how to use. The Silk'n is designed for people with light skin and dark hair. This is similar to "in office" laser hair removal. The manual recommends flashing the areas to be de-haired every two weeks. It also cautions several times to not flash anywhere that you want to have hair "RESULTS ARE PERMANENT!" Lol, we'll see about that.

Using the Silk'n is pretty straight forward:
1) Plug in and turn on the unit.

2) Press the plus button to turn up the intensity of the laser. They recommend starting on the lowest intensity and working your way up to level 5. You should stop when you feel discomfort. For me, level 5 is appropriate for all areas except my bikini line. It's really not painful.

3) Press the head of the unit against your skin and squeeze the trigger. Avoid looking at the flash- it's bright!

4) Repeat ad infinitum until you've flashed all the areas you want to be hairless.
So I did this. My whole upper body takes less than 15 minutes. Both legs take about 2 hours. It is super tedious. Because I am a very skeptical individual (or possibly because I got bored) I decided to leave one leg unflashed as a control. Here are my results after two treatments:

Control leg is on top, treated leg is on the bottom. I took the pictures after two treatments, and not shaving for a week to see the regrowth. The treated leg is far patchier in regrowth than the untreated leg. There are large areas that are completely hair free. I have to say- I was shocked. It really worked. I really can't bear to show my untreated face so you'll just have to trust me when I say, it has been working on all the areas I've treated. I am SO EXCITED to FINALLY have a permanent solution to my gross hair issues. Plus it's a FRACTION of the cost of professional hair removal. I've now done three treatments, in the privacy of my own bedroom for what it cost to do one and a half treatments at the dermatologist a few years ago. The heads have a certain number of flashes before they have to be replaced. After three full body treatments, I still have life left in my original cartridge. 

So this is the reason I felt compelled to lay out all of my dirty laundry on the internet. The Silk'n Flash and Go really works. It provides safe, effective, permanent hair removal at a reasonable cost in the privacy of your own home. If you have light skin, dark hair and a hatred for shaving- you need this in your life!

Friday, January 15, 2016

How to NOT make your own lip balm

Just because I no longer work in the cosmetics industry doesn't mean I don't get aggravated by misinformation about cosmetic products. Lately, my Pinterest has been blowing up with DIY lip balm recipes like this one or this list or the "all-natural" types like this one. I am an expert in lip balms. Literally. I've made thousands.

A small sample of my work

I'm not saying it's not possible to make your own lip balm at home. It's actually one of the safer DIY cosmetic projects you can take on because it's anhydrous (no water) and as such, does not require a preservative. You do; however, need to be aware of a few things before you start making your own lip balms.
  • It is not safe to put eyeshadow in to a lip balm
The pigments used in eyeshadow may be safe to use on your lips but they also may not. Pigments used in food and cosmetic applications are tightly regulated by the FDA. The Colorant Additive Inventory is a detailed list containing not only the colorants that are allowed to be used in cosmetics but WHICH TYPE of cosmetics products they are allowed to be used in. If a pigment is listed for use in "Externally applied cosmetics" it can be safely used in the eye area but it cannot be used on the lips. While your lips are an external body part, you lick your lips and will ingest whatever you put on them. Some common pigments that are used in eyeshadows that cannot be used on lips are Ferric Ferrocyanide (blue/ purple), Chromium Hydroxide and Chromium Oxide (green) and Ultramarines (blue/ purple). You may be thinking "I've seen green lip balms so this can't be true" but green lip balms are not made with green pigments. They are generally made by combining Yellow 5 and Blue 1 (or another combination of lip safe pigments). For this reason I would never recommend tinting your homemade lip balm with eyeshadow. Even if you are using a relatively innocuous shade of pink, you can't be sure what pigments the manufacturer used. It's just not a good idea. Use a product designed for the lips, like a leftover bit of lipstick if you want a tint.
  • Coconut Oil is not a good balm base
Coconut oil is all the rage right now. It's not a good base for a lip balm. It melts at 76F. If you put this in your pocket, it will melt and make a greasy, oily mess. Leave it in your car on even a spring day and you'll come back to a puddle of oil. It's possible to use coconut oil as a component of a balm, but you need to add a much higher melting point wax to it to firm it up like beeswax or paraffin.

  • Petroleum Jelly isn't a great base either
Petroleum Jelly or Vaseline isn't really a good base for a lip balm either. It's soft and goopy but it doesn't have much staying power on the lips and feels really greasy. It has a tendency to bleed from your lips as it melts. Similar to coconut oil, it has a low melt point (99F) and will turn in to a liquid if you leave it in a warm place. Again, it can be a component, but it shouldn't be the whole formula!

  • Don't put citrus oils in lip balms
I've mentioned this in the past but it bears repeating. Citrus oils are phototoxic when they come in contact with sunlight. They cause cell death. You don't want that. Don't use citrus oils or juices (not anhydrous anyway) in lip balms.

If you really want to make good DIY lip balms, check out this post from Point of Interest. She's a great home crafter of all types of cosmetic and skin care products who does things safely. It's more than just throwing together Crisco, Vaseline and eyeshadow- it's chemistry- and you need to do it correctly!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Learning: What's Important

This year Makayla started first grade. We made the decision to continue her Montessori education for several reasons. First, she loved her school, her teachers and her friends and they loved her and cared about her as well. Second, she was doing GREAT academically. Third, it seemed to us that she was in a delicate place where she could easily move to the "school is boring, school is drudgery, I hate school" camp and we really wanted her to gain a real love for LEARNING. We wanted to keep her in a happy cocoon of learning with individual attention as long as we are financially able to do so. Finally, we compared the public school curriculum for our city to the curriculum that she would have at her Montessori school and there was just no comparison. Most of the things that were expected for her to learn by the end of first grade she was already proficient in at the end of Kindergarten. I attended a Montessori school through Kindergarten. My older brother attended through the second grade but since I was just a kid then, I didn't really have any idea of what a Montessori Elementary program was like.

For the most part, Montessori Elementary is a continuation of the Montessori Pre-primary program. They don't have desks, they use specifically designed, self correcting materials called "works", and they have the freedom to design their own lesson plans. At Makayla's school, they start and finish every day with journaling to help them develop grammar, writing, spelling and paragraph construction skills. They have lessons from their teacher on every subject from science to math to a weekly cooking lesson. They have silent reading time after lunch every day and every day that's not frigid, they go outside and play in the outdoor classroom.

As a Montessori parent none of this came as a surprise to me. These are all normal parts of a Montessori classroom. What DID surprise me was that they do not receive grades. At all. At first, I thought to myself "How will we know if she's doing well? How will we know if she's on track?" We decided to trust her teacher and tried to not think about it. At the end of the first month we got a report of sorts that gave us a brief description of the things that she had been working on, the things that she had done well with and the things that she needed to work on. This included actual classroom work as well as behavioral and social issues. I thought it was really nice and it helped me to understand what some things were that we could focus on at home to help her in school. Sometime around October I realized that grades didn't matter at all! When we read together at night it was obvious how much better she was reading. When I looked at her writing I could see how much smaller and neater her penmanship had become and how much better her spelling had gotten. Her math skills were improving every week. Just being around her it was OBVIOUS how much she was learning. I realized that I didn't need a report card with a bunch of grades on it to compare with other kids, my child was learning and LOVING to learn! I came to realize that my desire to know "how she was doing" through a rigid grading system was more about ME than it was about HER. If I step back and look at her, I know she's learning.

That's what's really important.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015. Let's move on.

I started the year with such high hopes. We were coming off a rough 2014 full of Jeff's health crises and adjusting to being a family of four instead of three. I resolved to lose the baby weight and get down to my wedding weight of 180 lbs, become a certified child passenger safety technician and be less of an asshole.

The year started with the announcement that my employer had sold the business to a larger cosmetics company and we were all unemployed. As the sole source of income in our household, this was BAD NEWS. I had intended to look for alternative employment this year, because I wasn't happy with a lot of things there but I intended to do it on my own time, so that I could get a job before I needed one. Thankfully, they offered us severance packages that paid full salary for three months. After apply and interviewing for any chemist position available, I was finally hired at a new company and life started to settle back down.

Now that we had (actually affordable) health insurance again, I went in for my yearly well woman exam. My midwife noticed that I had nodules on my thyroid and sent me for ultrasound. Of course, the ultrasound came back suspicious for cancer and I had to have a biopsy. Thankfully, the biopsy came back negative. I also finally decided to see a rheumatologist about my constant hand pain. After some blood work, he diagnosed me with psoriatic arthritis, an auto immune disease that attacks the ligaments and tendons and causes joint pain. He started me on Otezla, which hasn't had much of an effect for me and I'm still dealing with a lot of pain that keeps me from doing a lot of the things I love, like crafting. At least I know what's wrong now instead of being brushed aside again.

The kids are great though. Makayla's a genius and reading chapter books on her own now. We still struggle with her stubbornness and hard headedness (don't know where she got that from) but she's a pretty good kid. Liam is in to everything and running everywhere. He has about 30 real words now but he never stops babbling in between. He's got a lot to say- we're just not always sure what it is. He's a good sleeper :)

Jeff's *nearly* done with school. Happy days ahead.

We lost Jeff's stepdad this October after a long battle with cancer. He was a good man and is missed.

As far as my goals for the year:

I am now a certified CPST. I've been volunteering around the community at seat check events and offering help to anyone and everyone. I gave a presentation at Makayla's school and helped a couple families keep their babies safer. It's been hard for me to "turn it off" and not help people who don't want help. I just want to save all the babies (and not so babies) and it's hard for me to accept when people make less safe choices. But I'm working on it.

I did not reach my weight loss goal- but I made damn good progress. My pregnancy high was 256 lbs. I made it down to 192 lbs this year. 12 lbs shy of my goal, but I call 64 lbs lost a good effort.

Me, now

After Liam was born, but before I started losing weight

Because people always ask, here's how I lost the weight. I started by keeping a honest and complete food diary. Once I took an honest look at EVERYTHING that I ate in a day, I realized how much more I was eating than I needed. It's easy to forget that things like coffee creamer add a lot to your overall calorie consumption. I used My Fitness Pal to keep track of my food. It's easy to use, has a huge database and give you the opportunity to add in your own recipes. I used it to calculate how many calories I need to lose two pounds a week. It gave me an initial calorie goal of about 1600 calories a day. So I started eating less. And I kept track. I didn't have any dietary restrictions. If I wanted oreos and it fit into my calorie goal, I had an oreo. Every ten lbs or so that I lost, my fitness pal would reduce the amount of calories I got. Eventually, I gained a good understanding of the approximate calorie count of most of the things I ate and I didn't need to be as strict at documenting it. In August, we also joined the YMCA and I started swimming 1200m at least once, usually twice, a week. That's the entirety of my weight loss. Eat less, move more and keep track. I am pretty proud of myself and I'm not ashamed to say it.
As far as my third goal "Be less of an asshole", I don't know about this one. It's not a very good objective. It's not a SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) objective. I feel like, yes, I haven't intentionally antagonized anyone and I've kept a lot of my feelings to myself. We decided to intentionally limit our involvement in the parent club at Makayla's school. We still participate in events put on by her school, but not the ones through the extra parent club because I don't play nicely with others. My sister and I aren't currently speaking because of a lot of reasons. But we can't have a conversation without it ending in a fight. I don't believe this is my fault entirely, but it does take two to fight. This situation has added a huge amount of stress to my life.
So here's hoping that 2016 will be boring, mundane, peaceful and we'll find a trunk of gold in our backyard while digging post holes for the fence.
A girl can dream.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

All About Boosters!

In May, I completed one of my New Year's resolutions and crossed over from Child Passenger Safety Advocate to Child Passenger Safety Technician. I completed the course through Safe Kids Worldwide in hopes of being able to provide seat checks and education for other parents in my community. So far, I've only been able to participate in one seat check event but I am hopeful to do many more! Meanwhile, I thought I'd write about a topic that I see brought up frequently online- "How do I know if my child is ready to ride without a booster?"

Legally, there are many different answers to this question. State laws vary widely. Here in Ohio, our law says that children MUST use a seat until they are 8 years old or 57" tall. Unfortunately, laws do not always follow best practice of what will keep your child the safest in an accident. Seat belts are designed to fit fully grown adults, not children. The purpose of a booster seat is to make the adult seat belt fit the child's body and position the belt across the strongest bones. Here is my 6.75 year old in her Graco Affix in my 2006 VW Beetle. She is 47" tall and 46 lbs.

This booster seat gives her optimal belt fit. You can see that the belt is low and nearly flat on her thighs and the shoulder belt goes across the center of her shoulder. This booster seat is called a High Back Booster because it has a back with a shoulder belt guide. The Graco Affix can also be used in No Back Booster mode by removing the back.

She has the same great lap belt fit in this mode but the shoulder belt lies too far on the edge of her shoulder. With this belt fit, she is at a greater risk of "roll out" in a crash, where the top half of her body could rotate and roll over the belt, allowing her to bend too far forward. Another common problem with no back boosters is when children fall asleep in them and are unable to maintain an upright position. The high back can help keep kids upright and in position. 

There is a third option for booster seats. Combination seats start out with a harness and then, when they have been outgrown in harness mode, you take the harness out and use them as a booster. This is the Britax Frontier 85 in booster mode in our 2009 VW Jetta.

Combination seats can save you money in the long run because you can avoid buying a harnessed seat and then a dedicated booster later. They work just the same as a high back booster (some also become no back boosters as well). 

Now that you know what an ideal belt fit looks like, I'd like to show you what a bad belt fit looks like. 

This is Makayla, back in my Beetle with no booster seat. You can see how high the belt is on her abdomen. Children do not have the same bone density that adults do and their hips have not fully formed until puberty. When a belt is high on the abdomen like this, the belt will rip through the abdomen, crushing all of the organs against the spinal column. This can be fatal. You can also see that the belt is high up against her neck. This positioning makes it less likely that she will keep it in front of her body because it is irritating. Children tend to move irritating belts under their arm or behind their backs which can lead to a fatal injury known as seat belt syndrome when a body bisects in half in a crash because the upper body is not restrained. This is why lap only belts are not safe for anyone to ride in. 

To ride safely without a booster a child needs to pass the "5 Step Test":
  1. Lap belt fits low on the hips, not the abdomen
  2. Shoulder belt lays flat on the shoulder
  3. Butt all the way back and back flat against the seat back
  4. Knees bent at or beyond the edge of the seat, feet flat on the floor
  5. Child is mature enough to stay in position the entire trip, even when sleeping
Take a minute today and check your child's belt fit. If you have any questions please leave a comment or send me a message!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter Rants

It's winter and I have been reminded of all of my pet peeves about winter so I decided to write about it. You'll probably be offended by at least one of them but that's OK, no one is forcing you to read this.

Breaking NEWS! Winter is cold! Winter has snow! Further updates at 11! For reals, if you can't tolerate the cold where you live, move. If you can't move, wear more clothes. A coworker came to work this morning in ballet flats with no socks and was complaining that her feet were cold. It's -2F outside. Wear some goddamn appropriate footwear for fuck's sake. As a grown ass adult, you have the ability to dress yourself. If you fail to wear appropriate amounts of clothing shut your mouth. I don't want to hear it.

I do not want to hear about how "You're not worried about yourself, you're worried about everyone else". It's a stupid argument to begin with but then when you tell me how "you just ignore everyone else and drive 20 on the highway because SNOW! (dusting)" it becomes painfully apparent that it IS YOU. YOU are the bad driver. Learn to drive in snow. Go to an abandoned, unplowed parking lot and put yourself into a slide and learn how to get out of it. It is prudent to drive cautiously when there is inclement weather but if you don't feel safe going anywhere near the speed of the rest of traffic get off the fucking road.

Can we please get some kind of realistic guidelines for when school should be open and when it shouldn't? I really hate the "Well X school closed so we should close" mentality. What is true for one school system may not be at all true for others. For example, when one district closes because they have a high percentage of kids who walk to school and they don't think that it's safe for walkers it's not relevant to a school where all of the kids are dropped off by their parents. If the roads are unsafe for driving, close the school. If the extreme cold causes pipes to burst or the heater is broken then sure, close the school. Closing just because someone else closed is stupid and annoying.

I hate driving down the road and getting blasted by hunks of ice and snow because the asshole in front of me was too fucking lazy to brush the snow off their car. Scratching a hole in the ice on your windshield is not safe. Don't half-ass your life.

I'm sure there are more things I hate but this is what's hot on my mind right now. Mostly, just don't be an idiot.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So long 2014... don't let the door hit you on the way out!

This has been a tough year for my family, no two ways about it. 

We started out with the birth of Liam, which was fantastic and he is the best, sweetest, most adorable baby in the world. Even though he is a great baby, becoming a family of four and having a baby in our lives after almost 6 years was a huge adjustment for all of us. 

Before Liam was born I made everyone in the extended family update their TDaP vaccination. When Jeff got his, he had to get a physical which led down a rabbit hole of testing resulting in a surgery, two biopsies and a diagnosis of hemachromatosis. After he started treatment for that, his doctor noticed that he had many enlarged lymph nodes. Thankfully, the biopsies were benign granulomas and the diagnosis was sarcoidosis and not lymphoma. Even with health insurance, our medical bills this year have been astronomical. 

I haven't been as on top of things as I want to be. I haven't been able to do any of my crafts or write nearly as much as I would like. I started freezer cooking this year and that has enabled us to start eating a lot better. Jeff and I have each lost about 15 lbs in the past couple of months. We hope to make it to our goals this year. 

Makayla is trying our patience and testing our discipline at every opportunity. She's smart and a master at pushing every button on every person she knows (some might call that manipulation). We love her but lately, living with her is exceedingly frustrating. This is why when parents of younger kids say things like "It'll be so much easier when they can do XXX." I just think to myself, yeah I thought that too- but it's not ever any easier, the challenges are just different for every stage. 

Well anyway, here's to a new year and the new challenges that it will inevitably bring. I hope that ours are less this year!