I Won the Lottery!!!

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The New York City Marathon lottery that is!

The TCS New York City Marathon is the largest and one of the most popular marathons in the world. Every year around 50,000 people finish this marathon, and exactly eight months from today, I will be one of those people!!

Qualifying for the NYC Marathon is no easy feat. There are three ways to get into this marathon: through guaranteed entry, their charity program or their lottery. Guaranteed entry methods include qualifying by time, getting grandfathered in by finishing 15 previous New York City Marathons, or running nine qualifying races as a New York Road Runners member the year before each year’s marathon. You can also gain entry by running and fundraising with one of the marathon’s registered charity partners.

The final way to qualify is through a lottery drawing. Last year, the TCS New York City Marathon held the biggest general-entry lottery drawing in the event’s 40-year history, accepting 19,083 runners out of 82,172 applicants. That’s still less than a 25% chance of being chosen, and I got in!

I ran my first and only half marathon in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011. It was something I had always wanted to do and I ended up dedicating my run to Hunter Halvorson, who was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH) at just 2 ½ years old. (As of November Hunter has officially been classified as CURED!). I finished the half marathon in 2:03:26, just 3 ½ minutes past my goal, and I was able to raise almost $1300 in donations for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

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About a year and a half ago, my coworker and good friend, Emily changed my life by introducing me to The Ronan Foundation. As a mother, learning about the reality of childhood cancer hit my heart hard. It is a cause I have come to be extremely passionate about and I will forever fight to help raise awareness and find a cure for childhood cancer.

Before I got pregnant last year, I was getting the itch to run another race. I had always said if I were ever going to run a full marathon, I would want to run the NYC Marathon. I knew it would probably be the only marathon I would run in my lifetime, and I wanted to run in a place that meant something to me. I wanted to run in this magical city I have called home for the last eight years. I am not sure how much longer we will be calling NYC our home, so I knew I just had to find a way to run the NYC Marathon this year.

Naturally, I knew I wanted to run for Ronan and all of the other beautiful souls that have been affected by childhood cancer. I realized that in order to do that, I would need to win the lottery. A few days before registering, I went for my first run since Alwyn was born. As I was running, I said a prayer asking to be chosen in the lottery, so that I could run for the Ronan Foundation. I was aware that it was a long shot, but I just kept praying. On Thursday, the day of the drawing, I prayed all day. That night, as I laid down for bed, I checked my email. As soon as I saw it, I was instantly brought to tears. I just couldn’t believe my prayers had been answered. I was beyond excited.

I was also completely terrified. It was hard to imagine how I was ever going to find the time and energy to do this with my plate already being so full. But I will. I will find a way. I am going to do this. I have to. If so many young children can go through everything that they go through to fight for their lives, I can run 26.2 miles for them. I can and I will.

So, stay tuned for my fundraising page and wish me luck!!

Valerie Anne

My K.I.S.S. Approach to Personal Care: Oil Cleansing

I have had acne prone skin since I hit puberty, but I never imagined I would still be dealing with adult acne in my 30s. There should be a rule that you can’t get pimples if you have wrinkles or gray hair.

After so many years of experience, I know my acne has more to do with hormones and what I put in my body, and less to do with what I put on my skin, so all the traditional face washes never helped much. If they did help, eventually my skin would get used to them and my bad acne would come back. Plus, most traditional face washes, even the most “natural” ones, have a ton of ingredients in them, many that I can’t even pronounce or recognize. Birth control helped at first, especially with the large, painful cystic acne, but eventually it stopped working. I thought maybe pregnancy would help clear my skin, but that did not happen either.

I have always had a combination of dry and super oily skin. My t-zone shine would be out of control, but other areas of my skin would still be flakey and dry. I have good days and bad days, good months and bad months, but I have finally found a routine that’s worked better than anything else. It’s been over a year now that I have been using oil to clean my face, and I do not see myself going back to traditional face wash anytime soon.

I first learned about oil cleansing when I read this post. Like the Wellness Mama, I too was skeptical about using oil on my very oily, acne prone skin, but when I read more about it, the basic idea of oil cleansing made a lot of sense to me. Both Theoilcleansingmethod.com and Acne.org give great explanations for the benefits of oil cleansing:

“The basic concept of this skin care and cleansing method is that the oil used to massage your skin will dissolve the oil that has hardened with impurities and found itself stuck in your pores. The steam will open your pores, allowing the oil to be easily removed. Should you need it, the smallest drop of the same oil formula patted over damp skin will provide the necessary lubrication to keep your skin from over-compensating in oil production.” (Theoilcleansingmethod)

“Fact: Oil dissolves oil. One of the most basic principals of chemistry is that “like dissolves like.” The best way to dissolve a non-polar solvent like sebum/oil, is by using another non-polar solvent similar in composition: Other oils. By using the right oils, you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively, while replacing the dirty oil with beneficial ones extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables and fruit that heal, protect and nourish your skin. When done properly and consistently, the OCM can clear the skin from issues like oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, blackheads, whiteheads and other problems caused by mild to moderate acne–while leaving your skin healthy, balanced and properly moisturized.” (Acne.org)

I decided to read through the comments of the Wellness Mama blog post to see what worked for people and what didn’t. There were a lot of mixed reviews, many very positive, but also a good amount that were negative. I decided to give it a go despite the negative reviews.

I started with organic coconut and olive oil since I already had them in the house. I didn’t want to buy the more expensive oils before knowing if this oil cleansing would even work. I eventually added organic jojoba oil to my mix once I started seeing positive results from the oil cleansing process.

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Currently, I mix about 1/3 of each oil in a glass dropper bottle that I found at Whole Foods for just a few dollars. They are just perfect for storing my oil mixture! I have a larger one for at home use and a smaller one for traveling. Every morning I squeeze a dropper full of the oil mixture in the palm of my hand and use my fingers to massage the oil all over my face and neck. The amount of time I leave the oil on my skin varies depending on how much time I have, but is usually anywhere from 5-20 minutes. I cover my face with a hot washcloth and let it sit there until the washcloth becomes cool. Then I wipe any excess oil off with the other side of the wash cloth.

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It definitely took a few weeks for my skin to adjust to this method of cleaning, but within a month I noticed a tremendous difference in the texture and oiliness (or lack there of) of my skin. My face was still not perfectly clear. I get little bumps here and there and usually one cystic pimple on my neck or chin around that special time of the month. But overall the look of my skin has improved so much! I’ve even stopped wearing makeup on a daily basis, and usually only put a little on for special occasions or nights out.

Oil cleansing still dries out my skin a little, so I did some research and found that pure Shea butter is a good moisturizer for acne prone skin. I have been using Bubble and Bees’ Face Cream for Women and I am extremely happy with it. It’s definitely not as pricy as some face moisturizers out there and a little goes a long way, so the jar lasts for months. And it only has 3 ingredients!

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Overall, I am so happy I found this method of cleansing and was brave enough to try it! I haven’t been this happy with my skin since before puberty and it feels wonderful to finally find something that works so well and keeps on working. Oil cleansing is more cost effective, safer, healthier and environmentally friendly. As of now, I have no plans of ever going back to traditional face wash again!

 

Valerie Anne

3 Reasons I Decided to “Go Gold” for Childhood Cancer

1. I am a mom.

I’ve always been somewhat of a worry wart. In most situations, I let my mind wander to every possible outcome, often negative. This is something I am working everyday to change about myself. A part of me feels so blessed for everything that I have in my life, that sometimes I am left wondering, when is my luck going to change?

Being a mom was something I’ve wanted my whole life. Before I became pregnant I often worried that I wouldn’t be able to even become pregnant. My mother had trouble conceiving, so I always knew it was possible that I could have the same problems. When I ended up getting pregnant fairly quickly, I worried constantly throughout my pregnancy. I was researching everything and anything I put in or on my body, and although I had a relatively enjoyable pregnancy, the responsibility was scary.

The day Qwynn was born was one of the happiest, most long awaited days of my life. I never imagined all the emotions that would flood through me holding my little baby girl for the first time. Remembering that moment makes it even harder to imagine the pain and emotions someone goes through when they lose a child, especially one so young. My heart truly aches for all those moms that have lost their babies, no matter what the cause. I may have never had a child with cancer, but I do know the love a mom has for her child and I don’t know what I would do if mine was ever taken from me.

When I looked up The Ronan Thompson Foundation for the first time, I was mesmerized by this beautiful little boy with these amazing blue eyes that sparkled so bright. As a mother, I of course think my daughter is the most beautiful little human in the world, and I cannot even begin to imagine my life without her.

2. I was inspired by an amazing friend. 

I have some pretty amazing coworkers and friends who inspire me to think about things that I otherwise would have probably never thought about. I still remember when my friend Emily first told me about Ronan. Her love and compassion for a little boy she never even met was absolutely fascinating to me. Her courage and passion to do anything to help raise awareness for more childhood cancer research is definitely contagious.  I may not have been as brave as her to run all around NYC telling people about the lack of funding for childhood cancer, but only for Emmy would I cover my face in gold glitter and record myself dancing for anyone to see.

Something Emily has told me numerous times in our conversations about childhood cancer has really stuck with me…If these little kids can fight cancer, if they are brave enough to fight for their lives everyday, then there is no reason I, as an adult, can’t do something that is uncomfortable or scary to me.

I have not and will never forget this.

3. I wanted to step outside my comfort zone.

Pretty much since I can remember I’ve been a shy person. I am super critical of myself and wonder what other people are thinking about me way more than I should. I get super anxious in social situations, especially large groups.  I didn’t have a lot of friends in school and I’ve never found it easy to talk to new people.

Although I wasn’t able to get out there and personally talk to people about childhood cancer, what I loved about this challenge is that it did get me to step outside my comfort zone. It forced me to simply let go.  I didn’t worry about making a fool of myself on video. I didn’t worry about what other people might think about me putting this out there. I simply relished in the feeling of acting like a kid again. A feeling that all kids should be able to experience. The feeling of running around my parents backyard, bare feet in the grass, dancing with my nieces, sister and daughter.  It is an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Valerie Anne

The Minimalist Approach to 3 Common Baby Items

In college, I didn’t pay much attention to what I put in or on my body, but becoming a mom has made me look at many things a lot differently. The last year I have been paying a lot more attention to the food we eat and the brands we use. I am continuing my quest to live as naturally as possible, while still understanding that moderation is okay. I have adjusted my beauty routine, changed my lunch habits, and become more aware of the products I buy.

Having so much information at our fingertips is as much a blessing as it is a curse. These days it is incredibly hard to know which products are good, which ones are dangerous and which ones are an absolute necessity or not. With all that is out there, how do we know what is opinion and what is fact? Do we trust our doctors because it is their profession or do we trust our mothers, sisters and friends who share the same experiences and stories as us?

I understand that every child is different and not everything is going to work the same way for everyone, but in both my experience as an infant/toddler teacher and my personal experiences with my own toddler, I have come to the realization that most infants and toddlers don’t need these three items every time or all the time. Instead of reaching for these popular products right away (many of which have controversial ingredients), I have learned to try more natural approaches first.


1. Sunscreen

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What a debated product these days!

I am not a lotion person and never really have been. I don’t like how it feels on my hands afterwards and I always end up washing it off.  My least favorite part of working with infants and toddlers during the summer is slathering sunscreen on them every single time we go outside.

I’ve never been a daily sunscreen user. Even growing up I remember my parents only putting it on when we were camping and outside all day, or by the pool or on the beach for hours. It was never something we put on everyday or every time we went outside.

My opinion about sunscreen continued to change after reading this article about a year ago or so. Yes, sunscreen protects us from harmful UV Rays and that is extremely important, but it also blocks out many nutrients that our bodies need, especially vitamin D. My doctor even told me to give Qwynn vitamin D supplements while I was breastfeeding her because there is such a deficiency. Last week I read another article that further supported my decision to use sunscreen in moderation.  It had a lot of good information about how our bodies use the sun and alternative ways to protect your skin.

I am fortunate that I don’t burn easily, but I understand everyone’s skin is different and young children definitely have more sensitive skin. If we are spending the day at the beach or hours by the pool during the sunniest time of the day, I am of course going to protect my daughter’s skin. But when she’s just getting 20-30 minutes of sun here and there, why miss out on all those important nutrients!

This means, Qwynn doesn’t get sunscreen at school. And she is one of the few kids in school that doesn’t. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about this. Am I wrong in my opinion if I’m the only one not doing it? I’d prefer to think that, like most parents, I am just trying to do the best that I can do for my family with the information that I have at hand.

My reasoning for not having Qwynn’s teachers lather her up in sunscreen everyday is as follows—First of all, when Qwynn goes outside at school it is often before noon or after 3:30pm, so she is not normally outside durning those peak sun hours. Plus, her class is rarely outside for longer than 30-45 minutes at a time and the kids are usually moving in and out of the shade. I also make sure to send a hat to school and a bathing suit with sleeves. Sure, I would love to buy her cute little tankini swim suits (who wouldn’t?), but I figure that Qwynn has her whole adolescence to wear cute little bathing suits. For now, I’ll take the guaranteed-to-be-safe sleeves, over the controversial sunscreen.

 

2. Infant/Children’s Motrin and Tylenol

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I rarely take any medicine when I’m sick. Maybe an Ibprofen here or there if I have a really bad headache or cramps. I never really hesitated giving Qwynn Motrin or Tylenol when she was really young, but I always tried to buy the one’s that didn’t have artificial flavoring, dyes or other fillers.

When she was getting her first set of molars, I felt like she had a fever every other week and they would last for days. Her doctor even suggested that I piggyback Motrin and Tylenol (which I reluctantly did for a couple days), but the fever always seemed to come back and I got nervous about giving Qwynn so much medicine in what seemed like such a short amount of time.

I started researching teething, fevers, and natural remedies, and my perception of fevers started to change after I read this article. I learned that fevers aren’t always a bad thing and it is actually just your body’s natural way of fighting something off. When Qwynn was about 17 months old, I experienced just what this article was talking about.

We were in California for the Stanley Cup Finals last June and Qwynn woke up from a nap with a 104 fever.  I couldn’t believe that the fever was back! We were definitely worried, but I didn’t want to pull out the Motrin just yet. We had spent a couple hours on the beach that morning and had lunch in the sun on the pier, so I thought those things might be contributing factors to the high number.

We decided to forgo the medicine for the time being and instead walked to dinner (getting Qwynn some cool fresh air), and grabbed a yogurt and smoothie on the way to the restaurant. Qwynn started to perk up halfway through the smoothie and when we took her temp back at the hotel a few hours later, her fever had gone down to 101. The next morning her fever was gone!

This experience completely changed my perception of fevers. I just couldn’t believe that Qwynn’s temperature had gone down a whole 3 degrees in just a few short hours just by cooling down the inside and outside of her body. From then on, I have chosen to try natural methods (i.e. cold washcloths, teethers, popsicles, etc.) before reaching into the medicine cabinet. I’m not saying that I don’t keep a bottle of Children’s Motrin around “just in case,” or that I will never give it to Qwynn again, but as long as she is healthy enough and comfortable enough to fight off any fevers or pain naturally, I will leave the medicine where it is.

 

3. Diaper Cream:

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I bought diaper cream when Qwynn was first born because I thought I was supposed to. I did pay attention to the brand I bought, choosing a more “natural’ one, but I never used it with her on a daily basis and only applied it a few times when she was really young. Even then I always hesitated because the best way to prevent or heal a diaper rash is to keep it dry. So applying a moist cream just never made sense to me.

The last two diaper rashes Qwynn had were healed in two days without using any diaper cream or ointment. First, I made sure the area was completely clean. I know it is absolute torture listening to a baby or toddler scream as you wipe their raw bottom, but if you don’t remove absolutely everything, then the area will take so much longer to heal and may even get worse. This is another reason I avoid using diaper cream for a rash. It takes twice as long to get the area completely clean when there is a thick layer of cream that you have to wipe off too.

I also made sure to keep the area as dry as possible at all times. I changed Qwynn’s diaper more often and constantly check for BM’s. I let her bottom air out as much as possible by letting her go diaper-less for 10-15 minutes here and there. I would put a towel on her chair while she ate or on the hardwood floor while she was playing with her toys to prevent too much of a mess.

I know it seems so much easier to just throw on some cream and go, but I feel like it’s better in the long run for your body to learn to heal on its own rather than always relying on creams, ointments and medicines. I have seen a lot of bad diaper rashes in my years and I get that all babies are different, so if they are completely uncomfortable and in pain, you use whatever will make them feel better. For now though, as long as my daughter isn’t absolutely miserable, I choose air over cream.


Valerie Anne