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I’ll admit that I put off writing this post because I just feel completely unqualified to write anything about homeschooling at this point. But so many people have asked questions since we made the decision to homeschool our kids, so I’ve decided to share my journey with you in real time, and you can learn along with me, okay?

Seth is five and has been in a small church-based preschool for the past two years. All along, we were planning to send him to public school- either the one we’re zoned for (which is an excellent school, as public schools go) or a local charter I’ve heard good things about. But this past year in the VPK program, they began to spend quite a lot more time with worksheets and desk work, and with that increase Seth started to get in trouble for talking and being silly. He began to ask if he could stay home, and declared a keen dislike for tracing letters and coloring. He even once told me that he really doesn’t like “all the learning stuff” at school, and wants to just play with his friends. It was heartbreaking to see him already, at age 4, not wanting to go to school and thinking that he just doesn’t enjoy learning, based on his preschool experiences. I dreaded the fact that kindergarten was sure to up the ante on all the parts that were turning him off, and most likely would also make it even harder for him to conform behaviorally. Growing up in public schools, I remember many kids—so many of them energetic boys like my son—who were highly intelligent but were constantly in trouble and as we got older simply stopped caring about school altogether. I was also unpleasantly surprised at some words and mannerisms that Seth had already started pick up from the other kids. While I by no means wish to raise my kids in a bubble, and I know that I can’t shelter them from every negative influence, I have serious problems with having so little control or knowledge of what my kid is exposed to throughout the day. And with my own experiences of how kids treat each other, what they talk about, and how very much goes on under the adults’ radar, even during elementary school- I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were about to send him off and allow him to be primarily shaped and influenced by the rest of the world rather than us. The more I thought all of this over and discussed it with Manny, the more certain I was that I had to find another way to educate our children.

Homeschool was always in the back of mind, but I’d convinced myself that I simply could not make it work. I couldn’t picture the day-to-day life of running a business and a home working with teaching the kids myself and having them home all day every day. But I began to research and read, and found that many homeschooling moms work at home, and that especially in the early years, the actual time needed to sit down and instruct them is minimal. It began to feel doable, and I knew that it was just the right choice for our family. I realized that rather than a hindrance, my job is a blessing in that I can work at home and be here with the kids, with shoots in the evenings and weekends. And there are so many parents who even make homeschooling work with full-time jobs outside that home, because it is just that important to them. I saw that so much of it comes down to priorities.

No it will not be easy. Yes I will have to be pretty disciplined and organized to keep up with everything. Yes I will need help, and am eternally grateful for my support system of husband, family, and some close friends who will also be homeschooling. It will probably be crazy sometimes (lets be real- life around here is already crazy!) But it is simply too important for me to not to do my best to make it happen. Homeschooling aligns perfectly with so many of the key principles of my parenting philosophy. Being with them and learning with them each day, growing a garden together, teaching them to cook, spending time outside, allowing everything we experience to teach us—that is irreplaceable.

I have talked to a lot of homeschooling moms over the last few months, and while they all agree that it isn’t always easy, each and every one has said that they have never regretted their decision to homeschool.

So here we go!

 

almondmilk5

I’ve used almond milk for years now in place of regular milk, and since going completely dairy free a few months ago I’ve been using it even more. It’s definitely my milk alternative of choice. I always purchased cartons of it at the store, but then I decided to try making it myself at home and I haven’t bought another jug since! It’s just as good (if not better), super easy, and requires very little time commitment.

And then there’s the savings: I figured out that making it myself cuts the cost almost in half. I buy blanched slivered almonds from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, but really I could go even cheaper and get whole raw almonds with skin on.

The first time I tried this I used cheesecloth to strain it, and there was a lot of grittiness from the pulp left in the milk. Then I saw nut milk bags mentioned somewhere online, and purchased one of these on Amazon, and now I’m a total convert. Completely worth the money, and less wasteful than using cheesecloth and throwing it away!

So here’s how to do it:

Soak 1 cup of raw or blanched almonds in twice as much water for several hours (or over night).

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Drain and rinse the almonds and place into a high-powered blender (mine is a Vitamix). Add 3 1/2 cups of filtered water and blend on high for 30-60 seconds until it looks like you’re just blending milk.

Place your nut milk bag into a medium-sized bowl, and hold it open while pouring the contents of the blender into the bag. The lift the bag over the bowl and squeeze, starting at the top and working down. I finish by kind of sectioning off pieces of the pulp and squeezing those, just to get every last drop.

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Use a funnel to pour the milk into a 32 ounce glass container (a quart-sized mason jar is perfect).

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Try to use within 4-5 days, and shake it up before each use. Keep the pulp in a container for up to 4 days.

 

The first time I made it, I saved the pulp but wasn’t really sure what to do with it. After a bit of googling, I found this cracker recipe and fell in love (there is a serious lack of crackers in this frugal gluten free girl’s life lately!). These are sweet and the flavor reminds me of graham crackers; I’m definitely planning to try making some savory almond pulp crackers as well!

Every single time I make a batch this creamy white goodness, I get this hilariously awesome feeling of self-sufficiency and green domestic goddess-ness. I mean, I just made milk.

Yes I realize you’re laughing at me right now. But seriously, try it! It’s pretty empowering.

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isaacbeach

Today I’m over at TCM with a few thoughts on balance, and seeking it moment-by-moment. This post literally came to me all at once while I was driving earlier this week. (Seriously, I get so many post ideas while driving, and then at the light I scramble to get them all on paper before it turns green!)

Have a wonderful weekend!

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avocado_mango_salad

 

 

This salad. I’m a little obsessed. I could eat it every day, at any time of the day. And it’s super seasonal right now (here at least). Yum!

How to make it:

1 avocado, cut into cubes
1 small-medium mango (I love those small yellow “honey” mangoes!), cut into cubes
juice of 1/2 lime
handful of chopped fresh cilantro
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt, kosher, whatever)
optional: 1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained

Combine all of the above in a bowl. Mix and enjoy!

 

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detoxwater

I can’t believe my last post on this blog was nearly a year ago. Suddenly I’ve had an urge to write publicly again lately, about things other than art and photography (which of course I do over here). I think Instagram is largely to blame for my absence here. It’s so easy to snap a photo and type out a little blurb about what’s happening in my life, and press share. Instant gratification. But I’ve got more on my mind these days and for some reason I have this innate pull to share it with whomever wants to listen. So here I am, once again. Hello :)

Ten months since my last post also means ten months since finding out I have Hashimoto’s. It’s been quite the journey, to say the least. After months of the strictest eating plan I’ve ever followed, my headaches were more frequent than ever and I felt awful. I spent the last few months of last year eating mostly healthy but with no restrictions. I was traveling, working quite a lot, doing the holidays thing, and I knew something had to change again at some point but I just wasn’t ready. In January I began reading more about Hashi’s and knew that gluten really didn’t have a place in my life anymore, and that it would have to be permanent. Apparently gluten and my thyroid look too similar to my crazy immune system, so when I eat gluten it creates antibodies to attack it, which then get confused and attack my thyroid too. So I made peace with saying goodbye to wheat, and honestly it hasn’t been as hard as one would think.

While this seemed to help some, I was still not feeling great. I saw an endocrinologist for the first time, and then received a recommendation from a friend for a nurse practitioner she sees for Hashi’s, who specializes in functional medicine. I made an appointment right away, and I’m so thankful. She confirmed my gluten-free decision, and prescribed a 10-day detox program, a daily circumin supplement (to reduce inflammation in my body), a predominantly alkaline diet, and then another blood test in a few months to see if my antibody levels decrease. So that’s where I am now. I loved the detox program. It wasn’t easy, but I felt so clear and just better. It’s been over a week since it ended, and so far I still haven’t eaten dairy or sugar because I just feel so much better without them. I’ve had coffee only once since, which is huge for me. I really enjoy coffee. But I’m trying to make it a once-in-a-while treat rather than a daily thing I depend on.

So right now, my diet is predominantly plant-based. I eat more vegetables and legumes than I ever have before. Fruit, some gluten-free grains, some fish and eggs, and sometimes poultry. I’m trying to purchase organic/wild caught/cage free whenever I can, and my current challenge is doing this while sticking with a reasonable food budget. (I’ll write a whole post on that endeavor soon.)

I do still get headaches, but they’re not as bad or as frequent since I did the detox. And there’s an obvious link between them and either lack of water or increase in stress. I read somewhere that people who have autoimmune diseases are like the canaries in the coal mine for everyone else. Things that everyone else should do, we just pay a much bigger price for ignoring them. We’re sensitive, so we have to take extra care with how we eat, what toxins we’re exposed to, our stress levels, sleep quality, and basically every area of self care. My body forces me to slow down and care for myself, and if I don’t I inevitably crash- unable to care for those who need me or keep up with my work and other responsibilities. Lots of people, when they hear how I eat now, say they could never do this, that they love bread and cheese and sweets coffee way too much. Trust me, I love them too. But the alternative for me is feeling exhausted constantly, in pain almost all the time, and consequently short on the patience and energy required to raise tiny humans, run a business, and live my life. Now, for the first time in years, I am myself more often then I’m not. I’m enjoying playing with my kids, and I have the energy to do the things I love. It’s amazing. Giving up those foods and changing my lifestyle doesn’t feel like a sacrifice anymore—it feels like an incredible gift.

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I’ll be back soon. (for real this time!)

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© 2013 Hannah Mayo Photography

© 2013 Hannah Mayo Photography

I know I said I was back, and then I left you hanging ;)

I’ve been a bit preoccupied with photographing awesome peeps in love and raising babies, and also for a while it felt like I’d hit a dead end on the path to ridding myself of headaches.

Then I heard about food sensitivity testing, which led me to a local natural health practice that offers such a test. After meeting with a practitioner there, I had a lot of blood drawn (like, I nearly passed out), and today I met with her for the results. Which led me back here, to this blog, because I’m just starting to process everything and it’s simply too complicated for an Instagram or Facebook post. I know it will be of no interest whatsoever to many out there, but writing always helps me process things.

The tests that were done were basically a full workup and hormone panel- vitamins, thyroid, and on and on- and a food sensitivity test called LEAP-MRT.

Much of my regular health labs came back good, but it’s been determined that I have Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland as if it were a foreign entity, eventually resulting in severe hypothyroidism. It can progress over the course of years and even decades, and often in the beginning it isn’t detected because thyroid levels themselves will remain in normal range. The true test for the presence of the condition is a thyroid antibody test, which isn’t included in routine bloodwork. In all my years of seeing doctor after doctor for my headaches, most of them ordered blood tests, but this practitioner is the first who’s ever checked my thyroid antibodies. Even before true hypothyroidism occurs, symptoms can begin to show up and are often written off as unrelated and without apparent cause. It tends to be genetic, and my mom had it before finally having her thyroid removed last year. Mine is in very early stages still and does not require any thyroid replacement medicine. My nurse practitioner is optimistic that following the diet they’ve outlined for me will do a lot to keep my levels in check.

Hashimoto’s and food sensitivities often go hand-in-hand, so it turns out that the MRT results could help with it and my headaches (it’s likely the two are closely connected anyway). The foods I’m reactive to are broken into high and moderate reaction levels. For the next three months, I need to avoid all the food from both categories, and then I can challenge by moderately reactive foods one at a time. I wont bore you with the entire list, but suffice to say that for the next three months I have to avoid dairy, gluten, soy, rice, quinoa, oranges, onions, shrimp, walnuts, and several other foods.

The nutritionist I met with suggested I learn about the Paleo diet and the recipes that go along with it, and loosely follow that since there are so many grains on my “no” list. So here I go into entirely new food territory, re-learning how to eat (and shop, and cook). I’ve been pretty overwhelmed thinking about it today- knowing that I have to find alternatives for so many things I’m used to eating, and wondering how I’m going to organize our meals when I have to eat so much differently from my family. But I know I’ll find a groove with it, and if it leads to feeling well and being pain-free it will certainly be worth the effort.

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Hello there! Life has been so full lately. Isaac turned one (whaat?! I know!), and we threw a party for him and Seth, whose birthday was a few weeks ago. I’m preparing to shoot my first wedding of the year- actually my first since Isaac was born, this coming Saturday. I’m so excited to get back to weddings, and this one is going to be amazing!

Something interesting happened concerning my headaches. A friend of mine told me about her acupunnturist, and strongly encouraged me to give him a try. I’ve had acupuncture before, with mixed results, and I ended up deciding that it wasn’t working for me. She explained that different acupuncturists can work differently though (makes sense), and this guy had worked wonders for her and her husband. So I made an appointment, and went last week. Dr. M seemed to know exactly what my problem is, and was totally confident that I would feel completely better with as little as one treatment and an herbal supplement he prescribed. He also told me to avoid caffeine, but was confident that gluten sensitivty isn’t an issue for me. I left feeling so hopeful and encouraged by his confidence. It’s been one week, and I’ve still had headaches every day, but he did say it could take a little while and that I may need more treatments. So I’m still hopeful (though I’ll admit I was hoping for an immediate change), and I’ll be booking another appointment soon. I’ll keep you updated as I continue with it.

Even though I’d only been off gluten for a bit over a month, I decided to try eating it again after what Dr. M said. The verdict is still out. I’m not sure if it is a cooincidence or not, but a day after I intruduced it back into my diet, I had the most awful, painful bloating (tmi? I’m sorry). My digestive system is so sensitive, and it’s always been pretty hard me to figure out what ticks it off. So I may remove gluten again after all.

Anyway, since juicing is a huge part of my life now- I juice at least once, and sometimes twice, a day- I thought I’d start sharing some of my favorite concoctions here. We just upgraded our juicer, and I couldn’t be more excited about my Omega 8006. Seriously, I’m in love! It is a masticating juicer, where the one I had before was a centrifugal. (You can read about the different types here if you’re interested.)

So without further ado, here’s the juice of the week!

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This is what I’m drinking at this very moment as I type, and it’s delicious! I keep the stems from all our broccoli for juice, because there are nutrients there too, and I try to use every part of the produce we purchase.

I bought my sunflower sprouts at Whole Foods yesterday, but I would really love to try growing them myself. I may need to wait until we move due to space constraints. Have any of you grown your own sprouts? Any tips? I think sunflower sprouts need a bed of dirt, but maybe I’ll try a different kind that I can do in a jar for now…

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Well hello there!

I haven’t written here on this blog in quite some time now. I used to post about motherhood and share some of my personal, everyday photography here, but as you can read in my last post, I made the decision that those things belong on my professional blog- that there wasn’t so much of separation between my daily life and my business, so it should just all be in one place.  So ever since May of last year I’ve been writing and posting over there, and also sharing lots of daily life tidbits on Instagram.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve begun a journey towards healing from years of almost daily migraines. I’ve shared a bit about the changes I’m making in my Instagram feed, but I was thinking maybe I should start a new blog to chronicle all of this. While I am definitely not an expert by any stretch, I’ve been passionate about health and nutrition topics for yeas, and have read a ton on the subject. I love creating new recipes and trying new things, and of course taking pictures of all of it, so why not share some of that? As I pondered a name for this hypothetical health/food/life-to-the-fullest blog, and began thinking of what the design would be like (because of course that is of utmost importance to design nerds like myself), it dawned on me to just start up again here.

Seeking Equipoise- seeking balance- is exactly what I am doing. When I named this blog, I was thinking balance in terms of life in general. Now I’m focusing on balance in my body through whole foods and healthy living. And it’s my hope and prayer that as I find that balance and bring my hormones and chemistry into harmony within my body, that the pain that plagues my days will be just a memory.

So welcome to Seeking Equipose, version 2.0!

A few months ago, my headaches had once again increased in frequency, so that I was in pain for at least part of nearly every day. Sometimes I’d go to bed with a migraine and wake up after a rest;ess night to find it still pounding away. I was tired, impatient, mentally foggy, and some days even depressed because of the constant pain.

My chronic headaches began when I was a teenager, and back then I had every test done, saw many different doctors and tried many different medications with various yucky side effects. Nothing was found to be specifically wrong with me, no apparent cause could be found, and nothing that was tried ever helped.

I turned 17 during my first year away at college (yes I was a just a baby), and a new doctor tried me on a strong, nasty medicine that made me feel drugged all the time but still didn’t help. After months of feeling that way, losing 12 pounds, and still having headaches, I decided that traditional western doctors and methods were not going to help me. I began seeing a chiropractor regularly, and ended up learning so much about health from her. Getting adjusted did decrease the frequency of my headaches, which I’ve been so grateful for, but it did not make them stop.

Over the eight years since then, I’ve lived with migraines. They’re an unwelcome part of my life. Sometimes they only come once or twice a week, but other times its every day. Late last year the frequency increased again, and I was busy being mom to my two boys and running a full time photography business. I pushed through the pain as best I could, as I couldn’t afford to succumb to it. But one day I just knew something had to give. There must be an answer; I simply can’t accept that all this pain has no cause. Both my chiropractor and my nutrition expert friend Liz advised that I keep a food journal and look for possible triggers. Then through Liz’s advice, I began an elimination diet. For at least the next three months I’m cutting dairy, gluten, and sugar out of my diet, to see if there is any difference once they’re fully out of my system. I’m also minimizing processed food, eating raw and juicing frequently, and following a routine of supplements that Liz recommended.

These are huge changes, made rather suddenly- especially after the crazy processed sugar fest of the holiday season! But it will we worth it, and I reached a point of desperation. One night after eating a piece of cake and just feeling terrible immediately, I realized how ridiculous it was for me to consume things that ruin my health and overall happiness, just because they taste good while I’m eating them. It’s simply not worth it. I decided then and there that I’ll give up whatever I need to in order to be free from this pain, because once I am I know that I’ll be a better mom, wife, and friend, a more focused business owner and artist, and just a much happier person.

So here I am, writing this to document my journey to a better, healthier life. I’m only weeks into this, and making new little changes all the time still. I’m still getting headaches of varying intensity daily, but I can already tell that my body feels healthier. On those rare headache-free days, I have so much more life and energy than I used to, and I’m tons more productive. Last week, as I was dancing with Seth in the living room, my husband commented that I’m a different person when I’m not hurting. It’s so true. I hope that those days are a preview of what every day will be like in the future!
I have no idea who out there will be interested in all of this, but I’m writing it for myself and for anyone who might be helped or inspired by it. If you decide to follow along or even join in a bit- welcome! I’m so glad you’re here!

 

I started blogging when I was sixteen. I had just started college, and I met a few people who had Xanga sites. I liked the idea, and started one for myself. I wrote about my life, my spiritual journey, some poetry of sorts. I enjoyed sharing bits and pieces of my life with whoever might be interested. Eventually I stopped posting there. Soon after Manny and I got married, I started a little Blogger blog, which later became Seeking Equipoise. I blogged about my first pregnancy and my journey into motherhood, my reflections on balancing family and business… and now there is what you see before you.

During the last few years, I’ve also had a separate blog for my business. I didn’t necessarily keep them separate on purpose. I knew I should have one connected to my work, and I just continued to post here as I’d always done. But somewhere along the way, the lines began to blur. My work is my life is my work, and so on. It all gets photographed. But what gets posted where? Just because it of my own children rather than someone else’s doesn’t necessarily make it less professional. My hope is that there will be no difference in quality between my personal images and my client ones. They are all my work. And why shouldn’t my clients get to know me, and see my everyday life and read my random thoughts, if they wish to? In fact, I want to my clients to see all that, because I am my business. This is a one-woman operation, and as much as I am hired for my work and my style, I am hired for me. The personal connection with each person I photograph is so incredibly important. The personal aspect isn’t a lack of professionalism- it’s an acknowledgment that the only thing that makes my business unique from any other photographer is me. The way I see things, my vision and voice, and my personality. Who I am as person and how I see the world are inseparable from who I am as a photographer and how I run my business, tell peoples stories, and interact with my clients.

In short, it no longer feels right to separate ”personal” and “business” on my blogs when there is no true separation in reality. So this week I migrated all of this year’s Seeking Equipoise posts to my photoblog, and from now on all new posts will be there. I’ll admit that I feel a bit of nostalgia about leaving Seeking Equipoise. It’s been like a comfortable old friend for so long. (Silly? I know.) Anywhere I’m posting will undoubtedly be mine in the same way this has been. I’m planning to keep this site up for archive’s sake. If you’re a regular reader I do you hope you’ll follow me over to the HMP blog (and add it to your feedreader, etc.) Much love, and see you over there!

(Obviously the above photo, from a recent beach visit, is unrelated to this post. I just can’t stand to blog without at least one image in the post.)

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We love music around here. For the most part, we haven’t sought out albums that are specifically for kids. Seth has always listened to the things we like- from my soulful indie tunes to my husband’s electronic instrumentals. When he was a baby there was a period of time when the only way I could get him to sleep at night was to wear him in the Ergo while playing “his”, which consisted of Bob Marley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Coldplay, and finished off with his favorite: Hey Oh by the Chili Peppers. I’ve played a few kid-specific things for him, like some Raffi faves from my own childhood (Baby Beluga, anyone?) and Jack Johnson’s kid album. But usually he enjoys our “grown-up” tunes.

One day, though, I heard a sample of kids music by Renee and Jeremy, and I loved what I heard. I ended up purchasing both of their albums- C’Mon, which is full of upbeat dance-worthy tunes, and It’s a Big World, which is softer and lullaby-esque. We have enjoyed these two so, so much around here. They are not the least bit annoying like some kids music could be. I actually very much enjoy listening to the sweet tunes and beautiful harmony of their voices. I don’t mind getting these sings stuck in my head for the rest of the day : ) And Seth adores them- they are perfect for impromptu living room dance parties and chilling out on long car rides. The lyrics are so great, too- full of really positive messages about things like love and sharing.

They just came out with a brand new album, A Little Love, which I happily added to our collection. It features Renee & Jeremy-style covers of songs by Coldplay, REM, Supertramp, John Lennon, and Yael Naim. It’s really fun.

This is Seth and I dancing to C’Mon, the day before I went into labor with Isaac at 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I think I was trying to dance the baby out- maybe it worked?!

{I just wanted to share this find with you. I am in no way affiliated with Renee & Jeremy, though I’d bet that they’re a couple of really cool people.}

You can listen to samples of- and purchase- their music on their website. They also have some fun little music videos.

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