My Experiment With Red Light Therapy.

Two months ago I had chronic and continuous back pain (caused by dozens of recurring muscle knots – I was seeing a Physical Therapist regularly, taking a muscle relaxer at night, 1-2 doses of ibuprofen a day, and having to take 1-2 heating pad breaks every day), sharp hip flexor pain when I tried to run, and an inability to get comfortable while sleeping. 45 days later, I now have zero back pain, I am running with zero pain AND at a pace that is 1 to 2 minutes a mile faster than I have been able to in over three years, and am falling asleep faster and sleeping comfortably.

I know. Sounds like an infomercial. But let’s start by where I’m coming from.

I’m a skeptic. Especially regarding the newest, greatest, fix-everything solutions. They never seem to work on me because placebo effects don’t work on me due to my extreme skepticism. Which sucks, really. I’d love to have some placebo effects.

However, I am an optimistic skeptic.

I’m an early adopter of new things, and get excited about those things, but then I take a deeply analytical and objective view of them, and therefore cannot convince myself  that they’re working. I take good notes, I measure results without emotion, and I usually come up short. So I try all the things, and I keep doing hardly any of the things.

So the fact that I am objectively, absolutely, 100% convinced of the results I have seen in the past month and a half is mind-blowing – especially to me.

After three years of regular physical therapy visits for my back, legs, and other ailments, and a year of my physical therapist repeatedly telling me that he thought I could benefit from Red Light Therapy, I bought a book that put all the scientific studies into plain English, read the book in one night, and ordered a Red Light that same night. Within days, my life was changed. Two weeks later I bought a second Red Light.

Red Light Therapy Grasping Objectivity

(Let me go ahead and say: I have zero stake in red light therapy, nor have I been asked to review it, nor have I been in touch with the company to which I paid full price for both my lights.)

So what the heck is Red Light Therapy and why haven’t you heard of it?

You haven’t heard of it because it only recently became affordable for consumers to own. Each light that I bought was $750 (and you really only need one, but two makes the process quicker.) A couple of years ago, the cheapest Red Light Therapy device we knew of was $100,000. You can see why I waited until now to try it.

Red LightSo. What it is. It sounds really hokey that a light could make you feel better in all the ways, but there is a lot of science behind it (thousands of well-run studies), it’s already FDA approved for many uses (and is used by doctors, health spas, and physical therapists), and they actually know what the red light does – it activates, heals, and energizes mitochondria – i.e. The engine of our cells, so it makes total sense that it could help so many functions in your body.

The basic takeaway is this: we as humans need red and infrared light, and we don’t get enough of it. Because of that, our cells are unnecessarily sluggish, effecting our energy, our moods, our muscle recovery and growth, our sleep, and pretty much our everything. By getting a daily or every other day dose of red light, we can have more energy, less pain, and better functioning muscles. Because I was having such extreme and chronic muscle pain, I can absolutely attest to its effectiveness.

I started using the light on December 1, which consists of laying in front of my light (about 6 inches away from it) and rotating angles every 3-5 minutes to let it light every surface of my skin. I have taken 13 pages of notes, documenting daily how I feel in every facet, what time I used the light, how I felt afterward, how I slept, how I ran, and everything else I could think to document. Here is a summary of those notes:

– On the third day of use, my back pain went away. Completely. I discontinued taking ibuprofen and muscle relaxers, and didn’t need my heating pad anymore (though I held onto its use for a few more days because it had become an expected comfort in my life.) Before that, I had not had a back-pain-free day in months.

– Toward the end of the first week, I began to find myself wanting to run longer. I went from having intense hip flexor pain after running 3 miles to running 8 miles with no pain.

– I also noticed at the end of that first week that a pain I’ve had continuously since I started running – sharp knee pain upon walking downstairs the day of and the day after a run – was completely gone. I could walk downstairs with no pain and without leaning on the handrail.

– I found myself falling asleep immediately – something I do not do. I’m normally a 30-minutes-of-wind-down person, all while resenting my immediately-asleep husband. But I was now actually sleepy at bedtime and would feel myself immediately drifting off. It was shocking and magical the first few times it happened.

– Using the light gives me an immediate energy boost. I can wake up sluggish and with burning eyes, then feel energetic and have no eye burn after using the light.

– One of the FDA approved uses is to get rid of cellulite. Three weeks after using the light daily, I went into our bathroom with the most unflattering lighting and did a search for my always-plenteous thigh cellulite. It was gone.

– Starting in the third week, my legs all of a sudden felt bionic when I ran. They had no pain, no muscle burn or soreness, and felt significantly faster and more able. I could run up hills, without breaking pace, that I’d always walked up before. My legs felt like they were putting out no effort. It was spectacular. From there, my speed began ramping up to levels that I literally could not make my legs move before I started using the light. I remember last summer feeling like I was flying one day, and then being discouraged when my pace, still fast for me, was 10:30. I am now running sub-10 miles every time I run – up to 6 sub-10 miles in a row – and have nearly run a flat 9 minute mile (9:08. So close.) For me, this is huge. After my wreck in 2015, I became a much slower runner and have hung out in 11-12 minute miles since then. So to be running 9-9:30 is a huge gain for me – one that is clearly a result of the red light.

Here’s my six mile run from this past weekend next to my fastest run in November, which was the month before I started using the light:

Red Light Therapy Running Pace Comparison
– I also used to get injured when I would run faster than 10 minute miles – I would have knee or ankle pain for several days after going “too fast.” Last January I even resolved to run less in 2018 and hike more so that my knees could be more healthy. Despite the fact that I’m running faster than I have in over three years, I am experiencing no aches and pains from my running, during or after the runs.

– After three weeks, some of my back pain returned. It wasn’t as bad as it was before, and was more localized. I was discouraged, because I couldn’t figure out why it would show back up, but then I was able to pinpoint where it was coming from: our old and unsupportive mattress. The light had stripped away all of my other muscle pain to make it obvious that the one thing I couldn’t red light away – my mattress – was still hurting me. We bought a new mattress and now I am back to zero back pain, all the time.

There are many, many other FDA approved and researched uses for the lights. Although my lack of pain has been miraculous, the thing that got me most excited about the light’s potential are the documented cognitive improvements it can make over time. It’s supposed to make your brain work better, which y’all know I need. If a light could make me able to write again, I would be ever so thankful. That’s still out on trial, but hey – I am writing this, so it’s a start.

So if you’re interested in trying Red Light Therapy, here are my tips:

1. Read this book first. It has so much valuable information in it, and is an easy read that is objective and informative.
Red Light Therapy Book

2. BUY CAREFULLY. Most Red Light products (there are a ton on Amazon) are not powerful enough to work. The studies have been able to pinpoint what wavelengths and outputs are helpful, and it’s a pretty specific science. The book explains all of this and has several brands they recommend. The two I got are PlatinumLED Therapy Light’s BIO-600, Combo Red light.

3. Make it a part of your daily routine. I think the dramatic effects I’ve experienced are because I have used it every single day – and sometimes twice a day.

4. Take notes. Find what time works best for you. I found that too close to bedtime kept me awake, but about 4 hours before bedtime put me to sleep. However, in general I tend to use it earlier in the day for the energy boost. And I can also tell a huge difference in runs after I’ve used the light for the day versus runs before lighting.

 

So clearly, I’m a believer. I will continue to take notes and use the light daily, and will update its results in the future. Feel free to ask me any questions!

For the Mamas Thinking About Homeschooling.

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Every year about this time, I have a fresh crop of preschool moms who ask me about homeschooling. I’ve never considered myself an expert at homeschooling – I don’t read all the books, attend all the conferences, or lobby for laws. But having homeschooled as a child for 12 years, and now having made it nearly through the fifth grade in homeschooling my own kids, I do think I have a unique perspective on it, both coming and going.

I’m not the person you want to talk to for a list of all the great homeschooling resources (I tend to be a renegade and do my own thing), nor am I a curriculum expert (I make quick decisions and don’t research every curriculum out there.) But if you want to know what it looks like, how it works, how it’s not nearly as overwhelming as it seems, and are looking for a few practical tips along the way, I’m your girl.

First, a couple ground rules:
1. Homeschooling is not the right answer for every family. It is not the more holy, more dedicated, or a more better Momming decision. It is just an option. An option that works great for some families and is a nightmare for others.

2. Don’t let me stress you out. If my way doesn’t work for you, do it your way. That’s the loveliness of homeschooling: You get to tailor it to fit perfectly into your family’s personalities, schedules, and learning styles. Don’t ever feel like you have to do it someone else’s way or you’re wrong.

Okay?

Okay.

Here are my collection of tips and insights.

…Homeschooling seems overwhelming. It seems harder and more work. But I personally find it to be the most efficient, most laid back, least time-squandering form of education for my particular family. We finish our school around 12 or 1 every day, do not have homework, and spend our afternoons exploring, hiking, and being outdoors, which is also totally education. My kids have an appreciation for the woods, for nature, and for the universe that I believe they would not have as much time for if they were in a classroom setting.

…However, if you homeschool, that means you’re pretty much committing yourself to being with your kids all. the. time. And that’s okay. But remember that you’re doing double duty – you’re now mom and teacher. Which means you deserve – no require – twice the number of breaks away from your children. Never feel guilty for taking time and money to pursue your hobbies, your introvert coffee shop visits,  dates with your husband, your retreat weekends away. The better your mental state, the better teacher you’ll be.

…On that note, don’t feel guilty about paying babysitters. Think of it as using a little bit of the money you’re saving on that private school tuition (if your second option would be private school.) It’s just a part of the expense of homeschooling: teacher sanity breaks.

…While we’re on the subject of spending money, also don’t feel guilty about spending money to buy supplemental books or experiments, going on road trips with your kids, and multi-colored pens. Because you cannot homeschool without a proper set of multi-colored pens.

…If you like being outdoors, or if you have wanderlust, or both, you can totally implement these things into your curriculum. I don’t remember much about the things I learned in either elementary school or college, but I remember the nature walks my mom took me on. I remember the flower pressings we did, and the leaf drawings. I hope my kids, also, remember the time we spend outdoors, and learn to love this planet and all her beauty. Our year-long Alabama History project is an example of how I snaked my love of Alabama, exploring outdoors, and photography into what turned out to be a pretty fantastic educational year.

…If you’re starting out in Kindergarten, make it fun. Your job for the first year is to help them associate learning with enjoyment, not with toiling and dread. Don’t get bogged down in health and spelling and a twenty-subject curriculum kit. The time will come for that. If they like workbooks, get some cheap workbooks (For Noah, he was interested in Star Wars. So I found Star Wars workbooks.) If they don’t like workbooks, learn counting and letters in a non-workbook way. For examples of what I mean: use gummies to teach math, play store with your kids, and make them secret codes to encourage reading and writing.

…iPads are not your enemy, when set up as an educational device and with rules about when they may be used. iPad learning games can teach so much so quickly – because it’s using fun games to do so, and they want to keep progressing in those games. I haven’t updated these posts since Ali was little, but here and here are some of the games Ali and Noah used when they were in Kindergarten and First Grade.

…As soon as they can read, teach them as quickly as possible how to be independent learners with some of their subjects. The way to do this is to have a routine, so they know what is expected of them each day. At this point, Ali (fifth grade) is 90% independent: She knows what she needs to accomplish in Math, English, Reading, Bible, History, and Writing. As I type this, Noah (first grade) is eating breakfast and reading a book. After he finishes, he knows that he needs to write in his diary. After that, it’s time for math, at which point he will come get me to join him.

…The reason to teach them independence in studies is two-fold: it enables you to focus on one child at a time, because the other children are involved in their own school. Secondly, it prepares them for college from a young age with good study skills and self-motivation. College was so much easier to grasp for me than my friends because I knew how to read the textbook, take notes, study, and take a test, without relying completely on someone walking me through the material.

…Routines are great for every day, but don’t forget that you have all the freedom in the world to mix it up. Take a trip. Go outside. Learn something hands-on.

…Your children will one day praise your name if you make them keep a daily diary. Ali has kept one since she was 4 – they’re all lined up on a shelf, and she loves reading them. Noah started one this school year (he writes two sentences a day), and it’s already his prized possession. Ali always liked drawing a picture to illustrate her entries, so I tried to get Noah to do that too. However, he doesn’t like drawing, so he asks me every day if I took any pictures the day before and asks me to print one out for him. This has made his diary a lovely daily scrapbook.

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…Make your life as streamlined as possible with technology. My favorite school purchase was this printer. Because a) it has a separate tray for 4×6 photo paper, so it’s always loaded and ready to go to print a picture for a kid’s school report or diary. And b) it’s Wi-Fi and simple to set up, so I can print easily from my phone with one click and without even having to walk in the same room as the printer. In the old days, I would have had to send the picture to my computer, load photo paper into the printer, make sure the printer was connected to my laptop, and then print. Nobody’s got time for that.

…Create systems of motivation and reward for your children. They’ll fade over time as you forget to do them and they don’t need the motivation as much, but they make all the difference in times of I’m-losing-my-sanity-and-I-need-my-children-to-clean-up-their-freaking-messes-and-do-their-flipping-school. My most thorough/successful motivation tool is in this post, an earlier version can be found here, and yet another system can be found here.

…Find a digital or paper planner school recordkeeping system that works for you. I couldn’t find a school recordkeeping system that worked for me, so I made my own – you can see and download it here. On this same note, keep up with your summer educational pursuits. That includes book reading (like summer reading programs), trips, hikes, sports, and anything educational you do. It’s totally worth the paperwork to count some days during the summer and have less in May when you’re SO DONE. The template I use for that is included in the above link.

…Get in the habit of tracking your school days from the beginning. You’ll thank yourself later. I prefer to track as we complete subjects, rather than plan my week in advance. It’s significantly less stressful, keeps us flexible, and saves on pre-planning.

…For the first three grades, I think it’s awesome to center science around nature walks. Nature learning. Nature journaling. Observation and appreciation for the world around you. You can get a book about the flora and fauna in your area and use those as your guide. My favorite science book we’ve ever used is a great companion for nature schooling – you can find it here (be sure to get the notebooking journal or junior notebooking journal to go with it.)

…When homeschooling multiple children, buy each child a set of noise reducing earmuffs. That way, when one child is doing reading and you’re explaining long division to the other child, they’re not distracted. We started using these last year and they’re a fantastic upgrade.

…Do not miss the benefit of the laid back homeschool life. Don’t overbook yourself. Co-ops are great when the kids are older and you can’t teach their subjects with proficiency anymore, but when they’re young, enjoy doing what you want when you want to do it. (Or at least think seriously about the commitment level required by your co-op before taking it on. Don’t let their schedule rule your life.)

…Read good literature to your kids. It doesn’t have to be much – perhaps a chapter a day. But it’s a very beautiful thing to bond over great books together. All the better if you’ve never read them and are just as excited about the kids to find out what happens next. Here’s a list of great read-alouds I made a LONG time ago. Since then, we’ve discovered and loved The Wingfeather Saga and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.

…If a curriculum isn’t working for you, don’t angst about trashing it and starting with a new one. Your investment is for a non-miserable life for you and your student.

…Analyze yourself, your patterns, and what works for you. For instance: I do not go to homeschool conferences because I’ve learned that hearing all about the amazing ways other people are teaching their kids just blisters my perfectionist spirit and makes me feel like a failure. Some people can attend homeschool conferences and feel lifted up – I cannot. So I don’t go. Another example: I know that to be most efficient, I need to create my own frameworks, such as my planner pages and field trips, so I do. If you are the type that is encouraged my homeschool conferences, go to homeschool conferences, If you are the type that loves to have someone else’s framework as a guideline, use someone else’s framework. Don’t just assume that because someone else does something a certain way that you should too. (This applies to everything I’ve said in this post.)

…Don’t go into homeschooling telling yourself that you’re going to do it forever. You are not a failure if you homeschool for a year or two and then determine that another option is what your family needs. It just means it doesn’t work for that particular child, or for that particular year, so that particular period in your life. Doing something different if being wise and flexible for your family‘s needs at that time. Also, committing to homeschooling for forever can feel extraordinarily daunting – tell yourself that you’ll take it one year at a time – you’ll be much less likely to experience emotional breakdown.

After I wrote my tips, I asked my vault of Facebook friends for their advice. I picked out a few of the tips to share below. You can find everyone else’s advice on this thread.

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To sum it all up, it’s not nearly as overwhelming as it may feel like it is. Just take it one day at a time, one week at a time, one year at a time.

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Feel free to ask any follow-up questions in the comments! I’m always open to answering questions about homeschooling – whether you’re interested in pursuing it or just curious.

Pokemon Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.

My exhaustion of hearing about the HP of every Pokemon ever created can be a heavy burden. And I grow weary of hearing the difference between GX and EX and Ultra and Mega and X. I languish from my child asking me for eBay searches and Amazon browsing for more and more and more Pokemon cards.

But oh.

The power one wields when a child of questionable temperament falls hopelessly and completely in obsession with something is indeed a very, very effective power.

It is worth every banal conversation. Every. Last. One. Of. Them.

Noah is not a people pleaser like his sister before him. So I must find new and creative ways to constantly encourage him in the way he should go. Some things work, some things don’t. But nothing – NOTHING – nothing in the creation of everything has worked as blazingly efficiently as Pokemon Cards.

The first use that made my eyes light up with the power I now held had to do with dirty plates.

Noah has never, not once, picked up his dirty lunch plate or snack napkin or gummy wrapper and put them away without being told to do so.

No matter how many times I tried to tell him he needed to do it without me telling him, or offering him tickets to help him remember, or threatening consequences if he didn’t remember – it literally did not matter. He would not, could not remember to pick up his trash.

But then one day I told him if you don’t pick up your trash, I will take away two Pokemon cards. And the next day he didn’t pick up his trash. And I don’t think he had even conceived of how cruel I could possibly be until that moment. When I told him to go get his Pokemon book and I thumbed through, looking specifically for the cards he talked about the most.

I took two of his most precious cards. His Jumbo Snorlax GX and his Mega Charizard.

He cried. And cried. And cried some more. There is no possible way that he will cry so many tears of grief when I die. He used all his tears on Snorey and Charz.

Since that day, at least a month ago, he has not left a single plate or piece of trash out after consuming food. Not one. He went from a .000 batting average to a 1.000. And, for the record, the consequences weren’t even permanent. I sprung Snorlax and Charizard from the slammer after a couple of days for good behavior, with the dire warning that next time, they would find a permanent home swimming with the fishies in the septic tank.

(Before we continue, I need to say something to Chris. No, dear, if you’re reading this, I would never *actually* flush Pokemon cards down the toilet. I know how you coddle our septic tank as if it were a colicky newborn baby. But I must add an appropriate amount of drama to my threats to be the loving, effective mother that you desire me to be.)

My second brilliantly evil use of Pokemon cards was to get my daily dose of exercise. I’d bought two junk boxes of random Pokemon cards off of Amazon a while back to use as prizes. I had so far used them as rewards in mental math contests between my children (turns out Noah is really good up in his head with math and can nearly compete with his four-year-older sister – when appropriately motivated), so I invented the most genius exercise game ever created for kids. WAY better than Nintendo Wii.

Pokemon Run.

For every quarter mile you run without stopping* or complaining, you earn one Pokemon card.

* Up to five second walk breaks were permissable for road crossings and side stitches and such.

For every continuous mile you run, you get two bonus Pokemon cards, bringing the potential total Pokemon cards up to six earnable per mile.

I explained the rules to the kids. Noah shivered with excitement. Ali, who also enjoys Pokemon cards but doesn’t need as much motivation as her brother, was also excited to get something for something she’d do anyway. And probably secretly relished the opportunity to earn more than her brother, but she’s a people pleaser. She’d never say so.

The run was every bit as magical as I’d hoped.

Noah is usually complaining just for his own personal entertainment at the .2 mile mark. But this run, there was no complaining. None at all. The kid even got a wretched side stitch and DID NOT WHINE. He was leaning over while running, cramming his hand into his side, BECAUSE HE NEEDED THAT LAST POKEMON CARD.

Ali earned 19 cards. Noah earned 12. And they were both thrilled and freaking thankful that I had taken them on such an amazing run. And begged to have another one soon.

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There is nothing like finding the currency that motivates a child. It’s as if I truly finally am in charge of my situation. I use Pokemon cards like they grow on trees now, and it’s worth every penny of all the money I send to Amazon.

So, mothers. So, fathers. I urge you. Find your currency.

Find it soon.

And treasure it with all your might.