Friday, January 15, 2010

One and the Same

I just finished reading Abigail Pogrebin's new book, One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I've Learned About Everyone's Struggle to Be Singular. I never knew that there was so much that I didn't know about twins. And now I know.

I certainly don't consider myself an expert when it comes to twins, but I usually feel as though I know what I'm doing when it comes to raising them. Having two sets of twins has given me the requisite experience necessary to field the many questions I receive as a mother of multiples. Navigating the challenges of rearing twins has become my life in recent years but there is just so much that I had never considered. Until now.

Specifically, I had given little thought to the unique struggle that identical twins face as they journey through life with a carbon copy of themselves. Written by an identical twin, One and the Same was a fascinating read for me, because Abigail Pogrebin understands what it's like to grow up with a double. As she explains in her book, identical twins compare themselves with each other, depend on each other, and share a remarkable bond that is unlike any other.

Because both of my sets of twins are identical, I felt I needed to pay close attention to everything that I read. I want to avoid the mistakes of comparing my twins or failing to recognize their individuality. I want to honor their special bond and encourage them while still seeing them as separate. I read with great interest as the author described her childhood and what it felt like to have friends mistake her for her sister. My twins are often mistaken for each other but I had never really stopped to think about how that must feel.

This book is a must-read whether you are a twin, you are a parent of twins, you know twins, or you are just interested in learning more about twins. Although the author discusses identical twins in great detail, much of what she writes applies to fraternal twins as well. She also covers topics such as fertility treatments, birthing twins, death of one twin, and other things that you've probably never thought of before.

I was impressed with the incredible amount of information and research in One and the Same. What also impressed me was the author's perspective and candor when writing about her own experiences. Her book is an intriguing glimpse into life as part of a set. You can find even more information at her website and she even answers questions on her blog. I highly encourage my fellow twin moms to read this book cover to cover and then share it with another mother of multiples. (Hopefully our twins will thank us one day!)

This is not a compensated review. I received a copy of this book in exchange for offering my honest opinion.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Get Clean

Maybe you have heard of Shaklee or perhaps you've tried their products before. Maybe you don't know a thing about Shaklee.

Four years ago I had just found out I was expecting twin girls. I found out on December 30th, 2005-my birthday! It was a shock and I was already 22 weeks along. Immediately, I was concerned about my added nutritional requirements since I was having two babies instead of one. I came across Shaklee's website and was impressed with the quality of their nutritional supplements. I used them throughout my pregnancy.

Recently, Shaklee introduced a line of cleaning products that stay true to the company's motto of "providing a healthier life for everyone and a better life for anyone." This is important to me, as I'm always conscious of what I am exposing my children to each day in the foods we eat, the things I use to clean our home, and even the toys in the playroom.

Recently I had the opportunity to try some of Shaklee's cleaning products in my home and I'm so excited to share what I found. If your New Year's plans include a bit of spring cleaning, you'll want to see this...

Perhaps the most exciting product for me is a little item called Germ Off Disinfecting Wipes. Disinfecting Wipes? In a house with 6 kids ranging in age from 7 to 1, this is a necessity. It's not often that a mother of twins is able to find time to sanitize her house on a regular basis. And then, what are you sanitizing with? Harmful chemicals? The old standby of vinegar and water? I'm a germophobe who recently mounted a hospital-grade sanitizer in her home. I take this stuff very seriously!

Shaklee's Germ Off wipes are convenient and they are safe. The wipes are easy to use and they pop up out of the dispenser for a fast wipe down of whatever germy surface needs attention. But they're bleach and alcohol free. They kill 99.9% of common household bacteria without exposing you to dangerous chemicals. Hello, funky toilet-you have met your match! A quick swipe with the Germ Off wipe and then dispose of the nastiness without ever needing rubber gloves or a face mask.

For those times when you don't need to kill germs and just want to wipe down a surface quickly and easily, there's Shaklee's Basic H2 Organic Cleaning Wipes. These wipes work on windows, counter tops, furniture, and even walls. And yes, I tried them in all of those places! These are the ultimate convenience item and are very handy to have in the car for quick cleanups. Because they're recyclable, biodegradable, and free of phosphates, I feel good using them too.

Shaklee has all of your household cleaning needs covered with their Basic H2 Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate. This concentrate can be diluted in various strengths depending on what mess you're trying to eliminate. You can purchase Shaklee's set of spray bottles for easy mixing. I prepared the different concentrations and then had them all ready to go for quick clean ups. This concentrate can clean your counters, degrease your microwave, wash your windows and mirrors, or even mop your floor. It's the ultimate all-purpose cleaner and it's perfectly safe to use, even for babies still crawling across the floors.

I refuse to post before and after pictures of my toilet, but I will share a before and after of my stove. I have no shame! I recently moved into a foreclosed home that was in need of some TLC. In short, the place was pretty icky. The kitchen was particularly offensive, and I'll admit that I haven't had time to give the stove top the proper attention it deserves. (Hey, my kids come first!) It wasn't dirty in that sense of the word, but there were burnt-on black rings on the ceramic cook top.
I took this photo when I'd already started cleaning the other burners, but you get the idea. It was pretty bad. I hate it when my house isn't spotless but 6 kids have caused me to reevaluate my priorities sometimes.

Receiving Shaklee's Scour Off cleaning paste was just the motivation I needed to finally tackle that stove top. And I didn't have to worry about toxic fumes when I did it.

Scour Off is a thick paste (with a mild, pleasant scent) that's made from mineral abrasives and biodegradable cleaning agents. It's safe for ceramic, cooper, grout, cement, and other surfaces so it's perfect for ovens, stoves, sinks, and tubs. It even removes rust! The best part is that it contains no bleach, chlorine, or dyes.

I applied the Scour Off paste to my stove top and with some gentle scrubbing I was able to remove every trace of burnt-on crud! Seriously, my stove is sparkling now! The difference is just incredible.
Next on my list was to do something about the pile of laundry that was threatening to overtake my tiny laundry room and overflow into my foyer and out my front door. Don't get me wrong, I do laundry every, single day of my life. However, with 6 kids and 5 wearing cloth diapers/training pants, I do a ton of laundry.

I was pleasantly surprised at how clean our diapers were when I used Shaklee's Fresh Laundry detergent. (Now, if I could just do something about our new washer that I absolutely hate!)Fresh Laundry is natural, biodegradable and contains no phosphates or chlorine. It's also concentrated and it's safe to use in HE washers (like mine.) This means that a little bit goes a long way. Our clothes are clean, smell fresh, and don't have chemicals in them that make your skin crawl. That's a good thing.
In addition to the regular laundry detergent, Shaklee also sells a stain-removing laundry booster, intended to replace bleach for clothes that need some extra cleaning power. (Boys' socks? Check.) Because it doesn't contain any bleach, Nature Bright is safe to use on colors and can even be used to remove stains from carpets and furniture. We tested it out on a spill on our beige carpet and I was quite pleased with the results!
Finishing out the laundry, I was able to try Shaklee's Soft Fabric dryer sheets. I don't usually use dryer sheets at all because of their icky ingredients. I use wool dryer balls for all of our laundry. The downside is that we do get some static when I wash a lot of fleece in the same load. Because the Soft Fabric dryer sheets are vegetable-based, I feel confident that they are definitely safe to use in our home. So I used them. And I loved them! They reduced that stubborn static when I was washing pajamas and for that I am eternally grateful. (I hate getting shocked-literally- when I'm folding laundry!)

Logically, after laundry it's time to do the dishes. Shaklee's got that covered too.

Unlike some other natural brands (who shall remain nameless) Shaklee's Dish Wash actually creates suds when you use it. And it smells great too! I have become increasingly frustrated with my other natural dish soap and using Dish Wash was a reminder of what I dislike. I want my soap to cut grease just like the big name soaps but without the phosphates and other scary ingredients. Why should I compromise quality for safety? Well now I won't!
Dish Wash is effective at cutting grease (I tested it on the grease trays from my husband's George Foreman grill!) and it's safe to wash the plates we eat off of too. It's also super concentrated because I only used a tiny drop to clean a whole pile of pots and pans. I could not find one bad thing to say about this soap!
I wash about 2-3 loads of dishes per day in my dishwasher. It gets a lot of use. I've been pretty pleased with our other natural detergent... until now. I had not really thought twice about the leftover bits of detergent that I usually need to rinse off of our glasses. With Shaklee's Dish Wash Automatic Concentrate, I didn't need to rinse the dishes after they came out of the dishwasher. They were clean! Now, if Shaklee would just make a liquid version I'd be smitten. I always seem to spill powder under my sink or on my wet hands but that could just be me and all of the distractions I have when I'm doing dishes.

At the end of the day, I have a new nightly ritual to unwind from all of the cleaning, laundry, dishes, and exhausting work caring for 6 young children. I rub my feet with Shaklee's Herbal Blend Cream. It's mentholated and it's not greasy so it's perfect for dry hands (we have hard water) and cracked feet (my last pedicure was in April 2009.) And no, I'm not going to post pictures of me rubbing my feet. You can thank me later.

If you are new to Shaklee, let me introduce you to Kim. She is a Shaklee distributor and you can read more about her, and why she uses Shaklee's products, at her website. You can meet her family (and her adorable daughter) at her blog. Right now (through January 16th) free membership is available on orders of 50 PV or more. You can order an entire Get Clean Starter Kit that includes everything you need to make your home sparkle and with it, you'll get a free Shaklee membership!

In more than 50 years of business, Shaklee has never had a product recalled. And they have a 30-day guarantee. And apparently, Oprah loves the Get Clean products too! So make your home cleaner and safer in 2010 with the Get Clean products from Shaklee!

If you'd like to win a free product from Shaklee, here is your chance! Just leave a comment telling me which one of the cleaning products is your favorite and why. For an extra entry, blog or tweet about the giveaway and leave a link in a separate comment. Giveaway ends on January 30, 2010.

Giveaway now closed! Congratulations to Jill (comment #16) for winning a Shaklee Get Clean product!

This is not a compensated review. I have used Shaklee's products before and loved them! I did receive free product samples for the purpose of completing this review.