Question of the Day!

Since I know several of my readers like to garden, I thought I would pick your brain for a second. Our plants seem to be growing well for now. I'm starting to harden off the peppers and tomatoes and this weekend we will be moving them into bigger pots but still keeping them inside at night for another few weeks. The lettuce is looking yummy. The problem is the peas.

They are growing nice and big, not too tall but this type is supposed to be more bushy and doesn't need staking so that shouldn't be a problem. But the bottom leaves are beginning to turn brown. Is that a normal occurrence, since they are being shielded from the sun by the bigger, higher leaves? Or it a sign of a problem? The plants so seem fairly close together in the pot but we did follow the package directions on spacing. Any ideas?


One month to go!

Two days ago was April 27th. My due date is May 27th. With just a little bit of calculation, one can see that my due date is now less than a month from now. In just a week I will be at 37 weeks which is no longer pre-term and my midwife can see to us here if I go into labor. Another week later I'll be at 38 weeks which is considered full term (no, I do not understand what that in between week is supposed to be called but nothing about pregnancy calculations really make sense). But most first-time moms deliver close to or after their due date so I'm pretty sure I've got a while yet.

Some of me is happy about that, some isn't. Practically speaking, we are ready. We finished our Bradley class, got our child/infant CPR certification last weekend, made our birth plan and poster, received the birth kit and gotten the rest of our supplies ready. Clothes and diapers are washed, the freezer is getting full (although I have a few more meals to make) and I'm almost out of craft projects. We still need to re-install the car seat (we already installed it to make sure it worked in our car but took it out since it was so big), make a rice sock and get the ingredients for labor-aid ready but considering I could do all that in about 30 minutes, I'm not worried.

Emotionally, I'm getting there. Until last week, I wavered between "I'm so excited, the baby is almost here!" to "Ack, everything is going to change. I don't like change! I'm not ready for this!" But I'm pretty quickly getting over that.

Why the big switch? Mostly because I'm way more physically uncomfortable now. It seemed like one second I was fine, now I'm not. Nigel has apparently grown big enough that the last remaining space my stomach has is used up now and I feel nauseous most of the time. It's also gotten to the point where I can't stay in the same position for very long but it is difficult to shift without pulling something. Once I stand up for any reason, I go ahead and go to the bathroom because chances are I'll need to some time in the next 30 minutes and once I've sat down on floor (if I'm being good) or the couch (if I'm being bad), it takes way too much energy to get up again. I can't breathe very well (don't tell, but I had to fake breathe into my dummy during the CPR class when the instructor wasn't watching, it's hard enough breathing for two let alone three) and while I used to think baby hiccups were cute, they are now getting to be kinda irritating. It's nice to know Nigel's diaphragm is getting lots of practice but enough is enough already. I'm ready to meet and hold Nigel and more importantly, let Craig do some carrying and holding for a change.

So basically, everything is just how it should be and I am thankful for that. I figure it's all part of nature's plan. I'm still a bit nervous about labor but right about 40 weeks I''m sure I'll be reaching the point where I don't care if wild horses have to drag this kid out of me, I do not want to be pregnant any longer. Until then, I'll be here. Waiting.


Foreign Affairs Friday*: Genocide and Geopolitics

April 24, which was just a few days ago, is the day that commemorates the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians as the Ottoman Empire dissolved in what is now Turkey during World War I. While this would seem like a clear-cut case of genocide, the US has not officially called it that, despite much pressure over the years. Heck, even Kim Kardashian says it should be recognized (but she's of Armenian descent, so she's biased).

The reason the US has not used the g-word is because we want to stay in Turkey's good graces. Turkey is an important country for several reasons. First, it is a secular Muslim country, and thus provides an example of how the West would like to see other Middle Eastern governments operate, with a separation between mosque and state. Second, Turkey's location makes it a potentially valuable partner in dealing with Iran, Iraq, and Syria, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have a long-simmering territorial dispute we'd like to see resolved. Third, Turkey is a potential conduit of energy from Iraq and Central Asia. The planned Nabucco pipeline and the existing BTC and South Caucasus pipelines have terminals in Turkey. Fourth, Turkey has a large and growing economy and is a potential EU member. Finally, Turkey is a NATO ally.

On the other hand, there are reasons to use the term genocide. First of all, most scholars agree that that's what it was. It was systematic, targeted, and brutal. Second, the Armenian-American lobby is quite powerful, maybe one of the most powerful ethnic lobbies in the US. That means a lot in congressional districts where Armenian-Americans, of which there are 1.5 million in the US, are concentrated.

The US seems to be moving towards recognition. President Obama said during the campaign he would recognize the genocide. He did not do so on the 24th, but his statement was pretty close (Turkey didn't like it). The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution of recognition last month. Additionally, an unnamed Turkish diplomat thinks recognition will happen later this year (right before the election, not coincidentally).

This is one of those classic foreign policy issues; do what's right vs. doing what might make more geopolitical sense. It's not easy.

*As you've seen recently, I'm really going away from doing these only on Friday, but for the sake of tradition and alliteration, I'll keep the title.


New Mama Cookies

So maybe tea isn't your thing. Well, these "lactation cookies" might be a better fit. Don't be scared by the name though, they won't spontaneously make you start lactating. They just contain a few ingredients that supposedly increase your milk supply if you already are nursing. So new mom or not, try these cookies!

There is a basic recipe floating around the internet but I don't really like it as it contains a lot of white flour and sugar (it has the same amount of sugar as flour!). But once I figured out that the main milk making ingredients are just oatmeal and brewer's yeast, I decided I could adapt it as needed. So I reduced and changed the type of sweeteners, switched out white flour for wheat, bumped up the nutrients with a few additional ingredients and added a bit more pizazz with some spices and nuts.

I don't often like fully whole wheat cookies but I think these work because the honey's moisture offsets the dryness you can get with 100% whole wheat flour. They are a great grown-up version of a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie although when I told Craig this and he tried them, he said he likes his cookies more childish. That could be done by leaving out the orange, cinnamon and nuts - but don't do that because that is what makes them good! I made a batch last week but of course, I had to try them to see if they were good, then I had to try them out of the freezer to see if they thawed well and now I need to make another batch :-)

The one thing I can't say is if they work. You might have more luck just eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, some popcorn with brewer's yeast as a snack and nursing a lot. Still, I figure that it can't hurt and well, what new mom doesn't want some nice warm cookies to snack on!

Cream until fluffy:
2 T unsulphured molasses, the darker the better (Blackstrap is best but pretty strong)*
1/3 - 2T honey (put the 2T in a 1/3 measuring cup then fill the rest with honey)
1/3 cup sugar (white, brown or rapadura/sucanat would all work)
1/2 cup butter

1 egg
1 T milk
2 t vanilla

Set Aside. In another bowl, mix:
1 cup wheat flour (I like white wheat)
3 T Brewers yeast* (also called nutritional yeast, I got mine from the bulk section of HEB)
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon

Incorporate dry ingredients into wet. Then mix in:
1 cup rolled oats*
3/4 c chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts*
zest of a orange

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!

Freeze on cookie sheet until firm then transfer to ziplock bag. When ready to bake, remove desired number and thaw for ~30 minutes before baking. Enjoy!

*Brewer's yeast: There is a bit of controversy over whether this truly is a galactagogue (fancy word for something that increase milk supply) but either way it is a great source of B vitamins, chromium and selenium and is a good source of protein. It's a pretty common supplement among vegetarians and vegans. It's got a cheesy savory flavor and I've heard it's good sprinkled it on popcorn but you can't even taste it in the cookie.

*Oats - Oatmeal is one of the most widely known and popular galactagogues, probably because it is easily accessible, inexpensive and not nearly as scary sounding as other ones I've read about. It's also a good source of iron and fiber, both things new moms tend to need.

*Walnuts - Some recipes call for flax seed meal or flax seed oil. I'm not a big fan of either of those but the reasoning behind them in the omega-3 fatty acids. I used walnuts instead which are also an excellent source of omega-3s and are high in protein and fiber. Plus, they taste better than flax seed.

*Molasses - Not a galactagogue, but an sweet source of iron, calcium and other minerals such as copper and potassium.

This post was submitted into the Real Food Wednesday Carnival. Be sure to check out the others great posts here.


A rant

Okay people, you get to listen to me rant about the inappropriate things people have said to me recently. I know that none of you would even consider acting like this but I can't go off on them so I have to vent here.

I've mentioned a time or two that I keep getting comments on how small I look. I don't think even Craig realized the extent of this until last weekend when we went to the local home and garden show and three vendors in a row made comments.

I'm not really mad at the people themselves. For some reason, pregnant women must send out some sort of shock wave that temporarily kills the internal censors of those around them. That must be it, there really is no other explanation. So I don't really get offended on a personal level.

I am fully aware of the problems this country has with obesity. But there are two categories that get a free pass when it comes to weight gain - babies* and pregnant women. Pregnant women are supposed to gain weight, they are supposed to be "large" - they are growing another person inside of them for goodness sake! If a woman knows she is eating good food and not empty calories, she should not feel bad about gaining 30, 35 or even 40lbs.

So it is quite frustrating that I am told so often that I look "so good." Now I have no problem with people telling me I look good except that when they keep talking it because quite clear that what they mean by that is that I look "so small." We have finally gotten to the point where doctors (well, all except some really old school ones) are allowing women to gain the amount of weight they need to instead of trying to limit them to 15-20lbs, but if the comments I get are any indication, for some reasons society still equates good/healthy with tiny and it drives me crazy.

First off, you don't know how that woman feels about her weight. At this point, despite what people think, my weight gain is perfectly on track so I can let those types of comments roll of my back fairly well but early on in my pregnancy when I was trying (and failing) to gain weight, they were pretty discouraging. And I have a friend that is quite far along but still suffering from really bad h.g. She has lost almost 20lbs so far. Knowing her like I do, she is doing the best she can to eat well and I am fully confident that in a few months she will give birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl but the very last thing someone should say to her is that she looks small.

Also, it can be hard to allow yourself to gain so much weight during pregnancy, especially for women who have struggled with their weight in the past. Right about 7-8 months, one starts to think about what happens after the baby and it is tempting to want to stop gaining weight since you know in 6-8 weeks you will have to start shedding it again. But the baby's brain goes through a big growth spurt at that time so the very last thing she needs to do is limit her weight gain. So don't sabotage her by telling her how great her being small is!

I'm not suggesting that you go around telling pregnant women that they look nice and big. But most people converse on a weekly basis with dozens of people without ever commenting on their weight, why can't it be the same when you talk to someone who is pregnant? If you just have to comment on the fact that they are pregnant, you can always say something like "Congratulations!" or "How exciting!"

*You'd think society would give babies a break but no, not really. Statistically, by full term, most babies weight between 7.5 and 9.5 lbs but it seems like any baby over 8lbs is labeled "a big baby." And from hearing the moms at La Leche League talk, they often have to fend off bad advice from family members, friends, and even doctors over whether their baby is too big or too small. I'm glad I've gone to enough meetings to know that if your baby is exclusively breastfed and you aren't having real supply issues or medical issues, your baby is probably just the right size.


Pregnancy Tea

I like to drink tea but once I got pregnant, I stopped. Although I really only drank decaffeinated and herbal teas, it was still confusing which ones were okay and which weren't and I didn't want to take any chances.

But I had heard good things about Red Raspberry Leaf tea and was excited about trying it out. There is some conflicting information about taking it during the first trimester so I played it safe and waited until late in my second when I bought some Traditional Medicines Pregnancy tea. It's mostly red raspberry leaf mixed with nettle, mint and a few other herbs. It took a few tries before I liked the taste but I do enjoy it now. It is expensive though and to reap the best benefits you are supposed to starting increasing your intake in the third trimester to 3 cups a day. I needed to come up with an alternative.

So I made my own! Most of the basic recipes I've seen include the same four herbs so this is what I settled on:
8 parts Red Raspberry - Tones and nourishes the uterus
3 parts Alfalfa -
High in vitamins and minerals including iron and calcium.
3-4 parts Peppermint -
Aids in digestion, covers up flavor of Alfalfa and Nettle :-)
2 parts Nettle (I left out for now, see *) - Increases urine production, helps with bloating, UTI prevention

I made a big batch of the mix using a 1/2 cup as my "part." Once you mix it up, you can prepare it several ways. If you have a tea strainer or infuser ball you could make a cup at a time. I have a little pot with a strainer insert that makes about two cups of tea. Both would be good options for the second trimester but I knew if I had to make more than one batch of tea a day, it just wouldn't happen plus it was starting to get warmer around here so I came up with plan B - Sun Tea!

Isn't that a great idea? I though so but no, apparently sun tea is forbidden now because the water gets warm enough to brew the tea but not warm enough to kill bacteria so you are basically risking your life if you drink it. Who knew? Not me, at least not until I had already bought a sun tea jar.

My final solution? Instead of letting it steep outside, I heat several quarts of water on the stove, add in about a cup of the loose tea mix and let it steep for 30 minutes. (If it is too strong for you, just dilute it later on.) At this point, you could add in sweetener and to be honest, it would probably taste better made southern style with several cups of sugar but since I am drinking so much, I leave it unsweetened :-( It's still tasty sugarless just not as tasty.

Then I strain it as I pour it into my non-Sun Tea jar and keep it in the fridge. The strainer doesn't take all the little particles of tea out but it gets most of them and the remaining ones float. Since I take the tea from the bottom of the jar, I don't ever get floaters in my glass.

The big batch lasts all week and since it is kept cool and ready in my fridge, it's easy to get several large glasses down a day. And it isn't real tea but just an herbal drink, I can count them as hydrating liquids too!

*I get my coconut oil and castor oil from Mountain Rose Herbs and would have ordered my herbs from them too but they were out of Red Raspberry Leaf at the time so I ended up ordering from Bulk Herb Store. Unfortunately, B.H.S. was out of nettle so I left that out for now and will add it next time I place an order with M.R.H. I would recommend either company but the shipping is kind of expensive to try to get everything you need from one or the other if you can :-) You can also order it pre-mixed from the B.H.S. but I plan to use all three of the herbs I bought to make a batch of Mama's Milk Tea later on.


A New Arrival

We had a special arrival at our house last week. No, not a baby, it's not quite time for that yet. A freezer! Not only do I do a lot of stocking up on meats and things when I find a good deal, but I also love freezer meals and for a long time I've had to balance the two or risk head injury when I go to retrieve a bag of peas. But not anymore, I now have space for everything I want to keep cold! I'm so excited.

We had been looking for a good deal on Craigslist but realized that the prices weren't great and since we would have to rent a truck to go pick it up, we would be better off buying new since a lot of stores deliver for free. We got a 7 cubic foot one which will leave plenty of space not only for meals and deals but also buying grass fed beef in bulk which is something we hope to do soon.

For now though, I'm all about stocking up meals for when baby does come. I've planned six weeks worth of meals (well, three but they will be repeated to make six). Some are frozen, some are pantry meals whose ingredients I can keep on hand. I've already made a list of all the ingredients so when deals come up, I'll know what and how much I need. And I'll be trying to make similar meals together to save time.

I've also made a list for each week of the fresh items we will need. That way whoever is around to help me that week (Craig if he is still on leave, my mom when she is here, etc.) can know what we have and what we need and can put it together easily. I know our Sunday School class also brings meals for new parents so with those and the days when we need to use up leftovers, I think we will end up with at least 2 months worth of meals.

Last week chicken and pasta was on sale so I made two meals worth of Chicken Packet filling and Chicken Spaghetti (using homemade cream of chicken soup) as well as Shepherds Pie.

This week I'll use the bones and veggie scraps from last week to make Chicken Broth (to keep in the freezer for the pantry meal Lentil Rice Casserole) and I hope to make lasagna, corn muffins and a big batch of lactation cookies.

Are there any great freezer meals or snacks that you know of that I should try?


Wild Weekend

Last weekend was super packed. It wore me out so much that I basically just slept all day Monday but we had a good time.

Friday night our local library system hosted an evening with Mark Twain where a professor from North Dakota (whoop!) impersonated Mr. Twain and gave a talk about humor, inserting facts about "his" life. I'll admit I really only went to this because Craig wanted to but it ended up being a lot more interesting than I was expecting. I'm pretty sure I've read both The Adventures Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer but now I think I might try some of his less popular works, maybe The Mysterious Stranger? Has anyone read any of his other books and can tell me if they are worth reading?

Saturday we got up early to do some shopping. The neighborhood across from ours was having an area-wide garage sale. The pickings were kinda slim but we did get a couple Usborne Baby Board books and a copy of So Many Bunnies all for just $0.75 so I think it was still worth it.

After that, we headed to Cape Girardeau. For those of you who are not big Rush Limbaugh fans, you may not realize the importance of that location but it is in fact, Rush's hometown. It's close enough to us for a day trip but probably not one we would want to do with a baby so Craig wanted to make sure it got done this month. I was okay with this because I knew of a honey supplier down there and made him take a slight detour where I picked up 1/2 gallon of raw honey for just $17 which I must say is a pretty sweet deal!

Then on the way into town, we just happened to notice a scooter store. Once inside, we found out that they were having their grand opening that day. Craig was able to learn a bit more about scooters and even test drive one while I examined the helmet options.

We took the driving tour around to see the sites such as the house where Rush grew up, the barber shop where he shined shoes and the radio station where he began his career as a disc jockey. We also walked the Missouri Wall of Fame and learned about all sorts of famous Missourians.

After that we visited the nature center and took a short hike.
I about died the last 1/4 of a mile but after some frozen custard I recovered. We then toured a little museum in town. It turned out to be a really little museum and I would have been disappointed except they were having an Ansel Adams exhibit and I love Ansel Adams.

The scooter store was having a giveaway in the afternoon but you had to be there to win so we killed another hour by driving to some scenic spots around town
before going back to the store. Statistically we had a pretty good chance of winning since there were only about 10 people there but we didn't. I'm wasn't sure if I was sad about that or not. We drove home listening to the Prairie Home Companion. I feel like I should say something witty about the irony of listening to NPR while driving home from a Rush tour but I'm too tired to think of anything.


Should I Buy This?

The idea was planted in my head recently that I should get a scooter. It made sense to me for two reasons:
  • We only have one car. While this is fine most of the time, there are a few occasions when a second set of wheels would be nice, such as when our schedules conflict. These occasions are not frequent or pressing enough to necessitate a second car, but the threshold for getting a scooter is much lower. They cost much less, and I wouldn't need a special license, registration, or insurance for a model under 50 cc (I wouldn't need a helmet, either, but I'd still wear one - safety first!).
  • My commute is pretty short. It also takes place along roads with 45 mph speed limits, which is not much more than the 35 mph maximum speed of most 50 cc scooters. This seems like an optimum route for a scooter trip. If I had to take the interstate everyday, it would be a different story.
The benefit to a scooter would be the savings on gas. These things get about 100 miles per gallon. With that in mind, I ran some numbers:

My commute is 8 miles round trip, which comes out to 40 miles per week. My car gets about 17.5 mpg, and if we assume gas is $2.75/gallon, I spend $6.18 per week to travel to/from work. With a scooter, I'd spend $1.10. If I use it 34 weeks per year (assuming I'm not hardy enough to ride it in winter or in rain), that would amount to savings of $173 per year.

Assuming I spend $1000 on a scooter, it would take almost 6 years for it to pay for itself. That's not quite the immediate benefit I was looking for. But how long would a scooter allow us to delay the purchase of a second vehicle? Maybe five years, or until we have multiple children with various activities to attend. If that delay allows us to save enough money to buy a vehicle with cash and avoid loan payments, that would put another check mark in the pro-purchase column.

Safety is another issue to consider. I have no interest in motorcycles, for safety reasons, but I feel pretty comfortable about a scooter (without having driven one in traffic, though). I think this is largely because of the lower speeds involved. I don't think MacKenzie shares this comfort. While no safety gear is required for a 50cc model, and many ride without it, the sites I've looked at have suggested wearing full gear, from gloves to jacket to pants to boots. I'd have to figure out what I want to wear, recognizing that this adds to my cost calculations. I want to keep my skin, though, so I won't skimp.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Most importantly, would it make me look cool?


Amy Beth So Fabulous

I wrote the post below earlier but I want need to post again to let you know about a special women that needs your prayers. Her name is Amy Beth and she blogs over at Ministry So Fabulous. We are the same age and although our life circumstances are very different, after reading a few of her posts, you'll realize why I feel like we must be kindred spirits. Normally, I love her writing about big hair and her life with two puppies but right now, I feel glued to her blog because she needs prayers.

I could be writing about how she is recovering from mono and pneumonia because her PCOS is weakening her immune system. Or I could be writing about how she just found out a few days ago that even though she is only 25, she might have to have a hysterectomy. But I'm not. She is asking for prayers because right now she is helping a single dad cope with his hospitalized two-year old Olivia. She fell into a pool and is in critical condition. Amy Beth is helping him with his other two daughters and supporting him at the hospital. Because while she has lots of other things going on in her life, she is always there for those that need her, that is the type of gal she is. So please pray for Amy Beth and Olivia. And see Ministry so Fabulous for more updates.

Books of March

It seems a bit lame to put up a "Books of March" post when we are half way through April but oh well. Here is it:

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
- Beth Hoffman

As a military brat, I'm not really from any area of the country but I have spent more time in Texas and the South than anywhere else. That means that when someone asks, I feel like I can say I'm from the South, but I cannot say I'm a Southerner. The distinction is big. This is one of those books that really makes me wish I was a Southerner. I just love the characters and the way they handle situations. The rapid change from being total real with those they love to putting up that southern hospitality facade. It is sweet but not too sweet. And despite the plot being about how a young girl deals with her mother's death and starts her life over again, it's a happy story. I like happy stories. Why do some people think that they only way a book can be good is to be filled with tragedy and end with everyone miserable? (Sidenote #1: I will never again read an Oprah Book Club book for this reason). The only problem with it was that I read it too fast.

Those Who Save Us - Jenna Blum

That doesn't mean a book can't be somewhat tragic and still be good either though. I found this at the library and picked it up because of the cover. That is a dangerous way to go about life but in this case it worked. Due to the subject matter, it contained a lot more violence and sexual scenes that what I typically read and I can't say I really enjoyed it for the same way it seems odd to say that one enjoyed watching Schindler's List, but I am very glad I read it. Flashing back and forth between the story of a young German women living through WWII and the choices she must make, to her now grown daughter's struggle to understand her childhood memories of the experience, it really captivated my thoughts for the several days I spent reading it. My heritage is German and I do wonder what my relatives experiences were and how they viewed them, what decisions they had to make and how they made them, and overall just how it was allowed to happen. This book didn't answer those questions but it did help me think it through a bit more.

A Walk to Remember - Nicholas Sparks

I was listening to classical music on Pandora while searching the library's website for books to put on hold when that Mandy Moore song from the movie came on. This was obviously a huge Pandora Fail but it did make me think to check for the book. I like Nicholas Sparks books for certain occasions, like on airplanes and when I finish a heavy read so this was great for after the last book as I knew just what to expect from it. (Sidenote #2 - If you want a good upper body workout, accidentally pick up the large print version. You will be forced to turn the page approximately every 30 seconds and bicep burning will commence shortly)

The Spellman Files - Lisa Lutz

A Rachel Recommendation, I was worried at the beginning I wasn't going to like the main character and I have a hard time enjoying a book if I don't feel the way I am "supposed to" about the main character. But I shouldn't have doubted Rachel, I did end up liking the character and this book, quite a bit. It's quirky and humorous and I can't wait to read the next one even though the estimate wait time at our library is 77 days. (Sidenote #3 - The author actually came to a nearby bookstore for talk about this series but alas, she spoke at the same times as the A&M/Purdue b-ball game so I didn't go. Seeing how that game worked out, I think I would have enjoyed her talk more.)

Some Amish book - some Amish book writer
I can't even remember what it was or who wrote it. Craig read an newspaper article about this genre (Amish romance) and its popularity and asked if I had ever read any. I hadn't but thought I would give one a whirl. I didn't like it very much and don't think I will ever read another but at least I can say I tried.

The Vaccine Guide - Randall Neustaedter

This one was better than the last vaccine book I read. It was still definitely anti-vaccine but more of a practical guide than a philosophical book. It goes through each vaccine and gives information about the disease and the vaccine as well as statistics so you could make your own choice. After Craig and I finished it, I think we felt more informed and closer to a decision on each but we still want to do more research.

Happiest Baby on the Block - Harvey Karp

This book made me feel a lot more confident in my ability to handle a newborn which is good because at this point I'm oscillating between feeling really ready for this pregnancy to be over so I can meet Nigel and sheer terror at the idea of being completely in charge of keeping a newborn alive. But I have to say right now that the first half is annoying. He basically talks about how smart he is for figuring out this idea when no one else in the world, except this one indigenous tribe that makes clucking sounds (!), has ever thought of it before and how if it doesn't work for you, it isn't because your baby may not fit into his box but because you as a parent are failing to implement his ideas correctly. Now to be fair, I think my annoyance at his being a know-it-all might be exacerbated by my own tendancy towards know-it-all-ness since Craig didn't seem to be nearly as bothered by the first part.

In the second part, when finally gets to actually describing the 5 techniques [Swaddling, Ssshhhing, holding the baby Sideways, Shaking and Sucking] and how to use them, I forgave him. I've heard a lot of new parents say his techniques work well, although they all mention tweaking them for their kid, so I'll take his tips and leave his snarky attitude. This week is our last Bradley class so we are talking about newborn care and I've heard we will watch the video that goes with the book. I look forward to it.

The Baby Book - Dr William Sears

Unlike Dr. Karp, I love love LOVE Dr. Sears. Even if you aren't into attachment parenting, I don't think you can fault him for his attitude. He has tons of experience, both as a parent and a doctor, but he still insists that you know your kid better than him so take what he gives you and adjust it to your life. I'm not really sure how he does it, but he manages to take stances and not be wishy-washy on important issues while still insisting that moms not feel guilty about certain things. This book covers pretty much everything from the weird sounds and fluids that might come out of a newborn and which ones you should and shouldn't worry about to the more standard baby issues like breastfeeding, sleep, starting solids, developmental stages. I think I need to it for a reference because as fascinating as the pages about the different types of diaper rashes were, I will not remember them 3 months from now.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin

Ina May is one of the nations most recognized and respected midwifes and there is a reason. I mean, she even has a birth technique (the gaskin manuever) named after her. This book was "required" for our Bradley class. The first half is first hand birth stories. Craig got a bit tired of them after a while but it is easy to move on to the second half then go back and read the stories a little at a time. I think it's important to read about all the normal ways a birth can unfold and this is a great resource for that when the media overall fails miserable at portraying birth.

The rest of the book talks about more practical things like interventions and techniques. Some hospital birthers may feel like this book doesn't apply as much to them because her experiences are based on the births at "The Farm" (the commune where her midwifery center is located) but I think they can still gain a lot from this book, mostly the idea that you can trust your body. I'm not gonna lie though, she is a total hippy and some stuff is out there. There were parts that left me speechless and other that had me telling Craig to reread a section because I must have misunderstood, but considering she lives on a commune, what else can you expect!


Random tidbits

36 hours seems so much longer when you don't have internet access. I feel like I go through several stages of withdrawl. It's intense at first, with my having to force myself not to go check if it's back even though I checked 10 minutes ago. Then I just give up hope and rely on my ability to call my mom when I need things like directions or an address. I realize at some point in time people just relied on maps drawn on paper but apparently I can't function for more than a day without maps.google.com. But just about the time when the withdrawl effects seem to be subsiding and I realize that the internet is not necessary to my survival, it comes back and the world rejoices! Okay, at least I rejoice, and I promise the internet that I will never doubt how necessary it is if it will only promise to never abandon me again.

So now that it is back, I thought I'd tell you about this weekend. Actually it was pretty boring for me. That should be my cue to stop writing but I just can't seem to make myself.

Craig flew to Minnesota to spend a weekend with his old college friends doing all sorts of manly things like raccoon hunting and bonfire watching. He hasn't been able to see them much in these last few years so I'm glad he could before it becomes a much bigger hassle. From now on, he isn't allowed to go away since I need him around to do things like tie my shoes and carry the laundry basket up and down the stairs.

I did do somethings this weekend though, like:

  • La Leche Meeting. I thought it started at 10:30 so I was pretty proud of myself for getting there at 10:20 since it was held at a different location than normal and I wasn't quite sure where - except that it started at 10. It's a good thing that about the same time as I walked it, a baby had an explosion that diverted attention away from me and onto poopy diaper horror stories.
  • Went to church where I was expecting a fluffy sermon about marriage. Instead it was a fire and brimstone type sermon about adultery, fornication, perversion and lust and how the church needs to both stand firm against those evils and do a better job offering grace and love to those who need it. It was an intense and unexpected but still really good message although I kinda wish that since I was attending church without Craig, I had worn my wedding ring. Not that anyone was rude at all, but I felt like they were all being a bit too nice. On the flip side though, I'm really glad our church was taking the message to heart and trying to be so welcoming to a single parent. It really bothers me when people who don't fit the stereotypical idea of a church family don't feel welcome there.
  • Finished up a few more sewing projects. I'm down to just a few but I need to get them done quickly, not just because the baby is coming soon, but sitting at a sewing machine is getting more and more uncomfortable.
  • After way more deliberating that was necessary, I finally decided what laundry detergent* I wanted to use on the diapers only to go to Whole Foods and discover it wasn't there even though supposedly they carry it. Of course, when I asked the looks-like-he-hasn't showered-in-3-weeks stock boy, he just said "Well, I guess it's not there since we can't see it." Thanks you stock boy, thank you for your willingness to help. So now I'm back to square one. I know it's not a big deal and the very worst things that could happen are 1) We have to strip our diapers (not that big of a deal) or 2) Baby gets a rash so we try something different (also not a big deal) so I just need to pick one and try it. Once I find what I like it will be a piece of cake to order it online for cheap but right now it has me stressed to a ridiculous level. I'm just being paranoid because I'm so sensitive to laundry detergent but I've got to get over it before I go insane. Although to be perfectly honest, I'm pretty sure that I as soon as I solve this problem, I'll just start worrying about something else so maybe I should just stick with worrying about this for now.
    (*Country Save, I wanted Charlie's but it will void the warranty on my Happy Heinies. Lame! And then I thought I'd just go with SunFree but I can't find it anywhere in this stupid town! Lame!)
  • Picked Craig up from the airport only to have our car break down on the way home. We are really getting our money's worth out our AAA membership this year. So instead of driving around town searching for laundry detergent like I had planned, I'm sitting here car-less, waiting to hear what the damage will be. We are at the annoying point with this car of trying to guess whether it is worth it to repair or just go for a new (to us) car so I'm hoping that the repair will something easy or that it will be something big enough that it is obvious we should just move on. If the repair is going to be over $600, I'd actually rather it be $1500 so we won't have a hard decision to make. I can only make so many tough decisions at once and I still have the laundry detergent issue to deal with.


Mary Mary Quite Contrary...

Now that we have a back patio, we can do some container gardening! A few weeks ago we planted our first batch - lettuce and peas and we just started our tomatos and pepper seeds inside. I'm so excited, but a little big nervous.

To say that I don't have a green thumb would be an understatement, I couldn't even keep Clyde alive! So why am I even trying? Well, I really want to grow my own veggies. Plus I'm stubborn and it infuriates me that I can't seem to get the hang of it.

I'm a book learner and gardening is really more of a hands-on activity. It's not that I haven't tried though, I even took horticulture 101 in college. I did well on the exams, I don't think I got below a 98 on any of them. But at the end of the 6 weeks we were supposed to bring back a plant our professor gave us on the first day of class to receive extra credit on how it grew. I thought I was doing okay, I watered it, but not too often. I gave it Nitrogen supplements like I was told to. I even named it (it was a Wandering Jew so obviously I named it Moses). The last day of class I showed up and realized that everyone else's plant was a dark green while mine was more of an granny smith apple color. Nevermind that if you research Wandering Jews they are described as "hardy" or "survivors," apparently poor Moses was on death's door. The professor couldn't figure out why since it seemed like I had done everything right. But of the dozen or so students in the class, the only person who got less bonus points than me was Martellus Bennet, and that was only because he didn't bring his plant back at all! Of course, it doesn't really matter that he didn't pass the class. If he wants to have a house full of plants or a vegetable garden, he can just pay someone to do it for him. I need to move on now before this becomes a rant against professional sports.

So...what I lack in natural skill, I will be attempting to make up for with persistence and perspiration. And luckily for me, Craig grew up on a farm where their livelihood comes from their ability to grow stuff like wheat and soy and cows and he will be attempting to show me the ropes. I just have to remember that this year is a learning experience and that I should not get upset if we only get one tomato out of the whole experiment.

But look what we've noticed! Maybe there is hope for me after all.


Special Foreign Affairs Thursday: Kyrgyzstan

I haven't done one of these in awhile. I'm sure you've missed them. I always like to comment on uprisings, though, so here we go. First, una mapa:

The past days' unrest in Kyrgyzstan (in pinkish-red above), one of the Central Asian republics that was formerly part of the Soviet Union, appears to have led to the overthrow of the government, which was seen as corrupt and increasingly repressive. There are several interesting facets of these events to consider:

1. The "camel's nose in the tent" effect. Compared to its neighbors, K-stan (which I will now call it to make typing easier) was the most free country in its neighborhood (that's not saying a whole lot, though). Freedom House gave it scores of 5 and 4 on political rights and civil liberties, respectively (with 7 being the worst; compare this to scores of 7 and 7 for neighboring Uzbekistan).

I don't think it's accidental that a freer state experienced an uprising. People who are completely repressed are easier to keep in line. But if you give citizens a few freedoms (K-staners had rights to assemble and form unions) they not only cherish, exercise, and become used to these rights, they want more of them. That's why it can be helpful when authoritarian leaders grant small, incremental freedoms, such as elections, rigged though they may be. They may seem minimal and token at the time, but they can snowball. People in K-stan were fed up, and thought they had the right to do something about it.

2. The temptations of power are strong. In the 2005 Tulip Revolution, K-stan's President Akayev was overthrown, and a dude named Bakiyev took over promising less corruption and nepotism. But he quickly succumbed to the allure of power, becoming arguable worse than his predecessor. That led residents of K-stan to rise up again.

3. Implications for the US. This country is important because it hosts Manas Air Base, an important staging point for transporting supplies into Afghanistan for the war effort. This has prompted the US to spend a lot of money to ensure the base stays open, despite Russian desires that it close. It also led the US to look the other way on some of Bakiyev's abuses. This has not endeared the US with opposition figures in K-stan.

The change in government could put the base in danger of closure, depending on what the new K-stan government decides to do. Hopefully, the US can work with the new government not only to keep the base open, but to help the new leaders govern in a way that reduces corruption and increases freedom. This former resident of K-stan thinks we have an opening:
This time around the US needs to actively support acting PM Otonbaeva [the apparent new leader]. She is a great friend of the US (indeed she was the first Kyrgyz Ambassador to the US) and is one of the few members of the political class not tainted utterly with corruption and nepotism.
Here's hoping things turn out well there, although it will surely be an uphill battle.


The last of the wooly wonders (for now)

This is my latest wool project which is funny since the reason I first wanted to start crocheting and knitting again last year was to make some wool diaper covers. I finally got around to making some and let me tell you, they were easy-peasy!

My first was a soaker using Amy's Little Fire Crochet Soaker pattern in size small (although thanks to Craig they are now firmly embedded in my mind as those Fire Crotch pants, darn that boy!).
I didn't know how to do stitches into posts or a no-chain foundation but neither is hard and the whole thing only took a couple of hours. It's not perfect (my fault, not the pattern) but I really like it. I thought it looked big originally but once I tried putting it over a small fitted I realized that it won't be. Of course, I can't tell you how it will work on a baby, but I have high hopes. I had heard a soaker takes about one skein of wool but they must be talking about a smaller skein because I didn't even used half of a fisherman's wool skein.

Since I had planned to only get one soaker per skein so I had a little "free" wool to play with and wanted to try dyeing it. There are a lot of ways to dye animal fibers but they pretty much all involve dye, acid, water and heat. I used kool-aid as my dye since it's cheap, non-toxic, and already contains citric acid. Craig picked out the colors (orange and lemon-lime) using a chart I found online. I can't find the chart I used but this one is even better since it shows how you can achieve a more adult friendly color scheme. I love the bright colors for baby clothes but I don't know how many tooty fruity colors I would want to wear myself.

I wrapped the wool very loosely, tied it loosely with a small piece of wool then soaked it in water for a few hours to prepare it. The water doesn't soak in evenly but I was wanting the mottled effect so that was good. If you want a more consistent color, supposedly you can add a drop of dishwashing liquid to the soaking water.

Then I mixed the kool-aid with water to dissolve in a glass. It doesn't matter how much water you use as long as it covers the wool. The depth of the end color depends on the dye to wool ratio. For a little bit of orange, I used one packet of orange. I was dying a larger amount of wool green so I used two packets of lemon-lime.

To heat the wool and allow it to absorb the dye, I used two different methods - the double boiler and the crockpot. You can do it on a pot directly on the stove or in the microwave but you want to make sure the water doesn't boil or the wool with felt and you'll be left with a big mess. The crockpot is just what it sounds like, I put the wool and green dye in a crockpot on high. For the double boiler, I put the orange dye and wool in a mason jar inside a pot with a couple of inches of simmering water. The mason jar method is good for if you want to do sections of different colors, you just put part of the yarn into different jars all sitting in the same pot. I might try that later. Both methods took about 30 minutes. It's really easy to tell when it is done, the water will be clear because all the dye has been absorbed.

Once that happens, turn off the heat and let it cool. Don't try and mess with it now or it may felt. Once it is cool, rinse well in room temperature water. Then hang to dry. Since it is just kool-aid, the clean-up was pretty easy although you might want to wear rubber gloves so you don't end up with green hands. The hardest part really is having patience and waiting for it to cool, then dry. But the end results were worth it.

I really like the way the orange turned out. I used the extra for some practice knitting which looks awful but you can see the colors variation well.
The green was too light initially so I redid it using a couple more packets of green. The end result was a nice bright green although it wasn't as variegated due to the second dying. Here it is turned into a pair of Amy's Little Fire Longies with them.

The side view shows the nice shaping this pattern has.
They are very bright but I do like them. If Nigel turns out to be a boy, I think it would be really cute to add orange cargo-type pockets on the side.

So for $5 worth of yarn and not even $1 worth of kool-aid, I've made two covers and I still have some of both colors left. Not enough for another soaker but I'll save it for the waists and trims of future soakers. Dying wool was so much fun, I can't wait to try again. Perhaps something in Blue Moon Berry or Lemonade?

PS: For those of you non-crocheters/knitters, you can use the same kool-aid technique to dye play silks for much less than you can buy pre-colored ones. I love the idea of play silks as a great opened ended toy.


Happy with Final Four Attendees

I read a great article about the composition of the mens' basketball Final Four by Bernie Miklasz that I wanted to share with you. He states:
I've read a few columns and blogs this week written by unhappy correspondents who bemoan the absence of brand-name teams and future NBA stars. They want to see the one-and-done NBA lottery picks who pass through Kentucky for a season until it's time to collect that first NBA paycheck. They don't want the Final Four to be populated by overachievers, tough guys, unselfish role players and true teams.
I haven't read such columns, but I haven't really been reading many sports columns, period, so I'll take his word for it that they exist. He wouldn't construct a straw man for his column, would he? I can definitely see that those interested in ratings and receipts would not like this Final Four. I would think that having a team like George Mason in the Final Four in 2006 would be good for ratings, but it was not. I guess many people must have said, "Oh, they're gonna get whipped. I'm not watching!"

Some more lines:
  • "I don't need to watch spoiled, entitled basketball brats from Kentucky go on an ego spree by crazily firing 32 3-point shots, and making only four, in an Elite Eight loss to West Virginia."
  • "Wait a minute: a real student, competing for the NCAA basketball championship? Who let Hayward and Butler in here? Butler clearly needs to hire John Calipari's academic advisers."
  • After comparing the playoff system of college hoops to the football BCS, he replies, "If you're caterwauling over this year's Final Four, then you can't savage the BCS and demand a college football playoff. Sorry, you can't have it both ways."
Like at least 95% of America, I'll be rooting for Butler tonight. What a jolt to college sports it would be if they won. It might even make the BCS system more untenable. But let's not get too carried away.


If you love 'em then you better put a sling on 'em.

Even more than diapering my baby, I'm excited about wearing my baby! I've read lots of things that talk about the benefits of babywearing and I do believe it will help with breastfeeding and bonding and all that but I didn't really need a list of reasons why I should do it. It just sounds smart. I want my baby close by and I still want to be able to get stuff done. Baby wearing allows that. What's not to like?

But again, how to do it? There are pouches and wraps, ring slings and mei teis. They can be made of knit, cotton, linen, silk. Do I want a name brand or do I want to support a WAHM? Now I'm glad that there are so many options out there that there should be able to find something that works for anyone that wants to give it a try but it can be overwhelming.

I was given a pouch which I think will work well later when Nigel has head support but supposedly quite a few newborns only like to be worn upright so it is important to have a sling that can support their head initially. Ring slings and wraps are the best at this. For a long time I thought I wanted to go with the a wrap like the Storchenwiege Wrap but after talking to a couple babywearing mama's I decided to go with a ring sling instead. They didn't seem like they would be as versatile but I watched a couple youtube videos from Sakura Bloom and you can do a lot more with them than I thought without having to deal with the complicated methods of the wrap. Plus they are supposed to be great for nursing since the tail can be used as a cover-up.

We actually went to a great consignment sale last weekend where I found a Maya wrap for $10! (Don't let the name fool you, a Maya Wrap is really a ring sling not a wrap). They normally retail for $65 and I don't think this one was ever used, it even came with the still shrink-wrapped instructional dvd. It's one of the striped fabrics so it definitely looks a bit more "granola" that the others but it was such a steal and I think it will be great for around the house baby wearing.

I still want a Sakura Bloom sling. Sakura Bloom slings are like the BMW of babywearing devices and I love love love their linen kiwi sling. They just look so stylish and I think I would be more comfortable using something like that when I'm out and about and want the convenience of a sling but don't want to look like I should be wearing Birkenstocks - like when I'm attending church, MOPS, a wedding, etc.

I still like the idea of a wrap, though, for the newborn period. I've heard wonderful things about the moby. It's made of jersey so it's super soft. That same softness means it isn't so comfortable after the baby has gained a few months of poundage though so it won't have the same longevity as a ring sling, but for those first few months, it can't be beat. Since I'm spending more on the ring sling, I think I'll have to pass on the moby unless I can find a good deal on ebay or a fabric sale so I can make my own. Making your own is easy and not really that expensive if you consider that you get two or three wraps from just 6 yards of fabric but since it is cut lengthwise, even if you only want one wrap, you still have to buy 6 yards. I guess I need to find two other moms around here to go in with me and then it would be easy to make them for less than $10 each.

Now in theory, kiwi is a man-safe color so Craig could use the ring sling, but I'm not sure how comfortable he will be in it. Once we hit 3-4 months, I'm planning on getting an Ergo too for him and times when we want to hiking or go on longer expeditions to museums, the zoo, etc. New they are $115 but there are normally lots on Ebay so I'm pretty confident I can get one for much less than that ($60 seems to be the going rate).

Now I know that occasionally we might want a stroller too but we aren't planning on using it much so we didn't want to spend a lot. And strollers are expensive. That is actually the main reason we went to the consignment sale I mentioned before. We volunteered to work for a few hours so we could attend the pre-sale and were able to snag this great Peg Perego Stroller for only $40. At 10lbs it's lightweight and easy to collapse but more substantial than an umbrella stroller and it leans back for younger/sleeping babies.

Even if we end up getting all the slings I mentioned (maya, sakura, and ergo) and the stroller, we will only be spending about $200 on baby transportation which is probably what we would have spent on a new stroller if we weren't planning on doing so much baby wearing but we'll have quite a bit of flexibility.

If you made it to the end of this super long post, here is a little reward. It's a video made for a competition Sakura Bloom had. Just try and watch it without smiling.