Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Resolution #1 - Lose weight. I don't want to die.

Resolution #2 - Blog more. My memory is shot with sleep deprivation and 4 kids.. I don't want to forget my kids' childhoods.

Resolution #3 - Find more energy for my husband (getting Niall to sleep better would really help with this).

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I can't believe my little baby is 7. I remember when he was a baby, the idea of having such a big kid was just completely foreign to me, and now here we are. Colwyn has been a really wonderful kid lately, and I'm totally soaking it up. Not that he's been difficult in the past, but every kid has their rough stages, you know? Plus, he's into Harry Potter now, so we have that to talk about, and he's been so creative lately. He makes books of spells and potions, draws prolifically, and does these hysterical videos (sometimes without my permission, but whatever). He's such a good help with Niall, and he delights in Niall's cuteness almost as much as I do.

Lachlann's a funny guy. Lately he's been going through a phase where he's scared to be alone in a room by himself. It's driving me a little crazy because he whines about it, and I feel bad for him because he ends up compromising too much on what he wants to do, but I don't know what else to do to help him through it. That's a pretty minor thing, though. He's still very much into Star Wars. He's so snuggly and he still *loves* being tickled. Seriously.. he'd be happy if I could tickle him 24 hours a day. It's too funny. He still says he wants to marry me. :) I'm amazed at how well he does with math he's never actually been taught. When the boys and I are doing math problems in our heads, Lachlann often gets the answer before Colwyn does. I heard him the other day saying, "4 plus 4 is eight, so 4 plus 5 must be 9." I was impressed with the fact that he wasn't just adding 4 and 5, he was making the connection that changing 4 to 5 makes the answer increase by 1. He's learning to read and is making great progress, it seems to come very easily for him. The only thing he has trouble with is fine motor things like writing. He absolutely hates to write. So I've been trying to come up with other activities like cutting, stringing beads, etc to help develop his fine motor skills.

Fiona is at one of my favorite stages. I love watching her language skills develop so quickly. She adds these adorable little turns of phrase every few days. Her most recent one is to tell me that she'll do something 'in no time'. And speaking of time, she's also experimenting with that concept. 'Tomorrow' is one of her favorite words: if I tell her she can't have something, she'll say, "Oh, tomorrow!" If she wakes up early from her nap and I ask her to go back to sleep, she'll say, "Oh, I get up tomorrow!" She also loves to sing. She's quite good at Row Row Row Your Boat and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She also sings most of Moon Moon Moon by Laurie Berkner and the Blues Clues song. The boys and I have been playing a lot of Wizard Rock lately (I think it's pretty funny), and she'll sing along with that, "My broomstick better than yours, whoa-oh.." She still loves her dolls and anything girly, but she also likes to play with Colwyn's Star Wars blaster and the Harry Potter wands (she walks around waving her wand and saying "Leviosa!").

Niall's keeping me on my toes. It's funny, you'd think I'd stop being surprised that the kids can still throw me for a loop, but there you are. He's a very happy baby, smiling and laughing all the time. He sits up well now, plays with his toys, and loves jumping in the Jumperoo. He gets so excited when Doug comes home, it's really cute. He loves watching the big kids, especially when they're moving around a lot. He's rolled a few times from back to front, but not front to back. He's not as mobile as I was expecting him to be at this age, probably because he's chubbier and also because he's just generally content to be where he is. He does pull up from sitting by grabbing onto my hands or my shirt. He also lifts his head and shoulders up off the floor when he's lying on his back. Just the other day he started babbling - babababa. He's always so thrilled when you babble back at him. Solid foods are going well, he really loves fruits. I was hoping that if I fed him solids regularly (providing he was developmentally ready, of course), he'd start sleeping better, but no go. That's the one problem with Niall.. he's a horrible sleeper at night. It takes at least an hour to put him down most nights, sometimes it takes almost two. Then he's usually up every hour or so. There's not much we can do to fix the problem at this point.. he's too young to start watering down his bottles, and we already cosleep. We don't believe in crying-it-out, so that's not an option. I guess we'll just have to be sleep-deprived for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Catching Up

Like I said in my last post, the end of summer is a very busy time for us. In addition to all the birthdays, my sister moved across the country, and now I'm in the throes of planning an insane Harry Potter party for Colwyn's 7th birthday. I'll be blogging about that separately at The blog isn't up and running just yet, so give me a few days.

In the meantime, Niall had his 4 month checkup. He weighes 16 lbs and is 25.5 inches long. That's a little shorter than Lachlann was, but a pound heavier. He's definitely my chubbiest baby so far. He's still a very happy little guy, smiling and laughing, holding onto toys and putting them into his mouth.. he loves standing up on our laps, and this past weekend we got out the Jumperoo for him. He defintely likes jumping.

I took most of August off, diet wise, but now we're getting back on track. I read the book The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy, which was pretty interesting. I'm trying to follow a primal diet for the most part, but I struggle with breakfast.. I don't like eggs, and that cuts out a lot of options. I think in general a more apt name for what I'm aiming for is a low-GI diet. Look for some new recipes coming up!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Busy August

So sorry for the lack of posting. August is a very busy month for us, full of birthdays and party planning and baking and parks and everything else. Lachlann had a big birthday party with a Cars theme. I love going all out for the kids' birthday parties.. party planning is my thing, I guess. So I had all sorts of decorations to make, from Detour signs to Rte 66 signs to signs for all the party games we had. The party went over really well.. I'm still working on getting the pictures all together, but I'll post a link to the album when I'm ready. Lachlann's birthday present from us this year was a trip to Coco Keys waterpark. Doug took Colwyn and Lachlann, while I stayed at home with the littles. It was strange not getting to participate, but I couldn't see spending an extra $64 just so Fiona and I could go. The kids really enjoyed it, though.

I'm off to make baked oatmeal now. I've been off the dieting bandwagon for the last two weeks or so, and now it's time to get back on. I'm going through sugar withdrawal all over again.. ugh.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lemon Quinoa with Asparagus and Feta

2 cups quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
4 cups asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
8 ounces feta, crumbled
Juice of 1 lemon

Start quinoa cooking according to directions on package. Saute the shallot in a tablespoon of olive oil. When shallot is brown, add in asparagus and thyme. Cook asparagus until tender but still bright green, about 8-10 minutes. Halfway through cooking time, add about a tablespoon of water.

When the asparagus is done, remove the pan from heat and stir in cooked quinoa. Then add feta, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

This should make about 8 servings. Each serving is 6 points and has 11 grams of protein.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kid Funnies

I thought I'd post some of our recent kid funnies, since I need a laugh.

Today, Lachlann cut his head open falling down the steps on our pool deck. I ended up taking him to our doctor's office to get checked out, and after the nurses gave him a once-over, we all stood around waiting for the doctor. Lachlann decided to try his hand at small talk, and said to the nurse, "Did you know that bulls like to attack red? If you have something red, you should use it in a bull fight."

Colwyn had a lot of mispronunciations when he was little, but most of them have disappeared. He's still in the habit of saying shushi and smarshmallows, though he can say them properly when asked.

Both boys like to make up words, and for the longest time, I had no clue where they came from. Star Wars related words - zigging (the lightning that the Emperor uses), augh (Force choking that Vader uses), and hooving. Hooving is when they play Lego Star Wars and switch from one guy to another guy. Well, I can explain augh and hoove - in Lego Star Wars, these are the approximate sounds the game makes.. when Vader chokes a guy, the guy says "Augh!" and when they switch characters, the game makes a sound like "Hoove." Leave it to my kids to turn augh and hoove into verbs, though.

Fiona has a lot of great mispronunciations. "Look-a-meem!" for "Look at me!" Baby soup for bathing suit. Just today she finally learned to say hummus instead of dummus, though she says it more like "Huh-huh-huh-huh-awmus." Oreos are no-e-os, and open is nopen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Backyard Orchard

Last spring, we planted some fruit trees in our huge, unused side yard - two peaches and two apples. There's already a mature pear tree there, though it rarely fruits. Our baby trees haven't grown much, and I figured we were neglecting them more than was wise (we pretty much haven't touched them at all since we planted them). This is one of our peaches.. all the branches go off to the side of the trunk, and I can't figure out how to fix it. My poor lame peach tree.

So, I was completely shocked when my dad came up to me today after doing some weed-whacking in the yard, and said, "Do you know you have some peaches on your peach trees?"

I can't believe it! Aren't they just so gorgeous? I'm immensely proud of them, which is ridiculous since I didn't do a single thing to help them grow. But this tree has four peaches on it, and the other tree has one. They're teeny, and still hard as a rock, so I don't think they're ready to be picked yet. I wasn't expecting any fruit until next year, and I probably should have prevented the tree from fruiting this year if I'd noticed, but still.. I guess my baby trees are doing okay after all.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

IKEA Fabric

When we were at IKEA a few weekends ago, I fell in love with this new fabric they had. It totally reminded me of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, a favorite story in our house. I bought two yards, intending to make some pillows for our dark brown leather couches.

They're very basic envelope pillow cases to go over pillow forms I bought at Walmart, of all places. Of course, it took me several weeks to find the time to get them done, but I finally managed it yesterday and the kids were thrilled and started playing with them immediately. Not quite what I had planned for them, but that's okay.

I also decided to frame a few pieces of the fabric to put in the playroom. You can see why it reminds me of the Three Billy Goats Gruff:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day Two of Sugar Detox

Today's day two of going sugar-free. I've had some headaches in second half of the day, tons of cravings, and it almost feels like I'm mourning my Ben & Jerry's and peanut butter M&Ms. It's so, so hard.. and it feels like nobody around knows how difficult this is for me. Doug definitely doesn't, but he's still being very supportive. I know I'll feel great soon enough, and I'm crossing my fingers I can last that long. I haven't had any refined sugar. I have had a good deal of watermelon and a handful of Triscuits (with hummus). On a good note, I've discovered the joys of quinoa, which I think will be a new staple in our house, replacing couscous and rice in a lot of our meals.

I made baked oatmeal with apples and cinnamon, omitting the brown sugar.. and it's not so great. It's not bad, but I definitely have to force it down in the same way I had to force down stovetop oatmeal. That's not a new thing for me, so I can deal with it. I figure I'll alternate baked oatmeal and smoothies for breakfast.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sugar Addiction

I've finally admitted to myself that I have a sugar addiction. I crave it all the time, regardless of my mood and/or the crappiness of my day. Even when I'm completely satiated, I want sweets.

Obviously, this has to stop. I've decided to cut out all refined sugar, eat only whole grains, and not a lot. I'm thinking brown rice 2-3 times a week, and maybe a whole wheat tortilla 2-3 times a week. I will still have my baked oatmeal in the mornings because maintaining my milk supply is paramount, but I'll omit the sugar from the recipe. I'm both dreading this and really excited about it.

For research, I check out some books from the library. The New Sugar Busters! Cut Sugar to Trim Fat, Sugar Busters! Quick & Easy Cookbook, and Potatoes Not Prozac: Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity. I also requested The Primal Blueprint, which I'm very excited about. I did some reading on the website that goes with this book, Mark's Daily Apple.

The only book I've started reading so far is Potatoes Not Prozac. I'm not depressed, just stressed, but I figure it can't hurt to read how to boost serotonin levels naturally, right? It's pretty interesting. I did skip the first few chapters, as I didn't think they were really relevant. But what I'm reading makes sense and I'm excited to implement some of her ideas into my life.

So I went to the store tonight and bought some new foods so I can have a no-sugar-added breakfast. I'm planning on a smoothie with Greek yogurt, frozen blueberries, and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Wish me luck.

If anyone has any tips on meals (specifically breakfast, or quick prep) that have no refined sugars and are low grain or grain free, let me know!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why I Love Family Practice Doctors

Niall and Fiona both had to go to the doctor's office today. Fiona needed a lead test, which means a blood draw. I took her for it when she was a year old; this time I made Doug do it. The fact that the practice doesn't do finger pricks for lead tests is the one thing I don't like about them. She did okay.. I could hear her crying from the waiting room, which got me a bit choked up, but she calmed down pretty quickly. Then Doug took her and the big boys across the street to Richardson's for some ice cream.

Niall's appointment went really well. We usually see Dr. Allara, but he's on vacation so we saw the nurse practitioner, Kate. We've seen Kate a bunch before, and I really like her, so it was no big deal. Our appointment was actually 45 minutes long, if you can believe it. She did her usual baby check (everything great, he's 11 lbs 3 oz and 23ish inches long). Then we talked about pretty much everything from how well we're all coping, Niall's development, his birth and Fiona's, homeschooling, and vaccines, to my breastfeeding issues and birth control choices. The great thing is that she's not just there for him, she discussed my medical needs, as well. It really was more of a chat, with some medical stuff thrown in. She was cool with the homebirthing and homeschooling, and sounded genuinely interested. When I described how we do vaccines (the kids will eventually get them all, but we space them out a lot - Niall just got DTaP today instead of DTaP, Prevnar, HIB, and polio), she was totally okay with it and thought it was a good idea.

When we switched from our old (literally) pediatrician, I had no idea how much of a difference it would make. I miss Dr. Kriteman sometimes, since we have such a long history (he was my doctor and my mother's, as well as my cousins').. but switching to Dr. Allara's office was one of the best decisions we ever made.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kitchen Decluttering

This week I worked on decluttering some of our kitchen cabinets. I recycled a lot of plastic containers and boxed up some dishes and miscellaneous junk to be sold at our yardsale. Here's the before shot:

And here's the after:

Now, opening my cabinets isn't nearly so hazardous.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Respectful Parenting

The kids and I have been craving more socializing lately, so we made plans with a friend to meet up at Lynch Park today. It turned into a big get-together, with two other homeschoolers we know and a new homeschooler joining us. The kids had a fantastic time (Colwyn told me, "It wasn't just great, it was awesome!") and I really enjoyed the adult conversation.

We ended up talking a lot about general parenting philosophies, with an emphasis on radical unschooling. A friend was having trouble with a family member who does RU and it's negatively affecting my friend's children when they're all together. I don't have a problem with radical unschooling in theory, though it's not something we do. I do notice, though, that a lot of RUers tend to be very ego-centric, to the point where they don't take other children's needs into consideration. That seems wrong to me.. if you believe that children have the right to do whatever whenever they want, that their needs and wants are paramount, then that has to include children other than your own.

I remember hearing a mom complaining about how she was at a park with her son, and her son wanted to sit at the bottom of the slide, not letting any other children use the slide. She got into a major altercation with another dad, whose children were waiting patiently to use the slide. This mom felt that her child had every right to sit there as long as he wanted, and couldn't seem to understand that the other children also have every right to use the slide as they want. How would this mom feel if the situation was reversed, and a child was preventing her son from going down the slide? From what I've seen, a lot of parents like this will ask the other child to give in to her child's whim. That's awfully one-sided.

Personally, I really identify with the unschooling philosophy when it comes to education. We're definitely not radical unschoolers, though. Our over-arcing parenting philosophy is to respect our children as people, just the way we do other adults. Our children's needs and wants are just as valid as ours - what I want should never automatically trump what my child wants. Rather, if there's a conflict, I try to use the same techniques I would use if it were an adult friend I was dealing with and not my child.

However, that's not to say that I don't guide and teach my children. I liken parenting to hosting a friend from another culture. I can love my friend unconditionally and still want to teach them the ropes for being a functioning member in our society. I wouldn't let someone drive on the wrong side of the road, nor commit a social taboo, just because I don't want to infringe on their autonomy. I also recognize that I have a lot more experience and knowledge than my children do, and I encourage them to defer to me when I see they're making poor choices based on a lack of knowledge or ability to see the big picture. The point is, I do it respectfully, explaining my reasoning in ways they can understand, so our judgement doesn't seem so arbitrary.

I hear parents say sometimes that they don't need to teach their children manners, sharing, etc, that the natural consequences (not having friends, not being treated well) will do the teaching for them. Personally, I think that's cruel. Why not explain to your children, kindly and lovingly, that behaving in certain ways will make life easier for them? And you know.. some kids just won't get it. I don't think my boys would make the connection at this age that they'll reap benefits from being polite. I'm not going to force my children to say thank you, shake hands, or hold the door open for people, but I do encourage it. And when the bank teller gives them a lollipop for being sweet, or when an elderly woman gushes about how they're such gentlemen for holding the door open, I point it out to them. And I also stand up for my child when a family member gets huffy that he doesn't want to give them a hug - my children have the right to make that decision for themselves.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Delicious Dinner

Trader Joe's sells a Harvest Grains Blend, which is a mix of Israeli style couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa. It's pretty healthy.. 170 calories per serving, with 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein. I like to serve it cold with some tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and a little olive oil. Tonight it was a side to some catfish that Doug made.

I'm trying to find time to exercise, but it's really difficult. I put my weights next to the changing table, thinking that I can do a set or two after diaper changes. What I'd really love is a treadmill in our room, but that's unlikely. First off, we have no room for it, but with any luck, that will be changing soon. The other problem is that I don't want to spend a fortune. I could try Craigslist, but I worry about getting a crappy one. Anyone have any tips on buying exercise equipment from Craigslist?

Buying a treadmill right now probably isn't a good idea, anyway. We're facing a foreclosure, and while we've hired a lawyer to fight it (the bank is being unreasonable since we can actually make the payments, it doesn't make any sense), there's no guarantee that we'll still be here in a month or six. Who knows how much space we'd have in an apartment. In the meantime, we're struggling to save up for first, last, and security.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Goofy Girl's Car Trip

Fiona is newly 2 years old. She is a very silly girl. Totally adorable, charming, etc.. but a total goofball.

We decided to drive the hour to IKEA today. They were having a big sale, though nothing we bought was actually on sale (I know, I know). We got four sets of Trofast shelves for the kids toys and plan to totally clear out their playroom. Fiona had a great time in the store and was super well behaved. The big deal, though, was that I was really nervous about the drive.. our babies tend to scream nonstop in the car, and while Niall has been more tolerant thus far, I didn't have high hopes for this trip. Luckily, he did great and only needed us to pop his binky in a few times each way. Fiona, on the other hand.. she had me turning back to adjust her AC vent dozens of times, to stop her from chewing on her sandals, to brush off the bag of Cheerio snack mix she'd dumped on her lap, and to do the obligatory tickling.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

And the Winner Is...

I'm pleased to announce that Kathy Emerick has won the reusable bowl cover! Congratulations.. my husband is very jealous, since I haven't made any for us to keep yet. ;) Please send me an email at ferrets @ quiddity . cc so I can send the cover along to you.

Seven Years Married, Fourteen Years Together

This weekend was our seventh anniversary. Our wedding was pretty simple, though it wasn't originally planned that way. My husband asked me to marry him when I was 16 and he was 18, though we agreed from the start that we would wait a while to get married. At first, we thought we would get married on a beach with a very casual wedding. Then when we actually started planning our wedding, six years later, we decided to have a Renaissance wedding, complete with the castle venue, costumes all around, and period food. When we got quotes from various vendors, though, we decided a big wedding was ridiculous. We'd already been living together for four years, owned our own condo, and wanted to start our family right after getting married. Having a big wedding would leave us with no money for baby gear.

So we went with a simple ceremony in our backyard, on July 3rd. While Doug and I recognize the need for our marriage to be legal, we don't feel that the government or any religious official should have to sanction our marriage. Our marriage is just between us, you know? Bringing clergy or a justice of the peace into it just felt weird. So, while we did make our marriage legal (we didn't share any of the details with our families), we had our own ceremony, conducted by ourselves, with our mothers doing a little bit, too. It was very sweet and just our style. Then we went out to Legal Seafoods with our immediate families to celebrate. The next day, we had a huge BBQ bash with all of our friends and family, catered by a great local restaurant, Woodman's of Essex. I'm so glad we did things the way we did.. it really fit with our personalities much better than a traditional wedding.

Yesterday, we took all the children out to Legal Sea Foods for lunch. They seated us in a booth right next to the function room, and the hostess overheard us telling the kids about our wedding. The meal was wonderful (we don't eat there often, and I had forgotten how truly delicious the food is), and just as we were leaving, our waiter came out with a plate of little desserts with a candle. Now, this is why I love Legal. Great food, and they were sweet enough to give us free dessert because it was our anniversary. Thumbs up to Legal Sea Foods!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Reusable Bowl Cover Tutorial & Giveaway

I finally got around to making the reusable pan cover I posted about earlier, but unfortunately, my camera batteries were dead so I didn't get to take any pictures. Tonight, however, I made a reusable bowl cover, and everything was in perfect working order. This is what I made:

You'll need:

fabric - fat quarters work nicely
nylon ripstop
coordinating thread
scissors, measuring tape, sewing machine, etc, etc.

Start by placing your bowl face down on your fabric. Measure out three inches in all directions, marking a large circle.

Cut out the circle, and repeat with the ripstop, using your fabric circle as a template.

Pin fabric and ripstop, right sides facing.

Sew along edges, using a 1/4" seam allowance. Leave an opening about three inches wide. Trim extra fabric.

Turn inside out. Fold the fabric and ripstop in at the opening. Press the seam and the fabric at the opening. Do not iron directly on the ripstop, and do not leave the iron long on any one spot - the ripstop will melt.

I wanted a nice little ruffle at the bottom, so I sewed a second circle. I just guestimated where to sew, this distance from the edge worked well for me:

Leave another three inches open, lined up with the first opening.

Sew a third circle, creating a channel for the elastic somewhere around 3/4" wide. Do not leave an opening, make this circle complete.

Thread your elastic through, testing how much you'll need on your bowl before you sew or tie the ends of the elastic. Sew the opening closed, and there you have it. A reusable replacement for all that tin foil and plastic wrap. You can wipe down the ripstop after each use, and if it gets really messy, throw it in the wash.

I plan on giving these to family members as Christmas gifts (after I make a few more for myself, of course), and maybe sell them on Etsy. In the meantime, if you leave a comment, you can get the reusable bowl cover pictured above for free! The winner will be picked and notified on Sunday, July 4th.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Living Simply

We're striving towards simplicity.. it's something we started, in theory, a year ago, but it got put mostly on hold. Now we're kicking into high gear with a Major Decluttering. Getting rid of stuff is one of the easiest ways to simplify, and we're having fun with it so far. I just wish I had more free time to get stuff done.

Last weekend, we bagged up three giant trashbags full of clothes - mine, Doug's, and newborn clothes Niall's already outgrown. I also sorted through the kids' books and set aside four boxes full to sell at our next yardsale. The plan for this weekend was to go to IKEA and find a storage solution for the kids toys and then to majorly pare down what they have. Unfortunately, it's supposed to be wicked hot and since that project would involve lots of attic time, we may have to postpone it.

In the meantime, I'm reading this:

So far, it seems pretty basic, all stuff I've read or thought of on my own. But I'm still in the beginning, and it's good to have my thoughts reinforced by an outside source.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Coconut Oil

I thought I had hit rock bottom before, but I stepped on the scale the other day, and oy! I need to get to work pronto. I weighed in at a whopping 265.5, which is up almost 16 pounds from shortly after giving birth. 16 pounds in 7 weeks! Holy frickin' cow. Literally.

So I spent some time on the internet looking for support, and I started reading about virgin cold-pressed coconut oil, thanks to a thread on Apparently, coconut oil, so long as it's not hydrogenated, is like a miracle substance. Not only does it improve your skin and hair, increase energy and improve moods, it also regulates blood sugar levels and decreases hunger and cravings.

I had actually been searching for coconut oil for the past several months so I could make an energy bar recipe I found. It seemed hard to get, from what I heard from other people.. Trader Joe's doesn't carry it, and our Whole Foods is a ways away. Well, amazingly enough, I found it at my local (and very mainstream) grocery store. This is what I made with it:

2 cups almonds
1/4 cup flax seeds (chia or pumpkin seeds work as well)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or prunes, raisins, or dates)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup unsalted peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tbs honey
3 tsp vanilla
chocolate chips

Put almonds, flax, cranberries, coconut, peanut butter, and salt in a food processor and chop up (or if you use a blender, like me, you might want to divide up the ingredients into smaller amounts so you don't overwhelm the blender). Heat coconut oil - or if you're making this during a heatwave and your coconut oil is already liquid, you can skip the heating. Add the coconut, honey, and vanilla to the food processor and grind away until you have a coarse paste. Press the mixture into an 8x8 dish (if you double the recipe, you can use a 9x13 pan). Chill in the refrigerator for an hour. Then Melt the chocolate on the stovetop or in the microwave and spread over the top. Once the chocolate has had the chance to harden in the fridge, you can cut it into bars.

So, so good.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My First Craft Tutorial

I've seen some really neat reusable bowl covers on Etsy, so I thought I'd give it a try. I really wanted a rectangular one to cover my 9x13 pans.

You'll need:

fabric - fat quarters work well, or any sizable scraps
nylon ripstop or other waterproof material
1/4" elastic ribbon
sewing machine, scissors, measuring tape, etc

Choose a time when the children are asleep and you really should be sleeping, too.

Measure and cut a piece of fabric that's about 3" bigger than your pan on all sides. Repeat with ripstop.

Get out your sewing machine and dust it off, since you haven't sewn since that big pre-holiday craft binge.

Realize that your mother, who borrowed your sewing machine months ago, broke off the plastic piece that holds the spool of thread, and apparently threw it out, since it's nowhere to be found.

Pack everything away, cursing that you could have been asleep 45 minutes ago, had it not been for your crazy need to craft.


To be continued...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Midsummer Garden

Our garden is a little behind this year (okay, that's putting it mildly). With the new baby and everything, we were slow getting started, and really scaled back, too. But I have six pots of bush beans going, and we've got some teeny little beans!

Normally we do tomatoes in pots, but this year we put them in one of our raised beds. We've got eight plants going, a mix of regular and cherry/grape varieties. I don't know how successful they'll be.. I had Doug plant them, but neglected to tell him how to remove the lower branches and plant it very deeply to encourage root growth. Then to make matters worse, I didn't get out there to stake and prune them for a few weeks, so they're not in great shape. However.. nature is resiliant and we've got bunches of wee tomatoes.

I also did something goofy.. I wanted to plant a bunch of marigolds from seed and expected them to turn out like the six packs you get at the grocery store. Well, these are my marigolds:

Apparently, I bought the wrong kind of seeds. They're about two feet tall. Oops.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Extreme Breastfeeding

Hello, my name is Rachel and I'm a low milk supply mama.

It all started when my first child was born, and 'my milk never came in' - that's the phrase everyone uses, though it's a little inaccurate because my colostrum did indeed change to mature milk, there just wasn't much of it. I tried pumping and using a supplemental nursing system (SNS), but I was so overwhelmed that I quit after just three weeks, when he developed thrush.

I figured it was a fluke, but while pregnant with my second, I researched quite a bit just in case. I bought a SNS to bring to the hospital and found out what herbal supplements I could take if it turned out I had low supply again. I ended up making just the same amount of milk as I did with my first, and nothing I tried helped. I still only made about a quarter of what my baby needed. We lasted three months. The one good thing to come from that experience was that I discovered the Lact-Aid, a much better alternative to the SNS.

At the very beginning of my third pregnancy, I started researching obsessively. I found a lot of new things to try, some of which I could do while pregnant. Some of those new things worked, and I was able to increase my production to about a third of what she need. I felt pretty good about that, and we managed to make it to six months, though the last month of that, she would only consent to nurse at night, while half asleep.

This time, I feel like an old pro as far as supply issues go. I had my routine while pregnant: 4 cups of alfalfa, nettle, red clover, and red raspberry leaf tea steeped for 12 hours, 3 cups of Metamucil, and 2 shatavari pills daily. Immediately after giving birth, I started taking domperidone, a medication that is not available here and has to be illegally brought into the country. I dropped the shatavari (not supposed to take shatavari and domperidone at the same time). I also encapsulated my placenta and got about 90 pills, so I take one of those a day, too. On good days, Niall gets half of what he needs from me.

Our plan was to do minimal bottles to reduce the risk of nursing strikes, but I developed a really bad infection on my nipples (thrush, but also something else due to badly damaged skin from a shallow latch that I took too long to correct). I took Diflucan for two weeks, which in addition to 2 garlic pills and 4 probiotic pills daily, cleared up the thrush. My nipples were still badly damaged and nursing was excruciating until I discovered saline soaks and a homemade all-purpose nipple ointment (APNO). Most people get this as a prescription from a compounding pharmacy, but it can run about $70. So I figured out how to make my own (equal parts Lotrimin/Monistat, polysporin/bacitracin, and hydrocortisone cream). While my nipples were healing, we did one bottle a night to give myself a break. Now things are much better and we're able to cut that out. So, while I'm not in nearly as much pain, I'm still taking 20 pills daily (2 fish oil, 2 garlic, 2 probiotic, 1 prenatal, 1 placenta, 10 domperidone, 2 vitamin D), 2 cups of Metamucil, 4 cups of alfalfa tea, and applying APNO whenever I can. Here's what I need to breastfeed my baby:

Breastfeeding is supposed to be free and easy. For me, it's anything but.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Natural Play Area

We have a huge backyard here at the homestead, and we definitely put it to good use. My parents (who have an in-law apartment on one level) wanted to buy a big wooden swingset for the kids, but we vetoed that idea. Swingsets are okay, but they take up a ton of room and limit play. We prefer to keep the kids' play areas more natural and open-ended.

I'd been dying to find some sections of tree trunk somewhere, and was on the verge of calling a tree service to find out how much it would cost to purchase them. Then Doug and my dad took a few loads of yard debris to the city compost/dump area and found exactly what I was looking for. They lugged them home, and this is what I did with them:

I'd like to get some more to fill the gaps. Right now the kids climb all over them, jump from one to another, using the area as a stage for all their crazy pretend games. Two of the pots have pretty purple flowers (I forget what kind), and the other two pots have herbs.. thyme and mint. I'm very happy with the way it turned out, and the kids are, too.


Dark leafy greens, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese, dried cranberries, walnuts, and a drizzle of Ken's raspberry walnut dressing. Delicious. A very good friend brought this as part of a meal after baby Niall was born, and we fell instantly in love. I've made this salad maybe ten times in the last four weeks. So, so good. Maybe not the healthiest of salads, but it's one that I can tolerate, and the walnuts help me stay full longer.

Dieting is hard, hard work. I'm not really in the mood to diet, if you know what I mean, and that makes it lot worse. But I can't stand the thought of regaining what I lost last summer. My stomach sticks out way too far, probably because the pregnancy loosened my abdominal muscles. I've got the exercise ball, I've just got to start using it. Sit-ups are much more bearable on the ball. Last summer we had a gym membership and I absolutely *loved* going, but I know that's not going to happen this year. So I've got to find other ways to fit in exercise. It's so daunting. I'm hoping that I can at least do a short routine with the ball and some free weights while the baby naps. Reminder to self: retrieve weights from under the couch and reinflate ball after husband's use of ball to soothe the baby.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

I try to eat oatmeal for breakfast every day, but I really don't like it. I can manage if it's dry, but if it comes out real runny.. yuck. I don't have time to make old fashioned oatmeal on the stove every morning, so I use instant.. but unfortunately, instant isn't as lactogenic as the regular stuff. So I decided to make this:

4 cups oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
Frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients first, then wet ingredients. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish. Add raspberries. Bake for about 40 minutes.

I added more oatmeal than the recipe I found called for to ensure it wasn't too moist. I also used less milk because the frozen raspberries add a lot of liquid, and the original recipe called for dried cranberries. It was super easy to make and came out just right. I much prefer this to instant oatmeal. Next time I'm going to try it with diced apples and cinnamon, or maybe blueberries. I was tempted to add some chocolate chips to it, but I stayed strong.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Last Postpartum Visit

Today was Lauren's last visit. It was kind of sad, after having so many long, wonderful visits, to realize that I most likely won't see her again. With homebirth midwives, the care is so much more personal, you really get to know your caregiver a lot better. In the six months I've known her, she's learned more about me than my OBGYN has in the 6+ years I've been seeing her.

Today we talked about some of her recent experiences as a doula for clients who have delivered at Beverly Hospital. Now, Beverly Hospital is one of the better hospitals in the area if you're attempting natural childbirth or VBAC, but still.. the situation is pretty dismal. I feel so grateful that I was able to opt out of that environment for two of my births, not just for being able to avoid the risks of hospital birth, but for such wonderful memories like this one, just minutes after Niall's birth:

Thank you, Lauren. And thank you to every homebirth midwife for allowing women to have more options.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rock Bottom?

I don't know that I'd say I've hit rock bottom, but as I was standing in the grocery store bathroom listening to my older boys pee competitively, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It was horrifying. This picture doesn't even do it justice, as I was also wearing my newborn in a wrap, and wraps only highlight fat rolls.

This is where I should make all sorts of pledges to eliminate refined sugars and trans-fats, to control portion sizes, to exercise regularly, etc, etc. The problem is, I've got four kids, one of whom is a newborn. I'm sleep-deprived, sometimes grouchy, and to make matters worse, a medication I take has the side effect of increasing hunger. So I'm not going to make any pledges or promises. I'm just going to do my best. And when I fail, I'm just going to pick myself back up and try again.

Most of you are probably coming in from my Weight Watchers site, so you'll probably be disappointed that I'm not following Weight Watchers just now. Honestly, I don't have the time to measure and count. Instead, I'm killing two birds with one stone. I don't produce enough breastmilk, so I'm trying to eat a lactogenic (milk producing) diet. Naturally, lactogenic foods are healthy, so hopefully I'll be able to lose some weight in the process. This morning I had oatmeal, lunch was carrots, hummus, some walnuts, and chicken. Dinner will be a wash because we're planning on having Hamburger Helper, but maybe I can have some dark leafy greens with it.

About Me

Back when my husband and I were first starting out, I never would have guessed that this is where we'd be now. Homebirthing, homeschooling, baby-wearing, chicken owning, (sub)urban homesteading parents of four kids. Life is funny.

My husband, Doug and I met online in February of 1996, when I was 15 and he was 17. He was living 1400 miles away, so we didn't meet in person until later that summer, after our birthdays. We've been madly in love ever since.

Now we live in suburban Massachusetts, in the same house where we had our first kiss, where we got married, where two of our children were born. He's an IT manager in Boston and I stay home with the kiddos. My life revolves around my family, so that's a lot of what's in this blog. But I'm also more than 100 pounds overweight and trying to get healthy, so that'll be part of things, too. And because we're learning-as-we-go urban homesteaders, I'll write about those adventures as well.