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.