Monday, November 21, 2011

Communicating Through Sign Language

Baby signing seems to be relatively new. Probably within the last ten years or so, it became popular. It is simple and a really gratifying way for your baby to communicate before she can talk. Mary Abilene can tell us when she wants a snack, a drink, to nurse, when she needs to go potty, that she wants more, and that she's all finished through signing. She can also sign "airplane", "moon", "hot" (she does the sign for "hot" when her food is too hot, or when her bath is too warm!), and she is working on "friend", "flower", and "butterfly"! Despite the fact that she can only say "mama", "dada", and "ball" out loud I feel as if she is communicating with me all throughout the day through signs.

I highly recommend teaching your baby to sign. We started signing around 7 or 8 months, but she didn't use her first sign until around a year. At first she would sign "all done" for everything. Even if she wanted something she'd wave her little hands in the air signing "all done"! But soon after she picked up all the important signs for her to communicate her needs and now she is learning other signs for objects. She learns so fast these days!

There are quite a few books on Baby Signing but we really love the "Baby Signing Time" or "Signing Time" DVD series. Mary Abilene only watches about 5 minutes of it, but she loves it. If we start singing the "signing time" song she runs to the tv and turns it on. She sits in my lap and I will shape her hands for the signs as we learn them (until she gets tired of sitting and runs off to something else!) She doesn't learn much from the DVD's right now, but Patrick and I really do. We learn signs really fast by watching the videos and then can teach her. The series was created by a woman whose daughter was born deaf. It uses American Sign Language (ASL) not "baby signs". I prefer this because then Mary Abilene is learning a real language that she can use even later in life. Using "baby signs" is perfectly sufficient for a goal of just communicating with your baby or toddler, but learning ASL is a bonus.

It is really satisfying for me to know what my daughter wants or needs without her throwing a fit or screaming. She simply does the sign when she is hungry, when she wants a drink, or when she wants more of something. For her to walk up and do the sign for "drink" and for me to know "Oh, you are thirsty! Here's your cup." Is incredibly rewarding as a mom. It also gives her the ability to show us what is going on in her mind - that she is learning and is so very smart!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Have a Natural Birth?

1. Trust in God's Design
2. Often results in fewer complications
3. Less risk of harm to mother and baby
4. Labor is usually shorter
5. No loss in sensation or alertness
6. Allowing labor to start spontaneously results in fewer complications and there is a greater chance the baby will be fully developed and ready to live outside the womb.
7. Breastfeeding may be established easier
8. Recovery is usually quicker
9. Empowering
10. Sense of accomplishment
11. Because we can!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Graham Crackers

I wanted a healthy, easy, and tasty treat for my toddler, and I just feel a lot more comfortable making my own rather than buying something out of a box. Even if that something out of a box is organic and all natural it is probably expensive and not near as tasty.

These graham crackers are soon becoming a household staple. They don't taste anything like boxed graham crackers - they are way better! They are bolder, more flavorful, and so much more fragrant. In fact, I don't know which is better - smelling them or eating them!

This recipe couldn't be easier, and I do the whole thing in the food processor which makes it fast and a breeze to clean up. These crackers are win win!

Homemade Graham Crackers
I have reduced the sugar in the original recipe from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup and use coconut oil instead of butter. I thought 1/2 cup of sugar was too sweet for my taste, and especially for a toddler. My version is also vegan! (well, if vegans eat honey, which I guess it depends on how vegan you are!)

1 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/4 cup raw sugar or brown sugar
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup solid state coconut oil or cold butter, cut into pea-size bits
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large food processor, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the coconut oil a bit at a time and mix until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the honey, molasses, water, and vanilla and mix until the dough comes together in a ball.

Between 2 sheets of waxed paper, roll the dough 1/4-inch thick. Chill for 1 hour, until firm.

Preheat to 350 degrees F.

Carefully remove chilled dough from waxed paper. Lightly flour the dough and roll 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut into 2-inch squares. Arrange the crackers on parchment lined cookie sheets. With a fork, prick several holes in each cracker.

Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet.

Serve plain or with peanut butter, almond butter, cream cheese, ice cream, s'mores... you name it!

Note: Not suitable for babies under 1 year due to honey in the recipe.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Peace of Mind Is...


Everywhere I go, I see some sort of advertisement to "Get your flu shot!" At one grocery store, there was a sign that said "Peace of Mind is... A flu shot." Hm. That's peace of mind? Let's investigate.

Before I was even into natural treatments and avoiding drugs when unnecessary, I didn't get my flu shot. Why? Because I heard that you could still get the flu or even get the flu from the flu shot. That was reason enough to avoid the needle. I have had the flu twice that I can remember. I have had the flu shot only one time that I can remember, lets call it twice for good measure. So out of almost 32 years of my life, I have had two flu shots and only had the flu twice. Assuming the years I had the flu were in years I did not get the flu shot, my non-vaccinated flu rate is 6.67%. So now why would I want a flu shot every year, if I only have a 6.7% flu rate?? Do your own personal statistics.

Fact #1: There is no guarantee the flu vaccine protects you from the flu
The flu shot, or nasal spray, only contains vaccinations for the particular flu strains that are known wild viruses. Remember the H1N1 frenzy? The current flu vaccine, at the time, did not protect against H1N1. This year's flu cocktail has added H1N1 but there are new and mutated strains all the time. Also, the package insert for Fluzone1 states "Vaccination with Fluzone, Fluzone High-Dose, or Fluzone Intradermal may not protect all recipients." Who? How many? What's the protection rate? It doesn't say. Yet a recent article in The Lancet medical journal2 says "Influenza vaccines can provide moderate protection against virologically confirmed influenza, but such protection is greatly reduced or absent in some seasons."

This study claimed that the flu vaccine is only 60% effective yet this does not mean that 60% of people who get the vaccine will not get the flu because many of them wouldn't get the flu anyway. The "control group" of adults consisted of 13,095 non-vaccinated adults who were monitored to see if they caught influenza. Over 97% of them did not. Only 357 of them caught influenza, which means only 2.7% of these adults caught the flu in the first place. In the study, the "treatment group" consisted of adults who were vaccinated with a trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine. Out of this group, according to the study, only 1.2% caught the flu. The study then takes the 1.2 divides by 2.7 to get .44 which is the rate of contracting the flu even with the flu vaccine. Thus it claims that the effectiveness is 60% which is really just .55 rounded up. This is all true, but they are using the statistics to say what they want them to say - that you have a 60% less chance of getting the flu with the flu shot. But it is really a 60% (55%, but whose counting?) less chance out of a 2.7% chance in the first place. Do you follow? If you take the same number, the difference between the control group and the treatment group is 1.5. So really, the flu shot is effective in 1.5 in 100. Meaning that the flu vaccine does nothing for 98.5% of people, and furthermore, only 2.7 in 100 non-vaccinated people will get the flu in the first place!

Fact #2: You could get the flu from the flu vaccine.. or worse
While the flu shot is a killed virus, the flu nasal spray is a live virus. The CDC claims that you can not get the flu from the vaccine, yet the same website3 lists side effects such as "headache, fever, nasal congestion, sore throat, and aches". That sounds strangely like the flu. The flu shot sheds like crazy, and not only can you get sick, but you can make others around you sick. When Mary Abilene was three months old, I took her to visit some friends in an office. One of the ladies there said "I can't get too close, I just got a flu vaccine." Even she knew that the vaccine sheds. I also found online the side effects for "Fluzone" that include Blood and Lymphatic Disorders, Immune System Disorders, Nervous System Disorders, Vascular Disorders, Respiratory, Thoracic and Mediastinal Disorders, Skin and Subcutaneous Disorders, Gastrointestinal Disorders, and other General Disorders including pain in the extremities and chest pain." (from the package insert2).

Fact #3: Flu vaccines have not been studied in pregnant or nursing mothers
The same package insert for Fluzone also states "Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with Fluzone or Fluzone High-Dose. It is also not known whether Fluzone or Fluzone High-Dose can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction capacity. Fluzone or Fluzone High-Dose should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed." Interesting that doctors recommend the flu shot for ALL pregnant women. Mayoclinic.com states "Flu shots are recommended for women who'll be pregnant during flu season." They are recommending a shot when it has never been studied and they have no idea how it effects the fetus. There are other brands of the vaccine, including Fluvirin, Fluarix, Flulaval, Afluria, and Flumist yet all of them except Flumist says "Has not been evaluated in pregnant or nursing mothers." Flumist actually says that it should not be used in pregnant women.

Fact #4: They dish em out before they are studied
Now you're thinking "Whaaaat? How can they not study it?" There was never an independent, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the H1N1 flu vaccine4. You remember when H1N1 gained attention (Spring 2009), and it was just a matter of months (October 2009) before the vaccine manufacturers pushed out a vaccine. There is NO WAY they tested the safety or effectiveness of this vaccine in six months, and they are totally ignoring long term side effects. Now that H1N1 vaccine is incorporated in the mix, the Lancet study mentioned earlier is on the cocktail, not the individual components.

Fact #5: There are carcinogens and other nasty chemicals in the vaccine
All the different brands of vaccines5 contain different ingredients. You can choose which vaccine you want, yet unfortunately, most people just take whatever is dished out at the time. Some vaccines include mercury, and yes, they will still give a flu shot containing mercury to pregnant women and young children. Yet, they don't want you eating tuna.
Flu vaccine ingredients include6:
Ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
Phenol, also known as carbolic acid (this is used as a disinfectant, dye)
Formaldehyde, a known cancer-causing agent
Aluminum, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease and seizures and also cancer producing in laboratory mice (it is used as an additive to promote antibody response)
Thimerosal (used as a mercury disinfectant/preservative) can result in brain injury and autoimmune disease
Neomycin and Streptomycin (used as antibiotics) have caused allergic reaction in some people.
Fertilized Eggs chicken embryos

Below is a rather humorous video out of Canada about what's lurking in the flu vaccine.



A flu shot is peace of mind? With a protection rate of 1.5 in 100, unknown risks during pregnancy and nursing, and lack of studies, I think a flu shot is the exact opposite of peace of mind. Washing your hands, eating healthy, and exercising do more to prevent you from getting the flu than the vaccine ever will.

1Fluzone Package Insert
2The Lancet
3CDC
4www.naturalnews.com
5Dr. Sears Flu Vaccine site
6Dr.BenKim

Monday, October 24, 2011

Just Label It!


Recently, a legal docket has been filed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to label items that contain genetically engineered foods. The FDA has not required labeling GMO foods because they said it would cause "fear" among the public. The FDA themselves seem to think GMO foods are indeed a problem, but they have so far let America eat the foods blindly. GMO foods have been in our food supply since the 1990's and an entire generation of kids have grown up eating GMO foods. It is time to label these foods so we can at least make an informed decision about what we eat and what we allow into our bodies! Other countries including the 15 European nations, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Russia, and China all require labeling of GMO foods. We should too!

You can write the FDA commissioner through http://justlabelit.org/ and tell him that you want GMO foods labeled. This website already writes the letter for you so all you have to do is submit, or you can edit, or write an original one!

Also, visit that website to learn about GMO's and why we want them labeled!

Just label it!

Related posts: Heck no GMO!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: Green Housekeeping

Green Housekeeping
by Ellen Sandbeck

Easily a great reference to all things clean, Green Housekeeping has some really great tips and ideas for cleaning everything in, under, and around your home WITHOUT any chemicals. Most of the cleaning products listed in the book are already in your kitchen pantry. Vinegar, baking soda, salt, vodka, and potentially some borax seems to be all you need to clean anything that stains, splatters, or stinks. There is also a good section on pest control in and outside of the home. Sandbeck seems to have some serious OCD issues when it comes to clutter. Her chapter on decluttering was the most obsessive I've seen on the subject, but I strangely found her OCD highly entertaining. Her bathroom cleaning routine, though advertised as only taking "5 minutes a day" seems to use "5 towels a day". You definitely need a large laundry closet to heed some of her advice.

Green Housekeeping is worth having around for the next stain you can't seem to remove, the appliances you want sparkling, or the bug you want dead, all without toxic chemicals.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Early Potty Learning: A How To


The few people that have discovered that we are practicing early potty training our one year old daughter have asked me "How do you do it?" "Where do I start?" I say "few people" because I have been reluctant to go around touting our potty training success. I've been worried that I would either sound like I'm bragging (which, ok, I would be. "Hi, this is my daughter, Mary Abilene. She's potty trained.") or that I would hear "She's too young. You're going to scar her." or something along those lines. I'll let our success speak for itself!

So how do you start? The book I mentioned earlier is good, but it is more about why to potty train as opposed to how. So I devised my own plan, and it is a major success. First things first, get a little potty. I recommend a little potty chair as opposed to a potty seat that you put on the big toilet for several reasons. One, it is safer for a smaller toddler or baby. Two, your child can see their own success. Mary Abilene likes to get up and point to her prize. She knew that when she sat down, the potty was empty, and when she got up, it was full. This allowed it to click fairly quickly that she was making the liquid and could make it on purpose.

Next, you can choose to sit your child on it fully clothed, or go ahead and sit them on it without bottoms. Praise her just for sitting on it and read to her. See if she will sit for a few minutes. If she is totally comfortable with that, then you can move to sitting her on it without bottoms if you did clothed first. Put her on it first thing in the morning - that is the most likely time for you to catch it. I'm talking, as soon as her little eyes open, put her on the potty. The first morning we had the potty she pee-peed in it. I read that babies don't go while they are in a deep sleep, its really upon rousing. If I waited too long then I would have missed it. If she nursed first, then we missed it. So it has to be fast. (As long as she's awake enough to want to sit there - too fast, and of course, she will be cranky). Read to her while she sits (or some other activity that will keep her sitting), do the same right after naps. When you catch a potty tell her "Go pee-pee" or "Go potty", try not to jump for joy immediately because you might scare her into stopping! Then when she is finished, really ham it up; act like its the greatest thing since indoor plumbing. Praise, clap, cheer, throw them up in the air. This is all you want or need to do at first - upon waking in the morning and from naps, and you can try between diaper changes and before a bath. Anytime that your child would be naked anyway, go ahead and put her on the potty. Just read to her and let her sit as long as she wants, but let her get up when she's ready. If you catch it enough times, she should figure it out. That's what happened with us. MA stood up when she was done and would look at it and point. She figured out she was making the liquid/poop.

Also, I let Mary Abilene run around outside naked, she would watch herself pee and point to it. They have to be able to figure out that they are making it and that they can make it on purpose. Let your child in the bathroom when you go. Mary Abilene's potty is right in front of the toilet so we are facing each other if we are both sitting on our potties. Let her look in your toilet when you're finished (Don't be weirded out about it! Its a natural process and the best way for your child to figure out that everyone has to go potty!) When I sat her on the potty before her bath, I would go potty too and she started going when I went. She would also try to push it out when I went, even if she didn't have to go. I noticed that she would go even in her diaper when I went. It kinda fell into place at this point. One random day, I just put her on it between diaper changes and she went. After that, she was doing it on purpose every time.

It is really important to do a sign. It can be whatever you choose that is easy for your child and a clear indication. You need to do a sign when you put her on the potty and especially when she goes. Also do the sign when you go. I chose to pat my tummy with both hands because it is an easy sign to pick up. There is a real sign for "toilet" but its not as obvious as patting the tummy, I thought. She started doing this when she was going on the potty and then she just started doing it right before she had to go.

My daughter really caught on fast, about 3 weeks. She will tell us when she has to go, most every time. She does still have 2 or so accidents every day, and if we don't get her to the potty as soon as she makes the sign, she will go anyway. She can't hold it long; I only have about a 15 second window between making the sign and her going so it does have to be immediate. We keep her in little "panties" at home, which are just smaller size (6 month) bloomers from her too-small dresses. This way we don't have to take off a bunch of layers and unsnap snaps while hoping she can hold it long enough. I'm looking at getting training panties on Etsy, and it is going to be adorable! You could keep your baby in a velcro easy on/easy off diaper, but I'm really hoping to not confuse her too much. I think as long as she is not in a diaper it helps her to know she needs to go potty in the potty, not in her diaper. Also, if you have your baby in underwear you know when they go and you can go ahead and sit them on the toilet to help learn "pee-pee goes in the potty", and also, your child will not be sitting around wet. I believe it is important for the child to get used to being dry and like it. And also to like not having on a bulky diaper. I don't expect every baby to catch on this fast. Mary Abilene might just be trained easier because of cloth diapers, or because of her disposition; keep your expectations to a minimum and just do it for fun. Remember that your child does not have to be potty trained any time soon - this is purely bonus!

Potty training any child takes consistency, and I'm sure that goes double for a baby or young toddler. I have noticed that when we are out and MA is in diapers more, like on weekends, then she has more accidents the next day. Just don't make it a big thing, and I really do not believe that children this young should be reprimanded for accidents. Praise for success, and just an "all business" attitude when cleaning up an accident is sufficient - not disappointment or frustration. If it ever gets frustrating for you or your child then stop and try again the next month. And, never force a child to sit on the potty. It is really fun to watch my baby figure it out and really, really fun to feel like I have this great secret!

Previous posts on our early potty training journey:
We Like to Potty
Potty Update - 3 weeks in!

Note: I say "she" and "her" a lot because I have a girl. I believe early potty training works with a boy too, it is just easier for me to say "she" *smiles*

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Books I Love: Taking Charge of Your Fertility

Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health.
Toni Weschler, MPH

This may be one of the best books I've ever read. No I'm not kidding. I read this book two years ago when I was just starting to think about trying to conceive. In the midst of being totally amazed at what I didn't know about my own body, I couldn't help but wonder - why didn't I know this before? This is not what kids are learning in sex ed. This is not what our mother's are teaching when we first get our periods. Why? Because they didn't know. The female body has remained a mystery for even females!

This book teaches how to learn your body's natural cues of fertility. It teaches that your cycle doesn't revolve around your period, but rather ovulation. It teaches how to know when you ovulate. The natural birth control taught here is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). FAM is 99% effective when followed properly. It is not the "rhythm method", but rather following your bodies cues to know when you are fertile. It absolutely puts you in charge of your fertility. You can decide when to try for pregnancy or when to avoid it. It is not just looking at a calendar and counting to 14 as your OBGYN might teach. It also can tell you when you have an issue in your cycle so you and your OBGYN can be more precise and effective. The FAM combines charting your basal body temperature with other fertility cues. You may be thinking "Ugh, not charting!" A lot of people find charting laborious or stressful because they tried it when trying to conceive. I'm not going to lie, it does take work and organization. If you have trouble remembering to chart, are too busy, or don't have the discipline, then this method is not for you. But I love spreadsheets and I love learning about myself, so no big deal!

I absolutely believe that hormonal birth control is destroying our fertility. It wreaks havoc on our bodies causing more than just some uncomfortable side effects or mood swings. I believe it can cause lasting damage to your cycle. No, I don't have science to back me up. All I have is experience, testimonials, and a fair bit of speculation. So many people are experiencing miscarriages. I believe some of these could be related to hormonal birth control. Progesterone is what carries a pregnancy. Pro-gestational-hormone. It is essential to maintain pregnancy. While on birth control you do not produce progesterone. Hormonal birth control shuts down your natural progesterone and replaces it with progestin, a synthetic progesterone derived from horses' urine. Because the body is not allowed to produce it's own progesterone, it often has a bit of trouble kicking it back up once off the pill. The body could then not produce enough causing crazy cycles, delayed ovulation, or loss of a fertilized egg. Your hormones are in charge of everything from sleep, to your mood, to fertility, and a hormone imbalance can cause insomnia, headaches, weight gain, allergies, arthritis, auto-immune disorders, fatigue, etc, etc, etc. Hormone balance is very fragile, and personally, I believe hormones are nothing to mess with.

So get the book and read everything you may not know about yourself. It is totally eye opening and fascinating. Also, Weschler, has a book for teens called "Cycle Savvy: The smart teen's guide to the mysteries of her body" that teaches young girls all about their cycle. If there isn't something newer by the time my daughter enters the great abyss of puberty, then I'm definitely getting that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What you think your baby needs.. that she doesn't!

I once heard that a new baby will cost $1,000 a month. I have no idea who came up with this number, but I would just like to say "No way!" My baby is cheap! Actually, she's priceless, but seriously light on the budget.

Maybe if you bought high-end disposable diapers, formula, and all the latest gadgets and gear, you could spend about $1,000 a month. I've already been over the cost of disposable diapers vs cloth diapers, and the cost of breastfeeding vs formula (read: free!) so you can refresh the cost savings. What I want to point out here is five unnecessary baby items that everyone thinks they gotta have!

1) Baby bathtub

I opted for a Tummy Tub and we all loved it. Mary Abilene was delighted and smiled and cooed in the TT when she was a newborn. There was hardly anything better than watching her eyes light up as we lowered her into the soothing water. But as soon as she could hold her head up, I brought her into the big bath with me because I wanted her to be comfortable in water at a young age. There I could help her lie on her back and "float" and fun was had by all. Apparently, I bathed with her one too many times and soon she refused to go back in the Tummy Tub. So from about 4 months of age on, Baby Girl has not been in a baby bathtub. We have bathed her in the sink, and she enjoyed sitting in the sink and looking at herself in the mirror as soon as she could sit up unsupported. Now, ever since about 11 months old, she has sat in the big bathtub by herself. No bathtub seat, no floaty device, no nothing except constant supervision and hands close by. I realize now that baby bathtubs and bathtub seats are pretty pointless. A newborn can be bathed in the sink and this can continue all the way until you are comfortable letting your child sit in the big tub on their own. Saves money, saves space!

2) Baby Food

While jarred baby food is unnecessary considering it takes 10 minutes to steam and puree fresh food, I'm not even talking about making your own. I'm talking no baby food. No pureeing, no mashing, no spoon feeding, no baby food. Baby Led Weaning, or Baby Led Solids is a great way to introduce solids. We started solids at six months old and Mary Abilene is a great and efficient eater. I like to think she's a better eater than other babies her age, though I don't know that statistically. Even if she doesn't eat more or more variety, it is just plain easier and more enjoyable for parent and baby to allow baby to explore food at their own pace.

3) Crib

Cosleeping is somewhat controversial, yet very traditional. Parents have slept with their babies probably from the beginning of time, and otherwise kept their babies in a basket next to them. Everyone having their own space in their own room, with their own bed is a bi-product of our, dare I say, selfish culture. Everything is bigger these days; bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger rooms. Just 50 years ago people lived a more minimalistic life. Putting a newborn in their own bed in their own room, otherwise called a "nursery" actually stems from nurseries in hospitals. Starting in the late 19th and early 20th century, babies were immediately whisked away at birth and placed in a box in the hospital nursery. Parents were led to believe that they needed the same set up at home, and thus the modern home nursery was born.

4) Crib bedding sets

While I'm on the subject, those oh-so-adorable crib bedding sets have turned out to be a bit of a waste of money. The only thing we really use from our bedroom set is the valance. But wait, that didn't even come with the set and isn't even necessary or for the baby! Bedding sets usually come with a comforter, a sheet, a dust ruffle, and a bumper for the crib. At least for my crib, you can't see the dust ruffle very well and is pretty pointless. The comforter, a baby can not use (it is advised to not use blankets in a crib with a newborn), and as far as the bumper goes, my crib has a solid portion in the back so the bumper doesn't tie where it should and thus sags. We hung the comforter on the wall as decoration, but I would have rather skipped the bedding set and picked out sheets, potentially a bumper if you think you need one, wall art or decorations, and curtains separately. That would have made a nicer and less contrived design scheme, I think.

5) Pacifiers

We all know pacifiers were invented to replace mother's nipple, but have you actually sat and thought about that? A pacifier is replacing the warm, loving, comfort of a mother's arms and bosom with a hard plastic, lifeless, plug. Don't get me wrong, I think pacifiers can be useful, but I also believe they are severely overused and misused. Pacifiers are often on registries and are bought before the baby is even born because we just assume its something baby needs. There is nothing that irks me more than giving a baby a pacifier within the first days of life. A newborn has needs and instincts that are God-given. A newborn must be allowed to suckle at the breast as often as needed. Sometimes it may feel like the baby is permanently attached to you, but this phase doesn't last long, and it is very healthy and normal. In the first few weeks of life, this "sets" the mother's milk supply. Pacifier use often leads to early weaning and a dwindling milk supply. Pacifiers can have their place if baby is very fussy in the car or another time when it is unwise to nurse, but should not replace nursing during other normal times. Sometimes a baby may need to suckle beyond what a mom can handle, and by all means, use a pacifier if it will help you keep your new-mom sanity, but I do not think it should be a regular fixture in a baby's mouth. Not using a pacifier won't save you much money, but it will certainly prevent your child from becoming attached to it and may save you from "weaning" from the pacifier later.

There are probably hundreds more unnecessary baby items and an abundance of baby products out there that seem to enable you to parent lazily. I saw a picture of a bottle holder that you strap onto the car seat and it dangles the bottle down at mouth level. No joke, I almost cried when I saw this. To not take the time out of their "busy" schedule to nurture their own child just makes me want to weep uncontrollably. But anyway, that's off topic. Point is, you don't have to take out a second mortgage to have a baby. If you adopt a more natural parenting style, babies can be quite cheap! (and totally priceless!)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Heck No, GMO!

You've probably heard of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) by now, but you may not know what they are or what the big deal is. I acquired a nice pamphlet from my favorite herbalist so I thought it would make a good blog post.

"Yes you're eating them. No, they're not safe."

- Since 1996 Americans have been eating GMO's in most processed food and some whole foods.
- A GMO is a food that has been genetically altered with foreign genes from bacteria and viruses.
- There are eight GM food crops - soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets are the biggest five. Hawaiian pineapple, zucchini, and yellow squash are the other three. About 10% of the nation's sweet corn is GMO, and that number is rising.

A GMO product is a plant that has had its DNA altered. Basically the way they alter a food's DNA is by "shooting" foreign genes into a cell or using bacteria to invade the cell with the foreign DNA. The altered cell is then cloned into a plant. You may be wondering why anyone would want to alter the DNA of a plant. The largest crop producer in the United States is Monsanto. Monsanto is an agricultural biotechnolgy corporation that produces herbicide and genetically engineered seeds (GE). They require their farmers to ONLY use their GE seeds which are genetically altered to withstand their specific herbicide, called Roundup. They produce "Roundup Ready Soy" which is GE to survive heavy doses of Roundup. The mutated genes of their soy and other plants allow Monsanto to spray Roundup killing all other plants besides their specific variety. This also causes a heavy residue of herbicide on the foods. Another reason for genetically modifying seeds is that they can create the plant, usually corn or cotton, to have its own built-in pesticide. A study in the journal "Reproductive Toxicology" found the bacteria used to modify the DNA of corn and cotton to not only show up in her blood stream, but to cross the placenta of a pregnant woman and pass it on to her unborn child. Essentially, GM foods are not only unnatural, but either have large doses of herbicide, or built-in pesticides.

The agricultural companies like Monsanto do this purely to make more money. They control the food supply and the farmers. Using their own GE seeds with their own GE herbicides allows them to produce many more crops than could be done naturally. See the documentary, Food, Inc for more details on Monsanto and the food supply.

Some may see more supply and more money as a good thing, but the problem is that GMO crops have been proven bad for us. Soy is now one of the top allergens, but soy allergies sky rocketed after the introduction of GM soy. A skin prick test shows that some people are allergic to GM soy and not natural soy. Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7 times the amount of allergens of a known natural soy. The toxin used in the DNA of corn and cotton has also been linked to allergies. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine states "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food", including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They ask physicians to advise patients to avoid GM food.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) essentially is turning a blind eye to GMO foods. In 1992, they claimed they had no information showing that GM foods were substantially different from conventionally grown foods, and were therefore safe to eat. Because they deemed the food "safe to eat" no safety studies were required. Yet internal memos in the FDA made public by a lawsuit reveals their position was staged. The pamphlet states "The FDA official in charge of creating this policy was Michael Taylor, the former attorney for Monsanto, and later their vice president." In actuality, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard to detect side effects including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. The same GMO companies that have been found guilty of hiding toxic effects of their chemical products are in charge of determining whether GMO foods are safe.

Just last year, the Obama administration passed a bill that would allow biotech companies to genetically modify alfalfa. This is a huge blow for organic farming. Organic farmers feed their cows alfalfa, as is their natural diet, as opposed to GMO corn. Essentially if alfalfa is now GMO, cows are no longer eating their natural diet and there will be no such thing as organic dairy products or beef because the very source of the food is GMO.

What you can do: Refuse to buy GMO food. The best way to do that is to buy certified organic products, considering it is not required in the U.S., unlike other countries, to label GMO foods. I'll never forget my high school economics class that taught me that whatever you buy is your stamp of approval for that item. If you buy GMO corn you are announcing that you want GMO corn and you want them to continue to produce GMO corn. Refuse to buy and the demand goes down. If more people understand GMO and refuse to buy those products then we are telling biotech corporations that we do not want GMO; we want natural food!

Further reading: www.ResponsibleTechnology.org
and download a Non-GMO shopping guide at www.nongmoshoppingguide.com

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Potty Update - 3 weeks in!

In my last post, less than a week ago, I talked about how we are helping Mary Abilene learn to use the potty. Check out that post for potty training babies and young toddlers. This is an update on our super fast, amazingly, awesome progress.

Toward the end of last week, Thursday and Friday-ish, she wasn't going in the potty near as much as she was Monday and Tuesday-ish. Maybe once a day; I think she didn't go at all in it on Friday. Maybe it is a two steps forward one step back kind of thing. Well, as of Sunday, she started doing a sign for potty! We were teaching her to pat her tummy with both hands when she potties. On Sunday she suddenly started patting her chest at random times. We were thinking "Now what is that?" She has a bit of sign confusion, signing "all done" when she actually means she wants something. But it didn't take more than 2 pats before I realized that she was doing her version of the potty sign. She pats her chest while she sits on the potty, and pats her chest while she goes potty! By Monday we were thinking "This is fantastic, but she needs to learn to pat her chest or tummy before she needs to go." We were going to start patting our tummy and her tummy before we take her to the potty. But today, just one day later, she is starting to pat her chest right before she has to go!

This morning, she was sitting on the floor and looked up at me and patted her chest. I said "You have to go pee-pee?" Thinking she was currently going pee-pee, I swooped her up and promptly stuck her on the potty. As soon as her little fanny hit the seat she starts to tinkle! Yay! She did it! She told me she had to go then she went! No more than an hour later, my husband was sitting at his computer and she toddles up, taps him on the knee and pats her chest! He scooped her up, managed to get her tights and diaper off, sits her on the potty, and she tinkles! I'm so excited I can barely stand myself! She continued to do this throughout the day. I didn't even have to stare at her to wonder when she needed to go. I was even making dinner and she was playing in the kitchen, she grunted at me, I looked at her and she patted her chest. I took her to the potty and she tinkled! She tinkled in the potty ever single time she had to go today that she was at home. She only wore two diapers - one during her nap, and the other while we were out this afternoon. My next question is; How am I going to find panties to fit someone this tiny?

She will be 13 months old on Thursday. Just shy of 13 months old, she has learned to potty in a little potty, has learned a simple sign for potty, and has started doing her sign to communicate with us that she has to go potty. We started sitting her on the potty on August 13. Now, less than a month later, she tells us when she needs to go and goes in the potty regularly. This is seriously revolutionary! My mother-in-law asked why we would want to start potty training her so young - the answer is simply: because we can! I know my baby is a super-genius and all, but I truly believe that every baby could learn. Maybe at different paces, maybe at different ages, but the fact of the matter is that you do not have to wait until age 2 or 3 to start potty learning. Don't delay, start today!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We Like to Potty!

I'm not sure what possessed me to want to introduce Mary Abilene to the potty at just shy of one year old, but I know one day, Patrick came home from work and I announced "I want to potty train our daughter." Now, at 12 months and 3 weeks of age, Mary Abilene goes pee-pee or tries to go every single time I sit her on the potty!

When first announced I wanted to potty train, my husband's response was "Can you do that with a one year old?" Turns out, one year old can even be considered late. Many, many people are introducing their infants to the idea of potty training in America and especially other cultures where disposable diapers are not the norm.

In the book "Early Start Potty Training" by Linda Sonna, she explain that parents used to begin potty training much earlier than they do now. In 1961, before the availability of disposable diapers, 90% of children were potty trained by 2.5 years, which dropped to 22% by 1998. A study in Ambulatory Pediatrics in 2001 said the average age for completing
potty training was 35 months for girls and 39 months for boys. Yet, in the early 1900's infants were often held over a little pot and they became accustomed to going over the pot. The big debate at the time was whether to delay potty training to the age of two months. When automatic washing machines came along in the 1940's and washing diapers was no longer so difficult, infant potty training was out with hand washing. Proctor & Gamble began testing the first disposable diapers in 1961 and their spokesman, T. Berry Brazelton, had commercials that told parents that potty training should be done when children were older, and should be left up to the children to decide when they want to toilet train. The disposable diaper industry told parents that modern science was better than anything they had done before, and parents believed them. In 1998 Pampers introduced a size 6 diaper, and now, disposable diapers come in size 7, made for children of 41+ lbs. It seems to me that if the disposable diaper industry had its way, no one would toilet train! I can't find profit for Pampers alone, but P&G made over $8 billion last year alone.

So you may be wondering how on earth you potty train someone who can barely walk and can't talk. Infant potty training is called Elimination Communication and there are select people who do this with their baby. You basically don't "train" them, you learn their potty cues and hold them over a bowl or pot so they can eliminate. I had heard of this while pregnant, but I didn't want to obsess over my baby's bowels, so I didn't even read into it. Lately, I've seen in forums people who are having plenty of success with introducing the potty to an older baby and toddler. I thought it was a great idea, so we got Mary Abilene a potty and a book (the potty for her, the book for me.)

So we get BooBoo a little potty. (I like the Baby Bjorn smart potty. Its small, nothing fancy, but ergonomic and serves its purpose.) We began sitting her on it at opportune times, like after she woke up for the morning or from a nap. The very first morning that I put her on it - she pee-peed! Right in the potty. We made a huge to-do about it and threw her up in the air smiling and singing. Each time she goes in the potty, we make a big deal about how wonderful it is. She always wants to look in the potty after she gets up. It either has pee-pee or is empty and I tell her "Yay you went pee-pee!" or "no pee-pee. Its empty." It didn't take long at all for her to realize that she was making the liquid that was in the potty. She has also pooped in the potty several times, also after a nap or in the morning. Ever since we started putting her on the potty in the morning, she has gone. There have only been a few mornings that she hasn't gone, and that's usually because we waited too long after she woke up, or she wanted to nurse first. She loves books, so it has been very easy to sit her on the potty and read her some books. She stays on it as long as I'm reading.

As of just a week or so ago, we only sat her on it after waking times. Those were the most likely times for her to go, and any other time was a shot in the dark. We would also give her a lot of naked time, either outside, or on a big old comforter and watch her to see if she has "potty signals". I can recognize her signals while she's going, but not so much before she goes. Naked time also helps to know when she last went potty so then I can get better timing for when she needs to go next. But lately, she doesn't even need to sit long enough to read books. I sit her on the potty and then I go potty and she is always done by the time I'm done. One night last week, I noticed that she was actually trying to go pee-pee, that it was no longer just a coincidence of good timing. She goes when I go! I put her on the potty, I sit on the toilet, and every time she either goes, or makes and effort to go. Sometimes its just bad timing and she doesn't need to go - but she tries! I'm really surprised at how fast this is going. She quickly learned what she's supposed to be doing on the little potty! At first, we were just "catching" her pee-pee. But now, she truly does try to go as soon as she sits down. There is very little waiting, or hoping she'll happen to go while she's there. The next step is getting her to recognize when she has to go and then telling us she has to go. Obviously she doesn't talk much, and has never said "pee-pee" or "potty" but this is where signing comes in. We are teaching her a sign for potty and do it every time we take her to the potty and then while she's going potty.

After she goes potty, I try to leave her diaper-free for at least the next 30 minutes. Diaper-free time is really important for any baby. It helps them air out, get some light, and not spend so much time in a diaper. Sonna points out that a child only spends about 30 minutes a day either pottying or bathing, so why are they in diapers the other 23 hours and 30 minutes? Because of disposable diapers, more and more children are suffering from diaper rash (78% of them) and are being left in diapers longer because they "stay dry". The stay-dry effect is also very bad for learning to potty. If a child never knows when they go, it will be very hard for them to learn their biological cues. Sonna points out that essentially we are teaching babies to go only in their diaper. Every new parent has been sprayed on the changing table, but have you noticed that after only a few weeks or months, the baby stops spraying naked? They get used to pottying in the diaper and learns that is where potty goes. Multiply that by several years and you have a pre-schooler who has a very strong association of pottying in their diaper. They essentially can't not potty in their diaper.

I imagine some people are thinking "Well, that's cute and all, but what's the big deal?" Money is one of the big deals. The average child goes through $2,000-$3,000 worth of disposable diapers. That number could be cut in half. To me, even though I have already invested in cloth diapers, I spend money washing diapers. I also don't like to rinse out poop. Mary Abilene thinks diaper changes are a big deal, squirming, screaming, and otherwise hating every second she spends on the changing table. She only wore 2 diapers all day today. The rest of the time she spent comando. She went 4 times in the potty today. A girl that goes in the potty four times doesn't have to wear diapers! The other big deal is hygiene. Sonna spends a large portion of the book talking about hygiene and why it is important to not leave babies sitting in their own mess. Diaper rash used to be a sign of child neglect, now it is considered "normal". Urine is very acidic and can cause rashes. Poop contains lots of bacteria and that bacteria can travel to other "sensitive" places in little girl's diapers. There is also suggestion that diapers heat up testicles to an unhealthy temperature and can cause fertility issues later in life.

You might also think "It sounds like too much work to teach a baby to go in the potty." Actually, it is very little effort, and the effort that is involved is really fun! Sonna points out that the traditional potty training age of 2.5 to 3 years is when children are most stubborn and least likely to want to take time out from playing to go potty. Pre-schoolers often refuse to go in the potty, often because they do not know how. It would be like sticking an adult in the middle of the room with someone commanding them to "Go potty." This is not where I usually potty - why should I potty here, now? But a baby or young toddler loves to emulate everything their parent does. They respond really well to praise and excited voices. There is much less pressure because I don't have a potty training deadline (like some might have for starting preschool). I don't put pressure on "accidents" or have any sort of reprimand for not pottying in the potty. It is purely fun and enjoyable for both me and Mary Abilene.

I really like to call it "potty learning" as opposed to "potty training". I'm not training my baby girl, but rather, I'm helping her learn. A child needs opportunity to learn to do everything. They need opportunity to learn to crawl, learn to walk, learn to eat solid food; they just need the chance. I didn't have high expectations when we started sitting her on the potty. I just wanted to introduce the potty and help her learn the sensations and the urge to potty. I am really amazed at how quickly she is learning this and seems to really "get it", that she even wants to go in the potty. When she sits down, and starts to tinkle she smiles up at me so big. Like, "Look, Mommy! I'm doing it!" She is proud of herself, and I am so proud of her!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Easy Little Bread

I'm pretty sure there is nothing better than sitting on the kitchen floor sharing a slice of warm fresh baked bread with my baby girl. That's just what we did after this super simple bread came out of the oven.

This recipe is for all of you that would make bread if it were easier, or had the time. This recipe only takes 10 minutes to put together, 30 minutes to rise, and 35 minutes to bake. A yeast bread, just easier. And of course, it is from Heidi.

Easy Little Bread
The recipe calls for 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 AP flour, but I used all whole wheat pastry flour and it was great! Also note this makes a pretty salty little bread. If you don't want it so savory cut the salt down to only 1 tsp.
1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit - 5 - 10 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.

Brush a 8-cup loaf pan generously with some of the melted butter. Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes, to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F, with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. You can finish things up by leaving the bread under the broiler for just a heartbeat - to give the top a bit deeper color. Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn't steam in the pan. Serve warm, on the kitchen floor, with your kids!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Your Rights!

While writing this post, I've almost constantly been hearing a certain 1987 Beastie Boys song in my head. Hm, I didn't even listen to the Beastie Boys back in the day...

Anyway, while you may not fight for your right to party anymore, a birthing mother sometimes has to fight for her right to birth the way she chooses. Particularly, you may have to fight policy in a hospital setting.

I hear so many stories that start or end with "the doctor made me...". A doctor can not make you do anything. That is illegal. However, he or she can recommend something and it is up to you as an individual and a knowledgeable adult to accept or decline. Unless it is an emergency situation, you should never be pressured into anything without being able to think, research, and pray about a procedure beforehand. This statement is specifically about pregnancy and birth, but applies to all health care decisions. The decision truly is yours. Remember, you hired the doctor... he or she actually works for you!

I say this with The Rights of Childbearing Women in mind. The following is taken from www.childbirthconnection.org, a women's advocacy group since 1918. Some of these rights are fairly obvious to most of us, but some of them are not routinely honored in the hospital setting, or are not known by the mother. I'll point them out after the list...

The Rights of Childbearing Women
* At this time in the United States, childbearing women are legally entitled to those rights.
** The legal system would probably uphold those rights.

1. Every woman has the right to health care before, during and after pregnancy and childbirth.

2. Every woman and infant has the right to receive care that is consistent with current scientific evidence about benefits and risks.* Practices that have been found to be safe and beneficial should be used when indicated. Harmful, ineffective or unnecessary practices should be avoided. Unproven interventions should be used only in the context of research to evaluate their effects.

3. Every woman has the right to choose a midwife or a physician as her maternity care provider. Both caregivers skilled in normal childbearing and caregivers skilled in complications are needed to ensure quality care for all.

4. Every woman has the right to choose her birth setting from the full range of safe options available in her community, on the basis of complete, objective information about benefits, risks and costs of these options.*

5. Every woman has the right to receive all or most of her maternity care from a single caregiver or a small group of caregivers, with whom she can establish a relationship. Every woman has the right to leave her maternity caregiver and select another if she becomes dissatisfied with her care.* (Only second sentence is a legal right.)

6. Every woman has the right to information about the professional identity and qualifications of those involved with her care, and to know when those involved are trainees.*

7. Every woman has the right to communicate with caregivers and receive all care in privacy, which may involve excluding nonessential personnel. She also has the right to have all personal information treated according to standards of confidentiality.*

8. Every woman has the right to receive maternity care that identifies and addresses social and behavioral factors that affect her health and that of her baby.** She should receive information to help her take the best care of herself and her baby and have access to social services and behavioral change programs that could contribute to their health.

9. Every woman has the right to full and clear information about benefits, risks and costs of the procedures, drugs, tests and treatments offered to her, and of all other reasonable options, including no intervention.* She should receive this information about all interventions that are likely to be offered during labor and birth well before the onset of labor.

10. Every woman has the right to accept or refuse procedures, drugs, tests and treatments, and to have her choices honored. She has the right to change her mind.* (Please note that this established legal right has been challenged in a number of recent cases.)

11. Every woman has the right to be informed if her caregivers wish to enroll her or her infant in a research study. She should receive full information about all known and possible benefits and risks of participation; and she has the right to decide whether to participate, free from coercion and without negative consequences.*

12. Every woman has the right to unrestricted access to all available records about her pregnancy, labor, birth, postpartum care and infant; to obtain a full copy of these records; and to receive help in understanding them, if necessary.*

13. Every woman has the right to receive maternity care that is appropriate to her cultural and religious background, and to receive information in a language in which she can communicate.*

14. Every woman has the right to have family members and friends of her choice present during all aspects of her maternity care.**

15. Every woman has the right to receive continuous social, emotional and physical support during labor and birth from a caregiver who has been trained in labor support.**

16. Every woman has the right to receive full advance information about risks and benefits of all reasonably available methods for relieving pain during labor and birth, including methods that do not require the use of drugs. She has the right to choose which methods will be used and to change her mind at any time.*

17. Every woman has the right to freedom of movement during labor, unencumbered by tubes, wires or other apparatus. She also has the right to give birth in the position of her choice.*

18. Every woman has the right to virtually uninterrupted contact with her newborn from the moment of birth, as long as she and her baby are healthy and do not need care that requires separation.**

19. Every woman has the right to receive complete information about the benefits of breastfeeding well in advance of labor, to refuse supplemental bottles and other actions that interfere with breastfeeding, and to have access to skilled lactation support for as long as she chooses to breastfeed.**

20. Every woman has the right to decide collaboratively with caregivers when she and her baby will leave the birth site for home, based on their conditions and circumstances.**

#9 is not routinely practiced. If this information is not received well before the onset of labor, upon admittance to the hospital a stack of paperwork is handed to a woman, who is expected to sign and perhaps read while in the middle of her birthing time. Often the paperwork is hastily signed and no one knows what any of it said. It is a very good idea to ask for all paperwork at a prenatal appointment and to carefully go over everything, and edit, before signing. Also, many risks of interventions are not clearly stated before hand. Not only is it a good idea to get paperwork and ask questions before birth, but you must do your own research.

#10 is not routinely practiced. Many women believe that whatever their doctor prescribes, they have to have. They do not know that you can refuse tests and treatment not only during birth, but in prenatal exams. You may think that if your doctor recommends it then it must be best, but again, this is where personal research and decision making is imperative. A doctor will recommend treatments and interventions for a variety of reasons including routine, policy, or personal agenda, not necessarily because it is best for your baby as an individual.

#16 may not be routinely practiced, and women are receiving epidurals and other pain relieving drugs without being fully aware of the potential side effects and risks

#17 is not routinely practiced. Many women are told to get in bed even if they don't want to. Freedom of movement is a right and should be respected. Laboring and birthing flat on your back is just about the worse position and is only practiced for convenience of the caregivers.

#18 is so important. I believe skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth is vital and the baby should not be taken unless medical attention is needed. Many tests and exams of the newborn can be done while mom is holding baby.

#20 is pretty much an unknown, and most women wait on their doctor's permission to be released instead of being an active participant in the decision.

Be prepared to fight for your right. The best way to do this is to have a written birth plan. If your plan is read by all nurses and agreed upon by your doctor, there should be much less of a fight... To party, or otherwise...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Fruit Pizza

I made this fruit pizza for Mary Abilene's birthday party. Personally, I thought it was delicious. So did my hubby, my baby, and my neighbor's baby! I got several other compliments from adults, especially about the crust. My husband thinks the crust would be a good energy bar if I stiffened it up a bit.

The recipe I found is vegan and gluten free. I really wanted a fruit pizza without cream cheese since I was serving a ton of cream cheese frosting already. I kept my pizza vegan, but used wheat flour instead of rice flour. I made this pizza in practice and then made the pudding three times before getting it right. Give this recipe a try for your next party or pot luck!

Fruit Pizza

FOR THE CRUST
1/2 cup coconut oil (alternatively, may substitute 1/4 the cup of coconut oil for butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry (or all purpose) flour
1/2 cup oat flour (I just processed some oats in my food processor)
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup ground or finely chopped pecans or almonds (again chopped in the food processor)
1 mashed banana

FOR THE FILLING
You can use full-fat coconut milk in a can or can use Silk or So Delicious brands coconut milk (sweetened) that come in the half gallon for drinking. If you use sweetened coconut milk, only add 1 tbsp sugar instead of 3. I used Silk Coconut Milk because I found the canned coconut milk to be a little weird in texture after it turned into a pudding.

2 cups coconut milk
3 tbsp cane sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
fruit for topping (strawberries, kiwis, bananas, canned sliced peaches, canned mandarin segments, raspberries, blueberries, or whatever else you have on hand)

To make the crust, melt coconut oil, then blend in sugar. Add flours, oats, pecans, and the mashed banana. Using your hands, spread onto a pizza pan until it is a thin layer. Bake at 375°F until the edges brown (around 10 minutes). Because of the banana, this crust is a bit cakier and takes longer to bake. After the edges browned, I used the broiler to crisp up and brown the top of the crust, which took just a few minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

For the filling, add cornstarch and sugar to a medium-sized pot. Pour coconut milk in and set the heat to medium. Stir well with a whisk. Stir continuously until the mixture starts to thicken and finally boil. Continue stirring one minute. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Allow to cool before spreading it onto the crust. It will thicken up a little more when it has been refrigerated.

After spreading the coconut milk onto the crust, decorate with your fruit toppings as desired.

Cover the whole pizza with saran wrap and chill until set, probably at least overnight is best.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Carrot Cake

This Tasty Tuesday is in honor of Mary Abilene's first birthday! I made a delicious (if I do say so myself) healthy carrot cake. I think it is a top notch cake recipe and I intend to make it over and over again. It will be my go-to birthday cake recipe until she's old enough to say "Mama. Gimme some chocolate!"

Baby's First Birthday Cake
Adapted from www.wholesomebabyfood.com - great website - check it out!

2 1/2 c thinly sliced or shredded carrots
2 1/2 c apple juice concentrate
1 1/2 c raisins
2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c extra virgin coconut oil, warmed so it is liquid
2 whole eggs
4 egg whites
1/2 c toasted wheat germ
1/2 c unsweetened apple sauce
2 tbsp aluminum free baking powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Combine the carrots with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the juice concentrate in a medium size saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until carrots are tender,15 to 20 mins. Meanwhile, chop the raisins in a food processor. Add the carrots and apple juice concentrate to the food processor and pulse until combined. (I left a bit of texture to the carrots - chopping them but not puree). Let mixture cool.
2. Combine the flour, wheat germ (cooled), baking powder, ginger, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add the coconut oil to the flour and beat to combine. Then add the 1 1/4 cups juice concentrate, eggs, egg whites, and vanilla; beat just until well mixed. Fold in the carrot puree and applesauce. The mixture will be very fluffy because of the egg whites. Pour the batter into 2 greased 9X9 baking pans, or cupcake wrappers.
3. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 mins for a 9x9, 20-22 mins for cupcakes. Cool briefly in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely. When cool, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Healthier Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package of organic cream cheese (softened)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

With an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and vanilla. Add in the powdered sugar. Taste, and add more powdered sugar to your liking.

Note, Wheat, eggs, and dairy are potential allergens and you might want to feed your baby these foods separately before letting her dive into the cake.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mary Abilene is ONE!

When I was pregnant I heard "your life will never be the same." and its true, but not in the way I thought they meant. I thought they meant that I couldn't go to the movies and stay up late when I wanted - I thought they meant it as a bad thing. But I'll tell you how my life will never be the same: I have more love than I ever thought possible. I love my husband more, my parents more, and my friends more. I love my daughter like she is my own heart. She is my heart living outside of my body. I have more happiness and joy. My bar for happiness has been permanently raised. Yes, I now go to bed at 9pm, but that is not how I'm different - I'm more patient, more loving, more compassionate, and less selfish. My daughter is showing me the fruit of the Spirit every day. That's how my life will never be the same.

Mary Abilene is one year old today. What an amazing and wonderful year! She is an expert crawler, and took her first step on July 31. Today, she took several steps and kept practicing all day! She is growing before our eyes! She can say "kitty" (sounds like giddy), "mama", and "dada". She can point, wave, and sign "all done" and "more" - though her "more" is the same as her "all done", very confusing! We're still working on that one! We are also working on the sign for milk; so far her sign for milk is looking down my shirt! She is very dainty at 17 pounds and 28 and 3/4 inches long. I think her eyes are turning brown. She is an extrovert and is very independent (gee, I wonder where she gets that?!) She does her own thing and makes friends everywhere she goes. She loves to ride in the grocery cart and her very favorite thing is her kitty. Though she may not be his favorite thing (yet). She loves to pet him and give him hugs. She is such a precious little girl and I can't believe that I have been blessed with such a wonderful baby. Happy Birthday sweet Baby Abilene. I love you so much!

Monday, August 1, 2011

World Breastfeeding Week!

This week is an internationally recognized week for breastfeeding support. World Breastfeeding Week implemented by the World Health Organization is meant to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and build support for women who want to breastfeed. You may wonder why we need awareness and support? In one of my previous posts, I pointed out that many women do not breastfeed beyond infancy. There are also countless stories of women being harassed or embarrassed for nursing in public. Just a few weeks ago I read a story of a woman on a bus in Detroit who was told by the bus driver to quit breastfeeding or get off the bus. The woman was nursing a two week old baby! Fortunately, Michigan has a law that protects a woman's right to breastfeed in public (as do most states) but the woman was harassed nonetheless!

Just anecdotally, I notice many women (from forums online and my personal friends) who have trouble or choose not to nurse beyond a few months. Is this because they do not have enough support? Is this because of priorities? Is it cultural influence? As it is, women are choosing formula over breast milk in many cases. The link above states "Exclusive breastfeeding has been recognized as the single most effective intervention to reduce under-five mortality; optimal feeding practices - including early initiation, exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding while providing safe and appropriate complementary foods - could reduce mortality among children by one fifth. Breastfeeding also helps mother and child to establish a close and loving relationship."

I'm a self proclaimed lactivitst. I love, love, love (love, love) nursing. My husband points out often that not everyone loves nursing as much as I do. That may be true, and I also recognize that nursing a toddler is not for everyone. But I am going to support and promote breastfeeding and allowing self-weaning as much as I can! There are so many more mothers who nurse toddlers and preschoolers than we will ever know because they are too embarrassed to nurse in public. That, and the simple fact that toddlers do not need to nurse as often as infants, so you rarely see toddlers and preschoolers nursing out of the house. But I say - Get out there! The only way to make breastfeeding and especially breastfeeding older babies and toddlers normal is exposure. Thankfully, I have never been harassed for breastfeeding, but if I am, you bet that stranger is going to know more about breastfeeding when I'm done with them than they ever wanted to know!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tasty Tuesday- Falafel with Tangy Tahini Sauce

This recipe in The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook by Cathe Olson is another way I've ruined eating out. When we can make our favorite foods at home, what reason is there to eat out?! The only difference between this delicious falafel and traditional restaurant falafel is that this isn't deep fried. It isn't near as crunchy, but saves you calories and fat in oil.

The tangy tahini sauce is fast becoming a go-to sauce for us. We love it for veggie wraps and I bet it would be great as a crudite dip.

Falafel with Tangy Tahini Sauce

4 cups cooked chickpeas, drained (canned is fine)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup flour (any kind - I used WW pastry, cause thats what I had)

Tangy Tahini Sauce:
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup water

Simply puree all ingredients for falafel in a food processor until smooth. Add a little more water if necessary to get a smooth consistency. If possible, let batter sit 1 hour before cooking to thicken and intensify flavor (CB note: I did let mine sit and I think the onion became less pungent and everything married nicely.)

Use your hands to form patties approximately 3 in diameter and 1/2 in thick. Cook patties using one of the two methods below:
1) Oven method: Preheat oven to 450F. Place patties on oiled baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes on each side or until brown and crisp. This method works well to cook all the patties at once.
2) Pan Method: Warm a skillet to medium heat. Pour in just enough oil (I used coconut oil) to coat the pan. Drop in patties (4 or so at a time) and grill 10 minutes on each side, or until brown and crisp. Add additional oil if needed and add oil between batches.

To make sauce:
Puree yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, and sea salt in a blender or food processor. While blending add water a little at a time until desired thickness is achieved.

Serve falafel with sauce or in a pita pocket with tomato, lettuce, and cucumber.

I have used the pan cooking method with great results. I haven't tried the oven method yet. This would also be a great freezer recipe. Use the oven method for that and freeze the patties, individually wrapped. Thaw and then reheat in oven.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sanitizing Sanity


In this article by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), I found that in the mid 1990's only a few antibacterial products were used in the home. They were designed and produced for hospital use where there are a concentrated amount of bacteria, and deadly ones at that. Antibacterial products were specifically designed to protect vulnerable patients - not the average healthy individual. Ten years ago when the article was written, there were more than 700 antibacterial products manufactured for the average healthy home. There are assuredly even more than that today. The market is absolutely flooded with antibacterial claims, and advertising is doing a great job selling these products to consumers. There are even entire mattresses manufactured with antibacterial agents. They are starting to show up in food storage containers and we all think that the more antibacterial products you can buy, the healthier your family will be.

The big deal
You may be thinking "Well, isn't it a good thing - we are killing bacteria before it becomes a problem." You may think of it as preventative. The problem is a well-known scientific concern that is true with antibiotics as well as antibacterial cleaners. Antibiotics have been prolifically overused and misused creating antibiotic-resistant strains. This causes "super germs" that are not responsive to antibiotics. This is why it is critical to not take antibiotics unless it is absolutely necessary. The same problem is happening in our households. When antibacterial agents are overused and used without warrant in a normal environment, antibacterial resistant strains are developed. Meaning the more you try to kill germs, the more and stronger germs you will have.

Let me put this another way. Chemically speaking, bacteria is measured in parts per million (ppm). That is 1,000,000. If you are using a product, say LysolTM, that claims it kills 99.9% of germs then you have .1% germ left over. The problem is not that it is just .1% germ, it is 1,000 germs left over. These 1,000 germs are leftover because the antibacterial agent could not kill them. Now these germs are left to breed with each other making more and more antibacterial resistant germs. Soon you have a house full of super germs that all the chemical antibacterial products in the world can not kill.

Further more, the antibacterial agent usually found in soap, tricolsan is under investigation with the FDA due to health concerns. In a Swedish study, tricolsan is now showing up in breast milk! Other chemicals found in antibacterial products like hexane and 1,3-Butadiene are known carcinogens.

Your immune system
Another reason to avoid antibacterial products is to allow your immune system to do its job. I really believe the more antibacterial products you use, the MORE sickness and disease you will experience. Your immune system, like the rest of your body, needs exercise to function properly. A healthy person can be exposed to a variety of weak germs and not become ill. Someone in your house can become sick, and you not get it - that's your immune system at work. The immune system needs regular contact with some germs and bacteria in order to work up a resistance to these germs. If the immune system does not have this opportunity, it is more likely to become sick from even the weak germs that you contact. Hand sanitizer is only effective against 99.9% of germs. That .1% that now survives is more likely to make a person sick if their immune system has not been exposed to other agents.

In the same CDC article mentioned above, allergies also play a role. The stronger the immune system, the fewer allergies a person will have. Over-cleansing an environment can actually lead to more frequent and severe allergies.

Hand Sanitizing Frenzy
I stand firmly against the use of hand sanitizer for all the reasons listed above. Hand washing has seemingly become a thing of the past. I have seen parents slather hand sanitizer on their children before a meal, and I have seen women forgo washing their hands in the bathroom only to pump out a few handfuls of hand sanitizer! Why there is hand sanitizer next to soap and water I will never know! Not only is hand sanitizer a major problem for the reasons listed above, but most hand sanitizer sanitizes with alcohol. The American Association of Poison Control Centers confirmed that hand sanitizer can in fact seriously harm a child who ingests enough of it. There was a story a few years back about a four year old who was rushed to the ER after licking hand sanitizer off her hands that was squirted into her palm by her teacher. This story spread like wildfire and was confirmed by the Poison Control Center.

The safe alternatives
Wash your hands! Hand washing washes away germs and is more effective than trying to kill them. Can you imagine if your doctor before a major surgery decided not to take the time to wash his hands, but instead squirted a large amount of hand sanitizer into his hands!?

Vinegar has been shown to kill 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, 80% of viruses, and as a bonus - its cheap! Vinegar has not been shown to create resistant strains, either. Vinegar is not labeled as an antibacterial agent because it is not registered with the EPA as a pesticide. Which means that any product labeled as antibacterial is registered as a Pesticide. Hydrogen peroxide is also a great safe antibacterial agent. It can be used to effectively clean counters that have come in contact with raw meats.

Furthermore, decide if your house really needs any antibacterial cleaners. Personally, the only reason I see to use any antibacterial products in the home, including antibacterial hand soap, is if you have a family member with an immune deficiency.The majority of healthy households will find them unnecessary.

Levy, Stuart B., 2001: Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 7, No.3.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy in the United States

map from www.targetmap.com click on the first map on the page and it will bring up a large interactive map.

I'm proud to say I am in the 15.9% of moms in Alabama who breastfeed beyond 12 months. Or rather - I WILL be, since my baby is yet 11 months. This article by Cafe Mom is based on the CBS article that gathered the CDC data on breastfeeding beyond 12 months of age. Sadly, it shows that less than half of all moms breastfeed beyond 12 months. Yet the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says to breastfeed for AT LEAST one year, and the World Health Organization (WHO) says to breastfeed for AT LEAST two years! The world average for weaning is actually four years. America relies too heavily upon formula and cow's milk.

The south has major problems when it comes to extended breastfeeding. Almost all of the 10 states with the lowest rates of extended breastfeeding are below the mason-dixon line. Is it because we seriously lack breastfeeding education? Is it because the south holds the nation's poverty states? Yes, and yes. It is especially hard to receive support to breastfeed while working full time. I have seen even casually on Facebook women who do not understand or see the value of nursing beyond 12 months of age. This article at Kellymom.com lists facts with scientific references of why breastfeeding beyond 12 months is still best for mom and baby.

Highlights of why breast is still best beyond 12 months (from kellymom.com):

- "Breastfeeding continues to be a valuable source of nutrition and disease protection for as long as breastfeeding continues." The benefits of breast milk do not suddenly expire at 12 months. It also supplies complete nutrition to toddlers and babies alike. Many toddlers do not eat well; with breastfeeding, a mom need not worry.

- Breastfed children are sick less often. The WHO quotes "a modest increase in breastfeeding rates could prevent up to 10% of all deaths of children under five: Breastfeeding plays an essential and sometimes underestimated role in the treatment and prevention of childhood illness."

-Breastfed children have fewer allergies

-Breastfed children are smart. There is evidence that breastfed children have higher IQ's. (There are a ton of references on Kellymom.com - check it out)

-Breastfed children are well adjusted. I know breastfeeding is my all purpose mothering tool that I'm not about to give up. It solves almost any problem, and research indicates that meeting a child's needs in this way creates a MORE independent child later in life.

-Breastfeeding past infancy is normal. As already stated, the average weaning age the world over is age 4. In fact, there are a lot more extended nursing moms than we know because they are often too embarrassed to nurse in public for fear they will be criticized or seen as weird. Also, you don't see toddlers breastfeeding in public as much as infants because they simply do not need to nurse as often. I think the only way to make extended breastfeeding normal is to go ahead and breastfeed out of the proverbial closet!

-Breastfeeding benefits the mother past infancy. All the great things breastfeeding can do for you still apply. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian, breast, uterine, and endometrial cancer. It also helps prevent osteoporosis and arthritis. And of course, breastfeeding moms lose weight easier.

I hope this encourages those who are considering extended breastfeeding and encourages others to support women who are breastfeeding! I can proudly say I was breastfed until I was 2.5 years old. This was in the late 70's early 80's when hardly anyone breastfed. Thanks, Mom!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tasty Tuesday- Homemade Veggie Stock

I buy veggie broth for a variety of things besides just soup. Though we do go through a ton of veggie broth in the winters for soup, I use broth year round to cook rice and quinoa so the grains will actually taste like something. I buy organic veggie broth which I can get for less than $3 on sale. Lately it occurred to me that I could make my own broth!

I found a great tip online - whatever vegetable "leavins" you have, i.e. the ends of onions, peppers, squash, the stalks of kale, stems of spinach, potato peels, etc, etc, put them in a freezer bowl or bag. Be sure to thoroughly wash the whole vegetable before you chop it so your "leavins" will be clean! Whenever the bowl or bag fills put the frozen vegetable pieces in a big pot and make veggie stock! This method certainly puts your unused vegetable portions to good use and then costs you absolutely nothing extra! Talk about green!

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Fill a large stock pot with a variety of vegetable at least 1/2 full.
Vegetables should include onions, and anything else you desire.
Add three cloves of garlic, whole, skins and all, but smashed with a knife.
A couple bay leaves, a handful of fresh parsley, and 10-15 whole peppercorns if you have it.
Add three tsp salt (or to taste). Adjust depending on the amount of water you add.
Fill the pot with water so it completely covers the vegetables.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least one hour - you don't have to watch the clock too closely. Strain into jars. Broth will keep in the refrigerator for about a week and in the freezer for about two months.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Soaking grains and nuts - an update

I posted a couple weeks ago about Soaking Grains and I promised a follow-up. Basically I have soaked oatmeal, rice, and almonds. I soaked oats in yogurt starting the night before. In the morning we (actually my husband) cooked the oats as usual on the stove top with the soaking liquid. Well, I didn't like the flavor so much. You can very much taste the fermentation. HOWEVER, draining the soaked oats and rinsing a bit gets rid of the fermentation taste. Not bad. I made granola from soaked, drained and rinsed oats and I didn't taste fermentation at all, however - I think I did it wrong. I'll post about that when I get it right.

Soaking and then dehydrating almonds, however, is DELICIOUS! I soaked almonds with water and yogurt for 8 hours. I, drained, rinsed, and spread them on a baking sheet. I put them in the oven for 8 hours at 175F. They came out beautifully crunchy and with that yummy roasted taste. I made almond butter with these almonds and it was the best almond butter I've made thus far. I'm definitely going to soak and dehydrate all my almonds from now on.

My friend made bread from soaked wheat last week - maybe she will share the recipe so I can test that out next!