Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ahhhh Autumn!

I just love the beginning of Fall! My sweet pepper and tomato plants are finally producing in full force, the weather is cooler, and canning is in full swing! I loves me some canning. Here are some other things I am enjoying:
  • At the Nourished Kitchen, learn about 10 cultured dairy foods that you can make yourself, most without any special equipment other than a ball jar, bacterial culture, and some milk. I am having a hankering for some kefir. Probiotics are awesome! 
  • Speaking of MUST try out this recipe for lacto-fermented salsa! It is super tasty, easy and a great introduction to making your own probiotic foods.
  • Sharifa Oppenheimer's Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parent of Young Children. This book rocks my socks! Lisa, my Waldorf homeschooling friend, recommended this book to help me make my home and parenting more conducive to learning. This book is great for parents of children 2-7.
  • These beginning knitting tutorials. I finally understand how knitting works!
I can knit!

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Organic Gardening: Tomato Horn Worms

    My garden is infested with tomato worms and they are gross. I found three today that were each FOUR inches long! Friday I was out inspecting the plants and saw no signs of the worms and then today I find 3 huge ones and 2 small ones devouring one plant! They grow fast and huge and what really sucks is that they are nibblers. They won't eat the seeds of the tomatoes so they will chew around the outside and then just leave the rest hanging on the stems...wasters.

    How to get rid of the pests? Mostly I just put on my trusting gardening gloves and pull them off by hand dropping them into a bucket with a lid where they will die eventually. They are difficult to spot but the mangled branches, half eat tomatoes and little black turds everywhere are a good sign that one is nearby. But here is a little tip, if you see one that looks like the picture below, DON'T PULL IT OFF!

    Those white things all over the back of the worm are the cocoon of the parasitic Braconid wasp and they are wonderful! The female wasp will lay her eggs into the tomato horn worm (it will also use flies, beetles, aphids and other wasps as hosts) and the larvae will eat the worms from the inside out and then spin their cocoon on the surface of the worm. The worm is alive during this whole process and will die soon after the adult wasps emerge leaving the worm dead, obviously, but most importantly unable to spin its own cocoon and then lay eggs as a moth.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Controversial Monday: Extended Breastfeeding

    For 26 months I breastfed my daughter and loved it. I didn't at first but over the months and years that I breastfed my daughter I grew to treasure that time that we had together; all the happy oxytocin flowing, the snuggling, plus the knowledge that even after the first year of breastfeeding I was still providing my child with nourishment and antibodies, and helping to prevent allergies and even diabetes.

    In addition to the benefits for the child, extended breastfeeding also benefits the mother. Numerous studies have indicated that by breastfeeding past the first year women can help decrease their risk of contracting breast, uterine, ovarian and endometrial cancers. Not to mention it also protects against osteoporosis and decreases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

    My daughter weaned herself during the first few months of my last pregnancy because according to her my pregnancy breast milk tasted "yucky." There is a reason that it is called "weaning milk." After I lost the pregnancy I missed being able to breastfeed my daughter. I am grateful for the time we did have nursing when I remember all the struggles that I had with breastfeeding her. Ravenna was born with a weak suck which required weeks of pumping and "suck" training and a half-dozen visits with lactation consultants BUT after three weeks we got it! Then at 6 months, my milk dried up due to my insulin resistance. Thanks to the Leche League I was able to reestablish my supply using fenugreek, pumping, and switching breasts constantly during feedings. There were numerous other small challenges along the way including biting, but I was able to persevere because I knew where to find good information, had knowledgeable support, and I think most importantly, I had made a goal while I was pregnant that I would breastfeed for at least 18 months.

    People were often surprised to see me breastfeeding a toddler, but most of the time Ravenna only nursed 1-2 times a day. Some days she wanted to nurse more, for comfort mainly, and that was fine by me. I will admit that it is hard, having experienced so many hardships in my own breastfeeding experience, to see mom's who never breastfeed or who give up whenever a challenge arises. It isn't hard because I feel like they are harming their babies irrevocably or being selfish; it is hard because I do not feel that our society is supportive enough of women who breastfeed. It is difficult for many women to get good information and formula is often advertised as being equal to breast milk when it clearly is not.

    I have heard numerous examples of women, including myself, being told by their pediatricians that their milk isn't good enough because their baby isn't gaining weight according to the charts. This problem, if indeed it is a problem, is rare and easily corrected through the mother's diet. Information on how to solve nearly all breastfeeding issues is readily available online on such websites as Kellymom and La Leche League. I think that a lot of these misconceptions could be cleared up if pediatricians were more thoroughly educated in lactation; mothers trust their advice, even if it is incorrect.

    My advice during a breastfeeding crisis? Persevere. Keep trying to breastfeed, search for information, and use formula only as a last resort. A wise woman once suggested that if you are wanting to give up on breastfeeding, as most women are at some point, keep trying for another week and try to solve the problem. If it still isn't working after a week and you don't feel like you can continue, then, and only then, think about weaning.

    Monday, September 20, 2010


    In the early hours of August 12th I had a horrible dream: I dreamed that I woke up in a pool of blood and gave birth to a dead baby. Not twenty-four hours later I was in the E.R. learning that my baby had died and that soon my dream would become a reality. On the 14th of August, just over five weeks ago, my nightmare came true and my life will never be the same.

    Since the loss of my pregnancy I have struggled with sleeping. A friend pointed out that this is a sign of post-partum depression, which I know I am struggling with at times, but I think it goes deeper than that. Nightmares continue to plague my sleeping hours. A week ago I dreamed that I was in a building that was about to explode and my mission was to save a baby. I fought and struggled and even killed to get that baby out of that building only to find that the baby I was trying so desperately to save was dead; I had killed it.

    I wake feeling exhausted and drained but I must get on with life; there is no time to process the unspeakable horror that left me gasping for air as I woke. My daughter needs to be taken care of, laundry needs to be washed, meals need to be cooked, ants need to be battled with and produce needs to be preserved. While on the outside life seems normal for our family, death continues to linger with me in my dreams, never letting me forget. 

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Why Grazing is Good For You!

    For the past year we have been trying to switch to pastured meats and thankfully, living in Amish country we have plenty of farmers to chose from. We love getting our food directly from the farmer who raised it. Talking with LeRoy as we picked up our meat yesterday was so assuring. We could see how he runs his farm, where and how the animals were kept and also his passion for making sure that we get the best quality product. I would have loved to take pictures of the Miller farm but since LeRoy is Amish, I decided to err on the side of caution; I wouldn't want to damage our relationship.

    Pastured meat is fantastic! We buy our chickens directly from a Mennonite farmer on the same day they were butchered; talk about fresh! We also get pastured eggs and milk. The eggs have rich orange yolks which indicate the presence of high amounts of beta-carotene and Omega-3's. The milk we get from grass-fed Jersey cows is raw, fresh, and a beautiful creamy yellow color. I can't drink the milk (darn genetics) but Andrew and Ravenna love it!

    Why do we eat pastured products? According to Eat Wild,
    Meat, eggs, and dairy products from pastured animals are ideal for your health. Compared with commercial products, they offer you more "good" fats, and fewer "bad" fats. They are richer in antioxidants; including vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Furthermore, they do not contain traces of added hormones, antibiotics or other drugs.*  
    Also, I might add, that when animals are raised on pasture they are living the way they lived for thousands of years. Feedlots and enclosed hen houses are not the way animals were created to live. It is inhumane for one thing, and for another thing it compromises food safety. When you have thousands of animals packed together, covered in their feces, eating food that they would not naturally eat in an environment where the air is so toxic human's have to wear gas masks for their own safety, what kind of product do you expect to get? You get a cheap, inferior product with the potential of bringing with it dangerous resistant bacteria.

    Switching to pastured meat was a conscious decision and one that required planning and searching. Luckily, the internet, with such sites as Eat Wild and Local Harvest, make it easier to find and purchase pastured meats. Co-ops and buying clubs help decrease the large upfront cost of buying in bulk. We bought a half of a steer with a family friend and our quarter** will last us for much of a year. If you buy in bulk, which is the only way we could afford to eat pastured meat, you will also need to buy a freezer to store your meat. Buying pastured eggs and dairy is a bit trickier since they are fresh and often people have to travel long distances to get their dairy and eggs weekly. I am lucky in that the farms that I frequent are only a few miles away.

    It took us years after we learned the benefit of pastured meats to switch, mainly because of cost and storage issues, but we are glad that we did and we will continue to do so as long as we can.  

    *The link for Eat Wild contains lots of information and studies on the benefits of pastured food products to back up these claims..
    **Want to see what is in a quarter of beef? Check out my family blog.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Controversial Monday: The Dreaded "S" Word

    Hands Are For Loving (source)

    FYI: I don't expect everyone to agree with me but I do expect people to be respectful of my beliefs and feel free to challenge them in an intelligent and peaceful way. Any disrespectful comments will not be posted

    This is such a controversial topic that I generally avoid getting into it with people, but as this is my space I am going to jump right in. The other day my neighbor Jake was getting fired up about spanking as a form of discipline. He is struggling with his 7-year old daughter's difficult adjustment to school this year and her attitude that she brings home. He is understandably frustrated and, while he has never resorted to spanking his daughter in the past, he is seriously considering it. Having been raised by parents who occasionally used spanking as a punishment, and having not been damaged by it himself, he sees no problem in occasionally using this form of discipline when nothing else seems to work. Sound familiar?

    I don't profess to be an expert in parenting but I do have very strong beliefs about certain things, such as discipline. I also have an easy child and obviously don't understand the struggles of other parents who have children that have sensory, communication, and other emotional issues that make parenting more difficult. Nor do I believe that parents who spank their children love them less than I love my own daughter. I know that most parents are doing the best they know how. 

    In my last post I shared some of my views on respect and gentle parenting which comes down to this statement: We chose to treat our daughter as we would like to be treated ourselves, but with understanding that due to her age and lack of experience we must necessarily step in to gently guide her. I do not like to be spanked, hit, yelled at, lectured, or put in a corner to "think about what I have done wrong" so I certainly wouldn't do it to my daughter. At Ravenna's age of two none of those things are developmentally appropriate anyway, since she cannot understand logical consequences. All she can understand from those forms of discipline is that she is having love/parental presence removed which will either create fear or greater resistance in the future. I want my child to obey me because she respects me and feels validated. When she is having a hard time because of something I have done such as keeping her out during her nap time, I should not be surprised when she tantrums in the grocery store and certainly not punish her for my bad timing.

    One of the biggest reasons I feel so turned off by spanking is about me, though. I do not want, for any reason, to cause intentional pain to my child because I could not control myself. I have often heard parents defending spanking say "Spanking is O.K. if you do it while you are in control." Every time I can remember being spanked as a child I very vividly recall my father biting his tongue, which he only ever did when he was angry. I have seen parents in public spanking that are furious, scared, or just plain irritated, but never calm. If I am not in control when it comes to my daughter I remove myself from the situation when it is safe to walk away, and when it is not safe, such as in a public location I get out of the situation as quickly as possible. This is one way that we practice positive discipline.

    One of the eight principles of the attachment parenting philosophy, Positive Discipline:
    "...helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone's dignity intact."
    Teaching by example and with respect is how I try to parent and I believe that will lead to respect and obedience from my child. In Unconditional Parenting, by educator Alfie Kohn, the author asserts that in his many years of research, 
    “…the kids who do what they’re told are likely to be those whose parents don’t rely on power and instead have developed a warm and secure relationship with them. They have parents who treat them with respect, minimize the use of control, and make a point of offering reasons and explanation for what they ask.”
    So, dear reader, with all that said you may still completely disagree with me, and that is fine by me. You may also be feeling overwhelmed by the thought of changing the way you parent. If you want to change, it may seem impossible given that your current style of parenting is so deeply entrenched in how you were raised, how others may have counseled you to discipline as a young parent, and the very basic fact that change is hard, particularly where children are concerned. As parents strive to do their best, to be better than their parents were, and for those of us who are Christians, try to model our parenting after our Savior's example, we can overcome many of the barriers that keep us from living peacefully with our children. It takes research, effort, making mistakes and time, but you can do it!

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    On Being Gentle and Making Mistakes

    If I could choose one word to describe my parenting style I think I would chose "relaxed." As anyone who knows me well realizes, I am not a relaxed person by nature, but when I was pregnant with my daughter I read about the philosophy of attached and gentle parenting and it really struck a chord with me. Attachment parenting means a lot of different things to many people but to me and my husband it comes down to one simple idea: respect. We chose to treat our daughter as we would like to be treated ourselves, but with understanding that due to her age and lack of experience we must necessarily step in to gently guide her.

    Yesterday evening my daughter wanted to run across a crowded parking lot in her excitement to see our mutual friend, Christie. I insisted that she hold my hand and we could both run but, two year old that she is, she pulled her hand from my grasp and horror of horrors, face-planted into the pavement. As the blood gushed out of her mouth I could see little white pieces of tooth and I thought "Oh no, I am one of those mom's." However, with a hysterical child in my arms we rushed over to Christie's truck and amazingly, my daughter stopped crying.  I was totally puzzled as I knew she was in a lot of pain, but then it dawned on me as I watched her desperate attempts to hold it together, "Ravenna is trying to be brave for Christie."
    The Damage (She is trying to smile)

    Wow, until that moment I had not realized that my daughter had that capacity. Where had she even seen that? There is so much that one learns in parenting but I am daily amazed at how much I am missing of my child's character.

    After getting my daughter tucked into bed that evening I felt such guilt for not being able to save my daughter from the pain of a bloodied and swollen lip and chipped tooth, and also for my selfish worrying what other people would think of me when they saw my daughter's face and smile, now very much changed. I kept coming back to images of my daughter's brave little face that collapsed into hysteria once again as soon as Christie left. At that moment while still feeling a great deal of guilt, I also felt gratitude for the realization that the child in my care is made of stronger stuff than I had thought and that I needed to be gentle with myself.

    Occasionally I need to be reminded that the principles I have espoused to guide my parenting decisions should also be applied to myself. I need to be gentle and non-judgmental with myself when I make mistakes and when I am not wholly the person I strive to be. Perhaps from now on every time I look at my daughters changed smile I will recall this lesson and show my daughter, and myself a little more respect.

    In the Beginning...

    At the start of every blog there always must be a first blog post. So it is thus:

     Backyard Bliss