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11.23.2014

Violet's Birth Story

It's been over 4 months, it's time.

Actually, I wrote a good part of her birth story... the important parts... over here at Her View From Home a few weeks ago.

I don't think there is much that I would add.  So check it out and I'll leave you with an adorable baby.
Violet on the day she was born!






2.06.2014

Having a Baby- the Tough Questions

It is no secret that, when compared to the mainstream, I have radical practices and beliefs when it comes to how I care for and manage my family.  Why is this?  Because I was born questioning everything.

When my children first started getting sick- nonstop, awful, obviously-not-run-of-the-mill-sick- I was repeatedly told "this is normal" and "kids just get ear infections" and "your son probably has asthma, just deal with it."  But I can not just accept something like constant illness as normal, so I started asking questions and, when my pediatrician could supply none, I started searching for them on my own.  Thanks to much reading and asking and (thankfully) an open minded pediatrician we figured out the problem.  My kids were allergic to milk and wheat.  It was a simple solution to a draining period of illness.  But was this something a doctor brought up on one of their many visits?  Not once.  Even though it is suspected that at least 50% of children who suffer from repeated ear infections are allergic to milk, and that their infections would stop altogether by simply avoiding milk, it was not brought up.  Instead the doctors talked of "official" asthma diagnosis, inhalers, antibiotics, and tubes.  Surgery, over something as simple as eliminating dairy.  If that doesn't sum up the current state of our healthcare system, I don't know what does.

Thankfully I had the strength and the sense to start doing my own research.  On my own I found out the link between frequent upper respiratory illnesses and dairy and asked my pediatrician if they could be tested for food allergies.

And so started my own personal revolution.  My research on food allergies led me to whole foods and a huge host of natural healing methods.  After a mere 8 months of elimination and healing and focusing on properly prepared real foods, my children could again consume dairy and wheat.  Even though Izzy still cannot consume conventional fluid milk without regressing a little and still has obvious reactions to over-consumption of sugar, their lives have more or less returned to normal, and we eat a roughly 80/20 real food/"other" food diet.

(yes, longest intro ever, I'm not actually talking about food today...)  But I will also admit that, after the onslaught of learning and dietary changes that followed that chapter of my life, I had had enough.  At least for a while.  Issues that I had not researched I conveniently ignored and I decided it was okay to just rest on my laurels for a while.  And I can honestly say that, due to the intensity of my journey in the months before, that was okay.  And since my kids were mostly vaccinated by the time we figured out what was going on, I had more or less ignored the issue until recently.  But because of this current pregnancy and the issues I had with my children I realized recently that this is NOT an issue I can ignore any longer.  So I started to read.

But as much as I'm not here to talk about food today, I'm also not here to tell you whether or not to vaccinate your child.  No one on the planet should listen to me re: this topic.  But I am here to ask you some questions:
  • Why is it that any parent choosing not to vaccinate is asked "did you do your research?" (and that's if the person is being kind...), but no one asks this of parents who choose to vaccinate?
  • What do you know about the effectiveness, safety, and ingredients of vaccines?
  • Why has the number of vaccinations absolutely skyrocketed in the past 30 years?
I didn't even intend for this post to be about vaccines- my intention was to make this point: take nothing at face value.  Do nothing without thought.  Your life, up until the months before you conceived your child, only affected you, and someday you will no longer be around.  But the second you decide to have a baby your life and your decisions suddenly take on a much larger significance.  Every decision you make not only affects your own offspring, but possibly even THEIR children.  Do not let this incite guilt, but do let it encourage you to question EVERYTHING.  From vaccines to circumcision, to baby food and formula, anything that enters or touches or even comes near your child becomes worthy of your questions, and what other people think of you no longer matters.  Because people thinking you are crazy is so much less important now than the well being of that little person you are carrying.

2.05.2014

Saving Money Before Baby: Evaluate Your Daily Spending

Before I get into saving on cribs and birth and all of that nonsense, I thought it would be good to start at the beginning.

You see, pregnancy is long.  Actually, I'll let you in on a little secret- your pregnancy doesn't actually last 9 months.  It's more like 10.  There, I ruined your day :)

But really, you have lots of time.  No need to run out and buy anything baby related for the first several months.  In the first and much of the second trimester the more prudent thing to do would be to evaluate your current financial condition and spending habits and make some changes.

Because even if you're as frugal as the day is long, you're going to need some money to spend on baby.  And if you're currently spending every penny you make (or worse, going into debt) and living paycheck to paycheck, you're either going to be pinched or you're going to go further into debt.

Now, I'm no financial whiz.  In fact, for this step I'm just going to tell you to clean financial house- for the particulars I strongly suggest going to an expert.  Dave Ramsey is a popular one.  I also like Melanie Hobbs.  I will, however, share a few of the ways I've saved money around my own home.
  • Cancel your cable/satellite (but don't give up TV if you don't want).  This one took me a long time to figure out.  No, it's not hard to cancel your cable, but I'll let you in on another secret- I LOVE TV.  I understand it's shortcomings.  But it is my second favorite form of entertainment, and I won't give it up completely.  About a year ago I actually called the satellite company and had the service turned off, then immediately called them back and had it turned back on.  Because one of my small joys in life is sitting on the couch in the morning with a cup of coffee and watching the news.  And while you can stream pretty much everything now, you still can't stream the news (in clips you can, but not as one ongoing program).  So I balked.  It took me months to come to the following realizations- 1) 99.7% of what I watch is on network TV, and 2) network TV is still free.  So for the price of a $28 set top antenna I was able to get most of the channels I watch for free.  That one time purchase saved me about $1200 a year.
  • Stop buying mixes, coffee creamer, expensive cereal, and other luxury food items.  Start learning to either do without or make them at home- you will save tons, and the at home versions are almost always healthier.  You're not going to want to learn to make things from scratch once baby is here, but if you learn it now you may be okay continuing after the birth, or you can make bulk batches and stock up beforehand.
  • Start meal planning.  Just planning what you eat each week can save you tons of money, because it prevents you from impulse shopping and from needing to make spur of the moment trips to the store throughout the week.  Take into account what's on sale at the store, what's in season (and therefore cheaper), and what's already in your pantry, and spend a little time planning once a week, or even once every few weeks.  Then carefully make a grocery list and stick to it!
  • Do not be afraid/ashamed to buy things second hand.  Craigslist is your friend, as is the Goodwill and the Salvation Army.
  • Borrow before you buy.  The old saying "neither a borrower nor a lender be" only applies to money.  If you don't have a friend you can borrow from, look for rental places.  
  • Get your energy use in check.  Do you run your thermostat high in the winter or low in the summer?  Get over it and start adjusting to a slightly more, ahem, seasonally appropriate temperature.  That alone can result in big savings- we reduced our thermostat 4 degrees last week (from an already chilly 68 to a cold but still tollerable 64) and our propane usage went down by almost half (we monitor how much we use each week).  You can also turn your fridge temp down (most run them too cold), make sure you're turning off printers or anything with an "on" light, and not leaving your phone or laptop plugged in all the time.

1.20.2014

How Much Does it Cost to Have a Baby?

When I found myself pregnant for the very first time I was, as most other newly pregnant women are, extremely excited.  I saw the plus sign, told my husband, and called the doctor.  I was excited to go to my first prenatal appointment, as if that would make my pregnancy official.  At my first appointment, before I went in to see the doctor, they brought me in to look over my insurance plan and see what I would have to pay out of pocket.  I wasn't worried... I mean, I had insurance, so it couldn't be that bad, right?

Wrong.  The monthly OOP total came to like $240.  I started to cry, right there in the office.  I was working as a barista at the time and my husband was still making entry level salary, and at the time we lived in super-expensive Southern California.  We were on a tight budget, and there was no way (at least in my mind) that we could afford that much each month... and that was for prenatal care only... how were we ever going to pay for the actual delivery??  And the crib and clothes and diapersa and...  I was still crying when I went in for my exam... yep, I cried through my pelvic exam.  Which my OB wasn't super nice about.  I mean, she deals with pregnant women every day, I doubt I was the first person to cry during an appointment.  That day I went from blissfully excited to an anxiety ridden mess.  Welcome to pregnancy.

I believe God works in mysterious ways- about a week after that first appointment, I had a miscarriage.  Obviously it was sad, but I would be lying to both myself and you if I didn't admit I felt a tiny bit of relief.  I took it as a sign that we weren't yet financially ready to have a baby.  In fact, the more I think about this, the more I think it is true- I had a blighted ovum.  They usually miscarry around 9 weeks.  Mine lasted until 13 weeks.  Had I lost the pregnancy at the "normal" time, I wouldn't have seen my OB and gotten the rude awakening re: the cost of having a baby.  And it was strangely comforting that even though that pregnancy wasn't viable, it had served a purpose.  A month later I got a promotion and my husband got a promotion and a merit based raise.  Two weeks after that we were pregnant again.  This time I was much more cautious with my excitement, and I dreaded my first appointment- in fact I procrastinated it until I was 17 weeks pregnant.  So when I sat down in that very same financial office and they told me that, sorry, they had made a mistake the last time and my monthly OOP was actually going to be $80, I was thrilled.  So the whole thing came full circle... much more quickly than I had thought it would, too.

Back to the question at hand- how much does it cost to have a baby?  That's a question we frequently hear the answer to on the evening news, as a 30 second tidbit on how child raising costs are increasing.  As of 2010 the average cost for caring for a baby for the first year was around $12,000.  I don't believe that includes any prenatal costs or labor and delivery, since the average cost of a vaginal delivery in a hospital is around $9,000 and prenatal runs around $2,000.

But no, I'm not trying to scare you out of having kids.  I'm trying to save you from spending that much.

You can save money on baby bedding, among other things, by making your own or buying used.
We'll call this an intro post.  And an inspiration post.  Yes, shopping for a new baby is fun and exciting, but it adds up fast.  Whether you want to save money just because you can, or because you don't have much to spend and are FREAKING OUT at the idea of needing another $12,000 to take care of a baby, I have lots of tips, tricks, and advice.  I'll cover most of these more in depth over the next weeks/months, but here are some quick tips to get you started:
  • Two words- cloth diapers.  But don't get caught up in all the cuteness, because you'll end up spending as much or MORE on cloth if you get too carried away! (check out diaperswappers.com for great deals on used cloth... and no, it's not "gross," I promise)
  • Buy almost everything secondhand*.  Secondhand does NOT mean compromising quality and safety, especially when it comes to baby stuff, because babies outgrow things long before they are worn out.  And yes, this even includes cribs, just be diligent about checking recall lists and inspecting the item before you purchase it.  *There is ONE baby item you should absolutely not buy secondhand- a car seat.  Save money by following all my tips and buy the best, safest car seat you can afford.
  • Make your own.  Depending on your skill set, there are a glut of baby items you can make yourself, from simple no sew projects to more complicated items.  However, it's also worth noting that while a lot of DIY projects can save you money, some can actually cost more than buying new from big box stores or buying secondhand.  So think before you make something, "is this saving me money?"  Particularly sewing projects, because cute fabric is expensive.  But if you're mindful and watch the clearance bins at your local fabric store, you can save quite a bit.  Also remember AFTER the baby is born, make your own extends to things like babyfood, which is much healthier than dead, jarred food and can save you quite a bit of money.
  • Consider a home birth or birth center.  No, this should absolutely NOT be a decision you make based solely on the financial angle.  First of all, you have to be a good candidate for an out of hospital birth, which should be assessed by a midwife.  Secondly, you have to be comfortable with the idea of an out of hospital birth.  Some women just aren't.  But if you feel like you might fit both of those criteria, give it some thought.  Financials aside, having your birth at home or in a birth center can be an amazingly intimate and fulfilling experience, bringing your baby into an environment that is warm and welcoming instead of cold and clinical, and a place where your wishes and the well being of your baby are THE word.  However, it's also worth considering because it can cost as much as half the cost of a vaginal in hospital birth, not only because the overall cost is just lower, but also because being in a birth center or at home reduces the likelihood of unnecessary (and costly) interventions.  AND many birth centers are covered by major insurance plans (just in case you didn't know that!).  And to get ahead of your next argument ("well I'd like to, but my husband would NEVER go for it"), you'll never know unless you bring it up.  Men take time to come around to things, so he may initially say no.  But he might also surprise you.
  • Save on services.  Look into ways to get services you want for your birth, like a doula or birth classes, for cheaper WITHOUT sacrificing (much).  For example, provisional Bradley instructors (instructors who have completed the training but are new to teaching) often charge less than fully accredited instructors.  However, this is another thing I strongly suggest you to splurge on if you either can't find a provisional instructor or you don't mesh with any you find.  It is super important to prepare yourself for birth effectively (ie not via the hospital's class), and to have the support you feel you need (as you would with a doula).  
  • Don't buy it.  I have a really short list of items you should buy before your baby is born here.  Compare that list for a second to the list you find here.  Pretty different.  There are probably some things that are not on my list that you may find yourself needing, but most of those needs will not be emergent, and you can get them when you need them.  This alone will save you a ton of money, because I think (and many moms will agree with this) that buying stuff you ultimately don't use is the biggest way you can save money on a new baby.
And there's more to come... Do you have anything to add?  How did you save money when your kids were born, or what baby item did you wish you had not wasted your money on?

1.15.2014

Beans Can Actually be YUMMY! A recipe for bean and bacon soup.

I was actually working on a post on saving money on having a baby, but as I sat here smelling the beans that have been cooking on the stove all afternoon, I remembered that it is real food wednesday.  And that I need.... NEEED... to share this recipe.  Because it's delicious, frugal, and I kinda sorta made it up.  The ingredient list looks a hair long, but over half of the ingredients are seasonings you probably already have, and it really comes together quickly.
Bean and Bacon Soup.

But first a small confession- I don't really like beans very much.  In fact, as a child (a remarkably un-picky child, at least when it came to food) beans were one of the few foods I refused to eat.  My experience with beans was limited to bland ham and bean soup (a dish I actually don't hate now, because I SEASON it...) and the kidney beans in the dish my mom called goulash (that I know now was absolutely not goulash).  Thank goodness I'm a frugal cook, which meant I eventually had to come to terms with the humble dried bean.  Now I have a few bean based recipes that I absolutely love, and this one is a particular favorite.

Bean and Bacon Soup

Ingredients:
  • 16 oz. (about 2 1/2 cups) DRY pinto beans
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 (yes 6) cloves of garlic, diced
  • 3 T. chili powder
  • 1-2 diced chipotle peppers (to taste... you can also remove the seeds to reduce the spice)
  • 1 pint diced tomatoes, or two diced fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tsp. sucanat
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 6 cups chicken or beef stock
  • additional water or stock, if needed or desired
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 6 (or more!) slices of bacon
At least 10 hours before you plan to eat (so you can start soaking them in the morning for dinner that night, but it's best to soak them overnight first) cover your pinto beans with fresh, cold water and soak for at least 6 hours.

Drain the beans, leaving the beans in the collander.  In the pan,  melt the butter and saute the diced onion until it begins to soften.  Then add the garlic and continue to saute until soft and fragrant.  Add the soaked beans, all the spices, vinegar, sucanat, diced tomatoes, and stock.  Cover and simmer on low for the rest of the afternoon, or until beans are soft.  Check occasionally and add water or stock to keep beans from drying out.

When the beans are done (or about done) brown and then dice the bacon*.  Add the 8 oz of tomato sauce and any additional water or stock to thin soup to desired thickness (you can also mash some of the beans to further thicken the soup, if you want).  Stir in the diced bacon and serve!

*You could, hypothetically, dice the bacon raw and throw it in with the cooking beans... I have a similar recipe for black eyed peas where I add the bacon earlier and uncooked, and as it cooks with the beans, it imparts them with its flavor and delicious fatty richness.  However, for this soup I prefer the bacon to be less... mushy.  And if you know ANYTHING about me you know I also add the rendered off bacon fat and drippings to the soup.... so of course you should too!

And check out a whole bunch of real food recipes at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday!

1.14.2014

I have something to tell you...

And that's kind of a big deal.  Since I haven't really had much to say for the past several months.  I haven't been lazy, I just kind of ran out of things to say, and (unlike some bloggers...) don't feel the need to constantly repost old posts and reblog other bloggers' material, so I took a break.  But, as I often do this time of year when the mid winter crazies start to get to me, I needed another outlet (and something to do as I avoid the snow and cold outside).  Plus, due to some recent developments I feel like I have stuff to say again, at least for now.

Because (and I'm going to tell you this unceremoniously... so beware) I'm pregnant.  There, I said it.  I don't like to draw a lot of attention to myself, so this has been weird for me lately.  I honestly don't remember how I handled it with the last two kids... I'm not one to post some cutesy picture on Facebook and be all like "I'm pregnant, yeah me!"  I hate telling people in person unless it comes up (and honestly, how often does that come up?).  And I'm at that awkward phase where I just look like  I've put on some belly pounds, or maybe like I have some awful tumor growing in my abdomen.  In other words, I'm at exactly the stage where you NEVER want to say to a woman "are you pregnant?"

But, despite my inhibitions re: bringing any sort of undue attention to myself, I'm excited.  I feel like my kids are at a good age for this to happen- they're old enough to understand what's happening, and they're really super self sufficient, I don't feel like I'm piling a ton of work (because I do still remember that newborns are a ton of work) on top of a ton of other work.  In fact, the baby will be born after school gets out for the summer, and next fall Oliver will go to Kindergarten... all day every day kindergarten!  I'm not ashamed to say that I'm probably a hair more excited about him starting Kinder than I probably should be.  It's not that I don't love the boy... I even love having him around 95% of the time because he's funny and clever and seven kinds of entertaining.  He's just soooo on all the time, and despite my best efforts he's not very good at entertaining himself (despite how good he is at entertaining me).  So whatever, judge me if you want, I have a pretty strong policy against guilt, so I'll continue on my merry way whether you judge or not.

Another exciting point is that BOTH of my sisters are also pregnant.  We're all due within like 4 months.  My poor mother :)

So now that I'm suddenly plunged BACK into the world of babies and all the crazy that comes with being a new (or new again) mom, I figure that will inspire some blog posts.  Or not and the next thing you'll hear from me will be "look at my cute baby!"  We'll see.  But at the moment I have some topics I'm really interested in.

First and foremost in my mind is the topic of money and STUFF.  I've always said I kind of wished I could go back with what I know now and NOT buy 90% of the crap I bought when Izzy was born.  Well, since I don't have any baby stuff left (really, nothing, other than my Ergo and a few other carriers, and some random large diapers I found the other day that won't do me any good until well into the second year...) it looks like I'm going to get that do-over.  So I'm taking it very seriously.  I'm keeping track of what I spend.  I'm making lists of what I need, what brand/type I want, and searching for it (when reasonable) second hand.  So I would imagine a post will follow soon on how I'm spending (and saving) money for this baby in a variety of ways that I knew nothing about with my first kids.

And I'm sure other things will come up.  I'm sure food and general baby related health will come up.  I'm sure I'll talk about my planned natural out of hospital birth.  And other random stuff.  So I hope you enjoy... and if not, there's the door:)

10.24.2013

Is feminism destroying the health of our children?

First let me say, this is so not me.  I consider myself a feminist.  I believe girls and women can do ANYTHING they want.  In fact, sometimes I feel sorry for my son because, from my perspective, he is more limited than my daughter.  I do my best to be sure that I do not enforce these limitations on him (boys can't paint their nails, boys can't play with dolls, boys can't wear pink, etc), but no matter what I do they get to him.  He hears it at school, or from well meaning family members.  But that is another post.

Despite my identification as a feminist, this is a thought that has just popped into my brain multiple times over the past few days.  I can't really control it.  So I thought I would flesh it out a little.

In the real food communities, this comes up occasionally, but in the reverse.  We hear frequently statements like "the real food movement (and similarly, the attachment parenting movement) is damaging to the feminist movement."  But why not the reverse?

Lets start at the beginning.  And not just concerning the woman's role in the family, but both parents- what is more important, the well being of the individual or the well being of the entire family?  I completely understand (and often remind others) that without happy, healthy, and functional individuals the whole can not be healthy, but I still prioritize the health of the entire unit over the individual.  There are significant sacrifices that both I and my husband can make, for the good of the whole, while still being healthy and functional individuals. 

Specifically when it comes to both food and parenting styles, the decisions I make directly affect my children's future.  And the very foods that I choose to avoid- the Hamburger Helpers and Kraft Mac-n-Cheeses of the world- were marketed towards women interested in freeing themselves from the shackles of the kitchen.  But what have we done to our children in the process?

Our children are fatter.  They have higher rates of chronic illness.  They get "childhood" illnesses (illnesses that were actually NOT that common in children only 100 years ago) far more frequently.  They have difficulty focusing in school.  Food allergies and intolerances are running rampant.  My children's generation is faced with being the first generation in over 100 years that has a SHORTER life expectancy than the generation before it.  And it is partly because of this desire women have to free themselves.  Free themselves from what, and for what, though?  Free themselves from cooking nutrient dense, healthful meals for our families, so that they can work 60 hours a week?  Free themselves from creating a healthy relationship with food within their family, for the sake of their own personal fulfillment?  I don't really think that's a fair trade, when looking at the good of the whole.

I still say I'm a feminist.  And I don't believe that the responsibility of providing healthy meals falls 100% on the shoulders of the mother- it is a responsibility that should be shared by both parents and even by older children.  If anything good (regarding food and food preparation within the family, obviously lots of good came elsewhere) came from the feminist movement, it is that.  It is now the norm for the man to cook as much, if not more, than the woman in a family.  But I believe we need to move to the next level, at least those of us with children, and get past our selfishness.  We need to decide, as individual couples, how the feeding of the family will be divided to best maintain everyone's health.  And we need to stop focusing on "freeing ourselves" from the shackles of the kitchen and concern ourselves, as parents, with freeing our children from the shackles of chronic disease, poor health, and future infertility.
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