Saturday, May 3, 2008

Exploring Gentle Discipline

I was raised in an authoritarian household where my father's word was law. He prided himself "breaking our will/spirit" and was not above spanking, some of which I think may have bordered on abuse. Of course, I know my father loves me but I often wonder how a person who loved me could cause me so much pain, anxiety and fear. To this day, I refuse to sit diagonally from my father in the backseat of of the car because I remember being backslapped for some misdeed that, incidentally, I don't even remember. I hardly remember any of the reasons why I received spankings but . . . all I know is that I want to do it differently with my child.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with African or African-American ways of raising children but in our culture it is extremely important to honor your family. If I were to throw a fit in the grocery store the way I see some children doing, it would definitely merit me a warning glance and a spanking when I got home. The older I got, the glance was enough to put me back in line. You do not embarrass your parents or else. Most AA's (including dh) that I know now would laugh me to scorn for even thinking about not spanking my child, not yelling, not punishing, etc. . . I mean, even when I see children acting out in the store, my immediate and reflexive response is "someone needs to snatch up that child." This is the culture I grew up in.

However, gentle discipline seems to me a way to allow children a great deal of freedom to develop into who they will be. I don't know, yet, how comfortable I am with all that freedom. Let me try to explain and I hope no one gets offended. In a society where Black people make up the minority, it is not always the best situation for a child to feel entirely free. It is my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my son/daughter knows how and when and how fast to cut out undesirable behavior. I will refer you to that little girl who was put in handcuffs in Florida for acting out . . . not to get into racial issues but I highly doubt that if the girl had been white, it would have been handled that way. Long story short, children of color are treated more harshly by this society and given less leeway. That's a fact. I mean, working at predominantly White schools and then at predominantly Black/Latino schools, it's painfully obvious. Do I do a disservice to my child by practicing GD--no punishment/rewards, etc . . . when I know that at times I will really need my child to get in line immediately?

I like that GD goes against the whole will-breaking thing that happened in my life but I want to raise children who can function well in this society? Does this make sense? I hope I haven't stepped on any toes. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Beginner’s Guide to Cloth Diapering

The Beginner’s Guide to Cloth Diapering

Whenever I tell someone that my son wears cloth diapers, they always get a quizzical if not confused look on their face. They usually ask me why and sometimes offer to buy me diapers since obviously I cannot afford disposable. What they don’t know is that I love cloth diapers. I love that my child is wearing something that is natural, breathable and comfortable but moreover that I am doing my little part to keep plastic and other non-biodegradable material out of the landfills. I started looking into cloth diapers while I was pregnant after learning that it takes over two centuries for a conventional disposable diaper to biodegrade. I also learned that the chemical gel that keeps diapers dry to the baby’s skin could also be a potential health hazard not to mention that the paper that is used is often times bleached. I couldn’t imagine putting that next to my precious baby’s skin. After all, I’m careful to use only natural body products on my skin, preferring shea butter and olive oil to the paraben laden mineral oil concoctions so prevalent in the stores. So, I started to do some research and discovered a whole world of cloth diapering that is varied, vast, interesting, fun and sometimes frustrating! I hope that this article can guide you and help you to avoid some of the mistakes I made while helping you to give a priceless gift to your child and to the Earth.

The most basic and least expensive type of cloth diapers available are called prefolds and you use these with a separate diaper cover to keep baby’s clothes dry. These are the diapers of old, the ones you remember! They are called prefolds because you have to fold the diaper before fastening it on your baby using diaper pins or a Snappi® fastener which you can purchase online. A Snappi® looks more or less like a rubbery “Y” with teeth at each corner that you hook into the diaper to keep it together (see picture below). Prefolds come in six different sizes:

Size

Weight

Ply

Dimensions

Comments

New

Washed

Preemie

up to 8 lbs

2x6x2

9.5"x13"

9"x12"

Preemie & Newborn covers. Doublers in larger size diapers. White stitching.

Standard
Infant

6-18 lbs

4x6x4

12"x16"

11"x14.5"

Small & Medium covers. OK for light wetter in pocket style diapers. Kelly Green stitching.

Infant/ Newborn

6-18 lbs

4x8x4

12"x16"

11"x14.5"

Small & Medium covers. Perfect "stuffing" for pocket type diapers. Hunter Green stitching.

Regular

12-30 lbs

4x6x4

14"x21"

13"x18"

Medium & Large covers. Good in-between size, but not for heavy wetters. Many customers purchase these diapers for custom boutique or embroidered burp cloths. White stitching.

Premium/ Large

12-30 lbs

4x8x4

14.5"x22"

13"x19"

Medium & Large covers. Most used size in prefolds. You may never have to move up to toddler. Royal Blue or White stitching.

Toddler

over 25 lbs

4x8x4

17.5"x23"

15"x20"

Large & XL covers. Great for nighttime, especially for a heavy wetter. Makes a super changing pad! Hunter Green stitching on all four sides.

Courtesy of http://www.thestorkwearhouse.com/pfolds.htm

Snappi Diaper fasteners. Courtesy of http://snappibaby.com/generic0.html

Unbleached prefolds are the best type of prefold, in my opinion, primarily because they are made with cotton that is not treated with bleach to whiten them so they are the most absorbent. You must wash unbleached prefolds on HOT a few times (say 3 or 4) before you first use them. They become more absorbent over time and you will no doubt be quite surprised at how much this type of diaper can hold. You can also find prefolds that are made from hemp. To increase absorbency (like for overnight wear) lay absorbent inserts (usually made of hemp or microfiber) into the diaper before you fold and fasten it. Another neat trick I picked up is to cut up pieces of fleece like you find at the fabric store and after you fold the diaper, lay a piece on top, closest to baby’s skin. The fleece will wick the moisture away from the skin keeping baby dry and comfy. Prefolds are the workhorse diapers—nothing fancy, just functional. I have grown to love prefolds but only after having used other, more updated and easier-to-use cloth diapers first.

Fitted diapers also require a cover but are a bit easier to use than prefolds because there is no need to fold them before putting them on baby since they are shaped like disposable diapers. Generally, they have some kind of snaps or Velcro to fasten them but occasionally you will find that you have to either tie them, Snappi® or pin them closed. Fitted diapers come in a variety of natural fibers including cotton and hemp.

Both prefold diapers and fitted diapers require a diaper cover (also known as a wrap) to keep your baby’s clothes from getting wet. There are many options available. If you want to stick to all natural fibers, the best diaper covers are wool. You can buy wool diaper covers knitted or crocheted by work-at-home-moms or you can knit or crochet them yourself! There are a number of free patterns available on the web or you can purchase patterns online. (The patterns you buy are often more specific and the seller can give you detailed information on how to modify the pattern to tailor the cover to your baby). There is also a yahoo group you can join dedicated to knit and crochet diaper covers. There are other types of wool diaper covers available like the Stacinator diaper cover which is a stretchy merino wool cover. Wool diaper covers are fabulous in that they keep baby cool in the summer (hard to believe but true) and warm in the winter and in that they really work wonderfully to keep baby’s clothing dry. It takes a little care to clean wool diaper covers because they must be washed by hand and line dried and they may occasionally need to be re-lanolized. Lanolin is the oil secreted by sheep into their wool. It is lanolin that endows wool with its waterproof quality. However, you do not need to wash wool diaper covers every time they are used. I wash mine about every 2 weeks unless some poop gets on one. I will discuss the methods for washing all diapers in further detail below. Another type of cover available is made from PUL fabric, a waterproof synthetic fabric that comes in all colors and prints. PUL is what certain types of waterproof windbreakers are made out of. It is very easy to care for and can be washed along with the diapers although drying them in the dryer is not recommended (they dry very quickly anyway). I used Bummi’s Super Whisper Wrap® which is an inexpensive PUL cover that is very reliable and easy to fasten over your fitted or prefold diaper.

The next type of diaper available is called the Pocket diaper. I have a soft spot in my heart for pocket diapers. They are much more pricey than either prefold or fitted diapers at an average of $15 a piece (compared to $2 on average for prefolds and $8 on average for fitteds). However, in my mind they are well worth the price. Why? Pocket diapers are an innovation in cloth diapers and are especially appealing to people who are transitioning from disposable diapers because they utilize fleece or microsuede to wick moisture away from baby’s skin and keep his skin dry. They are also easily fastened with snaps or Velcro and great because they dry extremely quickly. Pocket diapers are basically a piece of fleece or microsuede and a piece of PUL or waterproof outside covering that are sewn together leaving a space or pocket between the two. To use the diaper, you must stuff that pocket with some absorbent material such as a hemp or microfiber insert or an unbleached prefold. The most popular brand of pocket diapers are FuzziBunz® because they were the first. Personally, I love FuzziBunz® for their reliability but there are plenty of other great brands out there including some wonderful ones made by work-at-home moms. I like to stuff my diapers as soon as I take them off the line or out of the dryer.

The last type of cloth diaper available are all-in-one diapers or AIO’s. They are called all-in-ones because the absorbent part of the diaper and the cover are all sewn together. All you have to do is snap or Velcro the diaper on to the baby. Some people prefer AIO’s because they are very simple to use—just take one off and put another one on—no folding, pinning or stuffing. AIO’s are great when you are on the run but because all of the pieces are sewn together, they can often take a long time to dry and can be rather bulky. They are also on the higher end of the price spectrum.

Take note: every retailer of cloth diapers has their own sizing chart. If you are buying diapers like I was, i.e. while pregnant, then, of course, you can only guess what sizes to buy. I ended up having an 8 lbs. baby who put on a pound a week. He did not stay in the newborn size for very long at all. But if your baby is already here, don’t hesitate to measure the baby to make sure the diaper will fit properly. It will save lots of frustration. Trust me!

Washing Diapers

A quick search of the internet will reveal a myriad of methods and procedures for washing diapers. I have tried everything and I say simple is best. The first thing you want to do is find a detergent that is free of whitener and brighteners. You want a basic detergent that will rinse out completely leaving fresh and clean diapers. Do not use fabric softener or any detergent that has fabric softener in it as this will coat the diapers and render them useless. Do not use pure soap (like Ivory). Do not use chlorine bleach. The best detergents for diapers are the ones with the fewest ingredients. Try to avoid the health food store detergents because even though they are a great natural choice, they often contain essential oils that may also coat the diapers. Check the labels though. You may find a great one. The detergent I use now after much trial and error is Charlie’s Soap (which is not really soap). I find it to be mild and gentle but also effective and completely clean rinsing. You can wash your diapers and PUL covers as well as any inserts you may have together. My diaper washing method is as follows:

1. Rinse on cold using medium water (adjust the water level to how many diapers you have—diapers should be freely moving but should also be coming into contact with each other pretty frequently as this helps to get them clean). Sometimes I add a little Bac-Out or baking soda if the load is particularly stinky.

2. Wash on HOT for the longest setting using a small amount of detergent. Use much less than the manufacturer recommends as this generally more than enough to get diapers clean and to keep them from getting detergent buildup which can affect the diapers effectiveness

3. Do a second rinse if there are any bubbles left (I never have any with Charlie’s Soap)

4. Line dry or dry on medium heat. Alternatively you can dry on high heat but remove your PUL covers and pocket diapers after 10-15 mins. Line drying is a great way to extend the life of your diapers and the sun is a natural bleaching agent that will remove any stains your diapers my have naturally. I personally love the way line dried diapers smell.

If you have hard water (which makes it hard for detergent to work) or a front loading

washer (which generally uses less water than a top loading machine, you may find it a challenge to find a detergent and routine that works but don’t give up. There are plenty of resources online to help you figure out something that works.

Like I said previously, wool diaper covers need to be washed by hand. Please do not use Woolite or any other similar “wool wash” to wash your covers as these will strip the all-important lanolin from the diapers. You can purchase Eucalan, a wool wash that has lanolin in it and that coats the diapers as you wash them. There are other organic wool wash bars that are available online too. Alternatively, you could wash the diaper covers using a tiny bit of dishwashing liquid or pure castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and then lanolizing the covers. To lanolize, simply dissolve about a ½ tsp of lanolin (I just use Lansinoh since it is a highly purified form of Lanolin and since I already had it from the early days of breastfeeding) in about a cup of boiling water and a little bit of soap (to keep the lanolin dissolved). Add that combination to a bucket of cool water and soak your covers for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze (don’t wring) out the excess water and then roll each cover in an absorbent towel to soak up as much water as possible. Hang the covers to dry. The more unprocessed your wool cover, the more you cover will smell like a wet sheep. Don’t worry! When the cover dries, it won’t smell at all. Trust me! Between washings, simply hang the diaper to dry if some urine gets on it. The air will take care of the smell and wool is antibacterial in nature so the combination of the air and the wool will take care of any nasty buggies.

Where can you buy diapers?

Where I live, there are no brick and mortar stores from which to buy diapers. I have had to purchase all my diapers online which in the beginning led to a lot of stress and disappointment because I could not touch or try out the diapers first. I also knew very little about cloth diapers and that made the whole situation worse. Hopefully, you do not have to go through the same thing. There are plenty of great websites out there where you can buy cloth diapers. Generally, the folks selling the diapers are quite helpful and will answer all of your questions graciously and thoroughly.

Will cloth diapering save you money?

Everyone has their reasons for cloth diapering. If your reason is that you want to save money and (of course) save the Earth, well then the best options for you are prefold diapers or fitted diapers. You also have the option of buying used diapers like on Ebay or on the trading post at Mothering.commune (the message board for Mothering Magazine) or www.diaperpin.com. I managed to get all the diapers I have been using for my son for about $400 total. This includes prefolds, pockets, fitteds, covers and inserts. My only suggestion would be to familiarize yourself with the diaper lingo so that you can have a clear understanding of what the seller is describing. I have gotten a few duds but overall I’ve had a good experience buying second-hand diapers. I just wash them on hot and add a few drops of tea tree oil for good disinfecting measure and dry on hot. If any buggies can survive all that, more power to them.

If you really want to save money and you know how to sew, it is very easy to make diapers and diaper covers. There are plenty of patterns that you can buy but if you are a very good seamstress, there are good free patterns online that you can modify to suit your needs. If you can knit or crochet, you can make wool diaper covers from free patterns available or ones you can buy. A quick trip to the thrift store can yield plenty of PUL and wool that you can recycle to make covers. You can recycle old wool sweaters that have been felted (basically washed in the machine and dried in the dryer) to make wool covers. You can buy fleece (for pocket diapers or as liners for your prefolds and fitteds at your local fabric store. I have found it for as cheap as $2 a yard (just the plain, non-printed fleece). Take a look at the Resources below for ideas and patterns.

Cloth diapering, in my opinion, is the best way to diaper your child (aside from keeping your child diaper-less which is another discussion)! It is a natural and healthy alternative to throw-away diapers and teaches your child from birth how to love and respect the Earth.

Peace and Blessings!

Resources:

http://www.borntolove.com/d-list1y.shtml

http://www.puddlecatchers.com/wholesale-cloth-diapers.html

http://store.yahoo.com/babynaturale/plwafsiso.html

http://webhome.idirect.com/~born2luv/CHOICES.HTML

http://www.ecobottoms.com/wipes.html

http://www.awchamburg.org/AWCH_GettingSettled/AWCH_Child_Family/AWCH_Diapers.html

http://www.cottonbabies.com/

http://www.mothereve.com/

http://www.diaperpin.com/home.asp

http://www.thebabymarketplace.com/

http://www.earthbaby.com/

http://www.greenmountaindiapers.com/

http://www.thestorkwearhouse.com/

http://www.clothdiaper.com/

http://www.thediaperhyena.com/

http://www.kissaluvs.com/

http://www.kellyscloset.com/

http://www.babybunz.com/

http://www.mother-ease.com/

http://www.fuzbaby.com/

http://www.bummis.com/en/Index.html

http://www.borntolove.com/

http://www.diapersafari.com/

http://www.stacinator.com/

http://www.sunshinediapers.com/

http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/diaperfacts.php

http://stores.hsprofessional.com/katieskisses/StoreFront.bok

http://www.cutofcloth.com/cutofcloth.asp

http://www.nopins4baby.com/store/index.php

http://www.mainstreetmom.com/budg/wipes.htm

http://www.babycottonbottoms.com/index.html

http://www.bottomlinediapers.com/

http://www.peenutpants.com/

http://www.dy-dee.com/html/Folding/folding.html

http://www.diaperware.com/index.html

http://www.borntolove.com/frugal-column2.html

http://www.cafepress.com/thatskindacool/864331

http://www.babyluv.net/store/

http://www.thanksmama.com/Default.asp?Redirected=Y

http://www.edgediapers.com/

http://www.fuzzibunzstore.com/store/home.php

http://www.cottonbabies.com/index.php

http://www.diapershop.com/index.php/action/diaper_styles

http://www.diaperdecisions.com/

http://www.greenacredesigns.com/store/Default.asp

http://www.pinstripesandpolkadots.com/detergentbasics.htm

Sudz 'n Dudz - Welcome

http://www.diaperco.com/side_wall_fold.htm

Diaper Folds for Prefold and Flat Diapers

http://www.sunshinediapers.com/

Making your own diapers

http://www.littlebellesoakers.com/doodlepantspattern.html

http://sewdiapers.com/

http://www.diapershop.com/index.php/action/category/id/19/

http://www.borntolove.com/pattern.html

http://www.diaperfabric.com/store/WsAncillary.asp?ID=3

http://www.birdcrossstitch.com/soakers/pattern/index_printable.html

http://www.tinybirdsorganics.com/soakers/pattern/

http://www.cafepress.com/thatskindacool/864331

http://www.livejournal.com/community/punk_knitters/110889.html

http://www.sewshoppe.com/fabric5.shtml

http://www.angelfire.com/biz/mothershelpinghands/crochet.html

http://www.birdcrossstitch.com/organicwool/woolpants.html

http://host197.ipowerweb.com/~fernandf/store/index.php?cPath=52_30_31&osCsid=991753e89df4b70a8e34d5177e556212

http://woolywonder.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=3

http://www.angelfire.com/biz/mothershelpinghands/crochet.html

http://www.tickleturdle.com/wrappattern.html

http://www.ottobredesign.com/en/print/pdf/wool_diaper_cover_en.pdf

http://www.glamarama.net/knitting/patterns/GH-1959-soakers.pdf

http://hyenacart.com/DandelionDreamersPatternStore/index.php?c=9&p=4

http://www.borntolove.com/frugal-column2.html

http://www.fernandfaerie.com/freesoakerpattern.html

http://www.geocities.com/meghanwyant/FreeSoakerPattern.html

http://warmheartwoolies.com/PlainWrap.pdf

Z2's Birth story.

The birth of my baby boy was intense but quick. He was born at 8:50 on Dec. 29 a healthy 7 lbs. 4 ozs. I am so incredibly blessed. Oh, and it was the lovely, peaceful birth I wanted here in my home!

Friday, December 28, 2007, I went to sleep like I usually do after my son's teeth were brushed, face was washed and oiled, pajamas were on, books were read, and kisses were exchanged. I had been sleeping for a few hours when I started to feel crampy. My husband had just gotten in the bed and was sound asleep. I didn’t want to bother him because I figured there was nothing really going to happen. I’d convinced myself I’d make it till at least January without having the baby. I really didn’t worry especially because I was able to go back to sleep.

I woke up on Saturday morning still feeling crampy but nothing worse than the cramps I’d experience when my menses was about to come. When I went to the bathroom, I noticed a huge clump of mucous and a fair amount of blood. I figured this was what they call “bloody show”. I called my husband to come see and tell me what he thought. It didn’t seem to worry him and he went back to bed. I was a little annoyed with him for that. I called the midwife next to let her now. I felt fine, though, and the cramps were nothing more than annoying. So I got my son up, brushed his teeth, bathed him and dressed him. I noticed that by the time I was done with that, not only was I feeling crampy but the cramps were coming at set intervals—I would say about every 5-6 minutes with some regularity. Still, I was able to function fully.

I went to make breakfast. I decided to also make a large pot of pasta sauce because I thought that there was a good chance the baby would come that day. That was a good call. I also decided to stop being annoyed at my husband. He’d worked the night before and besides, we all needed as much rest as we could find before the new baby arrived.

We had breakfast and soon after, my husband thought it would be a good idea to keep track of when I’d feel another cramp which by this time we were calling contractions or rushes. They were very regular—every 5-6 minutes but they were not so intense that I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing. I had to pause to reckon with each but not completely stop.

This went on for hours. I thought to myself that maybe I was just dehydrated so I drank almost 32 ounces of water. (My water bottle is 32 ounces.) Then I went to lie down. My son wouldn’t let me rest so I did the best I could and then got up. The contractions, it seemed, had gone away. Thirty minutes later, they were back again and very regular. They had not increased in intensity though so we put my son down for his nap and Chris got ready to go off to work.

While my son was napping and my husband was off to work I started to straighten up the house a little and read my books. I took out Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery and started doing some of the affirmations and reminding myself of the kind of labor and birth I wanted. I also took out What to Expect when You’re Expecting which has to be about the most useless book of all if you are going about things naturally/at home.

At about 5:00PM, I got really hungry. I decided to make myself some eggs and toast. I made two eggs and wolfed them down. I was not satisfied. I made another two eggs and demolished those two. By 5:30, the rushes were to the point where they were taking my breath away and I thought to myself that the baby would definitely be here soon. I called Chris at work to tell him and it was unsure if he could actually get off from work. I thought it would be really sad if he couldn’t make it to the birth but I had accepted a long time ago that this was the nature of his job and probably why I was more than hesitant to go unassisted (without a midwife).

Anyway, around this time, my son woke up from his nap with a stinky pamper. I would have to change him. I spoke to my friend on the phone and she was in the neighborhood and wanted to drop something off. I told her to come through and that I thought I was in labor and she probably couldn’t stay so long. I started to change my son's diaper and just as I finished the doorbell rang. I answered the door to let her in and then went to go wash out my son's diaper. I had a very strong rush in the bathroom while I was washing out the diaper but I handled it very well. My friend was able to tend to my son while I dealt with the rushes that were now definitely labor pains. I was grateful she was there to keep me company.

At around 6:30, the contractions seriously intensified. I called the midwife to tell her that I thought it was time. She arrived shortly thereafter. The doula arrived before she did which was good to help me keep my son entertained and also to time the rushes. I called my husband and managed to tell him it was time. By now, the rushes were very intense and it was difficult for me to speak. Thankfully he said he was on his way. By 7:30, he’d arrived and I was without doubt in full-fledged labor. Once the midwife arrived, she checked my dilation and blood pressure and all that. I was making good progress.

I had been curious all along as to where I would labor and although the bed was set up with the plastic sheets and cheap sheets, I realized that I would rather be on the floor. I had the doula push my son's crib (which is side-carred to our bed) away from our bed so I could labor on the rug and not the cold hard wood floor. Since I was so into labor by this time, I could not instruct anyone to put down some plastic or something on the carpet to protect it but I had hoped that it would happen anyway.

By the time my husband arrived, I was in deep labor. I was kneeling at the bed and after every rush I would just lay my head down to rest. When my husband came home, I just wanted him to hold me tight as I negotiated the rushes. I labored like that for a while then I tried to sit in between my husband's legs and labor. I tried a couple of other positions too before I decided that kneeling was best. I dealt with each rush one at time. I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, here it comes.” My uterus would tighten and it was painful but I stayed right on top of the pain and rode it out. Once the rush was over, I said “Okay, there it goes” and just relaxed and breathed deeply and gathered my strength for the next one. I kept thinking funny thoughts and amusing myself between contractions. I was making good noises—humming, groaning and moaning during contractions. At one point, I decided that I shouldn’t make any noise at all. I decided I would look at the contraction, i.e. watch it come, feel it at its height, reckon with it, and let it go. This, I feel, was probably when I opened up the most because I was facing the pain head on and telling it that it could not and would not over come me.

At some point, the midwife had me lie on my back on the floor I guess to check the progress. That was the most excruciating pain ever and I was having flashbacks of giving birth to my son on my back. When I was giving birth to my son, I knew that lying on my back was making my labor more agonizing than it needed to be but I couldn’t ask for the help I needed to switch positions. This time, I knew I had to get off my back come hell or high water. On my back, I felt like crying. I screamed. I cursed. I got angry. I started to call for God. After dealing with 2 or 3 rushes on my back, I decided that I had to get to a different position right that moment. If I can help it, I will never lie on my back again while in labor for any reason. I’m not into needless suffering.

I got back on my knees and when I did, I felt the urge to push. I felt like if I pushed it would ease a lot of the pain. And so I did. I felt the baby’s head engage. Then the midwife pricked my bag of waters. After that, I knew he was coming soon. Everyone was pushing plastic sheets underneath me—the short disposable chux pads and I just hoped it was enough to protect the carpet but I couldn’t worry about that. I pushed. It burned. Good Lord, it burned. I pushed past the burning and finally felt his head come out. It was like he was coasting out on water. My husband caught the baby and I felt so good. I couldn’t believe how easy, relatively speaking, it was to push the baby out. I wanted to say, “That’s it?” That was it!

I held the baby in my arms. He was so small and squiggly. I was so grateful that I was not so worn out, sweaty, and tired that I couldn’t appreciate him. I was holding another little boy. I was glad that I didn’t fall into the trap of trying to guess his sex while he was in the womb. Everyone swore it was to be a girl.

I birthed the placenta soon after. That was very easy.

The midwife and doula wiped the baby down, took his Apgar scores, weighed him and all that. I think he may have gotten some oxygen. Then I got him back and started to try to nurse him. After a couple of attempts, he got it.

I guess it seemed to the midwife that I was bleeding profusely so she gave me a shot of pitocin. And then another. I’m not so sure that I needed the pitocin especially since I would be breastfeeding. I did not get pitocin after having my son and everything was fine. But I trusted that the midwife had seen lots of births and if she felt it was too much blood, I felt she should do what she needed to do. I really did not want a shot (I’m scared of needles) and I certainly did not want pitocin—especially not two shots of the stuff. But more than that, I did not want to go to the hospital.

So after all that, we trooped to the bathroom (me, the midwife and doula). The midwife wanted me to pass urine before she felt okay to go. I had to focus to do it. It was actually funny to me. I had to talk to my body and tell myself to relax. I got my peri bottle ready and finally I was able to pee. I hooked up a pad and panty haphazardly in my rush to get back to the baby.

Everyone was asking me if I was hungry and I really wasn’t. I know that eating the 4 eggs and toast before gave me a lot of energy and strength to do what I needed to do. Everyone was also pushing water on me even though I wasn’t thirsty. I drank it diligently but then I had to pee like crazy for the next few hours.

At some point, my husband went back to work. The midwife and doula left. I called my husband to ask him to buy me some Depends from the grocery store and something else that I can’t remember. I had some disposable pads that I bought before hand but everything was so bloody and drippy that I felt I needed some more protection. That turned out to be a good call. I called my sister to tell her the baby had arrived. my husband handled all the rest of the calls, I think. Somehow, everyone found out. My family from upstairs came down to see the new little one. It was serene.

I noticed that there was a huge blood stain on the carpet even though I had seen the midwife and doula pouring copious amounts of hydrogen peroxide on it. That was a little disheartening. Everyone had told me that midwives were good about that stuff and that by the time I had gotten myself situated, everything would have been clean and spiffy and no one would even know that I’d given birth at home. But I could see that the rug was ruined. And I knew my husband would be even more upset than me. At least I was riding on my beautiful birth experience. My husbandhad to deal with that jacked up carpet without the assistance of hormones.

My son had all the while been in the living room with my niece. I could hear him while I was laboring asking, “Mama, where are you?” in his cute baby way and trying to come find me. I was happy when labor was over so I could give him hugs and kisses and love. I put together a nighttime diaper for him and my niece put it on. I usually pin his nighttime diaper because he poops first thing in the morning and that contains it but my niece can’t pin a diaper. I hooked up a pocket diaper and hoped for the best in the morning. We didn’t brush our teeth or change into our pajamas or do any of our nighttime routine. I just laid a chux pad down to make up for my half-done pad/panty job. My son just lay in bed next to me and fell asleep. His brother was right beside me on my other side and I was overcome with joy and tears looking at my two boys and hearing them breathing and making sleeping noises. I couldn’t even sleep because I was so high.

Overall, it was a beautiful birth experience—even more so now that I’ve had time to process it all. I think the midwife was very professional and did her job well. There are minor things I would have changed like giving myself more of a chance to naturally clot instead of getting the pitocin. I was passing some huge, nasty clots in the following days and the midwife said essentially that is what pitocin does. God help me to never have to get that again. I don’t know if I really needed it at all especially since I was going to breastfeed but I guess I just have to trust that it was in my best interest. I didn’t really expect the pitocin to be out so readily right after I gave birth but I realize that the midwife has to walk a fine line. Right now, a little over a week later, I’m still dealing with swelling and I am getting these pounding headaches. I’m not altogether convinced it is not from the pitocin. I would also have been much more diligent about protecting the carpet. It’s pretty much ruined now—to hide it I moved the beds more toward the center of the room. At least all the hydrogen peroxide, Resolve, soap and water cleaned it so it doesn’t stink at all. It’s just a nasty stain now. And the last thing I would have done differently is to never have gotten on my back.

It was beautiful though, the whole experience. I was GBS+ when pregnant with my son and had to receive antibiotics as a matter of routine since I was birthing in the hospital. This time, I declined the test altogether. My water was broken for not more than twenty minutes so GBS infection for the baby was not even an issue. There were, in my mind, simply no complications to this birth. It was the birth I had been meditating on and manifesting since I found out I was with child. I think this is probably why getting the pitocin has really been on my mind because I did not picture that as a part of my birthing experience and I feel that my faith in myself and my body faltered a bit as a result of the fear of postpartum hemorrhaging and, of course, death. Fear is a powerful thing and I am a little disappointed in myself that I let fear creep in especially since throughout the pregnancy as I declined procedures and tests, I thought I had conquered all my pregnancy and birth fears. There is always spiritual work to do, though, and I give thanks for the wisdom to recognize things and to do better next time armed with what you learned this time. I have moved closer to going unassisted next time too. I think that this may be the only way to have the birth that I want in every way although there are never any guarantees.

My baby boy was born peacefully at home. He was 7 pounds and 4 ounces and completely covered in hair. He has five perfect fingers on each hand and five perfect toes on each foot. He is completely perfect in every way. He is so beautiful.

I give thanks that he chose me to come through. I am honored to be his mother.

I pray for the opportunity to give life again.

Z1's Birth Story

Z1 was born on Wednesday, August 17, 2005, at 2:29 AM. For some reason, I always want to say that he was born on Tuesday—time and space was so fluid when I was in that world of giving birth. The previous weekend was a weekend when The hubby was on to work. One of my gnawing fears throughout the pregnancy was that he’d be at work when I went into labor and I’d have to take a cab or something all the way to Sleepy Hollow where I was going to give birth. So, on that Sunday when I felt my first labor pains, I was very worried. The first pain didn’t feel any worse than maybe a pre-period cramp. It made me take pause for a moment but it didn’t incapacitate me. I thought they were maybe some Braxton Hicks. I had lost my mucous plug a whole week ago so I knew that wouldn’t be any kind of sign that I was in labor. I continued to watch t.v. and crochet as normal although my sister-in-law wanted to take me to the hospital. I was determined to labor as much at home anyway so I knew I wouldn’t be going right then. The pains would come and go. I wasn’t able to sleep very much really and I was just extremely uncomfortable. It was the middle of summer and hot, hot, hot. My feet were so swollen they looked like they would pop. Z1’s head was sitting so low in my pelvis it ached. I could not wait to give birth. Monday came and went and my labor didn’t really intensify at all. Tuesday rolled around and I was still feeling okay. I was still blaming the cramps on Braxton Hicks and re-reading all my pregnancy books which had me convinced that I was not really in labor.

We decided to go do our grocery shopping for the week but before that, I thought we’d try to get me into labor by knowing each other in the Biblical sense. I was more than ready to have Z1 make his grand entrance. Well, as were about to get acquainted, I noticed that I was dripping wet . . . I was mortified. I thought I’d peed my pants. A few weeks before I had taken my strep B test and it came back positive so I had been on the lookout for when my water broke. It terrified me that I’d miss it and then Z1 would get infected or something. I don’t know why my water breaking wasn’t the first thing I thought about but The hubby suggested that and I thought that was probably what it was. I called my midwife and she told me to come in to the office. She did a test with litmus paper and I learned that the bag of waters was an alkaline substance (as opposed to the acidity urine or the general vaginal area). So, indeed, I was in labor but I felt great. I still wanted to go grocery shopping but since they were thinking about the Strep B, they sent us to the hospital but not before making me take a little nap in the room to energize me for labor. I had my bags packed and in the trunk. Z1’s car seat was already installed. I was ready to have me a baby!

We arrived at the hospital and the first thing that happened was that they made me get in a wheelchair. I had been saying for the longest time that I didn’t want to get in a wheelchair, that I wasn’t sick or dying and that I could walk my behind up to the room. But . . . it was policy so I got in the blasted wheelchair and was wheeled upstairs. It was embarrassing. J I got to the delivery and it was really nice. I had hoped to come and take a tour for the longest of times but every time we called to arrange an appointment, they were super busy. So I was relieved that it was nice. There was a lovely birthing pool and a birthing stool. It was what I had imagined it would look like.

By the time we arrived at the hospital I was still having pretty mild contractions. I was 4 centimeters dilated and walking around like it was cool. These contractions were not even close to the pain I felt during my periods so I was actually getting a little cocky. I think Jah gave me this little burst of confidence so that that I could. I was more upset than I let on that I had to have an IV to deliver antibiotics for the Strep B. This was standard procedure and I didn’t really want to rock the boat. The IV was very annoying but I had a heparin lock and after I was on it for about an hour, they took it off and let me walk around while intermittently monitoring the baby. Z1’s heartbeat was nice and strong and it stayed that way throughout all the labor. Around 9:30, my midwife saw that I really wasn’t getting any further in the labor so she broke my bag of waters (it was only dripping before) and there was a huge, I mean huge gush of water that came out. I was so surprised. Then . . . it hit me: unbelievable pain. I couldn’t believe how much pain I was in. I was trying to remember all of the coping techniques but the pain was so much, I could hardly think straight. I labored standing up and holding on to The hubby (for dear life). I did this for a while until it looked like it wasn’t really helping. Then my midwife suggested we move into the pool and that was such a relief. It didn’t eliminate the pain (like I had hoped) but it did relax me and help me to regroup. I labored in there for what seemed like an eternity. I remember feeling like I couldn’t do it—that I needed some relief. I looked into The hubby’s eyes for help and he just kept telling me I could do it and I would do it. I did not have any urges to push and I was not yet fully dilated. It was happening rather slowly my dilation but the pain was intense. I got very angry at one point and wanted them to just take the baby out using suction or forceps or something. My midwife calmly explained to me that that was not possible and kept giving me juice and water to keep my hydrated. At some point, my heparin lock fell out. There was a nurse there who told me it was almost over. I barked at her, “What the hell do you know?” I was in a totally different zone where the labor had taken over. There was nothing else I could think of or do beside labor and my mind is usually very good at wandering. I was unbelievably focused. I had to get Z1 out.

After laboring in the pool for what seemed like an eternity, my midwife suggested I move to the toilet to labor. The pain almost quadrupled while sitting on the toilet so The hubby and my midwife helped me move to the bed. I had all these ideas of what I wanted to do, all the empowered laboring positions but in the heat of the moment, all I wanted to do was lay down. Finally I was ready to push and I couldn’t stop the feeling. I had to get the baby out. I would push, push, push then turn to my side and wait for another contraction. I couldn’t believe how close they were. I thought that you got more of a break between contractions to catch yourself. I was so angry that I didn’t get more of a break. I just turned to my side and held on until another contraction came and the overwhelming urge to push took over. I pushed and pushed and pushed with no result. The hubby had this worried look on his face. The midwife left a few times. One of the times she left, I had the overwhelming sense of abandonment and screamed, “Where did Robin go?” The Filipino nurse told me not to worry about Robin just to keep doing what I was doing. When Robin came back, I was relieved. I kept working. A cesarean section was my absolute worst fear. I would do whatever to keep it from happening. But in the heat of the moment, it felt like I could no longer bear it so I asked for the “guy who does the C-sections.” I don’t know why I remember so clearly what I asked for. The nurse was like the best thing that happened. She was so no nonsense. She told me to close my mouth and push. That was I was groaning not screaming. That helped tremendously but I thought that I would surely break some blood vessels. I pushed pushed pushed and I’d feel Z1 come down a little the go back. I pushed some more and the same thing happened. Finally, thankfully, The hubby said, I see the head. I couldn’t believe it. My midwife had said she had seen the head a long time ago but for some reason The hubby saying it made me know that I could do it. I could deliver this baby. So I gave it everything I had, every fiber within my being and pushed. I felt his head coming down and out and it was screaming, burning down there. I couldn’t believe it. My midwife kept telling me to push past the burning. I felt the arnica oil she was putting on and I was very grateful for it. I pushed and pushed and pushed until finally his head and shoulders were out. I had wanted to have a mirror so I could actually see him being born. I had wanted to pull him out myself. I forgot all of these things and when my midwife made the suggestion I said no. All I wanted was Z1 out. One last push and the rest of him came out. I could not believe it. All I kept saying was that I could not believe it. I could not believe I had done and that Z1 was really here. They cleaned him up and laid him in my arms. Time stood still. I couldn’t believe how beautiful he was. His head was covered in this downy fur and his face was all swollen but he was gorgeous. I asked if he was a boy or a girl and to my surprise, it was a boy! I was convinced all throughout my pregnancy that it was a girl. I could not believe he was here. I hardly noticed the delivery of the placenta or when my midwife gave me two stitches (I didn’t need any anesthetic). They wanted to give me pitocin to make sure everything came out but since the heparin lock had fallen out, they said forget it. I was very grateful because I didn’t want any drugs. The antibiotics were enough.

The hubby tells me I spent one or two hours with him before they moved us but it felt like time had stopped. This was the hardest thing I had ever done. I don’t remember if I nursed him during that time. I don’t think he was hungry. I was too out of it to remember. I got out of the bed and my legs were like jello and stuff was running out. It was crazy. The nurse showed me how to use the peri bottle to rinse while I peed and showed me how to place the witch hazel pad on a sanitary napkin to reduce the swelling. So at maybe 4 in the morning, I was wheeled to another room where I fell asleep. The hubby’ job was to follow and protect Z1 which he did superbly. The first time I tried to nurse him, I realized it would be hard but I was prepared to do the work.

-------------------------

I never finished writing Z1's birth story.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I can't wait . . .

For Summer to come. I really am tired of cold weather. (If my dear husband was down, I'd definitely go live somewhere warmer. Like Aburi Mountain in Ghana where it is warm during the day but not too hot and there's little to no humidity and the view is breathtaking.)

Anyway . . . I was reading on one of my message boards about natural deodorants. I've been using Tom's of Maine Unscented in conjunction with a spray deodorant I make myself. Here's the recipe:

All Natural Deodorant Spray
One 4 ounce spray bottle
3 parts lemon juice
1 part water
40 drops tea tree oil
40 drops of another essential oil (to give it a nice smell--my current batch has 20 drops of lemon EO and 20 drops of ginger EO and I like it . . . it's spicy. Other combinations I've tried are cinnamon and clove EOs, rosemary and sage EOs . . . I try to stick to only two EOs for the scent--anything more and it takes on a funk of its own)

Shake it up and spray as needed. You can, of course, reduce the amounts of EO but let me tell you, after having my two kids, my armpits can really get to woofing. Any, this concoction is strong and it really works for me.

The only problem is that it doesn't last the whole day and in the summer, I definitely need to spray it one more than once daily. On the message board, someone recommended Funk Butter by Oyin Handmade. I would love to try all their products one day but right now, it's not in the budget. So I googled "deodorant creams" and found this. I'm going to be making up Kimberlily's recipe and see how it works. Who knows? Maybe this will be an all day kind of deodorant.

Don't be afraid . . .

To let go.

That was what was on my mind when I fell asleep last night. I thought about all the things I have and gave sincere thanks. I'm blessed with so much. I remind myself time and time again, though, that really, most of the things I have, I don't need. I'm grateful for things like my stand mixer, my rice cooker, my knitting and crochet supplies, my car but these are all things that when it comes down to it, are luxuries. I'm not afraid to let those things go if I have to. How interesting that when I woke up this morning to do my journaling and meditation, I picked up Iyanla Vanzant's book and the message for today was on this very topic.

I think people are really panicky now that the economy is in such a slump. They're worried about losing this life they've become accustomed to living. In this country, that life, for a lot of people, revolves around "stuff". Once people can no longer acquire "stuff", they lose their sense of self and their sense of worth. They're fearful about not having and not getting. But when you learn to not be afraid of doing without, when you learn to be fearless, i.e. when fear no longer dictates what you do or what you don't do, you take your power back. I've taken my power back and every day I affirm that fear is not going to be a motivating factor in my life. I know that I'll never be what others want me to be so I'll be who I want to be. I'm not afraid that folks will be disappointed because it's true what I read somewhere . . . I think Dr. Seuss said it: Those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter. That couldn't be more accurate.

Two weeks in Ghana with sketchy electricity, sometimes running but always cold water, no internet, and a stove that got its gas from a canister sitting next to it made me realize that I can do without a lot of things. I don't necessarily want to do without those things. But I can. And I can be happy too.


Because all I need really are my babies--all three. I need them. And I need to be able to clothe, feed and shelter them well. Everything else is a bonus.

Getting closer to the cause of my repeated hair loss . . .

If you know me, you know that I've really struggled with my hair during my life. India Arie has a song called "I am Not My Hair" and I could have written every single word in that song. My hair has really been a journey.

Well, in 2001, I decided to stop getting my hair braided with extensions and to wear it out naturally. I rocked a fro for a while, twist-outs and head wraps. I was trying to get back to my roots. My hair was a reflection of that. I decided I really wanted locs and my first attempt at them involved a barber shop and black gooey gel. Bad. I washed that out and found a more natural loctician. I was well on my way to a head of beautiful locs. Until my hair started to thin and the locs started to snap off.

I thought it was stress. Maybe I needed to leave my locs alone. You know, low manipulation, organic/freeform locs. So I cut my hair to start over and once I had 2-3" of growth, I re-twisted it. And the same thing happened. It is not 2008, and I am telling you this that it is happening again. This is about the 5th time. It could be discouraging. But I am not discouraged. I send positive energy and love to my hair and hair follicles, to every part of my body in fact. But I am still looking for an answer to this mystery of hair thinning and loss. When I wear a fro, the hair grows fabulously thick, healthy, lustrous and strong. When it's in locs, inevitably I face hair loss. After changing my diet (even went so far as eating fish again all to no avail), changing my hair care routine and products (to no avail), it finally occurred to me that maybe the real issue is the locs themselves, i.e. the weight of the locs. It's just a theory but it is a plausible one. I'm still researching, thinking and meditating on the whole situation.

One thing's for certain though . . . I love this set of locs more than any other. This set of locs represents a real maturity and growth. I am such a different person than I was when I started my first set of locs years ago. It really has been a journey and though I don't have feet of locs to show for it, my spiritual locs reach down way past my knees. Like roots.


I'm like a tree that's planted by the water . . . I shall not be moved.

Phil & Ted's Double Stroller . . . the answer to the double stroller conundrum??

Maybe. Not quite. But then again, I've become convinced that there is no perfect double stroller. The Phil & Ted's comes pretty close though.

You know, I tried to convince myself I didn't need a double stroller at all. But with a 2.5 and an infant, I must have been hallucinating. Anyway, my good friend found a double stroller for me at her local thrift store for $15. Imagine my surprise when I looked it up online and saw how much it cost retail! Well, I was determined to make that thing do what it do. Except I ended up spraining my wrist. Now, the town I live in is hilly and bumpy. The Peg Perego would have been perfectly fine if I lived somewhere where most of my walking was on smooth pavement. It is a smooth rolling stroller, easy to steer considering it's size and length, and it is narrow which was a huge bonus since my front door is an older, more narrow double door. But it didn't take bumps well and it is too large and bulky for me to navigate through town. It is great for shopping at the thrift store or Target because it is so narrow but any real walking and you just don't fare too well with it.

Since I do a fair amount of walking (to save gas, because I don't like to drive, and because I need to lose some gosh darn weight), I knew I needed a better situation. So I started doing research and finally decided on the Phil & Ted's Sport in Green. Putting that sucker together was a true test of our intellect. But once it was up and running, I knew it was a good buy. It easily glides over bumps that would challenge even my beloved Maclaren Techno XT. It has a decent sized basket for storing stuff. The boys are quite comfy in it (Papito rides on top and Zeph rides on the bottom). It is a great walking stroller and fits easily through most standard doorways. Too bad my front door is not a standard doorway. The back door is though so I usually just leave out the back. The brake on this stroller is super serious, though, and I have to use some super duper force to get the thing to lock. I guess they took this extra precaution because the stroller really will just move on it's own (which is why I always wear the wrist strap). I took it to the gas station to pump the tires which garnered me some odd looks and chuckles. Then I went to Auto Zone to get a tire gauge. Didn't want to overfill the tired (no more than 22 Psi). Man, the thing rolls like a dream. It weight 22 lbs. on it's own. Papito is 32 lbs. and Zeph is 16+ lbs. And it still rolls like a dream. Yo, I'm developing some serious strength pushing them around town, though. That's a good thing.

I still use the Maclaren though and I'm not about to give it up. It takes up little room in the trunk of the Subes and is great for short distances that Papito can walk (Zeph goes in the Maclaren). Sometimes I'll carry Zeph on my back (I never leave home without a sling) and put Zion in the stroller. I'm the only person I know who has only ever bought one single stroller and loved it to pieces. I always recommend the Maclaren. We got ours on Ebay for $214 (s&h included) and it's a $300. If you know me, you know I wasn't trying to spend that much on a stroller. But it's worth it. And the Phil & Ted's is worth it too. Good stuff.

Just when you thought this blog was all about food and cooking . . .

I surprise you and talk about something completely different: my car.

Oh, how I love my car. It is a 2005 Subaru Outback which I bought slightly used when I started work in 2006. The seat adjusts so that my 5'2" self can actually see over the steering wheel. It's a station wagon so there's plenty of space for groceries, diaper bags and strollers. It has 2 docks for charging stuff, power window and power locks. It's the perfect car for living in New York especially in the winter time. Whereas before I used to worry about digging myself out of snow and folks "stealing" my freshly dug out space when I pulled out, I go about happily in the winter knowing that I won't ever be stuck. This AWD vehicle has really improved my driving experience and it's good on gas (not the greatest but certainly a contender. And since my dear husband bought me a Garmin GPS. I'm not afraid to drive places anymore (but that doesn't mean that now I actually like to drive). I even think that if we eventually did move overseas (to Africa), it would still be the perfect car for traveling the roads there and if it's still kicking, I'll just ship it over there. Yeah, I like it that much.

My only issue with my car is . . . child safety seats. If you know me, you know that I am pretty hard up on child safety restraints in passenger vehicles. I read my installation manuals obsessively to make sure I achieve a correct install. I currently have two child safety restraints in the car: an Evenflo Triumph V (for my baby) and a Sunshine Radian 65 (for my toddler). I'm not entirely thrilled with the Evenflo and if I had to do it again, I would probably have gone for something different. I am thrilled with the Sunshine Radian, though. I spent lots of time researching this particular car seat and after reading 101 reviews, decided a year ago that it was the one I would get. As soon Zephs (the baby) outgrew the bucket seat (which I despise to the ends of the earth), I yanked Papito out of the Evenflo, turned it rear-facing for Zephs and moved it behind the driver's seat, and installed the Radian forward-facing behind the passenger seat. The Radian is easy to install, sleek and slender (though I find it difficult to adjust the harness once Papito is in it). I am pretty sure that if I had to, I could get three Radians across the back seat of the Subes. But alas, installation in the center back seat of the Subes is dicey at best and is not recommended! I'm not sure how I missed that little tidbit when buying the car . . . actually, I know how. I only had one baby and so the thought of needing three car seats was a very distant one. Add to that the fact that my original idea was to have my kids 4 years apart (they are two years apart) . . . now I'm faced with the very real possibility that I will need to fit 3 car seats (not boosters) in the back and I might not be able to. This is pissing me off immensely. I really love my car and I don't want to get a mini-van. I'm still researching to see what I'll do. I joke that I might just not have another child.

Seriously.

No, I jest.

I'll post pics of how the seats are installed in the Subes soon. :)

Last Night's Dinner was . . .

Amazing! We had barbequed seitan, smokey collard greens, and corn bread. My inspiration for the meal came from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook. I've had the book for years so by now, I don't really need to follow the recipes step by step but this dish always comes out fabulously. Instead of making seitan the traditional way, I used the seitan sausage I made using the steamer and this recipe (which is a bit milder and neutral in taste than the first one I used and really love), which lended itself to the very intense flavors of this dish. It was fabulous . . . we loved the texture in this dish way better than traditional seitan not to mention that making steamed seitan is far easier (in terms of clean-up, time, etc . . .). For my barbeque sauce, I used the recipe in Tofu Cookery as a starting point. There's nothing quite like freshly made BBQ sauce with molasses, mustard, brown sugar. And when you carmelize that onto freshly made seitan and sauteed red onions . . . well, wow. For the collard greens, I used a very simple recipe:

Smokey Vegan Collard Greens

1 bunch collards, chopped into bite size pieces
2 tbsps. Earth Balance margarine or olive oil
1/2 one large red onion, coarsely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp liquid smoke seasoning
1/2 tsp hot sauce (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp sea salt (or more to taste)

Saute the onions in the Earth Balance until translucent in a good sized pot (that way you don't have to be chasing collards). Add the garlic. Add the collards, liquid smoke, hot sauce, sea salt and about 3-4 tbsps. of water. Cover the pot and steam for for 5-10 mins., depending on your personal preference (I like mine to still have some crunch). That's it!

And then the cornbread was pretty much the icing on the cake!















But wait . . . there was cake! Carrot Cake!!
















Everyone really enjoyed the whole meal!!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why it's my business now to make our food at home

I've always been concerned with unwanted ingredients in our foods. High fructose corn syrup is a chief offender but after reading an article in the New York Times, I was appalled and spurred on to do something I know I should have been doing anyway: making most of our food from scratch.

Many of us learned a long time ago to avoid MSG. How interesting that food manufacturers basically are still using MSG in their products. I know many of us who do not eat meat often use substitutes. I have learned to stay away from most soy products especially ones with soy protein isolates, etc . . . and make special efforts to buy soy free meat substitutes. It's so disheartening to find that so many of these things contain MSG (of course under a different name). I've made the the decision to cut out all of these . . . even though my son loves "fakin bacon" (smoky flavored tempeh) especially since I can make a lot of these things from scratch (thereby avoiding all the flavorings). It's a lot of work considering that I already spend so much time in the kitchen preparing meals. We hardly eat out and ordering in is just not an option. So . . . I knew I had to get more serious about making things like seitan and my own "fakin' bacon" from unflavored, basic tempeh.

It's time to make a change. So much of these additives are in there and we don't know their effects. They are far from natural and are often addictive. I'm making the decision to get more serious about whole, natural foods . . . it's not easy.

I've been vegetarian for years now and most of the staple foods that I used to buy are seriously, seriously processed. I know the best way to eat food is when it's minimally processed but I'm busy and life is hectic with two kids. It's easier to eat pre-fabricated stuff. But it's certainly not cheaper. I used to buy Field Roast Sausages and use them to make breakfast and sometimes some dinner dishes. They are about $6 for 4 links at Whole Foods. I am currently making my own for a fraction of the cost. And they taste great. And they don't have any "yeast extract". I'm also making tempeh bacon and while my son knows the difference and is a little skeptical, they do taste really good.

I'm also making my own bread these days because the bread I used to buy at Whole Foods has gone up to over $5 a loaf. The added benefit to this is that since I make the bread and it takes a bit of effort, I'm less likely to just be eating on bread all the time. Oh, but the bread I make is delicious! I bake this bread but I've changed it around so that it will be a tall sandwich loaf. I also bake this bread which is really hearty and wholesome. Here's a picture: .


Here's the recipe which I found on the Mothering message board (Vegetarian & Vegan Living). I made a slight mod (1 tbsp more sugar)

Tall Sandwich Bread
1 1/4 c warm water (105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 T oil
3T sweetener of your choice (I use sorghum)
1 t salt
1 c white flour (I use King Arthur unbleached all-purpose)
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour)
1/2 c gluten
1 1/2 t dry active yeast
To this I add: 2-4 T ground flax seed

Mix with a bread hook in the Kitchenaid on Speed 1 for 8 minutes or until gluten is well developed. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Turn dough to coat with oil. Let rise till doubled (about 1 hour) in a warm. draft-less place (I place a bowl of hot water in my oven and cover with a damp towel). Punch the dough down, transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Tightly roll the dough as if making cinnamon rolls, tuck the end under and pinch closed. Transfer to lightly oiled bread pan. Let rise again. Bake for 40 min at 350 F. Transfer freshly baked bread to cooling rack (remove from pan).

More to come . . .



Almond Milk

I've been making almond milk from fresh, raw almonds and it is absolutely delicious. I can't believe I sunk $80 into a soymilk maker that right now won't do much of anything (I think it's broken). I am hoping they take it back and I can get a refund because I *love* the almond milk and it works well in all recipes. I could use the money to help me get this juicer because since I've been making my own vegan sausages and tempeh bacon, I've found many uses for a juicer. And my current juicers sucks. Anyway . . . I've been using this recipe for the almond milk: . I reduce the amount of sweetener and I use brown rice syrup instead. I got my alcohol-free vanilla at Trader Joe's. I also realize since I've been making my own milk that I really need to invest in a water filter. We tried a PuR filter but those just don't cut it. I guess our pipes are old--each filter lasted about a week. It's exciting, really, making everything here at home. I will post again about why I've decided to make most things we eat from scratch.

My first post!

Well, I've been contemplating starting a blog and I'm finally doing it. Exciting!
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