Live simply.

Grow naturally.

Love greatly.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our Non-Natural Christmas

Where have I gone wrong? No holiday, other than Christmas, can show me how far off the natural path my daughter has moved.

It started with the decorating. In my mind, less is more. A few lights, some pine needles and juniper and nandina berries to decorate the window, an outdoor tree decorated for the birds. Doesn’t that sound lovely?  Sarah seemed to like our minimalist efforts as well…until we went to WalMart and she got a look at the pink and purple fiber optic Christmas trees and all the outdoor blow-up Santas and reindeer. I could barely pull her out of the home and garden section. Then, when one of our neighbors lit up the outside decorations they had been putting up for three Sundays, we were forced to slow down every time we drove by; “I wish we had a polar bear like that…Look at that Santa…can we get one of those?” Mentioning how much electricity and non-recyclable material is used to power that scene didn’t seem to have much of an effect on her.

The big day finally arrives. Sarah opens presents at THREE different locations! That’s just crazy. Was she overwhelmed with gratitude at the gigantic pile of gifts we took home? No…she only wonders if there are more to open. Was she shocked at the excess? No…she seems to expect it!  

Finally, Christmas passes. Now is the time for Sarah to play with the things she has received. I am confident that the emphasis I try to put on being outside and exploring and creative play will lead her to choose those types of gifts – The ant farm, or the creek scope that lets you see what’s in the water, or the wooden blocks that you can make pictures out of. Sarah, however, gravitates towards the shiny purple pom poms with the drum beat and the plastic microphone stand with more drum beats and the doll with clothes that match hers – all bright and fluffy and about as non-natural as you can get.

It’s not so much that I am disappointed in my daughter. She has obviously been exposed to a lifestyle that is not so natural, and I can only blame myself for that. I’m disappointed that I took her to see those tacky Christmas decorations every time we went into WalMart and some of her stocking stuffers from us were pretty anti-natural. What is my worst offense? I found it cute to watch her try and come up with cheers while shaking those awful pom poms and I recorded her singing Jingle Bells into that plastic microphone and it was I who suggested she and her doll put on their pajamas for the night. Ugh. What was I thinking and how can I fix it?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Weekend Challenge #2

Here is the second installment to my weekend challenge series.  The purpose of these posts is to get you and your family or loved ones outside, enjoying God's good green earth. Don't delay - before you know it you will be 70 years old with arthritis, back pain, and no stamina wondering why you didn't take advantage of the good years.

In a previous blog entry, I mentioned future plans for a nature walk that involved finding places that critters call home. We have since taken that hike, and what follows is a photo essay of what we found. Your weekend challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to do the same. I look forward to hearing about what homes you discovered!

For those of you who lost sleep trying to figure out the theme of the last weekend challenge, hop on over to the comments section of that specific blog (Weekend Challenge #1) to find out what the photos were showing! 
 The Squirrel nest. They are all over the woods. Someday you will learn just how much I dislike squirrels. I'm just not quite prepared to alienate my readers yet

I wasn't fast enough with the camera to catch the cockroaches running away when Sarah pulled back the bark

                                                                      Bird House

                                                                 Daisy, the flea motel

You never know what you'll find when you pick up a rock. This was the only thing slow enough for my camera

Happy Habitat Hunting!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Picture Perfect

I realize that most parents think their newborn bundle of joy is one of the most beautiful babies they have ever seen, but my daughter really was above average on the beauty scale. She was born with this thick dark head of hair and her eyes were framed by long, lush eyelashes. People couldn’t look at her without oohing and aahing and more than once it was suggested that we should enter her face into the coveted Parenting Magazine’s yearly photography contest. Of course I would never market my child like that, but I had to agree that she would probably win.

Among the accolades, there was only one dissenting voice. My father has always clearly made his opinion known; “All babies are ugly.” I took his comments with a grain of salt. True, I had seen some ugly babies – be honest, who hasn’t – but my daughter was definitely not part of that group.

Fast forward 3 ½ years. I am expecting my second child. Memories of my daughter’s beginning months flood my mind and I decide to take a good old walk down memory lane. I open a random photo album. Wait a minute! This is not my daughter! Someone has switched out her pictures and replaced them with a kind of ugly baby. This child has chipmunk cheeks that look full of nuts, hair that can only be described as mohawkish, and her eyes are looking suspiciously cross-eyed. I try to comprehend exactly what I am seeing. Wow, I have been duped by friends, family, and what must be motherly hormones. My dad was right all along: Babies are ugly.

When my second child decided to make his presence known, I feel like I was able to successfully take off my rose colored glasses. I took the oohs and aahs with a grain of salt, and basically listened to my dad, “Yep, he looks like all other babies…kind of ugly…but he’ll turn out okay in a few months.” I was able to admit that, yes, his cheeks did remind me of Alfred Hitchcock.

Of course, now he’s 3 months old and is surely above average in the handsome baby scale. That ugly baby syndrome is a thing of the past. And my daughter is absolutely gorgeous. And, no, I won’t be looking at baby picture albums a few years down the road to prove it. I will instead remember the way my children made me melt when they said things like “you’re a great mommy” or “I love you” or when they smiled and laughed with me or when they asked me for “some loving.” There is nothing more beautiful than that.

Monday, December 5, 2011

3 Tips One Never Admits to Learning from Experience

Throughout history, knowledge has been gained from a variety of sources. Books, and now the internet, offer information on whatever topic you can come up with. Scientists often employ the method of observation to discover great truths. Go to any school and you are likely to find teachers passing off knowledge left and right. On the job training allows one to learn from experience while being guided by a trained professional. And then there is what I would call the “living life” method – maybe one of the best ways to learn. The following is a list of informative tidbits. You will never hear admittance that these were learned from the “living life” method, so don’t even try get it.
  1. Eggs explode – That’s right ladies and gents. If you have the hankering for some hard boiled eggs, go ahead and begin the preparation. Pot? Check. Eggs? Check. Water? Check. Boil for 5-10 minutes? Simple in theory, but it might be suggested that a timer would be useful. If you don’t use a timer, you might just forget about the eggs. You’ll likely head off to make the beds, straighten the living room, and take a bath while the offspring are sleeping. Wow, you got a lot done! Now you can sit down and read some with your child. “Honey, did you here that pop?” you question as you take a break from the fifth book of the morning and go investigating. That is when the distinct smell of cooked eggs will hit you. It won’t be overwhelming, just enough to remind you “Oh no, the eggs!”  There is no need to rush. The eggs have already exploded. Simply turn off the stovetop, move the pot off the burner, say a prayer of thanksgiving that the house didn’t burn down and start the cleanup process. Check the walls, floors and ceiling for bits of eggs.
  2. Hold on to the stroller’s safety strap. Because you are such a great mother, you realize the importance of getting your child out into the fresh air. Normally you wear your little one, but you have decided to start the exercise regimen that’s sure to get you into the best shape of your life. Thus the need for the stroller you pull out of the shed that is specially built for the active parent. There are a number of features to help ensure the safety of your child during your jaunt into nature: 3 big wheels, an easy to use brake, and an elaborate safety belt are things you are familiar with. Do not dismiss the safety strap that belongs firmly attached to your arm. Even if you think you have things under control, you don’t. You might just hear someone calling your name from behind. As you stop, you note that the incline you are on is very minimal and so you ignore the brake and the safety strap, let go of the stroller, and turn around. The look of horror on the caller’s face will alert you that something is awry. Your head whips around and that same look of horror transfers to your face as you see your child picking up speed on that insignificant incline, stroller tipping back and forth and then –as if in slow motion-you see the stroller gently lay itself down in the ditch on the side of the road. Be very glad that the safety harness is so elaborate.
  3. Do not take your smart phone into the bath. Your husband has warned you any number of times that things like smart phones can’t get wet. Yes, you are his wife, not his child. Yes, you are an adult. Yes, it is your right to make your own decisions. Yes, you are very careful. Despite these very true statements, there are times when you can listen to the advice of your husband without taking offense. This is one of those times. You are basically playing with fire…I mean water.. Even if you somehow make it through 50 baths without damaging the phone, one small misstep can ruin your perfect record. For example, you might always put the toilet seat down before the bath so that you can place the smart phone there when it’s time to get out. However, while in your bath, your cute little 4-year-old girl might come into the room needing to go pee-pee. After she leaves, you finish the chapter of the e-book you were reading, and place the smart phone on the toilet seat…SPLASH!!!...that is no longer down because your cute 4-year-old daughter lifted it up to go to the bathroom. By a miracle, your phone may survive, but why take the chance?

There you have it: 3 tips for those who would rather not learn from experience

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Avoiding the Common Cold

During the flu season, I tend to halfheartedly apply various immune boosting remedies to my weekly regimen. However, more often then not, I get the common cold along with the rest of my family. No matter what anybody tells you, we all get sick sometimes, no matter what remedies we employ.

However, when my daughter got sick just 3 weeks after my son was born, I was very concerned. Newborns don’t have the immune system built up to successfully fight off even the common cold. My concern escalated when I woke up with a sore throat. My only solution was to give my daughter a strict “No Touch Baby” policy and to use any remedy I had heard or read about in my quest to stop the progression of my symptoms. I am happy to tell you that my newborn and I remained cold free for the duration of my daughter’s illness. What I can’t tell you is whether it was from prayer or from my actions. My thoughts are, it did no damage to try them. I haven’t included any science reports or references in this article – I just employed ideas that I heard from somewhere.

1.      Garlic:  I ate 2-3 garlic cloves a day. In addition to that, I put a garlic clove in each cheek for a couple of hours as a barrier against germs. I threw them out afterwards. In answer to your obvious question, yes garlic kept people out of my personal space and then some.
2.      Water: When I woke up with the sore throat, I immediately started drinking one 8 ounce cup of water every ten minutes for one hour. I did this 2 times the first day and then tried to remember to stay well hydrated. I also kept a cup of water hot and sipped it when I had the urge to cough.
3.      No Dairy and Sugar: Pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll spell it out anyway. I stayed away from all cow products and sweet edibles.
4.      Sunshine: I was lucky to have nice weather during this time and made sure to take daily walks, normally between 3:00-4:00pm
5.      Contrast Shower: I took two contrast showers a day. A contrast shower consists of getting the water as hot as you can handle and standing under it for three minutes, followed by 30 seconds of cold water. I did this rotation three times per shower, always ending on cold.
6.      Vitamin C: I used three sources of vitamin C; the natural kind you can find in citrus fruits, the pill version, and the FizzyC packets that you add to hot water.
7.      Russian Penicillin: I have seen a lot of Russian Penicillin recipes out there and personally like the following: The juice of one grapefruit, a tablespoon of parsley, 2-3 radishes, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp of honey, a dash of salt, and 8 ounces of water. Blend all ingredients together and drink up!
8.      Colloidal Silver: You can find this in most health food stores. I took 1 tsp. 3 times a day for 5 days. Colloidal silver is probably the most controversial item on my list, so I encourage you to find out more about it before using it as a supplement.

There you have it, the regimen I used to avoid getting me and my baby sick from the common cold.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Decorations and Crafts: Enjoying the Old Standards

It’s the week after November. For many families that’s when the transition from fall and Thanksgiving to winter and Christmas take place. Why look for new and exciting Christmas crafts, when the ones we grew up doing can be just as enjoyable today and can become part of the traditions that the family looks forward to on a yearly basis.

1. Outdoor Christmas Trees. Kids will love making an edible tree for the birds. Pop some popcorn and open a bag of cranberries to string up and hang around the tree. Slice a couple of oranges and poke a clove in the center for ornaments. Slather peanut butter on pine cones and roll around in bird seed to hang as well.
2. Sugar cookies. I’ve never really enjoyed the taste of sugar cookies, but I always loved making them at my grandmother’s. We would use her Christmas cookie cutters and by the time they had baked and cooled down, she had colored icings and various decorating supplies out and ready for our use. Here’s an easy recipe if you are looking for one.

3. Ornaments. The Cookie cutters you used to make sugar cookies can also be used for creating ornaments. Use this recipe for the dough and you’ll have ornaments to paint and hang before you know it (don’t forget to make a hole in the dough before you dry it out.) You can also soak construction paper for 5 minutes in warm water, blend and, after squeezing out excess water, pack into cookie cutter forms. Place on a towel to get more water out  (watch out, colors bleed) and then place in the oven at about 200 degrees Celsius, until dry. Glue ribbon on back of ornament
4. Berry Gathering As a child, we went out in the surrounding woods to find a Christmas tree to cut down and decorate. Now that I have a family of my own, we don’t do that anymore, but we do go and gather juniper berries, nandina berries and pine branches to decorate windows and tables. My daughter loves to grab her nature treasure basket and look for the reds, blues and greens that keep nature colorful even during the colder months. Remind your little ones that not all berries are for eating. Some are just for looking at. Google any berries you find to see if they are poisonous

5. Paper Crafts.  How can snowflakes ever go out of style when the possibilities are endless? Instead of using the usual white paper, try heavy duty Christmas wrapping paper as an alternative. And don’t forget the linked construction paper. I'm not saying that this is the most aesthetically pleasing craft out there, but I am saying that cutting strips of green and red construction paper and giving them to your child with some tape will keep them happily involved for a good bit of time.

Of course, there are 100’s of great ideas for Christmas crafts and decorations out there, and I am likely to try one or two of them this season. However, I think interweaving those new ideas with these old ones will help create a tradition that your loved ones will look forward to year after year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rainy Days

It’s a rainy day. I love rainy days in autumn. I love sitting by a blazing fireplace, book in one hand and raspberry tea in the other. Rainy days are great for soups in the evening and cuddling with your husband…

I’m daydreaming again. Rainy days WERE great until kids arrived on the scene. Now I am stuck in a prison with two of them. The four-year-old thinks rainy days are for jumping off beds, tables, and couches while simultaneously screeching…I mean singing…at the top of her lungs. The baby thinks rainy days are for anything but sleeping: stomach pains, crying, spitting up, constant chair rocking. If I am to survive this day with a smile on my face, I will need to be creative. I have to believe that rainy days can be pleasant, even with kids.

1. Prepare in Advance – Our family takes as many nature walks as we can. Many times Sarah will take a basket with her to gather nature treasures for our nature window. I keep my eyes open for things that can be used in crafts for days when we can’t make it outside. A rock has been in our nature window for a couple of weeks and on one rainy day, we turned it into Angelina, the pet rock. There are tons of objects in nature you can use in your crafts: feathers dirt and leaves, acorns…
2. Create a game – Make a set of dominoes. The heavier the paper, the longer it will last. It can be as simple as making colored dominoes or you can draw 5 or 6 different pictures. Do you have a stamp and ink set? That can be used too.
3. No Lightning? Send them out – Sarah has an umbrella and galoshes and loves to go dance in the rain and find puddles to jump in. Sometimes we will see where the water from our driveway goes to, wading through it the entire way. In our case, we usually end up at the river. Give your child a tarp and let them create their own shelter.
4. Expect Energy – Being stuck inside all day just is not as relaxing for kids as it can be for adults. Resign yourself to the fact that running and jumping and loud noises are likely to be a part of your day. In fact, things will be a lot more pleasant when you choose to join them instead of trying to control them Turn on music that all of you can dance to. When Sarah hears classical music, she automatically thinks ballet. She’ll go to her room and put on a dress and shoes and dance and dance and dance. Blow up a balloon and hit it back and forth to your hearts content. Play Simon Says or Hide and Seek, or indoor Hopscotch.
5. Enforce Bedtime – Yes, eventually, your wild cats will need to sleep. If they are still taking naps, refuse to do housework during that time. Instead, make that cup of tea, grab that book, and head downstairs to the fireplace. At bedtime, don’t get roped into reading “just one more book.” Refuse to fall asleep with them and head back downstairs to cuddle with your significant other while having another cup of tea and sharing the highlights of your day with one another

Rainy days don’t always have to get you down once you have kids. Yes, they might force you to use a bit more creativity, but they can still leave you with a smile on your face

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekend Challenge #1

If you’re looking for a reason to get outside this weekend, look no further. I’m introducing what I hope will be the first of many challenges. Below you will find a group of photos taken on a recent themed walk with my daughter Sarah and newborn son Jabel. Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to guess the theme and then go on your own version of the topical trip outdoors. You can post guesses and verbal descriptions of your experiences in the comment box. What I really want to see are photos, but I don’t think you can post them.  You may be able to upload them to a folder on Picasa or a similar photo website and then post a link, or your are welcome to send photos via e-mail (Shannon.urum@gmail.com), and I will add correct photo essays to my original post.

Just a note: my purpose was to help my daughter see nature from a different perspective and then share our experience with daddy. It was not to make award winning pictures, so please excuse the quality. You will also have to really stretch your imagination to figure out a couple of the pictures. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cramped Boxes

I am an average, middle class, white American and I am missing out on life. Maybe you are too! Yes, many of us are active in our churches. Others sign up for various organized sporting leagues throughout the year. If you have grown up in one location, you probably have an established set of friends and family you interact with. However, in the scheme of things, one tends to be confined to a very small box, which is limiting the impact you have on others and others have on you.  This box rarely allows us to go to our new next door neighbor and invite them over for dinner. This box insures that we don’t strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to us on a flight to California where, by the way, we are meeting up with others from our box. This box keeps us from even making eye contact with the person in front of us at the grocery check-out line. If we took time to look out of our boxes, we would find new people we might actually like know better; a place with so many interesting and beautiful shades of color that we might just realize our boxes are really quite dreary in their predictable browns.

Kids show us what we once were - people who openly craved and had random meaningful interaction. Take a kid to the park, and even if they don’t run up to someone and say, “Hi, can I play with you?” they will watch unabashedly while the other kids slide and swing and play. More often than not, another child welcomes that child with open arms and a wide smile. Kids have even been known to complain when they go to the park and find no other children in sight. Lucky for us box dwellers, we can lead by example and soon create offspring just like us – closet cravers of random meaningful interaction.

Did you know that there are pick-up games of basketball and soccer that are being played every single week at area parks? By word of mouth, you can learn what day and time to show up and play, or you might just stumble across a game in progress. There is usually a group of children and adults on the sidelines, hanging out laughing and sharing. Did I mention anyone can join? Boy, girl, adult, child. You don’t need to pay a fee, or wear a special outfit or belong to a certain organization. I have found one thing missing from these pick-up games: middle class, white America. Where are we? We are in our cramped little boxes, probably waiting for information to come in the mail about next year’s league fees and dates. People, we can get out THIS weekend and play. Bring someone from your box if it will make you feel better. I am blessed to be married to a Moldovan who spent almost everyday of his life, prior to America, playing soccer and basketball with whoever showed up, and he has, on occasion, taken my reluctant hand and pulled me out of my box. There really are advantages. More room to breathe and to learn and to experience and to thrive. Get out of the box.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hammocks are Great for Bird Watching

Every year my mom and grandmother get about 20 free calendars in the mail that they could not possibly have enough empty wall space for. Therefore, around November, they bring out the pile and allow us and the grand-kids to choose our favorites. Some are used for various craft projects, but for the last couple of years, I have chosen one as a teaching tool for Sarah. The first calendar we hung up identified various flower species. It surprised me how well my 3-year-old daughter learned the names each month. She was even able to find examples of flowers in gardens around the area. After a year, she has forgotten many of the flowers, but whenever she sees purple clematis or a bleeding heart, she is sure to point them out to me.

This year, we got a calendar on birds. We regularly take the calendar off the wall and review each month’s pinup during breakfast. I almost always get a request to “just have a little peak” at next month’s picture. I decided to take identifying to the next level when I found and downloaded a free iPhone application called Scotts Bird Id. The program, once you choose a state, will generate a list of birds that can be found in that state. For many types, there are also sounds of the bird calls available for your listening pleasure. Once you have seen a bird and heard its call, you can then record a sighting which will be added to a migration chart that is being maintained by Scotts. This can be viewed from their Facebook page.

We headed outside to see what birds we could find. It was then that I spotted the perfect spot to observe-our hammock. Hammocks are great for bird watching. Hanging between two trees – known locations for winged animals – and within viewing distance of one of our bird feeders, it seemed the perfect observation point. An added bonus was the rocking motion that kept Sarah calm and quiet and  put Jabel to sleep within minutes. When we first adjusted ourselves, we couldn’t see or hear one bird. I gave Sarah the iPhone and allowed her to listen to songs of the birds that she had learned from the calendar. I don’t know if it was coincidence, or if the birds could hear calls, but as soon as she played the American Robin song, we saw two American Robins fly overhead. We were also able to hear Blue Jays calling to each other after listening to their song. Sarah was most excited when a number of Tufted Titmouse appeared following another iPhone recording and began eating from the bird feeder.

We spent about an hour, swaying slightly with the same autumn breeze that had colored leaves floating down around us and watching birds flitting to and fro. For those of you who hang around 4 year-old kids, you have an idea what a miracle that is. Sarah didn’t even want to go inside when I suggested it was getting too cool for the little one.

The temperatures are probably soon to dip into regions that will keep us from swinging between the trees, but we already have next year’s calendar picked out and I think the hammock will be great for butterfly watching!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

It’s surprising – pleasantly so. For the past month, every time I put a load of laundry in the washer or grab it from the dryer, a smile of pride flits across my face. I look for stains that are no longer there. I smell for odors that are no more. Then, with the look of a mother watching her child complete something taught by her , I send a glance of admiration to the quart jar holding my homemade laundry detergent. It actually works pretty well. To be honest, I don’t really consider it homemade as much as I consider it home mixed. If it was difficult to make, I probably wouldn’t have attempted it. In fact, I didn’t even follow the directions perfectly, and yet it still works. Try it for yourself.
            1 cup Borax (found in the laundry section of Walmart)
            1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (found in the same spot)
            1 4.5 oz bar of soap, preferably Ivory or Fels-Naptha (found in the same spot)

      Kitchen Implements:
            A bowl for mixing
            A grater
            A spoon for stirring

Grate one bar of soap. Add the Borax and washing soda. Stir for five minutes. That’s it! The bar of soap I use is actually 5.5 oz, so I just pour a little more of the other two ingredients in. I also don’t grate it as finely as others suggest, because it takes too much time.

 Use 1-2 Tablespoons per laundry load.

I have high hopes that I might, sooner than later, try out other natural alternatives for household products. True, in the past some of these have seemed too labor intensive but, just maybe, the success I’ve had with this laundry detergent will give me the confidence I need to explore the possibilities.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shades of Breastfeeding

500 feet away and one glimpse at mommy, known to a newborn only as “milk bottle,” sends baby into the dance of the mouth; the tilting towards one side, with a half lift of the corresponding side of the lip. If there isn’t an immediate redirection by mommy towards the child, the grunting begins. From there, things just escalate and if you don’t want your pride and joy screaming like the entire world has deserted them, the only solution is to pull out that “nursey” and shove it into his gyrating mouth. Oh the joys of breastfeeding! Let’s explore the many nuances of babies enjoying their meal.

If your “nurseys” and baby have been communicating beforehand, you can eliminate that desperate sucking while your milk lets down and give instant gratification nursing. Eyes closed, gulp, moan, gulp, moan… Everyone is happy. The baby is in his own little version of heaven, and you’re feeling pretty proud of your ability to satisfy your offspring so completely.

Then you have your bored nursing. There’s nothing for the baby on N.P.R, no one is using high-pitched babble to entertain. The kid thinks “I might as well nurse, there’s nothing else to do.” Eyes are roaming. Suck, release, suck, release, taste with the tongue for a couple of licks, and repeat. There is a war going on inside of you. Yes, it’s pretty darn cute, but can he stop already? You might even try to disengage at this point, but more often then not, unsatisfied grunting will ensue.

Thus far, breastfeeding seems pleasant. However, the slight stomach discomfort feeding has not yet been introduced. This can last for hours – more often than not, sleeping hours - and is not for the weak in heart. Go ahead and try rocking the baby to sleep. Readjust the cherub into different positions. Walk up and down the halls when you would rather be laying down dreaming of mommy time. On the pain scale, breastfeeding wins out, even if it seems miserable at the time. Your baby’s eyebrows are furrowed into a frown. Hands and arms flail about, accompanied by deep, guttural grunts. More latching on and releasing, but this time, the tongue is pushing the “nursey” away and the mouth is yanking it back. Keep fingernails cut short or you will likely find reminders of this particular feeding on yourself or your baby.

The colicky nursing is just miserable for everyone. This is where the love/hate relationship comes in. “Give me the milk – I love the milk;” “yuck, is that milk? I hate the milk.” Please see previous paragraph for alternative suggestions to feeding.

Finally there’s the half-asleep nursing. It’s the middle of the night and the baby’s diaper needs changing – again. The little one is out of it at this point – eyes are squinting and he’s wondering why the lights are so bright. Of course, as soon as he casts his sights on you, he instantly demands another round of mommy milk. As soon as the mouth attaches to the “nursey,” the eyes close and almost instantly he is pitched back into the depths of a dreamless sleep. He will remain there for some time unless you happen to detach yourself from his lips. It might work, or grunting may ensue.

Real milk: More complex than you’d think. Maybe not always as pleasant as you had hoped, but maybe there are times when it’s even more enjoyable than you had imagined it would be.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Gardener's Woes


That’s really all you can say to utter chaos, which is what a lot of vegetable gardens look like at the end of the season. Let’s face it; many of them look like it near the beginning of the season as well. On the edges of the garden you find beautifully manicured lawns. Meanwhile, the fencing and anti-deer pie pans that surround the garden plot are doing an excellent job of protecting, thistles, dandelions, plantain, and about 30 additional very prolific and deep rooted weeds. Could there really have been tomato, cucumber, and pepper plants in that mess? Wait! That might be an okra plant! Yep, with extremely tough and old produce attached to it. Maybe the seeds can be used for next year?

By July, you tend to forget the excitement that accompanied spring; the plans that were drawn and executed; the neat little rows of veggies that sprouted to life; the first gathering of radishes. Yes, the deer that ate off the tops of the peas dampened the spirit for a short time, but the distinct smell of the tomato leaf quickly enlivened it once again. By July, however, pickings are becoming more bothersome. You have already weeded the garden three times and mulching with leaves was not as successful as you had originally hoped. Squash bugs have eradicated the hundreds of blooming fruit that had excited you weeks earlier. Blossom end rot is showing up on tomatoes again and you are out of Epsom salt. The ground is hard and dry and the heat is burning the pepper plants. The heat and gnats are also keeping you inside.

It gets so that you can hardly bring yourself to walk out to the garden. Every time you glimpse its deterioration, you berate yourself with thoughts of what could have been. Neglect is the cause of much guilt. By September you wonder if you will even have a garden next year. Just in case, you better pull up and burn the tomato plants, compost the other plants, and plow all those weeds under. You think about enriching the soil with leaves and horse manure, but never get around to it before the ground freezes. The winter cover crop, a great idea, is never executed.

For those who were diligent the entire growing season, know that you are envied. Know that there are many out there who want to be like you. Know that your gardens are seen by those who then go home and weep over the state of theirs. But take heart, discouraged gardener, winter is coming, with its cold, dreary, short days. And during those long nights sitting by the fire, the itch to grow something will get stronger and stronger. It might start with the first seed catalog that comes in the mail. Or maybe it was using up the last of the canned green beans that did it. Whatever triggered the thoughts, new plans begin to form. Grow boxes would look great outside the back window and would make watering a whole lot easier. The existing garden should be expanded so that there’s room for a couple rows of corn. Maybe straw would work better than leaves when thinking about mulch…

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A review of Big Backyard

Some of the best presents that my daughter receives from family members are magazine subscriptions. In fact, Sarah probably receives more mail than her parents do. I get as excited as she does when one comes in the mail.

We headed out a few weeks ago in search of acorns after reading the October 2011 issue of ­Big Backyard. Sarah carried the basket while I lugged baby Jabel along in my SnuggleWrap. Of course, acorns are plentiful until you are looking for them, so it took a little longer than I thought it would, but soon we had returned home to try out the different activities they had suggested in the magazine. We put a pile on the porch for the squirrels. We counted how many we could toss into containers. We looked for the acorns that sank so that we could sprout them and grow oak trees. Sarah drew some pictures of acorns and hung them on the refrigerator to remind us to check the chosen acorns regularly. True, the acorns have yet to sprout, but we had a great afternoon.

The feature, Green Hour, gives ideas every month of things to do with your ever inquisitive child. I am already ready to take November’s ideas out on our next outing, which include tree find-and-seek and looking for animal homes. There are so many resources out there for parents who want to offer their kids a natural childhood. In the same magazine, the National Wildlife Federation is publicizing one of their websites: BeOutThere.org. Be Out There is a movement to help families raise happier, healthier, nature-loving kids. There are tons of fun ideas and activities on what kids can do outside. On one of our daily jaunts, we searched for any animal life and made a list. Once home, we made up a story that included all the animals we saw. How fun is that?
If you have kids or are just young at heart, take time this week to explore the outdoors. You can use these resources I’ve mentioned or find your own unique activity. Let me know what you come up with, so that I can incorporate it into our walks.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Home Birth

Seven weeks have passed since the home birth of my second child. After two days of 10 minute contractions, my midwife, Misty Ward, calmly mentioned that my mine was officially a “dysfunctional” labor. I was already 2 weeks passed my due date. I had just had an ultrasound completed to check baby and placenta health and amniotic fluid levels when contractions began. 24 hours later, Misty drove the hour to my house to check my progress and found I was 3 centimeters dilated.

Progress seemed promising and yet by day two, alternative methods of moving things along seemed needed. It started with 1 ounce of castor oil. After 30 minutes, I moved on to 15 minute intervals of taking cotton tree root and the homeopathic versions of blue cohash, and black cohash. I was a bit skeptical, but followed the regimen for 2 hours. At that time my contractions had moved to 5 minutes apart. Misty decided to head out to the house again. How grateful I was, because shortly after my phone call with her, contractions became 2-3 minutes apart and by the time she got here, I was ready to get in the birthing tub and start that age old tortured process of pushing.  Long story short – Jabel Alexander was born a healthy 9lbs 2 oz and 22 ½ inches long.

This particular birth got me thinking about all the people who have told me that they couldn’t have had a home birth because of different complications. I read something like 85% of births need no medical intervention. I would be surprised if 2 in 10 mothers I have talked to who had hospital births had no intervention. The rate of cesareans in the United States is around 33%. In the western world we have one of the highest infant fatality rates and also one of the highest intervention rates.

If I had had an OB/GYN attending my birth, there would surely have been some “necessary” medical intervention; My late date would have required labor to have been induced chemically; My long labor would likely have ended with a cesarean; The weight of my baby may well have resulted in numerous blood sugar tests being administered. And yet, here I sit, holding a beautiful healthy baby boy, and I know that our decision to have our baby, without medical intervention, is one that I wouldn’t change for the world.