The truth is often stranger than fiction

Just a few frightening strange odds and ends from around the world:

  • Baby formula in China tainted with melamine has resulted in the death of two children and more than 1,200 others have fallen ill with hundreds hospitalized. Melamine is a trimer of cyanamide.

    Melamine has also been found in yogurt in China.

    All the more reason I’m glad I was/am able to breastfeed my children and know exactly what they were ingesting. PhDinParenting feels similarly. Makes me think I should buy my own cow though, like my sister-in-law and family have done. If only we had the land for it (and chickens, ‘cuz by golly, I still want me some chickens).

  • Dr. Phil apparently wants to make a mockery of home birth and is asking for negative home birth stories. The home birth community, rightly so in my opinion, has been in an uproar over this.From Dr. Phil’s site:
    DO YOU REGRET HAVING A HOME BIRTH?

    Did you have a child at your home?

    Did you want to have a soothing experience where you were in control and could bond with your child?

    Did it not go the way you planned?

    Do you regret having a home birth?

    Do you regret using a midwife instead of going to a hospital?

    Did you have your second child the traditional way in a hospital?

    If you or someone you know regrets having a home birth please tell us your story below.

    Be sure to be specific and include details!

    A response from the home birth community: Many of us are instead using this form to a) tell our horrible hospital stories, b) tell our great home birth stories, or c) just plain let Dr. Phil and his staff how bad we think this show concept is.

    Based on the number of emails I’ve received about this, I figure everyone under the sun is probably aware of it by now, but just in case that’s not the case, I’m passing it on. I still need to weigh in over there myself.

  • The Corn Refiners Association has created several ads about high fructose corn syrup – watch them here – to prove that it’s “natural” and “OK in moderation.” I don’t know what your take on HFCS is (I’m against it), but if you check your labels, you’ll find it in just about everything. (Have you seen King Corn yet? Check it out.) Jody was shocked to come home with a loaf of bread the other day only to discover that it, too, had HFCS in it! For the record, the bread we usually buy from Costco does not have it.

    Anyway, there’s a great article over on BlogHer debunking the ads and sharing more information. And at 5 Minutes for Going Green, Beth writes that HFCS is the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and brings up the environmental concerns as well.

What do you think about all of this? Kind of a lot to digest in one post, eh?

Swing high, swing low

My sister, who recently moved out of her rented house into an apartment, brought us the tire swing that she had had set up for the kids at her old house. We took down the baby swing in the backyard and put this bad boy up in it’s place. Ava and Julian like it – just a little bit. ;oP

Julian on the tire swing 9/9/08 Ava on the tire swing 9/9/08

See what everyone else up to for Best Shot Monday.

Ditch the Disposables Challenge : Check-in #1

We are now two weeks into the Ditch the Disposables challenge and at last count there were over 80 people signed up! Woohoo! Not bad if I do say so myself. But that, of course, begs the question – how are you doing with it? Are you finding it harder or easier than you thought? If you are having trouble with it, what is tripping you up? If you are breezing through it, do you have any tips to share?

I never did reveal what I decided to ditch for the challenge, so here it is. I’m done with disposable menstrual products. I’ve been working on making the switch to the Moon Cup for the past few months, but had been dragging my feet. This month however, with the exception of two disposable pads used as back-up at the beginning of my period, I did it! You may recall that I was having some trouble getting the hang of it initially and it took me a few months to fully adjust (I’ll write another post about what finally helped me find my happy place with it), but I’m now a Moon Cup lover! In addition to the Moon Cup, I also am using cloth panty liners on my heavier flow days as back-up because I’m not 100% confident using the cup alone yet (and am unsure if I’ll ever be).

In addition to ditching disposable pads and tampons, I’m also going to try to kick the Kleenex habit. I tend to go through a lot of Kleenex, and although I compost some of it, it’s still generating a lot more waste than is necessary (not to mention all of the trees used to make the Kleenex in the first place). I’ve asked my mom – who is much more skilled on a sewing machine than I – if she would make me a bunch of smallish cloth hankies and she agreed (thanks, Mom!), so once I get those I am going to cut back significantly on the Kleenex.

I had considered getting rid of toilet paper, at least for a week or two, but haven’t convinced myself to give it a try yet. Glad to see some others are though! 😉 My hat’s off to ya.

Anyway, I hope you will check in. Let me and everyone else know how you are doing. Don’t worry if you have regressed a bit or if you are still working on making the switch. I think just being aware that you are striving to make a change is important. Also, if you have questions about something particular, let me know. Maybe together we can come up with something that will work for you as we all try to reduce the amount of disposable products we consume.

We’ll have another check-in on Sept. 28. Keep up the good work and thanks for being a part of the challenge. 🙂

Study: First-time moms want more information about life with new baby

A new study including 151 mothers in Brisbane, Australia has found that first-time moms want more information about what life with a newborn will be like and says they often don’t feel prepared for the recovery period after giving birth and emotional toll of caring for a new baby.

A new study published in The Journal of Perinatal Education finds first-time mothers want more information about how a newborn will impact their lives. Thirty-five percent did not feel prepared for the physical experience following birth and 20% did not feel prepared for the emotional experience.

“This study demonstrates that new mothers are eager for high-quality, accurate information of what to expect of life with a newborn,” says the study’s lead author, Margaret Barnes, RN, MA, PhD.

While I think there’s a definite benefit to educating expecting moms information on what life with a newborn may be like, (after all, knowledge is power), until every child comes with his/her own user’s manual, I think ultimately there’s only so much you can prepare for. Every woman’s birth experience is different, every child is different, and every new mother’s experience with her child is different. Each child has a unique temperament and will have different needs. Some will want to nurse every few hours, some will want to nurse much more frequently (or never let go of the boob). Every child’s sleep patterns will be different as well.

If you try to explain to a woman ahead of time how much a newborn will affect her life, is it realistic to think your words will have that much of an impact? Could it really help her prepare for what lies ahead? Is recovering from birth and caring for a newborn something anyone can really prepare for ahead of time (without having access to a full-time nanny, personal chef, housekeeper, etc.)? I feel like this is one of those things that a woman has to experience for herself to truly “get it.”

Before I had my first child I knew that once she entered the world nothing would be the same, that I would be sleep-deprived and have a baby nursing around the clock, but I couldn’t fully grasp the extent of how different my life would be, how beyond tired I would be, how sore I would be from an (unnecessary and unwanted) episiotomy, nor just how much love I could have for one tiny person until it actually happened to me.

However, I do think that it’s important to equip first-time moms especially with information and resources that will help and support them in their first few weeks and months of life with a new baby. Instead of sending moms home from the hospital with a diaper bags full of a few diapers and a can of formula, perhaps hospitals should instead give women lists of names, numbers, websites and email addresses of people, places and organizations they can turn to if they need help. Organizations like La Leche League International – with dates and times of local meetings, phone numbers to certified lactation consultants, warning signs of postpartum depression and who to call if you or someone close to you suspects you have PPD, links to groups such as Attachment Parenting International, house cleaning services, numbers of postpartum doulas, local moms support groups like MOMS Club, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), etc. That is real information that new moms can use.

What do you think? Do you feel you were adequately prepared for life with a newborn? If not, do you think classes or a book could have helped? Do you have other suggestions?

Additional resources:


Cross-posted on BlogHer

SKOY eco-friendly cloths instead of paper towels (giveaway)

In keeping with the spirit of the Ditch the Disposables Challenge, I have to tell you about one of my new favorite eco-friendly paper towel replacements – the SKOY cloth. SKOY cloths are reusable, very absorbent, bright and fun, machine washable and microwavable, and at the end of their life, biodegradable. They are non-toxic, chlorine-free and made using water-based colors and inks. According to SKOYcloth.com, “Using one SKOY cloth is the equivalent to using 15 rolls of paper towels in an average home.”

SKOY clothSKOY clothsI’ve been giving the SKOY cloths a try for the past several weeks and they really are great. I’ve mostly been using them in the kitchen or for cleaning up faces and grubby little hands, but they also work well in the bathroom both to clean the room and to clean body parts. 🙂

Another great feature of the SKOY cloth is that because it dries quickly, it’s not a breeding ground for bacteria. I don’t know how many times I’ve picked up a sponge out of the kitchen sink only to have it leave my hand wreaking from God knows what. If you toss your wet SKOY in the microwave for a minute or two, you will keep it germ-free. It can also go safely through your dishwasher or your washer and dryer (or outside to dry on a clothesline – hint, hint).

After many, many uses (perhaps even up to a year or more), when your SKOY has finished it’s cleaning life cycle, it can be composted, though it will also break down in a landfill.

In addition to cloth towels or microfiber cloths, SKOY cloths are another great way to kick the paper towel habit once and for all.

Win It!
SKOY clothsThanks to SKOY, I’m giving away SIX 4-packs of SKOY cloths. All you need to do for a chance to win is first sign up (if you haven’t already) for my Ditch the Disposables Challenge. Then leave a comment on this post and make sure you include a valid email address or a blog URL so I have a way to contact you. Deadline to enter is Tuesday, Sept. 23. The six winners will be chosen using Random.org on Sept. 24 and notified via email. Good luck!

If anyone else makes or sells reusable products that are in line with the Ditch the Disposables Challenge and you’d like me to review them and do a giveaway, shoot me an email : crunchydomesticgoddess AT gmail DOT com. 🙂

How to make and can strawberry jam (with giveaway)

This giveaway has ended and is closed to new entries.

A couple of weeks ago, I made my first batch of strawberry jam (from the organic strawberries we’d picked at a local farm) and tried my hand at canning for the first time as well. It was a lot of fun, but also a very time-consuming task as I learned the ropes. I decided to write up a how to guide with pictures up the wazoo to hopefully help someone else with their first foray into jam-making and canning. I think pictures would have helped me a lot.

I know some people are firmly against it, but I decided to use pectin in my jam, though not just any pectin. I found Pomona’s Pectin at the farm where we picked our fruit. Pomona’s is a natural pectin made from 100% pure citrus. Its jelling power is activated by calcium, not by sugar content, which allows you to make low-sugar or even no-sugar jam*. For my batch of strawberry jam, I used only 3/4 cup of honey as a sweetener. For the batch of peach jam I made, I used 3/4 cup of agave nectar. I thought it was fabulous to avoid the usual 5 or 6 cups of sugar required to make jam. (My kids don’t need all of that!) Oh, and both taste amazing!

Please note: The step-by-step guide below is for making jam with Pomona’s Pectin. If you have another brand of pectin or are making jam without pectin, this guide to making jam will not work for you. However, the process of canning should still be the same. 🙂

How to make strawberry jam with Pomona’s Pectin:

Get out all of your delicious organic strawberries:
Freshly-picked organic strawberries

Wash and hull the strawberries:
Washing the strawberries

While you work on making the jam, wash jars/lids in soapy water, then sterilize them in boiling water. The rack I had to put the jars in was too big for the size jars I was using, so I put two cookie racks on the bottom of my pot which kept the jars up off the bottom of the pot:
Sterilizing the jars and lids

Mash the strawberries (Cute helpers optional):
Mashing up the strawberries Mashing up the strawberries Ava helps mash the strawberries

Measure out 4 cups of mashed strawberries:
Measuring the mashed strawberries

Measure and add 2 teaspoons calcium water (included with Pomona’s Pectin) into the strawberries:
Calcium water

Measure out 1/2 cup to 1 cup honey (or agave nectar) or 3/4 cup to 2 cups sugar. Put in small bowl:
Measuring out the honey

Add and mix 2 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin powder into the honey, agave or sugar:
Pomona’s Pectin Stirring pectin into the honey

Pour strawberries into pot. Add the honey/agave/sugar/pectin mixture to the strawberries:
Adding honey and pectin to the strawberries

Bring to a boil and stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve pectin. Return to a boil and remove from heat.:
Stirring the strawberries vigorously

Remove hot jar and lid from boiling water. Carefully fill jar to 1/4 inch of top. Use a funnel if you have one. (I didn’t at the time, but I do now.):
Filling a jar with jam

Wipe the rim of the jar clean:
Wiping the rim of the jar

Place lid on jar and screw ring on until finger-tip tight:
Tightening up the jar

Using tongs, place the jar into the canning bath. Repeat until all jars have been filled and placed into canning bath. About an inch of water should cover the jars:
Jam in the canning bath

Boil 5 minutes (add 1 minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level). (I believe the amount of time varies for each recipe.)

Using your tongs, remove the jars from the water:
Putting jam into canning bath

Let jars cool completely for several hours. As they cool, the lids will suck down and you will probably hear a popping sound as the vacuum seal forms. Pop!

Once the jars are completely cooled (several hours), unscrew the ring and lightly pull on the lid to check the seal. Any jars not sealed will need to be reprocessed or refrigerated and consumed first.

Admire your finished product. Makes 4-5 cups jam:
The finished product - strawberry jam!

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Win It!
Pomona’s PectinNo, I’m not giving away a jar of my jam, but I am offering you a chance to make your own! Leave me a comment telling me what kind of jam you like best and you will be entered for a chance to win a box of Pomona’s Pectin. The deadline to enter is Friday, Sept. 19. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and notified via email, so make sure you leave a valid email address or a link to your blog where I can reach you. Good luck!

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Pomona’s Pectin is generally available at health food stores, food co-ops or farm stands. If you can’t locate it locally, you can purchase it online. They also have a JAMLINE for questions or assistance with converting recipes. (Doesn’t that rock?) And their boxes are made from recycled cardboard and the paper the recipes are printed on is recycled as well.

* From Pomona’s site: “Some other possible sweeteners are honey, fructose, sucanat, concentrated fruit sweetener, maple syrup, agave nectar, frozen juice concentrate, stevia, xylitol, Splenda and other artificial sweeteners.”

What a difference a year makes – Preschool, year 2

This past week Ava began her second year attending Waldorf preschool. I still don’t know where we’re going to send her for kindergarten next year, but we were so pleased with the Waldorf-inspired in-home preschool we found (thanks to some friends) last year, we decided to continue with it this year. In comparing pictures from the two years, it was amazing to me to see how much Ava has grown and changed. Oh, and Julian too!

2007:                                              2008:
Ava’s first day of preschool 2007 - Age 3 Ava’s first day of preschool 2007 - Age 3Ava’s first day of preschool 2008 - Age 4 Ava, age 4
Ava took a caterpillar she had made the day before as a gift for her teacher.

Julian didn’t accompany us to drop Ava off on her first day this year, but he and I walked to pick her up after school (something I hope to keep up with regularly, walking, that is), so I took some pics of the two of them after we arrived back home.
2007:                  2008:
Ava’s first day of preschool 2007 - Ava, 3; Julian 9 months Ava’s first day of preschool 2008 - Ava, age 4; Julian, 21 months
Ava, age 4; Julian, age 21 months

I think my pick for My Best Shot is the last picture of Ava and Jules together. See what everyone else’s best shots were over at Mother May I.

Best Granola Recipe Ever

So maybe I’m biased and maybe I haven’t really tried all that many granola recipes, but that’s only because I LOVE this one, so why should I bother with others? ;oP

The Best Granola EverI’ve been making this granola recipe for at least a year now, though I’ve taken the summer months off because I didn’t want to heat up the house. Now that it’s cooled off here in Colorado (at least for now), I’ve been craving the granola again, so while Julian napped one day this past week, Ava and I made a big batch.

I actually got my recipe from USA Weekend, but I’ve experimented with ingredients and tweaked it here and there, doubled the recipe (since my family always eats it up in no time flat) and made it my own.

Here’s what I now call the…
Best Granola Ever.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. oil, vegetable or canola
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbs. molasses
4 Tbs. maple syrup
(Or you can just use 1/2 cup of maple syrup and omit the molasses)

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup wheat germ
4 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. ground flaxseed
2/3 cup coconut
2/3 cup pumpkin seeds (sunflower seeds can be substituted)
2/3 cup almonds (chopped or whole)

Adjust oven racks to middle positions. Preheat to 275 degrees. Coat two metal cookie sheets with cooking spray or oil and set aside.

Bring oil, syrup, molasses, cinnamon, water to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat.

Mix oats through almonds in a large bowl. Pour oil/maple syrup mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine.

Pour mixture onto two prepared cookie sheets. Working a handful at a time, squeeze granola to form small clumps.

Bake for 30 minutes. Stir and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.

Let cool. Granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Enjoy!

Makes (roughly) 2 quarts.

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And if you’re looking for a great granola BAR recipe, try this one I wrote about a couple years ago. 😉

Stepping outside the box AKA Talking for a teddy bear

I apologize for the lack of substance on CDG this week. Between keeping a close eye on all of the developing stories in politics (more on my opinions another time), watching the Republican National Convention, being without the internets for a day, all of my crazy food preservation adventures (I’m still trying to write a how-to post about making/canning jam), updating the list of Ditch the Disposables challenge participants (woot!!), and Ava starting back to preschool, I just haven’t been able to get it together. However, finally here is some fresh content, cross-posted at the blog of Attachment Parenting International, API Speaks.

702360_sleep_1.jpg

During the past four years of my attachment parenting journey, I sometimes find myself in situations, especially with regard to discipline, that require me to step outside the box and out of my comfort zone.

A few months ago I was trying to get Ava, almost 4 years old at the time, to sleep. She had had a long day and was simply exhausted, so much so that every little thing was setting her off into a puddle of tears. I was getting frustrated because it seemed nothing I could do was right (in her eyes). Logically, I knew that she was acting this way because she was so tired and had passed the point of no return, but still I felt my frustration growing inside me.

She sat on the bed, slumped over crying and complaining about anything and everything imaginable and I wondered how could I get her to give in to her exhaustion and just lay down. I realized that reasoning with her wouldn’t work at this point. She was too far gone for that. I felt like yelling because my frustration was getting worse and worse – after all, I had things to do too and I didn’t want to spend all of my night trying to get her to sleep – but I knew that wasn’t going to help matters either.

Finally I decided what I really needed to do was take a deep breath, step outside of my comfort zone, grab a stuffed animal and start talking to her as the animal. Talking to Ava via a stuffed animal is a parenting “tool” my husband and I had used with success in the past, though not lately and, given the circumstances, I wasn’t sure how it would fly.

She has a bear named Roger who I always imagine talks with a Southern drawl and is good at cheering her up when she’s down, so Roger was the bear for the job. After a few seconds of talking as Roger, Ava stopped crying and began responding back to him, telling him what was going on with her. Although she couldn’t have done that for me, her mommy, she could do it for an impartial furry third party. 😉

Roger’s silly antics soon had Ava giggling and then he was able to talk her into laying down on her bed, relaxing and getting ready to sleep. As the bear said his good nights to Ava and me, Ava said her good nights in return and was soon calm enough to drift off to sleep.

As I left her room I couldn’t help but feel very proud of myself. I can’t claim to always respond well or the “right” way to every situation, but that night I put my pride and frustration aside and did what Ava needed to help her relax and get to sleep. Had I let my frustration overcome me there’s a good chance it would’ve taken me at least another 30-45 minutes and many more tears (probably on both of our parts) before she was asleep. But by tuning into her needs, letting go of all that I “needed” to get done, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and throwing in a little goofiness, I was able to get her to sleep calmly in much less time. And let’s face it, isn’t goofiness a prerequisite for becoming a parent? No? Well, it should be. The world just might be a happier place.

No Internets = Major productivity?

When I got a note on my door last week from my Internet provider (Comcast) letting me know they were going to screw with my service upgrade some part and leave me without a connection from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, I thought, “that totally sucks!” But then the more I thought about it, the more I thought about how productive I might actually be around the house and with my kids if I had a forced Internets-free day. So let me tell you what a day without the Internets looks like for me.

  • Get myself dressed
  • Feed kids breakfast
  • Remove and store two trays of strawberries (that I picked at the farm yesterday) from our new dehydrator
  • Start a load of laundry
  • Change the world’s poopiest diaper ever, which actually required a partial bath to get the boy clean
  • Dress the kids
  • Get myself breakfast
  • Put clothes in dryer (it looked like rain at the time, so no line drying),  put another load in washer
  • Clean up the livingroom and vacuum
  • Make lunch for the kids
  • Lunch for me = tortilla chips and salsa (that I made yesterday) and some leftover hummus (also made yesterday)
  • Usher the kids outside to play
  • Cut and prepare about 15 apples (on sale at Vitamin Cottage) for dehydrating
  • Get clothes from dryer. Move clothes from washer to dryer
  • Start folding laundry
  • Put Julian down for nap
  • Get the rest of the laundry and finish folding it all
  • Help Ava make a caterpillar out of an egg carton
  • Wash umpteen dishes from yesterday and today
  • Make, with Ava’s help, a small batch of strawberry freezer jam
  • Clean up my new kitchen mess
  • Read some new books (that came in the mail from a book club Ava belongs to) to the kids
  • Make tortellini with spinach for dinner

I think that’s it. :oP

Then Jody got home from work. We were still without a connection (two hours past the time we were supposed to be) so he called Comcast and got it straightened out (cuz apparently just bitching about it, as I had been doing, wasn’t enough to fix it).

What a day. It’s amazing what I’m able to get done when I am unable to access my drug of choice the Internets.  My conclusion is that maybe my service should be knocked out once a week. Comcast, can we arrange that? (Wait! Did I just say that outloud???) ‘Cause we both know that a self-imposed Internet-free day ain’t gonna happen. (And don’t even tell me I’m the only one.) :oP