Long Time, No See

So it’s been a while. Life has gotten away from me and it always seems harder than it is to pick up the pen again. Or keyboard, as it may be.

Since my last post, we’ve added Gamma, who is nearly two at this point. He was once the calmest, happiest baby, but since he’s approaching two years old, he’s decided terrorism is the only way to get what he wants.

Not getting that food off the table he can’t eat because he has FPIES? Quick, toss everything within reach onto the floor, then go rigid, scream bloody murder and throw yourself on the floor! It’s the perfect strategy!

I read an article recently that said toddler brains look the same as adult brains on LSD. I believe this completely and have added it to my parenting playbook. Toddler acting up? What’s something that would distract an adult on LSD? Lights worked well during young toddlerhood. Bizarre noises, facial expressions and spinning him wildly around seem to be the thing now. Asking him where various body parts an animals have mixed results. Your mileage will vary.

As for our other children, Beta has started kindergarten at the local public school. We tried having her home after one year at preschool to “see how it would go.” We learned that she talks way too much and needs a lot more kids to play with than we can adequately provide. Since the public school has the closest Kindergarten, we’re taking her there. We haven’t decided if this is the long-term plan. We’re open to homeschooling her if that’s what she wants, we’re open to sending her to public school, private school is even an option if we can find one that is close by and not horribly expensive. So far, she shows none of the signs of dyslexia Alpha has and finds phonics and phonemes to be completely normal and acceptable.

Alpha, meanwhile, is still homeschooled. He shows no desire to go to school even though we told him that if he wants to go, he can. He doesn’t have to stay home. Nope. He’s happy and progressing. We spent 1.5 years teaching him phonics using an in-depth kinesthetic phonics program to help him connect letters and sounds. He now reads very well and eagerly with things that he wants to read. We’ve moved on to learning grammar and spelling, using AVKO Sequential spelling, which he hates. It’s nothing personal, really. He’s not a fan of doing anything that is challenging. He does well with spelling, however, and is progressing. Finding a good grammar program has been more challenging and, for the moment, we’re using Khan Academy and heavily modifying English for the Thoughtful child to suit our needs. Math continues to be Singapore Math 3 and we’ve had some conflicts over his insistence on adding three-digit numbers in his head. It works, except for when it doesn’t and I have to keep insisting he write things out and do carrying even one problems where he can conceivably do without this so that he gets used to it and can use it when he needs it. For history, we’ve moved into early modern, which is exciting because we live in New England and can easily head over to Revolutionary War sites and visit Plimoth Plantation. Science is chemistry this year and he’s also learning typing. Extracurricular include Finnish, German, Gymnastics, Art and swimming

This all makes for a very busy schedule.

We still have chickens. Different ones then before led by a different Rooster, whom we’ve dubbed Sir Robin. He was raised with a bunch of other cockerels, which is fantastic because it has made him a gigantic pussy. He’s afraid of everyone, except for the hens. He even runs away from Gamma when he approaches. While this does make him hard to catch, it’s a nice change from the aggressive assholes we’ve had in the past.

Our ducks were unfortunately murdered by a weasel who squeezed into their coop, but since the drought in the Northeast has eliminated our pond, it’s just as well.

 

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Pregnancy Update

I’m still pregnant. I have a little over 3 months left, yay, but so far I’m feeling fine. We learned a while back that it’s going to be a boy, news which threw my daughter into a tizzy and it took her a few days and trying to steal the ultrasound pictures to come to terms with. Alpha was happy. Originally he wanted another sister, but after we had some friends over who have 4 boys and a girl, he changed his tune and told me how much fun it they must have all the time with so many brothers. So that’s clearly his goal: MOAR FRIENDS!!!
Beta has accepted things since then and enjoys cuddling with the baby (my belly) and keeps telling me what the baby likes or what the baby wants to do.

She is really into the baby. We’ll see if she’s as into when it’s born.

As far as the baby is concerned, he’s doing really well. He’s very active and enjoys kicking me all over. Everything came up normal on the ultrasounds, aside from the fact he refused to turn so the tech could get one specific measurement on the heart. Stubborn, I guess, or overly comfortable.

Things are definitely getting more difficult as things progress. Now once I hit 11,000 steps in a day I can tell without looking because my belly starts to ache and complain. Going to the gym is no longer enjoyable because I”m not increasing the weights I lift. To the contrary, I’m decreasing them in many cases. But I’m trying to keep going and usually make it there 2 times a week. Things keep getting in the way and I ended up taking two weeks off due to a horrible cold. I’m pretty sure it turned into bronchitis after a while because I ended up with a cough I couldn’t shake. Thank goodness for my asthma medication.

Weight gain front: I’m doing well. From my lowest weight in the pregnancy, I’ve gained 10 lbs. From my starting weight, 6. This is fantastic and I’m quite happy about it. I hope I don’t go too crazy in the last 3 months and ruin it all since my goal is not to gain more than 20 lbs. so that I lose the weight I gained pretty immediately after giving birth.

Annoyingly, I keep running into the the notion that since I’m pregnant, I shouldn’t be doing anything. One of my friends is the worst offender and hanging out with her gives me a huge headache because of it. She spends her time urging me to eat up because I’m pregnant, asking me if I need to rest or sit down and offering to pick up my daughter for me because, hey, pregnant people shouldn’t be doing heavy lifting, right? Gaaah. She’s probably just trying to be nice, but she should know by now that my daughter is one of the lighter things I lift. When I told her how I was trying to pull the creeping ground ivy out my yard because it’s taking over, she called me a crazy pregnant lady because obviously I shouldn’t be doing that. It drives me nuts. When my belly aches, I take it as a sign to sit down and rest because physical discomfort is generally a sign of needing to take a break, pregnant or not. But I don’t view pregnancy as a 9 month break from real life, especially not with two older kids running around.

In some ways, I’ve grown positively manic. I feel like I have a long list in my head of Things We Need to Get Done Before the Baby is Born…and I started this list when I was about 3 months pregnant. But this time I know the baby is going to be born in winter. I know that it’s important to get shit done outside so that when spring comes, things are ready and we don’t have to be stressed. I know it’s important to get our kitchen done and to have things  organized and ready so I’m not all stressed trying to figure out where things are.

The fact that we’re homeschooling makes me feel this pressure anymore. I’ve got to keep the balls in the air as best as I can and prepare as much in advance so the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

Fingers crossed, anyway.

Ready, Set…

We’re about to launch into our very first official year of homeschooling. Schools in my town already back, but since I consider starting before September heresy, we’re starting September 1. This also happens to be the day Hogwarts always starts, so I figure we can’t go wrong with it. Never mind that it’s Labor Day. We’re starting then, dammit (I actually only realized it was Labor Day after I decided we’d start that day and decided not to bother changing anything).

I’ve spent the last few weeks photocopying all the curriculum resources I have, three-hole punching them, and filing them away into binders as well as drawing up a tentative schedule for how this fall is going to run. I think I’ve arranged things so we’ll have time to take off a month when the baby is born and my family comes to visit. I figure most homeschoolers slow down around December and just do holiday stuff anyway, so it shouldn’t be a huge deal. I’m still nervous about it though. Our ability to take off in December is dependent largely on us being on the ball before then. What if we’re not? What if we’re hugely lazy? Unfortunately you can’t plan for every contingency and at least we have a lot of flexibility built in.

Beta will be going to preschool this fall, which makes the thought of homeschooling first grade with Alpha a lot easier. I’ll have 9 hours a week with only Alpha around. Hopefully we can get all the Important Stuff done then.

I’ve also made his Schultüte, a concept my husband failed to understand.

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I showed him it when it was mostly finished and he just looked confused. “So how long does he have to wear that? Everyday?”

“What? No, it’s just for the first day.”

“So why do you wear it the first day?”

“NO! You don’t wear it at all! You put stuff in it.”

“Like a backpack?”

“NO! Like sweets! The point is to sweeten the child’s first day of school so that it’s fun and they look forward to it.”

Then he decided it was a neat tradition. I still have to buy fillers for it, though.

As far as our curriculum is concerned, I’ve opted to use materials that strike me as tried and true by various homeschoolers: Singapore Math for Math, Explode the Code for reading/phonics (along with beginner reader books), Handwriting without Tears for handwriting, History Odyssey: Ancients 1 for History, and R.E.A.L Science Life I for science. Additionally, Alpha will have  German class on Mondays, Gymnastics and Art on Tuesdays and Finnish school on Saturdays.

So with fingers crossed, we will dive right in…and hopefully everything will work out well.

A Boring Post About Farm Economics

Making a profit off your farm is challenging–especially if you’re a novice farmer like I am. But over the last 3 years, I’ve reached a few conclusions about ways to profit and shared them with my husband, who agrees.

So here goes:

1) Chicken eggs are loss leaders. Maybe not for every farm, but I think for most of them they are. It may not seem like it if you’ve never owned chickens, but having chickens has very low barriers to entry, which means that most people who move out to the country or small town start off getting chickens. You only need a coop, some chicks (or pullets), some feeders, waterers and feed and you get almost immediate payoff: delicious eggs every day. Even if they cost more than the grocery store, people who get backyard chickens decide it’s worth it because the chickens become pets. Then they end up having too many eggs and decide to sell the extra, resulting in a sign in the yard advertizing “Eggs $3/$2 a dozen!” Since any one can do it, chicken eggs (while easy) is not an area for which we should look to make a profit.  In order to break even on eggs at the moment, we would have to sell them for $7 a dozen. Reducing feed waste would go a long ways to decreasing this.

2) Duck eggs are a waste of time. The Guide to Raising Ducks book sold my husband on duck eggs, saying that people pay a lot of money for duck eggs, so you can definitely profit off of them! More accurate would be “Some people love duck eggs so much, they’re willing to pay a premium for them. But most aren’t willing to pay for them at all.” This means we exclusively eat duck eggs at home because we have very few wiling, paying customers for them.  Anyone who hears we have ducks gets excited and says “Oooh, meat ducks?” and then loses interest when they hear they’re laying ducks. Which brings me to my next point.

3) Raise meat. This is a better way to be profitable and has many advantages. Barriers to entry are much higher because most people who get a few chickens and think of them as pets aren’t thinking “I’m totally going to kill this chicken and eat it as soon as it stops laying!” They can’t handle that. Even if they would like to do it, they usually don’t want to do it themselves and would rather have someone else do it for them because they don’t know how and it takes some practice to learn how to slaughter a chicken quickly. Trust me, I taught myself using youtube and blog tutorials and have definitely spent more nights with my hands shoved up a chickens ass than I’d like. But I’m willing to keep doing it because every time we sell a stewing hen, we make up the cost of the chick, plus some extra, which helps offset the losses we make on our chicken eggs.

Therefore, we need to stop doing laying ducks entirely. We should concentrate on meat ducks, meat geese, consider meat chickens (but I’m weary about that–cornish crosses are very sensitive to stress and the environment and die easily. Ducks and geese, on the other hand, are very hardy.

Getting pigs is also a good idea. Every person I’ve told I want to get pigs wants us to get a pig to raise for them as well. Pigs are definitely considered Real Farm Animals and, consequently, have a high barrier to entry. The downside of pigs is that piglets are very expensive at the moment due to the porcine diarrhea that’s been going around, killing piglets.

Basically, we need to get into raising animals you slaughter after one season so you don’t have to overwinter them. It makes things easier.

4) Become the middleman. Surprisingly, the one area in our farm in which we are consistently profitable is the one we weren’t even aiming to be profitable. When we first bought chicks, I would order our soy-free, organic feed online, but shipping was really expensive and I didn’t have enough chickens really to make ordering a pallet worth it, so we started getting it from a feed store in a few hours away, but on the way home from Finnish school. It was still expensive. Then I met some other people interested in getting soy-free feed, thus making ordering a pallet worth it. We started ordering pallets of feed. At first, I didn’t fill the pallet up, but as the number of interested people has increased, I’ve started filling it up and we still go through it within 3 months. Keeping the price roughly the same as before and rounding to the nearest quarter, we still make over $1 on each bag of feed we sell to other people, which makes hauling the bags from the truck and storing them in our garage worth it.

Other areas in which we could become the middleman would be: supplying people with pullets. Sometimes people who get chickens don’t want to deal with chicks. They want things to be super easy, so they’re willing to pay to have someone else raise chicks for you. We’re raising some ducks for a friend and, since my husband ordered too many, have some extra ones we want to sell (though I wouldn’t mind selling all of them at this point). We could conceivably do this with other animals as well.

5) Premium berries, melons and asparagus. If I’m going to raise stuff in my garden to sell, I only want to do the stuff that is actually going make money. Carrots are out. Asparagus is in. Melons are in (I planted a good number this year, so hopefully that amounts to something). I need to eventually get to a point where I can order more raspberries–yellow and black in addition to red. It’s all about thinking strategically.

Our Ducklings and Goslings

We ordered new ducklings and goslings this year. We got 15 gold star hybrid ducklings–6 for a friend, 6 for us and 3 they sent extra– to replace our current ducks, who are getting along in years and are going to be turned into dog food before the end of the summer. They don’t know it yet, though.

We also ordered 4 white emden  geese and got 5. This will, once again, be used for meat and slaughtered come fall.

They all arrived in the same package, peeping pitifully, the goslings already twice the size of the ducklings.

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The ducklings’ and goslings’ first day out, happily swimming in their water pan.

We kept them in their pasture pen for the first few weeks in order to keep them safe for predators and, more importantly, our other birds. But yesterday I decided to let the goslings out to see what they’d do. And they did basically what geese do: wandered around eating grass and looking pretty happy. A few chickens tried to attack them, but one of the goslings fought back and bit the chicken. Then I broke up the fight and that was the end of that.

But once the goslings were out, the ducklings started peeping plaintively and loudly, looking for their lost comrades. I’m beginning to wonder if they view the goslings as their parental figures since they’re so much bigger than the ducklings. There are 15 ducklings, so they can’t have been lonely. One duckling managed to escape out of the pen and immediately ran to the goslings and happily grazed with them while the remaining ducklings kept peeping loudly until we relented and let them out as well.

Then the entire group wandered around our property, grazing happily:

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My husband was worried they were going to go down to the pond again. The last time they were out of their run, when we had to lift the hole thing up and move it across the yard to fresh grass, they were all out and our children toughtfully herded them down to the pond so they could swim in it the first time. My husband ended up having to wade in and get them out, leaving both shoes behind stuck in the mud. But they didn’t. They were far more interested in the grass, clover, and what I’ve decided must be wild kale growing in the yard. Not to mention the shrubbery on the part of the geese.

This weekend we will pull out the electric fencing stuck in the back, overgrown part of the property around the house and put it around some poison ivy. Then we can stick the gosling and ducklings in there to graze in the day. Either we’ll build them some sort of shelter from predators in there or just hunt them out and put them back in the pen during the day. We haven’t quite decided yet.

But eventually the ducklings are going to have to join their free ranging relatives in the wide open fields and stop hanging around the geese all the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Home Economics

Ages ago, I read the book Radical Homemakers, which discussed a subset of the population that was foregoing traditional jobs and choosing to live off the land and produce the things they consumed themselves. I was largely dissatisfied with this book, mainly because the author didn’t seem to have a good understanding of economics. She liked to call the economy the “extractive economy,” one that extracts your labor from you and doesn’t give you much back. She extoled the value of making the household a unit of production, instead of consumption. Except she never seemed to acknowledge that there are a lot of things it makes more sense to buy than produce yourself. And if you can get a job that pays more than turning your household into a unit of production (especially if you don’t enjoy all the work that comes with it), it makes more sense to have that job than to make everything yourself. However radical it may be.

Now I have finally found the book that discusses making it yourself vs buying it: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. The author, Jennifer Reese, was laid off from her job in 2008 and decided to figure out which things actually were cheaper (or better quality) to make at home because it obviously isn’t everything.

And it’s hilarious. Then again, watching suburbanites turn from city-dwellers to wanna-be homesteaders is always funny–I should know. I am one.

Reading her book has made me crave goats again. I really do want a goat, but since my goat would probably be a milk goat and not a meat goat, I’m holding off. I know I don’t have the time to milk a goat or learn how to play midwife to one or breed it or deal with subsequent offspring or make cheese/butter/whatever from the milk.

So that needs to wait. However fun making my own Camembert or mozzarella might sound.

This book has, however, made me feel more determined to get pigs. My husband and I discussed getting them this past spring, but we were woefully behind on everything we wanted to do anyway and decided not to add any additional livestock. But now we’re a bit caught up. And I’m out of pork. And we have about 5.5 acres of wooded area I’d love to see opened up a bit more.

I’ve been reading up on raising pastured/forest pigs and decided we should get 3. I know one person who would be interested in buying one pig from me (dead, of course). One pig would be for us and the third we would have to find someone to buy. I found a blog from a pig farmer in Vermont who seems to know what he’s doing and he wrote (and updated) a post on finishing your own pigs and it was very informative. Basically, pig chow, no. Forest/pasture, yes. Maybe I can embarrass myself and ask around at local stores/supermarkets/bakeries and find out if I can get their waste foods (bread, fruit, dairy) to feed the pigs as well.

The farmer recommend dividing up the area you want your pigs in into 6 small areas and rotate them between them, spending a week at each one in order to make sure it’s been well torn apart. I know exactly the area in our woods I want them at, too. The area and hill behind the pond, where we had loggers remove our pine trees. They left a ton of fallen lumber and branches there, which have been rotting for about two years now. We’re thinking about putting swales in there, a permaculture thing suggested by some of our friends (who are very into permaculture) and then planting our orchard on top of that. But the area is now overgrown with various plants and small trees. Having pigs open that up for us would be awesome. Maybe they’ll help get rid of our blackberry plants, too. Who knows.

Other than that, Reese has informed me that amazon.com has the cheapest vanilla beans ever and I just ordered half a pound of them for $36. I was also planning on making strawberry jam from u-pick strawberries this summer (Alpha wanted to see how it’s made), but her book informed me that homemade strawberry jam tastes just like store-bought and is therefore, not worth it. So I’m now going to make Strawberry-Rhubarb jam with Rhubarb I got from a friend who doesn’t have (or want) anything to do with it.

And I’m going to make my own vanilla extract. This is exciting!

Some notable quotes from the book:

“If rather than a lush green garden, you want your outdoor space to resemble a Third World village, I suggest getting some chickens, who will methodically denude the landscape of every blade of grass, low-lying weed, and wildflower. And i you want to rid yourself of shrubbery and small trees as well, get a goats. Very soon you will have the adobe patio of your dreams.”

“Where is that sweet spot between buying and making? What does the market do cheaper and better? And where are we being deceived, our tastes and habits and standards corrupted?”

“Are you nuts? If so, make it! (re: Vermouth)

“Chickens squabble. Chickens have minds of their own, however small. Not so the ducks, who waddled in lockstep formation around the yard, wing to wing, all day, every day, muttering. They were like a Hare Krishnas, always chanting in a gang.”

I no longer believe

I’m pregnant. This is our third child. With our other children, when I found out, I called up the midwives and we would schedule an appointment somewhere around 8-10 weeks and go from there. This pregnancy, it was a lot more difficult.

Mainly because I no longer believe in natural childbirth and everything surrounding it. With my first two, I only considered natural childbirth outside of a hospital. I used an independent birth center  for my first and was planning a home birth with my second, but ended up going to the birth center anyway. I had only read natural childbirth books, listened to natural childbirth people and all my friends were natural childbirth oriented.

Since I moved away from attachment parenting, I also started questioning natural childbirth. While previously I only read blogs, books and articles with a pro-homebirth/natural childbirth slant, now I read articles from the other side as well. They say that in order to find the truth, it’s important to consider all viewpoints.

I’ve been reading. I like the Navelgazing Midwife. She’s pro-homebirth, but only when it meets certain criteria and acknowledges that homebirth is more risky than hospital births because of the uncertainty you can’t account for. She’s about standards. I read the Skeptical OB. She has a pull-no-punches attitude that makes sure I don’t get complacent and stop thinking critically–like I did after becoming pro-natural childbirth. I’ve also been reading “Brought to bed: Childbearing in America from 1750 to 1950, which has given me a lot of insight into the movement away from natural childbirth to the twilight sleep era, to epidurals and back to natural childbirth.

The only problem is when it came time to decide on a caregiver and type of birth I couldn’t. I could no longer see one type of birth as “better” than the other. Instead, both had their advantages and draw backs. The only thing I was sure about is that I wanted to stay with a CNM, unless I became high risk. I made a list:

Homebirth Pros:

  • Lower cost ($3000)
  • Don’t have to go anywhere during labor (I’ve been in transition in the car with both labors–it sucks!)
  • Know who provider and assistant will be ahead of time
  • Already familiar with the environment and everything in it.

Homebirth Cons:

  • Higher risk (even when attended by a CNM, homebirths have double the risk of a negative outcome over a hospital birth)
  • No access to pain relief (no longer believing in the cascade of interventions has me craving an epidural)
  • Kids might be in the house (I have to make sure I have someone to take them out when I’m in labor. I don’t want them there)
  • No break from home (I don’t want to spend the time immediately after birth looking at all the stuff I didn’t get done before the birth)

Hospital Pros:

  • Access to pain medication
  • Immediate access to specialists in case of emergency
  • Get a balanced perspective (can learn exactly how a hospital birth compares to a homebirth instead of propaganda)
  • Get away from everything that needs to be done at home at least for 24 hours!

Hospital Cons:

  • Higher cost–and I can’t find out exactly how much it will be beforehand. Trust me. I’ve tried. In the US if you go to the hospital and try to find out how much it will cost, everyone will shrug. Accounting and Billing deals with that. Then you’ll have to get the itemized bill and find out they charged you $50 for fucking gauze. We HATE how the US medical system works. Because of this, I’m much more likely to give birth in a hospital in Finland (but the midwives still do home visits!) than in the US.
  • The CNMs who admit to the hospital only attend births during office hours. So if I go into labor outside of those (and I always have!), I get who ever is on call. Normal practice for hospitals, but makes me uncomfortable being used to knowing who’s going to be there.
  • Less autonomy. When I discussed this with my sister, she advised me to get a doula so I would have someone to help me advocate for what I wanted, which immediately made me feel I’d have to. I don’t want to feel like I”m fighting the system when I just want to pop a baby out. Plus, every doula I’ve met (just socially), I have disliked. One of them was discussing how she wanted to become a midwife and I mentioned how great CNMs were and she said, “Oh, I don’t want to be a CNM! I just want to be a direct entry midwife. Becoming a CNM is too much work.” Seriously? Fuck you. If you think becoming a CNM is too much work, what’s your attitude towards attending a long labor going to be like?
  • Less control over the environment. My sister warned me that although I may be able to get out of the house for a while, I wouldn’t necessarily like being in the hospital. Nurses come in and out of the rooms, there’s not a whole lot of privacy.

In the end, I decided my antipathy towards the hospital was too strong. So I chose a CNM who attends homebirths. She’s also a nurse practitioner, which enables her to do a lot more than a CPM or a regular CNM. She also has fairly strict criteria in defining the scope of her practice. When I told her I’d rather have a home birth than a birth center birth because I was closer to the hospital where I lived, she laughed. “Now, I don’t usually do VBACs because it’s out of the scope of my practice, but I had one patient who told me she wanted to try for a VBAC at home or she’d go to the birth center. When I saw she lived across the street from the hospital, I told her I’d attend her homebirth because she was much safer there than at the birth center half an hour from a hospital.” Hearing “out of the scope of my practice” was immensely reassuring. So many midwives doing homebirths and birth center births don’t seem to consider anything out of the scope of their practice, perhaps part of the reason why they are so much higher risk: they’re not just taking on low-risk women.

But my midwife seems to have a good grasp on this. She started out by telling me that it was going to be more of a partnership and there were some things that she insisted on doing and was willing to discuss with me why they needed to be done. These things turned out to be Glucose Screening and at least one ultrasound, both of which I’m totally fine with, but were ‘optional’ at the midwifery practice I had my first two at. So I’ve never been screened for gestational diabetes because I felt I was low-risk, even though my dad has type II diabetes. The midwives didn’t push me. When my sister, Nurse Extraordinaire, found out, she flipped out and informed me exactly why it was so important, etc. I’m now on board with the glucose screening. And I always get ultrasounds around 20 weeks because I like to see the baby. I like to see everything is fine and I like to find out what the gender is. No problem. I may even request another at 36 to make sure everything is still fine.
There are a few things that give me pause about my CNM. Despite her insistence that she is committed to evidence based medicine, she believes in homeopathy. At my first appointment, she compared homeopathy to immunotherapy (I told her I was extremely allergic to dust mites, but was a good candidate for allergy shots and is that safe during pregnancy?). Now, homeopathy is bullshit. Unlike immunotherapy, it has no evidence showing it works and is effective for no body. She also pestered me about the use of my Advair inhaler. My asthma went completely out of control in 2013 (really, started in 2012) and I started getting bronchitis every time I caught a cold, being short of breath while working out and waking up in the night unable to breath. Went and saw the nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office and she got me back on my advair. Went and saw an allergist and learned I’m allergic to dust mites and a few other things, but mainly dust mites. All kinds of dust mites. She advised me to stay on my advair and, if I went off, to come back in for a breathing test.

My midwife listened to all this and asked me if I thought my asthma got worse or better when I was pregnant and if I thought our home construction had slowed down enough to wean me off the inhaler. I looked at her like she was nuts and she backpeddled and said I could stay on the inhaler the whole pregnancy if I want to. Yes, want to. I’ve always been a fan of breathing and I see nothing that says it’s bad for pregnancy. Or at least, worse than having an asthma attack.

Secondly, I’ve developed reflux. It runs in my family. Probably didn’t help that when I started using my Advar, I would rinse out my mouth and then swallow the water. I think that irritated my gut. I stopped when my allergist told me that was a Bad Idea. But I did it for about 5 weeks. And I was drinking 2-3 diet sodas a day. And eating nutella every night before I went to bed. I ended up with bad heartburn that wouldn’t go away even when I cleaned up my diet. So I went to the doctors and they put me on generic Zantac, which is the Best Thing Ever. It got rid of my heartburn! I had no heartburn! It was great.

But my midwife told me I could stop taking that and try papaya enzyme. I hate papaya enzyme. I’ve always had awful heartburn while pregnant and spent most of my first pregnancy munching on papaya enzyme throughout the day. My second I just took tums, which was slightly more effective. Now…I take Zantac and an occasional tums. It’s great! She pointed out that I was just alleviating the symptoms instead of fixing the problem. Then she wondered outloud what herbs she could use to strengthen the sphincter which was causing my heartburn. I felt seriously annoyed because 1) I have reflux and 2) Being pregnant always makes my heartburn worse because all the relaxin is in their loosening everything! I’m not going to trade in my zantac for some damned herbs.

I have, however, cut my soda consumption and nutella out completely. I hope that helps.

Other than that, I like her. I just hope we don’t fight too much over my inhaler and zantac. The reality of the matter is that I no longer care if I have a natural birth or even a homebirth. If any complications arise at all that increase my risk for having a healthy, safe homebirth, I’m going to march my ass up to the hospital and my husband knows this. I just want a safe birth. Maybe I’m just getting older, but my need to be part of a movement or hold to some ideal has withered and died.
Actually that’s one thought that does annoy me: me having a homebirth being heralded by homebirth advocates as proof that more and more women want homebirths and that homebirth is safe if the homebirth rates go up again this year. I don’t want to be used in statistics to support anyone’s agenda. I just want to have a damn baby.
Even worse than that, I see people I know having their first babies and deciding they want to go the “natural childbirth route,” going to the same birth center I went to and raving about the midwives. I worry that like me, they’ve stopped thinking critically. That, like me, they aren’t going to understand the difference between a CPM and a CNM (my first one was delivered by the CNM who has since retired, my second by the CPM who was about the graduate nursing school and working towards becoming a CNM. She’s still getting her master’s and has taken a leave of absence). They only have CPMs at the birth center now. I worry that they’re putting themselves in unnecessary danger and are going to trust too much where they should be more critical.
Granted, of all the women among my acquaintances who have had homebirths, I don’t know of a single one who has had a bad outcome. I know of one midwife who had her license pulled for bad outcomes (two severe birth injuries). But I look at various aspects of their birth stories and realize in some cases it was just luck (in labor at home for three days after membranes ruptured and post dates) or where my friend ended up truly suffering while in labor (severe back labor and pushing against her bag of waters, which the midwives would not strip.)
But I can’t really say anything. No one wants advise, especially the unsolicited kind.

 

 

 

 

 

What 16 Months of Minimal Dedication Gets You

I’ve been going to the gym regularly for about 16 months now. I joined early February 2013 and it’s almost June now. I can’t say I’ve been particularly dedicated, but I have been going 3 times a week fairly regularly. I’m not militant about it: I’ve taken time off for illness and injury, but I do go.

Here’s what I’ve achieved in that time:

Benchpresses: Start–50 lbs Now: 80lbs (3 sets x 5 reps)

Squats: Start–I couldn’t do them. At least not properly. My abs were so weak from being pregnant, I couldn’t maintain proper form. Now I’m squatting 85lbs (3×5)

Good mornings and split squats (lunges): Beginning: I wasn’t doing good mornings then, but I was squatting 40 lbs with dumbells. Now: 105lbs (3×7). I can probably up it now, too.

Dual pulley press: Beginning: 30 lbs (this is a lateral pulldown but with two pullies, making it twice as hard). Now: 60lbs (3×5), plus an intermediate weight.
Overhead Press: Beginning: 40 lbs. Now 60 lbs (2×5). I’m working on 70 lbs, but can only do 3 in a row of those.

Assisted pull-ups: 80lbs assistance. Now: 50lbs assistance (2×5). The same with dips.

Abdominal exercises: an important part of going back to the gym was strengthening my abs. When I first started, I could barely do 10 leg lifts where you use your  abs to lift your legs in the air. Then my sister introduced me to planks. In the beginning, I could do 30 second planks and it was awful. Now I can do 2 minutes. It’s still awful, but I’m doing it dammit! Since having strong core muscles is crucial, this was essential getting me back into proper squatting gear. I actually ended up injuring my knee doing goblet squats improperly. Strengthening my core helped with that and, with rest, my knee healed.

See? You don’t have to be insane to get strength or get more fit. You just have to work out on a fairly regular basis. My goal is still what it has always been: to do a damn pull-up.

In another year, I’ll post another update and we’ll see if I’ve achieved it by then.

My Compost Pile

I have to show off my compost pile:

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Sorry, the picture is crap, but that’s it. Isn’t it beautiful?
This is my third year trying to build a proper compost pile. The first year, I got it stacked, we had heavy machinery come in to harvest some pine trees and spread it every where and the chickens scratched it apart. The second year, the chickens scratched it apart and then we had heavy machinery come in to remove stumps and spread it every where.

This year there has been no heavy machinery. I’ve wheeled out the bedding from the chicken coop (well, most of it) and piled it into a big pile–I decided to skip the compost-bin-building part. We can do that later. I’ve piled it up and have been turning it every other day. The strong ammonia smell that covered the yard the first week is gone. And it’s hot. It’s extremely hot. I measured it one day, after I turned it, and it was around 140F. I think it’s hotter now and it appears to be composting perfectly.  It’s lovely. And I’m looking forward to having perfect compost to put on my garden beds this fall.

Beta just turned three. She spent her birthday demanding we sing “Happy birthday to me” again. Every time she would sing along and Alpha tried to explain to her that she’s not supposed to sing along when we sing happy birthday, we’re just supposed to sing to her and she is supposed to listen. She didn’t care. Alpha clearly has a better grasp on social rituals than she does at her age.

It amazed me how big the differences between the two of them are, even when I try to compare Beta to Alpha when he was her age. She is definitely more girly. Every morning we have a discussion over what she is going to put on and I have to veto many of her choices (clashing patterns, wearing entirely purple, that sort of thing). I’ve realized the most effective way to get her to go along with my objections is to give her a reason she can’t argue on. She tried putting on neon pink capri leggings with a top that clashed. I told her she couldn’t wear the pants–they were way to short and for today’s cold weather, she needed long pants. She looked at her pants and realized I was right–they were too short. She picked out a grey long pair and we were done.
But other days we can’t agree and it just ends up in tears if her favorite outfit (a purple velvet dress) is dirty.
The only times I fought with Alpha about clothes was when we were in a transition season–he used to have a lot of trouble moving between short sleeves, long sleeves and so on.
She’s also picked up on the fact that women carry purses. She knows I do and imitates this. Whereas Alpha at her age was limited only what he could carry when it came to taking things out of the house, Beta is limited by what she can fit in her bag, which is significantly more. And she has to load it up before we can leave. Stuffed dog. Wooden cake. Stuffed pigs. Spoons. And so on.

She is very quick to come and comfort someone if they hurt themselves. If I bump my leg against furniture, she rushes over and kisses it and asks, “You okay, mommy?”

She likes to go to the bathroom with me. If I’m going to the bathroom, she’ll rush to come with me, pull down her pants and sit on her potty, chatting all the while. Some times she doesn’t even have to pee, but there she is anyway. She’ll talk to me about how my experience is going and hand me toilet paper as needed and help me flush the toilet. At some point in the future, she’s going to be doing this with her friends. Hopefully in different stalls.

Both Beta and Alpha play with cars. But they play with them differently. Alpha would build caravans or stack the cars on top of each other. He’d also have a lot of fast and large crashes to destroy the caravans and stacks. Car playing for Beta goes like this:

“Mommy, mommy, mommy!” Little McQueen car is driving around frantically. Fortunately, Bigger McQueen car is right around the corner! “Baby, baby! Did you hurt yourself? Awwww.” The cars cuddle.
She even does this with crayons, which I find highly amusing because I used to do the same thing when I was a kid. The small broken crayons were the babies and the tall unbroken crayons were the adults. The in-between sizes were children of other ages. She does the same, though I don’t think her games are as complicated as mine.
When Alpha and Beta play together, they usually end up playing some sort of family-oriented game where someone is the baby and someone is the mother. Some times, they play going to school–a game I’m pretty sure they picked up from my niece.

But as far as getting dirty is concerned, they are just the same. They love a big mess, though Beta gets a little more upset when her clothes get dirty. They both love danger. Beta recovers more quickly than Alpha when she falls and gets hurt–he’s always been more high strung in this manner.

Over all, she’s a happy 3 year old. She loves to play. Her gymnastics teacher told me she’s fearless because she tried to do a forward roll off the top of a high mat, when they were supposed to jump down and then do a forward roll. And she is definitely fearless.