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Thursday, July 19, 2012

"One Of Those Moms Who...."

Since Liam turned 1-years old a week ago it's a question I've been getting asked in varied forms:
"You're not going to be one of those moms who [fill in blank with apparently unforgivable parenting mistake]?"
The questions have mostly been about how long we intend to breastfeed and to be fair not all of them have been phrased in such an openly critical way.  For example the nurse at Liam's 12 month check-up just judged me quietly to herself and emphasized the importance of MILK (i.e. not mine)

Two things I find interesting about these inquiries:

  1. The sudden renewed interest in my lactation plans.  Previously it was rare for any one to say boo about nursing and pumping milk for my son.  Generally people could care less about my boring old boobs. (Although I did get the teasing "Moooo" from one colleague)
  2. No one can agree on the unacceptable.  The apparently unforgivable lengths of time vary so greatly and unpredictably depending on the questioner; beyond-a-year, 18-months, 2-years, 4-years, 5-years are all apparently unforgivable or at least unnecessary lengths of time.
So, why the renewed fascination with the business of my breasts?  I think it's a pretty simple explanation: While breastfeeding your baby is still not what the majority of American mothers do, it has finally returned to being recognized as what is normal in most American minds. On the other hand nursing a toddler is still in the realm of "freaky" "unnecessary" "hippy parenting".

Perhaps it's time to start pushing for a wider  understanding of extended breastfeeding and get the American Academy of Pediatrics to increase their minimum period of breastfeeding to at least 2 years, consistent with recommendations of the World Health Organization.  

Mothers of nursing toddlers often begin hiding their illicit nursing behavior, and I now know why; condemnation by society, shame on you society!  But wait, aren't we society to?......
William nursing during my lunch break in the park on his first birthday.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cherry Season In The Cherry City

Pitted Organic Sweet Cherries destined for the dehydrator.
These have sat in a acsorbic acid bath for 5 minutes first.
A few ways you can tell it's harvest season at our house (beyond the obvious cherry stained fingers, the hum of the food dehydrator and the rumble of the water-bath-canner) include a leaning pile of unfolded laundry, floors going unswept, dishes going unwashed and most meal plans don't go beyond leftovers and sliced raw veggies.

While our house may be in disarray at present our stores of winter goods have grown by a weeks worth of picking and processing evenings.  It may not sound that substantial but for us this is a moment to be commemorated; our first cherry season since moving to The Cherry City.

Jim and William Picking in the commercial orchard
opened to grateful Salem Harvest Volunteers
Our first windfall of cherries came with a generous invite from a co-worker to pick the remaining cherries from her over producing tree.  Never ones to turn down free food we rushed to her house after work and after a delightful evening up a tree we returned loaded with many pounds of sweet juicy cherries, a pint of blueberries and a large bag of almonds. (Yes almonds can grow in Salem! It was news to me too)

The next day, while our cooler sat full of cherries waiting to be pitted and processed, we received notice of another harvest scheduled for the very next night. When Jim and I discussed this harvest he pointed out that it was on his birthday, I paused and, not unlovingly, replied "I guess that's what happens when you're born during cherry season." So we made plans to pick again with a cooler full of fruit and a birthday looming.

That night we pitted, bathed in asorbic acid, filled the dehydrator to over flowing and froze the remaining haul in two large zip-locks.

Jim pitting our haul with William and Bud's "help"
The next evenings harvest was a Salem Harvest event.  This fantastic gleaners group coordinates volunteers to pick unwanted crops and donate half to Marion-Polk Food Share.  The harvest was very popular with families and I really enjoyed seeing other moms with young tots and the older kids stretching to their tiptoes to reach the next sweet red morsel.

The plan for these sweet little Queen Anne Cherries was to can them for winter pastries. So the next night we dusted off our water-bath-canner reviewed our food preservation books (we're a little out of practice since Williams birth) and after a call to both mother and grandmother for extra fruit canning tips we dived in hands first.  Canning always feels so much simpler than I think it will be and setting up the pitting, washing and canning area in the garage instead of the kitchen is FANTASTIC!

The biggest surprise to me was that to dry fruit or veggies correctly (according to Preserving The Harvest) after running the fruit in the dehydrator for the recommended time (and temp) we must then "cure" the dried fruit in a non-reactive open container stored in a warm dry place.  The dry fruit must be stirred 1-2 times per day for 7-14 days.  Then the final step is to pasteurize the dry fruit by cooking briefly in a cool over or spending a few days in the freezer.  We will report the detailed results later, but I can tell you from the few I've been seeking into my oatmeal in the morning, the results are delicious.

The end result of our week of harvesting is

  • Approximately 10 cups of dried organic sweet cherries "curing" on Jim's dresser destined for muffins and oatmeal (or possible to be smothered in melted dark chocolate and given as christmas gifts
  • About 4 "pies-worth"(official measurement) of organic sweet cherries in the freezer (which may end up in the dehydrator if I can't find the trick to baking an acceptable cherry pie)
  • 7 quarts of Queen Anne cherries in light syrup
  • 1 edible but not stupendous cherry pie (made with a coconut oil pastry crust,  Queen Anne and sweet black cherries)

Not bad for our first cherry season in the Cherry City, and a stupendous way to begin the season of unwashed floors and dirty knees.

Queen Anne cherries in light syrup, processed in a
water-bath-canner, they really loose their color
Organic sweet cherries ready to be dried in our basic food dehydrator

Monday, July 9, 2012

First Green Birthday - a year in review

Today is Liam's first birthday, and I thought I should take a moment and reflect back on our families goals and accomplishments.

1- We wanted Liam to make a small impact on the environment
  •  Cloth diapers have been a huge success! They are way cheaper and easier than disposables, and they work better! We gave up using the occasional disposable when they started printing the Lorax character on them (but that's another subject entirely)
  • We have exclusively breastfed and bottle fed expressed breast milk (EBM)
  • We always try to buy used clothes and toys first (especially colorful adorable sweaters, but that's also another subject entirely)

Liam modeling the adorable sweater that started my addiction (circa December 2011)

  • We threw a huge birthday bash for Liam and Dad and managed to keep it very green: compostable plates, jam jars for cups, real utensils, and compostable cupcake wrappers (all natural parchment paper).  The total garbage produced from the party was less than half a grocery bag (and consisted of a little plastic film and half a hotdog- just the meat part, composted the bun.)

The compost bin - 2 days post party
2- We wanted to live "actively"
  • For the first six months Liam rode the bus and rode in a stroller most days (much of the time out of necessity as much as convenience) and we tried to limit the use of the car to my long commute and the trips to visit family
  • At six months Liam could hold himself up well and wear a bike helmet.  So, we started him in a Peapod seat on the back of Dad's xtracycle.

Liam's first Bike ride (January 2012)
  • In February we moved to Salem, reducing my daily commute from a 60 mile round trip by car to a 2 mile round trip by bike (or foot).  Now Liam and Dad walk or ride to my work every day for lunch so we can nurse and play and eat together.
  • We can now grocery shop and do most other errands exclusively by bike (and sometimes by foot).
Riding home from shopping trip to Roth's in West Salem, we love crossing the Willamette on the Steel Bridge.

3- We wanted to eat whole foods and teach Liam to enjoy the seasonal variety Oregon has to offer
  • We've dived in to the local markets and really been please by what the Cherry City has to offer.  Even during the hungry months (February and March in my book) we could find enough local produce at the public market to fill the meals (somewhat creatively) each week.  This included  trying out cardoon, turning some wrinkly apples into fresh sauce, and eating alot of leafy greens.
  • We've joined a local harvest group that cleans-up unwanted crops for donation and our own consumption
  • Friends in our new community have helped us find new foraging areas, shared harvests of delicious wild greens (we made a rocking nettle quiche!) and have invited us to harvest at their homes when there is an overabundance (we have a freezer full of raspberries and a giant bag of cherries on my table waiting to be processed)
  • I started making my own yogurt which Liam really enjoys too.  (Now I just need to find a source for good local milk)
  • We put the work into starting a new vegetable garden and some perennial edibles at our new place in Salem (even after saying we would wait a year to discover the sun an soil situation)
Liam helping Dad put up the new garden fence
  • The whole foods we find essential and can't find locally (flour, beans, rice, oatmeal, olive oil, peanut butter) we try to buy in bulk quantity from a good source and store in our make shift basement pantry

We prefer Bob's Red Mill Flours and Grains (25lb bags stored in food grade buckets), Maranatha peanut butter and Napa Valley Naturals Olive Oil (purchased by the case from the manufacturer online)
  • We finally purchased a pressure cooker! Now we can smoke, dry, freeze, water-bath-can, and pressure-can for winter
  • Most importantly we let Liam try everything possible.  To my discontent the only food he just doesn't seem to excited about is avocado! but I am saved by his apparent love for heirloom tomatoes, raspberries, and blueberries.  Other wonderful surprises have been his love of homemade whole wheat bread, black beans, lentils, and plain popcorn.
Liam enjoying a cherry today at lunch (Mom removed the pit first)

Every day of success breeds the next round of life changing goals (I want to make lavender and rosemary hand cream and age prosciutto in the basement).  It's a open ended process full of dirt, and sweat, and peeing on paper-plates while they rot back to the soil we will grow next years dinner in.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Moo Moo Buckaroo

-That was a friends facebook status update one day last week.  I (and I'm sure many other Moms who are members of the pumping club) couldn't help smiling to myself.

Pumping is an odd and impersonal necessity for a working mum like me. I have a deep desire to breastfeed my son as long as he needs and a financial and cultural necessity to work away from home while he is still completely dependent on me for his nutrition needs.

This creates an unwelcome dichotomy of being the breastfeeding nurturer and the absentee working parent.  Balancing stress of accomplishing enough work tasks each day to be satisfied in yourself and justify to yourself your continued absence from your child's day with the stress of producing enough milk each day at work can be challenging.

I've found myself with a problem I've read other working mums give themselves, the over production problem.  It seems to start when our babies are very young and eating constantly.  We see the looming deadline on the calendar for returning to work, it's always too soon.  The books we read and advice from podcasts and professionals tells us to pump every second we can to build up a stock of frozen milk, plus needing to save 25-30oz of fresh milk for your first day back.

So we pump. We wake in the night to pump, we pump during morning naps, we pump on one side while the baby feeds on the other, we pump before bed, and eventually by tiny increments we prepare for our absence from our babies lives.  It some days felt like the need to pump and the nagging worry about saving enough was stealing what little remaining time I had with my son.

The sneaky thing about this method of building up a frozen supply is that we teach our breast  that our babies need more milk than they can drink in a day.  I've gotten in to this downward spiral of pumping in which my body thinks I need to feed the baby 5-10oz more than he'll eat.  This leaves me painfully engorged, leaking milk during the night, and sometimes spraying my baby in the face when I try to feed him.  This then requires pumping for relief thus continuing the cycle of over production.

I have tried to leave a little engorgement to teach my breasts no to make so much, but I fear loosing my supply.  I would guess this is a fear many working breast-feeders share. So, instead I'm looking in to the possibility of donating the excess.  This may mean more coughing and sputtering from my little guy when I'm over producing on the weekends, but I think we will continue to cope it if means reducing the constant fear of loosing the one thing that connects me to him when I'm working.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Becoming a working mother - Being of two minds

I've been back at work for two weeks now.  In one big way it wasn't what I expected.  I think the work I do is very important but those first few days back I did NOT feel like my career mattered.  I guess it's all about biology and perspective - who cares about the preserving or protecting the environment when every molecule of your being is telling you how unnatural it is to be separated from your baby.

It felt very unfair to have to return to work when William was just 10 weeks old.  I know that many working mums, in THIS country, have to return even earlier but that is so unnatural!  The last few weeks of maternity leave I actually felt very resentful of our work-centric culture.

The transition has turned out to be much more of an upheaval for Jim and William than it is for me.  I've managed to fall back in to my work smoothly and (though I'm still not caught up from being gone for the summer) finding ways to be very productive (both in work and milk quantity).

Mondays are especially hard for Jim and William, I think it's partially because he becomes accustomed to being constantly cuddled and carried that when suddenly it's just him and Dad he has trouble adapting.  I look forward to the day when he understands the difference between weekends and weekdays and can comprehend that I'm not gone forever when I'm at work.

Thursdays are especially hard for me.  I work 10 hour days, which is great for the long weekends, but means by Thursday I've seen very little of my son during waking hours.  By Thursday I'm dying to spend the day with him and the hours until I can leave just get longer and longer.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bottle feeding Expressed Brest Milk (EBM) - more complex that we thought...

We had no idea when we bought our supply of traditional glass bottles that bottle choice was so complicated and there were issues such as; there really is no such thing as interchangeable nipples for baby bottles.  From the admittedly limited reading I had done of bottle feeding EBM the biggest challenge sounded like it would be getting your baby to take the bottle at all.

It was apparent the first time we bottle fed William the bigger issue was how fast he could finish a bottle.  Being a healthy breastfed baby makes him a VERY strong nurser and the slow flow nipples on the glass evenflo bottles were no match for him.  He drank 4oz in about 4 minutes the first time which was much to fast to for him to realize how full he was and he got very upset when there wasn't more milk in the bottle.

First we tried to find other nipple for the glass bottles and that was when we learned just how complicated bottles have become, there is almost no interchangeability between bottle companies, and often none between product lines of the same company.  There were other companies making glass bottles with different nipples, but we knew we might have to give up the idea of glass for a bottle that he could eat slowly and calmly from.

After talking to other moms we tried Advent, Dr. Browns, and Breastflow bottles, and it was the very weird large double nipple of the breastflow bottles that was a winner in the end.  Of course there is no glass option for these bottles but at least they claim to be BPA free.

Jim's been practicing with these bottles in preparation for me returning to work next week.  He's getting rather good at calming tricks and he found a clever little way to bottle feed when William is upset.  Jim mimics side-lying breastfeeding in bed by laying down with William on his side and offering him a bottle that way.  I thought it was a very clever adaptation.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Green Diapering: Successes and Failures

In the wake of our local cloth diaper store closing I feel compelled to reflect on our green diapering experience so far.

Our goal of having William leave a tiny carbon footprint for his diaper use had a little set back with his extended stay in the hospital.  For the first week of life William sported disposable pampers an was cleaned with disposable wipes.  I have to say babies in hospitals is really what disposables were meant to be used for.  I can't imagine what a pain it would be dealing with all those dirty cloth diapers and trying to teach exhausted new parents how to cloth diaper along with everything else they're learning.  I know there was a time this was the norm, but I'm grateful we have a different option now.  Although I don't see any reason hospitals can't use chlorine free diapers; better for babies and the environment.

And now for our second green diapering confession we brought the open packages of of wipes and disposables home from the hospital, and we used them!  I was totally overwhelmed by the chaos in our home when we brought a screaming newborn inside to meet the fleet of pets.  I carried him straight to his changing table and tried to put a cloth diaper on him like a good green mom.  I can't tell you what a relief it was when Jim suggested we hold off on the cloth until the next day.

And the next morning we started experimenting in cloth diapering and Jim made another great suggestion; we start just with the diapers and then would ease in to the cloth wipes in a day or two.  That gradual switch to green diapering made the transition feel like an accomplishment instead of a duty.  Progress not perfection! (what the motto of all green parents should be)

The first few weeks in cloth we really struggled with the fit of his Happy Heinys pocket diapers.  His legs weren't quite chubby enough to get a tight fit and we had numerous accidents through the leg holes.  We were very glad to have some pre-folds to fall back on since the covers had a tighter leg fit.

And now for our third green diapering confession, we bought more disposables after we got home.  We're actually on our third package now and have moved up another size.  (not too bad for 7 weeks) It was great to have them for emergency back up in the diaper bag and for nights when he was so upset cloth just seemed impossible.  This last package we just bought because he was being babysat for a few hours, and it seem like the right thing to do.

We may never be one of those families who travel with diaper bucket and laundry soap and bogarts our parents washing machine at christmas to wash cloth diapers, but the way we figure it is every time we wrap his hiney in cloth it's one less disposable the will end up in the landfill.