Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

...since being pregnant: Popsicle Molds! $1 at Dollar Tree... sometimes I just needed some quick sugar to keep me from throwing up while I made dinner. And sometimes I just want something cold. Re-livin' my childhood making grape juice popsicles! :)

As always when I pile on the milk products (as I have to to get enough protein, since I can hardly eat any meat, and for a while fish made me gag), Lactose Intolerance is my enemy. Lactaid is my friend. :)

For the ever present acid reflux (triggered most predictably by cinnamon, tomato sauce, chocolate, acetic acid (Vit C added to stuff), and peanuts... but sometimes just there because Little Miss decides to snuggle up in my stomach's space.)

My neti pot-- crucial in preventing further sinus infections (which would be very probable considering all the extra milk I'm intaking)-- so far, 100% effective. I use it at the first sign of sinus pressure or congestion, and it always feels SO good afterwards...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gluten Free... DOUGHNUTS, BABY!!

My friend Mary Scott made doughnuts with her kids the other day, and it got me to craving them. You know how long it's been since I had a doughnut? Me neither. A long time. I remember I liked Dunkin' Doughnuts better than Krispy Kreme... I like cake-y over flaky... haha. But beyond that, it's all a distant memory.

I began stalking the web for simple recipes I could try. I found one for gluten-free fried doughnuts, and another for gluten-free baked doughnuts... and both looked/sounded amazing. Unfortunately, I really couldn't pull off either of them; not enough oil for frying, and no special doughnut-baking-pans (kind of like muffin tins). So, I improvised... it would have to be better than nothing, right? I used the fried doughnut recipe (it sounded like it would be more solid) and shaped most of the dough into O's and holes- with some difficulty because of how sticky the dough was,- and baked them at the baked-recipe's temperature, just on a normal cookie sheet. While that was baking, I used my teensiest saucepan and fried a half dozen doughnut holes... just to see if I could do it without setting the house on fire.

The results?
Fried: The fried holes instantly threw me back to the sweet days of funnel cake eating. It must have been the fried dough rim, because Ryan didn't think they really tasted all that much like funnel cakes. I'm convinced that if I just used a ziploc bag w/ a corner cut off and sqeezed the dough into hot oil, that I could have my very own gluten-free funnel cake... a secret longing for years now.

Baked: they came out a little dry, so I brushed them with melted butter & sprinkled a struesel topping on, and put them back in the warm oven for a few minutes. When they came out, they were quite tasty! Not quite the same consistency as their fried counterparts, but yummy nonetheless. Cried out for an accompanying glass of milk.

I'll post recipes & photos later... in the meantime, Ryan keeps going back into the kitchen and coming out with his mouth suspiciously full. I think I need to intervene before I'm once again left doughnut-less. ;)

Thank you Mary Scott!

We're going out to dinner w/ some friends in a half hour, then dessert w/ other friends after that, and I'm currently full to bursting. But ya know what? I KNOW I'll be hungry again by the time we order food. This is when I LOVE being pregnant!! :)

P.S. Mary, you'll also be pleased to know I couldn't resist any longer & I picked 3 green tomatoes to do you-know-what for lunch tomorrow. =D We really will have lots of fun when you come visit!!
P.P.S Also coming up: a very tasty gluten-free cherry crisp recipe.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

31 Weeks (almost 32)

One of my friends does these weekly online surveys about her pregnancy. I don't feel an urge to
do THAT, but since I wasn't sure what else to post I thought I'd give it a try. :) I know it would make sense for me to do this AFTER my visit Friday when I know how much I've gained, etc., but oh well.

How far along? 32 weeks tomorrow
Total weight gain/loss: ... from my pre-pregnancy weight, I think about 16 lbs. From the lowest I went during the first trimester, about 21.
Maternity clothes? Exclusively, with the exception of my PJs and a few Med T-shirts (I usually wear S t-shirts...and I just let my belly be exposed in my pyjamas b/c they're so comfy!). I even outgrew one pair of my shorts (they started giving me major wedgies... didn't you want to know that?).
Stretch marks? I think maybe one or two... but I sure hope not!
Sleep: God's preparing me for the 3 mid-night nursing sessions, I think. I slept all the way through the night last night, though, to my delight & shock. I woke up ravenous, dehydrated & with a pounding headache, but it was worth it!
Best moment this week: pregnancy wise? hmmm... I love the lazy mornings when Ryan & I wake up slowly, and he rolls over and puts his hand on my belly so we can both feel Baby Girl waking up. Sometimes we play "chase" with her, we always talk to her and poke her back. OH!! Last Saturday she had the hiccups during one of our morning still-in-bed-lazy-times, and it was so cute! Ryan got to feel her and we both could see her hit my belly with every hiccup...
Movement: Every day, all the time, it seems. Especially when I sit or lean or lay with something against my back. And she's definitely more crowded in there, frequently pushing out HARD with entire limbs or her head... ouch!
Food cravings: nothing really... just lots of food in general. :) I sure am enjoying cherries, though!
Gender: still the same, duh. She's our little girl.
Labor Signs: she's steadily dropping lower (ouch) and I had Braxton Hicks contractions (I think) once while in my Aqua Aerobics class last week
Belly Button in or out? In. But really stretching out. If I just barely push around it, it pops out.
What I miss: being able to sit or stand comfortably for long periods of time
What I am looking forward to: having her room & things ready for her... slowly but surely we're getting there. That and meeting her -- I can't wait to figure out which body parts I've been feeling!
Weekly Wisdom: ENJOY every thing and give thanks to the Father of all Kindnesses. It all goes by so fast, and things will never be the same.
Milestones: I passed the 3-hour oral glucose tolerance test. I do NOT have diabetes, woohoo. Finally looking pregnant to strangers. Now I can joke in Kroger with people in front of me about it... yes, I've done that. Also, two women told me I looked really big. Which is unusual for me to hear!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Veggies: It's What's for Dinner

Lately our CSA box has been full of cabbage, small red onions (like shallots), cloves of garlic, and red or golden potatoes. The onions & garlic are easy to use, and they keep forever... potatoes, too. But what to do with all the cabbage? I can only tolerate so much in green salads... and I did make some yummy coleslaw, but wanted a little variety.

Ryan's wisdom teeth extraction last week also demanded lots of soft foods... I went to my standby The Joy of Cooking, and found within this trusty tome a recipe that was a Szrama hit. Maybe you'll enjoy it, too!

Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage & Scallions (Colcannon)
an Irish Favorite, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Place in a large saucepan (or Dutch oven):
2 lbs Yellow finn, Yukon gold or all-purpose potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 1/2" chunks.
Add cold water just to cover. Pile on top of potatoes:
2 bunches scallions (or 2 shallots)
1 sm head green cabbage (~1lb), cored & chopped into 1" pieces
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to gentle boil. Cook, covered until potatoes are fork-tender (~20 min). Drain & return veggies to pot. Mash the mixture over low heat while adding:
1/2 c half & half or whole milk (I prefer 1/2 & 1/2), warmed
4-8 T butter, softened (the more, the better, especially if it's nice yellow spring butter!)
1 t salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
When mixture is coarsely mashed, taste & adjust seasonings & serve.
*I found that I wanted to add back in some of the drained liquid (a little more than a 1/4 cup) to help with the texture, so you may not want to throw it out right away. It's really rich in nutrients, too, so at least you could give it to your plants! Including 2 cloves of garlic in the boiling process would be yummy, too!

We are also enjoying lots of fajitas, hummus w/ falafel (lots of yummy garden tomatos to dip and the fabulous yellow cucumbers from our CSA!!!) & Thai curry (great way to use up veggies I don't particularly like-- like green beans & broccoli!)... and I'm making some mint iced tea with stevia & mint from our garden right now. Yummy!
--Off to get the tea

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Sad Day

My favorite authors, save 3, are all Episcopalians: CS Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, Marva J. Dawn, Sheldon Vanauken, Lauren Winner, George MacDonald ... even John Stott & Bishop JC Ryle. (Tolkien was Catholic, John Piper is definitely Baptist, and I don't know about Elizabeth George Speare.) I think it's the combination of a rich, thought-out, poetic liturgy with sound doctrine, free of any extra-Biblical [Catholic] trappings (aka worship of saints, veneration of Mary, icon usage, purgatory), that attracts Christian wordsmiths. And that in turn attracts me. =D I've often thought to myself that if anyone was to peg my denominational leanings based on my reading preferences, they'd think I was Anglican!

That said, this
article on Dr. Albert Mohler's blog saddened me. The article relates the statements made by Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, all in her opening address to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (which met last week in Anaheim, California). She described her views on both her "Gospel" and heresy:

"Heresy": "that great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God."
"The Gospel":
"I said that this crisis has several elements related to that heretical and individualistic understanding. We’ve touched on one – how we keep this earth, meant to be a gift to all God’s creatures. The financial condition of the nations right now is another element." "We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box."

Dr. Mohler does a great job explaining why her view of heresy is so off the mark, so I refer you to his article for that. He also does a good job explaining what exactly her address said regarding a denomination-wide focus on environmental and social concerns rather than on seeing individuals (those which make up communities!) come to an intimate, joyful, saving knowledge of Christ. Christ... The Vehicle to the Divine, indeed... and the self-proclaimed "one Name under Heaven by which men might be saved."
Here the presiding bishop of a large, erstwhile Gospel-cherishing denomination has effectively switched 'heresy' and 'Gospel.' What saddened me was remembering the theology upon which the Anglican/Episcopalian Church was founded (and which many of its churches do still espouse). The Westminister Confession, which was drawn up by the leaning clergy of the day in 1646, states regarding Jesus Christ,

"It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only-begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and men, the prophet, priest, and king; the head and Savior of the Church, the heir or all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did, from all eternity, give a people to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and lorified." (Chapter 8, "Of Christ the Mediator," 1)."

Not quite just a "vehicle to the divine."
On how any person can be saved, it says,
"The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.[...] the principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace." (Chapter 19, "Of Saving Faith, 1 -2)
I find the section on repentance to be the most clearly opposed to what Bishop Jefferts Schori put forth:

"I. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ. (so who's the heretic if this is NOT preached?)
II. By it a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.
III. Although repentance be not to be rested in as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God's free grace in Christ; yet is it of
such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.
IV. As there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

V. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man's duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.
VI. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof, upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy: so he that scandalizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him. "

I pray that there were many bishops and pastors present at that convention who were grinding their teeth and wanting to cry out in outrage and dismay, who were both frightened and grieved that such an utter deviation-- a complete 180 degrees opposite position adopted-- from the original Scriptural understanding their denomination put forth, would be so publicly proclaimed. I pray that many present there would regret electing a woman with such theology as presiding bishop, that they would confront her in love, and that God might bring this denomination back to its solid foundations!

May God not let His Word be trampled upon.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Garden Fresh

Our gardens have not yet started yielding abundantly, apart from the mint & chives which never fail. Ryan & I did eat one rather tart blackberry each the other day... but we still are waiting for cucumbers, peppers, canteloupe, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes to be ready to harvest. We know the blueberries won't be ready 'til next year (we planted 2 plants in different spots). I'm especially waiting on the tomatoes. I'm quite disappointed with the cantelope thus far; it seems to be afflicted with the same blight that killed most of our pumpkins last year-- I think it's something about our yard-- despite my mulching it and spraying it preventatively this year. I have to cut off every leaf that's diseased, so I'm not sure how long the plant will make it.

Cantelope (note how many leaves are gone) and yellow cherry tomato bush

One of our blueberry bushes (can you tell we need to mow the grass?)

Our garden exploded a bit this year, with everything surviving except the marigolds, lol... much to my surprise. So the small plot is a bit overcrowded some of the plants are suffering for it. :( Oh well, live & learn. I also will get stuff in the ground a bit earlier next year, seeing as how I won't be always throwing up or lying down. I thought I'd take some pictures for those of you interested in that sort of thing.

Hooray! Our first little bit of harvest (they are yellow cherry tomatoes, so that's their ripe color)

Some almost-ripe berries (bush was transplanted from Uncle Steve's garden in Greenville last summer)

P.S. Jeannette- I updated the CAD post with full-length pictures. Now you can see the famous tail. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quote Time...

from today's "Of First Importance" email:

“Beware of making a "Christ" of your faith, precious as it is. If you are staying away from the Savior because your faith is weak, you are substituting your faith for Christ—the channel--for the Fountain of comfort, peace, and salvation. If I have a mission to the sovereign of these realms—some petition to prefer—and I linger upon the steps that conduct me to the royal presence, or in the corridor that leads me into the royal chamber, what marvel if I have no audience, and, consequently, no response to my request? That lofty flight of steps, that magnificent corridor, are but introductions to my approach to the sovereign, not the sovereign herself. Such is faith! Divine and precious as it is, faith is but the path that leads us to the King.”
- Octavius Winslows,
The Preciousness of Faith

Reminds me of the Caedmon's Call song "Shifting Sand:"
Sometimes I believe all the lies/ So I can do the things I should despise/ And every day I am swayed /By whatever is on my mind /I hear it all depends on my faith,/ So I'm feeling precarious. /The only problem I have with these mysteries/ Is they're so mysterious// My faith is like shifting sand, /Changed by every wave; /My faith is like shifting sand, /So I stand on grace.//"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Just So You Can Laugh a Bit...

One of my friends sent me the link to this video (and the song could be about her)... I guess because the song could be about me. I think it's hilarious!! I love the part about "She has a tatoo that says "I heart John Piper" in Greek, and she likes Spurgeon more than she likes me." And the "she chose me" reference is rather funny, too. :) If ya can't laugh at yourself, you're probably wrong...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Baby Carriers & Slings

I'm looking for input from all you baby-wearin' mamas out there. What type of sling/carriers have you used, and which have you liked best? I have been given an Infantino lie-down infant carrier, as well as 3 Snugli/Baby Bjorn front-carriers (don't worry- I've given the extra 2 away =D). I think my aunt is also giving me a Maya wrap. I'll of course be happy to use those, but I do want to use something that won't hurt my back...

I've looked online and really like the Ergo baby carrier-- has anyone used this or heard anything about it, good or bad? What about the Hug-a-monkey carrier? It looks really simple to use and like it wouldn't strain a back.

------------EDIT: My sister-in-law Kendi pointed me to this babywearing site that seems really cool! It shows lots of different positions & wrap styles, especially using what they call a "spof" (simple piece of fabric) rather than a structured carrier or a ring sling.

Please keep the input coming! I need it! :)


... Cow Appreciation Day, of course!! :)

Ryan & I have friends who work at Chick-fil-a, and they reminded us of the annual event. If you come dressed like a cow, you get any free meal, and if you come wearing any cow attire, you get free fries or something comperable. Ryan & I were feeling a bit goofy today, so we decided to go for it. One of Ryan's innumerable YMCA shirts got turned inside out, covered in spots and an "Eat Mor Chikin" sign, I whipstiched a quick tail together, threaded a bell from our gift-wrapping-supplies box onto a ribbon for a collar, and cut out some ears from a black scrap I had. Ta-da! Too bad I didn't have any black face paint...

We had so much fun making the costume and then being goofy while at the restaurant. Ryan kept mooing at all the kids and showing them his cool tail. It was a great date! :)

We figure next year I'll make a costume for me & Ryan can re-wear this one, and we'll do something fun for the baby. Happy Cow Appreciation Day!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dialogue between Eowyn & Faramir

Faramir: Éowyn, why do you tarry here, and do not go to the rejoicing in Cormallen beyond Cair Andros, where your brother awaits you?
Éowyn: Do you not know?
Faramir: Two reasons there may be, but which is true, I do not know.
Éowyn: I do not wish to play at riddles. Speak plainer!
Faramir: Then if you will have it so, lady, you do not go, because only your brother called for you, and to look on the Lord Aragorn, Elendil's heir, in his triumph would now bring you no joy. Or because I do not go, and you desire still to be near me. And maybe for both these reasons, and you yourself cannot choose between them. Éowyn, do you not love me, or will you not?
Éowyn: I wished to be loved by another. But I desire no man's pity.
Faramir: That I know. You desired to have the love of the Lord Aragorn. Because he was high and puissant, and you wished to have renown and glory and to be lifted far above the mean things that crawl on the earth. And as a great captain may to a young soldier he seemed to you admirable. For so he is, a lord among men, the greatest that now is. But when he gave you only understanding and pity, then you desired to have nothing, unless a brave death in battle. Look at me, Éowyn!
Faramir: Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart, Éowyn! But I do not offer you my pity. For you are a lady high and valiant and have yourself won renown that shall not be forgotten; and you are a lady beautiful, I deem, beyond even the words of the Elven-tongue to tell. And I love you. Once I pitied your sorrow. But now, were you sorrowless, without fear or any lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you. Éowyn, do you not love me?
Éowyn: I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun; and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren. No longer do I desire to be a queen.
Faramir: That is well; for I am not a king. [how can that line not make you smile?] Yet I will wed with the White Lady of Rohan, if it be her will. And if she will, then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden. All things will grow with joy there, if the White Lady comes.
Éowyn: Then must I leave my own people, man of Gondor? And would you have your proud folk say of you: "There goes a lord who tamed a wild shieldmaiden of the North! Was there no woman of the race of Numenor to choose?"
Faramir: I would. [again, I have to grin]
Faramir: Here is the Lady Éowyn of Rohan, and now she is healed.
Warden: Then I release her from my charge and bid her farewell, and may she suffer never hurt nor sickness again. I commend her to the care of the Steward of the City, until her brother returns.

What's in a Name?

A lot of people have asked us about our daughter's name-- where we got it, why we chose it, what it means. And I'm sure a lot of people WANT to ask; they're just too polite. So I thought I'd briefly explain it... it's not pure nerdiness, I promise. =D

Éowyn has long been my favorite character in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. She appears in the second book as the niece & adopted daughter of King Théoden of Rohan. If you've seen the movies, the Riders of Rohan, or the Rohirrim, are the nation of horse-riders. King Théoden is introduced as a dying old man with an addled brain, being controlled by Grima Wormtongue (in turn controlled by the evil wizard Saruman). Gandalf comes and sets him straight-- it's a pretty cool scene (very well done in my opinion). Anyway, Éowyn is his niece-- beautiful, lonely, and sad. Once her uncle is set free from Grima's influence and resumes his responsibilities as king of Rohan, she is a little happier... especially when her brother Eomer is cleared of all treason charges and un-banished. :)

Éowyn proves herself to be a very strong character; not only a capable leader, but an accomplished warrior as well-- one of the few Shield-Maidens of Rohan. She falls in love with Aragorn (I mean, who wouldn't? In the movies, he's played by Viggo Mortensen). All of these things lead to her depression--why? Because she knows she has the capacity to be great, and that's what she wants desperately... but she fears she'll instead be relegated to the side and forgotten, because she is a woman. Despite Aragorn's reminders that her work-- leading and caring for the women, children & elderly throughout the war-- is no less valorous, she still says her greatest fear is
"...[t]o stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire." For most of the story, Éowyn is a woman obsessed with being remembered as "great."
Éowyn: Shall I always be chosen? Shall I always be left behind when the Riders depart, to mind the house while they win renown, and find food and beds when they return?
Aragorn: A time may come soon when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defence of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.
Éowyn: All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield a blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.
Aragorn: What do you fear, lady?
Éowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.
Those of you familiar with the story know that she goes on to find great success in battle (disguised as a man), together with Merry (a hobbit) killing the Witch-king of Angmar and his Nazgul steed and turning the tide of the battle when all seemed lost. But this isn't why I so love Éowyn, nor why we are giving her name to our daughter. (Personally, I'll be quite content to stay behind and "fight on the home-front" if Ryan ever gets called off to active battle duty, and will teach my daughters to do the same.)

After the battle, Éowyn is badly wounded, with her death almost certain. She is carried to the Houses of Healing and tended by Aragorn himself, however, she still lacks the real will to fight back to life. Aragorn & Gandalf (the wizard with the pointy hat, for those of you who've only seen the movies) reveal that part of her depression is unrequited love-- not for Aragorn himself, but rather for the idea of Aragorn, as the conquering king ready to take the Throne of Gondor, and the heroic life he represents. While in the Houses of Healing, Éowyn meets another convalescent, Faramir, with quite the opposite temperament from her own; he is the man who would have ruled Gondor as Steward had Aragorn not shown up. However, he shows no bitterness as taking a lesser role, and sees his "greatness" as found in serving his lord and friend, Aragorn the King. He begins to love the hopeless Éowyn, and tries to draw her from her depression. It takes a lot of straight talking, and time together, but there is a beautiful scene near the end of the book, where all of a sudden it "clicks" for her: "Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else she understood it, [and she cried out] 'I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun; and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren. No longer do I desire to be a queen."

Éowyn finds freedom and joy in embracing contentment and humility. Once she learned to let go of her desire to be great, she found fulfillment in healing others, in loving and in being loved, and in tending growing things. She & Faramir marry, and happily tend & rule the principality of Ithilien.

My dad, the man who introduced me to Tolkien long before I read him myself, is praying the following things for our daughter:
"I'll pray she becomes a woman who ...
  • has strength to go forward in the face of despair
  • achieves victory against external and internal adversaries
  • gains wisdom to prefer contentment over greatness"
I think that about sums it up: now you know why we're giving our daughter such an outlandish name... and where the name & title of my blog originated. :)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

To Bank or Not To Bank...

I've been doing lots of "research" lately... on various baby-related topics, including vaccination, birthing procedures, state statutes & laws regarding prenatal tests, and this rather unexpected topic: cord clamping. Today I wrote a letter to the editors of American Baby, a magazine which many new parents receive for free around here. I thought I'd post it here (with extra hyper-links for your perusal) for your benefit:

Dear American Baby-

As expectant parents, my husband & I enjoy reading through your magazine each month. We love the quizzes especially. They're such good date-night conversation starters. :)

I've been a bit concerned though, as in every single issue there is at least one ad for umbilical cord blood banking. In drawing up a birth plan, I began to research options regarding cord cutting & clamping, and found that there are HUGE benefits to delaying the clamping & cutting of the cord. The placenta & baby are on a closed blood-cycle, with up to 1/3 of the baby's blood being circulated through the placenta at any given time. Cutting the cord immediately upon birth (as is required for cord blood banking) means that the baby's blood volume is drastically reduced. This means that the baby has fewer oxygen and iron- carrying red blood cells, as well as fewer disease-fighting white blood cells. Several recent studies (including one from the May 2007 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association) have shown that waiting even 2-3 minutes before clamping & cutting the cord allows the baby's blood to drain out of the placenta & into the baby where it belongs, protecting against anemia and irregular breathing for weeks after birth. This is crucial for low birth-weight babies as well as babies whose breathing is delayed (the placenta keeps supplying oxygen-rich blood until the baby can breathe on her own). Ideally, a cord can be left attached to the placenta (in the mother) until it stops pulsating, indicating that all the blood has drained out, and then cut as usual.

For blood to be banked from the umbilical cord, the cord MUST be clamped & cut ASAP. That blood then must be stored, against "some day" when my child (or someone else's) MIGHT need it. That seems a bit backwards-- taking blood that should be in my baby now (which she definitely needs right then) for someday when he or someone else might need it. When you add $$ for storage to the equation, you positively have a racket going on. Quote from the American Academy of Pediatrics' 1999 statement: "It has been shown that the timing of umbilical cord clamping has an important effect on the neonatal blood volume and the subsequent hematologic status. If cord clamping is done too soon after birth, the infant may be deprived of a placental blood transfusion, resulting in lower blood volume and increased risk for anemia in later life. Immediate cord clamping will, of course, increase the volume of placental blood for harvesting for cord blood banking. There may be a temptation to practice immediate cord clamping aggressively to increase the volume of cord blood that can be harvested for cord blood banking. This practice is unethical and should be discouraged."

Please consider these things as you continue to advertise. I think parents deserve to hear the benefits of delayed cord-clamping-- benefits which must be foregone if umbilical cord blood banking is pursued. (An article looking into both sides would be most appreciated!)

--Christina Szrama, Louisville KY
NB: A recent article in the Washington Post along these same lines. Interestingly, there is a story at the end about a family who is using cord-blood to treat their daughter who was brain-damaged by oxygen deprivation at birth. This is precisely what delayed cord-clamping/cutting protects against!
NB2: "Cord blood donation should be discouraged when cord blood stored in a bank is to be directed for later personal or family use, because most conditions that might be helped by cord blood stem cells already exist in the infant’s cord blood (ie, premalignant changes in stem cells)." (revised statement by AAP) --Children who are healthy at birth, with healthy cord blood, are precisely the ones who are least likely to need treatment (possibly using cord blood) in the future. Children who would need it later are precisely the ones who couldn't use their own blood. If anything, storing cord blood for treatment of other people in public banks is the way to go. Of course, this isn't what's marketed to parents...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Up Since 4

This is just insane! I woke up at 4 this morning, hungry, and feeling very low-blood-sugar-y. I grabbed some cheese and tried to sleep. No luck. Still hungry. Next, some raisins for the fiber, followed by handfuls of walnuts (kept beside the bed). Still hungry. More nuts... still deep abiding hunger. Now 6 am. Got up, ate bowl of brown rice w/ butter and drank some juice. Still hungry. Two bowls of rice later, I am STILL HUNGRY!!!

I feel like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and am running out of food to eat. I have not felt "full" enough to sleep in the past 4 hours, yet I haven't really stopped eating!!! I guess I did NOT eat enough for dinner last night or something. I did read that this week (Week 29) and month she's going to be growing at a really fast rate-- maybe I've lost all my energy reserves and am going to have to fuel this little one via direct chewing from here on out.

*sigh* I'd better go find something else to eat. :)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go...

"and when he is old, he will not depart from it..."

I love that verse. As a young, inexperienced parent, it comforts me, as I know that God often honors parenting that honors Him by allowing our children to continue to walk in His ways. But that verse can also be a bit frightening: "train up a child in the way he should go..." Yes, but what exactly is that way? I mean, how am I to train up my child? The Bible is soooo helpful-- it really is everything; an life-giving Story, a theology manual (for knowing & enjoying God), comforting & warning stories about flawed, beloved people, a practical guide to life, and a diagnostic manual for my own heart. It sure has plenty to say about parenting, and it speaks in so many different ways: for the cut-and-dry, there's the book of Proverbs, full of practical, easy-to-remember wisdom; for the more romantic and abstract, there are stories of both good & bad parenting examples; for the big-picture-minded, there are the epistles, which place family life in the context of a heart changed by the Gospel; and for all of us, there is a clear picture of God Himself-- The Father figure from whom all fatherhood draws its name, and one who also compares Himself to a perfectly gentle mother.

A Spectrum
Now... how does that fit in with all the books I've been reading? It seems that parenting- even Christian parenting- falls along a spectrum (doesn't everything?), with "attachment" or "gentle" parenting on one end, and with "scheduled" feeding and a more behavioral modification approach on the other. On one hand, let's say the left, you have: "Gentle Christian Mothering," breast feeding on-demand, co-sleeping, baby-wearing and an eshewing of any schedule, all with the goal of trying to ensure that your baby never cries (so of course, spanking is out). On the other hand, there is: scheduled feeding, "Growing Kids God's Way," "Baby Wise," separate beds for parents & child from Day 1, an emphasis on self-soothing and on "alone time" for even young babies, all with the goal of having your child fit into the schedule in place before he came along.

In wading through the different opinions and voices, I've found it helpful to group the two camps under "child-centered" (on the left) and "parent-centered" (on the right). Obviously, either can be totally idolatrous. All Christian parents want God to be at the center of their parenting... but it's easy to tip the see-saw a little too far one way or the other. As I've thought through both camps, I've come to what I think will be the Szrama-Mama guiding principal: I don't want to teach my child that she is the center of the universe, but neither do I want to teach her that I am the center of the universe.

Going for a Balanced Imitation of Christ
Thinking that way helps me sort of pick a middle ground, with what I hope will be the best parts of each "camp." You really don't have to be all one or the other-- can't I'll call my style "Attached-Wise Babying?" Hmm... I'll need to work on something catchier. ANYWAY, as a mama in imitation of the Good Shepherd who gave up all to come after me, I want to be self-sacrificing and patient. As a mother in imitation of the One who demands instant and total obedience, often without full explanations, I want to be a firm and a loving disciplinarian. Both are part of training up children to stay in the path of wisdom. Parents are to stand between our children and God, at first being virtually indistinguishable from Him from their vantage point, but as they grow teaching them more & more that we, too, are under authority and love: His.

Borrowing the Best from Both Worlds
From the "child-centered camp," I love the idea of baby-wearing. For past centuries in every culture, the best way to keep a baby safe while Mommy was working was to keep him with Mommy. It's also so similar to carrying them in the womb that this is soothing to the baby. I want to experiment with different carriers & slings so that I can find positions that help my back out and actually free my hands. I want my babies to be able to be away from me without panicking, but I'm not so convinced I need to mandate "alone time" for an infant. I'm happy carrying them around for the most part. From the "parent-centered camp," spanking and firm discipline go almost without saying-- Scripture is pretty clear on how these are to be used in love, never in anger (Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Ted Tripp, is a wonderful help in this). I fully embrace the feed-wake-sleep cycle as proposed by the authors of Baby Wise-- it makes so much sense and provides wonderful stability for both mother & child. I will be a much better wife & mother with more sleep, and will be so much more clued-in as to why my daughter might be crying if I know what she's used to experiencing at any given hour. Will I try and set the schedule so it fits her? Of course! Will I be trying to force my newborn into a schedule? No way!! When we do have an established routine, will I sometimes scrap it for her sake or mine? Yes! Will I expect it to change? What schedule doesn't?? I've seen several veteran moms model a schedule which guides without ruling... sort of like Jack Sparrow's view of The Pirate's Code: "they're more like guidelines, anyway." =D I will try to shy away from the constant refrain "oh, I'm sorry I can't do x, because my baby needs to nap in her bed at her exact naptime." The schedule is there to help me better serve my husband, children and King-- not to be the be-all and end-all.

Similarly, I want my children to be able to self-soothe, but I know that their ability will be immature for months, and they'll need me to come and help them learn. I'm not opposed to pacifiers, either. Much easier to break them of than thumb-sucking... you can't throw fingers in the trash. I know I'll be quite happy to let Eowyn "cry it out" sometimes... but I'm also not about to let her wail for 45 minutes at a time as a newborn. I think you get the idea.

As a last note, one argument I have heard for "on demand" feeding, which usually translates to "every time my baby cries, I [breast-]feed him," is that "That's how God treats us. He attends our every need and doesn't let us try to 'self-soothe'." While I see some truth in this, first I acknowledge that any analogy between me as a parent and God as cosmic ruler is gonna fall short. But even putting that aside, I say that God DOES let us "cry it out" sometimes. While He is always there, always attending to our needs, we often don't feel or agree with His attending. Think of Job, demanding answers & mourning his children as he scrapes his boils, or Joseph, languishing in prison for fleeing temptation. They sure didn't look or feel comforted like they wanted to be. But God was still good and kind, and working out purposefully for their good (Rom 8:28). David, who'd been promised a kingdom and found himself hiding in cave after cave as a madman sought his life, was still able to affirm "He has caught up my tears in a bottle: this I know, that God is for me..." If I let my daughter cry herself to sleep in a safe, warm house on a full tummy, with me a door away, every one of her needs is being met-- including her need to learn to pacify herself... but she probably doesn't like the way I'm meeting her needs. God answers our prayers in His way and in His timetable-- and He doesn't even need sleep! :) (Also, God doesn't answer every prayer with the same solution. That would be silly. Neither does every cry indicate true hunger, so why would I offer food?)

Once again, you have my humble musings. Hopefully I won't realize it was all a bunch of bunk once the little miss is here to stay. =D I don't think that will happen-- I've nannied, taught & babysat enough to have at least some idea of how things go... Pray for me!!


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Cutest Sailor Outfits EVER

I saw these sailor outfits, and immediately my heart melted; as you know, we're doing a "nautical" themed nursery. Of course these particular outfits are outrageously priced and out of the question... so if anyone sees cute sailor outfits for cheap (or even better- if you find a free online pattern for SEWING them) please let me know!

Coleslaw Attempt

As one who's allergic to soy, the primary ingredient in most mayo... which in turn in a key ingredient in most cole-slaws, I haven't enjoyed that traditional "patriotic" dish in years. This year, thanks to the new 1000 Gluten-Free Recipes (Carol Fenster) given to me for Christmas by my Aunt Robin, and in honor of the Fourth of July, I am trying it out. We get so much cabbage through our CSA that I'm at a loss for what to do with it... you can only stuff so much of it into salads, you know? (p.s. I'll be doing these the old fashioned way, with knife & cutting board, rather than w/ a food processor)

Two recipies from which to choose:

Cabbage Coleslaw
(serves 4)
1 small head red or green cabbage, chunked & quartered
1 med. carrot, peeled & cut into 1" chunks
1 sm. yellow onion, quartered
3 T cider vinegar
2 T honey
1 t Dijon-style mustard
1/4 c canola oil
1/2 t celery seed
1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground white pepper
1/4 t paprika (for garnish)
1. Working in batches, shred cabbage in food processor. Transfer to serving bowl. Similarly shred onion & carrot together and transfer to serving bowl.
2. Add remaining ingredients to processor & blend. Pour over coleslaw and toss to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle with paprika.
3. Cover tightly & refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Red Cabbage Coleslaw
(serves 8)
1 head (3 lbs) red cabbage, washed, cored & shredded
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c mayonnaise (I use safflower, canola or other non-soy mayo)
3 T cider vinegar
1 T honey or agave nectar
2 t Dijon mustard
1 t celery salt
1 t celery seed
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 T chopped fresh parsley, or 1 T dried (for garnish)
1. Combine cabbage & onion in a med. serving bowl.
2. In small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over cabbage & stir with spatula to blend thoroughly.
3. Garnish w/ parsley. Chil for 2 hours or overnight. Serve chilled.

I shall give a full report post-production. :)


Friday, July 03, 2009

Nursery Fun

Now, this will not look too impressive, but that's because most of the nursery furniture & fixin's will start as... scrappy and end as... classy. I hope. :) The two biggest furniture items I've been lookin' for used are a dresser that we could also use as a changing table, and a wardrobe/armoire, so that we can save the closet in there to use as storage (as it's one of 2 closets in a house with no attic or basement storage, and the only one available to guests when they come). Other furniture-- rocker or glider, crib, and shelves are either optional or will be new purchases.

My friend Ashlea is into refinishing or repainting furniture, and had offered to re-do any one baby piece as her gift to us when I first told her I was pregnant. So I took her along with me to search for the perfect dresser. Most were too narrow, too tall, too short or too expensive. We stopped in at the Preston Hwy Goodwill just because we were driving by, and Ashlea spotted It:

Ta-Da! Not only does it have the perfect sized drawers, it even has a tall armoire portion, wherein I may house a hamper or a cloth diaper pail. It was the perfect heigth and width, too. Just in need of some love and sprucing up. As we started just pulling off the badly-done paint, we realized that it hid a gorgeous finish... too bad the previous owners had ruined with paint! We also saw the original tag on the back, and it was intended as a child's dresser- go figure! Anyway, it is currently at Ashlea's being stripped, sanded and painted in accordance with the nautical theme we've chosen for "the Children's Rooom." Yes, one day Eowyn will have to share her "nursery" with any and all siblings, until we get another house. ;)
We also got some cute shelves and coat-hangers that my sisters will help me sand down & paint & make generally more cute... Goodwill is the place to go! (the most expensive shelf was $2.50)

Today I went to Hancock's fabrics to look for PUL, the fabric I'd need to create "wet bags" for our cloth diapers. They didn't have any, but were beginning a Fourth-of-July Sale that had most of their cottons 50% off, all their Simplicity patterns for $1 (usually those run about $13!), and many of their novelties (aka ribbons & buttons) reduced, too! So I decided it was time to snag the fabrics I'll use to sew all the baby bedding & room decor. I got everything I need to make 2 crib sheets (one navy, one red), 1 red flannel winter crib sheet, an over-the-rail organizer, and a quilt, plus patterns to boot! Can you make out the sailboat fabric and the eyelet? I can hardly wait to get my sewing machine back (a friend's borrowing it) and get started!

In a few months I'll post pictures of the finished products!