Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dayspring Christmas Cards

Most years, I'm scrambling to get gifts wrapped, our yearly newsletter done, and our cards in the mail.  That last part especially sneaks up on me!  This year I feel pretty on my game for once (maybe not working full-time helps?)-- gifts are for the most part purchased, wrapped and already mailed or delivered to our far-away family; and for the first time EVER, our family Christmas cards are done and sitting beside me!!

I've used various photo Christmas card websites before, and most often have designed my own (using PowerPoint or Picasa), saved them as a jpg, and then ordered photo prints through whomever offers the lowest price I can find.  It's frugal, and more versatile than those in-store kiosks with the 7 backgrounds to choose from.  My method ensured I liked what I got (or at least knew what I was getting), but it is rather more time consuming than those afore-mentioned kiosks, not to mention the necessity of purchasing envelopes in appropriate sizes.  I pondered ordering photo cards through the photography studio that did our family portraits this year, just for ease and so they could be off-the-list, out-of-mind.  But the price tag of 30 for $20 kind of deterred me.

I had an opportunity to review some photo cards for DaySpring, and I was very pleased.  Here are five reasons you should check out Dayspring's Studio:

  1. ease of access:  no lines, no fuming when the kiosk deletes your pictures.  Log in from your own desk chair
  2. ease of use:  the user interface was simple and straight forward.  (The only thing that was kind of weird was getting your pictures put how you want them in your card, but after dragging the pic around I figured it out.  One thing I wish they had was a way to view all the cards with room for ___ number of pictures.  I knew I wanted to put in three particular photos, so would have benefited from that.  Just don't waste time looking for this option.)
  3. variety of design:  whatever your taste, you'll find a card that acurately represents YOUR family.  They really have SO many more options than most sites, too; you can do large numbers of photos on the back or the front of your cards.
  4. SCRIPTURE!! It's what all those other sites are lacking.  I loved seeing verses not usually quoted at Christmas applied very nicely to different card designs (not hard to do, considering the whole Bible hinges on the events of that First Christmas) 
  5. quality of service:  this area has impressed me about DaySpring overall. Our cards arrived promptly, and look nicer than I'd even imagined.  I opted for flat cards, and I love that, while the front has a beautiful matte photo finish, the back is good card stock so I can actually use them as cards!
Disclosure: I received 50 free Studio DaySpring Cards for free in exchange for sharing about it here. The above photos and opinions are my own. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Don't Toss It, Re-Toy It!

I mean, repurpose it into a toy!  Or into anything, for that matter

In an effort to be ever-more thrifty and green (and as stewards of God's creation, yes, that does matter), I've taken my recycling to a new level.  I still keep the paper bag by the back door for all those paper scraps (including junk mail), I continue to flatten boxes, and ruthlessly separate out any and all recyclable plastics.  But now I'm trying to find new uses for some of that stuff.  Like all kids, Eowyn is soooo entertained by unconventional toys-- like they're more "grown-up" or something, so here's some things I've done.  I can't wait to hear your ideas!

- large cylindrical coffee canisters w/ plastic lids -->as blocks & small toy containers; the advantage is that they roll,  making very interesting noises when containing blocks, and they double as little stools.  (For Eowyn, pretty much everything doubles as a stool)
- lids off juice & similar bottles --> colorful sorting objects (stored in rinsed-out baking powder containers with plastic lids).  Rinsed off, these are a great cheap way to start learning color, to practice pulling in & out, and to just stack.  Eowyn chooses this "toy" over all her others!  (The lids are non-toxic, and are often non-recyclable anyway)
- empty spools of thread -->  blocks (perfect for turrets on mini-castles).  Eowyn also puts them in with her caps and loves cleaning them up & dumping them out... over and over again...
- mis-matched socks--> sock puppets!  All it takes is drawn-on eyes, or 2 over-sized buttons VERY securely sewn on.
- paper still blank on one side--> great for all those daily "drawing projects"

Not toys, but more useful:
- holy socks--> either stitched up & turned into puppets, or cut off evenly and used as wrist or leg-warmers.
- glass jars w/ lids (salsa & the like)--> washed and used for food storage (who needs tupperware? =D), as glass won't absorb smells, and doesn't leak anything into food like plastic can. Dry-erase markers write on them and come right off!
- glass jars with lids--> great for beverages on-the-go for adults, like milk or water or kefir.
- plastic jars (peanut butter, etc.) --> used for a myriad of containing purposes.  Most recently I've taken two in my shower for my homemade shampoo alternatives (baking soda & apple-cider vinegar suspensions).  This way they won't shatter if they fall.  Others are at Sunday School holding markers, crayons & pencils. Others have gone to friends in "mercy meals" containing sauces, dressings and soups.

The key to re-using anything is making sure it's easy to keep clean, with no sharp edges.  Don't re-purpose anything that has held anything toxic (duh, I know).  Also bear in mind whether or not it will be in situations where it could be dropped.

Please pass on any tips you have!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Picky Eating Regime

I've got a little girl who's just learning what it means to eat.  Up until now, the majority of her diet has been liquid, there for the sweet drinking.  Now she's got to face a world of new textures, tastes, smells, skills, and even rules (such as "food goes in mouth, not in hair"). I have found myself already wondering what the balance between discipline and grace should be in this issue.  As another friend put it, what's our goal?  To raise obedient kids?  Thankful kids?  Non-picky eaters? Healthy eaters?  All of the above?  If so, to what extent of each?  This little article is (my first!) a guest post by Heather Mora Wood, a mama of three with much experience on both sides of this subject.  I found her story extremely helpful and reasonable, and thought this voice of experience might help moms in a similarly unfamiliar situation as my own.  Please feel free to add your own thoughts and experiences!

My children, (3,7,11) will eat almost everything and I pretty much don't ever hear the words "I don't like it" from them. The way I raised them was as a baby we started with the most disliked veggies and sweetened it up from there moving into fruits. I've always produced 1 meal for everyone to eat and would give a small amount of the new stuff for them to try. They had to eat everything on their plate, which was portioned out according to the normal amount they ate (to avoid overeating), and if it wasn't eaten then, it would transfer to the next meal. I would mix it with what ever we had at the next meal, with whatever was appropriate, and we'd talk about those starving kids in Africa. It also helped that we had a friend who literally grew up eating out of garbage cans and I could point out how blessed we are. I also exposed them to TONS of styles of food. The way I cook is basically by choosing the ethnicity for the day and make food according to it. And restaurant exposure is the same: tons of variety. From Thai to Mexican, from African to French, from Italian to Greek, they've tried it all and liked it! I've also been kinda strict on sauces. I expect them to try things "naked" before adding sauce, so they can learn the flavor on its own. I also have them help me in the kitchen so they see where food comes from. Most importantly, I didn't let anyone say that they didn't like something around them! I call them gourmet babies.

NOW, the opposite. My little sister came to live with me for a month and wouldn't eat anything except hamburgers, fries, noodles and some fruits plus tomatoes or carrots. She was the ultimate picky! She didn't even like bananas or pbj! She went through the drama about how she wouldn't eat what I prepared and I'd explain that as long as she lived with me she'd be eating what I made every meal. No choice. SO, for a few days she wouldn't eat anything. She drank water. Then she got brave enough to try things. For about a week it was gag this, throw-up that, cry about it all, I want something different. That's when I realized it truly was mental and will against will. I was going to win this battle I decided! My plan: trash can was her new best friend, we turned it into a game, and I put rules into play.

Rule number 1: she had to try everything on her plate at least once. If she threw it up, she'd have to take another bite. It had to be swallowed to count.
Rule number 2: she couldn't get up from the table until she did. I would sit with her while the rest of the family went on with their day (and to make sure she wasn't lying about the bites.) 
Rule number 3: I gave her different ways to try to get the food down and she could use all or some of them as long as they helped her accomplish her goal but NO WHINING (including pinching her nose so the taste wasn't as strong, chasing her bite with a huge glass of water, pretending like it was her favorite food and eating blindly, racing someone at the table to swallow the bite first, etc.) (Whining resulted in discipline.)
Rule number 4: If she could eat everything on her plate (which was baby portioned,) she was given a special dessert that she liked. 

It took about 2 1/2 weeks before she was eating along side us without whining and rarely throwing up! She learned to try everything without preconceived opinions and appreciate each item for what it was. We also started learning more about why to eat the different foods, like the vitamins in them. So she was making better choices also because she knew it was healthier for her body (and she's a sporty girl.) She was gradually allowed to start making educated opinions about certain foods that she seriously had tried but really didn't like, but they were few. She grew to love some foods she had hated, like bananas and pbj! Most importantly, she became more obedient learning through this experience that I had wanted to do what as best for her and better for her. She was grateful to now know what things like turkey, smoothies and cheese tasted like. 

So, to sum it up...yes, it will be hard work to fix but I do believe that most children's issues with certain foods are simply about who holds the power. The texture issue can always be resolved by turning it into a different texture, such as smoothie, cookie, casserole, soup, etc. Be creative and try what you know will work for your child and be prepared for a little vomit! :o)

Heather is passionate about equipping parents to deal with aplastic anemia, which her son Josef has struggled through and from which he is now enjoying remission (praise the Lord!).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Little Reminders of Grace

This is a different sort of post for me; my first "sponsored" review of a product (rather than a book).  Dayspring (yes, the Christian card makers), has a division of home products called (in)courage, and they sent me something to try out for free in exchange for my honest opinion on this blog.  An intriguing idea, which works out wonderfully if, as in this case, I end up really liking the product.

What did I get? this red-and-white Christmas pitcher from their "Jesus is the Gift" collection.  Now, if you know me, you know that I am frugal, and quite the minimalist.  My sisters called me "Mrs. Save-y-saver" because of my obsession with saving & re-purposing items rather than buying a new item specifically for a new purpose.  I've hardly given the seasonal house decor a second look (I'll make my own decorations, thank you!), and especially dismissed the "Christian" versions as yet another commercial marketing gimmick aimed sole-ly to get more money out of Christian consumers.

Going to the Relevant conference and seeing the room Dayspring put together changed that perception.  All of a sudden I was surrounded by beautiful reminders of God's character, His kindness, His provision, His Word & His care.  They had plates, paintings, mugs, platters, wall-hangings, bookmarks, journals, centerpieces and even paperweights.  I realized how helpful they were; daily reminders all around me that God is good.  Now, those reminders are around us whether we have special plates and wall-hangings or not.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, whether our spouses or our children or our plants or that yummy pumpkin pie.  And every event is a grace, every bit of food a mercy.  With some effort, we could make our own visual reminders-- Bible verses on index cards or in photo frames, embroidered towels, paintings, wreaths, and honestly, I will keep doing those things as long as I live, I hope.  But I'm also a busy mom these days.  When am I going to have the time to make those things, much less take up pottery or painting?

I love having people over, many of whom are unbelievers, the rest of whom are believers in need of reminders of God (just like me!).  Using serving items with these beautiful affirmations of truth is yet another way to proclaim our love for our Lord.  They are daily reminders for me as I walk by my dining room table (where they pitcher will soon replace my Fall arrangement), in this case, that Jesus IS the gift-- have I thanked God for Him recently?

Dayspring's delivery was wonderfully fast, too.  Within 4 days of my order, the pitcher was FedExed to my door in perfect condition. The pitcher isn't unwieldy or hard to use; neither is it difficult to clean. It's cheery and matches the Christmas decor I already have (red & white is pretty universal).  I find the swirls, dots and snowflakes to be fun, yet not tacky or childish-- tasteful.  I will be trolling the DaySpring store for gifts this Christmas and in the future!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thinking Through More Vaccines

Today we'll go through the other major vaccines, and I'll explain why we decided to get or avoid them.  Don't worry, I won't be so in-depth as I was with my example yesterday (pondering the chicken pox, or varicella, vaccine).  Of course, if a reader requests a similar analysis of a vaccine, I'll be happy to oblige!

Remember, these are the conclusions we came to for our family in our situation.  One of the biggest problems with the CDC schedule is that it forces a one-size-fits-all approach to children who are VASTLY different.  Your conclusions could be totally opposite because of where you live or what your genes are!!  That is OK!  Real quick, here are the 10 questions I use to evaluate each vaccine (or medical procedure) I'm given the option of having:

1. What disease(s) is this vaccine aiming to protect against?
2. What is the a) probable outcome of this disease, and b) worst-case scenario outcome?
3. Today, is this disease treatable and/or preventable by other/natural means?  
4. What are possible dangers in this type of vaccine (look up whole list of ingredients)?
5. What is the a) probable outcome of this vaccine, and b) worst-case scenario outcome?
6. How much has this vaccine been tested, and are those tests by objective testers?
7. How effective is the vaccine?
8. Are there any benefits to gaining immunity to this disease through actual infection, rather than through the vaccine?
9. What is the rationale behind getting the vaccine?  Is this valid/applicable to my situation?
10. Is the disease generally worse than the vaccine?
Now, each vaccine in turn briefly:
-Hepatitis A- No, because of #9.  This disease passes through feces-oral transmissions (diapers), or contaminated water/food.  Common in poor, crowded, unsanitary communities, which we do not inhabit.  If we travel internationally to an affected area, we would consider this vaccine.
-Hepatitis B- No, because of #9.  This is a sexually transmitted disease, which can only be passed to infants through an infected mother (which I am not).  There is absolutely no reason for a baby of a healthy mother to receive this shot.  If our child were to begin a career in health or public service, an adult vaccination would be appropriate.
-Polio (IPV)- No, mainly because of 2 & 5.  Even during epidemics, 95% of those exposed to polio will exhibit NO symptoms, and of those, 5% will have only mild flu-like symptoms.  Even among those 1 in 1000 who do exhibit muscular paralysis, the vast majority have a full recovery.  The real clincher, though, is the high percentage of contaminants which this vaccine has had over the years, and still can have now.  Monkey tissues are used to culture the disease, and diseases which monkeys carry harmlessly are deadly to humans. SV-40 infected at least 30 million (some estimate as high as 200 million worldwide) children in the 1960s vaccination campaigns, and is still being treated today in the form of numerous cancers.  Some evidence has shown that SV-40 has even been passed from vaccinated-infected-mothers to their children in the form of brain tumors!  While monkey tissues are now tested for SV-40 and various other diseases, the threat of viral contamination is still very high, and utterly probable.  Some postulate that HIV is the human version of SIV, which infects 50% of all African green monkeys (the kind most used to culture polio vaccines). Several doctors have warned that only about 2% of existing monkey viruses are known and are tested for, and since you can't test for something you don't know is there, who knows what might be in the vaccines. It just isn't worth the risk.(The definition of "polio" as counted by the CDC has become drastically more restrictive since the development of the vaccine, which further confounds the problem of judging its effectiveness; the numbers are falsely lowered.  Now a patient must exhibit the worst possible symptoms in order to be counted as having polio, as opposed to having mild symptoms and being counted.)  I've judged polio (which my child may well be immune to, like most of the population), to be less a risk than a cancer-causing virus.
-Rotavirus- no, mainly because of 2.  This vaccine is to prevent a disease which, while unpleasant (vomiting & diarhea) is treatable-- the main danger is dehydration.  The actual sickness only confers partial immunity (though repeat infections are usually less severe), so of course the vaccine-weakened form of the virus provides spotty protection at best.  
-Meningitis (both Hib & Pc)- Yes, mainly because of 10.  Meningitis begins with flu-like symptoms, yet can turn deadly in toddlers very quickly, though death is relatively rare. It was not uncommon, though breast-feeding and avoidance of day-care lowered risks considerably. While long-term effects of the vaccine are still undermined, and there are the usual cases of serious vaccine-associated reactions to the vaccine, the vaccines do seem to have been effective in drastically lowering meningitis cases among toddlers.  Even if the vaccine-granted immunity does wear off, meningitis in older children is far less serious than in very young children.  Pc also does effectively protect against pneumonia, to which our daughter is susceptible (thanks to her GB's genes).
-Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)- no, because of 2, 4, 3, 8 & 10- none of these diseases tend to be serious in children, and naturally-obtained immunities are permanent, even passing on to their later infants as long as breast-feeding lasts.  That last advantage is not true for infants born to mothers who only have the vaccine-immunity.  Malnutrition is responsible for measles complications, which are nearly eradicated by supplementation of vitamin A (along with avoidance of fever-reducers during the illness). Combination vaccines and live vaccines are a deadly combination, assaulting the still-developing neurological system of little bodies ill-equipped to fight off 3 diseases at once.  Both combination shots and live-virus vaccines are especially linked to auto-immune disorders (diabetes Type I, Celiac's disease, ADD, autism spectrum disorders, asthma). It seems clear to me that this triple vaccine poses far more dangers than contracting any & all of the 3 diseases, especially if our children's diet is rich in vitamin A.
-DTaP (diptheria, tetanus & pertussis/whooping cough)- yes, only for the tetanus component (tetanus alone isn't available for children under the age of 2, at least not that I could find), because of #2 & 9.  Tetanus is severe & life-threatening, occuring due to injuries with contaminated objects (such as are plentiful in our inner-city neighborhood park and street).  The vaccine is 100% effective in providing tetanus immunity, as long as 10 year boosters are given.  If we did not live in this neighborhood, we might delay the shot until only the tetanus component could be given.  I wrestled most with this vaccine decision because pertussis is the most controversial and reactive of all the shots, linked to brain damage and seizures in an alarmingly high number of children (I know a woman whose daughter is suffering exactly that).  However, it seemed to us that the likely-hood of our children reacting so violently to the vaccine were less than them cutting themselves on a rusty iron nail if they tripped in the park.  It might be different for you!
-Human Papiloma Virus-no, because of #9 & 6.  This protects against a sexually transmitted disease, for which my child is not at risk.  If she chooses to become promiscuous in adulthood, it will be up to her to weigh the risks of the shot v. the disease. The shot is brand-new and is showing alarming side-effects after only 1 year on the market.  It may not even be around by the time our children are old enough to get it.

I welcome your thoughts and questions!

Very Helpful Story on Candida and Women's Health

A friend's blog had this two-part guest post on how yeast can hi-jack your health... and not in just the way you think. It can cause thyroid problems, among other things. A great little series highlighting how we are what we eat:  it can hardly be overstated just how necessary REAL food (not "food products") is to enjoying REAL health!

Part 1, Part 2.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vaccination Thought Process

My goal in this post is to bring you along with me as I have wrestled through asking questions about childhood vaccinations.  The thought processes I've come to use and the questions I've come up with expand beyond just this one issue, and into every medical procedure and practice.  My desire is to serve you and equip you to become the most informed, critically-thinking guardian of your child's health that you can be!

While of course I would be thrilled if I "convinced you" of my point of view, I feel like a sucess if you are inspired to research this on your own!! If you start asking questions, digging around, reading studies and books by people smarter than me (doctors, public health specialists, immunologists, naturopaths, etc.), and come to a different conclusion than I have, that's still great!!!  My goal is to help you learn to think!!  Medical decisions can be so intimidating, especially since we feel so much is at stake-- our kids' health!-- but we are not helpless, forced to blindly depend on even a brilliant guide.  To a certain extent, we can think things through and come to our own conclusions.  WE are responsible for our children's health.  We can delegate that out to another, but it still comes back to us.  I want to help you do even that delegating thoughtfully!  Whatever conclusion you come to, if you come to it after critical, intentional thinking and looking from both sides of the issue (and not neglecting prayer for wisdom and trust in God's sovereignty!), I applaud you!  THAT is the kind of parent we are called to be!


First, three foundational statements to keep in mind:
1. God has created our bodies to heal themselves, living in dominion over all creatures (including microscopic ones) yet not living isolated from all creatures.  In other words, we don't "exercise dominion" by killing everything within a 10 mile radius from us.
2. This world is fallen, and man has a battle to survive in front of him-- sickness and pain is a part of that.  Neither vaccination nor lack of it is risk-free; both have risks.  Additionally, part of our dominion now includes shaping our environment (one example- agriculture instead of tending an already-planted, perfectly yielding Garden of Eden).
3. Vaccines are drugs and should be thought of as such.  They come with their own side-effects, risks, and imperfections, just like any other medicine.  In each vaccine is not only a weakened form of a disease, but "adjuvants"-- preservatives and metals that kick-start the immune reaction. 

Hopefully I'll be able to flesh out the way I see those 3 interacting in my Friday post.  For now, just keep them in mind.

Ok, now 10 questions.
1. What disease(s) is this vaccine aiming to protect against?
2. What is the a) probable outcome of this disease, and b) worst-case scenario outcome?
3. Today, is this disease treatable and/or preventable by other/natural means?  
4. What are possible dangers in this type of vaccine (look up whole list of ingredients)?
5. What is the a) probable outcome of this vaccine, and b) worst-case scenario outcome?
6. How much has this vaccine been tested, and are those tests by objective testers?
7. How effective is the vaccine?
8. Are there any benefits to gaining immunity to this disease through actual infection, rather than through the vaccine?
9. What is the rationale behind getting the vaccine?  Is this valid/applicable to my situation?
10. Is the disease generally worse than the vaccine?

Now before you freak out and think "that's a LOT of questions!," be assured that at least numbers 1-3, 9, and perhaps 10, should be answerable with just a quick search in a medical handbook, reputable website or even by asking your doctor. You may be able to stop there if it's obvious (I felt that varicella was fairly obvious, but am stepping through the whole process in order to explain fully). Look up vaccine information from the manufacturers (your pediatrician can copy the info off of the vaccine box for you, or at least give you the name of the company and you can look it up online or in a vaccine-guide book) to answer numbers 4 & 5. Numbers 6-8 are the hardest to find answers on, and you probably need to enlist a medically knowledgeable source to read study results and findings, but there are GREAT books out there to help with that! You can do this!!

Let me step through those in detail, using the varicella vaccine:

1. What disease(s) is this vaccine aiming to protect against? chicken-pox
2. What is the a) probable outcome of this disease? itchy rash with runny nose, cough, and uncomfortable fever lasting about a week.  According to Merck, chickenpox vaccine manufacturer, "Chickenpox is generally a benign, self-limiting disease." (Varivax insert, June 2009)
and b) worst-case scenario outcome? older male (adult) contracts chicken pox and becomes sterile due to the high fever, or infection reaches child's brain and causes encephalitis (this is a risk for nearly every disease).  Also a recurrence of chicken-pox (shingles) in an other-wise immune adult.
3. Today, is this disease treatable and/or preventable by other/natural means?  chicken pox is not dangerous nor overly uncomfortable for otherwise-healthy children (only one in every 10-15,000 cases requires hospitalization). Oatmeal baths relieving the itching. Avoidance of aspirin during sickness drastically reduces risk of Reye syndrome (type of encephalopathy). As with all diseases, immune-system boosters vitamins A, D, E (for skin) & C help to lessen severity and duration of disease.
4. What are possible dangers in this type of vaccine (look up whole list of ingredients)? it's a live-virus vaccine (this kind causes the most adverse reactions), containing a weakened form of the virus which remains in the body indefinitely, MSG (a soy-based neurotoxin), the antibiotic neomycin, and fetal bovine serum.  MSG is a no-no, especially for my likely-to-be-allergic-to-soy-child. Over-exposure to antibiotics results in a whole host of problems.  The chickenpox virus can reactivate any time immunity declines, causing herpes zoster (shingles).  The vaccine can also transmit chicken-pox to others, including vulnerable pregnant women only having the partial vaccine immunity.
5. What is the a) probable outcome of this vaccine? My child will probably have a mild fever, and nothing else at the time, but her immunity will fade with time, allowing her to experience relapses (shingles) during times of stress in adulthood, and could quite possibly infect others who may be vulnerable to the disease.  b) worst-case scenario outcome? my child's vaccine-gained immunity fades to the point of contracting full-blown chickenpox as an adult, rendering a son sterile or causing a daughter's unborn baby to have fetal defects; alternatively could cause life-altering vaccine reactions and/or all the risks of the wild version of the disease.
6. How much has this vaccine been tested, and are those tests by objective testers? This vaccine is relatively new; as late as 1985 the CDC's position was that the costs of treating chickenpox were too low to justify spending money on a national vaccination campaign.  The studies used to test the vaccine contained up to 17,000 units of chickenpox virus (as opposed to the 2700 units in our vaccine), and no placebo-controlled trial was carried out using the current vaccine.  So... no valid testing, and unknown future effects.
7. How effective is the vaccine? In all pre-licensing trials, some children contracted chickenpox.  According to an FDA report, about 1 in 10 (10% of) vaccinated children contract "breakthrough" chickenpox when exposed to a wild version of the virus (the longer from the vaccination date, the more serious the case).  The vaccine manufacturer claims a 98% success rate after 2 doses in trials, which sounds amazing-- BUT in the clinical trials, the shots used contained up to 17,000 units of the chickenpox virus, while the shots used today contain no more than 1,350 units.  This means that there actually are no clinical trials using the current vaccine.  We do know that about 10% of the cases of chickenpox today occur in vaccinated children. (see product insert, part 14.1)  It is also difficult to judge vaccine failure rate, because doctors are hesitant to label a chickenpox-like rash "chicken pox" in a vaccinated child.  During a recent outbreak, doctors did not count vaccinated children who contracted chicken pox as "vaccine failures" because they claimed that they had fewer poxes, meaning the vaccine did not fail (though the children still did contract varicella.)  To sum it up, it's hard to judge the actual efficacy of the shot, but we do definitely know that any protection it does give significantly drops 5 years post-vaccine.
8. Are there any benefits to gaining immunity to this disease through actual infection, rather than through the vaccine? Yes, for both the patient in question and those around them. Wild chickenpox in children is usually benign, and confers a more lasting immunity than the vaccine.  Immunized children can still contract wild chickenpox-- and will suffer far more as teens or adults.  A child with chickenpox also re-immunizes adults & children around them against the disease:  those who have the natural antibody gain an antibody boost every time they come in contact with the live varicella virus, and this further protects them from a relapse (shingles).
9. What is the rationale behind getting the vaccine?  Is this valid/applicable to my situation? The main justification is "primarily to reduce the loss of parental income[of parents taking sick days to care for sick children]." On average, the vaccine "saves" parents 1 day of work per child vaccinated.  This seems a fairly poor reason to vaccinate for anyone, much less me as a stay-at-home mom. The vaccine was originally developed for immuno-suppressed children (for ex. those with leukemia). So, no; not applicable.
10. Is the disease generally worse than the vaccine? NO!

Our conclusion:  we will not get the varicella vaccine for our children, but will instead seek to put them in contact with a wild form, while boosting their immune systems with plenty of real foods, sunshine & good bacteria.  To protect our vulnerable babies (the vaccine isn't safe for children under 1 anyway), we will breast-feed them for 15-18 months each.  The vaccine is untested, relatively ineffective, has its own set of risks plus all the risks of the disease, a disease which is harmless in healthy children anyway!  If our children do not contract chickenpox by age 11 or so, we will consider the vaccine to give them at least partial protection as they leave the "safe infection zone" of childhood.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why I Read About Heroes

My mind has been impressed with variations on a theme from my readings lately. I've been noticing over and over that "heroes" are just ordinary people who keep doing what is set before them to do, even when it's hard and when it's not what they want, nor what they would naturally do.  Sometimes I think we should just assign chapters in great fiction in counseling. :)
"The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo:  adventures, as I used to call them.  I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say.  But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind.  Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually-- their paths were laid that way... But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't.  And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten."  (The Two Towers, Book 4, Chapter 8 "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol," J.R.R. Tolkien)
"Piper's dad had called him a hero earlier.  And Leo couldn't believe some of the things he'd done-- smacking around Cyclopes, disarming exploding doorbells, battling six-armed ogres with construction equipment.  They seemed like they had happened to another person.  He was just Leo Valdez, an orphaned kid from Houston. He'd spent his life running away, and part of him still wanted to run.  What was he thinking, flying toward a cursed mansion to fight more evil monsters?"  (The Lost Hero, Chapter 47, Rick Riordan)
"Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake." Colossians 1:24 [...] " This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with. If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way! But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom.   (My Utmost for His HighestOswald Chambers,  September 30th)
I think the Holy Spirit's helping me to be strengthened through the examples of others, to be reached and motivated at the "heart level" rather than the intellectual.

We don't get to choose our own adventures, usually.  We just get to choose whether or not to turn back.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

RUF Chili

This past week we managed to surprise my friend Jenny with her first birthday party ever (25 is a big year, you know).  I served up a pot of chili which I learned to make in college.  It became the staple of our RUF "core group" meeting eatings. :)  It's the type of chili anyone -even single college guys- can make and enjoy.  Thank you, Eric, for passing it on!

By request, I'm putting the recipe on the blog. Of course, you can vary which beans you use, or make them from dry instead of canned. The one I served last week had some canned beans and some which I'd previously cooked up from dry beans and had frozen.

RUF Chili
2 (15 oz) cans (or 3 cups cooked) pinto beans
2 (15 oz) cans (or 3 cups cooked) black beans
2 (15 oz) cans (or 3 cups cooked) great northern or navy beans
1 large can (28 oz size) (3 1/2 cups cooked) baked beans* 
1 (28 oz) jar salsa (as hot as you want)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatos or 1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (~3 tomatoes)
between 1/2 & 1 cup of filtered water (to taste)
(optional: browned ground beef or chuck-- we didn't add this in RUF b/c several members were vegetarian)

Rinse the pinto, black & white beans, then dump into your stockpot.  If desired, brown beef and add to pot. Add the can of baked beans, tomatoes & salsa. Add water to thin to taste, taking into account how long you will let the pot sit out/on the heat (longer time = more water needed)

Heat to boiling.  Serve with sour cream and grated cheddar or colby jack cheese.  


*(Bush's Vegetarian Beans are gluten & soy-free)  However, I usually make our own beans (were you surprised?).  I'll post my recipe for them later-- I love it because I can either use the crock pot or the oven.

Some pictures are here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sign Me Up to Go Down Swinging

I had this string of realization as I ran through a vibrantly autumnal local park.  I like to be efficient.  Put forth the minimum effort required to achieve desired goal.  Then, more resources are available for doing more.

Hmmm... spiritually, that bites me.  Well, it bites me when I'm trying to move too quickly and I ram into corners and low gates -ow.  This is totally against the heroic maxim "If I must die, I will at least take as many foul enemies with me as I can!"  My heart would rather say "if I'm going to die anyway, what's the use avoiding it a bit?  Sounds useless and tiring-- not to mention messy."  Go down swinging, why?

Right now, I'm in hermit mode:  don't want to talk, think, or make the spiritual/mental effort to deal with certain things.  I'm sad, hurt, ashamed, struggling to trust.  I tell myself, "I don't have the energy to fight-- what's the point, anyway?  If I'm just going to lapse back into this rut, may as well plod along in it, right?"

Lord, please give me a determination, the resolve to at least "go down swinging."  

It's what the Ents did.  And Frodo, and Sam.
"Of course, it is likely enough, my friends," he said slowly, "likely enough that we are going to our doom: the last march of the Ents. But if we stayed at home and did nothing, doom would find us anyway, sooner or later. That thought has long been growing in our hearts; and that is why we are marching now. It was not a hasty resolve. Now at least the last march of the Ents may be worth a song. Aye," he sighed, "we may help the other peoples before we pass away." (The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien)
It's what Dumbledore explained to Harry once:  
"It is important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated." [not eradicated by human strength, in this Age, he means] (Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince-- aka HP 6) ~JK Rowling
Oh for such a high view of Truth & Beauty & its Creator and a low of view of ourselves that we might be glad to fight for holiness, with every bit of strength we- I- have.  Yes, even our last breath-- my last breath.

Most inefficient.

But most worthwhile, I think.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Open Letter on Cloth Diaperese...

I recently wrote a friend regarding my cloth diapering journey, and put enough time into it to consider putting it up here for more people to use!  So, here it is:

First off, a quick lesson in the types of diapers there are: 
-- prefolds + cover-- "prefolds" are the plain rectangles; they're called so because they are thicker in the middle than on the edges, with several layers already pre-folded and sewn together.  They're still a step up from the the kind your grandma used, which are just giant squares of cotton and are known as "flats."  The best prefolds are unbleached, 100% cotton or hemp, and are "chinese" (indian prefolds are softer but give out faster).  The thickness of a prefold is described by three numbers:  ex. 4x6x4, meaning there are 6 layers in the middle & 4 on either side.  You want a minimum of 4x6x4-- 4x8x4 are good for night-time or being out & about, or for a heavy wetter. Covers provide the waterproof layer.  They can be made of PUL (a plasticized fabric), nylon, or wool (yes, my favorite!), and can fasten by snaps, velcro (aplix is the correct name), or drawstring.
-- fitteds + cover-- fitteds come already in the shape of a normal diaper, and can be fastened by snaps (especially the one-size-fits-all variety, which can fit tiny babies up through toddlers), or by velcro.  The best are 100% cotton or hemp, NOT polyester. Fitteds have to be covered by covers just like prefolds, so aren't really an advantage UNLESS you want to use the same diapers for two sized babies, or for the entire diaper-life of your child(ren), or if you're going to use pull-on (wool) covers.
-- pocket diapers-- these combine absorbent & water-proof into one package.  They usually have a PUL outer layer, and their absorbency comes from inserts (either microfiber, cotton, hemp, or a combo of the two) which you stuff into a pocket.  They can be sized, or one-size, and can fasten with either aplix or snaps.  These are the most like disposables & so are my hubby's favorite to use, and the ones I send to church in Eowyn's diaper bag.  However, they do have a polyester layer, which lets the baby feel dry, but I've found it more of a pain to wash (harder to come clean and to rinse totally out).  You un-stuff the diapers in the wash and have to re-stuff them (can customize how much absorbency you need)
-- all-in-ones-- these are basically washable disposables.  It's all in one.  I wouldn't recommend these because they are very hard to get totally clean, and drying time is intense.  They're also the most expensive.

Now, what I recommend and/or use:
-- I can see you really liking the pocket diapers, because they are so similar in look and function to a disposable diaper.  If you buy a snapped one-size, you could use it on both your girls at the same time, or with #2 and #3... or for all of #2's diapering life.  The aplix gets a nice snug fit, but I'm finding it really wear out quickly!  Eowyn's velcroed covers are already looking worn. I recommend Kawaii baby one-size pocket diapers; they have fit E really well since she was teensy, and still do now.  They're cheaper than Bum-genius (which is what tons of my friends use), and use snaps instead of velcro.  I've never had a problem with leakage or rashes.  If you're gonna go the pocket diaper route, I'd go for those.  You may want to have a half dozen on hand, just for her diaper bag or Ryan or for when you're in a hurry.Here's where to buy Kawaiis online (they call them all-in-ones, but they technically are pocket diapers).  They're $7 each, compared to $18 BumGenius.
-- if you want to go a cheaper route, here's what I do (and really have no complaints about)-- a mix of unbleached prefolds & PUL covers, and organic cotton snapped fitteds (ecobaby grow-with-me) & home-made wool covers (soooo easy!!).  You'd probably need both infant and regular sized diapers, though I still do use Eowyn's infant sized diapers during the day when I'm taking her to the potty & changing her every 3 hours or so. You saw how easy it is to tri-fold a prefold & lay it in a cover; no need to use pins or snappis or anything else. Ta-da!  The prefolds are super-easy to wash, never have any problems with stink or repelling pee, and bleach very white in the sun.  They dry quite quickly.  The covers are likewise pretty low-maintenance.  
---> prefolds: sites I recommend are Green Mountain Diapers, Cotton Babies, or where I got my "factory seconds".  I suggest two dozen of infant & one of regular to start out --you could even get just one dozen of each, and then order more as needed.  Factory seconds are THE WAY to go if you can find them!  Soooo much cheaper, and so far... not a single problem with the dozen I started using 9 months ago! (Edit: I still use the dozen infant sized during the day, and Eowyn is now 16 months old. At night I use regular sized prefolds or fitteds with inserts-- so 2 dozen infants would definitely cover you!)
--covers: I REALLY like leg gussets (they are a second layer inside the leg opening that keeps poo in). Covers with gussets are: Bummis Super-Brite or Thirsties Duo Wraps, which are both sold here  oooh... The price of Kawaii's one-sized snapped covers just can't be beat, though: $4.50 each!
--fitteds & wool covers-- if you're feeling craftsy, wool covers are very inexpensive to make (100% wool sweaters from Goodwill for $4 make 2-3 covers), and are amazing.  There is some sewing required, though.  Let me know if this interests you and I'll get you info on fitteds + wool covers. My fitteds are ecobaby sherpa grow-with-me snapped. Otherwise, I found the prefold + cover route to be super affordable and have no complaints except that my velcro is wearing out quicker than I expected.  Still, I think I'll get at least one more baby diapered, maybe more, out of it.  More if I can figure out how to change the velcro when this wears out...hmmm...

You'll also probably want to get-- a diaper sprayer, a diaper pail liner (you can use a trashcan or rubbermaid bin for your diaper bin), and wipes of some kind.  I cut cheap washcloths in halves or fourths and zig-zag stiched the raw edge, and they're great. Charlie's Soap is highly recommended for washing diapers (cool chart: http://www.diaperjungle.com/detergent-chart.html), but I have a friend who does it with plain ol' baking powder & vinegar, and another who swears by Tide HE.

Cost Breakdown:
As far as price, let's say you did three dozen prefolds (2 in infant, 1 in regular or premium sized), and you got them for $25/dozen (which is quite expensive, when you can get them for closer to $10/dozen easily).  Then you buy 10 one-size snapped Kawaii covers ($4.50 each).  Lastly, just for convenience's sake, you buy 6 Kawaii baby one-size pocket diapers ($7 each).  You get free shipping because you order them in large quantities, but you don't manage to snag any sales.  You also order a diaper sprayer off amazon (around $50), buy 2 packs of cheap washcloths at Wal-Mart ($5 each), a box of Charlie's Soap ($11) and a Kissaluv elastic diaper-pail liner ($11).  Your grand total is....$244.  Just think-- only $244 for diapers for the entire life--hear that again-- ENTIRE LIFE-- of your child, and probably the next couple, too!  And that was a pretty liberal count, implying that you got nothing as gifts, no bulk discounts, no sales, nothing used, and no factory seconds.  We have spent way less than that on Eowyn!!  Craigslist is a great place to find diapers of many kinds.  I've gotten two big groups (called a lot), and split 'em with a friend.  I've also sold some diapers at diaperswappers.com.

You might want to borrow some of our diapers to try them out, or come over for a diapering session & washing demonstration.  It's really not any grosser than emptying a diaper genie...which is to say... it's gross, but not THAT gross.  Poop stinks, and there's just no way around it.  But at least with cloth diapers you get to fold all these lovely clean, fresh, fluffy diapers instead of just opening a plasticy-smelling $10 package every week!

Lastly, here's an article on cloth diapering... estimates are that disposable diapers for one child cost $1600 total (Ryan & I thought that estimate was a bit high, if you bought the Wal-Mart brand which works fine)!!  And I disagree with saying you need 6 dozen diapers... if you do laundry 2ce a week, you should be fine with 2.5 dozen when they're little, and less when they are older and their poop is less runny/frequent!!  

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Let the Buyer Beware

... of medical research??

A fascinating, thought-provoking article from this month's Atlantic Magazine.  Please read and post your thoughts!

Here's an excerpt to whet your mental appetite:

In poring over medical journals, he was struck by how many findings of all types were refuted by later findings. Of course, medical-science “never minds” are hardly secret. [...] Peer-reviewed studies have come to opposite conclusions on whether using cell phones can cause brain cancer, whether sleeping more than eight hours a night is healthful or dangerous, whether taking aspirin every day is more likely to save your life or cut it short, and whether routine angioplasty works better than pills to unclog heart arteries.
But beyond the headlines, Ioannidis was shocked at the range and reach of the reversals he was seeing in everyday medical research. “Randomized controlled trials,” which compare how one group responds to a treatment against how an identical group fares without the treatment, had long been considered nearly unshakable evidence, but they, too, ended up being wrong some of the time. “I realized even our gold-standard research had a lot of problems,” he says. Baffled, he started looking for the specific ways in which studies were going wrong. And before long he discovered that the range of errors being committed was astonishing: from what questions researchers posed, to how they set up the studies, to which patients they recruited for the studies, to which measurements they took, to how they analyzed the data, to how they presented their results, to how particular studies came to be published in medical journals.
This array suggested a bigger, underlying dysfunction, and Ioannidis thought he knew what it was. “The studies were biased,” he says. “Sometimes they were overtly biased. Sometimes it was difficult to see the bias, but it was there.” Researchers headed into their studies wanting certain results—and, lo and behold, they were getting them. We think of the scientific process as being objective, rigorous, and even ruthless in separating out what is true from what we merely wish to be true, but in fact it’s easy to manipulate results, even unintentionally or unconsciously. “At every step in the process, there is room to distort results, a way to make a stronger claim or to select what is going to be concluded,” says Ioannidis. “There is an intellectual conflict of interest that pressures researchers to find whatever it is that is most likely to get them funded.” (emphases added)

A bit later is this quote from a female colleague of the above-quoted Dr. Ioannidis:
Tatsioni doesn’t so much fear that someone will carve out the man’s healthy appendix. Rather, she’s concerned that, like many patients, he’ll end up with prescriptions for multiple drugs that will do little to help him, and may well harm him. “Usually what happens is that the doctor will ask for a suite of biochemical tests—liver fat, pancreas function, and so on,” she tells me. “The tests could turn up something, but they’re probably irrelevant. Just having a good talk with the patient and getting a close history is much more likely to tell me what’s wrong.” Of course, the doctors have all been trained to order these tests, she notes, and doing so is a lot quicker than a long bedside chat. They’re also trained to ply the patient with whatever drugs might help whack any errant test numbers back into line. What they’re not trained to do is to go back and look at the research papers that helped make these drugs the standard of care. “When you look the papers up, you often find the drugs didn’t even work better than a placebo. And no one tested how they worked in combination with the other drugs,” she says. “Just taking the patient off everything can improve their health right away.” But not only is checking out the research another time-consuming task, patients often don’t even like it when they’re taken off their drugs, she explains; they find their prescriptions reassuring.  (and easier than a lifestyle change, I add!)
(I saw that urge to order tests & give drugs in response to those tests when I recently took an elderly friend of mine to the doctor.  My friend's insurance was actually requesting 3 fairly invasive procedures, just because of her age, and her doctor shook her head "They just don't get that these tests aren't needed, or even helpful, for everyone."  Ironically, her doctor- kind and young- in turn ordered more tests (though at least these were more tailored to my friend, her patient), and not once inquired about my friend's diet, sleep, or exercise habits.  The closest she came was assuring her that Kool-Aid was as good as water, as long as it was sugar-free (since my friend's diabetic).  Yes, I was quite disappointed, too.)

Friday, November 05, 2010

More on Wool Diaper Covers

Several of my friends & readers have been asking me further questions on wool diaper covers. Kind of along the lines of "what's so special about wool?" I asked the same question! I also used to wonder what people used to use to diaper babies in Medieval Europe, when letting babies run around naked in winter wasn't exactly an option (like it is was/is in warmer climates). Now I know: they used wool diaper covers, naturally water-repellent, flame-resistant, breathable, and anti-bacterial. Did I mention both water-resistant AND absorbent? Yes, I know those two don't sound like they should go together, but they do.  It doesn't HAVE to be a choice between something breathable for baby's skin, and something waterproof for everyone else's sake (leakage-prevention).  Here is a link on wool, especially as it relates to cloth diapering.

A note on diaper covers-- they work best (easiest) with fitted diapers, which I never had much use for before.  I split a lot of ecobaby organic sherpa grow-with-me diapers (they have snaps to enable them to fit babies 5 lbs-35 lbs, and are super-soft, super absorbent, and just adorable) off craigslist (they retail for $15-18 without shipping, and I got them for $6 each!!) and have been so impressed.  If I had known how easy wool covers were to make, I might have gone a wholly different cloth diaper route, of snapped one-size fitted diapers with homemade wool diaper covers (also called "soakers")!!  The nice thing about fully snapped diapers is that they wear out less quickly than the velcro fastened kind, so it actually might last through the whole diapering of several children.  As it is, I'm planning on making 4ish small wool covers to use with the ecobaby dipes, in preparation for "next time." (and no, there is no "next time" on the horizon as of yet =D)

You may have already seen my link to making a pull-on "baby bum sweater" (I've made 3 so far), and the super-easy legging/diaper cover "longies" combo (I've made 2 of these).  I just found these links teaching you how to make a wrap-style wool diaper cover-- this would be useful if you don't plan on buying any fitted diapers and have good prefolds.  I don't know how to follow knitting patterns, but if you do (are you reading this, Nicole??) here is a free wool soaker pattern.  Hmmm...maybe for my Christmas present you can teach me to read knitting patterns, sis?

Well, I need to go re-lanolize my longies, shorties & soakers.  I'm using these instructions and trying my hand at making my own wool wash... gotta do something with all that lanolin (Lasinoh) I received and never used!  Hmmm... I just may order some eucalyptus essential oil to go in there... we have a lavender bush-- I wonder if I can learn to make my own essential oil of lavender... ok...how 'bout just one project at a time, lol...

PS-- awesome cloth diaper link:  Boise Cloth Diapers.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Informed Voting

If you live in the Indiana/Kentucky Area, this is a really cool interactive voter guide. It compares the candidates for each race, and allows you to make a note of which you'll vote for, then print them off at the end. I found it really helpful!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Natural Musical Exuberance (and a little genius...)

This little boy-- age 3-- is just too amazing not to share!