Saturday, October 30, 2010

Another Help In Preparation for Cold Flu Season

 I met Michelle from Frugal Granola and Donielle from Naturally Knocked Up (two blogs which you should all check out) at the Relevant Conference this past weekend.  Michelle just finished an eBook called 'Herbal Nurturing:  a Family Healing & Learning Guide', and Donielle is hosting a giveaway for it.

Check it out here!

And no, they aren't paying me to push you their way.  Just thought I'd pass it on!

While I'm at it, there's another giveaway for an e-book at another of my favorite blogs: Stephenie at Keeper of the Home is giving away "In the Kitchen- Real Food Basics," by Kate Tietje.  Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Option 3 (Preventing the Flu Thru Vitamin D)

So... Option 3.  If you can avoid both the flu AND the vaccine, you won't get it, you won't pass it on to anybody, AND you won't expose your kids and yourself to toxins and possibly have to neglect your own responsibilities due to a flu-like-non-flu that feels like the flu even if you aren't contagious (or another strain of the flu).  Naturally (haha punny), wash your hands and don't make out with people who are sick. :)  STAY HOME if you get the flu!  Have your kids wash their hands and learn to sneeze into their elbows instead of their hands.  Cut back on sugar, which absolutely KILLS your immune system.  Eat lots of immune system boosters, like garlic!  And, my favorite: have you thought about Vitamin D? Here are some excerpts from the linked article by Dr. J.J. Cannell:

"Could vitamin D be the reason none of my patients got the flu? In the last several years, dozens of medical studies have called attention to worldwide vitamin D deficiency, especially among African Americans and the elderly, the two groups most likely to die from influenza. [...]
"We proposed that annual fluctuations in vitamin D levels explain the seasonality of influenza. The periodic seasonal fluctuations in 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels, which cause recurrent and predictable wintertime vitamin D deficiency, predispose human populations to influenza epidemics. We raised the possibility that influenza is a symptom of vitamin D deficiency in the same way that an unusual form of pneumonia (pneumocystis carinii) is a symptom of AIDS. That is, we theorized that George Bernard Shaw was right when he said, "the characteristic microbe of a disease might be a symptom instead of a cause."  
 [...] as vitamin D deficiency has repeatedly been associated with many of the diseases of civilization, we point out that it is not too early for physicians to aggressively diagnose and adequately treat vitamin D deficiency. We recommend that enough vitamin D be taken daily to maintain 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels at levels normally achieved through summertime sun exposure (50 ng/ml). For many persons, such as African Americans and the elderly, this will require up to 5,000 units daily in the winter and less, or none, in the summer, depending on summertime sun exposure.
  Read this article by Dr. Miller, cardiovascular surgeon at University of Washington in Seattle, in which he describes its flu-preventative effect, as well as its overall benefits. A snippet:

Explanations for why flu epidemics occur in the winter when it is cold – people being indoors in close contact, drier air dehydrating mucus and preventing the body from expelling virus particles, the virus lingering longer on exposed surfaces, like doorknobs, with colder temperatures – do not explain why flu epidemics occur in the tropics.
Something that can explain why flu epidemics also occur both in warm and cold climates is this: During a flu epidemic, wherever it may be, the atmosphere blocks ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the Sun. In the temperate zones above latitude 35 degrees North and South, the sun is at a low enough angle in the winter that the ozone layer in the atmosphere absorbs and blocks the short-wavelength (280–315 nanometers) UVB rays. In the tropics during the wet season, thick rain clouds block UVB rays.  
Skin contains a cholesterol derivative, 7-dehydrocholesterol. UVB radiation on skin breaks open one of the carbon rings in this molecule to form vitamin D.

Go on, read the article!! :) Here's a list of natural vitamin D sources (fish, egg yolk, liver, dairy products).  The most potent seems to be unfiltered fermented cod liver oil, which my daughter loves, but I find I recommend the capsules or the gummies. Vitamin D is naturally present in the milk of grass-fed, pastured cows, and thus in pastured butter and cheese.  However it is destroyed by pasteurization, which is why it is artificially added back in. Vitamin D is also present in pastured lard.

 I really like how Dr. Miller concludes:
Avoid sugar. It suppresses immunity. Avoid Omega-6 vegetable oils (corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut, canola, and soybean oil). Americans consume 50 times more of these oils than are necessary for good health. In this amount they are powerful immune suppressants. Take a well-balanced multivitamin/mineral capsule on a daily basis. Eat garlic. Manage stress. Exercise. Get enough rest. And wash your hands. Viruses spread most often from touching contaminated objects, like doorknobs, phones, shared computer keyboards, and shaking hands.

She'll Be Comin' Round the Autumn When She Comes...

... the seasonal flu, that is!

I have lots to think about from the conference I attended this past weekend (Relevant), with lots of effects on my blog... but so far I don't know what to do, so you'll get a rather underwhelming post about vitamin D and flu prevention.

Ok, so the seasonal flu is about to hit.  We have 3 options:

1. Do nothing, and just hope for the best-- either to tough it out, or to just hope it misses us somehow.
2. Try to prevent it via the flu vaccine (which every bulletin board seems to recommend)
3. Try to prevent it via natural methods.

I think we'd all agree that the flu is bad, even though it usually isn't a big deal.  It's no fun, and in vulnerable individuals (especially the elderly), it can lead to other more serious diseases like pneumonia. There is also a link between autism (and other mental diseases) and children born to moms who had the flu at certain times in  pregnancy (when the baby's brain was developing). And even if it's no big deal for you to get the flu, my friends Sarah & Kira have pointed out to me that it could be "a big deal" if you pass it on to more vulnerable people.  This info seems to suggest that Option 1 isn't really a good one.

But is it better to pursue Option 2 or Option 3?  To know we need to ask two more questions:  Is the flu vaccine effective at actually preventing the flu? and Are flu vaccines safe?  Those could each be a blog post in and of themselves.  Briefly, let me try to handle these:

Is the flu vaccine effective at actually preventing the flu? 
Advocates of the vaccine say that it lowers deaths among the elderly by as much as 50%, but a recent study found that this reduction is actually mostly do to other factors (socioeconomic especially).
"The study found that people who were healthy and conscientious about staying well were the most likely to get an annual flu shot. Those who are frail may have trouble bathing or dressing on their own and are less likely to get to their doctor’s office or a clinic to receive the vaccine. They are also more likely to be closer to death." (NY Times article from Sept 2008)
Also, there doesn't seem to be actual lowering of pneumonia occurrence in older people who have the flu shot (which is the #1 cause of "flu" deaths). For little kids, there is a significant reduction in confirmed flu (kids who are taken to the doctor and get a flu test)...but not much reduction in "flu-like symptoms" (parent didn't necessarily take them to the doctor to get a confirmed test).  Whether those were 'systemic reactions' (non-contagious reactions to the vaccine- still miserable) or an actual full-blown flu from a strain not in the vaccine (contagious AND miserable) was not tested in the study.  Remember just how fast flu viruses mutate:
A vaccine formulated for one year may be ineffective in the following year, since the influenza virus evolves rapidly, and new strains quickly replace the older ones. (wikipedia)
Another study looked at whether the flu shot made a difference in child hospitalization due to the flu and flu-caused secondary infections, and found that it didn't.  I couldn't find good studies that compared flu incidences between matched vaccinated and unvaccinated groups.  If you know of one, please put it in the comments!

Are flu vaccines safe?
Here's the big question... As far as pregnant women go, the link between flu and autism in their unborn babies actually comes from the baby's exposure to the flu ANTIBODIES (the mom's immune system reaction), not the actual flu itself.
 "Surprisingly, the finger of blame does not point at the virus itself. Since influenza infection is generally restricted to the mother's respiratory tract, the team speculated that what acts as the mediator is not the mother's infection per se but something in her immune response to it."  (source.
This is a big warning sign, because the goal of flu vaccines is to trigger the same immune system reaction as the flu itself!  So...flu vaccine a really really BAD idea for pregnant moms... and so is the flu.

These researchers are concerned about the effects of flu vaccines on babies:
" It was surprising to find only one study of inactivated vaccine in children under two years, given recent recommendations to vaccinate healthy children from six months old in the USA and Canada. If immunisation in children is to be recommended as public-health policy, large-scale studies assessing important outcomes and directly comparing vaccine types are urgently required." 
Also, most flu shots contain mercury (the single-use kind which are more expensive, don't), formaldehyde, aluminum, triton x-100 (a detergent), phenol, ethelyne glycol (antifreeze), and various antibiotics. Those aren't exactly health foods.

To sum it up:  for the elderly-- you risk getting a "systemic reaction" that feels just as awful as the flu, and could cause just as much weight loss and strain on a fragile system, from a vaccine- sure, you might not pass it on to another elderly person, but at your age you need to be concerned with your own vulnerable health, not another's. You can get a strain of the flu you weren't inoculated against despite your getting the vaccine. You also don't get any lowered chances of dying of flu-caused-pneumonia, nor dying earlier.  It doesn't sound like the shot would be worth it to an older person.  For pregnant women- flu antibodies are very dangerous to your developing child, whether they come after a vaccine-induced reaction or a full-blown flu.  Both the flu and the shot are bad news.  For infants (0-2)- lack of studies on the effect of the flu vaccine (even the "killed" or attenuated versions) on this age group is troublesome.  The baby is the most vulnerable to infection (natural flu), yet his neurological system is still developing and is vulnerably super-responsive to anything that triggers an immune reaction (a shot). Mercury and other toxins are particularly harmful to these tiniest of bodies (so much higher a concentration for them). Also, studies did not show any difference between a shot & a placebo in preventing the flu in this age group. I would not/do not want my baby to get either the vaccine or the actual flu. If my child reacted to the flu shot (systemically), I'd always regret making him suffer when there was a chance he could have avoided the flu entirely. For children- the vaccine doesn't reduce the chances of flu-caused hospitalization, nor of flu-like symptoms (meaning their parent didn't get a flu test).  Does a kid (or their parents) care if he feels miserable but isn't contagious?  Children are quite likely exposed to more strains of the flu than anyone, so gaining partial immunity against 2 or 3 isn't really very comforting, especially when you realize that flu manufacturers have to guess ahead of time what strains will hit hardest, and that's different in every area.

That leaves adults--  the ones most able to fight off the flu on their own...and least susceptible to vaccine-damage.  Ironically, this is the group least targeted for vaccination campaigns.  Remember that being vaccinated against the flu, even with the best possible outcome of no reaction beyond a sore arm, only gives you partial, temporary immunity against 2-3 strains of the flu.  You could still get a new or unusual strain at any time...and pass it on to others.  (Immuno-suppressed people such as asthmatics and chemo patients is another topic, which I am not equipped to handle at the moment.)

I will deal with Option 3 in a following post.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Guardians of the Vulnerable-- in three links

My esteemed fellow Hutchmooter, S. D. Smith, has posted 3 posts on his blog recently that sort of tie together.  Two are interviews with Greg Lucas, author of Wrestling with an Angel, whose blog I've mentioned here before. One teaser, then I'm done and you should go read the interview:  Greg & his wife are actively caring for the vulnerable, and it is transforming them.  As S. D. Smith put it,
 "He and his wife, Kim, have a household where art is on display. It is a gallery of love, with portraits of mercy and sculptures of grace filling every space." 
Read  Part 1 and Part 2.

The third post is actually a movie review...a kid's movie about warrior owls.  Sound like a perfect date night?  Well, it might!  The movie sounds amazing to a fantasy nut like me, and every review I've read is glowing.  It sounds like this movie goes beyond cool effects and a good storyline.  It has Echoes of The Story all over it, about the strong laying down their lives for the weak; about mockable faith turning to glorious sight; about treasuring the weak things of the world instead of boasting in the strong. Yeah.  I think I'm gonna have to go see that one.

Monday, October 18, 2010

As Promised...

and it's live!! Check out my new children's book review site...! It's very much still in progress--lots to fix, tweak, and standardize,-- but there are at least a few book reviews, articles, authors & series reviews up (a lot of them from this website, so you'll probably recognize a few) I'm sooo excited about it! Thank you, WebMaster Sweetie!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Supporting Freedom

Forget all the movies starring strippers who choose that life "because it makes them feel good about themselves."  This post is about the ugly truth of sex as business.  It's often forced-- either through outright slavery, desperation, or abuse that leaves the woman feeling as if she has no other option. Often even those women there "by choice" were not introduced to prostitution, stripping, dancing, pornography, etc., voluntarily.  Regardless of their backgrounds, like every person apart from Christ's Rescue, women enmeshed in the sex trade or industry are slaves-- slaves to sin and to Satan, a dark evil master who wants only their destruction.

The sex trade-- it isn't just in exotic nations full of harems.  It isn't just grown women.  It's children, all over the world, even in our own nation.  All around us, both near and far.  There are terrified and hurting women, girls and boys.  What are we going to do about it?

There are organizations made up of people who want to imitate Christ by literally rescuing slaves.  Many of you may have read my post on the plight of "porn stars" in the AMERICAN porn industry.  Here in Louisville,  an organization called Scarlet Hope actively pursues women in the sex industry, showing them kindness, respect, and the compassion of Christ every week.  A Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken concert is scheduled locally to benefit this ministry.  The Pink Cross Foundation is a nation-wide ministry with similar goals.

If it's the people-- especially those literally enslaved-- in foreign nations that God lays on your heart, my friend & fellow blogger Jeanette posted some links to these organizations, which could become Christmas gift sources!  Punjammies are fun, beautiful clothing items made by Indian women escaping prostitution.  Ransomwear sells clothing, purses and hats made by women and girls escaping the sex trade in Nepal. Made By Survivors is similar, selling jewelry, bags, and handmade rugs.  All of these organizations have fairly interactive websites, where you can donate directly or get involved in other ways.  Please check them out.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cream-Cheese Filled Pumpkin Muffins- GF version

My buddy Blythe just posted a recipe for pumpkin muffins that featured an irresistible blob of rich, gooey cheese smack dab in the middle of 'em.  She bragged to me about them over the phone, too, and my mind began watering. Her fall cravings became mine.

I bought an extra tub of yogurt at the store to make my own cream cheese, and planned to debut these for book club (10:30 Sat am). I don't usually do NEW recipes for other people, especially not timing them so they are literally coming out of the oven and into my car... but it worked out quite nicely this time.  :)  The muffins were moist, tasty, and not too crumbly or dense (often problems with GF muffins).  One friend- a self-proclaimed 'gluten-free-food snob' put it (name ommitted to protect the tactless ;D) "hey! these are pretty good, for gluten-free food!"  So I guess they won't be winning any awards, but they sure beat just watching everyone else eat.  :) Blythe's muffins had a crumble on top, which I left off for simplicity's sake.  That and the fact that I didn't have any sugar in the house. :)

Cream-Cheese Filled Pumpkin Muffins- GF version

2 c gluten-free flours (1/2 c coconut, 1/2 c cornstarch, 1/2 Maseca corn flour, 1/2 c freshly ground buckwheat flour) 
1 t xantham gum
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t celtic sea salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 c maple syrup (could possibly use 3/4 c sucanat or sugar, but because the GF flours I used are particularly "thirsty," you'd probably need to add a little water)
3 T unsulphered molasses
1/4 c melted butter or oil
3 eggs
1 c canned (or stewed/pureed) pumpkin
1 t vanilla extract
3/4 c yogurt (I did vanilla-flavored) thinned with water

4 oz cream cheese (not softened!)
2-3 T (raw, local) honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line with muffin liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, xantham gum, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a separate smaller bowl, fork the honey into the cream cheese till nearly smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk thesyrup, molasses, oil and eggs until combined. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla, and thinned yogurt.  Mix into the dry ingredients in batches.  Make sure you scrape up the bottom to get everything well-mixed in!

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Place a scant tablespoon of the cream cheese in the center of the muffin. (I used my fingers to press it in.). Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me

With my baby's first birthday coming 3 days before mine, and my "party" coming between 2 of her 3, I almost forgot that this year, I turned 25.  I've been breathing this (steadily-more-polluted?) air for a quarter of a century now.  Kinda weird. Click on the pictures here to see them in higher resolution, and/or click here for more pics of the night.

To celebrate, Ryan organized a dinner for me at Outback Steakhouse (yum!)... but as I had to give Eowyn about half of my steak, loaded sweet potato and garlic mashed potatoes, I may call for a repeat. :)  My dear friend Jenny came, alone with her two babies (which I considered a mark of true friendship), and we enjoyed the company of good ol' Szrama-party-staples Ashlea and Mr. The Lyle.  The food was great, and I received some truly marvelous gifts... including a long-dreamed off French coffee press!!  HAH I don't have to share that with ANYONE, considering that Ryan hates coffee, and Eowyn isn't allowed (too much).  Ryan was so sweet in helping Eowyn write me a card, too. :) I was very impressed at how he had taken notes of gift ideas throughout the past few months-- great job, Love!!

Dessert was at our new favorite ice-cream place, the locally owned and operated Comfy Cow (which gives free scoops on your birthday!!)  Their ice cream is the best I've had this side of the Atlantic.  Thanks to Auntie Ashlea, Eowyn now agrees (thanks a lot Ashlea!! ;D)  Jenny's husband Aaron joined us as well as our almost-family, the Shueys.  Those of you who know them from Greenville might be shocked at how growed-up they are ... amazing kids.

It is such a blessing to have at least one day a year when people go out of their way to remind you that they love you-- freely and unconditionally.  Thanks, everyone, for the calls, the cards, the gifts, the FB messages, the texts, the voice mails, the e-cards, the emails.  They all came together in a kaleidescope that forms a sort of cross-section of my Father's Sovereign, always-forgiving, never-giving-up Love for me.

Ta-Da! (Longies, Shorties, and Baby-Bum-Sweaters)

 Here's the sweet lil model, sporting her baby-bum sweater, which with this heavy felted grey wool looks more like a pair of "shorties."  The 2 other sweaters I've made with lighter wool look more like diaper covers.  As you can see, they tighten with a drawstring and have cuffs around the legs.

And here is one of her new "longies!"  Amazingly less bulky than standard cloth diaper fare when she's only wearing a prefold (or fitted) diaper, and these!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

I'm craving this soup again...

Baked Potato Soup (adapted from
Serves 3

6 slices farm-raised organic bacon
1/3 cup butter or oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (GF:  3 T cornstarch)
3-1/2 cups (whole) milk
2 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 green onions, chopped (or ~1/2 c white onions, i.e. a small onion)
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
chives to garnish
Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium heat until browned. Drain, crumble, and set aside.

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir the cornstarch into the (cold) milk, stirring until it dissolves (adding it directly into hot stuff will give you lumps). Add this gradually to the butter, whisking constantly until thickened. Stir in potatoes and onions. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Mix in bacon, cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted.  Garnish with cut chives after serving into bowls, if desired.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Mama Szrama's Travel Tips

We've traveled a lot this past year.  By her first birthday, Eowyn had visited 6 countries on 2 continents, 20 US states, and had traveled by plane, train, car, streetcar, bus, subway, cruise ship, backpack, stroller and ferry.  Here are the trip-tips I've garnered as so many people ask me "how do you travel with a little one?"

1. Mentality:  Just do it.  This is my first answer to the above question.  If you have in your mind that it's going to be insanely hard, you'll never try.  But if you want to travel, and you have a baby, go for it!  You just accept the difficulties, embrace the adventure, stay flexible, and be willing to laugh at everything.

2. Packing: 
  - pick two colors and pack only clothes in that scheme.  For example, I may pack all red and pink one trip, or all turquoise and brown another.  This allows for mixing and matching when half an outfit inevitably gets dirty sooner than you planned, or it's much colder than you expected. 
 - pack one outfit per day, plus an extra cold-weather outfit and an extra warm one.  Pack socks, leggings, a hat and shoes no matter what.  You just never know how cold some part of your journey will be.  Likewise, pack at least one short-sleeved outfit.  You can always layer!
- keep a reserve binkie, lovie, paci, blankie, whatever your child needs to be happy.  Keep it in the bottom of the bags and only pull it out in emergency.  Otherwise you'll end up losing both your usual AND your backup!

3. Preparation
- train your child to obey you right away the first time.  This is absolutely critical in new environments.  We play the "come to mommy" game every day to reinforce this! 
- train your child to understand and obey "no touch."  I can't tell you how helpful it's been to be able to tell Eowyn "do not touch this" item in a hotel or friend's home, and watch her play happily without bothering it. 
- consider blanket or line training (teaching babies and children to stay on a blanket or within a line on the ground), because you will not be staying in only "child-proofed" areas.  Alternatively, you can have "playpen time" in a pack'n'play or baby bed.
- get your child used to sitting in a stroller or being on a "leash" while walking-- whatever you're planning to do when you're away and in crowded areas should be done first stress-free at home!
- train your child to have good high-chair manners BEFORE leaving home!  I was absolutely shocked when one of my friends told me she lets her son throw his food from his high chair because she has a steam carpet cleaner and doesn't mind steam-cleaning her carpet regularly.  I just thought "but what about other people who DO mind, and whose floors your child will also eat above?"  It seems to me that as Christians, good manners are part of loving our neighbors more than we love ourselves!
- I forgot this before, but it's CRUCIAL:  Forget about your trip being about you.  It's about the WHOLE family now.  That might mean taking turns walking a fussy baby an entire plane ride.  It might mean not getting to see everything you could have seen without kids.  It might mean having to head back to the hotel more than you'd like.  If you get stuck in the me-me-me rut, you will resent your child instead of being thrilled that they get to be WITH you!!  Vacations are a time to explore, to rest, yes... but mostly, it's a time to serve, just like always.

4. If traveling by plane, know exactly what your airline will allow you to pack.  Most airlines allow you to planeside check a stroller and a carseat for free.  DO THIS!  You can always use your stroller to carry bags and wear your baby.  Also, ask if there are empty seats on the flight before you board; you can bring the carseat on if there are!
- note that a carseat might be unnecessary abroad.  Most other countries don't have the same carseat laws we do, especially if you'll be getting around by taxi or public transit within a city.
- note that strollers can double nicely as high-chairs!

5. In-flight or in-car comfort:
- nurse or give a bottle on take-off & landing.  If you can't do that, at least have them suck a pacifier.  This makes their ears pop
- pack a first-aid kit in an accessible place, including teething tablets, pain reliever, saline drops, a nose squeegee, and tummy soothing medicine.  Eowyn has gotten teeth on EVERY TRIP across the Atlantic!
- for a toddler or baby, raid Goodwill or a thrift shop for "new" books and toys.  Take them out ONE BY ONE on the plane.  Save a few for the return trip, too, so the novelty hasn't worn off.
- bring a sling or Ergo/Snugli carrier on the plane.  Walking babies calms them even in the air.  Eowyn would only go to sleep in one of these on our last trip.  Most planes have a spot where you can stand up in a darker, quieter area.
- try to get a bulkhead seat.  Either use a plane-issued bassinet or the floor so your baby/child can lay down and you can get a break from holding them.
- bring a bottle of expressed milk along for feeding on-the-go.  VERY helpful in museums, airports, long walks... Keep it body-temperature by storing it next to your body or the baby's. Breastmilk can sit out for up to 10 hours without any problem.
- buy a manual breast pump.  I got an Advent ISIS off Craigslist for $15 in nearly-new condition.  I've been so pleased.  Pack it in your carry-on!  Even if you've never pumped before, or have a great electric pump, bring a manual.  You do NOT want to be stranded in a foreign country in pain from a nursing strike or be unable to give your child a bottle! 

6. Time zones.  We've found that the "shock treatment" is best as opposed to trying to gradually get there.
-If possible, travel east during the night.  The baby will sleep some since it's "night" to him.  When you get there, have him stay awake until his next nap, NEW TIME ZONE time.  Ex.  When flying to Europe, our plane left at 8 pm EST and arrived at 11 am Paris time.  We kept Eowyn awake until her afternoon nap time, then only let her sleep the normal 2 hours.  We then put her to bed at 8 pm Paris time, and didn't go get her when she woke up around 11 to play, thinking that was her nap. :)  She settled down after jabbering for a few minutes, and slept soundly 'til morning.  Get your baby outside in the sun as much as you can during the day, and keep the room dark at night-- this really helps reset their internal circadian (daily) rhythms. 
- Traveling west will be harder on the plane's a really really LONG day, literally.  But then you'll get home so tired that you fall into bed around 8 pm and sleep until morning.  The next day you'll all probably be back on your home time, just a little tired and needing to take a nap or go to bed early.  The nice thing about this is that your baby will take really great naps. :)
- load up on vitamins both before and after time zone changes to boost your flagging immunity!  We love AirBorne!  Orange juice, or lemonade with cayenne & maple syrup are great.

7. While there:
- plan only one sight (or group of nearby sights) to see per day.
- either head back to the hotel for nap times, or plan on strapping your baby to your back, or in a stroller during nap-time.  Eowyn naps great in a moving stroller or on my back, and this has enabled me to enjoy museums she would have found unendurably boring.
- plan to let your baby down to crawl or walk or explore both morning and afternoon.  There are public gardens and parks everywhere, and you'll both enjoy the sun!
- pack your own baby food.  It's just not worth the time of trying to track it down once you're there.  Even if your child is older, pack foods you know are safe and tummy-pleasing for him.
- refuse to stress.  If you're tired, take a break. Nap.  Sit by a river.  ENJOY your trip.

- I've saved this for last because it's so controversial: BUT check the laws in your state regarding breast-feeding in a backseat.  I know this sounds crazy, but I just looked up the actual SC state law, just to see if it were true, and there IS an exemption clause for "children being fed."** Use your own judgement-- but I can imagine this being super-helpful knowlege in case of a traffic jam or other slow moving traffic, when your baby has had enough and is HUNGRY.  [We've never actually done this-- we always have pulled over, often combining gas or food stops with breastfeeding stops.]  To check state laws, google "child passenger restraint law___ " and fill in the state(s) in which you'll be driving.  I can't find a law authorizing this in KY, for instance.  Regardless, NEVER NURSE WHILE DRIVING!
South Carolina law:
**SECTION 56-5-6430. Use of restraint device not required under certain circumstances.  The provisions of this article do not apply if a child being transported is being fed, has a physical impairment, or a medical problem or any distress which makes it impractical to use a child restraint system. Alternate restraint protection, such as safety belts, must be utilized if possible.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Beans, Beans...

A friend just linked to this post comparing dry and canned beans.  I'd never thought of making a whole bag of dried beans and freezing the extra!  DUH! 

This website looks really helpful, too, so I'll be checking it out periodically!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Recycled Hair-bands

Here's a quick little recycled-clothing tip I discovered just the other day. 

Because of all the things I make with t-shirts (quilts, baby clothes...), I have a lot of spare t-shirt sleeves lying around.  I got the idea to cut these into 2" wide vertical strips.  Pull on them so the cut ends curl, and TA-DA!  You've got a perfect headband!  I love these because they keep hair out of my face, dress up a plain braid or pony-tail, but don't put pressure on my head or pull my hair like elastic ones do. 

So far I've made these sleeve-bands in hot pink, black, white, and red, and have worn one just about every day! :)  Eowyn always smiles at them in my hair, and wants one on her head, too.

Pic to come.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Water Kefir

One of the main "missing ingredients" in the American diet these days is fermented foods.  With the advent of canning and refrigeration, there isn't a "need" to preserve food in the old-fashioned low-tech ways like pickling or fermenting.  Both of these take advantage of little friendly bacteria in the air (Lactobacillus) which are happy to start digesting your food for you, releasing a ton of extra nutrients in the process, as well as making your food last longer.  If you think about it, every culture has its own fermented foods:  French with raw-milk cheeses and wines, Latin American with salsas of many kinds, Koreans with kimchi, Africans with sour gruel (ogi), Turks with kefir, early Americans with pickled veggies and sourdough breads, Germans with saurkraut, etc.  These all provide organisms which we desperately need to digest our food and defend our bodies.  If we don't have enough good bugs in us, the bad bugs take over, basically. Personal example:   I used to have a chronic yeast imbalance all over my entire body-- seen in skin problems, fatigue, and so many other ways.  The drugs I took for that, though, wiped my body clean of ALL yeast... and then I got a bacterial infection... antibiotics wiped my sistem of ALL bacteria, and I got an even worse yeast imbalance... you get the picture.  It wasn't until I used probiotics like those in kefir, kimchi, and yoghurt (both fermented milk products) to build my "good bugs" up, in conjunction with natural anti-fungals like cinnamon and garlic, that I finally found relief (and have kept in balence for 4 years now!).

Anyway, I am trying to add fermented foods into our diet and consume some every day if not at every meal.  My hope is that my daughter will grow up with a healthy internal "gut flora" from day 1.  Right now the easiest way to add fermented "foods" to our diet has actually been through drinks!  Sure, we enjoy sour cream, yogurt, and home-made cream cheese, but the main way Eowyn and I stay fortified is in our cups.  You may have heard of kefir, basically a drinkable yogurt.  Well, there is a such thing as water kefir, which provides the same benefits without having to mess with the milk aspect. My friend and neighbor Ruth has had great success brewing this for her family, and she offered to supply me with some starter grains in a muslin bag.  With much trepidation, I set out.  Here are photographs of the first few steps:

1. Purifying the water-- any extra chlorine in the water will kill the kefir grains, and carbon-based filters mess it up, too, so you can either boil tap water (letting it cool to room temp), let it set out overnight (the chlorine will evaporate), or aerate it with a blender (to make the chlorine vaporize faster).  As you can see, I chose the blender option:

2. Feeding the starter.  Kefir grains are formed of living organisms so they must be fed.  Here I dissolve 1/4 c organic sugar into 1 c boiling water.  Notice that everything I use is glass or plastic.  Metal utensils can damage kefir grains. Yes, they are kinda finicky.

3. Adding the kefir grains-- after adding enough cool water to the water-and-sugar mix to fill a quart-sized mason jar (with about 1" head room), I let it cool to room temperature.  Temperature is crucial; apparently too hot will kill them... too cold puts them to sleep (which is great when you want to take a break). The kefir grains are in a muslin bag to protect them.  I rinsed them off really well before adding them.  Cover it loosely with a cloth (keep out flies), and let it sit at room temp for 24-48 hrs (longer means more of the sugar is eaten= less sweet taste).

4. not shown:  flavoring the kefir.  After it's fermented to your liking (I did only 24 hrs to minimize alcohol content), you remove the kefir grains (rince & add them to a new batch),  and add flavors.  Let ferment- it gets nice and fizzy at this point!- another day, then remove fruit pieces and add any vanilla.  I tried several recipies; our favorite being ginger-lemon (2-4 T freshly grated ginger, 1/4 c lemon juice, with a splash of vanilla added the next day.  I tried a plain vanilla as well as an apple-juice one.  Ruth's kids love grape-juice-flavored kefir.  Once you've done all this, the kefir needs to be stored in the fridge or somewhere else cool.

If you want to try it, read a great tutorial here.  Ruth got her kefir grains from cultures for health... and if you live in the area, I'd be happy to share some of my very-healthy and growing grains with you!  Just ask!

I drink the kefir straight, starting with just 1/4 glass per day to get my body used to it.  Now I can drink pretty much as much as I want.  For Eowyn, I give her only about 1/4 cup per day, diluted in 8 oz or more of water.  She LOVES the stuff, crying if I tell her it's all gone.  I've gotten to the point where I crave the fizzy, slightly sour taste.  It is a great thirst-quencher, and helps digest meals. 

One other fermented drink that is super-easy to make, and very kid-friendly, is ginger "beer."  Our friend Blythe shared some with us, and Eowyn had a total melt-down when I finished my cup of it and she got no more sips.  I remember reading in the Little House on the Prairie books that Ma sent ginger-beer out to the workers on hot days because it wouldn't hurt their stomachs like water would.  Now I know what she meant!!  Here's an article with quite a few fermented drink recipes.

Lately, we've been enjoying a friend's home-brewed kombucha (a fermented tea).  Eowyn does like that (super-diluted, sometimes mixed with diluted juice), too, but she makes a really funny face after every sip, before going back for more... kinda like she does with pickles or lemons.

I'm so glad she's getting a taste for GOOD foods early on instead of empty calories like soda, candy, or straight fruit juice!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Top Ten

Several new moms have put out APBs asking all "experienced" moms & care-givers to give them tips about the top 10 "must-haves" for baby care, through the first year. Here's ours, in order of age used:

1. Wearable blankets-- we had hoped to get use out of our swaddlers, and we did at first (when she slept on her side), but with a tummy-sleeper swaddling just isn't possible.  So, what do you do with a baby who tosses and turns in a drafty old house?  Put her in warm PJs, then zip up a warm "sleep sack" or wearable blanket on top.  Ta-da! Toasty baby.

2. Natural pain-relievers:  homeopathic teething tablets & Tummy Soothers (Disney brand)-- the former is used almost daily at this stage in Eowyn's life, the latter was given thrice daily for the first 5 months of her life. 

3. Ergo carrier-- as a friend commented yesterday, I am their biggest fan, always recommending it to someone. :)  I didn't even bother with the newborn insert, I just stuck her in there all balled up, sometimes in a blanket.  This kept her toasty, too.  (You can also sit her on a rolled-up blanket or towel as an infant).  In church, I've put E in the Ergo forward-facing (cross-legged), which isn't really officially recommended, but which kept us all happy... I've also used it in the side and back positions.  It's got the versatility and long-term comfort of a Moby or Maya-wrap, but simpler to get on and off.  Keeps babies in the upright position instead of reclining like in a sling.  You can't do without this if you have a colicky or refluxy baby!

4. Paci straps-- great if you have a paci-sucker.  This keeps it attached to baby during nursery stays, trips shopping, in the car, in the crib... wonderful especially when your child falls in love with gravity and chucks everything out of the crib.  There are tons out there, but my friend Bethany makes them here.

5. Small "blankies" (blanditos in our family)-- the small size makes them great for diaper bags and traveling, but what is essential is the combo of silky and soft fabrics.  I now make taggy-style blankets with both these elements as my "standard" baby gift.

6. Freezable teething rings-- the old standby also doubles as a great ice-pack for bumps and bruises.  I'm going to put a bonus plug in for the boo-boo bunnies & bears which have plastic ice cubes in them made of the same material as the freezable teething rings.

7. Sophie la giraffe (by Vulli)-- wow, how did we survive without it? Received as a gift at 5 mos, and pretty much constantly sucked on, chewed on, and squeezed until 10 mos.  Totally worth the price.  Her legs, horns, head, and body all are perfectly sized for reaching any sore gum.  And it squeaks easily which makes babies happy.  Just don't give it to an older child or you will go bonkers.

8. Big bibs-- I mean bibs the size of tea towels, that cover more than 6 square inches on the chest... crucial for saving clothes if your child is refluxy or a messy eater!  My favorite is Aden & Anais' "burpy bibs."  They have a snap so you can make them bibs, or they are perfectly-contoured for over-the-shoulder burping!  If you're more DIY, they are pretty easy to make.  My grandma actually made Eowyn several bibs out of towels, and another friend gave me some she'd gotten that were hand-towels with a t-shirt neck in the middle of them. 

9. Mesh feeders- I was kinda weirded out by these when an experienced mom gave them to me, but wow... I understand now!  Once your baby starts teething, these are a great way to introduce solids (steamed veggies are great), provide a natural teething toy, or give teething relief (put anything frozen, like blueberries or banana, or even just ice).  I often give one to E in her high chair as I'm making dinner, and she sucks on it happily without getting too messy.  (I also emply my friends Mr.s Frozen Peas in this quiet-dinner-prep-endeavor.)

10. Raw coconut oil- the only diaper rash cream you'll ever need.  Make a cloth wipe solution for cleaning messy diapers with it and water...cook with it (in place of butter)... use it for chapstick, in natural deodorant, on chapped cheeks... and it has a really light, pleasant smell...

And a bonus that doesn't apply to everybody:
11. For cloth diaper-ers:  a diaper sprayer!!  Yes, I do survive when we're traveling using faucets, etc., but that is so much grosser than just using this in the toilet!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Li'l Szrama-clan Update

I sat down to write my sister an email, and out came a pretty good summary of our doings since coming home on Sunday.

First off, I detailed my next project:  baby-bum sweaters!!  Eowyn is outgrowing her diaper wraps, and I think instead of just ordering more I want to try this. One of my friends sons can only wear wool wraps, and she showed me the ones she made, which motivated me to try some on my own. So here goes!! (My sister is a fellow DIY recycled crafts nut.  I love her.  We used to have craft nights and cover our bedroom floors with our crafts, and just talk and talk and talk. We totally need to do that again.)

Next, the going-ons: We have E's "Sugar and Spice" party tomorrow (along with 2 other girlies born about a week apart), so today I'm making pumpkin cupcakes for that. Tomorrow we'll be getting ready for the party but I may attempt a goodwill run, looking for sweaters.

I got an amazing haul of books 2 days ago at Half-Price books- mostly kid books (I got a bunch of new board books for $1 each, and several really nice new bilingual books for $2 each... and a ton of paperback classics like 'Time Cat' and 'Bridge to Terabinthia' for 50c each... oh yes and Artemis Fowl books for a buck each-- Powell Christmas gifts, check. Baby gifts, check.), AND a Lonestar CD (The one with "mr mom" on it) for $2. So fun. The only reason I didn't buy the whole store was that Eowyn kept entertaining herself by going and pulling books off the shelf. Very funny.

We went apple picking at Huber's Wed. with our church playgroup (pics here), and then yesterday we had our family portraits taken. It was a GORGEOUS day, about 85, so we had perfect weather. Eowyn really liked the photographer-- a portly, soft-spoken man, and she held out her arms to him and cuddled on his shoulder the second she saw him! We were shocked! Anyway, he was amazed at how easy she was to photograph, and she did all her tricks for the camera-- holding up one finger for her age, putting her hands over her head and saying "Ta!!!" for ("tan grande!" (so big) when asked how big she is), waving hi and bye, crawling and walking. We have to wait 2 weeks to see them but I'm confident there will be at least a half-dozen must-haves.
Thirdly, reading list:  I'm going back and kinda skimming HP 4 right now... just finished All Creatures Great and Small (James Herriott-- HILARIOUS!!). I think I'm going to try Walt Wangerin's Book of the Dun Cow next-- it was highly recommended at the Hutchmoot and so far they haven't led me wrong. 

Lastly, spiritual health and time-management update (so often they go hand-in-hand for me...maybe for all moms):  I actually have been doing better about cleaning & tidying up the house, and I've started decorating for fall. Having friends over is a good motivator for me, lol. I got to sit down and read my Bible just a minute ago (love that morning nap), and it was Ps 121 which I'm sure you know. The Lord spoke to me in a different way through it, though, as not just a comfort "The Lord who watches you will not slumber," but as a "you have no excuse" reminder. There is NEVER a time when I can't ask for help with my attitude, with my thoughts, with my temptations. A few days ago I was really frustrated with life and Ryan got I'm-mad-at-you-treatment for a whole day... I knew it was wrong but I didn't care and didn't feel like anything could help me. The Lord brought that to mind and reminded me that "yes, I would have helped. I was awake and watching, remember?" I am so thankful for forgiveness in the Gospel, arent' you? Without it I would be so crushed by my own guilt.