Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yummy Easy Recipe

I just saw this and thought it looked yummy!  It's a recipe for Maple-Vanilla Panna Cruda, along with some tidbits about the origins of maple syrup!

Vision Forum & Other Coupon Codes

I've been doing the last of our holiday shopping online this morning, and thought I'd share 3 sites I've used a bit... well, actually 4. You'll see.

The first is It's a meta-search engine that will compile a list of all the prices for a specific book online. It searches Amazon (new & used), Barnes & Noble,, and tons more. It includes shipping, and even finds coupon codes for you! If you are thinking about getting a book for someone, check it first!

The second is Better World Books.They are often cheaper than Amazon, have free shipping (which Amazon Marketplace often lacks), and donate one book to charity for each you buy.  I love their mission for world literacy and environmentally friendly mailing!  As a bonus, use the coupon code CIRCLEKALUMNICOUPON to get 10% off your order total.

Third is Vision Forum.  I like a lot of their products (but try to take their quiver-full, homeschool-only leanings in stride), but tend to find that much is overpriced, and their shipping has been SO expensive in the past.  This year they're getting on the lower-shipping train, though, with $5 flat-rate shipping, AND here's a code to get 20% off your total order:  ALLEXTRA20.  I also have a coupon code for $10 off if anyone wants it, as for me the 20% off was worth more.  Just message me and I'll get it to you!

The sort-of 4th site I recommend is a jumping-off point called eBates.  You log in there and then use their links to go to many of your favorite stores for cash back (a certain percentage of your order).  Barnes & Noble, Better World Books, Land's End, and Snapfish all are on ebates.

Please tell me- what tips, sites & codes do you use to get the most bang for your buck these days?

Enjoy! :)


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Loving our Two Year Old

"Look, I wink!"
Oh, Éowyn Grace, you two-year-old, you! I may not have as much energy as usual, growing this brother or sister of yours, but that just means I get more time to try and memorize you in all your toddler cuteness.  I love our morning snuggles, when I bring sleepy you into our bed and you wake us up with your antics.  Much as I will one day love sleeping until I actually am ready to wake up, I will miss your warm wiggly body.

I'm fascinated with how quickly you grow in your grasp of language.  Your mind is always active, always learning.  I love that you still don't get language perfectly, that we get to enjoy your baby-talk a few months more; like how you sternly tell Daddy 'no pat my back-pack' (meaning your back), or ask me to 'make-a-me a tail?' (referring to a pig-tail in your hair).  Most notably is your use of 'you' as your article of choice-- in your mouth, it can mean the, that, a, my, his, or yours, as in 'Hold you hand' or 'Baby needs you Mommy' (translation: the baby needs his mommy).  Some cute Eowyn-isms:  cop-corm, heart-beep, butt (button), ooh-hah (musica), powin (pouting- which she will demonstrate if you don't understand her), shone (phone). In both languages, you know all your colors, can count to 10 (but almost always skip 3), and have a huge vocabulary for your age.  You prefer to speak in English, though you understand Spanish perfectly, and do have select phrases you always say in Spanish (such as 'agua').  I try to exercise my brain and use Spanish, though it's hard to keep up with your growing needs for correction & conversation.  :) 

Ahh, correction.  Yes, you definitely need that, on some days in spades.  You've got quite a stubborn streak, and (especially when you're hungry & tired) can keep up a steady fuss-fit-cry-scream going for hours at a time.  You also have begun to believe that you "need" (and you use that word with relish) about 25 items before going to sleep-- on nights when you really get going, you'll ask for multiple bo-bos, certain babies by name, paci(s), agua, hugs, kisses, tickles, music, songs sung (most-requested: O Ma Dawlin, Da Seep Song, Jesus, Los Pollitos, Amaze Gace & My Sunshine), to be covered up, to be rocked, and even just plain old held.  When told 'no' or given an unpalatable instruction, you often fling your head away and close your eyes, as if blocking out the sight of us could make it more bearable.  Or, if you aren't restrained by a high chair, the floor will do for refuge, hands over your face, bum in the air, "powin" with all your might.  Of course you aren't allowed to do this, but you still try, and I try very hard not to laugh.  Because it is cute.  I've been so pleased to see you respond with understanding when we've compared this reaction to that of King Zedekiah in one of your Bibles, where Isaiah is shown pleading with him to listen & repent, and he turns proudly away.  This has become your favorite picture in the Bible, and when reminded of it in the moment, you often crack a smile and give in.  I am praying for your little heart, and praising the Lord that He is showing you mercy already! 

You are still a Mama's girl through and through, though since Mama's been unavailable more often lately, through musical duties or sickness or fatigue, you and Daddy have become much more close.  You call out for him when you wake up, you laugh with him, tickle him, and nothing makes me happier.  He freely shares his technology with you (far more freely than I do), and your constant refrain is "See pictures, Daddy? (on your iPhone)" or "Pay game? (on your computer)."  Any noise of him upstairs or outside prompts you to shout "Daddy get you!  Hold you Mama!" and jump into my arms.
You make us laugh a lot, either through your "jokes" of calling things by their improper name and laughing yourself silly over it (forks & spoons especially, or potties & chairs), or threatening to go to sleep in your carseat, complete with fake snores, or though your childish ways of putting things.  "It stinks like poopin'!" or "Hmmm... is sticky in my nose."  You know the difference between needs & wants, and love to say "I NEED ___" first, then once prompted, grin and amend "I want _____."

You tend to be extremely sociable unless we want you to be, then clam up and try to hide.  After many discussions of how you are not allowed to be rude to anyone, I had to smile when you overcompensated by SHOUTING greetings to folks in the store.  Despite your fake shyness, you wake up asking to "see amigos?" every morning.  You also request Skype or phone calls to family members regularly, and you know who goes with whom.

Eating has been challenging the last 5 weeks, due to sickness.  There seems to be a lingering issue with texture-- contrary to your former habit of inhaling as much food as could possibly fit into your mouth, and then some, you spit out anything larger than a pinky-nail and proclaim it "too big."  We are constantly reminding you that you have teeth and can use them.  I'm sure this will pass. :)

You are still a true girly- girl.  Purses, shoes, boots, hair-dos, pretty clothes, babies, food, phones, all fascinate you.  You love to talk and remember everyone's name you've ever met.  When you see animals, you invariably try to put them into families-- if there are 3 of anything, they are a mommy, a daddy, and a baby. However, you are also a child of the 21st C, and you love iPhones & skype, computer games & movies, and anything with buttons. The zoo & the library are favorite spots, though you don't mind shopping with mommy either.  You love books, especially little scrapbooks, or any book sized for your hands actually.  A few favorites are 'The Very Hungry Catterpillar,' 'The Very Quiet Cricket,' 'The Red Ripe Strawberry', 'The Napping House,' and 'The Gingerbread Man.' We try to go to the park whenever the weather permits.  Just last week it was warm and the leaves were half-off the trees, forming a glorious golden carpet.  I taught you how to drag your feet and listen to the swish-swish of autumnal footsteps, and we made pillows in the leaves and laid down to watch the leaves dance down.  It was a truly precious moment-- the warmth, the colors, your delight at experiencing your first autumn, your small voice, the pillowy leaves, the chance to just rest and enjoy.  I know you won't remember it, so I have treasured it up for both of us.

I love you, Cha-chi.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some Eowyn-Tales

At my Aunt LM's house in New York, all the cupboards were at child-level, so Eowyn had enjoyed opening them and peering inside, though she wasn't allowed to touch anything.  Making dinner for the family one night, I was stymied in my attempt to locate their cheese grater.  I turned to Eowyn, always close by, and asked her "do you know where the cheese-grater is?," fully knowing I'd never told her that word in my life.  She thought for a minute, then got up, went straight to the corner cupboard, and pulled out, sure enough, a cheese grater!  "For cheese?" she asked, handing it to me.  I guess all those mornings of watching me grate cheese over her eggs paid off!

Eowyn accompanied me to a friend's prenatal appointment, and with fascination watched the doctor smear gel on her belly, and heard the baby's heartbeat.  Later I found her with a honey bottle, pretending to squirt gel on herself, saying "swich-wich," and then reminding herself "wipe it off!"  At any mention of this friend or her baby (now born), Eowyn repeats this, and finishes with "and he get out!"  :)

I had agreed to sing 2 songs to Eowyn before bed, but couldn't figure out which she wanted. "Yo-po" is what it sounded like, and that wasn't ringing any bells... She kept trying "hung-ee?  cold?"  My mind was racing...what songs do I sing about hunger & cold?  Finally she exclaimed "bok-bok!"  It all clicked:  she was asking for the Spanish folksong called 'Los Pollitos' (thence the yo-po), which is about baby chicks (bok-boks) and how their mom feeds them when they are hungry, and snuggles them when they are cold.  What had confused me was that it's completely in Spanish, and I'd never translated it for her-- she did that on her own.

A friend was over for a snack, and we were eating pumpkin muffins on the couch.  Seeing that our plates were done, Eowyn asked to take them.  Interested to see what she'd do, I let her take them.  She walked straight to her little kitchen (b-day gift) and pretended to wash them right off in its sink.  My little home-maker in the making!

Eowyn approached me with one of her babies.  "This Ellie," she informed me.  I nodded.  "I Mommy," she clapped herself on the chest.  "You 'Stina," she finished, pointing to me.  "You're the Mommy of this baby, not me?" I asked.  "Yep."  Guess I can enjoy grand-parenthood a bit earlier than I thought.  She's also taken to joyfully calling out "Ryan!!" whenever she first sees her father, much to the delight of nursery workers and friends.  Then there was that time she waved and called out "Bye, Kis-teena!" as she was carried into her Sunday School class... 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Family Pics 2011

November has come with all its colors in Kentucky.  We are doing well as a family, with Eowyn talking, pretending, singing, counting and learning more and more.  A more lengthy update on her will come later, as she's so cute. :)  Mama is feeling generally seasick & tired, but with naps, supplements like liver, kombucha, fresh raw juices, cod liver oil and plenty of good food is managing well.  She is still running moderately and hopes to complete her first half-marathon next Saturday!  Most of her spare time is spent poring over required reading or completing assignments for her doula certification.  Ryan (aka Daddy) is traveling a good deal, with trips to Austin & Florida coming up and recently completed visits to Indianapolis & Atlanta.  God continues to bless his business and grow it in all sorts of ways!

We had a friend of ours (Elise of eMarie Photography) take our pictures and we couldn't be happier.
  She did a great job of capturing Eowyn's many moods-- goofy, sulky, difficult, energetic, lively, nurturing, and sweet.

Recently read books include:
- The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 2)- Rick Riordan- fun read!
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin- super-helpful for anyone wishing to be a part of the child birthing process, especially in a more natural way.
- The Labor Progress Handbook: Early Interventions to Prevent and Treat Dystocia-
Penny Simkin, Ruth Ancheta- this was invaluable to me during my first solo doula birth. It's a bit technical, but the myriad of positions and suggestions are well-illustrated and explained.
- The Nursing Mother's Companion- Kathleen Huggins- of the 4 books on breastfeeding I've read/skimmed, this is my favorite (I'm also working through The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding and The Complete Book of Breastfeeding). I feel like Nursing Mother's Companion is the most helpful in concrete ways.

Working on:
- The Birth Partner- Peggy Simkin- great for expectant dads, nurses, doulas, moms, and other labor partners
- At Home in Mitford- Jan Karon- this is a sweet book I've read before and am enjoying re-reading. GREAT for the holidays!!
- Catching Fire (Book 2 of The Hunger Games)- Suzanne Collins -really fun book, really terrible audiobook!
- Three in a Bed- Deborah Jackson- on co-sleeping... so far I am far from convinced
- The Attachment Parenting Book- Dr. William & Martha Sears- it's assigned reading... and I'm trying to read with an open mind.
- Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows- an audiobook I'm falling asleep to these days. I find I drop off to sleep much quicker if a familiar story is read to me-- one I'm not afraid to nod off during (since I know what happens next anyway). Otherwise my brain puts in too much of my OWN story and I just think and think and think and think...
-Radical- David Platt

Monday, November 07, 2011

Child Spacing-- does it matter?

Today I'm going to throw something out there that we don't often hear about:  the effect child-spacing has on the health & intelligence of the children of a family.  No, this isn't the old birth-order idea, where you expect the firstborn to be responsible, smart, and strong-willed, with the youngest being the baby, often the clown... No, I'm talking strictly nutrition here.  What do I mean?

Here in the states 2 years is often seen as the ideal (or most common) age between children in a family.  It's not uncommon to have even less "space" between them, with many families having several children each spaced a mere 15 to 18 months apart.  One family I know had 2 pregnancies within a school year (11 months apart), bringing their family total to 5 children under the age of 7 by year's end.  While we might shake our heads in terror at the thought of caring for that many small children, one thing we don't usually consider is the immense strain conceiving, carrying and nursing each child is on the mom's body. Babies aren't made from nothing-- they take huge amounts of energy, vitamins, minerals, proteins & fats to properly function.

Traditionally, worldwide, the 'ideal' space between children in one family was seen as 3 years.  I like the way the Healthy Home Economist puts it:
"Traditional cultures knew that proper spacing between children was necessary to ensure that younger siblings were as healthy and smart as the first.    Tribes practiced this through a system of multiple wives or abstinence in the monogamous cultures.
The minimum time between children of the same mother was 3 years.  Any time frame less than that was frowned upon and even looked at with scorn as it opened up the very real possibility of a child with less ability and intelligence or even birth defects.   Three years between pregnancies gave Mom the opportunity to breastfeed the child for an extended period of time and also to replenish her own nutritional stores before gestation began anew.  "  Please read her whole article here.
This idea intrigued me. Instinctively I had personally known I didn't want to get pregnant right away after having Eowyn for at least two reasons-- I wanted to make sure she got to nurse for an extended period of time (especially with us being so selective about the vaccines she gets), and I knew that my body would need a long time to replenish, especially with all the lack of nutritional intake I was able to have during my pregnancy... so much of it was coming right back up.   Once I weaned Eowyn, I still wanted a few months at least of "stocking up" in case baby #2 brought as much of a hiatus on my eating as his/her sister did.
"Maternal nutritional depletion" is a "plausible explanation" for why short periods between pregnancies can mean harmful birthing outcomes, particularly in developing countries." (Abstract from 2006 study published in the AMJ)
I've since found phrases in literature such as "Three to Five Saves Lives"-- referring to the fact that waiting three to five years between child births actually increases the odds of Baby #2's survival.  While this is especially true in developing countries, it is still a valid consideration all over the world.  Read more here or here.

Some might point to their (seemingly) healthy kids and say "well, they're 15 months apart and they turned out fine!" and it could be absolutely true... but what about Mama?  (Or baby #4 if your reserves become non-existent?)  I remember reading Willa Cather & other pioneer-era stories and noticing that it was almost expected for women to lose teeth with every pregnancy.  Why might this be? God has designed us so perfectly to pull any and every nutrient the baby needs from wherever can be found-- be it our bones & teeth, our reserve stores, or our diet. (You can also be more at risk for cavities if you vomit a lot during pregnancy.  yuck.)  For early American farmers who might have had several children closely spaced (even if many died in infancy) this could mean mothers were so nutrient-starved that their bodies took from their own teeth, especially if it was a lean time such as winter after a poor harvest.  Teeth are also a good indicator of our internal healthWhen Dr. Price, a dentist, researched traditional people groups around the world, he found that tooth decay and degenerative diseases went hand in hand.  See a good summary of his findings here.  Basically, if your teeth start having problems, that's a red flag that you've got deeper issues going on internally.

Pregnancies right on top of the other (less than 2 years apart) usually lead to a malnourished mother. Maternal health & diet has a huge effect on kids.  Just how big we probably don't know.  One study with rats seems to indicate that our diets while pregnant can influence our grandchildren! Crazy!  In some ways, a prenatal diet can have more lasting effects than breastfeeding-- nothing is more crucial than a foundation, and bodies are being built during pregnancy.  So on the one hand, starting out with plenty of reserves is really important, but on the other, maintaining a nutrient-dense diet during pregnancy is just as important.  I felt that for me, since I knew I'd probably have food aversions & general inability to keep food down (as I did for Eowyn) that a solid foundation was even more crucial.  I wanted a bit of nutritional wiggle-room during pregnancy!

One of the reasons I so strongly resist the "I trust God with my child bearing so I won't do anything to affect it" line of thinking is that it so often puts kids so close together that the mother is physiologically maxed out, not to mention run ragged emotionally.  (and how many parents might welcome MORE children if they had more space between them?)  For many, breast-feeding is a natural child-spacer, especially if you're eating lots of whole foods without lots of hormones in them... but for some, breast feeding isn't enough.  Maybe it's genetics, or age, or diet, or all of the above.  I love the idea of LAM, but am still trying to research it before I put all my trust in it.  I know I didn't want to risk it myself!  :)  God gives us all sorts of ways to be responsible as we trust Him and use the myriad of means available to us... I'm so thankful we have ways today of attempting child-spacing besides polygamy or 2 years of abstinence!!

Of course, so far I've only mentioned physical factors in spacing our children.  However, there are a whole host of factors each couple should take into account.  I like the way Kate at Modern Alternative Mama put it in one of her follow-up comments:
"The problem (I think for many) is that there are just SO many considerations with child spacing, not just perfect health. Babies can be healthy at 2 years apart even if they'd be better at 2.5 or 3 years apart. But there's family situation, finances, siblings needs, etc. etc. to consider too. I do LOVE how close my first two are, now. [...]  I like people to know about traditional child spacing because it can help them to make a decision, it can be a part of what they consider. It can also answer questions for them about maybe why they're struggling to get pregnant or having miscarriages or other issues like that. So, I "report" it, knowing full well that while it's the "best" idea, that we don't live in a perfect world. Does that make sense? I hope."
I totally feel that tension.  I definitely wanted a second baby a bit earlier than what we will have, but even as I struggled with my impatience I knew that the few months difference wouldn't matter in the long run at all, and that the Lord was doing what was right by me.  Looking back, it could be that I needed those extra few months with no strain on my body to get ready for this baby, or for more babies or health challenges down the road.  So, yes-- take this information on child spacing and its benefits, and include that in your schema for deciding when to seek to add more children to your home, with prayer & trust in the Lord.  And if He brings a child to your home earlier than you expected, know that He will provide all that is needed... and eat healthier than ever!!  :)

Feel free to comment, agree, or protest!  I welcome your thoughts!  What were some factors you would consider in trying to conceive (again)?