Friday, June 4, 2010

Moving on up...

I am pleased to announce that my new blog is up and running! I'm now on Wordpress at

All of my blog posts from this blog, Mama's Mouth, and Inexact Science: Raising Healthy Families have been migrated over. They are currently all on the main page. Eventually I will break them out so that all the recipe and food entries go under "Healthy Eating," all the entries about writing and art go under "The Arts," etc. This is all explained on the "About" page (which also has a link to my new writer's site, which is not up yet). Right now the only way to find stuff is just to use the tag categories.

I also don't have up any links, or buttons, or ways to help readers subscribe or anything savvy and smart in terms of social networking. I had help with the design and migration and am just now going to try to log in myself to post something. I anticipate I won't write again here except to announce the move is official and complete. But if I can't figure out what I'm doing right away, I'll keep posting here until I do!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Read me in a book!

I'm pleased to announce that an essay of mine is going to be published in From the Heart: A Collection of Stories and Poems from the Front Lines of Parenting, an anthology that's just about to be published by a group called Write for Charity. Proceeds will benefit Children’s Hospital and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Foundation.

The book is now available for pre-sale. Details about the book's contents and about how to order a pre-sale (discounted) copy are available at

My essay, originally published online in 2008 at the Mothering Heights Second Mother's Day Online Anthology, compares my first year teaching high school to my first year as a mom. It's called "The First Time Around." I can't wait to see it in a volume!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

American Idol 2010 -- not a mom

How bad does it sound to say that because she is a mom, I'm glad Crystal Bowersox didn't win American Idol? That's not completely true. I just wondered how bad it would sound to say it.

Make no mistake, I was and am a Crystal fan. I think she's amazingly talented, so damn centered, and really someone I would love to have a beer with (metaphorically anyway. My best drinking days days were winding down when she was still a preschooler). But I'm kind of relieved for her that she didn't win, the same way I was relieved for Adam Lambert. As Lisa deMoraes of the Washington Post put it this article, Crystal "escapes the whole 'American Idol' beauty pageant syndrome -- shilling for Ford, etc." She will still go out on the summer concert and have the backing of the AI machine, but there's a bunch of stuff she won't have to do since she's not the winner. For someone as clear about who she is as Crystal (same goes for Adam Lambert), I think it sounds like a relief to have a lighter load of product endorsements and the like, especially since she's got a young son.

I don't think her career or her ego needed for her to win, and it sounds like she agrees from the "don't cry for me" comments she made after Lee Dewyze won the competition.

Read the rest of this entry at DC Metro Moms Blog.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Now I'm the know-it-all

The other day, I took a prenatal yoga class for the third or fourth time. Amid all the cute bellies on first-time moms, I felt compelled to offer a dash of perspective from the side of motherhood -- the one that's been there already.

Read more in "Reality Check for New Moms" at DC Metro Moms.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I dreamed a dream Part II: Background

I wanted to stay in the moment in my post the other day about my dream that my baby might have Down Syndrome. But there are a couple of other background factors I'd like to acknowledge.

First of all, we didn't do any early fetal testing, so who knows. I didn't even look into all the options that are out there. My feeling about prenatal testing is similar to my feeling about intervention with in labor: they both often serves mostly to lead to more interventions and more worries.

But I also know at least two folks who learned at their 20-week sonograms that their babies were not going to make it to delivery or more than a few hours after. That's pretty important information to have, I think. I wasn't up for skipping this one diagnostic.

The report -- now two months ago -- said that everything with our baby was, "unremarkable" except for bilateral choroid plexus cysts, which, in the presence of other indications, might point toward Trisomy 18. A few articles suggested a link between the cysts and Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21), but it sounds from this one like the likelihood of a problem with no other issues is slim.

We went with the cheapest ultrasound place we could find since everything is out of pocket. I felt like the tech was plenty competent, but you just never know, and it does feel a little weird that the cyst remark was on the written report but that the tech said to our faces that everything was fine.

We could get another sonogram to see if the cysts disappeared in the third trimester as they usually do or if there is anything else that looks possibly suspicious, like closed, clenched hands. I just checked, and two of the sono images from 20 weeks show hands that look pretty open to me. I've read that some folks just have these cysts their whole lives and there's no problem. They don't always disappear. I didn't learn until a few years ago from an MRI that I have a Rathke cleft cyst.

So if I get another sono and the baby's cysts are still there, do I worry more? What is the point of another $170 or the $500 most other places charge? Besides, when the baby is bigger, it's harder to see things. I remember being disappointed in a sonogram around 35 weeks to confirm that my son was breech; it was much less fun and dramatic than at 20 weeks when you could see the whole baby. My husband and I both felt like he was just a mess of parts and walked away not only disappointed about the breech position but significantly less giddy for having "seen" our kid than we'd been months earlier. So I don't think I really want to go there.

And even if I do and the cysts are still there, what is the point? I guess I could start doing some reading. My sister lent me Expecting Adam a while back, and maybe Waiting for Birdy would be a good read as well. But I don't want to scare myself into expecting something that probably won't happen. I've already decided not to finish reading Knocked Up, Knocked Down, because I know from her blog (and writings elsewhere) how that story turns out, and I am just not up for reading about the journey from the happy expectant phase through to the stillbirth right now. My mother-in-law had a stillbirth, and it's been my main worry throughout this pregnancy. (Many Trisomy babies are stillborn, and most don't live past age one).

I think my body, mind, and spirit will be better served by active preparation for birth that looks at the event/experience as something powerful and sacred and that holds the space open for whatever comes after to be whatever it is and not be already layered on with a ton of meaning I've spun for weeks in the prenatal period.

The second piece of background is that I realized much later the day after the dream that it might have been spurred by reading this Carolyn Hax "Tell Me About It" column in the Washington Post that day. A reader whose family was not supportive of her plans to become a single mom via artificial insemination was asking for feedback, and another mom of a special needs child wrote in that despite having a supportive co-parent, she'd had to give up everything to care for her child. If you don't have a ton of money, she suggested, or a "village," -- and if you're writing to an advice columnist! -- maybe it's time to re-think. Kids are not made to order, she reminded.

I really liked Carolyn's response: "'re posing a question every prospective parent should answer: Am I ready to get what I want, or am I ready to get what I get? The former is dreaming, the latter is parenthood."

We will get what we get, and I will do my best to enjoy this pregnancy for the experience that it is, right now, in this moment. And while I'm at it, to just enjoy life with my family as it is now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I dreamed a dream (Part I)

As I slept the other night, a vision came into my head of a child with a crowded mouth of ill-fitting teeth. Then I heard the words, "She has Down's."

My eyes popped open. It was the middle of the night, and my 4-year-old son lay sleeping next to me, with my husband on the other side, oblivious to the pronouncement I'd just heard in my head.

Oh my God. I asked my baby -- using the name we have recently warmed to but reserve the right to change our minds about -- "Does that mean you? Do you have special needs?"

Previously asleep, she started moving right away. And she replied: "We will be fine, Mommy. I am the perfect child for you to have. We will be fine."

At first I remained concerned and wide-eyed, my heart racing. But I kept listening. What should I do? "Trust. Love. Breathe."

Um, okay. Pretty wise for a 28-week-old fetus. But then again, who knows how long that soul has been around. It would appear that it has an edge on mine!

Lately when I've woken up at this time of night -- without any alarming warning, just with alertness -- I have to get up. There's just no use staying in bed. I make a snack or do a little yoga, or read, or all three. But this night I could tell my baby just wanted me to rest.

So I did. And I thought about her words. I fell back asleep.

The next day, I wasn't shaken or upset. I felt peaceful. Accepting. It's not up to me what child is going to come into our lives. There is no script of how things should be unless I make it up in my head and cling to it, which does no one any good.

So, for the moment, I am less anxious or worried (or avoidingly distant) than I've been much of this pregnancy and more of the mind that whatever is the right experience for me to have will be the one I will have.

Whatever life looks like, however hard the challenges we face, we can always choose to believe that things are, in fact, fine.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mama needs a massage

So get one -- for free! Massage Envy is running a contest that closes Sunday, May 16 just before midnight. Tell -- in 140 characters or fewer! -- how you told your partner you were expecting. You could win a free three-month membership to Massage Envy. Sounds good to me!

Participants tweet to @massageenvydc or email to enter. More information and contest rules are available at Massage Envy on Facebook. And more info about this prenatal massage is available at Mummy's Product Reviews (thanks for the reminder, Victoria!)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sigh. Sometimes it's easier to mother when your child is really in a rough state.

My son has been mildly sick for over a week, just sick enough that he's been unable to go to school. And I've been unable to work. It's been a delight to see him fully immersed in play by himself, to have three meals a day with him, and to see him grow developmentally -- like actually being interested in creating representational art instead of scribbles. And, at the same time, it's also been incredibly frustrating to not have any time to focus on anything either in my head (writing, volunteer work for Holistic Moms) or in my body (meditating, doing yoga, focusing on the baby in my belly). I have really been impatient for him to hurry up and get well!

The weekend offered some respite, but it was not as restful as the boy needed. Though I do appreciate his dad taking him out to Home Depot to buy garden supplies and then involving the boy while he worked, clearly the activity (and the insane wind!) tired both of them out such that sick one needed another day home on Monday to recoup. I was not pleased and felt sorry for myself.

He declared himself "still sick" and not well enough to go to school, and I decided not to push it. He's never had Tylenol or any other drug, and I'm not one to just push him through because I don't think that is going to do him any favors in the long run. But this letting the body heal approach sure takes time! It seemed like he needed a transition day to warm to the idea of getting back out in the world. He's a very social kid and is always saying he wants to see friends, but I think he got pretty used to being home all day when he could rub his face on his mama's growing belly at his leisure (well, not really, but it sure was more accessible than when we're apart!)

After a very low-key morning, we had an afternoon visit from a friend who was dropping off some pregnancy and baby items now that she's had her son. All day, E was asking, "When is Liz coming over?" He hasn't even played with her daughters in months, but he really wanted company.

And yet, while we were at the park, he started to melt. He didn't know what to do with himself. He was hungry but wouldn't eat the apple I cut up when we got back. I ended up having to kick out my friends because he was just crying like a baby. Reminder: he's four. I couldn't believe what I had on my hands.

Fortunately, the dinner was mostly made, so we ate just after 5:00. "I want to go to bed," he whined, and I complied as soon as I felt his belly was full enough. "I guess Daddy's going to have to celebrate his birthday by himself," he sighed, then offering with a little glint of possibility, "Or maybe we can celebrate in the morning."

Although he was more stable by the time we got upstairs, I had seen him really hit bottom, and out came my fierce unconditional love tools. I wanted only for him to feel better in his body, mind, and spirit and to know that everything was going to be okay by seeing me not lose it (and nourish myself -- I was not going up there on an empty stomach, either!)

So I held him like a baby while looking through my homeopathy books to see if Pulsatilla was the best choice. I chose four Bach flower remedies I thought might help: Mimulus, Aspen, Larch, and Gentian. At dinner, I made sure he finished his broth from a gelatin-rich batch of stock I made and added apple juice to water with a little electrolyte powder so he'd be sure to hydrate. Once upstairs, I wiped his face and feet with a wet washcloth with lavender oil and then gave him a foot massage before we put on clean socks.

After reading two stories, I felt compelled to sing to him -- to make him some kind of offering--, but he declined the offer of a serenade. So I told him how, when he was in my belly, I sang to him every morning and that after he was born, his dad and I sang to him while he held one of each of our fingers. With the storytelling preamble, he let me sing "You Are My Sunshine," somehow ignoring how my voice broke and noticing (or saying) only after I was done, "You're crying!" I smiled and told him it was because I loved him so much.

He climbed into bed and fell asleep while I closed rocked in the chair. I left at 6 p.m.

But then he woke three more times in the next few hours. I took one of these shifts and just laid next to him and let him feel as close to me as he needed to. His dad handled the other two wakings, and when the boy came into our bed after going potty sometime in the night, he slept soundly and woke at 6:15 a.m. talking about how he remembered one time Caillou got sick and had to stay home. Before I knew it, he was jumping on the bed, and two hours later, I was handing him over to his teacher, who seemed very happy to have him back!

It will take a while to crawl out from under all the backlog I have to get to the place I expected to be mid-week last week: shifting my focus to my baby and my body. But I'm confident that some of these steps along the way -- the bonding with my son, the benefits I got when I found a craniosacral therapist who would work on both of us, the memory of how powerful it is to nourish and nurture another being who is seemingly helpless-- were all important in their own way.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A nice afternoon, but not perfect

Yesterday I finally got to see the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit at the Phillips Collection before its final weekend. However, although it was a lovely afternoon out in the city, it didn't quite hit all the sweet spots I was looking for after a week of staying home with a sick son.

Read my post -- "Mom's afternoon out thwarted" -- at DC Metro Moms Blog to learn more.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Look both ways -- a tale of a city and its suburbs

Having someone in from out of town helps you see where you live with new eyes.

When my brother-in-law visited, I was kind of psyched that after my husband picked him up at Union Station, they got enjoy a lovely drive through the District -- past the monuments -- at dusk on a perfect summer-feeling evening (not very April-feeling, but still about as nice as it gets). I felt some pride in the fact that they found delicious gelato in Georgetown on a Friday night and that our visitor enjoyed the next day's trip to MOMs, the natural food store we frequent most often.

And yet, I appreciate what living in a log cabin in rural Maine affords my BIL and what kind of rhythm that can foster. Sometimes I feel like I should live in the woods instead of just in a house that backs up to the woods, but I know I value urban life and convenience too much. I love being able to walk to a mini downtown, even if its restaurants are not organic. The grocery has some decent produce, and the library is right there. It feels like a community. And when Metro is not delayed or overstuffed with tourists, I think it's pretty cool that I can hop on it and in less than 15 minutes, be at the American Art museum across the street from the library I attend an ICAN meeting.

This weekend, I was wary of track work delays on the Metro, so I decided to drive up to Bethesda to work the Holistic Moms table for a Celebrate Mama event. Now that downtown is one hoppin' place. Lots of cool shops and restaurants. But even if we could afford to buy a home there -- our house would probably sell for an extra $200K if it were plopped down in that zip code -- I don't think I would ever want to dress well enough and be cute enough to fit in.

So there is my living-on-the-border self. Not a homesteader, not a chic city girl or hip suburbanite, either. I liked driving up on Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues and seeing all the urban, cultural stuff going on. But it was busy and a little overwhelming, so on the way home, I took the Beltway to the GW Parkway, and I enjoyed the quiet serenity of the tree-lined and river-lined route, even though it was probably a couple more miles.

Although sometimes having too many options gets overwhelming (can anyone say Internet?), I do find that I like to put myself in the position of having them.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Food for the animals?

Today I went to a zoo I hadn't been to before, and I'm not sure what to think about it. Having yesterday been to the (free) National Zoo -- where signs all over tell you the animals are on a planned diet and please don't feed them -- I was surprised that when I was buying my tickets for this place out in the NoVa 'burbs, I was asked if I wanted to also purchase feed or bottles. Huh?

"All the animals can eat this grain, and the animals in the barn will take these bottles," the cheery cashier explained. I didn't really know what to expect, but I figured that without much rationale other than not wanting to spend more money, I didn't want to put up with what I assumed would be a preschoolers many future requests for feed as we made our way around the farm-ish park.

So my friend and I went in on a $10 bucket of food pellets and bought a bottle for each of the three boys in our charge.

And then we went into the barn.

Those poor animals, was my first thought. They see us humans simply as food sources, but in a frenetic way that had me wondering if the zookeepers slip some kind of special ingredient into those pellets...

Maybe it was just that we were among the first ones there, I thought, but again over an hour later, after several school busloads had descended on the place, the animals were just as greedy. And just as loud. Wow, does my kid never need to hear some fake sheep or goat sound again. I think he's making "maaaa" noises in bed right now.

My son got a kick out of feeding animals, and he sure did get close to the them! But I remain disturbed by the idea of all these animals being fed non-stop, all day long (not very Waldorf, to have no rhythm or pattern to your eating!) And I'm guessing what is going into their bellies is something that is probably not that great for them. Maybe occasionally they get to graze on grass, or the pigs get to forage, but I doubt it.

Even if I'm not going to eat these guys, I'd still like them to be healthy. When I watched the movie King Corn and saw how messed up the stomachs of grain-fed cattle get, I started to understand just how wrong-headed farming practices are. Is this zoo any different?

So, my kid got to see a bunch of animals up close, including camels and goats, sheep and spider monkeys, kangaroos and huge pythons. I'm sure zoo-going helps kids develop an appreciation of the many varied life forms on our planet and a curiosity about the natural world.

I just also feel a little yucky about the fact that it's not very, well, natural.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nothing is good enough

Oh, how many varied ways there are to disappoint a four-year-old. Or maybe it's just my four-year-old. Time to pull out a parenting book and see just how much I suck as a mom and how much things are going to developmental stage plan.

Here are a few of the gems I heard today between the hours of 3:30 and 5:30, requests that, for various reasons, I was unable to accommodate.

"I want to go play with (neighbor boy)."
"I wanted to watch it all again."
"I wanted to watch Caillou."
"I wanted to go to Frying Pan Farm Park today."
"I want a gluten-free bun, too. A bun is different than toast!"
"I want pellets (homeopathy), not drops (flower essences)."
"I want to make homemade sushi."
"I want the cupcake I didn't finish at (friend's) birthday party." (10 days ago)
"I want to go to the library right now! I want to go today!"

"You said we'd go to the park to fly my new kite! I want to go right now!"
The little cherub had told me when we got home from school, "I don't want to go outside today," which seemed fair since it was so windy and I knew he'd been out plenty at school. Thus we missed my opportunity to hit the park when I 1) had the energy and 2) wasn't cooking dinner. But after that window had closed, the desire came on the boy something fierce. Fortunately his dad returned a pathetic message I left and told me (chopped up on speaker phone because both the boy and I were in tears) that he would be coming home early, so they are at the park right now. But the big guy did not arrive before I heard this next keeper at 5:30, earlier than he hardly ever gets home:

"You said he'd be home early but it's so late!"

Combine all of the above with a whining voice or precede them by an "Aw, Man!" then add a good dose of crying from a 4-year-old and a 37-year-old, and you have the soundtrack of my afternoon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poetry and motherhood

Last month I attended an amazing session on the politics of writing motherhood at the Split this Rock Poetry Festival.

Read more about it here in a piece I wrote for

Friday, April 16, 2010

Time to chill

I woke last night around 3 a.m. with that sad feeling of having finished something and, though it was successful, feeling like I could have played it better. Said more thank yous, not left Slow Food DC off the resource list, not been so snappy about having to rearrange the room or not having any help until 5 minutes before doors were scheduled to open.

It was a great panel on Local Food, a huge success for my chapter of Holistic Moms Network. And a lot of work. I hope it is the last big thing we try to pull off before I check out a little to have a baby in August.

My son weathered my stress and busy-ness well, so well that I bought him a virgin plastic toy today and a creme brulee dessert after lunch (when a cafe and pastry shop takes pains to list what is gluten-free, I feel like I should support their efforts even if I don't really want him eating much dairy or sugar either. At least this had eggs so some decent fat and protein, I hope).

The toy succeeded at keeping the peace this afternoon and also giving him something to occupy himself so I could actually take a nap. What a concept. He gave me a solid half-hour and then another 15 minutes, and then we cuddled on the couch for a while playing pretend with his new toy.

I shouldn't fail to mention that the toy in question is a little character and car, a pink daisy Wow! toys thing, the cheapest they had. My son got this same "character" for free at the grand reopening of a toy store and he was happy to get a second one and to go for the flowers when I said the tow trucks and emergency vehicles were too expensive.

So score one for not falling into strict gender roles, and strike one for needless consumerism. We were buying something for a friend's birthday party, and, since, as I wrote a few weeks ago, he was bummed that I didn't let people bring gifts to his birthday party, I felt like today's toy purchase softened the blow a little. I also let him pick the gift -- a turtle gardening bag with plastic shovels instead of the recycled cardboard bug dominoes I suggested. But it's for gardening...

Although I wish I'd slept through the night, my awake hours set me up to just take today as it came, to be glad I didn't have to be anywhere other than 9:30-11:30, to not get on the computer the second we got home after lunch. That two hours I spent not sleeping gave me religion to get off even the decaf and up the water, to find a place to get into my body, which is sorely overdue for this pregnancy and for healthy living.

A friend of mine who is 37 weeks along had a fall today in a parking lot, and, having yesterday been told she had low fluid and high blood pressure, spent a few hours being monitored in the hospital as a precaution. I hope that all is well (as it appears to be) and that she will rebound and have a few more weeks of pregnancy. But I also heard some real calm in her voice, being somewhere with no deadlines or anything to do. She didn't turn on the TV. She decided to just be. I hope it's exactly what she needs.

Sometimes we need a real kick -- or fall, or slap in the face -- to remember just what that is.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Parenting anthology deadline 4/15

I thought I'd posted on this, but I must have just sent people emails about it.

Write for Charity is seeking submissions for a parenting anthology that will benefit charity. Submissions are due Thursday, 4/15/10. I'm still working on mine!

For details, check out

This page says:
"You are welcome to submit any parenting related stories and poems, but we are specifically looking for stories to fit into the following categories:

1. Pregnancy: Stories from Moms, Dads, and Grandparents to Be.
2. The Day You Were Born
3. Baby/Toddler Stories
4. Parent/ Child Bond
5. Growing Up/ Letting Go
6. Things I Learned From My Parents
7. What Being a Parent Has Taught Me

Please contact us at with any questions."

I'll also paste a bit from their guidelines page at

"We are looking for stories that weave powerful lessons about parenting into vividly told tales. They can be fiction or nonfiction stories or poems that read easily and evoke emotion. They are real life or realistic tales that reveal the positive aspects of parents; that inspire, entertain, and enlighten readers; and that bring tears of compassion and joy to our eyes, hope to our hearts, and comfort to our souls. The stories are original, creative, slice-of-life depictions of the most important and influential experiences and relationships in our lives: the ones we have with our children."

Stories have to be uplifting and not exceed 2,000 words. I received this suggestion in an email from one of the anthology organizers: "Lists (10 things I learned from being a mom, etc.) and letters (to your children or to a parent) are welcome (and are my personal favorite!)"

So get writing!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New book! "Knocked Up, Knocked Down"

I was thrilled today to get an email blast from author Monica Murphy LeMoine that her book is now available on Amazon from Catalyst Book Press. Order your copy of Knocked Up, Knocked Down: Postcards of Miscarriage and Other Misadventures from the Brink of Parenthood today!

Never one to hold back or bullshit, Monica is author of the blog Knocked Up, Knocked Down and has written in Hip Mama and elsewhere about her experiences with -- and after -- stillbirth and miscarriage. I am amazed by her ability to tell stories in such a smart way with honesty and razor sharp humor. (She's also a damn good editor who did a great job trimming down a piece I had in the online magazine she started, Exhale. If only I could learn to cut to the chase with my own material.)

I knew Monica was due to have a baby in March and so was thrilled to see on her blog that Sean was born on March 26. The whole family looks like they could be in a photo shoot for post-birth bliss. (Well, that was before I read her post on stitches, but still.)

Congratulations to Monica on a baby and a book!

Clever title?

My freshman year in college, my Brit Lit I professor expected we would always have a "clever title." I always used this as a space saver until I came up with one (except that on more than one occasion I noticed later that I'd spelled it "cleaver." This was almost 18 years ago, the same quarter I met my husband. Wow. I. Am. Old.)

My age, before I become the mother of two four months or so from now, I am determined to seriously upgrade this blog, move it to Wordpress, and merge my other two blogs into it as secondary pages. I'm looking for a subtitle for Crunchy-Chewy Mama, a tagline that will convey the idea of a having (at least) two identities, straddling different worlds, being a natural-minded mama in a processed world, hippy in the suburbs (wearing cable-knit sweaters)... something like that. I might keep the low-key feet in Birks image; I like the idea of two feet in two different worlds.

New logo or no, this writer mama cannot come up with a snappy (or at least succint) tagline. Can you? Please share any epiphanies that come upon you!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Navigating the birthday present conundrum

Birthday ring I was pretty comfortable with my “No gifts, please”/Birthdays Without Pressure approach until last week when my newly-four-year-old son said of the friends coming to his playdate, “But I want them to bring presents!”

Am I an evil mommy for pushing low consumerism on my kid? Or am I just feeling the sting of letting him rummage through the recycling bin and find catalogs to drool over? And of getting gifts for other kids’ parties? I’m struggling now to find a way to be consistent or just comfortable on this issue of birthday presents.

I haven’t read Annie Leonard’s book yet, but the title says a lot: The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession With Stuff Is Trashing The Planet, Our Communities, And Our Health - And A Vision For Change. I know age four is too young for me to push an agenda on my kid, but I do want to stick to my values.

At our planned birthday playdate, we were going to have a cake (that we’d made together, from scratch) but no gimmicks or giveaways. Just play with friends. As I’ve written before, I just want my son to see birthdays as a time where he feels special and happy, not as something that has to come wrapped in a box with a pricetag.

Read the rest of this post at DC Metro Moms Blog

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hot Momma finalist

I just learned that I was a Top 25 Finalist for the Hot Mommas Project whose mission is "to increase self-efficacy in women and girls by providing scalable, global, free access to role models online. "

My case is titled "Spreading the Word About Healthy Living" and can be found in the case library. The task was to present background and goals along with personal and professional challenges and then to create discussion questions based on the case study for other women to consider.

Writing my case study was a thought-provoking process that came at a time of transition that has begun and is still unfolding. I hope my experience and challenges can be of use to other folks on their journeys.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reflecting on NIH VBAC conference

As I wrote shortly after attending the first day of the NIH conference on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) a few weeks ago, the experience was tiring. The panelists might have been trying to convey the message the uterine rupture is really rare -- less than 1% -- and that it does not deserve to be weighted more than a whole lot of other issues, including complications and risks of cesarean delivery. But honestly, it did not help this hopeful VBAC mom to see a bunch of photographs of uterine rupture!

I admired the birth activists who spoke out, women who have been working hard on this issue while I've been comparatively on the sidelines, not regularly attending ICAN meetings (in part because I didn't believe I would ever regain my fertility or get pregnant). But here I am, four and a half months along, and ignoring this issue is not an option. I've chosen to work with a midwife at home, and I hope that my baby's cord is long enough this time and that other factors go in my favor for a successful HBAC (homebirth after Cesarean).

No matter what kind of care I'd chosen, it's important that I understand the climate surrounding this issue as well as the facts. Indeed, the whole point is that the climate has dictated which facts get to "count," which in turn reinforces the tenor of the climate. Everything goes in a circle! But the way it spins has been heavily influenced by medical articles and the publicity surrounding them, and, most significnatly, by pronouncements by the American College of OB/Gyns (ACOG). Although the NIH statement is not perfect, it does call on ACOG to rethink its position about surgical facilities and anesthesia needing to be "immediately available" anywhere a VBAC is attempted.

It was powerful to follow the rest of the conference and the coverage by birth activists and then to write this news bulletin at Mothering.Com: "National Institutes of Health Conference Calls Vaginal Birth After Cesarean a "Reasonable Option."

Check it out for more background on the issue and responses to the conference.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How long until Daylight Savings Time ends?

Four-year-olds do not sleep when it's sunny. That's an exaggeration, but I cannot say that I am in love with this early switch to later sunsets. The hour shift has been tough enough when we've had three more weeks of gradual, natural lightening to get used to the idea. But now that it's mid-March... Ouch.

Last summer my non-napping three-year-old played hard enough that he was ready to hit the pillow by 7:00 most nights. This early spring, he's got more stamina -- physically, not emotionally! And, he has less chance to burn off calories if it's too chilly for his wimpy mom to want to run him around a ton, or if she's too busy working all day and making dinner after preschool to let him spend two hours at the park. But my son is so darn tired, I know he needs to get rest or I will be in for a big whine-fest the next day (to say nothing of what wrath the preschool friends will encounter). If only I'd taught the child how to rest by himself and he hadn't abruptly stopped napping at two and a half with no interest in quiet time...

In the winter, early bedtime was easy. It's dark outside during dinner. Now, three days into this new schedule, I'm well over the loss of the hour on Sunday, but with daylight streaming in well into bedtime snacktime, we struggle to wind the day down on schedule. Once you're used to quiet upstairs by 7:30 p.m., it's rough on the marriage and the psyche not to have it until 8:30 p.m.

Read the rest of "How long until Daylight Savings Time ends?" here at DC Metro Moms Blog.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Breathe on me, when you're not strong

I had a hunch my son was not in the greatest health when, on Wednesday morning, his breath didn't smell right. Whenever he gets a fever, his breath has a metallic or medicinal smell. I get the impression his body is heating up and detoxifying.

But it's hard to justify keeping a child home for funky breath when you've got a lot of work to do. So off he went for a full day of preschool. When we got home on a gorgeous afternoon, I was ready to walk him down to the library and finally get some exercise. He was whinier than usual (which is saying a lot these days), but we eventually made it out and back home in time for a quick dinner before I headed off to an ICAN meeting to watch Pregnant in America.

I didn't get home until 11 p.m. and had to find a source for a statistic for this piece on the NIH conference on vaginal birth after cesarean that was to be published by Mothering. I was exciting about the work and about having really gotten my head into this pregnancy at the meeting. My 20-week sonogram was scheduled for the following morning at 8 a.m. It seemed like perfect timing.

Except that it wasn't. I heard my four-year-old crying like a baby and wondered where the heck my husband was. Turns out he was right next to the boy in bed, as he had been for a few hours since the wakings and squirmings had started not long after he went to sleep. Something was up, and my husband, who had planned to work all evening while I was away at VBAC Central, was exhausted.

I told my son I was going to get him some water, dashed off the email I'd started, and went back up to more tears. I decided we were going to be together all night and that his wimpy IKEA bed was no match for my almost 20-pound-heavier-than-normal body. I suggested we move to the guest room, and he perked up at the idea and obligingly went to the bathroom before we headed downstairs. I didn't really know what his symptoms were, but I knew he'd be happy to take some "Curious George pellets," or Calms Forte, and I put some Rescue Remedy on his wrists and forehead.

He slept pretty well after that, until we plucked him out of bed Thursday morning to go to the appointment, which I did not want to reschedule or have my husband miss. E was clearly a little feverish and flushed, but that had faded within an hour or so. He was disappointed to have to cancel our playdate at the farm, but he acted pretty normal the rest of the day with, sadly, no desire to nap, even though I was dozing off on the couch right next to him.

I'm not sure when he crawled into our bed last night or this morning, but, right after my husband got out of bed and into the shower, I felt a little hand poking me and chirping, "It's morning time!"

I decided then the bug had passed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

NIH conference addresses vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)

More personal reflections will follow, but below is my official report from attending day one of the NIH conference on VBAC, a post I've also published in my column at the Washington Times Communities.

This week, the National Institutes of Health is holding a Consensus Development Conference entitled “Vaginal Birth After Cesarean: New Insights,” a three-day public meeting that, though focused on an obstetrical, biomedical model of hospital births, has drawn birth activists representing midwifery and homebirth interests.

The first day of the conference presented several short reviews of research on the topics of patterns regarding Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), risks of VBAC versus cesarean section, and maternal and neonatal outcomes from VBACs, from “Trial of Labor” (TOL) and “Elective Repeat Cesarean Delivery” (ERCD).

In the United States today, some 31% of births are c-sections. Of the 1.3 million c-sections performed each year in the U.S., 40% are repeat c-sections. According to research presented by Dr. Kimberly D. Gregory, the rate of VBACs in the U.S. rose from 3% in 1981 -- when the NIH recommended a decrease in the overall national c-section rate, including a recommendation to increase the use of VBAC -- to a high of 23% in 1996. In that year, the rate began to decline after the publication of a a medical journal article about the risks of TOL.

In 1999, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) required the “immediate” availability of emergency c-section facilities in any hospital that offered TOL and VBAC. Currently, the VBAC rate in the U.S. is around 7%*, even though VBACs, when attempted, are 60-80% successful.

The speakers at the NIH conference discussed the fact that risks associated with c-section need to be weighed against the potential risks of VBAC, which include a 1% or lower chance of uterine rupture. It was noted that much attention gets paid to this dramatic and catastrophic event, while less information is shared with mothers about the many risks associated with surgical delivery, including a higher likelihood of placental accreta in future pregnancies (a condition in which the placenta grows into the uterus).

Dr. Mona Lyndon-Rochelle explained that the risk of maternal death is highest with an elective repeat c-section without a trial of labor. Thus, then, how can we grapple ethically with the fact that more and more hospitals are banning VBAC procedures and forcing women who deliver there into mandatory repeat c-sections?

This question was raised in a Q&A session and was noted by the panel to be the very point of the conference. The NIH cannot force hospitals to change their policies, but the hope among birth activists is that the institute will make recommendations that will halt the trend toward denying women the birth they desire, forcing them into major abdominal surgery if they are unable or unwilling to find another institution at which to birth or a midwife with whom to work at home. According to the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), over 800 hospitals in the U.S. have banned VBACs.

When attendees asked questions about the safety of VBAC at home, or HBAC, they were met with the explanation that no research of acceptable quality was available on the subject, and even that it was not possible to obtain statistics on homebirth. Upon being questioned by attendees about non-medical effects of surgical delivery (including a question from Gina, an ICAN chapter leader for and the author of The Feminist Breeder blog), the panelists admitted to a dearth of information on issues like postpartum depression (PPD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), difficulty establishing or maintaining breastfeeding, and difficulty bonding with an infant.

In light of the fact that some hospitals not only ban VBACs but also require all c-section babies to spend time (one participant said four hours at the hospital where he practices) in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it would seem that questions of mother-child bonding need to be investigated. A panelist noted that these were excellent questions that were discussed to some degree in the planning committee before it was determined that there was inadequate research to discuss them in this forum.

The conference will end Wednesday, March 10 with a presentation of the NIH’s draft statement at 9:00 a.m. followed by public discussion, after which the panel will meet in executive session before providing a summary of its findings to the press in a 2:00 telebriefing. The draft statement will be available after the proceedings at with the final statement to follow four to six weeks later.

Further coverage of the conference from a VBACivist perspective can be found at the ICAN blog at, The Feminist Breeder Blog, which includes live radio coverage and interviews via podcast at, and Momotics Blog at

*The most recent statistics used by the papers at the conference cite a VBAC rate of 8.5% in 2006.

The day after

It was nice to have such warm & fuzzy feelings about my son yesterday, but today I just feel guilty. He was so whiny and out of sorts this morning. It's great that he can adapt well to situations (like yesterday's marathon of being in others' care), but I feel like we always pay for it later.

Before we left for preschool, I gave him some drops of the Bach flower essences Gentian for feeling despondent due to setbacks and Red Chestnut for issues related to connection/separation to/from a loved one, and I think Elm for feelings of overwhelm/burden. I took them all, too!

I might search for some other remedies this evening or try to leave time for a foot massage with some essential oils. I think he and I both need to attend more to our body/mind/spirit in an intentional way. If he's going to learn that, he has to see me doing it for myself and, while he's young, for him.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tired and missing my kid

It feels good to look forward to seeing your son. Lately I've felt so swamped -- and especially after all that snow with no break -- I haven't exactly loved all my many minutes with my boy.

Today I went to the National Institutes of Health for a conference on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), which I hope to write about in more depth later. But the experience of the day was something in and of itself. Getting dressed in real-people clothes, taking my boy to a friend's so she could drive him to school and pick him up, getting on a crowded Metro during rush hour, and then listening to a lot of doctors talk about best outcomes for moms and babies... Well, it was intense. Especially considering that I'm 4 months pregnant and hoping for a home VBAC (HBAC) with baby #2.

I knew E would probably be okay, but I also knew it was a long day for both of us. We were both exhausted when I picked him up from the park. I could not wait to trade my button-down and blazer for a sweatshirt and just sit on the couch hugging and talking to him. If we weren't both hungry with dinner nowhere in sight, I would have happily sat there for an hour. It felt good for that to feel so good.

For someone always looking at her watch and struggling to just be in the moment when I really want to be writing or researching or exercising, that uncomplicated couch time was a true delight.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Generosity of Peers

Tell people that you might need help, and they come through!

This has nothing to do with my last post about mood blues, which aimed to say that no one can help me but me. No, I'm talking about offers from other mamas to help out with my son this summer, when I'm expecting baby #2 in early August.

I wrote a post on DC Metro Moms blog the other day about missing out on sending my son to summer (day) camp with the two friends he went with last year. Since I wrote that piece, one mom has agreed to send her child to camp with mine for four weeks of the summer, and at least five moms have come forward to offer to have my son over for playdates while they or their babysitters watch him - before or after the baby. Truthfully, they admit, it would be good for their kids, too, because they are not going to have as much social time in the summer. Who can afford a nanny and camp when school is so expensive and there is a second child who can't go anywhere yet? But still, the generosity has been inspiring. This just might help me learn to take people up on their offers to help. What a concept!

Read "Dissed for Summer Camp," the original post on DC Metro Moms Blog.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The February Blues

This time of year is rough for me, with personal history of a family death and my birthday always linked and the chilly grey skies no help. Sometimes it doesn’t hit as hard, but this year, after all that snow and maybe due to the hormones of pregnancy, I am battling what I’d called situational depression. I know it won’t last forever, but it can still shoot out short, virulent doses of debilitation and self-doubt, resulting in my wanting to crawl under a rock.

While I manage to fulfill societal roles – volunteer group organizer, volunteer newsletter editor, tutor, workshop participant – I am no good for regular social mingling. It’s hard. You might think it would help, and it sometimes seem to distract for a short while, but if other people are happy and I am struggling just not to be in tears, it’s really a challenge to be in social situations. So, while I lick my wounds, I just kind of disappear from just plain communicating with friends and from anything that doesn’t serve some outside purpose.

I know I used to feel like this most of the time, and I know what medication helped, but I no longer consider pharmaceuticals an option for me. They are too hard on my liver and my body in general, and as long as I stick to eating the right foods for my body (no gluten, dairy, corn or soy, and limit the yeast, egg white, and even natural sugar, too!), I don’t think I should ever get so far gone that I would need meds.

But I also have to do other things.

I have to consider exercise a non-negotiable mental health prescription.

I need to spend time on my yoga mat, preferably with a CD or DVD or some kind of groovy music so I can get into my body and out of my head. Classes are great if I can fit them in without feeling guilty about the money (or mad about the time it takes to sign up and get there when I should just be doing it more at home).

Last week I got out my SAD light, and that seemed to help a lot.

I need to keep taking Vitamin D and cod liver oil, and probiotics (especially if I overindulge on sugar of any kind). I just started liquid chlorophyll to help with my iron. Maybe that will help.

And I need to write.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Secretary Vilsack talks to mommy bloggers about nutrition

Last week I participated in a conference call organized with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who wants to get the word out about the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act and to help promote the First Lady's new Let's Move Initiative to combat childhood obesity. The call was organized and moderated by Alix of Silicon Valley Moms Blog, a sister blog of DC Metro Moms Blog, where I contribute as Claire Jess. The post below also appears on my other other blog, Inexact Science: Raising Healthy Families, where I share recipes and write about nutrition and alternative health.

“This is a different USDA,” announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week on a conference call with members of the public to share information about the agency’s response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s new Let’s Move initiative to combat childhood obesity. The call was a great opportunity to hear about high-up efforts to address the federal school lunch program and more general issues of helping people gain health through nutrition.

From my perspective as a whole foods and local foods advocate, there was much to cheer about what Secretary Vilsack had to say about changes in the school lunch program. As an advocate of traditional foods, however, there are still a lot of concerns to address. If this is a different USDA, I'd still like to wait for the next version.


The four main pillars of the Let’s Move Initiative are to 1) give parents the support they need to make healthy choices (including support for breastfeeding as a healthy start), 2) provide healthier food in schools , 3) promote physical activity, and 4) increase the availability of affordable healthy food.

The Child Nutrition Act was up for reauthorization by Congress in 2009, as it is every five years, but it has been extended through the Agriculture Appropriations Bill and is now up for reauthorization in 2010. The USDA puts out a plan and a budget, and it is up to Congress to decide where the funding will come from and to make adjustments and changes. The purpose for the conference call was to get folks aware of the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization and to describe the efforts of the USDA in light of the Let’s Move initiative.

I'm all for education, and some of these efforts sound great, but I still found myself shaking my head during parts of this call.

First, the heartening news

The USDA is paying attention to the fact that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has produced a report that is highly critical of the quality of school lunches. Secretary Vilsack explained that 31 million children participate in the school lunch program and 11 million in the breakfast program, both of which he said offer foods that have too much sugar and sodium, and not enough dark green and orange vegetables.

Secretary Vilsack said that the USDA wants to give schools incentives make healthy options more appealing to kids. “We are looking for a way in which we can significantly improve foods in school outside of lunch,” Secretary Vilsack said, including a la carte offerings and vending machines. “We want a consistent message” in schools, which would include getting sugary drinks and snacks out of vending machines.

The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program is one effort to get schools connected with local sources of food and to help students see a connection to food. Secretary Vilsack said the USDA is expanding research into organic farming and is trying to increase the number of small businesses in agriculture. “We are looking for creative ways for these guys to make ends meet,” he said, noting that the USDA does not want to arrive at a day and age with just a handful of really large producers and, on the other hand, very small producers.

One of the current areas of research, Secretary Vilsack explained, is how to make nutritious food compelling for children and how to encourage them to make healthy choices. “This requires us to focus on early childhood, to encourage kids at a young age to put a rainbow on their plate,” Secretary Vilsack said. Parents and educators alike need to explain the difference between everyday foods and sometimes foods. There has been work on a textbook and toolkit for parents participating in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program to “get them started in the right direction.”

If parents are more engaged in these kinds of conversations, Vilsack said, perhaps they will be more involved in school board decisions. Sometimes school boards see extra money in their food budget and direct it to another area that needs funding. “Part of our challenge,” Secretary Vilsack said, “is to make sure people understand that this is as important as any other thing that goes on in school.”

Educating consumers

In the Q&A portion of the call, Nutritionist and Silicon Valley Moms blogger Alix, the moderator for this call, shared her concern about “nutritional illiteracy” of parents who, for example, don’t realize that Goldfish crackers have a glycemic index as high as a lollipop. Secretary Vilsack responded that we need better labeling so that people know what the better choices are. He spoke highly of a NuVal, a numerical system currently in place in stores in his home state of Iowa that rates items on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being the most nutritious. Having this information helps consumers, he said, which will then lead to better options. “As we make those more nutritious choices,” he said, “the market will be compelled to do better.”

A quick look at the NuVal website shows that 2% Horizon Organic milk gets a rating of 55, while 1% Organic Valley milk gets a much better rating of 81, and Garelick Farms Over the Moon Fat Free Milk gets a super-high rating of 91. Nevermind that the less of the naturally-occurring milkfat you take out of the milk, the harder it is to digest (and that pasteurization kills milk’s enzymes!)

Since NuVal gives Silk Soymilk Light Chocolate a decent rating of 56, I am guessing that this “patent-pending algorithm” does not take hormone and endocrine disruption into consideration. Probably not the difference in products made from grassfed vs. industrial feedlot cows, either. I am just learning about this system and look forward to investigating it further.

What about the food pyramid?

Alix pointed out that the IOM is basing its conclusions on the food pyramid, a construct that many health-minded writers and practitioners find problematic, preferring to look at the way author Michael Pollan talks about what should be in our diets, including the idea that “real food” usually does not contain more than five ingredients.

Secretary Vilsack said that the food pyramid guidelines are going to be revised. With some 20-30 people working on this “extensive effort based on what we didn’t know five, ten years ago,” the pyramid will be adjusted. He explained that what the USDA is going to want to see are “steps being taken by local school districts to better align with the IOM study” and with the new food pyramid guidelines.

There are many areas of concern about the current food pyramid, and it will be interesting to see what the revisions include. For one, traditional foods enthusiasts might want to see the “oils” page differentiate between chemically-produced unhealthy oils like canola oil and margarine compared to naturally-occurring fats that are necessary for optimum absorption of nutrients. Healthy fats include butter and coconut oil, which is not even on the list of oils at

If the researchers working on the food pyramid are familiar with this research on traditional diets and fats, then perhaps they will veer away from the low-fat craze. But based on Secretary Vilsack’s insistence that we do not have enough of a focus on “low-fat dairy products,” I’m concerned. It’s unfortunate that people think that incomplete foods are somehow better recognized and utilized by our bodies than foods in their natural states (i.e. full fat). The real fats to avoid are manufactured fats like canola oil, corn oil, and soybean oil that were never intended to be removed from the rest of the food and that hold no nutritional value or provide assistance with the absorption of nutrients.

That pesky corn issue

Alix asked Secretary Vilsack if we could get a commitment that school lunches would not have foods with more than five ingredients and if the school lunch program will respond to parent desire to get high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) out of all foods that cross the school threshold. The answer, in short, was no. “I’m not sure we’d be as prescriptive as that,” Secretary Vilsack began. This might get pushback from members of Congress, so the better way to go, he said, is for the USDA to push for incentives for schools to make better options available. “What we can say is that food has to be consistent with dietary guidelines.” And then, he said, we have to trust people.

The next concern came from Sophia, a mother whose children’s school lunches are run by a private company that has told her it has gotten questionable food off of its menu except for “what the government sends us,” which includes HFCS and meat raised with hormones and antibiotics. She questioned the subsidy system that makes it profitable for farmers to grow genetically-modified corn. Secretary Vilsack initially respondd that organic farmers can qualify for a number of USDA regular programs in which they can receive direct payments if they raise “certain crops.” And he added that the USDA under the Obama administration has increased its participation in conservation programs that the Bush administration tried to get rid of.

Secretary Vilsack thought that roughly one-quarter of what is provided to schools is in the form of commodities, adding “If a district is insistent on what they want for their kids, we need to figure out how to be more responsive to their needs.” But he went on to explain that in the U.S., “we’re going to continue to grow corn for a lot of reasons.” This includes corn as a source of power, and Secretary Vilsack went on to reference other alternative power sources being developed. The USDA is not, he said, going to stop providing resources to those who grow corn but will try to support more mid-size farms.

Where to go now?

The call inspired me not so much to sing the praises of the Child Nutrition Act but simply to continue to share my concerns about mainstream ideas about food, problematic ideas that include promoting whole grains (despite a lot of research that says many people have gluten sensitivities) as a health food and low-fat dairy as a necessary ingredient in the fight against childhood obesity. We were healthier when we ate real food with full fat and not so darn much bread!

Although my son is not yet in public school, I look forward to learning more about the efforts Secretary Vilsack referenced and how they are being implemented in my local area. As a chapter leader with Holistic Moms Network, I will continue to try to educate my community about healthy eating. I hope to find ways to make healthy food more widely available and to share information about how to access affordable healthy food.

Related posts:
Sophia's blog post about the call and Secretary Vilsack's response to her question
A post at the Slow Food USA blog about what sounds like a similar call with a larger audience
A shorter post of mine (with a little more attitude) at my column, "Reading Ingredients: Tales from Health-Conscious Mom" at the Washington Times Communities

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I sewed! It's a miracle!

While cleaning out a closet in the midst of the current series of snowstorms, I came across some felted wool that I cut out to make a little person as my last project in last year's Waldorf school Parent-Child class. Now, I might have made my son a Halloween costume, but I'm not one of those crafty mamas in general, and I was downright pathetic by Waldorf school standards. I was in near tears trying to learn to knit, and the stitches on the mouse, snail and gnome I made in class are not exactly going to win any awards.

But there is part of me that really wants to model for my son making things with one's hands.

(Besides food, that is. Today when I was saying that his dad was better at some things and I was better at others, and E said of my top skills, "Like chopping vegetables?")

And there are so many times when he asks to do something we've been saying we were going to do for a long time and I just never get to it. (Including the fact that in all these days at home, I still haven't made homemade ketchup or mustard as planned).

So, since Daddy was on a conference call and it was way too windy and cold to go out today until after 4 when it finally stopped snowing, I said okay. I used all the thread I had on the pants and quadrupled some regular thread for the rest. The doll is not going to be a prototype for a new Etsy business or anything, but my boy enjoyed making the little guy walk and play, and he said multiple times, "I love him," though the little fellow still ended up face-down on the floor later. Old habits die hard.

It struck me how much easier it was for my son to amuse himself and to be patient while I created this real thing than it is for him to deal with me working on the computer. Shouldn't be a surprise, but it was still worth remarking.

I do hope this snow shut-in comes to an end next week, but I'm also worried that, in all my trying to clean out and purge and not get further behind on work-related stuff, that I won't have amassed enough moments like this one when this period is finally over.

Not exactly living in the moment. Maybe racking up some points? And does it make up for the fact that I never got dressed today?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Homemade Chicken Stock

Homemade chicken stock is an inexpensive way to make a mineral-rich, healing liquid that can soothe testy tummies and enhance the flavor and healthfulness of any soup or cooked veggie recipe.

I just posted a recipe/protocol for making homemade chicken stock on my more food-focused outlets: on my blog "Inexact Science: Raising Healthy Families" and also on my Washington Times Communities column, "Reading Ingredients: Tales of a Health-Conscious Mom."

If you're snowed in like me and happen to have recently cooked a chicken, there is no time like the present to get started on a delicious and healthy food staple!

What is a snowstorm good for?

Just what all does one do during a snowed-in weekend like we've had here in the DC area? I got an email this morning telling me that DC Metro Moms Blog was low on posts, so I imagine I’m not the only one who did not use the time to catch up on writing. (I hope that’s not for lack of electricity, but there are still some outages, I hear. We got lucky [knock on wood] and clocked in at only 18 inches, a low for the region!)

Over these past three days, I have let the computer collect some dust. I took an unplanned two-day hiatus from even opening the email box for the nonprofit group chapter I run. (That’s going to have to end soon. Just as soon as I get up this post!) I was already behind from just general life and from last Wednesday’s thoroughly unnecessary snow day with no preschool.

Since the snow began to fall on Friday, I have avoided finishing a freelance assignment and replying to long overdue personal notes, taking the time only to delete emails from lists I should get off of and from yoga studios telling me they are closed. Oh, and I took photos of the snow and sent links to my family. That’s about it. It’s kind of revolutionary to see the lid of my laptop closed and my phone quiet.

The only real thing I’ve wanted to do is clean the house... Read the rest of this post at DC Metro Moms Blog.

My apologies to my sister DCMM writers who I found out after writing this post have been -- and in some cases still are -- without power!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Holistic living in the news

So, a columnist whose work I really like wrote about me and my Holistic Moms group in the Washington Post in an article that was titled on paper "Healthier eating, a nibble at a time" but appears online here as "No need to go hog-wild in making healthier food choices."

I already posted some comments online, that if you feel good about your choices, that doesn't mean anyone else has to feel bad about hers. I elaborated on the "it's not a choice" for me issue -- if I don't live like this (specifically paying close attention to what I eat), I feel bad and am putting myself at risk of serious health problems (that would cost a lot of money to address if I weren't spending my money on good quality food).

I'm glad for the exposure, but several folks I've talked to about the article are bummed that it succumbed to the tired old "McDonalds vs. health food store" dichotomy. I wish enthusiasm the author shared with me had outshone the piece's intimidated tone. In a personal reflective piece about the author's own experiences, it seems jarring to bring in the "but not everyone can afford this" via a low-income woman talking about not being able to afford (and also not liking) vegetables. My husband complained that including this example is like inserting in an article on home renovation "but not everyone has a safe place to live" or in a travel article, "Must be nice to go to a spa when all those people in Haiti just want clean water."

There are real problematic reasons why crappy food is so cheap and accessible, and that's worth discussing. Just not as a way to suggest that the things my friends and holistic mama sisters are doing in the name of health is some kind of elitist pursuit.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mama gets the sniffles

We've got 60 degrees here in Metro DC and I think I'm finally getting over a cold that started two weeks ago. I never get sick and stay sick. This was annoying. Not so bad that I had to make the husband stay home or back out on a major event I was planning, but bad enough that I sounded like the woman from "The Nanny" if she had a sinus infection. Not pretty!

We don't do drugs in our house, so I did my best to self-medicate. This starts with food -- lots of nutrient-dense homemade (from pastured chickens) bone broth and a limit on refined carbs. When I look back, the weekend before I got sick I had hot rice cereal for breakfast one day and French toast another day (GF millet bread, but still) and a bunch of rice crackers. That's way more packaged food than usual. So I cut out what I could but still allowed myself some antioxidant-rich raw cacao.

When I started to feel an illness on I restarted the flower essences I maybe should have been taking all season long from Perelandra. On Tuesday the 12th, I tried the homeopathic remedy Hepar. Sulph. Calc. and promptly got worse with a sore throat and swollen glands. I think I honestly fell asleep on the floor of my bathroom while my son played with toys in an empty bathtub. A homeopath said it was most likely that this reaction was just pushing the natural course of events forward and that now I just had a cold I might as well let run its course. So I gave up on the homeopathy - none of the indications seemed 100% right on anymore,anyway - and just tried garlic & ginger in hot lemon water in the morning, eating well, getting sleep, staying in bed even if I couldn't sleep well (instead of getting up to work), and putting some eucalyptus in my shower. I kept meaning to get even just a basic saline nasal spray but didn't, and we found our humidifier but never got it working.

Well, all that, and a lot of water and a lot of bodywork. My head was killing me with major sinus pressure, so I looked for whatever healing hands had openings. On Wednesday, the day after I felt terrible, I had a chiropractic adjustment and acupuncture. On Saturday morning I had a massage, primarily of craniosacral therapy. On Monday afternoon I had another bodywork session, a combo of craniosacral therapy and lymphatic drainage massage. Each time I handed over my credit card after a session, I did feel better. But it didn't last to the next day, not as much as I wanted. I still had a lot of nose-blowing and some coughing.

Then, on Wednesday when I'd been sick for a week, my eye looked red in one corner, which I thought was from not sleeping well until the next morning when it was sticky and red all over. This was the day of my event. None of the many homeopathic remedies for conjunctivitis sounded spot-on for my symptoms, but I got so weepy when my friend rang the doorbell while I was trying to have my son nap, that I decided to take pulsatilla. And I found some homeopathic eye drops at CVS, which I think helped, for sure with the redness. The eye was cleared up a day later. (The second eye got it too and also cleared up after a day).

Friday I saw an osteopath who worked a lot on my head in general, my sinuses and even in my mouth and upper palette. I sounded like a different person after that appointment -- much less nasal. But the next morning I slept in and still felt like I'd regressed. Maybe shopping for a sofa, meeting friends for coffee and walking a mile in mild winter day were too much. But we did get a new rebounder, which I used twice, hoping that it would help my lymphatic system clear out. And I did fit in a little yoga.

Sunday I had to drag myself out of bed but felt a lot better after starting the morning off with Vitamin C before my lemon/ginger/garlic drink, to which I added turmeric and elderberry. And then I had a full breakfast and set to work on some reorganization of the house, which felt great. I even had a little decaf coffee and some GFCF sugar-free (maple syrup only) chocolate cake my son and I had made as a celebration of my successful event Thursday night (adaptation of this cake recipe but using mashed cherries instead of applesauce and adding cacao and coconut flakes).

Despite this indulgence, I could tell I'd turned the corner Sunday afternoon. It's now Monday afternoon, and though I still am not ready to go out and do a full run in this gorgeously warm day (or to be too far away from a tissue), I am glad I was able to ride this out and that so far, no one else in the house seems to have any symptoms.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Take a break, Winter.

I think my shoulders are finally detaching from my ears. Fifty degrees and the disappearance of last week's bone-chilling wind could not have come too soon.

I'm amazed at how different my attitude is now that I've actually had some warm, fresh air. The world feels open instead of hunched into a ball. I can leave my house without hours of preparation.

Yesterday we hiked in the woods behind our house to get to the park instead of walking along the sidewalk. Then we walked some more to meet a friend who recently moved nearby and walked back to the park. It was glorious. Even though I was sicker this week than I've been all winter and feel most of the day like my sinuses are blinking "drain me or I'll explode," after some time outside, the pain disappears, and my mood is vastly improved. The addiction to run to the computer is quelled, and I see remember how funny my son is.

Last week I went to a library story time featuring authors from Solar Publishing. After the reading, I bought their CD Earth Day Everyday, which is now on heavy rotation in our house. The vocals sing the praises of the sun, which I have come to appreciate these past days of thaw.

I don't even care if I see the shiny yellow ball in blue skies as long as its beams somehow hit the DC area the way they are supposed to. I moved away from the Midwest to avoid the kind of cold, cutting winters we've been seeing glimpses of here recently. I know there have been at least two New Years Eve days here in NoVa when I've gone running in a t-shirt. But lately all I can do is bark at my son to stop playing when I pick him up at preschool because Mama is not in a snowsuit.

So today, I announce with joy that yes, that was my kid wearing Tevas with socks. In January. Now that is hot!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why I'm Not a Vegetarian Anymore

In preparation for writing a piece for my column at the Washington Times Communities, "Reading Ingredients: Tales from a Health-Conscious Mom," I realized that I could stand to write have a background post on why I eat the way I do when it's so different from how I used to eat.

I've written some about my nutritional beliefs in a piece called "My Kind of Nutrition (Or Healthy Eating 101)" and a similar post here on Crunchy-Chewy Mama. I've also written a little about my ideas about health care and my past experiences with doctors on this post at DC Metro Moms.

But let me go back a little to trace my personal food history to talk about the journey to vegetarian and back.

I first lost my interest in eating ham after dissecting a fetal pig in 9th grade biology. Then, when I went to France for three weeks for a cultural exchange in 11th grade, I felt heavy and just plain yucky with all the meat at every meal. Some friends were experimenting with vegetarianism, including my co-leader in the high school student environmental organization.

When I went to college, I joined the environmental group there, and most everyone was vegetarian, as were several of the folks living on my hall in the dorm and friends of theirs. It seemed like vegetarianism made sense in terms of how much energy it took to grow grain versus to feed animals to then feed to people, and lots of folks were on the animal-rights bandwagon, too.

I stopped eating red meat and had zero desire for it. I asked for my college graduation present to be a Sierra Club backpacking trip and chose a vegan trip in the Sierra mountains that included yoga and meditation. It was beautiful and powerful.

I did not go full-on veggie for a few more months, but since I was living as a non-profit intern at at women's rights organization outside of DC, eating vegetarian became a cost-cutting measure in addition to a way of life I was gravitating toward.

On my birthday in March of 1996, I walked away from a turkey sandwich lunch at a sub shop and decided that was the last time. Soon after I saw a report on factory farmed chickens essentially living in their own feces, and I decided that no one should want to eat meat. I didn't know there were alternatives to that type of farming.

I also didn't know much about health to understand that adrenal stress and an imbalance in my digestive enzymes might have caused me to be so averse to red meat -- that not wanting to eat it was a symptom of something else rather than just a natural sigh that it wasn't right for me.

And somehow I failed to see the connection between my new diet -- grain-heavy and increasingly dependent on soy products -- and my increase in gastro-intestinal problems or deep-cyst acne. Certainly stress also played into my problems, and I'd had some G.I. issues all my life. But things were really bad in 1996-97.

Then I got some kind of food poisoning or flu, and that actually seemed to help clean me out for a while! I moved away from DC and toward graduate school, where I didn't get hard-core into animal rights issues but generally accepted the basic ideas behind The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. It just seemed like meat was a barbaric way of living, akin to abuse and misogyny. I did okay health-wise while a vegetarian student for the next three years. Well, physically anyway. My mental health -- which had always been on the verge of depression -- took a downturn.

I should also mention that I was on the Pill this whole time, which did me no favors and I'm sure contributed to my woes. After we moved back to the DC area and I began teaching, I fell into a serious depression that required medication.

I also had a recurrence of G.I. problems much worse than before. I did put together than my issues seemed to get worse after going to Sunflower Vegetarian restaurant, but I couldn't figure out why that would be. I had yet to learn anything about gluten (the meat substitute used in a lot of their cooking), and this was years before I learned I had celiac disease.

I started seeing some alternative practitioners this first year after grad school, and I cleared my seasonal allergies and my sensitivity to sulfites and some other chemicals and foods. But it still took a bout with serious and long-term constipation and, a year later, with infertility, to get me to change my tune about my diet.

When doctors found nothing wrong during a colonoscopy in 2002, I sought out more alternative healers. Without understanding how poor my health really was, I went off the Pill and off anti-depressants in preparation for trying to conceive. That's when the real fun started.

It took almost 3 months to get my first period, then 6 weeks, and then nothing. My gut wasn't happy, and my skin looked terrible. I consulted with a nutritionist who suggested that my adrenals were depleted and that my vegetarian diet was not right for me. She talked about the ideas behind the book Nourishing Traditions, and though I was first insulted that she suggest I resume eating meat, I relented to at least try cutting back on soy and to add in full-fat dairy and eggs to my diet.

After three and a half months of no fertility signs, I ovulated two weeks after changing my diet simply to a lacto-ovo (as opposed to near-vegan) vegetarian diet.

At the same time, I also started the process of being diagnosed with Graves' Disease, autoimmune hyperthyroidism. This nutritionist suggested a few months later that I might have a gluten sensitivity; sometimes autoimmune conditions go together, she'd read in the book Going Against the Grain.

I tried cutting back on gluten and dairy and found an improvement in my health. I'd already started to feel better eating poultry and fish again. My test showed the genetic marker for celiac disease, marked intestinal malabsorption, and a very high sensitivity to gluten and casein (and a lower sensitivity to egg white and yeast. I never tested soy, but I'm sure that would have come up and don't need the test to tell me to avoid it).

In addition to my new diet and supplement regimen, I took a lot of alternative methods to support myself while I was on anti-thyroid medication - acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, detox protocols. I became convinced that a lifetime of eating gluten had contributed to my tendency toward depression and that my six years as a whole-grain-heavy (and soy-based) vegetarian really did me in.

I felt better than I ever had, and, six months after I'd gone off anti-thyroid medication, I conceived my son in June 2005. I have not had to treat my thyroid since then, except for adding a little iodine a few months postpartum when my levels started to dip low, toward Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

All the details about my current diet can be found on other posts, but I did want to explain why I came to understand that a vegetarian diet is not right for me. I now buy most of my meat (and eggs, and dairy for my husband and son) directly from local farmers, and I buy as much local produce as possible. I hope to grow more this summer now that we are settled in our new house. I have not yet read The Vegetarian Myth by 20-year vegan Lierre Keith, but I get the sense from reviews (including this one) that the author addresses ecological, philosophical, ethical, political and nutritional arguments for and against vegetarianism in persuasive ways.

I can't begin to pretend that I know what is right for other people, even if part of me wants to think I know. I for sure don't want to make blanket statements that sound dismissive of other people's choices.

I just want to be clear that my choice to be an omnivore is intentional and based on a lot of trial and error; it has not been made without a lot of thought and consideration.