Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Birth of James Theodore

I love giving birth. My labor to bring James home to us was an intimate, uplifting experience. I was left in grateful awe of what my body is capable of building and delivering. The scripture I once loved as a missionary rang true for me in a new way: 

"...for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up" (D&C 84:88).

Angels from both here and beyond gathered round about me during this sacred event. The Spirit was clearly present, but with a feminine touch. Giving birth at home freed me from distraction and worry, allowing me a heightened spiritual awareness and connection with my family, my body, and especially my new baby. 

When my second son was only 8 or 9 months old, Keenan told me he felt another child was eager to come to our family. My jaw dropped. I was tired. I couldn't imagine starting another pregnancy. I spent a month or so trying to forget about it before I, too, felt the window open to invite another little one to our life. After spending some time talking about details, deliberating about birth plans and finances, and perhaps putting it off a little (on my end), I took a positive pregnancy test on New Year's Day 2012. This ready little spirit was on his way.

With two boys already, Keenan and I decided it would be fun and suspenseful to discover the gender of this baby at birth. I avoided letting myself even lean one way or the other. One of the only times I slowed down enough to connect deeply with my baby was at a prenatal yoga class. For a brief moment in my mind, I saw a clear image of a baby boy, floating peacefully inside of me. I wasn't at all surprised when it turned out to be true.

Life was things things things straight until my Sept. 5 due date, the first day I started to feel settled. I had contractions all day that day, not extremely uncomfortable, but noticeable enough. They subsided around bedtime. Thursday the 6th was the first day I felt good about welcoming baby. I had a midwife appointment around noon, and though I hadn't planned to have a cervical exam, I decided it might help me gauge when my busy mom should be ready to fly out. I didn't think the baby would stay put through the weekend. Margo checked me and reported: 2+ cm dilated, 50% effaced, and baby in a very low position, -1 at the highest (0 position is the urge to push). Margo said that when labor started, it would go fast. Based on precedent (a 35-hour then a 24-hour labor), I had a hard time believing her. I was prepared for length.

Late that evening, I started having a strong contraction here and there. Daniel had had a symptomless fever during the day, and we decided Keenan should give him a blessing while he was sleeping. Since he was in white shirt and tie, I asked for a blessing as well, knowing I would need it for my impending labor (whenever it may be). The spirit was palpable. My main impression coming away from it was that I was being attended from the other side by women from our families. I felt sure Keenan's mother was there, several of my grandmothers before, and felt distinct ties to my Heavenly Mother. There was a very maternal spirit about the whole experience. It seems logical that family from the other side would be invested in the passing of a spirit into mortality, but I was deeply connected to it during this labor. I felt their elevated understanding and reverence for the birth process, as well as their faith and prayers on behalf of my family. Even as I now reflect on this experience, I feel strong, tender ties to my deceased family. It seems fitting that our little boy received names that each appear on both sides of our family: James Theodore.

Contractions continued after the blessing. From about 11:00 on, they were 5-10 minutes apart, and fairly intense. We talked to Margo, and she said to call back when they were a solid 5 minutes. I still had a hard time believing that this was really it.  

I tried to sleep, but as in my previous labors, I couldn't take the contractions lying down. I felt like I was in active labor, but couldn't figure out where early labor could have gone!?! Still in denial, I took some supplements anyway and Keenan made me a shock tea. I was grateful to have him there with me. I really relied on his spiritual and physical support.

As I made my way through the kitchen to the studio where I planned to give birth, I noticed a large praying mantis on the kitchen curtain. We rarely see this friendly insect even outside, and I took it as a good omen. A google search on the symbolism of the mantis leads to words like: stillness, awareness, mindfulness, calm, intuition, a symbol of patience and endurance, a messenger of God, the eye of God. There couldn't be more fitting words for a laboring woman.

The house was more or less ready, but we gathered things together, just in case this was for real. We had planned to set up the birth tub the next morning, but thought maybe we should go ahead and do it now. We paged Margo when contractions were 4-5 minutes apart. She and Kelly started heading over. By the time they got here, contractions were closer to 2-3 minutes. Margo said as she entered, "You sound pretty active."  "Yeah," I responded.

My wonderful midwives, Margo and Kelly

She was going to help us with the tub, but I decided we probably couldn't get it pumped and filled in time. I would have been right.

I had really wanted my mom to be present at this birth with my boys, but it became clear she wasn't going to make it. We called my best friend, Carrie, who came down to take pictures and be with the boys when they awoke. She was a strengthening presence and blessing to me that morning, noticing where she might lend a hand, caring for my boys, preparing food, picking up Mom from the airport a few hours later. People often take us for sisters, and it certainly seems so to me.

As labor continued to progress, I would sometimes try to help Keenan and the midwives with the birth preparations between contractions (it was hard to relinquish that desire and stay in labor land!). As soon as a contraction hit, however, I was hanging on Meredith's birth rope, leaning over the futon, or sitting on the birth ball, and always calling for Keenan's strong counter-pressure hard on my sacrum. It brought such relief.

Birthday ice cream: raw raspberry

Even though we were up all night, I was so much more cognizant than I was at the end of my first two lengthy labors. I really enjoyed that a lot. In spite of the heightened intensity of a fast labor, it seemed easier because of that awareness.

I always have the urge to push toward the end of transition, before I am fully dilated. In my first labor, I was so concerned about causing unnecessary swelling in my cervix, I held out until full dilation before pushing at all. I have never focused so acutely as I did during that first labor, and it paid off: the pushing, though very long, was not painful. With my second, my body unmercifully took over and resistance was futile. Daniel was born like a rocket, and the second stage was incredibly intense.

When I first started feeling pushy in this labor, I let myself do it, remembering that it didn't create a big problem in labor #2. I was really wanting the baby out, and thought that might help. After several contractions of intensifying pushing impulse, I let Kelly check me to see if I was good to go. I was at a 9, and she thought I ought to wait it out for a few more contractions. I tried hard not to push through these, but I was weary of the contractions, and wanted it all to end. Kelly suggested I lie on my side on the futon. I dreaded it would be too painful, but took her suggestion, hoping she might be able to hold the cervix back for baby to come through.

There was just a lip left to dilate, and my cervix stretched a little around baby as he descended. That was painful. Difficult as it is, I see greater value in intensifying my focus and patience through to full dilation as in my first labor (ending pain at the cervix). I was overwhelmed dealing with the ring of fire at the perineum while still experiencing cervical pain.

As he moved down the birth canal, there was an exciting splash into the air as my bag of waters gushed open, and I started to feel a burning as he crowned. I did not experience this infamous burning in my first two labors, and I wanted none of it. The midwives told me just to breathe (not to push willfully) in order to give my body time to stretch. It seemed impossible. Plus, I didn't want to. Somewhere in my mind, I think I preferred a tear to keeping that baby in any longer, especially when he was so close. "I can't!" I insisted. "You are," Margo countered. I felt like time was suspended as I tried with everything in me to simply breathe. It was surreal. Keenan told me he thought I should reach down and feel my baby's head. I was holding his hand tight and didn't want to let go, but I reluctantly reached down and felt the soft little head half-way out of me. That brought it all home. There was a baby being born, and he was mine. I waited another moment and then pushed him out. 4:58 AM. I pulled him up to my chest. He found air and started to cry. I hadn't seen whether he was a boy or a girl. Keenan lifted the towel to discover that he was indeed another boy. That felt right. As the midwives examined me, he gently cried and cried some more. I think we had the same feelings about it! My preoccupation with my own woes turned quickly into compassion for my baby's experience, and we commiserated together. Having him in my arms was joy.

Around 4:45 AM, we asked Carrie to wake 4-year-old Sammy so he could witness the birth. When she whispered to him in his bed that I was having our baby, he thought for a few seconds and responded, "Is this a dream?" He was well prepared with knowledge about how it worked and how I might act. He's always been an observer, internalizing everything, and very sensitive to people. I knew he could handle this. At first he came in and out of the room, trying to get comfortable. Then he watched in wonder: the delivery of baby and placenta, crying of baby with mama, the cutting of the cord, the smallness and newness of this little brother. It was a special start to their relationship. 2-year-old Daniel woke about an hour and a half after the birth and came to meet the baby. It was so sweet to share the experience together as a family at home.

Though my bleeding was minimal, Kelly said there was a little trickle that hadn't quite stopped, and that she might have to reach up and feel for any blood clots. Margo gave me an herbal tincture to help and I asked Keenan to fix me another shock tea. I drank it down quickly, the cayenne sizzling my throat. The bleeding stopped almost immediately. That was that.

Eventually I moved into my bedroom to get comfortable and nurse the baby, who latched on with ease, I'm grateful to say. The midwives did a newborn exam and announced his 8 lbs. 13 oz. and 21.5 inches. My labor was 6 hours long. Completely unexpected, but welcome.

James seemed a little unsure about being here at first. He slept for several days, waking only to eat, and keeping his eyes tight shut. We finally started seeing his deep blue eyes as he found ours. He is so sweet and sincere, responsive and easy-going. I have been given a very strong love for him, perhaps to meet his call for security, perhaps as an answer to my own prayers. Keenan and I both feel that he will grow to be a great strength to his family.

One month old

Saturday, January 26, 2013

True Feminism

I'm not very caught up on what everyone else is saying about feminism at the moment.  That is, I don't know where the feminist movement stands from an academic perspective --- only where it stands in the world of my daily observation.  So with that prelude to my ignorance, I will proceed to share some thoughts.

Generally the last century of feminist activity has been divided into "First-wave," "Second-wave," and "Third-wave" feminism.  The first was known for its emphasis on suffrage and property rights.  The second, which bore the Women's Liberation Movement, focused on equality in the workplace and on ending legal gender discrimination.  The third (beginning in the 90s) has emphasized reproductive rights and fluid gender roles.

I am a feminist.

Growing up, I thought it was a bad thing to be a feminist.  I was pretty convinced that women should cling to their traditional role of wife, mother, homemaker, or society would collapse.  I thought feminism meant stealing a woman from the home and placing her in the workplace, leaving her "latch-key" kids to fend for themselves; that feminism sneered at the idea of being a stay-at-home mom whose life and identity revolved around her children and husband; that feminism was the foremost cause of delinquency, debauchery, debt, disease, disaster... all strewn in the wake of broken homes and heartbroken families.

That is not my kind of feminism.

There is a brand of feminism, that first reared its head in the "Second wave" of the 70s and 80s, which preached that women needed something other than their children and homes as outlets for their intellect and creativity.  It says that a woman will become depressed, and ultimately feel unfulfilled, if she has no work outside her home.  I think it is safe to say that, in the politically correct world, this vision of womanhood has been effectively crushed.  Most people accept that a woman can lead a fulfilling and influential life from within the walls of her home, though most would also advise that every mother maintain hobbies or part-time work and pursue life-long learning for a well-balanced self.  (My three sister-mothers and my own mother, who are stay-at-home moms, do this beautifully).  More women today are choosing to stay home with their children than did in the 80s or 90s, which is a credit to the direction mainstream feminism has taken.  I do not say this because I believe every woman should stay at home, but because every woman should be free to do so without censure.

But the point I want to make has to do with gender roles and rules.  Second wave feminism sought to make men and women equal in the workplace.  It said that a qualified woman is not inherently less desirable than a qualified man in any position.  It insisted on equal payment and equal treatment.  These demands wrought wonderful changes in our society, and opened up a world of possibilities to women that had never been dreamed of by the suffragists.  I feel that today, it is finally normal --- not common, perhaps, but certainly not shocking --- to hear of a woman CEO, tech entrepreneur, even president of a nation.  It is so good that America knows that women and men have equal potential for success in any position, depending on their training, talent, and tenacity.  But not on their gender.

Despite the overwhelmingly positive results of the push for gender equality, there is some danger in it.  It leads some to see men and women not only as equal, but as fully interchangeable.  And here is where I might diverge in my feminism from the mainstream movement.

What is feminism that does not celebrate --- fully --- what it means to be feminine?  And I don't mean the color pink, or large shoe collections, or a love of chocolate.  Those things are associated with femininity in American culture, but not in all cultures.  What is feminine?  Across all nations, races, ages?  A propensity for chit-chat?  Maybe.  An adoration of babies?  Maybe.  Appreciation of beauty, of spirituality?  Maybe.  But although women are more prone toward these qualities than men, they are not woman's exclusive domain.

The female body.  That is feminine.  Fully feminine and exclusively feminine.  With it comes the ability to conceive, build, and bear another human body.  With it comes milk to feed an infant, and hormones that bind us to our children.  And I must argue that there is such a thing, also, as the feminine spirit.  With it comes the ability to nurture in a particular way, to sense in a particular way, and to connect in a particular way.  There is  also something within every woman that binds us --- women --- to each other.  Sisterhood is feminine.  Fully feminine and exclusively feminine.

True feminism should not stop at "women are equal to men", and it should not go so far as to say "women and men are interchangeable."  True feminism must embrace what it is to be feminine.  I believe this means that true feminism should by nature be more focused on childbirth, on child-nurturing, and on sisterhood, than it is on anything else, because these are among the only things that are in woman's exclusive natural domain.  (With them, of course, come related spiritual gifts which are, again, more common among women but probably not exclusive to them).

I could end this will all kinds of disclaimers about the obvious exceptions, but I won't.

Instead I'll say where my feminism has brought me.  I have a very fulfilling career in the academic world.  As a professor, I teach my classes, and grade papers, and research, and manage administrative duties as effectively as any man would.  But I do it as a woman, which means I do it differently (not better, but differently).  Then I go home from work, and there I play with, feed, and nurture my son --- differently than my husband does it, because I am a woman.  I rejoice in those things that make me different from the men who share my roles as professor or as parent.  Our contrasting contributions make our product more complete.

I am a feminist because I honor those things that make me different from a man, and not simply because I hold that I am not different from a man in many respects.  I am a feminist because I celebrate my femininity, without believing it to be superior or inferior to masculinity.  I am a feminist because I rejoice in those traits of mine that are exclusively female --- my body, my spirit, my sisterhood.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Marvelous Miso

The following is a guest post by my lovely sister, Rachel.

Basic Miso Soup
My new favorite soup to make is miso soup.  I've always loved it at Japanese restaurants and just discovered how easy and tasty it is to make!  The brand I like best from our local Asian market is Miso & Easy.  It looks like a ketchup bottle and doesn't need to be refrigerated until after opening, so I scowled at it and made my way to the tubbed misos in the refrigerated section.  Miso & Easy came out the winner over the fancy varieties, with no GMO soybeans or preservatives.  I know unpasteurized miso is ideal, and I can't tell if this is or not.  You can let me know if you come across a superior product.  Here's a basic recipe as I've adapted it from this original recipe.


    1 8oz package mushrooms, sliced (added by me and not in the nutrition facts)
    4 cups water
    1/3 cup miso
    3 green onions (scallions), chopped
    1 tbsp shredded nori or wakame seaweed
    1/2 block soft or firm silken tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
    dash soy sauce (optional)
    1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional)


    Saute sliced mushrooms in water or oil. When tender, add water to a slow simmer.  Add seaweed. Allow to simmer at least 5-6 minutes. The longer you simmer the seaweed, the less of a salty fishy flavor it will have.
    Reduce heat to the lowest setting and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until miso is well dissolved. Its best not to boil the miso, as this will ruin some of it's healthy properties as well as change the flavor of the soup. Makes 4 servings.

    Nutrition Facts (from Calorie Count):
    One serving provides approximately:
    Calories: 91, Calories from Fat: 32
    Total Fat: 3.5g, 5%, Saturated Fat: 0.5g, 3%
    Cholesterol: 0mg, 0%
    Sodium: 882mg, 37%
    Total Carbohydrates: 8.6g, 3%
    Dietary Fiber: 1.6g, 6%
    Sugars: 2.1g, Protein: 6.8g, Vitamin A 3%, Vitamin C 4%, Calcium 5%, Iron 8%, based on a 2000 calorie diet

    You can add other vegetables if you like.  Spinach would be good.

Now here are some reasons to make this soup, other than the fact that it's oh so delicious:


1. Contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
2. Stimulates the secretion of digestive fluids in the stomach.
3. Restores beneficial probiotics to the intestines.
4. Aids in the digestion and assimilation of other foods in the intestines.
5. Is a good vegetable-quality source of B vitamins (especially B12).
6. Strengthens the quality of blood and lymph fluid.
7. Reduces risk for breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.
8. Protects against radiation due to dipilocolonic acid, an alkaloid that chelates heavy metals and discharges them from the body.
9. Strengthens the immune system and helps to lower LDL cholesterol.
10. High in antioxidants that protects against free radicals.
See this website for more history about miso and uses for it. The dipping sauce, cheese, and salad dressing sound the most intriguing to me.  Pass on any good miso recipes my way!

Monday, January 21, 2013

How to Make Char Cloth (and Why)

Char Cloth Defined
Made of 100% plant material (i.e. cotton), char cloth will catch even the smallest spark, enabling you to blow fire into a tinder bundle. This is a great emergency prep item, and will extend the life of your fire starter (i.e. flint and steel) by many, many uses.

How to Make Char Cloth
My husband and I learned how to make char cloth at an emergency prep camp we went to a couple years ago, but we never tried it until last month. It was easy! Here's a step-by-step:

1) Cut some 100% cotton fabric into roughly 2'x2' squares. I used a pair of Keenan's old jeans.

2) Find a tin and poke a hole in the center of the lid. Fill (but do not stuff) with your bits of cloth.

3) Start a fire and let it get good and hot.

4) Place your tins in a hot spot (the coals work nicely). Smoke, sometimes even fire, will start spewing from the hole in the lid.

5) Rotate your tins to make sure the heat is even. The larger the tins, the longer they will take. I'd say these large ones took at least an hour. A small Altoids-type tin would be comparatively fast.

6) You know it's done when the smoke stops coming out of the hole. Set the tins aside and do not open the lids until cool to the touch. Otherwise, the sudden rush of oxygen will cause the cloth to combust.

Ta da!!

The cloth should be completely black. Spots of brown mean it wasn't quite done. Ashes in your tin mean far overdone. I think it's pretty hard to get it wrong.

How to Make a Fire Using Char Cloth
1)  Place your char cloth on your tinder nest.
2)  Using your fire starter, throw a spark at the cloth.
3)  Rub the tinder in your fingers as you gently blow.
4)  Fire!

I'm sorry I didn't make a video of this, but there are lots of them on youtube! I really liked the guy in this one, but couldn't get it to upload to this post (he makes the char cloth and starts lighting at 3:22 if you want to skip ahead). We have friends like this.

I liked the guy in this one too, probably because he says "bla bla bla."

So enjoy making your own, and feel happy knowing you have a way to warm your family and cook your food (and have fun camping!) should the needs arise.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Potty Training

I currently have two sisters potty-training for the first time, and I am just wrapping up potty-training #2, so this is a timely topic for me!

Every parent/child relationship is unique, so this won't be the best method for everyone, but it's worked really well for me twice.  I haven't read about it anywhere, it's just what we decided to try and it worked both times.  I lovingly call it,

The Bare Buns Technique!

Here's what we do.

  • Talk long in advance about going to the potty, wearing underwear, how the child is growing so big (too big for diapers), etc.
  • Buy a potty.  You probably already have one.  We had a fancy-pants potty chair with a soft seat, but it started smelling really bad, and no amount of strong chemicals (I hate to use) would get the smell out of that soft seat.  So, we reverted back to a simple $5 IKEA potty 
I know people who keep one in the house and one in the car.  Not a bad idea.  And don't worry, cleaning out a potty like this is not as nasty as changing a dirty diaper.  Really.  

  • Pick a day--several days when you know you're going to be home with few distractions.  
  • Explain that now your wonderful little child is now big!  And it's time to not wear diapers anymore, but go on the potty!
  • Go on a special outing to buy underwear that they choose.
  • If you want, you can watch this cute movie I remember from my early childhood.
  • Take off your child's diaper and pants (here's where the bare buns comes in).  For sanitation purposes, you can put your child in an extra long shirt for a boy, or a skirt for a girl.  I found that both of my boys felt "safe" with underwear on, so they'd still have accidents.  With their buns blowin' in the breeze, I could simply explain that if they had a "wet" or "BM" (pardon the lingo) and they forgot to sit on their toilet, it would go on their foot.  And that would be yucky.
    • Note: you might not have to go this far if you have children who are really excited to always go to the potty.  My boys knew how, but they didn't want to.  But more than they didn't want to sit on the potty, they didn't want to go on their feet!

  • Through out the day, ask if your child wants to go to the bathroom.  Don't make them; you want them to learn to listen to their bodies.  You don't know how they are feeling, my boys can both go all day without going to the bathroom sometimes!
  • Take the potty into every room with your child, and don't go too far!  If it's warm, take the potty outside and do potty training outside all day!
  • If there's an accident, just say, "Oh I'm sorry, I'll bet that's yucky for you.  Let's clean that up."  (If your child didn't mind getting it on him/herself, maybe they can help clean it up and that would change his/her mind :)
  • When they do go in the potty, give them a good hug.  Don't make too huge a deal about it, though, whether they do or don't make it.  You don't want to put too much pressure on them.  Think about it: it doesn't make it easier or more fun for you if someone is standing at the bathroom door when you're going, telling you to hurry up!
  • Depending on the personality, you might want to use a chart system.
Abraham with his filled out chart and new toy
My oldest had three charts: going in the potty chart, a wearing underwear all day chart, and a dry nighttime chart.  We haven't done charts this time around; I wanted it to be more low-key, and I think he's responded well to it.
  • Wear diapers for naps and night for a while.
    • I know a lot of people do potty-training all at once.  I prefer to wait until they're waking up dry (which usually happens right after they learn to be dry during the day).  
  • After they're great bare buns, try the underwear.  Remember to stay close to them, and train them well how to remove it.  Make sure they're in pants that are really easy to pull down.
  • When they're doing great at home, take it on the road!  
    • Do a small outing first: to a park, on a walk, or to an understanding friend's house.  Bring the potty along!  
    • As they get better and better, you can do longer and longer outings.
  • Celebrate!  Buy them a "big kid toy," throw them a party, or take them on a date!  (Think of all the time/money/headache they're saving you!)
How do you know if your child is ready?  One very clear sign is if they leave their play, go out of the room, or into a corner or somehow separate themselves when they're going to do their business.  That way you know for sure that they know beforehand if they need to go to the bathroom.  Some mature 18 month olds can be potty trained.  

This looks like a ton of information, but it's easier than you think!!!  and soooo worth it...
There are many ways to potty train.  What have you tried?  What works for you?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Dirty Dozen

What do I always buy organic?

All animal products (dairy, meat, eggs, etc.), anything containing a potential GMO crop (most rampantly corn and soy), and at least the top half of the list of contaminated produce compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

EWG is a non-profit organization that uses the "power of public information to protect public health and the environment." Their organizational goals are:
  1. To protect the most vulnerable segments of the human population -- children, babies, and infants in the womb -- from health problems attributed to a wide variety of toxic contaminants.
  2. To replace federal policies, including government subsidies that damage the environment and natural resources, with policies that invest in conservation and sustainable development.
I love how EWG does it: "Our research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know. It shames and shakes up polluters and their lobbyists. It rattles politicians and shapes policy. It persuades bureaucracies to rethink science and strengthen regulation. It provides practical information you can use to protect your family and community."

Zowie! You go, EWG.

I am so grateful for this organization. I have greatly benefited from their Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (reviewed here by Meredith), which has empowered me with safety information about the products we use on our bodies.

I also highly recommend taking a stroll around EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which provides a list of 45 common vegetables and fruits, from the most contaminated to the least. These guys have analyzed more than 60,700 samples taken over the last decade by the USDA and FDA, nearly all of which were washed or peeled first (which indicates to me that, in many cases, the chemicals are present in the very cells of the food). Check out their methodology and very informative FAQs.

Here are the foods you should definitely buy organic:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines - imported
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries - domestic
  12. Potatoes
Though not found near the top of the list, green beans and kale/greens may contain toxic insecticide residues of special concern, so buy organic there too. The "Clean 15" contain the lowest pesticide residues. If budget is tight, you can skip organic here and feel pretty safe:

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn (though I always buy corn organic because most U.S. corn is GM)
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe - domestic
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms
Keep these lists somewhere handy for easy reference!

By the way, EWG was a big proponent of California's recently defeated Prop 37 (similar measures are currently in the limelight in WA, VT, and CT). If you're looking for a noble cause to donate to, EWG would be a great choice!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Essential Oils 101

I recently went to my first Essential Oils class.  It was by a doTerra teacher.  I have a few essential oils, but I know I don't know very much about them, and I don't use them enough.  I asked some basic questions and got some good answers.  Hopefully this basic introduction is helpful to some of you, too!
  • An "essential oil" is basically the essence of a plant.  All plants have them, but not all essential oils are known to be beneficial.  They are used in alternative medicine, and aromatherapy.
  • doTerra is a good brand to use because they are %100 pure essential oil, and not all brands are.
  • They don't expire
  • It is good to apply the oil to the bottom of the feet, where the pores are the biggest and the oil can be absorbed into the body the fastest.
The instructor's very favorite essential oils:
  1. Lavender--use for colds and cold prevention, soothes skin from burns, rashes  
  2. Frankincense--many uses: anti-inflammatory, great for any skin problem, stress reliever
  3. Peppermint and Lemon--good for diffusing aromatically, lemon will keep you energized, peppermint is also good for burns
  4. Digest Zen--it's a blend for stomach pain, throwing up or heart burn.  It can be used on the stomach and feet.
  5. On Guard--another blend.  It's a great immune booster.  She highly recommended the soap, cleaner and especially toothpaste (with a great personal story).
  6. Wild Orange--a great stress reliever, mood uplifter

That was super brief, but it's a subject I'm interested in, and I would love to hear some of your favorite essential oils and how you use them?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Choosing Confidence

In most settings I was mild-mannered and shy while growing up (I say most settings because some people will laugh to read that sentence).  I remember as a teenager hearing other people boldly talk about politics, current events, music, health, whatever the subject, and being very impressed.  I thought to myself (no joke), “Boy, I wish I had opinions.”  
Original illustrations. :)

I was a studious girl, and the opinions eventually came --- as they tend to do with education.  But I think what I had really been wishing for was the confidence to express an opinion in the presence of someone who disagreed.  Even in those settings where I was not so shy, I was never confrontational.  This can be a virtue, and I’m satisfied to think that sometimes it was.  But when it is one’s character rather than one’s choice to avoid conflict, it is a weakness.

These days I find myself very ready, in most settings, to say kindly but confidently, “Well, I just don’t see it that way.”  What accounts for the change?  Certainly, a graduate degree and a few more years of experience under my belt leave me with talking points.  But after contemplating my own transformation, I have come to the conclusion that confidence is a choice.

Following are some examples of my progress, and how I got there.

Cooking.  Once I was terrified even of using a recipe.  Then I was terrified of deviating from a recipe.  Then I was terrified of the hard recipes with words like whey and meuniere.  Now I feel like I can handle cooking… even feel that I’m a good cook!

  • How I gained confidence in cooking: I tried one recipe at a time, looked up one term, bought one new ingredient.  Experience and practice led to confidence.

Raising my hand. In grad school I was in a class of 20 really smart guys, and then one other smart girl (who never spoke) and smart myself.  There were some really outspoken guys in that class, and I really probably only raised my hand once.  I regret that!  I had things to say.  Now I am a professor, and I challenge students and sometimes colleagues on a regular basis when I disagree with their thought process.

  • How I gained confidence in public argument: I had to talk myself into this.  I had to tell myself that my ideas were just as valid as the next person’s.  I had to walk through my idea in my mind, and agree with myself, and know why.  And then I had to take a leap and put myself out there.  I had to be willing to be vulnerable.  (Love this TED talk.)


Motherhood.  In the beginning, when Peter would cry, I would pick him up and flutter all over him and say in a high pitched voice, “It’s okay baby!  Oh baby what’s wrong?  Are you hungry?  Hurting?  Oh I don’t know what you need.”  Within a couple months this had changed to a calm, low voice, “Peter, it’s okay.  Mama’s here.  We’re safe and warm and sleep is such a nice place to be.  Rest your head.”

  • How I gained confidence in answering my child’s needs:  One day I realized that all this time I had been assuming that my baby knew what he needed, and was just waiting for me to figure it out while I tried all the wrong things.  I realized that in fact, he had no idea what he needed (consciously), and what he needed most was to feel my gentle, sure confidence.   Once I realized this, I decided that for him, I would be confident.  I just decided!  And you know what?  Suddenly his other needs were much more clear to me.  Confidence led me to smarter, quicker decisions.  It changed me fundamentally as a mother.  And all I did was decide.

By the way,
I also love this TED talk.  The speaker talks about a controlled experiment she and some colleagues did that proved how our body language chemically affects our level of confidence (and not just the other way around).  Stand in a “power pose” (see above three illustrations) for two minutes before a job interview, or performance, or crucial conversation, and even in that amount of time your testosterone levels will jump and your cortisol levels plummet.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Why I Don't Eat {much} Meat

When we moved to the DC area about 2 1/2 years ago, we decided it was time to complete the change we had been inching our way towards since we were married.  I stopped buying meat.  I say "buying meat" instead of "eating meat," because we do have a few exceptions:
  • When we are guests, we are happy to eat whatever is served
  • When we go out to eat Andrew will often order something with meat, though I tend not to
  • We often include meat on the menu for the major holidays: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • We do eat fish, shrimp, crab, and other seafoods occasionally, so I guess we're technically "pescetarians," but that's a funny term
I have found many reasons to have a vegetarian diet, and a lot of confusing information out there, and want to add mine to the conversation.  So here they are, in order from most important for me to least important:

My reasons for having a {mostly} vegetarian diet

  • Word of Wisdom

    • In the LDS Church, our guidelines for health (where we learn not to drink alcohol or coffee, etc) come from the "Word of Wisdom."  In this scripture, it states:
    •  12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
    •  13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
    •  15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
    • I feel like that's pretty clear language that states that I shouldn't be eating meat, almost ever.

  • Health

    • There is a lot of controversy in this area.  I have not done deep study on the subject, but in my limited research and reading, the science seems to support avoiding meat.  "The China Study," "Eat to Live," and "Disease-Proof your Child" are books I recommend.  I have also read and scanned some long, technical criticisms of "The China Study" (and the rebuttals that followed), and it seems like the science still holds.
    • The documentary "Forks Over Knives" makes a compelling case.
    • I also feel better and healthier when I am on a plant-based diet.  My husband and I both feel like we are as healthy and fit as we've ever been.
  • Environment
    • There are many environmental benefits of not eating meat.  I won't list them all here, but here are a few thoughts:
    • In its 2006 report, the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.
    • There is a huge waste cost to maintaining and processing meat.  
  • Animal Rights
    • I won't do the research for you because it isn't pretty, but we've all seen pictures and videos about the horrific conditions in which most animals are kept when they're to be used as food.  Thankfully there are responsible ways to purchase meat from “happy cows” and “happy chickens,” and for those purchasing meat, where it comes from and how the animals were treated should be a priority. I also recommend the film, “Food, Inc.” which addresses the topic broadly, but has a focus on animal rights.
  • Cost
    • Meat is expensive, especially good meat (that reduces the environmental, health and animal rights costs).
    • We don't eat many "meat substitutes" (which can be expensive), but our diet is quite cheap.  Beans are much cheaper than meat.  A quick glance around the internet led me to think that overall, it's usually cheaper to eat vegetarian food.  It's always the cheapest option at a restaurant!
  • Preference
    • The less I eat meat, the less I like it.  Vegetables are now my favorite part of any meal, and seem to be on the whole more flavorful (when prepared well) than meat.
  • Vegetables and fruits are beautiful

I may have opened a can of worms with this post.  I welcome your comments!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Visualizations from Conception to Birth

Happy New Year!

Take a few minutes and enjoy this awe-inspiring Ted talk by Alexander Tsiaras. I love that someone so steeped in the scientific community will openly attribute creation to divinity. 

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Enjoy.