Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Who's a Nelson?"

Like Mark, my brother-in-law, Erik, is a super creative guy. He's always coming up with cool ideas to make things more fun and interesting. For example, last year we were celebrating his daughter's first communion when he gave her a small present; she unwrapped it to find a little box with a slit on the side, and a piece of paper about the same width as a cash register receipt was sticking out. Something was written on it sideways, so she had to pull on it to see the rest of the message. After pulling out the entire message there was a dollar bill taped onto the end of the paper. And then another one was attached to the end of that one. She kept pulling the roll to reveal a string of 20 $1 bills - what a fun way to present a gift! I don't know who had more fun, Sofie or the rest of us watching her.

Months before Mark and I got married, Erik showed us a cute game he had started playing with his kids who were about 3, 5, and 7 at the time. He would say, "Whoooo's a Nelson?" In unison, the kids would shoot their hands in the air and shout "Meeeee!" It was really cute, and it became a normal part of all the family get togethers. I, of course, was not a Nelson yet, so I would keep my hand down and just enjoy how cute the kids were.

So, fast forward to our wedding. Erik was Mark's best man, and he gave the greatest best man toast of all time - really, it was that good. He was a natural, starting out with some hilarious stories about Mark that had all of our guests roaring with laughter, and then winding it down to give some really sweet advice about stopping to enjoy special moments even if it's just a look across the room when things are really busy. It was so heartfelt and genuine, I wish I had a transcript of it to share here. But the best part was when he asked everybody to raise their glass to toast, and he asked his famous question... "Whooooo's a Nelson?" Of course the room was filled with over a dozen Nelsons with all of Mark's relatives, so in a loud chorus we Nelsons all responded with an enthusiastic "Meeeeee!" And for the first time, I got to join in :) Leave it to Erik to find a way to make a girl feel so welcome in the family, in a way that was so special that it took months to build up.

Happy anniversary, house!

This week marks the 5 year anniversary of moving into our house. How has it been 5 years already?! As they say, time flies when you're having fun - and we've definitely had some fun times in this house.

This is where Mark proposed to me, for example. While we were going through the building process we were so excited that we visited at least a couple times each week, especially towards the end when the progress was more fun. One day we arranged to meet here after work, as we often did, but Mark seemed a little weird about it. He kept calling me to see where I was (stuck in traffic on the 494 bridge, which is STILL under construction), but I didn't think too much of it. When I arrived I figured he was just excited for me to see that a huge change had taken place - the sheetrock had been joined by doors, cabinets, trim, and other woodwork.



He said there was a surprise upstairs, but that he needed a minute to prepare; when he called down with the ok, I headed up. Our bedroom is at the top of the stairs, and beneath the closed doors I could see lights on the floor - there was a big gap because the carpet hadn't been installed yet - it looked like a strand of Christmas lights, or something. When I opened the door, I found several dozen votive candles and red roses covering the floor with a path leading to Mark in the middle of the room.

Holding a silver jewelry box, he got down on one knee and said some nice things - honestly, I don't even remember everything he said because it was so surreal (yes, even though we were buying a house together, and had talked about the fact that we would be getting married and having children together one day, it was still a surprise.) I somehow said yes through my tears.

Moving in was an adventure in itself. Remember how frugal we are? Of course we (Mark) did it by ourselves (himself), with the help of a friend and a few family members. One of my favorite moments was trying to get the large, 80s hand-me-down couch into the basement. Going down the angled stairway was challenging, but the guys made it without even scuffing the walls or taking out the low-hanging light fixtures on the way; but when they made it to the cramped hallway at the bottom, they discovered that there was no possible way to maneuver it around the corner without tearing down a portion of the wall. So back up the stairs they went, out the front door, around to the back of the house, and in through the basement window. By unscrewing the feet and angling it just right, they were able to squeeze the couch through...barely. And remember, this all took place in January. In Minnesota.

Babyproofing, playdates, entertaining friends and family...

All of Claire's firsts have taken place here, and we have had so many great times with family and friends here. Whether we're stuck inside on a cold day, or out enjoying the sunshine in our yard or the park behind it, this has been a really great place to live. I'm looking forward to many more happy memories here :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Five

1. What do you feel is the most important quality in a close friend?
A close friend has to be genuine. I have no desire to waste time with somebody who is not (been there, done that!).

2. What is the one quality in a stranger you'd just met that would make you want to get to know them better?
Knowledge in a subject that interests me. I was introduced to a woman the other day, and during the introduction was told that she's a beekeeper. I was fascinated! We talked for 10-15 minutes while waiting in line together, and I was disapointed when I had to leave...of course personality helps, but I could have talked to this woman about beekeeping alone for at least another hour. How neat to be able to learn from a person with experiences like that!

3. What do you think is the most important quality in a good leader?
A good leader has to have strong morals. A person could be the most organized, confident, and professional-appearing person on the planet, but they would be worthless as a leader if they lacked ethics.

4. What is the one thing that makes a child likable to you?

5. What do you think is the one thing that makes a good parent (other than loving their children)?
Being aware...aware of your child's feelings, wants, and needs. Knowing that your infant delights in repeatedly throwing things off of the highchair tray because this is how babies learn about gravity and cause and effect (and not because they're trying to tick you off) can give your patience a little boost. Being able to make a connection between undesirable behavior and your child being hungry, tired, or overstimulated can also help with patience, as well as learning to prevent future many children are punished for being "bad" when really it's the parents' fault for being so disconnected with the child's needs or developmental timeline. Kids are not perfect; they need parental guidance, and parents do a much better job at this when they're paying attention and involved rather than detached and just physically "there." Parenting is never easy, but I think it's easier when we're more aware.

Copy and paste to your own blog, then reply to this post with a link to your answers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our "risky" decision

I just got a call from a midwife at the clinic I went to throughout my pregnancy with Claire, which is the same clinic I went to for routine bloodwork at the beginning of this current pregnancy. She was calling because I haven't been back in almost 20 weeks.

After reassuring her that I was, in fact, receiving care somewhere else, there was a pause. "I'm actually planning a homebirth," I offered, not quite knowing what to expect from this hospital midwife who I knew nothing about. I am confident and completely at ease with my decision to avoid the hospital, but I have found that many people who hear our plan don't know the facts. These people have reactions ranging anywhere from a blank stare to downright horror written across their face. Some of them qualify their reaction with a self-deprecating statement like, "I'm too chicken," while the expression on their face tells me that they think my decision is anything but brave, they think it's unequivocally risky behavior. Others like to dive into the perceived dangers of this decision that they see as impulsive and irresponsible: "But you won't have a board-certified doctor in the room with you! What if you need to have an emergency c-section? What if you need drugs or equipment?"

I don't expect everybody I come into contact with to know the current statistics and common practices in childbirth, but I am alarmed by just how few are aware of the current state of affairs. First and foremost, studies show that planned homebirths with a skilled attendant have outcomes as good as or better than hospital births. The most recent study was published in the September 15, 2009, issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal and found that women who planned homebirths had lower rates of interventions and adverse maternal outcomes than women who planned hospital births, whether the latter were attended by a midwife or a doctor. Women birthing at home were less likely to experience electronic fetal monitoring, cesarean sections, episiotomies, augmentation of labor with oxytocin or amniotomy, the use of drugs during labor, and other interventions. In addition, mothers who had a planned homebirth had far fewer tears or postpartum hemorrhage, and newborns born at home had fewer incidents of birth trauma, need for resuscitation at birth, or need for oxygen therapy beyond 24 hours. And this study, conducted in North America in 2000, was published in the British Medical Journal and echoes the results published in CMAJ.

As a low-risk woman, this planned homebirth is a safe and responsible choice. These two studies look at the risks of not going to the hospital, but what about the known risks of going? Hospital-acquired infection (MRSA, anyone? Staph? H1N1? The hospital is, after all, where sick people go), routine interventions (which surprisingly few parents and parents-to-be know the risks of), iatrogenic (doctor-caused) complications (my situation after Claire's birth would fall into this category, but that's a whole separate post.)

To address the commonly expressed fears I mentioned above: I am in the care of two wonderful midwives, one who has 30 years of professional experience under her belt, and they are doing a great job of helping me to stay healthy and low-risk. They are also trained to recognize problems that could arise, and know what to do and when to do it - and yes, that may mean a hospital transfer (although the incidence is incredibly low.) The time it would take to transfer me to the hospital in the event of an emergency requiring a cesarean is about the same amount of time it would take to prep the OR and transfer me within the hospital, so it's a wash; at home I have the added benefit of avoiding the "cascade of interventions" that usually leads to a cesarean and has contributed to the inflated cesarean rates (according to the World Health Organization, a healthy maximum for an industrialized country like the US is 15%...some hospitals in the Twin Cities are more than double that, all but one are significantly higher.) I am not comfortable with the risks of drugs or equipment in most cases, so I am doing what I can to avoid them again. My midwives do bring some along in case of emergency, and are equiped to handle such things as a postpartum hemorrhage. I had a beautiful labor and delivery with Claire, having done most of the work at home (I showed up at the hospital fully dilated and ready to push.) The problems began when the hospital staff interfered with the natural process that I had been doing just fine with all along, and their actions ultimately resulted in my need for surgery. I prefer my odds with my current homebirth team, a team who trusts birth, respects my body, and uses their equipment only when necessary.

Homebirth is not for everyone. A woman has to give birth where she is most comfortable, and some women just aren't comfortable birthing at home (whether it's because she wants to "be near medical equipment", her house is messy and reminds her of her to-do list, or she just doesn't have enough space). Homebirth is also not for women with certain risk factors, and for these situations I'm thankful we have hospitals and trained medical staff to treat these women and their babies. I am not anti-hospital or anti-doctor. I have seen, in my own experiences and through the experiences of many others, that medical intervention in most low-risk situations is unnecessary at best, and can actually cause harm...and for some reason this high rate of intervention has become the norm, so people have come to believe that it's unavoidable. The famous obstetrician Dr. Robert Bradley compared childbirth to swimming, the doctor is the lifeguard. "Both swimming and birthing carry an irreducible minimal risk, and lifeguards and doctors are necessary, but only for complications. Good swimmers and good birthers need them to be present, but just in case problems arise." Unfortunately, people have come to think that a doctor or midwife isn't doing her job unless she is intervening with the natural process even when the mother is "swimming" along just fine.

So back to this hospital nurse who had called, and who I volunteered the homebirth info to. She blew me away with her response, a heartfelt-sounding, "Oh, that is wonderful! All babies should be so lucky to be born at home. Best wishes to you!" How nice to find support from an unlikely source, especially when support is so scarce to begin with! And while I'm on the topic of support, I'd like to send a huge THANK YOU to Mark, my parents, siblings, and friends who either actively support this decision or at least care enough to want to learn more. I feel the love, and it is very much appreciated :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Five

Copy and paste to your own blog, then reply to this post with a link to your answers.

1. What did you dream of being when you were a little child?
A ballerina, teacher, or artist (or maybe a combo of all 3)

2. What did you think you might become when you were between the ages of 12-13?
An author, illustrator, designer, or zoologist

3. What career choices did you consider as a young adult?
I started working young, and have experience in retail (sales, stock, fashion show production, management), and as a yoga and Pilates instructor. By my early 20s I had moved onto finance. In high school and college I dreamed of becoming a buyer for a clothing store, but it didn't happen; by the time I was about 20, that was one of the LAST things I wanted to do.

4. Did you follow along one of the career paths you considered?
No, I haven't really stuck with anything that I've pursued professionally

5. Have you changed careers since then? Was it by choice or necessity?
I made a huge change, by choice, to stay home with our kids. Maybe it was by necessity - I knew I needed to be involved in their lives, and that I wouldn't be happy if I was in an office all day missing them. I still dream of incorporating the author/artist dreams into this somehow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"[Organic food] is for rich people who hate themselves."

-Amy Poehler's character in Baby Mama

I'll admit, there was a time when my impression of organic food wasn't all that different from the quote above. I would pass the small section of organic food in the grocery store and wonder why on Earth anybody would pay more when the "regular" food looked perfectly was being sold in the grocery store, so it had to be safe, right? I pictured the typical organic food buyer to be a persnickety bore with unreasonable expectations. Ok, maybe that's a little harsher than what I thought, but I absolutely thought that organic food was unnecessary.

But do you know what is truly unnecessary? Harmful chemicals in our food. According to an investigation by the Environmental Working Group, Peaches and apples had the most pesticides detected on a single sample, with nine pesticides on a single sample, followed by strawberries and imported grapes where eight pesticides were found on a single sample of each fruit. If persnickety means not wanting a nine chemical combo on your fruit, then sign me up. These chemicals, which are designed to be toxic so that they will kill "undesirable" living organisms that threaten the crops, don't differentiate between bugs and humans. Some of their toxic effects include nervous system effects, carcinogenic effects, hormone system effects, and skin, eye, and lung irritation. Yes, these chemicals meet certain safety guidelines, but do you know - and are you comfortable with - the tolerance that somebody else has established for them? Are you also aware that no tests have been done on the possible synergistic effects of multiple chemicals that are on the same foods, or different foods eaten together? There is no way to know for sure what is happening to our bodies by these toxic cocktails. And that a chemical is considered safe today is no guarantee that it won't be banned tomorrow...remember when DDT was an acceptable agricultural pesticide? Don't allow yourself or your family to be a guinnea pig for these chemicals, which will likely be proven unsafe in the future.

In addition to personal health and safety, don't forget about the environment. Let's take a look at the differences between conventional and organic farmers. Conventional farmers apply fertilizers to promote plant growth, spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease, use chemical herbicides to control weeds, and give animals antibiotics, growth hormones, and medications to prevent disease and spur growth. It's expensive, unhealthy, and it's not sustainable. Organic farmers, on the other hand, apply natural fertilizers (such as manure or compost) to feed soil and plants; use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruptions or traps to reduce pests and disease; rotate crops, till, hand-weed or mulch to manage weeds; give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors; they also use preventive measures - such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet, and clean housing - to help minimize disease. This method of farming is solar powered, works with nature, and is healthier for every plant, animal, and person involved.

I started writing this post a few days ago - which is not unusual for me, considering Claire's short attention span and other things that keep me busy around here - and today I was pleasantly surprised to open the latest issue of Time magazine to find this article: "How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save The Planet". I won't dive into this right now; grass-fed beef is a whole different entry for another day/week. But this article is a good start until then. An even better resource is The Omnivore's Dilemma, written by Michael Pollan. And if you'd rather sit back and watch a movie, watch the excellent documentary The Future of Food - it's free!

One more thing about organic food. I have heard people referring to food as organic simply because it's "fresh", not frozen, or doesn't come in a box. The organic label is an official certification, and anything that is truly organic must meet certain criteria. Some other words that are thrown around in this arena include "all-natural", "free-range", and "hormone-free." These phrases are subjective, meaning there are no set guidelines or governing body to reinforce what a company is claiming, therefore they are worthless. "Free-range" sounds good, but could simply mean that the chickens are given 5 minutes a day to be outside, and then spend the rest of their time in crowded filth with no sunlight. This is where buying local comes in will become familiar with the good farms producing healthy food in your area, and will know exactly what you're buying.

Bottom line: unhealthy animals and chemically-laced food do not nourish us or the environment.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Basement Cleaning and Mark's Prediction

I have been nesting. My latest obsession has been tackling our basement, which is approximately 1,200 unfinished square feet of storage. We've made a makeshift playroom/media room/artist's studio, and actually use the space quite frequently, but it's still just a bunch of exposed beams with a cement floor covered in mismatched area rugs. It has great potential, though!

So over the last few months we've been picking away at the clutter. We've already brought 2 carloads to the Goodwill, thrown away several full garbage bags, Freecycled about a dozen different groups of items, and sold some things on Craigslist. Seeing that progress, all of that glorious open space, inspired us to reconsider finishing the place off. We had previously looked into Finished Basement Company, who has done quite a few basements in our neighborhood. It's an excellent company who does beautiful work, but is so far out of our budget it's not even funny. Then we found out about Nearly Finished Basement, their sister company who does framing, drywall, electric, and plumbing so you can save money and do the rest yourself. What a great idea! But still out of our budget. We finally settled on what we call The Five Year Plan, where we (Mark) will do everything ourselves (by himself.) He's a rather handy guy so we drew up some rough plans figuring we could chip away at it as we find time and money, hiring out anything we decide we (Mark) can't do ourselves (by himself.) Add this to the growing list of big ideas that I come up with and expect Mark to execute...only this time he's motivated by a real "big boy" media room made to his exact specifications (within our budget). Yes, he's definitely on board!

Back to cleaning out the basement. We both have a little bit of packrat in us, so despite having moved twice since we've been living together (and numerous times each before that) we still had several dozen large boxes full of memorabilia and other junk that's fun to look through but mostly just gets in the way. On one hand, we're lucky that we've had this big basement to store it all away in for 5 years; on the other, hanging onto this much stuff has hindered us from fully enjoying 1/3 of our house because it's so cluttered. It's embarrassing having people downstairs because our junk is pretty much on display ("Nice Simpson's action figure collection..."). I will admit that it's been fun going through our old things, finding treasures and learning more about each other ("I didn't know you took organ lessons as a kid!") Some of the random items we've found include:

  • Mark's childhood melodica, trumpet, and a few small keyboards (we plan to start a family band, a la the Partridge Family)
  • my wig, a lavender bob, which I occasionally wore to clubs when I used to go out
  • every essay and homework assignment Mark ever completed from preschool-college (not even an exaggeration!) and his still-packed Jansport from college
  • a list of phone numbers and addresses for all of my friends in 1997 when I moved to Atlanta
  • Mark's collection of Pez dispensers
  • my pins and patches from the Deca conferences I attended in high school
  • every sweatshirt and tshirt Mark has ever owned from adolescence through college (only a slight exaggeration)
  • my old nose ring
  • some Garbage Pail Kids and baseball cards

In addition to these gems, Mark's parents are also cleaning out their they brought another box over this weekend. This box contained personal records of Mark's from birth through college, and we had a ball going through it all last night around the kitchen table. Everything from Mark's childhood immunization record (interesting how short the schedule was back then) to his report cards for every semester he's ever been in school. Reading the teacher comments was hilarious! One piece of paper had handwritten notes from his mom regarding his "firsts"...solid food was carrots at 2 months, and his first movie was just a few weeks later. There were, of course, the obligatory bad pictures during the awkward years that everybody goes through - I always get a good laugh at those because he was so adorable. And I imagine what we would have looked like together had we known each other back then...between his humongous glasses and my braces and frizzy hair, we would have made quite the handsome couple! But my favorite item was Mark's college application essay. Why, you ask? Because it was eerily prophetic.

The application asked that students predict what they will be doing in the year 2010 (how fitting for us to run across it now!) Mark's essay mentioned a fictional best friend who had moved to California, and then called to offer him a job there (he does have a good friend who moved to California after graduation, who we've visited a few times.) But the really interesting part was when he wrote about feeling torn over wanting to move to California for a job when he had a wife and 2 year old daughter who loved Minnesota. Shut the front door!!! Funny thing is, I'm usually the one bugging him to move to California. Even so, pretty ironic.

I don't know how this post about the basement turned into a This is Your Life post about Mark...

Crispy Lettuce

If your lettuce leaves have wilted, you can still have a crispy salad later on. I had this exact problem yesterday afternoon while making dinner; I pulled out the romaine and found the outer leaves were soft as cotton fabric. I pulled all of the leaves off of the core and washed them, letting them drain for a minute in the colander while I placed a large dish towel on the counter, folded in half. Without shaking too much water off of the leaves, I placed them in the towel and wrapped them loosely. I save and reuse plastic produce bags from the grocery store, so I grabbed one of those, placed the wrapped lettuce inside, and stuck it in the fridge for an hour. Voila! Crispy lettuce for dinner.

We had some leftover lettuce after dinner (everybody made a vinaigrette in their own salad bowl, so it was dressing-free), and it was the perfect size for a lunch salad today. I used the same damp dish towel to wrap it, and stuck it back inside the plastic bag before putting it back in the fridge overnight. I just had the yummiest salad with super crisp lettuce. Hard to believe it was the same wilted stuff I had pulled out of the fridge yesterday!

Extra Cream

Place leftover cream in a pastry bag (or makeshift plastic bag with a cut corner). Pipe onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze. Or you can drop dollops by spoon instead. When frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. Great on top of hot coffee or cocoa.

I also like to whip leftover cream for topping my french toast the next morning. I add a few teaspoons of real maple syrup while whipping so it's slightly sweet. Placed over a smear of peanut butter on french toast and you will have my favorite breakfast of the moment.

Zest "At Hand"

Peel the rind off citrus before juicing or using the fruit, and store in a resealable bag in the freezer or fridge. That way you'll always have zest on hand even if you don't have fresh fruit. Use peeler to just get the outer peel.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Scone Tip

When making scones, grate the butter on the large-hole side of a grater instead of cutting it with a knife. This makes it easier and less messy. Scones come out better, too! Hold the butter by the wrapper to prevent it from melting in the warmth of your hands.

Friday Five

Ok, so it's technically Saturday morning right now. I didn't get a chance to post anything yesterday, so I'm going to bend the rules for myself...

I used to do Friday Five on the blog I kept throughout my 20s, and figured I'd keep up the tradition here since I've outgrown the old blog. Feel free to snag and repost your answers!

What time do you usually wake up on weekdays?
Between 5 and 6. Sometimes as early as 3am since I've become pregnant again - the hunger wakes me up, and I usually can't fall back asleep so I just start my day.

What about weekends?
Same thing. My body, and this baby, march to the beat of their own drum/s.

What do you eat for breakfast?
Depends on what time it is. If it's shortly past midnight, I'll grab something quick and quiet - usually leftover baked goods (cookies and cake are my favorite). If everybody else is up, usually something like french toast or eggs. My favorite is probably french toast smothered in tons of butter, smeared with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, and covered in tons of real maple syrup. A few weeks ago I had some extra cream from a recipe, so I whipped it and dropped a dollop on the top...Yum!

Do you take a shower at night or in the morning?
Depends on what I have going on and Claire's level of neediness; I prefer to wait for optimal conditions.

How long does it take you to get ready?
Not long at all! I've really pared down my routine since becoming a mom. If I don't need a shower, I can easily be ready in 10 minutes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Claire's Birth Story

I quickly threw this together a few days after Claire was born so I could send something out to friends and family, and get some of the details down while they were still fresh in my mind...

Thursday, November 8, 2007
I started noticing what I thought was early labor around dinnertime, but it was more of an annoyance than actual pain. I remembered my mom telling me that she had no idea she was in labor with my brother until she went to a checkup and the doctor told her she was 5 centimeters dilated; she just had a sore back and she thought it was from moving furniture earlier that day. That’s exactly how mine felt: achy as if I had been moving furniture (which I hadn’t been.) By the time Mark got home from school around 9pm, I was already asleep because it had gotten a little worse and I wanted to rest up in case I really was in labor.

Friday, November 9, 2007
I woke up a few minutes after midnight because my backache was starting to radiate to my lower abdomen. It seemed to come and go every 15 minutes or so, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up quite yet – it almost seemed too good to be true, considering her revised due date was October 28th and we felt as if we had been waiting forever. I waited an hour or so before waking Mark, just to be sure.

By 3:00 am Mark and I were both up and moving around. I was picking up the house between contractions so it would be organized when we came home, and Mark was taking care of some loose ends at work on his computer. It was really exciting knowing we would have Claire very soon! The contractions were getting strong enough that I had to stop what I was doing, but using the techniques we learned in our Bradley childbirth classes got me through them just fine. Our plan was to stay at home to labor as long as possible, so I kept myself busy as long as I could. By 6 am, about 12 hours after I initially noticed the backache, I could no longer do anything but concentrate on laboring; we dropped what we were doing and Mark helped me get through them. Time was moving a lot faster than I imagined it would.

A little before 9 am I was sitting on the couch, breathing deeply and trying to stay relaxed during contractions, which were now a few minutes apart. Until then, the contractions had been hard work to get through but I still felt in control. Suddenly they were so strong and close together that for a moment I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore. And that’s when I knew it was time to go to the hospital – we had learned in our classes that I would make it to this point, and that meant the end was very near. Then I knew I could do it!

The drive to the hospital was pretty uncomfortable – it was only about 15 minutes, but was driven on a very bumpy road. It was difficult to stay relaxed around the turns and over the bumps, but Mark had wrapped a down blanket around me and I kept my eyes closed the whole time to help me focus. I didn’t open them until Mark rolled up to my door with a wheelchair, and I noticed that it was snowing lightly.

When the midwife checked me upon our arrival around 9:00 she announced that I was fully dilated and ready to push. I was so shocked! It had taken a lot of hard work and concentration to make it that far, but it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. We had planned on having a water birth, so they took me straight to the tub and I pushed for 2+ hours. I didn’t feel like we were making any progress and I was getting really tired so I got out and allowed the midwife to break my water to see if that would speed things up. We were scared to see that the amniotic fluid was stained with meconium (Claire had passed her first bowel movement in the womb, which can be very dangerous.) I was terrified that Claire may have aspirated the meconium, which could mean very serious lung problems. The midwife let me get back in the birthing tub to labor a while longer, but told me that we were no longer eligible to deliver in the water.

The fear that Claire was in danger put me into overdrive, and to the surprise of everybody (including myself!) Claire was born not even 5 minutes later. In the water. Oops! She was placed on my belly and let out a few hearty cries, and we knew she was ok (which was confirmed by Apgar scores of 8 and 9). Mark and I were so relieved! And it was love at first sight.

I was so happy to have made it through the birth drug-free as planned, but shortly afterwards I started hemorrhaging and they had to give me an IV with several drugs to try and stop it. I ended up losing over 1,000 CCs of blood, but the joy of sharing Claire’s beautiful birth with Mark seemed to override the fear and pain of the complications. Lunch was brought in after they took care of me, and I realized how starving I was. That had to be one of the best meals of my life!

We spent the rest of the day in kind of a blur, getting to know Claire and enjoying the calm after our hard work. The next day, our midwife said that my hemoglobin had dropped dangerously low (from 14 during pregnancy to 7 after the birth; normal range is 12-15). If I didn’t show any improvement I was going to need a blood transfusion. Thankfully I was up and walking around the following day so they let us go home with strict orders: lots of iron, protein, and calcium, along with a chlorophyll supplement. It will take a while to get back to normal levels but I’m feeling better each day, and Mark and our families – and especially Claire – are keeping me in excellent spirits. We are so happy to finally have Claire in our arms!

**Many of my friends and family were surprised to learn that we were planning a waterbirth, and wondered if it was safe. In fact, it is very safe. The baby receives oxygen through the umbilical cord via the placenta; the water is kept at body temperature, so it is a very smooth transition for the baby from the womb to the water. It is the cold, dry air that causes the baby to take the first breath, so there is no danger of the baby inhaling water – it’s no different than the amniotic fluid already in the lungs. There are many benefits to waterbirth, including reduction of pain (it’s called the “aqua-dural” for that reason), greater mobility that comes with buoyancy, greater relaxation, reduced abdominal pressure, and a gentle entrance into the world for the baby, among others.

Bogus Vaccine Studies

The following was written by Neil Z. Miller,

Many “scientific” studies are literally nonsense. This is not a conspiracy theory. For example, the Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a paper showing that one-third of “highly cited original clinical research studies” were eventually contradicted by subsequent studies. The supposed effects of specific interventions either did not exist as the original studies concluded, or were exaggerated.

Vaccine studies are often funded by the vaccine manufacturer. Lead authors of important studies that are used to validate the safety or efficacy of a vaccine are often beholden to the manufacturer in some way. They may own stock in the company or are paid by the manufacturer to travel around the country promoting their vaccines. Lead authors may receive consultation fees, grants or other benefits from the drug maker. Although many people consider this unethical or corrupt, in the world of immunizations this is acceptable practice, condoned by the FDA and other governing health authorities.

Sometimes study conclusions contradict core data in the study. It is not unusual to read the abstract or summary of a major paper touting a vaccine’s apparent safety or benefits, only to find that upon examining the actual paper, including important details, the vaccine is shown to be dangerous and may have poor efficacy as well. The media is reluctant to publish anything that challenges the sacrosanct vaccine program. Newspaper articles about vaccines, and reviews of vaccine studies that are published, merely mimic the original spurious conclusions.

In some instances, study results may be preordained. For example, when the vaccine-autism link became a public concern, vaccine proponents hastened to produce authentic-appearing studies that contradicted genuine data. Years ago, tobacco companies used this very same ploy. They financed numerous bogus studies ostensibly “proving” that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer. The real studies got lost in the muddle. Sadly, it’s all too easy to obfuscate truth and deceive the public. At the infamous Simpsonwood conference held in Norcross, Georgia, experts knew that mercury in vaccines was damaging children. They had irrefutable proof—the very reason for convening the meeting. However, instead of making this important information public, they hatched a plan to produce additional “studies” that denied such a link. In fact, vaccine proponents had the audacity to claim in some of these papers that mercury in vaccines not only doesn’t hurt children but that it actually benefits them! In the topsy-turvy world of overreaching vaccine authorities, the well-documented neurotoxic chemical mercury somehow makes children smarter and more functional, improving cognitive development and motor skills. Of course, this is absurd. Numerous real studies document mercury’s destructive effects on brain development and behavior.

Another ploy used by vaccine proponents is to design studies comparing vaccinated people to other vaccinated people. Honest studies would compare them to an unvaccinated population. In addition, vaccine control groups rarely receive a true placebo, which should be a harmless substance. The scientific method has always been predicated upon removing all potentially confounding influences. However, many vaccine studies do not conform to this integral component of valid research. This is an important concept to grasp. For example, when the safety profile of a new vaccine is being tested, one group may receive the experimental vaccine containing aluminum while the “control” group receives an injection of aluminum as well (rather than water or another harmless substance). When vaccines are compared in this way, that is, to other substances that are capable of causing adverse reactions, the vaccine appears safer than it really is. Whenever this deceptive tactic is utilized, officially acknowledged adverse reactions to a vaccine may represent only a fraction of the true potential risks to the recipient.

It should also be noted that some clinical studies that are used to license vaccines exclude people in certain groups. For example, they may be too young, too old, pregnant, ill, or have other preexisting health ailments. However, once the vaccine is licensed, it may be recommended for people in these groups. Much like using false placebos, this unethical practice artificially inflates the vaccine’s safety profile and places more children at risk for adverse reactions.

Although some studies are mere propaganda, part of a larger disinformation campaign designed to promote a vaccine agenda, other studies link vaccines to debilitating and fatal diseases. For example, the British Medical Journal published data correlating the haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine to rising rates of type 1 diabetes. The hepatitis B vaccine has been linked to autoimmune and neurological disorders. Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome—a serious paralytic disease—is a well-known adverse reaction to the flu vaccine. These are just a few of the many scientifically documented correlations between vaccines and incapacitating ailments that are documented in the medical literature.

For more information about vaccines, read the Vaccine Safety Manual by Neil Z. Miller (I highly recommend this book; I will warn you, it's hard to put down!)
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16 Things

Reposted from Facebook, with some slight changes including pictures

1. Mark and I lived together before we were married. Before we started dating, even! I was renting out the upstairs of his house, so technically he was my landlord. And I found the ad for his place online, so when we started dating I fondly referred to him as my "internet boyfriend."

2. I enjoyed eating dirt as a kid. Ok, not really, I just really like this picture!

3. Mark seems to think that he's Paul Bunyan, and I'm Babe the Blue Ox

4. I won a Crayola coloring contest when I was 8. The prize was a soccer ball.

5. I have a pretty good memory, and have been called The Memory Bank by friends. I can still recite all fifty states in alphabetical order, something I learned in 5th grade, and when I was playing the piano regularly I could memorize a song by playing it just a few times.

6. I have a Mini Me

7. When I was little (preschool?) I went through a phase where I insisted on wearing my favorite tshirt with rainbow hearts on it every day. I usually accessorized with jelly bracelets up to both elbows, and red and white striped legwarmers. My mom was so embarrassed that she went in to talk to my teacher, who reassured her that this is normal behavior for the age group. In elementary school I also refused to wear my Brownie uniform because I thought it was ugly, and in pictures I'm the only girl wearing her Brownie sash over a purple dress.

8. After graduating high school, I moved to Atlanta to attend the Art Institute. I stayed for a few years after graduating college, but finally missed Minnesota so much that I decided to move back. Two weeks later, my brother and I were road tripping it up in my Mustang. I love Minnesota but now I miss my family so much it hurts. I'm so torn - I wish Minnesota was closer to Georgia and Texas!

9. I was in labor for 17 hours with Claire, and delivered her under water after 2.5 hours of pushing; the thought of using pain meds or an epidural never even crossed my mind. I labored at home until I hit transition, and I wished we had planned a homebirth because I would have been more comfortable just staying put. I believe every woman is capable of drug-free childbirth, it just takes education and preparation.

10. I believe that, regardless of how her children came into this world - without drugs, with drugs, c-section, adoption - a woman should be proud of herself because it's never easy.

11. When I worked for Wells Fargo, I played on the office softball team. I was by far the worst player on the team, but I still enjoyed playing.

12. I won a contest for reading more than anybody in my grade the summer between 6th and 7th grades (something like 13,000 pages). My homeroom teacher read this announcement in front of the whole class on the first day of 7th grade, and I was so embarrassed that I never went to claim my prize.

13. When I was in elementary and middle school I loved writing and designing clothes. I wrote and "published" several chapter books and catalogs of my fashions (the catalogs even had ads and contests like my Teen magazines at the time had). The books were about three best friends who had sleepovers and solved mysteries together, and my clothing line was called Alyssa Lynn. Watch for these in stores near you for Christmas '09.

14. I am terrified of Willky Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I love it and watch it when I have the chance, but I have to leave the room sometimes. It's what most of my nightmares are made of.

15. My joints crack so loudly that I oftentimes wake Claire as I'm leaving the room after getting her down for a nap.

16. Sometimes I wish I lived on a farm

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Origins Of Arthrito-Girl

  • Extraordinary powers and abilities: check.
  • A motivation, such as a sense of responsibility, a formal calling, a personal vendetta against criminals, or a strong belief in justice and humanitarian service: check.
  • A backstory that explains the circumstances by which the character acquired his or her abilities as well as his or her motivation for becoming a superhero: check.
  • A supporting cast of recurring characters: check.
  • A distinctive costume, often used to conceal the secret identity: do sweats and uncombed hair count?
  • A secret identity that protects the superheroes friends and family from becoming targets of his or her enemies: no, not really.
  • Independent wealth: not so much.
Ok, the truth is that Arthrito-Girl is just a silly nickname my husband gave me in an attempt to inject humor into a frustrating and painful situation. It worked. I love this nickname, and I love the sweet way he looks at me when he uses it. The irony here is that the whole situation which brought this about, my diagnoses of chronic illnesses, also brought forth some powerful changes in my life and how I view myself and the world.
I never would have imagined that pumping gas or holding a toothbrush would present such serious obstacles for me at the ripe old age of 22, but there I suddenly was one day. A Yoga and Pilates instructor, I was as healthy and active as I thought I could be. I had just moved solo across the country to return to my home state and was excited to be independent. I was finally on my own, free to make my own decisions; the world was my oyster. With a newfound sense of responsibility, I had gotten a "real" job, found my own place to live, began saving for retirement, and gone to the doctor to update my shots. Because those are things that responsible people do, right?
For months I made excuses for these sudden and nagging symptoms. "I must have slept funny last night, this will go away by lunchtime." "This is part of being an adult; I'm just getting old!" "Desk jobs are inhumane, nobody can make it 8 hours without wanting to curse or sob from the aches and pains of sitting." My burning joints, severely aching muscles, pounding headaches, ringing and overly sensitive ears, weight gain, hair loss, and trouble sleeping finally got the best of me and I realized that something had to be done. I was numb when my family doctor told me, "I think you have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Tinnitis, but I'm going to refer you to some specialists to be sure." I spent the next 2 years seeing a team of doctors at the Mayo Clinic, and spent thousands of dollars on MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, joint scans, blood tests, and physical exams. The diagnoses: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Tinnitis, and Telogen other words, a body that's suddenly falling apart for no apparent reason.
In addition to the testing, I tried about a dozen different pharmaceuticals over those 2 years. Ranging from benign-sounding non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, to the scary cancer and malaria drugs which are "borrowed" for use in rheumatology, disease-modifying anti-rheumatics to steroids; some drugs caused awful side effects that required more pharmaceuticals to combat the side effects and/or damage. Through this entire mess Mark kept me in good spirits and continued to make me smile with the nickname Arthrito-Girl. After two years and a lot of grief (but no relief of my symptoms) I had had enough; I "fired" my doctors and weaned myself from the worthless drug-of-the-moment. I hired a personal trainer because I knew I needed to get moving again but I was afraid of hurting myself more, and I started paying more attention to living a healthy, chemical-free lifestyle...two intuitive choices that were sure to have less side effects than any of the drugs I had been on. And wouldn't you know it, within a matter of weeks I was feeling some improvement! About a year later I was feeling pretty darn good and healthy, and up to the challenge of pregnancy and motherhood, so we tried and I became pregnant. I was ecstatic! What a nice turn of events :)
While I was pregnant another mom I knew mentioned the risks of vaccines and brought up the fact that newborns today are bombarded with 6 shots, containing 8 different vaccines, at their 2 month checkup, in addition to several (often unnecessary) interventions at birth. This is just the beginning; this continues every 2 months and by the 12 month appointment it's 9 shots (containing 13 different vaccines). My first reaction was to think, "well, why would we decline something that is designed to help us?" But my new mommy-instinct inspired me to at least look into it and make an educated decision. What I found shocked me...I started to wonder why so many parents were allowing doctors to inject these known toxins into their tiny infants, and in such large doses. And the more I dug into it, the more disgusted I was. Even moreso when I discovered that my symptoms, the same symptoms that came on suddenly and all at once for no apparent reason, were common reactions to a vaccine I had received around that time. I remembered the exact day I first noticed the symptoms, it happened to be the same day I started my new promotion at work; I called human resources and confirmed that date. I dug out my medical records from the filing cabinet (responsible adults keep accurate records, right?) and caught my breath; I had gotten a flu shot 2 weeks before that day, and MMR and DT shots about 6 weeks before that day. It doesn't take a genius to do the math with all of these facts; these vaccine injuries, which the government has admitted can happen with the shots I got, happened within their given time frame. I later talked to a doctor who deals with vaccine injuries on a pretty regular basis, and she confirmed that I was likely injured by those vaccines.
So there you have it, in a nutshell, a large chunk of my motivation and backstory. The extraordinary powers have built gradually as I've regained my strength and confidence. I don't intend for this blog to be all about vaccines and their dangers, although the topic is bound to come up. Rather, this blog is a place for me to share my adventures in parenting and learning about health, nutrition, cooking, crafty projects, gardening, photography, going green, and a million other topics. I am not trying to convince people to blindly make the same choices that I make, but I do hope that my experiences will motivate other people to make educated decisions - no matter what they are.