Monday, November 14, 2011

Rump: Roasted

You may remember I mentioned cooking a pot roast in my last post. I started it this evening. It was a bit later than I would normally cook dinner, but I wanted my son in bed first. I didn't want him smelling something fabulous cooking only to have it come out tasting like crap. This was not a big roast - only 1.5 lbs - so I didn't have to worry about it taking 4 or 5 hours to cook. With this size, it took just under 2 hours to finish.

There were so many recipes and opinions out there. Some people cook it in the oven. Some use a crock pot. Other simmer it on the stove. I chose to simmer it for a few minutes first and then pop it into my dutch oven and cook it in my oven.

I browned it on all sides in the dutch oven for a few minutes, making sure not to miss a single spot. After browning it, I threw some chopped onions and garlic in with the roast. I added about 1 cup of homemade chicken broth. I brought that to a simmer on the stove and then threw the whole thing into the oven and set it at 335 degrees F.

After it had been in there for an hour, I chopped up some potatoes and carrots. I threw them into a pan with a little bit of butter (because butter is good for you) and heated them a little bit before adding them into the dutch oven. I let all of that cook for another half an hour and - BOOM! - dinner was ready.

I was afraid of failure, but it turned out really good. It was super tender. The leftover juices in the dutch oven were used for gravy. Dear Lord, it all tasted so good. I had seconds and my husband had thirds, leaving just a tiny bit leftover for the little dude to try tomorrow. All in all, not too shabby.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I have things that need to get done. I probably shouldn't be sitting at the computer, but I figured if I wrote out what needs to be done then I'll be more likely to do it. Right? My house is an utter mess. I believe the proper term might be shit storm. It all started when we moved in...three years ago. I suck at organization. Add a toddler-turned preschooler-turned kindergartener and five cats to the mix and it's just pure disaster. Ok, this isn't anything like Hoarders: Buried Alive, but I'm afraid it could go that way if I don't get things under control.

Things were okay until a little over a year ago. Granted, my house - it's actually an apartment - was never perfect - like I said, kids and cats - but, it got progressively worse last year. When I had my miscarriage all the life was sucked out of me. I fell into a nasty depression. I didn't want to get up, get myself dressed or move to a different part of the house. I didn't want to make meals for myself or my family. I turned into a horrible, horrible mother. The last thing I wanted to do was clean. My husband tried, he really did. He just doesn't have the knack for organizing things. The hubby's method usually involved putting things in bags and then throwing said bags into a closet or a corner. Even as I made my way out of my depressive fog I couldn't seem to get a firm grasp on the clutter. I'm one of those people who needs things to be perfect, but if I can't get it perfect then I give up and let chaos rule. Eventually, things became overwhelming.

I became pregnant again a year ago. I had a wonderful nesting spike in the very few weeks of my pregnancy. I was cooking. I organized and cleaned out my kitchen. I did a lot more cleaning around the house. Then the all day nausea and zombie bone-deep exhaustion set in. And things started to crumble bit by bit. When I hit my second trimester and shook off the nausea I was then hit with horrendous tailbone and pelvic pain. Turns out I had SPD - symphysis pubis dysfunction - which really took it's toll on my mobility. It was pretty severe by the time I got to my third trimester. Every step brought a sensation of a thousand knives stabbing my in the pelvic region. I would take me upwards of 15 to 20 minutes to be able to get out of bed on some days. Since that apparently wasn't enough for my body, I decided to have these freak blood pressure spikes and my midwife benched me. I wasn't put on bedrest, but I was put on "you better stay off your feet as much as possible and don't lift a damn finger" rest. Got the blood pressure under control, but then my feet swelled to about 4 or 5 times their size. No exaggeration. I have witnesses. It was scary. The bitch of it all was that the nesting urge hit so strongly in my last few weeks and I couldn't do anything about it. Everytime I tried I would get winded and then end up with more pelvic pain. Truly, it sucked.

Here I am, 3 months after the birth of my baby. I need to get things under control before TLC is knocking at my door and asking to film us. Wait...maybe I should let the mess grow so that TLC does knock at my door and I get some free housecleaning. Hmmm.

I'm setting a goal to get serious and start strong this week. We have been having Purple Heart come out to our house to pick up donations every few weeks. So far, it's been mostly small donations, but my goal is to really get a lot out of here. Stuff just grows. I swear. It breeds. It makes love sweet clutter loves and breeds new clutter. Anyway, so I have another Purple Heart pick up scheduled for this week. I'm promising myself that I'll have a lot more for them this time.

I know to start small so that it doesn't get overwhelming. It's when I tried to do a complete home overhaul in an hour that I get so frustrated and end up making a bigger mess. I'm going to devote an hour each day, if kiddies and kitties cooperate, and I'll get things looking semi-nice. I really want to have things looking better by the holidays. No one visits, but I want it nice for me. I dread the idea of putting up a tree and having Santa deposit more crap next to the crap we already have.

My other goal is to start cooking a lot more. I suck in the kitchen, but I try because I know my mediocre meals are still much more healthier than what's served in fast food digs and other restaurants. Again, this is something that fell by the wayside with my miscarriage and then with my pregnancy. Right now, I have a pot roast in my fridge. I've never cooked one before so who knows how it will turn out. They were on sale a few weeks ago so I grabbed a couple and stashed them in my freezer. I'm going to give it a try tonight. If I'm feeling especially lucky, I'll try to make dough for some dutch oven bread.

I hope by listing some of these goals that I'll feel more accountable and it'll light a fire under my butt. I don't think anyone ever reads this blog, but I'll pretend I have an audience and hopefully that will inspire me to keep going.

Fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cheese is Where the Heart Is

I love cheese. Life is better when smothered in cheese. I love cheesy potatoes, cheesy veggies, cheesy chicken, cheesy cheese...mmmm.

I'm in a rush today, so I don't have time for a whole blog post, so I'll leave you with my favorite Macaroni and Cheese recipe. I was looking for one without velveeta and without canned stuff. I use all organic ingredients, but you don't have to if you can't.

5 Tbsp butter
3.5 c uncooked mac
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 lb grated cheese
Dash of pepper
6 cups milk

Melt the butter in a 9x13 inch pan. Pour the uncooked macaroni into the melted butter. Stir in the salt, pepper and cheese - mix it well with the macaroni. Pour the milk over the mixture - do not stir the milk in. Bake at 375 degrees F for on hour. Don't stir while baking.

I found this recipe on the web over a year ago and can't find it again to give credit. It was the first time I found a macaroni and cheese recipe that called for so few ingredients. I sometimes put in 5 cups of milk, usually when I realize I was lower on milk than I anticipated. It works out just fine, maybe a little creamier. It makes a lot, but doesn't last very long in my house. It re-heats well. For the milk, I almost always have a bottle of non-homogenized, which means it has the cream top. I use the cream for this - YUM.

I try not to eat too much pasta stuff, so I will use this same recipe with potatoes, with half the amount of butter and milk. I do that one in a dutch oven and it comes out well.

This post is part of the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Blog Hop, sponsored by Frugally Sustainable. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

For the Birds

My little boy wanted to make the birds and squirrels a sandwich. He grabbed a few slices of bread, covered it in peanut butter and added pumpkin seeds (saved after carving Jack-O-Lanterns) and fresh cranberries.

A sandwich was not enough, so he decided to make a cranberry "necklace" for them, too.

He went on to make a few more sandwiches for the birds and squirrels. He was out of pumpkin seeds, so he covered the bread in peanut butter, cranberries and bird seeds. He set it outside in our special bird and squirrel feeder (squirrels get fed here, too - no fancy "squirrel-proof" feeders at our home).

We didn't get a chance to photograph the birds who came to feast on the smorgasbord of peanut butter sandwiches. I can tell you that the sandwiches were eaten rather quickly. And I have one very happy and proud little boy...who is already concocting new recipes for the birds...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I love tattoos. I only have three so far, but more will come. They are as addictive as coffee. My most recent tattoo is the one pictured here. I got it a year ago, in memory of the baby I lost.

This wasn't my first tattoo. I'd had one done in memory of my kitty, Abigael. When she died, I stamped her paws into a stamp pad and made little ink footprints and had a tattoo artist etch them into my ankle. There wasn't any question that I'd have one done after my miscarriage.

It took a while to come up with something. The more I thought about it, the harder it was to decide what I wanted. So I decided to stop thinking so hard about it. That's when the idea of using a sparrow popped into my head. Sparrows have amazing symbolism around them. All across the world they are linked with safe travel to Heaven/The Underworld. In some cultures, it is the sparrow who guides the soul to Heaven. Sparrows also represent safe travel and finding one's way home. This could also be why they are linked to helping souls navigate to Heaven - they safely guide the soul's travel to the next place in life. Wayward souls would be caught by sparrows and brought to Heaven. Sparrows also remind us to find joy, even when things seem down. They are symbols of family ,fertility and the Mama Goddess. They tell us that being small doesn't mean you can't do big things. In Christianity, the sparrow reminds us that God cares for even the least among us. In Matthew 10:29 Jesus says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father." A similar sentiment from Jesus is found in Luke 12:6 - "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." We are reminded that no matter how insignificant a creature may seem, it is still important to God. Sparrows have also come to symbolize The Resurrection, both in Christian terms and in the idea of the resurrection of life that occurs each Spring.

It was a combination of all those things that made me realize the sparrow was a good choice. And it.just.felt.right. My sparrow is a symbol of River's soul taking flight and safely arriving in Heaven. My sparrow reminds me that her life, though short, was still very significant. My sparrow reminds me of my connection to the Earth, the promise of resurrection and as a reminder of my fertility. I googled some sparrow images, but didn't totally settle on one. One particular sparrow caught my eye, but I didn't take the image to my artist. I figured I would discuss it with her and decide if I wanted a "real" sparrow or a cartoon version.

At the shop, my artist, Christina, googled sparrows. The first image she clicked on was the exact one that had caught my eye previously. It was meant to be. She then suggested having my little sparrow sitting on a Cherry Blossom branch. Cherry Blossoms are symbols of Spring, new life, resurrection, joy (especially finding joy within sorrow), hope and fertility. Of course they were a perfect symbol.

This is my biggest tattoo and the only one with color. The others are quite small and black. Getting the tattoo was a great experience. It didn't hurt at all. I had a great conversation with my artist. Some tattoo artists are quiet and don't want to talk while they are working. Christina was very talkative, engaging me to talk about why I chose this particular story. She listened to the story of my miscarriage. We talked about my birth philosophy, which she seemed pretty interested in. It was a good, healing tattoo session. My little baby was etched into my memory, my heart, my soul and now into my skin.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Fossils of My Fertility

Those are my abs. Well, they used to be my abs. They're still under there, somewhere. That photo was taken over a year ago.

Do I miss them? Yeah, they were cute. I miss the strength more than the looks. My muscles just give up the moment the sperm hits the egg and I'm left with an weakening core as pregnancy progresses. My baby was born in August and I am still very weak in the core, which isn't cool because I typically do a lot of walking and I find myself having a harder time due to the muscle weakness there and the lingering effects of the SPD I had during pregnancy. I had a few issues - SPD and high blood pressure - that kept me from keeping as fit as I would have wanted during my pregnancy. I do want to re-build that strength, again. I work as a veterinary technician and you definitely need strength when it comes to restraining animals. I haven't done much in the way of actual exercise since giving birth, but that will change soon.

This isn't just about those glorious abs. It's about skin. It's about loving that integumentary glove that I'm in. There are days when I look at myself in the mirror and my heart nearly sinks. I'm still wearing maternity jeans (the Heidi Klum super skinny jeans from Motherhood - they look like "real" jeans as they don't have a panel). I have a pretty good pooch hanging over the waistband of my jeans. I still look pregnant. Sigh. It does get to me from time to time, I won't lie. The other reason it gets to me is that I want to fit into my old clothes. Not just for superficial reasons, but financial. I really don't want to have to buy new clothes to fit my body this winter. Most of my pre-preggo sweaters and winter clothes can't handle the pooch. And I only have one single pair of jeans that fit. They get washed a lot. Back to the skin. There are plenty o' stretch marks there. It's like my son took a maroon crayon and just scribbled on my belly. My belly kinda looks like my living room walls. I got them when I was pregnant with my son. I probably would have gotten them with my second pregnancy, but miscarrying at 8 weeks means I didn't have a chance. I got them with this last pregnancy. They all crept up, like little glistening worms crawling out of the ground after a rainstorm. I never did anything to "prevent" them. I'm not sure you really can prevent them. I did moisturize my belly with coconut oil (not cocoa butter) simply because it's damn good for your skin.

I remember seeing my first stretch marks when I was pregnant with my son back in 2006. They appeared in the very last weeks of my pregnancy, along with the PUPPS rash. My first thought was, "boo-hoo, I thought I could escape them." I was sad for a moment, but I quickly got over it. I couldn't understand why I had a minor mental fuss about them. Then I realized it's because everyone makes a major fuss about them. Think about it - it's seen as some sort of badge of honor not to get stretch marks. You get high fives from fellow smooth and unmarked-skinned mothers. You earn the right to expose your bump in public without fear of scaring small children with those shiny red tummy tire tracks. Heck, you could even be a bump model. See, I would have been voted off of America's Next Top Bump Model because my my stretch marks. Just like birthing quietly and without pain, you get extra cred for having your abdomen expand to extraordinary lengths without a single bit of crime scene evidence left on your skin.

I get it. They're not the most attractive things in the world. It can be a little startling to see all those red lines scribbled across your belly. I understand that most women in this world country have issues about their bodies and appearances. I get that. It's just that these little lines are reminders that we've done something awesome. Heck, these stretch marks aren't my first. I got them on my boobs and my hips after puberty - a reminder that I was growing, curving in all those Goddess places and becoming a woman. The new marks from my pregnancy remind me of the awesomeness that is a woman's body doing the most remarkable thing in the world.

There will be a day in the future where my boobs are less full and my abs are back to their usual firm state. The dark red lines will have faded to a whisper. My body will look like it did, for the most part, before I had children. I'll have my stretch marks forever, like fossils on stone, that remind me of my fertility and the fact that my body grew, carried and nourished little lives. So when I look at myself in the mirror now, I'll have to remind myself not to roll my eyes at the muffin-top under my ill-fitting sweater. I'll remember my skin and Mother Nature's tattooed reminders of the miracle of life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Evil, Thy Name is Seamus.

The toilet paper (which I got on super sale, with a coupon, at CVS): shredded.

My curtains: poked with holes.

Litter Box: dumped onto carpet.

Delicately placed seasonal decor: knocked over.

My favorite sweater: unraveled.

The laundry basket: spilled.

Fresh flowers in a vase: chewed.

My chicken sandwich: stolen.

My peaceful slumber: disturbed by yowling, meowing and wrestling.

You must be thinking, "girl, you've got kids." Sure do. That's not my problem. I have cats. Five of them. Five fearless felines. All of them are naughty, but one takes the cake. His name is Seamus. He's orange with some white accents, freckles and stripes. He's a year old and apparently trying out for the feline Olympics.

This past Summer we had the windows open quite a bit. The neighbors outside could occasionally hear the goings on inside. Because I'm loud. They assumed, based on what they heard, that my son's name was Seamus. They would say, "Hi, Seamus." My son would give them his best WTF look and ask them why the heck they called him "Seamus." The answer? "Well, we always hear your mom yelling, "Seamus! No!" or "Seamus, knock it off!" or "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Seamus, you'll be lucky to live another day." Yeah. Not an hour goes by without Seamus getting yelled at. Poor neighbors probably thought I was a nutcase. They probably think I'm even a bigger nutcase now that they know that was all directed at a cat.

Seamus came to me when he was a few weeks old. I had just punched out at work and walked up to the front desk to grab a piece of candy before leaving when a client brought him into the clinic after seeing him get hit by a car. He lived, she grabbed him and wrapped him in a towel. He was just a sweet little puff of orange with a bit of a road rash. We originally thought his leg was broken. We took radiographs of his whole kitten body - all 1.5 lbs of it - and found that his leg was not broken. Yay. Instead, his stomach and intestines were crammed through his diaphragm and into his chest cavity. Boo. A Diaphragmatic hernia. The lady who brought him in couldn't keep him and couldn't afford a donation to save him. The decision was made to get him a first class ticket to kitten heaven. Sigh. We know we can't save them all, no matter how heartbreaking the case. But there was something about this little bastard kitten that really got to me. It got to a co-worker, too. Before I left she was already talking about saving him. He'd need surgery to push his little intestines back where they belong and to repair his diaphragm. It can be pretty risky, especially for a tiny kitten. She talked one of the doctors into doing it. Long story (and some drama) short...we'd have the surgery done and I'd bring him home to live with us after he had recovered. His surgery was slated for the next day - all he had to do was hang on until then. His breathing got worse overnight. My friend/co-worker stayed up with him all night, keeping an eye on him and letting him sleep in her bra (it's a vet tech thing). The little bastard guy stayed strong through the night despite his difficulty breathing. The next day came and he had his surgery. I wasn't present. They called me to say he was getting started so I got ready and rushed over. By the time I got there, the surgery was done. The vet is that awesome. Seamus was recovering inside my friend's bra (seriously - it's a clinical thing - it's one of the best ways to keep the babies warm). He did well throughout the rest of the day and never looked back.

My friend kept him for a couple of weeks because I didn't want a newly sliced-open kitten in a house with a little kid and 4 other cats. I wanted him to be able to recover peacefully. The day came for him to come home and gave the pep talk that my 1st and oldest cat, Duncan, has heard many times before: "I'm bringing home a new kitten. It doesn't mean I love you any less. Mommy's heart is big and has room for all of you. I want you all to welcome him and get along." What? They're my kids, too.

That tiny, shy little kitten arrived home and took his time to bravely walk out of the carrier. He timidly checked out the room. I fed him a little and then he hid under my furniture for the rest of the day. I let him be. I've been through this many times before and I'm one of those people who will drop a new cat in the middle of the room and let them figure things out. Usually, after a day or two, everyone learns their place and there is peace in our feline kingdom. He was still hiding when I went to bed. I was so excited.

The next day, Seamus found his balls. And his personality. And his spunk. And his need to get into every little thing. He was a wild little boy, bouncing on the furniture, zig-zagging across the living room and dive-bombing any cat that crossed his path. My two girls, Amber and Amelia and one of my boys, Duncan, kept their distance. Gawain, my giant black and white boy, is just a fat lump of love who will tolerate anything, including the tiny kitten who was bouncing on his back. He'd indulge him by playing with him, letting him attack his tail or just plain snuggling him.

Seamus is Dennis the Menace in feline form. If there is trouble to be had then Seamus will have his fill. Something to get into? Seamus will be there. Humans to sabotage? Seamus is on it! Food to steal? There's Seamus. With my other cats, I never experienced walking into my bathroom to find a feline hanging upside down from the shower curtain rod. None of them would ever acknowledge human food. Seamus is like a starved dog. He begs like a dog. He steals like a raccoon. My other cats get yelled at now and then, but Seamus makes me seem like I'm auditioning for "Mommy Dearest." All of my cats know their names and will usually come when called. Seamus knows the word, "NO!" and knows it means his little butt better run. He has this attitude where he knows he survived taking on a 1 ton vehicle when he wasn't even two pounds and can, therefore, survive anything. He has swagger. Chicks dig him.

He tests my patience and my compassion for animals...And just as I'm about to lose it, he stops, looks at me with his big eyes and purrs. Heartmelt. Ever see Puss in Boots from "Shrek?" That's Seamus all the way. Just when I reach my boiling point with him, I'll look at those eyes and remember the brave little bastard kitten who had everything against him and wasn't expected to live. And I let him live another day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Attack of the Velcro Baby

It has been one of those days. My sweet little babies were both awake by 7:30 am. I got the Little Dude ready for school, grabbed myself a coffee at Dunkin, dropped the husband off at the Y and then drove myself and the little girl home for some relaxing "me time." Oh no, said she, no "me time" today.

The Little Girl decided that the only place for her would be on Mama's boob. Sometimes she'd doze and I'd think I could put her down in bed. I'd walk over to her playpen and get ready to lay her down when I then notice not one, but two damn cats in there. Bad kitties. Little girl senses my hesitation and hears the, "dammit, Amber and Amelia - get out!" and wakes up. Like, really awake.

We have a little conversation of coos and boogie-boogie-boos, then she'd insist on the boob again, doze again and wake up just as I was laying her down again.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. We did this all morning, until it was time to pick up the Little Dude at 12:30. Ahhh...she'll sleep in the car. Not so, she says. We pick up Daddy from the Y and I inform him that he'll be taking the little dude out for a nice walk, so mama can get the Little Girl to sleep again, lay her in bed and have a little "me time."

"Oh no, no 'me time' today," she says. Back to our dance of nursing, dozing, detaching attempts, waking, coos and boogie-boos. She finally falls into a heavy sleep. And so Little Dude and hubby come home. Little Dude wants mama. No "me time" today.

It's easy to get frustrated. I haven't showered today. I had cold coffee and, come to think of it, I never did pee. Apparently, I walked around the house with one boob out for over an hour before the husband decided to inform me. He thought I knew. Sigh. I feel like I'm still holding her in my arms even when I'm not. The frustration is there. A couple of deep sighs are just waiting to escape from my lungs, but naaaaaah. While these days sometimes get the better of me, I remember that they go by awfully fast. I remember when the Little Dude had velcro moments and I'd swear he would be attached to my boob until college. All of the sudden he grew up. He went from being a few months old to being 5 in a matter of days, I swear. My little baby boy who would cling to his Mama for hours now graces me with maybe 2 seconds worth of a hug. He's too busy being a superhero and constructing things out of blankets and furniture. The life of a 5 year old is very busy and their work is quite important. There isn't always time to snuggle Mama as that would get in the way of solving the problem of dinosaurs eating Lightening McQueen. So, I wait until he is asleep. I sit next to him on the bed and cradle as much of his sleepy little 5 year old self into my arms. And I remember the teeny tiny baby who I'd rock in one arm what seems like just a few days ago.

Remembering that, I try not to lose my cool with the Little Girl. Today she is 11 weeks. Tomorrow she will be 11 years and will be too busy doing important 11 year-old stuff to have a cuddle with Mama. By then, I'll miss the days of tiny babies in my arms, attached to my boob or spitting up on my shoulder. I'll wish I cherished those moments instead of loathing them. Cries for Mama and boob will be replaced with, "Oh My God, Mom! You're embarrassing me!" For now, I'll happily be the hook to their loop for as long as they need to be velcro babies and kids.

So my third entry for NaBloPoMo is done. I'm going to bid the computer goodnight and go snuggle my babies.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Change Your Attitude With Gratitude

If you hang around on Facebook, you may have noticed that people are suddenly posting about being thankful. It started a few years ago as 30 days of Gratitude in November, or some variation of that title. Folks would post one bit of gratitude each day for the month of November. It can be something profound like saying your thankful that someone saved your life by lifting your car off a cliff. Or, it can be simple - I'm thankful that toilet paper is on sale at CVS. That's actually something I'd be thankful for, just ask my husband. He will tell you how giddy I get to find out that thr 12 pack of the CVS brand Earth Essentials toilet paper is on sale for $5 bucks. It's the little things.

The idea of naming what makes you grateful isn't knew. People have been doing it forever. Some people keep gratitude journals, an idea that gained super popularity from Oprah. Others list things on Facebook or on their blog. We're all grateful for something everyday, even if it's something as mundane as a toilet paper sale. Giving a voice to it and not holding it in your mind is very power. Many argue that sharing what you're grateful for - whether it's in a journal, on social media or being shouted across a room - brings a lot of positive energy right back to you. You give good so you get good. It's another form of Karma.

Whether you want to do it to keep positive energy or just to share the good things in your life, try to list something that you are grateful for each day. It will always add a bright spot to that moment in your day and you may find that you end up inspiring others.

Me? I'm grateful that I have at least 19 readers as I write this. It may not be much, but someone is "hearing" me and I might make some small difference somewhere.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It Hurt. I Screamed. I'm Still Legit.

Walking while in labor. Pre-screaming.
Ok, I might piss some people off with this. There is something in the natural birth community that annoys the heck out of me sometimes. I need to vent a little.

It's pain and the attitude towards it.

You see, in the natural birth world, there are many who believe that a natural birth should not be painful. It shouldn't hurt. You should only feel an intensity that is almost a relief. Something you work with. Furthermore, everything should be gentle. You should birth your baby in near silence with a serene smile on your face. Bonus points for popping an orgasm while you're at it. Pain and/or screaming is a sign that the woman is not prepared for her birth and that she is afraid. It's a sign that she has let fear take over the labor. Screaming will make the pain worse. Screaming will scare your baby and scare that precious child for life.

I call bullshit.

Now, I am not knocking how anyone else gives birth. Please know that this is not an attack on anyone who was smiling serenely or having an orgasm. I completely support a woman's right to educate herself and empower herself to have the birth of her dreams. I'm totally behind those who want to use hypnosis, orgasmic births or other techniques to help them through the process of labor and birth. What I'm knocking is the holier-than-thou attitude that can be seen in many discussions of pain in labor and birth. This idea that if you're feeling pain then you're doing it wrong.

I'm serious - those words have been typed out by some of my fellow hippie, loving, gentle natural birth comrades. You are doing it wrong if it hurts. You are too afraid. You don't know how to give into the intense sensations of labor and let your body take over. It's only painful because you are calling it, "pain." It's only painful if you don't know how to cope and if you let it "get to you." It's painful because you are not educated enough and you don't know what to expect. If you don't imagine that your vagina is a beautiful lotus flower slowly unfolding, petal by petal, then it's going to hurt. The worst I've seen is some women telling other women that normal births are not painful.

It makes me want to bang my head on my desk when I read these things - but, that would hurt. It's true that your emotional state plays a part in your labor. It is most certainly true that fear can hinder labor. And I definitely advocate for women to be educated about the birth process, partly to eliminate that fear. But having pain and even experiencing fear do not equal failure. It's not an all or nothing scenario. Birth is not black and white.

I gave birth three times. Twice to live, full term babies and once during my miscarriage @ 12 weeks (baby died at 8 weeks and, yes, that was "real" full-blown labor). Guess what? It hurt. No, it really fucking hurt. I screamed. All three times. I screamed.

My first birth was in a hospital. It was a last minute transfer. I did not have a single medical issue that needed a hospital. I was supposed to give birth in a birth center, but the head midwife closed it down that weekend because she had a horsie show to attend and didn't want her sleep interrupted. The other midwife was not able, per birth center policy (and the law, I believe) to attend my birth at the birth center on her own. So, I had to have my birth at the hospital with her. In all, it was 27 hour labor with a posterior little boy. I spent 8 hours of that labor in the hospital. My labor was fine and manageable at home. I got to the hospital and let her check me - 4 cms. Things began picking up and my contractions became more intense. They were - gasp - painful. They remained painful for the rest of my labor, until that little guy slid out (more like rocketed out) into the world. I was able to deal with the pain through position changes, a little dip in the birth pool, walking and saying "fuck" as many times as possible. I dealt with the pain. the pain had a purpose. I don't remember the actual sensations of pain, but there was pain. Pain was part of it. I screamed while pushing. Like I was being murdered. I pushed for about 45 minutes. Looking back on it, I wondered if my pain was caused by the fact that I was in the hospital. I was upset that I wasn't having the birth center birth that I had planned for nearly half my life. That could have been part of a lot of things. That may have made the pain worse. Would I still have had pain at the birth center? Would I scream at a birth center?

My second labor was to birth my angel baby, River. River died at 8 weeks, but the physical miscarriage didn't happen until 12 weeks. I had chosen to allow it to happen naturally as opposed to getting a D and E. My midwife told me to expect "real labor." It was her experience that miscarriages after 8 weeks were more likely to feel exactly like any other labor. I was prepared for that. I tried so hard to manage that labor - all 6 hours of regular contractions and actual transition - as gently as possible. Once I knew it was really happening, I got into the tub and prayed (the "Hail Mary" is my go-to labor mantra, until transition when Mary is replaced with "fuck"). It hurt like a mother fucker. Of course, I was birthing death. In a few hours, the last of my physical connection to this little baby that I had bonded with in 8 weeks would be gone. There was emotional torment like you wouldn't believe. Of course that contributed to physical pain. I later wondered, would it have been painful if I was giving birth to a live baby at home?

My third labor was just two months ago. This time, I had a homebirth attended by two midwives, one of whom is a best friend and the midwife who delivered my son. I had been telling myself for my whole pregnancy that I was going to have a pain-free, 5 hour labor with one painless push. Positive thinking, you know? I had no fears about labor. I even studied some hypnosis techniques. My labor was about 17 hours from the time my water broke until the time my daughter was born. I slept during the early part of that labor. My midwife/friend came over late in the morning and we hung out while I contracted. My contractions were definitely manageable with movement, especially belly dance. I walked, I prayed, I cursed, I ate, I took showers, I pooped. I moaned beautifully like a humpback whale in heat. All the fun stuff. There was pain and I worked through it. Then transition hit and OMG it hurt like a mo-fo. Transition is the point where I'm almost certain I will die unless I get an epidural. So I ask for an epidural. I have done this through all three labors. It feels good to me to ask for that epidural. Before the birth of my first son, I was told that the moment where I feel like I can't do it anymore and that I need an epi is when it's almost over. So, feeling like I needed that told me that I was close to the end and I embraced it. But, it still hurt like a mother and I began my usual screaming. From transition to pushing was barely an hour. I began to whine. My other midwife arrived at that point. I whined to both midwives that I was "supposed" to be that woman you see in all the natural birth videos who just smiles through labor and doesn't feel pain. I said that over and over until both midwives said, "Jenn, that's bullshit. You're doing great and this is almost over." I pushed for about 15 minutes. And screamed. I screamed that I was going to die. That I gave up. I screamed that I just knew she was going to get stuck. I screamed because pushing that baby - all 6lbs 8 ounces of her - hurt so freakin' bad. The dialogue inside my head was slightly crazy. I'm going to die. I'm not going to die. This hurts like hell. She'll be here any minute and it'll be over and you'll forget the pain. She's stuck. Oh my God, the ambulance will have to come and take me to the hospital. They'll take me out of the house on a gurney with her head halfway out and all my neighbors will see my vagina and that I missed a spot shaving and...oh God, she's going to be stuck. I'm going to die. Oh my...and she's here. That was the actual dialogue inside my head while I was screaming. And then my daughter was here and all that pain was worth it. My placenta - the part I dreaded because I remember it hurting when I gave birth to my son - slipped out 5 minutes later without so much as a single second of discomfort. Well, there was the painless birth, I guess.

My question had been answered. I gave birth at home. No hospital. My baby was full term and alive. No sadness. I was educated and empowered. It still hurt. It may just be me. That might be what I need to get motivated to push a baby out of my vagina. It's part of my physiological make-up. I experience pain in labor. It doesn't stop me from birthing naturally. Yet, I had a little nag inside my head. One one hand, I was proud of myself for having the homebirth I had desired for so long and for rocking it. I was proud of the sweet little girl nestled up to my breast. I was an awesome birthin' mama. On the other hand, I wondered why I screamed. I went into this with the specific intention of not screaming like I did with my other labor. Why did I scream? Then I felt like I failed. I felt a sense of failure for allowing myself to feel pain, for not being able to get into some peaceful, serene or hypnotic state. I felt like I failed myself and my baby for screaming. Then I worried that I scarred her because the last things she heard while in my womb were, "fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuccccckkkkk!" and my pain-induced bellowing. Within days after her birth, I actually googled to see if other natural-birthin' mamas were screamers. I came across a blog entitled "Judging Birth." I'll let you read that, and the following comments, without expanding on it too much. In essence, she says we need to stop judging how we labor and that not all of us are quiet birthers. It made me feel better to read that blog and then the comments. And then it made me mad. Why was I seeking "acceptance" for my birth behavior? Why did I feel the need to justify why I felt pain and why I screamed? I was mad that I allowed myself to feel like some sort of failure. Yet, to read many of these blog posts, comments, discussions on facebook, you will feel like a failure if you admit to feeling pain or having the slightest fraction of fear during your birth. We need to stop this.

I find it funny that the natural birth community can actually have these discussions. Aren't we the ones telling women to empower themselves to have the birth experience that's right for them? Aren't we the ones fighting to make sure women feel supported with their births? Aren't we the ones who admonish the OB who tells a woman to "hush" if she is too loud in labor? Aren't we the ones who yammer on and on and on about how birth is a normal, biological and very primal event? So why are we judging women who are, in fact, acting very primal? Why judge someone who feels pain? It's upsetting to me. We talk all about empowerment, but then we rip each other apart if our birth wasn't the right kind of natural. It's the granola wars, man. We're not helping anyone. We have mamas who are going to have natural births and feel pain and want to scream. They'll feel good because they gave birth naturally. Then they come online and read these comments that if they felt pain then something was wrong with the way they gave birth. Or you have the mamas who are pregnant and reading all of this before labor. So they hype themselves up into thinking they must have a completely painless labor. When it doesn't go that way, they feel like they failed. Those of us who feel the pain and scream it out fail Birth 101? Bullshit. This is no different than women feeling like failures because they ended up getting induced, getting epidurals and having c-sections. Only this time, we don't have an OB or evil hospital to blame. This time it's the woman's fault for allowing her psyche to take over.

Again, I have no problem with wanting a painless birth. I don't doubt that there are women who give birth without pain. I've seen it. I've seen women birth without making a peep because it wasn't hurting them. That's awesome, but those same women should never turn around and tell another woman that she failed because she felt pain...that it wasn't normal because she felt pain...that she wasn't educated enough to be pain-free. I'm very educated when it comes to birth and have been for a very long time - way before my first child was born. I grew up with a mother who worked in maternity and told me that birth is just plain old normal and natural. I know birth isn't something to passionately fear. I know all the biological, chemical, emotional and mechanical processes that are part of birth. I know what they say about high-pitched birth noises vs. low-pitched noises and I understand why that works. But, I also know that fear is a normal response. No, you shouldn't be in absolute horrified fear, but you shouldn't feel like you're doing something wrong if a moment of anxiety happens. You can't tell me that I wasn't educated or empowered. You can't tell me that I was a fraidy-cat. It's not true. Yet.I.Still.Felt.Pain. I still had moments of fear. In fact, those moments of fear may play an important role towards the end of labor. Check out this article by Michael Odent.

"A typical fetus ejection reflex is easy to recognize. It can be preceded by a sudden and transitory fear expressed in an irrational way ( “kill me”, “let me die”, etc.). In such a situation the worst attitude would be to reassure with words(5). This short and transitory expression of fear can be interpreted as a good sign of a spectacular increase of hormonal release, including adrenaline. It should be immediately followed by a series of irresistible contractions."

If you can birth with nary a fearful thought or moment of ouch then you go girl. If you start feeling the pain and you lose your rational brain toward the end then embrace it, work with it and know that your sweet little baby is so, so close. Don't feel like a failure if you didn't hypnotize as planned. Don't put yourself down for crying and telling everyone that you can't do it because you're going to die. You didn't fail. We all experience birth and pain differently and no one is better than the other because she did or didn't feel a certain way.

On another note, there is a lot of criticism of the natural birth community. There are blogs dedicated to trashing us or trying to debunk us. There are trolls who visit our blogs and facebook pages to stir up trouble and controversy. A lot of people see us as crazed hippies. They don't see that we're striving for better outcomes for mothers, babies and families. They don't see us for the good work that we're trying to do - for wanting to change such a failed maternity system. They see us as judgmental and insane. It doesn't do us any good to judge one another on this subject. It doesn't help get our message across. It just feeds the criticism and turns people off to the message.

Judging is for crappy reality shows, not childbirth.

Peace and much love.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Good Baby 101

"Awwww, look at your sweet little angel. She looks so perfect. Is she is a good baby?"

A what? A good baby? Do they make bad ones? If so, is there a receipt so you can return them or, at least, exchange them for one of these "good babies?"

Ah. The question every parent of a new little babe hears at least once a day. I heard it all the time when my son was a wee one years ago. Now that I have a 7 week old newbie I'm getting that same question all. Is she a good baby?

A good baby?

I can be quite bitchy and I want to say, "No, she's awful. She cries in her car seat when I'm trying to listen to Preston and Steve on the radio. She always wants to nurse the minute I walk into Kohl's. She insists on having one of those giant blow-out poops that leaks through her clothes and onto me while I'm browsing the kitchen aisles at Target. She squiggles too much when I'm trying to snap the 32 buttons on her sleeper. And then she smiles at me. Yeah, you know the kind of smile. All bright eyes and toothless gums. The kind that makes your heart melt so you forget just what an evil little creature they are. I'm pretty sure she's aiming to steal my car soon. She's that bad."

I haven't said that. I've actually reigned in the snark ever-so-slightly. Most of the time, I give them my one raised eyebrow and ask, "what is a good baby?"

"Oh, you know. Does she sleep good for you at night?"

Puh-lease. She's a baby. They are biologically designed to wake frequently. It's sort of a survival thing. Evolution and all that (or God's perfect Creation, depending on your beliefs). This idea that our babies need to be comatose for 10 straight hours each night is absurd. Ridiculous. We spend 9 months in joyful anticipation of these little bundles, but the moment they pop out we say, "Oh darling, we love you and you are so cute, but you need to shush and get at least 8 hours. If you don't, we'll have to train you." There is a whole "baby training" industry that profits from this, mainly American, idea that brand new humans must adhere to our modern schedules. We're told that they are terrible little beings who are hell bent on manipulating us the moment the cord is cut. No, they don't want love, a warm breast and the security of gentle arms cuddling them. That's absurd! They want to control us! They want to interfere with our Farmville games and the latest episode of American Idol (is that even popular anymore? I wouldn't know as my tube time is dedicated to Curious George and The Magic School Bus). Babies have no clue how hard it can be to be an adult. They're really quite rude, actually.

Look, I know there are tough times when you have a newborn. We've all been there. I'm certainly guilty of banging my head against the steering wheel (while parked) when she starts screaming in her car seat. I've deep-sighed plenty of times when she insists on nursing right now when all I want to do curl up with a book and a cup of coffee and not be touched for 5 minutes. The other day I changed her several times in the course of 30 minutes because she had blow-out poop that leaked onto my clothes, then she pooped again right after her new diaper went on. Then she peed while I was changing her and got it all over her clothes, her hair and my sheets. I looked up at the small statue of the Virgin Mary holding a wee Jesus and asked, "Is this a joke? Did He ever do this?" Then I looked down at her and she gave my the biggest toothless smile and a little squeal. Heart. Melt. I remembered back to the times my son did the same thing. The times when I thought I'd never make it through this baby thing. Those days seemed like yesterday. He's 5 now. I was reminded that these newbie days, even the challenging ones, go by so quickly. Even though I contemplate selling myself to a circus, I know that this, too, shall pass and I'll look at my 5 year-old daughter and wonder where the time went.

The other popular litmus test for a "good baby" is whether they cry a lot. I'm sorry, but what the fudge, yo? Babies are supposed to cry. They don't talk like adults. They can't. They are, once again, biologically designed to do this. Crying is communication. Despite what some "experts" say, babies do not cry to manipulate you. They did not come here to control your life. They cry because they have needs - boob, diaper, bottle, sleep, stimulation (too little, too much) or they just want someone to pick them up, hold them and let them cry for a moment. I do it. Sometimes I just want to cry. It feels good to let go of some pent up emotion. And if someone was standing there while I cried and just ignored me....well, they'd be the ones crying next. Know what I mean? Seriously - I would be hurt if I was crying and in need of comfort and those around me just ignored me. It would lead to all sorts of negative emotions surrounding those people and myself. I wouldn't let a friend - or even a stranger - cry without asking what's up and trying to console him or her. Why would I do that to a baby who only has cries as their method of communication? Yes, good babies cry. They should cry. Some cry more than others. Sometimes it's annoying. It doesn't make them bad. It doesn't make them manipulative (something which their sweet brains aren't truly capable of at that age). Because of this ridiculous belief that good babies don't cry, we have thousands of infants being left alone in their cribs, ignored while they the point of dehydration. Babies have actually died because of some of these "training" methods. I'm not just saying that because baby training isn't my thing. It's the plain old truth. Here is a website explaining how it's dangerous. And another. 

As a culture, we have become so obsessed with all of our advancements and our technology that we forget that we are, in fact, humans. Despite thousands of years of achievements, we still have basic and primal instincts the influence us. Babies are not born knowing the year. They don't know that we have electric cars, iPads, Kindles and the potential for 15 minutes of fame via reality shows. Their knowledge and needs are primal - food, warmth, security. And they cry to get it. Babies cry. Crying, too much or too little, is not the mark of a good baby. Unless they literally try to shank you in your sleep, all babies are good babies.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I am an Urban Homesteader. I like Urban Homesteading in my Urban Homestead- so sue me.

Hey you, sitting there in your apartment, itching for warmer weather so you can set up your terra cotta pots with some tomatoes, peppers and rosemary on your 24 inch by 15 inch balcony strip. Do you know what you have? You have an Urban Homestead.

Hey you, sitting there in your big McMansion in your uber-development in the suburbs, looking out the window at the collards, broccoli and asparagus sprouting in your tiny backyard garden that you created last summer as "something fun to do with the kids." Who knew you'd be successful in growing your own veggies, herbs and fruits and that you would barely need to visit the produce section of the grocery store for months during the summer. And now you're welcoming the coming Spring as you've got ideas for expanding that garden and planting more produce for your family. You've got recipes itching to be used. Do you know what you have? You have an Urban Homestead.

Hey you, sitting in your row home in the middle of Philadelphia, cutting up carrots and celery and stuffing the end pieces into a container to be placed in the freezer for later use (maybe in bone broth or vegetable stock). I see you're about to take the egg shells, strawberry leaves and coffee grounds from breakfast this morning out to your little compost bin in your city backyard. While there, you'll be looking for budding signs of life from the ground, anticipating Spring and Summer when your gardens will be ripe with stawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, watermellon, canteloupe, herbs of all kinds and so much more. If only the city allowed you to have chickens, because you totally would by now and you'd be eating eggs from your backyard each morning. Bet you can't wait for the freeze to be over so you're rain barrel can get some use. Do you know what you have? You have an Urban Homestead.

Hey you, sitting there in your tiny 850 sq. ft ranch house on the edge of your major metropolis, knitting a sweater for your daughter while thinking of sewing some new sheets for the bed as the smell of a roasting chicken fills the entire house. It's been a long day and it's only 1:30pm. So far, you've baked 4 loaves of bread from scratch. You canned the last of the apples from the little tree in your backyard. You thawed out some green beans that were stored in the freezer - from last years garden bounty. You cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom using your own homemade cleanser. You prepped and stuffed the chicken you got from a local farm and now it's in the oven. It'll be dinner tonight, part of breakfast, lunch and dinner tomorrow and then it'll make to stock to freeze for days and months ahead. You're doing what you usually do when there is quiet time in the house - knitting, sewing or mending something. Something to keep your hands busy and something that benefits the household. Do you know what you have? You have an Urban Homestead.

Urban homesteading is a term that's fairly broad. It refers to people who make a go at being self-sufficient, usually by growing their own food and taking the heat off of other resources, in their urban location. This isn't about a big farm out in the country. This refers to folks who live in cities and in large suburban areas. Places where you don't normally think about the average Joe having his own backyard farm. It can be really simplified to something much larger. The key here is being self-sufficient. Most often, Urban Homesteaders are growing their own food in their yard or on their patio (as is the case with many apartment dwelling Urban Homesteaders). Some even have a few livestock critters, such as goats and chickens, on their urban plots of land. This isn't possible for everyone as many city laws forbid it. Others also do their best to get "off the grid" - they come up with their own energy sources, such as using solar power, instead of relying on the power companies and some of the nastier forms of energy (coal). There are those who make their own cleansers, detergents, soaps, shampoos and other household necessities. You have folks who make everything from scratch in their kitchens and then they freeze and re-use it. Some build everything their house needs - including the house itself. You'll see some who have t heir own bee hives and process their own honey and make their own beeswax candles. There are Urban Homesteading folks who sew everything they wear and if the don't sew it, they knit, crochet or embroider it. Of course, there are a lot of connections to the so-called green living movement. Urban Homesteaders, by the very nature of their actions, do things that are more sensitive to the environment and don't impact Mama Nature in a negative way. Urban Homesteaders can do a few of these things or all of them...and more.

Of course I will relate this to myself. I am an Urban Homesteader. I live in an apartment just outside a huge city. I have a very small patch of dirt outside of my front door where I can plant whatever I please per my lease. Now, I don't go crazy planting veggies and fruit bushes. I would LOVE to. Sadly, my apartment complex loves it's pesticide, herbicide and fungicide sprays and they will not honor my request to avoid my little area. If it wasn't for all that spraying, I would definitely have a 3 foot farm. Seriously. I do grow my own herbs here as they can be potted and can be taken indoors on the days the landscapers come. I could pot some veggies and bring them indoors, but it turns out my cats will eat THOSE plants. They avoid the herbs (most of the time), but they love a good tomato. So, I remedy this by stealing my parent's backyard. I plant my vegetables there. They live in the big giant city next door, in a row home. They, too, are Urban Homesteaders and have been since I've been alive. We have always grown some sort of veggies, fruits and herbs in our own yard. We have had a compost pile for nearly 30 years, long before it was the cool thing to do. I have a kitchen compost bin in my apartment. I use it to collect scraps and then I bring it to my parent's house once or twice a week to empty into one of their compost systems. I have entertained the thought of a worm bin, but space issues, a four year old and five really, REALLY bad cats just tells me not to do it at this time. I make all of my own household cleansers and will probably make my own laundry detergent in a few months. I make my own healing salves and balms with herbs I've grown and with beeswax from friends. I'm on my way to making my own chapstick. I already make my own deodorant concoction, but I am going to try to make stick deodorant. I wash my face with raw local honey. I am learning to cook more from scratch. I plan to become pretty damn good at making my own yogurt and bread in the coming months. I would also like to try making my own butter and cheese. We'll see. I've taking one class in food preservation/canning so far and plan to take more. I am also getting on my own ass about learning to sew, knit and crochet. My mom already helps me make cloth diapers -well, we're past that stage with my son, but we have a new little one on the way so we'll be sewing away. I'm a breastfeeder, something that earns it's place in the self-sufficiency hall of fame. I could go on and on, but that's a small glimpse of what I do to be self-sufficient, earth-friendly, body-friendly and to earn my official Urban Homestead membership card.

So, why am I even blogging about this? Because, according to some loopy fruithole, I just violated a trademark dozens of times by writing the term Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading without including the little TM sign.

Wait, what? Someone trademarked that? Oh yeah. A dude named Jules Dervaes. He and his little family have their own Urban Homestead out in Pasedena. They've been part of the lifestyle for about 30 years and have done a pretty good job so far. Until recently. Jules got a big up his butt and decided that he should be the one to get the credit for the entire Urban Homesteading movement. Yeah, that's like me getting a really good bikini wax and then deciding, hey - I think I get better bikini waxes than anyone else. I'm going to trademark the term. Okay, to be frank, I have never in my life gotten a bikini wax. I did, however, accidentally spill wax onto my bikini area whilst taking a candlelight bath one night. It was my bikini area. It was wax. It was a unique way to bikini wax, right? So there, I'm going to trademark the term. Salons all across the country can expect my letter tomorrow. Sally Hansen, I'm coming for you.

Anyway, back to Jules. I am unsure of what egotistical lunatic thoughts ran through his head when he decided it was his right to trademark that term. One does have to wonder what in the heck the folks at the United States Patent & Trademark Office were smoking when they allowed this to happen (and was it grown on an Urban Homestead?). It's not just these two terms. They have trademarked the following:

Urban Homestead
Urban Homesteading
Freedom Gardens
Path to Freedom
Homegrown Revolution

Now kids, I know that you're looking at that list and asking yourself the same questions anyone else would ask. I know those questions begin with one or two little phrases...ahem..."who the fuck" or "what the fuck." Yeah, pardon my language, but this Urban Homesteader is from Philadelphia, so...But those are terms that are relatively common. You've heard them before. I can surely guarantee you that these terms were in use before the Dervaes folks planted their first little seed. Heck, Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading are terms that have been in use for at least 200 years. That's before Jules Dervaes great-great-great grandfather was even a little sperm. A simple Google book search of the term "urban homestead" will turn up results from the 1800's. And Path to Freedom? Really? How can that be trademarked? Go ahead, Google Book search that one, too. That's a very famous book by Irish Revolutionary, Michael Collins. Might as well check out Homegrown Revolution and Freedom Gardens, too. I mean, Freedom Gardens were also known as Depression Gardens and Victory Gardens and were very popular in the first war-filled half of the 20th century - before Jules was sperm. Go ahead - search it. Here:
Freedom Gardens This is from 1948

The fact is Urban Homesteading is a way of life. Members of the community are doing what they can to rely on themselves and not corporations or big government. Jules Dervaes mocks this movement by trademarking the term and then calling himself the "Founder of the Urban Homestead Movement." There's more. He and his lawyers have gone after bloggers who use the terms, authors who have written books with the terms in the title (published years before he got his trademark) and they even went after a library for hosting an education event about Urban Homesteading. There isn't much in the way of rhyme or reason. Jules says he wants to protect the term. From who? Other people who dare to grown an artichoke on their balcony? In doing this, Jules just becomes another McCorporate McShill. My sense, and the spidey sense of so many others who know much more about the lifestyle than I, is that there is a mix of money-driven delusions of grandeur from this man. He seeks to harm and drive a wedge among those who passionately follow this simple lifestyle. He is the Wal-Mart of Urban Homesteading.

Now, go on out and find something ridiculous to trademark. How about organic gardening? Homeschooling? Attachment parenting? Pot smoking? Bikini waxing (wait, hands, off - I'll sue you). Sledding? Snowball fighting? Cat grooming (works well in the veterinary business and the porn world).

There is a Facebook group dedicated to revoking this trademark:
Take Back Urban Home-steading(s)
You can also follow them on Twitter @TakingBackUH

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Boy is Still A Boy Even if He Pushes His Dolls in a Pink Stroller

There is a subject that I deal with every single day and have dealt with since my little boy started making his own choices somewhere around age of one. Wait, what? Did I just say my son makes his own choices? But he's four!

Listen, there are some battles I will fight. You WILL brush your teeth today. You WILL NOT run out into the street. You WILL hold my hand walking across the busy mall parking lot. You WILL NOT watch T.V. for 6 hours a day. Oh it goes on...eating healthy, treating the pets with love and a gentle touch, no hitting, no playing with the oven, please keep the cat food in the cat food dishes, etc. Other battles? Meh. Hair? He wants it long. I respect that. No, I'm not letting him get a tattoo tomorrow (maybe when he's 16 and he's really thought about it), but the hair is a non-issue for me. When you think about it, there is so much control we exert over their bodies. At a young age they find that desire to choose things for their bodies. I'm the one who buys the clothes. I tell him when to take a bath. I tell him when to brush his teeth. I control his diet. I make him try to go potty while we're out "just in case." There isn't much they can choose for themselves at this age. For the most part, I choose what clothes he gets...I buy them. Of course, I buy things he likes. I only buy the type of shoes I like because I believe children's shoes should move in a certain way and not be stiff. I let him dress himself most of the time, unless we are in a hurry. Sometimes this results in shoes on the wrong foot or a mismatched shirt and bottom. Sometimes I "fix" it, sometimes I let him wear whatever. And there is the hair. It seems very important for him to leave it long. It's part of his own personal identity and I have much respect for that. Long hair on boys does not bother me one bit. My dad was a hippie way back when and had long hair. My oldest brother let his hair get long (oh Lord, it was a horrid late 80's/early 90's curly mullet, but all the girls went nuts for it). My other brother, God rest his sweet soul, was a DeadHead and had long hair and a beard...looked like Jesus in tie-dye. Their hair didn't prevent them from being productive members of society. My mother allowing them to keep their hair long didn't "make them gay." It was their way of expressing themselves. So, the hair is one issue I come up against.

Color. I have a boy. In case you haven't heard, boys must wear blue and play with trucks and dirt. Boys are not allowed to like pink, purple, glitter, kittens (or glitter kittens), dolls and flowers. Oh no. That will surely turn them into pansy little gays who will get their asses kicked in school. Besides. Letting a boy wear pink socks and carry a doll will most definitely send him the wrong message about how to be a man. Grrrrrr. Excuse me? Fuck that. First of all, the notion that pink is for girls and blue is for boys (oh really? more on that later) is antiquated, stupid and needs to go. Boys are not born knowing they are not allowed to like pink and daisies. They have no clue. Left to their own devices, most boys would probably think pink looks pretty and daisies are great to plant in the front yard. Some may even wear pink. All they know is that certain colors appeal to them and some don't. It's the same for all of us. I love purple. I'm not a big fan of neutral browns. My friend's mother loves blue. The entire house was blue when we were growing up. All blue. Except for one white couch...which was trimmed in blue. We all have our preferences when it comes to color, but it's the boys in our society who have the pressure of only liking certain colors. It's not right.

This is an issue I have dealt with for years. But, I finally sat down to write this blog because of a post I saw on the Facebook page for The Cloth Diaper Foundation. For those unfamiliar, this group accepts donations of new or gently used cloth diapers that they then loan to low income families who would love to use cloth but otherwise cannot afford it. The diapers are loaned to the families for the length of time needed at no charge save for shipping. It is a truly wonderful cause as cloth diapers are a truly wonderful thing. It's a small operation, run by only a few people, and does not have a lot of resources. They depend on the generosity of others. They do state that parents requesting diapers cannot specify certain colors or prints. This is because they simply do not have the time or resources to sort through all of the diapers. It would take time and diapers away from other needy families if, say, one mother requested all yellow diapers. Not only is it stated before you apply, but when you sign their agreement form it says this, " -I understand that CDF will not guarantee diaper colors and patterns specific to my child's gender as the organization's primary purpose is to alleviate the costs of diapering. (please initial)" That's because CDF is about providing much needed cloth diapers to low income families and not about decorating your child or coordinating outfits. The CDF has had great success and things were going great until a recipient of their generosity complained that they got a gender inappropriate diaper. I believe it was a boy who received a pink diaper among all the other diapers loaned to them. The parent complained about the color. Tacky, I say. First, as I noted, CDF clearly states that they do not sort colors. You get what you get. Second, have some grace. You are being loaned diapers for just the cost of shipping. Lots of diapers. Be thankful for what you get because the CDF doesn't HAVE to give you anything. Geez. Third, who the fudge cares? Your baby is going to poop in that diaper in a matter of hours. Get over it. Fourth, who cares? Boys CAN wear pink and it will not cause their penis to shrivel up and turn into a vulva. K?

The issue of boys wearing pink or purple, playing with dolls, pushing strollers, playing with make-up can be a big deal among some parents. There are parents who absolutely refuse to dress their male children in anything other than blue, black, dark green, grey or brown. Said boys may only play with trucks, cars, guns, army men, more guns, boats, more guns and something resembling a gun. I personally know families like this. I have also personally been stopped by complete strangers in the store because my son was carrying a purse or a doll. Oh God, the day my little guy went to Wal-Mart carrying not only a doll but a BLACK doll - oh, the looks. I have had my little boy dressed head to toe in blue, carrying a car and then called a girl. I have had adults tell my son that little dolls are for little girls. I've been asked why he was wearing nail polish. Some comments and my responses:

"Don't you worry about him having long hair?" I worry about knots.
Upon being corrected when calling him a girl: "But men are supposed to have short hair." Says who? Long hair has been accepted since the beginning of time in most cultures. Besides, Jesus you've got hanging there on your Crucifix necklace had long hair, so..." Yes. I can get wordy. Depends on my mood.

"Why are you letting him carry a purse? Aren't you know?" He thinks a purse is great for carrying around all of his cars. And no, I'm not worried.
"Personally, I would never have let my son push a pink stoller with a baby doll." Personally, I don't care what you did with your kids, so lay off mine.

And the ever-popular, "Don't you think that will make him gay?" Clothes and toys can't make a person gay. And I wouldn't love him any less if he was gay. So.....
I just want the world to know that this silly idea that pink is only for girls is relatively new. There are moments in some cultures in history where blue, a protective color, was preferred for boys, but those moments are fleeting and not the overall standard. In fact, in America, pink was for boys and light blue was for girls. Among Catholics, light blue was preferred for girls because it was associated with the Virgin Mary. Look at these two quotes from early magazines in America:

"There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the
generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The
reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more
suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty,
is prettier for the girl." [Ladies Home Journal, June, 1918]

"If you like the color note on the little one's garments, use pink for the
boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention." [The
Sunday Sentinal, March 29, 1914.]
Things were switched after the 1950's. There is a theory that part of the reason pink fell out of favor for boys was because the Nazi's used pink triangles to brand homosexuals. Oh, okay, so we're supposed to dress our little girls in frilly pink because the Nazi's deemed the color "faggy." Oh, that makes total sense. Sign me right up. Any other fashion advice from the Nazi's?

I get it. America wants my little boy rolling around in the dirt, shooting toy guns, wrestling other little boys (remember, the two sexes shouldn't mingle after age 5), playing war, sword-fighting and pretending he is killing other little kids or taking them hostage. It's cool to pretend to be a pirate, clinking swords and stealing ships, because pirates were manly with all that raping they did. That's socially acceptable. The more violent, the better. (Note: I'm not entirely judging rough play or pretend pirate games, just using them as an example) But the second he takes his half naked doll out of the toybox and places it into the hot pink toy stroller he's at risk for turning into one of those gays. I'm being told that it's not right to let my son play with dolls. Why? Why can't he emulate a parent nurturing a baby. As a possible future father isn't this a good thing? Isn't it good that he wants to gently rock a doll, wear it in a sling, put its diaper on or push it in a stroller? Why are we obsessed with saying there is something wrong with that? No, there is something wrong with people being afraid of boys playing with dolls. And, for Pete's sake, he is a kid. I guarantee that the doll will be thrown halfway across the living room within 30 minutes and then possibly eaten by a dinosaur or made to drive the big tonka truck. Chill. Isn't anyone else disturbed that implying that a little boy playing house with dolls will turn him gay. Are we saying we don't want our little boys to learn how to nurture? We don't want them to pretend to be good daddies? That doesn't bother you? What message are we sending them?

I know my brother, who had long hair at one point, owned a few pink shirts. They were in style in the 80's. Guess what? Not gay. I grew up with a boy who was very rough and tumble, totally all boy, played boy sports, wore boy clothes (usually all sports stuff). Guess what? Totally gay. I don't know if anyone caught this the first 22 times I said it, but your kids clothes and toys won't turn them gay. As if there's even a problem with being gay...

The sad fact is that this conversation isn't had in reverse. A little girl can play with her brother's tonka trucks and cars. She can wear overalls and blue t-shirts. She can climb trees and play pirates with the neighborhood kids. She can ride her cousin's black Batman big-wheel. She can dig in the dirt and look for worms. No one bats an eye. If anything is said at all it's, "Oh wow, look at little Susie. She is such a tomboy. How adorable!" Susie can wear pink, purple, black, blue, green, yellow, orange, brown, grey, red, indigo and all of their various shades and hues. She can wear her hair long or short (what a little pixie!). She can play with mommy's make-up. She can try on her sister's high heel's. She can dress herself up in her daddy's suit and tie and put on his shiny black work shoes. All of it is okay. No one worried about me. I was obsessed with dinosaurs as a little girl. I had tons of them. My Barbies and She-Ra dolls co-existed with prehistoric lizards. I spent countless hours each day digging in the yard and looking for worms and other bugs. No one warned that I would become a lesbian. And now I'm very feminine, I love dresses and I still love dinosaurs and digging in the dirt. And it should be that way for little girls. So, why isn't the reverse true for little boys? Why is there such a double standard? Why do we have such fear when it comes to color and little boys? It's not okay to have that double standard. We need to examine ourselves. We need to realize that imposing all of these stupid stereotypes on our children damages them.

As for me, I remain unchanged. I will allow my little dude to explore and to express himself. He sees mama with her nails painted and he thinks it's mighty cool. So, I let him try it. He sees mama with a purse to hold all of her cool stuff, so he wants one too to hold his cool stuff (cars, a mega block, two mini dinosaurs, half a crayon and one gnome), so he uses one of my old purses. He loves babies and wanted a doll and now has several. Sometimes they get cuddled. Other times they get undressed and placed in his toy oven with Lightening McQueen. He helps me plant flowers, lots of flowers and veggies and herbs. Why? Because it teaches him to respect nature. And because flowers are fucking pretty no matter who you are. He also likes flowers because they feed the bees and the butterflies. And he loves to watch the bees and the butterflies. As a baby he wore some pink cloth diapers. Why? Because they were on super cheap clearance sale and it goes under clothes and he pooped in them. Last I checked, those pink dipes didn't make him less of a boy. He owns a few purple shirts and some tie-dye that has some pink in it. He wears a purple wool hat. Because it's shaped like a monkey and reminds him of Curious George. Sometimes he wears my belly dance hip scarves. Because the coins jingle and that's pretty dang cool. A few weeks ago, he fell in love with a Barbie bike at the store. Oh, it was pink, purple and full of glamorous glitter. And why did he want it? Is it because he had some secret 4 year homosexual agenda? No, he wanted it because it has a basket. You see, "boy" bikes don't have baskets. He wants a bike basket because and I quote, "I need to be able to carry my drink and some vegetables." So, we're going to get a basket to clip onto his bike.

I really hope that our society's outlook is changing. I hope we are all becoming a little more accepting. I believe that my son, even at 4, is very confident and secure in himself. It's my belief that our parenting style instills this sense of security in him. I want him to grow up being comfortable with who he is. I don't want him feeling tortured because he feels he can't express himself. I grew up with people in those situations and it never turned out well. I don't want him to ever feel the pain of needing to hide his true self. I want him to be him...whoever that is. If that means he is going to wear jeans, a dino t-shirt, long hair and glittery green nail polish while pushing a stuffed dragon in a pink stroller, then so be it.

*Portrait of King Louis XIV as a child. I cannot seem to find the artist.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Suffering shouldn't be silent

This article was just shared with me:

It's all about women feeling like they have to suffer in silence after we have a miscarriage because society is too afraid of the subject. It's something we need to change. NOW.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Breastfeeding is Only Obscene When It's Misunderstood

There is a little movement going on in Facebook land. It appears that the powers-that-be, whoever they may be, have deleted an account called The Leaky Boob (aka The Leaky B@@B). It was deleted for a "terms of service" violation. What was so violating? Are leaking boobs really that insulting? Well, I guess they are if you're a brand new white blouse....anyway. Facebook has time and time again made it loud and clear that it is 100% against the posting of pictures of women breastfeeding. The Leaky Boob, a page created for the support of breastfeeding, contained many of these pictures. Now, Facebooks terms of service doesn't say anything about breastfeeding, but it does ban photos that are obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit. Funny, breastfeeding does not meet those descriptions.

If one has a problem with breastfeeding, they should probably avoid pages and websites where breastfeeding is discussed. Makes sense, right? Personally, I have a problem with the whole New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys reunion. I simply don't visit pages highlighting that event. I have a problem with the Tea Party. Guess what? I avoid Tea Party websites. I do not petition webmasters to take down TP posts and pictures simply because I am offended by the site of someone wearing a hat with Lipton teabags stapled to it. We are such a society of "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah." As in, "waaaaah, that offends me, make it stop." When did we lose the ability to control ourselves, to look the other way if something is offensive? It's not like the image of a nursing infant is the same as the image of a woman being raped, yet people will react strongly to the image of nursing and not so much to the image of rape. Yes, I'm serious. People are fine with letting their children watch violent programs, play with toy guns and imitate WWE wrestling in the backyard, but God forbid someone posts a picture of a mother nursing her baby. Then they cry that you are corrupting their children. Oh have Mercy!

It's fine for your 12 year old daughter to strut down the mall in a nearly see through camisole, with no bra, that shows her belly and her muffin top, while wearing shorts that barely cover her pubescent kitten, but it's not okay for a mother to sit on a bench in the same mall and discreetly nurse her child? It's fine for Victoria's Secret to be there, with it's 20 foot posters showing models wearing nothing but a bra, panites and some heels. That's fine. But nursing isn't?

You have to be living under a rock to be unaware that breastfeeding is the best nutrition for an infant. I'm not going to go down the list of all the benefits right now, as it's common knowledge. If you need to know, just ask me.Why would anyone become offended when a mother is doing such a selfless act, giving her child the best nutrition that God/Nature/The Universe/Flying Spagetti Monster has to offer? People complain that it's obscene. That it'll corrupt our youth. Okay, so playing Death Coma IV on Wii is just fine for our youth, right? Letting your 13 year old daughter watch Gossip Girl is wholesome, correct? Let's make this clear - 99.9% of the time you don't see much of anything when a baby is nursing. The baby's mouth covers the nipple. Oh, the offensive nipple! Who knew such a teeny tiny protrusion from my breast could bring down nations? Ahem. The nipple and areola are covered. Most mothers wear clothing that is suitable for nursing and it keeps almost everything covered. You're more likely to see a flash of belly flab than even the top of a boob. Ah yes, the top of the boob. That's the part of the boob you may or may not see. Funny. I see the top of your teen daughter's boobs every fricken' day. Even in the winter. I went shopping for my 12 year old niece in a store geared for girls her age and couldn't believe the amount of cleavage-revealing shirts they sold. I will tell you this, as a mother who nursed her own child for 3 years (faint!), you would see more of my boobs in a bikini than you would when I was nursing. And I've never heard anyone complain about me in a bikini. It seems the only time breasts are acceptable in this society is when they are sexualized. Don't you think there's a problem with that?

Back to Facebook. Why is it okay for them to constantly remove websites that talk about breastfeeding and show pictures of nursing moms? Can we talk about hypocrisy? Because Facebook allows a page for Playboy. It has nearly 4 million fans. Do you really think the pictures on Playboy's facebook page are wholesome? I looked around and found quite a few pages for local strip clubs. And the strippers themselves have their own pages. I can tell you that those pages do not contain pictures that could be hung in any church. The umpteen thousand porn stars in this nation all seem to have their own Facebook fan pages with pictures that couldn't be passed around a schoolyard. There are pages that support the killing of certain groups of people. Pages for inciting violence. Pages that are blantantly racist. Pages that support violence towards gays. That's all okay with Facebook, but a simple photo of a little baby EATING is offensive? Are you outraged yet?

And let me put to rest the most ridiculous argument for banning that comes up everytime a breastfeeding site is banned. Some little louse, usually with the grammatical skills of a monkey, will pipe up and say that posting pictures of breastfeeding makes you the subject of perverts and you may even get raped! I'm not kidding folks. People say this all the time. They say this to mothers who nurse in public. I understand that the idea of a breast is exciting. Our breasts serve two purposes - to feed and to sexually arouse. The two are completely separate. But that's neither here nor there for this argument. I'm going to clue you in on something. There are people out there who have sexual fetishes for every single part of the body. For all types of clothing. For all sorts of hair styles. for certain skin colors. For certain professions. Foot fetishes are very common. Should we wear knee high socks and rain boots 365 days a year to protect against them? There are pervs ouot there who get so giddy at the sight of EARS. Shall we wear ear muffs all year, even in 100 degree heat? What about pervs who get off on eyeglasses? Let's enact mandatory burning of all glasses and require that everyone wear contacts. Oh but wait, there are pervs with eyeball fetishes. Better poke them out. And cut off your hands or wear gloves, because there are fetishists who want nothing more than to caress your painted fingernails. Shave your head while you're at it, because there are plently of perverts who want to touch or pull your locks so they can spring a boner. The point is, if you live in fear that something about your body will be the object of lust then you will never get anywhere. We might as well stay locked in our homes and never go outdoors. Better get familiar with the take out menu. Oh but wait, I'm sure there is a fetish about women who answer the door in their yoga suits.

The Leaky Boob was not a site about posting pics of babies nursing. That was a small part of it. The site offered tons of advice and support for women who are nursing. Heck, it offered support for women who were unable to nurse and had to turn to formula. I'm done nursing for now, but I always visited the page to see if I could offer some wisdom and I saw support and advice given every hour of everyday. And it wasn't just nursing. There were words of kindness for parents going through rough times with raising kids or with relationships. Is that so offensive?

If this offends you, then visit Bring Back The Leaky Boob on Facebook or check out The Leaky Boob on Blogspot.
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