Friday, July 26, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

basil + lime

We are into popsicles.  I've shared our chocolate pudding pops and strawberry creamsicles with you in the past.  I also make smoothie pops pretty regularly, which don't really need a recipe.  I just mix homemade yogurt, frozen bananas, and whatever berries or other fruit we need to use up in the blender, then freeze in our mold.

My other method involves making a flavored simple syrup and freezing.  You can get really creative on your flavors, since you don't have to worry about what texture the final product will have.  We have a nice big basil plant on the front porch, a gift from my mother-in-law and her massage therapist friend.  It screamed out to me to be combined with some lime juice.  It's sort of a Thai-inspired flavor combination.  Hmm . . . it would probably also be really good in a coconut milk base!

Here's how you do it:

Basil-Lime Popsicles
15 basil leaves
1/3 C sugar
1 C water
peel and juice of two limes

Combine basil leaves with water, sugar and lime peel (you want big pieces of peel so you can strain it out - don't grate it) in a pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.  Use a wooden spoon to bruise the basil leaves, so you really get all the flavor out.  After 15 minutes, juice the limes into the pan.

Strain it back into the measuring cup.  You should have about a cup of liquid.  Pour into mold, pop in sticks, and freeze.

And enjoy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

name change, game changer

So.  I've decided to change the blog name.  And tinker with the layout and settings a little bit.  Hopefully it can be a breath of fresh air in this hot summer.

The pastor and the bartender was a great name for where we were two years ago.  But the bartender is no longer tending bar (and that's a really good thing).  We have relocated.  We have added another family member.  And our family just plain looks and acts differently than it did.

Have any of you read Phillip Roth's excellent novel American Pastoral?  Here's a bit of the summary from Wikipedia:   [The main character's] happy and conventional upper middle class life is ruined by the domestic social and political turmoil of the 1960s during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, which in the novel is described as a manifestation of the "indigenous American berserk."

Sounds familiar.

So, we are now nashvillian pastoral.  I'm still a pastor.  We live in Nashville.  Our happy and conventional middle class life has been reshaped in myriad ways by domestic and social turmoil.  We are the indigenous American berserk.


Friday, July 19, 2013

happy hour

Probably most saw this on Facebook, but it cracked me up.  Vicki Jo and her friend Remy at Family Dinner last Sunday:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

vaccinations: a third way

Parents tend to feel passionately about vaccinations.  There seems to a lot at stake, no matter where you stand.  If you don't want your children vaccinated, you generally have strong reasons:  you don't want foreign matter in their bodies, you don't believe our current aggressive schedule has been researched well or long enough, or you believe that getting some illnesses and recovering is the natural way of life.  If you do vaccinate your children, you feel equally strongly:  you don't want other people riding on your responsible decisions through herd immunity, you don't want a non-vaccinated child infecting your immuno-compromised child who cannot be vaccinated, and you think that vaccinations save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering.

I think everyone is right.

How is that possible?

I believe that we haven't been vaccinating long enough to know what all the long-term effects will be, especially for the most recent vaccines like Gardasil.  I do know that one of the original polio vaccines could possibly cause cancer.   I do think that, historically, we often got sick with very serious diseases.  Many children died.  The ones who lived developed stronger immune systems, although they also sometimes had lifelong disabilities as a result of these illnesses.  So yes, they made us stronger as a species, but they also caused a lot of suffering.  I do know that the United States has a much more aggressive vaccination schedule than many other countries.  I don't like the idea of strange foreign matter in my children's bodies.  With that said, however, it's not like I police every single thing my daughter eats.  She has eaten plenty of GMO goldfish crackers, eats candy like it's going out of style at her Memaw's house, and gets the occasional sip of diet soda.

I guess "ambivalence" would be a good word to describe my feelings toward vaccinations.  I feel like it's socially responsible to vaccinate, and I don't take that lightly.  I think our society has been infected with an insidious way of thinking that says, "What can I get from society/government/other people?" instead of "What can I give to my community/country/other people?"  And I don't mean welfare.  I mean ripping off underprivileged populations so that we can get even greedier.  But I won't get off on that tangent today!

So, I'm neither gung-ho about the standard vax schedule, nor willing to completely avoid vaccinating.  That's where Dr. Sear's Vaccine Book comes in!

This is an in-depth look at each individual vaccine (because several of our single shots have up to five vaccinations in them).  It examines the ingredients, possible side effects, likelihood of getting the disease and how severe the implications of infection may be.  He offers alternative schedules and emphasizes that practices like breastfeeding and keeping your children out of daycare are factors that can make a big difference in whether they need inoculation.

When I was pregnant with Todd, I sat down with Dr. Sears' book and the State of Tennessee vaccination requirements for public school.  Knowing that I wouldn't follow the standard schedule, I crafted one for him that still managed to fit in all the required shots, but at a slower pace and spaced out from one another.  My guideline is that I don't want him to have more than one shot at a time.  I think that pertussis presents one of the most serious threats to infants, so we stay on schedule with the DTaP (which is actually three vaccines at once!).  The others I fit in around it.  Here is what I came up with:

And I shared it with our family doctor at our first appointment when Todd was five days old.  She supports us and our decisions, and knows that I made them with lots of research and the understanding that unvaccinated and vaccinated kids alike may get these illnesses anyway.

Like I said, people feel strongly about this issue.  A fellow pastor whose daughter is fully vaccinated got sick with whooping cough.  The other parents at her school were furious:  why didn't they vaccinate their daughter against the disease?!  Now their children might get sick!  When he explained that she was fully vaccinated, and sometimes children still get these illnesses, the parents were shocked.  They seemed to think that vaccines were a guarantee that their children would never get sick.  The likelihood is severely reduced, but it is still possible!

Our slowed-down schedule is one way that I feel like I can address both sides of that issue.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"big sis and still the star"

Vicki Jo got a t-shirt from her Uncle Ben and Aunt Vanessa.  They had picked it up at Goodwill, and it was a darling little pink thing with the message:  "Big sis, and still the star!"  It could not be more perfect for her.  She begs to wear it to sleep, to school, and any other time she needs a shirt.

A lot of people are thoughtful enough to ask how Vicki is doing with this whole new baby experience.  I usually respond that she likes the baby just fine, but the rest of us could be paying him a little less attention.  She is really great with Todd.  She is my "superhelper," and every morning she gets his wipes, throws away his dirty diaper after I change him, and helps pull his arm through his onesie.  She wants to pick him up, kiss his face, poke his eyes, bounce his chair, pull his feet, and anything else I will let her get away with.

But me?  I'm not so lucky.  She went through a very difficult time of being extremely upset with me when he was born.  And I was upset with her too.  I was upset with Todd for being a new baby and spoiling the lovely little dynamic I had going with Vicki.  I was upset with Vicki for being a two-year-old with needs for care and attention.  I was hormonal and snappy and short with her.  She was wild and erratic and she wailed at me.

There were days when Grandma Zan was the only thing that saved us.

There were nights with Memaw was the only one who could make things better.

And I was ever-so-glad for her school, the King's Daughters Day Home (more on this later).  This was a daily positive interaction with tons of caring adults that I could count on.  Even if things were sucking at home, I knew that she was having a good day at school.

There were nights when she asked to go stay with Grandma, or Uncle Ben and Aunt Vanessa.  This broke my heart, but I understood.  I, too, would want to be where I could be the sweet center of attention once again!

After Todd turned about a month, she seemed to turn a corner.  She realized he wasn't here just to visit.  She began to settle down some.  We got into a good nightly routine and I think she knew what to expect a bit more.  He began to cry less and slowly demand a bit less of my time and attention.

One thought that comforted me during the hardest days was that Vicki would never remember her life without Todd.  In her memory, there will always be baby brother.  Likewise, Todd will never know of a life before Vicki.  That's the thing about siblings.  Even if the very worst happened, barring that it took either one of them away, they would be able to share the experience with each other.  And for some reason, that helped me when it seemed like two kids was more than I could handle.

Monday, July 15, 2013

pancake pantry

If you aren't familiar with this Nashville landmark, you need to get down here so we can go!  On weekend mornings, lines wrap around the block in Hillsboro Village as folks wait to eat blueberry, chocolate chip, and other assorted pancakes, as well as crepes, Dutch babies, and the whole gamut of batter that can be fried on a hot griddle.

I don't do lines and waiting very well, so we generally skip the Pancake Pantry, except for special occasions (like your visit).  But I have been making pancakes a couple times a week, on mornings when I don't have to get to work.  They are mainly a vehicle for Vicki to get butter and syrup in her mouth.  It makes a good break from our regular breakfast of granola and milk.  We also have them probably once a week as breakfast for dinner, along with bacon or sausage.  Lately, we have been loving walking to the Farmer's Market, buying blueberries, eating some on the way home, and then dropping the rest into our pancakes for dinner!

This recipe comes from what is probably my favorite cookbook:  The 150 Best American Recipes.  It gave me my best recipe for high-heat roast chicken, taught me how to cook steak and salmon well, and never fails to provide solid recipes for both basics and fancy food.  I love this particular pancake recipe for a few reasons:

1)  I always have the ingredients on hand.
2)  It doesn't have sugar in the batter, which yields a better-tasting pancake, to me.
3)  It doesn't make an exorbitant amount of batter - just enough for a hungry adult and a toddler.

Here's what you need:

1 C AP flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 C buttermilk or scant 1 C whole milk with 1/4 lemon squeezed into it
1 egg
3 T butter
butter and real maple syrup, to serve

First, if you aren't using buttermilk, get your sour milk ready, so it can sit for a little bit while you prepare the rest.  Just squeeze a lemon quarter into the measuring cup of milk, stir a little, and let it sit.  All you're doing is providing acid to react with the baking soda so the pancakes will rise.  You can't taste the lemon in the end.

Second, begin heating a griddle or a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Place the 3 T butter in there and let it start to melt.

Third, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add the buttermilk/sour milk and egg, and mix with a fork, just until it's all incorporated - don't overmix.  Pour about 2 T of the melted butter into the batter and stir it in with the fork.  Leave the remaining butter in the griddle or skillet to grease it.  Again, don't overmix.  Just until you can't see butter anymore.

Once a drop of water sizzles on the skillet or griddle, drop the batter by 1/4 cupfuls.  I can get three at a time into my skillet.  When you see bubbles popping on top, flip them.  I usually get eight pancakes out of a recipe, with the last one being sort of a midget.

Serve immediately with butter and syrup.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

placenta for breakfast . . .

In natural/hippie mom circles, eating your placenta is the panacea for nearly everything:  postpartum depression, low milk supply, losing pregnancy weight, and basically anything else you can imagine.  Nearly every mammal does it, we reason (other mammals also eat their children who seem too weak to make it . . . so I'm not sure they're the best example!).  In my research, I only ever found one example of someone who regrets eating it.  It is interesting that it is like a supplement made especially and only for you by your own body.  Eating it is supposed to help you ease off the pregnancy hormones slowly, rather than dumping you in a pit of tears and night sweats while you're still weak from giving birth.

The placenta is a fascinating little bit of human anatomy.  It is the only organ that we are designed to grow and then lose.  It provides all the essential nourishment to the baby while they are in the womb.  It also generates the pregnancy hormones that sustain the little life growing within.  The "guided tour" of my placenta was one my favorite parts of Vicki Jo's birth.  My midwife Rebecca showed me where the blood vessels entered, how they branched, where any calcifications were (a sign of an old, worn-out placenta), and told me mine was good and healthy.

With Todd, my placenta was huge!  It was over a pound, and very long.  I had suspected it was large because it was so hard to get a good heartbeat on him throughout pregnancy.  Turns out my placenta was just covering the entire front of my uterus, so the Doppler couldn't get through it.

I thought consuming it sounded like a fine idea, but I wasn't sure which route to take.  You can go super-hard-core and just eat it straight up like raw meat.  (Actually it is raw meat, so it's not just "like" that.)  You can freeze it and swallow chunks like pills.  You can cook it and eat it like liver (that sounds horrid, although Joolz Oliver did it!).  You can also dry it and put it into capsules and then just take the pills.  That sounded like the best option for me, since I have no problem taking pills.  The biggest issue was that people want to charge you money for doing this!  Like hundreds of dollars!  No thanks.  So, I didn't really have a plan for it other than to save it in the freezer after Todd was born.

My amazing midwife Jennifer solved this quandary for me!  Just after Todd was born I asked if she knew anyone who encapsulated placentas.  "Me!"  she said, "But I haven't tried it yet.  Will you be my guinea pig, and I will do it for free?"  Um . . . yes!  So she whisked away my placenta, dried it, powdered it, and packed it into capsules for me.  Five days later, they showed up in my mailbox.  I asked her about dosage.  "Most women take two a day," she said, "but some go up to five and then taper off.  If you don't feel like you need them, you can save them in the freezer until menopause!  They are supposed to help with that too."

Due to many factors, I was having a pretty hard time immediately postpartum.  So I decided to go with the full five caps.  I started with five a day, taken right at breakfast.  It did really help my mood, and it helped me to shed pounds very quickly.  I think it also helped me have more milk this time.  I started tapering when Todd turned six weeks.  I went down to four pills a day, then a week later three a day, and so on.  Once I get down to one a day (next week), I will keep taking them until I run out.

I think I got way more caps than is typical because my placenta was so very big.  Most women get 100-200.  I estimate closer to 350 for me.  I don't find it gross at all - just like taking any other pill.  And you can't beat the cost for the benefits I've gotten!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

cloth diaper update!

I knew that I wanted to cloth diaper Todd as much as possible before he goes to daycare.  The center here at church (where he will go once a spot opens up) won't use cloth diapers unless you can get a doctor to write a note that they are necessary for rash or allergy.  I didn't feel like going through the hoops on that one!

Last time I talked to you about my thoughts, I was considering Green Mountain Diapers' workhorse diaper, which is a sort of hybrid prefold-fitted.  I didn't end up getting any of those.

We got a ton of disposable diapers as shower gifts, so I used those for the first couple of weeks.  Meconium, which is baby's first poop, is dark and very sticky.  It would have been tough to get off of a cloth diaper.  Then, we visited my sister for five days right after Todd's birth, so I didn't want to trouble her with washing them.  Todd did develop a nasty little diaper rash during that visit, though, so I decided it was time to bust out the cloth when we got home.  He was twelve days old then.

Baby Todd at five days, wearing his blue XS Fuzzibunz before going to his first doctor's visit!
I had registered for some Fuzzibunz XS diapers on Amazon, and ended up getting three of those from my amazing friend/birth partner Steph.  Those have been my favorite, for sure.  I also got an additional Thirsties Duo wrap from her, which brings my count on those up to three.  After I saw how much I liked the Fuzzibunz, I used an Amazon gift card to order six more, as well as some Charlie's soap laundry detergent for washing them.  

Love this stuff!  We have ended up using it for all our laundry.
Todd was pretty big - 8 lb 12 oz - so I didn't have any trouble at all getting the XS to fit him.  I had expected him to be smaller, so that was a nice surprise, diaper-wise.  In fact, now that he is almost 11 pounds, they are getting a bit small in the rise!  They are advertised as fitting to 12 pounds, which I think will be about right for us.  I have a ton of size S Fuzzibunz that we can graduate into.  

They have a nice slim fit, which I like, and aren't too bulky under clothes.  They are easy to use, and come in cute colors!



There are two main downsides to these diapers.  The cost, which is pretty high.  $14 on Amazon, plus shipping.  The second is that stuffing the insert into the slim crotch of the diaper is hard, at least for my big hands!  I have to really tug to get it in there.  This isn't a problem with the larger sizes of Fuzzibunz, but the XS is just tiny enough for me to have trouble.  
So, I have nine of those.
I also have the three Thirsties Duo wraps I was telling you about before.  These are definitely the most economical option to build a cloth diaper collection.  They are also easy to use.  Here's how I do those, with a regular old cotton prefold:




You can see that these are much more bulky than the Fuzzibunz.  The Thirsties wraps have a snap-up rise that is nice, but the prefold is so big that I have to keep it all the way out.  If you had a fitted under there, you could get a much more slim fit.  Like I said, though, you can't beat the cost of doing it this way.  These are also about $14, but you only need like two or three.  

Between the 9 Fuzzibunz XS and the 3 Thirsties wraps and lots of prefolds, I'm doing laundry about every 2-3 days.  We don't use many disposables - mainly just in the church nursery or if someone is watching Todd.  I still haven't had to buy any disposable diapers!  

I love cloth diapering, and especially now that Vicki Jo is done with her toilet learning (except for overnight!  Expect a joyous post on this soon!), I have enough cloth diapers to last us until Todd goes through his toilet learning.  Then, I can resell them on craigslist and even cash out a little bit on them!  

As far as care, the Charlie's soap makes it really easy because it leaves no residue.  So, I rinse once with warm water to get all the poop out (he is still breastfed, so the poop is all water-soluble), then wash once on hot with a scoop of the soap and a warm rinse.  Then into the dryer on low!  Simple.

Monday, July 8, 2013

puddin' pops

Vicki Jo has been loving her some popsicles lately.  We use our popsicle mold constantly, and I finally had the bright idea to buy wooden popsicle sticks so I could have more than four at a time in the freezer!  Now, I make a batch, stick in wooden sticks, and pop them out when they are frozen.  I store them in a plastic bag in the freezer, and make another batch!  There are three main varieties I make:  fruit flavors with simple syrup (look for a basil lime recipe soon . . . yum); smoothie pops with yogurt and fruit; and pudding!  I am always looking for ways to use up our weekly gallon of raw milk, and pudding is so nutritious and tasty (okay, minus the sugar . . . but still, it has egg yolks and milk!  And butter!).

So, first, obviously, you have to make pudding.  I make chocolate, but the flavor possibilities are endless.  I've toyed with different recipes, but the best one is just sugar, cornstarch, milk, egg yolks, chocolate, with some butter and vanilla added at the end.  After the pudding is done, I pour it into popsicle molds and freeze.  But you could just eat the pudding itself for dessert!

Chocolate Pudding Pops
1/4 C cornstarch
1/4 C sugar
3 C whole milk
2 egg yolks
6 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 T butter
1 t vanilla

Whisk together cornstarch and sugar in a large saucepan.  Pour in milk and heat gently over medium-low, until the mixture bubbles.  Whisk frequently.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Pour in a small amount of the milk mixture to bring the eggs up to temperature.  Then pour the egg and milk mixture back into the remaining milk in the saucepan.  Bring it up to a boil, whisking constantly.  When it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, pull it off the heat.  Add in the chocolate and stir until well-combined.

Whisk in the butter and vanilla. If you suspect there might be lumps, run the mixture through a fine mesh sieve before refrigerating or freezing.

To make pudding pops, pour into popsicle molds while still warm.

To eat as pudding, pour into a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate for several hours until chilled.