11 February 2013

Margaret's Birth Story (I'm Back!)

Well, hello there! It has been far too long since I've posted here. I've been woefully neglectful of this blog for a while now, so I figured why not revive it, starting with my most recent birth story? Exciting, right?

The same disclaimer I placed before Dominic's birth story applies here. If you're squeamish or don't want to read about my girl parts doing anything, let alone pushing a baby out, you should probably stop reading. If those things don't bother you, continue on, soldier.

I had been having irregular contractions on and off for a few weeks. Every night around suppertime I played the immortal game of "Is it, or isn't it?" So on the day of my 40 week prenatal appointment I was burning with curiosity to see if I had made any progress. When the midwife checked me, she excitedly informed me that I was a "good" 4cm and 80% effaced. At my 39 week appointment I was 2cm and 75% effaced, so in a week I was able to make a good 2cm progress! I still didn't want to get my hopes up, but I washed all the towels and sheets when I got home, just in case.

 The evening passed uneventfully. I sent Nick out for Chick-fil-A because it was late and I didn't feel like making dinner (I had been fighting off a cold for the past week and was still under the weather). I kept telling myself: "It doesn't mean anything. I could be 4cm for another week for all I know." But I couldn't shake the feeling that labor was imminent, and that I had already progressed farther than when I had gone to the hospital for Dominic's birth (and that after nearly 8 hours of active labor). After dinner, I checked Facebook and found out that there were some severe storms heading our way that night, carrying with them the likelihood of tornadoes. Oh joy. Just my luck this kid would be born in the middle of a huge storm and none of my birth team would be able to get to us in time. "I better not go into labor tonight!" my status said. Then we settled in for the night and watched episodes of Scrubs while timing my still irregular contractions.

19 May 2011

Adventures in Baby-Led Weaning: First Foods

It's happening. What we parents dread from the very moment we see those two lines on our home pregnancy test. The one thing we wish we never have to face but we know is as inevitable as the rotation of the earth around the sun...

My little boy is growing up.

It feels like he was tiny and squishy and helpless only yesterday. Where did this active, expressive, curious little guy come from? And it feels like only yesterday I was plastered to the couch with a tiny person attached to my breast for hours on end. Now I'm lucky if I can get him to nurse for five minutes...total. And he's begun the journey that will eventually lead to him weaning off the breast entirely (although that will be a slow and gradual process, and doesn't look like it will happen anytime soon).

He's started eating solid foods.

18 May 2011

Runny Rhubarb and Sloppy Strawberries

It's high time I posted another recipe here. And since it's strawberry season, what could be more appropriate than my favoritest strawberry pie ever? I'm preforming an experiment this year, though. When I made this last year, I ended up with strawberry rhubarb soup in a pie crust bowl. Delicious, but hard to eat. So I did some snooping and discovered that wheat flour does not make a very effective thickening agent in fruit pies, as it tends to break down in acidic environments. The original recipe uses wheat flour. So this time I'm substituting tapioca flour for the wheat flour, as tapioca flour does not break down. Also, I'm macerating the rhubarb in sugar overnight to coax out some of the excess juice. Hopefully these measures will produce a less soupy pie.

I took ingredients from the original recipe (which can be found in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook) and the idea to macerate the rhubarb in sugar overnight from Greg Patent's Baking in America.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbsp tapioca flour
4 cups (1/4 inch peeled pieces) rhubarb stalks
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sliced strawberries

1. Mix together the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl and let sit overnight or for 6-8 hours (refrigerate if your kitchen is warm).

2. Stir the rhubarb mixture to dissolve any remaining sugar. Set a strainer over a bowl, transfer rhubarb mixture to it, and let drain for about 1 hour. Measure the juice, adding water if necessary to equal 3/4 cup.

3. Adjust one oven rack to the center position and set a baking sheet on the rack (to catch all the gooey stuff that inevitably bubbles over). Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line pie pan with dough.

4. Whisk together rhubarb juice and tapioca flour and stir in the rhubarb and strawberries. Spoon the mixture into the bottom crust, mounding it slightly in the center. Dot with the butter.

6. Roll out remaining dough, wrap it around the rolling pin and unroll it over the top of the pie. Make slits in the top in a pinwheel pattern (or make a lattice top, which is how we've always done it). Crimp edges.

7. Place pie on top of the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 40-45 minutes more until juices start bubbling up and the crust is browned. Cool pie on wire rack before serving (filling will be runny if cut too soon).


Easy Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1. Mix 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon each salt and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Cut 2 sticks chilled unsalted butter into pieces. With a pastry blender, cut in butter, working until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Add 4 tablespoons ice water; work with hands until dough comes together. If dough is still crumbly, add more ice water a tablespoon at a time (up to 4 more tablespoons). Do not overwork.

3. Divide dough in half, and flatten halves into disks. Wrap disks separately in plastic; refrigerate at least 1 hour.

4. To form the pie shell, roll the dough on a floured surface into a 14-inch round. Wrap around rolling pin and carefully unroll over a 9-inch pie plate.

5. Fit gently into bottom and side of plate. Use kitchen shears to trim dough to a 1-inch overhang; fold under, and seal to form a rim.


The result?


Pie perfection! It didn't run at all! After convincing myself I would never be able to make a fruit pie that didn't have to be eaten with a spoon, this is a thrilling triumph! Wahoo!

So to sum up: Tapioca flour ROCKS in fruit pies. Take note.

Oh, and it tasted awesome, too.

02 May 2011

God Loves Osama Too

"I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." Ezekiel 33:11

While I wholeheartedly disagree with expressing joy over the death of another, no matter what that person has done, I can see the point of those who take comfort in the fact that this man is no longer capable of committing the terrible acts he was known for. I can sympathize with that sentiment. I can't, in good conscience, take pleasure in his death. He is a child of God and a sinner like the rest of us (albeit his sinfulness caused quite a bit of damage, but still).

"Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.” -The Vatican's Statement on Bin Laden's death

May God have mercy on his soul.

01 May 2011

Adventures in Baby-Led Weaning: Introduction

Dominic is approaching the six-month mark. That magical age when he begins the journey into the world of solid foods. The beginning of the end of our breastfeeding relationship (more on that). Time to begin replacing his feedings of nutrient dense breast milk with nutritionally void, iron-fortified rice cereal!

Wait a minute. That doesn't make sense.

Rice cereal, like all refined carbohydrates, breaks down into sugar in the body, raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Chronic high levels of insulin contribute to obesity and diabetes. Not to mention young babies lack intestinal amylase, the enzyme required for the proper digestion of grains. So we probably won't be stocking up on Gerber rice cereal, or any baby cereal for that matter. Unfortunately just about every pediatrician and well-meaning grandparent in the country advise rice cereal as the first food introduced to an infant, sometimes as early as two months. The only reason I can imagine for this is that rice cereal is the least likely food to cause an allergic reaction and/or the mistaken notion that after six months (or two months) milk (whether breast milk or formula) isn't enough to sustain a growing baby.

The latter is simply nonsense, of course. But enough about that.

I've had a lot of time to think about how to start Dom onto solid foods. Before he was born I bought Cooking for Baby, a cookbook full of wholesome recipes and tips for starting solids. We knew right from the beginning that we didn't want to feed him commercial baby food. It's full of preservatives and added sugar and the organic baby food requires a small loan to purchase enough for the first three months. So we planned on making our own purees from foods we regularly eat (flavors he would have likely been exposed to through my breast milk). Sure, it's a little extra work, but it seemed worth it.

I didn't take into account how much of a lazy mom I am.

Yes, lazy. Why? Let's review my parenting decisions over the past six months:

  • Breastfeeding: No bottles to wash, no powder to measure, no cans to open, highly portable, always the right temperature, and (after the initial 2-3 months) so easy. Definitely lazy.
  • Co-sleeping: I don't have to get up out of bed when Dom wakes in the night, no worrying about waking him up to put him down in a crib, no need to sleep train. The ultimate in laziness.
  • Babywearing: No need to lug a stroller or car seat around (those bucket seats are heavy!).
  • Cloth-diapering: OK this one is admittedly more work than disposables, but I don't have to go out and buy diapers when I run out, so it's kind of lazy.

There are a few others that are slightly more controversial, so I'll leave them for another post. But you get the picture. So why on earth did I think that I possessed the motivation required to not only prepare separate meals for Dom, but also to puree, label, date, and freeze the individual portions for later use?

Luckily for me I soon discovered baby-led weaning. No purees, no cereals, no "baby food". Just give them table food and let them at it. Perfect!

Obviously, there are guidelines. You can't hand your kid a bag of Fritos and let them go to town. And you probably want to avoid peanuts and honey for the first year. But the essential principle still holds true. Babies can feed themselves actual food around six months (or later depending on the child). Nutrient content is important, of course, but he still receives all the calories and nutrients he needs through breast milk, so no need to obsess over whether he's "getting enough" (had to obsess enough about that in the first weeks of breastfeeding). We can focus on letting him try a wide range of flavors and textures without pressure. It's the perfect solution for us!

First, I should explain the use of the word "weaning" in this context. This method of infant feeding is based on a book by the same title published in the UK, so the word means something slightly different than what we in the US consider weaning. Here it means the cessation of breastfeeding, but in the UK it means the introduction of solid foods (so the cessation of exclusive breastfeeding). So we're not talking about the end of the breastfeeding relationship, although starting solids does signal the beginning of such a process, as solid foods will eventually start to replace breast milk as the child grows.

So how do we know when he's ready to start rubbing mashed potatoes into his hair? Here are some of the signs to look for:

  • Your baby shows interest in food and family meal times.
  • Your baby can sit without support.
  • Your baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex (pushing solid foods out of the front of the mouth).
  • Your baby is ready and willing to chew (though he may not have many teeth).
  • Your baby can pick up items with the thumb and forefinger (pincer grasp) as opposed to using the whole hand (palmar grasp).

The last one is debatable, I think. It's sufficient if he can grasp an object accurately and bring it to his mouth. Pincer grasp is more important for smaller bits of food, like peas. Dominic is already showing some, but not all of these signs. He becomes transfixed on our actions whenever we sit down to eat, has begun imitating the way we chew, and can grab fairly accurately. I'm not sure if he's lost the tongue-thrust reflex entirely and he can't sit up unassisted yet, so he probably won't be delving into a plate of spaghetti the day he turns six months (this coming Thursday), but I'm sure it's not far off.

It's a fairly relaxed approach to starting solids and quite different from the way most of us are accustomed to feeding babies. The basic principles of this approach are:

  • At the start of the process the baby is allowed to reject food, and it may be offered again at a later date.
  • The child is allowed to decide how much he wants to eat. No "fill-ups" are to be offered at the end of the meal with a spoon.
  • The meals should not be hurried.
  • Sips of water are offered with meals.
  • Initially, soft fruits and vegetables are given. Harder foods are lightly cooked to make them soft enough to chew on even with bare gums.
  • Foods with clear danger, such as peanuts, are not offered.
  • Non-finger-foods, such as oatmeal and yoghurt, may be offered with a spoon so baby can learn to self-feed with a spoon.

Remember, milk is still the main source of nutrition, so solid foods are offered more for exploration than for nourishment. Food before one, just for fun!

As Dominic approaches this new stage in his development, I plan to chronicle our experiences with this method in a series of posts (including pictures). So look forward to some sloppy shenanigans in the weeks to come!
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