Thursday, June 30, 2016

Long-Awaited Sweet Potato Hash Recipe

   A little over a month ago, I came back from a long hiatus. In Two Months Times, I wrote about how I have a constantly flow of ideas and musings to write about, but the time and memory never get to the same spot for me to be able to write. This post, though? This one many be my longest in the making yet. I've been meaning to blog this recipe(at the request of MANY) for years. Yes, years. It's incredibly simple, but not something I ever saw, heard, or read of being made before I made it up myself. Not saying I invented it, just saying I hadn't heard of it, and it seems others feel the same, because when I make it or post about it people always-always-always ask for the recipe. So here, without further adieu, is one of our favorite ways to use sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Hash

2 large, uncooked sweet potatoes
1 large onion, diced smll
2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil(or your preferred sauteeing oil)
Sea Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Garlic powder

Your going to want a pretty big skillet for this. The ingredients are minimal, but the more surface area on the heat, the better.

Start by peeling and dicing(small) the sweet potatoes.

Next, drizzle the oil over the sweet potatoes, and add the onions.

Turn the heat on medium-high, and sprinkle the yams and onions with a teaspoon or so each of salt and pepper, and two teaspoons or so of garlic powder. Stir the pan full o' goodness so it's mixed evenly, then stir it again every couple minutes, turning the bottom layer over to the top so every piece gets a good, crispy, caramalization.

Keep turning and stirring every couple of minutes for about 10-15 minutes, until all cubes are cooked through, and most everything has a medium brown touch. Watch for burning! Sweet potatoes have lots of natural sugars that will burn before the pieces cook through if your temperature is too high. If you start getting anything more than some friendly brown-ness on your veg, turn the temperature down, and add a little splash of oil to further dilute the sugars for the rest of the cook time. Remove it from heat and add more salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. 

Enjoy! We love this dish with anything, but the flavors go especially well  with barbecue and Southern style meals. This also makes great leftovers that my husband loves taking to work the next day and topping with ketchup and/or hot sauce, so don't be afraid of it making too much.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Kid Favorites: Purple Cauliflower Mac 'N' Cheese

   My first, we were spoiled. Before she was two she was asking for here favorite meal- "Pin-itch Sah-wid," aka baby spinach salad with garlic vinaigrette. Aside from the one incident when she was six and she tried dropping all her carrot coins silently under the table one at a time instead of eating them(it worked initially, but when I was sweeping after bedtime and found them..... ooooooooh buddy, did she have consequences the next morning!), she's always been a great, adventurous eater. She's an anomaly. I have tried all sorts of methods for enticing kids to eat their veggies from bribery to hiding them. In the end, I have come to the conclusion that I'm not rich enough to pay kids for bites, and winning by hiding them really isn't winning because they still get hysterical when they actually SEE the vegetable they ate so it kind of defeats the purpose. Therefore, I became the mean mom. I don't hide veggies. I cook them and cook them deliciously, then I put them on your plate and you must try one good size bite, then you have two choices: eat or go hungry. I want my kids to SEE the vegetable they are eating and recognize both what it is and what it tastes like, for their health and for their future, because veggies are not scary things. Ideally, veggies make up at least 50% of your diet. One way I encourage my kids to try veggies is by giving them ownership of the produce. When we go to the store, if my kids notice something in the produce section and ask to try it, I always agree. I let them pick the items, carry them(if they want to), and when we get home we cook it right away. I have them help with the cooking process, and when we sit down to eat the meal, we rave about how this is THEIR veggie, how they picked it out, how they cooked it, and it is AMAZING! That always does the trick. They're eager to try it, and proud of their work.
   There's one kid in my home, though, that I will hide veggies from. He's 5'9", black curly hair, gorgeous and manly beard. I married him. He has hated 99% of veggies since the day I met him. He's SO much better now- years of physical consequences from decades of poor dietary choices, plus actually TRYING veggies purely to be a good example for his kids has changed him. But he still balks at most things beyond a handful of favorites. So I'm not above tricking him. Maybe I should change this post to "Trick Your Husband with Veggies"? This recipe? He was shocked when I did my usual sly questioning about how he liked the meal, then meniacally laughing as I revealed what he'd just eaten. YOU CANNOT TASTE THE CAULIFLOWER! I PROMISE!
   Firstly- purple cauliflower? Yep, it's a thing. So are orange and green cauliflower. They taste just like the classic white kind, they're just more fun. When my youngest daughter spotted purple cauliflower for the first time at Kroger, she had to have it. Purple has been her favorite color since toddlerhood. In all honesty, I'm not a huge fan of cauliflower, but she asked so I ran with it. Once home, I did some googling and found some recommendations on how to prepare cauliflower and get rid of that somewhat 'old sock' smell. I picked one and did it, and was pleasantly surprised. It really worked. So here's how we not only use cauliflower in a delicious way that so masks the often off-putting taste of the cauliflower, but it makes all the food purple, which is a total win for my kids.

First, break the head up into smallish florets and put them in a large pot so almost all of them are in an even layer across the bottom. 

Next: Garlic. 2-3 cloves, peeled. The garlic flavor is not huge by any means, but it adds a little something to the sauce, and anyway, my husband is Italian. Garlic(or onions) in everything. 

Toss the garlic in the pot with the cauliflower, add a healthy dash of sea salt, then enough water to almost cover the contents of the pot. 

Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Allow it to boil for 10-15 minutes, until everything is soft. This boiling process is what gets rid of that 'old sock' kind of smell and taste, and makes everything nice and soft for a very smooth, velvety sauce. 

Once you get the cauliflower on the stove, get your pasta cooking- any pasta will do, but we prefer the kind that really hold some sauce, like shells, penne, or elbows. You're also going to want to grate some cheese. Mmmmm, cheeeeeeeeeese. About 2 cups of any good melting, strong flavored cheese will work. We prefer Asiago, Romano, Parmesan, or a nice sharp cheddar. Make sure it's white! Anything else will mess with the awesome color of your finished product. 

Once the cauliflower is cooked, much of the water will have boiled off, leaving a nice, dark purple liquid in the bottom of the pot, and pleasantly soft(but not mushy) veggies and garlic. 

Dump the entire contents of the pot(provided there's not A LOT of water left) into the blender while it's still hot, along with the cheese, and a dash each of salt and pepper. 

Let 'er rip.

It's going to probably be pretty thick, so I like to thin it out by adding 1/2 cup sour cream(helps keep the texture smooth and not watery), an add a little milk as needed after that until it's the same thickness as any other good, gooey cheese sauce. Add salt and pepper(and maybe some garlic powder if you want more noticeable garlic flavor) to taste. 

Pour it over the cooked and drained pasta. You can serve it right away, but I like to let it rest for a few minutes so the pasta can adsorb and fill up with all the gooey, saucy goodness.

Now, serve it to your veggie-haters of all ages, tap your finger tips together and laugh deviously as they enjoy it.

Ingredient recap:

1 head cauliflower
2 cups shredded cheese
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kid Favorites: Quesadillas

   As schools let out for summer, my Facebook feed and inbox are filling with a common request: Give me ideas for lunches for my kids. As homeschoolers, we uniquely do not face this predicament with the change of seasons because for us it's like summer all year. Therefore, I have lots of ideas, because I'm making kid-friendly lunches year round. I'm going to TRY to make a few posts over the next week or so with my kids' favorite lunches to help answer the summer 'What's for lunch' question.
   First up: quesadillas. My kids all love quesadillas, and I love that I can make them allergy-friendly and quickly. They're also a great vehicle for healthier stuff my kids might otherwise balk about.

The first ingredient is tortillas. You can make a really yummy, basic cheese quesadilla with JUST a handful of cheese and a tortilla. I like to put things like cooked ground beef or turkey, shredded chicken or pork, homemade refried beans, or like today: Cowboy Caviar. Yep, the same stuff I wrote about earlier this week in Salad Day!

Just spread it all around, but not a thick layer or it'll mess with the texture of the cheese. Now the cheese. We like a variety on our quesadillas like cheddar, colby jack, and Monterrey Jack. A handful sprinkled on, spread evenly around leaving an edge around the outside so it doesn't immediately overflow when the cheese melts. 

Top it with another tortilla, then cook it! I prefer the George Foreman grill. We have the family size grill and it fits two full size quesadillas side-by-side. 

Two minutes later: 

So yummy, and not awful when you fill it with good stuff. My kids top theirs with the likes of sour cream, salsa, hot sauce, and guacamole. Today I topped mine with Avocado Salad(more goodies from my Salad Day! post). 


What're some of your kid-friendly lunch favorites?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Salad Day!

   Last week I had my postpartum check-up with my midwife. All was deemed healthy and normal, so I'm cleared to get back to "normal" life. That means no pregnancy or postpartum restrictions, and back to that journey I started last May- the one I wrote about in Whip It Good. If you haven't read that post, do it. For lots of reasons. That journey: to lose 75 pounds.
   As I wrote in the post linked above, the last now three years have been rough for me: A very difficult pregnancy and delivery with my fourth child, a summer and fall spent apart from my husband as he moved to VA before us which left me in NY with 4 children including a preschooler with still profound special needs and a newborn with health issues, a cross-country move to Virginia, followed by a very stressful adjustment period, an unexpected pregnancy, the loss of our son, a bad car accident involving my husband in which he sustained permanent spinal injuries, and several months of Postpartum Depression and PTSD on top of grief as I dealt with it all. My vice was food, and a lot of it. I eat healthy 98% of the time, but I eat more than I should. I eat my feelings. So almost exactly one year ago, I decided to really be conscious of it all and make the necessary changes to lose the weight that was making me unhealthy. I was successful for 2 months, then the same thing that always happens when I start diligently improving my health with diet and exercise: I got pregnant.
 Isn't he scrumptious? I was meticulous with my diet during pregnancy, but my body did not handle the pregnancy well and while I usually gain 20-25 lbs during pregnancy, I gained 35. I blamed it on my age. 32 is the new 55, y'all.  Thankfully, once my hormones began to come into balance again in the first weeks postpartum and for the first time my baby and I didn't have nursing issues, the pounds came off quickly, so here I am at 8 weeks postpartum with only 8 more pounds to go to my pre-pregnancy weight. I am so thankful. But that still leaves me with 70 lbs from right here, right now, to get to my healthy goal- a weight that for many is a lot, but for me I know to be the point at which I am a healthy, happy, 5'11" size 12. I feel good there. Don't say it. I hear it all the time. 'How can you possibly have 70 lbs to lose?!' I'm am apple shape so I have tiny-thin arms, muscular shoulders and calves, and the rest of me hides it well, I guess.
   So how am I going to lose 70 lbs while breastfeeding for at least another year? Every woman's body is different. Some women need to eat calories to produce calories. Some women can eat whatever they want and as long as they're breastfeeding the pounds melt away. Most women are somewhere in the middle of those. I've been all of them. With my first two babies, the pounds melted off, but something happened when #2 weaned himself. My metabolism crashed, and I gained 15 lbs in a month. FIFTEEN! My knees felt the gain, and I soon found myself at an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation. Her recommendation: An anti-inflammatory while I got my diet under control to lose the weight and take the strain off my knees. She wrote a prescription for Naproxen and a referral to a nutritionist. After two months of careful monitoring, meticulously writing down everything that went in my mouth and weekly appointments for weigh-in's and discussing intake, we discovered that my thyroid function was still in the 'normal' range, but at the very bottom, and in order to maintain weight- Not loose, just not gain any more- I was having to restrict to 1200 calories per day. It was rough. Lucky for me, I lost a few pounds and- Yep, you guessed it- got pregnant again. Something about pregnancy boosted my metabolism again so I only gained 22 lbs, but had a very healthy 9-pound baby girl. The problem, though: I lost 10 lbs the day she was born, then didn't lose another ounce no matter how I tried. The summer before she turned two, she weaned and I was so grateful to be able to bust my rear and work on the poundage without having to be mindful of milk supply. I started again food journaling, and for the first time in 3 years got back to running. I lost 15 lbs in 2 months, and just as I was celebrating being 2 lbs under pre-pregnancy weight again- Yep. #4. It seems my body senses it's shrinking and decides to get pregnant out of self-preservation or something. 
   Back to now. Three keys to healthy weight loss while breastfeeding for me(it's not going to be the same for every body):
Water. So. Much. Water. I have three 32-ounce jumbo mugs(and one 32-ounce water bottle for when I leave the house), ad I choose one for the day, every day, that I keep filled with water. I aim to drink at least 5 of them. That's at least 160 ounces of water every day. On days I garden or exercise a lot so I sweat extra, I drink at least one extra.
Food Journal. I have found for a decade now that I am far more mindful of what I am eating when I write it down. A simple little notebook, and write down everything I eat or drink when they go down the hatch. Not only does it help me notice habits I could improve after the fact when I look over my day or week, but it helps me say no to temptation many times because I don't want to write it down. If I eat this right now, I'm going to have to put on paper that I had a bowl of ice cream. My day looks so good so far. Do I really want to admit to reality that I ate this bowl of ice cream while the kids were napping? It's the small sense of accountability, not counting the calories or grams of fat, but just to write exactly what I ate and drank throughout the day that helps acknowledge and break the habits.
Cowboy Caviar
Setting myself up for success. That's where the title of this post comes in. As a breastfeeding mom, I'm a snacker. I can eat a good, protein-filled meal, but if the baby is nursing a lot that day I could very well be legitimately hungry in two hours. Sure, we keep fruit on the counter and veggies in the fridge, but sometimes I don't want another apple or carrot. Instead, I keep things rich in protein and healthy fats readily available. I scoop out of the bag 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds or roasted, unsalted cashews, or open the fridge and scoop 1 cup of a protein-packed salad out of a bowl. Each of these options are under 200 calories, and really high in nutrients of all kinds, including the much-needed proteins and fats for breastfeeding.
   Cowboy Caviar is a family favorite refrigerator salad. This is a great, basic recipe, but we modify it to our likes. I use just one whole pepper(Because I'm lazy and frugal, and who wants three partial peppers sitting in the fridge, that's why), and leave out the jalapeno so it's toddler and sensory kid friendly.  It's great by itself, on top of a bed of salad greens, inside tacos or burritos, on top of nachos- really a lot of different ways to use it, and a fantastic picnic dish that lends itself to doubling and tripling to feed bigger crowds.
Avocado Salad
   Avocado Salad is one of my all-time favorite salads. Avocado is just, well, perfect for nursing moms. Healthy fats, tons of nutrients, and so yummy. It's one of my favorite things to add to meal train meals, because it's pretty mild and likable, and great for new moms just establishing their milk supplies. I like to tone down the onion flavor by using a sweet onion like Vidalia when it's for other people(or when I forget to buy red onions. Like this time.), because you never know whose baby is going to decide milk + onions = cry fest.
Spicy Greens and Quinoa Salad
   Spicy Greens and Quinoa Salad is a new one to my list. I just discovered this a few weeks ago when I was trying to find a way to use up some odds and ends in my fridge before the CSA pick-up the next day. When I first read the recipe I thought, "Um, quinoa, hot sauce, and maple syrup? This is either going to be disgusting or genius. Much to my pleasure, it was genius!!!!! Seriously, I thought this would be gross, but I had everything for it and I was in a 'What the heck- why not?' kind of mood. Before you get scared by the title- It's not super spicy. I used Frank's Red Hot(the ONLY hot sauce of native Central New Yorkers ) and it was barely a tingle in my throat. I actually added more on my plate because I wanted more spice. I've made this with kale, as well as with tatsoi(a milder, more tender hearty green in the chard, kale, etc, family) from our CSA box, and it was delicious that way as well. I also double the garlic because.... Um, hello? Who uses one clove of garlic in ANYTHING?! No one that's married to an Italian, anyway.
   Carrot Top and Chickpea Salad is another new addition to my lineup this spring. Our CSA has given me so many new things to work with and try, and this has by far been my favorite way to use the green on the gorgeous, plump carrots we receive. Mine usually ends up with more carrot greens than the 1 cup the recipe calls for, because I just chop-chop-chop the whole leafy section, and if it's not enough to double it I leave it.
   And there you have it. Four of our favorite summer salads I like to keep in the fridge to be quick and easy sides for the whole family at any meal, but also help me as a nursing mom keep my snack attacks healthy, wholesome, and good for my supply. I spent an hour in the kitchen this morning, rocking the Rock-N-Play with my foot as I stood at the cutting board, settling arguments and handing out snacks and water to bickering kids, and made all four of these to last me through the week. And now I'm hungry again.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What It REALLY Looks Like

   Seven weeks and three days ago, my life changed. Again. Seven weeks and three days ago, my body performed an enormous feat of strength, endurance, and physical change. Seven weeks and three days ago, I had a baby. In the days and weeks since, my body has completely transformed from a human incubator completely focused on growing a human being, into a human milk-maker, mother to five living creatures, sleep-deprived human whose all-encompassing job of the previous ten months was abruptly dropped into oblivion as he exited my womb. As it has five times before, my body has been required to do an about-face in function while simultaneously healing from serious physical trauma(albeit a natural function, but physically traumatic none the less). The number of hormones and physiological systems that come into play in this transformation are too many to count, and they all need to work and work fast so I can function. It's called the 'fourth trimester'- the first 12 weeks after giving birth. And it's HARD. It's not without its incredibleness, but this transformation is really, really difficult.
   In the last seven weeks and three days I have also quietly been handed a clipboard four times with a sheet of paper containing ten questions I needed to answer about myself. Collectively, those questions are called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Always the same, very obvious questions: Are you unable to find joy in life? Do you have thoughts about harming yourself or your baby? I'm glad these questions are being asked. People like Andrea Yates whose suffering was largely ignored until tragedy struck show that these questions are absolutely necessary. The problem I see, however, is that we're not going further. The pediatrician, obstetrician, or whomever, walks in, asks, "How are you REALLY feeling?" as they glance over the sheet and decide if you're 'at risk', and expect us to open up and gush forth with our darkest place, the struggles we feel ashamed to be having because we think it should be easier. We're really missing the bigger picture here, and vulnerable women and helpless babies are paying the price.
   Postpartum Depression still very much carries a stigma. Society seems to be caught in a toss-up of an older generation that often thinks PPD is a weak woman, some one who needs 'fresh fruits and veggies and more sunshine on her skin,' or some one not right with God, and a younger generation of 'Zoloft for everyone!' where doctors write prescriptions for Xanax like it's candy, while in between are most people. People who are half oblivious, half afraid to speak up lest it be seen as offensive. People who have good hearts and mean well, but don't see it or don't know what to do.
   So let's start with what PPD can look like in real life. It's not a crazed woman drowning her children, nor would she confess to that if she were. That's Postpartum Psychosis, a very rare and horrific illness for her and everyone around her. But that's what makes the news as Postpartum Depression. PPD is caused by an imbalance of hormones and brain chemicals(Did you know pregnancy, birth, and lactation hormones all come from the brain? It's all completely intertwined.) that can happen to anyone during the first 6-12 months postpartum as the body makes this enormous change while under great physical strain, and those who struggle with any kind of anxiety or depression previously are exponentially more likely to have this additional struggle. PPD in real life does not always look like some one crying non-stop, outwardly depressed, or wanting to harm themselves or their babies. She can look angry. A hair-trigger, easily frustrated, needing complete order that is next to impossible in this fourth trimester full of physical and emotional demands around the clock. She's fighting inside herself and that fight bubbles to the surface seemingly out of the blue or far too easily. She can look controlling. Not wanting others to hold her baby, wanting clothes, diapers, outfits a certain way, the room to smell or look a certain way, a schedule to be organized a specific way. She's Subconsciously trying to control on the outside everything possible to compensate for how overwhelmed and out of control she feels on the inside. She can look overwhelmed. She can look at her kitchen and SEE the mounded trash can, the piles of dirty dishes, the cluttered counters, and the floor needing swept, or look at a list of phone calls to make, an errand to run, laundry to fold, a garden to weed, and it's all so intensely overwhelming that she is powerless to do anything. She's frozen in her mind because it's too much and she physically does not know where to start. So the mess, the laundry, the errands, the phone calls pile up and she sees more of it, it overwhelms her more, she becomes more anxious. She might have panic attacks. She might be frozen on her couch, knowing things NEED to be done, people NEED to be taken care of, but she is powerless to do anything because her mind is blank- it cannot fathom where to start or how to get it done- and all she can do is feed the baby because his cries cut through the fog and she can make a bottle or pull up her shirt on auto-pilot.
   All this happens behind closed doors, because if she dares to force herself out the door she plasters on a socially acceptable face lest others see that she is so overcome and a horrible mother, or she looks to the world like an angry, hair-triggered, unfriendly person, when what she really needs is help.
   This is not the ONLY way PPD can manifest itself. There are many other ways, and we would only ever see them if we looked. Really looked. Practitioners can ask questions to find out how she really is, instead of tabulating a number to decide if she needs a prescription. Friends and family can be there, support, love, be practical, so they're there to be able to notice. Whatever the role, it comes down to connection. Instead of isolating new mothers, nurture them. Ask the questions. Notice the changes. Offer the help that could be the light at the end of her tunnel. Care. Because it's not her relationship(or lack there of) with God. It's not her diet or the amount of sunshine on her skin. It's not her strength or will lacking to 'fake it 'til you make it.' It's a huge physical shift that her body and mind are struggling to endure, and she's powerless until her inner workings align themselves. She's not to be punished for it. She's to be loved, nurtured, protected, and cared for. Reach out.

I beg every one of you who reads this to check out the organization New Mama Project (and here's their Facebook page- NMP ). It is SUCH a good, practical, encouraging resource for anyone and everyone, whether you're the new or soon-to-be mama or you are close to one. 

Calling Up or Calling Out

   Any parent who has been to most playgroups or spends much time on social media can tell you one thing very quickly: The competition is relentless. The "mommy wars" are constant. The drive to out-do others is every where. What about just wanting better? Better for your kids than you had. Better for your kids than what you once provided. Better the next minute that you did the last. I truly believe that's where the mommy wars stem from. With the best of intention to just do BETTER, we somehow fall into an internal trap of self-righteousness, that our way is better so clearly others must want this for their children and to do anything else is less and therefore wrong. The problem with that logic is that we all have different lives with different needs, different spouses, different home, different budgets, and most of all different children. Not one of us can assume we know best for another, because we don't live their lives. We live only our own. We're responsible only for our own children.
   My oldest son has focus issues that greatly affect his education. For our family and my child, medication is not what's best. For my son, a combination of sensory input tools, multiple breaks, a strictly structured school day, and essential oils are best. Your son might need Adderall. I wouldn't know. I'm happy to share about what we do, but I don't assume that's what you, too, need to do.
   My second son has multiple severe allergies and delicate healthy, so he needs to skip some vaccines that could kill him. For my son, not being fully vaccinated is essential for life. Your kid may do just fine with vaccines or you may choose to skip them altogether. I wouldn't know what's the best choice for you and yours. I might share, when applicable, why we do what we do, but I don't assume that's what you, too, need to do.
    My oldest daughter had bad eczema and sensitive skin, so we invested in cloth diapers with all natural fibers. For my daughter, cloth diapers were best, and since we invested in them once we've continued to use them for all our kids. You might use disposable diapers. For your family that might be best. I wouldn't know. I'm happy to share about what we do and how, but I don't assume that's what you, too, need to do.
   And before anyone has a chance to go off on me regarding my imperfections like was done to me on Facebook yesterday(yes, I deleted the post and removed them from my page after that. Clearly they don't know me as a person to rip like that, and I'm not currently hiring unnecessary negativity), let me jump in here with this: I am not a perfect parent! Not even close. Those who actually know me as a person know that. Those trusted by me receive my texts, emails, and PM's when I'm struggling that say, "My children are a mess because I have a horrible attitude and we're all feeding off of each other. Pray for me. I need to change this ASAP." And those women encourage me. They have my back in prayer and in moral-boosting, been-there-done-that love, and suggestions on what works for them when they're in that place. I love these women who back me up while calling me up, crappy parenting choices and all. 
   We know only what is best for our children, and that best is always changing. While I firmly believe every parent believes what they're doing is the best for their child given their situation, I believe equally that even as parents we can always be learning and improving. That doesn't mean competing with anyone except yourself. We all can improve, being better than yesterday, last week, last year, or last decade. Parenting is not a skill that is exempt, but a life-long learning journey.
   The problem with this constant room for improvement is that when it comes to our children we are fierce. Rightfully so. With this fierceness comes defensiveness, and this drive to avoid criticism often causes us to hear something that hasn't been said or see something that is not present. Or we've worked so hard to be the parents we are that it can develop into a self-righteousness about how we parent. After all, memories of our own experiences, hours of research, experience, trial, and error have resulted in how we do what we do, and that makes it very close to our hearts, and that is what stirs up most "mommy wars." I don't believe it's intentional meanness. I think a lot of it is misunderstanding. Honestly, I believe we've become so accustomed to the self-righteousness that our defensiveness flairs so easily when presented with an opposing idea, so we instantly read it as a challenge. A criticism. Hate. Because this life-long passion project of parenting is so fiercely worked on every single day, opposition feels bad. But what if it's not bad? What if it's just different? A different way of looking at the world that has been molded by different experiences, needs, and journeys. What if it's a call UP- a summoning to take hold of and perform at a higher level-  for the betterment of everyone, right where they are in their very own journey, instead of a call OUT that we assume is 'shaming' or criticism? How do we change our own attitudes so that instead of instant defensiveness boiling up we can take the summons and consider the its possible validity in our journey? How do we go from scoffing and instinctively snapping back with the likes of, "Well aren't YOU the perfect parent?" to considering that the summoning came from a heart of desire for the betterment of all parents, children, and families right where they are? How do we stop looking for offense, looking for the next jab coming in the mommy war, and start actually, practically doing this thing call parenthood together, side-by-side, encouraging each other, even when that's a practical summons do better? There's enough real hate and cruelty out there without parents getting nasty with each other because we're on different paths in different journeys and encouraging one another to do the best we can.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I Still Get Surprised

   As a teen and through college, I babysat every moment I could spare away from my parents' farm and my year-round basketball commitments. Into my adulthood, I nannied when I wasn't teaching in an actual classroom setting. Now in my 10th year of being a mother to my own children, I would think with all that experience there's nothing about motherhood that could truly surprise me. I would be wrong.
   Today I took my sweet new guy to his 6-week check-up. It's been more than 3 years since I had one so small, so in preparation for his appointment, I printed off the CDC's recommended vaccine schedule for 2016. I wanted to see what they're recommending now so we could make an informed decision. I you've been reading my blog for long, you know I'm a research nerd. Vaccines are no exception. No, I don't read blogs or opinion pieces, I read VAERS, CDC reports, and scientific data. Facts. In my post, Why Taking Pain Meds Before Vaccines Can Hurt Not Help, I discussed my own family's history of vaccine reactions that led to this research. Because it bears repeating, I am not anti-vaccine. I think many vaccines are a great idea. I think the heavy metals, known carcinogens, and other nonsense put in vaccines as stabilizers are dangerous, and the recommended large number of shots given at once is reckless. So to be prepared for this appointment with our Rainbow today, I printed the CDC's vaccine schedule and my husband and I took a look to decide how we would proceed today. I. Was. Floored. At approximately the 2 months checkup, they recommend vaccinating for eight things. EIGHT!!! And that's not even counting the optional seasonal vaccines like the flu shot. I just could not fathom how the medical professionals could think such a heavy assault of germs injected directly into such a tiny body with an immune system just figuring out how to function outside the world would be a good idea, much less the incredible amount of chemicals and heavy metals at once. Surprised didn't cover what I felt. Terrified is closer.
   Now, I know plenty of babies are vaccinated on this schedule every single day and are just fine. GOOD FOR THEM! Seriously, I am so, so happy for those parents. But there are also a lot of babies who suffer dire consequences daily. Like I briefly described in my post, Walk A Mile, our fourth child was one of them, and he is far from an isolated event. Just take a look at VAERS, a government-run database tracking just a sample of serious adverse vaccine reactions, or ask to read the pamphlet that comes with the vaccine itself. Quite literally, healthy babies in the USA die every single day from vaccine injuries, and for all different reasons. My own nephew suffered profound vaccine injuries before it was discovered he had a very rare mitochondrial disorder and they stopped all vaccines. There is no extensive panel of testing that can screen a newborn for underlying issues that can drastically increase the likelihood of severe reactions to vaccines. It's just impossible, really, and yet the government still mandates vaccines in most states. It strikes me as such a Darwinistic approach to inject ALL and just see who comes out unscathed for the next round.

   I am so thankful for states that recognize parents' rights as valid, so we can make an informed decision either way. I know there are those who are rather extremist and not informed. They truly are few and far between as far as those who question and delay/selectively/refuse vaccinations. Those of us who are educated and informed on the facts tend to be quieter about our stances, because as soon as we do speak up we are immediately lumped into a group of blog-reading, celebrity-worshiping, ignorance-embracing conspiracy theorists. As with any non-mainstream view, society hears the big-mouth squeaky wheels who are striking out and causing a ruckus, not the majority. I am so thankful for pediatric practices(like ours!) who recognize there's validity in questioning the CDC schedule and are completely supportive of doing things a different way.