Category Archives: Natural Living

Charlotte’s return

Eight years ago, we had very different lives. We spent a lot of money on somewhat ridiculous things because we both had good jobs and no kids. Splurges and impulse buys were quite normal.

I was a journalist working as an assignment editor at the local NBC affiliate. The job title sounds important, exciting and loftier than it really was, I was kind of at the bottom of the newsroom food chain. I was supposed to work out the photog shooting schedule making sure we had photogs to cover every story we needed to cover for the day. I also needed to keep tabs on court cases and new developments in past stories we had covered. It required a lot of organization. Sometimes I had to coordinate getting film footage from national and regional affiliates for really big stories. I got yelled at a lot. I made a lot of mistakes.

Sometimes I had to record raw footage that was beamed to our newsroom to be edited for a story later that day. One time there was a really bad car crash involving some nursing students on a bad road between here and a smaller town. It was very gruesome. I lost it. I wrote about workaholics, trauma and getting yelled at in the newsroom on my blog and I got fired. Some people still talk about me there and miss me and think I was really great. They also asked me back a couple years later, but I was pregnant and very sick and had pretty much already determined to do this job full time instead.

I know people like to harpoon the media and say how awful they are especially during tragedies like the most recent one our country faced. Just remember that reporter is a person too. That reporter, like the rescue workers, was likely one of the first people on the scene and likely witnessed some really awful stuff that didn’t make it onto public television. Unlike the rescue workers and victims, however, that reporter has likely not received any trauma counseling.

Anyway that was a bit of a tangent and not really where I meant to go with this post that I’ve been writing up in my head for three weeks now!

Every Friday during the noon news hour, our station featured a pet that was available for adoption at the SPCA. The head of the SPCA would come in with the pets and us newsroom people got to play with the pets before they got on camera.

My mom was an animal lover and she passed that down to me. So every week this segment just got me. My best friend had beagles and the new crossbreed “puggle” (pug beagle) had been all the talk of the newsroom. Then Chuck brought one in and I fell in love. I somehow convinced Stephen that we needed this dog and that Saturday when we went down to the SPCA he outbid everyone else for her to make me happy. The amount we paid was just kind of ridiculous for an SPCA mutt (we could have purchased a papered pure bred puppy), but the SPCA is really great and we still feel it was for a good cause (the wide eyes of the clerk as she looked over the bids!).

Charlotte was our first baby. These pictures I still have up in our home say it all:

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So when we made the decision to move to Thousand Oaks and we had to give up our dogs (by then we had two, the second one a beagle acquired in the exact same circumstances which prompted Stephen to ban me from watching “Pet of the Week” hahaha), I was kind of heartbroken. They were part of our family, but we were also in that new baby phase where the pets are just annoying.

I tried a few avenues to find them homes including posting on the yahoo homeschool group I was a part of. One of the moms on there had some relatives that could take them separately. I asked for updates from time to time and the first year we even received a Christmas card and pictures of our beagle, Baxter, in his new life of luxury including his own spot in the couple’s RV on trips to the coast.

Just before Christmas, the mom that had helped me place them in new homes contacted me. Charlotte’s family was moving to the coast and could not take her with them. She wanted to let me know and see if I could help find her a new home. I tried asking around, but no one responded. I was afraid about asking our landlord even though she’s really great because our lease says no pets and we feel like we are getting a good deal on this place and don’t want to push our luck.

I just couldn’t stop thinking about Charlotte though and so one day after we returned from holiday travels, I got brave and decided to ask and it was no problem! We didn’t even have to do a pet deposit. Then I had to convince Stephen again and by that evening we decided to do it. The next morning on their way over to their new home on the coast, her owners brought her by.

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At first she was a little worried and whined at the door after they left, but then Stephen remembered she had a thing for tennis balls, got one out, and after that something seemed to click and she was fine.

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Jillian really loves her. Charlotte listens to and likes her the most. The boys are more unpredictable and Charlotte is much more wary of them. We’ve had a couple growling incidents when they’ve cornered her or chase her. For the most part it seems to be working out. Stephen has been having some allergy issues though so we’re trying to figure that out.

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She came back to us a little more pudgy. We’ve been working on it. I switched her to a raw diet, also feeding much less, we’ve gone on walks nearly every day and and in three weeks she’s already lost 2lbs!

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About a week after we got her back, my sister was leaving our house on her way to work and both our boys fell and got hurt at the same time. The front door was left open and a little while after everything calmed down I realized she was gone. My heart sank. I panicked. I ran up and down our street calling for her, nearly in tears. Jillian was a wreck. We live near a very fast and busy intersection and I was so very worried. I started loading the kids into the car and then she came running into our garage. Such relief.

Ethan loves to nap and snuggle with her and it just melts my heart even though it happens almost every single day. We were especially grateful for Charlotte snuggles and nap time that particular day.

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Henry’s last breastmilk coma

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A chapter of my life closed, nearly 4 years of my life. Please forgive me for not being the least bit sad. I am so ready to move on thankyouverymuch. Time to bust out the push-up bras. Ha!

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In the garden

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My little garden has become sad and neglected the last few months. It seems slightly silly to maintain it, not knowing how much longer it is to be ours and when it isn’t even really ours to begin with.

But out to the garden we went anyway. The kids needed the out of doors and the dandelions were almost as tall as me.

I found beauty still existed and even a few welcome plants that had seeded themselves (cilantro, Marigolds).

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Gardening with little ones is equal parts joy and frustration. Joy in watching them have fun, explore and learn. Frustration when they rip out plants they shouldn’t, dig holes where they shouldn’t, fight with each other over gardening tools, blow dandelion seeds over the freshly cleared beds, pour dirt and rocks all over the cement patio and steps, whack you with a stick they insist on carrying around to do everything with, etc. (I may have gotten a little carried away with the frustration listing).

Funny vignettes from our couple hours in the garden:

Me: Can you get Sparrow a toy to play with?
Bean: I think Sparrow wants some dirt too.
Me: I think not.
Bean: I think he does. Sparrow would like dirt.
Me: I said no.
Bean: Here is some dirt, Sparrow.

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“Holy holy bugs are nice. They like to crawl on people and they don’t bite.”

They can both say “Rolly-poley” just fine, but for some reason they call them “holy holy bugs”. Cracked me up.

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Sprout: “Hi bug! Come here bug!”
Bean (shouts): “No! You can’t hug the bugs!”
Sprout (in tears, he has a flair for the dramatic): “Whaaah! Sister says no hug bugs! Whaaah!!”
Me: “Well, she could have said it much more nicely to you, but she’s right. That is a honey bee and it will try to sting you if you try to hug it. I’m sorry little guy.”

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Bean: “Can I help you water?”
Me: “No. You’ve already made enough of a mess today and you always just try to make mud when I let you water.”
Bean: “But I just want some water!”
Me: “I said no.”
Bean: “I don’t want it to make mud.”
Me: “Yes you do. I know you.”
Bean: “Ok, well I really need some water because my hands are a little bit dirty.”
Me: “If your hands are dirty, go wash them at the sink.”
Bean: “I think you should give me some water so I can make a puddle for our holy holy bugs.”
Me: “See, I knew it. You want to make a muddy mess.”
Bean: “Well, I just need some water!”
Me: “Today the water is for watering the plants only.”

“Don’t step in my puddle.”
“Wait how did you get water? I thought I said no.”
“No! Sprout don’t stand in my puddle.”
“Wait? Your puddle? Bean! Did you pee on the ground right there?”
“It’s only a little bit. It’s outside. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“Bean! Gross! You know to use the potty! You are supposed to go inside and go.”
“It’s OK. It’s just a little bit outside.”
“No. It’s not OK to just pee wherever you want!”
“Why?”
“Because pee belongs in the potty.”
“But why does it belong in the potty?”

(Never thought I’d have to have a conversation like this with my daughter. Boys, yes, but not my little girl!)

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Sparrow, my little foodie baby

The longer I parent, I find myself adapting and reworking various parenting practices depending on the situation or kid and what it/they requires.

When I was pregnant with Bean, I was so dogmatic about attachment parenting and co-sleeping. I thought every practice was the holy grail of right parenting. And then several things did not work for our family at all.

And then Sprout came along and I found a whole different kid requiring a whole different way of parenting in some ways.

So slowly over the last 3 1/2 years the dogma has been chipped away at.

Bean is a very sensitive kid in many ways. On everything from her food allergies early on to disciplining her (with her, a certain tone or pitch can put her in tears) to having everything just right to certain textures of foods and spices.

Sprout is very independent and physical and mischievous. Disciplining him requires physical intervention. We have to go to him, make him stop, put him in time out, etc. and a simple “no” or “stop” never seems to have much of an effect.

Their differences also have come out in their eating. Bean has always been very picky and particular about her food. We did the traditional method of baby feeding with her. Around five months when she started watching our every bite at meal times and reaching for our food, I started her on rice cereal and went on to the various puréed foods, then puffs and yogurt melts, etc. Then there was a month where the only food I could get her to eat were yogurt melts, puffs, freeze dried fruit and the chicken and star pasta toddler soup from Earth’s Best. And she’s been just as picky ever since. Getting her to eat and try new foods is still almost always a challenge.

With Sprout I had read a little about baby led weaning where you just feed the baby what you are having once they show an interest in your food without puréed foods or rice cereal. It seemed like the best fit for Mr. Independent. Even though he had teeth, he had a very strong gag reflex and, I now believe, some pretty serious reflux problems. I even tried puréed foods a few times and he would have trouble with those. So it was probably not until around about 10 months old that he actually started eating solid foods.

And Sparrow is just as different from his siblings. Physically, he doesn’t seem as coordinated as I remember his siblings being at this age, especially compared to Sprout. He doesn’t quite sit up very well, he still has very jerky, flailing arm movements like a newborn, he just barely started rolling over, etc. He has started to seem more observant and interested in us and what is going on around him the last few weeks. I honestly didn’t really think he was at all interested in food and wouldn’t be for quite awhile based on these observations, and then he chomped down on one of my sweet potato fries and started sucking food off my fingers.

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So with Sparrow I’m doing a bit of traditional meets baby led weaning. He clearly wants and likes our food, but his lack of coordination is not conducive to just throwing chunks of avocado or banana on a tray and letting him pick them up to gnaw on. I mash a lot of soft stuff like that with my fingers and he will grab my hand, open his mouth and put it in.

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I am also doing some puréed foods. But not really in the traditional way of just one food at a time or rice cereal. He eats pretty much the same stuff as what we are eating. Of all our kids, Sparrow certainly seems to be the most enthusiastic about food and eating. He gets so excited and giggling during meals sometimes.

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One morning we had oatmeal and smoothies. So for Sparrow I took a little cooked oats, raisins and pears and blended that with a little spinach to hide some greens in easily. He loved it.

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I made lentil soup the other night with root vegetables and grilled sausage. So I just took a portion out for Sparrow and blended it up in the VitaMix. Another win for our little foodie.

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This weekend we went down to Disneyland again. So since I knew I would not have my blender or be able to transport my perishable baby food delicacies, we wound up picking up a few jars at the Whole Foods in Tustin. What other baby gets this excited and happy to eat mashed peas?

His attitude is so great. It makes me look forward to feeding him. Trying new things and eating is so fun for him!

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Bean on factory farm feed lots

“If the fence is too small, then the animals don’t have enough room to move around. Then they can’t get the grass they’re supposed to eat because they stomp on it. Their pee-pee and poo-poo goes into the ground and makes it yucky and muddy. So you have to make the fences bigger and give the animals grass, it’s what they’re supposed to eat.”

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Backyard chickens and basketball

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Yesterday I took the kids to the park for a bit and overheard the following while passing by the basketball courts where two very basketball looking dudes were playing a game…

P1: Oh yeah, we got more chickens, six little ones.
P2: What’s the deal with that anyway, do you guys eat eggs every morning or what?
P1: Yep. Every morning. Sometimes for lunch. Plus, we treat ours better than the hens that lay eggs for the stores. They get to run around in our backyard and eat what they’re supposed to.

I mean, if two basketball dudes are talking about this sort of thing, I hope we’re on the cusp of major change.

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Food journey and values update

A little over a year ago, I did a three part series here on the blog about the role food played in my life growing up and the changes I had made over the years to the way we ate based on books and research I had read.

Part 1: Childhood

Part 2: Teens and Young-Adulthood

Part 3: Up to the then present

I think I felt kind of confident at the time that where we were at was a good place and I didn’t foresee any more major changes in the future. I felt pretty educated about the subject. I was also just kind of “done” on the subject of food research. It can be exhausting looking into all of the information and following rabbit trails. I knew what I knew and I was good with what I knew. I trusted some places and brands over others. I felt I was doing my best with the knowledge, budget, family support, etc. that I had.

Well, a year makes a difference. News stories are written. New books are recommended and written. Things get more complicated. Husbands read books of their own. And blissful ignorance isn’t good enough anymore at some point.

So I sort of feel like now this will be an ever changing and expanding storyline in my life. As I find out more things my values are going to change. There is a Maya Angelou quote, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

So, enough changes have taken place recently in our diet and lives that I have more to share.

The biggest impact on our lives was that Stephen read The Omnivore’s Dilema by Michael Pollan and I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffron Foer.

There have also been numerous articles in various publications over the last year about the FDA, USDA, our country’s food system, farming, pesticides, conglomerates like Monsanto, etc. that have caught our attention and made us think.

In some ways, writing about this seems especially hard because we still don’t have it all figured out. I also don’t want to offend people or make them think that what they are doing isn’t good enough because it is a subject I can get pretty fired up about. Nor do I want to offend those we eat with in our circle of friends and family that may not either share our same values or for whatever reason can’t make the changes that we have made due to their budget or dietary needs, etc. So forgive me if I ramble or don’t seem to have it all together quite yet.

So a year ago we got our dairy, meat and eggs from Trader Joe’s. We joined back up with the CSA Abundant Harvest for our produce. We still ate out at places that were above McDonald’s, but didn’t claim to source their ingredients from organic farms or even any place different than where ever it is that McDonald’s sources their ingredients from. We ate processed food from time to time (snacks mostly), but I did try/have to make a lot of things from scratch due to the kids’ food allergies. We avoided soy (except occasionally in the fermented form of soy sauce) due to things I’d read about phytoestrogens in soy products. We avoided non-traditional fats/oils and instead used mostly real butter and olive oil. We sometimes splurged for grass fed beef, but I had a hard time learning how to cook it and it was expensive so we mostly just got whatever was on sale and marked “organic” at Trader Joe’s. We trusted Trader Joe’s. We trusted labels like “organic” and “free range.” We made little effort beyond the more “superior” grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to find out where our food came from.

And that last line is where all the change comes into our lives. After reading the books we did, neither of us could be comfortable ever again just walking into a grocery store and blindly trusting. We wanted to know.

Google searches led to reports and news articles and farm websites that told us (or went to great efforts to keep secret) where our food was coming from and we didn’t like everything that we found out.

Labels like organic now mean nothing to us if the cows/chickens/hogs are fed the same “organic” non-traditional diet (in other words “organic” corn and soy) as their non-organic counterparts. Or if they are kept in identical claustrophobic factory conditions with a small door where they are allowed to access outdoors, but don’t because they are too sick/obese/etc to be able to do so.

We started eating way less meat/eggs/dairy. We only get meat/eggs/dairy from places that we can find more about and trust that the animals are treated decently, given food they are traditionally supposed to eat and space/lifestyle/habitat/etc. that they are traditionally supposed to be in. Mostly that means we source these things either through our CSA via add-ons to our weekly box (I just discovered they have a whole series of videos about each of the farms), our local farmer’s markets and sometimes Whole Foods carries “local” stuff (an example is that I discovered the chicken our CSA sells from a family farm in Sanger, CA is available at Whole Foods and about $2-3 cheaper).

We have like three places we feel OK about eating out at. We are trying to figure how to eat when we are in social situations with people that don’t eat like us and for whom this is of no concern. It’s daunting sometimes. But I think it’s worth it. I think the changes we are making send a message and have an impact even if it is a fairly small one.

If you want to know more, feel free to comment and ask questions.

And one more thing… Chicken, people… Just Google “chicken fecal soup” and tell me you can be comfortable walking into any grocery store and buying a package of “organic” chicken again (hint, make sure your chicken package says 0% additional moisture, you are welcome).

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