Monday, December 26, 2011

Note to Self:

When letting your eleven-month-old "air dry", don't get distracted. It might lead to him pooping all over your floor, then walking in it. And then your dog might decide to help by eating it.

Note to Self #2: Don't ever, EVER let your dog lick you.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Fire Making

Here's my Hot Little Hunter making fire...his latest endeavor. He actually got it going! It was pretty cool to watch. He was just rubbing wood together, and voila...fire!




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mean, Mean Rooster

 { I copied and pasted this from my Facebook status from a couple weeks ago because I want it to be forever imprinted in our family history.}
After chasing both The Princess and Little Brother, our huge, white rooster lost his life today. The Hot Contractor heard poor, little, 2yo Little Brother screaming bloody murder outside. He looked out the window, and saw the horror. Grabbed his gun, and told the kids to stay inside. Just as he was about to do the deed, he heard The Princess banging on the window. He turned around to her yelling, "ARE WE GOING TO EAT HIM FOR DINNER?!?!" He smiled and nodded, then shot the rooster, chopped off his head with an axe, de-feathered him, and stuck him in the freezer. I love my husband!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Oh, Deer!

A couple weeks ago, the Hot Contractor shot a deer outside our front door. It was a very exciting, much-anticipated night, as he'd been trying to get a deer for the entire two month deer hunting season that was one day from closing. Here's how it all happened...

We were sitting at the dinner table, about to start eating, when The Hot Contractor had to pee. Instead of using the toilet, like a civilized person, my Hot Little Hunter (I'm considering changing his name to this) decided to go outside to relieve himself. Of course! That's what you do when you're a hunter...always on the lookout! As he was out there, he could hear a deer out in the brush (the sun had just set, so visibility was bad). He came in and grabbed his .30-06 which was mounted above the door (just like Charles Ingalls). Not more than five minutes later, we heard the shot. He'd shot a doe. A big doe.

He spent a couple hours hanging her outside that night, and we left her for a couple days. Then he skinned and processed her. Here are some pics I took of that.







The head (I know, gross, huh?).






Another "head shot".






Here's the Hot Hunter himself.






And the deer skin hanging on the back of our truck. Lovely, isn't it?






Then we had to process the meat. We made a bunch of it into jerky (which lasted like 3.5 days, it was SO GOOD!), saved some steaks and roasts in the freezer, and made the rest into ground meat. We have this handy dandy meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid, which has come in handy a couple times now (the first being when we processed our 500 lbs of beef last year). Here's a pic of him and The Princess, hard at work.






{Please note the pink sparkly princess dress. I love that she's grinding meat while wearing this.}

And now we have a freezer full of organic, grass-fed venison to last us all winter. And it cost us $15.30 (for the deer tag). Love it! Thank you, Hot Hunter!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dilly Cucumbers

I made my first batch of fermented cucumbers this week. I was really skeptical they would taste good, but they do! They're so yummy! Here's a pic.







Thursday, September 1, 2011

DIY Dog Grooming

We decided to start grooming Sugar ourselves. So, we bought a little dog grooming kit on Amazon, and went for it! First, The Princess and I watched in instructional video that came with it. Then, she asked to do the grooming. ;) I let her start by washing Sugar in the sink. Here she is.








Then we put Sugar on the table. Mommy did the hard parts, and The Princess cut out knots, and used the clippers on the easy parts.








The Princess felt *very* important. The whole time, she was talking about how we were Sugar's dog groomers, not her owners. Sugar was at our "dog grooming salon". I love her little imagination.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Zion National Park

 *Note:  this one took me a little while to finish and post, so the dates are a bit off. We left Zion today, so this was written about three days ago.

We arrived at Zion National Park four days ago. We've been having a great time hiking, swimming, relaxing...it's been wonderful.

Last night we decided to take a little bike ride around the campground. Usually the kids ride their bikes while The Hot Contractor and I help them, carry the baby, and walk Sugar. But this time I decided to put Little Brother in our little baby seat on the front of my bike, and take him for a *real* ride. We had a blast, and you could hear a good amount of "wheeee!" going on.

As I pulled into our campsite, I tried to go around a log and a rock, and park the bike by the tree where we'd been keeping it. As I started going through the grass, I realized it was really tall, and I was quickly losing momentum. I wanted to put my foot down to get stability, but I looked, and there was the rock. Since the seat where Little Brother was was in front of me, it was hard to quickly get off, and I ended up taking a spill (and bringing poor Little Brother with me!). I felt two pops in my ankle as I hit the ground. And I couldn't move my ankle, the bike that was on top of me, or help Hysterical Little Brother get out of the seat he was in. The Hot Contractor came running over with the baby in his arms, trying to help one of us, but realizing he only had one arm to do so. The Princess was about 20 feet behind us, and started sobbing when she realized Mommy was hurt. It was a pretty intense moment.

An elderly couple staying in the campsite next to us came over to help. We'd made friends with them, and they took Little Brother and The Princess to their motor home for band-aids, teddy bears, and comfort. The man got me ice, and he and The Hot Contractor helped me get into the trailer so I could nurse Crying Little Brother.

I thought at first my ankle was surely broken. But after I calmed down and reassessed, I thought maybe it was just a bad sprain. Nevertheless, I haven't put any weight on it since.

Today we decided to go into town and look for some veggie oil and do our laundry. We noticed a sign for a farmer's market. There were 20 minutes until it closed, so we quickly hunted it down. I stayed in the car, and The Hot Contractor went to look at all four tables that were there. There was a table where someone was selling homemade goat milk soaps. I had told The Hot Contractor to look for some raw milk, so he thought the goat milk soap people might be good ones to ask. They told us about a family that was there who has a CSA, and has goat milk shares. They happened to have three quarts of fresh, raw, goat milk. Now, I've tried goat milk a few times, and it's always tasted pretty "goaty" to me. But this milk...The Hot Contractor told me at first that it was cow milk, and I believed him. It was so good! We had a little illegal transaction, and obtained the contraband...Um, for our dog....believe it or not, it is illegal to buy raw milk for human consumption in many states, including Utah. You can, however, buy alcohol, cigarettes, and high fructose corn syrup galore, in all 50 states. There's our government for you...keeping us safe and healthy. Safe from that horribly healing and nurturing food called raw milk.

We also got some pastured chicken eggs, which we were very happy about. Those are legal to purchase, by the way.

Then we went around to get some veggie oil. We've become a little discouraged as we've looked in some cities. It seems like everybody already has their "guy" who gets their oil. But we've discovered that the smaller towns are much easier to find used veggie oil in. And today we scored about 60 gallons! We didn't get about 100 gallons more that was available because we didn't have the room for it. We keep calculating the cost savings, considering a gallon of diesel fuel is about $5/ gallon right now. That's like $300 we saved in one afternoon!

After we found the fuel, and the farmer's market, we decided to take the kids out for some ice cream. We were sitting outside the little ice cream shop/ cafe, and this little lady that worked inside saw The Hot Contractor piggyback me to the table, and saw me unwrap the ace bandage from my ankle. She asked The Contractor what happened, and then proceeded to call all the local medical clinics to find out their hours for us (unsolicited, mind you). She came out and gave us the rundown.

While she was talking, there was a man standing nearby listening.  I hadn't noticed him, and he was the only person around besides us. After she left, he said, "Or, you could go to the local Foot and Ankle Institute". Then he started looking through his wallet for a business card. I asked him if he wasn't by chance a doctor who worked at said Institute? He smiled, and said he was.

A few minutes later, he came back and asked me if I'd like him to "save [me] a trip, and check it out now". I said "sure". How cool was he?!?!? I couldn't believe how kind he was! Here he was out with his wife and grandchildren getting ice cream, and he took the time to help me.

So, he did a little exam on my ankle, and unfortunately, told me he thought it might be broken.  No visit saved, but I was thankful to know that it was serious enough to go get x-rays.

*Fast forward....now I'm finishing this post three days later.

Yesterday we went to that Foot and Ankle Institute, and got the ankle checked.  Turns out it's not broken!  It's`just a bad sprain.  And instead of needing to be non-weight-bearing for six weeks (which would be the case if it was broken), he said it actually helps a sprained ankle to walk on it.  Unless it hurts too bad, then I need to back off.  I'm so thankful I don't have to be immobile for six weeks.  I think it would get really old for The Hot Contractor to do all the cooking, cleaning, child carrying, oil gathering and filtering, and care for me for that long.  Plus, that's pretty much through to the end of our travels.  While I won't be going on any long hikes while we're traveling, I can at least go for walks and enjoy some physical activity with my family.  I'm SO thankful for that.  I have this cute little brace to wear, and I'm taking it easy when the ankle hurts.  Oh, and no more bike riding through tall grass! 

We're now on our way to Yellowstone....

Santa Barbara

We had a blast in Santa Barbara.  Had great connections with some old friends, accidentally ran into a really old friend who was running n the beach, saw an old friend we hadn't planned on seeing, and enjoyed spending time with an adopted Grandma for my kiddos.

We parked at my college friend's mom's house in Montecito.  Michele's mom is Grandma age, but doesn't have grand kids yet (she obviously wants to though...and she's really good at being a Grandma!).  My kids often chose hanging out with her in her house over being with mom or dad.  Maybe it was the little hide-and-hunt games she played with them, or all the fun toys she was giving them, or the yummy food that she'd feed them.  I'm sure it was a combination of all of it. Let's just say, I didn't mind taking a break from holding the baby, or having a peaceful moment while The Princess and Little Brother played in her house.  Oh, and she also did all our laundry one day, and even folded it while we were out playing at the zoo. Charlotte, if you're reading this, you're totally adopted!

One fun thing that happened was when I saw my friend Jamie, who lives in LA, running with her husband on the beach.  The Hot Contractor had gone into the little beach restaurant to ask for some veggie oil, while I stayed in the truck with the kids. Here comes Jamie and John running through the parking lot!  We ended up talking about how we're embarking on a cross-country adventure, and running on veggie oil.  Then Jamie says, "You know Dan runs his car on veggie oil? You should talk to him about it!" (Dan is a mutual friend of ours whom I've known since 1995). I happened to still have Dan's cell phone number in my phone, and gave him a call.  Turns out his shop was about five minutes away from where we were, and he invited us over.  While we were there, we told him about our leaking truck (The Hot Contractor had welded something before we left, but missed one tiny spot, and oil was dripping the whole way). So Dan welded it for us.  Thanks, Dan! 

While we were talking to Dan, he told us that he used to get his WVO (waste vegetable oil) at Westmont College (my Alma Matter). A couple days later, as we were having a horribly difficult time finding fuel for our truck, the thought crossed my mind to see if I could get some from Westmont.  So, we drove up there, and visited the dining commons (DC).  I think the lady working there was skeptical of me, and she told me to go to the administration building to ask for permission.  (I couldn't figure out why I'd have to ask them, other than she maybe wanted them to verify that I actually was an alum?).  So, I went straight to the Alumni Office, and told them my story. They were all OVER helping out an alum!  Woo-hoo!  They made phone calls for like ten minutes, trying to reach someone to tell them to give me as much oil as possible.  Ha!  We went back to the DC and filled up our tank with somewhere between 80 and 90 gallons.  And that lady who told me to go to the alumi office?  She was so sweet, she gave us all free lunch in the DC.  I felt like a college student again.  Except that I had three kids and a husband.

We're still running on that oil.  What a LOOT! Thank you Westmont Sodexo, and thank you, Dan, for the idea!

"This Deserves a Blog Post!"

 *Note: I started this post three weeks ago, and am now just finishing it, so the dates may be confusing. Sorry.

About a week ago, we left Oroville, and made our way to Santa Barbara. We anticipated we'd make the seven hour drive in one or two days. We planned on pulling out sometime between 10 am and 12 noon the first day. At 5:00 pm, we finally pulled out (we've since discovered a pattern of grossly underestimating our time needed for departure. At this point, we plan on never being ready to leave before noon).

As we were cruising down the 5 freeway, we mapped out a Rest Stop where we could stop to sleep for the night. At about midnight, we knew we were just 20 miles away. We could make it! Keep those eyelids peeled!!

Then we lost a wheel.

No, not got a flat, like you're thinking. LOST A WHEEL!

Literally.

Yep.

Rolled right off the trailer, into the center of the freeway. The sparks The Hot Contractor saw in the side mirror told him something was wrong. He pulled over quickly.

He went to assess the situation, while I stayed in the truck with our three sleeping cherubs. He realized that the wheel was entirely gone (it was pitch black out, and we had no idea where it had gone). He then discovered that the bolts holding the hub on had completely broken. All five of them.

So, we called AAA for some "Roadside Assistance". We learned that our RV was not covered under our plan (which was not the story I got from the lady at the AAA office just weeks before, but I won't go into that here...). They told us they could recommend a mechanic that could help us. Mark was trying to fix it, but we were on the skinny little shoulder of this major highway, with semi trucks barreling by us. And the missing wheel was on the driver's side, so not so safe.

We called the recommended mechanic, and asked him to come help us. He later told me that the only reason he agreed to getting out of bed at O'-Dark-Thirty, was that he could hear The Hot Contractor talking to me while on the phone with him, so he knew there was a woman, and possibly children, who also needed to be rescued. If it were a single male, he would have left him to fend for himself. Thank goodness The Hot Contractor asked me a question while he was on the phone!

So, this nice man, Kevin came to rescue us. Oh, and the CHP came too. We called 9-1-1 at some point between realizing that AAA wouldn't help us, and hearing about Kevin. They came out to help us get to safety.

Kevin tried to find replacement bolts (we had an extra wheel) for our trailer. He spent until 2:30 am trying figure out something, and hunt for the bolts. But we were out of luck. We had to wait until the morning, when the auto parts store opened.

Kevin did, however, require payment for his services.  One of us had to get in his tow truck with him, and drive about 20 minutes to his shop to pay with a credit card.  I didn't want to sit on the side of the freeway alone with three kids at 2 am, so I told The Hot Contractor I'd rather he stay, and I go.  Let's just say, I had the scariest ride of my life!  Kevin drives an average speed of about 95mph.  He smokes while he does it, and is obviously gluten intolerant, if you know what I mean.  If you don't, then I won't go there right now, but it's gross.

So, we unhitched from the trailer, and left it on the side of I-5. We called the CHP, and told them we had no other option but to leave it there, and to please not tow it away. They told us "they couldn't guarantee anything", but they would make a note of it.

We then called all three motels that were at the nearest exit. The first two were completely booked up. The third one had only smoking rooms available, and one room with a king size mattress. I told them I'd take it!

At 3:00 am, we all snuggled into a big bed together. We even smuggled Sugar in with us. (Shhhhh....)

The next morning, Kevin fixed our wheel, and told us to come back to his shop so he could check a few other things. Thank God for Kevin!! He discovered that one of the brakes on the trailer was not working properly, and one of the wheels was not rotating like it should. It could have been bad if we would have tried to drive it that way! He showed The Hot Contractor how to check the wheels, which he has done diligently since then.

We finally made it to Santa Barbara (only two days behind schedule) the next day.  The Hot Contractor kept saying along the way, "This deserves a blog post!". So, there you have it.

Clairification of Terms

Ok, so apparently there's been some confusion about how many trailers and RVs we're sporting.  In my mind, it all makes sense, but then again, it's my life.  So, for those of you living outside my mind, here goes:

The original "RV", the one we remodeled is a motor home. We no longer live in it, and we left it in CA.  Here's a picture of that:

 

We moved into a 27' Travel Trailer (also technically an "RV"), and bought a diesel truck to pull it. We chose to do this so we could run on veggie oil, and avoid paying $5/ gallon of fuel our entire way across the country. Here's a picture of that:


We have that big black truck.  The Hot Contractor converted it to run on vegetable oil.  We get used oil from restaurants for free, and run on it.  It's wonderful.  We had a hard time finding it while we were still in CA (evidently lots of people in CA do the veggie oil thing, and all the restaurants seem to have "their guy" who comes and picks up their oil.  But now that we're in Podunk Nowhere, we're not having a hard time AT ALL!). We sold all our other vehicles. Here's a picture of the truck:


Then there's another trailer. I think this might be where the confusion comes in.  That flatbed that The Hot Contractor converted to a cargo trailer (it once was a travel trailer in it's past life, but we won't talk about that because that's just confusing!) is the other one.  We left it in CA with all our stuff, and The Hot Contractor will drive out to pick it up in July.  We did this because 1) we wanted to keep the trailer for The Hot Contractor's business, and 2) it was the most cost-efficient way to get all our stuff across the country....running on free fuel and not renting a vehicle to transport our stuff.  It will mean being away from my darling husband for two.whole.weeks (sniff, sniff).  Let's not talk about that.

Here's a picture of the flatbed-turned-cargo-trailer:
Before:

After:

OK, make sense?  I hope so.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Rig

Per Brendan's request, here are some pics of the rig. Kind of Beverly Hillbillies style. But we've been known to sport a lot more hillbilly than this. This is pretty high-class for us. ;-)

The Once-A-Travel-Trailer-Turned-Flatbed-Turned-Cargo Trailer-Trailer. The Hot Contractor just finished building this a couple days ago. It has all our remaining possessions inside. I kinda think we should spray paint "U-Haul" on the side. What do you think? Too W.T.?






Here's what it looked like as a flatbed trailer.






Here's The Beast





The veggie kit just arrived today, so The Hot Contractor will begin installing it tomorrow. I'm not gonna show you a picture of the tailgate. That's because the other day, when I went to the RV store, I was backing up, and backed right into their big ol' sign out front. The guy working there came out laughing and said, "Haha...Everyone does that!". I wasn't laughing when I looked at the tailgate. Oh, well. The sign was fine, by the way.


Here's the Travel Trailer.





Home Sweet Home.

We're hoping to finish the veggie conversion, and some other essential repairs by next Tuesday or Wednesday. We'll then head down to Santa Barbara to visit some friends for a few days.

Liver.

I've had this liver from our steer we butchered last year sitting in my fridge, not knowing what to do with it. We don't love the taste and texture of it, but we know what an amazing, healing, nourishing, sacred food it is, and didn't want to waste it.

So, last week, we were introduced to another family who is doing what we're doing...traveling the country. (All this random info really does apply to my liver story, I promise). They happen to be in the area while we're here, and our local Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader introduced us. She knew we had lots in common, and thought we might enjoy meeting each other. It didn't take us long to hit it off with these people (three days before they were leaving town). We tried to squeeze in as much time together as possible with our new friends. We became Facebook friends, and they read my blog.

The day after they read my blog, we were all hanging out at a park so our kids could roam while we talked. We told them of our liver quandary. Nate, the dad, said, "Why don't you encapsulate it!" (He had read my post about placenta encapsulation). I think he was joking, but maybe half serious too. Anyway, I realized what a brilliant idea he had!! Why hadn't I thought of that???

Needless to say, the liver chunks are in my dehydrator now. :-P

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Jesus Motor

That's what The Hot Contractor likes to call the engine that's in this big ol' truck we bought. It's a 1998, 1-ton, GMC, duly, crew-cab, long-bed, diesel truck. It's a beast! We are going to convert it to veggie oil ASAP.

As I'm typing, we are on the road, traveling from Santa Cruz to Oroville. All our stuff is packed in The Hot Contractor's aunt's barn in Oroville. She needs the barn back, so we're going to pack our stuff on our flat bed trailer, to be picked up by The Hot Contractor once we settle somewhere.

(The story of the flatbed: The Hot Contractor was chopping down a tree for someone on Freecycle after we'd offered his chopping services in exchange for their firewood. They joked with him about taking their moldy old, nasty disgusting, 20-foot travel trailer off their property. He did. Then he spent two days tearing it apart with a hammer and a nail puller. He then built it into a beautiful, 20-foot, flat-bed trailer. Not only is he crafty, but he's oh-so-frugal too. My dream man. And now he's going to convert it into an 8' x 8' x 20' cargo trailer to haul our stuff across the country.)

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog...

This whole process of converting from the motor home to a truck and trailer was a bit more work than we planned on. Let's just say it's been a crazy month! But we made it! Whew! And we're finally on the road. Having this to look forward to has been motivation as we were feeling so overwhelmed.

The last three or four weeks, The Hot Contractor has spent many hours (usually from 10 pm to 2 am) researching veggie oil conversions and bio diesel processors. We went from wanting to convert the engine to veggie oil, to wanting to create a mobile bio diesel processing kit for the back of the truck, to now wanting to do veggie oil again. We've had to weigh the costs of time, space, money, availability, efficiency, and more. Since we plan on this fuel conversion being a permanent thing, we want to do it right and well. I'm so proud of The Hot Contractor for all the work (and time!) he has put into educating himself on this. He's now ready to install the veggie kit once it arrives.

One of the things that was so stressful about this process for us was when we took it to a bio diesel mechanic (who does the conversions). He evaluated our motor, and told The Hot Contractor that we need a new one. He said this one "might last 300 more miles." The compression test showed it was basically running on six out of the eight cylinders. We looked into buying a new engine, having one shipped across the country, buying another truck that had a usable engine, yada yada. None of these options were cheap, and all of them required us to stay in Santa Cruz longer than we wanted to. So, we decided to just go for it on this engine. We're gonna milk every last mile out of this thing! If it breaks down in the middle of the country, we'll deal with it then. We figure it will just add to the adventure. The Hot Contractor likes to call it "The Jesus Motor" because it was given the doomsday prognosis of "maybe going another 300 miles".

And that was 700 miles ago.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Plans!

For the last few weeks, The Hot Contractor and I have been watching gas prices rise, listening to some economists we follow predict that gas will reach $5/ gallon in the next few months, and crunching the numbers on our trip budget. It didn't all add up.

We decided to buy a travel trailer and a diesel truck which we can convert to veggie oil, and sell our motor home. I know, sad to say goodbye to her. After remodeling her, birthing my son in her, and enjoying her cute coziness, it is hard. But we will be ok. ;-)

So last weekend we got a travel trailer and moved into it. And this week we decided on a truck to buy, and are currently in Bakersfield, CA (AKA "the armpit" of California), picking up our new truck. The new travel trailer is not so cute, but it "has good bones" (as my Hot Contractor likes to say), and we are loving the layout (like the dining room table we can all sit down at). We may paint it and fix up a little at some point, but there's no time to do it now.

The Hot Contractor has been researching biodiesel conversion, and learning a ton. We're super excited about using vegetable oil from restaurants to fuel our vehicle.

This plan should allow us to not be held back by the rising fuel costs, and to have a little more play, and a lot less work while on the road. We always like that!

And for an added bonus, this truck holds all five of us (plus our dog Sugar), and will be a great work truck for The Hot Contractor once we get to our destination. We know someone who traveled the country in a converted motor home for months, and spent less than $200 on fuel. I think the fuel cost savings we are going to experience will be amazing.

Our current plan is to leave Santa Cruz in four weeks, go back to Oroville and pack up our belongings for a week, then head out. We will head to Idaho for a couple weeks, after visiting some friends in Southern California.

Can't wait!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Life and Death

I haven't told but one person about this, but eight days ago, my dad passed away from Alzheimer's disease.  I've known this day was coming for about eight years...when I first started realizing there was something going on with his memory.  I've had a long time to prepare for this, and mourn.  To be honest, I've barely cried, or felt much sorrow over his passing.  And part of me feels like I should feel more sad.  I've really been processing my feelings, and if it's ok to be ok with death. I think our culture has a fear of death.  Other cultures accept it.  Mourn, but accept it as a normal process of life.  It's the circle closing. I want to be more like that.

My dad was 74 years old.  It was his time.  His turn.  I feel completely different about my dad's death, than I did two years ago, with my 36-year-old brother's death.  That felt so premature, and unnecessary.  Especially since it was two people who chose to take Andy's life.  It didn't feel like it should be his turn.  I guess ultimately, God knows the number of our days, and knew Andy would die at 36 years old, at the hands of two criminals.  But it still felt so hard to accept.  I don't feel that way this time.

I think that's ok.

I know I did everything I could for my dad while he was alive.  I have no regrets.  I know he's at peace now, and I believe he's in a better place. 

The irony about it all is that my brother died when Little Brother was two weeks old.  And my dad died when Baby Brother was seven days old.  This whole life/death juxtaposition is once again at the forefront of my mind.  And it's ok.  I'm thankful for life, and celebrating it.  And am accepting that lives end, and death is the completion of that cycle.  It really is ok.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Do-It-Yourself Placenta Encapsulation

After encapsulating my placenta for Little Brother, and learning about the benefits of placenta encapsulation, I decided to do it again with Baby Brother's placenta. You can read more about the benefits of placenta encapsulation here. You can find someone in your area to encapsulate your placenta, and pay them a couple hundred dollars to do it for you. Or you can do it yourself. (It's really not that hard, and kinda fun.)

To start, you need
-a placenta that has been kept refrigerated since birth (preferably only a few days old), or frozen and defrosted prior to encapsulating.
-fresh, organic ginger root
-fresh, organic orange or lemon
-fresh, organic jalepeƱo
Wash and cut up all your ingredients.




Then wash your placenta to get the excess blood off. I did mine in the kitchen sink, in a bowl. Here it is still with the umbilical cord attached. Don't use soap! Just warm water is fine.




Then cut off the umbilical cord and the amniotic sac.

Boil the placenta in filtered water with your ingredients for at least 30 minutes. I boiled mine for over an hour.




It will really shrink up after boiling.




Then cut it into pieces not more than 1" thick.




Then you want to dry them. You can do this in your oven at the lowest setting overnight. Just place the pieces on a cookie sheet and bake. If you have a dehydrator, you can use that. I put mine in the dehydrator on the "meat" setting (155*). Then I left it overnight. Here it is in the morning.




Then I ground it up. You can do this in a coffee grinder. I used my Vita-Mix dry blender (the one used to grind flour). If you have something strong that grinds flour, that would work too. I'm pretty sure they would be too much on a standard blender (*says the girl who has killed four blenders*).
Before:




After:




You want it in a fine powder.

Then I got out my little capsule machine. You can find these at health food stores for less than $20. Mine takes size "00" gel caps, and I have some leftover from Little Brother's placenta, so I used those. You can also buy them here




I opened each capsule, and put the long end into each hole on the base, and the short end into each hole on the top.




Then I poured my placenta powder over the base.




Then I used this little green card (it came with my machine) to smooth all the powder into the holes.




I then used the tamper to push the powder down into the capsules.










Then I filled them again, and smoothed the powder out with the green card.
I pressed the top onto the bottom, and here's what I got:




Here's The Princess (she was my helper), proud as can be at our accomplishment. :-)





The main reasons I like placenta encapsulation are:
- Ingesting placenta postpartum really helps (naturally) reduce postpartum depression.

- (I think this is the coolest one!) You can save your unused capsules (freeze them in your freezer) for menopause. They act as a natural hormone replacement therapy in menopause. And it's totally safe because it's your body's own hormones that you're using! I just think that is the coolest, and can't wait to use mine when I go through menopause.

I personally really noticed a difference in my postpartum disposition after doing this with Little Brother's placenta (I didn't know about this after The Princess' birth, so I didn't do it then). Even with my brother being murdered two weeks after Little Brother was born, I managed to not slip into a postpartum depression. Not that I wasn't deeply affected by my brother's death, but I truly believe in my already-vulnerable-state, it would have been much harder for me emotionally if I wasn't taking my placenta everyday.

There you go! Wasn't that fun?!?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Birth of Baby Brother

First, let me apologize to all of you whom I've lied to over the last nine months. It was such a hard thing to do, especially as a person who likes to share exciting things.  Um...and tell the truth.  But I learned quickly that I needed to keep my mouth shut about my plans for how I would birth Baby Brother. Even people I consider "crunchy" or "alternative" reacted to my news with fear. I realized that what I was planning to do was pretty far out of most American women's understanding of how to have a safe and peaceful birth.

I was planning an Unassisted Childbirth.

What is Unassisted Childbirth (UC), you ask? It's a home birth without a home birth midwife in attendance. Or any other medical professional for that matter.

You're probably thinking I'm crazy about now. Let me tell you how I got to this point.

I've wanted to have a home birth for a long time. Since before Little Brother was born. We couldn't afford it then, so we opted to birth at the birthing center where we'd had The Princess. It had been a pleasant experience (we joke that it's like staying at a five star hotel). I was able to have a natural birth with Little Brother, and felt like I had fulfilled my desire to know that I was capable of giving birth without medication.  

This time around, we again interviewed all the home birth midwives in the county (all two of them), and were set on having a home birth. There was one midwife I could maybe see myself connecting with, and we began to consider hiring her. As I was weighing the financial cost, the mediocre connection I'd had with the midwife, and doing some research online on home births, I came across Unassisted Childbirth.  I'd never heard of this!  You mean people actually do this nowadays?!?  In America?!?!  At first, it freaked me out a bit. What if something went wrong? What if...the cord was wrapped around the baby's neck....what if I hemorrhage?...what if I tear?...

In order to have the safest possible birth for me and my baby, I must birth in a hospital, and submit the responsibility of my child's birth to the medical professionals who "know what they're doing", right?

And then I started researching.

I discovered that statistically, it is safer to birth a child at home than in a hospital. I also discovered that America has the second highest hospital birth infant mortality rate in the developed world. So, if I want to increase the chances of my child dying, I would birth in a hospital. This seems like it can't be true. But it is.  Additionally, America has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. That's not a statistic I want to join. 

As The Hot Contractor and I started to read books on Unassisted Childbirth, and Emergency Childbirth in preparation, we felt this amazing feeling of empowerment. We were taking back the responsibility of our birth. Of my body. Of my child's entrance into the world. I was not going to be told to lay flat on my back (the most uncomfortable and WORST position to give birth in). I was not going to be told that my long labor had a medical term of "Failure to Progress", and that I therefore needed a C-section.  Before medical intervention, women often had labors that lasted three or four days.  They also were often pregnant for more than 40 weeks.  Left to nature, forty-three or forty-four weeks is not an uncommon length of pregnancy. And I didn't want to be told that going past my due date required that I have an induction.

I wanted to trust myself.  My body.  God.  He made my body capable of doing this.  If not, then how did people for centuries get here?  If so, then, why was I not trusting Him?

Birth itself is not inherently dangerous.  How is it that God can create systems in our body that work so perfectly....the respiratory system, the digestive system.  He can make it possible that a sperm and an egg can create a person, but had no good plan for how to get that person out?  I just can't believe that.  

Along the way in our journey to discover UC, The Hot Contractor and I started to feel like this was something that should be done with just us two present.  This whole pregnancy began as an intimate expression of our love, and we wanted to finish it in that same intimate way....a culmination of the process we had been through over these last nine months.  We also wanted the most peaceful experience for our child to be brought into the world.  I didn't want strangers telling me what to do, or sweeping my child away to check him for something (most of which is entirely unnecessary).  The more I learned, the more I wanted to be in control of my birth experience, and not submit myself, or my child, to unnecessary medical intervention.  

I also learned that the reason so many women experience pain is because of things that intervene in our birth experiences.  These can be internal (fear), or external (strangers present, a sterile hospital environment, medical interventions, etc.).  I figured if I didn't put myself in an environment that was uncomfortable, but made the most peaceful, comfortable place possible, then at least I was eliminating the external factor.  Now to work on the internal: fear.  I'll be honest, I have had a lot of fear about childbirth in the past.  I was terrified with my first pregnancy, not knowing what to expect.  With my second pregnancy, I knew what to expect, but I was pretty afraid to do it naturally (which I was committed to after researching the effects of medicated births on an infant).  I did it, but experienced a lot of pain (probably because of my high level of fear).  This time, I wanted to let go of my fear.  I wasn't naive enough to think that I would have a completely painless birth, but I did think I would manage it much better having less fear.  And going in, I was pretty fearless.  I knew that fear would make my body have a fight or flight reaction, and that blood would stop flowing to my uterus, which would, in turn, cause me to have pain. I didn't want that. 

The Hot Contractor and I started watching UC birth videos on YouTube (I dare you to do it).  This one made me completely convinced that this whole "pain free childbirth" thing was not made up!  It's really possible!  (Warning...there is nudity). We also let our kids watch the videos.  The Princess became a bit obsessed with watching birth videos for about a month leading up to Baby Brother's birth.  At one point, I asked her if she wanted to watch Baby Brother be born.  She said she didn't. 

So, ya, maybe people have gotten here for centuries, but also, "a lot more babies used to die"...one of the responses people reacted to our news with.  But, as Laura Shanley writes about, there were reasons for this. Poverty is one of them....poor living conditions, lack of food.  If a woman is not well-nourished, she will have a harder time giving birth.  There is also documentation that there are many tribes around the world where women give birth painlessly, quickly, and without incident.  In developed countries, 100 years ago, women were corseted from early adolescence.  This caused them to have narrow pelvic bones, and therefore, pain in childbirth.  All this to say that there were reasons that babies used to die more.  And they aren't because we now have hospitals, and we didn't before. 

Here are some fears/reactions/responses I heard from the few people I told about my UC early on.  And here are the things I had learned that diminished my fears:

What if you tear?
 Well, first of all, without a medical professional telling me when I have to push (which happened with my first two births, when I tore), I knew if I just let my body do what it needed to do, and push when I felt ready to push, I'd have a lot less chance of tearing.  It turns out, during this birth, that's what I did.  And I didn't tear. If I had torn, I learned that laying with my legs together (or just not opening them more than necessary) for a few days would heal any tears I had.  I'm laying low, and being very sensitive to my body's signals. I never knew how dilated or progressed I was, and didn't care to learn how to check myself because I just wanted to pay attention to my body, and let it tell me when it was ready.  And it worked! 

What if the baby's cord is around the neck? 
About 30% of babies are born with the cord around the neck (including Baby Brother).  It is not a medical emergency, contrary to popular belief.  Babies are getting their oxygen from the cord, but unless it is tied tightly around the neck (two or three times, or is an unusually short cord), it won't cut off the blood flow to the baby.  Once the baby is out, it can be easily undone. And at that point, the baby starts breathing, and getting oxygen that way, so it's not important. 

What if you hemorrhage?
I'll admit it, this was the thing I had the hardest time getting over my fear of.  I knew that if I bled more than two cups, I should go to the hospital. But knowing what two cups of blood looked like was hard.  I also knew that if I felt faint or dizzy, or passed out, that I should be taken to the hospital immediately.  I armed myself with every natural anti-hemorrhaging tool possible.  Herbs, homeopathy, eating a chunk of my placenta, breast feeding immediately after birth, not letting anyone pull on the placenta to get it out, but just letting it come out naturally...   I still had a fear of leaving my children motherless.  I prayed a lot about this, and really just had to let it go.  People can hemorrhage and die for up to two weeks after they give birth.  I know that I must just be really careful, give my body a break, and not push it too much.  So far, so good.  I'm still here.  The only things they would have done at the hospital are give me a shot of Pitocin (which I tried to acquire unsuccessfully), or a blood transfusion.  I decided that this risk was not worth going to a hospital or birthing center to give birth. Percentage-wise, hemorrhaging is not a high risk.  And most women who die from hemorrhaging die after bleeding for hours...not minutes.  If bleeding was an issue, we'd go in as soon as we knew, and do all we could to stop it.  Plus, being in a hospital doesn't mean I wouldn't die anyway if I hemorrhaged.  There's still a chance of that happening. 

Plans

While we were still living in Oroville, The Hot Contractor and I planned to UC in the bedroom at the house we were at.  We bought a large pool for birthing, and were set.  Then we decided to hit the road in the RV before the birth, so that threw a little curve-ball into the situation. Plan-A was over.  On to Plan B...

We decided to bring the pool with us, and set it up under the awning of the RV.  We brought an outdoor rug for comfort on our feet, some twinkle lights to hang on the awning, a wood stove for heat and to boil water for the pool, a large stock of firewood.  We were set!  I mean, the property where we were planning on staying is a secluded, 25-acre wooded property.  We'd be off in some corner of the property, birthing in private, right?

Then we arrived on Thanksgiving day.  The landlord told us where he wanted us to park: right in front of his 84-year-old, blind mother's house.  Like two feet from her bedroom window.  Because her eyesight is lacking, her hearing is really good!  I just couldn't subject this poor woman to my laboring moans.  Surely she'd hear them, and I'm not sure how she'd react. So, we had to come up with Plan C. 

My in-laws live about two miles from where we have the RV parked.  They have a large bathtub in their master bedroom, and we thought this might be a good option.  So, we let them in on our secret plan to UC, and asked if we could birth at their house.  They were really supportive, and open to the idea.  So, Plan C was a go!

Then a few days later, they started feeling nervous that their landlord might find out and evict them.  They've had some issues with their landlord, and didn't want to push the envelope. We understood.  So, we moved on to Plan D.

We decided to have our birth at a resort just a few miles from where we're staying.  It's a beautiful, beachfront resort with spa suites that have huge, two-person tubs.  Oh, and ocean views.   I went and toured the spa suites, and was SO excited about giving birth there!  I'd read a few stories online of other mamas who'd birthed in hotels when they couldn't, or didn't want to birth at home.  And if this hotel was booked the night I went into labor, I had three other ones in line that had large tubs.  (Did I mention that birthing in water was very important to me?  I believe it's God's epidural, being in water.  I did it with Little Brother's birth, and felt sooo much better laboring that way).

Then, I went into labor on New Years Eve.  We called all the hotels on our list, and every.single.one. of them was sold out.  Darnit!  What was I going to do?  We thought about our options at this point.  The RV, or the birthing center.  After going through this whole process over the last nine months, there was just no way I could bring myself to going to the birthing center.  So, the RV it was!

Baby Brother's Arrival

I woke up from contractions at about 1:00 in the morning on January 1st (1-1-11).  I waited until I was sure I was in labor, then got up to tell The Hot Contractor.  He was still up watching movies (poor guy didn't get any sleep that night), and I told him I was pretty sure I was in labor.  He called his mom to come over and sleep with the kids.  Then he got the bed ready with plastic under the sheet, then towels, and puppy pads on top.  I labored around while doing things between contractions...lighting candles, getting my herbs and homeopathy out and ready...etc.  Here's me laboring.

 Ya, not my most glamorous moment, but this is real life.

The kids and grandma woke up about 6:00. Things were starting to get more intense for me.  Little Brother was really wanting mama snuggles (typical morning thing), so I leaned on their loft with each contraction, and held hands with kiddos between contractions.  I was really surprised that they were not phased by my laboring moans.  I really thought they'd be scared, or cry, or want mommy.  Nothing of the sort.  They watched, and asked Daddy why I was making those noises. We told them that I wasn't hurt, and that it was how Baby Brother was coming out.  They were so excited to meet their Baby Brother!


Sometime in the seven o'clock hour, I got on the bed, on all fours.  This was the best position to be in when I birthed Little Brother, so I thought it'd be great.  It wasn't. I tried lots of different positions, and just went with what felt the most comfortable.  Sometimes that was laying on my left side with my leg up in the air.  Sometimes it was standing up and leaning hard on my left hip. Not sure why it felt better on the left, other than there was more room on my left side.  Baby Brother had been on my right side my whole pregnancy, and I thought maybe he still was.  I was in transition for about 45 minutes.  Eventually, I felt like I needed to get on my hands and knees.  So I did.  I started feeling the urge to push, so I went with it.  The whole time, I was really working on letting go of my fears.  My mantra was that "God made my body to do this.  My body knows how to do this.  I was created to do this."  I knew I could do this.  It definitely wasn't pain free, but before I hit transition, it was pretty painless.  It was intense, but not painful.  Transition,on the other hand, was painful.


Once I started pushing, it was only five or ten minutes before Baby Brother was out.  I remember asking The Hot Contractor if he could see anything, and he said "no".  Then, at the next contraction, he said, "you totally just opened up!"  The Princess was standing on his right, and Little Brother was on his left.  All three of them were eagerly awaiting the first glimpse of our newest family member.  One more contraction, and The Hot Contractor said, "I see his head!"  I went with the urge to push (I remembered reading in the Unassisted Childbirth book to "do nothing", and your body will do what it needs to do...so I kept telling myself to "do nothing".).  My body pushed hard, and his head popped out.  The Hot Contractor (my AMAZING midhusband) was talking to me, telling me what he could see, that Baby Brother was ok, that his head was out, but his chin was still in there a little.  My body pushed again, and his head came out all the way.  A couple more pushes, and his body slid out, into his Daddy's arms.  The Princess, Little Brother, and The Hot Contractor held him there while I turned over to lay down and hold him. A few minutes later, the placenta came out, and we were all in Newborn Heaven. 

Here's The Princess holding him, just a few minutes old.  

 Here's the little angel. 
The Princess didn't want to get out of bed.  She literally stayed in bed with me and Baby Brother almost all day.  It was so sweet.  She cried when it was Mommy's turn to hold Baby Brother because she didn't want to give him up. 

 Little Brother touching "baby". 
I am so thankful that we ended up with Plan E.  Looking back, I see that it was the best plan all along.  My kids got to be there delivering their brother.  We labored listening to rain by candlelight, eating yummy food, drinking tea...in the comfort of our own home (um, RV).  I didn't need the water (although, it would have been nice, I'm sure).  My kids weren't freaked out by watching (something I was really worried about), and Baby Brother entered the world without a glitch, completely naturally and safely.  I'm sure he sensed the peace that his family had when he was born, and hopefully (despite the difficult descent, I'm sure), was at peace too.

Welcome Baby Brother! Named after my brother who died in 2009. 
Born on 1/1/11 at 8:22 am.
10 lb, 7 oz (we bought a baby scale on eBay so that we could weigh him...I know you were wondering how we knew how much he weighed).
22" long.

And congratulations if you read this whole blog!  Whew!

(For a cool documentary on hospital and home births in America, check out The Business of Being Born. It was done by Ricky Lake.)

UPDATE! In July 2012, I was interviewed on the radio show, Preggie Pals about my UC.  You can hear the interview here.