Thursday, October 4, 2012

The First Presidential Debate of 2012

I'm not sure this goes in a mommy and daddy blog, but it is something of a passion of mine.  Also, being parents, it's important to us to take an interest in the future of our country.

I have been on record as saying that I'm not voting for either party this election, because I don't believe either party actually has a good solution.  I'm still strongly advocating for and promoting Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party as the Candidate I'm voting for.  He is on the ballot in 47 states and is fighting lawsuits to get him on the ballot in the remaining 3 states.  He can technically win the election and I feel should be allowed on to the debate stage.  There is a whole history of the Commission of Presidential Debates and how they are jointly sponsored by the Republican and Democratic parties and it is in their interest to keep third parties out.  That's not what I'm here to talk about, but I would encourage you to do some digging on your own and see how the system is rigged.  Go see that we have more than two choices and look to see what you can do about it.  As long as Americans view that they can only identify with one of two teams then those teams will move further and further apart and we that are in the middle will feel increasingly isolated from both parties.  I'm trying to leave all of that behind and look at this debate objectively as if these were my only two choices and to ask the questions of what really happened and what did they say?

I suppose first I must paint a picture of my debate experience.  I got up yesterday at 6:30 AM like usual, took a shower, got dressed and got in my car, but instead of heading to the office I drove to Tulsa.  I had some work to do in our Tulsa office and Oklahoma City office.  I got to Tulsa a little after Noon and was there working on the systems until about two.  I then drove down to "The City" (I don't know if they really call it that in Oklahoma but it makes me laugh to myself), arrived there around 4:00 or so and did some work in the office for about an hour.  I then met my sister and her person for dinner and we had a good chat.  I ended up heading home around 7:00.  I'm saying all this to say that it had been a very long day with a lot of monotonous driving and I was in the car for the entire debate.  So, I listened to the whole thing from start to finish.  I had to jump around AM stations until I got past Ardmore, then I could pick up NPR in FM and listened to that the rest of the way in.  I was wide awake and engaged for the whole thing.  Everything they said held my attention and kept me interested (as much as you can pay attention to something while simultaneously driving carefully).

I didn't get the experience of seeing the debaters.  From what I hear, though, Obama seemed to just "be there" and Romney looked like he wanted to be there and was excited to get the chance.   The picture I've had painted for me is that Obama seemed annoyed at the nuisance of having to debate.  I can't speak to personal experience of that, but  I just wanted to throw that out there.  On some level it makes sense.  I mean, by all account Romney has spent every spare moment for the past 3 weeks preparing and  practicing for this moment.  I would hope that he was good.  I think on the Ticket (yes, sports radio) they pointed out that Romney's full time job is to try to win this election, whereas Obama's full time job is to be The President.   For Obama it very much was something that he had to take time out of his schedule to do.  I know he gets a lot of flack because he golfs a lot and does various other things that make it seem like he's "not there," but I'm pretty sure during all of his activities he's plugged into what's going on and decisions that need to be made.  Sometimes the best thing you can do for a tough decision is to take some time out and go reflect on it while doing something that doesn't require a ton of mental energy.  So, I see why he might feel burdened by having to debate, however I feel that letting that show was a mistake.  The debates are dog and pony show and you have to bring your A-game even if you feel that you have the election in the bag (as the polls are starting to show that he might).

Both candidates threw out a lot of numbers, figures and "facts."  Romney spent a lot of time saying that he didn't approve of a $5 Trillion tax break.  Obama was trying to say something along the lines of we have a $1 trillion deficit and this (f'n) guy (read that in a Bronx accent) wants to cut revenue by $5 trillion making a $6 trillion deficit.  That's a mathematical ghost game.  The actual number is more like $500 million/yr which is still a lot but is obviously easier to balance than $5 trillion/yr.  The thing is the budget is a 10 year budget which is where the number comes from ($500 million * 10 = $5 trillion).

Amazingly enough, both candidates actually agreed 100% on WHAT needed to be done, just now HOW to do it.  Romney gets knocked a lot for not bringing specifics to the table, and you know what? I've been one of those people.  However he said something last night that many people seemed to have glossed over but which made me completely rethink how I look at him.  I think it was when he was being asked about how he would work in a bipartisan manner to get his agendas accomplished.  Actually I may be stringing together two different things he said but that tie into the same idea.  If that's the case, maybe more people would have caught on to it if he had said them at the same time.  He said (paraphrasing) that when he was Governor he would, every Monday, sit down with the leaders of both parties and have an open discussion about the issues the state faced and brainstorm on ways to fix them.  He also said at some point that the way he Governed was to come up with the principles of what he wanted done and would convey those to the legislature and let them hash out the specifics on how to get it done.  I think that right there is the key to understanding Romney and his "lack of a plan."

I would use the analogy that Romney is a hands off CEO whereas Barack Obama is more of a micromanager. We've seen that President Obama's way of getting things done is to listen to what both sides have to say and construct a plan with his advisers and his party leaders and say "Ok, we crafted this using bipartisan ideas go pass it."  Having reflected on this every since hearing the way that Romney would do it, I think this may actually be why the Republicans are pissed off.  It's like a CEO of a company talking to half of his executives coming up with a step by step plan for the next year or 6 months or whatever and then handing it out to all of his workers and saying "This is what I want you to do, this is how you're going to do it and this is when I want it done by.  I'm going to keep checking up on you making sure you're doing it my way and I don't want any arguments from you.  Any protests you may have you can save them, just shut up and get to work."  Would you want to work under those conditions?  The legislature has been elected (hired) to make the laws for this country but President Obama has come in and essentially told them, I know how to do your job better than you.  I think this may be a product of him not having been an executive before. He has always been a legislator.  He is a smart man and has a good background in creating and crafting legislation, but he hasn't learned how to delegate that work to the people that are there to do exactly that.  I would bet dollars to donuts if he sat down with leaders from both parties and said "Here's my vision  (affordable health care for everyone), here are the constraints (control insurance premiums, no denial for pre-existing conditions, everyone CAN get coverage), go get it done (this session)."  He would meet with a lot less resistance.  This was a huge light bulb moment for me, personally and no one seems to be talking about it.

So if you take Romney's method, then he doesn't NEED details.  He's leaving the how to the people elected to do that job.  All he needs to do is come up with guiding principles and ideas that he won't compromise on and then turn the legislature loose to legislate.  He doesn't have to know the intricate details of exactly which loopholes to close or exactly what the tax rate will be.  All he has to say is "Look Congress, go balance the budget of the next X number of years, do it by leaving revenue (taxes) where they are but reduce exemptions and deductions, if you can, lower taxes for the middle class and small business owners, don't lower taxes for the super rich (we're doing alright), don't cut military spending unless you absolutely have to and do what you can to help people help themselves."  Then let them go do it. It's a case of 400 minds are better than 1 (or 5 or whatever).

I think that America is too obsessed with who "won" the debate.  I don't really think that's the point of these things.  The point is to get your ideas out there in a clear, articulate way and let the voters decide for themselves if they like what you have to say.  Framing these debates as a contest that someone can win, devalues the ideas being presented.  I think the candidates did a good job of expressing how they are different.  I'm not going to comment on what I think of each approach, I'm simply outlining them.  Obama's plan to cut the deficit is a balanced approach between increased revenue (more taxes for the "super rich") and cutting wasteful spending.  Romney's approach is one of only cutting spending and potentially cutting taxes.  His argument is that if you cut taxes for middle income families (he specifically said he wouldn't support MORE tax cuts for the wealthy but he wouldn't increase their share either), more jobs will be created and thus more people will be earning money and the net effect on your revenue is that it will go up.  That's actually the general philosophical difference on the economy between the Dems and 'Pubs.

I may have more to write later, but I think that sums up some of the major things I took away from the debate that I really don't hear people talking about...  Please feel free to comment, I just ask that you keep it respectful as this is a sight for Mommies and Daddies!!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Modern Mom's Guide to Babywearing (Newb's Edition)

What is Babywearing? 
It is wearing your baby, of course, in a sling or carrier.
To the modern mother, it's kind of a parenting style. As Attachment Parenting started gaining popularity, so did the practice of babywearing. Attachment Parenting (AP) is all about nurturing the bond between parent and child, which is facilitated by wearing them often from birth through toddlerhood. That's not to say women are wearing them 24/7, many just do it when it's convenient and they are on-the-go. Anyone can do it, not just AP parents. In fact people have been doing it for centuries around the world. It's starting to get popular again, and there are more options now than ever.

Why Do it?
It is very convenient. I can GET SHIT DONE when I wear my baby. When Olive was a wee thing, I would put her in the Moby Wrap and clean up, even breastfeed her while she was in there. Those are things you can do with any ergonomic baby carrier. It took some practice, but it was so worth it.
Those car seats are super awkward to carry around and aren't that safe when you are going out. Have you tried putting them in shopping carts? Accident waiting to happen. Leaving them sitting on the floor is a hazard for everyone. Wearing your baby to the store is very easy and of course, you look so cute when you do it. People will inevitably comment on it, too.
Babies worn in slings are happier. They don't fuss as much.
You are getting a great workout when worn properly.
Slings and carriers are great for bonding with dad, grandparents, etc.
It is super fun! I love finding new ways to wear Olive as she grows and she loves it too.

How safe is it?
The safest place for your baby is right on your body. You know exactly where they are. This is especially helpful when your kid reaches toddler hood, because they have a safe place to retreat.
DO NOT WEAR YOUR BABY IN A MOVING CAR. EVER. Seems like common sense, but you'd be surprised.

What kind is best?
I have tried a lot of different carriers...
My advice: stay away from the "Bjorn style" carriers or other front-facing carriers. They are HELL on your baby's spine and hips, as pointed out in more and more studies like this one. The dangling legs position is what you don't want. Of course, I didn't know this when I wore her here:
Olive dangling by her bits :(
Honestly, this was before my babywearing education. There just isn't much talk about it out there. Hopefully this will be a lesson to all of you! If you wouldn't want to dangle by your bits, don't make your baby do it. It wasn't very comfortable for me to wear her for very long, either.

On to the Good Stuff:
Note in all the following carriers, the babies are in a seated position with their knees parallel to their butts. This is what you want! All the babies are within kissing distance of their wearer's face in the front, or can peek over the shoulder in a back carry. Also what you want!

Buckle Carriers

Great for Beginners with older babies ($90-$135)
I was introduced to the magical world of Ergonomic Carriers by my good friend Ginna. She has an Ergo, which I consider to be AMAZING. These are intended for babies 4 months and up, but they have infant inserts you can buy for smaller babes. Can run pretty expensive but you can probably find a used one out there for less. They come in oodles of adorable prints. Worth every penny, IMO. There are other similar brands, too, like BabyHawk, Beco, or Pikkolo.    

They look so comfy, don't they?

Mei Tai  

Intermediate ($75-$135)
Not to be confused with the tropical drink (Mai Tai), these things are very refreshing as well! They are a bit trickier to learn than the buckle style, because you gotta tie it on, but they are so versatile! Here are some instructions on all the carries you can do. 

Popular brands are Kozy, Wrapstar, Ellaroo, and BabyHawk (my fave).

Ring Sling

Affordable beginner option best for older babies ($35-$100)
This is definitely a go-to favorite of mine because it really is the easiest for me. I slip it on, slide baby into it from my shoulder, and cinch it up snugly. I keep it in my car at all times for when I gotta run into the post office or something. I use a Maya wrap, in a large size so I can drape the end over her head if it's raining. Plus it has a pocket!! Instructions!! 
I should have the fabric pulled farther over  her bum, like to her knees.
 Her arms don't need to be tucked in, either.

Stretchy Wrap 

Great for one-carrier family ($45-$140)
The stretchy wrap that I have is the Moby Wrap. I love this thing! I got it as a baby shower gift from my friend Amy and I would recommend using it when it's not too hot outside, since the fabric + baby heater + you = sweat. It is awesome for wearing from birth to toddler, though. I would say that it offers the best UV protection, as well, since it covers the most skin. Plus there are a million ways to wear the thing. 
Aww what a good Grammy :)

Woven Wrap 

Experienced users ($35-$145)
This is a carrier-collector's favorite as there are some GORGEOUS fabric options out there. Woven wraps can be made from Silk, Organic Cotton, Linen, etc. and of course, the colors are to die for. They are much cooler than stretchy wraps, very strong, and can be worn from birth to toddler. But there is a steep learning curve, so don't think you can jump right in without practice. Some brands are Girasol, Gyspy Mama, and Ellaroo. 

This is just an introduction to the world of babywearing. With all of these options, no matter what, please please please read all the instructions before using them and do some research on what will fit your baby the best. Some work better for newborns than others, so that is a big factor to consider. 

Strollers while travelling are a pain in the ass, so why not try a wrap or sling for your next trip? Even the most expensive carriers are cheaper than most strollers and way more fun and convenient! 
Just give one a try, I promise you will fall in LOVE. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Educate Yourself: a letter to my daughter

Dear Olive,

When I was a little girl, I was taught a simple truth. Everyone must look within themselves to find confidence and happiness. I was kind of goofy and awkward with big ears and a big cheesy grin on my face All. The. Time. So, my confidence was a bit shaky. Funny, because now I think those features are beautiful as I see them in you.
I'm sure I don't need to point myself out. 

I stayed awkward for a very long time. Sure, people would tell me I was "cute" but I always thought of that as an abbreviated way of saying "I find your looks agreeable, but not to my taste." It didn't help that my older sister (Aunt Sarah) has always been incredibly beautiful and smart to boot, who can compete with that? Of course, now I realize that okay, I wasn't a model, but I was unique. I was a total goofball straddling the line of social embarrassment and it made me different and interesting. I like to think that I have finally learned to appreciate my beauty. 

But this isn't about now. This is about the time before that. I'm talking about when I decided my lot in life would be centered around making myself as educated as possible. I would live my dream life even though I wasn't blessed with the Movie Star Looks. A lot of fairy tales start with a "beautiful princess" with some kind of flowing hair or sparkly frock or something. Why can't they start with a "wickedly smart princess" with a high-powered career?
 I made some goals for myself. Some not so realistic, mostly because I was under the age of 10. I'm sure you will come up with some crazy awesome goals, too, and will accomplish most if not all of them. You are my child, you know. It's important to have goals, they remind you what is important. 
You too can be this smart! 

One. I would go to a really good college. Two. I would become a doctor of some sort, perhaps a brain surgeon (not sure why I picked that one, maybe because it seemed to be the most difficult?) Three. I would adopt a child because the thought of childbirth totally grossed me out. I would teach her several languages. Four. I would marry an incredibly handsome and mysterious man who was some kind of wealthy artist (HA!). Five. I would use his wealth and my wealth to buy a stable and horses for my sister, in case she didn't already have it, being a world famous equestrian horseback rider. 

Accomplished Goal #1 with your Daddy and Aunt Sarah by my side.
So there you have it, the actual career was switched out periodically, but it was always something that would require a LOT of education. I enjoyed school. I was pretty good at it. It didn't matter what I looked like, it was a way for me to feel good about myself without the subjective eye of others. I felt incredibly confident in my "smarts" mostly because my parents did a good job of praising me when I had good grades. They didn't pressure me too much but knew when I needed a kick in the pants. This is what you can expect from your father and me. When you find something that makes you feel good about yourself, we will support you 100%, no matter what it is. The best way to find what you love, is to educate yourself. READ lots of books. At least once in your life, spend the whole day in the library just exploring all the different genres and build yourself a fortress of novels to read all summer. There are seriously entire universes to explore in those things! GO on adventures. Go to the zoo, to the museum, or a painter's studio. See what other's are doing with their lives and it might spark something in you, too. OPEN your mind. If you let anyone tell you that you can't do something because it's too hard or just plain weird, you might miss out on something good. Want to join the circus? That's pretty awesome. So awesome, someone might feel jealous and tell you to scale it down a bit. You know what you do? Go out and practice your cartwheels, you're gonna need them for your audition. 

Our Wall of Education (hard to see, but that's Sherlock)

So, essentially all this ranting is to reiterate the advice that I am giving you... educate yourself, my dear. I'm not going to tell you that you need to go to college to be happy, because that is a lie. There are a lot of really smart people doing really awesome things without a college degree. It is up to you. You may be just as goofy and awkward as your mom, but you will have the tools to live out your goals and find the confidence within yourself. Your goals will change a lot with time, and while mommy never did become a brain surgeon or buy horses for Aunt Sarah, she did have you which is SO much better than any goal she could have dreamed for herself.

To my greatest accomplishment, I love you
Tracey (Mama)  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

DIY: Easy Peasy Bath Products

DIY: Easy Peasy Bath Products 

I don't know about you guys, but I am sick of buying beauty and cleaning products with crazy ingredients I can't pronounce. Oh, and the super expensive "natural" alternatives? I'm no sucker. For just a little bit of work and a fraction of the cost, you can make your own products that are safe, effective, and very simple. Here are some tried-and-true recipes I've acquired and tweaked according to what works for me. Most of the recipes are based on a mix of Tsh Oxenreider's  Organized Simplicity, Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, and plain old trial-and-error from my dear Crunchy friends. Feel free to pass it on to your friends and family and experiment with them. It's actually pretty fun and rather addicting...

For Your Hair & Body

Shopping List for your whole family: 
Baking Soda
Vinegar (Apple Cider or White)
Coconut Oil
Stevia powder
Peppermint Extract
Witch Hazel
Shea Butter
Almond Oil
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Dr. Bronner's Pure Castille Soap
Squirt Bottles
Ground Oats
Powdered Milk

Hair Cleanser:
1 tbsp Baking Soda to 1 cup of warm water.
Add Baking Soda to a squirt bottle and fill with warm water. You can keep the squirt bottle in your shower...shake it and squirt it into your roots! Scrub it in, rinse it off, and follow with the vinegar rinse (see below). 

Hair Conditioning Rinse:
1 part Apple Cider Vinegar or White Vinegar to 4 parts warm water.
Combine the vinegar and water in a squirt bottle and keep in your shower along with the cleanser. Squirt it through your hair (avoid the roots) and comb it through. Rinse it off immediately or your hair might end up greasy pretty quick. 

2 tbsp. Coconut Oil
2 tbsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Stevia powder
2-3 drops peppermint extract
Mix it all together and store in a small jar with a lid or an empty squeeze tube. Just use it like any other toothpaste! 

Deodorant Mist: 
1/2 cup Witch Hazel
1 tbsp. Baking Soda
splash of Dr. Bronner's Pure Castille Soap--any scent (I prefer the Tea Tree Oil kind)
1/2 cup Distilled Water 
Combine ingredients into a spray bottle, then just shake and spray! I like to use a recycled body mist bottle, as the mist is much finer and dries quicker. This mist is so much more refreshing than any deodorant you have ever experienced and it is non-irritating! 

Oh, and...
Shaving Cream! 

For more info on "No-Poo" (going shampoo-free) check out my other post.  

For Your Baby

Like most moms, I obsess over what products to use on my child. Baby's skin is so new and sensitive, you really ought to research what every ingredient is and how it can affect them. You'd be amazed by how many "baby products" on the market right now are not good for babies. Steer clear of anything containing parabens, fragrance, Propylene Glycol, SLS, or Dioxane. Even "Unscented" or "Fragrance-Free" products can contain phthalates to mask odors. Use less products. It seems pretty obvious, but babies don't need to be slathered in creams and powders. The skin they are born with is *usually* perfect and won't need much more than a bit of warm water and a washcloth to clean. As they get older, though, they get messier. So then you need to use a little soap. Here is a cheat sheet for soaps that are currently on the market, by SafeMama: Cheat Sheet PDF.

If you'd like to make your own cleanser, so you know exactly what your putting on your baby, try a nice little Bath Milk Recipe. This one comes from a DIYer at

Baby Bath Milk:
1 cup powdered milk
1/4 cornstarch
1/4 cup finely ground oats
2-3 drops lavender or chamomile essential oil
Mix them all together into a shaker style bottle. Sprinkle a little bit into warm bath water for  baby! 

Baby Bottom Cream for cloth diapering:
1 oz Coconut oil
1 oz Olive Oil
1 oz Shea Butter
1/2 oz beeswax
5 drops grapefruit seed extract
3 drops your choice of essential oil
Use a double boiler to melt down the coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax followed by the olive oil. Mix it well, then transfer it to a mixing bowl to let it cool. Just before it reaches room temperature, add the grapefruit seed extract and essential oil and mix it with a hand mixer or a whisk until it is "whipped". If it is too runny, just add more beeswax. This is cloth diaper safe and antiviral, antifungal, anti-yeast, antibacterial, and highly moisturizing! 

For Your House

These recipes are very basic and have been around for as long as houses have been cleaned. Mix them up with care, as cleaning chemicals can have toxic reactions if mixed improperly (i.e. bleach and ammonia can create toxic fumes). 

Baking Soda 
White Vinegar
Powdered laundry detergent 
Washing Soda 
Squirt bottles

All-Purpose Disinfectant:
3/4 cup of bleach
1 gallon of warm water
1 tbsp powdered laundry detergent
Wash surface with solution and keep it wet for 5 minutes. Rinse and let dry. You can use this pretty much anywhere in your home, but avoid using it on metal fixtures). 

Mild All-Purpose Cleaner:
4 tbsp. Baking Soda
1 quart warm water 
(optional) A few drops of essential oil
Wipe surfaces with a sponge soaked in the solution. This is great for the fridge or trash cans as it cleans light soil and deodorizes. 

Mild, Gently Abrasive Cleanser:
Add enough drops of water to Baking Soda to form a paste. Can remove crayon from walls and shine your sink! 

Strong All-Purpose Cleaner:
Add 1 tbsp of ammonia and liquid laundry detergent to a pint of water. 
Add 1.2 cup Washing soda to 1 gallon warm water
Can be used in kitchens or bathrooms, but shouldn't be used on fiberglass or aluminum. 

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: 
1/4 cup Baking Soda 
1 cup White Vinegar

So, there you have it. All pretty simple recipes and all made with stuff you know is safe. Buy some ingredients and try a couple out. Come on...I've done most of the work for you! 

Thank you, again, to all my friends that helped compile these awesome recipes! Crunchy mamas are so helpful!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Our adventures eating plants

On 2/20/2012 we watched a documentary called "Forks over Knives." It was your typical "Modern food is making you sick and fat" type documentary, but something about it clicked.  I don't know that I'm completely convinced by some of their suppositions and premises, but the overall theme of it was eat a whole foods, plant based diet to become healthier.  If you would like to watch it, it was an interesting watch and they state their reasons and conclusions.  To make a long story short, though, I told Tracey "If you want to try that I'm on board."   I'm one of, if not the pickiest eater that I know.  This was no small statement for me, but with Olive being born and me turning 30 soon I wanted to make a choice for a healthy lifestyle so I could be around for her as long as possible.  I don't smoke and don't drink that much.  In fact, we rarely keep beer in the house, I just don't drink it.  It isn't for any type of moral choice or reason, I just don't find the occasion to drink beer that often, it's not something i consume on a "just because" basis.

The next day Tracey went out and bought a bunch of stuff for vegetarian dinners and we established two ground rules. 1) If she makes it, I'll try it. 2) We're not gonna be "those people" who refuse to eat what someone else cooked for them because they're vegetarian.  I understand that some people have been vegetarian for so long that their bodies can't process meat anymore.  I'm not saying that if you refuse someone else's cooking your a bad person or anything like that.  For us, we just wanted to live our life our way and still be able to hang with other people and the foods they ate.  The way it's ended up working out is that 7-10 meals at the house every week are vegetarian guaranteed. That includes Dinner M-F and Lunch and Dinner on the weekends.  Sometimes we get some fast food or go out, sometimes we cook some chicken or fish.  The point is we have changed our diet and our lifestyle to have our meals based around the plants that are in them, not the meats.  When we do eat meat, it doesn't feel like "cheating" because we're not on a diet.  We've changed our lifestyle to be vegetarian with occasional meat.

It's been almost 4 months now since we switched.  I've been keeping all of this in for that 4 months because for one thing, if it didn't work, if we went back to our old ways I didn't want to be a public failure.  Being a private failure is good enough for me.  Also,  I wanted to have a long term perspective on it.  Now, I didn't do what documentaries do and get a checkup with a bunch of blood work before I started to give out comparative numbers.  I didn't do that because this is a lifestyle choice, not a let me show you how awesome it is choice.  The reason I'm speaking about it now, really is because people lately have been telling me how I look great and have lost a lot of weight.  They want to know what I do and how much I exercise, etc.

I really just want to tell everyone my story and what has worked for me, where I'm at and where I want to be.  I don't really have a master plan, I'm just seeing where this all takes me.  So here are the numbers I do have.  I started weighing myself daily (mostly) on 2/21.  I weighed 195 then,  I weigh 175 now.  In 16 weeks, I've lost 20 lbs or about 1.25 lbs a week on average.  I think the on average part of that statement is the important part. Some days are "better" than others and some weeks are "better" than others.  I've found the important part for me is don't stress about the numbers.  If you know you're eating right the numbers will follow.  If you have a few days where you don't eat all that well, then get back on track, the numbers will follow.  It's important to look at your personal goals, whether that be lbs or inches on a macro (long term) level.  My 35 jeans were starting to get tight on me, my 34's now fall off my ass.  My goal was never to lose weight or get slimmer, it has always been to get healthier. Losing weight has just been a happy byproduct of that because I was overweight and storing a lot of extra fat.

I had gone to the doctor at the end of march for some allergy and sinus issues and my BP at the time was 125/85.  Not terrible, not great either, but given this was 5 weeks after we started this plant based foods thing it made me wonder where i was at.  I went back 6 weeks later for a second sinus infection (my sinuses suck) and my BP was 121/81 and that was literally 15 minutes after drinking a giant soda from Wendy's (yah I know terrible if you're going to get measured).  Even so, that's real close to normal, so I'll take it as a win.  I'm going back for a full workup around my 30th birthday because, it's just time to get that sort of thing done and doing it around your birthday makes it easier to remember. I'm interested to see the results.

This lifestyle might be for you and it might not, but at least give it a look see if it interests you.  I see so many people trying to lose weight by cutting things out of their life completely and that seems to me to be an extremist view of the world.  It's almost a level of obsession and fanaticism.  I think anything in moderation is ok (edible food wise, i wouldn't recommend low levels of cyanide in moderation).  I've seen people starve themselves or deprive themselves of the things they love.  Look, if your solution to losing weight is "go hungry" 1) don't focus on "losing weight" focus on being healthier 2) "go hungry" doesn't sound healthy.  Tracey and I are full every day at dinner because plants are filling and yummy.  I still have Whataburger on occasion   Hell, today I had some Wendy's 'cause I just forgot to bring lunch to work.  I'm not stressed about it, because I know it's a blip on the radar.  I can moderately indulge in my guilty pleasure foods and it's no big deal because my lifestyle as a whole is healthy.  These aren't slip-ups or cheating or even scheduled "cheat days."  I just go about my life and eat what I want, but what i want to eat is usually vegetarian.

I'd like to take a moment  to thank my wife, Tracey.  She does most (99.99999%) of the cooking at the house.  She feeds our family and without here I wouldn't have the time or the energy to make this change.  It's been great so far and I hope she knows how much I appreciate her and her culinary efforts.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Something to Do.

I'm not sure how I came to the decision of making a doll for my little doll, Olive. Just kind of picked up some scrap yarn, a crochet hook, and started playing. I wanted it to be something that would be soft and cuddly, but stand the test of time (and toddlerhood). I think at first I was planning to make a little ball but I was struck by a bolt of confidence and creativity. So one row at a time, I sculpted a little person. She's made from a blend of angora and acrylic, stuffed generously with love...errr Polyfill, but whatever. 

I just finished mopping the kitchen and bathroom floors. I'm not going to tell you the last time I did that, but believe you me, it was time. Olive is sound asleep, so I'm taking a break for a Geppetto moment. I stitched in little emerald green eyes, leaving the tails out for some lashes.

Business has slowed down a lot for me, so I'm trying to keep up my skills (and spirits) with some pro bono pieces. I was asked to provide a giveaway item for a "Diaper Drive" hosted by Sno Pea . They raise money to give needy families the cloth diapers and education they need, so they don't have to choose between food on the table or diapers. This is such an important cause to me, as I am cloth diapering for economical reasons, and I know there are so many families who resort to unsanitary means of diapering because they don't know about cloth. If you have a moment and a couple bucks to spare, please send them a donation here

Anywho, here is the wool soaker I designed for them, just need to add the leg cuffs.
 I call it "The Centipee Soaker". Get it? Centipede? Pee? Oh nvm.  

I used a technique called "Fair Isle" knitting, maybe you've heard of it. It's a technique for working two or more colors of yarn in the same row by carrying them together. You can do all kinds of patterns this way, and makes a really nice warm fabric. My problem was holding the two strands of yarn at the same time. Some people can knit with one in either hand, but I'm a "thrower" (carry yarn in my right hand) so I felt too clumsy for that. Unfortunately, as you work the yarn, they two strands become tangled really easily and slows everything down. So, I made this as a solution :

It's kind of crappy, but it works. It is just two paper clips that I had to wind around my finger and make little carrying loops for the yarns to run through. I know I can buy this for like $2, but my philosophy is "what's the point in buying something if you can make it?" Besides, it only took like 10 seconds. 

Well, that's all I got for now. I'm starting to get really antsy so if you know of anyone that would like a handmade knit or crochet item of any kind, please hit me up. I am also interested in donating items to a charity giveaway of some sort. 
Send me a message through my Facebook page: 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Reflection on a Lost Friend

Hey Randy,

Happy Birthday.  It's been 10 years since your last birthday.  I have to say, I miss you.  Everyone you ever knew misses you.  You were a great person and a great friend.  Today, however, is a day to celebrate your life that was, not mourn the life that never will be. You were an inspiration and a source of strength for a lot of people.  I'm not sure if you knew that  or not.  You were one of those rare people that made everyone around them better.  Maybe I'm romanticizing your life a little bit.  We have a tendency to do that.  At the time, it felt like kids being kids.  Looking back, though it's easy to see the joy you brought to our group.

Everyone we picked up to our circle over the years had their place.  I'm not sure how other people feel but that group of friends was probably the greatest group of friends I ever had.  I don't know that I ever told you this but when our little group first formed, it felt like we were our own little ninja turtles group.  Russell was the leader, Matt was the short tempered one, I was the nerdy one, and you were the goofy fun one.  I remember at first you were a bit of a tag-a-long, being 2 years younger than the rest of us.  That didn't last long, though.  You quickly became an essential part of our play group.  All those adventures in the tree house, the camping trips, the sleep overs, the summers spent swimming, the bows and arrows, hide and seek, playing  fox tail, rides around the block in the tractor, trips to six flags, trips to wet n' wild.  The four of us had some great times.

The size of our group changed, Matt moved or spent time at his mom's.  Frank coming over was always a special occasion.  Craig was in our little group for a while, with his awesome trampoline.  Then middle school hit and our group started to gain people left and right.  I think Josh was the first one to really become a regular part of our adventures, then over time we added Bryan, Lana, Brandon, Ashley and Becky.  Every single one of them brought their happiness and unique personalities to our group.  The constant thing though was just having a great time.  No matter what we had going on in our lives, when we came together things were good.  Even when the problems with our lives were the people in our group, it seemed that those problems got thrown to the wind when we all came together.

You will always be missed and you will always leave a hole in my heart.  The only reason, though, that you can possibly be as missed as much as you are, is because you brought so much to the table when you were here.  I loved the times we had together and I will never forget how good they were.

Happy Birthday, my friend.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An introduction to one of my passions....

Hello All,

Your friendly neighborhood husband blogger, here.  So Tracey has been bugging (read: lovingly suggesting to) me to write another blog post.  It's taken me forever to figure out what I could possibly write about.  She suggested I write about music, since I'm so passionate about it.  That struck me as a great idea, but the more i dove into it, the harder it got to do.  I think, though, that I have finally settled on writing a series of posts about various things that I'm passionate about.  So with that, I think we'll start with a general overview of why I like music and why I say if you're open to it you can find something to appreciate in any genre of music.

What makes music so great?  At the end of the day, there are a finite number of notes in the human hearing range.  The magic lies in how those notes are arranged.  I know on a conceptual level everyone gets that.  Everyone has their favorite genre of music.  Most people like music similar to what was popular in their teens.  There are several reasons for this and this article has a good explanation of it. (Also, is hilarious)

7 Reasons you'll end up just like your Parents

If you weren't exposed to lots of different kinds of music back in your teens, it may be too late for you, but I'd challenge you to try new music when you get the chance.

Music is very evocative.  You might not think about it much, but you hear it all the time.  People will put on their favorite music to relax or to inspire them.  Sometimes if they want to get in the right frame of mind they put on a particular type of music.  There's a reason we don't refer to screaming metal as "romantic."   Music is one of the few human sensory inputs that described as things like mellow, sad, droll, happy, jumping, lively, soaring.  There are so many ways to describe a given piece and everyone receives it differently but there are commonalities that can force people to feel a specific way.  Movies use this to great effect (well the ones with a good score.)  I tried to point this out to a room full of people watching a movie one time because it struck me so vividly, but it didn't really go over too well.  Check out this clip of the title screen to the new Star Trek movie and let's talk about it after.

(I was going to embed the video from YouTube but embedding has been disabled)

Star Trek Title Sequence

Notice how it starts with just these quick high notes.  It starts to evoke a sense of anticipation as the image fades out.  As the picture fades completely you get your first hint of percussion.  As the titles start to fade in and you can see the side shot of the Starfleet emblem, the percussion comes in a little heavier underneath some accent notes that are added into the mix.  Like I said before the anticipatory feeling was already building by adding in accent notes along with a hint of what you are about to see visually it cranks up that anticipation but subtlety letting you know you're getting close.  Then the notes drop out of the mix and your left with only percussion.  The music is letting you know, "this is it."  Then just as all the letters become visible and the symbol gets to a quarter turn, the music let's loose with this sweeping, soaring main theme.  That contrast from the previous style of short notes to this new style of long notes evokes a feeling of majesty and a sense of an epic scale.  It holds that feeling for a few seconds and then goes back to the shorter notes that promise action and adventure.   Regardless of your feelings of the rest of the movie, these 35 seconds or so have just made a promise to you of what you are about to see and it's up to the rest of the movie to live up to that promise.  When a score is done right by a competent person, these things are very thought out and measured.  Score composer do your best to force you to feel the way the director wants you to feel about any given scene. What other medium has that kind of power?

I don't think this will be my last post about music. In fact, it may become a regular thing to dissect a given piece that i find particularly enjoyable.  I'm not really sure.  I want to leave you with a song that just makes my music heart happy.  The song is called "The Humbling River" by Puscifer.  For those of you not familiar with musical jargon, I'd like to take second to explain at a overview level what a couple of things are.  For you who do know music, yes I'm oversimplifying the concepts, but I don't care.  Melodies are the familiar part of songs.  They're the sequence of notes at the forefront.  Generally their the notes you sing when you're singing a song.  A Harmony is an accompanying line of notes written in the same rhythm and pattern but using different notes that complement (hopefully) the notes in the melody.  A harmony can make a melody sound happy or sad.   A counter melody is similar to a melody in that it is a series of notes, but they are generally a different rhythmic pattern sung in the background of a melody.   What this song does so beautifully is it gives you a melody over and over. Eventually it gives you a second melody. It's very similar to the original melody but it has a slight difference in the length of notes or syllables.  To emphasize the difference there is also a harmony thrown into it.  Then the brilliance happens, the thing that pushes this song from pretty to beautiful.   They bring the first melody back as a counter melody and underlay it beneath the new melody and add harmony to it as well.  The technicality needed to pull this off is mind blowing.  This is a master crafting a song.  I really don't have enough words to express how great this is.



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why I Knit...

There isn't a lot of money in knitting, in case you were wondering. I pretty much make enough money to support my addiction to buying yarn. Here are some reasons why I'm addicted to fiber. 

1. The feel of yarn in my fingers. 
If I had a lot of money, it would probably all go to luxurious silk, organic cotton, and lamb's wool handpsun yarn (and diapers, too, but that's another story). I'm obsessed with squishing large skeins of freshly purchased yarn between my fingers. Even acrylic yarn can be incredibly soft, so it's almost like clutching the poofiest of kittens whenever you want for however long but it won't bite you. Oh, and if it's wool...I smell it too. I love the smell of sheep hair in the morning, Gah!  What is wrong with me?!

I need this.

2. Making something out of practically nothing. 
With just one circular needle and a ball of yarn, I can make pants. What's that? The baby needs a new sweater? Oh, ok let me just KNIT A FREAKIN SWEATER with some yarn I found for $1 at the thrift store. You can even make a bunch of something from a bunch of yarn and use the leftovers from each color to make a whole other beautiful stripey something. Oh, and the possibilities are endless...they can range from the most practical to the most useless waste of your time. But hey, that's your prerogative. 
The work of an NYC "gang" called Knitta Please.

3. Instant sense of accomplishment.
I'm a forever newb. I have a lot of trouble committing to anything if I don't get some results relatively quickly. That being said, I get a hell of a lot of results from knitting. You see, when you first learn to knit, you start with something basic and rather small. Usually a scarf. First time might take you a few days, but you will have something to show for your hard work when you're done! You will become vastly better at knitting after completing just one piece. So, you move on to something a little harder, learning more techniques and before you know it...BAM. You are cranking out fancy stuff and conquering the challenges of Short Rows and Intarsia. 

4. My sanity. 

5. My Olive.
Gosh, there is just nothing more rewarding than seeing someone wear my knitty things. To make it even better, imagine seeing the squishy little Pride and Joy crawling around in them. Melts my heart! 
My Olive modeling the first hat I ever made. She made that ugly hat look good!

 That's all I can think of, for now. I will leave you with a glimpse of my hopefully not-future...

Don't worry, this is not my arm. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Feeding my Family

Recently, I found myself staring at my open fridge, as I usually do, trying to find some inspiration for dinner that night. Do I want spaghetti...or something quick, like pizza? This is what my diet has become. *Please note: When I say "diet" anywhere in this post or blog, I'm referring to my food choices as a whole, not some calorie-restricting health kick, or something* Anyways, back to the debacle that is my culinary repertoire. When I wanted something "healthy" I went for a frozen chicken breast with rice-a-roni. Yeah, I'm not ignorant, I know how bad that is. But compared to what I usually made, that is healthy. I had gotten lazy about my eating habits. So there I was, staring at the fridge and I thought, "This is pathetic. I don't have any fresh produce. My pantry is filled with preservatives and corn syrup. How the heck am I supposed to be this shining example for my daughter and husband (whom I frequently pester about eating right) when I can't even make one single meal that is actually GOOD for you? 

Challenge Accepted. 

My first attempt at "healthy" was a lighter take on chicken enchiladas. I used whole wheat tortillas, shredded chicken, salsa with low-fat ricotta as the sauce, I added brown rice, zucchini, onions, and corn. I topped it off with a sprinkle of shredded cheese.  

Tasted pretty good.
 Overall, it wasn't a totally healthy meal, but at least I got some veggies in there and cut out a lot of the cheese that normally would have smothered it to death. Added bonus: my husband actually enjoyed them. This is a crowning achievement in the Johnson household, since he is the pickiest eater I have ever known. He says he "hates Mexican food"...the dude is half-Mexican. Explain that. 

Guy enjoying some healthy tofu tacos I made!
I surfed some health blogs, watched some documentaries, the most noteworthy being "Forks Over Knives". I didn't love it for it's scientific accuracy (kinda dubious) but more for its overall message that a diet of whole, unprocessed plant foods can bring remarkable health improvements if you are used to eating a high-crap diet. That's something you can really take to heart. (for more info on this stuff see this woman's website. Kinda densely worded, but s'good information.) 
So, I decided I was going to bring out the big guns. I'm talking about a mostly plant-based diet. What does that mean, you ask? Well, instead of designing my meals around the animal protein, I am designing them to pack as much goodness in as possible, by way of plants. I'm not reaching for the ground beef, I'm grabbing the crumbled organic tofu. I'm not buying any more animal protein. I'm spending my grocery budget on the freshest organic produce I can find, protein-rich legumes, and getting creative with it. 

New staples.

I'm also omitting cooking oils. I start my sauteing with a bit of water in the pan, adding onion first to draw out their liquid and cook with that. It's amazing how effective this method is. The vegetables turn out crisp, flavorful, and cooked just right. No added oils required. 

Tofu Taco filling. 

 My new menu for this week: 
Tofu Tacos
Whole wheat penne with tomato sauce (had some leftover lean beef) and spinach salad Vegetable stir fry
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Vegan Chili and Vegan Cornbread
Veggie burgers on a whole wheat bun with Sweet Potato Fries

It's only been a few days, so the jury is still out on how long this will last, but I'm hoping it sticks. I'm not letting the 1973 corn subsidy bill influence my food anymore. 

My very supportive husband is pretty much traumatized every night with all the new flavors he is being subjected to...but he eats it all. Gotta love him for that. 

I will be sure to update you all on how it pans out. Please offer us some encouragement! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Please don't judge...

I have a secret. I didn't even want to believe it myself. But here it is...sometimes, I've resented my babyThe past 8 months of motherhood have been...interesting. I got off to a very shaky start, not because I didn't love her, but because every day was a struggle to meet her needs.
Most new moms worry about whether they will feel sexy or if they will get their pre-baby body back soon enough. I thought that would be the extent of my issues. Instead, I was dealt a hand of really shitty cards that included post-partum depression, breastfeeding issues (putting it mildly), health problems, and resentfulness towards, well, everyone. 

I was asked on many occasions if I felt any symptoms of post-partum depression, but I always said "a little..." I was kind of lying, to myself included. I felt like crap every single day.  I had a lot of post-partum bleeding, so I went on antibiotics. When Olive couldn't latch properly, I got thrush, which was worsened by the antibiotics. Trust me when I say, that shit is really freaking hard to get rid of. Then came the mastitis, which can only be described as sheer hellacious torture. I swear, every time I let down, it felt like a swarm of bees were hiding inside of my boobs, stinging me on the inside, trying to get out.

I wasn't able to nurse her properly, and I had no clue why. Every time she got hungry, I started crying. I was so scared to breastfeed her because I knew it would hurt like hell. I bled, I bruised, and we both ended up in tears. I would get so angry with my husband, as if it was his fault or because he wasn't feeling what I was feeling. This is the point when most mothers decide to bottle feed. I probably would have too, but I just knew there was some underlying issue that needed to be addressed. I clung so hard to the idea of having that picture-perfect breastfeeding experience that all of my friends were having, I wouldn't give it up. I ended up using a 'nipple shield', which I don't really recommend. While it was probably the only thing that got me through that period of agony, it was also incredibly hard to stop using. I went to a few different experts (lactation consultants, pediatric ENT doctor, etc) and I finally got my answer: she had a tongue-tie and a lip-tie. After it was corrected by a dentist who specializes in frenectomies, thanks to Joy at The Joy of This who recommended him, I was finally able to nurse her with zero pain! I thought it would transform her completely, but it didn't. I soon discovered that the needy, clingy, sensitive little baby was just who she was. I'm so thankful that I finally got the wonderful nursing relationship with my child, but at the same time I have to what cost? I often wonder if she would be a happier baby if I had just let my milk dry up and gave her formula. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret sticking it out and getting her tongue-tie fixed, but I wish I had done it sooner, and I wish I hadn't let it get so bad before finding a solution. That's why I feel so compelled to help other new moms solve their breastfeeding issues before they reach that breaking point.

Some days, she is a sweet, happy little angel and we have the best time together. When we are around other people, she is actually pretty easy going, like she is putting on a show. But most days, even at 8 months old, our time together can be kind of a hair-pulling nightmare. I learned pretty quickly that Olive is the kind of baby that NEEDS a routine. She takes 2 and a half naps a day, in four hour cycles. If she skips a nap, it's the end of the world. She cries and cries because she's tired. Trust me, Olive can cry REALLY loud. I think she has the loudest cry I've ever heard. I know, I know, baby cries are always worse to their mother, but seriously...just ask my friends or family. She doesn't give any warning cry, it's just a blood curdling "WAAAAHHHHH!" The girl knows how to get my attention. She cries like this when she is hungry, when she is tired, when she is teething, when she is gassy, when she is constipated, if a noise is too loud, and so pretty much all the time. I've learned to deal, since she is kind of a high-needs baby and cries very easily. But sometimes, it really grates me down to a shell of a person.

 I'm sorry to anyone I have stood up or cancelled plans with, but I can't make commitments.  I'm sorry that I can't give my husband the clean house at the end of the day, like he deserves, because I can't guarantee that anything will get done. I have no idea what kind of day we will have even as it is happening. About 50% of the time, things go smoothly and I love my time with her as she is an absolute joy. But when I have to stay home and skip the fun outing I had planned with a friend, or I end up carrying her around the house literally ALL DAY, I feel kind of resentful. Then I hate myself for feeling that way, and it's just a spiral of sadness. 

Luckily, I have the most supportive husband and the best friends a stressed out mother could ask for. They are always there to cheer me up with a "this too shall pass" or reassure me that I'm doing a great job. My family is also a great help for the times when I just need to escape. My brave mother has gladly watched her when my husband and I want time to ourselves, even when she is a teething mess. My mother-in-law has done this for us, too, and I'm incredibly grateful to have her in my life. When they say "It takes a village to raise a child," they aren't kidding. 

So, there you have it. While I totally love being a mother and I absolutely love my "spirited" little Olive, I owe it to all future mothers to be totally honest in saying it can be true misery at the same time. I hope you don't think I'm terrible for saying that...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Funny Valentine

Allow me to preface this post with the announcement that I enjoy Valentine's Day! Although, that could be because I am married, so I'm guaranteed to have a valentine. Honestly, though, I fall for all kinds of Valentine's Day gifts...from the heavy romantic gestures to the sweet little notions and all the "I love you's" in between. Yeah, I'm a big sap. And yeah, I'm proud of that. But you know what the best part is? I found someone who loves it too. He might not enjoy shelling out money on the occasional big gift, but deep down I know he believes in a thing called love and the day of celebrating it. It just might be the only holiday where we don't bicker. We set aside our squabbles and petty jabs to get cozy in our love nest. Now that you have thrown up, I digress...

Yesterday, I had one of the best meals ever cooked in my kitchen. The best part? I didn't even make it! The pickiest eater I have ever known (cough, GUY) was the master chef for Valentine's Day. I thought "ooh boy, let's see how this plays out..." since Guy has only ever cooked me about 10 meals, most of which were spaghetti or something frozen.

I attempted to make a very healthy version of blueberry muffins for breakfast, which tasted of cardboard and had the texture of week old bread. I'm sure they would have been delicious if I hadn't tripled the flour. 

Blueberry turd nuggets.

Lucky for me, Chef Guy Johnson was making Chicken Parmigiana and bread sticks, from scratch! There was absolutely nothing healthy about this meal, but who cares? It's Valentine's Day! This man worked his butt off. He started making the dough for the bread around noon. I didn't have to help one bit, other than verifying we had the ingredients. He even figured out how to use the Kitchen Aid mixer. By this time, I was falling in love with him all over again.

He flattened and breaded the chicken breasts perfectly...he rolled the dough into beautiful little bread sticks and baked them flawlessly. Even brushed them with butter and garlic salt. This is the beautiful meal my husband made for me...
Guy's chicken parmigiana with angel hair pasta.

Guy's handmade bread sticks.

The meal was followed by a bedtime routine for Olive, then Guy and I just hung out on the couch together. We shared a bowl of the chocolate mousse I'd made the previous day (ssshh it was made with tofu, don't tell Guy!) and we laughed as we watched some of our favorite TV shows together. It was a lot like every other night, with a few differences, but that's my ideal romantic evening. I love every day that I get to spend with my family, so just add a handsome chef in the kitchen and you have the perfect Valentine's Day! 

My funny valentines!

What did you do for Valentine's Day?