Saturday, March 29, 2008

You Should Have Thought About That Before…

There is an unwritten rule that mothers of large families know. The ones who do not know this rule, figure it out on their own pretty quickly, as there are no shortages of situations in which it will need to be applied. Any stranger in the grocery store, most relatives, casual acquaintances, pastors, and even close friends can be the tutors to introduce a Mom to this rule. How helpful.

The rule states that a mother of many children, in any case where any circumstances related to bearing or raising children are less than the picture of textbook perfection and bliss, must remain silent. Such a mother may never utter so much as a syllable indicating the less-than-Utopian condition of her health, her family dynamics or her discipline struggles in auditory range of another individual save her husband. A sigh from such a mother is also universally understood to be an invitation for others to dispense prescriptions of ancient wisdom gleaned from years of watching Oprah and Dr. Phil. Said advice typically begins with the same sage statement.

"You should have thought about that before you ______."

The blank is left open for the advisor to customize the counsel to the specific situation in which the unsuspecting mother has left herself vulnerable. Before you got pregnant, before you had so many children, before you decided to homeschool, etc., are all the usual fillers of the blank. Although the assumption is that one could not have made such decisions with forethought, it does not appear that the advisors know how self-righteous and condescending these assumptions are.

Could it possibly be that I have somehow come through thirty-five years of worldly American culture (to include thirteen years in public school) unscathed unaware that there are ways to avoid pregnancy (i.e. "fix" what is not broken)? Unlikely. Is it possible that I could be unaware that there is a quick fix to any "accidental" pregnancy? With the world shrieking so fiercely about each persons' choices, and even the Church for the most part, accepting such an abomination, I would be hard pressed to miss it. To assume that either my choices are uneducated or my practices accidental is illogical. It couldn't happen in this culture. Not today.

I cannot speak for everyone who has a large family, but ours... I know. Let the record show that I did think about it before I did it. I counted the cost of pregnancy, labor, birth, breastfeeding, homeschooling, raising these blessings of ours, and every detail involved. What I found is that it is hard. It involves excruciating pain... backbreaking, toilsome labor day in and day out, often giving what I did not know I had to more people than I knew I could love.

Our culture is so selfish that it often surprises us to know that people still decide, even today, that just because something is hard does not mean it isn't worth doing. Let's not assume too much. The mothers of many children that I know are making this decision over and over again, even in the face of persecution from the ones who should be supportive. Most of us have to suffer in silence. Alone. It adds to the difficulty, but by YHWH's grace, it cannot detract from the joy.

The textbooks couldn't do that justice anyway.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nutrition During Pregnancy

I've been asked several times recently about nutrition and supplements for pregnancy, and have also been reviewing my own notes for my own pregnancy, so I thought I'd share here about this timely-for-me topic for my own benefit, too. I have done much research on this and had a bit of experiential data (i.e. I've been pregnant before) to back up what is covered here. However, let the record show that I am not a girl who is into re-inventing the wheel, so most of what is to follow is from another lady's blog. Since Stephanie has done all the foot-work of gathering this information I'll just post it here with her blessing. I will only add my own personal notes here and there. This post is printed out and in the pregnancy file of my Family Health Notebook, anyway. It is too good not to share.

Diet For Pregnant Mothers (developed by Stephanie in 2004 during her last pregnancy)

1. 1 tablespoon cod liver oil daily (Vitamins A &D, Omega-3s, For good brain and dental development) **Very important** make sure you do this, even if you do nothing else and the rest of your diet is awful the whole day.

[Julie here: I have on my list to ask my midwife about this at the next appointment. I always take cod liver oil too, but I have been reading so much lately about the prudence of getting your levels tested first, that I'm going to check into it. Another thing that my midwife swears by is that cod liver oil makes your amniotic sac tough as nails. No worries about water breaking in the grocery store! It turned out to be true for me, as we had a really tough time getting my water to break so I could push during this last pregnancy - my first while taking cod liver oil.]

2. At least 2 servings of high calcium (containing highly absorbable calcium salts) foods daily: 1 cup of organic whole milk/kefir, 1 cup organic whole milk yogurt, 4 oz. cheese (no lowfat or fat free, the fat in dairy products helps in the absorption of the calcium), 1 cup of steamed cultivated or wild greens eaten with butter, 1 cup herbal infusion (see below)**All these foods contain at least 400 mg. calcium salts or more**

[Julie here:
My personal opinion is that any dairy items ought to be raw milk products. This is backed up extensively by Weston A. Price Foundation, Dr. Mercola, The Makers Diet, Nourishing Traditions, etc. My midwife says her patients who have raw milk always have bigger and healthier babies, too. (Our family does not buy any pasteurized dairy products because of issues with asthma and eczema that are exacerbated by pasteurized milk.) If we don't have raw milk available, we skip milk altogether... it is that important.

We have found a great way to prepare leafy green veggies (like collards, kale, etc.) while avoiding pork. (Most Southerners don't know you can make good "greens" without ham hock, but this is delish! We add a smidge of minced onion (dry or fresh) to the cooking pot, along with a frozen block of the yummy chicken stock (with a layer of healthy fat at the top) that we have made ahead and frozen. A bit of salt and pepper and a dash of Liquid Smoke makes them so yummy that my kids vie for who gets the "pot liquor" (that's the juice left over after cooking for you non-Southerners). ]

3. Butter and Coconut oil daily (saturated fat, lauric acid and vitamins A & D...coconut oil is especially good for breastfeeding. Lauric acid is not found in many foods, but it is found in high amounts in coconut oil and it’s one of the fatty acids unique to human breastmilk…it has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. ) Butter all your veggies and coconut oil is really good in shakes and as a oil/shortening replacement in baked goods.

[Julie here: Another great way to get coconut oil in is to add it to hot drinks. Hot tea is good, but hot chocolate, or even coffee is a real treat - if you like flavored coffee, that is. Anytime we fry any food, it is in coconut oil, because it is quite stable at high temperatures. I feel like I have a whole new life. As a Southern girl who was raised on fried food, it has given me back a few comfort foods that are (now) actually healthy.]

4. 2 or more high omega-3 eggs daily (These have too many nutrients to count!…what better for a growing baby than for it’s mother to eating another animal’s placenta, it’s the perfect pregnancy nutritional powerhouse.) Additional egg yolks daily (all the nutrients are in the yolks), added to smoothies, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, etc. **it’s OK to eat raw eggs as long as they are organic, and preferably free range, wash the egg and don’t let the egg come in contact with the outside of the shell since that is where the salmonella is, if it is there at all**

[Julie here: One of my favorite breakfasts on a hot summer day is homemade eggnog - and Sue Gregg has a great recipe. Don't get yourself stuck in a rut of scrambled eggs for breakfast everyday, or else you may burn out on them and miss this nutritional blessing.]

5. 4 oz. of red meat daily (protein, iron, all the essential amino acids, fat) preferably organic and/or pasture raised. Beef, lamb, veal, buffalo, venison and other wild game are all excellent choices.

6. 4 ounces organic liver at least once a week **For Iron and Vitamin A**(If you have been told to avoid liver for fear of getting "too much Vitamin A," be sure to read Vitamin A Saga at Remember, pregnancy is an extreme Iron-hungry state…be sure to get plenty of eggs, fish, liver, red meat, green leafy veggies and herbal infusions.

[Julie here: I have not been doing the liver thing, as organic is too hard to find, and too expensive once it is found. As a woman who once fell down the steps after baby number four because of the iron-deficiency anemia, I totally agree with the iron hungry part! I have made myself a tincture with Nettles, Dandelion Root, Dandelion Leaf and Yellowdock herbs to help combat this during this pregnancy. These are all herbs with great iron-boosting abilities, and other nutrients to help the iron be absorbed better. To further help with absorption AND to cut down the yucky taste of the Yellowdock, I mix my tincture dose with a little orange juice. The vitamin C from the juice helps the iron absorb better.]

7. 12 oz. of fish weekly... particularly wild salmon, chunk light tuna, sardines, and fish eggs/roe, only fish with both scales and fins and NO bottom feeders! NO shrimp, crabs or lobsters (Omega –3s, easy to digest protein, minerals, Vitamins A & D…esp. in the fish eggs)

[Julie here: Please don't bother with farm-raised salmon or Albacore tuna, as they are both high in toxins. If you're not too fond of fish, a cool recipe you can try is the Anchovy Salad Dressing from Nourishing Traditions on leafy green salads. It includes a whole can of anchovies, but if you don't know it is in there, you can't tell. It doesn't taste "fishy".]

8. At least 1 cup. (preferably more) of dark leafy greens daily, steamed, raw or stirfry with coconut oil or in soups. **Spinach, cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, brussel sprouts all needed to be eaten cooked as they contain certain chemicals that can harm the body if eaten raw. They contain Goitrogens that interfere with thyroid function and oxalic acid which blocks calcium absorption.** Proper thyroid functioning and calcium are both very important during pregnancy.

9. Unlimited vegetables and fruits-preferably raw, lightly steamed or cooked with meat. Esp. good ideas for pregnancy are: Pineapple, all berries, dark purple plums and prunes, dark purple grapes and raisins, bananas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, garlic, zucchini, peppers (hot and sweet)

10. Unlimited Lacto-Fermented Foods-esp. sauerkraut, fermented sweet potato, beet kvass, homemade ginger ale, and kombucha (Probiotics, trace minerals, lactic acid…all help digestion and the proper assimilation of other nutrients)

[Julie here: I have become a huge fan of Kombucha during pregnancy after learning how many B Vitamins it has. It is also a wonderful way for this girl who is not good at drinking enough to get in extra fluids. And if you don't know much about lacto-fermented veggies, do some homework now, so that when your garden is ready this summer, or the prices in the stores are way low, you can make some for yourself! They are so easy! They are so delicious! You may never go back to vinegar pickles again. After eating the yummy lactic acid fermented kind, my kids refuse the vinegary ones. And even Mr. Visionary, who won't touch vinegar with a ten-foot pole loves our homemade pickles and sauerkraut! ]

11. Unlimited Homemade Bone Broth: Chicken, Beef, Lamb, or Fish broth used in soups, stews and sauces (calcium, trace minerals, protein, gelatin, iron) I've always found a cup of hot broth to be very soothing and nourishing during early pregnancy.

[Julie here: For a girl who was raised with gravy as a beverage (OK, just about), I have no problem getting lots of good bone broth into out diet. We save bones in the freezer until it is a good time to make broth, make the broth (in the crock pot is an easy way) then freeze the broth in quart or pint containers. ]

12. Soaked/Sprouted whole grains and legumes…oatmeal, sprouted or sourdough whole grain bread, wild rice, brown rice, lentils, etc. (properly prepared whole grains contain a lot of trace minerals and B vitamins…esp. if you buy organic.) If you are watching your weight limit these to only 1-2 small servings a day.

13. Use high quality moist grey celtic sea salt to taste on food (salt is very important for baby’s development…esp. the brain, contains many trace minerals, nutrients, and natural iodine)

[Julie here: Our budget has not allowed the Celtic sea salt, but we use Real Salt from our bulk co-op. Regular old sea salt is great, too, just know that Iodized Salt from the grocery store is *not* a health-supporting food. Avoid it like the plague, as all salt is not the same - my little brother with high blood pressure has figured this out the hard way.]

14. At least 8 cups of filtered water daily. **Very important since the amniotic fluid is entirely replaced every three hours, dehydration is also one of the main causes of miscarriage** Try to drink naturally sparkling high mineral water for extra minerals, it’s great with dinner, iced with a slice of lime or lemon added, or half and half with concord grape juice (high in antioxidants).

[Julie here with a confession: I stink at getting in enough fluids. I just don't know what the hang-up is, but sometimes plain water makes me feel barfy (and yes our well water has been tested, and it is great). I also hate, hate hate, Red Raspberry tea. I don't know why I hate it so much, but I can't get it down. After finding millions of glasses that I had made and left sitting on the counter, I finally stopped trying to convince myself that "I will really drink it this time". I finally gave in and cut myself a little slack in order to get in enough fluids. I'll make some herbal tea with a smidge of sugar, or water down some juice (a lot) in order to help me drink more. Ideally, I'd rather not have the extra few calories from the sugar or juice, but it is way better than being dehydrated. Being due in the summer, I don't want to risk miscarriage for a few calories, not to mention dehydration increases Braxton Hicks contractions. ]
These are the things you should work to AVOID when you are pregnant: Trans fatty acids (e.g., hydrogenated oils), junk foods, commercial fried foods (home fried foods fried in coconut oil are fine), caffeine, sugar, white flour, soft drinks, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs (even prescription drugs).

**If you crave chocolate, it’s a sure sign of Magnesium deficiency…drink lots of beef/fish broth, herbal infusions (esp. nettles) and high mineral water as they are all excellent sources of usable magnesium.

**Try to buy Organic food where your budget permits, if you can do nothing else at least buy high omega-3 organic eggs…nothing can beat them for nutrition!

Herbs For Pregnancy (all pregnancy herbs are also good for breastfeeding)

-Red Raspberry Leaf infusion: strengthens uterus so that contractions are more productive at the time of labor and delivery, increases milk production

-Stinging Nettle infusion: an excellent nutritive tonic, esp. for iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamin K and for increasing breastmilk. Very High In Iron!

-Red Clover infusion: eases constipation, strengthens liver, and keeps breast milk rich, is also complimentary to Red Raspberry leaf (best used in a 1 to 1 ratio with red raspberry)

[Julie here: I have read a lot of sources that contraindicate Red Clover during pregnancy, so I avoid it. Please do your own homework to decide for yourself which herbs you feel comfortable taking during pregnancy or nursing.]

-Dandelion Root Tincture: supports liver function, which is very important during pregnancy since the liver has a lot of extra work to do in supporting the baby. Morning sickness is a typical sign that the liver may not be up to par, so is itchy sensitive skin (not just on the belly) and heartburn before the 3rd trimester begins.

Basic Infusion Recipe: 1 Qt. of boiling water added to 1 oz. of dried herb, allow to steep for at least 4 hours, store in fridge (taken from Wise Woman Herbal For The Childbearing Year By Susun Weed). However I usually just leave the herbs in there and strain the liquid as I drink it. 2 qt. mason jars work really well for making these infusions.

**I usually drink 1c. of red raspberry mixed with 1c. red clover infusion, and 1 cup of nettle infusion on most days (4-5 days a week)…you should drink up to 5 cups of red raspberry infusion daily from week 37 of pregnancy till delivery. I also have a pregnancy tea recipe that can be used daily, instead of drinking the infusions...which are very strong tasting and best for acute probelms. Check your local natural foods store or shop online for herbs in bulk (I buy most of mine from they are usually very cheap. At my local natural food store it's only 62 cents an ounce for Red Raspberry Leaf. The Dandelion root tincture I take when I sense that my liver needs it.

Information taken from:

The Brewer Diet (
The Weston A. Price Foundation (
Nourishing Traditions By Sally Fallon
Wise Woman Herbal For The Childbearing Year By
Susun Weed
Dr. Joseph Mercola (

[Julie here: I also have made my own pregnancy vitamins, as a supplement to my diet. I will make this a separate post, though, because I want to share what I put in them and how I made them.]

Friday, March 7, 2008

I’ve Gotta Tell *Someone*

My seven year old son is particularly adept at dragging a day's lesson of Explode-The-Code out for several hours. If I could find any verses referencing it (which, to his chagrin, there are none), I might be able to call it a spiritual gift. However, I am convinced that it is a gift to be able to randomly jump from topic to topic (forty-seven to be exact) at will while managing to make four pages of workbook phonics take two hours. He tells about his recent escapades and travels, inquires about what angels eat, and have I ever been on an African safari, shows how far his loose tooth can wiggle, queries regarding the ingredients in tar, the height of the Empire State building, how does Mrs. S get her Hot Jam hot, and what is for lunch, seemingly all in the same breath. The ease with which he seems to drag his mother along into his forty-seven random subjects causing her to temporarily forget the phonics as well is, well... nothing short of dumbfounding to me.

So, in the spirit of my seven year old's random musings, I share with you the recent happenings at our place.

Since we survived the flu, and Spring had not yet come, I decided to buckle down and try to get some projects wrapped up so I'd be free to play outside when the weather gets nice. Some of these were begun before the morning sickness began, only to be quickly shoved to the back burner during said morning sickness, then finally dragged back out and completed. In any case, what follows is not to be construed as, "Look what we did this week!" by any stretch of the imagination. It truly is a compilation of several months... and it truly is random. But I wanted to share because I'm excited, and... I have no one else to tell.

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First, to update the progress on some of my sidebar goals, here is what we came up with for cloth napkins. I wanted to not have to worry about matching napkins with tablecloths and all other fancy-schmancy details that don't quite fit the casual nature of meals with seven children, so I looked for a ton of something all the same color. I had heard that lots of MOMYS use cute dishtowels for cloth napkins, so that got me to thinking outside of the box and allowed me to ditch my original plan of making napkins with my serger. (Whew!) The girls and I found off-white (who knew they came in that color?), unbleached cotton shop towels at Sam's Club, and thought they would be perfectly cute and quaint for napkins. They are not perfectly square or uniformly size (and neither are we) , but they are close enough, and the price was right. We paid about $12 for 100 towels. We love them!

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Next, we had always made our own baby wipes from paper towels, but I wanted to switch over to non-disposable ones. We had heard Moms talk of using the shop towels for baby wipes, so we considered those, but I didn't like the rough texture of them for delicate bottoms, so we settled on cheap wash cloths. We picked white because I wanted to wash them in hot water with the diaper loads and be able to see if they were really getting clean or not. They have been wonderful! Not at all too thick to wipe with (which I had wondered about), and they are very quick to throw together. They also don't dull my good butcher knife like cutting the paper towel rolls for the disposable ones did. We mix about a quart of water with two tablespoons of liquid soap, mix it together, and pour on top of as many washcloths as we can squeeze into our container. (We grate a bar of TN Farmgirl's soap, and pour two cups of boiling water over it, let it dissolve, and voila! Liquid soap that lives in a squeeze bottle in the bathroom closet, ready for making wipes!)

We also switched back to cloth diapers successfully. My first three were in cloth, but when I had four in diapers at once, I was given a large quantity of disposables and I switched to disposables and never looked back. Well, until now that is. I started making homemade cloth diapers with these instructions, but haven't been totally happy with them. They are thick and absorbent, very soft (made from old T-shirts), but the weave is so thick that pins refuse to go through them without a fight. If you decide to make them, I recommend adding the Snappi-able fabric, and using Snappi straps instead of pins. I would have continued to make more anyway (and buy some Snappi straps), except that someone (Thanks Anita!) just passed on to me a large bag of nice cloth diapers, and now I am freed from one more sewing project! (Yay!)

I also made (and totally fell in love with) wool soakers - diaper covers made from felted wool sweaters. WOW and double wow! I had NO idea the things would work so well. I will not bother with pictures and details, because Holly has already covered that well, but I will tell you that I am amazed that they work so well and are so sweet and cozy. I will never go back to any other cover after trying these! I made some wool longies (long pants-type diaper covers) and regular no-legs types. The wool longies are not the least bit scratchy (if you choose well when picking out which sweaters to use) and are so, so yummy-cute sticking out from under a little girls' dress in winter. They are also quick and easy to make! This is a great thing, as I priced pre-made ones online for upwards of $50 per pair! So there are three things now marked off my Switching-Over-To-Cloth list. Cool.

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These jars contain some of our herb projects. The green one on the right is Healing Salve that we learned how to make from TN Farmgirl's Medicinal Herb Course. It is green because we used extra virgin olive oil for it. We use it for boo-boos instead of antibiotic ointment (it has several herbs known for their antibacterial/antifungal qualities), and for diaper cream in place of any kind of Vitamin D ointment. It is so much fun to slowly, one-by-one replace all those petroleum-based products with something HOME MADE! Although I usually hate the way this word is overused, I have found it to be empowering... I can really do this? Yes, I really can! Things like this remind me so much of the ideas in Mary Pride's The Way Home book... another few pieces of life brought back home. It is a good feeling.

The jar on the left contains homemade lotion/cream. We mixed yummy things like coconut oil and sweet almond oil with cocoa butter, herbs great for skin care like calendula, and essential oils like lavender and lime for that invigorating aromatherapy factor. It turned out great! We found the instructions from KeriMae at A Happy Home, and it really was as simple as she made it sound. My big girls really could have made this themselves - it was that simple. If you can make mayonnaise, you can make this... it is the same process (only without the eggs).

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These yummy looking morsels are not truffles, no matter how hard I tried to convince my children. But they are close. Ever wonder how to get herbs into little children? Me too. Carla Lynne encouraged me to make what she calls "Herb Balls" to help get herbs into small children easily. She told me to powder the herbs I wanted included, then mix them with honey. Then, grind nuts, dried fruit, etc, and mix it all together. Make small balls, and roll them in carob powder, and refrigerate. She did not give me an exact recipe, so I can't give you one, but, I recommend the taste test plan. I tasted the mixture as I went along to know how much of which ingredients I wanted to add. The key to getting these yummy, I found, was to really powder the herbs well, so the texture doesn't stand out. They turned out great, and the flavor improves with a few days in the fridge. Now my little children beg for "those chocolate balls" and I have no trouble getting the herbs into those little bodies.

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These little babies are the beginning of our making our own herbal cough drops. We got the recipe from TN Farmgirl's blog. I am not going to link to the exact post, because I want you to have fun digging through the archives and learning about all kinds of other herbal things on your way to this recipe. I will tell you this, though. They only have two ingredients, and making them was close to as fun as a taffy pull, if you have ever done that. They taste yucky. Horehound is a bitter herb, and it only is effective when bitter, BUT, my kids actually ate them OK. They said they weren't that bad. I did not try them, as horehound is contraindicated during lactation and pregnancy!

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First we made the drops, then we rolled them in corn starch to keep them from sticking together. Next we wrapped them in freezer paper squares and put them in jars. They really work well for loosening chest congestion!

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So that's the happenings around here. I hope you have survived enjoyed the journey through our random musings!

P.S. My Inbox is swamped, but I hope to catch up this week, so if you're waiting to hear from me, I'm hurrying! Thanks for being patient with me!