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If you like this blog, please consider following our Facebook page!  I post interesting articles and fun links to resources regularly.  It’s a great place for interaction with the Rocking Homestead.

Also, feel free to follow me (Jessica) on Pinterest, where I pin a wide variety of really cool stuff.  I keep my boards very meticulously organized, if a board gets too big, I divide it up into sub categories (In the process of reorganizing my board “Garden and Homestead” into about 8 subsections right now).  You can find resources and inspiration for gardening, raising food producing animals, DIY and craft projects, holiday decor (my Halloween boards are EPIC), paleo cooking, size acceptance, feminism, natural parenting, bicycling, pregnancy and birth, and even fashion.

You can also follow Jeremy on Pintrest.  This is literally the only social networking he does.  His boards are much more woodworking, DIY, and Halloween focused than anything else.

Finally, you can connect with me on Instagram.

We look forward to connecting with all of you!

Surrogacy update: We have one baby

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We’ve had two ultrasounds so far. We have a heart beat and growth right on schedule. And we just have one baby.

The biggest question on everyone’s mind since I got my positive test has been “Now how many are in there?” Even though I only had two blastocysts put in me, some people theorized there could even be three or four, after all, couldn’t fertilized eggs split into identical twins? I was pretty sure the blastocysts were past the point where that was possible when they put them in, but people still questioned. It’s been a load off to know for sure that it’s just one baby.

Not that I would have been upset about twins. There was even a part of me that hoped for it. But ultimately, one baby is preferable to multiples. One baby will likely mean an easier pregnancy with less risk of complications. It makes my chances of needing a cesarean lower, and my chances of being able to get pregnant again with my own baby within a year after this one more likely.

The pregnancy so far has been much like my others. I’ve had a little bit of very mild nausea, quite a bit of fatigue, a little brain fogginess, and some irritability. Unlike my other pregnancies, however, I have not gained anything yet. I’ve maybe even lost some. Both with Elijah and Freja I gained a significant amount of weight in the first trimester, 15 to 20 pounds, approximately. That’s each time! Not surprisingly, I gained much more weight than is typically average with each pregnancy, 80 lbs total with Elijah, and 50 lbs total with Freja. And after having easy pregnancies, easy births, and very healthy babies, I firmly believe I gained that weight because I needed to in order to be healthy. Before getting pregnant with both Elijah and Freja I had spent significant amounts of time dieting, forcing my weight down as far as I could. In fact, before having gotten pregnant with Elijah, I was dieting so chronically I was likely nutrient deficient and in pretty poor shape, health wise. And each time, when I had to give up dieting upon getting pregnant, I packed the weight back on so fast it would make a lot of people’s heads spin. Which really should come as no surprise, research shows that most dieters, when forced to resume normal eating habits (or in my case with both my kids, go from a very calorically reduced diet to a just slightly calorically reduced diet), will pack the weight back on, sometimes even more than they started with. This time, I have been practicing intuitive eating, focusing only on trying to get in more nutrient dense foods. I have not counted calories or carbs or fat or anything like that at all, I have just eaten what felt right and tried to make sure I was getting in as many nutrient dense foods as possible, and golly gee, it’s the first time I’m gaining weight exactly like the experts say you should. Not that everyone will have the same results as I am, every person’s body is different. Even my body was different in my two previous pregnancies, it needed to put on weight, and nothing I did, not restricting food in my first pregnancy, or staying very active in my second, could stop that from happening. But I do believe strongly that if you trust your body it will take the best care of you it can. Your body has a pretty good self preservation instinct. Generally speaking, it wants to live.

I have felt I’m on the downhill slide of the first trimester yuckies, which I know already is not as bad for me as it tends to be for most other women. There has been one bummer in all of this, and that’s that the placenta has possible placental lakes in it. Placental lakes are pools of blood that form in the placenta, and are very common in the second and third trimester, but less so in the first. It could be nothing, and I tend to think that’s most likely the case, but it could indicate possible growth restriction. Because baby has been growing right on schedule, I’m choosing not to be too concerned. I know this practice deals with a lot of very high risk stuff, as their normal day to day, and that can give people a skewed view of seeing variances in pregnancy. However, they have recommended, as a safety precaution, that I take it extra easy and not do any heavy lifting at all. And their idea of heavy lifting is much lighter than mine. I’m not even supposed to lift Freja! Also, no sex, and no exercise. This is a major bummer for me, but I will definitely follow instructions. I think it’s probably nothing, but just in case, I’m going to be careful. I was annoyed that the nurse practitioner who told me about this talked like lifting and exercise restrictions would be good news for me. Some women aren’t actually looking for ways to get out of doing as much work as possible. And some people actually don’t find it easier to have to wait to get their husband to lift anything heavier than ten pounds for them. Some women enjoy a variety of physical activities and sex, and aren’t relieved when told they can’t do those activities. I’d venture to guess, in fact, that this is the case for most women.

But I have been released now to get care with a care provider of my choosing, and I will be choosing a midwife, so long as my pregnancy is low risk. Midwifery care is just better for me. It is more attentive, less alarmist, and more personal than OB care, in general. Of course, it all depends on the midwife, and the OB, but this is my experience. Some people prefer the more medicalized care of an OB. They feel all the tests make it more personalized, and that’s cool. I think more time spent developing a relationship makes midwifery care more personal, and that’s what I prefer. However, because this is not a totally normal pregnancy, I will be getting both treatments, the tests and the midwifery atmosphere, and I’m okay with that. Generally, in my own pregnancies, I prefer to reduce the tests to a degree, sometimes too much information isn’t actually helpful, it leads to false assumptions of risk and a lot of unnecessary stress, but I understand why it’s needed this time. There is a time and a place for everything, of course. I’m just glad I get to have midwifery care as well.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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On saving the suburbs

When I’m writing about homesteading, I think it’s important to talk about the fact that this is not the only way to lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle.  In fact, it may not even be the best way to do it, at least, not for everyone.  I mean, sure, it reduces my carbon foot print to try and produce as much of my food and personal goods here as possible, but ultimately, it’s not reasonable to expect everyone to do this, nor would it even be the best thing for the planet even if it were reasonable.  There simply isn’t enough room, let alone resources, for everyone to do this. Continue reading

A look back on this years garden

Although my garden is still producing armfuls of kale, and a few tomatoes here and there, garden season is pretty much over. It was a pretty good run, the best I’ve ever had In this house, but it’s over now. All that’s left to do out there is spread compost and plant some bulbs. I need flowers in the spring. I need them.

This was, by far, our most successful year gardening in this home, but over all I’m still disappointed. For having planted 15 tomato plants, we got remarkably few tomatoes. I got a whopping 1 squash, a spaghetti squash, none of the rest of my plants (which included 4 zucchini, 4 summer squash, 3 spaghetti squash, and 2 pumpkins) ever even produced a female blossom. I only got a tiny bit of lettuce, one cabbage, a few cucumbers (although I consider that a victory given how late in the year I planted cucumbers), and no spinach – it bolted too quickly.

This yard is very hard to grow in. The sun exposure is just not very good. Everywhere we can put plants is either too shady or the sun is too intense. It’s hard to find balance.

Jeremy suggested building a couple of raised beds in the middle of our back yard, where we get the best sun, but since we are likely going to be selling our house in a year or two, I don’t want to do anything that’s going to mar up our lawn too badly. This is a white bread house in a white bread neighborhood and if we want to sell it, it’s going to need to appeal to white bread buyers, which means pretty lawn. That’s why most of our garden is currently in containers.

But I can’t deny that our garden is going to be severely hindered by current conditions, so after a little bit of research, I decided that a straw bale garden would be a good choice for us next year. It would kill the grass under it, but when the time comes to sell, it’s easy enough to reseed or lay down a few rolls of sod.

Generally, I’m a big believer that food should be grown in soil. Preferably soil in the ground. Things like containers and hydroponics systems are cool and do produce plants and harvests, obviously, but I’m not certain they really provide the plant with everything it needs to produce optimal food. There is so much we still don’t know about what’s going on in soil, and food, for that matter, that I don’t think we can really know with confidence that we are providing everything a plant needs in a liquid or bagged formula. Also, the set ups are expensive and complex, especially hydroponics, which makes it not super accessible.

Straw bale gardening has a lot of these issues. You aren’t growing in soil, and you’re relying to a large degree on store bought fertilizers. But, you are growing in composting straw right on top of the soil, which probably puts it pretty close to soil nutrition wise (microorganisms and whatnot from the soil can move up into it as it decomposes), and I can do much of the fertilization with my own compost, so I’m going to give it a try. It’s also cheap, so why not?

Now that it’s (essentially) winter, our homesteading doesn’t stop, it just shifts gears. The garden is no longer my focus, instead I’m focusing on fermentation, soap making, bread baking, sewing, quail care, and probably some winter gardening. We do have cold frames I’d like to try growing greens under again. Last winter I was not terribly successful because I forgot to water them. Jeremy will have home improvement projects of his own.

Winter is not really a slowed down time for us. It’s just different stuff we are doing. What kind of homesteading/self sufficiency stuff occupies your winters?

Surrogacy update: results

How do you think this one is going to turn out?

How do you think this one is going to turn out?

Did you know that invitro fertilization is only about 40% effective in the best circumstances? That’s about a 60% potential for failure, even if you have the best possible chances for success. And many people say it almost never works the first time. That the first time is really just when doctors and patients get to know what works and increases their chances of success. Continue reading

Healthy Halloweens are bullshit

As culturally embraced sizism becomes more and more prominent in society, I’m starting to see a big trend towards healthy Halloweens.  My first exposure to the concept of healthy Halloween was when Elijah was a baby, and I had joined the local chapter of a national club for crunchy moms.  These moms were mostly concerned with pesticide residues, genetically modified organisms, and trans fats in treats, maybe a little with the working conditions of the people working the cacao farms, and all of that seemed reasonable to me.  I could envision a future in which all Halloween candy was fair trade and organic, but I still bought my sacks of Hershey’s and Mars sugar and hydrogenated fat because, really, who can afford a ten pound sack of fair trade mini candy bars?  Not lower enlisted, single moms, that’s for sure.

Over time, however, the concern out and about as well as in the group became primarily sugar, and how sugar is just like cocaine and is killing us all very slowly.  I was all for trying to get away from the crappy candy I still begrudgingly bought even though I knew that doing so was supporting slave labor, and even making the holiday a little healthier with some home made treats, but this movement advocated for no treats at all.  Or, rather, lousy treats that only the most sheltered and deprived kid could truly get excited about.  A clementine with a sprig of celery in the top to make it look like a pumpkin is no treat at all, especially given that they aren’t in season yet in October and most likely will taste like crap.

Look, I get it.  Sugar is not great for you.  Especially all that highly processed crap, packaged up with hydrogenated oils and gmo soy lecithin.  I don’t like that shit either.  But it’s one night a year (and maybe a few days afterwards), I swear to god it’s not going to kill your kids.

It’s no coincidence that the rise of healthy Halloweens have coincided perfectly with our culture’s war on obesity.  It is our great fear of the worst fate ever, being fat, that drives this trend.  Better to ruin a holiday for our children than to, god forbid, have them grow up and possibly have love handles!!  Oh, the horror!!  The agony!!  Why, given that inevitability, letting your child have even one fun size Snickers on Halloween is tantamount to child abuse.

The whole idea of healthy Halloweens is steeped in fat shaming and fear mongering.  It is not even based in any kind of reality.  Here are some facts, if you are paranoid about letting your children have treats on one measly holiday.

  • We don’t know what causes people to be fat or thin.  The reasons are likely a lot more complex and multifaceted than just calories in, calories out, or even more complex issues like insulin resistance and inflammation.  Therefore, we cannot assume that fun sized candy bars are the culprit either.
  • Fat is not necessarily a health risk.  There are plenty of healthy fat people out there.  In fact, using our current BMI standards, the people with the longest life span are those in the overweight range.  Obese people and healthy weight people have about the same lifespans, statistically speaking.  The very obese have slightly lower life spans than the obese or healthy weight.  Underweight people have the lowest lifespans of all.  Given this knowledge, if what you are trying to do is ensure your child the longest life possible, it might be in their best interest to gain a little bit of “extra” weight.
  • Even the most calories in, calories out focused doctor would concede that a few treats one night a year is not going to make your kid fat as long as they are eating a balance diet the rest of the year and leading an active lifestyle.  In fact, your kids will probably be safe from the dreaded fat menace even if they eat candy on Halloween and cookies on Christmas!
  • Fat people are at lower risk for many health conditions, including depression (which, yes, takes lives every single day).  I would hypothesize that children who don’t get to eat candy on Halloween are at higher risk of depression, so maybe letting them gorge on chocolate one night a year could actually be good for them!

More importantly than all of this, fat people are human beings who deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect that any other human being should be treated with.  Striking fear of becoming fat into our children’s hearts is setting them up for being sizists and cruel bullies to those who are fat, and increasing their risk of having their own body image issues.

Look, I get it, I do.  I’m all about feeding kids a healthy diet.  I just think that some occasional splurges are part of an over all, holistically healthy diet.  I’m not saying let them gorge on nothing but candy all night Halloween, and all day for as many days afterwards that it takes them to run out of candy.  By all means, fill your kid up with a healthy dinner before you go out trick or treating, ration treats on November first and beyond, arrange a visit from the Switch Witch or donate the bulk of your candy to the troops (I can tell you from experience they love that shit, even though most of them do have access to all the candy they want at the PX) or the homeless or something.  But let them have Halloween night as it traditionally is, because while candy might not be good for your kid’s health, cramming your own issues with fat and body image problems down your kids’ throats is worse for them.

Embracing fear

I’m not a big fan of fear.  I don’t like how fear has the power to isolate us from our communities, and be used to manipulate us, and drive us to act in irrational, shameful ways.  Fear has been a driving force behind most human innitiated atrocities, and the fuel that allows them to continue, despite many knowing they are not right.  I am no innocent when it comes to this.  Further, I dislike how innundating ourselves with fearful, gruesome, and violent imagery desensitizes us to it, so that we are less horrified by horrible things, finding them to be mundane and predictable, the natural course of things.  This of course strengthens the notion that the world is a terrible, scary place (because horrible things are mundane and common place), further isolating us and making us susceptible to manipulation by more powerful entities (corporate marketers and government authorities, for example). It also makes it easier to ignore it and not care when we see it happening.

It’s for this reason that I don’t like most horror movies, I don’t watch gruesome and scary tv shows, and I change the channel if any fear mongering or sensationalized scary news comes on.  I don’t even forward on articles about this stuff on facebook anymore. Anything I can do to reduce fearful images is a step I can take to better see the world as it truly is, a mostly safe place full of mostly good people and mostly good things.

But for some reason, at Halloween, I embrace the scary.

I’m not the only one who lives under this weird paradox.  I participated in a conversation over at Halloween Forum recently about those of us who have sworn off all or a portion of the news. Watching too much of it can riddle a person with anxiety and fear that simply isn’t grounded in actual reality. Many of us (myself included) also mentioned how we had sworn off fictional TV of the same nature as well, shows such as Law and Order, Dexter, and CSI. And yet, every last one of us were also engaged in other conversations about how best to make a cheap plastic skeleton look like a real rotting corpse, or how to light our homes to best scare the bejeezus out of approaching trick or treaters. Why the contrast?

The fear on Halloween is different than the fear we get from watching true crime shows or gore porn. Traditionally, the scary monsters on Halloween are literal monsters, ghouls and goblins, things our logical minds know do not really exist (or if they do, are not a serious threat to us in almost every situation). They are over the top, made up, hyperbole fears. Even when we started introducing more realistic fears into the Halloween mix, like fears of serial killers of the kinds depicted in early slasher films, the threats seemed highly unlikely and still fairly silly. There is a world of difference between Halloween scary, and how-many-sexual-predators-live-in-a-mile-radius-from-your-home scary, or Ebola-could-break-out-like-the-black-plague-at-any-time scary, or ISIS-could-be-planning-on-bombing-your-local-shopping-mall scary. We know Halloween scary is a game, we don’t know that all these other threats are astronomically unlikely. I mean, the talk about that stuff on the news!
Further, Halloween is a time we actually get out and confront fears. We don’t keep our kids inside out of fear there are really spirits from the other side looking to snatch them away, we dress our kids up like spirits, like little under cover spies, and send them out amongst the scary things to bum candy off of all our neighbors! That might not seem spooky to adults who don’t actually believe in ghosts, but play your cards right, and there could be some spooky magic in it for your kids, who get to experiment with bravery and facing fears in a healthy and safe manner during Halloween. It’s incredibly character building.
Halloween scary gives us the opportunity to experience fear in ways that actually enhances our feeling of safety and security, and our own self confidence. When you see your whole neighborhood coming out in the name of facing fears (even if they are silly, ridiculous fears), it makes you feel a lot more confident about your community’s odds in the extremely unlikely event that you actually find yourself in a zombie apocalypse.
When I was a little girl, I went through a phase where was obsessed with Star Wars. I remember being bothered by something Yoda said about fear to Luke, that fear was the enemy, and that it led to the dark side. Back then, I thought that was stupid, fear was a natural and normal emotion. It was okay to have it, so long as it doesn’t paralyze you or make you do things that aren’t logical or right. It is your action in the face of fear that was or wasn’t the problem, not the fear itself. Now that I am older, I see a lot more wisdom in Yoda’s words. Fear is like a disease, it spreads almost as if it is airborne, and can have devastating effects on individuals and communities. The vast majority of it is completely irrational. And yet, there is still value in acknowledging it and facing it, if only to help you learn the difference between what is a rational warning, and what is an irrational poison. Halloween is one way in which we are able to face our fears, and it’s one of the more fun ones (if not the most fun). That’s probably what leads many of us to love it, even if we can’t stand fear under other circumstances.

The Switch Witch

Image obtained at morguefile.com

Image obtained at morguefile.com

Here at the Rocking Homestead we get a visit from the Switch Witch every year on Halloween.  We do this not because we don’t want our kids eating candy, but because Elijah’s soy allergy makes most candy inedible for him, so it keeps the holiday fun. Continue reading