Saturday, April 19, 2014

Camping with a Baby: Things We Did Well & Lessons Learned

After our first camping trip as a family of 3 we are tired, sore, wizened, and already thinking about our next camping trip.

While we had a great time making memories as a new family, we learned a lot. Hopefully our experiences will encourage you to have fun in the great outdoors with your little ones too!

First, here are some of the things that we did well:

  • We just went for it. It's easy to be intimidated by camping with kids, especially babies. But we loved camping before kids, and want to raise our kids enjoying one of our favorite past times.
  • We kept baby warm. Between long sleeves, hats, double layered pants, and jackets, baby stayed very warm. At night we wrapped him in a blanket by the campfire. Then, he slept between us which was good for him... but not for us.
  • Screened-in awning to keep bugs away from baby and meal time. Brandon found a huge 11'x9' screened-in awning with magnetic closing doors at Costco for $90. That thing was amazing! Looking forward to using this in the summertime when there are lots of mosquitoes.
  •  Pack n Play area. We put our Pack n Play in the screened-in area to create a safe, clean play space for Aaron. We would put a few select toys in with him and he played independently 10-30 minutes at a time.
  • We brought lots of toys and favorite things. Even though space was tight, we brought a full bag of his toys and the familiar lambskin he sleeps on in his crib at home. Those items made independent play time and sleeping go smoothly.
  • Clip on seat. This clip on seat hooked right onto the picnic table for our meal times. Bonus: it is compact for travel.
  • We planned some low maintenance meals. Cooking meals that are as good or better than meals we make at home is one of our favorite parts of camping. We love Dutch oven cooking, but it is fairly time intensive and better for groups than it is for only 2 adults. So foil packet meals were great for the short prep and almost no clean up. Now, I understand why those boxes of Costco ready to eat cereal bowls were so popular with my family when we were little. (Remember those?!)
  • Astroturf! We got a large piece of Astroturf for free recently and I'm so glad we picked it up! The turf was wonderful as a mat outside the tent to cut down on tracked in dirt and it was a great place to allow Aaron to do some supervised scooting. On our next trip, I don't think he'll stay on the turf as easily though unless we put up some temporary fencing; which, isn't a bad idea!
  • Prepped meals at home. We spent about 2 hours at home prepping ingredients for meals so they were ready to go. We chopped onions, cooked bacon, fajita chicken, rice, and prepped an apple crisp topping and base. This prep made it so easy to reach into the cooler for the appropriate Ziplock and throw a meal together.
  • Ready to go meals for baby. We love those Plum organic squeezeable meal packets! (He loves them too!)
  • We planned a short stay. For our first trip, 2 nights was just right! Since we weren't sure how things would go, it was nice that we found a first come, first served site so we could pay one night at a time. 
  • We did research. Campgrounds vary quite a bit. Some are wonderful for families, while some are more for crowds of college kids. Read Yelp, Tripadvisor, reservation details, and look for campground photos. We camped at Butano State Park which was perfect for families!
Ok, so before it sounds like I'm bragging about how great we are, here are some of the lessons we learned from our first campout:
  • Everything takes longer. Everyone tells you how much longer things take with a baby, but sometimes you don't believe it until you experience it. Before baby, it would take us 1-1.5 hours to pack up the car and the same to break camp. With baby, it took us 3 hours to do both tasks. Knowing that it would take us that long would have saved me some anxiety.
  • More easy meals!!!! We had a few meals that were a bit ambitious. The stuffed fajita peppers and paleo apple crisp were delicious, but could have been skipped or modified to be foil packet meals. This is one I want to focus on and start making a special family camp recipe binder.
  • More blankets and warm clothes for mom and dad. Self-explanatory one. Baby was warm, but we were a bit chilly. We were so focused on keeping him warm that we didn't think about ourselves for every situation.
  • Bathtime bucket. This time we were able to keep Aaron relatively clean since he is not very mobile yet, but next time we will definitely need to have a bath bucket and supplies under the screened awning for nightly scrub-downs.
  • Bigger tent with a designated sleeping space for baby. We took our 4-person tent with a queen size mattress and it was very tight. Brandon and I were almost falling off the mattress with our son sleeping starfish style between us. It was also a bummer that Brandon and I couldn't cuddle in the cold, but rather had to sleep in odd contorted positions to make sure Aaron had enough space. At least he slept amazing! (Sidenote: we had a large tent given to us that we were planning to bring, but we discovered last minute that it was missing all the tent poles!)
  • Try to keep your baby's nap schedule. Aaron's main nap of the day happens after lunch time from about 1-3, which is pretty typical. We made the mistake of taking an excursion into town during that time hoping that he would be flexible... this was a recipe that led to no afternoon nap and an overtired baby that evening. In my opinion, I think the optimal times for an outing would be in the morning after breakfast or late afternoon (post-nap).
 These last two lessons are the most important things you can take away from this post, and were big ones we debriefed about after some frustrated conversations.
  • Make the choice between utility/resourcefulness and quality time. I can get pretty ambitious about trying to reduce waste, using non-disposable items, and maximizing baby-free moments to clean, prep, etc. All those things are well and good but if you try to do all those things 100%, you are choosing that over quality time together. I'm not saying use only Styrofoam and a new cup for every drink. Next time, I'll bring some paper or compostable dishes and create a soapy bowl or bucket to toss utensils and dishware into to create one dishwashing time. I'll also put quality time or relaxing first!
  • Quality family time ≠ Quality couple time. We made wonderful memories as a family, but between all the work camping takes and wrangling a 7 month old, Brandon and I barely interacted as a couple, let alone had any physical contact! 3 things that we will do differently next time:
    1. When (or if) baby takes a nap, take those first 15-30 minutes to connect in some way or relax together enjoying your surroundings.
    2. If there's a time that baby is content with some independent playtime, again, take those first few minutes to connect even if it's just to hug and share a laugh over something that happened that morning before you start tackling clean-up duties.
    3. Separate sleeping space for baby. So many reasons for that one! 
Camping with a baby and seeing their wonder as they look at the trees and touch the dirt is really amazing. It is also a rare time of being completely unplugged together. It takes work, but it is so worth it!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

7 months old

Dear Aaron,

You turned 7 months old today!
  • Milestones:You are moving so much! You can scoot and sort of crawl (it's a wounded soldier/belly flop crawl but it does the job!). You "walk" really fast in your walker. You are moving your arms more to bang on things and grab things. You make lots of noises including some mimicking of your Ferrari car. You are trying to pull up on things and sit from a crawl position. This past month you were dedicated on March 30th at Bayside Church. It was a very special day and you enjoyed a fun weekend with Grandma and Grandpa Prior.
  • Stats: You weigh about 19 lbs. and measure about 28 inches long. 
  • Eating: You love eating! You eat 3 oz. or more solids at lunch and dinner time. You enjoy egg yolk, banana, prunes, butternut squash, carrots, peas, and chicken! You love my "soup" the best--chicken stock mixed with pureed squash or veggies and pureed chicken.
  • Sleeping: Sleep has been inconsistent, especially for a big guy like you! So we tried something different last night and you slept for 11 straight hours!
  • Likes: Exploring! You want to touch buttons on the receivers, DVD players, remote, computer, phone... You want to touch the animals around you. You enjoy knocking down towers of blocks or cups. You like exploring textures around you by touching and scratching. You love making noise by banging on things, playing your "piano", and pushing buttons. You also love singing, reading stories, peekaboo, being outside, drinking water from a sippy cup, and watching an occasional Mariner's game with daddy. Oh and you LOVE the Mariner's moose mascot toy because daddy gives him a funny voice.
  • Dislikes: Avocado
  • Places: We stayed pretty close to home this month, but we went on some outings with your cousin Heath and Auntie Ashton!
  • Songs: "Mr. Aaron", "In My Life Lord", "5 Little Monkeys", "High Hopes"
  • Books: All of Baby Nose to Toes, Touch and Feel Farm, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
 You are such a joy in our lives. Every day we marvel at how much we love you! We are so thankful that you are ours!

Mommy and Daddy

This was the most squirmy photo shoot yet! :) Here are some outtakes:

Monday, March 10, 2014

6 months old

Dear Aaron,

You turned 6 months old today!
  • Milestones: Last month you learned how to go backwards very well, this month you have begun to learn how to move forward! You can "walk" forward in your walker and scoot forward on your hands and knees. You can plank! You will push up onto hands and toes for 1-2 seconds as you try to figure out how to move forward. You are finding little ways to communicate with us like reaching up your arms when you want to be picked up. You can bring toys to your mouth. You have 2 teeth, your second one broke through just today! You also had your first illness. :( You had a fever for 36 hours. You had your first babysitter this month while Mommy and Daddy began resuming date nights. This past month you welcomed your Aunt Ashton, Uncle Jordan, and cousin Heath to the neighborhood! You met our new chicks too!
  • Stats: You weigh 18 lbs. 7 oz. and measure 27 inches long. 
  • Eating: You eat about every 3 hours during the day. You eat solids like egg yolk, liver, banana, and avocado.
  • Sleeping: Sleep has been up and down this month due to sickness and teething.
  • Likes: Tickling, playing with stacking blocks, moving in your walker, sitting on shoulders, being hung upside down, watching all the animals (Buhner, kitties, our chicks), chewing on and looking at everything and everyone!
  • Dislikes: Not much.
  • Places: You started coming with me to Stroller Strides workouts.
  • Songs: "Mr. Aaron", "In My Life Lord", "I love you, Lord"
  • Books: Go Dog, Go, Touch and Feel Farm, Bumble Bee, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
 We love you so much! It is the best feeling to be your parents! We love seeing your personality and getting to know you better and better. It's amazing that you've been in our lives for 6 months already.

Mommy and Daddy

Now that we're at the half year mark, let's see how you've grown:
Don't grow up too fast, little boy!

Spaghetti and Meatballs (real food version)

I combined an existing recipe from Giada and some of my own ideas to create tonight's supper, a real food spin on a classic.

The sauce
  • olive oil (a generous amount, 1/4-1/2 c.)
  • yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1 qt. stewed tomatoes (we had a jar of them canned by a friend)
  • 1 32 oz. can organic crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 2 bay leaves
The meatballs
  • 1 lb. hot italian sausage (the ground kind, not links)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • sourdough bread crumbs (you'll have to make this on your own by drying out the bread and grinding it up in a food processor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. italian seasoning
  1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a large pot until tender.
  2. Add carrots, celery, salt, and pepper then saute until tender.
  3. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and bring to a boil while you prepare meatballs.
  4. Mix meatball ingredients by hand for best results. Form meatballs the size of a ping pong ball. Carefully put meatballs into sauce.
  5. Bring sauce to a boil. Let the sauce boil long enough to brown the outsides of the meatballs (10-15 minutes).
  6. Simmer until the sauce is reduced. This can take 1-2 hours. We like a thick sauce so we let it simmer 2 hours and it was worth the wait!
  7. Serve with pasta (We used organic rice pasta, I would have preferred spaghetti squash but it's not in season.)
  8. Top with raw parmesan cheese. (I was pleasantly surprised to find this at Whole Foods!)
My mom gave me the idea to cook the meatballs in the sauce without sauteeing the outsides like many recipes do. It made the meatballs extremely flavorful and the sauce was so much better! I think next time I'll mix grassfed ground beef with the ground italian sausage to try a different flavor.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Our Real Food Journey

Our kitchen looks completely different than it did a few months ago. Almost everything that comes into our house is whole, unprocessed food, many of them from local farms. Making the farmers' market a regular part of our routine, making bone broth (stock) weekly, participating in a herd share to get raw milk, making our own butter, I never saw this coming...
Before I explain how this journey began 3 months ago, let me rewind back much further. As a kid I struggled with my weight constantly. I also have had digestive issues all my life with stomach pain and heartburn. Pepto bismol and Tums were always on hand and consumed several times each week. I was used to this being my norm and just thought my body was sensitive, no one told me something could be wrong. 

While I was pregnant, issues with heartburn and digestion became worse as is often typical. Then after a few weeks of nursing, I noticed that Aaron showed signs of sensitivity to something in my milk. (Breastfed babies should pass yellow/orange stool, his was green and mucousy. Gross, I know.) I asked my mom and started doing some reading (What to Expect the First Year, and it was clear that something was amiss. 

I had read that babies under 6 months can be sensitive to dairy in breastmilk (to the protein, casein, not the lactose), so I tried eliminating it from my diet. After a week, Aaron was 80% better, I felt better and I lost 3 lbs. To see if I could resolve some of Aaron's other issues like red rash-like dots on his face, I eliminated gluten in addition to dairy the next week. That did it. Aaron looked better, felt better, and was less fussy in the evening. For a while I thought I had things figured out until the drastic changes in my diet resulted in what I can only describe as an acidic/alkaline imbalance. I developed intense heartburn, the worst I have ever had. It was so severe that it ended up causing a burn on my esophagus resulting in swelling and terrible pain. I even went to urgent care to see if I might have strep throat then followed that up with a doctor visit which was hopelessly useless. For a week I could barely swallow. This was the last straw, I reached out to friends via social media and received some great references. Right away I scheduled an appointment with Season Johnson Nutritional Therapy.

Season was so helpful in teaching me about nutrition and developing a nutrition protocol for me to follow. I learned that eating fat does not make you fat. What?! Coconut oil is not only immensely healthful but fights bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Bone broth (aka stock) is full of minerals and vitamins that are very healing to the gut and body. Sugar completely derails the immune system. Cod liver oil gives an incredible boost to the immune system and brain development of little ones. The importance of taking food-based supplements, if taking them at all. Conventional living (antibiotics, sugar, fast food, processed ingredients, etc.) congests the liver. Heartburn is caused by too little acid in the stomach (makes sense why taking tums would cause temporary relief only to make heartburn worse the next time). One of the most jarring things I learned was that feeling sick or achy in daily life is not supposed to be normal, even once a month for women.

I continued to avoid gluten and dairy as well as adding new restrictions: no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol while trying to reset my body. I was also to add regular bone broth, lots of coconut oil, fermented cod liver oil, and supplements to support my liver and increasing my stomach acid content. I felt excellent! It was even sweeter that Aaron was doing better and better with the changes in my diet.
I continued to learn more about nutrition by reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. This book is the cornerstone of the developing real food movement and is based on the work of Weston A. Price, a dentist, who observed a connection between nutrition and health. Price found that when he compared the teeth and overall health of traditional people groups worldwide, he found that those who consumed a traditional diet (high fat, high protein from organ and muscle meats, raw grass-fed dairy, fermented foods) were vastly heathier and had straight, well-formed teeth in contrast to people from the same culture who ate a "modern diet" (foods from the western world, high in sugar and refined grains) who had poor health and crooked teeth.
I even convinced Brandon to join me after explaining to him all I had learned. He cautiously decided to give up gluten to see if it would have any impact on his digestive issues. And it did (much to his dismay ha!). We began the new year experimenting with new recipes and started to add cultured milk (homemade kefir) to my diet to see if it would be well tolerated by Aaron. No issue there. I started to frequent our farmers' market to buy local produce, pastured eggs, and grass-fed beef. I cleaned out our fridge and pantry, tossing anything that contained corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, gmo ingredients, and refined sugar. Our fridge and pantry look completely different with mostly whole ingredients and homemade items in jars.
If we weren't going far enough, Brandon found a herd share connection to supply our home with fresh organic raw milk. I was able to consume dairy again! Aaron didn't have any reactions. And this milk is unlike anything you've ever tasted. I also discovered that the sour leavening process in making sourdough bread digests the gluten (gluten is a protein found in wheat products that can be difficult for the body to digest). So we tried adding sourdough into our diet. We were happy to discover that it did not cause any of the negative reactions we had previously experienced. Woohoo!
While the wonderful world of healthful, nourishing fats has opened up to us, there are many things on our "don't eat" list such as:
          • GMO ingredients (if a vegetable can become a pesticide, how can it still be food?)
            • Corn syrup
            • Canola oil
          • Sodium nitrate (found in most bacon and lunch meats)
          • Trans fats
          • Soy
          • Chemical additives not found in nature
          • Food dyes
          • Conventional meats that have been treated with hormones and antibiotics
We are avoiding white sugar and refined flour as much as possible, but the list above are things that we try to never eat.

Nourishing food choices that we try to include in our diet daily are:
          • Coconut oil
          • Organic (preferably local, pastured) meats
          • Grassfed beef
          • Pastured eggs
          • Bone broth
          • Local, organic vegetables eaten with nut butters or cooked in raw butter (when eaten with fat, our bodies digest these more efficiently)
          • Raw dairy
          • Sea salt
          • Fermented cod liver oil
          • Nuts that have been soaked and dried
          • Sourdough bread
          • Organic fruit
Here are typical meals in our home now that we have started eating "real food":
  • Pastured eggs scrambled in homemade raw butter with nitrate-free bacon and toasted sourdough
  • Organic roast chicken or grassfed steak served with organic vegetables cooked in raw butter
  • Organic chicken and vegetable soup cooked in nourishing bone broth
  • Grain-free granola in raw milk
  • Sourdough turkey (real, sliced roasted) sandwich with nitrate-free bacon and avocado
While it may sound restrictive, we feel great! Even after several trips, including air travel, and putting Aaron in children's ministry at church, we have yet to get sick. Our skin is glowing and our digestive issues are rare. As odd as it sounds, my eyes are even lighter in color from eating this way. 

That is a very light rundown of our real food journey. I'm not sure what our diet will look like down the road and we will still eat out on occasion, however this is what we have committed to for our nutritional health in our household. And while I believe every person should commit to pursuing better health, it may look different for everyone! If it's just switching to organic produce or cutting out soda, then great! 

We continue to learn more and are having a lot of fun in the kitchen as we pursue health in all areas of our lives--physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Making an Egg Incubator

Last year we made a garden addition to our backyard which we loved! The fresh tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, and blueberries were delicious. This spring we'll be adding something new to our backyard: chickens! 

Since we have shifted our diet to "real food" (organic, unprocessed), we have been enjoying lots of farm fresh eggs! Organic, pastured eggs cost $6-7/dozen at the farmers' market which gets expensive. We have been talking about the possibility of chickens for a while and decided now would be a great time to start. We also didn't want to endorse the inhumane hatchery industry by purchasing chicks from the local feed supply.

We have a friend who has a lovely brood of chickens who supplied our {hopefully} fertilized eggs. Other supplies I gathered were:
  • Styrofoam cooler
  • Thermometer and humidity reader
  • Small bowl for water
  • Sponge
  • Lamp
  • 25 watt bulb
  • Glass/plastic from picture frame
  • Duct tape  
  • Fertilized eggs from local brood
 Step 1: Outline your glass/plastic from your picture frame on the lid of the cooler. Then cut a viewing square that is smaller than your glass/plastic so it won't fall through.
 Step 2: Tape glass/plastic window onto the top of the cooler lid with duct tape taking care to completely seal the top.

Step 3: Cut a hole in the side of the cooler for the bulb. Put lamp post into hole from the outside then screw bulb into socket. Use duct tape around the hole to avoid heat loss.
 Step 4: Find a spot for the incubator and prop the lamp post. Make sure an outlet is nearby to plug in the lamp.
 Step 5: Put water into the bowl, place sponge into the bowl--this is for humidity. Place water bowl into incubator near bulb. Place eggs together furthest away from the bulb (Make a mark with pencil on the eggs to help with remembering which way to turn them) with thermometer/humidity reader near them.
Step 6: Put the lid on and monitor, monitor, monitor! According to this website, the optimal temperature is 98-101 and the humidity between 55-70%.

I'm using a log to keep track of the temperature, humidity, and egg rotations. So far I've learned that it is very tricky to maintain the right conditions in the incubator. We'll see how this goes in 21 days!