Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Steps Toward Sustainability: Cloth Diapering

If you know me at all, then you probably know that I've mastered the art of sticking my foot in my mouth over the past 30 years. Or maybe it's more that I quickly proclaim I will NEVER... only to find myself doing that very thing I just swore never to do. {Tail between legs kind of moment} So while I'm sure I'll find myself in this position again at one point or another, I've really taken extra caution to avoid such comments since I've become a mama. {I hope I never hear myself say My kid would never... Seriously. Maim me if I do.}

Growing up as the oldest of 7 kids in a home parented by a rather old-fashioned perspective, I begrudged each diaper change since they involved those blasted diaper pins! My fingers were always the sacrificial pin cushion. I figured I'd probably get in trouble for pricking one sibling or another as I tried to get the diaper tight enough to do its job without getting it so tight that I couldn't fit the pin between the skin and the diaper, so I was better off just sucking it up and dealing with a few drops of selflessly-spilled blood. {I'm pretty sure I earned a LOT of jewels for my crown in heaven!} Needless to say, I confidently proclaimed quite a few times that I would NEVER use cloth diapers on my kids! Disposable diapers were much more civilized. And afterall, aren't we supposed to be making forward progress?

But there I was, expecting my first child and proudly announcing {like it had been my idea all along} that I would be using cloth diapers on my baby. And just as quickly, I also pointed out that I would not be using the dinosaurs of the past. No weapon-like hateful-looking diaper pins in my future, much to my husband's relief. No ugly rubber pants either! After a few months of researching cloth diapering options, we went with the Fuzzi Bunz all-in-one one-size diapers. Snaps instead of pins. Adjustable elastic around the legs and back to allow the diaper to fit 5 pounds all the way up to 35 pounds. And the best part was that they came in all sorts of brilliant colors with the colorful outer part acting as the "rubber pants" of old. 

Bonus: They double as a swim diaper!
We have had such a great experience with our Fuzzi Bunz and have made every skeptic a convert in the process. {My MIL's fear about having to change a cloth diaper when she watched our baby was slightly enjoyable. But even she now sings their praises.} Not only have we saved hundreds of dollars by not having to buy disposable diapers every week or month, but we feel good about the fact that we're not contributing bags full of stinky diapers to the landfill each week. On the rare occasions that we use disposable diapers, we have found that {contrary to our initial thinking} they end up stinking up our house so much more than the cloth. And, our son has not had a diaper rash even once in his 14 months. Our diapers don't look like they've been soiled after a good wash and the more they're washed, the softer they get.

Back in April, we participated in the the Great Cloth Diaper Change 2012 to see if we could beat the world record for the most simultaneous cloth diaper changes. Our local Fuzzi Bunz retailer, Heather Klinefelter at Growing Up Green, organized our local event which turned out approximately 30 participants. Overall, the world record was broken by 8,251 participants in 189 locations on 4 continents...over 3,000 more diaper changes than 2011. While the participants were all levels of crunchy {I mean this endearingly}--from way crunchy to not-so-crunchy {I thought I was pretty crunchy, but apparently I still have a way to go on my crunchiness}--it was nice to see that there are other mamas {and dads!} out there who have fallen in love with cloth diapering just as much as I have.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences on cloth diapering!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Steps Toward Sustainability: Raising our own chickens

In May, I wrote that we are trying to be intentional about creating a sustainable lifestyle. Even before that though, we have been talking, praying and dreaming about what life might eventually look like for us. And about how all of these pieces fit together into the big picture that is our destiny.

One of the big things on our heart is food. Not just any food. But food that has been sustainably and ethically raised and harvested. This is, however, not the easiest to find in our local community. I love being within walking distance to two different markets from which I stock my kitchen with raw milk and fresh, organic produce, but I have yet to find a butcher who sells pastured chicken. It’s too expensive. No one would buy it. These chickens are local, that’s all I can tell you.
But I beg to differ. I believe that there is a growing community of people who want to know where their food is coming from, what it’s been fed, what chemicals have been sprayed on it, and the conditions in which the animals have been raised. Ben and I are just two people in this group, but we have decided to do something about it. We’ve been called to do something about it.

So in April, our first batch of 2-day-old chickens arrived. Twenty-five laying hens—an even mixture of Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock.

 A week later, we received another shipment. Twenty-five Freedom Ranger broilers which would—in a mere 9 weeks—grow to be our meat chickens. After a few weeks under a heat lamp, our chickens were ready for the pasture.

There were just a few minor hiccups: 1) chickens are illegal in York City; 2) even if chickens were legal, our postage stamp “yard” does not even come close to resembling a pasture—we don’t own even one blade of grass.

Fortunately, my parents live on a farm with some extra pasture that was perfect for our chickens. So Ben rigged up some {temporary} moveable pens and we sent our chickens to do their thing.

 Our Freedom Rangers at 9 Weeks
Fast forward nine weeks and our broilers have fulfilled their purpose in this life. After immersing himself in literature and watching a few YouTube videos, Ben has successfully butchered all 22 of our broilers {we had two casualties within the first week or so and a few recently due to the high summertime heat}. I want to note that we have a great respect for these birds and Ben has expressed to me his juxtaposed feelings of remorse and reward. It is never something to take lightly or irreverently. He still has some work to do perfecting his technique, but I am very proud of him for providing beautiful and tasty chicken for our family.

The very next day, we decided to taste our product. With the heat, we opted for grilling a whole chicken rather than heating our home with the oven. I rubbed the bird in olive oil and some freshly dried herbs from our CSA and plopped the bird on the grill over indirect heat for about 75 minutes, turning it only once halfway through. The result was the juiciest, tastiest chicken I have ever had! And the skin! We hate skin and this skin was to die for. Perfectly seasoned and crispy without being charred or crunchy… Yeah, it was a whopping success!

Grilled chicken paired with parsley milk potatoes... DELISH!
And it was so immensely rewarding to know that we raised this chicken from start to finish. We knew exactly what we were eating, which perhaps added even more flavor for us. Above all, we were so relieved to know that there is a difference in taste, texture and peace of mind between an industrially produced bird and a sustainably-raised and pastured bird.

Aren't they gorgeous? Our Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock laying hens.
 As for our layers, they won’t begin producing eggs for at least another 10 weeks, as egg production usually begins around 20 weeks. However, they are so fun to watch as they freely range about the pasture. In the meantime, we enjoy fresh eggs from my parents’ chickens and look forward to reaping the bounty from our own in the upcoming months.

Click on the box below to head on over to Frugally Sustainable and check out other bloggers' sustainable ways!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Life as we know it right now

Seeing as though Ken Bruggeman has captured our family through his lens at each milestone in our lives this past year, it was without hesitation that we once again took advantage of his perspective as we sought to preserve through photos our life as we know it right now. {Thanks to Ken, we have memories as expectant first-time parents, memories of the day our sweet boy was born, and of our new family of three}.

I knew Burke would be a difficult subject to shoot, being highly independent, impressively mobile and possessing that token one-year-old interest in doing everything but what you want him to do. Burke is the most pleasant little boy I know {a compliment we are paid so often}. But just as soon as I say that he's always happy and cooperative, he goes right ahead and makes a filthy dirty liar out of me! Kids!!! Truthfully, although I remember a few devilish charming smiles scattered throughout the shoot, the majority of my memories centered around the panic I felt at the fact that our photos were going to be terrible. Because my son would just not cooperate. He was being a stinker. A stubborn little one-year-old stinker! And yet, when Ken showed us our photos yesterday, I was in love. He had captured our little boy just as we know him--happy, independent, playful and loving. So, without further ado, here are some other photos from our family photo shoot. {To see the entire gallery click here}

And it wouldn't be a complete family photo shoot if we didn't include our one on the way! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dreams, Desires and Destiny

I don't want the doubts of others to change the way I love
I don't want the fear of others to change the way I fly

Have you ever wanted something so badly that it consumed you? It was your dream. Your destiny. It filled every waking thought and invaded your dreams. It was organically rooted in your soul and sometimes felt like its mere presence was about to suffocate you. Like you couldn't catch your breath under the weight of it all. But it was a good weight, a hefty gravity you welcomed.

And have you ever told anyone--your close friend, a family member, a stranger even--about this desire only to be shot down? Rejected. Deflated. Brought back to "reality." At least their perception of reality. Come on, be realistic. You're such a dreamer. You know that will never happen. What about blah, blah, blah...

Well I have. Many times. First, when I wanted to be a movie star. Then there was the time I wanted to be a famous musician. No one ever scoffed when I said I'd decided to become a lawyer. But a model...that was a different story. A mom? No problem. My small town could understand that one...although they may not have understood why I waited so long. {Married at 26, a first-time mom at 28--old maid!! I was lucky my reproductive organs were still functioning, I guess} But the bright lights and fairytales...apparently, those would never be my reality. Settle down. Get a job. Raise kids. Make money like a responsible adult. Realistic. 

Okay so maybe I wasn't destined to be a movie star, have a Top 10 hit or model for Victoria's Secret. {Don't get me wrong, though. If someone offered me any one of those things I would accept without even a moment's hesitation.} But in the course of dreaming, suffocating and deciding to pursue that thing that weighed on my soul at each juncture in life, I have discovered my destiny. And here I am once again suffocating under its beautiful gravity as it threatens to surface. To consume me. And to prevail. Once again, it's not realistic. Not even possible, really. At least not humanly possible. But I have a good feeling about this one... Good thing for me, I happen to possess some superhuman tendencies. It's why I was created. To fulfill this very purpose. Because I've finally arrived at the precise intersection of destiny and desire. It is this special place where my dreams have become my desires which have been revealed to me as my destiny. It's super sweet.

And I'm not going to let anyone's doubts or fears or talks of some silly old "reality"--which is really just their flawed perception of circumstances and life--keep me from this one. And I challenge you to do the same!

Don't limit yourself by the realities of others. Expand their realities by pursuing your dreams, desires and destiny!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Was it really just last year

that I donned makeup and did my hair for the first time as a Mama so that we could rush off to capture Burke's precious innocence in his first photo shoot?
Really? A whole year?
 This photo hangs in his nursery and he loves to point at it asking wha da?
 I tell him that it's him...when he was a baby. And then I wonder what my baby is if he's no longer a baby.
And it hits me. He's a big boy. A toddler. Really, in the true sense of the word. He toddles around all the livelong day stopping only for an occasional drink, a brief hug, and maybe just a moment of reassurance that he won't suffer permanent brain damage from all of the knocks his hard head sustains.
Oh and that precious innocence decided to poop right in my hand that day. Right in the middle of his photo shoot. He didn't even bother to wake up. Guess he taught us who calls the shots. But you'd never know that my white shirt was stained with baby poop in this photo.
Or this one.
I am so thankful for these photos because without proof, I never would ever believe that my baby--my toddler--was ever this tiny. I would never remember that he resembled a little old man and that he looked nothing like he looks now.
As I look at these photos, I have no idea how in the world we determined that he looked like Burke. But he couldn't have had a more appropriate name, as he could be any one of my mom's or grandma's boys. His resemblance to my dad is uncanny.
 And these photos help to remind me of those first days, weeks and months when I would measure his growth by the width of his back. In the beginning, his tiny back fit in the palm of my hand. And slowly, it began to spread. But each day, I'd say to myself he's not wider than my hand yet. Until one day, I realized that he was.
While he may look like my side of the family, his personality is so much his daddy. Energetic, enthusiastic, determined, bullheaded slightly stubborn, smart {so smart}, funny, and 100% boy! He's also gentle and loving. A snuggler and a sweet sweet boy. He's content, happy, laid back and comfortable with himself. And he's already so independent.
I am so proud of the little person he's become. From the cutest little peanut on the planet to a roaring ball of energy {literally...he roars...or growls...} this kid has made our lives the best. Really--he's awesome. And we're so humbled to be his parents.
Give up once more for my friend Ken Bruggeman. He did such an incredible job capturing the memories of our journey as parents. I am excited to round out Burke's first year with another shoot with Ken and to see how artfully he will capture the warmth of our son's brown eyes and the charm of his toothy grin. Ken's photos always tell a story. And I love how beautifully our story is being spun.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Remembering Burke’s Birth

I’ve had almost a year to think again and again about the day that forever changed my life. {You can read my initial reflections in Burke’s Birth Story here
And each time I revisit that day, I am more and more drawn to the task of analyzing how it could have been different.
How maybe…if the labor and delivery ward was not a swarming zoo of excited and anxious mama’s-to-be {I got the very last delivery room at 7:30 that morning}…
 if there weren’t sixteen billion scheduled c-sections that took my doctor’s priority {even though they told me that if I needed to be induced, I would not be a priority}…
if there was actually a doctor and a midwife on duty like they told me there always would be {there was just a doctor…and he was busy}…
if they had just taken two seconds to break my water when I first arrived very actively in labor and already 5 cm dilated {it only took 3 hours for me to go from 5 to 10 once they finally broke my water at 1 o’clock in the afternoon}…
Maybe, just maybe, I would have delivered my sweet boy naturally, without the need for my abdomen to be ripped apart.
And maybe, just maybe, my labor would have been cut in half.
And maybe, just maybe, my little warrior’s heart rate would not have been so distressed as a result of the shorter labor.
And maybe, just maybe, with less fighting and a more stable blood sugar level, my perfect boy would not have had his soft brand-new little heel pricked over, and over, and over again for four days straight.
And maybe, just maybe, I would never have had to experience the excruciating heartbreak of hearing my son’s sad screams with each prick to his heel, with each unnecessary drop of blood.
And maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have dreaded each feeding knowing that it meant more pain for my precious child.
And maybe, just maybe, we would have had a different nurse on duty the night he had three good blood sugar levels in a row—a nurse who actually followed directions. But instead we got the nurse that decided on her own that a fourth heel prick was necessary, just for insurance, against my wishes, and he tanked. So we started all over that fourth day…
But this isn’t the story that I remember whenever I hear that a new baby has been born. In these times {which occur more often than the others}, I inevitably get all choked up and shed new tears of joy. Joy for the new parents. And joy as I remember meeting my little man for the first time fifty weeks ago.
Because this remembrance doesn’t account for the details leading up to his arrival or even the traumatic ones shortly thereafter.
This remembrance is limited only to him. My perfect boy. My little lover. My firstborn. And the day that my family became three.
The joy of becoming a parent is indescribable and unfathomable. I wish it upon everyone who's willing, because nothing—nothing—will ever be quite like it. Nothing can ever prepare your heart to love as much as becoming a parent. And nothing can rival the inescapable miracle that is this: I wake up each day with even more love in my heart for my son than the day before.
And now, as we are about to say goodbye to infancy and open the chapter on toddlerhood, one look at my goofy, loveable, take-the-bull-by-the-horns kind of guy assures me that nothing else matters. Not the labor, the c-section, not even the painful heel pricks. None of that matters now. He’s as full-of-life as they come. He is not molded by the details of his entry into this world, but by the love that we show him. The examples we set. The things that we teach him. And the world that we give him. He’s got so much ahead of him. So many blessings. So much love. The whole world is his. And so far, he’s razzle dazzling us all each step of the way!

{Now give Ken Bruggeman some love by heading over to his website to check out the rest of Burke’s birth story as well as his other spectacular galleries!}