Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Beginning to Breastfeed

It's been FOREVER since I posted...blame it on...me?

In my previous post I mentioned that I would share a bit about breastfeeding.  Now, if you are a man and a post about breastfeeding with words like "nipple" and "breast" is going to gross you out or worse, cause you to stumble, then stop reading now.  If you chose to continue reading, proceed with caution...

You would think that breastfeeding would come naturally to a new mother.  Women have been doing it for thousands of years, right?  Before the invention of formula it was the only way to feed an infant, apart from hiring a wet nurse who would breastfeed for you.  Surely something so ancient, so natural, so basic for the survival of mankind would be easy.

And yet somehow it is is not.

I share my story to encourage new mothers, or mothers who for whatever reason did not breastfeed their first child/children but want to begin with their next.

Several months before Muffin (that's his nickname now - laugh if you wish, but it just fits him!) was born my doctor asked if I was planning on breastfeeding.  For me the choice was obvious - yes!  Not only is it the healthiest option for the baby, but it's also the cheapest!  She recommended to me a book published by La Leche League called The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.  She warned me that surprisingly, breastfeeding does not come so naturally to many women and that it would be helpful to prepare myself.  I took her word for it and went straight to Half-Price Books and purchased a copy.  I began reading it and devoured it.  The book is full of so much information on the benefits of breastfeeding that the more I read, the more I realized that it really must be the only way for me.  But it was also very realistic that breastfeeding would not be easy for all women and offered encouragement to continue on no matter what difficulties there may be.  So I was determined.

Muffin was born at 8:59pm on a Thursday night.  They placed him on my chest, all blue and slimy and he screamed and wiggled until he finally realized that I had boobs.  The nurse told me, "he might be willing to nurse now" and sure enough he was looking for something to suck on.  I had read the section of the book on how to get the baby to latch properly a thousand times in hopes that I would be prepared when the first beautiful moment with my son arrived, but when you're laying in that bed with your legs up in stirrups while the doctor stitches you up, aching from the exertion of labor, leaning back awkwardly with a slimy baby squirming all across your chest, no amount of reading or looking at diagrams and photographs can help you get that baby to latch.  It's just an awkward place to be.  After things settled down the nurse gave me some pointers and they took us to our room.  The lactation consultant wouldn't arrive until morning so for the first night, I was on my own.

I tried my best to use the "C hold" and whatever else the book said but by the time the lactation consultant arrived I was already wincing in pain every time he tried to nurse and my nipples were cracked and sore.  By the end of day one they were bleeding.  I requested a visit from the lactation consultant three times during my stay and while each visit taught me something new, I just could not get him to latch without pain unless she was standing there to help me.  We went home on Saturday and spent two long days with a screaming newborn, and my nipples were so sore I dreaded every cry of hunger.

On Monday we returned to the hospital to weigh him and do what they called a "weigh-feed-weigh" where they weigh him, I feed him, and then they weigh him again to see how much milk he is getting.  Each feeding would take a minimum of 45 minutes and within 45 minutes he would be hungry again.  The lactation consultants helped me latch again, I fed him, and we discovered that he was only eating an ounce in the entire 45 minutes that I fed him.  My milk had just barely come in and he was losing weight too quickly for their comfort.  But I was determined to breastfeed him and armed with the knowledge that I had learned in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding I was determined to avoid formula at all costs.*  The nurses recommended that I rent a hospital-grade pump and prescribed that after each feeding I should pump for at least 15 minutes to "trick" my body into thinking that I had twins and jump-start it into making more milk.  They gave me a special syringe and told me to take the milk that I had pumped and then feed it to Muffin using the syringe (it wasn't enough milk to even bother with a bottle!  Just a few drops each time).  In addition to this, they noticed that he had two very tight frenulum (the little flap of tissue under the tongue and also the other flap connecting the upper lip to the gums) and suspected that this was preventing him from latching successfully.  They said that a pediatrician could snip it in a simple procedure but until then it would likely be difficult to continue breastfeeding.

So we rented the pump and I began the most difficult two weeks of my life.

Each time he ate, the feeding lasted about 45 minutes.  Then I would go pump for 15 minutes, feed him with the syringe and clean the parts of the pump.  Within 30-45 minutes he would be hungry again and we would start all over.  On more than one occasion, after I finished pumping and fed him with the syringe he would immediately begin crying for more milk.  The only time I did not pump after feeding him was in the middle of the night.  He would sleep for no longer than 2 hours at a time and several nights not even that much.  There was no satisfying him with anything other than the breast and it was obvious from the way he was sucking that he was not getting much milk.  I was exhausted and my baby was starving.  The tears were abundant.

Two days after the first appointment I returned to the hospital for another weigh-feed-weigh.  He had gained a mere half-ounce in two days (the goal is an ounce a day, four times as much as my Muffin had gained) and only consumed an ounce yet again so the nurses recommended we rent the pump for another week.  My breasts just were not producing enough milk for him and he was hungry.  But since he had gained (albeit very little) we were hopeful.  I continued pumping after each feeding and the next day we took him to the pediatrician.  He looked at his frenulum and determined that it was not pronounced enough for him to feel comfortable snipping it, which was an encouragement to us.  But Muffin still had not gained very much, so we would return the next week to see him as well as again to the hospital for another weigh-feed-weigh.  And all this time my nipples were sore, cracked, and bloody.  The pain at each feeding (which was constant) was tear-inducing.  No matter how many times the nurses showed me how to get him to latch, I just could not manage it on my own.

The next week I began to see an increase in the amount of milk pumped after each feeding.  I went from drops of milk to half a teaspoon, to a teaspoon to two.  Muffin was still nursing constantly and my nipples were still bleeding but things were beginning to look up.  At the next weigh-feed-weigh there was a different nurse attending us and something clicked.  The way she described the latch just made more sense.  She demonstrated it and managed to latch him without any pain at all.  I cringed to prepare myself for the pain, but there was none.  It was like magic!  That moment was life changing for us both!  Suddenly, I felt so empowered that I could feed my son and I didn't have to suffer in order to do so.  He was consuming more milk, he began to act satisfied after each feeding, and my pain almost disappeared.

There were so many times over the course of those two weeks that I was tempted to give him a bottle of formula, but I kept remembering what I read in the book and the exhortations to just keep pressing on for at least six weeks.  The book didn't say it would be easy and that was true - it was the hardest thing I had ever done apart from labor itself.  I was exhausted, emotional, in physical pain, and felt like a failure for not being able to make enough milk for my son.  But the Lord provided the information that I needed, encouraging nurses, and modern technology (thanks, Medela!) to help me press on and increase my milk supply.  It didn't suddenly become easy, but it did become manageable.

Now, six months later, I'm so thankful that I pressed on.  It was worth every tear that I cried to be able to nurse my son.  I love the closeness that we share as I nurse him and his sweet little hands rest on my breast and tap tap tap to the rhythm of his sucking.  I love when he drinks his fill and stops to look up at me and smile with a little dribble falling down his chin.  And I love seeing the developing rolls of fat on his legs and knowing that as his mother, I was able to provide the nourishment to make that happen.

Isn't it miraculous how God made our bodies?  I am amazed more and more as I watch him grow, knowing that God caused him to grow big and strong with milk made in my own breast.

*A dear friend reminded me through my struggles that "formula is not the devil."  I do not mean to imply that those who formula-feed their babies are doing anything wrong, but simply that I was determined that for me, my preferred choice was to exclusively breastfeed.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

On Sleep Deprivation

There are in the world various government agencies and terrorist organizations that have practiced or continue to practice the torture of prisoners.

The means of torture are horrifically painful, psychologically debilitating, or just plain mean.

While there is no doubt that pulling finger nails or water boarding are terribly painful means of torture, I now believe that one of the worst forms of torture a person could be subjected to is sleep deprivation.

From the wikipedia page on sleep deprivation (a very reliable source, right?), Menachem Begin (Prime Minister of Israel) described sleep deprivation like this:

In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.

After experiencing three weeks of life with a newborn, I can attest that this is true.  I was a prisoner.  I lived in a haze.  My spirit was wearied, my legs were unsteady, and I had one sole desire: to sleep.

One morning after waking up from a mere hour's sleep, Matt said to me, "I'm so exhausted.  There are no words to describe this exhaustion."

He was right.  There are simply no words to describe the extent of exhaustion that new parents experience.  But I will try.

Have you ever travelled overseas?  Somewhere that is experiencing day while we are sleeping at night?  And then it's time to come home and you're so excited that you can't sleep so you get on the plane but you can't sleep in those terrible seats and then you land and it's morning and you have meetings to go to and friends and family to see and you know you won't be able to sleep until late at night but you're absolutely miserable and no matter how many cups of coffee you consume your head just keeps bobbing up and down as you struggle pitifully to stay awake?

As miserable as that day is, at least you know that when night comes, you can lay down and close your eyes. And even if your internal clock won't let you sleep well that night, you know that you can sleep the next night, and surely within 3 days you will be sleeping somewhat regularly and by day 5 you should be sleeping more soundly than you have ever slept in your life, for 10 hours straight.

Imagine that feeling of misery after the long trip with no sleep and the bobbing head, only there is no end in sight.  You don't know when you will be able to sleep again.  There seems to be no hope for a restful night of sleep.  It could be weeks, or it could be months.  That is the case for the father.

For the mother, imagine that not only did you take that long trip without a wink of sleep, but you did so after running a marathon.  When you completed the marathon, you were hit by a semi leaving every muscle and bone in your body aching in excruciating pain.  Even your forehead aches.  And all you want to do is sleep, but there is now a small, helpless little baby the depends on you for it's every need, and your job is now full time, 24 hours a day.

Of course, that precious baby in your arms makes it all better, right?

Well he may be just the cutest most precious, adorably loveable little munchkin you've ever seen or loved, but he's still not letting you sleep!  And just when you think he's going to give you an hour or two of dreamy silence, he starts screaming bloody murder until you put him on your sore, cracked, scabby nipples for the next hour straight (you can read about my breast feeding experience in my next post).

As much as you love him, you long to close your eyes and rest.  And every time he cries, you cry.  Why is he crying again?  I just fed him!  I don't know what to do.  He won't sleep, his diaper is clean, he just ate, and I haven't slept for days.  Now all I can do is cry uncontrollably while I hold my screaming (albeit precious) baby in my tired arms.  Why would anybody continue having children after this??  What about twins?  When do they ever get to sleep?  The thought alone makes me shiver.

But now, after three weeks, I am finally averaging about 6 hours of sleep a night - not continuous sleep, of course, but at least it's sleep.

And I can finally see the light.

Now, when he screams bloody murder for my boobs, his cries don't drive me to unstoppable tears (and my nipples don't hurt anymore!).  I calmly get ready to feed him, and then do so in peace while I gaze lovingly upon his face, and then scroll through my facebook newsfeed on my phone.

Now when I lay down at night, I have hope that I may be blessed with 3 or more hours of uninterrupted dozing.  Those without children may scoff at 3 hours.  I would have just a few weeks ago.  But I never knew just how incredible 3 hours could feel, until now.

Now, I can safely say, the torture has ended.  It is over.  I think so, anyway.  I hope so.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

2 Weeks: Finding the New Normal - Not Quite Yet!

Little T is now two weeks and three days old.  What an incredible journey the past two weeks have been!

I have cried more than I have ever cried in my life (with the exception of when my father passed away), M and I both have been exhausted beyond what we thought was humanly possible, I have been immeasurably happy followed by instantaneously sad (the hormones!  but I'm starting to get a grip on things), and we have been pushed to the brink of what we thought we could handle.

M is an AMAZING father.  He loves T so much and so well.  Every time T wakes up from a nap, M can hardly wait to go pick him up and hold him.  Een when T needs to eat, M just wants to hold him for a minute before I feed him.  There was never a more beautiful picture than this tiny newborn resting on his father's chest!

We are still in "survival mode" but life is starting to feel more manageable now.  The past two or three nights, T has slept for about 3 hours at a time, which is a huge blessing when compared to his previous one hour naps between feedings!  

And who knew that such a tiny, adorable little newborn could pass gas like that?  What are those sounds coming out of his rear end??  What is that shade of green?  Is there a name for that yellow?  And how does he manage to ALWAYS pee on me, even with his diaper on??

In case you didn't know, T is a hairy little man.  That was one of the first things we noticed about him.  He has hair on his ears, shoulders, arms, and back.  Please tell me the hair will go away!  I don't want my poor child to be made fun of for having hairy ears in kindergarten!  But then again, we are planning on homeschooling so I guess the only ones making fun of him would be us, and we wouldn't do such a thing!  :)

Little T has such a strong neck already!  When we put him on his tummy on the boppy he can pick his head up and turn it from right to left.  If I put him on his back and pull him up with his arms, he can bring his head up with him.  Of course, he gets tired after just a few minutes and starts to look like a bobble head, but he is certainly the cutest little bobble head I've ever seen!

Every new mom thinks her baby is the most adorable baby ever, and I am no different.  How can you not love something so tiny and precious?

More pictures to come shortly.  :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

My (almost natural) Birth Story!

I've not done a good job lately of keeping up with the blog... oops.  I can't promise I'll be better about it since I now I have an ADORABLE newborn, but I will try.  :)

Meet T!

Excuse the exhausted looking mother in the photo...surprisingly I don't have any good close ups of T except for a few on my phone.  But I think the look of exhaustion is pretty fitting...

For those interested in T's birth story, here it is:

I had planned and prepared for an all-natural, drug-free delivery.  My doctor was very supportive, the hospital was equipped with natural delivery rooms complete with birthing tubs and birthing balls, I read as much as I could (I highly recommend the Bradley Method!  Even though I couldn't take the class, the book was great preparation!), I did stretches, exercises, practice "contractions," received chiropractic care to make sure my hips were in line...I was as prepared as I could have been without having actually taken a class.

Almost two weeks after his due date, my doctor determined that we must induce.  So we had an induction scheduled for Thursday, June 28th at 6am and I started looking up natural methods to induce.  I tried acupuncture, walking, ahem...the other....everything that I could feel safe doing (I did NOT drink castor oil or any herbs - I wasn't quite willing to go that far).  Tuesday before the induction she stripped my membranes, another method of natural induction.  I won't elaborate what that means since it's kinda nasty, but that's what google is for.  :)

 And we got busy praying.  Of course, we had already been praying but for some reason God decided to delay his response.  But if anybody could give me a natural delivery, it would be God.

Around 11 or 11:30 on Wednesday night I started feeling what I thought was really bad gas.  I would go sit on the toilet, try to get something out, and after an unsuccessful few minutes get back in bed.  Ten minutes later, I was back on the toilet.  At some point I realized, "this pain is really intense, and it fires up about every 10 minutes...maybe I'm in labor!"

Sure enough, labor had started.  Knowing that early labor can last for hours and hours, we decided to just try to get some rest (ha! what were we thinking??) and wait for things to get intense before calling anyone.

We didn't have to wait long.

I got no sleep whatsoever and by 12:30 the contractions were so intense there was no way I could lay in bed any longer.  I started trying to breath though the contractions like I had learned in the Bradley book, and I found that the most comfortable position was on my knees, leaning over our own birthing ball.

By 2am we decided we should call my mom - it would take her 2 hours to get here.  We figured that we should just let her know but she could still stay in bed a little longer.  But she decided to go ahead and get on the road, and it was a good thing she did because things only continued to get more and more intense.

We thought it would be a good idea to fill the tub up with water and get in (after all, that's what they do at the hospital.  Why not at home?), but unfortunately our tub is so small that it was ineffective at relieving the pressure.  M tried to sleep as much as he could (he had stayed up all night the night before studying for a Hebrew exam) while I labored alone.  I knew I would need him more at the hospital.

Mom arrived a little after 4am and took one look at me, asked how far apart the contractions were, and said "we need to go to the hospital."  We weren't timing the contractions consistently, but they were very close and very intense.  It took a while to get things together, but we made it to the hospital a little after 5am.

I was already 6 cm dilated.  We were thrilled!  All that work my body was doing all night long had given us great results!

My sister arrived soon after (but I have no idea what time - I was just focusing on making it from one contraction to the next) and I spent a few hours in the birthing pool.  But the pain in my back was so intense and the pool made it very difficult for anybody to give me a back rub so I decided to spend most of my labor sitting on the birthing ball instead.  By 11am I was 9 cm and we thought, "we're going to have a baby soon!!"

But the hours passed and while I had a few urges to push, there was nothing significant.  The nurse and doctor examined me several times and thought maybe he was "sunny-side up."

After a few more examinations they determined that he was not just "sunny-side up" but sideways - transversal.  That meant that the widest part of his head was trying to make it through the narrow birth canal...not an easy trip.  In other words, OUCH!

We tried method after method of getting him to turn.  I labored on my side for a few hours (which was extremely painful - I preferred the birthing ball) in hopes to facilitate him turning with the contractions.  I labored on all fours in the bed to use gravity to bring him down, they tried turning him manually (and every time he would turn right back), and yet my contractions started getting farther apart and less intense.

At this point, I was watching the clock.  My contractions were 5 minutes apart.  Every time a contraction would hit I would look at the clock and think, "has it only been 5 minutes??  Will this ever end??"

The doctor broke my water to try to get things going again, and after 6 hours at 9cm, she told me that in situations like this, the delivery almost always ends up in a c-section.

I had some choices to make.

She encouraged me to try getting the epidural to relax my body (I would need it for a c-section anyway) and use some pitocin to bring on the contractions again.

I was devastated, but after discussing it with M and my mom and sister, they encouraged me that I was making the right choice for my baby.  6 hours at 9 cm...lessening contractions....and we had done everything we could to bring this baby down naturally.  It was time to let modern medicine intervene.

Tearfully (bawling, really) I accepted the epidural and pitocin.  The worst part was sitting still through two or three contractions while he put the epidural in.  I couldn't move even an inch while that needle was going in.  I don't know what I would have done without my amazing nurse encouraging me through it.

After that, I was confined to the bed.  But I felt better knowing that we had tried every method to get this baby out naturally.  I could do it.  I didn't "give in" to the pain, which as silly as it is had been one of my fears.  I made an informed decision, without regard for pain.  It wasn't how I had wanted things to turn out, but it was what we felt was best for my baby and that is what mattered.

I was thrilled that the epidural wasn't so strong that I couldn't feel anything.  With help, I could roll over (which got easier as the time went by) and after about an hour I could feel the contractions again (and since I had been falling asleep between them earlier, it was nice to have nearly an hour to rest!), and I still felt more or less in control of my body.

Soon I felt the urge to push.

So I started pushing.

And pushing.

More pushing.


Eventually the nurse could see a little bit of his head.  We thought that surely this would be over soon.

More pushing.


The doctor kept coming back in to check on me.  The first time, when she asked how long I had been pushing and the nurse said "about an hour and 15 minutes" immediately the look on her face told me that she was not pleased.  We couldn't even see any of his head!

More pushing.

Doctor checks back.  She mentions c-section, but that we still have plenty of time to push.  I start crying.  Again.

More pushing...we can now see a little sliver of his head, and I reach down and touch it.  I touched my baby's head!

The doctor came back...I had been pushing for over 2 1/2 hours and there had been no progress since the last time she had checked on me.

Now she tells me directly, that we are coming up on three hours of pushing.  Her personal limit is three hours and she feels that anything beyond that is getting to be unreasonable, especially when we see so little progress.  She tells me that some women just don't have the strength to push hard enough, but she can see that is not the case with me.  She can see that I have been pushing with great effort, which is why it concerns her that there is so little progress.  However, since it appears that the baby and I are both in good health, she can't (or won't) force me to have an unwanted c-section.  She will let me make that decision.  Yet another reason why I love my doctor.

So I decided to push for 20 more minutes - I wanted to reach the three hour mark and decide from there.

Not that I hadn't already been pushing with all my might, but now I knew we had to beat the clock.  I had until 9pm.  My mom and sister texted family to ask them to pray for us, Matt prayed with me by the bed, and I pushed some more.

The nurse began to mentally prepare me for a c-section: what would happen in the room, when I would get to see the baby, etc.

So I cried some more, and then I pushed even harder.

Finally we started to see some progress!!

We were so thrilled when that little sliver of his head became more visible with each push.

The doctor came back in and took one look and said, "now that's progress - I can work with that."

I was so relieved!  I knew that she would let me go past three hours if there was evidence of good progress.

I pushed through one more contraction and suddenly his head was on the verge of coming out.  Boy, did it burn!!  The epidural had faded enough that I could feel very strongly everything that was going on.  Suddenly everybody was moving around, talking loudly, and all I knew was that it burned and I needed to push!  Apparently they were telling me to wait so the doctor could get clean gloves on, but I didn't hear anything.  It was all just noise in my ears and all I knew was that I had to push that baby out!

One more big push and he came out, sideways and all.  Once his head was out the rest of his body just sort of fell out.  Talk about a crazy feeling!  The doctor told me afterward that usually the shoulders take some time to maneuver out, but since my baby was already sideways and the widest part of his head had already pushed through, the shoulders just slipped out on their own.

T was 8 pounds 5 ounces and 20 inches long.  Born at 8:59 pm, one minute before our previously designated time-out.

I heard him screaming and immediately they put him on his chest.  I remember the look on M's face, of love and amazement.  He was yelling, crying, laughing - I can never forget what my husband looked like in that moment.

After it was all over, the nurse and doctor both just kept telling me how amazed they were, and that they didn't think it was going to happen.  The nurse especially just kept repeating, "I'm just so proud of you!"

And I was proud of me, too.  I felt SO empowered.  Almost like Wonder Woman.

But most of all, I felt so very blessed.

None of this went how I had hoped it would, but M reminded me that God showed us that He is the one in control.  Everything happened in His perfect timing.

I had wanted T to come early (what pregnant woman doesn't?), and really thought he would be.  He gave us several signs of an early arrival.

I prayed and prayed and prayed.  And yet God delayed.  He delayed until the night before I was set to be induced, as if to say, "see?  I'm doing this in my time.  I didn't forget about you - I'm still the one in charge.  And THIS is my time."

I know there was a reason...if nothing else it was to teach me patience.  I'm not sure I learned patience (I would say that I was forced into patience), so I'm sure there was another reason.

We thought we would be having a fairly reasonable labor...a little after 11pm it started, and 11am I was at a 9.  Surely he wouldn't take much longer.

And yet I delivered at 8:59pm, one minute before the 3 hour pushing mark - the minute we had decided that if there was still no progress, we would need a c-section.

At 8:50 we still thought we might have a c-section.  At 8:55 we thought we would probably get this baby out naturally.  And at 8:59 we had a baby.

It was as if God was saying again, "see?  This is MY time.  There is a reason for this."

Maybe it was so the doctor and nurse would see us praying, and see God answer our prayers.  Maybe it was to teach me more patience (can we stop with the patience??  It's no fun!).  Or maybe there are other reasons unknown to us.

Whatever the reasons for what seemed to us as a delayed response, God made it clear that HE is in control.

And now we are blessed with an extremely adorable, EXTREMELY hungry newborn.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Update: Deodorant, Chocolate, and Laundry Detergent

Today I will be updating on two previous posts, as well as adding my recipe for laundry detergent.

First: Deodorant

After making my homemade deodorant and using it for several days in a row, I am now completely OBSESSED with this deodorant.  Seriously, it is the best deodorant I have ever used.  

I smell great all day.

I have no body odor at evening time.

Each night I try to make Matt smell my pits.  Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't, but he always agrees that I still smell great, even after my trip to the gym.

Sure, it's non-toxic and 100% natural, but even better than that, it WORKS!  I've never had a deodorant work all day like this.  And I've not had a single white streak on my clothes!

If there is one "crunchy" recipe you should try, this is the one.  It will change your life and you will never want to go back to store-bought deodorant.

Second: Peanut Butter Cups

Recently I posted about my attempt to make my own peanut butter cups.  I must say that it went well and they were delicious, however I did learn that JIF (the natural kind) is probably not the best peanut butter to use.  It's just too smooth.  Next time I think I will try a different brand, maybe even the Justin's brand (they make peanut butter cups as well as jars of peanut butter).  Also, Central Market and other grocery stores (even Kroger!) have a grind-your-own-peanut-butter-machine.  I might give that a try as well.  Getting the right texture is key.  

Third: Laundry Detergent

A lot of crunchy websites give recipes for homemade laundry detergent.  Whether you like liquid or powder, there is a recipe for you.

What if you're lazy? 

Good news: so am I.  So I use the easiest method possible: powder and castille soap.

I mix equal parts washing soda (slightly different than baking soda, however I'm not sure of all the chemical properties so I'll avoid pretending like I actually know...I buy the Arm and Hammer brand) and borax, both of which can be found in the laundry detergent aisle at most grocery stores.  I mix the two in a plastic bag and put a tablespoon scoop in it.  Then I just drop two tablespoons in each load, but before I put the clothes in its important to let it dissolve a little bit if your washer doesn't have a special place for detergent.  Since we are currently using cheap washers on campus, we just have to dump the detergent into the washer as is.  

Then I add a squirt (teaspoon?  tablespoon?  I dunno) of castille soap.  Boom.  I'm done.

You can buy a big box of washing soda and borax for about $2, maybe $3.  Castille soap is more pricey, but I buy a big bottle and I use it to make my own face wash, body wash, household cleaners, etc so it more than pays for itself.  

Have you ever washed clothes and then felt a soapy film on them?  Yeah, I don't get that anymore with my super cheap, all natural, "mix it yourself" stuff.  

Even my really smelly gym clothes come out smelling fresh, but not perfumed.  I don't like the fake perfume smells of regular detergents.  I just want my clothes clean, not flowery sweet.

Give it a try today!  You'll be pleasantly surprised.  :)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Homemade Deodorant

Most deodorant has aluminum in it to work as an anti-perspirant agent.  "What is the problem with that?" you may ask.  Well, aluminum is toxic to our bodies, clogs the pores to prevent you from sweating and thus prevents your body from releasing other toxins.  Sweat doesn't smell - bacteria smells.  Aluminum is also linked to cancer, especially breast cancer in women.

That's not a risk I want to take, however small it may or may not be.

So today I made my own homemade deodorant by modifying a recipe that I found on www.passionatehomemaking.com.

Here's what I used:

About 4 table spoons of coconut oil

An ounce of beeswax (I didn't measure it exactly)

1/4 cup baking soda

1/4 cup arrowroot powder (a thickening agent - from what I've read on other websites you could also use cornstarch)

Essential oils: tea tree oil, lavender oil, and some rosewater

First I melted the beeswax and coconut oil on low heat, then I whisked in the baking soda and arrowroot powder.  I added about 5-6 drops of each oil, and wa-la!  It was as easy as pie!

For my dispenser, I took a cardboard toilet paper roll and lined it with plastic wrap.  I just poured the warm goo into it, stuck it in the fridge to solidify, and within 5 minutes I had myself a neat little stick of deodorant!  Each time I use it, I can just pull it up with the plastic wrap, and then cover it back up when I'm done.

I wore it for the first time today and I'm so impressed!  It's 6pm and I still smell fresh!

Tea tree oil and lavender oil are both anti bacterial, so while I still sweat, they kill the bacteria that smells bad and make me smell great in the process.  Rosewater just smells good, and supposedly it's good for the skin.

Try it yourself!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Peanut Butter Cups

I love peanut butter cups.

No, I don't mean that I like them a lot.  I mean I love them.  I'm borderline addicted.  No...maybe I am addicted.

Chocolate and peanut butter is the perfect combination.  Whoever invented it should be given a Nobel Prize.  He/she has made millions of women (and some men) very, very happy, and occasionally a little bit chubby.

In college, I used to buy a bag of miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and keep them by my computer to munch on while I worked.  Unfortunately, that resulted in a bit of weight gain as I just could not stop munching.  One time, I went through an entire bag in a day.  That was when I realized I had a problem.  But of course, I just went out and bought a new bag the next time I went to the store.

At Easter time they always come out with Reese's "eggs" - giant egg shaped blobs of peanut butter wrapped in chocolate.  They usually sell them individually at the check out line or in packs of 6.  I would buy a pack of 6 and it would be gone by the end of the day.

But about a year or two ago, I found out about the role of child slave labor in the chocolate industry.  This is not a post about "slave chocolate," but in case you were unaware, approximately 40% of the world's chocolate is produced (as in, the beans are cultivated and harvested) by child slave labor in West Africa.  Not child labor, but child slave labor.  As in, unpaid labor.  Often times, these children were kidnapped or sold into slavery.  Most major chocolate companies purchase their beans from producers that use slave labor, whether directly or indirectly.  They often claim ignorance so they can continue to purchase the cocoa at reduced prices.

After doing a little research (I recommend a book called "Bitter Chocolate," however you can find tons of information on the internet), I decided that I just can't buy chocolate anymore without knowing that it is either Fair Trade, Organic, "ethically sourced" (as Starbucks calls it - by the way, you can view a contract for cocoa suppliers on the Starbucks website), Rainforest Alliance, or one of the many other labels used to indicate that no slave labor was used in its production.*

That meant no more peanut butter cups.

I was heart broken.

One time, last year, I gave in and bought a Reese's Easter egg.  I felt terrible.  I may not be able to stop the slave industry on my own, but at least I can stop contributing to it.  And in my own selfishness, I gave in to my craving and purchased something in full knowledge of who made it.  Two or three other times I have given in to a craving on a whim and purchased "slave chocolate."  Each time I felt like the most despicable human being on the planet.  I couldn't even enjoy the chocolate.  I promised myself I would never do that again.

So until recently, I thought that my days of enjoying peanut butter cups were over.


I discovered these!! Justin's Peanut Butter Cups!!

Not only are they organic and fair trade, but they are DELICIOUS!!!  Like, really, really, REALLY delicious!  Even better than Reese's delicious!!

I could just sit and eat these ALL DAY LONG.

But since they're a bit more pricey than Reese's (which makes sense, since the laborers were actually paid), as well as difficult to find, I can't afford to eat them all day long and even if I could, where would I buy them?  I've only ever seen them at Central Market and a random kiosk in the Chicago airport.

So I'm on a mission now.  A mission to make my own peanut butter cups.  Central Market sells organic chocolate drops by the pound, so next time I go grocery shopping (which will probably be tonight or tomorrow night), I'm going to buy myself a big bag of milk chocolate drops, melt them down, and make myself some peanut butter cups.

I've been trying to think of what I can use for a mold and so far the best I can come up with are my silicone muffin/cupcake liners.  I thought about using the muffin pan but I'd be afraid that I wouldn't be able to get them out.  The silicone cups should just pop right off after they have chilled in the refrigerator.

I'll keep you updated how my little experiment works out.  Hopefully I'll be enjoying tons and tons of homemade peanut butter cups later this week!

*Sadly, slave labor is used in the production of many of the products we use on a daily basis.  It's nearly impossible to avoid entirely, but the more educated I become about the matter, the more I try to find the areas where I can cut back on my "slavery footprint."  A helpful website is slaveryfootprint.org/survey. You can find out about the products that you use on a regular basis and who and where they were produced, and how much slave labor was involved.