Friday, October 08, 2010

The Joys of Fall--Apple Picking!

I know this is a crazy lot of blog posts in one day, but I don't want to let the time I've got right now go to wasted and I have a lot to catch up on, and with such a busy weekend ahead I needed to get this done now.

Last Sunday we decided to pick apples.  From our backyard! I cannot begin to tell you how exciting that is for me. As a kid I remember taking trips out to the orchards by my cousin's house to pick apples and make applesauce with my grandparents.  Now I get to do this with my own kids. Such a blessing!

 It was time to get the good ones out of the trees before the bugs got them and they rotted.  I hate seeing them go to waste all around town rotted and fallen to the ground.  The majority of the fallen apples I also gathered up to take to a friend's farm for her piggies.

In order to get to the apples in the center top of the trees we sent Austin and Colton up into their branches!

Even Lily got into the game, scaling the ladder and picking everything within reach.

In the end we harvested a large basket full of fuji, golden delicious, and an unknown variety of apples.  And I just had to take a picture of my darling, handsome husband with our bounty!

Preserving the harvest....Tomatoes!

We ended up with a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, that is until the Late Blight got the vines. But I still managed to process just over 25 lbs of red yummy sweet fruit into both frozen chopped tomatoes, and canned stewed tomatoes.

I like to peal my tomatoes to have a nicer final product. To do this bring a pot of water to a boil, remove the green stems and leaves from the tomatoes, and with a sharp knife score a very shallow “x” in peel on the bottom of each tomato. Fill your clean kitchen sink with water and ice. Submerge 3-4 pieces of fruit at a time in the boiling water for 10-15 seconds until the edges of the “x” start to curl. Using a slotted spoon carefully move the tomatoes from the boiling water to the ice bath. Then using your hands peel the skin off each fruit. I do this to prep my harvest of tomatoes for both freezing AND canning. (This is the same boiling water technique as I used in the peaches. )

For freezing I rough chop the peeled tomatoes and pack them into quart sized ziptop bags that have the place on the front to write on. I label each bag with it's contents and the date prepared. Try to get as much air out of the bags as you can. You can even use a straw to suck out the last bit of air if you desire. Lay the bags flat in the freezer until frozen solid and then they stack very nicely upright. I like freezing them in smaller bags so that I can easily grab one to add to soup or sauce without having to thaw a whole gallon at a time.

The stewed tomatoes are as follows: 3 large onions, 2 large green peppers, 1 head of garlic and 1/4 cup of lemon juice per each 6 cups of tomatoes. Rough chop the vegetables and mince the garlic. Sauteed in olive oil until tender. Rough chop the peeled tomatoes and add them to a stock pot with the other ingredients. Then bring the whole thing to a rolling boil for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

Follow the canning instructions for tomatoes for your type of canner. I use a water bath canner since this recipe is acidic enough. Clean, sterile, warm jars; filled with leaving 1 1/2" of head space; capped with lids that have been simmered in 180 degree water and sterile rings. Tip: use a magnetic tipped wand to help lift the lids out of the hot water to avoid burning your fingers. Processed in the water bath canner at a full roiling boil for 30 minutes, making sure at the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Let cool on the counter and enjoy the "PING!" you hear as the lids seal. Make sure you store your canned goods in a cool dry place and always check the seals before using any home canned products! If you find any busted or popped seals toss out the whole jar.   

Here are just a few pints of the total of 10 quarts I made.

These are now ready for spaghetti sauce, swiss steak, soups, stews, and all manner of other amazing recipes!!

Keeping lunches fun and cheap! Peaches glorious peaches!

In an effort to lower our food budget and still get healthy foods into my kids I have been doing a lot of freezing and canning this year. We've grown quite a bit, harvested a lot, and I've gotten pretty lucky finding deals on produce both at farmers markets and local produce from our nearby grocery stores.

Recently I found Organic Maryhill peaches (from Washington State) on a one day special at our local store for only $0.98 a pound! So I bought $10 worth!
But what to do with all of those peaches?? My first idea was to make my own fruit cups for the kids to take for their lunches. So here's how I did that:

First I washed the peaches by soaking them for a few minutes in a veggie/fruit wash and cold water.

Next I gathered all the supplies I would need: muffin tins, muffin papers (heavy waxed ones), honey, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and a large pot of water on to boil.

I lined the tins with the papers:

 Next I set to simmer 2 cups of water, 1 cup of honey, one cup of organic sugar, and 1 cinnamon stick to make a simple syrup.  After the sugar and honey have dissolved turn off the heat and let it cool while doing the next steps.

In order to peel the peaches quickly I used this time honored technique. a.) cut x's in the bottom of all the peaches, b.) drop them in the pot of boiling water, c.) pull them out when the skin of the peach starts to curl up at the x (about 30 seconds), d.) drop into ice water to cool, e.) then the peel will come right off.

Next up chop up the peaches into bite sized chunks and toss with some citric acid, lemon juice, lemon crystals to help keep them from browning. 

Fill up the muffin cups about 2/3rds of the way with the chopped peaches.

Next pour in cooled simple syrup until the fruit in the cup is just covered. This helps prevent freezer burn and keeps the peaches looking pretty! (totally optional, but a nice touch)

After both trays are filled I put them in the freezer stacking them with a cookie sheet inverted over the top of the bottom tray that they didn't nest.
Here's a picture of one of the trays frozen:

Next I used a butter knife between the paper and the tin in order to pop out each of the cups. 

Finally I put the cups in a zip top freezer bag and squeezed out as much of the air as I could, and put the whole thing back in the freezer. 

The peach cups are now ready to go into my kids lunch boxes. The average price for a store bought fruit cup of peaches made with hfcs is about $0.85 each. I used about 4 lbs of peaches (at $0.98/pound) to make 24 cups here, that comes out to around $0.17 per cup!! And they are made with healthier sugars and a much lower amount.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

What started as a solution for newborn reflux has become a mission for me!

Lily in a KKAFP at the top of the Space Needle

Recently there have been a lot of negative stories in the news about baby carriers and wearing babies in them. The Baby Carrier Industry Alliance has been created to help this industry maintain the highest safety standards and to make sure that CORRECT information is out there for parents to read regarding the safety and effectiveness of the art of babywearing. There are a number of factors that have lead up to the need for this, but the fact is that for parents this can be a sanity saving tool, and for babies it can be essential to their development both physically, emotionally, and mentally.

I posted my story on their website to help add to the positive information and support their efforts. I am a member of the alliance at the friend supporting level, and I encourage you if you can spare the $25 a year, to do so as well. We can't let the CPSC mandate away our right to parent how we see fit.
In 2001 my first son was born and very soon after diagnosed with GERD. One of the recommendations of our pediatrician was to keep him upright for 30-45 minutes after each time he ate. Given that he was exclusively breastfed this meant he was in arms either eating or being kept upright nearly one out of every 2-3 hours. Often it was more rare for him to be out of someone's arms than in them. 
This was a huge amount of time commitment from both my husband and I that we were not really prepared for being new parents and thinking as we did then that babies actually slept in a crib! Silly us!
Seeking help we attended an Attachment Parenting International meeting on a Saturday morning. Once there we saw many parents, moms and dads, with their babies in soft carriers called slings. Not at all like the front pack we were given at our baby shower, these slings were much more like holding your baby than strapping him on the front of you! I liked the idea very much, and my husband seeing all the dads hands free and yet still holding their children was very excited to try out this solution to our tired aching arms. So excited in fact, that the next day he went to a local used children's clothing store and bought a 2nd hand padded "heart to heart" ring sling. 
That single purchase changed our world, nearly as much as becoming parents had. That sounds a bit dramatic, but in truth it really did make our lives vastly different over night. I was now able to work throughout the house without having to put my child down and listen to his cries, or try to do things one handed and failing miserably. My husband could work at his computer with BOTH hands and still help me keep our wee one in a position that allowed him to digest his food and not be in pain.
I continued to attend the API meeting and also started regular attendance at 2 different La Leche League meetings and found more families that had embraced the "art of babywearing". I also met Darien Wilson, creator of Zolowear Ring Slings and learned so much more about how to use this wonderful piece of baby gear.
After the birth of my 2nd son in 2003 I found out how indispensable a good baby carrier can be when mothering more than one child. Being able to keep my baby close and still mother my toddler with my full attention was a beautiful thing. I especially found the value in being able to wear both of my children on my body when I was the only parent available. My husband's job had him traveling out of state at pretty frequent intervals and needing to single parent made my sling even more useful. 
By the time my daughter arrived in 2005 I had become a very vocal advocate of babywearing and the carriers made both my work at home moms and by larger companies. Carriers like the Maya Wrap, the New Native Pouch, the Zolowear ring sling, and the Kanagroo Korner Adjustable Fleece Pouch were some of my favorites and became an essential part of my mothering tool kit. Not long after my daughter arrived I joined a babywearing support group called NINO (nine in nine out) and along with other babywearing advocates helped put on the 1st ever International Babywearing Conference at Reed College in Portland, OR. 
I spent the next 2 years as a co-leader of our local babywearing group, and started teaching babywearing techniques the benefits of those techniques at a local birth center and for childbirth educators.
What started off as a solution to a medical issue with my 1st son has become a life long passion that I still advocate for to this day for even now as a birth and postpartum doula I still use my babywearing knowledge to help others learn this wonderful skill. I am a firm believer in the ideals that babywearing supports; loving, in arms care. 
I feel very strongly that if done correctly, babywearing is not only a safe way to care for babies and children, but is an essential part of parenting.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Crafty Corner! -- Custom Ponytail elastics

So after looking around for the right color ribbon festooned ponytail elastic for Lily to wear for her soccer games and not finding anything I liked I decided to make her some myself.  I mean how hard could they be??  Looked to me like they were just ribbons knotted onto rubber bands to me. So I went searching on the internet and came across this fantastic post from Chica and Jo.

My next step was to go shopping for ribbon to match Lily's soccer kit.

Unfortunately it seems that "hunter green" really isn't in vogue right now, so finding the organza ribbon the tutorial calls for wasn't going to happen.  Soooo I remembered back to the blog and that they also made them out of fleece! So that was my answer! I bought  the elastics and a strip of green fleece and set about cutting it up!

If you don't already have a rotary cutter, 18" clear craft ruler, and a self healing cutting mat I highly recommend you get these awesome tools! Nothing cuts straighter. And nothing cuts fleece more quickly or more easily. 

I decided to make the strips of random thickness in order to give the whole thing some interest. Each strip is 12" long.  I've toyed with the idea of random lengths too which I may do on the next one.

Next I knotted the strips onto the elastic by wrapping the strip around the elastic and pulling the tails through the hoop and pull tight.



Slide each strip of fleece up next to the one before and continue until you have 2/3 of the elastic filled. I decided it was easier to get into Lily's hair if I left some of the elastic bare. Took me about 22 strips to get the one I was making this full.

And here's the finished ponytail holder in action!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Another blogger, Miscellaneous Mom, I follow is giving away a set of EasyLunchBoxes!!  I encourage you guys to go check it out!

They look like the perfect solution to our school lunch dilema.

Friday, August 06, 2010

It's Friday and I'm in Love! (a week in review)

In love with my family, friends, my amazing community, the beautiful weather her in Oregon, the time I've gotten to spend outside this week, and amazing deals found to make my back yard more of the outdoor room I dream it can be!

My kids bring me such joy and inspiration! They also bring me moments of intense frustration and complete astonishment.

This week Austin started his writing workshop summer school.  He's such a dichotomy much of the time. One moment he's sharing all the neat stuff he learned, and the next he's whining about how he doesn't know why he has to go to summer school! It's so not fair mom!!  One minute he's the most amazingly helpful 9 year old. Jumping up to get me something, or help his siblings. He even helped me with the mama's at todays Big Latch-on event which I will go into more detail later.  Then not 3 hours later he's complaining when I ask him to help his sick sister or grab me something because my hands are full of HIS STUFF.
I can't decide if it's the age, his being a boy, or the fact that he's a moody Cancer. Or all 3!! He's 9 going on 19 oh the drama! LOL

Colton and Lily spent the week going to VBS with my friend's kiddos.  They really seemed to enjoy it. Lily really loved the singing and dancing. Loved learning to sign to the songs too.  She's always signing "I love you" now to us, it's so adorable.  After picking Austin up each day we met my friend and all the kids at Beaverton City Park (near the library) for lunch in the park and play time.  It was so wonderful to get to visit with her, and see her children.  Her 2nd daughter and Lily have known each other since they were babies and really really love each other. It's very sweet.  She even asked Lily to spend the night Thursday night, so that they could have more play time together.  Lily LOVES sleepovers with this family.  It's precious to me that my daughter has someone she so enjoys time with like this.  So every day this week we've gotten to spend at least 2 hours outside in the sunshine just relaxing, chatting with friends, and playing at the park.

After lunch Lily went home with my friend, and the boys and I ran some errands and got Frosties!. Catching up with some old friends and off to meet new ones!  I was blessed to be introduced to an amazing mama of 8 (yes EIGHT!!) through another lovely friend of mine, Krista (check out her blog!)  The boys and I headed over to her house to get some zucchini that she offered up on Fbook, were previously we've only ever chatted.  As soon as we walked into her adorable home, my boys and her boys disappeared and played for the whole hour and a half that she and I chatted! It was so awesome to see.  I loved watching them just totally hit it off and play like they'd known each other for years.  Rosie and I had so much in common and really enjoyed getting to know each other.  And we found out our husbands were both in the Navy! I hope this is the beginning of an awesome friendship!

While Lily was at her sleepover the boys, Marc, and I went out for dinner to celebrate the 1st real bonus he's gotten in 2 years! Woo Hoo!!  Then we went to REI to get Marc some gear for his bike.  He has been commuting so much via bike that we both agreed he needed some upgrades.  So we got him new shoes, cleats, pedals, a new rack, and a bag for his computer that hooks to the rack.  It felt good to see him get some thing I know he will get a lot of use and enjoyment out of.  Of course not all was smooth sailing for him with his new set up.  Trying on his shoes and "clicking in" to his pedals (after I was already in bed) he went for a ride. Which was awesome up until he tried to stop and couldn't get his shoes to "un-click" from the pedals and manged to fall over bike on top of him at the end of our drive way at 11:30pm!  Guess he should have practiced that little maneuver before taking off huh?  And of course he had to wake me up to tell me all about his silliness!

This morning (Friday morning) I volunteered for The Big Latch-on PDX. An event aimed at breaking the world record of the most moms breastfeeding their babies simultaneously.  Our venue was Thinker Toys in Multnoma Village.  WOW what an amazing toy store!! I can't tell you how much Austin and I enjoyed this store and it's owner Joan!  We can't wait to go back and take Marc and the other two kids.  I would say even if it's a trek for you go check them out!! Very very cool place.  Anyway, we ended up with 25 moms at the event!! 22 were able to get babies nursing at the right time. The venue organizer, Erica (a fellow doula!), and I were really excited since we both thought we'd end up with 5-10 moms! It was really cool to meet Kate and Erica from PDX Doulas and chat with Erica about our jobs. Our community is so amazing and I am really blessed to be a part of it! Austin was an amazing helper today too! He helped collect the tokens we used to count mamas who took part in the breastfeeding challenge and handed out goodie bags to them all. He even helped collect trash and straighten up the space when we were done. Then we walked down the street and had scones and talked for about 20 minutes about all sorts of cool stuff. I <3 my kiddo!

This evening I got to enjoy my newest "thrift store find!!" A steel frame patio swing!! I found it at the "bins" for get this $20!!! I'm so crazy happy about this! It's a futon style swing that lays flat into a bed and all 3 kids and I can fit on it! I'm in love. I relaxed for a bit chatting with a friend about a fundraiser for MamaBabyHaiti, took a phone call from an amazing mama friend of mine that runs the Pass It On Sale here on the westside and spend about 30 minutes reconnecting with her, and then reading my book.  After dinner Marc, Austin and I sat out on the swing talking and joking around.  I can see so many good times in our "outdoor living room" and am so glad my instinct told me stop and check the bins for anything "useful"  I also found a completely fruit laden plum tree hiding at the very back of the property we rent! I can't wait until tomorrow when I can pick it clean and make plum jam.

Austin asked to build us a fire (with the skills he learned at scout camp) so Marc and I sat back and watched as he used the "log cabin" technique to build us a nice fire in our fire pit, then enjoyed a glass of yummy Pinot Gris from Cooper Mountain.  Colton and Lily spent that time snuggled up on the swing laid out like a bed and playing.  Now we're winding down inside and all 3 kids have fallen asleep on the swing, under blankets and with a tarp over it like a tent! Trying now to decide if we are going to leave them there or bring them in.....

What a great day, what a great week, and what a great life!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Using bad math to snark about teacher's salaries.

Recently a friend (and a teacher) of mine posted a link to this note on Fbook (warning this and/or my following comments my tick you off. Read at your own peril.


Are you sick of highly paid teachers? Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - baby sit! We can get that for less than minimum wage. 
That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan -- that equals 6 1/2 hours). Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. 

Now how many students do they teach in a day...maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations. LET'S SEE.... That's $585 X 180 = $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries). 

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year. 

Wait a minute -- there's something wrong here! 
There sure is! 
The average teacher's salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students = $9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student--a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!! 

I call BULLSH*T!!!   I have to say I'm pretty irritated with this.  Teacher salaries, pensions, and benefits are important, yes, but they should not be misrepresented. I'm tired of EVERYONE who whines about what they make. They chose the profession and knew the go ingrate. If you didn't you're too dumb to be a teacher. Seriously.

Here is my 1st response:
"It is a valid point, BUT not all teachers are worth even that. (had some pretty bad ones in my time and with my kids) 
And the problem isn't with the teachers it's with the bureaucrats who choose the curricula and the standards. Sorry but I HATE they way our elementary schools are teaching many of the subjects. And I HATE the "participation" trophy ideal that they are shoving down our kids throats. Not to mention teaching global warming as fact (it's still a theory, just like evolution, or any other creation explanation) and turning all our kids into little recycling czars who poo poo their parents for driving mini-vans not hybrids. blech!
I don't take issue with the rate of pay teachers get, I take issue with the free or nearly free pensions, the unionized "guaranteed by law" pay raises, and the benefits that last till they die. VERY few other industries give pensions anymore because they have realized how cost prohibitive it is and they are a major reason states like California and Illinois will probably be bankrupt in 2 years if not sooner."
OP (original poster)'s reply:
"Nichol, I definitely respect your opinion but I am sticking to my huge agreement with the link! I can not think of another profession that requires a master's degree, a year of unpaid internship (student teaching), and then expects a person to work 60+ hours per week for such little pay."
My 2nd response:
"How about the entry level business management positions where you have to intern in college after your mba and get a salaried job for under 40K and work 80+ hour a week? (real life example of a friend of mine back east)
Or how about my job?? I don't get paid ANYTHING!!! Sorry. Salaried means you don't make minimum hourly wage. That's the definition of salary. It also means it's a guaranteed wage. Something that hourly people usually can't count on unless they have a contract which very few do.
Teachers don't have it that bad. Oh and let's not forget that it is their choice to be one. No one is forcing you to do it. You could have been anything you wanted when you choice your career.
I know I may sound like a callous bitch, but I'm really tired of people whining about "the lot their given" when they've chosen much of what they are experiencing."
Friend of OP's comment:
"On top of the masters degree and unpaid internship, wr also have to continue to pay out of our pocket for graduate level courses to maintain our license. Does an MBA have to fork over another 10k for tuition and books within 3 years of graduating while still paying on their student loans so they can keep their job?"
My last reply:
"So do RNs, ask my mom. And she makes about the same as most teachers (less than 50K though) and she has to pay out of pocket for her CEUs....Like I said before YOU CHOSE this knowing what the pay scale is.

I do think that there should be more of "clinical" type structure for teachers to go from students to certified. More like RNs do. No one should have to work for free, unless they really want to. (i.e. volunteering out of compassion not force)

Don't get me wrong I value what you do. I appreciate all the work that the teachers my children have had have put in. I really do. And everyone wants to get paid more, but I'm tired of hearing that the answer to our educational system's problems are that teachers need to be paid more. And salaried jobs are sucky like that. Marc was salaried (my husband) at far less than the average teacher makes and put in 60-70 hours a week. Much of which was traveling far away from his family.

Also the math is skewed. Daycare center workers DO NOT get paid per kid. They get paid HOURLY. If we are paying teachers just for the job of babysitting then we should only pay them for their contact hours. At 175 days for the 2010-11 school year in Beaverton and 8 hours a day with a PAID lunch that's 1400 hours for the year. At $7.75 per HOUR (not per kid) That comes to $10,850 a year. Far less than the average teacher makes. For s&gs let's add in another 10 hours a week for prep time and for all those pesky grading days. 250 hours comes to another $1937.50 for a grand total of $12,787.50
Let's look at the average in home daycare next. Most get paid per kid, per week (not hourly) at about $1-200 per week. Average around $125 per week, with having to provide lunches and snacks, their own toys, books, supplies for crafts etc. If they have 4-5 kids (usually the limit for state certification for the average home) then they will make about $75 per week per kid after food for a total of about $375 per week. At the same number of contact hours for a teacher of 25 weeks that comes to about $9,375 a year.

So sure I'll pay you minimum wage. It will save me a ton on my taxes."

So my final opinion (yes it is an opinion and you can agree to disagree, this is MY blog after all) is that teachers get paid plenty, that it isn't the amount they are paid that is the problem with our schools, it is lack of parental involvement, bad curriculum choices, energy spent on BS topics (like global warming), bureaucratic waste, useless testing, and union bullying of states that are the real issues with the US educational system. Unfunded pensions are bankrupting our states and our children aren't doing any better than they were before No Child Left Behind (dumbest legislation ever). 

School choice (vouchers), more parental involvement (incentivized if necessary), and back to basic curricula could help.  Oh and how about NOT throwing away perfectly good school supplies???

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Update to the Red Robin Breastfeeding Discrimination Story-This is GOOD!!

After many emailed, tweeted, Facebooked, and phoned Red Robin our efforts it seems have paid off! I'm so proud of what a community can do when we stand behind what is right.

Update 06/24/2010: I got a call from Liz at corporate at 10:00am today. It was a very positive phone call! Here's the conversation that took place:

Liz: First off, is now a good time to talk? I know you're a mom and really busy.

Me: Yeah, now is good, my littlest is asleep and the older one is watching TV with his uncle.

Liz: Okay. We are so sorry about what happened the other day. There's a lot of information about what happened and I wanted to hear it from you. Is that okay?

Me: Yes, that's just fine. Tuesday night I went on a date with my husband. We had my daughter with me and she got hungry so I started to feed her. At first I was pulling my shirt up but since we were at a booth it was really awkward and I was really exposed. Being in that position made my shirt be in my armpits. So I decided to bring my breast over my neckline and nurse that way. Then the manager came up to us and said somebody had complained and asked us to cover up. I said no and my husband informed the manager that it was my legal right to nurse wherever I wanted. The manager said he understood that but this was a family restaurant and he had a shirt I could use to cover up. I said we would just leave.

Yesterday I posted about my experience on Facebook and started talking to my friends about it. One of my friends found out the law in Washington is that managers, business owners, or employees cannot ask a woman to leave, stop breastfeeding, or cover up. I knew that my right to breastfeed was protected but I thought that a manager could ask you to leave. Once I learned the full extent of the law I contacted Red Robin's Guest Services about it. I got a call from Guest Services telling me they would have the Regional Director call me. 

She did call me, and I'm sorry, but I don't remember her name. She told me she was sorry, and that she was going to talk to the manager who had talked to me, and that they were sending me a gift card. However, she also said that it's not really the job of the managers to learn the laws. She also didn't give me any assurance it wouldn't happen again. She said that the managers are supposed to make the majority happy, so if a lot of people complain about a breastfeeding that the manager would probably talk to the breastfeeding mom about covering up. I feel that's not good enough. So, yeah, that's what's been going on.

Liz: Well, I again wanted to say how sorry I am that this happened. I'm a mom who has breastfed and I know how important it is. Moms who are breastfeeding should be able to feed their babies wherever they need to. The manager was in the wrong and we are going to instigate a company wide training to teach about what to do when customers complain about breastfeeding.

Me: I think that sounds like a great idea, that would be wonderful.

Liz: We have training for our managers already to train them on local laws and such, we contract with an independent third party to do our training. We will be sure to make an emphasis on breastfeeding training. We'll start immediately at the Kennewick Red Robin, but I want to let you know it's going to take a little bit of time to implement it nationwide.

Me: I understand, it's a big company. I'm glad you're implementing this.

Liz: Now, I want to make it very clear that I'm not making excuses, but it's a very sticky situation for our managers to deal with. It's hard to make everyone happy. Do you have any ideas on how to help?

Me: Yes, I do. First of all, there is a website for Washington breastfeeding laws that offers little cards you can print out. Mothers can use them to inform others about their rights and managers can give them to customers who complain to explain the laws. That way your managers can say, "I'm sorry, but it's the law," without the customer getting mad at the restaurant.

Liz: That's a great idea!

Me: They also have fliers you can print up and display in a prominent place of your restaurant informing customers of the law. Also, I know that breastfeeding laws are different everywhere. In Washington mother's rights are protected but in Idaho I know managers can ask you to leave. It would be really nice if Red Robin was a breastfeeding friendly restaurant everywhere, regardless of the laws.

Liz: That would be good. Do you have the website for those cards? That's a great idea.

Me: I don't know it off the top of my head, but I can email it to you. Do you want me to send it to guest relations or do you have a specific address you want me to use?

Liz: You can use guest relations, but here's my email address, it's really easy. [Email address]. If you have any ideas you can send them here, we want to hear them and we want to have an open dialouge.

Me: I can't think of anything else right now, but I'll ask my friends if they have any ideas. I wanted to say that I really appreciate this phone call, thank you for doing all this.

Liz: My pleasure, we just want everyone to be happy. 


So overall I'm really happy with how Red Robin is handling this now. I don't think I'll organize an official nurse-in but I think it would be a good idea for mothers to go to Red Robin and nurse. Also, let them know how you feel about how you want them to uphold a mother's right to breastfeed, whether it's state law or not.

If they don't do what they say they're going to then we can take this further. But as of right now I'm feeling pretty happy.

Now please go back to the Red Robin Comment form and tell them how happy you are with their response! 

Here's mine:

I am writing you again in response to the breastfeeding discrimination incident at your Kennewick, Washtington location on 6/22

I wanted to let you know that I am thrilled with your corporate manager Liz's response to my friend Krista. Her sensitivity and understanding of the law was the kind of customer service I like to see in places I frequent.

I am very pleased to hear that Red Robin will be redoubling their efforts to make sure managers are trained in the local laws that protect a woman's right to breastfeed in their restaurants.

I would encourage you to go one step further and make Red Robin a breastfeeding friendly business, by supporting the right of moms and babies. If you decide to adopt company wide policies that are mom and baby friendly please publicize it! We would love to know. And I will make sure to share your support of breastfeeding with my blog and Twitter followers as widely as I did my criticism of this incident.

My family's tradition of celebrating the children's birthdays at your restaurant is still up in the air until I see how all of this pans out.  I hope that you are true to your word and work to make Red Robin and true "family restaurant"

Nichol Miller

From breastfeeding rights to birth choice and safety

They are all feminist issues!! Bodily autonomy and the right to how we use our bodies, respond to them, and allow them to work is a human right.

Some states get this when it comes to breastfeeding like I mentioned in my last post about Washington state's breastfeeding law, but NO WHERE do they seem get it when it comes to birth.  And by they I mean the laws protecting a woman's right to choose, not only IF she has her child, but where, when, how, and with whom she can birth her baby.

How doctors like this or this are allowed anywhere near birthing mothers in our country is beyond me. When we have one of the highest maternal death rates in the industrialized world, a cesarean rate that is twice the WHO recommended value, and more babies born premature due to interventions than could possibly be safe why aren't the powers that be doing something about it?  Instead we are allowing doctors to dictate to women how they will give birth using documents like this!

Famed midwife Ina May Gaskin whose birth center The Farm in Tennessee has a cesarean rate of under 5% has been working hard to bring to light the dangers in modern obstetrics and how in the United States we seem to be blissfully unaware of the unreasonably high death rates of moms and babies. Her projected called The Safe Mother's Quilt was started to bring to light the severity of the situation.  By raising awareness of this hidden risk to our nations women and children she hopes to see changes made in policy and procedures governing the management of birth in our nations hospitals. Take a look at the fact sheet she has put together. So much of this report is not readily known by women going into hospitals to have their babies. But it should be.

With the recent release of the Amnesty International report on the crisis in maternal health care here in the US, those of us in the natural birth circles are hoping more prominent and influential people will step up and make changes. But when the attitudes of OB/Gyns continues to be one of disdain and disregard women who wish to birth in a hospital will continue to face the risks of unnecessary interventions, over managed medical responses to labor, and even unnecessary high risk surgery.

This article in the NY Times did a really good job outlining some of the risks and causes of our higher rates.

Someone once said that a good way to judge how an OB will treat a woman in labor is to ask them what they think about doulas.  I recommend that if you are expecting, plan to deliver with an OB, in a hospital or attached birth center asking them how they feel about birth plans, doulas, and informed consent.

***I just want to say that there are certainly cases where interventions and cesareans are 100% medically necessary.  But the World Health Organization says that 15% is the rate that should not be crossed for cesarean deliveries.  That rate gives the best outcomes of both maternal and infant survivability. Currently in the US we are at an average of 32%. Some places are double that.***

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Breastfeeding Discrimination at Red Robin.

Let me start by saying that I chose to breastfeed all 3 of my children.
It was a rough road.
It took a lot of perseverance, strength, resolve, and more support than I ever thought I would need.
I nursed through inverted nipplescracked, bleeding, raw nipples, mastitis, plugged ducts, over active letdown, thrush, eczema on my nipples, contact dermatitis on my nipples, a tongue tied infant, emergency surgeries, plane trips both with my husband and alone, sleepless nights, teething, bad latches, nursing strikes and various other issues.

All that to say I KNOW IT'S HARD!!!  And I respect those who have tried and for what ever reason were unable to continue due any number of reasons.  However, Breastfeeding is the BIOLOGICAL NORM for humans.

What I do NOT respect though is our society's attitude about breastfeeding in public. Lack support from the community they live in is a primary reason women either choose not to breastfeed in the first place or give up and quit within the first few weeks or months. Support for the breastfeeding dyad is virtually non-existent in many areas of our country. Without that support it is very hard to be successful. Even though breastfeeding is the how our species is supposed to feed our young, it doesn't mean it comes naturally to every woman. Community support is vital to the successful breastfeeding and when the public and businesses discriminate against breastfeeding mothers, by segregating them, asking them to cover up, leave, move, or stop feeding their children that support is eroded.

Here is an example of someone being discriminated against just for feeding her child:

Recently a friend of mine, Krista, was on a date with her husband at the Kennewick, Washington Red Robin when her infant daughter needed to be fed. She was in a booth and had to lift baby up pretty high to accommodate her and be able to latch correctly.  She did not use a blanket or cover up and even though her baby was blocking nearly all of her breast from view, people in the restaurant evidently complained to the manager.  The manager came over to Krista and asked her to cover up saying repeatedly that they were in a "family restaurant".  Her husband explained to the manager the fact that what Krista was doing was protected by Washington state law. The manager did acknowledged that fact, but still insisted that she cover up even offering to bring her a shirt to use. What he didn't realize is that asking a woman to cover up while breastfeeding in the state of Washington is actually a violation of that woman's civil rights!  Rather than cause a scene my friends paid their bill and left cutting their evening short.  The whole situation didn't sit well with Krista or her husband.  She posted what happened on her Facebook page and sent an email to an email list we are both a part of.

The discussion on her Facebook status became really involved and heated. It quickly turned to a discussion about being discreet and modest vs what the law protects.  Modesty and discretion are hard to pin down. They are different for everyone.  In many cases no matter how little skin your showing the ACT of breastfeeding is still seen as immodest or disgusting in some way by someone.

This is why in 28 states (including Washington) breastfeeding is exempt from public indecency laws even if the breastfeeding mother has her entire breast and nipple showing during the process of feeding her child.

 Unfortunately the whole point of what happened was lost on many of the people commenting on this discussion.  The point is that the manager of Red Robin violated Washington law and Krista's civil rights.  When Krista contacted the corporate offices of Red Robin, her call was returned by a regional manager. This is what she told me happened.
"Their apology was (slightly paraphrased but true to feeling):
"We are so so sorry this happened, the Kennewick manager is going to be so embarrassed (I never got his name), and he'll know that's the law now"
BUT she also said (again, paraphrased but the feeling is correct):

"The manager's job is to make the majority comfortable, so if people are complaining about my nursing they're going to address me, and the managers won't always know what the law is."

She NEVER said they were going to implement a plan to educate all they're employees.
This in my opinion is inadequate.  Business in states where the laws protect women from discrimination or interference when breastfeeding should KNOW THE LAW and they should TRAIN THEIR EMPLOYEES.
It is incumbent on them not the mother to deal with those who complain and inform them of the laws in place that protect the mother's right to feed her child, however that mother needs to do so.

I've always been an advocate for a woman's right to feed her child however, whenever and where ever that child needs to be fed.  I don't discriminate against women who choose formula, or pump breast milk and feed their children from a bottle. Most businesses don't either, so why do they choose to single out and chastise women who are feeding their child the way nature intended? It is usually because another patron complained and they think that they are practicing good customer service by trying to fix the complaint.

The truth is that they are discriminating and judging one person's actions based on a the opinions of another.  It is because of the subjective nature of this whole argument that we need laws to protect our rights in the first place. And beyond the laws we as consumers need to DEMAND that the businesses we frequent know the laws, have a concrete policy in place for breastfeeding customers and employees, train every employee on those policies, and stop the discrimination.  If they don't then we have to let businesses know why we are choosing to end our patronage of their operation.

One way you can help is to contact Red Robin and ask them to create and implement a policy that follows the laws in the states where they operate their restaurants. Then ask them that they publish their breastfeeding policy, so we the consumers know that they are following the laws.

As of right now there isn't any plans for a 'nurse-in' as Krista isn't sure that's the right course of action.  Her desire is to make sure that the corporation is following the laws and not discriminating against other nursing mothers.  If any kind of protest is planned it will be a quiet presence to show Red Robin and their patrons that breastfeeding is NORMAL. No signs, No chants, No unruly conduct. Just a quiet show of support for a mom's right to feed her child.  If you are interested in knowing how things turn out or any plans follow me on Twitter @faedemere and as I will be updating everyone via tweets.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Not Me Monday- June 21st, 2010-- Midsummer

Mckmama- Not Me Monday

My "Not Me Monday" posts are usually full of sarcasm and snark about the lazy, imperfect, and comical moments in my otherwise pretty normal non-exciting life but today I did do something completely out of character for me. 

 I set my alarm and got up at FIVE AM IN THE MORNING!! ****gasp****  Yes me, up at quite literally dawn. ON PURPOSE. I'll let that sink in for a minute.  And to make it even more astonishing......the coffee wasn't ready yet!  Yes you read that right folks, Nichol was up before dawn on a MONDAY without any coffee at the ready, and it was entirely intentional!!

Some of you who know me might have figured out why, others are probably just still in shock that I would do something so outrageous, the rest of you probably don't care and are just playing along to humor me.  But in truth this conscious decision to get up before the sunrise is related to my effort to live more mindfully.  To recognize the passage of time rather than be swept up by it.  

So on today the longest day of the year 2010, I got up to watch the beginning of it and plan on spending this day being ever mindful of it's passage.  Starting tomorrow we loose daylight, and I for one hope I can make each moment count for the darkness comes back all too soon and way before we are ready! 

Happy Midsummer to everyone! May the Light bless you and yours.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Thought into energy into action

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique and if you block it, it will never exists through any other medium. The world will not have it. . It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It's your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, and to keep the channel open." Martha Graham as quoted by Dr. Christiane Northrup at the end of her PBS special.
As part of looking inward and trying to find those thoughts that create the energy that moves towards action I wanted to share this quote.  I find it soooo very profound.   

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Re-reading the past--learning for the present--applying it to the future

Recently I decided to read back through some of my favorite novels from my childhood. To remember, and relive, to relearn, and rediscover all that joy and wonder they brought me back when I was 10 years old.  I decided to start with Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time.

For those of you who have never read it, a brief summary:
  Meg Murray is a child who is different. She's smart and she knows it, but she doesn't like being asked to prove it. She feels awkward and ungainly. Her parents are both scientists, her father has recently disappeared. Her little brother, Charles, "knows" things and is oddly smart for his young age of 5, but doesn't talk in public so people think he's dumb.  3 odd visitors, old eccentric women, come to the Murray house one night and take the siblings along with a neighbor friend Calvin on a wild time traveling adventure through space to save Mr. Murray from the evil, dark, Black Thing and the IT. The very thing that causes Meg to feel pain on Earth, her differences, is what allows her to defeat the IT and save both her father and in the end her little brother as well.

There is a part in this book that really resonates with me. The IT is trying to explain to the children how the way of the collective, "one mind", hive mind is better. How IT has taken away all misery, suffering, illness and disease and that all they have to do is "rest".  No more decisions because IT makes them all, no more responsibilities because IT gives them all that they need, and no more worries because IT does all the thinking. All they have to do is GIVE IN.

IT says, "You see, what you will soon realize is that there is no need to fight me. Not only is there no need, but you will not have the slightest desire to do so. For why should you wish to fight someone who is here only to save you pain and trouble? For you, as well as for the rest of all the happy, useful people on this planet, I in my own strength, am willing to assume all the pain, all the responsibility, all the burdens of thought and decision.
Charles responds with, "We will make our own decisions, thank you."
IT replies, "But of course. And our decisions will be one, yours and mine. Don't you see how much better, how much easier for you that is?"
He goes on to try to get the children to say their multiplication tables together with IT.  They fight him off at this point.  Eventually Charles Wallace thinks he is stronger than IT and tries to face it head on. Giving himself to the force that eventually takes over his mind.

Later IT tries again using wrote learning to infect their minds and get them to be swayed to "give in"

This time Meg fights IT off by reciting the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.  
IT replies, "But that is exactly what we have .... Complete equality. Everybody exactly alike!"
"NO!" says Meg realizing the truth of what the founders meant. "Like and equal are not the same thing at all!!"

That truth was so very important to Ms. L'Engle's audience back in 1963 and it is ever more important today. It is absolutely possible to be 100% different from someone else and still be completely equal in the rights we possess.  And we do NOT need a larger than life governance telling us how to think, what to do when, how to behave, or where to go.  But we have been told that we do need this "guidance" That we need someone to "level the playing field" so that we have an easier time of it and don't have to work as hard to be alike. 

Every day I turn on the news to see some new regulation or law that limits our rights.  I read a news story about a farmer being persecuted and prosecuted for feeding families as nature provides.  I hear of a parent turned in to CPS for choosing not to inject their child with something they feel may be harmful.  I see a school system that is more focused on conformity, test scores, and teacher's salaries than on the unique and special gifts our children embody.  And I see people blindly following along and doing what they are told like those on the planet Camazotz.  All bouncing their balls in the same rhythm.  It is as scary to me as it is to children in the novel. 

Embracing our differences is one way we can prevent the loss of our own selves. Standing up for the right of choice and the right to pursue our own chance, our own possibilities, on our own terms is even more important. It is our right not only to try, but to fail, pick ourselves up again, and keep on trying until we succeed.  In fact one could almost say that our  country's success has been build on our country's failure. By giving hand outs, instead of hands up we circumvent that process.  We short circuit the learning process and create a society that expects things to come easy and when they don't society gives up or revolts because their entitlements aren't getting them anywhere.  Easier is not better.  Easy doesn't teach anything. We learn by doing, by trying, and yes by failing. And from that learning comes success and prosperity. IF we keep trying. 

The 2nd step towards restoration of our liberty is embodied by another character in this book. Aunt Beast says, "We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal."  She is talking about love, hope, charity, and faith.  Those things that if we work toward giving them to not only others, but to ourselves, we can elevate the condition of our communities without spending a dime. 

It is amazing how a re-read of a simple book can remind me of lessons I learned as a child and how relevant they are for our world today.  Celebrating the differences with love, giving everyone the equal chance to succeed or fail all the while having faith in what hard work and hope for the future can do is how we are going to really cause change.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

5 years ago

5 years ago I was trying my hardest to rest after labor stopped AGAIN! Marc and I went and saw Revenge of the Sith while his dad and step-mom watch the boys. I actually went into labor during the movie, and hoped that Lily would arrive while they were still in town only to have it stop as soon as I got home and laid down. It came and went all night long........5/26 10:39pm

5 years ago I was up eating the breakfast my husband made me and waiting for his parents to come say goodbye before they got on a plane back to South Carolina. Contractions were about 10 minutes apart still like they had been off and on all night. 5/27 7:35am

5 years ago I was rocking on the birth ball in my living room while saying goodbye to my inlaws. Labor had indeed started, but it was slow going! Sad to see them go, and sad that they would just be missing the birth of their granddaughter! 8:13am

5 years ago I was changing my clothes, Marc was calling our Doula and the Birthcenter, we loaded up the boys our bags and headed out to Tualatin to settle in for labor.  9:55am

5 years ago I was finally in active labor! I settled into the tub and called the family to let them know Lily was on her way! 11:14am

5 years ago I floated in a tub of warm water, surrounded by flickering candles, the faces of women I trusted, and the power of every laboring woman who had come before me.  I felt their energy as I sored through each contraction going deep within myself to find the beautiful and power of the moment. 1:02pm

5 years ago I was still laboring away. the AC at the birthcenter had shut off, my midwives and husband were melting while I was in a warm tub floating through contractions. Lily's arrival was still abouit 4 hours away! 5:56pm

5 years ago transition hit, but with a power and excitement I didn't experience with my boys. I was so excited because this meant Lily was almost ready to be pushed out!! 6:32pm

5 years ago I started feeling the urge to push!! Just little moments of my body working to move that baby down. I will always be amazed at how my body just knew what to do. I didn't push per say as much as it was my body pushing of its own will. About now I decided it was time to go back to the tub; as I got to the side of it about to climb in my body said, "PUSH!!!!!" I did and my water broke with that first push. 7:57pm

5 years ago having tried out the birth stool and deciding I HATED it, I got back into the tub and started pushing in earnest. I with Marc at my shoulder holding me under my arms and my wonderful midwives encourage me the whole way I kept at it. Determined and powerful. I had never felt so alive or so empowered! 8:24pm

 5 years ago Colton and Austin had joined us by the tub, and Lily was crowning. Almost time now.......8:52pm

 5 years ago today at 9:01pm Lillian Elizabeth was born in the water of the Lavendar Room Tub at Andaluz Waterbirth Center in Tualatin, Oregon. Her brother Austin cut her cord a few minutes later and the whole room sang Happy Birthday to our sweet daughter. Happy 5th Birthday Princess Lilybug!! 9:01pm Pacific Time