Autumn: Time to Embrace the Fall

The leaves have been falling on the ground for several weeks now. We took a drive through the country side a couple days ago and I wanted to catch my breath at the sight of beautiful reds and golds and yellows on the trees – I know they will not last long. Winter is coming. (Only GOT fans will fully appreciate that sentence!)

Autumn is a time of change. It is easy to feel sad as we watch the beauty of Spring and Summer fade, as the luscious green leaves fade and whither. Just talking about it makes me sort of depressed! But even in all the doom and gloom and the coldness, there are moments of beauty. One of the most beautiful things about Autumn is that we have a chance to look at our lives over the year, we have a chance to review the choices we have made.

As I look at my life over the past year it is one filled with falling. I fell time and time again as a mother. I can not count how many times I wished I could just leave my children with someone else and run away. I am not saying for a couple hours or even an evening out with my husband, but for a week, for a month, for forever. In the beautiful chaos that my children are and in my attempt to control life in my house, I took their youthful spirits for granted. It is easy to do in a world where we are surrounded by our drive for more stuff, in a world where we are disconnected from nature and the harmony that Terra, the Earth, can bring. But as we celebrate the first year in our house, I am looking forward to all the wonderful plans we have for our house and our home. We are focusing on making our home truly child-friendly, on de-cluttering, on simplifying things in our house and in our lives. We are taking the time to build a semblance of a schedule for ourselves while balancing it with moments of spontaneity. We have incredible plans for our rather small back yard and hopefully in raising gardens next year we will learn many wisdoms when it comes to raising our children!

As the leaves are falling off the trees, I will strive to remember that falling is not always bad. Falling gives us the ability to go back to where we began and decide whether we liked where we were going. Sometimes where we were going was not a good place, in which case we are given the time to correct our course and become better. As difficult as falling is, it reminds me of the life of a Phoenix, an exceptionally gorgeous mythological creature – birth, death through flame, ash falling onto the ground, rebirth. Perhaps part of falling as an adult is an invitation to embrace youthfulness again? I marvel at the fascination and joy my children have when it comes to seeing ladybugs at the park, or picking up leaves and admiring their colors. How I wish I knew what was going on in their minds! I feel like I get tiny glimpses here and there between kissing and hugging away all the boo-boos they receive from falling on the ground. My heart is given the chance to be reborn and become childlike again as I let the hours slip away with my children.

Before the Autumn passes us by, I hope we can all rake up the leaves in our yard and fall into them and enjoy their crisp scent! I hope even more so that I can take the time to sweep all the cobwebs from my life and fall into a new year filled with the promise of being better, of giving me a chance to redirect my path, of allowing me to embrace all the times I have fallen this year. May we all take time to embrace the fall.

The Cut Around Part 1: A Little History

I have laid out that I am quite the environmentalist – I cloth diaper both of my children, we recycle and compost, I am starting to make my children clothes from the remnants of my old clothes (this is very exciting for me!). I laid out recently that we are trying very hard to be Peaceful Parents to our children, even as they grow and struggle to find ways to express who they are as individuals. Sounds great, right?

But I have not yet laid out what brought on our Peaceful Parenting.

After our son was born, our midwife (a wonderful CPM in Tennessee), asked us: “Are you planning on having him circumcised?”

I honestly had not even considered this. I had no idea parents had this performed! (outside of the small minority of Jewish people in America) I had been homeschooled most of my life, inundated with Catholicism and pro-life thinking (“a person’s a person, no matter how small!”). I guess you could say I had been sheltered a bit. But maybe it was just that people did not talk about circumcision openly. Or maybe it was one of those “adults only” topics. My mother could barely get through talking to me about menstruation and the ability to get pregnant without a large dose of awkwardness, let alone covering the fact that some parents choose to cut their children’s genitalia shortly after birth!

Not only was I not aware of the staggering number of parents who choose this for their children on a daily basis, but I had run across Female Genital Mutilation when I was attending college. Yes, I was revolted by the practice! But I had not even scraped the icing off the cake with my brief research of the topic.

I happened to be without internet for awhile after having my son. When I finally had frequent access to the internet again, I began researching circumcision. I was shocked. I researched more. Pretty soon, I realized I knew more about sexual anatomy than the average person. (I’m still not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing)

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
—George Santayana

History teaches us that people have never learned anything from history.
― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

The more I researched circumcision, which literally means “to cut around,” the more I waded through history. History. I minored in history I enjoyed reading about it so much! So perhaps I like mucking around and pulling up dirty things from the past? Perhaps I like learning what people have done wrong, so I do not make the same mistakes? I do not believe there is anything wrong with that!

The History of Circumcision

When it comes to circumcision in history it is deep, dark, complex. The practice of circumcision stretches back millennia. Not only among males, but also among females. It is not something that is always freely chosen by individuals. In fact, it was often used as a marking upon those who had been captured and were enslaved, it was a way for slave-holders to inflict initial pain upon a slave so that the slave would fear them and behave in an orderly fashion, lest a more severe pain be inflicted. Not only that, but circumcision of slaves was not visible to others on a routine basis as clothing easily hid the markings. This is the same reason why many American slave-holders readily used devices like whips on slaves, because the welts, bruises, and scars were easily covered with clothing.

Certainly, the Old Testament of the Bible mentions circumcision. Many other ancient literary works mention circumcision as well. Some of them shun the practice as destructive, others viewed it as a marking that “set them apart” from the rest of society.

The history of circumcision in America is intriguing to me. There were, of course, tiny pockets of Jewish people who had immigrated from abroad in the early beginnings of the United States. It is quite possible they continued the tradition of infant male circumcision, so carefully laid out for them in the Torah. But more likely than not, they assimilated into this New World. It was not until much later that greater numbers of Jewish people began pouring into the United States, seeking refuge from places like Russia and Germany, that the practice of circumcision saw an increase.

Now for a moment, step back and question this moment in time. What was it about Jewish people that the Russians and Germans found so unholy? So much so that they felt the need to pen them up, to tattoo their arms, to kill them? For centuries the Jewish people, and before them the Hebrew people, had “set themselves apart.” Apart from what? Their fellow human beings? Why? They murdered and plundered and stole, just as many humans did back then. Just as many humans still do today.

Before we continue, let me make something clear – circumcision as found in the Torah is a far cry from the modern medical circumcision now performed in the United States. Just take a minute to Google “Brit Milah vs. Periah Milah” and you will see what I mean.

History of Circumcision in America

The modern medical circumcision now practiced in the United States began in the late 1800s and did not gain favorability among the medical field until the early 1900s. At the time, medical doctors were beginning to experiment on their fellow human beings. Doctors had been placed in a position of authority within society. Many average citizens had fallen away from being well-educated on a variety of topics.

Circumcision became seen as a “cure all” for everything from Syphilis to headaches. Doctors recommended circumcision for the “sin” of masturbation. The Victorian Era had arrived. This was a time of over-the-top humility, of outward prudishness. Religious leaders called the masses to turn away from their sinful nature. A movement within the Catholic Church that became quite large around this time taught that physical punishment for transgressions was necessary for spiritual purification – many individuals sought stigmata. Corporal punishment of children became wide-spread. Parents readily beat their children with hands, wooden spoons, belts, and more.

Funny how that was okay. Just as whipping slaves, or cutting off parts of their genitalia, was okay. But I digress.

The human body had become a disgusting object. No longer was Michelangelo’s David an object of praise. No longer were images of a breastfeeding Madonna and Child hung lovingly in places of worship. It was a time of covering up, from the neck all the way down to the ankles. It was a time of reigning in undesirable sexual passions. And what better way than to surgically remove sexual pleasure organs!?!

Both male and female circumcision were purported as beneficial during this time in America. Male circumcision gained more popularity than female circumcision, it was easier to do. Male infant circumcision rates peaked in America at 90% around the 1970s, then began slowly declining. The most common form of female infant circumcision within the medical field of America was the clitoridectomy, though it never gained the widespread popularity of male infant circumcision. What girls would sit around and compare their genitalia!?!

Around the time of the 1970s-1980s, reports started surfacing from Africa, where female circumcision was wide-spread. Some forms of female circumcision were so severe abroad that women died during child birth or shortly thereafter due to complications from the genital cutting they had received. The reports were disturbing to say the least, young girls being forcibly held down with little to no anesthetic while their genitalia were cut, often without their consent. The sanitary conditions were appalling. This practice was carried out by medically untrained individuals. Within the matter of a few short years, the United States was banning what had become commonly known as Female Genital Mutilation. The United States Congress passed landmark legislation in 1996, which then went into affect in 1997.

I want to point something out here. While I was in college researching Female Genital Mutilation, nowhere did I read of this being practiced in the United States. In all the controversy surrounding Female Genital Mutilation, nowhere did I hear of the dark past that America carried. It was not until after I had my son and delved deep into the topic of genital cutting that I began to hear of American women who had been placed under the knife as infants at the hands of American medical professionals. Talk about covering up the truth!

When we look at the way that Female Genital Mutilation is framed by the law Congress passed in 1996, it would appear that it is a filthy, unsanitary procedure. But in reality, many American doctors had performed genital cutting of female minors in “sanitary” conditions. The irony is baffling.

What baffles me more is that so many people are unaware of the history of circumcision in the United States, why it was begun. I think once we delve into why it was begun and toss aside any perceived benefits, it will be clear that parents should not be the ones making this life-long decision for their children if there is no reason to. Please, delve into history and learn from the mistakes of the past. Education is the key to a better future.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
—George Santayana

History teaches us that people have never learned anything from history.
― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Life in the Fast Lane – Slow Down!

We have been staying very busy lately and I haven’t had time to write!

Both kiddos are presently napping, though, so I thought I would make the most of it and ignore the fact that the living room could use a vacuuming.

Lately, I have been wrapped up in a multitude of activities – keeping both of my toddlers occupied being the main activity. Yes, it is hard to believe that our Bagel is walking, no, running around! Just over a year ago, she was so tiny and helpless. She squawked whenever she needed to eat and got fussy if her diaper was wet. She slept frequently and was so peaceful most of the time.

If there is one thing that defines babies, it is Peace. Most of the babies I have seen are Peaceful. But “Oooohhh,” you say, “That simply is not the case!” Now, do not get me wrong, I understand babies fuss, they get upset, the only means they have to communicate are their cries and screams! But there is something so serene about a newborn child, something so beautiful about a mother lifting her child onto her chest and soothing those first noises as a baby takes their first breath. And that Peace being allowed to continue and flourish in the first days and weeks of baby’s life.

It breaks my heart when I hear of mothers and fathers who have not gotten to experience the Peace that comes with a newborn baby. Perhaps their child was prematurely born and spent months in the NICU, attached to multiple cords. Perhaps there were medical interventions during birth which impeded upon the Peace that surrounds the birth of a child. Perhaps there was a medical emergency shortly after birth, which resulted in that Peace being shattered. It is so very hard to regain Peace once it has been whisked away, for whatever reason.

Yet, there is something that breaks my heart more than the unplanned intrusion upon the Peace that should surround a newborn baby. And that is the planned intrusion.

You may be asking, what intrusion into this Peace could possibly be planned?

Well, there is something. There is something that parents and doctors are capable of planning, which cuts deep into the Peace surrounding a newborn, and which leaves a perfect baby grasping for Hope in the wake of anguish.

But I will not get into this topic today. Merely leave you to ponder the Beauty of Peace that can surround a newborn baby. And how quickly fleeting those first moments of Peace are, but how pivotal they are to the formation of a Peaceful child.

And as I watch my dear daughter and son, who were both running around earlier, rest in Peace, I am so thankful that their Peace started at birth and was never interrupted.

Healthy Dinner Ideas – 7 April

I promised to write about food. So here it goes!

I just announced on my FB that I was becoming a vegetarian. Some people were very excited that I was finally being honest with myself and the fact that eating meat was leaving me feeling sluggish, my body was struggling to break down the proteins in animal flesh. Animal flesh from cows that should have been happily grazing and rollicking in green pastures, eating lush green grass, and feeding their babies; chickens that should be running around, gobbling bugs and seeds off the ground. But I will stop myself before I continue the animal rights tangent…

As I raise my own children, I wonder what if the roles were reversed. What if I feared for my children’s safety every day that someone stronger than myself might rip my child away from my arms, only to eat them? Sickening, I know. But after reading a news article about the Chinese government apprehending a company that was using dead babies in some “magical” energy pill that other humans were actually consuming, anything can happen! 

With all these disturbing thoughts on my mind, I decided to finally nix all the meat in my life! I am still opting to eat a few eggs and cheese, I just can’t give up cheese – there is nothing as incredible as raw gorgonzola atop spinach leaves, paired with some dried cranberries and fresh Bosc pear slices, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. Needless to say, the cheese is staying! 

As if THAT didn’t make you hungry enough, I am now going to give you a few simple, healthy, and delicious dinner ideas! 

For the record, I do a lot of gluten-free cooking, but we do eat some gluten around here. I will alert you when you can use a gluten-free option or when something is naturally gluten-free. Also, keep in mind that I normally just cook for my husband and myself. Our toddler son is incredibly picky, our daughter just eats whatever veggies we are eating. I don’t try to force my toddler to eat with us, I just let him graze on veggies and fruit throughout the day. I focus on feeding myself because this hard-working mama deserves it! 

Dinner Inspiration #1: Greek Tortilla Pizzas

Time until Dinner: 20 minutes

Ingredients (enough for 2 adults):

4 Whole Wheat Tortillas (or GF) – I really need to start making my own instead of buying the organic ones from Whole Foods

Hummus – We are in love with Red Pepper Hummus

Cut up veggies – I use a mix of red, green, yellow, and orange bell pepper; mushrooms; spinach leaves; baby broccoli 

Kalamata Olives (pitted, sliced in half)

Feta Cheese (omit for vegan meal) and Shredded Cheese (optional)

Instructions:

1. Place tortillas on a cookie sheet, turn oven onto 350 degrees F.

2. Spread tortillas with hummus. Arrange sliced up veggies and kalamata olives over this, sprinkle with feta cheese. If you want, you can add shredded cheese for more of a “pizza” feel. You could even nix all the cheese and have a completely vegan meal if you like!

3. Place pizzas in oven for about 10 minutes, until the tortillas are crispy on the edges.

4. Take out of oven, allow to cool for a minute before slicing and serving. Best served with a nice salad on the side.

Dessert Option: Throw a few small sweet potatoes in the oven as it preheats and leave them in until you are done with dinner (about 40 minutes). They should be very soft and are best served with a drizzle of honey.

 

Dinner Inspiration #2: Pasta with Italian style sauce 

Time until Dinner: 10-15 Minutes

Italians don’t just throw tomato sauce on pasta during the summer, they take advantage of a variety of vegetables! This simple recipe seeks to capture some of the flavors of summertime.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup yellow squash, thinly sliced and halved

1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced and halved

5 Small Mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/4-1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 28-oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes (we buy ours from Target)

1 16-oz package pasta (we used the organic Cappellini from Target, GF may be used here)

Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Dried or fresh basil

Instructions:

1. Bring water to a boil for pasta.

2. Heat a pan to sauté vegetables in (we use cast iron, so it takes a few minutes). While waiting, wash and chop vegetables. 

3. Saute vegetables in pan with a little olive oil. Throw pasta in now boiling water in pot, add a dash of olive oil to prevent sticking.

4. Stir the vegetables, cover with a lid for a couple minutes. Add canned tomatoes and some dried or fresh basil. Stir together.

5. Drain pasta when thoroughly cooked.

6. Serve pasta with sauce, sprinkle with cheese. Enjoy!

Dessert option: Fresh berries (we buy organic), served with a drizzle of warm chocolate sauce (equal amounts coconut oil, honey, and cocoa powder heated on low). 

 

 

Our Perfect Baby Boy

We saw the 3D ultrasound – “It’s a boy!” they told us. His birthday came, we held him for the first time – oh what joy! 

“Are you going to circumcise?” our midwife asked.

I sat there, completely aghast. 

I researched and researched more. Imagine my horror! 

I am now an Intactivist.  

Eryana’s 1st Birthday

It is SO hard to believe that one year ago on this date, I was in labor. 

I can’t believe our baby girl, our Bagel, has been in this world for one year now! It is so hard to see her walking all over the place. Where has time gone? Where is my baby!?! I feel like she came into this world ready to meet it head on, ready to explore and learn. There was no sweet and snuggly baby, just sheer determination. 

Now here she is one year after birth, she loves exploring the world – as of late, she enjoys knocking over block towers built by her brother, she savors snuggles with daddy, and eats a variety of food! Her vocabulary is ever-growing, but already includes “Da-dee,” “Lee,” “Thank You,” and more. She just blows my mind! 

We celebrated her amazing self yesterday with a party. In attendance were my dad (Dooda) and my brother; Aaron’s parents and brother, and our niece; my dear friend, (Aunt) Stephie. 

I have been on a gluten-free and sugar-free kick. I have a plethora of friends who have children with serious food allergies, so I am always trying my hand at making treats geared towards them. The cake I made for Eryana was one of these creations… it turned out well, although I think it needed a couple extra things in it to turn out perfect. I am sharing the recipe for all those who have children with food allergies and don’t know where to begin on making a birthday cake.

Eryana’s Birthday Cake Recipe

2 cups Brown Rice flour

1 TBSP baking soda (I did not use baking powder, as this contains corn, a common allergen)

1 tsp finely ground sea salt

1 TBSP cinnamon

1/2-1 cup water

2 cups apple sauce (I made my own apple-pear sauce, but jarred would work just as well)

1 large tablespoon Spectrum Organic shortening (palm oil based)

1/2 cup honey (I did not put any honey in, all the mainstream family was weirded out)

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

2. Mix dry ingredients together. Add water, applesauce, shortening, and honey. Stir thoroughly.

3. Grease a cake pan with the shortening. Pour batter in. 

4. Place in oven. Cook for 20 minutes, possibly longer depending on the shape and size of your cake pan. 

5. Allow to cool before frosting

 

Eryana’s Birthday Cake Frosting

Every girl deserves to have delicious pink frosting! But all those icky artificial dyes are just NOT okay. 

1 cup Spectrum Organic shortening

1 cup Strawberries (de-stemmed) 

1 Banana, smashed (optional)

1/4 cup Brown Rice Flour (helped everything stick together)

Instructions

1. Place strawberries into a blender until a fine pulp. Pour into a shallow pan.

2. Place shortening into pan, turn on low heat. Stir strawberries and shortening together. Add Banana and flour. 

3. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit before frosting cake. 

 

We decorated our cake with loads of fresh berries! It was really beautiful. The cake is very dense, as most gluten-free items tend to be.

Eryana mainly chowed down on the berries, which was totally fine with me!

We also made really yummy ice-cream that had honey in it. We will definitely be making more over the summer!

 

Eryana is such a spunky girl, I hope I can continue making her healthy treats for years to come! 

 

The Beginning

I am so excited to be starting a blog this year!

This past year has brought some big changes into the life of my family and we are now more aware of the impact that our choices can have not only on our own bodies, but on our family and friends, on our community, and on our most valuable resource – Terra, the Earth.

This past April, we welcomed our second child into our arms! It was a beautiful moment, but was not enjoyed long enough as our focus was quickly diverted to a farewell to my beautiful mother. She passed away in May 2013, after a battle with Pancreatic Cancer.

We began to realize more fully the deepness of the impact our choices can have on our small, but growing, family; on our extended family members; on our friends and community; on our world. We sought to support local and organic farmers whenever we could, to curb our reliance on items made outside of America, and to treat the Earth with more respect.

We moved into our first home, after renting for two years. This was very exciting for us as we finally have a yard! Not only that, but we were able to start a compost pile! Recycling had already greatly diminished the amount of “waste” coming from our home, but composting has made an even larger dent! Between cloth diapering both of our energetic children, recycling, and composting, our “trash” is now less than a small shopping bag each week! I am certain it will continue to diminish as we make more changes in our lifestyle!

As we get further into 2014, I hope to have at least bi-weekly updates about our lives and lifestyle. Some of the topics I will be discussing are the ins and outs of cloth diapering and what fueled our decision to cloth diaper our children, making healthier food choices and sharing recipes as I concoct them, and many other Earth-friendly happenings!

I look forward to many changes for the better in 2014 and hope you will join us in reducing out impact on Terra, the Earth!