1.30.2012

Vegan diaries: week 1

Ha, I feel like such a dork for that title.  Forgive me.

So today marks the first week on a vegan diet.  It's been so much easier than I thought!

Changes?

Lost 2 pounds.  Before you flip, yes, I'm aware I'm pregnant, which is exactly why I'm keeping close tabs on my weight.  I'm getting plenty of calories but am planning on upping my healthy fats as much as I can this week.  I'm not worried about a minor weight loss because I've been eating like total crap most of this pregnancy and I'm chalking up the 2 pounds to water weight.  If I lose any more weight, I'll definitely re-evaluate, but two pounds isn't a biggie since I know I'm getting plenty of calories and TONS of nutrients.

My mom has lost 3 this week, and considering she is already pretty stinkin' skinny, I think that's pretty encouraging for anyone who would like to revamp their diet to a lifestyle change rather than a fad diet.  She doesn't have to count calories or limit herself.  She eats what she wants when she wants it.  On average, vegans just weigh less.  Period.  It's easier to maintain your weight with a diet of healthy stuff like fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

My skin has totally cleared up.  Like, completely.  Not a single zit!  To make sure it isn't just a coincidence, I'll chime in about this again later, but this might be my favorite advantage to a vegan diet.  :)

My eczema is still here, which is probably what I'm hoping to cure the most.  I've never had severe eczema, only minor, but with this pregnancy came a drastic change in my eczema and my arms are covered in itchy patches that have even been bleeding lately.  It's awful.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this improves over the next few weeks!

My heartburn has completely disappeared.  I was shocked by this!  I only have heartburn during pregnancy but it's bad and it's every single night, not a rare occurrence.  About two days in, my heartburn completely stopped.  Last night, when I cheated while out to dinner with friends (I've decided not to stress about trying to find vegan restaurants so I'll totally allow myself to eat vegetarian meals here and there when I dine out) and had fettuccine alfredo, I ended up with really bad heartburn that  kept me up.

Overall, I feel so much healthier!  My energy level hasn't improved at all, which is another thing I'm hoping for, but since I'm pregnant I know I might not get much relief from the fatigue until the baby is born.  We'll see.  I'm trying to add exercise in this week as my new goal.  Maybe this will help?

Admittedly, I hate vegetables.  If it isn't drenched in butter or cheese, I have to force myself to eat it.  This week I've had an insane amount of veggies!  And new ones I've never even tried before, like rutabagas.  I had no idea how delicious rutabagas were!  It's like a whole new world has opened up to me.  I've had lots of kale, spinach, onions, mushrooms, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, cauliflower, rutabagas, tomatoes, red peppers...I could go on and on.  I'm so embarrassed to admit this, but the only veggies I ate before this were ones that were inside of meals, like salads or casseroles.  I did force myself to drink green smoothies whenever I could because I know how bad I am about my veggies.  Unbelievably, in only one short week I've gone from hating vegetables to loving them.  I figured it would happen over time, as everything I read says that you acquire tastes as you consume things, but I didn't expect it to happen so fast.

In fact, this morning I spoiled myself with some juice and for the first time...oh, I don't know...in my life(!), had to make myself finish off the glass because it was too sweet for me.  Me, the girl with the sweet tooth of steel. All of a sudden I only need a tiny splash of agave nectar & almond milk in my coffee instead of having a little coffee with my creamer.  Fruits now taste like heaven, instead of just good.  I've grown to appreciate the taste of good, healthy foods so much.

Last night, after I ate that ridiculously fatty meal, I felt like crap.  And I realized how good I've felt all week at that moment.

Another super cool perk is that I've all but kicked my "eat because I'm bored" habit.  I guess it's because we don't have any convenience items in the house, so if I want to eat, I have to do so intentionally.  I have to peel a kiwi or cook some spaghetti squash, so I don't do it mindlessly because I'm bored.

I thought this was going to be so difficult, but it's not.  At all.  I'm shocked.

The meals we've had and liked this week:

Lentil tostadas - Just like lentil tacos but we put the filling on top of a toasted whole wheat tortilla and added some chopped avocado, tomato and salsa.  My favorite for sure!

Pad Thai - Oh so good!

Creamy Avocado Pasta - I'd give this 3.5 stars outta 5.  Not the best in the world, but pretty tasty if you're craving something like fettuccine alfredo.

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans, Avocado and Cumin-Lime Dressing - Awesome!  'Nuff said.  I'd cut the onions in half next time and double the avocados, but so, so good.

We had leftovers a few times and a pretty tasty little kale salad that was simply a head of kale, an avocado and the juice from one lemon or lime.  Squish it all together with your hands and it's a great way to get in some super healthy greens.

This past week we bought The Engine 2 Diet book, The Vegan Slow Cooker and Veganomicon,so I'm looking forward to trying out some new bookmarked recipes!

Dat's all, folks.  ;)

1.27.2012

I'm a little bit nutty.



I joke about that all the time. When I explain why I do something I do (in regards to food or birth or my home, in particular), I always feel I have to preface it with, "Well, you know that I'm nutty about birth/food/etc, but..."



I guess I'm being defensive.  I have my guard up.  I'm braced for criticism.  I also want people to understand that I won't judge them for doing it differently.  I'm "weird," I believe birth is best at home until the birthing system in our country changes to honor and respect a woman and her ability to birth on her own, I think the conventional food in our country is killing us, I think cleaning with natural products is the best, I am a liberal Christian and believe strongly in that.  But these are all just my opinions.  I obviously believe them and have done my research or I wouldn't put them in place, but that doesn't change the fact that it's just what I've decided is best for my family.



I respect anyone's right to decide things differently.  I only advocate for knowledge and empowerment.  As long as you don't just accept everything at face value and believe everything "they" tell you without doing a little research on your own, I will 100% respect you.  I will not judge you.  I promise you this.



If you have done your research and you believe a hospital is the best place to birth and you are my friend and you tell me you are getting induced, I will not tell you that you or your choices are crazy.  I will never imply to you that you are putting your baby at risk.  I won't even joke with you about that.  What kind of friend would I be if I didn't support you in your well-informed choices?



Would I be induced?  No, not unless there was a sound medical reason, in which case of course I would!  But that doesn't change the fact that my decision not to have an unnecessary induction is mine alone.  I fully understand that it's based on my own opinions of the research I've read.



Do you know how many people have told me I'm crazy?  Have even gone so far as to tell me I'm selfish and putting my baby's life at risk for my comfort by birthing at home?  Do you know how many friends have picked on me?  "Friends" have even sent me links to awful, biased websites to instill fear in me.  To harass me for my well-informed choice to go with a midwife and birth at home.



So I believe birth is natural!  So I want to be at home so I can avoid drugs, avoid unnecessary medical interventions and so that I can bond with my baby right away!  My baby was taken from me during my last birth for no reason other than the nurses' convenience, and despite it being in my birth plan and my husband arguing, they still took her away minutes after her birth to bathe her.  Because, you know, she really needed a bath!  I don't want that experience again...but it's not for me, it's for my baby.  I want my baby to transition into this world in the most peaceful way possible, to be given straight to me and not to be messed with after that.  It is my baby's best interests I have in mind, not my own.  I would die for my children.


Am I taking a risk at home? Of course I am.  Every woman who makes a choice on where to birth is taking a risk.  Almost every study done on the matter shows a pretty equal risk.  Let's face it: birth, while normal, can always be risky.  Driving a car, much more risky.  But we don't call the decision to drive selfish.  We don't say that putting our kids in the car to go to play group is a risky and selfish thing to do, but the truth is it is risky.  We understand that everything in life carries with it a risk.  If I need to transfer to the hospital, I will do it in a split second without any second of hesitation because I believe in hospitals when needed.  And if that does happen, I'll be taking a risk there, too.


I am a person who does her research.  I am a person who refuses to believe everything that is status quo without confirming it for myself.  Maybe that makes me weird and maybe you consider that a waste of time.  I totally respect that.  But for me, it works.  For me, it's how I prefer to live.  But when someone criticizes a choice I make, particularly to go so far as to imply I am risking my baby's life, they clearly don't understand me at all.  They clearly don't know that I have done upwards of three years of research on the topic.  I have read every single thing I can get my hands on - the good and the bad.  I don't shy away from contradicting information simply because I don't want to know.  I have read the anti-homebirth articles and I have read the anti-homebirth blogs.



Similarly, I have read the anti-vegan blogs.  I have read the negative reviews of The China Study, of Forks Over Knives.  I have read the arguments against that diet at The Weston Price Foundation, because that is a diet I bought into before learning more about veganism.  It is important for me to educate myself without my own bias.  It's difficult - incredibly - but I do it.



I love milk.  I adore cheese.  I eat yogurt at least once a day!  I would have preferred to not give these things up.  In fact, I downright hate vegetables.  Enacting this new diet is one of the most difficult things I'll ever do, so I certainly didn't do it "just because."  I put a lot of thought into this, I've read so many articles and studies and even books this week that my head is spinning.



My point here is that regardless of what you may think of me for being one to buck traditional or accepted things in most cases, I don't do it just to be weird.  In fact, I hate being weird.  Being a vegan is something that is going to be difficult for me to admit to anyone in person.  It's easy to admit it online, but I hate being thought of as weird, I hate being disliked.  So there is obviously a very good reason I have chosen this new lifestyle, and I didn't do it flippantly or because it was the easy thing to do.  Quite the contrary.




Same thing with homebirth.  I tell very few people in person that I am having a homebirth and when I do, I brace myself for the negative responses.  I use my blog as my sounding board because it's so much easier to admit these things online than it is in person.  But I still flinch a little when I see a new comment has been written, prepared for criticism.



I won't judge you, even if I disagree with your choices.  Please don't judge me.


I welcome learning about anything!  And I won't stop sharing what I learn, because I believe, as Martin Luther King said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."



But I don't lose respect for people who take the time to research things and come to a different conclusion than I do.  In fact, I got into a nice little discussion with someone on my post about being vegan, and though we disagreed, I respected that he or she was obviously quite knowledgeable about the topic.  That's what I love and support - knowledge!  That doesn't always mean agreeing with me.  As long as you're respectful in your disagreements, I don't see anything wrong with that at all.  :)



Here's a really great blog post my friend sent me today.  The last paragraph is what spoke to me the most.  And the video, of course.



1.23.2012

VEEEEEGAN!



Aye.  A few days ago, I watched a documentary called Earthlings that I posted here.  I  had no idea how much that was going to change me in a short hour and a half.

I knew animals suffered abuse and cruelty in our modern meat system.  But knowing it and seeing it, for me, are two entirely different things.  The latter is so powerful I could never, ever in my life buy another package of conventional meat.



I've been a vegetarian before.  I've contemplated going back many times, too.  It's not because I believe consuming small amounts of meat is awful for us.  I don't.



But after watching Forks Over Knives a few times, I do believe that the massive quantity of meat and dairy we consume is killing us via obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc..  I believe that without a shadow of a doubt.  You can't read the studies and debate that.



But I do believe God intended for us to eat animals.  How much is more up for debate.  If I were to guess, I'd say quite rarely just based on the science behind what meat does to our bodies.


Consuming only dairy and eggs is not a solution.  These cows and chickens are treated every bit as horribly and most die pretty unthinkable deaths.





So I thought, alright, I'll give up cheap meat.  Easy as pie.  Done.  I'll only buy free-range, grass-fed beef and free-range chickens and cage free eggs and organic milk.  Good, right?

 
Wrong.  Completely wrong.  I'm quickly losing faith in our food system entirely.



 Apparently that's not good enough.  I can't say I'm that surprised.  Buying from a large organic company has always made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  Big companies just do things...worse.  They cut corners and they know how to do things as cheaply as possible to ensure maximum profit - unfortunately at the detriment of animals.



Read what PETA uncovers about so-called organic food like milk and eggs and meat here.



I'm fully convinced after a weekend of reading everything I can get my hands on that the only conceivable way of consuming dairy products and meat humanely is to buy from local farmers whose farms you've visited and are free to drop-in on any time.  Ones who are not crammed into cages, who are allowed to freely graze on grass, whose beaks are not chopped off, who are not fed a diet of food they were never intended to eat and so on.  That is your best shot at guaranteeing your animals lived the best life they can before they became your food.



For me, this knowledge coupled with the convincing information revealed in Forks Over Knives about the dangerous implications of a meat or dairy-based diet on our health, I'm done.  I'm done with the dairy industry and I'm done with the meat industry - organic or not.  The only way I can feel 100% confident that my money isn't supporting unspeakable abuse of poor, innocent animals is to just quit eating it entirely.



What's cool (and surprising) is what I've learned in just a day about the MANY options for food that are still available to me.  I'm BLOWN AWAY by the things I can still eat.  Will I miss dairy?  Oh my gosh, yes.  I am a self-proclaimed milk and cheese junkie.



But I can eat:




Banana Chocolate Chip Pretzel Smoothie




Berry Almond Bliss Steel-Cut Oatmeal




Beach Cookies




Avocado Pesto Pasta




Mexicali Sliders



And about 396 other recipes I've already pinned!



You can save an average of 100 animals from abuse and death each year if you become vegan.  :)



And that, folks, is why I'm now a vegan and plan to never go back!

1.20.2012

20 weeks!

I threw a kink in my plan for monthly pictures in the same place/same outfit when I left for South Carolina for a month.  Sadly, I'm a little crushed that this lil pattern got ruined, but oh well.  My little perfectionist self will have to learn to live with disappointment and this less-than-stellar picture for 20 weeks.








(Best I could do since I don't have the originals of the last few pictures on this computer, it's on my other one at home in Kansas)



All the morning sickness has died down with the exception of  horrible car sickness.  It's happened in my other two pregnancies, too, so nothing out of the ordinary.



We've now moved onto contraction territory.  At 20 weeks.  One day about a week and a half ago I got very regular, very intense contractions for a few hours and ever since then, they've been pretty frequent.  Mostly Braxton Hicks with some real contractions thrown into the mix.  It's a little freaky so early on, but since it's nothing new to me, I'm trying really hard to accept it as a normal part of my pregnancy and not freak out each time.  My other two babies stayed put despite a lot of contractions and even a lot of dilation, so there's no reason to believe this pregnancy will be any different.



You might remember that I was 5 cm dilated(!!!) and not in active labor with Adalyn.  When I went to the hospital on January 14th, 2011  because I mistakenly thought my water had broken (still embarrassed about that), the nurses were shocked that I could be 6 cm dilated (at that point) and not in regular labor.  Apparently I was a freak show.  So like I said, it's not all that weird that the contractions are starting even earlier this time and I wouldn't be surprised to find out I start dilating early this time, too.  As I discovered with my last pregnancy, it really doesn't mean a thing except that labor is fast and easy.  Well, as easy as labor can be.



My water was broken at 8:45 a.m., contractions followed pretty shortly thereafter and she was born at 9:47 a.m.  I'm totally convinced my labor would have been even shorter than an hour had I been allowed to get off my back and move around and had they not told me to "hold her in" when my body started involuntarily pushing.  So in that regard, I feel SO blessed to have lots of Braxton Hicks and early dilation as long as it accomplishes the same thing it has the last two pregnancies.  I'm actually sort of concerned that there's no chance my midwife will make it to this birth.  But that makes me happy I'm having a home birth because one of my greatest fears has always been to have a baby in a car on the way to the hospital, and I'm kind of convinced that would happen with this pregnancy if I tried to go anywhere after labor started.



This little babe moves all around all the time and I love it.  This is my favorite point in pregnancy: no morning sickness, minimal pain and lots of movement!



We had our big ultrasound a couple of weeks ago and baby looked great!  We even got a DVD that I'll upload someday that shows baby sticking his/her tongue in and out.  It was pretty freakin' cool.  Everything checked out, baby looks healthy and we held out on the gender reveal.  This baby will be a surprise!  Woot!










:)

1.17.2012

Turnaround Times, Changes, Orphans & Adoption Fundraising!

How's that for a title?



We've been stewing on things for quite awhile here at The Blue Swirl.



We began this journey with the intention of having a creative outlet and providing quality products for little ones.



That's still our intention.



We've learned a lot over the past seven months and we've made changes along the way, striving for the best quality in the timeliest manner.  But that's proven difficult with two little ones at home and now a surprise third baby on the way.  I'm the only one who does the sewing and with pregnancy comes fatigue (and with the addition of our third child in June, the fatigue won't likely change any time soon, ha!).  My old late-night hours have been completely cut out as bed calls my name at 8:00.  That leaves me nap time and weekends, which has just not proven to be enough time to sustain the current workload.



My turnaround times are growing and while I adore what I do, I don't adore making our customers wait four weeks or longer to get a TBS creation.



After a lot of thought over the past four months, I've made the ultimate decision to change our business model.



Rather than offer made-to-order only, we are going to focus on keeping up a stock so that when you order, your item(s) will ship right away.  We realize this will carry its own set of hiccups as we won't always be able to stock every item in every size (in fact, we will probably rarely have every size in stock).  For this reason, we will still offer customs but their turnaround times will be long and they will cost a bit more.



We are also going to start focusing much more on baby and children's accessories, as they don't require different sizing and can be kept in stock more readily.  We know this might be disappointing to some and we want to offer our GREATEST apologies to anyone who is disappointed by this!  Please trust that all of these decisions were made with YOU in mind, so that we no longer have to put a four week wait time on every order that goes out our door.



As we begin to offer more accessories and fewer clothing, we hope that you'll keep us in mind for baby shower gifts or as you expand your own family.  As always, thank you SO much for your continued support!  Without you, we would truly be nothing!



Finally, for the exciting news we've been waiting to share for literally six months now, we are going to begin donating a portion of all proceeds to two organizations we love and want to support: An Orphan's Wish and Warm Blankets.



These two organizations help support orphans and orphanages, something my husband and I feel so passionately about.  Adoption is something near and dear to our hearts and though we aren't actively seeking to adopt in the immediate future, it is a dream of ours we hope to make a reality.  In the mean time, we want to do our part to help support orphans in need.



Please take a minute to visit these two sites, linked above, and read about their missions and the incredible, selfless work they do.  Maybe you even want to get involved?



Additionally, we'll be starting up an adoption fundraiser soon, where families seeking to adopt can raise funds selling our products that we'll offer at deep discounts.

Where has the year gone?!



It's hard to believe this was almost a year ago now.  I feel like it was literally yesterday that I was sitting in the hospital, waiting for my daughter to make her appearance after almost a month of nightly labor.  Maybe that's because I have a new baby kicking away in my belly now.  Ha!  If someone would have told me that a year ago, I'd have laughed hysterically.  No way, no how.



But as preparations came together for Adalyn's birthday party, there was no denying it: my baby is no longer a baby.  Something about the second one is so much different than the first.  I felt like Ben was grown up from three months on.  Adalyn still feels like a tiny baby...until I actually hold a tiny baby like I did the other day and I quickly realize that she is not, indeed, a baby.  She walks!  She talks!  She eats by herself!  It's so cliche, but time really does fly by way too quickly.



So to reminisce a little, let's take a quick look back at January 14th, 2011.







Adalyn's party was Saturday and was a total blast!  This was my first year putting Pinterest to good use and I love the way it all turned out!



I still love Adalyn's nursery so I decided it'd be fun to stick to those same colors.  I added in some pops of  blue, too, seeing that it's my favorite color and all.  I used her curtains as the tablecloths.  How easy is that?!





Her monthly picture collage!



The rock candy was my favorite.  Throwback!




And of course the striped paper straws - I'm a HUGE fan of these things!




Her invite (which sadly and lamely, I didn't end up getting to send out because I am master procrastinator and she ended up with an evite instead - so I taped this on the door to get at least a tiny bit of use out of it):



Thank you, Target, for giving this pregnant mama a baking break and making fab & delicious hot pink cupcakes!




This was the best picture I could get of the active birthday gal and the outfit I made her.




Her outfit & pennant banner:





Obligatory cake face picture!




 And allow my little piggy to dazzle you with her cupcake eating abilities.  I love this girl & her new voracious appetite!  Also, please enjoy the blurry quality and my husband's stellar singing.  Be jealous!








Happy birthday, my precious sweet pea!