Preparing to Pack School Lunches

School starts for Miss Peanut one month from today, which is just absolutely crazy to me. Regardless, it’s time to start really preparing a few things. Honestly, I’ve been preparing things for a long time, like slowly buying things off the supply list her teacher has up on her class blog so it’s not so much at once. And even longer than that, as long as I can remember really, I’ve know I’m going to pack her lunch to school.

Peanut eating lunch at our local Free Summer Lunch program

First I want to say that I know schools do what they can. Many of the lunches are free or reduced and even before accounting for that, it’s not like the school gets a lot of money to work with when it comes to buying and prepping food. And I know that to many families that school lunch is a godsend. That’s not the point.

Twig eating lunch at our local Free Summer Lunch program

The point is that “good enough” isn’t what I want for my family. Our nation’s school lunch (along with many other things) is in a sad state. Looking at the lunches my girls had at the free summer lunch program, there are definitely some good parts and none of it is what I’d consider horrible food, but there are a lot of what I call “sometimes” foods and I just don’t want my kids eating that every day at school. Our school lunch system a lot of improving to do, so in the meantime I’ll take care of her lunch myself.

So here’s the game plan. First, of course, the meal plan. We’re still loving our Super Healthy Kids meal planning service and I’ve happily noted that pretty much every lunch is easy to pack. Of course they’re also loaded with fresh fruits and veggies. I even asked Peanut this week if she wants to do school lunch one day a week (a suggestion I read on Super Healthy Kids) and she said no, she’d rather have my yummy healthy lunches every day. Happy mama here! I’m sure we’ll revisit this concept once she sees her friends eating school lunch, but for now I’m planning on packing it 5 days a week. If she changes her mind, I’m going to stick with Wednesdays as our school lunch day since my husband gets tacos that day and maybe Twig, Banana, and I will have leftovers or go out to lunch ourselves.

Our Laptop Lunchbox bag

Our Laptop Lunchbox

Next, the gear. I have a Laptop Lunchbox that I used myself while I was in school (and I’ll happily buy a second one for myself when I go back to school next year, they’re great!) and extra containers. Since the lunchbox is an older version, the new containers don’t fit in it (they’re a tad bit taller), but that’s not a big deal. I also have one of their lunchbox holders that has plenty of room up top for the other containers. Peanut is super excited to use it!

I’m also planning on getting a bunch (well, maybe not as much as this lady!) of cute bento stuff to make her lunches more fun. I’m sure we’ll hit the point where she feels bored or sad or whatever and these can definitely make lunch more fun. And I’m sure she’ll love them because she loves cute stuff. I’m also planning on printing off lunch notes (and writing my own at times) to give her a little fun pick me up.

Lastly, the plan. I will pack (or at least start packing) lunch the night before, as suggested here. That’s my biggest plan for actually getting her out the door on time. We also have been working on getting ready before breakfast (they have a “before breakfast” to do list that is pretty much just getting ready for the day) so that I’m not constantly harping on her to get dressed and brush her teeth and can focus on getting breakfast on the table and the last bit of lunch packed.

So there it is! Our plan for school lunch this fall. I’ll check up with ya’ll later about how it’s coming along. I’m sure there will be some more obstacles along the way since we’ve never had to pack a school lunch before! She’s getting so big!

Do you pack school lunch? Any tips or tricks you’ve learned?

Some Quinoa and Part of an Avocado

It’s Food Waste Friday! This week I feel like we did a pretty good job. Not 100% waste-free, but a lot of good work. First, the bad.

Some quinoa got wasted. I was planning on using it Saturday in a recipe, but then we ended up doing a different one that had been skipped earlier in the week. It was already pushing it time-wise to use it in Saturday’s recipe, so I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry and this was trash. The good news is that we’ve found that we do sometimes like quinoa (depends on what it’s in) from some of the recipes in our meal planning service, so go go healthy food!

And second, part of an avocado. I was able to salvage some of the insides for the recipe I was making today, but the outer edges were all slimy. Yuck. It’s hard to get through avocados in our house because, while I absolutely adore them, my family is more on the fence. I work hard to make sure that they get used up before they go bad now (and I buy less of them than the meal plan says to), but this one just got away from me.

In good news, I was able to use up all of our leftovers from meals that needed to be used this week. We still have some meatballs, but they have a few more days, so I think we’ll be good. I also worked on saving parts of meals that the kids didn’t want to finish, like when Peanut decided she didn’t want any more orange. I gave it back to her later (after storing it in the fridge, obviously) and she ate it happily. And this is all with two produce drawers so full that I have to use shelves for the extras every week! I love that we’ve gotten to a place where what we buy at the store is at least 50% from the produce section.

Now just to keep this momentum going for next week! Anyone else working on reducing their food waste? How’d you do this week?

Peanut Butter Green Smoothie

Gotta get those greens in these kids!

Gotta get those greens in these kids!

Today I’m sharing with you one of my favorite recipes from the Super Healthy Kids meal plan: Peanut Butter Green Smoothies! My whole family loves them and they keep us full which has always been an issue with smoothies in the past. And they’re healthy!

Peanut Butter Green Smoothies

2 cups – almond milk, unsweetened
1 teaspoon – cinnamon
2 scoops – vanilla protein powder
2 medium – banana
2 cups – spinach, raw
4 tablespoons – peanut butter, all-natural

Directions: Toss all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if a thicker consistency is desired. Serve immediately.

So there you go! I hope you all try this smoothie. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a free year of Super Healthy Kids meal plans! The giveaway ends this Wednesday and there are shockingly few entries! If you’ve already entered, find some other way to enter! You can enter many, many different ways! If you haven’t entered yet and the website is still down when you see this (they’re having a bit of a technical issue), go ahead and skip the first mandatory entry.

Super Healthy Kids Meal Planning Membership Review

One of our lunches. Easy, healthy, and surprisingly delicious.

Y’all know me, I don’t often pay someone to do something that I can do myself. Meal planning is most certainly something I can do myself, I’ve done so in the past. But the issue with doing that myself is that it never gets done. So I would plan things out with the best of intentions for a couple of weeks, then it would fall to the wayside. So why not try a service that plans it all for me? Especially one that’s made for kids to like it and to be “super healthy”? Let’s do this!

So I contacted the ladies at Super Healthy Kids, a website I’ve been following for years and love, to ask if I could do a review of their meal planning service. They graciously obliged and I was able to try out their service for three whole months! It’s been three months of some downs and definitely lots of ups and I’m excited to report that not only did we like it, but we’ve decided to continue with the service on our own dime. Even my husband agrees! And isn’t that the true show of a good reviewed product, buying it myself?

Let’s get on with the actual review.

So keeping in mind that it was all resolved in the end, there was a bit of a learning curve. I think 3 months billed at a time is perfect because I may have given up after one month if it was an option. Really what it all boils down to is someone else is planning everything. I had to find ways to make it our own. First off, I had to re-arrange the meals. Being a family of five with three of those being small (and therefore not eating a ton, though the oldest is starting to), I had to add two leftovers nights a week. Then I add a third every week for Sundays, which are often spent with family. This encompasses both the times that we need to eat the extras from other nights as well as the times that we decide to get pizza or something else not made at home.

Bunny pancakes!

The other thing I did to mitigate the over-abundance of food was to edit the meals to the correct size. My husband often takes leftovers to work or goes out with co-workers, so he only eats a couple of the lunches that I make a week. Then some of the meals are made with serving sizes of 6, which we’ll never be able to make it through, so I edit those totals down. For now, I print off the recipes (which I found out is my preferred way of doing it anyway) and manually going through and editing totals. Amy assured me that they’re working on putting in the function that edits it for you, so I’ll be on the lookout for that in the future.

The other big learning curve was the price. I’m not talking about the $24 every three months for the service, but rather how much I was spending at the grocery store each month. To be fair, I was spending a very low amount at the store each month in comparison to others I’ve talked to about it. Generally about $300/month, not including WIC and frozen meat we have from the farm (which we don’t use a ton of because it’s mostly the stuff we don’t use much at this point). Adding in that our country is in a sad state where crap processed food is cheaper than fresh fruits and veggies, we by definition had to spend more to eat healthier. In the beginning, we were spending a LOT more though. More like $500-600 a month. With the things I mentioned above and some smart shopping (substituting things I already had in my cupboards for things I’d have to buy, though I’ve had to do that less and less as I’ve used stuff up), I got it down to around $400 a month, which is definitely livable. And we stopped eating out as much, so things are balancing out really well.

Not every meal is a hit (really, they aren’t when I pull new recipes off the internet either), but I was surprised at how much we really did like the recipes. We tried things we wouldn’t have normally. New fruits and veggies, new ways of eating things, all sorts of new. And I actually liked probably about 90% of it. The kids are probably more like 70%, but there’s always enough of the familiar that they still eat what they need and they’re always at least trying the new things. And I’ve noticed that with time as they get used to it that they’re complaining less. The biggest thing I think they’re happy about is the abundance of fresh produce. They both LOVE fruits and veggies, so having them at every single meal makes them crazy happy. Often it’s something simple like orange slices and cucumbers on the side. All the meals are simple to make.

Something really unexpected to me as been how good it is for me to eat these foods. I’ve been working on losing weight for the past about 4 months and starting this meal plan is when I really started to shed the weight. I’ll write more on this later, but I’ve lost about 15 lbs so far and I’ve had treats nearly every day (yeah, probably shouldn’t do that). This meal plan is leaving me that wiggle room and it’s worked out really great for me. And I feel great every day, never hungry, and I can tell I’m eating healthier because I just *feel* better. Super healthy kids and super healthy mama!

Do you want to be super healthy too!? Well, you can right now with 25% off (expires July 1st)! Just use the code claire25 when you sign up! And one lucky reader will win a one year subscription! Giveaway ended. Congrats Danielle!

First off, make sure to leave a comment for each entrySo if the item you accomplish says 2 entries, leave two comments! I try my best to check through and make sure everyone gets all the entries they should, but I’m not perfect! Make sure to get credit where credit’s due!

Mandatory first entry: Go to the Super Healthy Kids blog and check it out! Leave a comment here telling me which recipe you’re going to try! Be sure to use an email you can be contacted at in case you win!

1 entry: follow me on Twitter. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entryfollow Super Healthy Kids on Twitter. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entry: Tweet about this giveaway (leave a link to the tweet in the comment). You can tweet about this giveaway once every day for an entry. That’s up to 15 entries just from tweeting!

1 entry: follow me on Pinterest. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entry: follow Super Healthy Kids on Pinterest. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entry: become a fan of The Adventures of Lactating Girl on Facebook. If you’re already a fan, you still get an entry!

1 entry: become a fan of Super Healthy Kids on Facebook. If you’re already a fan, you still get an entry!

1 entry: Write a post on your Facebook page about this giveaway! Make sure you link to The Adventures of Lactating Girl on Facebook and Super Healthy Kids on Facebook in the post and leave a comment here each time you do it. You can do it once per day! That’s up to 15 entries!

1 entry: follow Super Healthy Kids on Instagram. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entry: follow Super Healthy Kids on Google+. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

2 entries (don’t forget to comment twice!): follow this blog by email (or other following mechanism of your choosing).  If you already follow, you still get an entry!

2 entries: sign up for the Super Healthy Kids newsletter (just scroll down a bit to the “Join Our Newsletter” section). If you already get the newsletter, you still get an entry!

The winner will be chosen on Wednesday, June 10th at 5PM Mountain Standard Time by random. The winner will be emailed and must respond to the email within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck everyone!

Meal Plans and Food Waste

Have you guys heard of Super Healthy Kids? They’re pretty awesome. These ladies make food that is healthy and kids enjoy. Well, they do a pre-planned meal plan that we’ve been trying for a review (look for that coming up soon!). I’ve been really enjoying it, but there has been a bit of a learning curve.

A big part of that learning curve has been food waste. It’s always an issue for me when I meal plan, to be honest. When I’m not meal planning, we just eat whatever is there. We make what we have work, so not a ton ends up wasted. When going by a meal plan, I have to be much more conscious of what’s already in the fridge. I also have to work around meals getting skipped because life gets in the way. One day we’re invited to dinner by our parents. Another day we decide we really want to order a pizza. Normal things that I do try to plan for, but some things don’t give me a week forewarning.

So I decided to start holding myself accountable again by showing the internet our food waste. Hopefully this gives me an extra push to get everything used up in the fridge before it goes bad.

This week we have three items. First, the clementines. Three little clementines that got past their prime.

Next item on the list doesn’t have a photo because I forgot. I was pretty upset about these, actually. You see, as part of the meal plan I made muffins last Saturday for breakfast. They were on a bag on the counter, which is generally how I store muffins that I’m not freezing. They never stick around long enough to get moldy, but a combination of not eating these fast enough and the muffins growing a tiny spot of mold sooner than they generally would (they were particularly moist) meant about a half dozen went in the trash.

Lastly, this poor little avocado. I’m the only one in my family that really likes avocados. Thanks to the meal plan, I’m finding out a lot of different ways my family will tolerate them. Still though, I haven’t been using them nearly as fast as I should be by meal plan standards. This is not our first avocado casualty in the recent past.

So there you go! Other than these three things, we’re doing pretty good. We’re on track to use up (hopefully) all our leftovers and all the produce in our fridge is looking good. I did have a few wins this week with substituting items that needed to be used. And of course our bunny does a good job of eating not only the scraps, but also the produce that isn’t completely bad. She got a whole romaine lettuce heart this week! Lucky bunny!

Removing Milk Stains From Baby Clothes

The clothes go into storage looking great, but when they come out they’re covered in yellow stains. What’s going on?!? Milk stains!

It turns out there’s something about breast milk that causes these stains to pop up with time. Possibly with formula too (as the lady at the consignment store actually called them “formula stains”), though I don’t have first-hand experience there and I’m guessing the same techniques wouldn’t get them out since it’s not a bodily fluid. Anywho, I digress.

Well I’m here to tell you that these stains are ridiculously easy to get out of your baby clothes. Seriously, you will be amazed. No special products. No real effort. When I was pulling things out before Banana was born I found these stains once again and decided to share with you all the process of removing them. First, wash the clothes as normal (we just wash on cold, by the way, since there’s no real reason to wash clothes on hot). Second, hang them in the sun to dry! That’s all! Well, there’s a third optional step of either washing them again or spraying them with a little lemon water and letting them sun some more if the first time doesn’t work.

Want to see some before and after pictures so you can see how well this works? Well you’re gonna!

Before: 

During: 

With my umbrella clothesline, I make sure the most stained clothes are on the outside and I try to stagger the layers of clothing.

After:

Isn’t it awesome?! They’re completely gone! This nice little trick works with any bodily fluid, so if you get something like blood on your clothes this will help too. Yay sunshine!

Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and pets.

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As you know, we are happy owners of two wonderful dogs. Curie and Pascal are important parts of our family and we love them dearly. Before getting Curie though, we had Kerrigan.

Kerrigan was also loved and cherished, but sadly suffered from brain abnormalities that caused her to be aggressive (likely due to being a puppy mill dog). After many years of attempting to train her out of her aggressive tendencies, we made the hard decision to put her down about 4 years ago. It still upsets me to this day, but I am certain we made the right decision. When she threatened the safety of Peanut and the vet told us there was no way to really keep our child(ren) safe, it was time.

When we decided to get another dog (I’m a big animal lover and very quickly missed the presence of a dog in our home), I did A LOT of research to be certain we could avoid being in the same scenario again. So today I’m going to share with you My Tips on How to Pick the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog.

1. Consider getting a puppy. Yes, I know this is not politically correct and that there are PLENTY of adult dogs who are great with children. From my experience though, there’s just no way to make up for a dog getting manhandled while growing up. A dog who is mauled (with love) by a toddler every day as it grows will simply be more tolerant of it as an adult. If you’d like an older dog, it definitely can be done. Just make sure to pay special attention to the rest of the steps.

2. Research breeds. Of course every dog has its own personality, but breed does matter when it comes to kid-friendliness. Some breeds are very well known for their ability to tolerate small kids, while others are known for their inability. Some dogs you may not want around toddlers because they’re fragile (Pomeranian). Some dogs you may not want around toddlers because the toddler is fragile (Great Dane). So keep breed in mind and definitely research the breed of any dog you’re considering, but don’t completely discount a dog because of its breed. If you’re really hitting it off with a pooch, move onto step three (while keeping breed traits in mind).

3. Perform Puppy Tests. This list of tests is by far the best I’ve found for determining the personality of your dog. And they don’t have to be a puppy either! You can test out any age of dog, thought possibly with the help of another person if they’re a large breed. This will not only show any aggression, but other traits that are useful to know. Maybe your dog has had a bad owner in the past and you find that out from the hand-shy test. Maybe your dog is very domineering (though not aggressive) and you find this out by the dominant stare test. These are all useful things to know in step 4.

4. Train your pooch! Once you have that dog home, your work is far from done. Get your new (or new to you) dog into a training class ASAP! Ask around (your vet is a good place to ask) for a good trainer in your area. And I’m not talking about the little phooey training classes offered by your local big box pet store. A REAL training class taught by someone who has been doing this 20+ years for a living. Pay real attention in your class, ask questions, work on everything. Having a dog that will listen to your every command (or at least close) is even more important when small children are around. When your two year old goes chasing after your dog who is running off, you want that dog to come back to you when you call! When you have play dates and little friends are afraid of the dogs (or at least shy at first), you want to be able to keep your dogs off that kid. It’s even more difficult to keep up with training when you have small children, but trust me, it’s worth it.

5. Train your kids! The training doesn’t just happen with the dog! Children, whether they own pets or not, need to understand how to properly treat an animal. We have a few simple rules in our family about pets.

  1. Never pet a dog without the owner’s permission.
  2. Do not pull tails.
  3. Never bother an animal while its eating.
  4. Stay back from the dogs while they’re rough housing.
  5. Treat all living things with respect.

These are the scenarios where I feel like it’s completely the child’s (or really, the parents’) fault if they get hurt. It’s important to keep the dog (and other animals for that matter) safe as well as the child. Any animal can get aggressive in the right scenario.

6. Lastly, trust your gut. When you get that feeling while petting a perspective dog, walk away. When you can tell your dog is reaching his/her limit, intervene. If you just don’t feel 100% right about a situation, don’t allow it to continue. This is a good rule of thumb for general life, but especially important with animals around children. Your gut often tells you when something is about to go horribly wrong, so don’t ignore it.

I hope this helps some of you find the dog of your dreams. It is completely possible for you to own the perfect dog for your family, regardless of the age of your children. And it’s great for their immunity to boot!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • What Animal Rescue is Teaching My Children
  • Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shares some tips she’s learned on how to find the perfect child-friendly dog for your family.
  • All New Animals Are “Woof” — Baby Boy is still learning animals. Life Breath Present doesn’t yet have any at home, but he still believes that all animals are “woof.” Here’s the proof.
  • Dude, where’s my Horse? — Adora loves horses, but Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different really doesn’t. However, Adora’s longing wins out; learn about their interactions with horses here.
  • Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet — When is a family ready for a pet? Donna at Eco-Mothering discusses her worries as well as the benefits of adopting a dog, including how it will affect her seven-year-old daughter.
  • Parenting Challenge–Learning from Animals–running the emotional gammut — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the emotional learning her family has experienced through sharing their lives with animals.
  • Puppy Love for our Family — In case you didn’t catch it from the blog title, Pug in the Kitchen, the family pet is an integral part of Laura’s family and home life!
  • Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook is mostly vegetarian…not 100%, and not because of animal rights…yet she has found that the idea of not hurting animals is the aspect of vegetarianism most easily understood by a young child. She explains what her son has learned about not eating meat and how it has affected his social life.
  • Pets & kids: The realities — Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the benefits and drawbacks of pet ownership when young kids are involved.
  • HOW PETS CONNECT WITH EMOTIONS: KIDS & PETS AFTER 9-11 — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence discusses the importance of pets in lowering stress after traumatic situations, why children choose certain pets, the loss of a pet, and the role of parents in teaching care-giving to animals in a warm, gentle way.
  • It’s not our house without a dog! — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work describes why giving a loving and disciplined home to at least one shelter dog at a time enriches the life of her family, and has become a vivid memory in the minds of her children.
  • Canine Haikus

    Kids, dog, haikus, at

    Dionna (Code Name: Mama).

    Pet-centric poems.

  • Beanie’s BunniesOur Mindful Life‘s Sofi Bean has gotten her first pets!
  • Montessori Care of Pets — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her experiences with kids and pets and shares Montessori resources for pet care.
  • How to Nurture Your Child’s Awareness of Spirit Guides — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a post from her regular contributor Lauren of SpiralElixir.com. Lauren looks at the concept of animals as spirit guides and how deeply children are connected to this realm. She also encourages us to open ourselves up as parents to the reality that children are naturally more connected to the animal world, giving us ideas on how to nurture their relationships with their Spirit Guides.
  • No Puppy! — Meg at the Boho Mama shares her tips for dealing with toddlers and the (very real) fear of animals.
  • Year of the Pets — Jorje of Momma Jorje wasn’t sure she ever wanted pets again, but things have changed a lot this year!
  • 3 Reasons Why Keeping Backyard Chickens is Good for my Toddler — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, started keeping backyard chickens for the benefit of their eggs, but what she wasn’t prepared for was what they would teach her two year old daughter too.

Changing my Stance on Vaccines

First off, I’d like to say that I still believe that it’s every parent’s right to choose how they parent. This post isn’t meant to tell anyone that they’re wrong or a bad parent because they don’t believe with me 100%. Of course this is the case with all my posts, but I feel the need to state it right in the beginning of this one because I know this is such a touchy subject. People have very strong opinions on either side of the argument and that leads to some very heated discussions. I’m not saying these things to turn into an argument, but rather to show other parents that we can change our minds. We can admit when we’re wrong and go another direction and in this case, I am admitting that I was wrong. Here’s another article that my husband recently shared with me that has a similar theme.

My vaccine journey, of course, started when Peanut was very young. I knew a little about vaccines, but not much, when she was born. I knew I wanted to wait on the Hepatitis B vaccine, though she ended up getting it at 2 weeks because of a miscommunication between myself and my husband. After researching and reading The Vaccine Book (still a great read that I would recommend), I decided that she would still get all of her infant vaccines, but she would go in every month to get them and do 3 at a time instead of every other month and 6 at a time. It just made sense to me to still get this protection, but have less of an overload on her system at once.

Then as she got older, I started to question some of the live inactive vaccines they are supposed to get at one year. I was initially planning on getting the MMR in three separate vaccines, but it was take off the market as separate vaccines before she was old enough to get it. I also questioned chicken pox, as many parents who are my age or older do, because I had the illness as a child and it really wasn’t that big of a deal. I also decided not to do Hepatitis A because of the minute risk of seizure for children under 2. So she didn’t get any vaccines at one year. She did get her boosters for the other vaccines we had already started for 15 months.

This is about the time when I really started to get “crunchy.” Of course, I don’t consider being crunchy a bad thing whatsoever. I still completely believe in questioning the system, avoiding chemicals, and so many other parts of living a more natural life. Anyway, I started talking to these moms I now surrounded myself with and found that many of them did not vaccinate at all. This made me question vaccines myself. I became even more questioning when I read some obscure article stating there could be a link between peanut allergies and vaccines. By the time that Twig was born, I was completely anti-vaccine.

Now we fast forward to a few months ago. As many of you may know, I’m a biology teaching major. Last semester I took microbiology. This course was something I was not excited to take and therefore I put it off until almost the very end of my degree. Turns out I love it. Microbiology is fascinating to me and has actually solidified many of my crunchy ideals (e.g. fermentation and the health of gut microflora), but the one thing it directly clashed with is vaccines. We had a whole lecture series on vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases. Initially I felt like I was the person sitting bright cheeked in the second row (embarrassment), but that quickly turned into bright cheeked in the second row from anger. How dare my professor (and a guest professor) tell me I was wrong about vaccines? Then what they were saying started to make sense.

I’ll be the first to admit that they were both very passionately pro-vaccine. That’s not what got me though, it was the facts. So many of the things that they said made so much sense to me scientifically. For the longest time I had been simply ignoring the arguments from the crunchy folks that didn’t mesh with what I know about science, but all of this brought it to light in one foul swoop.

Many say that vaccines weren’t what brought down illness, but sanitation. My professors presented multiple charts to me showing that simply wasn’t the case. Many argued that vaccines just don’t work. Well here’ the mechanism that shows that they do work and it makes absolute sense from everything I know about biology and human physiology (which I’d venture to say it quite a bit at this point). Many say that they simply are too unsafe for the small risk that these relatively harmless diseases present or incredibly rare diseases present. Yes, there have been 5 cases of diphtheria in the US in the last 10 years, but do you know what that disease does? It basically chokes you to death. And it’s all one radical terrorist with the wrong connections away from running rampant in our country again.

So this all got me thinking. I understand the science behind vaccines, I understand the logic of getting them. From here, we decided to have a talk with our doctor. I had always planned on vaccinating Twig at some point, but I had no idea when. All I knew is that I didn’t want to bring so many foreign things into her body (especially anything that could risk her having a peanut allergy like big sis) at such a young age. Well all this thinking made me realize that now was the time and I wanted to discuss with our trusted pediatrician (Seriously, we have the best pediatrician in the whole world and I wish she could be my doctor. When we brought Peanut in with eczema, do you know what she told us to put on it? Coconut oil!) to decide which ones were important for her to get. During our discussion, she told me point blank that the whole peanut oil in vaccines thing was completely off base. I knew it probably was just some crackpot theory, but this solidified it. So we discussed which vaccines were the most important for her to get and I went home to plan out a schedule.

I decided she would for sure get polio (my husband has a co-worker who is from India and this series made me realize how close polio really is), HiB, and PC. I was unsure on DTaP because I’m fairly sure she’s already been exposed (my husband and Peanut both had it June before last) and received enough protection from my breast milk to avoid getting sick while producing her own antibodies. We would wait on all of the others and probably not get the flu vaccine at all.

Then the unthinkable happened to a friend–her baby died of the flu. I was so convinced that this just didn’t happen based on what I had read in The Vaccine Book and elsewhere. The flu isn’t that bad! We all make a big fuss about nothing! It’s mostly the elderly that die and even then, it’s reported the same way as pneumonia so we can’t really say a specific number! But it does happen and I saw it with my own eyes. I’m ashamed that it took seeing an innocent life taken for me to understand the true importance of herd immunity. Herd immunity may not be perfect, but it’s real. And if someone wouldn’t have exposed that poor baby to the flu because that (likely) healthy adult had good immunity, she would be alive today. I’m not saying this just for fear mongering, but because we need to know that these illnesses that can be prevented with vaccines really do kill. And if we all vaccinate we can help protect those who can not.

So here I am. I’m not completely sure where we’re going from here, but I know we’re going to vaccinate. I’m not sure when and if all, but I’m leaning towards all of them. And this goes for myself too. I can’t believe I’ve been saying no to the flu vaccine every year when I’m asthmatic and highly susceptible to pneumonia. I’m a scientist at heart and it just makes sense to me from that perspective. I feel like so much of the anti-vaccine arguments aren’t based in science. Anyway, this has been kind of a mash of all of the things going on in my head, so I’m sorry if it doesn’t make sense. For anyone out there who is crunchy and contemplating doing vaccines, know you’re not alone. There’s a whole horde of breastfeeding, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, babywearing, gentle disciplining moms who also choose to vaccinate their children.

A New Version of Co-sleeping

For those of you with an eagle eye, you may have noticed that the last photo in Twig’s birthday post was the girls in their very own bed. I’ll go ahead and post it here too because it’s just ridiculously cute.

 

A few weeks ago, we bought a full sized mattress and put both girls in it to sleep at night and it’s been wonderful! We had a hunch that Peanut would sleep much better if Twig was in the bed with her. My husband has been sleeping in Peanut’s room most nights because she would wake up and come downstairs to him (he’s a night owl, so he’s up quite late) and he’d come to lay down with her and fall asleep. We were slowly working on her sleeping on her own (mostly because his back hurt from being squished on a twin mattress with her), but it wasn’t making much progress. So we decided to take a different route. Twig had recently night weaned (following Dr. Jay Gordon’s method again and it was quick and successful) so we decided to try it out.

First off, if you have a second child you know how much they love doing things just like their big brother/sister. So when we asked Twig if she wanted to sleep in Peanut’s bed, she was ecstatic. They were actually both so excited that we let them sleep in the twin mattress for a night or two because we hadn’t bought the full mattress yet. The first couple of nights Twig woke up after a few hours and came back into the bed with me, but I expected that. Peanut did that for a long time the first time she moved into her own bed.

Over the course of a couple of weeks though, she slowly stopped coming into our bed! For the last week she’s been sleeping completely through the night in the bed with big sister. We often put them to bed separately and then I move Twig into their bed because she gets distracted and takes a long time falling to sleep with Peanut, but I don’t mind. They also have been waking up at 6am (sometimes earlier!) which we need to work on, but have just been putting them down earlier to account for it. All in all, it’s been a smooth transition! And my husband is in the bed with me again! Yay co-sleeping!

How to Move Baby Chicks Outdoors in Winter

Last August, a friend who was moving out of state gave us her chickens (two red sex linked, one buff orpington, and two unknown) and coop. I’ve always wanted chickens, but have had a hard time convincing my husband that it’s worth it to take on the start up costs. Free? He could handle that.

We had a relatively short amount of time to prepare for the chickens (the friend wasn’t sure if she was moving until a couple weeks before), so I read as much as I could before the chickens got here. Still, I didn’t know much. I’ve been working on gaining more chicken knowledge as I go, but I’m far from an expert. One of the things I didn’t understand was molting. Every fall, chickens can (but don’t necessarily always) molt. This means that they stop laying for a while so they can focus on growing new feathers. When our chickens stopped laying sometime in September or October, I thought it might be molting, but I didn’t realize how long it can go on. I think that I may have made them go even longer with being a novice chicken owner (sometimes I wouldn’t fill their water often enough and they’d go a day without water, which can make them stop laying too).

I wasn’t sure if they were going to stop laying for good (they’re somewhere around 2-3 years old, which is the normal time frame for chickens to stop laying) and I didn’t want to go without eggs for long. So I came up with the brilliant idea to get chicks in October and raise them indoors, ideally getting eggs from them in the Spring (rather than having to wait if we got spring chicks). I found some on a local site where people go to sell random stuff and brought them home.

IMG_1881 The first two chicks we got (not a lot of chicks available in the fall, so we took what we could find, this case being only two) we beautiful Japanese Silver Phoenix. They were super tiny and were going to grow up to be beautiful birds. Sadly, even with the addition of 6 other chicks (or possibly because of), they both died. It made me really sad because even though our chickens are purely farm animals (no names, we will cull them when they stop laying, etc.) these ones were just great. I could tell that they would have been great to handle as adults. 

The other six we got were a mixture of either Buckeye (rooster) with either Cinnamon Star, Buckeye, Speckled Sussex, or Rhode Island Red hen. The lady that was selling them buys speciality breed eggs for selling and then just throws in a few from her own hens in the incubator at the same time. So they could be from any of her hens. The chicks took a lot longer than the other two to get used to being handled and they’re still not as good with it, but now they seem to realize that I’m here to help. It’s nice when the chickens get that and don’t run away from me constantly. It took our big hens a while to understand it too. 

Anyway, back to moving them outside. 

Obviously we had to have them indoors while they were young. There are plenty of guides about how to do this online and in books, so I won’t get into the details. First they were in a big box that I realized was too small pretty much as soon as we got the six bigger chicks. Then they moved to a kiddie pool that we happened to have lying around (and we kept for doing this in the garage with future chicks). They pretty quickly decided that they should fly out the top and we didn’t have anything to put over the top to keep them in, so we moved them to the big dog crate. This is what they stayed in until they moved outside. It was a bit cramped at the end, but they spent most of the day outside by that point. 

The plan was to move them outside at 8 weeks, just like you do in the spring. I’d spoken with someone else who raises chicks in the fall and was able to do the same thing. She specifically said that she gets them so they can go outside before it snows. Of course, luck would have it that we had a huge storm come in when they were about 6 weeks. This was also when I realized how much dust they were creating (I’ll never raise chicks indoors again and we had to deep clean that entire room), so I was in a bit of a panic. I started frantically searching the internet for how to move chicks outdoors when the weather is below freezing (both day and night) and came up with absolutely nothing. I ended up winging it and it went well, so that’s why I’m sharing it here! 

First, I started by gradually increasing their time outside for about a week. They had already been outside before, but I stopped once the snow hit. They needed to get used to the snow and cold if they were going to go outside though, so this is where we started. First it was about an hour, the next day maybe 3 hours, and so on. By the end, they were out in the morning and brought in as it started to get dark. I did this for maybe 2-3 days. One day I even got them a little too late and they started trying to hide in a bush which was a huge pain. Luckily they didn’t go deeper in the bush trying to get away from me (I think they realized I was there to take them inside) but I still got covered in welts in the process. 

Once they had spent a few entire days outside, I decided it was time to move them into the coop overnight. I was afraid that the big chickens would be mean though (I had already had to chase them away from the chicks for trying to peck them on the head multiple times), so I decided the best idea was to divide the coop in half with chicken wire. Most guides tell you to put them in a cage in the middle of the coop, but ours isn’t big enough for that. I had a bunch of chicken wire lying around so this seemed like the best bet. I just wedged the chicken wire in and stuck the chicks in the side that didn’t have the door to get out. I took out the daylight lightbulb (trying to extend the daylight hours for the big chickens so that they would lay more) and replaced it with the red heat lightbulb. I let it run 24 hours a day. 

When I came back to check on them the first time a few hours later, everyone was happy as clams. The big chickens seemed to really appreciate the heat lamp. The next morning though, the chicken wire had fallen over. Should have secured it with a staple gun! It trapped one of the chicks (it was fine) and the others were mingling with the big chickens. No one was getting pecked though! I took out the chicken wire and they’ve been together ever since. No one is getting picked on and everyone is happy. The two groups still mostly separate in the day (the big chickens like to hang out by the back door waiting for me to throw scraps at them (or yell at me when I open the door and don’t throw scraps at them) and the little chickens wander the yard in a group. 

I’ll slowly be decreasing their heating hours for the next probably month or so until I can switch it back to the daylight extending lightbulb (I want more eggs!). And of course we’ll be culling the boys when I get off my lazy butt and go sex them (it’s a lot easier when they’re older, I hear). For now though, we’re a happy 11 chicken family.

So that’s how I move baby chicks outside in freezing temperatures (with snow on the ground!). It was much easier than I thought it would be and everyone is happy and healthy. Though I probably won’t get baby chicks in the fall again because my garage isn’t warm enough to keep them (and they’re not staying inside my house again), I definitely would suggest it for someone else. I even found two tiny eggs this morning that I suspect were from the baby chicks! 

Almost all the chickens happily eating some hard boiled eggs (with shells). They love them and they’re great for them-who knew!?