Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Amount of Soy Yogurt That is Just Right

My daughter is going through a yogurt phase.  She goes over to the refrigerator, points until I open it, and grabs the yogurt and runs as soon as she sees it.  This is a good snack for her, and I'm not complaining, but she's not interested in being fed much anymore.  She wants to hold the yogurt cup herself.  She wants to feed herself.  Of course, with a full cup of yogurt this is a recipe for disaster, so I have devised a method for feeding her yogurt that is both easy and effective.

This would be too much yogurt for my 18 month old to carry around without spilling.

So I peel back the top only half way, pour about a tablespoon or two into an empty yogurt container I have washed out, and place the top back over the first yogurt and return it to the refrigerator.

Then I can let the munchkin roam free with her yogurt and if she does spill it, it's only a few tablespoons.  She asks for more when she's done and will eat anywhere from a half cup to an entire yogurt using this method.

No muss, no fuss, no fancy toddler feeding dish.

I also use these yogurt cups for snacks that she can carry around since she seems to have outgrown the snack traps.  She wants an open cup of her snack.  So I give her just a few raisins, or freeze dried peas, or pretzels, or whatever snack she is having, and she can ask for me.  The fact that she has learned to sign more has helped in the development and success of this method for sure.  It's fun that she understands when she points to something she wants and I say, "Get your cup and I'll give you some."  She runs and finds her snack cup and I give her whatever it is she is pointing at or what I am preparing.

This method is a great idea for older kids too.  I would always want a BIG bowl of cereal or a BIG cup of juice, and then so much gets wasted because just like so many people, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  Teaching early on to just eat a little and then get more if you want it keeps you from wasting food or overeating past when you are full. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Home Insemination: A More Natural Approach to a Less Natural Situation

When we found out that my husband and I could not conceive a child together, we were not surprised.  We had actually ruled it out before we got married.  We said we would adopt, or we would enjoy traveling and our dogs.  We got a puppy the year before we got married, when we first moved into our house, and Clover was our baby.

It was about a month after we got married that we both started talking about wanting a child.  We both realized that although we thought we were completely happy without one, we suddenly had the urge to procreate.  My husband had already had a sperm analysis, and as we suspected, it was zero.  99% of men with cystic fibrosis have CBAVD, congenital absence of the vas deferens.  Basically, his testes make sperm, but they don't have an outlet, so they don't mature and reabsorbed into the body.  We discussed our options with my OB and his CF specialist.  The long and short of it was that we could spend an inordinate amount of money on a procedure with a fairly low success rate and serious discomfort, or we could use a sperm donor.  I was opposed to being juiced up with hormones and having my eggs harvested with a massive needle.  My husband was opposed to having his sperm harvested with a needle.  We didn't want to spend that kind of money unless we were going to adopt, and I very strongly wanted to be pregnant and give birth to a child.

Once we had decided to use a sperm donor, we knew we were entering into a less invasive medical procedure to make a child, but it still felt out of our hands.  Then we talked to my doctor.  She was so amazing.  She laid out our options, talked to us about donor selection, helped us pick a bank, and then gave us an option we never imagined.

"Would you like to do the insemination in your home or in the office?"

Well that was a no-brainer for us, we were so happy to be able to take back some of the power of this child's creation, and to make it more natural and personal.  We felt like it was us doing this, and the vial and syringe were just extra things that helped us along the way and the two of us made a baby in the most natural way we could.

For those thinking of a home insemination, the basics are very easy.  I tracked my ovulation using ovulation predictors that you buy right next to the pregnancy tests.  You pee on a stick and when you are ovulating you inseminate that day and maybe the day following (that's what we did for this second one). To inseminate, you defrost your vial according to the bank's instructions and then use a syringe to draw up the semen.  Once it's full, you take off the needle and insert the syringe as you would a tampon, press down on the plunger, and then lay on your back with your butt elevated for 20 minutes.  And that's making a baby!  I'm not sure how common it is for sperm banks to deliver to your home, but the one we did had no problem with it.  I'm not comfortable sharing the bank we used, but you can ask around and you can search for different banks until you find one.  If you are using a friend as your donor, you do the same thing without the defrosting.

I share this story because I never knew I would have that option, and I want others to know how easy it is to have a more personal experience even if you need assisted reproduction.  Even if you are given the news that you can't conceive "naturally," that's no reason to think has to be wholly unnatural process in a lab or a petri dish or on a medical table.  You can light candles, have romance, and make your baby in your home with your partner in a loving and calm environment.

I hope this helps someone out there, and doesn't gross out the rest with the details.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Flying With a Toddler

My daughter still qualifies as a "lap infant" because she is only 1.5 years old.  My husband still qualifies as a penny pincher because he happily takes advantage of the "lap infant" price to my general discomfort.
We recently flew from Alaska to California to visit family.  There are always two legs to this trip, Anchorage to Seattle or Portland, and then on to San Jose or Sacramento.  The total travel time is no less than 8 hours of pure bliss.

The hardest part for me is that when my daughter is in my lap, she would like to be nursing nonstop.  And when I say "she would like," what I mean is that she will scream and cry and kick if that's not what's going on.  She's very pleasant, but when told she can not nurse right now, she becomes a different creature all together.  This particular probably can't really be helped though, so I chose to focus on the things I could control.

It's hard enough traveling with an adult on an airline these days and making sure you're fed.  It's harder with a child.  A vegan family traveling is really left to their own devices.  So I bring plenty of good stuff.
When Violet was younger, I would make up tiny tupperware with mashed yam, avocado, peanut butter, dates, pretzels, and such all individually wrapped and ready to feed.  Of course, now that I have two extra hands without complete motor control, deciding what foods I want flung around an airplane is a difficult task.  Here's what I came up with:
1.  Lara Bars and Cliff bars (mini versions of both!):  Cliff Bars are my go-to when we're out and I have to grab something to feed the munchkin, but they are pretty big for a tiny girl, so I end up giving her some of it and wrapping the rest and then it dries out and I try to feed the rest to her later, but it's not chewy anymore...  Anyway, I found these minis when I was at Target on Christmas Eve after realizing that my homemade pajama pants were not going to be a good present for anyone because they were hideous and didn't fit right.  I like Lara Bars as well because they have few ingredients and I like all the ingredients in them.  Frankly, if we were at home I'd be giving my daughter dried fruit anyway, so add some grains and nuts and I'm happy.
2.  Edensoy Soymilk in the juicebox containers.  It's over three ounces and I was all ready to say, "That's for my baby," but no one even asked.  You CAN bring them on the plane though for your child, you just have to set them out and explain if they ask.  I like Edensoy anyway because the only sweetener they use is malted barley.
3.  Edamame.  These are great for snacking, but not for all babies as they can get messy.  Luckily, we eat them enough that V is a pro and didn't make a mess with them.

We got through our flights without starving and on our flight back we were even able to get a nice tofu stir fry and veggie sushi made fresh at SEA/TAC.

Violet has been going through this adorable artistic phase, but she's also going through a crayon-eating phase, so there was no way I was bringing crayons on the plane to be eaten and thrown everywhere.  Painting is her favorite, but I would hope that the reasons this was out of the question would be obvious. So, in a flash of genius that can only come in the shower the afternoon before your red-eye flight, I screamed, "MAGNADOODLE!"  I dried off and went right out and picked one up.
For the record, I was so right.  The Magnadoodle has a hand handle, the pen is attached so it can't be thrown, and my toddler can draw on whatever surface she wants with it and it will still only mark on the screen.  It's not an electronic device, so it's fine for take off and landing, and it was cheap.  This really was my crowning glory of ideas.  I could retire now.

We also brought along her favorite doll, an anatomically correct boy doll that she will not allow to wear clothes and whom we've named Dickie for obvious reasons (don't be gross, Dickie is one of the few words she can say at this point).

Our final entertainment was to bring a couple of her favorite books and ours.  She didn't get that into reading on the plane, and I couldn't get comfortable to read, but they have come in handy in the past.

As far as getting through the airport with our sanity, I wore Violet in the Ergo (had to take her off through security), we gate checked her car seat even though it was a PIA to carry around (would it have been so hard to design it with some kind of hand hold?!), and I brought her diaper bag as my carry-on (although you can bring a diaper bag in addition to your carry-on, I just didn't want to carry more).  It all went pretty smoothly.  She slept on every flight for part of the time, nursed for hours, and didn't cry.  She didn't drive anyone too crazy, and she got to see both sets of grandparents.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Vegan Pregnancy: Part 1

Well, first things first, I'm PREGNANT!
We are so excited after a few months of expensive trying.  That's another post that I'll save for later though.

This is my first vegan pregnancy, because it wasn't until my daughter started eating solids that we decided to go vegan.  I'm going to sound really irresponsible and say that quite frankly, I'm not concerned... bum bum bum bum of ominous music...

The thing is, when you're pregnant you need to eat healthy and be aware of getting a bit more of certain nutrients.  To me, a healthy vegan is the perfect person to do this.
Breaking it down:

  • You should really  take a prenatal vitamin (even though I'm not a fan of getting your vitamins from pills).  This isn't a vegan thing at all.  In fact, vegans usually get more of their vitamins from their food than most omnivores I know.  No matter what your diet, unless you are really well versed in nutrition, this shouldn't be skipped.  For me, it's not an issue becaues I am breast feeding, so I never stopped taking prenatals after I had my daughter.  I've been on prenatal vitamins for 2 years.  so that's taken care of.

  • Omegas, protein, folic acid, and calcium are particularly important and should be consumed in food form as well. 
    • Omegas- since I have a toddler, I'm already conscious of adding omega-rich foods to her diet, and since beginning trying for another I've been adding these things to my diet as well. Our favorites are avocado, hemp seeds, and walnuts.  
    • Protein- Based on my own diet before and after going vegan, I would guess that I get more protein now.  Who knows...  I do know that I eat a good amount of protein from soy, legumes, grains, and vegetables.
    • Folic Acid- The prenatal vitamins have a good amount of folic acid, but it is also found in dark green veggies, which I eat daily.
    • Calcium- Since I am also breast feeding, this is especially important because both breast feeding and pregnancy drain your body of calcium.  I eat tofu, drink enriched soy milk, eat sesame seeds just about daily (I keep a jar of raw sesame seeds on the counter and add it to foods all the time), and eat broccoli.  I am also taking an extra calcium supplement because I have bad teeth anyway and I need all the help I can get to keep them from falling right out of my head.

  • In early pregnancy, you should try to eat balanced meals while avoiding the foods that you have aversions to so that you don't get sick.  This one is what I'm so excited for.  With my first pregnancy, my aversions were all meat, but especially chicken, eggs, and fish.  Basically, I needed to be vegan.  My weird aversions were coconut milk and anything containing coconut milk and spinach.  I can't explain either of those, but they both went away happily because they are two of my favorite things.  I had some peanut curry quinoa last night and I think that's the last time I'm having coconut milk for a while.  Sad, but that's how it goes.  I haven't had the spinach aversion this time, so we'll see how that goes.
There's also the stuff about avoiding lunch meats, soft cheeses, hot dogs, sushi, etc that I don't need to worry about.  Nice.

So I'm only 4+ weeks along so far, and I'm just starting to get my "morning sickness."  Just like last time, mine seems to be worst at dinner time.  I'm having cravings, but they are funny: carrot sticks, tahini dressing, and Daiyadillas (quesodilla made with Daiya cheddar shreds).  Other than the Daiyadillas, it's pretty healthy stuff, not the brownie madness I had last time... although I could go for some brownies right now, and I did plow through some mint Newman's O's with pretty impressive speed and agility.

That's my part 1.  As I progress I'll update with my experience as a pregnant vegan- a pregnant, breast feeding, vegan at that!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Delicious Vegan Restaurants

I have so many things to post about, but I'l start slow and easy with some restaurant reviews.  We just did a whirlwind trip to California to visit family, and were met with amazing support and consideration for our diet from both sides of the family.

We first went to San Jose and stayed with my in-laws.  They suggested we go to a vegetarian restaurant that my mother-in-law had seen downtown.  It's called The Vegetarian House (no extra points for creativity, but that's okay).  They have an amazing menu with foods ranging from sushi with red quinoa in it to vegan cheesecake.  We were overwhelmed by choices and ate family style.  We had the quinoa sushi, some stir fry stuff, stroganof, and tiramisu.  I'm conflicted about the restaurant.  The food was pretty good... I loved the sushi, and enjoyed the eggplant dish we got.  My toddler loved the stroganof.  There were just a lot of fake meat stuff that seemed excessive.  One of the dishes I ordered turned out to be just fake meat.  When I got to a vegetarian house, I expect some vegetables- maybe that's just me.  It just seemed that the point of all the fake meat is to appeal to omnivores, and my in-laws didn't like any of the fake meat items.  The tiramisu seemed like it would have been good except that it was still frozen solid when it was served.  Overall, I would go again and choose differently, but it wasn't my favorite.

Next we went to Cafe Gratitude in Oakland.  FYI, since it doesn't say so on the website and seems noteworthy to me, it's inside Whole Foods.  Sadly, this location doesn't make the mochas that I had read about online and was drooling for before we went.  The prices were a bit high and my evil husband wouldn't allow me to get the tiramisu with lunch for comparison purposes.  Boo.  We got the bagel with nori lox and a tamale.  Both were amazing!  I loved the idea of nori for lox and the cashew cream cheese was perfect.  Also, as a Jew, I loved the red onions, capers, and onion that topped it as well.  It was a bagel just like Grandpa would make.  The tamale had the perfect moist masa that I have such a hard time finding.  Even with the high price would highly recommend this place.  I would go to the Berkeley location next time, just to get a tasty drink.

After Oakland, we headed to Sacramento and to the magnificent Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe.  We have been here for dinner before and for lunch.  We've never had a bad bite.  They have the tastiest sweets and savories for reasonable prices and a fairly good variety.  They aren't totally elaborate or ritzy, but that's not what we're looking for.  This is just good wholesome food.  So this time we met a friend and her daugther for brunch, and we discovered the bottomless brunch menu.  Even my hollow-legged husband was filled by this plate.  It's a sample brunch plate where you start with a bit of everything, bisquits and gravy, cinnamon roll, tempeh bacon, tofu fritata, and I think a pancake.  Then you just go back and say what you want more of and they will keep giving you servings of what you like.   In all honesty, while I love this place and the kind people who work there, I was disappointed in the cinnamon roll and the gluten-free pastries we tried.  They began as a bakery and are well-known for their baked goods, but I just wasn't impressed with a few things this time.  On the other hand, I got whoopie pies and took them back to the home of my omnivorous friend and her omni family and they were all surprised at how tasty they were.  The whoopie pies were are the best.

So those were our vegan-only restaurants we visited.  Pretty good.  We also had good luck supplementing that all with stores and other restaurants.  In the area of San Jose where my in-laws live the grocery stores had very few vegan or organic options.  We were able to get tofu and some produce though, and I made a vegan lasagna that my father-in-law claimed to like.  We also found some Daiya shreds at The Vegetarian House's front room, and when my mother-in-law made vegan chili we had chili cheese nachos that were to die for!

In Vacaville, we went to a Trader Joes that had very few lunch items that were vegan.  It seemed that every salad had chicken in it, the wraps were mostly meaty, and I was bummed.  In the end, I found a grilled eggplant wrap that was awesome, so it worked out.  I picked up Daiya shreds somewhere else, so I bought pizza dough from TJ's for that night.  I also found candy cane oreo-like cookies, which for me made up for the lack of selection.  Cookies, chocolate soy milk, and board games with the family is priceless.

In Placerville, where my family lives, I was able to get a great meal at Golden Dragon.  We brought a feast to my mom's house and everyone was shocked to find that the protein in the orange sauce was tofu and the crispy nuggets of perfection were crispy cooked eggplant.  Their seasonal specialty was simply cooked fresh green beans with some spice.  This is definitely the best Chinese food in Placerville- in case you are ever on your way to Tahoe to ski.  We also got out staples at Noah's Ark, a small health food store that has great local produce in addition to great vegan pantry staples.  They always have vegan sandwiches for lunch time.  *Full disclosure, I used to work there when I was in high school.  We also had a great meal at Teriyaki Junction, a Placerville favorite since I was a teen.  In fact, the owner use to know my name- well sort of.  Every time I came in he would yell, "ERICA, how have you been?"  My name isn't Erica, but it was still sweet.  They have Japanese food made quickly and fresh.  My mom ordered ocean salad, their special of the day, and Violet devoured it.  It's always fun to watch the reaction of people around me as my one year old devours seaweed in any form she can get.  She a sea monster.

Sorry I don't have pictures, I'm a bad blogger when I travel.  Next time.