In Which I Get a Bit Political…

A quick glance at Facebook and ten minutes of the morning news informed me that DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act, was overturned today. I wasn’t too concerned with this tidbit of information because I was busy gassing up my vehicle, going to the bank, and driving ninety miles to Tennessee to visit my and my unborn babe’s healthcare provider.

Gay marriage honestly isn’t too high on my soap-box priority list; however, it really fires me up that so much thought, effort, concern, argument, and enthusiasm is put into the right to file a piece of paper at the courthouse (yes, I know there’s more to it than this) when I am legally forbidden from birthing my child in my home and must drive to another state to see the healthcare provider that I and my husband have decided, after much prayer and  research, is the most competent  professional to assist me in bringing forth a healthy life into this ol’ world. It disgusts me that so many resources are being wasted on this ethical battle when I must scrounge pennies to pay for cheaper and better healthcare that the health insurance I pay for out-of-pocket refuses to cover.

Does the sacred nature of birth and importance of the bond between a mother and the life which sprung from her very body not trump a volatile relationship between two adults? If two men or two women may marry  and interact as spouses in public, why am I not allowed to give birth in the privacy of my own home?

 

Pregnancy Update: Our Michael Ryan has made the big flip and is now an upside-down baby, which is a very good thing. Hopefully he will continue to hang in there like a possum for the next few months. Today was my last monthly appointment. From now on, I’ll be headed to Chattanooga every other week. We’re getting down to the nitty gritty now!

New Food Strategy

Food is a very important aspect of my life right now. Not only because I’m hungry pretty much all of the time, but also because my food-related responsibilities are about to increase significantly. As we approach the expansion of our family, I recognize that this time marks the beginning of several decades of planning, shopping, and cooking for who knows how many people. It is paramount that I get into a routine that works for us nutritionally as well as financially while there are still just two mouths for me to feed. If I’ve learned anything over the past few of years of marriage, it is that food is the area of our lives I have most control over and, in turn, has the most influence on our health and our budget. Frankly, we allot almost as much (and often more) on food each month as we do on our mortgage. And I’m the one who spends all that money.

Lately, even with all my weekly meal planning, I’ve been spending around $100.00 at the grocery store each Thursday and an additional $30.00-$40.00 during the week on Cody’s ice cream cravings (seriously, it’s never my idea!), snacks, and eating out. That’s simply way too much. It also recently occurred to me that I’m about to be shopping with an infant. Less trips to the grocery store might be a good thing.

So, I talked to Cody and we decided to re-arrange our June and July budgets to allow for an extra-large grocery shopping trip last week. My goal was to shop for three weeks. I literally spent an entire day planning our menu, looking through sale ads, searching Pinterest for frugal recipe ideas, etc. Sadly, I’m so meticulous about my grocery shopping that I’ve memorized the prices of most of my staple items, so I was able to estimate how much I would spend at each store. I went to Aldi and, unfortunately, WalMart (their prices combined with their price match policy lured me in). I actually spent around $40.00 less than I alloted. Twenty-one days of planned breakfasts, lunches, suppers, and snacks for $260.00.

I plan on spending around $20.00 a week on milk, lettuce, and fruit. Not a huge savings once it’s all averaged out, but anything helps and it’s saving me a day of shopping each week. Hopefully, I’ll become more adept at shopping this way and will eventually be able to spend even less. In any case, it’s nice to know I’ve got plenty of butter in the freezer and a bowl full of Clif Bars and Craisens to munch on.

Between my birthday last Friday, Father’s Day over the weekend, and a basket of food brought over by my neighbor yesterday, I’ve saved several meals. We’re also getting a good bit of veggies from our garden now, so I’m relying on that for sides and supplements to our main courses. I’m hoping to stretch what I bought until July 11th.

Butchering Day

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It was a Little House on the Prairie kind of day around here yesterday. I even donned an apron. Between bean picking and chicken butchering, we felt like quite the homesteaders.

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Cody invited his friend Matt, who arrived with a hatchet, to come and “help.” They re-strung my clothes line up on the hill next to the chicken pen and made tiny nooses out of hot pink string on which to hang the birds after they lost their heads.

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Meanwhile, I set-up our butchering station far, far away from the action. I asked Cody to put up our canopy over the table. That turned out to be a good idea because it rained most of the afternoon. This is what I guessed I would need to clean chickens, having never done it before:

  • gallon and quart sized Zip-loc bags
  • dish towels and rags
  • a candy thermometer to test the temperature of the scalding pots
  • a couple of large pots
  • gloves
  • a bucket of cold water
  • a water hose
  • assorted knives

This is what one actually needs to butcher chickens:

  • very, very, very sharp knives

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We started out using a propane-fueled burner to heat the scalding water. It was quickly apparent that we were almost out of propane so I fired-up the grill with our homemade charcoal and placed the other metal pot there to heat. The grill heated the water quicker and was virtually free, so we will go with that method next time.

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The preparations for be-heading took a little longer than I expected. While I was waiting, I froze two quarts of beautiful beans I picked from our garden yesterday morning. See the lovely purple ones? I was sorely disappointed to find that they turn a normal green when blanched. Oh, well.

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Back outside, a steady stream of headless, bloodless chickens were making their way down the hill. My mom showed up right around this time (out of curiosity or concern, I’m not too sure). I figured this was a memorable day and asked her to snap a couple of pictures of me.

pluck 2

Michael Ryan showed up pretty well in this one (I’m getting huge, by the way). Twenty-seven weeks is about the maximum for chicken butchering. Any bigger and I don’t think I would have had the stamina or emotional stability to handle all this. Also, having my belly squished up against a table for several hours was quite uncomfortable. Notice the pile behind me there.

My 83-year-old neighbor thought we were having a fish fry and came over to visit. She didn’t seem too disappointed in the lack of hushpuppies and promptly picked-up a bird and started plucking. About an hour later I finally talked her into going home with chicken blood on her white slip-on tennis shoes. She said it had been 64 years since she had butchered a chicken but did it quicker than any of us. We were very thankful for the instruction.

Here are some things that we learned during our first attempt at being chicken farmers:

  • Order the genetically modified chicks and hope the fresh air and sunshine cancels out any adverse affects of their mutations. These buggers were too skinny and ate too much.
  • If the water is too hot or if you leave the chicken in it more than about 30 seconds, the skin comes off with the feathers and you’ll have a slightly pre-cooked bird.
  • It is almost impossible not to puncture an internal organ of some kind while getting the guts out. Just squirt it off really good with the water hose.
  • Chickens stink real bad. I had all intentions of doing most of the work after they were killed, but found that my pregnancy-induced hound dog nose just couldn’t handle the gutting process.
  • June is not the most opportune time to stand outside all afternoon in a swarm of chicken-loving flies.
  • The old-fashioned concept of skipping out to the chicken coop on Sunday morning to snatch a hen for dinner isn’t a bad one. 15 at once was a little much.

We ended up with 15 whole chickens in the freezer about 3 1/2 hours after the first swing of the ax. Not too bad. Really, the experience was almost exactly what I expected it to be. Not too sad, but also not too fun. It’ll take me a day or two to eat grocery store chicken again. Probably a month to get up the courage to cook one of ours.

So, here’s the big question. Will we be doing this again? Absolutely. We learned a whole lot on this first go-around. I am sure that our next attempt will be much more productive and much less expensive (I’m going to guess each bird weighed close to 2 pounds and cost us about $30. That’s not economical, I don’t care how organic or humane their time on earth). We will be going with Cornish Crosses or Cornish Rocks next time, not these puny White Leghorns. Supposedly, they mature in only eight short weeks. We will also wait until the weather is very warm before ordering our chicks so that they can stay outside and not require so much TLC during the first few weeks. We’re also brainstorming ideas on how to reduce the cost of feeding them (being more intentional about collecting kitchen scraps, planting corn/sunflowers/ squash specifically for the chickens, trying sprouted barley fodder).

Overall, the McNuggets provided us with a really great learning experience and a little good food.

Third Trimester Checklist

I’m a lover of lists. They cover my refrigerator, take-up blank pages in all my notebooks, and clutter my purse. List making is how I function. Now that I’m pumped up with pregnancy hormones, list making serves as an anxiety-reliever and organizational strategy, not to mention a motivator to keep busy.

On Monday I’ll be twenty-seven weeks pregnant and headed into the third and final trimester of this my first pregnancy. Somedays I feel quite prepared, knowing that a newborn baby doesn’t really need much beside his momma to be happy and healthy. Other days, I feel like I’ve accomplished basically nothing in the past seven months and must rush, rush, rush to get everything done before the Alabama August heat renders me useless for the last few weeks of roundness. On those days, I make lists.

Since I’m being financially forced to take a hiatus from graduate school (another post, another time), I feel like these last three months are going to be the best yet, no matter how large I get 🙂 My number one priority is getting ready for Michael Ryan. I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness for that.

So, here’s the master list.

Things to Buy

2 more sets of Econobums diapers

Hamper with wet bag

Snappis

1 small wet bag or large zip-lock baggies

Several button-up blouses for the beginning weeks of nursing

Nursing bras

Good toilet paper, Cottonelle wipes, etc.

Hand soap, Germ-X, Clorox wipes

Order Birth Kit

Purchase extra items for birth (wash clothes, olive oil, etc.)

Purchase 65″ exercise ball and start bouncing

Camera batteries and SD cards

Things to Pay For

Midwife fee balance: $300.00 by August 20th

Bradley Method Classes: $350.00 (check made-out, first class tomorrow night!)

Doula fee: $500.00 ($200.00 down, $300.00 by by August 27th)

Things to Make, Do, Assemble

Hang nursery prints in correct location

Hang paper blinds in nursery

Make pallet bookshelves for corner

Organize laundry area

Clean-out all kitchen cabinets

Assemble nursing basket for our bedroom (bottled water, burp clothes, creams, etc.)

Clean-out nursery chest

Wash all baby clothes

Wash and dry all diapers at least 3 times

Make padcicles

Make birth playlist

Print just-in-case pre-term labor and transfer birth plans

Pack birth bags (toiletries, clothes for me and Cody, diaper bag for baby)

Food

Stock-up on snacks (Clif Bars, LaraBars, nuts, freeze oatmeal cookie dough…)

Stock-up on staples and meat

Plan birth menu and keep all items on hand after 36 weeks

Purchase breastfeeding herbs and supplements

Make a few freezer meals

Plan some breakfast menu options for Cody

Freeze and can garden produce

I recently read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (and it calmed my nerves tremendously about establishing a succesful nursing relationship). The authors recommended posting a list on the fridge for the first week or so after birth with suggestions for visitors who might want to help out. This gave me an idea. Since we won’t be having any visitors at our midwife’s home where I’ll deliver and won’t be seeing any family or friends until about twelve hours after I give birth, I suspect both of our mothers will be running around like mad women, having been denied the traditional role of grandmothers reigning over the hospital waiting room. So, I’m preparing a list of things for them to do while we’re up in Tennessee having a National Geographic-worthy delivery that doesn’t need any onlookers except my husband. This may sound harsh, but I want to make sure they have something to do and something that will make them feel like they are helping and contributing (and also something to keep them from calling us every half hour for an update). Here’s that list-in-progress:

While we’re in Tennessee, please…

Fill a cooler with ice and stock with bottled water, juices (for me), and Cokes (for visitors)

Finish any laundry that we might have left in the washer or dryer

Wash any dishes that might be in the sink

Make our bed

Feed the animals

Prepare snacks: fruit tray, cut-up veggies with Ranch dressing, crackers, etc.

Clean the bathroom

Sweep inside and both porches

 

Ok, any seasoned mommas out there, what have I left off?