Thursday, August 28, 2008
Watching this thing grab the crickets and eat was about one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Katie and I watched it hunt and eat for about 20 minutes, and mentioned how this would have been awesome to show to little kids, thinking of ours that we hope to have and show gross things to some day.
After he or she ate three crickets in one sitting (hungry little guy) we decided to bring it outside and set it free. It was nice to hang out with this little fella for a couple of days in my office, and oddly enough was entertaining even though it really does not do very much.
It is wonderful to have a partner like Katie to enjoy little, simple, silly joys like this with. I thank God for these little experiences, because the wonderful little things like this are really what make up life. So I just want to say how happy I am to have Katie in my life, to have this miraculous person to do the day-to-day things with, and to have little adventures with all the time. I love you so very much my wife. Thank you for all that you are! You are the world to me! I consider myself so blessed to have you, so maybe this little thing coming into my life was a symbolic, prayerful gesture from the man upstairs, reminding me in a little, yet comical way how lucky I truly am. And I know it.
We get up between 5:30 and 6:30 and generally go for a short (15-30 minute) jog around our neighborhood. These days, it's typically dark when we leave, and beginning to get light as we head home. Soon it's going to be dark and chilly the whole time, and that will make the motivation quite a bit trickier!
Then we eat breakfast--bulgur and bananas, coffee, and orange juice.
I bike to work and Matt often bikes with me. Work has been busy lately for me, so I've been there almost every weekday the past couple of weeks (which was previously unusual). Things we're saving up for: our trip back to the midwest at Christmas, midwifery school, paying off the loan on our car, a down payment on a place someday, and continuing to attack our student loans. We have separate ING accounts for all of these (except the loan payments), so we can conveniently watch each balance grow a little bit at a time.
Matt's work is also getting busier, and he's getting ready to go on a business trip in October and one in November. I'll be joining him, to photo-document the trip and just generally keep him company.
On my days off, I've been spending lots of time working through the preliminary requirements for Frontier, as well as doing online training for the RAINN online hotline.
We've been trying to eat simple, plant-based meals for dinner, despite our newfound addiction to fresh local butter. In the evenings, we'll often go for a walk, browse the used bookstore, walk to the pool, watch an episode or two of the Cosby Show, or just spend the evening reading quietly. Thankful for the time we have together, for what we've been through, and where we are now. Hopeful for what lies ahead, whatever that may be.
In other words, things could be more interesting, but we couldn't feel more blessed.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The Simple Dollar addresses the same idea this week, and I think that for frugally-minded people, it's always a useful reminder. Deal-hunting can become sort of an addiction after awhile, an end in itself rather than a means to actually saving money.
However, I would also add that there's more than one definition for "needing" something. TSD points out that if you can turn a profit on the item, there's a compelling reason to buy it. You may need the extra income it generates. We also feel that something can likewise be a bargain if it's a good deal and someone else needs (or otherwise could use) it. 112 maxipads for $0.27 is a case in point--it fulfills a need for someone else, and satisfies my urge to splurge, however minimally. As long as I keep it within our allotted charity budget, it's a win-win situation.
An article from Lamaze...
an article from the Wall Street Journal (oddly enough)...
and one from a small Indiana paper which references the WSJ article, but gives the issue a much more human face.
Whenever people say, "The only important thing in birth is that you get a healthy mom and a healthy baby," I am quick to correct them that those may be the MOST IMPORTANT things, but they're not the ONLY important things, not by a long shot. And these articles are testimony to the fact that that when "everything else"--a sensitive provider, a comfortable setting, respect and privacy and autonomy and dignity--is swept under the rug, you can end up with a very traumatized mother and thus a shortchanged baby. In 2008, in the United States, merely surviving birth without any major injuries or infections is setting the bar way too low.
Or (unfortunately) is it?
1 Kotex Lightdays (16ct) at $1.49
2 Stayfree Pads (48ct each) at 2/$9
Here are the coupons I used:
$2/10 CVS coupon
$1/1 Lightdays coupon from recent insert
B1G1 Stayfree coupon from recent insert
and also used a $3 ECB. I ended up paying $0.27 out of pocket (it seems like some CVS's won't allow you to go down to zero with ECB--so when my total rang up $2.99, she told me to buy something else or she would adjust it down to the maximum it would allow. Adjusted down, it left me with the $0.27 balance)--and got $6.49 back in ECBs! Best of all, it doesn't look like I've met my limit for this offer, so I'm planning to try it again later this week!
Note: I'm planning to donate the pads to a homeless or battered women's shelter. My love affair with my Keeper cup is still going strong!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
All ELEVEN POUNDS THREE OUNCES OF HIM.
WITHOUT A TEAR.
All hail the power of women, and midwifery, when you give them both a chance!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Tonight we did something different than our usual boil-and-salt: we peeled back the shucks, buttered and salted the corn (right now we're all about Penzey's Special Seasoned Sea Salt, which we received as a wedding gift), and grilled them on our porch. (Well, on the grill, on the porch.) They came out great!
We also served it with a side of black beans, a brilliant idea of Matt's that we just kept embellishing. First we thought to mash them slightly, then cook them with a little chopped cilantro. It seemed then like they were just crying out for a few tomatoes to keep them company. Before I knew it, I'd tossed in a little (about an ounce) Monterey Jack cheese, which made them delectably creamy, and then we topped them with a spoonful of the absolutely to-die-for farm-fresh sour cream we've been getting our hands on lately. And stirred in a spoonful of Matt's spicy chipotle paste.
And just in case the butter, cheese, and sour cream weren't enough to meet our recommended daily allowance of milkfat, we polished it off with a scoop or two of Nielsen's Frozen Custard--truly, the smoothest stuff on earth, and in coffee and coconut, about the most delicious combination I can think of.
Corn and beans--simple, time honored, and absolutely brilliant.
We started off at the (Historic) Lake Anne Center, which has become one-stop shopping for us in recent days. We only lately realized that there's an awesome old-timey pharmacy/lunch counter/post office there, and so today I transferred a prescription there, we mailed a book we'd sold on Amazon, and of course succumbed to our terrible weakness for breakfast sandwiches.
Apparently Larry the pharmacist has run the Lakeside Pharmacy since approximately the 1960's, and the Washington Post ran a story in 1999 about how beloved he is to the community. He's also mentioned frequently anywhere you find people reminiscing about Reston (books, websites, magazines). We enjoyed chatting it up with him and appreciated the fact that he filled my prescription with no questions asked--despite the fact that I had obtained in in December of 2007, my name had changed, it was written for a drug that's been discontinued, and it was originally written for a mail-order program. He simply substituted the appropriate drug (and my appropriate name), and had it ready to go in 10 minutes. This compares exceptionally favorably with my experiences at frazzled CVS and Rite Aid counters, who act like they're letting you get away with something they really shouldn't any time they fill your prescriptions. Not to mention the waiting. And the standing in line.
The Lakeside Cafe, where we ate delicious sausage, egg, and bagel/English muffin sandwiches while we waited, has an adorable setup inside with swivel stools and an old-fashioned lunch counter. However, this morning it was empty, as nobody could resist sitting outside on such a beautiful morning. For a couple of sandwiches and some orange juice, we walked away for about $7--possibly less than you'd pay for fast food, and considerably better--which was good, because we'd limited our eating-out budget to what we could scrounge up in change.
We're especially interested in their Central American offerings, and are planning to head back sometime soon for lunch.
There's also a farmer's market at Lake Anne which has been voted the best in Northern Virginia (and it has some pretty stiff competition). Here's the bounty of just one of the stalls:
Our menu for this week:
Baked potatoes and steamed carrots
Tamales with sour cream and salsa
Sweet corn and black beans
Pasta with grilled onions, peppers, and mushrooms
Cauliflower soup and steamed carrots
Tomato soup and grilled cheese
Baked potato pizza
At the farmer's market, we bought potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, and delicious Ginger Gold apples which we've been anticipating since last year. We still needed to make a trip to Trader Joe's for a can of beans, some cilantro, a bag of carrots, some bananas, cheese, and cauliflower, which was just as well because we were also running low on cat litter. We also biked to Whole Foods to buy six pounds of bulgur in bulk, and managed to enjoy some excellent snacks (ie samples) while we were there.
Lake Anne is also where our favorite bookstore is, and we picked up several books thanks to the store credit we earned the last time we traded some in. I'll let Matt tell you about his himself, but I got The Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year and Your Fertility Signals: Using Them to Achieve or Avoid Pregnancy Naturally. Nothing to get excited about yet: they're just books I think will be a great addition to my midwifery library. (But--does anybody have any experience with Fertility Awareness Methods of birth control? I am curious.) Here they are on the back of Matt's bike, while mine is strapped with a half-dozen fresh eggs:
Incidentally, as I was loading the eggs on the back of my bike, it flashed into my mind what an unfortunate thing it would be if I fell with them on there. Well, in my third fall of moderate seriousness (all of which took place on the street we live on; I guess the old statistic of being most likely to get in a car wreck a mile from home is doubly true for bike accidents), I tumbled off my bike while on a steep uphill and landed partway down a small ravine with my bike on top of me. Matt helped me get untangled and up and dusted off, and except for a few scrapes and a pedal-shaped imprint in the middle of my right thigh, I'm almost as good as new. And the eggs? Not a crack!
And lastly, for the first time we checked out the Reston Historical Society and Museum, also in the same plaza. They have some awesome historical information about the town, as well as some supremely groovy Reston T-shirts you're sure to see us sporting sometime soon. Also at Lake Anne, but not partaken of today: canoe/boat rental, as well as our (well, MY) barber. I can't think of anywhere we've ever had such centrality of location! In short, it's full of the kind of real people and local establishments which were so difficult to find in this documentary, and which are becoming harder and harder to find all across the country. It's a theme I was first introduced to when I was quite young by my parents, who fought the arrival of a WalMart to the small suburb we lived in and ran a one-man furniture repair/refinishing shop for 25 years, and continue to run a bed and breakfast in a hotel age. And it's one which has come to mean a lot to me.
Anyway, here are our bikes loaded after Trader Joe's (the rest goes in backpacks):
And on the way home, we happened across a doe and twin spotted fawns, not six feet from where we stood/rode. Excuse the blurriness. How sweet!
I remember at my interview for the hospital, the human resources woman (by way of telling me I was hired), enthused in a singsong voice, "You are going to LOVE living and working in Reston!"
That doesn't even begin to cover it.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
...But tonight we did something a little different: hamburgers!
Here's Matt grilling them, backyard-apartment style:
We at them patty-melt style, with cheddar and tomatoes and onions on rye toast, and a side of sweet corn. Delicious!
(Yes, there are ten hamburgers in that picture; and yes, after packing our lunches for tomorrow, there is only one lonely burger left in the fridge. How did that happen?!)
Add that to the fact that I came home after 12 hours of work to this meal already prepared (thanks, Matt!), and the fact that I had a satisfying, busy day at work, in which I really connected with my patients, and I go to bed tonight feeling like a very lucky girl indeed!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
First, upon the retirement of Mr. Arrowood, the James Arrowood Music Service Award was set up by the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Xi Omicron chapter at UW-Stevens Point. This scholarship is actually linked to an endowment that the chapter is working to fill which will generate a yearly $500 scholarship for a music student. When the endowment is full, it will last forever, no matter what happens to the chapter. Donationas can be made through the UWSP Department of Music.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a non-profit that aims to fight white hate groups and is noted for its tolerance education programs. These people are doing some very difficult and meaningful work to combat destructive beliefs and practices right here in the U.S. This group also monitors the activity of white supremacist groups such as the Klu Klux Klan, which must be an extremely daunting and difficult task.
I hope people will consider giving to one of these two groups in memory of Mr. Arrowood.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The Weston A. Price Foundation. Named for a dentist/anthropologist who advocated eating food that was whole, local, and traditionally cultivated. Advocates for traditional diets (including foods like raw milk and butter from grassfed cows) instead of dietary fads based on the presence or absence of spotlighted nutrients (eg high in Omega-3s, low in saturated fats, etc). Also work for the rights of small farmers and consumers. Our dietary philosophy has slowly shifted from one that was just primarily vegetarian to one that now focuses not just on what categories of food we do or don't eat, but where that food came from and how it was raised. As a result, we've come to agree with many (though possibly not all) of the premises espoused by WAP. That's why you'll notice that in the past six months or so, we've started to consume more eggs, milk, butter, and even meat upon occasion, because we've found a local farmer who provides humanely raised animal products of exceptional quality, and whom we're proud to support with our food dollars.
Women for Women International, whom I've mentioned before. Individual sponsorship programs are a great way to feel like your donations are really making a difference to another human being.
The Society of St. Andrew, named after the apostle who brought Jesus the boy with the loaves and fishes that fed the 5,000, represents a perfect marriage of our burgeoning interest in Christian charity and our passion for high-quality food. Through donations of cosmetically imperfect produce, as well as taking part in the biblical practice of gleaning, they provide thousands of pounds of fresh produce to homeless shelters, Indian reservations, and other groups in need. We're hoping to take part in a gleaning operation nearby sometime soon.
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the largest ant-sexual assault organization in the country, and a clearinghouse for support, resources, and action. I'm currently undergoing training to staff their online sexual assault hotline (a better choice for me than manning the phones like I did in Iowa City, since our basement apartment doesn't seem to be friendly to cell phone reception). Sexual assault has always been a topic close to my heart, and I've seen firsthand how devastating it can be to victims--also how much hope and healing can be offered by appropriate counseling. I'm excited to take part in this newer front for helping victims of sexual violence, particularly for those who may not have a local rape crisis center to help them, and donations to RAINN help strengthen laws and do a variety of other important grassroots work. Of course, donations to local rape crisis centers do the same (and keep them open for person-to-person support), so don't forget about them!
Some of my best childhood memories are of the summers I spent at Grace Youth Camp (now Grace Adventures) in Mears, Michigan. I spent many happy times, as well as some tumultuous times, in my life there, and I know they've touched literally thousands of other lives as well. My godfather (who married us) used to be the director at that camp, as well as the one where he met my mom as a camper many years ago. Matt and I are both huge believers in the value of outdoor skills and recreation for kids, and it's also where I learned a lot about faith and the Bible and met some truly outstanding people. You can donate for general needs or a scholarship fund for kids and families who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford summer camp. Both are important!
I was introduced to the Heifer Project by one of my former oboe students who gave in my name as a Christmas present. Basically, you donate money to purchase an animal or animals (such as a cow, goat, sheep, flock of geese, etc) that will provide a moneymaking enterprise for a family in a developing country. Throughout their projects are woven their values of agroecology, animal wellbeing, gender equity, HIV/AIDS education, urban agriculture, and youth initiatives.
Kiva.org is a little bit different because it's an international microlending company--meaning that after a year, you get your donation (usually $25) back, or, if you give it as a gift, your recipient will get $25. You can browse projects by enterpreneurs in a variety of developing countries and make a small loan to help them lift themselves out of poverty. Not a true donation in the sense that you get it back, but a wonderful cause and perhaps a good steppingstone for those having trouble completely parting with their money.
This is just a sampling of a few organizations which are doing really good work for people in need. Matt and I really enjoy finding out more about the incredible things people are doing to help others, and doing our small part to help that along. It's a fun and meaningful thing each month to choose a couple of agencies to help together--so much more so than if we took that money to the mall or out to dinner (though we do budget for those things, too). I would encourage you to consider a one-time donation to one of these organizations or one of your choosing, and to consider making such a gift a regular part of your monthly budget. Feel free to leave a comment if you do, or if there's another great organization you think we should know about!
They were playing with Maroon 5, a band we both like, and we actually managed to get pretty decent tickets for about $35 apiece (plus, of course, exorbitant booking fees from Ticketmaster...). And, we were actually able to score much better seats by the time the Counting Crows played, because the house wasn't full. We didn't realize until we got there that the opening act was Sarah Bareilles, a name I wouldn't have recognized but who has a song or two that I did.
I thought she was great. While her onstage banter was a little silly, it was also pretty minimal and what she lacked in depth, she made up for with a big, beautiful voice and fun, catchy songwriting. At the end of the Counting Crows' set, she joined in for a huge, sloppy, lots-of-fun extended version of "Hanginaround" and held her own pretty well. She was really good live and somebody I wouldn't mind hearing more of.
Maroon 5 was intense and energetic, if just one hard-rock guitar riff away from basically being a boy band. Neither Matt nor I realized that lead singer Adam Levine was so...pretty? His voice, lovely and versatile, is several notes higher than I'd realized, and his stage persona struts and prances like a show pony. He claims he's not gay but sometimes thinks it would be simpler if he were. Anyway, he was entertaining and engaging, something that's valuable in any performer, and we enjoyed the show (if not the piercing screams it elicited from the teenage concertgoers).
The Counting Crows were simply breathtaking. They're one of the few bands left who are musically competent enough to let loose and make each performance completely different than the last. Adam Duritz was wild, spontaneous, and wonderful, and gave a really heartfelt speech about supporting local charities at the end. It was right up our alley. The songs played were mostly old favorites, extended and improvised, which made us really happy. We wished we could have gotten more (and clearer) pictures, but our camera died in the middle of the show.
Things I wished there were less of:
4. Those absurd babydoll/empire waist shirts that seem to be in fashion right now.
Below, I managed to capture all 4 in one picture, seated right in front of us. How lucky.
I actually didn't take notice of the shirts themselves until I said out loud to Matt, "Why are there so many women here who look like they might be pregnant?" For obvious reasons, I have pretty sensitive pregnant-belly radar, but I felt like my signals were getting scrambled by so many women women with completely ambiguous midsections. Finally, I realized that they were all wearing one of those shirts that make everybody look pregnant. Just. Not. Flattering.
Otherwise: a magical evening.
Friday, August 15, 2008
We started off with potato nachos--homemade potato chips smothered in cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, and salsa, why hasn't anybody thought of that before?! We thought we'd go for broke and also asked for a side of ranch to dip them in. After that, we still hadn't gotten what we came for, and so Matt ordered a platter of fish and chips, which we demolished in pretty short order--but not without leaving room for a slice of Irish Stout Cheesecake. YUM! After a summer of farmer's market meals (which we've loved), it felt pretty good to be a little bad!
We thought the food was great and the atmosphere was nice, and we felt like we really hit it off with our waiter to start (and he didn't give me any trouble about not having my ID with me to order a glass of wine, which was nice) , but toward the end of the evening, the service really slowed down...we couldn't tell if he was off shift or just taking a break, but either way, it took us about 30 minutes to get a slice of cheesecake (and we were one of only four or five tables there!), and then another 30 to get the check! Anyway, we enjoyed the drive and the chance to linger, and we were able to catch a nice view of both a blood-red sunset and a lovely harvest moon. All in all, a nice start to the weekend, and a relaxing finish to a stressful day.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Recently I set out to make a pizza, but wanted something different than our standard tomato- or olive-oil based sauce.
Looking into the fridge, what immediately caught my eye was the butter we've started buying from a local farm. Rich, yellow, and incredibly tasty, I thought that what olive oil could do, this butter could probably do even better. (I was right.)
So I started out by sauteing mushrooms, garlic and a couple tablespoons of dried sage in it. One of the things I love about this butter is that it seems to have a really high fat (as opposed to water) content--meaning that when you cook with it, instead of evaporating or cooking off so that you're constantly adding more, it just hangs around and lubricates the food and absorbs flavor like you would not believe.
I made our usual pizza crust and let it rise on the stone.
I segregated the drippings and added a little milk and flour, like making mushroom gravy.
I then topped the crust with the sauce and the mushrooms, then added cheese. I baked it at 500 degrees for about 10 minutes.
The result, which you can see at the top of the page, was nothing short of heavenly, to look at and to eat.
Many of these links came to me courtesy of Rixa at the True Face of Birth, one of my favorite birth blogs.
A few are cross-linked from other articles, and as such may not be especially recent, but they are relevant.
TIME magazine has an article on homebirth. Citizens for Midwifery has a guide to writing a letter to the editor to express your support, since, as they put it, just about any publicity is good publicity at this point. I don't know that I'd go quite that far, but I understand the sentiment. My take on TIME's article? Not nearly as bad as some they've written, but in my opinion, equally weak reporting and overall journalism. It includes the now-standard fare in the media's coverage of birthing options: some women are ardently pro-homebirth, some doctors are ardently against it. Birth centers may be a happy medium, but they're closing due to high malpractice premiums. [Note on content and accuracy: no mention is made of whether these malpractice premiums should be questioned in light of the generally favorable outcomes (and low rates of liability) birth centers maintain. It also appears to conflate hospital-associated birth centers (which may just be fancily decorated labor and delivery units, which ascribe to the same model of care as any other hospital birthing facility) with freestanding birth centers.] The article states, "But what might seem like an ideal solution has run into roadblocks, as a few prominent centers have closed in recent years because of high malpractice-insurance costs--which means many natural-birth seekers will still have to choose between hospital and home."
AND...that's it. What kind of a limp conclusion is that? You conclude the article with the exact same question you opened it with, completely ignoring the fact that within the article, the issue was raised that doctors are trying to legislate away homebirth with a midwife as a valid option, thereby negating the very choice being discussed. So basically, we've laid out a few facts (several of which were inaccurate to various degrees), advanced the discussion not at all, and then just stopped writing. No conclusion, no food for thought, just a period at the end of another sentence.
Elsewhere: ABC News notes that some women are devastated by having to have a C-section, a somewhat-obvious article which was notable to me because it was apparently picked up from the Cedar Rapids Gazette and contains quotes from several doctors I know. I couldn't find the original article on the Gazette, however.
Also from ABC News: The C-section rate is rising and rising, which we all knew; and there are pros and cons to an elective C-section.
Maryland Congressional candidate Dr Mike Hargadon has issued a statement in support of homebirth. He has several strong, no-nonsense quotes that I just love, and the press release is short enough that I'm reposting the entire thing here. I've boldfaced some of my favorite comments.
Dr. Mike Hargadon, candidate for Congress in District 7, questioned last month’s decision by the American Medical Association (AMA) to support proposed legislation that could outlaw planned homebirths. “Is this about safety or better birth outcomes? No, it’s about money and it’s about the AMA trying to protect its turf, plain and simple,” said Dr. Hargadon. “Study after study has shown that births attended by midwives outside of a hospital are just as safe, and maybe even safer, than hospital births.”
Elaborating on why the AMA would support such legislation, Dr. Hargadon continued, “Midwifery is a fast-growing industry. More families are choosing to have births attended by a midwife, rather than by an OB/GYN. It also costs significantly less to give birth outside of a hospital setting. So it comes as no surprise that the AMA would support making homebirthing illegal. They’re losing money and losing market share.”
Dr. Hargadon made it clear that he strongly opposes this attack on freedom and entrepreneurship. “Here you have a group of women who are successful and doing what they love. We need more of this in health care, not less. Midwives are giving people what they want and doing it in an affordable way. But the AMA wants to tell us it isn’t safe, and run these successful women out of business or make them subservient to AMA. It’s blatantly sexist, it’s anti-freedom, and if this legislation passes, it will increase prices.”
Dr. Hargadon expressed relief that no legislation has been drawn up yet, but was wary about what the future may hold. “My hope is that the Congress wouldn’t be so foolish as to try to legislate birth choice. But if you want to know what Congress will do, just follow the money. In this election cycle alone, the AMA Political Action Committee has donated almost $740,000 to Congressional candidates and other party committees. My opponent, Congressman Elijah Cummings, has received $5000 in donations from them in the past four years. So my fear is that the AMA has already bought this legislation.”
He ended on a personal note. “Many families, including my own, have decided that they’re unhappy with the traditional hospital birth experience and find that midwives give them a better experience for low-risk births. My first child was born in a hospital over 30 years ago, while the doctor was complaining about missing the Colts’ game and trying to induce labor. So our next three children were born in the presence of midwives. The births of those three, who were born at their own pace, were a much more beautiful life experience than a time management ‘problem.’ ”
We so need more articulate, intelligent, high-profile people adding their voices to this debate! Thank you, Dr Mike Hardagon!
A BirthTrack representative chats with a self-proclaimed Birth Activist, thereby displaying his woeful lack of knowledge about the birth process.
And finally, two conflicting articles on elective induction of labor. One involves the idea that inducing labor at an "ideal time" may lead to fewer C-sections. It details one study which shows some correlation (though not causation, warns the study's author) between these ideas. My problems with this? What's an "ideal" time for one baby may not be ideal for another; and I can confidently say that this is just another justification for physicians to induce labor at the drop of a hat at a time that's ideal for THEM. The inductions I see lead to C-section so much more often than the cases of spontaneous labor do, and elective induction in general leads to a doubled risk for Cesarean in first-time moms. While the article in question mentions using timed induction as a way to cut the Cesarean rate, it ignores the very real fact that doctors aren't interested in cutting the Cesarean rate. It saves them time, makes them money, and gives them an edge in malpractice suits. Absent a respect for natural childbirth, why would they? The other article details some of these concerns, and the health risks faced by "late preterm" infants, or those born before 39 weeks--reinforcing the common-sense idea that we shouldn't interfere in a natural process unless there's a good reason to do so.
For awhile now, I've been trying to figure out my feelings on taking multivitamins and other supplements on a daily basis. Are they helpful? Necessary, especially for women of childbearing age? A waste of money?
I know plenty of people who swear by the energy boost they get from vitamins, whether SuperMom, Melaleuca, or LifePak. I have tried the latter two; taking a vitamin called SuperMom always struck me as a little silly because, well...I'm not a mom. Both of the vitamins I tried required multiple pills, multiple times a day; I hate swallowing pills, and it's difficult for me to remember to do so at various times throughout the day. So my regimens on both supplements were fairly short-lived, a month or two, but long enough (I felt) to make the assessment that I didn't feel any different, in any way, while on either of them. I also tried Food-Based One, from Whole Foods, and had similar (lack of) results. I don't get sick that often (knock on wood!), which is one of the other benefits that people often mention when talking about their vitamins, and so that doesn't hold a lot of sway for me.
However, I have been taking an Omega-3 supplement for a couple of months now (thanks, Mom!) and I will say I've noticed a difference in my skin since I've started taking it. (Perhaps more importantly, they also have tons of other purported health benefits as well.) I tend toward dry, rough skin (as you all know by now!) and while it hasn't fixed some of my more persistent eczema, the texture of my skin in general seems more supple to me. I use a facial moisturizer with sunscreen, but that's it, and I feel like adding the Omega-3 supplement has helped facilitate even better results from this fairly lazy skincare regimen.
I've also started taking Loma Lux Eczema, a homeopathic combination remedy, since my bout with the dyshidrosis and so far I can't say I've seen much of an improvement (the dyshidrosis was already gone by the time the Loma Lux arrived, so I'm taking it more now for my more generalized eczema) , but I've also not taken it consistently for long enough to make a fair analysis. The jury's still out on that one, and we'll see. Right now I'm able to take that, the Omega 3s, and my birth control all in one fell swoop, so at least I'm not dealing with the multiple dosing times.
I guess the conclusion I'm coming to is that I'd much rather try hard to get all my nutrients from a healthy diet--including paying slightly higher prices for some products-- than pay to take a supplement that doesn't seem to me to make much difference. Our diet these days consists of probably 4-8 servings of fresh produce a day, a couple servings of whole grains, and a couple of servings of fats in the form of whole, grass-fed dairy or eggs (which tend to have much higher levels of Omega-3s in them). As a result, our intake of various vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids is pretty high compared to other dietary patterns, so supplementation probably holds a less dramatic benefit for us than it might for other people.
However, were I to get pregnant (or be attempting to), something like this that we could do ourselves and which is based on real foods holds a lot of appeal for me.
The result: short, cool, and best of all, FREE. The next challenge will be cutting my hair at home!
But while it's given me insurance in name, at least, I've still wound up paying out of pocket for a variety of things and it's particularly annoying because my primary care provider (PCP) is considered to be GW Student Health: meaning that in order to have a service covered, it needs to either be performed there, or I need a referral from there, which itself requires a face-to-face consultation (even for services that they flat-out don't provide, which is ridiculous). Getting into DC, and getting an appointment, to be seen for something thus becomes at least a four-hour process, and one which 9 times out of 10 I've concluded isn't actually worth it. Honestly, I think I would probably be willing to go without health insurance (something that scares the crap out of people, and rightfully so), but it's a requirement for nursing clinicals and so, perhaps luckily, I'm spared from making that momentous decision. However, my GW insurance expires on the 21st, Frontier doesn't offer insurance, and getting insurance through Matt's work would cost around $300 a month. So I set out to see what I could do on my own.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Though I'm a healthy young person in general, I do have a past history of treatment for depression and stomach problems, and I was nervous that this would preclude eligibility or at least drive my premiums up. That didn't seem to be the case. I started my search on ehealthinsurance.com (there's also an ehealthinsurance.org, which I don't have experience with), which allows one to input several characteristics and choose among various providers. Like many search programs, the results initially returned are those sponsored by "featured providers," but you can click a radio button to "show all results" which will include smaller (and often cheaper) companies.
Three of the major ones I came to consider are Anthem, Humana, and United Healthcare. I ruled out the last one pretty early on, as they were the provider of my current policy and I wasn't impressed. Humana appealed to me because apparently they have a large philanthropic foundation, but their coverage ultimately seemed less comprehensive than Anthem's plans of comparable price, and since we already commit a portion of our budget to charity, it seemed higher insurance premiums would be a somewhat roundabout and questionable way of helping those in need.
So it came down to several Anthem plans with a variety of premiums, deductibles, and features. While some were as low as $60 a month, these plans often didn't cover anything toward office visits, lab tests, or prescriptions until a high deductible was met. Since I'm pretty much locked into an OB-GYN visit (~$100), a Pap smear (~$100), and 12 months worth of birth control (~$420 for generic without insurance) a year, at the very least, it seemed like it might behoove me to opt for a plan that gave some coverage for these items, not to mention a little more padding between me and possible medical/financial disaster. So, I opted for a plan (Anthem KeyCare with Enhanced Drug Benefits) that cost $108 a month which had a $2500 deductible (and out of pocket maximum), a $20-30 copay for various office visits, and a $15/40% copay for generic drugs. That way, I'm not shelling out much more than I would have if the above were my only out-of-pocket expenses for the year, and I'm considerably more well-insured in the case that any other problem were to arise.
Because I read less than favorable reviews of ehealthinsurance.com (including the fact that consumers were getting stuck in an endless volley of shirked responsibility between that company and the one which ultimately provided their insurance), I decided to take this quote right to the source and apply directly through the Anthem website. After completing an underwriting process of providing every detail of my medical history (that I could remember...), I was told that I would hear in 2-3 weeks whether my application had been accepted. The only unnerving factor about the application process was that you had to give a credit card number so they could charge the first month's premium if you were accepted. This doesn't leave room for backing out or changing your mind, and I worried that they would charge a higher amount than I had been quoted. But, I needed health insurance and this was the best deal I could find, so I went ahead and gave it.
Sure enough, in about two weeks I received an automated phone message from Anthem telling me to log into their website and that I would receive a welcome package in the mail within the week, which I did. My credit card was charged for exactly $108, and so far, all seems to be as promised.
Obviously I'm not too far into this process, but for anybody seeking individual health insurance, I'd recommend using a site like ehealthinsurance to compare your options, and then applying directly through the company of your choice. It worked well for me, and I was surprised to find cheaper and more comprehensive coverage than was offered through my place of work or Matt's.
Unfortunately, not everybody is so lucky...
This time we selected the Lewis Spring Falls Loop in the Central District of the park, which is further south than we usually travel. It's a 3.6-mile loop, rated two stars (out of four) for difficulty, and four stars for scenery. We'd agree wholeheartedly with both of these assessments; with our packs and camping gear on, it seemed to strike just the right balance of exertion and enjoyment (as opposed to other hikes, which may have erred heavily on the side of strenuous for the less physically adventurous of us), and the views were lovely. It also gave two stars for solitude, but that seemed a little generous to us; the trail runs right near some of the main lodges, and was in fact pretty crowded on Saturday morning.
Friday night, we got to the park just before sunset and hiked about half the loop before dusk started to fall and we needed to pitch our tent. By necessity, we wound up making camp in the woods just a few hundred feet behind a lodge. We were able to string up our food to keep it safe from animals and enjoyed a good (if somewhat hard and rocky) night's sleep. The temperature got pretty cool as the night wore on, but laced up in our sleeping bags with long sleeves and pants on, we stayed comfortable. Since we'd been in a hurry to get out of town and hadn't had the ingredients for a properly balanced dried soup, we picked up a can of Jyoti Natural Foods Mattar Paneer (which is delicious, nutritions, and has a beautifully simple ingredient list with no artificial ingredients or preservatives) and packed some basmati rice. Both cooked up beautifully over the campstove and made just the right amount to fill us up without leaving any leftovers. We packed the can out in a ziploc bag and so it made barely any waste, either.
For morning, we cooked bulgur and coffee. We had been able to find a little box of shelf-stable organic milk, apparently ultra-pasteurized, and a welcome addition to our cereal and our coffee. (Between two cans of mattar paneer and two boxes of milk, I think we spent about $8 on trail food, which is about what you'd spend on one heavily processed and preservative-laden prepared dried entree.) We packed up camp and hiked out, and by the time we got to the car, a couple of hours had passed and we were ready to eat our second can of mattar paneer.
From there we drove southwest to Polyface Farms, an enterprise we'd been introduced to through Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and which we were both dying to see. More on that (with pictures) in a later post!