Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Freezes!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . Merry Christmas from the Freeze Family! . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter Solstice Celebration

I've always wanted to celebrate the winter solstice, but until this year I kept forgetting! Last night we invited two families over. I prepared vegetable chowder, fresh bread, hot chocolate, and my German grandmother's lebkuchen (spice cookies with a lemon glaze). Our friends brought hummus, raw vegetables, macaroni & cheese, and homemade cider. At the end of dinner, we had a short ceremony where we turned off all the lights except for the candles on the table. We talked about solstice traditions. Zari read "The Shortest Day" by Susan Cooper, and Dio read "Candle, Candle Burning Bright."

The the fun part: the kids' solstice present! I found a strobe light at a thrift store this week and thought it would be perfect. We grew up with a strobe light, and I have fond memories of dancing for hours in the darkness, seeing ourselves move as if in slow motion. The horde of children ran upstairs to the attic to try it out. Besides Dio getting a bloody nose from bumping into someone else, the strobe light was a smash hit.

It had rained most of the day, but we managed to get a fire going with lots of help from our blowtorch.

When the kids woke up this morning, they discovered one candle that I had forgotten to blow out. It was large and deep, which explains why I had missed it. So we accidentally kept a light burning all night until the coming of day. Not sure if I'd deliberately repeat that...but a great way to celebrate the solstice!
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Thursday, December 10, 2015

What a baby's tongue does during breastfeeding

If you've ever wondered why pumping doesn't feel the same as breastfeeding, or why pumping often isn't as effective, then watch this video of a 14-month old baby "nursing" in his sleep with his mouth open:

The tongue "undulates" in a wave from front to back (imagine ocean waves continually rolling onto a beach). When a baby is nursing, she expresses milk with her tongue's movement, combined with some suction and, of course, her mother's let-down reflex. When you pump, you only have suction + letdown. Until breast pump technology radically changes to mimic the natural movement of a baby's tongue, pumping will...well...suck.

Here's an ultrasound image overlaid on an animation of infant tongue movement.

Note: This last video mentioned tongue-tie. Tongue-tie can cause breastfeeding difficulties, but be sure to read Nancy Mohrbacher's article Tongue and Lip Ties: Root Causes or Red Herrings? Too often, she notes, a mother will have breastfeeding issues and attribute them to tongue-tie, when other culprits might be causing the nipple pain or baby's poor weight gain. She notes:
When mothers focus only on tongue or lip tie, other issues may be overlooked and problems can continue for weeks or months....Is tongue- or lip-tie revision the right thing to do for some breastfeeding mothers and babies? No question! But because tongue tie is the root cause of the problem for a minority of babies, it is a terrible place for most mothers to start. When nipple pain or weight-gain issues occur, a much better starting point is to contact someone who can help adjust baby’s latch and evaluate baby’s feeding pattern.
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Monday, December 07, 2015

Welcome to Sweden

I just came across this must-read article about reproductive culture in Sweden: Welcome to Sweden: Notes on birthday condoms, home abortions, and hysterical Americans.

Author and Wisconsin midwife Ingrid Andersson writes about Sweden's approach to sex, parenting, education, and family life--a stark contrast to America's oversexed prudishness, violence, and hysterical opposition to reproductive choices.

Her son's first day at public school was a welcome contrast from their American schooling experiences:
My son’s teacher said he did not need to bring anything apart from his curious, well-rested, breakfasted self. School will supply all his school needs, including an iPad and hot meals made from scratch. His first lunch —eaten over an hour at a round wooden table, sitting on a real wooden chair, in an actual dining room filled with windows and art—is baked salmon in rich cream sauce, dilled potatoes, steamed broccoli, salad with homemade dressing, bread, butter, and organic milk, served in all-you-can-eat buffet style. The kitchen uses 30 percent organic ingredients, locally produced when possible. My seventh grader is disoriented but delighted by trusting adults and an open campus with unlocked doors. (Every morning since Sandy Hook, my son’s school in America was all locked up by the time the kids were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.)
Reproductive information, birth control, and abortion are discussed openly and frankly and are accessible to anyone:
Any Swedish teen or adult can walk into one of the common health centers and talk confidentially with a counselor or midwife about any personal or social issue or need, including pregnancy. She or he probably will already have been introduced to a youth health center on a school class field trip at age twelve or thirteen.

Youth and young adult health centers in Sweden offer a limitless supply of free condoms, free testing and treatment for chlamydia and other diseases, and free emergency contraception. Pregnant minors are encouraged but not required to involve a parent. Counselors and/or psychiatrists meet with girls and are available to all women. Abortion is free or low-cost and available on-demand up to eighteen weeks of pregnancy. A dating ultrasound is required, and if the pregnancy is earlier than three months, girls and women can choose between vacuum extraction or pill-induced abortion and to complete the abortion at home.

Abortions are performed up to twenty-two weeks of pregnancy, but after eighteen weeks there must be a medical indication and a psychiatrist is involved. All girls and women are encouraged to include support persons. Midwives, who are prescribing professionals associated with health and wellness, support all girls and women through normal pregnancy and birth, as well as contraception and abortion choices.

Records from ancient times to the present day indicate that women tend to prefer coping with unwanted pregnancy privately and using measures within their control, or within a circle of trusted family or friends. Preference for autonomy and privacy is evidenced even when clinic-mediated options are accessible. Thanks in part to research at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, home abortion is now predictably safe and effective. For women from Stockholm to Nairobi, it has become a first-choice abortion method.

America stands as an exception. For American women, politically driven drug restrictions, costs, and lack of funding for education and support make obstacles to home abortion formidable....

“Publicly protesting abortion or anything related would be seen as hysterical in Sweden, not even the Christian party would do that!” says Ella, a twenty-eight-year-old hospital gynecology nurse who plans to continue studies to become a midwife.

To read the rest of the article, click here:
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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

What did you do when you were #7monthsawesome?

I don't use Twitter much except to repost what I write here. But I had to add to the #7monthsawesome conversation!

(I'm easy to find on Twitter: just look for Rixa.)

Join in if you did something awesome when you were 7 months pregnant!
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Laid-back breastfeeding

I've been breastfeeding for over 9 years straight, sometimes with both a baby and a toddler. I've nursed through 3 pregnancies. I read about breastfeeding voraciously. And yet... until recently I hardly knew anything about laid-back breastfeeding or "biological nurturing."
It's blowing my mind!

Nursing was never difficult for me; I didn't struggle with with nipple pain or latch problems or supply issues. But I remember the exhaustion of sitting up in a bed or chair in the middle of the night, holding my newborns in a cross-cradle hold, and wishing so desperately to lie down and rest. I rejoiced when we figured out how to nurse lying down. It took Zari (and me!) longer to figure out than my last three children.

Although nursing itself wasn't painful, sitting was, especially after I had Zari. I had a 2nd-degree tear requiring some stitches, and it was terribly painful to sit for several weeks. But I was stuck doing this:

Remember this Breastfeeding 101 video I made with Dio? I'm sitting up straight in a chair, holding him in a cross-cradle position. He has a great latch and I am reasonably comfortable...but it could have been a lot easier if I'd laid him across my belly instead of fighting his batting arms and resisting gravity.

To think I could have avoided exhaustion, pain, and unnecessary effort if I had known more about laid-back breastfeeding! I remember reading about it, but until I saw it in action, it didn't really click.

So here is my gift to all you pregnant or nursing mamas: information about laid-back breastfeeding that I have found most useful.

1. Nancy Morbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, explains the science and how-to's of laid-back breastfeeding. Article originally published in Holistic Parenting magazine, Issue 9 (May/June 2015) and republished at

2. Dr. Suzanne Colson's website Biological Nurturing has some fantastic resources, including a video that explains the basics and an article answering common questions.

3. Nancy Morbacher's YouTube channel is FANTASTIC! Watch them all!

4. Natural Breastfeeding How-To's (Prezi presentation with lots of videos)

Ivy doing some laid-back breastfeeding today
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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy 9th birthday Zari!

Guess what Zari's birthday present request was?

"36-month aged Parmesan cheese and 7-year aged Cheddar cheese"

I love this girl. I gave her a big hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano for her 9th birthday present.

We did our yearly ritual of reading her birth story and looking at her memory book. This year she squirmed and giggled, clearly enjoying the attention.


We had an impromptu dinner gathering tonight. Some friends called us this afternoon and asked if we wanted to go trick-or-treating together.

Me: Sure! Come on over.

Friends: We made chili. Do you want to eat together at your house afterwards?

Me: Yay!

I love friends who bring dinner :)


This year's cake was simple--no soccer balls or caterpillars or globes or fairy gardens or layered ombres. Just delicious brown butter pumpkin cake with brown butter icing. Mmmmmm.

Notice the 36 on the cake? I didn't have 9 candles, but I did have #3 and #6. 3+6=9!

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Forest Fairies

We missed out on Halloween last year. The closest festival in France involving costumes is Carnival in late February. But it's still not the same...

Zari and Dio both wanted new costumes. I said I'd made them costumes if we could use supplies we already had at home. I found a bin full of leather scraps from a boot factory. And a deerhide (no idea where that came from--probably my dad?) And of course lots of fabric.

Zari wanted a medieval-looking dress and a leather belt that looked like leaves joined together. Once Dio saw Zari's belt, he wanted one, too. There was just enough deerhide to make him a little vest. For the final touches, we picked leaves and stapled them together into crowns. Fall Forest Fairies!

Zari's dress was made of silk dupioni. I made it mostly without a pattern. Zari sketched her ideas on paper, I made occasional suggestions, and voila!

I was having so much fun hammering copper rivets and re-using old belt buckles that I made myself a leather underbust corset. I was going for a Steampunk feel. I used this underbust pattern tutorial and modified it into a 5-piece pattern; with 1/8" thick leather, I wanted as few seams as possible.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall break

We've had six weeks of idyllic fall weather, ending in fall break for all of us. Leaves are just starting to fall, and our kids are thrilled to help rake. To them, raking leaves is play, not work.

Yes, Inga is still in her pajamas at 5 pm. And I haven't brushed her hair for 5 days. C'est la vie chez nous des fois.

Our attic looks like a leather bomb went off. I pulled out a bin of leather scraps and we've been thinking up all sorts of fun ideas for Halloween costumes. I made Dio a deerhide vest. He and Zari also have leather belts made of multiple pieces joined together (Zari's look like leaves; Dio's are rectangles with points on the bottom).

Eric made a pair of flip-flops for Dio this morning.

My newest fascination is riveting. I bought a pop riveter, but it doesn't work well on soft materials like leather. I really really really want to get into copper riveting....I could even make my own copper rivets if I bought this $50 jig (but then I'd still have to figure out how to make the copper burrs...drilling out a penny would work, but the penny is far too large). I might have to settle for buying pre-made copper rivets & burrs. I also NEED a small anvil. NEED!

In the next two weeks I need to make costumes for Zari and Dio, plus cloaks for the kids and myself. I'm trying to use up all my spare fabric and this should make a good dent in my stash.

We also made goo from Elmer's glue and borax. Cheap and hours of fun.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bookworm takes a nap

Sometimes when you're two, you just need to take a nap. Even if you're in the middle of a book.

We're full-swing into the school year. Zari and Dio are playing soccer, which means practice and two games every week. I've tamed our gardens back into shape and have spread 10 cubic yards of mulch so far (and I am still not done!).

I submitted a grant application a few weeks ago to develop an international breech training course. I don't hear back until the new year whether my application will be chosen. Crossing my fingers!

Dinner tonight is Peruvian chicken with spicy mayonnaise and tarte au chocolat for dessert. I can feel the habanero pepper oil on my hands, even though I tried my best not to touch them.

Ivy is really mad that I woke her up. Poor thing. If I let her nap, though, she won't go to bed on time. She's gone through some major transitions since we came back from France: she's completely done with diapers AND she is sleeping through the night. Woohoo!
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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Help Midwives for Haiti at The Amazing Raise

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the amount of suffering and need around the world? Sometimes I feel paralyzed because I don't know where to start and wonder if my small efforts will do any good.

Here's something you can do today (and only today!) to help a new birth center in rural Haiti:

Here's the medical director explaining how and why you can help:

To learn more about the organization, visit Midwives for Haiti
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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Did you have a breech baby? Please participate in this short survey

To anyone who has had a breech baby:

Three consumer advocacy groups are working together to improve access and informed choice for women seeking a vaginal breech birth. In order to ensure that our efforts are meeting women's needs, we would like to know how you were impacted by your breech birth experience. All breech experiences are important, even if you didn't have a vaginal breech birth (whether that was your choice, or for other reasons). Your personal information will remain confidential. We intend to present this as a collection of experiences and analyze for trends.

Please complete this short survey if you birthed a breech baby any way. Responses are required by September 15th in order that we compile them in anticipation of a scheduled meeting with the decision makers at the Ottawa General Hospital who are presently writing the breech protocols for care providers. Thank you for your participation!

Here's where you can find out more about the groups involved in this project:

The Coalition for Breech Birth - contact Robin
The Informed Choice Coalition - contact Wendy
Mothers of Change - contact Céline

To take the survey, click here

Please share this link widely!

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

BeliBea Nourish pumping & nursing bra

How many of you have ever tried to nurse and pump at the same time...or pump hands-free? (Me!)

I wasn't very successful because I'd end up slouching over and holding the pump flanges with my forearm while I tried to use my "free" arm to read or check email. Once, in desperation, I cut slits in an old bra that I had outgrown. Voila! A functonal but very inelegant hands-free pumping bra! Of course I couldn't really *wear* it outside the house because hello, I had two slits smack dab in the middle of my bra. It looked rather funny.

I've also tried a different brand of hands-free pumping bra, one of those huge contraptions that covers your entire torso like a gigantic Ace bandage. They work, but they certainly don't resemble a normal bra. And they are only for pumping--not for nursing.

I was excited to try out a BeliBea Nourish bra: it's a nursing bra AND a hands-free pumping bra (or both at the same time).
So here's how it works:

It looks like a regular nursing bra...(ignore my flat-chested mannequin!)

But when you unhook the clasp, you find a second layer inside. It's a hands-free pumping bra!

If you unhook both layers, it turns into a nursing bra!

The BeliBea also has removeable molded inserts.

My thoughts on the BeliBea

Great idea having the two sets of clasps. It solves the problem of how to have a pumping bra without having a big slit showing in the middle of each cup! Because it's actually designed like a normal bra, rather than a corset-like contraption, you could easily wear it night or day.

I don't like molded or padded bras, so I promptly took the pads out. I don't need any more cleavage thankyouverymuch! So another thumbs up for having removable pads.

I wish this bra were less expensive. It's a great idea: comfortable, functional, practical. But over my almost 9 years of nursing, I've never spent more than about $15 on a nursing bra. (Or a non-nursing bra for that matter.) Perhaps some day I will discover the joys of expensive underthings...

The BeliBea is very stretchy. It comes in just four sizes (S to XL) so each size accommodates several band and cup sizes. It's very comfortable, but also less supportive than the bras I'm used to wearing. Ever since I became pregnant with Zari, I have had to wear underwire. I'd say that this bra would be fine for everyday use if you're an A or B cup. Beyond that, it's not supportive enough for daytime use. (I'm currently between a C and a D.) It feels like my favorite sleep bras.

Right now, the BeliBea Nourish only comes in a pale nude color. It would be great to at least one darker tone (and perhaps a few basic colors down the road) for all those mamas who aren't of Scandinavian ancestry :)

More about BeliBea

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Adjusting to life back home

We've been home for three weeks. We had less than a week of downtime before the kids started school. Eric and I began teaching today.

The family renting our house took great care of it, but the record rainfall this summer meant we came back to a jungle. When we left for France a year ago, I had weeded and mulched every square inch of garden. Not a weed in sight. Now...well...I've been hauling weeds away by the truckload. I am determined to tame my yard back into shape!

I'm working on a grant proposal to design a vaginal breech training course. I've been writing in my head, but haven't got much down on paper yet. That's typical of how I work with four little children underfoot.

I was going to write a celebratory post about Ivy sleeping through the night...She's been doing it for almost a month now. Of course last night she had to break her pattern and wake up twice to nurse! She's crying again right now (10 pm), and I feel grumpy and don't want to nurse her.

Here's a peek into how our kids amuse themselves. They might dress up (Ivy and Inga), or take off most of their clothes (Dio). They dance to classical music. They jump off the edge of the couch and do somersaults. They laugh hysterically.

Also I got my first smartphone. I wanted an emergency cell phone and priced out all the options. FreedomPop was the winner, beating out the cheapest prepaid options. I got one of their hidden deals: a refurbished Kyocera Hydro Icon for $39, plus the free basic monthly plan of 200 minutes, 500 texts, and 500 MB of data. I opted out of all upgrades, special offers, free trials, and premium services and disabled automatic topups.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Attic before & after pictures

One of the very last rooms we finished, just a few days before we left France, was the attic bedroom where Zari, Dio, and Inga slept.

This is the "oldest" room in the house; you can see the original beamed ceiling and stone walls. In contrast, everything has been plastered over downstairs.


The attic was definitely the ugliest area of the house with peeling plaster and paint, no lights (just one outlet for the entire room), and a crumbling painted floor. The main room is a large rectangle with an area for a big bed and built-in shelves.

The ceiling painted was cracked and peeling. See the single outlet? That powered everything in the entire room.

In the middle of the floor is the access hatch with a very steep staircase--almost a ladder--leading down. The circuit breaker is on the left behind the pile of bedding. The little "room" on the right, above the downstairs hallway, had no floor and was criss-crossed with electrical conduits.

Renovations included....
  • Scraping, sealing, & repainting the ceiling beams
  • Building an elevated wooden plank floor over the little hallway room (where Inga sleeps)
  • Wiring the entire attic,adding 3 light fixtures and about 16 outlets
  • Scraping, replastering, wallpapering, and painting the walls
  • Repainting the bookshelves
  • Leveling the floors, then laying the same flooring that's in the rest of the house (Amtico Spacia in Warm Teak)
  • Installing guard rails on the attic window (it's an 8-foot drop to the staircase below!)
  • Renovating the staircase (you can't see it much in the pictures, but it was old painted staircase with lots of chipping paint. We painted the sides white and put the matching wooden flooring on the treads.)
  • Making sea glass art with pieces we'd found on the beach
  • Sewing curtains & decorative cushions


See Inga's little room? I made two curtains for it: one in the far back to hide some shelves and another in the front that was see-through. Just for fun!

Here's a wide-angle view of the room. The window of the right leads to a storage room above the back bedroom. We also wired that room with a light fixture. Let there be light!

We also built a wood hatch that completely covers the attic opening (not pictured). It can be folded in half or removed completely. It's strong enough for adults to walk on.

And that is the attic!
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Monday, August 17, 2015

See us on House Hunters International!

So remember last winter I made some cryptic comments about a TV show that we were going to be on? It's finally announced:

We're going to be on House Hunters International!

It airs Thursday, August 20th at 10:30 pm EST, and again at 1:30 am on the 21st. Our episode is called "Nice To See You Again."

It was really fun to tape the episode. I have no idea what our story will be on the show :) Take 5 days of taping and edit it down to 25 minutes...anything could happen!

Keep in mind that you'll see our apartment about halfway through our renovations. I haven't yet shared our final renovation pictures, especially in the attic and back bedroom. Hope to get those up soon!
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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Our last day in France

The house was a mess, suitcases scattered everywhere, clothes in piles on the floor, but we still made time to go to the beach.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Friday, August 14, 2015

Linen baby hammock for sale

My cloth diapers are sold! A lucky blog reader has a fluffly package coming her way....

The next item I'm selling is a handmade linen baby hammock. It's brand new--used just one night to test it out.

The hammock is made of 100% ivory linen and has a snap-in quilted pad with wool/silk batting.

The support bar is made of cherry with a hand-rubbed wax finish.

The hammock is spring-mounted, so it bounces your baby gently every time she moves.

Includes all hardware for mounting on a ceiling joist or door frame.

Ideal for small babies...but still big enough for a 2-year-old!

If you're interested, please email me and make an offer! Ships anywhere in the US.

Disclaimer: Like most handmade products, this hammock has not undergone safety testing. 
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