January 26, 2014

The raw milk adventure

It's no secret that we drink raw milk. In fact, I did a little series a couple years ago about why we love it (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). So the turn of events this past week made life a little bit interesting as we attempted to defend our real-food, raw milk lifestyle.

If you live in South Dakota, there's a good chance that you saw one of the glaring headlines in one of the papers, online, or on the news....


YIKES! Sounds horrifying, right?? Did it conjure up memories of pathogen-infested cantaloupe and people dying from this horrible bacteria? I will admit, all that flashed through my mind too. A friend called and asked if I'd heard. I hadn't, but a quick Google search provided me with exactly what I was looking for. Sure enough, milk from a producer near Brookings had tested positive for listeria. There's only one raw milk producer here, and it's the one we get our milk from. Most certainly, our whole family had consumed the milk.

I did have a minor freak-out moment.

But it was short-lived. I called our producer who gave me his side of the story and a couple things to research, which of course, I did. Here's what I found and why I'm not worried at all about our raw milk:

1. Our state just changed their testing regulations. They took effect in January. So the milk I've been drinking for four years is suddenly unfit for human consumption the same week the new regulations went into effect? Hmmmm.....I don't think so. 

2. There are multiple species of listeria. Ten, that I counted. Only one (l.monocytogenes) causes illness. The state did not release any information about which strain they found. Why? Because they didn't test for any specific strains!!

3. Listeria is a very common bacteria. It is present all the time in the environment, including the species that causes illness (humans have to be exposed to the bacteria in HUGE amounts for it to cause illness). In fact, at any given time, roughly 10% of the population will test positive for listeria.

This was more than enough to frustrate me. Here we go again....the government sticking their noses where they don't belong and making thing difficult for people who want to consume clean, healthy food. Multiple states have banned the sale of raw milk altogether, and others are constantly trying to do the same (including ours).

Honestly, I can't understand why they even care so much?!? Prescription drugs, cigarettes and alcohol are all legal, but kill infinitely more people than raw milk consumption! In fact, since 1975 (when the CDC began keeping stats on raw milk) there has not been one recorded death from listeria in raw milk. Interestingly enough, there have been three from pasteurized milk. My only guess is that if someone did die, the state could be in trouble because they didn't regulate it? I don't know.

Needless to say, I was pretty fired up about my right to raw milk being taken away for what seemed to be nothing but the government giving people the runaround. Wanting to help, I emailed one of the local news stations and offered my perspective as a consumer. Shortly afterward, they asked if they could do an interview.

I look pretty calm, don't I?
I felt like throwing up.

Thankfully, the woman doing the interview was extremely nice and very down-to-earth. She wasn't intimidating at all and made the whole process much more comfortable than I expected.

The whole thing went pretty smoothly. I was worried about saying something stupid, but I think I avoided that, for the most part. Of course, I brushed up on all my facts. Told them everything I knew about the pasteurization process, why raw milk is better, why a positive listeria test doesn't necessarily mean the milk is bad, etc. They taped for me for about 10 minutes, and then took some footage of our kids drinking the milk.

We even got the reporter to try some of it. She was cautious (everyone is the first time) but said she liked it! Props to her for being brave enough to drink the supposed contaminated milk.

All in all, it was a fun experience. Of course, they edited it down significantly and mostly all that I was able to comment on was the fact that I had done my research and determined the whole thing was blown out of proportion. But I'm totally cool with that - this story wasn't about me. Mostly, I was pleased that they took the time to interview our producer and get his perspective. And more than that, they even allowed him to comment about the multiple species of listeria and how the state did not test for specific strains.

Huge thanks to KSFY for being willing to give a solid, factual report on our side of the story!

If you missed it, you can view it here.

January 19, 2014

One small step

Last March, when we brought Meili home, it became clear very quickly that she had never seen snow before. No big deal....she hadn't seen lots of things before. As she continued to adjust to each and every new experience one at a time, we realized it wasn't that she just wasn't used to snow, she HATED snow. She was scared to death of it! She would scream and try to climb up us if we tried to put her down in it, and launch into a tantrum if we opened the door without picking her up.

You got adopted into the WRONG part of the country, girl!

We didn't push it (maybe we would have if we had known winter last year was going to last until mid-MAY!!!) figuring she had enough new things to figure out. But when she still seemed terrified of it this year, we decided we needed to push a little.

Since yesterday was warm (in South Dakota that's anything over 20 degrees) and our other kids were playing outside, we thought we'd give it a shot.

Looks thrilled, doesn't she??

We had never tried bundling her all up and just sticking her outside. We'd always attempted just a little exposure here and there, on the way to the car, etc. I think those extra layers gave her a little security; she seemed worried, but less freaked-out than usual.

Having the other kids out really seemed to help too. Especially big brother Tyler, who has a huge soft-spot for her.

With a little help from her sister, she even ventured out of the sled, and actually let the snow touch her feet!

Yes, that is a squirt bottle filled with yellow water. They wanted to trick people into thinking there was dog pee all over our yard. And this was the girls idea. Unfortunately having 3 girls has not resulted in a reduction of crudeness and potty humor.

She managed to stay outside for just a few more than 10 minutes! It's a small step, but it's something. Maybe by the end of this winter, we'll actually get her to stick her hands in it??
Either that, or we'll just have to move to Florida ;)

January 16, 2014

Still finding FIRSTS (and lots of pics!)

Today was a snow day in our blizzardy little part of the world, and snow days are good for many things. Getting random things finished up, giving the kids some down-time, lounging around in sweatpants (my personal favorite), making cookies, etc. Blogging has been on my to-do list for a LONG time, but I actually got a chance to sit down today and make some progress. I realized I haven't posted since November 2!

I have good intentions...and when I miss the mark for my personally set blogging goals, I'll be honest, it makes me feel like a huge, stinkin' failure! But I'm going to suck it up and just start from scratch. And try to console myself by thinking about the awesome (but exhausting) events that led to my lack of posts.

Picking up where we left off in November:
Jon and I finished our second juice fast. He ended up going 10 (or was it 11?) days while I stopped at 5. I didn't even write a concluding post because there wasn't much to conclude. We felt great, but didn't notice the HUGE effects we did from our first one. We think our Paleo(ish) diet was the reason.

Meili LOVES juicing. For a while, this was a GREAT way for us to get much-needed nutrients into her. While she still loves to make the juice, her fascination with drinking it has significantly diminished!

She's finally grown enough hair for some piggies!

Next up was Thanksgiving, and I just have to put a plug in for my amazing husband. My (three older) kids were lucky enough to get to go see Buddy Valastro from Cake Boss when he was in South Dakota. He taught everyone how to make a turkey cake for Thanksgiving. The kids were dying to try it, so Jon - on his own - gathered enough supplies for three turkey cakes and took on the project with the kids one night while I was gone.

Have you ever made three cakes at the same time with three kids?
Me neither.
And there's a reason for that!

Jon is a brave man.

They turned out surprisingly well considering his limited cooking abilities ;)

It ended up being a two-night project. Baking one night, decorating the next.
Ever decorated three cakes with three kids?
Yeah, me neither. But I did help with this part, just a little.
Jon has many talents, but piping frosting isn't one of them.

Three happy kids and three pretty cute turkey cakes! We had turkey cake coming out our ears by the time Thanksgiving was over! One would have been enough.....but what fun would that be!?

I think the main reason I didn't get much accomplished in November was because of December. My parents had been planning to take our entire family on a cruise for their 35th anniversary & Christmas. Being the type who can't do anything without a plan, I spent massive amounts of time figuring out the best way to manage a family of 6 while getting on and off a cruise ship, exploring 5 different islands, taking tours, finding beaches, evaluating dining options, planning kids club time, and still hoping to squeeze in a little bit of rest and relaxation for mom and dad.

I spent most of my November nights with TripAdvisor and CruiseCritic. But I think it paid off. We had a fabulous time, aside from one island where the stars just didn't seem to align for us.

We were a little unsure what to expect traveling with Meili. The last time we'd done a big trip, it was to take her from China and bring her to home. This was her first big trip with us, as a family.

She pretty much handled it like a champ :)

We sailed from San Juan, so were able to spend a day there before we left.

All the kids with their newest Aunt. Kayla married my brother in May.
Meili had never experienced the ocean before, or even sand (outside of the sandbox).

She was pretty apprehensive at first.

Once she was brave enough to let us put her down, the waves terrified her!

Fortunately, it didn't take long before she was running around like she'd lived there her whole life.

No beach trip would be complete without burying Dad in the sand.

The Elf on the Shelf came with us and managed to get into a lot of trouble. Our stateroom attendant (who made some sweet towel animals) even played along!

Our favorite island was Barbados, where we found the perfect beach. It was calm on one end and had perfect boogie boarding waves on the other end. The kids got to try it for the first time.

They LOVED it!

We didn't even make them eat healthy the whole trip. Tyler was in seventh-heaven.

And we got to spend some quality time with family. It was a perfect trip! (The 80+ degree temps didn't hurt either!)

Another big first: CHRISTMAS!

We arrived home just two days before Christmas. We'd been so busy up until we left that we hadn't even prepared for the holiday. So while most adoptive families have an entire blog post dedicated to the excitement of their adopted child experiencing their first Christmas in the US, we have almost nothing. We were so tired and worn out (in a good way!) that we didn't even put up a tree. Nor did we have any gifts to open on my side of the family since the trip was our gift.

Meili did enjoy spending time at Grandma and Grandpa's house and lots of playtime with her cousins. She opened some presents but didn't exactly "get it" and just seemed mostly overwhelmed by all the paper and boxes.

All-in-all, it was just a little much for our tiny Christmas elf....

So this is about the best we can do for memories of our first Christmas with Meili:

Oh well, we are all happy and together (and tan!) so it could be worse! Maybe next year will be a little more "traditional" for all of us.

2013 was pretty eventful for our family. While we wouldn't want it any other way, we're hoping 2014 brings a little relief from 'crazy' and a little more 'normal' - whatever that is!