Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ivory: Her Birth Story

"Boat, hand, x, o,"  she loudly declares, first with both eyes, then covering one and the other. "O, x, boat, hand", she proudly states as the nurse points to each shape on the kinder garden eye chart.  We are on our way out of the doctor's office, the eye chart being the last stop before Ivory's four year old well child visit is over.  I stand next to her, trying hard not to giggle at her earnest approach to reading the symbols.  It is hard to believe that my know-it-all, suddenly tall, with hair almost touching her bottom, reading books to me little girl has been in my life such a short time.

Ivory, so excited to ride the city buses for the first time. 
I was the last to know I was pregnant, and I have to admit, terrified.  Every day I rode my bike past the hospital, twice, once on the way to campus and once on the way home.  My heart would start pounding and twice a day I experienced what bordered on a panic attack.  I did prenatal yoga, and every morning went for a walk and did a few breathing exercises.  Focusing on my breath and the ability of my body to birth.  I still rode past the hospital twice a day, but after a while, I no longer broke out into a sweat and I was only mildly terrified.  As my due date neared, I admitted to my OBGYN that no, I did not feel ready. She looked at me shocked.  "Well, I explained, I can buy things, I can have a fancy nursery, have clothes and think I am ready, but really is anyone ready to have a baby?  I don't know what to expect, so no, I am not ready."  She seemed relieved.
As the date neared, I submitted a birth plan with my doctor and the hospital.  I was going to do this naturally,  but even I doubted my ability.  I did not want to be disapointed with my experience, have preconceived expectations of what a birth should be.  I tried to keep an open mind.
The night before Ivory was born.  I lay in bed awake, my abdomen cramping.  I looked over at Adam, who was peacefully sleeping, decided not to wake him and instead got up and took a shower.  All the books I had read during my pregnancy advised to switch activity, and if it was a false labor, it would go away.  I was laying down, so I got up, and the contractions went away.  I crawled back into bed and woke early the next morning.  Adam and I both pulled on field clothes, walked to the end of our road, climbed a fence, waded through thick grass to the site of what not to long ago had been a swine lagoon.  We crouched down, with fellow graduate students and our professors, to sink Bermuda grass sprig after sprig into neat little rows.   After hours my and Adam's professor sent us to a late lunch and then home.  Against my protests there would be more planting for the very pregnant lady.

Once we got home, I realized just how tired I really was, I lay down and took a nap.  Later, we all gathered across the street at my mother's house.  I busied myself in the kitchen, making large trays of rice crispy treats.  Someone had told me, at some point, that the nurses at the hospital would be more responsive to my needs if I brought them a treat.  I figured I better have a treat ready since I might just have a baby at any moment.  While I was stirring the marshmallow cream, the contractions began.  I looked into the kitchen were my husband and the rest of my family were glued to the movie screen, and instead of saying anything, I just ran to the bathroom, again and again.  I finished the rice crispy treats.  I started another batch.  I stirred the marshmallow cream, and then casually sidled up behind the arm chair and whispered into my husbands ear: "lets go on a walk now."  He looked at me funny, got up and walked out side with me, where I crumpled: "I'm not ready to have a baby."
We tried to walk around the block.  That did not work. I decided to take a shower.  I just wanted my clothes off, and Adam went across the street to tell my mom what was going on.  I put my clothes back on, threw things into that bag I had been meaning to pack, grabbed the giant birthing ball, remembered the rice crispy treats and we all piled into my mother's car.  She drove us the short distance to the hospital that, until an hour ago, I was convinced I could simply walk while I was in labor.
We checked in at the emergency room entrance.  I waited for what seemed like an eternity, squatting on a waiting room chair while the woman next to me gingerly tried to make small talk.
I tried to smile, talk, breath...  thinking: "why are you talking to me? where the fuck is the closest restroom?" They wheeled me past perfectly usable restrooms, and delivered me to the triage room, where they finally let me use the restroom. I felt the almost intense tickling feeling of what I now know was a head passing through my cervix and by the time I was on the triage table, my baby was almost crowning.  I remember not being able to stand on the scale, but I have no idea how we made it from there to the delivery room.  To me it seems like I must have crawled, but in reality, the pack of us must have all walked from one room to the next.  The nurses rushed around, begging me not to push until my doctor came and I just clutched the bed behind my head.  Dr. Goldsworthy rushed in, pulling little paper booties after her shoes, giving me quick instructions, warning me of a "ring of fire", and telling me to push.  Turns out the nurse's pleads for me not to push were unneccessary.  My face puckered up like a puffer fish and I frustratingly tried to push.  What is pushing?  How do you push?  So instead I just screamed.  And there she was red, with a full dark head of hair and already pooping on me.

"Wait", I wanted to say,"go back.  That was too fast. I wanted to experience labor."  But instead, I wrapped her naked body against my chest and she eagerly latched on.  We had been in the delivery an entire seventeen minutes, and I realized I had a perfect view of the parking lot below and I was great full that we were on the second story.

Not too much later Adam's family arrived, my mom snuck out of the room to call my dad, my grandma and home.  While Ivory was surrounded by family, I quietly got out of bed and took a quick shower.  We moved rooms and after staring at her for hours, we finally fell asleep. Adam curled around me on the narrow hospital bed.
To few hours later, a nurse bustled in waking me for blood work they had not had time to do the night before.  Not to long after, people crowded the tiny room, the TV blared and I left my new baby in my mothers arms to sneak out of the hospital with Adam and walk around the block.  What seemed like much later, her pediatrician cleared Ivory to go home and we left early.  The nurses wheeled me down the hallways in a wheelchair with Ivory in my arms.  We got to the door and we stood up, Adam tucked Ivory into the wrap and we walked home.  I felt powerful, able and admittedly a little overwhelmed.  I had experienced a birth in which I was not an active actor, but rather a spectator of the amazing ability of our bodies, and it was perfect.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ivory's Birthday

Ivory turned four years old yesterday.
It was the first birthday that she anticipated for days, weeks and even months.  Her new found awareness, excitement and joy about her birthday made it enjoyable for me to play along in this birthday game.
So late Sunday night, I was putting the finishing touches on her birthday outfit, her cake and making sure that I had my bag packed to go and bake cupcakes at her school in the morning.

The outfit:

The breakfast:

The cupcakes:

Chocolate Beet Cupcakes with cream cheese icing and marzipan flowers and leaves. 

Sylvan and Ivory, oh so eagerly, awaiting their cupcakes. 

The cake(s):

A toadstool fairy house for the children made of a chocolate sheet cake and iced with cream cheese icing and embellished with marzipan flowers and butterfly.  A Boston cream pie for the adults. 

and the party:

The party was a potluck, of course.
Birthdays are perfect oportunities for the adults as well as the children to come together, to share a meal and to build a community that will endure.  As one person after the other walks into the house holding their beautiful dishes, I am flooded with gratitude and affection for our friends and neighbors.  I wish I had thought to take a photograph of the brightly colored bowls filled with all kinds of chopped vegetables, soups, breads and cheeses.  Each person sharing with their plates a story of place, of history and themselves.
At least a dozen children and their respective grownups crowded our yard.  The sunshine held, the air stayed warm and the quilts spread in the grass were a perfect cover for our lack of chairs.  The fun lasted until tired children and delayed bed time routines finally forced parents to say goodbye.

After we unwrapped gifts, changed into pajamas and curled up into bed Ivory's only wish was that her friends could have all stayed...  indefinitely.
That sounds like it was a good birthday to me.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Summer Sewing Marathon

My little girl's arms and legs are suddenly long and lanky.  The clothing that fit her so well around Christmas time suddenly is just too small.  So I have decided to sew Ivory sunny summer wardrobe. These are the results of the last three days:

A sun dress with knotted straps.  

A summer dress with straps that tie over the shoulders.  The bodice has a print of delicate ferns, dragonflies, snails and beetles.   Ivory is so fascinated by all things buggy and wormy right now, so I hope she loves it!  (This dress is made from a small scrap of fabric a friend gave me, an up cycled man's shirt and a cotton shower curtain for the lace!)

A twirly circle skirt.

A twirly circle skirt that is reversible!

And a skirt that contains the fabric Ivory fell in love with at Jo-Ann Fabric's.  Her favorite fabric was the pink with the little speckles, because "It looks like a cup cake."  This skirt is going to get a matching red shirt with a appliqued cup cake on it.  She is very excited to wear it to school on her Birthday!

I have a few more outfits cut out and ready to sew...  I will post pictures of those and links to were all of these patterns can be found when I have a moment to sit down.  

Right now I need to run out into the garden and harvest a big bunch of rhubarb so Sylvan and I can make a pie before Papa and Ivory wake up.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

DIY: Lace and Button Flower Card

I am making invitations for Ivory's birthday party.  

Late last night I considered all the crafting materials I had stashed around the house, pulled out a few bits and pieces and curled up next to my husband on the sofa to make a prototype.  The card turned out bright and lacy: perfect for a little girl's get together in, what is here, still the beginning of spring. 

white cards and matching envelopes (I am re-purposing Christmas cards I made and turned out ugly)
colored card stock, 
     - a rectangle, smaller than the card
     - a green heart for the leaves
     - a circle for the center of the flower (mine are an 1 1/2" in diameter)
a sewing needle
thick thread (hand quilting thread works great)
a glue stick
one button for each card
20 inches of lace for each card

  • Place the beginning of the lace in the center of the card stock circle.  Tack it down with the thread.  Loop the lace until you have six petals.  Space them evenly.  Tack them into place with the needle and thread making sure that all the stitches will be hidden by the button.  
  • Sew the bottom into the center of the flower.
  • Tack it to the rectangle card board.
  • Stitch a stem on the card and attach the heart as pictured bellow. 

  • Knot off the thread on the back side of the card stock.  Glue the finished flower on the card stock to the front of the card.  DONE!  So simple. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Late, but in Transit

Until I moved to Missoula, Montana a few years ago the only other time I lived more than a few hours away from my mom was during my semester abroad in Newfoundland, Canada.  We were next door neighbors in a few different places, and I could always stop in when ever I wanted, drink cups of coffee, sneak bites of ice cream and spend hours talking, sitting on the kitchen counter while sinking my teeth into slices of bread with Nutella.
For months now, I have had a borrowed book laying across my cookbooks in my oh-so-far-away kitchen with the intent of sending the ingredients and instruction of one of the recipes to my mother for Mother's Day.  In spite of all the thinking and planning, the actual doing, of course, is a little on the late side.  The book is Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World.

Sylvan gleefully helped me measure out the ingredients, grind them and bag them up.

On Mother's day, I still had three little bags with bows and hand stitched tags sitting on my kitchen counter.  They finally have been put in a box and sent half way across the country to hopefully surprise my mother in her kitchen.
They are the ingredients for a dense, dark, delicious sunflower seed bread.
The recipe is called Serious Bread or, more accurately, Vollkornbrot.
I remember how elated my mother was when she discovered the dark dense sunflower seed bread at the local little grocery store in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  It, and Nutella, finally both reached middle America and are a perfect combination of delicious memories echoing the time we spent living in Germany.  So, I am sending her her own, homemade sunflower seed bread which is surprisingly easy to make.  I make it regularly now and slather it with butter and cheese or a thick layer of Nutella.
I, ironically, have to convert the weights from ounces to grams so I can use the kitchen scale my grandmother gave me.
So, here is the entire recipe with both ounces and grams.


4 1/2 ounces (127.6 grams) wheat berries, cracked
4 1/2 ounces (127.6 grams) rye berries, cracked

4 1/2 ounces (127.6 grams) wheat flour
4 1/2 ounces (127.6 grams) rye
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon yeast (or 3 tablespoons sourdough starter)
2 1/2 ounces (70 grams) wheat berries

1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons barley malt syrup (I always use molasses instead)
a hand full of rolled oats

Day 1
- if using yeast, dissolve it in the water
- combine the cracked wheat and rye berries, the wheat and rye flour, salt in a bowl and add the yeast/water mixture
- in a separate bowl, cover the wheat berries with water and let soak
- let sit overnight

Day 2
- drain the wheat berries, if needed) and add them to the large bowl with all of yesterdays ingredients
- add the flax, sunflower seeds and molasses to the dough, stir until well incorperated and let sit for another 3 to 8 hours

- butter a loaf pan and dust with rolled oats
- turn the dough out into the loaf pan and smooth the top
- put into a cold oven, turn on the oven to 425 *F and bake for 40 minutes
- cover the loaf with alluminum foil and bake for an aditional 40 minutes
- take the bread out of the pan right away and cool on a rack as the loaf improves if it is left to cool undisturbed

I hope that in a few days, when I am eating the last few slices of the bread I made, she will be pulling her first warm loaf out of the oven and it can be an experience we share even though we are thousands of miles apart.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Growing Roots

We are planting a garden.  
Onions, beets, and sugar snap peas are tucked into the bare raised beds that are on the south side of our house. 

My heart swells with happiness as I watch Sylvan drop pea after pea into the water.  He is so obviously delighted by the sound.  These seeds are going to grow into little bushes of shelling peas and will line the path to our front door.  Just wait until he sees how many sweet, plump, green peas we will harvest!

I am ecstatic as I watch Ivory separate the soil from the grass clods we are digging up, turning lawn into the beginnings of a strawberry patch.  The news of a strawberry bed pales in comparison to her delight in looking for worms, rolly pollies and centipedes.  When we leave for a trip to the grocery store she begs: "Mama, when we get back, can we please do some more yard work?"

On the way home
 we took a detour
and stopped
at a nursery.

Sylvan arranges
and rearranges
the plants. 

Ivory firms the soil around the flowers she picked out (purple of course) and the first few perennials are tucked into the ground.  The small clusters of purple blossoms and bold orange and yellow of the marigolds defining the border between lawn and the freshly turned soil of our new garden bed.

We are putting down roots.

The rows of onions are filled with strait little spikes, the curls of the first pea leaves are pushing aside the soil, and on close inspection, a few bright red beet seedlings are to be found. Sure, we are growing food and flowers, but more importantly, we are growing a family, a home, a neighborhood, a past and a future.