Monday, March 16, 2015

Dear Arlo: A Birth Story

Dear Arlo,

We went camping on Cousin Beach (our name) in Riggins in June of 2013 with Uncle Garrett and Margot and Iris. It was literally 100 degrees and we drank beers and never changed out of our bathing suits. I got super exhausted and slept for twelve straight hours in the tent one day. I think you were implanting in my uterus.

On our 13th wedding anniversary, July 11th, I took three pregnancy tests from the Dollar Tree and they all came back positive. We couldn't have been more excited, or scared.

Three weeks later the morning sickness hit so hard, as did the tiredness and bloating. Six weeks later I got excruciating sciatica and I knew what that meant; it had happened before. It was Labor Day weekend and we were traveling home from the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Idaho Falls and I was terrified. It was the same feeling I had when I miscarried the first time.

The next day I did, in fact, miscarry your twin at home, in the bathroom. I thought desperate thoughts about it being all over. I sobbed tears of confusion and joy during an emergency ultrasound when I first saw you, my little wriggling bean. You are 11 weeks alive. I bled for the next six weeks and puked for six more months. I spent much of my pregnancy with you hovering over the toilet, crying and crippled with worry. My belly continually measured larger than normal and I had extreme pregnancy symptoms, my placenta was too low and you were breech. I believe you and I and my body were still making room for your sibling. I swam twice a week at the rehab hospital pool to get you to flip because the thought of a cesarean birth ripped at my heart. I meditated and reminded myself about hypnobirthing techniques I used with your sisters.


At 36 weeks you turned, head down, and I had a baby shower for you at my house. The contractions had started, and the mucus plug had fallen out. By 39 weeks, I was walking around dilated to 4.5 centimeters. My doctor was leaving on vacation for Spring Break and didn't want me to deliver without her, so scheduled an induction the day after your due date, March 21, 2014, the Spring Equinox. The contractions hit again, coming every five minutes on your due date, March 20. Ah, I said, here he comes. Grandma Lou came to stay the night with your sisters, in preparation for the induction at 8am. We got burgers and Oreo shakes at Big Jud's for dinner and ran into friends. I paced the restaurant, as the chair was uncomfortable, and the contractions were, too. You look like you are about to pop, the waitress told me.

We went home and I slept for five solid hours, waking at 4am. I got in the shower and shook your daddy at 5am. He's coming! All on his own! We drove to the hospital and your daddy dropped me off in front of the family maternity center. I looked up at the bright moon, pacing and rocking and breathing. Two other women in labor were dropped off next to me. We walked a few feet and stopped to breathe through a really tough contraction, repeat, repeat, repeat. The hospital is full. I was preparing to call you to cancel your induction, the nurse told me. No need, I said, I'm already here and he's already coming, on his own.


They put me in the tiniest and least favorite and only remaining room and I'm dilated to 6.5 centimeters. At 7:30am, my water breaks and it's full of meconium, so the NICU staff is called and you and I will be monitored. I breathe and imagine waves in the ocean crashing and that with each contraction my uterus is opening up a bit more like petals of a flower, pushing you out. My thoughts and my breaths are calculated and important and I move into my animal/earth mother zone and shut my eyes so I can't see the commotion. I'm dilated to 9 centimeters by 9am and they are calling my doctor. My bed is broken, so they can't lower it. My veins are too difficult to get an emergency IV into, just in case, but they poke me with a needle a dozen times. I squeeze your daddy's hand and roll and moan and STOP PUSHING, cries the nurse. We all know I'm not pushing, you are making your way out all on your own. The NICU arrives, frantic phone calls are made, the on call doctor makes her way to my feet, your heart rate is dropping so an oxygen mask is haphazardly slapped on my face, my doctor rushes into scrubs in my room, you are crowning with your umbilical cord over your head, it moves and with a flood of blood and poop and fluid your whole huge, pink body is out, and I'm shaking ferociously. Your daddy bursts into tears and it's 9:38am on a gloriously warm March spring day.


I feel strong and powerful and like I just lost a limb. We name you Arlo Valley Brown, after your most kind great uncle Arlo from Weiser, and the Treasure Valley, where we live and love and make our Idaho home.

The NICU nurses rush to grab you but I hear a noise from your tiny lungs, and I know it's okay. Your hair is reddish brown and matted and there's not that much of it, really, compared to your sisters. Your APGAR scores are great and they hand you to me and I cry so hard and you latch on to nurse right away. A few minutes later you squawk at us. Finally, we weigh and measure you, 8 lbs 14 ounces (almost nine pounds! I cry) and 21.5" long (the same as Lucy! I cry). You get a warm bath under the faucet in the sink and we find a birthmark that looks like a bursted blood vessel on your belly (it's still there) and that one of your ears is kind of flat and a bit wonky (it still is). I wear baby diapers filled with ice for the swelling and blood and would give anything for a hot shower. Your Grampy brings me a peanut butter cookie dough Blizzard from Dairy Queen upon request and I order a turkey sandwich from room service. We don't hear a peep from hospital staff for three hours, except for the ringing of lullaby bells each time a new baby is born over the loudspeaker at the hospital (seven of them the same day as you!). Later in the afternoon we are finally moved to a recovery room and I can't stop staring at you.


Your sisters arrive after school to meet you in their matching BIG SISTER tees and they hold you and love you immediately. It's calm and lovely and I get a salmon dinner with sparkling cider and a massage and a dozen white roses and (finally) that shower. The next day the staff photographer comes and takes newborn photos of you and when she returns two hours later with proofs on her iPad, I sob hysterically. Because here you are, my rainbow baby. The beautiful calm after a storm of failed pregnancies and so much pain and more tears and confusion. And with your arrival you brought more joy and love and healing than I ever thought possible.



This week we celebrate our first year with you. You suck your two middle fingers just like Alice, your hair is blond, your eyes are brown, and you've got that lucky ear. You have three teeth, are just about to walk, jabber up a storm, and still squawk at your daddy and I. Eating is your favorite, and so is playing in the water. The backyard chickens are hilarious to you, and you giggle like mad when we tickle under your arms.



Holy moly, we couldn't adore you more. Our Arlo, our baby boy, our little potato. You complete us. Happiest first birthday to you.

Love,
Mama

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

FOODIE: The Pioneer Woman Cookbook Challenge | February Update

Friends, it's month two of my 2015 New Year's Resolution Revolution to make every recipe (all 100+ of them!) from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier, her second cookbook. A few years ago I took on her very first cookbook, and made all those recipes. (Yes, my family is SO LUCKY.) Here are the recipes I made in the month of February, with our family and friends weighing in on each one.

(Links to the recipes via her website are all provided.)

THE REVIEWS:

First, let's start with the NAWS. Because there are so few this month!

Beef & Bean Burritos: These were just alright. She makes them up a few at a time and microwaves them for lunches, but that's a bit too much work for easy lunches, in my opinion. But, I'm also not feeding ranch hands, so there's that. We made them for dinner, rolled them and put them in a baking dish, and baked with cheese and enchilada sauce on top instead. That made them better, Dr. Brown says. Neither of us are fans of ground beef in burritos, but my girls loved these. (But our votes count more, because we are the bosses of this family, dammit, so it's listed in the naws. I probably should've done a just okay category this month because I could've listed these there.)

Rib-Eye Steak with Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce: First off, steak is super expensive. Second, I am, admittedly, not a fan of red meat. I never have been. The sauce was pretty good, but it was just okay. Dr. Brown even agrees, and he loves a good, medium-rare steak. (Gross.)

Twice-Baked New Potatoes: I've made these several times in my life, albeit someone else's recipe. PW's is similar to all the rest. Nothing to write home about.

Let's move on the to the FOREVER AND EVER AMENS.


Lemon Blueberry Pancakes: I love homemade pancakes (and can I get an AMEN for heated up maple syrup?! None of that cold stuff). These were a fun twist, but came out a bit flat (not as fluffy as the photo, but whatevs). And so good. Arlo's very first pancakes, and he loved them.


Best Grilled Cheese Ever: This has been called PW's favorite sandwich recipe in the past, and I have to agree with her, because there is nothing I love more than a good grilled cheese. Therefore, I'm giving this two big thumbs up. It's messy and yummy and while it might not technically be the BEST ever, it's still a fun twist. (Also, rye bread is my favorite, and no one else in this house likes it, so any chance to buy it is a win in my book.)

Perfect Spinach Salad: We made this as a side dish with the above sandwich for dinner. Not a good pair, though, because both dishes are super rich, so it was a bit too much. Warm bacon and red onions with hard boiled eggs make this a winner. Even the girls liked it. Would be great served with a meaty main dish.

Simple Sesame Noodles: Admittedly, we have been making this for years, from the recipe on PW's website. It's so quick and easy and delicious. We always have the ingredients on hand, so it's one of those raid the pantry type meals. The whole family approves. We can't recommend this recipe enough.

Sesame Beef Noodle Salad: This is basically a version of the above recipe. We added leftover steak slices from the blue cheese onion dish above and it turned out great. The best thing about PW's Simple Sesame Noodles is that you can add any kind of meat and veggies to it. Or not, if you're not a carnivore.

Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork: This, I think, was the clear winner in February. Also an expensive dish (we picked up a pork butt at Meats Royale for almost $40), but great to feed a crowd, with enough left for freezing for later. We served it on rolls with coleslaw for my mother-in-law's 70th birthday dinner. You can adjust the heat a bit by using only one can of chipotles and taking them out before shredding the pork if you're serving kids, like we were. But the flavor is wonderful.


Pots de Crème: My friends always host an annual Oscars Party with a movie themed dinner buffet. This year I picked The Grand Budapest Hotel and served these alongside tiny store-bought chocolate eclairs with pink and blue sprinkles a la Mendl's bakery from the film. To serve a crowd, I made mini pots in small glass baby food jars topped with fresh homemade whipped cream. They were so good, and set right up on the cold back patio in just three hours. I heard lots of yums from the audience on hand. What a sweet treat!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mid-Range Parent

Alice has always been a highly active kid. And tinier than normal. When she was less than two-years-old she could run and climb with almost as much dexterity as her five-year-old sister. She had a lot of energy that has always needed channeling, so we have always spent a lot of time at Boise's city parks. At 22-months-old, I felt comfortable letting her climb some of the smaller play structures at the park alone, careening down slides and climbing ladders. I was close by, of course, watching like a hawk. One day an angry mother came marching over to me. Your baby is on the top of that play structure. That is very dangerous. You need to watch her better. She glared at me as she climbed up tiny steps to be less than a foot away from her toddler. She's just fine, I snapped back. She can climb these things. But my eyes stung. I was watching her - grow stronger and braver and up and away from me.

I guess I'm not a "helicopter parent."

.....

I always put my babies to sleep right next to my bed from birth. I'm too paranoid that I'll roll over on them and suffocate them in the night to co-sleep, but I'm too scared to put them in their own room. We lived in a tiny 1920s brownstone walk up apartment downtown Minneapolis when Lucy was born, so there was no other room for her to have to herself anyhow. She slept in a little woven Moses basket on the floor next to our bed, or in her carseat because it felt best for her acid reflux. (This was in the days before we knew this was dangerous.) Alice slept in a travel pack-n-playyard in our bedroom here in Boise for the first year of her life and Arlo is doing the same. Because I can't sleep if I can't hear their tiny breaths right next to me. I keep the fan running in the bedroom and check to see if Arlo is sweating, because both are precautions against SIDS. I'm not ready to let him sleep twenty feet away from me instead of one.

I guess I'm a "neurotic parent."

......


I've been writing about parenting and my kids for magazines and newspapers and blogs for the last seven years, so back in 2008 when Lenore Skenazy let her then nine-year-old son ride the NYC subway alone I was following the story. She wrote about it, and it made national news. In fact, it inspired a movement called "free-range parenting" and she launched a more successful career, a book and a blog about it. The basic idea is how to raise safe, self-reliant kids without going nuts with worry. Hmmm, I thought at the time, back when I had a four-year-old and a newborn. She seems smart and logical and wants to teach her son how to safely navigate life in New York. Seems fine to me.

Last year when those poor parents in Maryland were accused of child neglect for letting their six and ten-year-olds walk home by themselves from a park near their house, I was worried. Shit, Eric and I said to each other, we do that all the time. Lucy is a very responsible fifth grader, and we all spend a lot of time at our neighborhood elementary school, just four blocks from our house in Boise, Idaho. Alice is in first grade, but proved to me during the first month of the school year that she would listen to her sister and look all ways before crossing streets, never leave the sidewalk, and be aware of anyone asking her to come into their house or car. I met them half way for the first week or two, watching from a comfortable distance. Since the first of October, though, it's become old hat. They walk not only home from school, but to their friends' houses in the neighborhood, some a few blocks more than four.  Would other parents in my neighborhood call the police on my children? I'd like to hope not. That wasn't the case for those parents in Maryland, though.

I guess I'm a bit of a "free-range parent."

.....


We can’t rely on our neighbors to help look out for our kids, and that’s why our neighborhoods don’t feel safe enough. When you let a 10- and 6-year-old walk home on their own, it feels scary because they’re fully responsible for their own safety. What’s missing is the sense that we’re all responsible for everyone’s children, says a story in the Washington Post.

But how do we change this environment that makes us so detached now? How do we rebuild our village?

We can invite a next-door neighbor over for dinner.
We can make a point of attending neighborhood events, such as farmers markets or park dedications or festivals.
We can make an effort to chat with other parents when we pick up our kids from daycare or school.
We can walk instead of drive, so that we see our neighbors and have a chance of talking to them.
We can teach our children that if they’re alone and feeling scared, they can seek out a woman with children and ask for help. Teach them not to fear all strangers.
We can tie the shoe of someone else’s kid at the playground, or reach out a hand when someone else’s kid wants to get down from the playground ladder. We can ask a parent who’s juggling too much stuff: “Please let me carry that for you.” We can accept offers of help instead of demurring. These small things say “We’re in this together” when every message around us says “It’s all on you,” the writer tells me.

But, I do all of those things above, and I still feel worried about it. Especially this week, as those poor parents in Maryland were found guilty of unsubstantiated child neglect, which means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

.....

Last night around 4:30 or 4:40 Alice went out front to draw with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. Lucy did homework in the living room and I put Arlo in his high chair with toys while I started spaghetti with meatballs for dinner. Eric had to work late, and I watched Alice from the kitchen window. Our little 1950s ranch house is close to the street with traditional midcentury interior design - a front window above the sink overlooks the street out front to wave at neighbors while doing dishes. Around 5pm a Boise Police Department officer appeared before my eyes in the window, talking with Alice while looking at my house and back down to his phone. My heart stopped beating for at least 2 seconds. I left Arlo safe in his chair and the noodles boiling on the stove and bolted out the front door. Alice kept drawing.

Hello? I said. Hi there, he responded. Just admiring her artwork.

I saw his large black SUV parked down the sidewalk a bit, in front of my neighbors house. I immediately scanned the area for activity; it's not uncommon for BPD to make an appearance in my 'hood. If you've seen any standoffs or assaults or drug houses or possible kidnappings on the news in the past several years, the likelihood that they are taking place in my inner city neighborhood are high. I saw no other cars or officers or suspicious activity, so my heart calmed a bit. I also saw that Alice was fine - unfazed, in fact.

I saw her crouched down here and just stopped to make sure she was okay, he told me. I can see what her favorite book is, as Alice completed a large red and white Cat in the Hat. Yep, I stilled my shaky voice, It's Dr. Suess' birthday week. Did you know that? They are celebrating it at school. Hmmm, he nodded, and slowly ambled back to his rig, got in, and drove away.


I didn't make her come inside with me, as my mind raced. Did someone call the police on my kid being out front alone for the past twenty or thirty minutes? Did they not know I could see her from the window? Did the officer think she was home alone? Did he think I was a neglectful parent? Was he logging me and my address into the "possible bad parent book?" Was it because I live in a "bad" neighborhood?

Or was he simply doing his job as a kind, helpful civil servant, checking on a child crouched on the sidewalk to make sure she was okay as he told me? I hope - I believe - that's the truth.

But, all night long, I couldn't shake the fear that I had done something wrong. Not a fear that my child was going to be hurt or abducted or badly parented, but that I was going to be punished for my belief that she wasn't. The Maryland story and the NYC subway story and all the like stories were running through my mind. When Eric got home, he even felt nervous, worried. Maybe she should only draw in the backyard from now on. Maybe someone did call and report us and the officer just couldn't or wouldn't tell you.

I was just doing my job being a parent. Alice was just doing her job being a good kid. And the police officer was just doing his job to watch out for our community.

I don't know if I'm a neurotic parent, a helicopter parent, or a free-range parent.

What do I know? I'm a thoughtful parent, a careful parent and a trusting parent. It's the best I can do.

Friday, February 27, 2015

These Are The Days (You'll Remember)

6:15am or 7:03am or maybe 7:59am if I'm super lucky | Arlo stands up in his Pack-n-Play and pats my head. Yep, still sleeping in a travel bed right next to my bed because I still wake several times a night to listen to him breathe.

8:01am | Bring his smooshy warm cheeks into our bed, where he pats his daddy awake.

8:05am | I have to go to the bathroom, ahem #2, at the same time every morning when my body starts to wake up and if I don't I won't go ALL DAY LONG and it's sad and painful. During said bathroom trip I always write in my mom's one-line-a-day journal about something sweet or mundane about yesterday because if I don't I won't REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED the day before the day before and it's also sad and painful (my memory).

8:06am | Hear the girls screaming and fighting over playing Minecraft on the Kindle, even though there are rules about no gaming on weekdays.

8:07am | Scream back at the girls to stop screaming. (Because: brilliant parenting.)

8:10am | Wander to the kitchen to turn on the kettle for hot water for Arlo's bottle, praying that Dr. Brown pre-set the coffee pot the night before (he didn't).

8:11am | Yell for the girls to come eat breakfast and watch them pour cornflakes more on the counter than in the bowl but whatever.

8:15am | Feed Arlo his bottle while checking Facebook and email for anything that needs immediate morning attention (read: gossip or birthday notifications or reading new mean comments on late night news articles on KTVB's page or snoop on the latest updates on a fight happening on another friend's wall about politics or breastfeeding or Taylor Swift).

8:30am | Try to get Alice to stop doing cartwheels and get dressed for school and remind Lucy to please don't forget to put deodorant on today.

8:45am | Hard-boiling eggs for breakfast (while Instagramming them, of course!) and yelling at Alice because now she's round-offing and still in her pajamas.

9:00am | Dr. Brown to the rescue, smoothing out the bumpy socks and finding the matching gloves and calming the preteen about how late it is and getting both girls out the door for the walk to school with a mug of coffee from a nice, steaming pot that he has now made for both of us.

9:15am | I hide the Kindle for the rest of the day and kiss Dr. Brown goodbye, sending him on his merry walk to work with his podcast already streaming through earbuds.

9:19am | Change Arlo's first poop of the day (he's regular like Mama) and stare at the diaper because the contents still look remarkably like they did when he ingested them 12 hours prior. Worry about whether or not he's extracting the necessary vitamins in his tiny system.

9:22am | Settle back into various morning internet routines, reading messages and mail and news stories while refilling coffee mug 3x.

10:00am | Check the paper wall calendar (read: your life scheduling bible) on the fridge and pray you didn't schedule any meetings or appointments before noon since 1) you're not dressed 2) it will completely fuck with Arlo's morning napping routine.

10:01am | No meetings today, actually, no reason to leave the house at all unless we want to. Snuggle sweet baby boy into his fleece sleep sack for his morning nap and turn on the stuffed bear that blares the beating heart sound that neither you, Arlo or Dr. Brown can sleep without now.

10:02am | Stand outside the bedroom door for a manic minute, trying to decide in what order and how many things that you need to accomplish in the next hour sans baby.

10:03 - 11:15am | Write a blog post, print and mail off a grant, put in a load of laundry, fold another load of laundry, take my braless boobs outside with the kitchen compost bowl to dump, let the chickens out, pick up the handful of goddamn pink Idaho Statesman ads in bags strewn across the front yard, close the door on the Little Free Library, wave (embarrassed) at my neighbor, order my niece a birthday gift direct mailed from Etsy the day before her birthday, send an apology text to parents of said niece for late gift. Basically, cram as much shit at possible into a little over an hour's time.

11:17am | Grab screeching baby from his bed while your landline is ringing for the fifth time this morning with some toll free number appearing on the caller ID screen. I pick up and hang up on them immediately.

11:30am | Prepare bottle #2.

12:01pm | Remember that you need to call St. Als about a billing question because you can't keep straight all the bills and all the monies for all three children and your birth 11 months ago and a vasectomy 4 months ago and why are we just getting charged and still paying for these things? My cheek hangs up my iPhone on customer service rep (GADS!) and I call back again and wait for 4 minutes and restate claim and apologize for the baby perched upon my hip that is yelping into the phone.

12:33pm | Phone rings again with a representative from a local organization that is reviewing one of the grants I wrote for our school garden (yea!) but again I have to apologize for said hip screeching baby. (She isn't amused.)

1:06pm | More poop. More worrying. Facetime Dr. Brown to show him and express my concerns.

1:31pm | Friend texts she's stopping by in a few. Shit. Strip Arlo out of pjs and pop him in the tub with me while I shower carefully, sidestepping his slippery body and that pointy Big Bird toy.

1:40pm | Dress Arlo in a 6 month sized shirt and 18 month sized pants which both remarkably fit his tiny 11 month old body perfectly because baby clothing sizes MAKE SO MUCH SENSE.

1:51pm | Friend stops by to drop something off and I apologize for the cornflakes and pick up Alice's dirty underpants from the living room couch and I lie and say that our "house is unusually messy because WE'VE JUST BEEN SO BUSY."

2:04pm | I realize that I've forgotten to feed Arlo (and myself) lunch, so I put some frozen peas in the microwave while wiping the breakfast food off the highchair with a baby wipe. I search the fridge for leftovers for myself because if there aren't any, I'm eating a cold plain tortilla.

2:39pm | Googling about starting whole milk a month before Arlo's first birthday somehow leads me down an internet rabbit hole of searching Pinterest for ideas on how to make a play tent and then I end up watching the newest Ask A Mortician YouTube video and then my another friend messages me about what age I think is appropriate for our daughters' to read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? and we end up chatting about Girl Scout cookies and mutual friends and, eventually, world domination (truth). All the while, checking Instagram on my phone and posting more pics of random things around my house using artsy filters.

2:47pm | Wonder what time I last gave Arlo a bottle because he's crabby. I think maybe he's got a fever so I grab the Vaseline and anal thermometer because Mama takes no chances on inaccurate temps and hold his legs tight while singing Katy Perry songs to get him to keep still.

2:51pm | While making another bottle, I hear sirens in the distance and freeze, holding as still as possible to hear their location better. I can't decipher how close they are, so I run out to the front sidewalk to make sure they are not headed towards the girls' elementary school a few blocks away.

2:55pm | Satisfied that no one I love is in immediate danger, I return to a house filling with smoke from a now empty water kettle turning black from all heat and no liquid.

3:11pm | Will we have time to walk up to the corner market to pick up a lemon needed for dinner? We haven't left the house today and Arlo could use the fresh air and I could use the sunshine, so we take the next 15 minutes trying to find shoes and wrangle his tiny body into a hat and coat he hates.

3:40pm | Make it to the market and halfway home when I realize Arlo's ditched his hat out of the stroller somewhere. I turn around to see it floating in the wind several blocks back. I seriously consider how many other winter hats we already own and if I need to retrieve this one or let it go. Rational thinking sets in, and we retrace our steps.

3:54pm | I decide, every day, to try to lay Arlo down for his second nap MINUTES before his two sisters come barreling in the door after school with their fighting and gymnastics. (Because again: brilliant parenting.)

4:00pm | Baby up, girls in, fighting started.

4:12pm | Demands for stovetop popcorn begin and will not cease. Swipe something small and dangerous from Arlo's mouth for the 39th time today. Have I changed his diaper lately? Did he poop today?

5:01pm | Start pacing the sidewalk watching for Dr. Brown. Re-enter the house to see ants, everywhere, eating some remnants of food. Fuck, I think, but leave it.

5:06pm | Lucy is watching Maroon 5's "Sugar" video on the TV on repeat a thousand times AND LOUD OMG. Alice is now spewing at me all the details of who said what and who touched what and how she looked at her and what happened in P.E. and what the duty on the playground said and who cried at school.

5:35pm | Dr. Brown still isn't home and I start washing a basket of purple fingerling potatoes to prep for dinner and I briefly think how lucky we are to still have fresh produce from last summer's garden until I dump half the basket which is full of dirt along with the potatoes into my sink and the whole thing turns to mud crusted piles of dirty dishes still from last night.

5:39pm | HOME. Another adult in the house THANK THE LAWD.

6:07pm | I carry Arlo outside (I'm pretty certain my right hip is permanently marked by this child's spot) to see how Dr. Brown is faring grilling the steaks (read: desperate attempt to talk to another adult for any amount of time/number of minutes possible). He grabs my ass.

6:31pm | We eat as a family. Alice wants to draw a card from our question basket, but Dr. Brown makes one up instead. If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go? Lucy: Universal Studios in Florida. Amy: Paris. Dr. Brown: Hawaii. Alice: Roaring Springs Water Park. In Meridian. (We decide that Arlo's dream vacation might be Atlanta, Idaho, though, so he wins by default.)

7:01pm | Lucy, it's time to practice the piano, I say.

7:11pm | Lucy, please practice the piano. Now, I say.

7:18pm | I told you to practice the piano CAN YOU NOT HEAR MY WORDS? I SHOUT.

7:18 - 7:38pm | Piano is practiced for the next twenty minutes. I attempt to tackle a kitchen full of dirty dishes.

7: 40 - 8:00pm | Repeat the same scenario as above, only this time VIOLIN. (I'm so tired.)

8:01 - 8:15pm | HOMEWORK. (14 minutes worth? SMALL MIRACLES.)

8:15pm | Showers and baths commence. Our parental tag team on this nightly scenario is ON POINT.

8:29pm | Adam Levine really is hot.

8:35pm | Baby Arlo on lap with bottle in one hand, paperback in the other, Lucy and I read together while I can hear the names Almonzo and Pa from the bottom bunk in the other room. (Again, parental units divide and conquer like old pros here.)

9:07pm | Everyone tucked in after teeth flossed (Six cavities! $88 a piece! That's what savings accounts are for!).

9:10pm | 2nd attempt at finishing the dishes, sweeping the floor and finally eradicating the ants. For now.

9:40pm  | I'm so fucking tired. All I want are my 'jamas, my bed, and the copy I just picked up from the library of Lena Dunham's new memoir. I'm on the chapter about her wild college sex years and I can't wait to live vicariously through her adventures because I'm 39 and it's 9:40 and I'M IN BED ALREADY.

9:58pm | Brief thought about possibly having sex tonight.

10:00pm | Out. Like a light.


And as you feel it, you'll know it's true that you are blessed and lucky.

It's true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.

These are days.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

FOODIE: The Pioneer Woman Cookbook Challenge | January Update


Whew, this is so much easier than I thought it would be. I've decided to make at least two recipes a week from the cookbook, which really helps me feel less overwhelmed when thinking about 109 recipes to get done in 2015. I've stayed right on top of it for this first month, but haven't felt strong love for most of the recipes (except one, which I'll save for last here). I have, however, been thrilled to find a compelling reason to finally open the box of vintage Lenox china c. 1960 that haven't been used in at least ten years. Every Sunday night is Pioneer Woman dinner, and we bust out the gorgeous gold leaf china. What a fun new tradition!

THE REVIEWS:

Let's start with the NAWS.

Chicken Tortilla Soup:  My Lucy is the biggest soup fan and she loved this. Dr. Brown and I both thought it just okay. We make a version of this ourselves that we've perfected over the years, and we think it's better. The addition of cut up corn tortillas, though, is a brilliant idea.

French Onion Soup: Meh. Julia Child's is SO MUCH BETTER. I think it's the addition of chicken broth in this one that just makes it blah to me.

Hummus: So garlicky that it gave me a super upset stomach. Admittedly, I'm way sensitive to garlic (unless I'm pregnant - I know, weird), but Dr. Brown has a stomach of steel and eats ALL THE THINGS and it did the same to him. Also, Dr. Brown is Greek, so we are a bit snobbish about the Middle Eastern foods and we have a Mediterranean cookbook with a killer hummus recipe that this one does not beat.

Brie-Stuffed Mushrooms: We made these for Katy Bowl Sunday (football WHA?!@#) when our friends the Zehnas were in town from Utah, along with the hummus above (and PW's bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers which were in her first cookbook and we will make for the rest of time they are THAT GOOD). These were the best of the naws, but not amazing. Fine, but I'm not searching for just fine in this quest.

Pork Chops with Apples & Grits: Much like garlic doesn't agree with my stomach, grits do not agree with MY ANYTHING. Listen, I've even lived in the South for a short time (I went on exchange during college to Charleston, SC) where grits were served at every single meal (sigh) at my college dorm lunchroom. I've tried and tried and tried and even made them homemade myself to no avail. I ain't doin' it. Also, the pork chops weren't that great, and I do usually love them with apples. Dr. Brown did like the grits (he thought them better the next day), so he gives this one a higher ranking than I.




Let's move on to the FOREVER AND EVER AMENS.

Rigatoni and Meatballs: I made this for my grandma's 85th birthday party dinner and OMG WE ALL LOVED IT. Seriously, those meatballs?! We used tomatoes we had roasted with garlic and herbs from our own summer garden and frozen in the sauce and they truly made the difference. This recipe is not on PW's website (which is where I've linked all the other recipes here), so you'll just have to get the book if you want to make it. Also? Kid-approved. Even Arlo loved his teeny tiny bite sized pieces.

Meatball Sliders: PW directs you to use the leftover meatballs and sauce from the recipe above for these and holy moly, we almost loved these more than the rigatoni above. Paired with baked French fries, it was a super easy leftover kind of meal for a weeknight. Alice and Lucy also loved this one.

Classic Hot Wings: These are spicy as hell, but Dr. Brown is the wing connoisseur and he gives a big stamp of approval. It makes a ton of sauce, though, so you could probably cut back on that, or else more wings than the recipe calls for.

Roasted Cauliflower: We made this as a side dish to Dr. Brown's BBQ ribs and both agreed that this was the best way we've ever eaten cauliflower, hands down. So yummy! (Again, no recipe on PW's site for this, sorry!)
 
 
Billie's Italian Cream Cake: This, my friends, was January's crowning jewel. The best recipe I made all month. This cake is a winner. It took hours, was three layers high, and was my grandmother's 85th birthday cake. It was even better the next morning with coffee. Super rich and lovely. I'm a huge cake snob, and once you've had homemade cake, you'll never, ever, ever be able to eat store bought or boxed cake mix cakes again in the same way. We all give this the highest ranking. Grandma-approved!


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Power to the (Fat) People

Five years ago I started my own body revolution. I devoured books, like this one and this one, and started following fat feminists like Marilyn Wann, Ragen Chastaine, Lindy West, Tess Munster and Jes Baker. They helped me find my way and find my voice.

Three years ago I spoke to a sold out crowd at the Egyptian Theater downtown Boise about how to be fat and fabulous. I stood on that stage and was more scared than I had ever been. I told Boise that I weighed 250 pounds and my life's purpose wasn't determined on whether or not you wanted to fuck me and that I was happy with myself, just the way I am and that I eat cake and celery. Ignite Boise filmed all the presenters' five minute pitches, and posted them on YouTube. My little talk has been viewed now by around 900 people, and commented on by various trolls (the term for being a prick on the internet because you can). They wrote things like "this woman wants to keep people down" and "people like you make me so angry" and "you lost your way for a number of reasons."



Two years ago I got the burning desire to once again bring my ideas of Health at Every Size and fat acceptance to a wider audience. At an event similar to Ignite Boise, I proposed a public, family-friendly, dessert picnic for International No Diet Day at the very first Feast. The whole thing was a dinner event at the Visual Arts Center in Garden City and the house was packed and I was nervous but talked about body love and size discrimination and healthy relationships with eating and food. The audience votes on the best community/art project proposal and the winner got $1000 to make it happen (it wasn't me). But, once again, I felt good about getting the message out there, even when one female audience member came up after and was like, "I'm all for loving your body and stuff, but wouldn't your event be so much better if you, like, served fresh veggies and fruit instead of desserts?"

The next day I began a week-long, painful miscarriage of a baby we had already grown to love, somewhere around eight weeks along. The day after that I found out that a local male business owner who goes by the Twitter name "Cranky Clown" was at the Feast event and had been live tweeting negative things not only about my message, but about my body, my words, my mind, my family, my friends, and about fat people in general. And when I found out about it, I tweeted him back, and his responses got more hateful. Some of his other local Twitter friends joined in and started attacking me, too. (And, yes, I know his real life name and his real life business - that he has since lost - but I won't tell you here.) Years later, he still tweets on occasion about how much he hates fatties. He never thought, I'm fairly certain, about the real life woman at home, curled up in a ball, bleeding and in tears, wrapped up in grief around a hot pad while she missed her daughter's kindergarten registration.

About a month later, the fat hatred and misogyny found its way to my Facebook wall, where I had begun posting body confident links and messages. This time, the meanest came from two different men, who I knew barely in real life, and a handful of women, who I also knew personally. After mean-spirited back and forth banter I had to unfriend them, on the internet and in real life. I took the entire summer off from the internets because these bigoted trolls had so damaged my heart, mind, thoughts, and activism, that I desperately needed a break to heal. (Years later, these people, too, still post on Facebook bigoted and sizist commentary.)

But I came back, stronger and louder. The trolls are still here, on the internet and in my little Idaho city. In fact, I'm currently fighting some misogyny due to my strong, loud voice. This week Lindy West, a nationally known writer and feminist and fat activist, told a story about a particularly hurtful troll who created a false Twitter account, posing as her recently deceased father, on NPR's This American Life. She tweeted about it, he read it, and apologized to her. They have a live telephone conversation on this particular podcast and the story will both break your heart and make it grow. This woman encounters trolling and hateful comments about her weight and feminist stances on a daily basis, so her skin is thick.

Mine? Not so much. Also, I'm no Lindy West. I can count the troll commentary I've received on one - okay, two - hands. Does that make it hurt less? No. Have any of my trolls ever apologized? Never. In fact, Lindy's troll is the first person I've ever heard of admitting to his hatred and trying to make up for it.



Do I write this because I want you to feel sorry for me? Not at all. What do I want, then? When you hear or read someone using bullying, dangerous and hurtful words, I want you stand up next to me, and speak loud and strong, too.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

THRIFTY: Homemade Bath Goodies

Every year for the holidays, the girls and I love making homemade and handmade gifts for our friends and neighbors. Often it's baked goods, like my family-famous pumpkin bread, candy or cookies. Some years, though, we get a bit more ambitious and want to make something new and offbeat, not your traditional Christmas goodies. This past year was one.
 
 
As always, I love to use inexpensive ingredients and reuse and repurpose items. This fall we had harvested our lavender plants, dried the flowers, and put them in the freezer to preserve. I had also saved this bath sachet recipe on a Pinterest board several years ago and knew these would be perfect.


 
 
I had a box of powdered milk in my pantry, as well as oatmeal, rubber bands and twine. I ran to my neighborhood Dollar Tree and grabbed a few boxes of baby washcloths, which were 4 for $1. You could, however, just use any scrap of fabric you have, cheesecloth or muslin.
 



I think the images do justice in place of written explanation on how to make these (read: SO EASY). I typed up these little directions, printed them off, cut them and attached the to the sachets.

OATMEAL LAVENDAR MILK BATH SACHET | Tie the twine to hang the bundle under the faucet as hot water fills the tub. Squeeze the sachet to release the herbal properties into the water, or swirl the sachet around in the tub. The tub is now your giant cup of herbal tea! Once the bath is over, shake the wet herbs into a flowerbed, compost, or other container for disposal. The washcloth is yours to be used again!


In addition to the bath sachets, Alice and I whipped up some brown sugar coffee scrub. Every day after drinking my pot of java, I dump the grinds onto a large tray in the garage to dry. Once dried (this may take a few weeks because you really want them to be very dry), you mix the coffee grinds, brown sugar, olive oil, a tiny bit of vanilla extract, and a few shakes of cinnamon. I used a version of this recipe, but quadrupled it to make a lot more. Having a plethora of baby food jars from Arlo, I spray painted the lids a festive red, filled them with this yummy scrub, and tied on a cute paper tag. This scrub is ideal for dry hands and feet and works really well. It makes a huge mess of coffee grinds if used in the tub, though, just FYI. For this project, I had all the ingredients on hand, and repurposed the jars and paper tags, so it cost me next to nothing. Both projects turned out great, were fun to make in the kitchen, and so easy for the girls to help with. They'd be perfect for Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, too!