Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Home Birthing

There are plenty of people in this world who wonder at my deep commitment to having my babies at home. They question the safety and comfort, and sometimes my sanity.

As I wrote in this post, I was privileged to attend my mom's two home births; the hospital as a 'normal' place to birth didn't really occur to me. Additionally, in my late teens I developed a close relationship with a woman who was, and is, an outstanding midwife. She has been my midwife through this pregnancy, both my other pregnancies and home births (you can read Brother-Bug's story here), a couple of early term miscarriages, and continues to be a force of love and support as my kids grow. But besides this early education, I have my own reasons I have my babies at home, and I thought I would share.

While birth can become a medical event, I believe that a healthy birth is pretty much non-medical and should be treated as a family event instead of a medical situation. I trust my body and my midwife to be aware of the situations that would lead us to seek hospital assistance, and much like my position on ultrasound, I would transport to the hospital if my midwife, my body, or the baby, told me that transport was the best plan.

I want to decide who is with me during each passage and who helps me welcome the baby to our family. This includes siblings (not allowed in hospital delivery rooms usually), my husband, my sister, and a close friend or two to help the kids - and our midwife. It does not include strange nurses, a doctor I've potentially never met, or any other hospital staff. This is the most amazing and intimate thing I am ever going to do with my body; this is the most vulnerable I will ever be. I don't want to share it with just anyone. And that's just during the birth! After the birth there are nurses that have to bathe my baby, test it, photograph it, and poke and prod me and my knitting body.

At home, the midwife and all other non-immediate family members leave the room once the baby is out and obviously well. We just sit in bliss with our baby from somewhere between a half-hour and eternity - time is irrelevant. Eventually the birth team returns to clean things up, help me deliver my placenta, see that the baby nurses well, and check its vitals. We don't bathe the babe for several days, letting its skin gradually sluff off vernix while loving that fresh-baby smell. Papa-Bug holds our baby skin-to-skin while my sister washes my aching and exhausted body in the shower. We sleep naked with baby on my chest, still a part of each others' breathing and heartbeats. Siblings cuddle parents and support people, we all marvel at the details of a newborn, everyone takes candid pictures. Soon after the birth - 2-3 hours maybe - everyone goes home and a magical post-birth stillness descends on our home. We have time and deep peace to get to know our new person; to watch our family structure stretch and change.

I believe that babies need the minimal amount of stimulation and interaction during their first days. Except for our midwife doing important baby-wellness checks, no one touches or holds our baby except for Mama, Papa, and Siblings for the first several days. We never pass a baby from stranger to stranger (because even if you are a grandparent or bestest friend, you are still a completely strange situation to a newborn), respecting a time of adjustment for both Baby and Mama.  We have no visitors besides the people who attended the birth for several days. It's just US, extending that post-birth time until we are ready to open up. We can't know a newborn's perspective on things, but I try to think about what each new experience might be like for this being, and we adjust our behaviors to encourage comfort for this new person. Slowly family begins to hold baby for short times, with us watching for its communications that it is looking for Mama/Papa/Boob.

Besides that, I know that home birth is safer for me. I'm an introvert. I dislike strange situations and interacting with strange people. I tend to shut down in these situations, going on a polite auto-pilot until I feel safe or return to my place. This is not a good thing to do if you are giving birth - nor a good thing to have to override during the intensity of helping a person into this world. I want to feel safe - physically, emotionally, spiritually - and I do that best at home. The very idea of getting in a car when contractions are rocking my body seems insane. There are lots of statistics and studies done on the safety of home birth, and you can look those up. It is statistically safer provided that you've made the decision to stay home, gotten good support from a knowledgeable person, and are prepared for the adventure.

Women birth in all positions, making all kinds of noises. Myself, I seem to like hands and knees and lots of lion-esque roars. I prefer my bedroom, but have found that I like to be in different areas early on in labor. I don't like people to touch me much, I don't want to be forced to eat or drink or rest (unless things are going on and on and its for my & baby's well-being), I don't want to be confined to a single room or position - especially one based on a monitor's best position. At home, I am free to find the most comfortable postions, make as much noise as I want, use whatever space I want, and generally go deeply into my experience with the level of interaction from other people that is right for me. The people with me know me very well, have known me for many years, and can be flexible with my needs in each moment.

These are my reasons for home birthing, and what works for me might not work for everyone or anyone else. I think the most essential aspect of home birth - or any other birth - is that it comes from a place of informed choice. I don't think everyone should default to hospital/doctor assisted birth OR home/midwife assisted birth. I fundamentally believe that babies will come best when the mama feels good about her situation and is able to labor and birth with support, as opposed to falling into a decision based on assumptions or pressure.

Birth is radical and wonderful. I wouldn't say I'm looking forward to the deep, aching pull of contractions that are coming in a couple months... But at the same time, I kind of am. It's an amazing experience and I feel so lucky to have had that experience twice, in my own time, way, and space.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Political Awareness & Jellybeans

Watching Obama, listening for jelly beans.
Papa-Bug majored in political science and has a special Stars & Stripes tie for election day, as well as a John Philip Sousa playlist. Naturally our family isn't going to let something like a National Election, with all it's educational possibilities pass through the edges if our awareness just because we are only in first-grade. Nope. Brother-Bug is learning all about The Election.

As I wrote here, he enjoys looking at the electoral maps over at 538. We are helping him understand a few of the simpler issues. His Godmommies live is Washington so a lot of our issue focus is on Marriage Equality, which has the benefit of being not scary (like global warming or gun control) and not very complicated (like taxes or social security).

So we have watched a couple of speeches...but...well, he is only six. They aren't very compelling speeches for a kid. How to engage a six-year old in the DNC?

Jelly Beans.

We took the concept of the drinking game, but decided that doing shots with our children was probably not the thing.

Papa-Bug made a list of words and phrases President Obama was likely to say during his acceptance speech. Each person got a copy, we got out some jelly beans, and settled down to watch. We didn't watch it live; we waited until it was on the Internet so we could pause for questions and clarification.

The list included words like:
*My Opponent
*Marriage or Married
*Democrat or Republican
*God Bless America
 and so on.

If Brother-Bug heard a word in his list he got one (or more jelly beans). Papa-Bug scored the words - "my opponent" was worth one bean "Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act" was worth five. We had to help him hear the actual words and occasionally prompt him to bring his attention back to the speech. I popped extra jelly beans in Sister-Bug's mouth to keep her quiet.

All in all, he watched the whole speech and earned about twenty jelly beans. A lot of the rhetoric went right over his head, but we expected it to. We weren't wanting him to understand every little thing, but for him to engage with the idea of a major speech. And he did.

The debates are coming up. Brother-Bug was already looking forward to them, but now that he knows there are jelly beans involved, he's really excited.

Because the debates have a different format and are somewhat less predictable than the DNC speech, we are going to change the game a little bit. We are creating just a few word groups - foreign, economy, or?? - and every time he catches something from one of those groups he will get a jelly bean.

To get ready for the debates we will watch President Bartlett in The West Wing (early season four is all about re-election) and discuss what is going on and why a debate?

And, as we have always done, we will have pizza, beer/root beer, declare November 6th a holiday, and watch the returns come in.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Allowance At Six

As we contemplated Brother-Bug turning six and the Privilege & Responsibilities he could receive, we decided it was time for an allowance. He's wanting to buy things, he's really enthusiastic about Math, and it feels like it is time.

Learning money management is tricky, and seems like a skill that just doesn't stick very well for many people. It is certainly something that we struggle with, and I know other adults around me also find very challenging. Papa-Bug and I talked seriously about how to help Brother-Bug enjoy the freedom of spending money, while also learning some of the things money is for.

Papa-Bug explains the concept of allowance. 

Years ago I read Living Simply With Children. There were some excellent ideas in there about helping with money management and I'm sure I drew on some of them as we crafted our allowance plan.

We want our kids to learn about saving, spending, and sharing. And we want to start out small. So...

Brother-Bug gets $6 each week, but there are some rules. $1 goes in his savings account (college, travel, or ???), $1 he saves in a jar for something special he wants to buy or do, and $1 he donates to something important to him, to make the world a better place. The last $3 are his to spend or save at his discretion.

Savings jars. So proud of this boy. 

We decided not to link his allowance to his chores, because we feel like our family works together to have a comfortable home and none of us get "paid" for that. But, at the same time, we wanted some personal responsibility to come with the acquisition of wealth (at six, having your own $3 is wealth!). We talked about how in the real world we can get fined for breaking the rules/laws and decided to try our some simple fines for behavioral issues. There is a ten-cent fine against the coming week's allowance (from the $3 spending money only) for shrieking, rudeness, or responding with defiance.

We got him a wallet (he chose the pinkest, most glittery one in the store of course) and yesterday he had the infinite satisfaction of a visit to Smith Family Books. He had saved $8.50 and was able to find his book for only $6.00. Having $2.50 left over makes him feel like a millionaire; paying for his own book made him feel like a grown-up. He proudly pulled his crumpled dollars from his glittery wallet, creating a chaotic pile of ones, while the store clerk looked on in delight.

First purchase. He saved up not only his saving, but also his spending money. He hugged his new book in the car, and read it in bed until he couldn't keep his eyes open any more. 

We have no idea if this is going to flow the way we imagine, but we are hopeful that Brother-Bug learns a little something about money and how it touches so many aspects of our lives. I'm sure our plan will shift and change as we explore and learn together, but for now it feels like a good place to start.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Recipe: Summer Fritatta with Beef-Bacon

It is the end of the summer produce at the Farmer's Market and at the Deck Family Farm booth there was a package of beef bacon that was calling my name. The day seemed perfect for a frittata, especially since our chickens are finally laying and beginning to increase their production a little.

Summer Fritatta with Beef-Bacon

2-4 potatoes, par cooked and sliced

5-6 slices beef bacon (the only place I have ever found this, or lamb bacon which would be equally good, is the Deck Family Farm.)

2 cloves of minced garlic
1 yellow onion
2 bell peppers
1 zucchini
10-14 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1-2 cups grated cheese
Salt, pepper, herbs
1 tomato

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut the bacon strips into bite-sized pieces. Fry till cooked through and remove from the pan. Sauté the garlic and onion until transparent and add the remaining veggies (except tomato) and cook till done.

While the vegetables cook, grease an 11x14 baking pan and cover the bottom with a layer of potatoes. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over them. Distribute the cooked bacon over that, spreading it out evenly. When the veggies are done, spread them out I et the bacon.

Whip up the eggs, milk, herbs, and salt & pepper. The frothier your eggs are, the more the frittata will rise as it bakes. I used chives and dill, but use whatever herbs are handy and tasty to you.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the veggies in the baking dish. Pour the eggs over the layers. The egg mixture should come about 2/3 up the side of the dish.

Thinly slice the tomato and spread the slices over the top. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the egg doesn't jiggle when you shake the pan.

Frittata is one of those wonderful recipes that has infinite possibilities and is really hard to mess up. For myself, I've found that par cooking the potatoes is important. What do you like in your frittata?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Homeschool Happens

Today is Sunday. It is not a "school day" and we don't have our usual "school time". No math, or science, or literature studies.

But really?

Brother-Bug is helping Papa-Bug brew a beer - a nice, dark stout for the colder days of fall and winter. Sister-Bug is helping too of course, but she is more of a spectator.

In the past hour or two we have covered volume measurements: how many quarts in a gallon? How can we measure that? How many gallons in a carboy? (5-7, depending on the carboy.) We watched a thermometer carefully until our heating water reached 167 degrees. Also, along with this math is a fair bit of cooking process - pouring carefully, awareness of hot stoves, etc.

As it turns out, there are 4 quarts in a gallon, and an accurate measuring device is a better choice than a bottle that looks close.

What about learning a little science on a Sunday? Right now Papa-Bug is explaining how the barley in the beer will convert its starch into sugar to make the sugars to feed yeast. We have also covered energy and thermodynamics in heating water, what is specific gravity and how to test for it using our brewing/scientific equipment, and now we are covering the conversion of yeast to alcohol in more depth.

We aren't sitting and "learning", but that doesn't prevent plenty of on the fly lessons that present themselves. I was just interrupted to hear the "first law of "propane dye-hammocks" - which he got right (thermodynamics- you can't create energy and you can't destroy energy).

I paused writing to get a batch of bread going, and now we have moved on to the intriguing question: "If we had 100,000 jelly beans and had to eat them in one year, how many jelly beans would we have to eat every day?" This was followed by the more philosophical question: "Can you have too many jelly beans?"

We have (almost) daily school time and I think that half-hour or so is important. We learn routine, sitting and focusing even if we don't always want to, and other valuable skills. The beauty of being out and about in the world with homeschooling is just that - seeing the entire world as a learning opportunity. You never know what lesson is coming your way or what question is about to be asked. So I don't worry at all when our structured school plans go askew, because often a bigger and better lesson is just about to fall in our laps and we can learn all about propane dye-hammocks.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Recipe: Savory Spaghetti Squash

I stuffed up a spaghetti squash the other night, needing something easy for dinner. It turned out really well - but needed more salt than I had thought. Perhaps the nature of the squash just needs an extra pinch.

Savory Spaghetti Squash

1 Spaghetti Squash
1 lb. ground pork (this would also be excellent with ground goat...)
1 bag frozen, chopped spinach
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese (optional - without the parmesan it's paleo!)
1 tbl. smoked paprika
1 tbl. oregano
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. Halve the squash and roast upside down in a baking dish until you can pierce the skin with a fork. I don't scrape seeds before I roast squash - much easier to get them out when the flesh is soft!

Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the seeds out, and then scrape the flesh into a large bowl. Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large frying pan, cook the onion, garlic, and pork. Toss in the spinach at the last moment to soften it. Add the frying pan contents to the squash. Mix throughly, adding the spices and remaining ingredients as you go. Top with extra parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and/or paprika.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.



I used Deck Family Farm pork, as always. I organized my deep freezer the other day and realized that I am running low on meat - it must be time to think about ordering sides!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Responsibility & A Privilage: Birthday Traditions

Brother-Bug at his "friends" party. We were pirates. 
Every family is full of birthday traditions. A special plate, a certain song, a pinch to grow an inch, specific cake recipe, a silly hat... These are how we know it is our birthday in our family. With the honors of six fresh in our consciousness, I thought you might be interested in some of our family traditions.

*The first thing we do on the birthday morning is tell that child's Birth Story. We cuddle, connect, and remember the first time we met them.

*I write the child a letter, telling them what I have noticed in the past year of their growing and changing. Or I try to - sometimes it doesn't get quite done by their birthday.

*We have a Happy Birthday Banner which I made for Brother-Bug's first birthday. It has hung up for every birthday since, and one of the kids' jobs during my labor in November will be to hang it up for the new baby.

The fabrics all came from our scrap bin - every one is from something special to our family. 

*The birthday child gives a present to their sibling(s). We hope this lessens the drama from the sibling(s) jealous that it's not their birthday, and helps the birthday child think of others, even on their special day.

*We divide their birthday celebrations in two. There is one party with friends - cake, games, and general kid-chaos ensues. There is one outing to a desert place where we celebrate with family - grandparent, aunts, uncles... And of course we celebrate all the birthday-through in our home as well. This keeps the mayhem of party-over-stimulation to a manageable level. The two are never on the same day and the guest list rarely overlaps. We came up with this after several "too big" birthday parties and it works wonderfully. With a loving community, and lots of family close by, it was really easy to spend a week or two celebrating - which ultimately wore our family out, including the birthday kid. This works better. I make sure I schedule the family event early enough that everyone can make it.

And the increasingly Favorite Tradition in our family, and the focus of this post: The Responsibility and Privilege.

*Starting around 3 or 4, they get a new Privilege and a new Responsibility. This is a favorite for Brother-Bug. As his birthday approaches, I often hear him speculating about what his Privilege & Responsibility will be.
Found inside The Card, a sign of growing. 
In anticipation of the Big Day, Papa-Bug and I begin to pay close attention to what Brother-Bug is enjoying around the house and what he might be yearning for. We plan out a responsibility that will benefit Brother-Bug as he grows and learns.

The Responsibility is something he is now big enough to do to help out around the house. I've forgotten what his responsibility was when he turned four...I think it was something simple like clearing his dinner plate. At five he was given a cooking night - for one dinner each week he chooses the recipe and helps cook it. He's been at it almost every week for the past year and he loves it. It's a little extra work for the parent assisting, but he is contributing to our family and learning valuable skills. He takes this responsibility very seriously. This year we saw that, for whatever reason, he really enjoys dumping the laundry baskets. His new responsibility is to keep the household laundry baskets empty. He's excited.

For the Priviege, he is given something that helps him celebrate his growing independence. At four he got to cross not-busy streets without holding hands. Last year he could choose his own computer time (with in a few stipulations - after teeth were brushed in the morning, not after 8:00 pm, etc.). This year he got an allowance - money that he can be in charge of. I will be writing more about the structure of his allowance in a future post, so stay tuned.

As it has turned out, the two are more mixed than we originally plan. The cooking is a favorite task that he hates to miss, and he has to use personal responsibility (getting his teeth brushed, and so on) to exert his privilege on the computer. It's kind of like the real world that way.

Our hope is that the idea of earning both privilege and responsibility with age helps our kids understand these realities better - what else are driving, voting and drinking but the same general concept on a grander scale? As they grow, these ideas will grow with them. And right now it's just so fun to see what new things the birthday kid gets to take on!

That's a taste of some of our favorite birthday traditions. What does your family do?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First Birth - Brother-Bug

Today is September 11th. It's a day that marks many things. Most importantly, in our world, it is Brother-Bug's Birthday. I thought that I would share the Little-Bugs' birth stories, starting today on his birthday; on the Birth Day that made me a Mama. Soon I will get Sister-Bug's story up. Someday Baby-Bug will arrive and have a story also. But this is Brother-Bug's story. 

Our Birthday-Bug last year. 


9 days past my due date and ready to have my baby. Papa-Bug fiddled on his computer. I took naps, read books, went on walks. My sister and her sweetie were in town, waiting...waiting...waiting...with us.

Finally, the night of September 10th my contractions ramped up. We cooked dinner. I danced and danced to Peter, Paul & Mary; my body didn't want to stop moving. We called the midwife to let her know how things were going. "Eat" she said. "Take it easy. These things can take a while." We ate and danced. Papa-Bug held me during some contractions. We called the midwife. "Rest. Watch a movie. Try to sleep. You're going to need your energy." we settled on the bed with my sister and watched the incomparable Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. My contractions slowed and stopped and I fell asleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night, and heaved my body into the bathroom. As I stood up from the toilet, I noticed that something sticky and clear was leaking. It wasn't a gush of waters, but more of a trickle. We called the midwife and she came out to our house. She looked at me - hugely pregnant, exhausted, and scared of what might be coming next. "Well, this baby is coming soon, buy not yet. Would you feel better if I was here on the couch?" I nodded. She and Papa-Bug made up the couch while I went back to bed. The next thing I knew, it was 8:00 in the morning. The midwife poked her head in to say she was going home to check on her daughter, but would come back if we needed her.

Papa-Bug and I were so disappointed. We had been so sure we would be holding our baby - or at least well on our way there. But here was another morning and another day to fill with meaningless tasks while we


In the afternoon, my sister and I decided to henna our hair. We mixed the mud and applied it. We waited, now for the henna to be ready to rinse; a much less antsy waiting. She and her sweetie got in the shower to rinse off. I paced in the hall, now impatient to get this henna done and find the next thing to do. I just wanted the henna out of my hair. They finished and it was my turn.

Mid-hair washing, I was struck by a contraction that brought me to my knees in the shower. It passed, I finished and troweled off. I dressed and told Papa-Bug I had experienced this crazy-strong contraction. We should take a walk to try and keep things going. Papa-Bug agreed and went to find my shoes. My little brother handed me the phone - my dad wanted to say hello and how were things going? Another rib-twisting contraction caused me to toss the phone at my brother, crouching on the floor while it passed. I lay on the couch. Papa-Bug brought my shoes and I told him I wasn't walking anywhere.

We talked about the contractions, should we call the midwife, and another contraction rocked me to howling. Papa-Bug started timing. 13 minutes between each wave. I yelled and swore, not knowing how to anticipate or understand what my body was doing. Later, my sister's sweetie would remark that he didn't know the lyrics of the birth-song were "Jesus. F**K!!!"

We kept timing the contractions. The midwife had said that a good time to call her was when they were 4-5 minutes apart. My sister's sweetie and my brother left the house to give us space. My sister took herself out of our area, waiting in case we needed or wanted her. The contractions were coming closer together and each one seemed more ferocious than the last. Papa-Bug called the midwife and left a panicked message on her voicemail (she saved it and played it for us a couple dats later), then he called my best friend - a homebirth mother of two - who listened to my howls through a contraction. She gave me the best piece of advice I received in either birth - scream low. I changed my howls to roars and felt much better. The midwife called back, listened to the roars from me and the panic from Papa-Bug and said she would be right over.

The midwife arrived. She and Papa-Bug put the plastic sheet and birth sheets on the bed. I rocked and roared and roared some more. The waves of contractions were unlike anything I had ever felt. Once the bed was made I ended up on my hands and knees, arching and twisting through each contraction. Between contractions Papa-Bug and the midwife would try to get me to lay back and rest, but by the time I arranged my shaking and awkward body on pillows the next contraction would pull me, roaring, back onto my hands and knees.

My first contraction in the shower was around 6:15. At first I had a sense of time, but as the contractions pushed and pulled at my body I lost all sense of everything except the process and rhythm of contraction-breathe-contraction-breathe. My only clear memory of this time is looking up and seeing my midwife, sitting on her toolbox, holding me in the most loving, glowing smile I have ever seen.

I really didn't think I could do it. As the baby moved down and the labor intensified, I cried and roared. It was as scared as I have ever been, sure that each contraction would rend me in two. I found out later that as I roared, full volume through each contraction, the neighbors dogs would howl and moan, another neighbors birds would chirp, and the alley cats would meow. I was, apparently, leading a chorus of creatures.

Finally I came to transition. I threw up, the amniotic sac finally broke, flooding down my legs, and I was (and still am) deeply grateful for the midwife who lovingly cleaned my body as it released everything un preparations for the baby's release. The midwife called my sister from the other room as she saw baby was getting close. She knew Papa-Bug needed to be behind me to catch the baby, but he had been supporting my shoulders, holding me up through the contractions. My sister came in and I gripped her shoulders as the baby's head moved lower and lower.

After several eternities, the baby was crowning. I know it hurt, but by then I was so deep into the process and do far out of my body that I am unable to describe the sensations. I do remember that the feeling was so intense bit my sister on the shoulder. It wasn't hard enough to draw blood, but I did leave a mark that lingered for eventual days, which she proudly showed to everyone including the clerk at the grocery store.

The baby's head came and somewhere I heard the midwife note the time (head delivered at 11:10 PM) and exclamations from Papa-Bug. Another contraction and the midwife adjusted the shoulders. Another contraction and the baby's body slid from mine into Papa-Bug's hands.

The midwife had coached us on what to do once the baby had been caught, but Papa-Bug faltered, somewhat shocked to find a whole, tiny person in his grasp. I heard "Let's pass that baby to the Mama." and Papa-Bug agreed. He tried first to pass the baby around my side, forgetting that we were still connected by the umbilical cord. "No, pass the baby through her legs, then help her lean back." But he tried to pass the baby sideways instead of head-first, bumping the wee head into my thigh. Finally the midwife helped him orient the baby just right, and I found myself looking at this tiny being. The first thing I said was, " Are you my baby?!"

Papa-Bug and the midwife helped me shift to lounging with pillows. We just looked at the baby for a minute or eternity, eventually realizing we wanted to know who this was. We looked and saw we had a little boy. The midwife lit candles, wrapped us in blankets, and left us for alone for the first getting to know our small son.

We traced his cheeks and the way his back curved. His tiny fingernails seemed so perfect and so ridiculous. His face was chubby and somewhat swollen from his birth, so he had a deep wrinkle between his eyes, making him look very serious. This was bliss.

Eventually the midwife and my sister came back into our bedroom. I delivered the placenta and helped our boy with his first nursing. My sister helped me to the shower while Papa-Bug held baby and the midwife put clean sheets on the bed. We weighed and checked out our baby: 8 lbs, 12 oz., 20 1/2 inches long, and (ouch!) a 14 1/2 inch head. He was perfect in every way.

I am still so in awe of how small he used to be, how he once fit inside my body. It seems un-real.

The midwife finished helping clean up, my brother and my sister's sweetheart came back and newborn gazed for a time. The baby, Papa-Bug, and I curled around each other. Everyone went off to bed, and our family let ourselves float in the bliss of our first night with each other.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Help Lonesome Whistle!

Over the past year I have written lots and lots about Lonesome Whistle Farm and the tasty things I do with their beans and grains. Local farmers work really hard, without Labor Day, benefits (like health insurance), and other safety nets that many of us have available. They farm because they believe in farming and love it. 

If you have read, enjoyed, or tried one of the Bean or Grain recipes I have posted here, please read this letter from Willamette Farm & Food, and consider helping these farmers out. Jeff had an accident with the combine and they need extra hands and money. Everyone does better when everyone does better. 

Thank you. 

Let's get those beans and grains in! It's harvest time. 


Dear friends of the Southern Willamette Valley Bean & Grain Project,

Farmer Jeff Broadie (Lonesome Whistle) had a serious accident last month while working on his c

The good news is: he’s going to be okay

The bad news is: Jeff and Kasey don’t have health insurance

The combine was jammed and Jeff was trying to free it when a bar released and hit him square in the face. A few inches closer and he’d likely be dead. A few inches further back and he might have gone unscathed. After 2 ½ hours of surgery they put his nose back together. Although his eye socket cracked, his eye is okay. He is recuperating now at home, but as you know, this is bean and grain harvest season … the antithesis to bed rest!

Here at Willamette Farm and Food, we are offering to help out by doing what we do best … NETWORK.

We are taking up a collection to help defray Jeff’s medical expenses. If you are moved to contribute, make your check payable to Lonesome Whistle Farm and mail to:
WFFC, PO Box 41672, Eugene, OR 97404

We are also organizing volunteers for a few harvest work parties in the next month. The first one will be this Sunday from 10am – 2pm [NOTE: This date has already passed]. Helpers will be hand pulling bean plants and laying them on tarps to dry.

Please bring sun hat, water bottle, and a pair of work gloves. (Directions: Take River Road north to Montmorence Drive - just beyond Lone Pine farm stand - turn left and park near red barn.)

RSVP to or call Isabelle at (541) 345-0265 (knowing how many folks are coming helps with planning)
If you can’t come this Sunday, but are interested in helping out on another day, respond to this email with your name and phone number and we will add you to the growing list of big hearted helpers.

One of the things that often motivates me to do what I do … educate people about the importance of buying locally grown food, is that I want to see farms thrive economically. Thriving … means being able to afford health insurance for your family and farm employees. I’m sure we can all rant about the state of affordable health care. In the meantime, I want to support the people who work so hard to feed us well. And I’m guessing you do too.

Thank you for your passion for good food, your interest in our local farms, and your support.


Lynne Fessenden

Executive Director, Willamette Farm and Food Coalition

(Copied from Food For Thought on KLCC's Facebook Page)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Custom T-Shirts a La Freezer Paper

We painted up some wonderful t-shirts using the freezer paper stencil method. Brother-Bug had a friend over for the day, and knowing they would do better with a project to fill part of the day, I got some kid shirts and busted out my freezer paper.

Since we started making freezer paper t-shirts years ago, we have made or re-vamped many, many awesome shirts (and other articles of clothes). It is the rare item that does not turn out fabulous. There are sites upon sites dedicated to step-by-step DIYs for this craft, so I won't fill this page with those details.

You can Google "freezer paper shirt" and this page will come up. Of those possibilities, I like The Stay at Home Artist the best, but look around and see what you can find.

What I am writing about here is making these shirts with kids. With some preparation, it is a super easy project that even Sister-Bug could participate in, and yields a product that they feel really good about. Freezer paper shirts are great for giving new life to stained clothes. Brother-Bug's "new" elephant shirt was one we pulled out of his drawer; it was looking dingy and had a couple of unsightly bits. Carefully placing the elephant stencil over the stains made this old shirt new and exciting. I have saved plenty of clothes from the rag-bag with a little time and ingenuity and the appropriate application of a freezer paper stencil.

Essential number one: Pre-cut the stencil! This is slow and detailed work with a sharp craft knife. Better to get these ready during a quiet moment when excitement to get the project going isn't bouncing all around you.

Shirts in process - here we are waiting for the first color of paint to dry.
Essential number two: Don't conserve the freezer paper. It comes in huge rolls and if you cut the stencil out of the center of a large piece, the whole child's shirt can be tucked under the paper. Less smears, accidents, and other potentially sad incidents.

A birthday present for a spy/detective obsessed friend of Brother-Bug. 

Essential number three: Stick with one or two colors of paint, especially if you are working with younger children. In our project we used black to make outstanding silhouettes, and highlighted with the silvery metallic. Everyone was happy. We could have used my whole rainbow of fabric paint, but it would have meant a constant rotation of brushes needing to be washed, new paint colors to distribute, and so on. The older the kids, the more paint colors I will get out for play.

Sistre-Bug's shirt - she got a very basic stencil, the easier for her to paint. Yes, she painted this with very little help!

Essential number four: Have a thing to do while you wait for the paint to dry - away from the work space. While we waited we played outside. As soon as the paint was dry enough I pulled the paper off and carefully hung the shirts on a high laundry line. It's so hard for little fingers to resist checking the paint to see if it's dry.

Brother-Bug's renewed elephant shirt. So very cool.

When cutting out relief - like the insides of letters or the tracing of fairy wings, I have my own method. I'll attempt to describe it here, but I don't have pictures, so bear with me. In the past I always meticulously saved each little relief piece (the inside of the "D" in detective or each white piece in the fairy wings) and did my best to place them accurately.

See those wings? Each white bit needs to be saved and applied as its own piece. Meticulous and antsy work...

This time, I cut the wing relief in one piece, connecting each piece with a, eighth inch of freezer paper - truly stencil like. With the tip of my iron I anchored each piece in just one small area. Then with my thread-snipping scissors I went through and cut out the eighth inch connectors, leaving the true relief pieces in place as individual pieces. Once all the connectors were removed I ironed the true relief pieces down fully.

A couple more things:
*Make sure you follow the directions for setting the fabric paint. Most needs to be heat set with a dryer or an iron. Once it is well set these shirts are as washable as any other shirt.
*Pick something simple to start - words and fairy wings are very time consuming and potentially frustrating. If you haven't done this before, go for something fairly basic.
*I find it easiest to pull the paper off when the paint is barely tacky. When I've pulled it off completely dry paint it is much more difficult. Have a good pair of tweezers to lift of small paper bits.
*You can layer colors and even stencils! Your creativity and ingenuity is the limit here.

Look at this. They are so proud of themselves! And they look so sharp...

Have fun. Create well. The holidays are coming up... Who do you know who needs an awesome custom t-shirt?