Tuesday, January 29, 2013


This post has been nearly two years in the making. I've grieved, I've grown, I've started to heal, and I'm finally ready to share.  

The events surrounding Eamon's birth are hard for me to speak of, even two years later. What was supposed to be a beautiful, peaceful journey for our family was ripped out of our control, and derailed in the worst way. Everyone involved that night (me, Chris, our midwife, my sister, my mother) was profoundly changed by what happened, as we watched our planned homebirth become a nightmarish trip into fear and uncertainty. Without going into great detail, the basics are this: we transferred to the hospital because of minor complications that made a homebirth more risky. We anticipated an easy delivery, and out the door we'd go. The doctor on call had other ideas. He used his fears and unfamiliarity with my situation, along with administrative means, to railroad us into a surgical birth. Here's an excerpt from my journals to Eamon:

As the situation with the doctor deteriorated and he pushed harder and harder for a surgical birth, I felt fear and anger replace my courage and calm. I knew you were safe, but doubt started to creep in. I knew I was strong and able, my body wise beyond my imagining, but the threat of intervention stalled my progress. You had already begun your final navigation of my pelvis, but fear for your safety at the hands of the doctor forced us into the second decision we hadn't wanted - a surgical birth.

Many people have never heard the terms "birth rape" and "birth trauma." Many women suffered both, but have never dealt with the grief. Sometimes the experiences resurface in the form of postpartum depression. Sometimes they never resurface at all. Sometimes they light a fire in a woman's heart, propel her to take action, do what she can to protect her sisters from the same experience.

I'm hoping I can be one of those women. I hope I can use my experience to help prevent another family from suffering. I am currently working my way through coursework to become a doula - a labor support person. I recently attended a friend's birth, and though I went into it very trepidatious of my reactions, her birth was incredibly healing and empowering to me. I look forward to hearing my sister's birth story in just a few short months, and try to share my own experience in a positive, enlightening way. I don't use my birth story to create fear in other women, and I hope my next birth story will be one full of light and joy, healing all the scars from the past. I've begun to dig out from under the weight of my experience in the past two years, and in another few years, I expect to be standing triumphantly on top of all that weight, fully free of the trauma.

Below are a few passages I've written on the subject over the past two years. 

Jan 2012 - This is a beautiful post, and a beautiful quilt. As the author mentions, it's very hard to feel "heard" when you keep hearing the same refrain - 'at least you and your baby are healthy and safe.' As Chris pointed out to the hospital administrator only hours after Eamon's birth, a grieving and emotionally scarred mother is not a healthy and safe woman. It is my fervent belief that nothing about my labor warranted a surgical birth. I fell victim to a doctor and his fear and a medical system that is totally out of control. I was forced into a corner by the machine that we call health care.

Dec 2011 - Cesarean section survivors carry physical scars, but the emotional and psychological scars are beyond imagining for me. My low, tidy scar is my trauma trigger button. Most days, I can barely stand to know it's there. Some days, it tingles or throbs quietly, like a whisper, reminding me of a battle I never thought I'd have to fight.  A battle in which I was forced to surrender. Some days, I forget it's there until my fingers glide over it as I dress, and a twinge of sadness tugs at my heart. And some days, I examine it closely, proud that my physical scar is reflecting the healing I feel in my soul. - Jan 2013

April 2012 - Sometimes I stumble across something that is so soul healing it shocks me. The universe puts exactly what I need right in my lap. Recently, I saw a book at the library that caught my eye. Less than a quarter of the way into the book, a phrase jumped out at me. It caused me to stop reading and shed some tears. So beautiful, so perfect. Empowering to me.

"A scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived." 
- Chris Cleave, Little Bee

December 28, 2010
This photo was snapped just minutes after we were reunited.
All I can see is relief and sorrow on my face.

Here is a link to a post I wrote about our midwife, a woman who was and is a very special part of my life. She stuck with us until the end, fought harder than I ever would have expected her to, and grieved and cried with us. She is a beautiful spirit, and we are better for knowing her.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Make It At Home Monday - Health & Beauty Basics

It's time again for Make It At Home Monday. If you missed last Monday's post about kitchen basics, catch up here. Today we'll move away from the kitchen and into the bathroom. I've completely eliminated commercial products from my daily routine, and I'm healthier for it.

This post is woefully devoid of pictures, but I promise I'll fix that as soon as we have a new camera!

1. Toothpaste. I still haven't quite perfected our homemade toothpaste recipe, so I expect I'll revisit this later. I love the performance of this paste, but it's a little too solid for my taste. I'll be adding some vegetable glycerin next time to give it a more pasty texture. Right now, I'm using 2 parts coconut oil, 1 part baking soda, 1/2 part honey, some cinnamon, and about 5 drops each peppermint and clove essential oils. The coconut oil has made a marked improvement in my sensitivity near the gums, and I don't wake up with morning breath anymore. The clove EO will help take care of any tooth pain you may have, and the peppermint EO leaves you feeling minty fresh. Cinnamon is a good antimicrobial agent, and baking soda provides some healthy scrub. The honey sweetens it just a bit, and is also antimicrobial.

2. Mouth Wash. I mix two parts water with one part alcohol (I used rum last time because that's what was in the cabinet). Then I add a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon, 2 or 3 drops of clove essential oil, and about 6 drops of peppermint essential oil. We keep it in a mason jar in the bathroom, shake it up, and use just like store bought wash. It can have a drying effect, so I only use it every other day.

3. Hair Cleanser. I switched to the baking soda and apple cider vinegar method of hair washing before I got pregnant with Eamon, and my hair became much healthier right after the switch. There's a load of information out there about it, so I won't go into too much detail here, other than to say I wash my hair every 3-4 days, but only wash Eamon's about once a month. I'm hoping his skin and hair will never fall victim to the "dehydrate, rehydrate, dehydrate" cycle of commercial products, and he's never had a main stream shampoo in his hair.

4. Detangler. Obviously I don't need to detangle my dreadlocks, but Eamon wakes up every morning with quite the bed head, and his hair needs some serious taming daily. I didn't like the idea of spraying chemicals in his hair (even if they are tear free), so I started mixing apple cider vinegar with water in a one to one mixture, and put it in a spray bottle. It detangles like a dream, and the slight smell of vinegar goes away as soon as it's dry.

5. Face Cleanser. I've never been a big fan of facial cleansers, as I have combination skin and can never find something that will balance my oily nose with my dry as the desert cheeks. A few years ago, I started just wiping my face with witch hazel, and that worked great. However, I still had itchy dry skin on my cheeks, and I often felt like my face wasn't truly clean. Recently, I started using the oil cleansing method to wash my face. It's really easy, and my skin finally feels balanced. I still put a little bit of coconut oil on my cheeks before bed, and I use a warm washcloth to rinse my face in the morning, then add a bit more coconut oil. The pores on my nose are far less noticeable, and I rarely have blemishes.

I can't even imagine the money we save because we don't use commercial products. I keep a fairly well stocked cabinet of basic supplies - coconut oil, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, etc - and add essential oils and other things we need occasionally. One of the best things about such a simple routine is that when we travel, I don't have to pack a whole bag of beauty supplies. I grab a small container of our toothpaste, fill a tiny canister with coconut oil, and once we arrive at our destination, I run to the store and grab what we need - usually just ACV and baking soda.

Next week, let's head back to the kitchen and talk about healthy, toning beverages.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Countdown to Alaska... More Monsters

My handspun leg warmers - I have a feeling
these will end up being airplane knitting
As soon as I get started on a project for myself, I find another adorable thing I need to make for Eamon. I was working on leg warmers for myself, but then I ran across this lime green yarn, and realized Eamon could really use another hat. He now has three winter weather sets to wear in Alaska. I literally just finished up his Green Eyed Alaska Monster and Monster Neck Gaiter, so here you go. (Please excuse my terrible picture quality - our camera bit the dust yesterday, and tax time is soon approaching, so we are using the video camera for the time being.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Make It At Home Monday - Kitchen Basics

As most everyone knows, I make a lot of things by hand that most people just go out and buy. I have a few different reasons for this: sometimes it's to save money, sometimes because I want to avoid the chemicals or additives or unfair labor practices found in store bought products. Sometimes it's just plain fun.

I thought it would be nice to start sharing with my readers some of the products I make at home. Most of this can be found elsewhere on the internet, but right here I'll collect my favorite recipes and tutorials. I plan to do this series on Mondays, until I run out of things to show you!

Today I'll go through some of my food basics. I need to bulk up on some things anyway, so it's a perfect time to take some pictures.

1. Bread.  Homemade bread is the best. It's dirt cheap to make, and pretty easy. I used to make bread by hand, but now I have a bread machine, so that does all my mixing, kneading, and rising for me.  In a pinch, I will bake in the machine, but I prefer the look of a true loaf right out of the loaf pan. My basic bread recipe (courtesy of Mama Joan) is this: 3 cups solids (flour + whatever additives you like - oats, nuts, etc),  1 tsp yeast, a bit of salt and sugar (I prefer a salty bread, so I use more than a bit), a TBSP of olive oil or butter, about 1 cup warm water. Each loaf has a mind of its own, so I might add extra flour to one and extra water to the next. I've started freezing a loaf of bread to bake midweek, which has worked out great.

2. Brown sugar. Thank you, Pinterest. I made my first batch of brown sugar (with my mom's awesome stirring abilities) over the holidays. It tastes better (less sweet) than store bought, and I'm pretty sure it's cheaper. I also like that you can control how dark or light it is. Recipe? A cup of granulated sugar to 1 TBSP molasses. Mix with a fork.

3. Pancake, cornbread, cookie, and brownie mixes. I've gathered these recipes from various places, and I really like making the dry ingredient packs ahead of time. It cuts down on prep time, and just makes my life easier. I also pre-make cookies and toss them in the freezer (more on that here). It's so easy to pop a few on the cookie sheet and have fresh baked cookies in about 15 minutes!

4. Popcorn. I know most people already know how to make popcorn on the stove top, but I'd never tried it until a few months ago. I grew up in a microwave popcorn household, and continued that tradition in my own house. Now we've switched, and we'll never go back! A fresh batch of popcorn popped in coconut oil and sprinkled with nutritional yeast is one of Eamon's favorite snacks. It's a whole lot cheaper that way too, especially if you buy it from the bulk bin at your favorite co-op.

5. Spreadable butter. I've been making my own spreadable butter mostly because I hate throwing out the containers from store bought butter (they are a #5 recyclable). I don't think it's any cheaper to make my own, but I do love seeing my butter sitting on my countertop in a lovely glass container. To make my whipped butter, I toss two room temperature sticks of butter in the mixer, then add a few tablespoons of olive oil.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Countdown to Alaska... 24 days to go

With less than a month until we leave for Alaska, I've tried to kick my crafting into high gear, but with a toddler who wants to nurse like all.the.time, knitting is proving to be slow going. I finally finished Eamon's balaclava and mittens, and am pretty pleased with how they turned out.

 Now, it's time to move on to all these poor socks that need darning before I go. If you look closely, you'll see a giant hole in the pair on the right; apparently the chupacabra got a hold of them. I don't think there's anything more tedious than repairing socks, but it must be done, unfortunately.

As a reward for getting my socks darned, I'll be casting on a brand new pair of socks. I thought this yarn wanted to be a sweater, but now it is whispering, 'over the knee socks' in my ear.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Alaska Practice

We got a little bit of snow last night, and Eamon was dying to go play this morning. In fact, when he asked if he could go play in the snow, I told him we needed to change out of our jammies first. I went upstairs to put clothes on, and when I came back down he was standing at the door completely nude, saying, "Let's go play in snow!" I probably over-dressed him a bit for Virginia snow, but I want him to get used to the "bundle up" aspect of Alaska snow, so layers and layers he donned.

Trying out some of his new Alaska gear - balaclava & mittens

He spent far too much time (in my opinion) eating snow

Snow covered tractor?  No problem, just sit right on top!
And just for good measure, a picture of him in the snow almost exactly a year ago.
Jan 15, 2012

Sunday, January 13, 2013

In Memory.

Tonight, my heart is heavy as I learn of the passing of a woman who was so much a part of my formative years.  Though we rarely saw eye to eye, she always had my best interest in mind.  She and her family are present in nearly all of my teenage memories, as both of her children were a big part of my adolescence.  She played many roles in my young life.

As my math teacher,  Mrs. Taylor wasn't very successful in helping math make sense to me, though she tried her hardest.  She was a determined and relentless teacher, always pushing her students to strive for excellence.  The image of her slight body perched on the edge of a stool and curled around her ELMO projector is burned forever in my mind.

As a BETA sponsor, she helped us prepare and perfect presentations, chaperoned our outings, and mentored us.  I spent many days, evenings, weekends and miles of road with her in this role.

As my best friend's mother, Mary Jane was sometimes infuriating to me.  She was a fiercely protective mother, and I can remember more than a few times trying to talk her into allowing some adolescent shenanigans, like driving ourselves the thirty (curvy mountain road) minutes to the movies mere months after getting our driver's licenses.  I spent many evenings snuggled on Mary Jane's couch, watching Buffy, Dawson's Creek, and more.  I can remember her imparting little morsels of wisdom upon us with fair frequency.  She would glance up from her spot in front of JT's Blocks, flick her cigarette, and just drop a pearl of knowledge to blow your mind.  Like the night we were talking about how big boobs were over rated (or some discussion about boobs, in any case), and she glanced up long enough to interject, "All you need is a mouthful.  For nursing babies, you know."  

As my boyfriend's mother, she was...  not-quite-but-almost-fear-inspiring.  She raised a son who was sweet and respectful, always made you feel loved, and was highly intelligent and well rounded, able to hold a conversation about most anything.  Again, she was very protective, and when that relationship ended, it changed my relationship with Mary Jane as well.

One of my most recent memories of Mary Jane happened several months ago when I ran into her at the coffee shop.  Her disease had already progressed to such a point that she was using a motorized chair, and she sat my curious little man in her lap and took him for a spin in her chair.

Mary Jane was opinionated and strong willed, just as I am.  She was intense in everything she did.  She had a strong belief in her church, her God, the sanctity of marriage. Her philosophies were often very different from my own, and she was always ready to defend her views.  She taught me a lot about believing in yourself, and standing up for what you believe in.  (As I wrote that sentence, I remembered that ending a sentence in a preposition was a pet peeve of hers.  To this day I can't listen to someone ask, "Where's that at?" without biting back the reply, "Between the 'a' and the 't'.")  It was hard to watch her fall victim to a disease that limited her physically, and though my heart is aching for her family and all those who knew and love her, I'm joyful to know that she is out from under the weight of that disease, and her suffering has ended.  She will be very missed by all of us, but her spirit was strong, and lives on in our memories forever.

A Warm January Day

We are having terribly unusual weather this month, so now that Eamon is over the worst of his congestion and ear ache, we've been spending some time outside.  Yesterday we took his trike for a spin, and Eamon sported the helmet he got for Christmas.
I love how it looks like he's going 100mph.  He's actually sitting still.

We also got a chance to attend Dino Day at Virginia Museum of Natural History yesterday.  Unfortunately, we don't have a point and shoot camera anymore, so I don't get a chance to take many picture when we are out and about.  Before we got to the museum, we had a dinosaur themed morning at Honduras Coffee Shop.  We read a dinosaur book and had a dinosaur activity, which Eamon helped me prepare the night before.  A month ago, I couldn't get the kid to color at all.  Now he really seems to enjoy it.
E was helping get our Dino Day activity prepared

Monday, January 7, 2013

Holiday Cookie Jars

Just a quick recipe for those of you who got cookie jars from us during the holidays.  
It's basically just a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe.  

Cream together a 1/2 cup of butter and the white sugar found in the top of your jar.

Add 1 tsp vanilla and 1 egg.

Add the remaining ingredients.  I didn't realize the brown sugar would get dried out, so I chipped it out and popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Good as new.

Dole out in your favorite method.  I prefer a cookie baller, and I recently broke mine, so I'll be tossing my dough in the freezer until the new one arrives.
Eamon's obviously a fan of raw cookie eating.
Bake at 375F for about 9 min.  This is a much drier dough than what you are probably used to, but the cookies are FANTASTIC.  

And here's a picture of the Alaska project I finished today.  This poor hat has been through a lot of knitting.  I still haven't fallen completely head over heels for it, but I like it well enough to wear.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Countdown to Alaska Project #1 - Fleecy Monster Hat & Mittens

Eamon has a giant parka that my parents got for a steal at an outdoor store, but here in Virginia, he rarely wears it, so he doesn't have any accessories to match.  First on my list for pre-Alaska crafting was to make him two hats to match - a fleece hat and a knit hat.  I'm waiting for the yarn to arrive for his knit hat, so I decided to finish up the sewn hat first, and I had SO MUCH leftover fabric that I decided mittens would be a good idea as well.

This is not a totally color true photo, but I was pretty excited
to get a neon green that matched his jacket perfectly!
I LOVE paper applique.  I wish I'd figured it out years ago. 

So, my kid's the cutest ever, right?
This is his "cheese" face.  

The start of the mittens.  They look huge, but I promise they will fit!
All finished!

And just a funny picture.
"Mama!  Helpa me!  I stuck!"

Friday, January 4, 2013

I'll Nurse where I Want

A few months ago, I experienced an incident in which someone challenged my right to nurse my baby in a local restaurant.  Thankfully, the owner is a mother of three grown children who were all breastfed, and she believes in women's rights and in the rights of babies to eat when they are hungry, and she stood up for me.  It was the first time I'd ever encountered this type of situation, and I was a little shaken.  For nearly two years, I'd been preparing myself for a battle over breastfeeding, but it never came.  I nurse E wherever we are, and don't do a lot of covering up or moving to accommodate other people's discomfort.  I've had a few hairy eyeballs thrown my way, but never before has anyone said something to me or about me to management.

In the wake of this incident, I started thinking about how it might affect nursing mothers when they deal with something like this.  I don't worry about myself - I've got no issues whipping it out wherever I need to.  My concern is this kind of attitude toward women who are already struggling.  Women who don't have a strong support system, who are wrestling with the taboos and sexualization that surround nursing in our society.  Women who cringe when they realize the baby needs to nurse and they are sitting in a restaurant, who fight with big covers and blankets and consider pumping when they are going out with baby.  Those are the women who are ruined by an incident like this.  Those are the babies who don't get to experience ALL the golden benefits of breastfeeding.

All states are different, but I live in a state where it is legal (but probably not wise) to ask a nursing mother to cover up, move, or leave.  We are protected from indecent exposure laws, but the law is not written to give express permission to nurse anywhere we are legally allowed to be, as is the law in many other states.

My advice to nursing moms is this: Know the laws in your state.  Look up the laws in states you visit.  If someone challenges you, stand your ground.  Nurse where you need to, when you need to, however is comfortable for you.  If you are more comfortable moving to a corner booth to breastfeed your child, then do it.  But don't move because the table across from you has children.  Who knows - those children might be like my child, who absolutely ADORES seeing other babies and kids nurse.  The more we nurse normally, the more nursing gets normalized.  Someday, no one will even blink when a baby whimpers and a woman adjusts her shirt.

Eamon's First Nurse
Nearly 2 years later, and still going strong

Crafting Countdown to Alaska

So I've been a bad bad blogger for almost two months.  I'd love to give you the excuse that I've been busy in real life, but I haven't been doing a great job on that front either!  So here's the truth - with family in for the holidays, and a remodeling project, and super procrastination on holiday crafting, I just fell off the wagon.  Sorry about that.  Here's the past few weeks in photos for you:

Getting ready to make ornaments

Decorating the outdoor tree.  The damn popcorn melted in the dew the next morning.

Signing with Daddy at the coffee shop

Eamon & cousin Whit performing Eamon's first song - "The Dinosaur Song."

Decorating cookies with mama and grammy
Our humble little tree
Eamon on Christmas morning

He was far too busy for hugging Uncle J

Consulting with Whit on proper helmet donning technique
Stealth little beast is opening birthday presents HOURS before his party

Seriously excited about birthday cake
So, to help make up for the fact that I haven't posted in so long, I'm going to try to do a post every other day for the next month.  Eamon and I are taking a trip to Alaska in February, and neither of us has good cold weather clothes, so I'll be doing a lot of sewing and knitting this month.  I'm aiming to get at least two projects done every ten days, and I'm hoping that making a commitment to my meager blog following population will help me stay on track.  Send me messages reminding me of what I need to get done.  Send me links to awesome cold weather accessories I should check out.  Send me messages questioning the sanity of going to Alaska in FEBRUARY.  Whatever.  Just please help me stay on track.  

First up - I'll be knocking out a few non-Alaska related crafts.  Projects that are taking up room in my mind and my studio.  Stay tuned, please.