Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First Day of Kindergarten Custom Painting

Custom illustration/painting by Angela Flores @ Bunni Garu

You may have read here that my first-born, my baby boy, started kindergarten this year.  I decided (more than a year ago) that I would mark this momentous occasion by giving my husband a little gift.  And I decided to tell him about it so that he would not be caught off guard and feel bad for not reciprocating.

About a year ago I was perusing Etsy when I came across the above image featured in this listing.  I was captivated by the whimsy and innocence of the illustration.  I pinned the listing on Pinterest and am so thankful that I did because when I went to find it a year later the listing was gone, but my pin took me to Angela's shop, Bunni Garu.  From there I was able to contact her to inquire about the listing I had pinned.  Apparently it had expired, but she was still offering custom illustrations/paintings.  YAY!

So, I sent her a few pictures and gave her a quick summary of Leon's love of all things waste management and then let her creativity work its magic.

Angela was awesome to work with.  She was extremely friendly, helpful and communicated well.  I could hardly wait to see the results and I'm sure you're on pins and needles so I won't keep you waiting.

Oh my goodness, could it possibly be any more perfect??  She captured him perfectly.  It's so sweet.  And my husband LOVED it!  Leon did too.  And it was a very reasonable $45!  Seriously, a perfect custom illustration of my kindergartner for $45.  Thanks, Angela!

I have yet to purchase a forever frame for it, but for now it resides here. Can you see it?

The bright mark in the middle is just from the flash not an imperfection.

Have you ever done anything like this to capture your kids in a certain moment in their life?  What did you do?  I'll be back soon to tell you all about the thoughtful gift my husband gave to me.

I received no compensation/discount for this post.  I just loved it so much that I had to share.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spaghetti and Meatlessballs

I apologize for the picture quality.  It was taken when my camera was out of commission.  Pics at The Curvy Carrot are much better.

I will state right off the bat that this is NOT my original recipe, but man is it worth sharing.  I am vegetarian, have been for almost 20 years (yikes! I'm getting old) and I love it - being vegetarian that is, not aging.  There is one thing I miss though and it is NOT bacon.  I know, most vegetarians I've talked to really miss the bacon.  For me, the flavor of most meat is just too intense and the texture has become foreign.  Yes, I've sampled a meat here and there over the years and am happy to say that I was meant to be vegetarian.  BUT, I LOVED my mother's meatballs.  She used a recipe from a vintage Betty Crocker cookbook.  When she'd reach for that thick book covered in faded red gingham I could already smell their savory aroma.  I even loved mixing the bread, eggs, ground beef and spices with my hands and forming the extra-large orbs that would adorn my overflowing plate of spaghetti.

I've tried frozen vegetarian "meatballs" and have yet to find anything worth eating let alone forking over outrageous amounts of cash.  My oldest son LOVES meatballs but I don't cook meat.  I've cooked it no more than 4 times in the past 20 years.  It's not my thing. I get nervous that I won't cook it thoroughly enough or that I will cook it too much and it will be dry.  I've done ok with some roast chicken, but really, a good rule of thumb is - you don't want me cooking your meat.

Then, while wasting valuable time perusing pinterest I came across these Savory Spinach Bites from The Curvy Carrot (check it out, it's a collection of fantastic looking recipes - Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cupcakes - umm, yes please).  I honestly didn't have high expectations the first time I made these so to say I was blown away is an understatement.  While I was cooking dinner I served them to my family just the way the recipe suggests.  My husband asked, "Are these turkey meatballs?".  That's when I realized that not only were these full of savory deliciousness as the name implies, they would be the perfect substitute for a meatball.  Hence, our family's Spaghetti and Meatlessballs was born.  It is now a staple in our home and we all look forward to it - including my 13-month-old and extremely, ridiculously, nauseatingly picky 2.5-year-old.  I think I'm going to make a bunch and freeze them so we are never without.

So, eat em with spaghetti or as an appetizer with a side of sauce, I don't care, but eat em!

Savory Spinach Bites (adapted ever so slightly from The Curvy Carrot)
 Servings: 18-24 spinach bites, depending on how big you make them
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 clove)
2 10-ounces packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 8-ounce bag of herbed seasoned stuffing mix.  I use Pepperidge Farm because it’s the only mainstream vegetarian stuffing around.
6 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp flax meal (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter

3. Add onion and cook until the onions are translucent and soft, about 5 minutes or so.

4. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and let cool.

5. In the meantime, remove excess water from thawed spinach by pressing it between paper towels. **You do not need to cook the spinach.

6. In a large bowl, combine the stuffing mix, flax, spinach, eggs, Parmesan, salt and pepper, and onion/garlic mixture.  Combine well.

7. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

8. One at a time, using your hands, roll the mixture into individual 1-inch balls.  Place each one on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

9. Bake the balls for about 15-20 minutes, or until very slightly browned.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Leon's Birth Story: Labor and Birth

I know I made you wait an eternity for this, but here it is, Leon's birth.  So I forgot to mention in my last post that when we scheduled the induction one of the midwives said, "I will be starting the foley bulb Monday evening, but won't be doing the induction.  I already have one 37-weeker in the NICU."  Seriously?!  I couldn't believe she said that.  If I wasn't nervous before that certainly did the trick.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Kitt Photography

Now on with the story...
I spent a long, uncomfortable night in the hospital.  The foley bulb didn't cause much activity in my uterus, but my bladder had a field day.  I probably should have given in and propped myself up on the toilet and slept there.  Seriously.  I peed all night long.  And if you've ever spent the night in labor and delivery you know how uncomfortable those beds that break down are.  Needless to say, the next morning I was tired, but ready for a change (hopefully of the cervical kind).

They started the pitocin just before 8 a.m. and shorty after 8 I began contracting slowly.  Our doula arrived after a brief detour to grab our camera.  Around 11:30 or so (remember this is all from memory until I find that darn baby book at which time I will record the specifics somewhere else for safe keeping) the foley bulb came out meaning I was about 4 cm.  It was exciting.  I was progressing.

I continued to labor with the support of our lovely midwife, who I liken to Dustin Hoffman in the most flattering way.  She was kind and gentle, and quirky, and made me feel safe and confident.  At one point between contractions early in labor she asked if I would mind if she knitted.  There was plenty of downtime and it seemed like a perfectly good way to pass the time during early labor.  My husband, doula and nurse were also by my side all day.  Remember, I had been diagnosed with preeclampsia and was being induced with pitocin.  That means LOTS of monitoring, which means LOTS of cords everywhere, well, not everywhere... Anyway, our doula was so good at keeping me moving I barely noticed the cords, until I had to use the bathroom, which I did frequently.  I bounced on a birthing ball, I leaned on the bed, I leaned on my husband, rocked in a rocking chair, slept a little in bed, but between each of these positions I went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet.  The bathroom was so small, and quiet, and dark.  It wasn't a conscious decision, it's just where I needed to be before moving onto the next position.  Maybe it was like hitting the reset button, giving me renewed strength to let my body do what my body was designed to do?  Maybe I just like bathrooms.   At one point, upon sitting on the commode for the tenth, twelfth or thirteenth time, my husband asked, "Are you actually going to the bathroom?"  It was adorable and I could tell he'd been wanting to know the answer for some time.  I simply said, "Not always".

It went on like that for some time.  Position, bathroom, new position, bathroom.  At the time the hospital did not have wireless monitors so the water birth I had been hoping for was not an option, but you can read about the water birth of our third baby here.  Our doula did the most wonderful thing and brought a large bucket of hot water to soak my feet.  I rocked in the rocking chair while she rubbed my warm feet.  It was only my feet, but it was so soothing.  All the while they were increasing the pitocin and I was holding strong.  And then around 2 p.m., something changed, unfortunately not my cervix.  I was still at 4 cm and struggling to handle the new labor pattern.  Maybe it was the increase in pitocin, maybe it was my body taking over, who knows, but it was different and hard, really hard.  I swear the contractions were coming on top of each other.  I sobbed a bit and our midwife called a meeting of the minds. The midwife, nurse, doula and my hubby all gathered around and we talked about our options.  We considered that my progress had slowed, we considered that first babies can be pokey, we considered that my blood pressure was high, we considered that baby seemed perfectly healthy, we considered that I was getting tired.  The consensus was that this could be a very long labor and that maybe I could use a break.  So, after yet another visit to the thinking throne, aka the toilet, I asked for the epidural.  I was sad, but I was also tired and the idea of resting sounded so nice.  Because of my high blood pressure they had to get a platelet count before I could get the epidural.  The midwife felt that we should turn the pitocin off so I could rest and then we'd restart it at half strength (sorry for the lack of medical terminology here) once I had the epidural.  She said it should take about 15 minutes for my labor to stop.

Imagine my surprise after 30 minutes when they told me that my body was laboring on it's own.  In a grand gesture they stripped all the cords off and we switch to intermittent monitoring.  It felt so freeing even though I didn't feel overly inhibited before.  I could breathe in between contractions, but they were still strong and regular.  I was able to manage these contractions.  The ones that my body was creating on it's own.  I started to feel nauseous around  3:30 p.m.  The lab was backed up and we were still waiting on the platelet count.  That was the furthest thing from my mind at that point.  The second time I puked my bag of waters exploded and I was a bit surprised.  The amazing women supporting us agreed that it might be wise to check me.  I was feeling excited and nervous and curious and anxious.  Then they told me that I'm 9 almost 10 cm.  Now I was overwhelmed.  In another grand gesture the midwife waved her hand in the air like a queen waving away a servant and said, "Call off the epidural."

I again sought the comfort of the porcelain god and my husband and I sat in quiet darkness.  I looked up at him and at first thought he was laughing, but closer inspection revealed tears.  He was crying.  He let out a mucusy giggle when he realized I was looking at him.  He said, "So this is really happening."  To which I responded, "Like right now!  Uh, I feel something".  Overhearing this, our amazing team of women gently guide me to the bed.  I didn't think about it, couldn't have thought about it if they'd asked, I just climbed onto the bed and draped myself over the inclined back of the bed.  As I did the nurse said, "Hurry, I see his head."  Sheets were thrown down quickly and they said it would feel similar to going poop.  To which I replied, "Good, because I might". (Poop that is).  The midwife responded, "We like poop almost as much as we like vomit."  I laughed and with the next contraction his head was out.  And if you want to know (cause you know you're a little curious now), I did poo a little and I hardly noticed.  It was not a big deal.

I can't say that I pushed, because that's not exactly what happened.  My uterus pushed.  I was bearing down, but only because there was no other choice.  It was nothing like I'd ever seen on television with people counting and me holding my breath (not usually recommended but still widely practiced, by the way) and my legs in the air.  I was in a natural birthing position and my body was pushing my baby out.  There was no choice other than to bear down.  With one more push he was out.  My strong, healthy, perfect baby boy with his dark head of hair had made his way into this world and our hearts at 4:28 p.m. on August 21, 2007.  He weighed 6 lbs. 14 oz. was 17 3/4 inches and was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  I was a mama.  We were parents.

Looking down at Leon and I from the top of the raised bed.

I believe that I was in transition when I described the change in labor and I believe the pitocin was making it even harder.  I also feel strongly that if I had the epidural things might have ended differently.  Maybe my labor would have slowed drastically. Maybe I would have had to push for a long time and been swollen and sore.  Maybe I would not have been able to push effectively and more interventions would have been required.  Maybe he would have busted out right then and there.  Maybe it would have unfolded much the same way.  No one knows for sure.  I do know that without pain medication my body was able to do exactly what it needed to to birth my sweet boy and I wasn't a martyr (a description I loathe).  I wasn't suffering.  I was birthing.  I was becoming a mother the best way I knew how.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Leon's Birth Story: My Pregnancy

Photo by Jesse Kitt (I cropped and edited slightly)

I can't believe how overdue this post is.  My dear boy turned 5-years-old on August 21 and I am just now getting around to posting his birth story.  True, we had a lot going on.  True, I had a cold and spent a day in bed (thanks, babe!). But in all honesty, this story is late because I can't find it - yikes!  It's true.  I can not find my son's baby book.  It's here - somewhere - but clearly not where I thought.  So, here it goes, mostly from memory, my first baby's beautiful birth story.

My pregnancy was a bit of a surprise.  We were married in October 2006 and I was feeling more than a little nauseous by January.  On January 23, 2007 I peed on a stick and learned that in a few short months we were going to be parents.  My husband was out of town and I had grand plans for how I would break the news.  I couldn't keep the secret though and I spilled the beans over the phone.  He was shocked and elated.

I had a wonderful pregnancy supported by my loving husband and our great friends.  We were among the first of our friends to have a child and this would be the first grandchild so there was a lot of excitement.  I had a few aches and pains towards the end, but nothing I couldn't work through.  I had a really busy day at work on June 28 and was worried that I hadn't felt baby move so I went in for monitoring to ease my mind.  All was well.  I found a great prenatal yoga class and met some wonderful women who I am blessed to call friends today.

At 34 weeks we received some surprising, confusing and frightening news.  My blood pressure was creeping up, which alone can be problematic, but it is also a sign of preeclampsia.  On Friday, August 3 my blood pressure hit 158/108.  The nurse left and the midwife came in.  I will never forget what she said, "You've just earned yourself a trip to labor and delivery."  She said she would make a phone call, get us some paperwork and then she walked out.  My husband and I just sat there staring at each other.  What did she mean?  Were we about to have a baby?  Now?  Really?  When she returned she clarified that we would be headed to maternal-fetal medicine to be monitored and complete a 24 hour urine collection.  We were in the hospital for 24 hours and left with orders for bed rest.

The same scenario played out the following Friday.  At around 7 a.m. on Saturday, August 11 we were awakened by someone we'd never met who explained that if we were able to leave the hospital (I hadn't realized this was an if) we would have to follow strict bed rest and would be induced at 37 weeks.  Whaaa??  I'm sorry, who are you??  The midwife came in a few hours later and explained it was a resident (in all fairness they may have said that as they woke us up and I just didn't hear it).  She sat at the edge of my bed and explained that yes, we were likely looking at an induction at 37 weeks.  She answered our questions thoroughly, but it was still disheartening.

I felt so frustrated.  This was not part of "the plan".  Our doula was so supportive and compassionate and even came over with some high protein foods.  I followed the bed rest orders.  Friends pitched in to help in so many ways - even sanding a dresser for Leon's nursery (thanks Robyn!).  But, our 24 hour urine collection revealed that my protein levels were above the threshold for preeclampsia. We checked into the hospital on the evening of Monday, August 20 and watched the sun set.  I was 37 weeks pregnant.

I'll be back soon with the story of my labor and our precious boy's birth.