Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Being Mr. Dave

My sweetie has gone away... 
To Washington's peninsula, Clallam Bay, where he will interview for the position of Principal at the K-12 school. When he returns on Friday, he has another interview, by phone, with a K-6 school in West Glacier, Montana. We're excited about either position, and hopeful that the time and money invested in this interview will be worth it. He left at 9:30 this morning, and his sub wasn't going to arrive until afternoon, so Julia and I packed a diaper bag and headed to the school to fill in. We thought it would be just until 1, but the flight was delayed, and didn't arrive until 2:45. After 5 hours of being Mr. Dave, I certainly have a deeper appreciation for Dave's patience. First, I had Social Studies with the elementary kids. They took turns reading from a lesson on Sacajawea, and then wrote sentences about it. Of course there was a 10 minute pencil-sharpening period before sentences could be written, and a competition to see who had the smallest pencil stub. 6th grade Sam flat out refused to write sentences, clearly stating how little he cared about the topic. I was saved by the class ending, and went back to the high schoolers for independent projects and Science. Al, the 7th grader ran out of his ADD meds yesterday, so he was in a intensely distracted state for the entire day. His behavior was actually really good in that he didn't get into fights and didn't swear at me or anyone else. The hard thing about that was that he distracted everyone else too. The school's policy is to send him home if he's not on his meds, but at the moment, we're not too sure that home is a good place for him, so he got to stay in school. Dave's sub plans were based on a public health nurse coming in today too, to give presentations, but she was delayed as well, so the lessons were in the less-thrilling worksheet category, and I had to do some quick brushing up on Newton's laws and how to turn decimals into fractions, two things I had happily forgotten. I did have a moment when, while trying to get them on task for their anti-drugs project, I unthinkingly asked Miguel to research depressants and Al to research stimulants. As we looked stuff up, there was all sorts of information on stimulant use to treat ADD. I felt like I could be playing with fire here, asking Al to understand that I wanted him to list stimulants and their negative short and long-term effects on the body without making him feel ashamed of taking stimulants to treat his ADD. Thankfully he didn't seem to make any connections like that and was way more interested in asking me what "douchebag" meant than the task at hand. Julia did really well, even though she's got a cold and had to miss two naps. She puttered around the room for a good long time entertained with a pen, a laminated name tag and a rock. By about 2, she was pretty well exhausted, and she fell asleep in the backpack. She slept through classroom noise, her chest-racking coughs, walking home in the cold, and my taking her out of the backpack and putting her to bed, and continued sleeping for two more hours. I was exhausted too. During spring break, I was really gratified to see that Dave realized how boring and depressing it can be for me to be in the house all day. Now I'm the one realizing how much Dave puts up with every day as a teacher. Along with Take Your Child To Work Day, we all need to have Take Your Spouse To Work Day to get that little wake-up moment of appreciation. 

Rearranging the desk drawers
Inspecting the tape
Yay for recess!!! (says the sub)
Notice her sweater? I knit it!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sleep baby, sleep

For the past 12 months, I have nursed Julia to sleep at night. This has worked well most of the time, but lately I was having a few problems. First, that Julia needed to go to bed earlier. Staying up till 10 or 11, as my schedule would prefer was not doing her evening behavior any favors, and I'm not ready for bed at 9 which seemed to be the tipping point for Julia. When she was younger, she could nurse to sleep in the middle of whatever was going on around her, but not anymore. When stuff is happening, she has to be involved, and if she's exhausted it is fun for nobody. Most nights, I didn't mind nursing her to sleep at 9, then getting up for awhile again, but on the nights when we had people over, it made me pretty irritated with her. On top of that, she started to get a little less interested in sleeping and more interested in twiddling with her milk supply. My previous strategy for getting her to focus and settle down was to gently pin her down with my top leg as I laid on my side to nurse. This worked great for a few months, but now that she has learned to twiddle, I needed a change. Julia has outgrown her tiny crib by about an inch, so last week, I borrowed Kiley's pack and play as she's graduated to a big bed. I'm not very happy with the cry-it-out philosophy, but I have learned that a minute of tears goes a long way in getting Julia to settle down. When I put her in the crib at first, she would happily explore it with sleep nowhere on the horizon. When I left the room, she'd promptly wail, and when I came back in to lay her down again and sing some more, a yawn would escape and after several repeats, she'd finally fall asleep. We've kept this up for a week now, and the amount of time spent playing/wailing has dropped dramatically. Tonight, she knew the routine and laid right down with yawns and eye rubbing. 20 minutes later she was sleeping, with no wailing at all. (Until she woke up coughing 10 minutes later, then it was about 30 seconds of mild fussing) and asleep she stays...for about 3 whole hours. Not kidding, about 12 or 1 am, she'll wake up to nurse. For now, I'm happy to pull her into bed at that point and let her sleep the rest of the night there. Perhaps we'll eventually get to an entire night of straight sleep, but for now, three hours of adult time in the evening seems pretty great. 

Just look at how much of the table top Julia can reach now. 
Hugging the elephant I made her, as well as the bulb syringe, another one of her favorite toys. 
Opening a birthday box from Grandma Gini
Wondering why Dad is eating peaches instead of hurrying up to go on a walk.

Julia in front of her too-small crib, modeling a family heirloom Norwegian sweater.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A birth story

Today is the first anniversary of Julia's birth. I'm overjoyed to have the memories of this past year, but the memories of the birth itself have weighed rather heavily on me. It's what I tend to think about when I lay awake at night, and here is the story.
We sought the care of midwives, because I thought that would be the best way to get the sort of care I wanted. I didn't want a typical hospital birth. I wanted no drugs, and no drugs to be a simple request away. I didn't want to be hooked up to a fetal monitor, and I definitely didn't want to be epesiotomied or to have a c-section. If possible, I wanted to labor in a tub and have the option of a water birth. The midwives suggested that I write a birth plan, but I, rather naively, ignored that suggestion, thinking that their wishes would be in line with my wishes. They provided good prenatal care, until about my 39th week, when they said that the baby was posterior, or face-up. This is not necessarily concerning, as the baby can flip to the correct face-down position at any time, but they did suggest I spend time on all 4's, supported by pillows, and to spend as much time resting on my left side as I could, for the benefit of my suddenly slightly elevated blood pressure. I did these things, napping on my left side, and spent 5-10 minutes at a time on all 4's, but after the fact, I did some research and found a lot more things I should and should not have been doing. For instance, I went swimming, to exercise and relax and feel weightless again, but I should not have been doing the breaststroke, which encourages the baby's head to settle down lower, making turning less likely. I also spent time squatting, having read in many books that it is a good position for pregnant women to be in. That also encourages the head to settle. I should have been spending hours and hours on all 4's, and even spent time in a inclined position with my butt higher than my head to encourage her to float higher and turn. I could have sought a manual turning of the baby, (by a trained professional pressing on specific parts of the belly.) I could have gone to see a chiropractor, to see if being adjusted would help the baby to turn. I should have avoided being reclined on my back (like I was in the car for the 65 minutes it took to drive to the birth center) and instead labored in specific positions to encourage turning. Now that all seems pretty obvious to me, but at the time, I presumed that the baby would turn when she needed to and that it would all be fine, so I didn't research it, and didn't think about it. On the 21st, I had felt some contractions, but they were not painful, and I thought it likely that they were false contractions. That afternoon, I did think to mention it to Dave, who got a tad worked up that I hadn't told him sooner, but I was pretty unconcerned, since my due date was the 24th, and tons of people told me that "the first baby is ALWAYS late." They also told me that the first labor was usually long too, so the general advice was wrong on two counts. My sister Caroline was visiting, and our friend Lee. Caroline was going to drive back to her college the next morning, but stated that if I was actually having the baby that she wasn't going anywhere. Lee stated that he wasn't really keen on participating in the birth, so if we left, just to leave him a note. That evening, I noticed some mucus tinged pink when I wiped after one of my many trips to the bathroom, and thought it was probably my mucous plug coming out. This isn't necessarily a sign of immediately impending labor, but I decided to call the midwives anyway. I got ahold of the one who was on call that night, but she told me that she was coming down with something, and not to call unless I was REALLY sure that I was in labor so that she could get a good night's sleep. Now I think back to that and wish I had asked her to turn me over to the other midwife's care, since it seems possible that her job performance was affected by being sick. However, I worry much to much about pleasing other people and not making a fuss, and so I agreed, and went to bed. about midnight, I got up to go to the bathroom, and when I was climbing back into bed, I felt a small pop, and a small gush of fluid. Maybe a cup full. I sat there a minute, a little bewildered, before realizing it was my water breaking. The midwives has told me to call if my water broke, so I woke up Dave, and went to call. I didn't have any contractions at this point, so it was sort of weird to know that I was in labor, and that the baby would be here soon. No extra 15 days of pregnancy for me. My midwife told me to go to sleep, and to call again when things were picking up, meaning contractions were about a minute long and 5 minutes apart. I went back to sleep for a couple hours, and by 3 30 am or so, I was feeling contractions pretty solidly. I didn't want a lot of commotion, so I went upstairs with a clock and a piece of paper, and timed things myself for a bit, but it soon became apparent that contractions were 30 seconds long and 2-3 minutes apart. It was feeling pretty intense at this point, so I woke up Dave and Caroline, and Dave called the midwife again. She told us to go ahead and start driving, since we had an hour's journey. Dave and I got into our new Subaru and Caroline followed in her car. About 20 minutes along, and a deer ran out into the road. Dave braked hard, but the deer ran by. He stared to speed up again, and at the last second, the deer turned around and jumped in front of the car! Dave said some colorful things, and jumped out to see what the damage was. The deer ran off somehow, leaving a good chunk of fur behind and a dented fender. Things looked drivable, and I was still in labor, and moaning pretty loudly, so we kept going. The what-ifs of that moment alone are incredible. We were in a extremely isolated stretch of road that had no cell phone reception.  What if Caroline was not following us, and we had been alone? What if the car had been un-drivable? What if one of us had been badly hurt? I try not to think about that, really. We got to the birth center about 4, and I was in such a introverted, intense state of mind that the outside world was pretty much lost on me. I got inside and made a beeline for the toilet dropping my pants along the way. The midwife suggested that I move to the bed so they could check and see how I was progressing, so I flung myself down, butt in the air and could have cared less who was seeing the show. There were two midwifery students who were actively hands-on-learning, and I can't remember either of their faces. I do remember that the tub had been filling with water, and I remember asking twice if I could get in yet, but somehow that request was never accommodated, and I was soon too far gone from reality to remember that my own birth wishes included laboring in the tub. After my butt-in-the-air-contraction was over, the midwife asked me to turn over so she could see where we were. The checking showed that I was 9 cm dilated. 10 cm is considered fully dilated, so it looked like my labor was barreling along and that the baby might be there quite soon. I soon felt the urge to push, and then my brain was really gone. I was lost in the intensity of the pushing, and between contractions I tried to relax as much as I could, to help manage the pain. Time passed, and I stayed on my back. My logical mind knew that the back was the least helpful position for a woman to labor in, but my logical mind was far away, and the idea of voluntarily moving seemed impossible. I do know that eventually the room was bright with sunlight, and somehow I became aware that I had been pushing for about 4 hours. At this point, the midwife suggested we try a birthing chair, which I found to be incredibly uncomfortable. I then moved to the toilet, which was way comfortable, but shortly, the midwife asked me to go back to the bed so she could check me again. (I wonder why she didn't check me right there.) Very soon after moving back to the bed she offered me a nasty tasting herbal concoction, but I can't remember what it was supposed to do. Perk me up, probably. Soon after this, she said that the baby was still posterior, and since my labor wasn't going anywhere, she brought up the idea of transferring to the hospital. I wasn't able to ask questions that I normally would have, or I would have asked what she could do about it, what was likely to happen at the hospital, what our options were. Instead all I could think was that if we had to go somewhere, I wanted to get there fast, before things got worse. Someone put pants on me, and I somehow got out the door and into our car. I don't know why the midwife didn't put us in her car, but I do know that Dave was pretty white-knuckle about the drive. I felt like there was a bowling ball poking out of my butt, so there was no way I could sit on a seat. Instead I kneeled on the seat with my butt to the windshield and I have a clear memory of the seat belt warning dinger going off repeatedly, but did not have the mental capacity to fasten the seat belt beneath me to stop it. I also have a clear memory of the oddness of seeing people driving normally, doing normal thing, while I felt like my world was out of control. We got to the hospital, and pulled up to the emergency room entrance. Instead of being met with orderlies, like in the movies, we had to walk ourselves in, and I remember leaning on one of those retracting line-forming railing posts, pushing, while I could hear the counter attendant asking Dave questions like "are you the father of the baby?" and "are you two married?"  It was so surreal. There were tvs blaring the news that Obamacare had passed, but I was so self-absorbed that I didn't learn about it until much later in the day. The midwife brought a wheelchair up, and since I couldn't sit in it, I kneeled while we went on what felt like a tour of the hospital. When we got to the delivery room, it was a buzz of activity. People took off my clothes and put on a gown, they got me into a bed, and attached a fetal monitor to my belly, and someone put in an IV for pitocin. We hadn't been there more than a couple minutes before the doctor arrived, and she told me that she was going to reach in and turn the baby. And she did, which was VERY painful, but everything else was so painful too that it didn't really register that much. I do remember thinking that all I wanted was for the baby and the pain and everything to all just go away. Then the doctor and all the nurses were telling me to push, and that the head was crowning. Someone held a mirror at the wrong angle, so I couldn't see it but I could feel it. The head came out, then the whole baby was there, on my stomach. It was truly surreal. I knew that I should be feeling happy, but I really just felt a fuzzy sense of relief but I did things like smile at my husband (who was crying) and look at the baby. She looked huge to me. Her head was pointed from the extended time in the birth canal, and she was kind of purply greyish. Her eyes were dark, and sort of swollen, and she had a lot of dark hair. She stayed on my belly for a little while. I don't know how long, really, but I think the doctor said that she would have thought I had an epidural from how well I had managed the pain and I think the midwife offered the comment that we were lucky to get the doctor we did, because anyone else would probably have given me and episiotomy and vacuum extracted the baby. Then the midwife left. I did have a small tear, and they put in two stitches. They also kept pressing hard on my belly, which hurt a lot, but served to help my uterus contract properly. I think I tried to offer a breast to the baby, but I don't think she really nursed at all. They took her over to be weighed, and since she was 8 lb 15 oz, they said she was at the edge of the "normal" limit and had to be tested for gestational diabetes. I was still not in my right mind, or I would have protested. I was 8 lb 14 oz, and Dave was over 11 lbs. We would naturally have a large baby. Getting tested meant heel pricks, and she cried. A nurse came with a bath cart, and right-minded me would have protested that too, since amniotic fluid scent helps a baby to nurse and bond, and the cottage-cheese vernix left on her skin could have been rubbed in to keep it moisturized. But shell shocked me was fine with the idea of a bath, and Dave was helping, so the bath happened, and she cried. The blood test established her glucose levels and the nurse told me something like that if it didn't go up in the next half hour, she would have to have a feeding of formula. Another heel prick, and I guess it was decided, because while another nurse was having me stand up and walk to the bathroom to see if I could pee, someone else was sticking a tube down Julia's nose and putting formula in her belly. I can't believe that I didn't protest that. I don't even know if I could have refused. The midwife was gone, and when you are in a hospital, they act with an air of authority that is very very hard to question. Julia promptly spit up that formula, which secretly made me pleased, and somehow her blood sugar tested fine the next round of pokes, so we were thankfully done with that ordeal. We moved to a recovery room, and recovered. Julia slept and nursed, which I was anxious about. Was she latching properly? A lactation consultant peeked and said she looked fine, but I was still anxious. This was something I planned on the midwives helping with. At some point, my midwife had told us that since we were now hospital patients, they wouldn't do the postpartum follow up visit at home on day 2, or day 10. They could see us for the 3 week check up, but in the mean time, we had to find a pediatrician for follow up care. We stayed the night at the hospital, and thankfully they let Julia room in with me. The next day, we were free to check out, and to help us do so was a hospital volunteer. But first, she told us, we had to bring in the car seat to make sure she fit it properly. This was a little interesting, since I found the car seat manual to be a bewildering piece of literature, I had found a trained fireman to install it for me. Dave had been up in the village while I was figuring out that project, and so he had no experience installing or uninstalling it, and for him to have to go out and uninstall the contraption ended up involving cutting something. We didn't buy one of the typical bucket seat style that detaches from the base. Figuring that Julia would have outgrown it before we left the village, we bought a large "convertible" car seat that was supposed to fit her for many years. Our new car came with The Latch System which turns out to be an incredibly poorly designed system involving unseen latches way back in small crevices next to other latches that are incorrect, and the hooks you are supposed to hook onto the unseen latches are next to impossible to open once they have closed, especially in an unseen area of 1 inch x 2 inches. We have since switched to using the regular seat belt instead of the latch system, but in the moment, it was an exercise in frustration for Dave. He managed to get the thing inside though, and we dutifully put Julia in it, and everyone said that she fit. Dave picked up Julia in the car seat, and I sat in the wheelchair, and before we could get more than 10 feet, we had all the nurses in a commotion. Apparently we couldn't carry the baby out in that sort of car seat. Neither could Dave take her out of the car seat and carry her in his arms. He might drop her and sue. About 10 nurses had a back room huddle and eventually decided that I had to sit in the wheelchair and hold Julia (though they weren't  too thrilled with that, because what if I dropped her and sued?) Dave could carry the car seat and the volunteer could wheel us out. Dave brought the car around, and then the fiasco of re-installing the car seat ensued. The volunteer informed us that she was not allowed to help us install it for liability reasons, and so we drove off into the morning with a beautiful baby in what was likely an incorrectly installed car seat thanks to hospital bureaucracy.
That is the birth story. While I am absolutely happy and very grateful that I was able to have a drug-free vaginal childbirth and that our baby was healthy, I really wish that some things could have happened differently. I wish I had hired a doula. A doula's role is to support the laboring mother and to advocate for her wishes. I thought that Dave could take care of that, and while he was very supportive and wonderful, he was not at all experienced in labor, and I can't help but think that a doula would have filled some of the gaps that I perceived in my labor care.
I really wish I could have tried laboring in water.
I wish I had been able to ask the midwife to turn the baby herself. I asked about this at the 3 week follow up and I was told that during one of my pelvic checks the midwife tried very gently to see if she would easily turn, but that flipping the baby internally is on the border of what they are really comfortable doing. I can understand this, but in the midst of labor, there was no discussion about it being a possibility, and I really wish we could have avoided all the trauma of transferring to the hospital.
I also really wish that I had done my own reading up on posterior positioning, as there are many things I could have done that might have caused Julia to turn on her own, resulting in a much easier labor.
Finally, I really wish the midwives had done the 2 and 10 day follow up care. Even though breastfeeding went fairly smoothly, It would have been much less stressful for me to have skilled help checking up on me, and it would have saved us several long drives into Wenatchee for pediatric care and the stress of finding a pediatrician. (I didn't really care for the first one we chose, the one who came recommended by the midwives  and ended up switching to a much closer one in Chelan who was much more personable)
I am hopeful that as time goes on, I will dwell less on what was hard about the labor, and simply be grateful for the experience as it was. I hope that if I am to labor again, I will be better equipped to do so. I also hope that whoever reads this will take note of my experience and perhaps it will contribute to your own birth experiences. I am deeply in love with my daughter, and I am very glad to have her in my life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Almost One

Julia has dominated a new area of the house known as the Couch. She's able to get up there on her own now, and takes great satisfaction from lounging, with her feet generally propped on a cushion. I wonder who she learned that from? She's also become much more accomplished in the art of emptying bookshelves and cupboards and garbage cans. It has made life rather more exciting than usual. We've been counting down to Julia's first birthday. It's actually on the 22nd, but we had a party at the school on Saturday. Dave cooked a turkey and all the fixings, and made cake and cupcakes and brownies, and we played games and gave out prizes. Tomorrow is the end of spring break, and the countdown to the end of the school year, only two months away! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Abstract Expressionism

I have a new art project to share with you. Today I showed the kids some images of Jackson Pollock work, and we talked about the very basics of abstract expressionism, how it uses color and motion instead of a image to convey a feeling. We talked a bit about how they could use color to express emotion too. Bright colors could mean happiness and excitement and dark colors could mean anger or sadness. Then I let the kids go to work on their own piece. Each got a piece of paper in a large shallow rimmed baking pan and a handful of marbles. They drizzled their first color and got to work shaking and tilting the pan to create lines and spread color. More paint was added as they went along, and they really seem to have fun with it, being free from the "I can't draw" feeling that often frustrates them. This project really seemed to work well for kids from 1st grade to 9th grade. They could all do it well and they all found it fun.
It is now spring break, and we are staying home!

Julia opened an early birthday present, new rain boots from Grandpa Dave!

She's quite taken with them

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The beautiful springtime

We've been having beautiful weather out here, balmy 20 degree afternoons with sunshine! The sun rises and sets around 7 now so we have some nice long days to enjoy. Dave and I borrowed the neighbor's sled and took Julia out for a stroll. We stuffed her in a produce box with some blankets, and she was cosy and content. We walked down the frozen river for awhile, and came to a spot where you could see the slabs of ice poking up from earlier this winter when the rains caused the river to sort of break up.  The chunks of ice showed a lot of beautiful bubbles that are actually signs of climate change, the river releasing unusual levels of methane.

I finally saw the northern lights last night! I had gone to bed with Julia, and Dave was at a stargazing bonfire with the school kids. The kids had all just gone home, when the lights started up on the horizon, and Dave came running over to wake me. You'd have thought someone had died the way he hollered "GET UP", but I had told him that if he didn't wake me up the next time he saw them that I'd be furious.  They were green,  hugging the horizon and arcing over the school. Sometimes a spot light would suddenly glow quite bright, and then they would fade away. They shifted around too, moving to the south. We watched outside in the cold awhile, until we got too cold, then we realized we could see them almost as well from our window, so we watched them from inside some more.

The school lost two more kids, our first and second grader, Tatiana and Rashaun have gone to Oklahoma to live with their mother. That leaves Wade, in the pre-school, Honey, Ashley, Chelsea, Alfreda and Sam in the elementary and Al, Mattie, Miguel, Jonah, Amber, Vern and Katie in the High school. (Katie is Vern's girlfriend, and recently transferred in from the nearby village of Crooked Creek)

Julia, despite taking those first steps has been reluctant to adopt walking as a mode of transportation. Upon great urging, she will appease us with a few steps, but crawling still seems to please her just fine.
Her pinkeye seems to be getting better, though she still gets some goop in her eyes during the day they are no longer crusted over in the mornings. We never got it checked out. There was supposed to be a nurse coming to the village, but for some reason, she hasn't come yet, and this just doesn't seem urgent enough to merit a flight to medical attention. I was searching the internet for home remedies, and one was to put breast milk in the eye, due to the antibacterial properties. This sounded worth a try to me, but the reality of Julia's unwillingness to let me anywhere near her eyes, let alone to drop breast milk into them has prevented me from actually trying this. The only word she says regularly is "da" for "dad" and despite my trying to teach her to sign, she mostly refuses and instead communicates quite well with grunts and babbles. Her new favorite thing is to unload the cupboard that contains the pasta noodles. 2nd favorite is to unload the cupboard containing the pots and pans. She likes brushing her teeth at night. Though it is really more of just chewing on her brush. We don't use toothpaste yet.  I bought some toddler stuff, but it smells like fake cherry, and if I let her use it, she smells like fake cherry, which I hate. I bought her a soft hairbrush, and brush her hair in the mornings, more for the novelty than for necessity, but today she grabbed the brush and managed to do it herself. Despite being able to unload cupboards very well, for some reason she has not figured out that pulling all the books and yarn off the shelves is a fun game too. I thank my lucky stars for that. We are working on teaching her not to bite. She does it in play, and only with me. She precedes the bite with a little veloceraptor cry which is adorable, but the biting is getting stronger! So I yell "NO" in my meanest parent voice, and sometimes she stops, and sometimes she smiles sweetly and bites again.

Julia likes flinging cheerios on the floor, then getting down and eating them off the floor
lest you think our days are all sunshine, here is the progression:

In the kitchen, I've been gloriously busy, thanks to Full Circle Farms, and the fact that we have signed up for a box of produce to arrive from them every other week. We pay $58.25 for this luxury, which on the one hand is an insane amount of money for a box of produce and on the other hand is a small price to pay for my happiness.

I made a amazingly good soup from produce in last week's box. This recipe has very rough quantities, but I think that it will work well regardless of the proportions and with substitutions.
Red Soup
In a heavy pot, saute the following diced veggies in olive oil:
an onion
2 carrots,
3 ribs of celery
a leek
a sweet potato
a regular potato
4 cloves of garlic
After some browning occurs, add chicken broth to cover, and about 2 cups of red lentils that have been rinsed well. Let it all simmer until things are soft, then puree with your handy immersion blender.
Turn off the heat, and add 3 Tbsp or so of red miso and a good splash of balsamic vinegar. Sir well and eat!
And because one cannot live on soup alone in winter,
Apple Tart,  from the Greyston Bakery Cookbook

Fold over the edge to create a little shelf for keeping in the juices.
 Prick the bottom with a fork.
Transfer the parchment paper and crust to a cookie sheet.
Preheat the oven to 400
Peel, core and very thinly slice 2 large apples
Toss with:
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup sliced, toasted almonds.
Spread out onto the prepared crust and cut and scatter 3 Tbsp butter over the top.
Bake 35-45 minutes, until things are looking golden brown.

to gild the lily, serve with whipped cream or ice cream

This outfit was my sister Caroline's at one point in history

And I finished a new hat! This one fits both Julia and I, and I wish I had meant to do that. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Native Culture Fair

Several days ago, Julia and I and principal Susan took two students, Mattie and Miguel to a neighboring village called Kalskag. There's Upper Kalskag and Lower Kalskag, and in the fairly recent past they were warring factions, but now they have been able to come together enough to allow their kids to attend school together, so the high school is located between the two villages, and a school bus runs all over shuffling kids around. there are two more schools, in former years, each village had their own elementary, but now one is for the little ones and one for the older elementary. The high school is brand new, one month old. This is the third version, as they have had two fires that burned the school down. One fire was caused by sparks from welding in the shop getting sucked into a vent. I don't know what caused the other. We and other schools were invited for 4 days of native culture activities. There was native dance, beading, kuspuk sewing (the tunic-shirt), skin sewing, (with fur, making hats, mittens, booties, ect) and ulu making (a curved knife). There was also two dead moose, thanks to one of the teachers who took 3 boys out on a hunting trip. Kids used the ulus they made to cut up the moose and we had moose at every meal, and moose was distributed to the elders and people in need in the villages. We also had Blackfish, which are small little fish that are frozen, and then come alive as they thaw. No kidding, I saw it with my own eyes.  I sewed two hats out of rabbit fur called Malahai, (not how you spell it, I'm sure) and my nose ran the entire time, as I'm somewhat allergic to rabbit. No pain, no gain, and so I finished them, and made sure to pay attention to how the mittens were constructed so that hopefully I'll be able to teach the students we left at home, if they want to learn. Mattie made a pair of beaver fur mittens and Miguel made ulu knives. It was really neat to see the kids working on their projects. They really were taking a lot of pride in what they were working on. Julia was a star. Everyone wanted to carry her around and play with her. Even though she was cutting tooth number 6, she was pretty pleasant. Julia surprised us all by taking her first steps right in the middle of the sewing room. Just like that. I was pretty lucky to have my camera on me, so I got some video footage of the moment. Good thing too, because since we've gotten home, she's hardly taken any steps at all. We had a really great time at the culture fair, but after 4 nights of sleeping on the ground, I was pretty thrilled to have a bed again at home.

rehearsing a dance
lots of the boys danced too
Julia was very popular, everyone wanted to hold her.
Julia was excited about all the basketball playing going on

Miguel, working on his ulu

Miguel and his finished products

Another one of the finished ulus

Julia met Barbie

One of the moose

Students using the ulus they made to cut up the moose meat

One of the students, sewing her first kuspuk

and the finished product!

Mattie sewed beaver skin mittens

I made two hats, called Malahai, but probably not spelled like that. 

Julia sporting hers

You can tie back the ear flaps. 

testing the hat out in the cold