happy weaning

Make Way For Duckling

Just like that, you are weaned. Like the three years that prefaced the last morning you nursed, breastfeeding evolved beautifully to meet both our needs. This morning, instead of watching you nurse, I hold you in my arms and you quietly stroke my face. Later that evening at your request we hide ourselves in the bathroom and I paint your nails a bright red in honor of your third birthday. I hold your tiny toes and you look me in the eyes and say, “I love you so much, Mama.”

With pure dumb luck I fell into the category who finds breastfeeding deeply satisfying on physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels. So to move away from this relationship feels major; I sometimes feel we’ve known one another forever. And for as long as I’ve known you, nursing has been so instrumental in the way we connect.

Little girl, I am so blessed as your mother. You above all taught me what it means to nurture. We nursed through two pregnancies and one miscarriage. We nursed in the evenings, mornings, at restaurants, in church, and in the bath. You nursed the morning of the arrival of your baby brother and shared the breast willingly with him. We nursed through the scary illness you had at 14 months when you couldn’t even keep water down; nursing saved you from many other would-be illnesses and eased many transitions. Nursing kept me laughing and let me put my feet up more often than I would have without it.

Now at this milestone you emerge confident, and I have the deep satisfaction of knowing I didn’t rush your babyhood for either of us. Yesterday you climbed into bed with me and after a few quiet moments you looked up at me and said, “I used to nurse with you in the morning. Do you remember this?” as if it were ages ago, not a few days. You were obviously so comfortable with this change, while I got one of the first of many moments to come where I act casual and give a quick hug; tears well up and I blink them away. I am so happy to see you confident and growing. But just yesterday you were still my baby at my breast.

Happy weaning, Sophie. My little Beak.

3rd Birthday, Sophie / Phoenix

Fort Warden

Kiki!

Hysterical, 1

Hysterical, 2

Winter Beauty Plan journal

Day 1:
Shave legs. Well, halfway up each leg anyway.

Day 5:
Begin using fabulous Aveda highlighting conditioner for redheads. Hair begins transition from dishwater-reddish to Brassy Slut.

Day 7:
Somewhat capriciously visit thebodyshop.com and fill shopping cart up with $70 worth of lovely products. Ponder marital influences of making such a purchase without discussion and sex-bribery. Log off without purchasing.

Day 8:
Make a resolution; NO new beauty products, shampoos, pedicures, et cetera without going through the cluttered hallway cupboard full of makeup, snarled jewelry, the bobbypins used from my wedding, menstrual products, an old positive pregnancy test, and a large and assorted pharmacy of utilitarian first aid and recreational pain pills. Vow to tackle cupboard and throw out items with extreme prejudice.

Later in the day, buy a bottle of Coconut Trip lotion in the foreknowledge I will, in fact, get to abovementioned chore.

Day 9:
Receive long massage from oh-so-talented massage therapist. Sip a cup of tea and think on the spring. Feel refreshed. Go to bed early and cuddle with husband.

Day 10:
Confront the hallway cupboard during my children’s naps. After a forty minutes of grueling work – success! Throw out of copious amounts of makeup and perfume, much of which hasn’t been used since “Seinfeld” went off the air. Enjoy going through the various trappings of harlotry I used to court my husband.

In the evening, spend 20 minutes giving myself a pedicure while hiding from the children. Toes scream in protest as they are contorted into the toe-spreader. Paint nails in subtle winter pink. Feet look and smell great. Join the legs for smoothness and semi-respectability.

Day 11 – Day 226:
Abandon plan to keep “Beauty Journal” entirely until 7 months later when I stumble on it while cleaning computer files.

Testing

This is a test of the emergency broadcast blogging system. This is only a test. In the event of a real blog entry, you’d see witticism’s from me. You’d probably laugh.

chemo cap

Edited December 13, 2009: Today I started on a new knitting project and reflected on how much I love to knit – even if I only make a few items a year.  I wrote this almost five years ago and published it in my first zine, the PT Breeder.

A week ago, I took my friend Jen up on her long-standing offer to teach me to knit.  She has some misgivings on the ambition of my first project (small needles, tight stitches) but helps me in picking out my yarn and loans me her needles.  At my house, after dinner with our two families and a couple glasses of red wine, she casts on 120 stitches and watches as my fingers tremble through their first attempts at an age-old maneuver passed down for centuries.

I have decided to knit my father a chemo cap.

My family has been through this before.  “Secondary cancer” – or “distant disease”— means he has less of a chance of survival than the first time.  His first round with colon cancer a few years ago we got to see what cancer treatment looks like.  He was poisoned and irradiated and large pieces were cut out of his body.  He lost his hair, he lost weight, he had sores in his mouth and was sick all the time.  He suddenly aged.  Wheeling him out of surgery on a gurney he looked as if someone had hammered him flat.  But, we thought we had a success story.  He recovered quickly due to a healthy lifestyle as a long-distance runner and some good Polish prole genes. We thought we had one of those “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” family stories you hear about.  And then we find out, a day before Thanksgiving this year, that the cancer has bloomed again in his chest.  I realize this will probably be the disease that kills him, sooner or later.

I want him to live.  I want him to live to know my children.  I want him to live for my sake and his, too; but I am thinking of my children when I imagine him gone from my life.  The one grandparent I never knew is a mystery to me whereas the other three are each people I know, I have a history with.  I want him to be there for them as they enter kindergarten, play their first soccer games, graduate from high school.

I am powerless to heal him, but I want to believe I can nurture him even here, miles away.  I keep at the knitting, doggedly forcing my hands into yet another repetitious task.  As I inch along I remember suddenly how we called him “Captain Kiwi”  a few years ago in a lighthearted recognition of the fuzzy new hair growing in after they stopped treatment.  I smile to myself as I think of him; my fingers and hands gaining a body memory and the stitches flow like water from my fingers.  I sit down to knit in the quiet times of my day, a few minutes stolen on the couch, kids asleep, no sound except the hum of the heat, and the knitting needles clicking conversationally with the soft strains of the radio.  I think of the Psalm 139:  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.  With each stitch I am knitting together a healed body; I am holding vigil.  The cap will be about 12,000 stitches when I am done.  12,000 stitches, more than the days I lived in his house, and with each one I am envisioning joining his cells into wholeness, combating the poison that even now is flowing through his veins.

My 2 1/2 year old daughter is up from her nap.  She climbs up to join me at the kitchen table and watches me.  “You’re knitting a hat for Grandpa?” she asks.  Yes, I say.  “Because he’s sick”, she says.  Then looks in my eyes and asks, “Is he feeling better?”  I am suddenly so sad I can’t answer her.  I don’t know if he will ever, in fact, feel much better.  All I can do is hope, and pray, and keep my hands busy.

debunking the myth of Supermom

I never thought I’d be seen as the woman who “did it all”. I hate that phrase. Annoyingly enough, I have had more than a few friends and family pay glowing homage to what they think are my supernatural abilities to manage a home, create art, and raise beautiful children. In reality things had a darker side than they were seeing. I had become so performance-based I had lost the ability to enjoy myself. Here’s the real story of a SuperMom.

Last Monday at the tail end of a dinner party, a friend of mine hiked her cranky 6–month old baby up on her hip and said with genuine exasperation, “Well Kelly, I don’t know how you do it.” I was floored by her comment and it took me a moment to get my bearings. I knew, of course, what she was referring to – a humble but homey dinner party in a modest but tidy home, my recent success in putting out a zine, my sewing, my volunteer work for the Health Department, and my recent switch to cloth diapering my two children. In short, all of the items I struggle with and share with my friends. The fact that my friend would look at me and see a series of successes, a seamless life fully-lived and easily enjoyed, surprised me. I was being elevated to the title of SuperMom.

This episode was easily recognizable because it has been happening to me more and more in the last year. This almost makes sense considering the circumstances of my life lately. About the time my firstborn approached a year and a half, I found I had built a solid base of resources allowing me to enjoy and succeed at life as a housemom – to prepare meals, keep my home ordered, sew for my children and friends, enjoy my child, and tune into my husband. Not surprisingly, this latter development soon got me pregnant. Going through pregnancy and having a newborn while caring for a toddler certainly threw me a curveball in my routine, but with focus and help from friends and family I bounced back rather quickly into the busy life I’d come to enjoy. Referring to becoming a second-time parent, I told people, “I want to enjoy this time, not just survive it.” I asked friends and family for help, embraced my labor and birth, and enlisted my husband’s help in creating time for myself.

All of this has a dark side however. My second labor, birth, and early months with my new baby seemed almost too good to be true. They were. About six weeks into my son’s life I realized I had arrived in a dark place. To the outside observer, I probably seemed a relatively successful and capable woman. I felt a wreck inside. The most minor glitches in my day would seem insurmountable.

It took a few breakdowns before I realized no one was going to help me, and I needed to figure out a way to get the inner struggle, whatever it was, out into the open. I tentatively, oh so tentatively, suggested to my husband I might need a counselor. It was a tough call to make. What would happen? Would I find out? Or worse, that there was more wrong with me than I’d even imagined? The thing that made me determined to go was the realization that the only thing keeping me willing to survive was my love for my children. And if things got bad, really bad – and I lost my love for them – what then?

At about the time I started seeing a counselor, the fog began to lift. I began to see my moments of despair as being unreasonable. Life didn’t need to be so overwhelming.

And now I am wondering about my friends and acquaintances who appear to have a solid face to the outside world. I wonder what secret pain they hold, and how easy it would be for them to say to someone, “I am really faltering here. I need help.” For some reason, all the stories about women who need and get help seem to be about someone else. They can’t be about us. And maybe that self-imposed pressure is why it’s so hard for our friends to admit to one another that, for the now, it’s their story.

Cream Of Chicken & Vegetable Soup

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounce evaporated milk (1 can)
~ 1 pound / 16 ounces assorted steamed / prepared vegetables
3 cloves garlic
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces total), cooked and cubed
2 – 4 cups chicken stock, depending on desired consistency of soup
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
salt and fresh ground pepper

Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat and saute garlic until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Add vegetables, chicken, broth, and onion salt. Heat through and serve. Makes about 6 – 10 servings, depending on amount of stock used.

Pastel De Tres Leches

(or, Three Milk Cake)

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups white sugar (divided)
5 eggs
1 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract (divided)
1 cup milk
1⁄2 of a 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1⁄2 of a 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 1⁄2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside. Cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla. Beat well. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes.

When cake has finished baking, pierce it in 8 or 10 places with a fork or skewer, and let it cool. Combine the whole milk, evaporated milk, and condensed milk and pour over the top of the cooled cake. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Whipped cream topping: When ready to serve, combine the whipping cream and the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 cup of sugar, whipping until thick. Spread over top of cake.
Because of the milk in the cake, it is very important that you keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve chilled and with fresh fruit, if desired.

Variations:

Caribbean version: Replace the sweetened condensed milk with 1⁄2 cup of coconut milk in the milk mixture. You can also add 1⁄4 cup rum or any other liqueur.

Southern version: In addition to the three milks, add 1/3 cup peach schnapps. You can add 1⁄2 cup of diced, drained peaches to the batter. About 1⁄4 cup of pecans can be added to the batter or sprinkled on top of the cake before serving.

Cream Of Broccoli Soup

3 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped (about 1/4 inch)
2 lb. broccoli, cut into large florets
1 quart / 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
12 ounce evaporated milk (1 can)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons flour
salt
fresh ground pepper

In bottom of large soup pot, saute garlic and celery in butter over medium heat until softened but do not brown. Add broccoli and chicken stock (stock may not cover). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until broccoli is quite tender, but not cooked to mush, about 20 minutes.

Puree broccoli and broth in food processor. If desired, remove a few pieces of broccoli before pureeing and add back in when finished. Pour puree back into soup pot. Blend half the evaporated milk and flour separately. Add flour/milk mixture to soup along with cheddar cheese, reserving some cheddar cheese for garnish. Bring soup barely to a boil while stirring. Soup should now have a moderately thick consistency. Add remaining milk, mixing with more flour if necessary to bring soup to desired consistency. I personally don’t find more flour necessary. I also enjoy a thinner cream soup.

When soup has thickened, remove from heat or put on VERY low heat so that milk doesn’t ‘break’. If necessary, gently reheat small batches in saucepan or in microwave. Soup will keep for 3-4 days in refrigerator. Makes about 8 servings.

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

2 eggs
1 cup ripe mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour (I use a 1/2 and 1/2 blend of all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flour)
1 cup sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix eggs, bananas (about 3 bananas), oil and milk in large bowl until well blended. Mix dry ingredients separately in large bowl. Add wet ingredients; stir just until moistened. Grease loaf pan; fill with batter.

Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

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A variation from kraftfoods.com – combine the dry ingredients for a bread mix and give it as a gift:

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread Mix

Makes: 1 loaf

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 disposable 9×5-inch foil loaf pan

Place all dry ingredients in 1-gallon sealable plastic bag; seal bag. Place bag in loaf pan. Place in decorative gift bag. Pair wrapped bread mix with tea towels for a great hostess gift.

Attach the following preparation directions to bag:

Preparation Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix 2 eggs, 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas), 1/3 cup canola oil and 1/4 cup milk in large bowl until well blended. Add bread mix; stir just until moistened. Grease foil loaf pan; fill with batter.

Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

Meatloaf

4 slices white bread
2 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 garlic cloves
2 stalks celery
2 carrots, scrubbed
1/2 cup fresh parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried)
1 large egg
3/4 cup ketchup
4 teaspoons dried mustard
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 °F. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse bread until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a medium bowl and add ground beef. Place garlic, celery, carrots, and parsley in food processor until finely chopped (you may want to cut the celery and carrots down a bit before processing). Mix the vegetables into meat mixture. Add egg, 1/2 cup ketchup, 2 teaspoons dried mustard, celery seed, salt, and pepper. Combine thoroughly, using your hands. Place in a loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup ketchup, remaining 2 teaspoons mustard, and brown sugar. Whisk until blended. Brush mixture over top of meat loaf. Place the pan on a baking sheet to catch drippings and transfer to oven. Bake until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reaches 160°, about 1 1/2 hours.

Let meatloaf stand about 15 minutes before slicing. Makes about 6 servings.

Okay, I basically stole this recipe from you-know-who (initials M.S.). Still, I have refined the recipe and simplified the directions a bit (she loves to make things more complicated than they should be). This is a very hearty, moist meatloaf with a great ketchupy crust. Nothing says “I love you” better than a big slab of animal product for Valentine’s Day, right? 🙂