Sunday, December 19, 2010

Queen of the Unfinished Projects

That's me, although I know I'm not the only one who wears this moniker.  In my university days, when I worked at a scrapbooking store, the ladies with whom I worked set aside one night a month for "Queen of the Unfinished Projects" night.  We all had a list of our unfinished projects, mostly craft projects, and we would hunker down in the workshop for chatting, food, and attempt to finish projects our list.  I came across my list the other day, and was chagrined to realize that many of those projects are still unfinished.  Unfinished... eight years later.  I also have piles of half-finished books, abandoned when the next book piqued my interest.  I don't know how many times I have started and abandoned Crime and Punishment.  I have half-finished quilts, scrapbooks, crochet and sewing projects stuffed into every space in my closet.
Instead of chastising myself or feeling discouraged about this character trait, I've decided to allow myself the freedom to be okay with being undisciplined with my leisure activities!  There is definitely value in finishing what one has started, but there's something to be said for giving yourself some freedom to be flighty.  There's no shame in never finishing Crime & Punishment, is there?  Would my crafting projects be as therapeutic if I forced myself to finish things that I didn't feel like doing anymore?  I'm running out of space to store these unfinished projects, however, and I don't want to end up on Hoarders someday, so I'd better finish at least some of them.  This is the time of year that I feel the most unfinished project guilt, probably because many of those unfinished projects were intended to be Christmas gifts.  I'm proud to say that I made and delivered or mailed most of my Christmas cards before Christmas this year, and I'm finally done all of my Christmas eggs.  I realize that I went completely overboard on making the eggs.  If you're wondering how I have time to do this, I don't.  I just have a messy house.  But everybody needs diversions now and then, right?
The design part is really the only fun part of the process, and, at the end, I realized that I had almost three dozen eggs to empty, and glue on ornament hangers.  Here are some of the finished products.  And, if you are still reading my blog after seeing the depths of my craft geekdom, may I offer my thanks and congratulations.

I thought I would post a brief tutorial on how these eggs are made in case you are curious.  And because it was a motivator for me to finish doing the boring part of the eggs to plan a little picture tutorial as I went along.
I learned how to make these eggs from my mother-in-law.  They are called pysanky, more commonly known as Ukrainian easter eggs.  The traditional ones look more like this (photo from wikipedia):

Using tools called "kistka," designs are written on the egg with melted beeswax.  The tools have metal funnels with different sized openings for the melted wax to flow through.  You hold the tool with the metal funnel in the flame until it heats up enough.  Then, you push some beeswax into the hot funnel, and hold it over the flame again until the wax is all melted.  You are now ready to draw on the egg with the melted wax.

After you put a design on the egg with the wax, you dunk the egg in a jar of dye, and whatever you have covered up with the wax will remain protected from the dye.  So, for example, if you start with a white egg, you would first draw anything on the egg that you want to remain white.   Then, you dip the egg in the yellow dye, pull it out and dry it off with a paper towel, then draw on any design that you want to stay yellow.  The dyes last a long time if you have a place to store them.  I've kept mine in the garage for four or five years now and only had to replace a couple of colours.

After you have completed your design with all the colours you are going to use, you can begin melting the wax off of the egg to reveal your design.  Some people do this step by placing the egg in an oven at a low temperature until the wax starts to get shiny and you can rub it off with a paper towel.  I've had a couple of eggs crack at this point using that method, so I usually melt the wax off with a candle flame.  You hold the egg beside the flame until the wax starts to shine and you can rub it off with a paper towel. Be careful not to hold the egg near the top of the flame, or you will get black charring on the egg.
Traditionally, the contents of the egg are not emptied out.  Eventually, the inside of the egg evaporates or dries up.  However, if breakage should occur before this drying out occurs, it is a smelly disaster.  Trust me.  A year old-ish egg on breaking on your living room floor is not pleasant.  I now empty the eggs out with this fancy blower.
You only have to poke one hole in the egg, and you don't have to put your mouth on the egg thanks to this little contraption.  Before blowing the egg out, draw a quarter-sized hole around the top of the egg with melted wax where you are going to poke the hole.  That way, any egg that leaks out won't make the dye run.  Like this:
I use a crochet pin to poke a few holes in the top of the egg until the hold is big enough for the blower.  Then you can either rest the eggs back in the carton, hole side up, for a couple of days to let the egg finish drying out.  Then you can melt the top circle of wax off as described before.  If you wish, you can attach a "finding" to the top to allow you to hang the egg as an ornament.  I ran out of findings this time, and they aren't usually stocked in craft stores in the middle of winter, so I tried glueing a bead to the top instead this time, and that works too.  Voila!  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dream a Little Dream

\I've been pondering dreams often as of late, probably because I've been having the most lucid and bizarre dreams during this pregnancy.  Most of them could probably be classified as nightmares, if I needed to slot them into a category.  They seem to centre on trying to protect my son or the baby, or being chased by wild animals.  I've heard that this is a pretty common phenomenon during pregnancy, and I remember having strange dreams during all my other pregnancies.  I've also been thinking about dreams as I think about the Christmas story.  Joseph has two important dreams in the biblical Christmas story.  The first of Joseph's dreams takes place after Mary was found to be pregnant.  If you aren't familiar with the story, Mary's pregnancy was scandalous in the public eye because she was not married.  Joseph, her betrothed (picking up the story in Matthew 1) "had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”  In Matthew 2, Joseph's second dream is recorded: " an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
What is remarkable to me is that Joseph understands these dreams as truth.  I say this not to suggest that he shouldn't have believed them.  It just seems that we, for the most part, are so far removed from the state of mind where we would believe anything in our dreams as imparting truth in our lives.  Why is that?  Isn't it possible that dreams have meaning for us today too?
I don't think I know the answer to my own question for certain.  I think it has to be at least possible.  I wouldn't say (or want to believe) that all dreams have a deeper meaning.  Last night I dreamed about a pink and white elephant giving birth while running down a street close to my parents' house.  I certainly hope that has no implications for my life!  But some dreams are too meaningful to simply dismiss, aren't they?  
Earlier this year, I miscarried another baby.  I was in a very broken place, knowing that my baby had passed, but I was still carrying him or her.  On the night before I had the D&C, I had a dream that I was waiting on a stretcher in the hospital hallway, waiting for my surgery.  Right before I was wheeled in, I noticed that one of the "surgeons" was actually my late grandfather, whom I adored, dressed up like a doctor.  He winked at me, and I knew he was there, pretending to be a doctor, to bring my baby back up to heaven.  That dream still gets me choked up every time I think about it.  Do you think God sends us dreams like that to give us comfort?  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Birth Reading

I'm about halfway through reading In Her Own Voice: Childbirth Stories from Mennonite Women.  I'm not Mennonite by culture myself, but my husband's family is, and I've attended Mennonite churches for most of the last half of my life.  It's interesting to learn about my husband's heritage, as it is so different in many ways from my own.  All the branches of my family tree have been in Canada for centuries, I think some of my father's ancestors even immigrated here in the 1600's.  They are mostly of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry.  I've heard whisperings of Greek and Spanish blood too, but we've never found any evidence.  I think it might be just an attempt to have some more exotic sounding lineage.  It is kind of neat to find stories about my ancestors in local history books, and small town museums around here.  However, I do sometimes feel a bit awkward about it as well, knowing that those ancestors were likely knowingly or unknowingly part of the wave of European immigrants who pushed First Nations people off their land, and treated them horribly.  The Mennonite's story in Canada, at least in my husband's family's case, is much newer.  On his father's side, my husband is first generation Canadian; on his mother's, second generation.

This book is a fascinating read so far, and I just discovered that you can read several chapters of the book online at google books here.  I'm attempting to better educate myself about childbirth before I go through the experience again.  Videos are a bit too much of a sensory experience for me at this point; I think reading is a better option for me.  I used to enjoy watching TLC's A Baby Story, that is, I used to enjoy it before I actually had my own baby story.  The first time that I watched it after giving birth to my son, I had flashbacks and broke out into a cold sweat.  It probably didn't help that I was watching it from the dentist chair, waiting for a long overdue root canal.  I don't know why they say that you forget childbirth; the memories are still quite vivid in my mind.  I am, however, hopeful that the next experience will be a better one.  At moments, I am even confident of this.  I recently shared my son's birth story with a friend who is in the field of emergency medicine, and is also a doula.  After hearing my story, she described it as the "perfect storm", in which so many factors bizarrely combined to create a ... remarkable experience.  I know that I don't have the worst birth story out there; by far there are tragic and more horrible stories.  In the end, I have a beautiful, healthy little boy.  The experience was just so much different than what I expected.  I'm hoping that by preparing myself better this time, I will be ready for anything!

One thing that struck me as I was reading these stories was that women usually tried to keep their pregnancy a secret for as long as possible.  Even from their other children.  There are several stories in which the older children had absolutely no idea that their mother was expecting another baby.  We do things so differently in that regard nowadays; it would seem so strange not to tell our children that a sibling is on the way.  I've been reading "My New Baby" with my little boy lately, trying to get him used to the idea of having a little brother or sister.  It's a fantastic book; there are no words, which kind of frees you up to talk about anything that you see in the pictures.  It's the only kid's book that I've ever seen that actually depicts a mother nursing her baby instead of bottle feeding.  It also shows the Dad changing diapers, and wearing a baby carrier.

I remember when I was expecting my first son, my grandmother told me a story about how she had dinner guests the week before she delivered my  mother, and they had no idea she was pregnant.  She saw them the following week, and they were so surprised that she had just had another baby.  My Grandma say that women in her time were "so embarrassed" about being pregnant, and practically went into seclusion for their pregnancies.  She couldn't quite articulate what was so embarrassing about being pregnant, being that she was married and all.  Even at the time when my mother was expecting me, attitudes seem to have been quite different about pregnancy than they are now.  I can only think of one or two photographs that I have seen of my mother when she was pregnant with me, and she is dressed in loose, flowing tops.  Now, maternity photo shoots are quite the popular thing, and maternity clothing is designed to show off that baby bump.  I wonder how they actually managed to keep pregnancy a secret. I don't think there is any possibility that I would have been able to keep my gargantuan pregnant proportions from suspecting eyes even if I had wanted to when I was pregnant.  I suppose not everybody carries babies the way that I do: massively.  Seriously.  Sometimes I look at pictures of myself near the end of my son's pregnancy, and wonder how I managed to stay upright.

The other aspect of these stories that caught my attention is how women used to learn about childbirth mostly from their female relatives.  Their births were attended by sisters, mothers, and other female relatives for the most part.  Some women had means enough to pay a midwife.  Stories of hospital births, or even doctor-attended homebirths start to appear in later stories.  There doesn't seem to be the same level of involvement in birthing education or attendance in childbirth between women in our day.  I know very few women who have chosen to have family members other than their husband present at the birth of their children.  I don't think it is better or worse one way or the other, it's simply interesting to note the shift in this regard.

Although it is not a focus of the interviews in this book, I was intrigued to note the different methods of pain relief in childbirth mentioned in the different interviews.  I remember reading in Birth Day by Mark Sloan, M.D. (no, not the fictional doctor of the same name from Grey's Anatomy!) a more detailed history of pain relief measures in childbirth through the ages.  Apparently, Queen Victoria was one of the first public figures to advocate for pain relief in childbirth.  It seems that it was perceived as the duty of women to bear the pain of childbirth without any relief or complaint as punishment for original sin.  I've always had a bit of a soft spot for stuffy old Vicki since I read that.  It seems that the pendulum of pain relief in childbirth swung wildly in the opposite direction at some point though.  Many of the women interviewed in the first book I mentioned had to fight to be awake during the delivery of their babies.  After pain relief became the norm, it seems like it was just expected that women would want to be completely unconscious during delivery.  This is the same generation of women who also had their arms and sometimes even legs tied to the hospital bed during labour and delivery.  Now, that is awful.

In my own baby news, I had my detailed ultrasound last Wednesday, and all went well!  There is no sign of the sub-chorionic bleeding anymore, which is a huge answer to prayer.  I'm 19 weeks and three days, and it seems to be a completely normal pregnancy now.  I decided not to find out the gender.  But I'm still waffling, so if I need another ultrasound, I reserve the right to change my mind!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Stitch in Time

Remember this post?  I have a new oldest thing in my house, if that makes any sense.  It's a cross-stitch sampler done by my great, great, great-grandmother.  My mother's mother's mother's mother's mother!  Her name, Margaret French, and, presumabely, her age, 11 years old, are stitched onto the piece.  According to her birthdate of 1830, this would put the year of completion around 1841.  She was still living in Scotland when she made this as a child, and it must have meant enough to her to save and bring along when she emigrated to North America as an adult in the 1880's with her husband and family.  Somewhere in the sampler's history, somebody had it professionally mounted and framed.  And somehow I was fortunate enough to end up receiving this little gem of history.  I feel a little bit like I won the genealogical lottery when I look at and see that the descendants of my great-great-great-grandmother number in the hundreds, perhaps even a thousand or more, taking into account that not everybody is listed on there.  The framed sampler now hangs on the wall in my dining room.  Sometimes I find myself looking over at it in the middle of dinner, or while sitting at the table with my laptop, paying bills or some other such mundane activity, and wonder about the woman who stitched that little scrap of cloth 170 years ago, and the line of daughters and granddaughters after her.  I wonder if they took joy and found reasons to worry in the same things I do.  Did they marvel at their toddlers' milestones, and wonder how if they were teaching them what they need to know?  Did they struggle with potty training, and look forward to chatting with their husband at the end of the day?  Did they pray for wisdom that often seems so elusive, and wrestle with unanswered questions?  I wonder.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kicking and Kale. And Cookies.

I started feeling the baby kick tonight.  I've been feeling flutterings inside for a while, but tonight was the first time that I could feel the kicks with a hand on my belly.  And I have a belly.  I've already started getting comments about how big I am for being four months along.  Actually, I fudged a bit, since I'm not actually, technically four months yet.  I'm seventeen and a half weeks, so close enough.  With my first, I was constantly asked if I was carrying twins.  I gained over forty pounds, and it was pretty much all belly, so I looked like I was defying gravity.  I love feeling the baby move around inside me; it is my absolute favourite part of being pregnant.  Granted, there aren't many favourite things about being pregnant to choose from.  I am so thankful and thrilled to be having another child, but I am not one of those people who loves being pregnant.  You know those people - who say that they've never felt better than when they are pregnant.  I am not one of those people who don't know that they are pregnant until quite far into the pregnancy.  I knew before the pregnancy test was even certain enough to be conclusive.  I remember the doctor saying: "Well, if you are pregnant, it's just barely."  I knew!  I was hoping that the nausea would continue to improve and completely go away, but I think it has plateaued.  Oh well, it's definitely more manageable now, and probably a little less severe overall than with my pregnancy with my son.  I had to be hospitalized a few times during that pregnancy for several days at a time because I just couldn't keep anything down. Thank the Lord he turned out fantastic despite those early months of pregnancy.  Today, he surprised me by draping his blanket over his head and explaining to be that he was a shepherd.  Then, he wrapped it around his arms and said he was a bat, flying.  He's starting to pick up so many things that I'm not even aware of.  Which is great, and scary!  I'm really trying to cut down on the amount of TV that he watches.  We were doing so well with TV until this pregnancy.  It's so much harder to give him the attention he needs and deserves when I'm feeling sick and exhausted.  Grace, grace, grace.  This too shall pass!

I'm glad I have a husband who appreciates and even loves my quirks.  I'm a bit obsessive sometimes when I get an idea in my head.  I started making some more egg tree ornaments this week, and have been really enjoying creating snowflake eggs in my quiet moments when the little one is in bed and said hubby is off at evening meetings.  I bought a couple dozen eggs, and was disappointed to discover that they had been mechanically scrubbed, meaning that they don't absorb the dye properly.  I only discovered this after making a handful of them and then putting them all in the dye, so that batch of eggs didn't turn out that well.  He suggested finding some eggs from a local farmer, so that I could ask about how they are washed.  I checked on craigslist and found a local farmer who delivers eggs to your house for $4 a dozen.  I'm sure they are great - they are free-range and non-medicated.  I'm actually allergic to eggs, ironically enough.  I emailed and asked for any of the odd-shaped, sized, or coloured eggs, and he said he would give them to me for $2.50 a dozen.  So, the egg man came that night with two dozen unscrubbed eggs for my current decorating obsession.  Here are some of the recent additions:

I ate two bunches of kale tonight.  I saw some "kale chips" at the store a while ago, and they looked strangely delicious.  I tried making them once before with only so-so results, so I've been trying a few different variations on recipes lately and I think I've figured it out.  Kale is supposed to be very nutritious, so I thought it might be worth figuring out a good way to eat it.  Wikipedia it if your are interested in finding out more about the nutritional value.  I use nutritional yeast in this recipe.  If you haven't heard of it, I'm not surprised; most people haven't.  It's a fantastic product and has made my dairy-allergic-life much more enjoyable.  It's a deactivated yeast that is high in B-vitamins and protein.  You can find it at health food stores, and Real Canadian Superstore even carries it now in their natural/organic aisle.  It has a kind of cheesy taste to it, which is why a lot of vegan recipes use it.  To make the kale chips, here's what I did:

  • Wash the kale.  Apparently, kale is one of the dirty dozen in terms of retaining pesticides, so it's best to buy organic if you can find it.  
  • Tear into smallish pieces, and discard the tough middle stem.  
  • Dry the leaves as well as you can.  I used a salad spinner, and this worked quite well.  
  • Combine a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar and oil.  I used olive oil, but I'm sure other oils would work too.  Mix with a fork or whisk.
  • Put the kale in a large mixing bowl, and pour oil/vinegar mixture over kale.  Using your hands mix it all around so that the oil/vinegar coats the kale leaves.  
  • Spread the kale out on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
  • Sprinkle with seasoning salt (optional) and nutritional yeast (also optional, but delicious!)
  • Bake at 200 degrees F for 2 to 2.5 hours, until the leaves are crispy but not burnt.  There are recipes that instruct you to bake it at a much higher temperature for a shorter time, but apparently this destroys some of the nutritional value of the kale.  It's also easier to miss that window of time between crispy and burnt at the higher temperature.  You can eat it before it gets crispy too, but I think I prefer the crispy style.  You can also use your food dehydrator instead of the oven if you have one.  I haven't tried this method since that would involve getting my food dehydrator out of the bottom of the linen closet.  Which would mean organizing the closet.  
I think they are delicious, and my two year old gobbled them up too.  My hubby wasn't super excited about them, so I guess they're not for everyone.  But worth a try if you're trying to figure out a way to eat that mysterious green vegetable.  

Enough with the vegetable talk.  I'm exhausted but I think I need to bake some cookies.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two steps forward, reverse. Repeat.

I think I'm starting to feel a bit better.  Somehow, whenever I have this thought, the nausea sneaks up with a vengeance, as if I've offended it.  I've been feeling well enough to at least sit up most of the time on the couch, and start to tend to my shamefully messy house.  The kid videos are not playing non-stop anymore, and I've picked up my crochet hook again.  I've even returned to my cloth diaper stash in the last couple of days.  As much as I dislike using disposables, I have to admit that I've been using them pretty much exclusively in the past few months.  NVP (Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, because I refuse to call it by its misnomer, "morning" sickness) has overridden my ideals in many areas of life recently!  Disposable diapers, convenience foods, Diego & Veggie Tales overload, and my meal planning and budget-wise shopping have been replaced by shopping sprees for whatever looks remotely appealing to me.  Sometimes, you just have to get through the day.  Or the hour.  Thank goodness for a wonderful husband and extended family who have been filling in the gaps, and for other family who have helped us get through the last few months.
This period of time where I've been resorting to anything that reduces my work load reminded me of something that we gave up almost a year ago: our microwave.  Last year, while visiting a family member at Christmas, I asked to use their microwave to warm up some food for sonny boy.  I was so shocked to find out that they didn't have a microwave, and that I had to heat up the food in a pot on the stove.  It was so hard for me to even imagine not having a microwave oven.  And yet, they were managing just fine without one.  Their family has been affected by cancer too, and was part of the reason why they decided to get rid of the microwave.  I also learned about how microwave radiation decreases the nutrition of the food.  When I thought about it, it made sense.  I was making so much effort to avoid radiation from cell phones, and effects from other electronic devices.  When we were looking for a house to buy, we immediately ruled out any house that was anywhere close to major power lines.  And, yet, here I was radiating my food.  Food that we ate every day.  Baby food.  Ughhh.  We had always been "careful" about using the microwave.  We didn't put plastic containers in the microwave, even when they said "microwave-safe," and we tried to use the microwave only when necessary.  But I thought that it was necessary at times.  I knew that I wouldn't be able to give up using the microwave if it was sitting in the kitchen.  So I moved it to the dining room on a trial separation period.  After about a week, the microwave was relegated to the shed outside, where it has been sitting ever since.  Surprisingly, I rarely ever miss having it.  It hardly took any time to get used to the idea of warming food in the toaster oven or  on the stovetop.  I was surprised too, that the quality of the food is actually better when you don't nuke it.   The food heats more evenly, and doesn't overcook so easily.  The only time I've missed the microwave is when I've wanted to heat up a magic bag for a sore back or to warm up my always-cold feet.  Although, I'm sure resting a bag of dried peas & beans that have been nuked hundreds of times on my body is probably not the greatest thing either.
Two posts in one day - I must be feeling better!  

What a Glorious (Rainy) Day.

Yesterday was a glorious, rainy day.  We drove into the city, which took almost two hours because of construction.  Thank goodness I have a toddler who rarely seems to mind long car rides.  He sings and chit chats to himself, and gives the occasional exaggerated yawn.
We deposited our youngster with my in-laws for the day and continued on to the cancer agency for my hubby's regular checkup.  This checkup marked five years since he started into remission.  This December 9th will mark six years since the day we found out and life changed in an instant.  We saw our wonderful oncologist, who has been on maternity leave for the past year.  She reassured us that the chances of this type of cancer recurring now are very small, and my expanding belly assured her that the chemo has not killed my husband's fertility after all!
Sometimes, it feels like a lifetime ago.  It was such a dark time in our lives, sometimes I want it to be a lifetime ago.  I want to forget being sick with worry, feeling such despair and helplessness.  There are things I don't want to forget that stem from that time in my life.  People surprised us with their genuine care for us.  People who just sat with us, let us cry, and prayed us through it.  I want to remember not to take people in my life for granted.  I want to remember how we were comforted in that time, and how to care for others going through difficult times.  I would never, however, wish the experience on anyone in order for them to learn what I have.  I'm still learning from the experience; and I still struggle with it.  I was so surprised with myself that one of the most difficult parts of the whole experience was right after my husband went into remission.  Of course, I was overjoyed and thankful beyond expression.  I think I had been in some kind of an emotional survival mode during his treatments, so I didn't process a lot of the negative emotions that come naturally when your spouse is diagnosed with something like cancer.  I slowly started to deal with the grief, anger, and fear.  I went for a session of counseling, and went through a whole box of tissue in about ten minutes.  Seriously.   Ugly cry et al.  But it was very helpful in showing me the peace that comes from giving up the illusion of control in my own life.  A lesson on which I seem to need a refresher every once in a while!
How much our lives have changed in six years.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him, all creatures here below.
Praise him above , ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Somewhere inside me... this precious baby.  In a precarious situation.  When you are pregnant, every ache and pain makes you wonder:  is everything okay?  Is this normal?  Especially if you have already experienced a miscarriage or two.  I knew something was wrong at 6 weeks while at church one Sunday.  I assumed that I was having a miscarriage, even though my previous two experiences were nothing like this.  The triage nurse at the ER ran through a series of questions, including "Did this start after having [relations] with your husband?"  Me: "No, I was at church.  So, no."  Giggle.  You have to find some humour in those moments, even if you're already crying.  After an informal ultrasound in the ER failed to locate any baby, I was sent home to wait for a more detailed ultrasound the next morning.  I cried a lot, and we told some close friends and our families that this pregnancy was almost certainly over.
Thankfully, I was seen by a much more tactful ultrasound technician than the woman who had seen me  during my previous pregnancy.  She had taken one look at my stomach before splattering the ultrasound goo on me and said "Wow, I can see this is not your first child from all your stretch marks!"  The new ultrasound tech was very quiet and methodical.  He explained that he wasn't able to see sufficiently because my bladder was not full enough.  I suppose the two litres of water had not travelled that far yet.  He informed me that he would have to use a different kind of attachment to get a better, more direct look, if you catch my drift.  Grief is often served up with a side of mortification.  In my mind this procedure confirmed that the baby was gone, because that was the procedure during my miscarriages.  He brought another technician in the room, and after about ten minutes of mostly silence, peppered with the occasional comment about hospital renovations or the weather, he turned the screen toward me and pointed to it.  "Here is the gestational sac," and I was expecting to hear next "and, as you can see, there is no baby in it," or "the baby is not developed to the point where we would expect to see at this point."  Except that he was pointing to something and said "Here you can see your baby and this is the heart, beating nice and strong."
Me: "WHAT?  You mean there is a heartbeat?"
Ultrasound tech: "Yes, right here," pointing again.
That's when I began sob, complete with the ugly cry.  They were both quite surprised at my reaction, and the other technician, a middle-aged woman with a tired and kindly-looking face, touched my shoulder and asked if I was okay.  As soon as they were finished, I stumbled around the hospital, which is currently in a crazy state of renovations and only has haphazard hand-scrawled signs to tell you where to go, trying to find a pay phone to call my husband (all while the 2 liters of liquid decided to descend).
The ER doctor explained that I have a subchorionic hemorrhage, which means that part of the baby's placenta is bleeding.  I had several more similar episodes that week, followed by ER visits.  On one of those visits, the ER doctor tried to prepare me that I had most likely miscarried again, after he failed to see any sign of a baby on the ultrasound.  Once again, the more detailed ultrasound the next day showed a flashy little heartbeat.
My symptoms had disappeared from about 7 weeks until week 12, the day of my first scheduled prenatal appointment.  I zipped back to the hosptial, and was fortunate to see that the baby was well on the ER ultrasound.  The detailed ultrasound the next day showed that the bleeding is still present, which brings me to the present of this story.
So, now, we wait.  We are waiting for more information and a referral to a specialist.  And pray.  We're praying for this little one to grow and develop, and for the hemorrhage to stop.  We've seen miracles, and I'm looking for another one!
And, we gaze at the little smiling face in the ultrasound photograph.

Monday, August 23, 2010

like ocean glass

I’ve been drawn to collecting ocean glass for years.  Whenever I see glass pebbles peeking out of the sand on the beach, I can’t help but bend down and draw them out.  I don’t think this really contravenes the “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” ethos of our culture, does it?  I kind of figured that ocean glass is man-made, so I’m really actually helping to restore the beach to its natural state.  The base elements of glass, I understand, are perhaps I am a disturber of the beach ecosystem after all.  
The sunlight pours through the jar of collected ocean glass on my kitchen windowsill; the light refracting and casting muted shades of green, blue, and amber onto the walls around me.  My life feels like ocean glass.  Created by God.  Shaped by God, and yet shaped by this world.  A part of this world, and, at times, shattered in it.  Jagged edges that smooth into softness, then become chipped again.  Broken before God, and retrieved by God.
Beauty and brokenness.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares." 
 Henri J.M. Nouwen (The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wondering and Photographs

I wonder what role photographs play in preserving memories.  When I look at the profile pages of some of my younger friends, some of them have hundreds of photos of themselves on their profile pages, whether posted themselves or tagged by friends.  My son, who is not even two years old yet, probably has hundreds, if not a thousand photographs captured of him already, thanks to his adoring parents and grandparents.  Every once in a while, something or somebody will remind me of a time in my life long forgotten.  Friends I used to spend time with, events I took part in, or places I used to visit.  I sometimes wonder how many more things I have forgotten and will never remember.  Is it different for the younger generation, who seemingly have almost every moment of their life documented by digital photos?  Or do we have a finite ability to remember a relatively small number of important times in our lives?  Will the younger generations look at their collection of photos later in life and remember all of the captured moments?  Or will the photos only evoke a frustrating vague sense of nostalgia, like a word that is stuck on the tip of your tongue?  I wonder how people in generations before photography remembered the significant times and people in their lives.  I wonder how they would remember the faces of loved ones who had crossed the ocean, or crossed the bar.  Perhaps the collective memory of people in their lives played a more important role at that time?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Joy of Living ... on a shoestring

Welcome to my semi-regular (and hopefully not semi-abandoned, as my blog has generally been) blogging topic of living on less.  I suppose I was raised to think thrifty: as a child, my only reference points in neighbouring cities were the locations of different thrift stores or discount stores.  As a play-at-home mom (er, I mean stay-at-home mom), I've been picking up more ways to live within our means, and I would love to hear any thrifty tips from you.  
My aim is to live below our means and yet to be generous with what we have been given.  After all, my "shoestring" bugdet looks more like a string of pearls budget to most of the world's population.  I want to save money, but not if it means passing on a more significant cost to somebody else.  Saving a few dollars on something that was made by a child worker or in a sweat-shop is not a bargain.  Figuring out how to do that isn't always easy.  
Spending less isn't worth risking your health either.  The money that you save won't be able to help you when you are in poor health.  I spend what some people would consider to be an outrageous amount of money on things like non-toxic shampoo and healthy foods. But I've just adjusted my thinking: this is what these items cost.  I'd rather pay twice as much for an organic apple than an apple sprayed with something designed to kill insects.  I'm a lot bigger than an insect, but I think it might eventually kill me too if I eat enough of it.  Seriously.  I'd rather spend $5 making homemade burgers at home than eating a 99 cent hamburger at McDonalds.  The question is not why helathy food costs so much, but why does the unhealthy food seem to cost so little?  To where do those costs "disappear"?
Valuing your health over spending less money often goes hand in hand with valuing the environment as well.  Generic laundry detergent is cheaper than eco-friendly detergent, but all our collective saved money won't be able to buy a new salmon run.  
I wasn't kidding about the title of this entry; there really is an enjoyable aspect of being thrifty.  It allows you to be very creative!  On to the tips for today!  

Make it yourself!
There are so many ways that this can be applied.  Sometimes I get so accustomed to buying something that is pre-made, or pre-assembled, etc., that it never even occurs to me that it could be made from scratch.  Take salad dressing, for example.  There are oodles of delicious recipes for salad dressing on the internet.  From simple to exotic, they are fresher, tastier, and usually a lot more healthy than store-bought dressings, which often contain preservatives, artificial flavours, and food colouring.  What exactly is artificial flavour anyways?!  My favourite dressing at the moment is this French dressing:
The quantity given is very large, so reduce it to the amount your family needs.

Last Fall, when my son was old enough to start eating bread, I pulled out our dusty automatic bread maker from the closet and started making bread again.  In addition to the lovely aroma of fresh baked bread, we now have soft, preservative-free bread that costs a fraction of the cost of store-bought bread.  My only hesitation to whole-heartedly recommend the bread maker is the teflon-coated loaf pan in which it bakes.  The bread-maker is my only remaining item in the house that is coated with this nasty chemical.  I'm pretty sure that store-bought bread is baked in the same type of equipment, so I don't know that it really makes a difference.  I'm going to see if I can take the dough out of the machine before it bakes and bake it in a glass or silicone loaf pan in the oven.  I'll keep y'all posted.   If you've ever made home-made bread, you know that it goes stale fairly quickly.  Hence the preservatives in the store bought bread.  Surrender to the staleness and make something that calls for stale bread.  I found and modified a great recipe for bread pudding that almost tastes like pumpkin pie.  Message me if you would like the recipe!

Try your hand at something crafty.  Even if you think you aren't the type, you might find that you enjoy it and/or you have some undiscovered skills.  If you can part with your creations, hand-made gifts are always more personal and usually more thoughtful than store bought gifts.  There are plenty of free patterns and tutorials on the internet to get you started on any craft from origami to spinning wool to making sock puppets.  Here are a few things I've made for my son lately.

The pattern for the whale can be found here:
Pattern for the felt duck:
Pattern for the crocheted bookworm:
(You have to sign up for a free account at LionBrand to get their patterns)
The stegosaurus and alligator are from the book Toys to Sew by Claire Garland, which you can find in the Fraser Valley Regional Library catalogue.

Thrift Stores 101
My mom was onto something when she had us shopping at thrift stores before vintage was chic.  Yes, it takes more time than going to the mall and pulling something off the rack that is exactly your size.  But there are some great benefits to thrift stores:

  1. You are recycling.  The items that you buy are finding a new home in your home instead of the landfill.
  2. Thrift stores usually support a worthy cause or charity.  So even when you splurge, at least you are also helping someone, right?
  3. You can afford to buy things you normally would not (or should not!).
  4. It's like a treasure hunt.  If you enjoy it as much as I do, you can even count it as part of your entertainment spending in your budget.    
  5. You can drop off your used clothes and household items while you're there.  It's like a big inbox and outbox. 
  6. Everything is pre-washed so you can rest assured that the cute shirt you picked out isn't going to shrink and turn midriff-baring on you.  But don't confuse pre-washed with clean...most finds can still use a good wash before you wear them.
  7. Children, and especially babies, grow out of clothing so quickly that it is usually in pretty good shape when you buy it.  
  8. Sometimes old stuff works better than new stuff.  A solid, hand made wooden bookshelf set will serve you better than a brand new fiberboard deal from the big box stores.  Of course, you have to watch for things like lead paint and other safety concerns.
I've only come to fully appreciate thrift stores in the past two or three years.  I always wondered how my sister was able to find such amazing deals at thrift stores when I would leave empty handed.  Here are a few conclusions that I have drawn about my change of heart about thrift stores.
  1. You have to really dig in.  If you are squeamish, just keep in mind that you can wash your hands later.  Or even have a shower later if the thought of trying on the clothes grosses you out.  Every piece of clothing is different, unlike regular stores where you can just look at the mannequin and find one in your size.  You have to really rifle through the racks and look at everything.
  2. Shop often and resign yourself to the fact that sometimes you won't find anything.  It's actually a good thing, because it makes it even more exciting when you do find something.  
  3. It's okay to buy some things brand new.  Everyone has their limit on what they are willing to buy used.  I like to break in my own running shoes, so I've never bought used shoes.  There are bags of half-used containers of cosmetics and toiletries that I don't even like to walk past.  A sweet older lady asked me if I knew where to find the women's underwear in the thrift store today; she has different limits than I do.  Limits can change over time and circumstances, so I try not to judge!
For inspiration (and a wee bit of bragging), here are a few of my recent finds:

A framed print from one of my favourite artists, Roy Henry Vickers. ($2)

A Sophie la Giraffe.  I paid over $20 for the one on the left online, and 25 cents for Sophie on the right at the thrift store.  If only I had run into Sophie #2 first.  Oh well, now I have twins.  If you aren't familiar with Sophie, it is a toy from France made with all natural rubber and child-safe dyes for the markings.  I bought Sophie #1 when my son was teething and I couldn't stand the sight on him gnawing on cheap plastic toys.  He still likes playing with it now.

All of these clothes for under $2, including a sweet North Face running shirt for me.  Now I just need to start running.

These Thomas the Train toys plus a set of Thomas duplo for $2.  

Can you tell my son is fascinated by trains?  A thrift store gave us these puzzles for free last week for some reason.  I'm not sure if it's because my son is so cute, or because they appreciate the fact that I singlehandedly keep them in business...

Happy thrifting!  And post some tips of your own if you'd like.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Geekiology Pt. 2

Just a few more words pertaining to genealogy, and then I'll stop.  Or I might not.  I haven't decided yet.

I can't seem to shake a tinge of sadness as look to find more information about those family members who have lived and died before my time.  It's fun to find any new bit of information precisely because there is so little information about these people and their lives.  As my friend so eloquently ponders these questions, I, too wonder about what becomes of our lives on Earth after we are gone.  Even of those who have attained great fame on this Earth, and whose names are remembered centuries after their deaths, what really remains?  A work of art perhaps, or a literary opus?  A philosophy or scientific discovery?  But what of their real lives?
I only remember one of my great-grandmothers.  I remember hugging her frail body at her hot apartment, and I remember the wrap-around yellow-tinted glasses she wore.  Or was that her husband? I remember shopping at the Salvation Army with her, my grandmother, my mom, and my sisters, and accidently left my baby sister's stroller on the sidewalk when we drove away.  (Don't worry, Linnea, you weren't inside it.  And we went back and retrieved it.) That's pretty much all I remember of her, though my grandmother tells me that she was "sweet and wise," which is a nice way to be remembered.  By the time my great-grandchildren (should I indeed have some of those) are grown, I think the memories of my life on Earth will have evaporated.
The aforementioned friend also sent me this quote: "A human life is a story told by God" - Hans Christian Anderson.  A story told by God, or to God, and hopefully an element of about God.
When I was quite young, probably still in the single-digit age era, I remember thinking that I was such an ordinary girl that nobody would recognize me if they saw me out of context.  People from church wouldn't recognize me at the mall, and people from school wouldn't recognize me at the park in the summer.  It wasn't until a few years ago until this bizarre memory came back to me.  I was asked to share with a youth group about authentic faith, and I wanted to talk about how God loves each of us individually.  It was supposed to be a very informal talk, but, of course, I wrote everything out verbatim. Really, is there anything scarier than public speaking?  And to teenagers no less?  The positive side of that fear is that I still have all those speeches saved on the computer.  Here is a wee excerpt about my memory box (you know, that box in your closet with old school papers and love notes, etc.):

I was thinking that it was kind of sad to just have one box for keepsakes and things that stir up memories.  That got me thinking about God’s unique love, and how he knows everything about my life.  I have to look in a box to remember certain things about my life but God sees the whole picture.  He sees everything that I’ve done, everything I’ve hoped for and prayed for, every joy that I’ve experienced, every dark moment in my life and every loss that I’ve grieved.  He sees me now and he knows my personality, my gifts, and my struggles.  He loves me for who I am.   And part of authentic faith is remembering how God sees us, and how uniquely he loves us.

I suppose that doesn't end even after my life on earth has ended, and even after the last person on earth who remembers me is gone.  

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Climbing Trees

You're never too old to climb a tree.  Especially your family tree.  I've been casually perusing my family tree lately.  Actually, it's becoming a bit obsessive.  But I'm not bothered by that, so I suppose it's not unhealthy.  I find it fascinating to trace the lines of family who have come before me.  It's a jigsaw puzzle, of sorts, piecing together incomplete records and photos and stories.  I first took an interest in genealogy (or, "geekiology" as I have fondly been calling it as of late) as a teenager.  I spent hours poring over my grandmother's photo albums and notes, and scrolling through page after page of census records online.  It was kind of a secret pastime; it wasn't the kind of hobby about which most teenagers would brag to their friends.  I even (gasp at the irony) took my share of ribbing from family members.  But, alas, they have now joined me in the joys of geekiology.
So now, with the help of website, we are putting together more pieces of the puzzle together than ever.  It's like facebook for dead people, and it's great (except the not-free part).
I haven't completely figured out why geekiology is so intriguing to me.  What is it that draws me to find out about my great great great grandparents?  Why do I get excited to hear that Grandma has found a box of nearly ancient photos that none of us have laid eyes upon before now?  I eagerly wait for my younger sister to scan the photos and send them to me, then marvel at the almost-eery semblances between ancestors long-dead and family members now living.
I wonder about the ancestors who are in my now state of life.  What was it like for my great grandmothers to be new mothers in their day?  Or for their grandmothers?  How did they deal with crying babies at night in their tiny homes, or deal with cloth diapers without washing machines or even indoor plumbing?  How did they deal with the fear of childbirth after childbirth (and no epidurals, laughing gas, or morphine?)  I'm sure they loved their children just as much as I love my child, and I wonder at their collective resilience when so many women had stillborn babies, or lost young children and infants to illnesses that now cause little concern.
The censuses are particularly interesting because they are a record of families at an otherwise uneventful time in their lives.  Simply a record of where they live, what they do for a living, religion, and other tidbits.  I noticed that I haven't yet found a single widow or widower who lives alone prior to my grandparents' generation.  In every record, they are living with one of their children and that child's family.  I wonder when and why we as a society moved away from taking in our parents later in life.
My final observation for now (because I'm itching to get back in the tree while baby naps!) is the loss of handwriting in our day.  The genealogist may be frustrated by the illegible handwriting of the enumerator of the censuses, but there's something splendid about seeing old-fashioned handwriting.  Everything is so digitized and efficient nowadays.  I realized lately that I just don't have the patience to journal by hand anymore, because it takes so much longer to write everything down.  With the seeming lack of memory that motherhood has brought on, I can't remember where my train of thought was going when I started writing the sentence by hand.  What was I just saying?
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