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Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood (a giveaway)

December 4, 2012

Thank you everyone who participated in raising money for the March of Dimes. (Especial thanks to the perennial lurkers who revealed themselves. That wasn’t too scary was it? I always love hearing from everyone. There is still time to leave a comment, which is the easiest way in history to raise money).

I like how money can be used to heal and protect and preserve; and I also like using words to do the exact same work. Kasey Mathews wrote the book I wish I had in my hand when I was yoga-breathing my way down the halls of University Hospital, preparing, every single time, to see my wisp of a baby whose health status fluctuated like the stock market.
preemie

I slurped up Kasey Mathews’ book Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood in two days. This book is the brave account of  how she grew into her own motherhood through reckoning with the extreme prematurity of her daughter  Andie, born at 25 weeks. It’s user-friendly and raw and honest and entirely lovely. This book is for all mothers who’ve ever found motherhood to be different than their expectations, which I’m guessing would be something like, well, all of us.

preemie2

As the fabulous Katrina Kenison, author of, The Gift of an Ordinary Day, says: This lovely memoir is about letting go of assumptions, moving into the place that scares us most, and discovering that what we get in return for our surrender is nothing less than grace.”

An interview with Kasey Mathews:

1.)  Were you a writer before you wrote preemie?

Writing has always been my solace, my passion, my meditation. My favorite sound in the world is a pencil scratching across paper.  For years I led creative writing workshops and inspired hundreds of children to write. I wrote alongside them and delighted in the pure joy of writing.  Others often urged me to submit my work for publication, but I never felt compelled to do so.  It wasn’t until we moved to a quiet hillside in New Hampshire that I felt the strong calling to write Preemie. I was so naive and soon discovered that writing the book was almost easy compared to getting it published. It was a long hard road, and I continually had to return to why I wrote the book; reminding myself of all the others I believed would find healing in our story.

2) How was it, emotionally, to write this book?

Intense.  Powerful.  Amazing. Healing. Joyous.  As you know from having a preemie, the NICU experience is a continual up and down, roller coaster ride. Writing the story was the same.  I had to dig so deep and put myself right back there, standing in those same shoes, looking through those same scared eyes in all those situations that had brought me to my knees in the first place.  It often took me weeks to accurately capture a particular crisis moment, digging deeper and deeper with every draft.  I knew I’d finally gotten there when I was so wrung out, I had nothing left to give.  The flipside were the joyous moments where I witnessed my own growth and ultimately understood the corresponding lessons.  It was a wild ride indeed and would certainly have been easier if I hadn’t pulled the curtain all the way back, but I knew the story would suffer if I didn’t reveal myself wholly and completely to the reader.

3) Are there any remaining marks of Andie’s prematurity?

I was contemplating this question, staring into the woodstove, while Andie made a batch of her favorite Challah Bread French Toast in the kitchen behind me.  I thought of the colds that years ago left her sleeping next to a nebulizer inhaling Albuterol every two hours, and how we still knock on wood every time we speak of the time that has passed since she’s needed a treatment.  I thought of her grace and ability on soccer fields, ski courses and backs of horses, and I thought about her intensity, competitiveness and need for perfection.  Were those traits of prematurity or just who she is?  And just as that thought crossed my mind, Andie looked up from the griddle and asked,  “Mom, do you think I freak out so much because I was a preemie?”  I shook my head and laughed, telling her I had no idea, and then read her what I’d just wrote!

4) What do you want to tell every mother who has a premature child in the NICU?

  •           Breathe.
  •           If you’re afraid, say it out loud. “I’m afraid.”  Bring those emotions to light so they can’t breed and grow in the dark.
  •         Create a vision of your child in the future – walking on the beach, coming down the slide at the playground, running through a grassy meadow – and hold that vision.
  •        Remember that statistics are just numbers and don’t let others limit your child’s potential.
  •        Know that so many others have walked this path before you and that whatever you are thinking and feeling is not wrong and  you are not crazy.
  •        Never, ever lose hope.
  • Drink lots of water.

5) Who are your writing inspirations?

I love to learn and grow and find inspiration by witnessing the journey of others through books.  A quick glance at my bookshelf would tell you that I’m partial to women writers.  Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Lamott, Pam Houston and a new addition, Kristen Kimball, who wrote a fabulous memoir called The Dirty Life.  Memoirs about ordinary people who find themselves facing extraordinary circumstances are often among my favorites.  Right about the time I started my first draft of Preemie, I came across a memoir called Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup.  I read that book in one sitting and knew immediately that I’d found the model for my book.  It’s about a woman in her mid-thirties who’s left to raise her four children alone when her Maine State Trooper husband is killed on the job.  It was her unwavering honesty and how she wove humor into circumstances that were anything but funny, that impressed me most. Her wry voice was so clear and so certain that I felt like she was reading the book to me.  I can only hope I came somewhat close to achieving a fraction of her brilliance.

Kasey is giving away 1 copy of Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood, to a reader of 6512. Leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. Giveaway ends December 1oth.

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children and music

December 1, 2012

The spoon and chopstick band has been rehearsing daily.

spoon and chopsticks

Sometimes they record themselves playing music on the video function of Rose’s new camera, and then play it back. Repeatedly. Luckily, you can’t hear the sound of my teeth gnashing over the music.

spoon and chopsticks2

Feeling it now. Note: steel measuring cup cymbal hanging off of green chair. Clever!

We’ve been listening to the four songs you can play on the Lumineers website. Repeatedly.

spoon and chopsticks4

Rose is playing the harmonica along with the Lumineers. Note: in 800 sf house, you are never far from the bathroom. Hi toilet! Also, the top of the fridge becomes actual legitimate storage space. Natalie C., can you find your xmas card from last year?

Rose asked me to turn the Lumineers off for a moment. She scurried away with pen and paper and then announced that she was ready to resume playing.

spoon and chopsticks3

So much easier when you have the proper sheet music.

Speaking of music, are you going to the Guitar Dojo concert this afternoon? Yes? Fabulous. See you there.

xo,

Rachel

ps: If you haven’t read my latest pieces on Mamalode.com

* on the teeth-gnashing delights of raising a 2-year old.

* the journey of birthing a premature child.

the law of averages

November 27, 2012

Eight years ago I was strolling the November-grey streets of Durango, Col thumping around anonymously in his amniotic ocean. I had just begun to feel the first swimmy kicks – those little messages from the inside reminding me, “I’m here, Mama! I’m here!” If that simmer of life had a brand name it might be: world’s luckiest secret.

And I felt lucky, yes, but cautious. I had waited for Dan to be ready to start a family (he insisted we marry first and then asked for another 9 months to prepare), only to conceive, the first time, a terrible mistake: a molar pregnancy, a typo of fertilization in which the placenta mutates in a cancerous fashion until surgically removed. And then another 6 months of blood draws and the doctor-insisted waiting followed.

And so, by the time my belly was rising again, like a hopeful batch of bread, I now knew that wanting a baby didn’t equal getting a baby. Even though a second molar pregnancy was unlikely (a first molar preg. occurs in only 1 in 1500 pregnancies), and this baby’s heartbeat galloped like a stampede of wild horses across the examining table (my midwife promised that once you have a heartbeat, your chances of delivering a healthy baby is over 90%), the law of averages was no longer a place I could rest, eyes closed comfortably in the sun.

Some of you know where this story goes. (The short version is here, today, on Mamalode. Please, do read). While 11% of babies born in the U.S. are born premature, only 1% of all babies are born before 26 weeks. Col was born at 25 weeks, 3 days. Which is to say, my uterine odds haven’t been the greatest.

(But, also, they have! I mean, heavens, look at who’s crawled out of there).

Whittling spoons out of juniper.

Only 20% of babies born at 25 weeks have no lasting problems. I don’t even know what constitutes a lasting problem anymore. Col’s problems are continually shrinking in relation to his big, wonderful life.

November is National Prematurity Awareness month. And it’s interesting, I used to be aware of prematurity every day; it felt like a tight place in my chest or a weepy apology I wanted to offer my son. Now it feels like part of our story, but not the main plot.

Today, I’m donating 25 cents to the March of Dimes (which works tirelessly to prevent prematurity) for every comment on this post. So, say hello, read the short version of the boy who arrived 3 1/2 months early, and take care.

xo,

Rachel

putting it out to the universe

November 25, 2012

Hi All,

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays in which Tradition and Americana can issue forth instructions and I will bow down compliantly. (After this, things get a little shaky). Plus, turkey stock. There is little that makes my joyous and frugal heart sing louder than the extraction of mineraly rich broth from a pile of fowly bones and skin.

Roasting root cellar denizens makes me pretty insanely happy, too.

It has been so warm in these November parts that I feel a little apologetic. To whom? I don’t know, the season of winter perhaps, with all its freezy expectations of creeping sufferingly around exposed skin like a scarf. As someone said this weekend, “it’s hard to rail against global warming when it feels like this in November.” (Which is not to say that I’m not ready for blankets of snow to adhere themselves to the Earth. Oh, I am).

Someday I’ll set up the whole Amazon affiliate program. Or does that even make you any money?

To all of you who recommended  Peace like a River, holyliterarygreatness, that was a beautiful book. I can’t stop thinking about it. I miss the characters (11-year old Reuben was modeled after Leif Enger’s own asthmatic son, which of course plunges me into deeper love with the book). It’s a 1960’s adventure story complete with horses, outlaws, an airstream trailer, the bleak beauty of rural Minnesota and North Dakota, family love, a clever sister pounding away on a typewriter and the most breathtaking writing I’ve read in a long time.

Happy birthday to my wonderful mother! Also, homemade chocolate peanut butter cups. Certifiably easy. Recipe, anyone?

To change the subject completely, I’m generally a practical, grounded person who finds enough mystery and miracle in a spoonful of soil. My soul-sister Kati, who leans more towards tarot cards and putting it out to the Universe, will say to me, especially if I’m in a confounding place: “so I know this is a little woo-woo for you, but I’d be happy to pull some tarot cards for you.”

And I’m all: thanks but I’ll go meditate on a spoonful of soil. But here’s an interesting thing I’m noticing. Ever since I made a conscious decision to quit with the whole reward/punishment pitfalls of parenting (because they don’t work, more on that here), as well as the conscious decision to see my children’s education as a slow, gentle, all-inclusive continuum, rather than fuss over someone’s idea of where children “should be” academically at any certain age, people have been appearing in my life like lampposts lighting the way.

This fall, while organizing the Durango Positive Discipline workshop, Ruth Cutcher, local Suzuki guitar teacher, approached me about being a sponsor of 6512 and growing. She also mentioned she was offering free childcare to any of her students’ parents who wanted to attend the Positive Discipline workshop, so deeply did she believe in the concepts of encouraging children to be happy and responsible without the unhelpful distraction of rewards and punishment.

Ruth Cutcher, of the Guitar Dojo, explained that part of her work is helping parents support and encourage their children’s guitar practice, not by threats, rewards or punishments, but by conveying that the work, the practice, is the reward itself. (I didn’t understand this concept until I was 24, and it lit the flames of true happiness and meaning in my heart).

Ruth says, “what we do in music lessons transfers to everything. Children learn that putting forth daily effort builds skill.”

Guitar recital.

Testimony:

“There is a contract between parent and child to share space and time each day to practice an ever-expanding repertoire.  To move beyond the mundane nature of repetition, the parent becomes the creator and facilitator of engaging curriculum, which ensures her child’s continued interest and success.  Mom is more invested than the child, at least in the beginning; however, this is no trivial investment –  she is the happy witness to beautiful transformation as her pupil experiences the myriad benefits of routine, focus, responsibility and perseverance that is borne of daily practice.  The mandatory music lesson is a return to what truly matters; thus, these daily gatherings become almost ceremonial in nature, while the dirty dishes from dinner remain strewn upon the table, attracting only the attention of flies.”

Jamie Novak, mother of 7 year old student.

“Ruth doesn’t push and she makes lessons fun; she’s read more parenting books than any parent I know. She has a strong interest in supporting parents and building relationships between parents and kids. The Suzuki method teaches commitment to a daily practice, which is profound for a child of any age, but I can see the brilliance of starting young.”

Becca James, mother of 11 and 5 year old students.

If you think your child might be interested in learning guitar under the tutelage of  this dedicated, supportive, and focused teacher, please come check out The Guitar Dojo children’s recital on December 2nd at the United Methodist Church (On Aspen Dr, off Florida) from 3pm-4pm. Free (donations accepted). Bring your children! See you there!

****

Hoping the start back to your normal week isn’t too scary…if it is, try putting out something different to the Universe. Wink wink.

Next up in our world: book making.

This kills me.

xo,

Rachel

happenings

November 21, 2012

Greetings from a warm, loud and lovely place where the Daddy drags a ladder out onto the front porch every morning (before coffee!) to view, through spotting scope, elk cavorting around his hunting grounds in the mountains.

And, where the daughter begs to play our new Math Bingo game.

Ha! Learning disguised as gaming.

And the son, between thrusting books in my lap to read to him about ships (The Titanic, Magellan’s Armada, Civil War Ironclads…), is drawing.

Hi dude yourself.

And the Mama has a story up on Mamalode, a story which will either make you miss having a 2-year old around, or maybe just a little grateful to have passed through that stage, or give you a glance at what’s to come. Either way, click on over (I do get paid by clicks).

A 2-year old I once knew.

Also, the new Edible San Juan Mountain Magazine is out! (I mean, as soon as I get the 40 boxes out of my driveway and distributed round town). I have a story in it about your favorite drink: coffee.

What are you making for tomorrow? I’m making La Plata County cranberry sauce, AKA apple-cherry sauce. Dan’s making a roast elk. Happy Thanksgiving to all you precious peeps.

Rachel

DIY Kitchen: pumpkin muffins

November 19, 2012

Sugar baby pumpkins all grown up.

We’re the kind of family who eats totally gluten-free, paleo and  Nourishing Traditions-style except for, y’know, beer…oh and also, well, the 2 loaves of day-old artisan bread Dan brought home last weekend, and please don’t send the gluten-sniffing dog into our car, on account of the 2 cookies, apple streusel, and sausage breakfast burrito which were passed around as we drove out to Pagosa Springs on Friday.

Which is all to say, we may lean in certain directions, but apparently the food altar at which we worship is made of flexible materials.

But, this recipe for pumpkin muffins (which began as a recipe for pumpkin custard, because it’s like Bubba from Forrest Gump round here lately: we got pumpkin custard, pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin fries, pumpkin burritos, pumpkin cake…I rented Forrest Gump to watch with the kids while Dan was away hunting, and it was great except all the fast-forwarding and explaining I had to do because of, whoops! sex scenes, war scenes, but boy did they love the 63% of it they got to watch…), but, um, where was I?

Right. This recipe for pumpkin muffins can be made paleo (Hi Diane G; Thanks for the lovely card!) or vegan (Hi Erin N; Lets talk homeschooling!) or pumpkin-free (Hi Rosie; lets get over your pumpkin-phobia!); okay, maybe not pumpkin-free.

Col loves these muffins because, “they’re so buttery;” Rosie likes to co-create anything in our sliver of a kitchen that involves wearing an apron and licking honey off a spoon; and Dan and I love them because they’re the shortest distance to the most nutritious and yummy calories you can shove in your piehole when you’re too busy to actually turn on the stove.

Fine print:

1) This recipe calls for pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins (small and sweet).

2) I puree the pumpkin skin with the flesh. I know, it’s wild times over here. This saves a whole 3 minutes of hard labor, and I figure if the pumpkin went to the trouble of growing that skin, I might as well use it (a good reason to buy organic). Also, the skin has antioxidants and studies show (don’t you love the vagueness of that term) antibacterial and antifungal properties in the skin.

3) Molasses. I’m a big fan. Because of the iron, obviously.

4) Pumpkin is walloped with potassium (lowers blood pressure), Vit A (for the peepers), folate (for normal red blood cell production) and Vit C (immunity!)

Directions

1-2 med size pie pumpkins or 3 cups pumpkin puree

3 cups flour

1 can coconut milk

1 stick butter (leave at room temp until softens)

1 1/2 cups crushed walnuts

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup honey

3 eggs

1-2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

(Of course there’s a lot of room for ingredient swapping. Pecans for walnuts or no nuts at all, leave out the molasses and add more honey, flour can be whatever you prefer: gluten free types work great (I use 1/2 rice flour, 1/2 almond meal), or if you’re going paleo use 1/2 coconut flour, 1/2 almond meal and add an extra 100 eggs).

Slice pumpkins in half and de-seed. Place flesh side down on cookie sheet in 1/4 inch of water. Roast at 350F for 30-40 minutes. Blend, skin-on (easiest while still warm) with coconut milk, honey and molasses. Beat eggs in separate bowl, mash in softened butter, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt. Blend pumpkin puree into egg mixture, and then flour, lightly, just until dry ingredients are moistened. Sprinkle in walnuts. Bake in greased cupcake tins @ 350F for 20-25 minutes, or bread pan for 35- 40 mins.

Rose gets every professional sport mixed up, “look, hockey!” she’ll say as we drive past the tennis courts, but she’s a whiz with a knife.

Benign and endearing flecks of pumpkin skin (which you will never detect in finished product).

With molasses and coconut milk added. (Sometimes I bake it just like this and call it custard!)

Cracking and beating eggs, for which I’m sure you’re grateful for the photo-instruction. 

Oh, the orangeness of the dough!

Pumpkin-phobia is apparently yesterday’s news.

Enjoy!

Pumpkinly yours,

Rachel

Linking with Homestead Revival Barn Hop

On being a grown-up and new sponsor, Essence Chiropractic

November 18, 2012

The funny and wonderful thing about living in a town for so long is that you get to watch all your friends grow up. In the past 17 years my dear ones—whom I’ve known since our gloriously carefree early 20’s—have become: town mayor, business owners, a Chinese medicine doctor, representative to Colorado’s U.S. Senator Bennet (who, after sharing the latest political brouhaha, likes to remind me, “that’s not going on the blog, right?”), teachers, artists…

Please welcome new 6512 and growing sponsor, Dr. Stephanie Harris of Essence Chiropractic! Steph is a local chiropractor, and one of the old school homies, who incidentally, made our wedding cake 10 years ago, zucchini chocolate, naturally. Not only can she get you into alignment, she has mad baking skills too.

Steph has worked on both my kids, many of the town’s kids, and is currently unlocking my computer-neck. I particularly like to see Steph before I get on an airplane and at the start of the cold/flu season. She is passionate about bringing her clients back to health and it shows.

Incidentally, Rose and my spinal columns get locked up in same pattern.

Testimonials:

I have been seeing Stephanie at Essence Chiropractic for a year and a half now. I can not tell you how much it has changed my life!!!!  I no longer walk around with neck, shoulder, hip and knee pain. I am more focused at work and productive in a general sense because my body is being taken care of.  My 3 year old daughter has also seen Steph for the same amount of time. My daughter’s MD’s told us that we should consider putting tubes in her ears. Instead, Stephanie started adjusting her and allowed for proper drainage of her ears. Cori is healthier and happier than ever! 

M.D., Durango

Since I got pregnant 5 years ago, I’ve had lower back pain that I really thought was impossible to heal (ie; I tried yoga, acupuncture (which helped a bit, but not completely), exercise, etc).  2 visits (2 VISITS!) with steph, and no more back pain!  My posture has improved dramatically and now we’re working on my hips, as they were pretty tweaked due to the back injury.  I feel blessed to have steph as my chiro because she is super thorough, loves what she does, uses a holistic approach, and is very much invested in my healing.

K.H., Durango

When I signed up for Dr. Harris’ “Wellness Care Plan” last April 5th, I truly didn’t expect the results I have enjoyed nor as soon as they have occurred.  I went in because I was having neck discomfort and dizziness to the point of feeling nauseous especially when I bent over.  I am seventy and have always been very active and healthy–still snow ski with my grandchildren.  After a month, I started realizing how bad off I’d really gotten because I started feeling like my old self again.  I awakened with more energy after a better night’s sleep and the dizziness started to subside.  During the treatments I realized there were sore spots on my spine and back which I wasn’t even aware of before which began to improve.  By the third month, even my lifelong constipation problems disappeared.  Acid reflux is no longer as much an issue for me as it was before.  Also, I am more aware of body tension versus relaxation. The health plan has definitely made me more aware of that difference now that I have experienced less tension.  I am so happy I AM NOT DIZZY & NAUSEOUS, and I don’t have neck discomfort anymore plus a lot of other annoying problems…      

N.P., Durango

Dr. Stephie (as Col and Rose call her), is passionate about family wellness. She specializes in serving the families of our community with quality chiropractic care and family education. Dr. Stephanie is passionate about caring for pregnant women, babies, and children, in order to provide the opportunity for shorter labor, safer births, and for optimum health as children grow and develop.  Dr. Stephanie offers a unique combination of gentle spinal adjustments integrated with lower force (or light touch) applications that allows for maximum health and healing.

Dr. Stephanie Harris is offering $20 off any new patient visit (which is a bomber deal to begin with) for readers of 6512 and growing.

More info on her website here.