(in)Dependence

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When I was 8 or so, my mom would dash from Thousand Oaks to Woodland Hills, swoop us up from school and cart us back to Thousand Oaks for our horseback riding lessons. There wasn’t enough time to get it all done, so my sister and I stripped down our plaid skirts and pulled on our tan britches in the back of the Suburban. We wrote out a check from my mom’s checkbook and just before we flew past the Club House at Foxfield, Mom would sign her money away.

When we were not quite old enough, my mom would make the same trek to Foxfield at 7 a.m. Saturday mornings; Jessica and I would spend the entire day cavorting around that magical place. My mom had a day to herself and my sister and I traipsed around the barn like small, fledgling human beings. We knew how to use the pay phone, how to obtain lunch and when it was time to tack up our horses. We were young, but capable.

Many years later, as I subbed kindergarten for the first–and last–time, I realized that my mother had done her job too well. I abhorred the neediness of those little tots: how they grabbed my hand with their snotty one, how they necessitated assistance  in the bathroom for a myriad reasons (wipe, flush, pull up, wash), how they could not understand multi-step instructions, those bastards.

And ever since, I have constructed an entire life composed of non-needy, non-dependent friends, colleagues and partners. Dependence drives me nuts.

Somehow, however, I created, housed and now am 98% responsible for the world’s most dependent living creature. This sweet-faced monkey is latched to my side, waist or nipple 23 out of every 24 hours. He will only sleep if spooning me. He despises the baby hammock N and I had visions of him snoozing away in.

So cute. So dependent!

So cute. So dependent!

It took me two weeks to realize if I wanted any sleep at all, I was going to have to let my baby be a barnacle.

And if I wanted any sanity at all, I was going to have to convince myself that this dependence–this trait that I deplored–was a symbiotic, temporary, adorable characteristic that melted my heart like butter on a burner. Somehow I needed to embrace neediness and clinginess and complete and utter reliance.

I tell you this because 1. I didn’t realize that this was the aspect of Motherhood that would challenge me, and 2. because I somehow DID  convince myself of the very symbiosis I needed to ingrain. Nobody really talks about how at 34, when you’ve been footloose and fancy free, when you’ve had your passport stamped at dozen ports of calls and eaten happy hour nachos at the pub on a whim and took the long arm of the trail this time because you felt like it–no one tells you that having a baby on your hip while you eat every.single.meal and having him tucked between your thighs and breasts as you both lay on your side every.single.night.–no one tells you this might be overwhelming to your independent self. That you might freak the fuck out for a while.  That you might hyperventilate. Feel a bit nauseous. That you might resent the love-making and baby growing and even the little monkey himself for a while.

I told my best friend that I was going to have to make a conscious choice: that I was going to have to embrace this symbiotic, temporary, adorable characteristic of my spawn or I would have to locate my passport and flee the country.

Now, a handful of weeks later, I eat all my meals one-handed, standing, bouncing the babe as I dribble coffee or soba noodle on his head. I dread the day when N demands that LL sleeps in his own bed or crib or hammock because his gassy fits and nursing coos are too loud. I am certain that one day the little munchkin will treat me with the reservation and distance that I witness between my high schoolers and their parents, and I will long for this time when his fat fingers clutched at my neckline and his body squirmed on my lap–blog post be damned.

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Without knowing quite how, I drank the juice and am relishing (most) of LL’s dependence. Sure, i would love to enjoy a full, hot cup of coffee and a trip to the bathroom without my child attached to me in one of my four baby carriers, but for now, I’ve found joy in the obscenely dependent nature of my newborn.  I know that like my mom, I too, will foster (perhaps too much) independence, and that my baby boy may one day be so capable, so autonomous that he straps on a pack with a one way ticket to somewhere in his hands and no plans to return, no intentions of calling his mother.

That day will come. These days are here. I chant one of my running mantras in my head: This is where you are. This is what it is. We are in dependence.

And it is sweet and simple and full of a thousand small coos and smiles and feet that cling to my lips when I kiss them.

But I want you to know that this mindset did (does) not come easily, not naturally. That I had (have–almost daily still, it seems!) to work to get to this place, as some of us have to and will. You know who I’m talking to out there–you are not alone. We will relish our barnacles together and later, when they’re driving on I-5 and asking to stay out past curfew, we’ll sip our long-awaited margaritas and reminisce about the time they used to sleep with our nipple resting on their cheeks.

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Dispatch from the Other Side

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…and here we are, the three of us, emerging with spring out of our shell and out of our personal war story.

They say to nap while the babe naps, but sleep eludes me, and capturing moments in text seems the only logical thing to do.

I should start by saying this: I called my friend who is due with her first baby in a week and a half, and I said to her: “Carrie, I am so excited for you!”

There—I said it!! Can you believe it? I can’t quite.

I have ventured over to the Members Only club of parenthood, one that rouses emotion that had been hiding in toenails, perhaps, or the farthest molars. One that compels you to get up yet again to feed the hungry monkey and to nibble on toes that curl every time you kiss them. It is sickingly joyful.

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In the few moments we’ve had to debrief, to relive, to reminisce about the first–let’s call it challenging, shall we?–week, N asked me if I would do it again. I unflappingly said Yes. Which is odd, considering what I endured and my slow road to healing. Considering I have never liked babies.

But my baby, well, that is a different story.

I’m in the middle of typing up the story that was the eventful arrival of Luka Lee, and perhaps one day I’ll share that madness here. But before I forget all the hands that held us up that first week, I must give a WAT WAT to our Village.

It is true what they say, about a village and a child, and I must blink several times and shake my head fiercely when I think about the amazing village that has surrounded us in the short amount of time we’ve lived here.

There is the FarMor (father’s mother) who has washed and folded more of my panties than I’d care to count, and held LL so N and I could get some real shut-eye.

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There are the heaps of friends who have cooked, baked, delivered full meals.

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There are the long-distance Grandma and Grandpa who have relished in the latest addition to the Kitchens clan and made me feel like this is their first grandchild rather than their fifth! (This, despite two trips to the hospital for them!!)

A been-there-done-that sister who texts daily baby advice and sends needed baby goods via priority mail.

There are the school folk and friends delivering first Easter baskets and heaps of Goodwill.

Long-distance friends who have listened to our birth story and its aftershocks and assured me, No, it’s not supposed to be quite that challenging.

I am certain that N, LL nor I would have survived that first week without this Village. To Mom, Dad, Jess, Brita, Lara, Amanda, Kerri, Anna, Carrie and Craig, Julie, Phoebe and Jonathon, and to those who I am forgetting due to lack of sleep. All of you saw us through. We are indebted and hope to return the favor.

For all my ambivalence and un-excitedness leading up to Luka’s birth, I am thrilled to be here. To cuddle up at night with this little guy. I am eager to point out to him his first eagle, to take him on his first hike up Little Mountain, to watch him gaze at his first snowfall up Highway 20.

One of my favorite quotes is from Into the Wild, where Alexander Supertramp writes: Happiness is only real when shared.

What a glorious thing, then, that I have two kindred boys with whom to share my joy.

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Hello, World!

Meet the newest member of our crazy clan,

Luka Lee Ferrell

Born April 5th, 2014

8:35 p.m.

7lbs. 14 oz. of sweet baby flesh and  21″ of pure love

We are both sleep deprived and over the moon.

Carrot Coconut Trail Cookies

What do you do when you are 38 1/2 weeks pregnant, on the verge of getting sick, cranky and stuck inside on a gorgeous day? (And then again at 39 1/2 weeks, waiting for Babe to arrive?)

Make cookies, of course!

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My darling husband reminded me that sugar does not stave off illness, so I pretended that because these had carrot, whole wheat flour, coconut, oats and that because I HALVED the amount of sugar (HALVED!! Have you ever heard of anything so foolish?!) that these were the prescription to my ailment. Truth be told, I like them better with the reduced sugar than when I’ve made them with the full cup and a half. I know–I must be ill.

(UPDATE: And today I’m making them with the idea that they will be good labor food. If they last that long…)

Also, they are vegan, so I could consume as much raw cookie dough as I damn well pleased without anyone pulling the “What about the baby and salmonella?” card. And if you needed another excuse to whip these up, they taste like macaroons. I promise you won’t even notice the carrots.

You can pass these off as healthy–okay, healthier–and I won’t tell if you lick your hands like I did. These make great hiking/snowshoeing/road trip cookies (but is there a bad road trip cookie??).

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3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1-2 cups shredded carrot

1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (I used a combo of shredded and larger flakes; it provided a nice texture)

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

1/2 cut canola oil

1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 350. Mix together fours, carrot, coconut, sugar, oats, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together water, oil, and vanilla. Add wet mixture to dry; mix to combine. Mix in chocolate chips.
  • Scoop 2 tablespoons into one ball onto a cookie sheet. (Note: the batter is loose and wet, so wrangle any stray odds and ends; this is also the part where you get to lick your hands.) Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool for 2 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool completely.

**Feel free to add dried fruit (cherries, dates, apricots work well) and/or chopped nuts, generally about 1 cup each. To freeze batter, roll into balls, place on cookie sheet in the freezer; transfer to a covered Pyrex container until the cookie urge strikes! No need to defrost before baking.

 

Up, Up and Away!

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I take pea planting pretty seriously. They are one of the first seeds you can  put in the ground, they germinate fairly quickly and yield one of my favorite fresh, off-the-vine experiences.

Since we’ve moved into our house we have relied on scraps, dead tree limbs–okay, crap–to erect a pea trellis. Most years the sugar snap peas, which grow 5-6 feet, crawl to the top of the trellis, shout a quick What The Hell? and then fall limply back to the earth.

Looks a bit Pirates of the Caribbean, no?

Looks a bit Pirates of the Caribbean, no?

I have had visions of a proper pea trellis for years.

Guess what?! If you can grow your partner a whole human being, he will likely try to make all your gardening dreams come true. (But to be fair, my partner in crime has been bringing my crazy gardening dreams to life since 2008, sans any gestation on my part. Perhaps he knows that he owes me that much?)

Two weeks ago I said, “Honey! I’d like an arched pea trellis. Out of chicken wire. Between two beds. And it’s time to plant the peas. Like last week!” Close mouth. Smile. Smile. Smile. Rub the baby belly to remind him of my 9-month task.

And of course, because he is the brains and the engineer and the one who actually executes shit around here, he had all kinds of questions and points of clarification and realistic expectations to rain on my pea trellis. (Well, sure honey, all the chicken wire is coated in toxic zinc which will likely enter our food steam and thus body and probably kill us, but won’t the trellis look awesome? And that is where I picture an arch of blooming pea flowers and green pods hanging like candy ready to be eaten fresh–toxic–from the vine.)

The Home Depot trip takes three times longer than expected (why I don’t expect this now is beyond me) because we (he) compares everything and ends up finding some wire that works 100 times better at a fraction of the cost. (This is why he is the executor.)

One evening after work, we erected our pea trellis. I am happy to say that unlike years past, this one does not involve bailing twine, dead tree limbs or resemble a pirate ship. It’s embarrassing how delighted–nay, excited (there’s that word you all want me to use!)–this trellis makes me. Giddy with anticipation.

Pea trellis

The peas are on the same gestation plan I am, methinks: t minus a week or so till sprouting. I can picture me drinking my first glass of long-awaited chardonnay, with a little critter wrapped up closely to my chest, under the flowery blossoms of pea shoots.

In my visions, the peas are prolific and smell so good that I don’t even notice the soiled diaper.

These are the Things

I know I don’t want or need to have All of the Things.

But I’m smitten, and broke. (Maternity leave sans baby is a beautiful, but frugal endeavor.)

Don’t buy the last ones of these for fear of my wrath!

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Japanese Cherry Blossom Tree–Jessica Durrant

  • Claims to be a baby blanket, but hey! sometimes I act like a child. Doesn’t look like a baby blanket, right?
  • We try, try, try to not use plastic at our house. I’m rooting for these instead of the usual kitchen towel we drape over salad, etc. in the fridge.
  • I have a new laundry plan that N is only partly on board with. I think this would help.
  • My new, hormone induced hair is loving the beach look. I am not loving the sample beach look spray I got from Folica, but think this au natural replacement might do the trick.
  • I was looking for a picture of a cherry blossom I took on my phone to lead this post–my finger appeared in every shot. Then I found this and decided it would be perfect in our guest room. Who knew I even needed it until just this moment? I’m tempted to render one of my own, but come on: $25 to support an artist? No contest! My mama raised me right.
  • And, because this is my dreamlist-if-I-win-the-lottery-and-never-have-to-think-about-money-again, here is the light fixture I’ve been drooling over for our bedroom for over a year. When I get back to work in the fall I am going to have to stomach the $300 and buy the damn thing. I can’t help it that the scallops and brass speak to me.

How about you? What would you lay some Franklins down for if money was no issue? Post a link and we’ll swoon together. It will be like group therapy for shoppers anonymous.

The Ultimate Green Smoothie

You know about my sister’s strife, yes?

I am thrilled to announce that I have single-handedly revolutionized her life. No, I did not hire her a cleaning lady or find away she could dole out meds to her little one while folding laundry–no, this change is both more simple and dramatic than that.

It involves peanut butter. Of course.

My sis and I were chatting green smoothies, as partial granola-hippy sisters are apt to do. I told her what I had in mine; she was aghast. Dubious. Peanut butter?  Turns out (brace yourself here, folks) my sister had never eaten peanut butter and banana together. I know! And I wouldn’t even think of sharing this with you en masse, if my sister–my very own flesh and blood–the one who cans peaches and plunges her whole hand in the toilet bowl to clean cloth diapers–my own sister–hadn’t had this before.

I divulged the simple recipe for my perfect green smoothie, and the following day there was this text: photo

So I’m posting this that on the off chance you fear mixing peanut butter, have been trying to add more leafy greens to your diet or are looking for a quick, healthy lunch, that I can save you too. I found that this is one of the few “breakfasts” I can whip up as I’m flying out the door for my 8 a.m. lifting class, chug it in the car and feel nourished enough to lift weights for an hour. Plus, N likes it. Really, what else is there to say?DSC_0074

The Ultimate Green Smoothie

(Makes approx. 48 ounces)

1/2 frozen banana

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

2-3 tablespoons peanut or almond butter

2-3 large handfuls of spinach

3-4 de-ribbed kale leaves

1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds

1 heaping tablespoon flax seeds

2 cups almond milk

water to desired consistency

Place all ingredients in a blender, salivate while it whirls and mashes, and then drink down the green goodness.

Also, if you are a nut butter addict like my BFF, you might consider this peanut butter, which a friend of mine just revealed to me. I have no doubts that it is worth every one of those $7.