Hope is the Thing With Tusks

I once went searching for Hope in the middle of a Thai forest. It was well past midnight, Hope was “lost,” and we were worried. Hope was notorious for sneaking away; he was also young, mischievous and often covered in mud. Sometimes Hope was impossible to find.

I witnessed finding Hope once again this weekend. Somehow he emerges from the muddiest of pits, where the soil is so dark and thick one is sure there is no light of day.

This weekend a herd of us rallied around my sister—that brave, strong, dedicated, selfless woman—and her son. It has been a long year for her and her family, but this weekend was like coming upon Hope in the dead of night.

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My parents somehow, in their dilapidated state, drove for three days from New Mexico to Spokane. My mother began—and finished (this, as many of you know, is the challenge for her) three craft projects for the weekend in two days. Hope in the end.

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Thirty-some people (over half of them children under the age of 10!!) from around the country drove in, flew out, and walked with Jessica and Walter. Hope in camaraderie.

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Cousins met cousins. Hope in family.

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Grandparents met grandbabies. Hope in future generations.

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Cookies were shared. Hope in sustenance.

Serious dolla dolla bills were raised. I began with a meager goal of raising $300 for the CF walk, but ended up with $1055. On Wednesday before the walk, a friend at the gym approached me with an envelope. “Did you make your goal?” he asked, “because I brought you $25 if you didn’t.” Hope in the form of a gym rat.

There are nights in all of our lives that are dark and endless. Nights where the walls close in around us and we feel so lonely we could cry. Often we do. What is amazing to me, however, is when we reach out from that dark place, when we ask of our friends and family to prop us up with their quiches and cookies, company and children; when money swaps hands for good causes and when people rally around a loved one with so much joy and love that it feels like finally, they are floating–that is Hope.

And yes, Hope is feisty. Of course he disappears. He’s got tusks to reckon with. It is our job, however, to don our headlamps and trek through the forest to find him. And when we do, we can believe once more in tomorrow.

Perhaps the greatest Hope of all is the smile amidst adversity–Walter has this trait down, And sings the tune without the words -And never stops – at all –

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A million thanks to all the donors who supported this worthy cause. I know there are many, many places to lay down your Franklins, and I am so grateful that you chose ours.

 

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Radishes, Baby

Baby size radishes

Baby size radishes

You know how I garden, right?

Well, add a newborn to that mix and the seeds you planted in your 38th week of gestation become sorely neglected for–well, forever.

I was so eager when I planted these radishes; I love me a small, crisp radish, straight from the garden. I think the little red, pink and/or white oblongs or circles are often overlooked, much like The Beast or Quaismodo in the early stages. But, a little buttermilk, a little cheese (radishes have a love affair with cheese, methinks!) or even a little harissa, and the shabby radish shines.

I’m not one to waste pieces of hard-grown veggies: one of my favorite kinds of pesto is radish leaf pesto. It has a subtle flavor, but one quite different from that of a basil-inspired pesto.

If you had a baby between the time you planted your radishes and harvested them (or just plain forgot about them–the radishes, not the baby) here are some of my favorite dishes I’ll be making in the next month to consume this baby-size bounty.

Did you notice that the largest radish is almost the length of my child’s torso? Good god, man!!

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad

vickihorton7.wordpress.com

vickihorton7.wordpress.com

Radish Leaf Pesto

Buttermilk Farro Salad

Nectarine and Radish Salsa  

 

(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??).

Carrot Coconut Trail Cookies  photo 1

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.