Dispatch from the Other Side


…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.


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.


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.



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!

photo 4

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!


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!


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.

The Secret Gifts of Gestation

Full disclosure: Not my belly!

Full disclosure: Not my belly!

They call it “Lightening Crotch,” my friend whispers into the phone.

Lightening?” I whisper back, like the NSA is eavesdropping. Like it’s a code word for a Navy SEAL mission in Ukraine.

She goes on to explain the searing, stabbing pain that attacks her nether regions, sends her whimpering for the handle of the Costco cart or skyrockets her off the sofa. Her husband looks at her knowingly: “LC?” he asks.

When I look it up later, I discover a handful of backroom threads devoted to the topic. Some refer to it as “Vagina Knives,” and when I experience it full throttle for the first time, I understand why. You’re cruising around the block, the sun shining on your face, filled with the joy that is the little one squirming about inside of you, the forsythia blooming, daffodil heads opening, thankful that you are still ambulatory, still smiling, and then…this.

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a moment in time for me to complain about the adversity of my pregnancy. Mine has been an easy one, so much as growing an entire human being is easy, for someone who is much too vain for her own good and on a normal, non-gestating day, tries on three outfits, two earring sets and both boots and flats.

But—but—there are a host of pregnancy symptoms never revealed to incubating women. I’ve rescanned every “What You May Be Feeling” section in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and have seen no mention of the following. Same goes for Girlfriend’s Guide, which I valued for its frankness and behind-the-scenes look at a woman’s real body during a woman’s real pregnancy.

I’ve done my research; queried every close woman I know who has had a baby in the last three years and literally said, “Give me all the dirty details.” There’s the mention of the bleeding, the swelling, the vague recollection of pooping on the bed…but none of the following were mentioned until I experienced them myself or until I was also pregnant, and other pregnant friend casually mentioned their most recent malady.

It’s like Fight Club: You DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

I think women are afraid that 1. No one wants to hear about this shit and 2. If they reveal all these dirty details, no friend or sister will ever venture into the realms of motherhood with them, and they will be the only one up attempting to nurse with mastitis at 3:14 a.m. and never have any one to commiserate with.

But I’m going to reveal these to you so that you can be prepared. So that first time, when you look into the mirror at your nipples and think, “Jesus, are my nipples falling off?” you can rest assured that this is yet another sign that your body is making way for baby.

  1. Nipple Cheese: Who knew that your once lovely, compact, non-invasive breasts (which have now gone through several bra iterations and rival the best porn stars) would begin their lactation efforts at about six months pregnant? Even my sister, three kids in, had no good explanation for nipple sluffage, and to spare you from TMI, I’ll post an excerpt here from Stacy of Frankly Pregnant’s experience with “nipple cheese”: “During my first pregnancy, I was alarmed when I noticed my nipples cracking up. They broke apart into lots of little sections that most resemble taste buds. “What’s going on here? Psoriasis? Dermatitis? Skin Cancer?” I later learned that my milk ducts were coming to a head. Did you know that a woman’s nipple has between 20 to 50 milk ducts and milk can squirt out of each one of them? I foolishly thought that the milk would neatly come out of one hole. So, in these crevices between the milk ducts, you can get nipple cheese build up, even after pregnancy.”
  2. Rank B.O.: For me, pregnancy has been a time when my hair has glowed as if it was a Pantene commercial and forgot to get oily 22 minutes after a shower. It used to be that my grease-trap hair compelled me to shower, but a new offender has taken its place: my pits. It is true that I eat a vegetarian diet heavily seasoned with onions and garlic, and that I use “granola” deodorant, but I have done both for the last four years and have never suffered from this malodorous issue. For those of you middle or high-school teachers, take the worst offending pubescent boy sans Axe body spray you can remember, then up the stank quotient by seven and you have my pregnant body funk. It is like the smell of old cooked broccoli mixed with rotting yogurt and the off-gas of a garlic factory. I shower at 6 a.m. and the toxic brew is back before noon.
  3. Niagara discharge: Suffice it to say that most pregnancy books, sites and personal anecdotes significantly understate the amount of fluid your body produces everywhere. Everywhere. Stock up on panty liners when they go on sale.
  4. Cellulite: Sure, my genes are prone to it. Yes, I consume cookie dough by the bowlful (I know, I know, the raw eggs!) I took a few deep breaths and got over the cottage cheese I saw on my upper arms. I rationalized that the accumulating back fat would be covered by clothes 94% of the time. But when I could not zip up my boots—when I had to squish the calf fat together to form pockets of what looked like tapioca pudding to even consider closing the last two inches of my previously loose-fitting boots, well, folks, I just about cried. The female body apparently stores fat in an attempt to ensure if my cave-man husband fails to slay the cougar, my baby can still siphon nutrition from my fat-laden body. I can assure you that the co-op has yet to run out of cougar and I have not been at a loss for calories at any point in this pregnancy. Come on, evolution! Let go of that which no longer serves you—and take my fat with you!
  5. Hormones to be reckoned with: I’ll just send you to read the hysterical comments on this post by Emily Henderson. When I read them, I couldn’t stop laughing, crying and thinking to myself: I’m normal. I’m so normal. This Jekyll/Hyde madness is normal!!

So there you have it, ladies, my personal list of The Secret Gifts of Gestation. I’m dying to hear—what havoc has been reeked on your body that no one ever told you about?

A Mix of Miracles

I’ve been drumming up a post about pregnancy’s dirty little secrets: the ones no one talks about because the “conditions” have silly names, embarrassing consequences, and devastating repercussions (like making reproduction look unattractive). I promise that post is on its way—I mean, who isn’t interested in hearing about “vagina knives?”

Alas, I have been awash in a mix of miracles, albeit small ones, but ones worthy of recounting and relishing. I feel as though I must get these down on (virtual) paper so when I’m up at 4 a.m. for the fourth time with nipple thrush and a wailing child, I will remember that I do, indeed, have much for which to be thankful.

In no particular order, my mix of miracles:

Without digging any holes, kneeling at all or purchasing new bulbs, 75% of my daffodils, tulips and irises have come back. I know they are supposed to do this, but this is the first year they’ve actually heeded my pleas!

Disregard the weeds--they come back too, those jerks!

Disregard the weeds–they come back too, those jerks!

The students in my small little logging town outdid themselves: they wrote cards and poems, videoed skits and baked brownies, purchased onsies and pacifiers, and came by to say one last goodbye twice. Never in my eleven years of teaching have I felt more adored or honored. I have found a pretty special home.

Last Day

A mole removed turns out benign!

Two dear friends birthed beautiful, healthy babies!

My sister and co. have raised nearly $5,000 for my nephew.


I have the luxury of beginning maternity leave starting today…and lasting all the until school resumes in September!

A tax refund that makes me want to weep with joy. (Have you ever heard those words together? Tax and joy?)

Thus far, an “easy” pregnancy (don’t jinx me in these last 3.5 weeks!) and a doting husband.

Don’t you worry, I’ll be back soon to report on the likes of nipple cheese and profuse body odor. But for now, let’s relish, shall we? Spring and the smell of newborn babies are on the horizon!!


Go Back to the Place You Were Born

Sometimes teachers strike gold: for a whole week I have the local(ish) poet Tim McNulty hanging out and teaching my Seniors poetry.


He shared his latest book of poems, Ascendance, and mentioned the photograph on the front. A salmon jumps up Kettle Falls, now damned by the Grand Coulee. Tim went on to talk about the beauty of salmon who “go back to the place they were born.” And he mentioned that line perhaps twice more. It resonated with me.

We were supposed to write about–gawd, I dunno even know what–that’s how fiercely this line sat with me–this idea that where ever I birthed my child, (s)he might have this faint memory of it, this whisper of the room and the light and the soft way N spoke in my ear. That somewhere deep inside his marrow, like a salmon, if instructed, he could “go back to the place he was born.”I haven’t written poetry in eons, and now I can’t quite remember why.

Go Back to the Place You Were Born

Go back to the place you were born
up the back stairs on 1st Street
in the old converted house
whose trillium walls wear
first wails
of new life
where tepid water
fills deep tubs
and a damask duvet covers
a bed on which women’ve labored.

There, on the hardwood planks,
you will find where I curled my toes
and leaked fluids
where your Father whispered in my ears
and massaged the place between my thumb and forefinger.

Go back to that place
where our blue eyes first locked
where time stood still
and our hearts beat
for the first time
because of each other.

A Gift of Hope

I remember when I found out: I was at school, and I’d called my mom just before class started. Something in her voice sounded urgent.

Two words, one diagnosis: Cystic Fibrosis.

My three-month old nephew was now doomed to a fate I’d seen play out in my childhood.

Uncle N and baby Walter

Uncle N and baby Walter

My mind immediately separated into two spheres, one, thinking of my childhood friend, Melissa, who battled the disease and succumbed to it when she was 24, and my sister, thousands of miles away in Germany, tending to a five year-old, a two-year old, and now, a terminally ill infant.

I wanted so badly to call and weep with her. To show up at her house and cook her macaroni and cheese and run my fingers through her hair, to hold her close while wet tears fell between us. We knew what this meant for Walter—we’d watch Melissa live the whole thing. I’d seen the inhalers and nebulizers and hacked up mucus and shortness of breath and the lung transplant and the solidarity of her family and the courage and hope and ultimately, the resignation.

It’s almost a year later and my sister and her family have relocated Stateside, in Spokane. I got to meet Walter for the first time in October, and the little guy is all smiles, and coos and joyful baby love. He doesn’t know he’s sick. He doesn’t know about the football he might not be able to play, the friends who might shun him while he uses his nebulizer, the black tar that might grow and adhere to his lungs. I try not to think about him in his teens or twenties, try not to consider how quickly a cure might progress to let him live to see his forties.

And I cannot, imagine, for the life of me, how my sister wakes up every day, stares into the lake of his blue eyes, and knows that she will likely have to say good-bye to this little love.

It is too much to bear.

So I’m joining her in celebrating Walter’s first (of many, many!) birthday by participating in The Great Strides Walk, a Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser. It’s one of the only things I can give the boy for his birthday that encapsulates the hope I have for him and my sister—the hope of a long, healthy life. Of a cure.

I would LOVE to raise at least $350 to “gift” to this little one, and I wondered if you would help me. I am asking for a $10 donation from each of my friends (and I think I have more than 35 of you!!) You can go here to donate to Walk for Walter.

The addendum to the song “Happy Birthday” says, “and many more.” This is my way of ensuring many more for Little Walter. Because who can imagine a face like this vanishing before its time?

The Happiest Almost 1 Year Old I Know!

The Happiest Almost 1 Year Old I Know!

Thanks for helping me celebrate my nephew’s birthday.