And for once I was SuperMom

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Friday after Thanksgiving we were all set to settle down into post holiday comas, to watch football (Scott), and to sit and patiently cuddle Emma while she suffered from post cousing withdrawal (me). But right before lunch a friend called and invited us over to help process an elk. With the offertory of free beer and a new experience we decided to go.
We ate lunch first. Then I showered, wondering why I was bothering if I was going to go handle large amounts of bloody meat. Picturing some controlled form of carnage I decided to wear black and bring an apron.
When we got to their house David ushered us into the garage, the animal hung from the rafters with a hook through it's back legs, and it's front hooves touched the ground. David showed us where it had been hit by a car and had broken it's leg. Apparently the game warden found it, and put it out of it's misery, like a horse.
Technically this was roadkill.
Big roadkill.
The head had been removed and David had already pulled the skin halfway down the body of the animal. David offered us beer, um yeah, I think I'll drink. Within moments Scott's hands were in the skin, forcing it down while David ran his uber sharp knife around the fold cutting the skin away from the meat. Janel and I retreated inside and sharpened knives, while I tried to convince Emma that playing with their daughter (who wanted very much to hold her) was a really good idea. Back out in the garage, with the skin a pile on the floor, Janel showed me the different muscles and cuts of meat.
Soon David had cut away the backstrap and rump roasts and Janel showed me how to clean it. We needed to cut away the fascia, a slippery iridescent transluscent skin that coats each muscle, and remove any parts of the meat that looked to damaged (read: black and bruised). I would flip each piece of meat over and over not really knowing where to start. I was pleasantly surprised at how non-carnagey the experience was, much like trimming a steak. The animal was partially frozen and it was a cold day, so there was no stink and not much blood. Except for the sheer volume what needed to be done it wasn't that terrible a task.
I liked this. After thinking through the fact that for roadkill this animal didn't look so bad, I was happy to help David and Janel feed their family with it and happy to recieve the cuts of meat that they sent home with us. Normally this animal would have just rotted in the forest, now it's feeding a family of six for the winter. I liked that I knew where it came from, free range and organic. Knowing that American meat often comes from sad farms in gross conditions it was reassuring to know that this was a good healthy animal. You know how much the final 125-150 lbs of elk meat cost? Free, and an afternoon of work. So what? You say. Why would I want elk, what's elk meat like anyway? Beef, people, beef. The most costly meat you can buy. Organic, free range, grass fed beef.
This experience also was a very real illustration of where meat comes from. What if every time you ate a turkey sandwich or eat a steak you had to kill and process the bird? That means plucking feathers...I am thinking that the amount of recent disgust that I have heard over pulling giblets out of a turkey if most American families had to cut apart an entire cow, there would be a lot more beans showing up in family dinners. Which might actually be a good thing, considering that all you need for protein is a piece of meat the size of the palm of your hand, and how many of us eat meat for two meals a day?
On Thursday night I will be making my first elk roast, so we will see how this experiment in eating roadkill ends...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanks-doing II

This year instead of just going around and saying what we were thankful for we wrote it down on our place cards, picked them from a hat and then guessed who wrote what. It was adorable, and I loved it. We got to show who well we knew each other as a family and respect our gratitude all at the same time. Scott and I listed the same things, in the same order; each other, our baby, and the hospitality of our parents.
Knowing full well that I set myself up for failure by talking about acting thankful rather than just saying I am thankful, I don't know how well I did on the exact day. I did my requisite showing up in the kitchen and peeling and chopping. I hope that shows that I am thankful by helping rather than just recieving.
My first 'thing' that I was grateful for was my husband. Who do I show him that I am thankful for him? Today Emma woke up from her nap way too early. Scott went down to get her and then didn't show up for quite awhile. I snuck down the stairs to find him sitting on the couch watching football with Emma asleep in his lap. Knowing she needed the sleep to recover from the happy onslaught of cousins I let them be. Returning to the computer I noticed Scott's lunch was sitting uneaten next to the computer. I hate that, countless meals I have left to tend to Emma and then lose my appetite for them later. By the time I took them down to him he was on his way up with woken up baby in his arms. Oh well, maybe I'll get it to him next time...
How do I show Emma that I am thankful for her...I interrupt this blog to go play with my kid. As I was pushing her around the living room in a toy grocery cart that clearly states on the bottom, 'THIS IS A TOY NOT INTENDED TO CARRY CHILDREN,' I realised it reminded me of baby-sitting, when I actually played with the kids. Maybe I should play with her more...
As for my parents? I will keep helping where they ask and let me and hope that actions speak louder than words.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanks doing

This week Scott's oldest sister with her four children descended upon us. Her children get the whole week of school off so they came out from Chicago to spend a weekend in the mountains for Thanksgiving.
Usually on holidays I like to reflect a bit, but it seems the older I get the more the crush of the holidays overtakes my time. I get caught up in the swirl of turkeys and cranberries and as my time gets swallowed and I am sitting before a turkey dkinner not knowing why. Often after the whirl of preparations we stand before dinner holding hands and talk about what we are thankful for, I come up with something socailly appropriate but true and then we pray and dig in.
What if we actually took the time to think about this tradition, and we remember that is founded on the saving grace of a local people for new immigrants. We pause on this day to be gracious that they fed us instead of slaughtering us. (My family did actually come over on the Mayflower, so if it weren't for the kindness of those Native Americans I might not be here.)
What if instead of just standing around and saying what we are thankful for we did it. What if instead of saying that I am thankful for my family I went out of my to serve them? What if instead of saying that I am thankful for a healthy daughter I gave a donation to a children's hospital? Maybe made it so that someone else could be thankful for a healthy daughter as well. Instead of just saying that I am thankful for good friends I went out of my way to encourage a friend that is struggling?
So now that I write this a day before Thanksgiving maybe tomorrow instead of stressing about getting grandma's stuffing recipe right I can go out of my way to show someone that I am thankful for them. Since I can't premeditate something more grand...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kleenex Death

While I was pregnant I read everything about the development of the fetus that I could get my hands on, I wanted to know what my little bean was doing, even though I couldn’t see her. In my last trimester I began to read about babies and how I would actually take care of this little bean once she emerged. For the first six months of her life I kept track of how she was doing compared to what the books said she should be doing. This was pretty helpful, but there were tugs of anxiety as she was doing some things that the books said she should be doing but not doing all of the things that the books said she might be doing.
She has always been robust and healthy, good color, good muscle tone, no excessive crying or frightening other health concerns. So I mostly tried to push things out of my head. Trying not to stress out about whether or not she could roll over, and just being happy that she was healthy, she will roll in her own time. If other babies were bigger or sitting before or crawling before Emma I tried not to think about it. From about six to eight months we were traveling and I really didn’t have time to stress out about Emma’s development. I stopped reading the books.
I haven’t picked them back up.
And it’s been great.
The other day I had plunked her down on my bedroom floor so I could get dressed. I looked over and she had a Kleenex box in between her chubby baby legs and was gleefully ripping the poor tissues limb from limb. I stopped, watched the carnage ensue and thought about whether or not I should stop her,
“Eh, what the heck, atleast she’s busy and happy,” while I hate to see the wasting of good tissue (hey, that stuff costs money) I had the chance to get my pants on without her crying and trying to crawl up my leg. (With this image you ask, ‘how does one get pants on with a baby crawling up your leg?’ All I can say is that it ain’t pretty.)
I guess what I am trying to say is that every now and then parenthood has forced me to let go. Instead of comparing Emma to every baby around her and making sure she came out on top, making me a better mother, of course, I have chosen to let her do things at her own pace and just be happy when she does them. Instead of wrenching the box of tissue away from her and saying ‘no,’ I let her rip away. She’s a baby after all, to her that’s just plain fun. She got to explore a new texture and I got to get dressed without feeling guilty for my selfish need to wear clothing. (That’s right, people, motherhood makes you feel guilty about wearing clothing. How? You ask. When you put the child down to get dressed and she starts screaming as if you have abandoned her to gypsies, then you’ll know.)
I still managed to get in my resourcefulness and almost compulsive need to recycle, for the next few days I kept the pile of Kleenex carnage in my room and would plunk her down in front of it whenever I needed to do anything in my room. It was great.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Please don't poop on me

This blog might be kind of touchy and may hit a dischordant note with a few, I hope I come across as diplomatic as possible.
The other day I was in the grocery store and I called Emma by her nickname, ‘bug.’ This was a nickname for her that I knew would be hers while she was in the womb, I am not sure why, it just made sense to me. An older lady turned to me when she heard me call Emma that and said,
“She’s not bugging you,” and I completely ignored her. I didn’t have the emotional energy to turn to this woman and tell her that bug was my loving nickname for my sweet little girl. When I say bug I think of ladybugs, cute bugs, not cockroaches or locusts. I did not feel the need to make my nickname for my own daughter okay for this completely random stranger. Obviously she’s not bugging me; well she wasn’t at that moment. If any mother tells me that her children never bug her, she’s a liar. We all have our moments, and they all have theirs. And honestly it really hurt that this woman would think that I was calling my one year child a hurtful name.
I am pretty sure that I can say with all confidence that this woman was probably insecure. Correcting strangers on their parenting seems to be an action of insecurity. Which is why I didn’t engage in conversation with her; her insecurities are not my problem. I know that I am parenting my child well; she is a bright and well-adjusted baby. (Now here is where the insecure women jumps in and tells me that’s not my fault and I am just lucky to have a good baby. Sigh.)
I supposed that I am tired of getting pooped on by women that are older than me. Most women my own age seem to be wading through parenting knowing that we are all doing the best we can. The women that correct me are always significantly older than me, say my mother’s generation. I feel that every time I am talking to a woman that could be my mother I am carefully choosing my words to prove that I have the right attitude, that I cherish my child appropriately, that I have the patience of a saint (I don’t), and I understand babies and think they are great. Or that when I am really positive about Emma, there’s some backhanded, ‘just you wait,’ comment coming. Maybe that’s due to selective memory; only remembering the temper tantrums or only remembering the sweet moments of cuddling and giggling.
I guess I am asking why some women can’t respect that younger women aren’t completely stupid. I understand my child and I love her. I spend a lot of time with her, I know her. And I guess that I am saying that it really hurts me when people accuse me of being incompetent or hurtful towards my own child. When you get right down to the marrow of the issue.
I guess what I am just trying to say is that if you have advice to offer to a ‘young’ mom, that you think may be needing it, do just that: offer it. Don’t assume that she doesn’t know what she is doing and come down hard on her head.
I know that parenting is touchy, we all understand the gravity of raising a human life. When we see someone that may be doing something that is damaging to a child we want to say something. Or when our own insecurities pop up when we see a woman that is not having as hard time as we are we want to push her down. It’s just human nature and it’s dirty.
Moms, now grandmothers, maybe you can trust that you raised us and we may not be doing such a bad job after all. Just maybe?

PS: Both my mother-in-law and mother have been doing a pretty good job of ‘offering’ or just trusting me. Thanks ladies.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sister Wives

Since coming back to the US I hav ebeen surprised at how much I haven't wanted to watch TV. In Kenya we would pop in a DVD of a television series and spend several episodes steeped int he entertainment of our home nation. Now with all manner of media readily available I am surprised at how many nights that screen stays black. One thing I have always strived for is to not watch television just because it's there. Not to watch some harmful drivel just because I have nothing more creative to do.
Some such drivel that I have allowed to drip into my mind was the TLC show Sister Wives, a reality show about a man and his four wives. Why of all the quality programming available would I chose this train wreck?
At dinner we started we talking about it. And we kept coming back to it over and over again. Miriam and I mostly drove the conversation. We were both equally disturbed and fascinated by this show.
I can't speak for Miriam but I know that not only is polygamy disturbing to the western female mind for the reasons of jealousy and the sheer grossness of sharing your husband with another woman but I think that polygamy strikes at fear in the core of every woman's heart. That no matter what we are or how strong our marriage that we are never enough. That in a culture where a woman like Sandra Bullock or Elin Woods cannot keep the fascination of her husband how can a plainer woman ever expect to survive? When music videos show faceless and flawless females off as commodities to be trading, what is to keep our husband's from finding the next best thing? When we become old and tired from bearing their children and men are touted as having insatiable sexual appetites how can one normal woman expect to satisfy him?
Even though we may be four years in or forty years into a healthy marriage there is that insecure piece in a woman's soul that doubts that we are ever enough. That if given the opportunity our husband's woudl go find another skinnier, prettier, less-complicated woman. That the true love we think we have is a fallacy and it all boils down to physical attraction.
At one point in the show the new wife turns to the camera and sighs and says that Kody, the husband, is her 'soul mate.' I threw up a bit in my mouth and thought, 'and hers, and hers, and hers?'
I read the 19th Wife about a year ago. I would read a few chapters look over at my husband and ask some inane and completely insecure question, and he would respond that polygamy does not interest him in the slightest. He seems mostly scared by the drama it would cause. But that's not what I wanted to hear, I wanted to hear that I am enough and that he would never want someone else. That he is indeed in love with me, my soul and my personhood. So I kept pressing until I got the answer I wanted.
The show has done that to me again. I turn to him and tentatively dance around the question until I can say, 'So, no, you wouldn't ever want to do that? It is not the desire of every man's heart to have multiple women at his beck and call?' I'm pretty sure he never wants me to watch this show again...
I know that polygamy has served it's place in certain cultures by protecting women. In places where women are nothing if they are not defined in relation to a man. Being a second wife is better than not being a wife. But in America, we don't need that. I don't need definition through a man. I make my own definition. So every time I watch these women or read about them I know what I would do, I would leave. After he ripped my heart out I would go. I would take my baby and go. I just can't understand why they don't.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I have always struggled with Sundays as a day of rest. I watch my husband settle down in to a comfy chair with a book or a football game. And I spin. What should I do with this time? How best should I use this time? Can I actually rest? Is it restful to just sit and read or is it more restful or paint? Last Sunday I did laundry because it was actually restful for me to get it done with Scott home, so my baby wasn’t crawling up my leg as I am trying to load the dryer.
This last Sunday was not much of a day of rest. We planned Emma’s first birthday party right after, I felt a little insecure to demand someone’s time on a Saturday. We have also joined a small group that meets on Sunday night at 5:30. So I had a few moments to rest from about four o’clock to five o’clock.
After scrubbing dishes I gave up on the pot that I burnt the bottom of, and escaped downstairs. I found myself on the couch sitting next to my husband, who was reading our small group book and watching football. Near moments after my butt hit the couch Emma woke up, so I spent a good chunk of that time snuggling with Emma while she drank her wake-up bottle. Girl wakes up slow. Once she woke up enough to turn her loose, Scott relinquished the small group book, I decided I needed to read the book so I would have something relevant to say tonight. My eyes grazed over the words absorbing nothing, I knew that all I really wanted to do was paint my nails and watch the rerun of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV.
Now I don’t paint my nails often. I think the last time I did they were wrecked by that evening. The one load of dishes that I washed left the polish cracked and jagged. For whatever reason this Sunday I wanted to paint them. So I gave myself a break from my ever swirling obligations and painted. Of course Emma crawled back in front of the couch crying for the bottles of polish. As I am pretty sure that nail polish is not non-toxic, and most definitely stain-able she didn’t get them. I ran my newly dark red nails under my hair dryer to set them.
Let’s just say that within five minutes of finishing all but one nail was biffed. The left index finger was completely scraped off, I don’t know where the polish ended up. My suspicion is that a spot on my sock drawer now looks like it has been stabbed. What nail survived? You ask. The right middle finger. As if my very nails are flipping off my very attempts to self-indulge. It was then that I knew that I no longer have a half hour or so to sit and do nothing and let my nails dry.
You know when you are at the very last of the tube of toothpaste, and you turn the v’ed edges inwards, demonstrating immense digital strength, just to get that last bit out? I feel like I am always doing that with my hours. Even the times I am sitting in front of the TV I am doing something, squeezing that last ounce of usefulness out of the day.
My in-laws have a book that sits on their shelf, When I Relax I Feel Guilty. Maybe I should give it a whirl? If I can find the time…

Friday, November 5, 2010


What does one do with all this local food? Here are two recipes that I came up with:

2 cups cooked kidney and pinto beans (i cook my own from dried, instead of using canned, so I do a mixture of the two beans)
2 cups frozen tomatoes
1 lb ground beef or 2 cups black beans
1 red pepper chopped
8 oz frozen roasted green chilies
1-2 carrots chopped
1 cup frozen or fresh olathe/sweet corn
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
cumin, salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste

If using beef brown it beforehand with onion. Throw it all in the crock pot, set on low, and walk away until dinner time. Serve with regular chili trappings; sour cream, cheese, cilantro, etc. A dish that uses summer ingredients but is really best eaten in the winter.

Peach Glazed Rosemary Chicken

1 1/2 lbs chicken
1/2 - 3/4 cup peach jam
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp lemon zest or squirt in some lemon juice
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 clove garlic minced (go easy on garlic, it can overpower the other flavors)

Arrange chicken in 9x13 baking dish. Melt all other ingredients on the stove in small saucepan, until flavors are mingled. Pour pach jam over chicken and bake until done.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


About three years when we were last living in BV I was reading about the locavore movement; eating only foods grown locally (in 100 miles of your house). Scott and I started talking about it, the writer lived in Kentucky. It was January. I looked out our window at the cold desolate land that our Colorado landscape offered us and thought, 'What could possibly grow here?' I jumped up from my warm spot on the couch and dug through our pantry, refridgerator, and freezer to find what we had that had been produced locally. What did I find; elk and honey. Everything was from somewhere faraway. Bread from Ohio, coffee from Sumatra (via Seattle), sugar from Hawaii, etc.
This week we are working our way through a loaf of Eco-friendly wheat bread, as it is called on the package. What does eco-friendly mean? I flipped it over and began reading, this bread was made with wheat that was grown using sustainable methods in Idaho. Sounds good, but what was the address on the package? This bread apparently hailed from Wisconsin. Does that mean that wheat was shipped from Idaho to Wisconsin? Or does the company just come out of Wisconsin? Or was the plastic bag made in Wisconsin? Either way standing in my Colorado kitchen that loaf had done a lot of traveling before it became my toast. I stand there feeling defeated. But, it was on special, i say to myself. And it's eco-friendly. Whatever that means.
We moved back here in late July, knowing the long winter ahead and the soon coming inavailability of local produce I went pioneer woman and 'put some food up.' A friend hooked me up with a deal on peaches, we now have peach jam for Christmas presents. I froze a box of tomatoes, so we don't need to buy canned tomatoes probably until January. I did the same with a box of roasted chilies. This same friend told me about a farmer who would sell me his seconds for pretty cheap, I was thinking apples. But the last week that the farmer's market ran I was too tired to think about it.
Am I a locavore? I don't know. If we truly chose to live that way, we give up flour, sugar, tea, coffee, and a host of other things. If you want grains you needs to move to the midwest, if you want fruit you need to move to California, if you want coffee you need to move to Indonesia, and the list goes on. Last week I stood in the produce section and stared at the peppers, some where from Canada (What business does Canada have growing peppers?) and some were from Mexico. Which is closer? I went for Mexico, because they were cheaper, and to get to Mexico I only have to drive through half of CO and New Mexico and to get to Canada I have to drive through the other half of CO, Wyoming and then Montana. And who knows what part of Canada they are from, Saskatchwen or British Columbia? You could say, 'just don't buy the peppers.' But I was making chili from all the tomatoes and chilies I put up....
So what if I do switch to all local all the time? What happens to that Ecuadorian farmer who is dependent on my purchasing of his bananas to feed his family? Not to mention that in this climate I will probably have scurvy by March.
I think the call is to be conscious. Buy local when I can, when it doesn't shoot an impossible hole in my pocketbook. Maybe instead of supporting Starbucks I can support the local roastery. Maybe I can choose products that are only one state away instead of several?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Emma's 1st Birthday

Today is Emma’s first birthday. I can’t believe that a full year has passed. I can’t believe that sweet little lump of a baby is a walking and talking (kind of) toddler. Of course moments like these lead to reflection.
Yesterday we dropped my brother off at the Denver airport driving home as our little aqua RAV4 climbed into the mountains, the sun slanting in through the windshield I asked my husband,
“So, Emma is one year old, so what do you think you have learned this year?”
“You mean about parenthood or just our year in general?” he asks for specification.
“Well, you know, like all of it…” I love it when I am articulate.
He launches into a rambling journey of observations about how much he valued community. Our friends back in Nairobi that brought us dinners after Emma was born, our friends here in BV who have received her so well and love on her. Our family who treat her like the treasure she is. He talked in and through these thoughts, and then we fell silent.
“You haven’t answered your own question.”
“What have you learned this past year?” I had already thought through this question, so I forgot to reciprocate. I perched my sunglasses back on my head as the sun disappeared behind a snow dusted mountain. I launched into the thoughts I had scrawled in a notebook the night before.
“I think for me it’s really been knowledge. I understand more how life works. More how human life works.” Having felt life grow in my womb and knowing the undeniable connection that I have with my very own daughter my understanding of humanity has been expanded like an exploding nova. I now have something in common with more women than I did before, we are all mothers. I feel more in touch with my own body than I ever have before, I know have this deep understanding of what it is capable of doing.
“And just the plain knowledge of a development of a baby,” how over the year a three month can probably sit up, with pillows, a six month old can do supermans on their tummy, a nine month old is probably crawling…we had watched the documentary Babies the night before…
“A year ago I wouldn’t have wanted to watch that documentary, nor would I have thought those babies were all that cute.” I confessed with a shrug. Scott smiled,
“I had that thought.” I hate it when he knows me better than I do. Or do I love it?
I think I understand sacrificial more than ever. What it means to give up what you want to do for the health and happiness of this little person. What it means to give up the way your body looks for a baby. What it means to give up sleep…
At the beginning of this year I was in shock over all the life changes that having a baby brought. Now I have adjusted to the new ebb and flow of life. The lack of sleep, the fact that just when you think you know what to do with your baby she changes on you, the daily emotional swings from joy and laughter at her new discoveries to burning aggravation when she crawls up my leg when I am trying to DO SOMETHING IMPORTANT. I fall more in love with her every day. I can’t wait to see what kind of person she becomes, but yet I love the baby she is.