I had a wonderful moment the other day when Tempest was reading through her book on North American Wildflowers and pointed out that the latin name of a lovely bloom was the same as the holiday we were currently celebrating: Ostara. Not a day goes by where I’m not proud of her.

This year I really wanted to get a little more in touch with my spiritual roots, so we spent quite a few days preparing, talking to the kids and discussing the mythos. Tempest loved the story of the goddess of the spring who rescued a bird by turning it into a hare; the transformation was incomplete, and the hare was left with the ability to lay eggs, which it gave as gifts to the goddess to thank her for her selfless act.
To celebrate the power of the spring, we made chocolate bird nests with candy treasures inside.

To make them, use a bowl of shredded All Bran cereal. Melt some chocolate wafers in a double boiler, and while still warm, mix the All Bran in carefully with a spatula – ensuring they’re well saturated with chocolate.
Gently pack the chocolate bran into greased muffin tins, making sure to create a dip in the middle of each “nest”.
They’ll go into the refrigerator for about an hour to cool and harden. Once that’s happened you can easily remove them from the tins (I just popped them out by putting a knife in the edge and wiggling it slightly) and place a small handful of treasures inside (chocolate money, Cadbury mini-eggs, Kisses, etc).
Each were individually wrapped in a biodegradable food-safe baggie and tied with a string of wool yarn. The bags came from clearbags.ca and are available in many sizes, but can usually be found in craft stores as well.

The chocolate All Bran was surprisingly delicious, and the treat went over extremely well. I want to make them for a birthday party, or something, it seems like an ideal goodie bag treat for little kids.

The other project Tempest and I spent all weekend on was a large batch of dandelion honey.
We scoured the neighborhood to pick a kilo of large, fresh dandelions, and then came home and began picking all the petals off. That job alone took three hours. We put on Miyizaki movies while we sat on the dining room table plucking dandelions over a large silver bowl until our fingers turned a permanent shade of yellow. It was definitely an interesting mother/daughter project.
Once the petals are off, you put them in a huge pot with a litre of water, four slices of lemon 1-2cm thick and 1/4 of a vanilla bean, cut open so the flavour can easily seep into the tea. Bring to a boil, then turn it down and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside to steep for 4-5 hours (I let it sit overnight).
Strain out the petals and lemon, just leaving the juice, and return it to the pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and slowly add a 1kg bag of sugar, stirring occasionally until it reaches the desired thickness (about four hours). This makes just over a litre of incredibly delicious spread.

Unfortunately there aren’t any pictures of the production of that… though I really wish I had taken the time to document it.

Curtis used it to glaze the Ostare ham, and added a few spoonfuls to a pot of mashed yams… both turned out so amazingly good that the kids literally licked their plates clean. My brother begged me for a jar of it, so I measured out a glass container for him to take home. Just before they left Wife said that when their yard blooms with dandelions I’m free to come over and pick as many as I need to make another few batches, provided I leave one with them.
Despite the time involved, it’s actually a pretty easy recipe and I’d love to do it again. The only part that’s kind of a bitch is pulling the petals off the flowers.

On the day of Ostare after a leisurely breakfast (that the kids did nothing but complain about, as it was cutting into their egg-hunting time) we agreed to start painting eggs and then do a hunt. Halfway through egg painting prep I got a phone call from the hospital for an “at your discretion” case.
We’re not supposed to take babies under 25 weeks, largely due to the fact that we can’t be called in for every single miscarriage, and because there’s rarely much to take a picture of… babies born that early are rarely in good condition. I hemmed and hawed, and finally decided I’d go. I went back to painting eggs with my kids so we could finish at least one whole craft before we slipped in an independent playtime while mommy left the house. There’s no way I can not take guilt with me on a day like this – it’s either for my kids, or for the social worker I said no to.
As I drive I thank the fates that found me such a loving, understanding husband and independent, free-spirited children that are not offended if the day’s plans change a little.

The baby boy was 18 week old, and in almost perfect condition. I didn’t meet his parents: they’d said their goodbyes already, and had been waiting to go home… it was their fourth loss.

I came home and put that part of the day aside so that I could still enjoy the festivities. The kids were eagerly awaiting the hunt we had planned, which I was informed would take place outside in the front yard rain or shine.

And they’re off!

A candy!

D’Argo watches the kids, and stays close by.


Super haul.

They ate so much candy they were up until 11:30 at night.

My brother and his wife came over for dinner, which was really really nice… it’s the first time we’ve had a nice family dinner with both of them in a long time. Even more wonderful was the honest-to-god effort that they made with my kids. They walked in the door, said hello and almost immediately sat down to start reading books, playing and asking them about how their day was. I was totally shocked. I didn’t know how to react, and spent a good ten minutes just sitting next to Brother’s Wife on the couch as she read to Tempest… silent in slack-jawed amazement at her sudden and seemingly-sincere interest in my kid.
It was the first time I’ve ever seen them really engage with my family and look like they enjoyed it.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed the change: as soon as they left mom turned to me and said, “Did you see how great they were with the kids?”. I hope this is the beginning of a really positive change.

On that note…

My brother and his wife are having a baby.

I can finally say it publicly now that she’s passed the 13 week mark and they’ve started telling people outside the circle of trust, (that, and the strangers that Brother has been blurting it to over the last few weeks).

I’m really, really happy for them. I’ve been hoping they’d have a baby for years. Despite my reservations with Brother’s Wife, she’s actually really great with kids… and Brother could really benefit from being a father in a million ways that I can’t possibly begin to describe on this journal. The history is just too complicated, and too ridiculous to even start. Suffice to say, I think he’s going to make a fantastic father; the two of them balance each other out really well and I think they’ll make a great parenting duo.
I was scared for a long time that it would never happen for them, largely due to Brother’s Wife’s almost comedic volume of daily cigarettes, plus a wide smattering of various other issues boiling down to a principle of “I don’t wanna”, leading them to being in their early 40s before even daring to think of this whole ‘trying to not try’ business.
I was so prepared for their battle with infertility that I’d actually written and practiced my speech offering (or accepting) a request to be a surrogate. BECAUSE I’M THAT crazy NICE.

But – and it’s a big butt – I’m also really worried for them. Or her, more specifically. Which is a first for me. I’m really worried about her pregnancy, and her birth.
I suppose I need to give a little context to that, seeing as merely conceiving the idea that I care for my sister-in-law in some way would cause most of my close friends to gasp themselves into a barely-conscious stupor.

Brother’s Wife is the type of woman who thinks she’s unflappable – and for the most part, she is. She’s the kind of loud-mouthed, independent, frank, sarcastic, ovaries-on-the-outside, fun-loving diva that takes almost orgasmic joy in being right even when she’s really, really wrong. I have never seen her cry in the 20-someodd years she’s been in my family (much of that spent living below me) and I’m skeptical of claims that she ever has. She’s the kind of woman that all my critics think I am, except actually like that in real life 100% of the time.
And that’s not really so bad; that kind of personality definitely has its merits… you either love her or hate her on the first meeting – no time wasting. She’s a brutally honest, always dependable friend that you could trust your life with… if you were lucky enough to pass her insanely high standards for friendship.

They’re also both the type that preach about natural living, but only adopt the fashionable aspects – that way they can boast about the health impacts and superficial issues without ever cutting into their rampant consumerism and the convenience of a yuppie lifestyle. Think 10% recycled paper towels, SUVs with ‘low gas mileage’, buying Starbucks beans, and ordering bulk amounts of biodegradable cup holders for your $1200 baby stroller made by child slaves in Thailand.

It’s the totally and radically unnecessary side of the green movement: people eager to talk about shopping at Whole Foods but wouldn’t buy a cloth diaper if their lives depended on it.
And if by some miracle they were actually convinced to, they’d buy a factory-manufactured brand name.
With a glistening leaf on the label.
And a name with “eco” in it.

I’m the anti-Christ to people like that, and they can only barely contain their disdain if I casually mention something like no-poo; and while it can be kind of fun to freak out the strangers, it’s not as entertaining when it’s your immediate family that you have to spend the rest of your life sustaining a relationship with.
Mixing all this together with the fact that contrary to rumour I’m actually not a confrontational person, I end up keeping my mouth shut and nodding along when the conversation shifts to eyeball-poppingly-annoying anecdotes about psudogreen living.

But – another big one – when you’re someone’s family growing up instilled deeply with the value of the village, you always want to help your siblings avoid unnecessary pain and turmoil. I feel a responsibility to my family to do my part to promote positive, healthy, friendly advice and answers.
The bottom line is he’s my brother and she’s my sister-in-law and I don’t want to see either of them get hurt. Or watch my brother need a quadruple bypass when his debilitating panic disorder rears its ugly head after their “open-minded” OB gives them the DEATH AND DESTRUCTION speech that follows a group B strep swab.
I really fear that with Wife’s “advanced age” (cough, bullshit, cough) mixed with our population of ‘friendly’ doctors setting records in cesarean rates, she’s going to end up the victim of a very traumatic and unnecessary experience. This hospital is the best place in Canada to get yelled at, strapped down, shot up and carved like Christmas dinner before you can get your overnight bag out of the car. She’s just the type of person to be overconfident and ill-prepared, and has already shown that with such gems as, “Midwives won’t take me, I’m too old and too high risk” without ever actually having called a single one.
Watching someone be labeled ‘high risk’ before they have their first OB appointment is like watching someone walk into a lake of fire – it’s unpleasant for everyone.

I’ve tried to talk to Brother, casually mention things, but he’s completely tuned out. On top of everything else, I’m the perpetual infant sister. I could be the world’s best midwife with 10 of my own children, 50 award-winning papers and a Nobel Peace Prize and they’d still blow me off before I managed to utter, “studies show…”.
They’ve already scheduled every test known to mankind and gave a totally unprompted speech over dinner as to why their zygote would explode from complications of gestational diabetes and hypertension if left to it’s own devices.

My largest personal victory with them was when a casual mention of slings won me an opportunity to demonstrate my love of the Babyhawk. I offered to let them borrow, use or have any of our baby carriers, and I’m hoping they’ll take me up on that. Xan begrudgingly agreed to be my model as I walked them through the ease and safety of various caries. My insides screamed for joy when Wife said, “And some women can breastfeed with the baby still in the carrier too, right?”.

I casually slipped in comments about how we went through 15 to 20 styles and brands by finding them new, on clearance, Ebay, friends, swaps and loans – often testing for months at a time – before finally falling for three very different styles that worked perfectly for all manner of situations.They even listened to the ‘Baby Bjorn’ warnings, and why baby carriers are not created equal.

I’m hoping to gift them with some good, non-threatening novels that discuss birth and parenting with a woman-centered ‘take charge’ attitude without being too preachy or hippie. Once I’ve managed to talk about slings I officially have an “in”. Babywearing has long been established as the gateway drug to breastfeeding in public and cosleeping.

On a somewhat related note, I received the most heartfelt series of compliments the other day upon taking a call from a midwife I had never met before. She was in need of a doula to attend the birth of a client that had suffered repeated losses and was, “very against the medical system”. She was looking for a professional attendant that could be calm and supportive in a challenging situation, and apparently my name was repeatedly recommended by midwives in the community as an excellent doula. I was shocked, and extremely flattered, but had to let her know that I wasn’t actually a professional doula… in the cases she referenced I’d actually been attending as a photographer.
A little flustered, she apologized for the mix-up, but let me know that the others had nothing but amazing things to say about my presence at births. We had a short, sweet conversation and when I hung up I had the biggest smile on my face.

It makes me wonder more seriously about one day completing a doula course. I can’t deny how badly I am pulled to birth.

One more set of photos: when my father dropped Marika off from her long weekend visit, and he came bearing gifts.

I forgot to add how Xan went and pulled this mask off my father’s face, ran out of the room to put it on, and then ran back inside yelling, “Look! I’m a ZOMBIE!”.

Links of the Day – the childbirth edition:
It is more dangerous to give birth in California than it Kuwait or Bosnia – Title speaks for itself.
Industrial Childbirth – A moving, personal article about the damage a traumatic birth can cause… and why most births are traumatic to some degree.
Fatal Distraction – Heart-wrenching accounts of parents who forgot their children in cars, and returned to find them dead. I sobbed so hard I had to get up and take a breather – it’s a hard read, but the message needs to be heard: this isn’t the parents’ fault. It’s easy to demonize and blame, to say “It would never happen to me – I’m attentive”… but while I read the accounts from the guilt-stricken parents, haunted forever by their momentary lapse in memory, I can easily recall a dozen times when I looked over my shoulder and announced to Curtis, “Oh – I totally forgot the baby was with us!”, smiled, and kept going.
Over the Curtain – A great [GREAT!] blog with a tiny entry about a single comment. Food for thought for all the, “I’m so glad I had all those interventions” stories.




  • jeans16 says:

    In Australia it’s now pretty much routine to do the Gestational Diabetes test at around 26-28 weeks (I’m 22w now, but like to plan and research everything well ahead).
    With my midwife’s approval (I got today) I think I’m going to skip it, because:

    – Planning a Homebirth and would like as little medical interventions as possible/none
    – High rate of false positives on the short version of the test
    – I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia and get a form of ‘starvation hypoglycemia’ from not eating/suddenly drinking sugar (like the one you drink for the test), could get false pos.
    – I think I’d get quite sick (C.F.S & F.M), for 3-4 days after wards, sitting there for the 3 hour long version of the test
    – Every study/medical person/midwife has a different opinion on whether following the GD diet once diagnosed actually helps with not having an overly large baby/other complications of GD
    – I’m so nervous about it, and losing my Homebirth option, I’ve read that apparently if you’re stressed you can get a false pos. on the short test?

    I’d love your thoughts, and have a lot of respect of your opinion, I hope you’ve got some time to share them? Anything that’s I’ve missed that I should be considering that could change my opinion?

  • neuraltube says:

    You can be a doula without formal training. Next time, say yes! I think you would be wonderful.

  • Wow… reading that article on parents who leave their kids in their cars was really eye-opening. I’ve definitely been one of those people that thought really vicious thoughts about people who leave their babies in the car. Granted, some of those vicious thoughts have been directed at people who *knowingly* left their children in cars… but still. It gave me a whole new perspective on how it could happen. TY for sharing.

  • I’m curious – what is the problem with Baby Bjorns, please?

    • admin says:

      It’s a crotch-hanger, which means all the weight is centered on that strip between their legs. For a newborn whose bones are still pretty delicate, that can cause some serious problems. On top of that they really are NOT comfortable and cause bad strain on you due to the fact that they have almost no real support. By comparison to a baby wrap it’s like wearing a rock. :-/

    • cmariewt says:

      Thank you! I wanted to ask the same thing, but surfed through comments first so I wouldn’t be the 8 millionth person asking haha.

  • collette says:

    I can totally see you as a rockin’ doula.

  • katalopolis says:

    It is in part due to reading Xan’s birth story that I seriously started considering homebirth (likely unassisted) for when it’s my time.
    I don’t think you’re preachy, just honest about your point of view.

  • tastyanagram says:

    Congratulations to your brother and SIL, I hope they are receptive and that everything goes well. I absolutely love how insane Xan is about finding the candy, and the picture of Tempest and your dad looking at each other, and your beautiful cat. OMG, gorgeous!

  • eneyo says:

    oh wow i totally love the pics of your dad and tempest together, is that total adoration or what?!

    I cam across a book called ‘gentle birth, gentle mothering’ by sarah buckley, an austalian medical dr. it was actually a required text for my diploma in childbirth education. im not sure if it is what you are looking for but i would really suggest that at least you take a look at it. im sure you will be able to recommend it to others!

  • jenrose1 says:

    I’ve used more than 100 different carriers “in the day” and the ones that got the most use are the mei tais. You have a babyhawk in your icon, no? That will serve you well.

  • jenrose1 says:

    Baby carriers are the trojan horse of attachment parenting.

    One minute you’re trying on the new gadget, the next minute you’re using elimination communication, making yogurt and homeschooling.

    Which is one of the reasons why I love babywearing so much.

  • robynz says:

    I read ten pages of My OB Said What, because it was linked in your side column, and my god, I just want to curl up around my uterus and cry. I honestly can’t read anymore, it makes me not want to take my chances having a baby in a hospital, or anywhere, because I don’t think I could ever educate myself enough to do it on my own. I gave birth to a child when I was 16 and despite begging and crying for epidurals and anything to make it be over, I’m so so glad that my doctor and nurses were all “Ahhh, you’re too far along for an epidural, tough it out”, and not letting me have a c-section. I’m terrified that once I’m ready to do it on purpose, I won’t be able to live up to all the wonders of birth you write about, all the years I’ve been reading.


    • admin says:

      Being afraid is only natural: childbirth is an incredibly intense time. No mother, no matter how experienced or educated or prepared, has gone through without an ounce of fear.
      All of us are afraid for a little while… πŸ™‚

      But, at the same time… when you’re in a supported and peaceful environment, your spirit is able to let loose. You may yell, scream, move around, hit a wall, kiss your partner, take a shower, eat, throw up, meditate, cry, laugh and do any number of things and they’ll all be part of what moves you toward this amazing moment. In an unhindered birth (wherever and however that may be for you), you are free of the outside pressures and fear… and left with only what you need to process this experience.
      I have faith in women – ALL women – that they can do it beautifully. Birth is an incredible experience regardless of how you feel about it, and I really doubt that with the foresight I’ve read here that it wouldn’t be that way for you again, too. πŸ™‚

  • j_lew says:

    the books gift is a lovely idea, apart from that by the sounds of it I think you may have to clamp a smile on your face and remain serenely available for advice πŸ˜‰

    • admin says:

      They would NEVER come to me for advice on anything… really, like I said, even if I was a rocket scientist they wouldn’t ask me something about my own field. πŸ˜›

      This city is one of the most dangerous in the country to have babies, and it’s my duty in more way than one to ensure pregnant women have access to information (I’m also the city’s ICAN coleader). I have no intent of being an ass about it, but it would be neglectful to not ensure that information is available, you know?

      I mean… if it was someone you cared about could you let them go on walking themselves into certain danger and just twiddle your thumbs after they tell you things like: “Because I’m over 30, I’ll probably have gestational diabetes. But my doctor said if I stop drinking all caffeineated beverages, I can probably avoid it!”.
      (That is, after you got over the shock of that kind of thing being said to you).

      • j_lew says:

        so they wouldnt even sort of ask you about stuff in general terms? I see. Im not suggesting you let them get on with it if they are being mis-informed, its just from your description you just might have to find a novel approach here, Its a bit sad they wont ask you though given the amount of info you have gained.I wish id of been more informed with my first, I had that blind trust in the doctors and midwife ( I had epidural, everything stopped, doc never showed up to do C section the midwife was shouting for and she was dragged out of me with long handled forceps leading to injuries it took over a year to heal and ruddy great stinking panic attacks πŸ˜‰ joy.

  • phoebebeast says:

    I think that a lot of older professional people go into their first pregnancy with similar attitudes. When homebirth came up as an option for us (completely legal and accessible for FREE in the UK) DH was appalled. Two c-sectcions later, he’s done a 180 turn. Hoping for a hba2c in the next few weeks with a completely supportive partner πŸ™‚

    Changing people’s attitudes is not easy, and incredibly frustrating.

    As an aside, your variety of different birth experiences and your sensitivity would make you a really amazing doula. I used to aspire to be one, but it’s hard to when I haven’t actually ever given birth.

    • admin says:

      To be honest I’m not interested in changing their minds at all… but rather encouraging them to take their education into their own hands and not so blindly trust everything they hear within the confines of a doctor’s office. I could really care less if they used a stroller or a sling, I just want to introduce the idea to them and point them in the direction of where they can learn more. My advocacy isn’t about, “all things must be like me” but rather totally and completely centralized on informed choice. Most people don’t get the opportunity to have truly informed choices… and that fucking sucks. πŸ™

  • admin says:

    Babyhawk, a fleece nonadjustable pouch made by a mom on MDC, and an Ultimate Baby Wrap (though to be honest I want a non-stretchy mom made wrap instead… way more versatile).
    Babyhawk is #1 of those.

  • Woah, one of my other IRL friends made dandilion honey over the weekend too. Weird.

  • ppplmgwiw says:

    I love your “gateway drug” comment–that’s awesome.

    When my SIL was pregnant, she’d barely even bring up anything to do with pregnancy or nursing with me. Because she just finished medical school, you know, so she clearly knows EVERYTHING and I know NOTHING. Granted, she knows things I don’t, but it goes two ways. And, when it comes to nursing, the fact I’d been nursing Annika for 2 years when her son was born meant nothing–she completely ignored my well-intentioned input and proceeded to spend the entire year she nursed terrified that she had chronic low supply (she did not), and pumping around the clock to try to increase it while also supplementing with formula. Good lord.

    So, anyway, that rant was really just my way of saying, yeah, SILs–ugh. πŸ˜‰

    Also: you’d obviously be an amazing doula. If anyone should get certified, it’s you (if you wanted to become part of the system in that way, that is).

    • admin says:

      Wife is a new nursing student and her aunt is some sort of OB… therefore I have absolutely no information to offer.

      It’s SO FRUSTRATING hearing someone take a family-member-OB’s advice at face value when you KNOW it’s bullshit. People like that really dont’ give a flying fuck about what you have to say, even if you can prove it with stacks of research, because “you don’t have a medical degree” and clearly that makes you a god of everything. UGGGHHHH. I hate watching someone walk to their doom based on hero worship.

      • On the flip side… I’m considering going to nursing school, and I’m terrified of having to do clinical training in labour & delivery in a hospital because I know I’ll probably disagree with so much of it. πŸ™ But, I think that would be dictated a lot by the hospital… some here have better reputations than others, from what I understand.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is the alternative to pumping around the clock? Are you supposed to leave it alone for a few hours to let the milk come in? I am not being sarcastic I am honestly curious. I love to hear anything about breastfeeding and haven’t heard much about the specifics of that. Thanks!

      • ppplmgwiw says:

        It depends on when you’re talking about. Right after birth, it can take days for your milk to come in. That’s normal, esp. after a c-section. You’ll have colostrum during that time, which is all a newborn needs. Let your baby suckle as much as possible, preferably skin-to-skin, no supplementation (no formula, no water), and avoid pacifiers/artificial nipples and you should be fine (there are exceptions, but only a tiny percentage of women truly cannot nurse due to low supply–tiny).

        After that, it really depends–some women who really do have low supply find that frequent pumping will stimulate more milk production. Other women don’t find pumping helps, though increasing the perceived demand should increase supply, all other things being equal.

        • cmariewt says:

          I am sorry. That was me. I was logged out and didn’t realize it.

          Thank you for the information. I have strong feelings about breastfeeding but since I have not had a kid yet I just don’t know anything apparently ;P

  • just_shoe_me says:

    Wonderful pictures as usual! I love the one of your dad and Tempest, laughing and looking at each other. πŸ™‚
    I just read the Washington Post article and that was truly heart-wrenching, but it definitely got me to look at that much differently than what my initial impressions have been, hearing about parents forgetting their children in cars. Thank you for sharing that.

  • You would make an AMAZING doula. I’m 99% sure I’m taking the Mothering Touch birth doula course in June…you should do it with me!!

  • I love seeing the connections between pagan celebrations and Christian celebrations. It just adds so much sense to the weird traditions that people keep.

    • admin says:

      Me too. πŸ™‚
      I love telling people about this stuff… like the 12 days, the tree, the easter bunny that lays eggs, why the holiday season is in late December… so much of that stuff people attribute to Christianity, when it has nothing to do with it.

  • noelove says:

    can’t wait to see how the BIL and SIL pregnancy turns out.

    Hopefully she can come to her senses. Have you thought about getting her any books?

  • You can bet that when We’re ready to have children, I will be knocking at your door for advice… I hope you won’t mind!

    I love the look of Ecstasy on Xans face when he finds them, so great!

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