Monday, 27 February 2012

52 Momths

Dear Bea and Gabe,

Here we are another month later. And although I don't have the monthly major landmarks that happen when you are little, every month new fantastic crazy things are happening.  From your ability to express yourself to making crazy connections between things.  Often connections I haven't thought of in a long time or ever before.  One thing is becoming more and more clear as you two get're funny....I mean like killer witty funny. This month was no different than any other as far as amazing me.

One tough decision was made this month   Gabe I don't know if I ever mentioned anything about your stuttering class....sorry 'disfluency class'.  You started it in October just before your birthdays.  It was you and 2 other students in the class (both a bit older) with the speech therapist, once a week. The first week you didn't mind...she had lots of 'new' toys in the classroom but she got frustrated that you weren't that interested in the organized activity that she was trying to promote, some craft and you have never been much for crafts.  Week two didn't fair much better but this time it was obvious that you were tired.  Both of you had gone right back into daily napping once school started and the class was right as you would've been going down for that.  At one point you put you head down on the table she was doing a game on.  You weren't really participating and it just didn't feel like the class was going to be successful.  The third week you didn't want anything to do with it.  You cried as we traveled to the class. I couldn't blame you, it was all too much - starting school, the exhaustion and now another class.  I spoke to the therapist after the end of that class and we decided to put the whole thing off for a while.  The sessions are 3 months long and we could always get you rolling in them again in a few months.  There was no harm in waiting a little while.  She said to call in the new year.

Well now that we have some time under our belts and we seem to have completely grown out naps it feels like our little family might just be able to handle another weekly event.  I called and spoke to the therapist.  She gave us the option of starting up again with the start of the new school year or changing to a different clinic and taking classes over the summer. Big Daddy and I discussed this at length.  We had been to the other clinic and although it is good it doesn't have the fun 'day care' for Bea so I would be juggling Bea and making sure I was present for your class (parents need to be there).  It would start this summer. We would have to wait until September for the other clinic.  We were concerned that waiting too long would make this a harder thing for you to train yourself out of but after a long talk with the therapist we decided to wait. Starting over the summer with our holidays and plans for camping trips.... it just felt too complicated.  To be honest it feels like your stuttering issues are getting better all the time.  You do still have something that resembles a New Jersey accent which although it is very cute.....might not bode well as an adult..

One major landmark for the month - your first report cards.....well 'progress reports' really but it was fun to see how teachers think you are doing.  Bea you got great 'marks'.  You took to school with no real issues. With Miss V saying you are a "polite, social and inquisitive student", "Shows respect for adults and other classmates while showing empathy towards others".  You are learning to write your own name and copy letters.  You follow all the rules at school (something you don't do at home) It is obvious that you enjoy it....unfortunately you also enjoy the attention you get with injuries so there seem to be many of these.  The days are too frequent that I pick you up from school and you have a small zip lock baggy with an ice cube in it and I hear about your time in the office with Joanne.
Shaving with Daddy
Gabe my sweet boy....all your frustrations, all your troubles all stem from you having a hard time communicating.  You want desperately to hang out with the older boys and they more often than not just don't have time to wait until you have finished your thought.  It breaks my heart watching you struggling. Your teacher Miss Dover is obviously smitten with you but your communication challenges are challenging for her too - trying to give you the time you need with 19 other students in the class. Any of her concerns developmentally expressed in your report card were resolved in the parent/teacher meeting when we could sit down with you one on one.  All in all you are both doing really well.
Shaving with Daddy

We went to Ottawa for Winterlude and along the way we stopped at a restaurant to eat.  When I took Gabe to the bathroom he saw the sign and noted that it only has one leg "her name must be Terry Fox too"

Then Bea ordered a 'girled cheese samwich' so Gabe orders a 'boy cheese samwich'

Gabe got tired
Daddy, Gabe, Bea, Uncle Julian and Lily

Gabe's friend Mathew was there too

Some really funny things happened this month

You guys got into dancing around in princess fairy dresses with magic wands singing Oh Cana-Duck for a few days

Gabe playing 'fi-ing house' (the movie UP) by tying a rope around Bea's doll house and swing it around yelling "Mummy watch Fuckwason's house fly" Took me a minute until I remembered that the old guys name is 'Fredrickson'

Had a strange conversation with you over lunch. It was decided that I must not be a grown up because I don't drive (I don't have my license) That Bea has a baby in her tummy name 'Curla' that will come out her 'gina and eat noodles'. Gabe also has a baby in his tummy named 'Elizabeth' and she will come out his todger and sit in a baby seat and then he will be a grown up and get to sit in the back of the car. Also did you know that dogs grow up to be kids??

Gabe searching for the pockets in his pants "Mom where are my pockets? Day were white did you take my pockets?"

Gabe when he finished his soup lunch "ok I am done souping"

Bea, the pesto making Princess
 The Chicklette telling me how she can't do big smiles today or it will scratch her teeth

take another picture Mummy!!

And like every month, I love you more every day


Friday, 24 February 2012

Infertility and Makin Babies......

I have had a few people ask about this and I have finally felt like I have enough perspective on the subject to see it and am finally ready to tell our story of infertility and IVF

When my husband and I were 'cycling' with IVF a few years ago we kept very quite about it.  I have to admit I had quite a bit of shame around it.  I was/am the broken one.  According to tests my husband could fertilize a small village without much effort. But one small test confirmed that there was/is no way for me to get pregnant naturally.

When you are given this kind of news the magnitude of it takes a while to sink in.  At first I mourned that I was broken, then the possibility of never having children set in and then what that might mean to my marriage.  We had tried for years to get pregnant and now that it was confirmed that the efforts had been wasted we stopped everything for a while.  We had always had a great sex life but the past couple of years it had been dipped in the excitement of possible baby making.  Sex IS better when you are trying to create life.  It makes it a far more loving and bonding act. Now we had to find our way back and more often than not I was just too emotional.  Sex became a reminder of being broken.  I called myself 'the broken bird', not just because I felt that fragile but because I felt like I had come slamming down into the ground.

I was diagnosed with severe bi-lateral hydrosalpinges.  Essentially it means both my fallopian tubes are badly damaged, blocked and full of fluid.  This was as a result of a ruptured appendix as a child that wasn't caught soon enough by doctors and I had developed gangrene and peritonitis before they operated. There was no chance to repair and in fact it was recommended to me that  they be removed to increase the chances of IVF working.  The day of that recommendation I booked the surgery. I have always been a bit of a 'rip the band-aid off' type and wanted to get it over with.  When and if we decided to get brave enough to try IVF was something we could worry about in the future, right now I could deal with getting this done.  It was booked for a couple of months later.

The tubal ligation was done by laparoscopy, something they claim is less invasive, yes the incisions are smaller (but more of them and if you added together the length of all of them it would probably be equal or greater than one incision) but they also blow you up like a balloon to aid looking around.  My small scars healed fast, despite the fact that I pick at stuf and my insides hurt for a couple of weeks.  Once the surgery was done Big Daddy and I stopped talking about having kids.  We just dropped the subject.  It had become far too complicated and usually ended with me in tears. I was 33 and I guess we felt like we had time.

Two years passed. It was the very early spring of the year I was to turn 35. Life needed to change.  Big Daddy had gone back to school and was about to finish. We weren't liking our neighbourhood due to neighbours we had had to call the police on various times for domestic violence .  We wanted to sell our house and move.  But to what ends?  What was our plan?  What were we 'doing'?  And where were we going? I had been cancelling all appointments at the fertility clinic when they came up. I wouldn't even discuss it with Big Daddy just reschedule again for 6 months later.  I just wasn't ready. I called to cancel another appointment but this time when the coordinator looked at my file she said "You know you turn 35 this year?"  She said it as a friendly reminder but I knew it really meant "Shit or get off the pot".  All things fertility get exceedingly more complicated and have a lower chance of success after 35.

We listed our house but before the sign went up outside there was a bidding war and it was sold 2 days later.  We were moving. We had freed up some equity, and I didn't have the time to ponder my sorrows and decide if I was brave enough to try a cycle of IVF.  Apparently I was going to have a big shit whether I was ready or not...... Wow that really didn't turn out to be the right metaphor......

We both knew this was a long shot but "you never know if you don't try' and I knew we (I) would regret it if we didn't.  I did everything to save myself from the pain and devastation if it didn't work - I applied for a new degree program which I was accepted for.  I decided to start right away and because of existing credits I was going to be picking up mid semester. Cycling would start in February and school would start in April before I knew if I was pregnant or not. We told almost no one of the IVF.  I told my best friend and my a cousin whom I am very close too.  This way the sorrow of a failed cycle could be diminished because I wouldn't have to deal with everyone elses disappointment.  

IVF is not fun.  There is nothing that feels baby-making about it.  It is cold and clinical and mostly sad.  Most ART (Assisted Reproductive Therapy) appointments are very very early in the morning.  Not only is this so they have a better chance of monitoring your hormones uninterrupted by daily stimulants like coffee but an attempt to keep your appointment far away from the pregnant ladies coming in for various ultrasounds and check ups.  It is still impossible to miss them.  The huge symbolic incubators of what my body won't do, of what might never happen for me.  I would never begrudge someone their ease of getting pregnant but it is a VASTLY different experience than I had.  Yours was probably fun or at least pleasurable for at least one of you.....I don't want to project on to your sex life so I will just assume the worst.....

The first stage of IVF is to 'put your ovaries to sleep'.  Essentially they put you in a forced menopause. After all the preliminary testing, monitoring and 2 months of being on 'the pill', March 7th 2007 evening I did the first of many many shots. A needle full of Suprefact.  I did it myself, alone and on the phone with the friend.  Big Daddy went to hockey.  I told him to.  Something about him being there put more pressure on the whole thing and I was freaking out enough for the two of us.  It didn't help that I had jokingly told him that the shots had to be injected into my eye ball..........he has a eye ball 'thing'.  I still don't think he has recovered from that visual.  They expect that it will take at least 10 days of daily Suprefact* injections before you are suppressed enough to move on to the next stage.  These days are filled with typical menopause symptoms - night sweats, hot flashes etc.  It is not pretty and feels pretty terrible. I was getting almost daily acupuncture to help ease the discomfort of the IVF and to increase it's odds of working. (Studies have shown that acupuncture during fertility treatments greatly increases the likelihood of a pregnancy)

*Different drugs are chosen for different people's situations so no story is the same

My first bloodwork(BW) and ultrasound (US) was on the 16th, 11 days in, and I was lucky to already have a E2 (the hormone they are trying to suppress) of 122 so I could move on to the 'Stim' (stimulate) stage.  The same day,  I started injecting Puregon 225 in the morning and Suprefact in the evening.  They are now trying to stimulate your ovaries to make follicles but only only under their control.  The Puregon stimulates while the Suprefact suppresses what your body might naturally be trying to do.  I was to continue this for the next 6 days. 

March 21st I had BW and US.  My E2 was now 6510 and I had 8 follicales on each side. I was told to continue what I was doing.

March 23rd - E2 over 14,000, 11 'follies' on the right side and 8 on the left.  Daily Puregon lowered to 50

March 24th - E2 over 21,000, more follies...the final shot of yet another hormone, HCG scheduled for that evening at 10:30 pm.  This matures the eggs.

March 25th - Barely able to move.  My stomach hugely distended, tender and swollen from my enlarged ovaries. Sleep that night had been terrible.  I could only lay on my back because laying on one side put too much pressure on the ovary on that side. I am a side sleeper so no sleep was had. I can feel my insides move with every bump in the car ride to the clinic.  Big Daddy drives slowly avoiding roads with streetcar tracks (this is impossible when heading downtown in this city). I waddle into the clinic like I am already pregnant.  Everything look good and the egg 'extraction' is scheduled for the next morning. Another sleepless night

March 26th - 7am in the hospital.  Everything I had read about this procedure was fairly tame.  Even the women in my Infertility Support Groups said it was as bad as menstrual cramps.  The send home pamphlet from the clinic said to take regular Tylenol when you got home from the procedure. So I went in with no real 'fear', sure lots of anticipation and some nerves but I wasn't worried about it hurting. Besides, I am tough balls.  I have tattoos and have had things pierced and well... they drug you a little.  'Twilight' they call it....and yes, it does involve vampires. While I am getting IV'd Big Daddy is suppose to head next door and watch some 7 am porn to make his 'donation' to the cause.  Now 'next door' isn't the room next door BUT the building next door...what? hospitals don't have 'porn watching rooms' on every floor?? Apparently not. So not only did he have to get the 'deed' done with numerous people knowing what he was doing in the 'porn room', after numerous OTHER people had done the same thing in that room that morning but he then had to carry the now captured 'sample' in a small brown paper bag down the street to the next building.  And he was told to carry it in the armpit of his jacket to keep it warm.......he arrived back at the clinic with the paper bag with a cup in it which he handed to one of the nurses.  In my slightly drugged state I thought one of the nurses had sent him out to get her coffee so I berated him and said I couldn't believe that he had the 'nerve to leave me to go get another woman coffee while I'm laying here trying to start OUR family' I have to remind you that I went to theatre school?

So again feet in know I swear that almost as many men saw my 'gina during IVF as in was a teaching hospital after all!! The egg removal is done with a huge needle, maybe 12" needle!!! (remember I was drugged, and men have lied about size to me for years) with a tube attached to the end.  They go in vaginally and poke it through the cervix wall into your ovary and using ultrasound pierce the follicle that holds the egg and suck it out into a test tube that is at the end of the tube.  One test tube per egg, one poke per egg.  Big Daddy sat beside me holding my hand. We could watch the whole process on a series of tv screens mounted to the walls. Every time a test tube was filled it was taken off the tube and replaced with an empty one.  The full one was passed through a window in the wall to a 'lab' where the contents were dumped out on to a microscope.  If a viable egg was in the contents they would call out "one" for the first one, "two" for the second etc.  We could see the microscope contents on one of the  large tv screens.  The contents look like, in my opinion, blood, pus and wet kleenex.  It isn't pretty.  We made it through the right ovary fascinated by the process. We were 11 eggs in at this point.  They moved to my left ovary.  I could tell right away it was going to be different.  The first piercing really hurt.  I told them. "Twelve" she called from the lab. The doctor said it might just be where there is more scar tissue and to let him know if the next one hurt. "YES!" it hurt. "Thirteen" the lab called. He tried the other side of the ovary, I gave a little scream and squeezed Big Daddy's hand. "Fourteen" said the lab.  Big Daddy started to turn white.  Suddenly the fascination ended and reality came crashing in.  It is harder to be distracted from the hospital smell, the blood and the anxiety by the pretty colours from the big screen tvs when you or someone you love are in pain. "Fifteen"  Big Daddy started to look bad.  A nurse asked him how he was doing...."Sixteen"...feeling faint he had to leave and I could only keep doing this if I wasn't concerned about him.  Two nurses escorted him out to recovery. "Seventeen" It was me, the doctor and the 'tube runner' left in the room.  I closed my eyes and started chanting. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo Nam Myoho Renge Kyo "Eighteen" Nam Myoho Renge Kyo Nam Myoho "Nineteen" Renge Kyo Nam Myoho Renge Kyo "Twenty"......and then he stopped. "We have enough, there are more, but we have enough, you are in a lot of pain, lets stop'.  I was taken into recovery to be set up in the bed beside Big Daddy who sat sipping apple juice, still slightly white, embarrassed and being attended to by 3 totally loving it.

I was, or should I say WE were sent home a couple of hours later.  I was sore, emotionally and physically.  I went back to bed and slept for a couple of hours, woke up, took some pain medication and went back to bed.  I must have slept for age because I woke up in the middle of the night in the most pain I had ever experienced in my life.  I went to the bathroom and vomited a few times.  The bathroom floor was nice and cool, I was hot or at least felt hot.  I spent the rest of the night on the bathroom floor trying to sleep, in pain and unable to keep pain meds down.  I called the clinic in the morning and spoke with the doctor.  I was told it was probably because of all the scar tissue in my abdomen and that this is unusual but not surprising considering the extent of the damage to my insides.  They said to take pain meds and try to sleep.  If it didn't get better over the next 24 hours then there might be something to be concerned about and come in.  I did get better.

The process is to wait 2 days and they call you telling you how many of your eggs fertilized. They then call you again the following day with a day 3 update. Usually on day 3 you have a few less 'eggs' as ones have died off or stopped dividing.  I was told on day 2 that we had 16 and then called on day 3 to be told we had 17.  They mentioned that it was one of the most successful IVF fertilization percentage they had ever had.  I credited this to the acupuncture.

On day 3 there is the option to do the transfer (or as some people call it the 'implant' although nothing is actually 'implanted') and really it is more of a turkey baster themed party.  I spoke with the doctor telling her how much pain I was still in for the egg removal and we decided that with 17 eggs I was the ideal candidate for 'going to blast' which is essentially waiting another couple of days and letting the eggs mature further to a stage called blastocyst.  Blastocysts have a much higher chance of creating a pregnancy but you can also loose all your fertilized eggs (they die) having them outside of you body for so long.  If you only have a couple of eggs it isn't worth the risk but when you have 17 and you are in physical pain it just makes sense.  A blast transfer usually happens on day 5.  My day 5 was April Fools Day.....after all this work, all the drugs, all the pain....all the everything...I refused to 'get pregnant' on April Fools Day!!  Luckily they called the morning of day 5 and said they were over booked and I still had 17 eggs! (unheard of craziness) did I mind coming in tomorrow. I didn't mind.

The next day we arrived and had a chat with the doctor.  We had 9 eggs that were 'perfect' and had a very high probability of creating a pregnancy but I was also close to turning 35 so we had a choice.  Ontario rules are that at under 35 they will only transfer only 1 blast but at 35 and over they will transfer 2 blasts (these numbers are 2 and 3 respectively for 3 day old fertilized eggs) Did we want to transfer 1 or 2??  We had waited so long, spent so much money (Wait stop the presses, IVF costs money?  Yes even in socialized medicine Canada it is EXPENSIVE, at this stage we were already in the hole close to $10,000), we knew we wanted more than one kid so we didn't need to think about it too much.  Two!!

They picked the best two, squirted them in, I lay down for 30 minutes and went wait and know nothing for 2 weeks....Everyone in the groups I belonged to said this feels like the longest two weeks of your life.  Waiting until you can POAS or Pee On A Stick.  I didn't find it too bad but I was going back to school and had school supplies on the mind. I did eventually POAS at around 2 weeks.  The results were kinda questionable.  The clinic had asked me to come get blood work a week after the transfer but it meant finding somewhere to take blood on Easter Monday and no where was open.  Because of my school schedule I didn't manage to go for another couple of days.  They called me during a class with the results. Yes you are pregnant and from these numbers you are very pregnant.  At 8 weeks along they do your first US. This is what we saw

Big Daddy stared at it having no idea what we were looking at.  The nurse asked us if we knew what this meant.  I gave a scared grunt....Big Daddy, knowing he was the only one who didn't know, goofy grin on his face studied it closely for a minute and said 'no'.  Twins they said.  You are having twins.  We both laughed nervously and fell silent. We left like zombies.  Walked all the way to the car and drove half way home before either of us said anything.  Big Daddy said "the dog is going to freak out!!"  It was another 2 hours before I realized I left my purse at the clinic.

We waited til I was 9 weeks pregnant before we told anyone. Just days after we found out it was twins.  It would've been impossible to keep it a secret much longer.  Not only was there a huge birthday bash for Big Daddy and someone would notice if I didn't drink at all but I was already starting to show.  It all starts to pop that much sooner with two in there.

And now on the other end of all that fear and sadness, I carry this act of bravery, of doing IVF around like a metal.  My shame of infertility became pride for how much I had to do to have these children.  The most wanted children, the hardest worked for children.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Yummy Chicken, Racheal Ray, and Drinking Games

Embarrassingly I have been watching quite a bit of Rachael Ray lately. I have gone so far as to PVR the show. I loathe to even admit it because if you have the same visceral response to her as I do you might accidentally punch me in the face when I say that. Truth is she has been on a real Spanish come Mexican kick lately and I am kinda obsessed with that food right now. Yes her voice makes me want to take a nut pick to my ears and I'd die a little every time she sycophantically said to a guest 'oh my gawd I love you' or over enthusiastically said 'yum-o' if I hadn't already turned it into a drinking game.  The kids are at school, breakfast warming in the oven, tequila and shot glass in hand........wait...

So I am stealing recipes finding inspiration in what she is making and making it my own - using only real food and making it kid friendly.

This was dinner last night

Chicken Skillet Supper with Thick Cut Oven Fries in Garlic Butter

For the fries:
6 large Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, dried and each cut into wedges
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic
A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

For the chicken:
4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
4-5 pounds of chicken, skin on (4bone in legs with thigh or 1 whole chicken cut into quarters)
Salt and pepper
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 medium sweet red peppers, thinly sliced
1 large or 2 small red hot chili peppers, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Toss potato wedges in a bowl with olive oil and a liberal amount of salt and pepper until lightly coated.  Arrange on a baking sheet and roast in a 425 oven for 40-45 minutes, until golden and crisp, turning once. When the fries are done, melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat until it foams. Add the chopped garlic and swirl it around for a minute or two to infuse the butter. Toss the fries in large bowl with the garlic, butter, and parsley.

Heat a large, cast iron skillet or other ovenproof pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. In the EVOO, brown the chicken pieces on both sides; then remove to a plate. Add the onion, garlic and the sweet and hot peppers to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with thyme. Add the chicken back to the pan and transfer to the oven to continue cooking for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the cuts you used), until the juices run clear. Remove the chicken and let it cool for a couple of minutes then pull the meat away from the bones with two forks. Return the now cut up or shredded chicken back to the skillet. Douse the pan with lemon juice, garnish with parsley and serve with the fries and a salad.

This meal was super easy, very little prep and a very easy clean up even if you are totally hung over from 10 am drinking games. And most importantly the kids loved it.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Feeling a little Mexicany?

I really like Mexican food and if you stick with the corn versions of tortillas it is inherently gluten free.  The most common grain in Mexican food is corn........I will digress here for a second - Corn is also HEAVILY GMO'd and I can not stress enough the need to find a reputable 'dealer'....'purveyor'.....source.  Because there are no laws (as of yet) about labeling GMO'd foods I can only suggest you read packaging.  Many companies who make a point of using non GMO'd grains make a point of labeling it as a non GMO'd product.  At the very least make sure it is organic.  Organic products are not all non GMO'd but many of them are......I will now return to our regular scheduled programming......

Almost two years ago a dear friend of mine (hi Linz!) moved away from this fair city and gave me her slow cooker/crockpot.  I had never had one and had no idea what to do with it....well not 'no idea' but wasn't super inspired.  I flipped through the silly little cook book that came with it (she still had it) figured out what could be made with it and then ignored that.......I mean who is gunna drink Hot Spiced Cherry Cider made with cherry jello out of a CROCK POT? or eat Hot Cheese Dip made from something called 'cheese roll' out of a 4 QUART CROCK POT? Or better yet, cook up 8 hour Teriyaki chicken wings, rinse it out and cook up rice pudding made out of cooked rice, sweetened condensed milk and sugar!?!?! I could feel my teeth ache and diabetes setting in just reading the recipe.  It all seems too weird to me. I want to stress the point that it is a 4 QUART crock is I can fit both my feet into it big (don't ask me how I know that)....can you imagine making that much Hot Cheese Dip?.....I bet soaking your feet in hot cheese dip is pretty fantastic...but I will save that for another blog post.

One of the recipes that I have held on to for the day I have a slow cooker is baked beans. Mexicany slow cooked beans. I used to be a regular at this dive.... bar..... Tex Mex restaurant.  The food was pretty good and the kitchen was open til 3 am so when I worked as a bartender I ate there a lot. They would make fresh batches of the refried beans every other day.  I loved beans day and have wanted to learn how to make those beans.  So I figured it out.  You may stumble across other more classic recipes for Mexican beans but they can call for unusual ingredients that few of us would have around the house, like avocado leaves so I have altered this one to stuff that most people would have.

Mexicany Beans
You can do it stove top if you can turn the heat down low enough but much easier in the foot bath crock pot.  I really love that I can start these in the morning and leave them gently bobbing away until dinner time. HINT – This makes a pretty huge batch - freeze some.

1 pound (about 2 ½ cups) of dried beans
(any Phaseolus (impressed much?) bean will work, like a white, red or black navy, not a lentil, garbanzo or favas.)
2-4 tbsps of bacon drippings
(yes keep the fat after you cook bacon)
1 medium white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 hot pepper (optional)

In a colander, rinse beans well with water.  Pour the beans in a large pot with 8 cups of salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.

While waiting for the water to boil, in your slow cooker throw the other ingredients, the onion, bacon fat and spices.  If you want spicy add the hot pepper,de-stemed and cut in half. Once the beans have come to a rolling boil pour the beans, water and all, into the slow cooker.  Set on high and let cook for at least 6 hours, stirring occasionally.  Serve with a little grated cheese, Mexican rice, a veg. HINT – the leftover rice and beans make a yummy base for fried or poached eggs for breakfast the next morning think Hueros Rancheros
What better than pairing it with good Mexicany Rice?

Classic Mexican Red Rice
I like to make this one in a rice cooker.  Like the beans you can set it up and walk away.  Makes life easier.

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 white rice
1 cup good bottle tomato salsa
1 cup chicken broth
salt (optional)
1 cup frozen peas (optional)

In a medium size pan heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the rice. Stir frequently until the grains of rice turn from translucent to milk-white, about 5 minutes.

In your rice cooker, add the salsa and stock.  When the rice is ready pour it into the cooker.  Stir a couple of times.  Put the lid on and let cook normally.  Add the peas right before the rice is done.  If added too early in the cooking they will get mushy.


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Lying about their age

My kids have been lying to me the last couple of weeks.  Pretending that they have grown out of naps.  Insisting that we had met the age limit, the stage, the maaah-churrr-ity to not need them anymore.


We may have reached an age that naps are not needed everyday but oh boy! has the last couple of days shown me that even at 4 1/4 they are no where close to being napless!!  With the absence of naps we upped bedtime to 7 from 8 thinking this might even the scale....well it did for a couple of days longer and then everything starting going to hell.

Temper tantrums like I have never seen before.  Melt downs of epic proportions. Pitching themselves to the floor in loud protest.  Legs kicking, arms pounding.  Everything tinged with tragedy. Things are 'broken forever" or Daddy is "never coming home, he is gone forever"

Gabe even had a melt down at school about sharing a dump truck....really I can't blame him....that dump truck is really really cool..... It is embarrassing to be pulled aside during 'pick up' by a teacher to have a little 'chat' about yer kids attitude.  I could feel the other parents watching and listening and pretending they weren't watching or listening.....just like I do when it is someone else's kid!

Today was easily the worst.  They both refused to leave the school yard.  Bea hung by the gate screaming and threw her backpack and mittens at me.  Gabe lay in the wood chips at the bottom of the slide crying and yelling 'no'.  The weather was cold and windy and I had wet hair from the shower I had taken while they were in school (the only time I can get an uninterrupted shower) and even though I had a hat on I cold feel the cold wind blow up under my hat and across my scalp......and it was right then and there, freezing, holding two back pack & two pairs of mitts, wind tears running down my face, as the wind ripped Bea's painted paper Chinese New Years lantern out of my hand, that I came to the conclusion......I really need to start breakfast drinking more......and maybe memorize that book "Go the Fuck to Sleep"

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Apple Crisp or Crumble

Apple Crisp was the very first dessert I learned how to make.  Someone, my mom maybe, got me this book

From this book my cooking and baking love started.  You can see how 'loved' it is...the cover has completely come off, oil stained, food stained, dog eared and foxed (yes I am totally dropping book grading names)  My memory is that this book was being sold as part of a fundraising effort but I could be totally wrong, I tend to have quite an imagination when it comes to my childhood. It is a great book and apparently you can still get copies, although the name has changed.

Well this book's Apple Crisp recipe has been my stand-by recipe for many many years.  It was only with the change in the gluten status of our house that changes had to be made.  Now with that small amount of flour replaced and the addition of orange zest the flavour is better than ever - I will share with you

Gluten Free Apple Crisp
Preheat 350

Granny Smith Apples* 8-12 depending on size
1/2 an orange, zested and juiced
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown rice flour
3 tbsps coconut flour
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt

I got some Granny Smith apples on sale because they were starting to get a little banged up (A great way to save money if you are just going to bake them).  They weren't very big...maybe the size of my fist so I used 11 of them.With larger apples you can get away with 8-9 of them.  Peel them, cut away from the core and thinly slice. Place all the apple slices in a large bowl and add orange zest and juice.  Using your hands incorporate the orange as evenly as possible through the apples. Pour into a lasagna size type dish

 In another bowl combine the sugar, rolled oats, cinnamon, salt and flours. Cut up the butter into pats and add to the dry ingredients.  Using your fingers squish the butter pats crumbling the dry ingredients through it until there are no large chunks of butter.  This is where I always think the name 'crumble' comes from...but I could be totally making that I mentioned above...I have a pretty vivid imagination.

Evenly 'crumble' it over the apples and throw it in the oven.  Bake until the topping is brown and the apples are soft, about 40 minutes depending on how deep the pan you used is.  There shouldn't be any resistance when you try to poke a knife through.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream

*You can use other varieties of apples but I like granny smith best because they don't just cook down to an apple sauce like consistency.  I also like that they are tart letting the crumble be the sweet.  If you use a sweeter apple cut back on the sugar

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Egg Carton Trucks

My kids are at a wonderful age for silly crafts....did I tell you about Gabe's glittery turd Christmas decoration?...It made my heart explode with parental pride and happiness and reminded me of the million reasons I went through IVF. Why I wanted kids in the first place...why I did the multiple injections a day....what I thought I could be missing out on, denied if I didn't have kids.....all the reasons to be brave....because I wanted glittery turd Christmas decorations more than any one has ever wanted a glittery turd Christmas decorations.  And the best part?  This is probably just the first year of it....I have many years to look forward to hand-made silliness.....le sigh

I am trying to BE the source, the silly craft 'dealer' I love it so much.  Today we made Dump Trucks (one of Gabe's favourite things) out of old egg cartons. Here's what you need and how you do it

1 cardboard egg carton, 8 or 12cup

  1. Cut off the top/lid of the egg carton.  The cut off about one-third of the top part.  This will be the truck box
  2. Next cut off the first two egg cup from the bottom of the carton.  You should now have two pieces, one with two cup and another with 10 cups.  Cut the 10 cup into a 6 cup
  3. Cut off the lips of the two cups and glue them up-side down to the six cup.  This creates the 'cab'
  4. Now glue the 'box' of the truck on the back of the base.
  5. Decorate the truck using the markers. (which we haven't done yet)
ps. Be warned that younger kids don't have much patience for this to dry so it might help to plan to 'build' it before lunch and decorate they have a plan around the wait.

These are officially super cute.  Bea got creative when we ran out of enough egg carton so hers has a different front.  Next egg carton we are going to try a transport truck



Wednesday, 1 February 2012

"I can't ear you" Ear Oil

My daughter has been asking many "pardon"s, "What's you say?", and "What?"s lately.  She has also said many "I can't hear you" which has me concerned.

I am not to the point of actually worrying if there is something wrong with her hearing.  They did test her hearing when she was born and they had no concerns but that does not mean there can't possibly be something going on now......but before freaking out and expecting the worst we are going to clean out her ears. I have been previously told by a doctor that her ears are very waxy and with the number of head colds, one that involved some screaming that her ear hurt, they have had this winter it would surprise me if her ears are just 'full'

I have always read the best way to clean out your ears is to let the hot shower water run into them while gently pulling down on your earlobe.  This allows the warm water to melt and rinse anything away without actually putting something in your ear-- don't put things like q-tips in your ears!!... really really bad.

Another way, especially if you have wax issue, which is what I think Bea has, and you are 4 years old and never going to let warm shower water go in your ear-- is oil.  I remember my mom putting slightly warmed oil in my ear if it hurt when I was a child and it always helped.....thinking back I think it was baby oil, which is full of fragrance and probably a terrible thing to put in your ear but at the time it helped!

So I made Miss Bea some garlic ear oil.  You can buy the stuff at health food shop dispensaries but they cost a fortune and you never know if it is organic (both the garlic and the oil).....and I think the fresher the garlic the better as far as anti-bacterial properties.

I took one large clove of fresh organic garlic (I can not stress enough how important it is that you use local organic garlic. The grocery store sells garlic that is heavy in pesticides and herbicides and then imported from CHINA!! Not only do you not want to pour that crap into your kids ears but you also are going to environmental karmic hell...rant over) diced it up and put it in a small ceramic cup....I don't recommend putting it through a garlic press only because you have to strain this later and it is really difficult to do so when it is so fine.  I added 2-3 tbsps of organic olive oil.  Cover and set aside over night.  Do not refrigerate. The next day, strain and put in a dropper bottle.  You can recycle a dropper bottle from a previous medicine or you can buy one like I used for a couple of dollars

Hold the bottle in your hand tightly letting the contents warm slightly then at bedtime, with the child laying on their side, put 2-3 drops in the ear, pull very gently on their earlobe down towards their shoulder for a couple of seconds and then let it 'sit' in the ear for a couple of minutes.  After a couple of minutes, turn them on their other side to let it drip out.  I put a washcloth on the pillow under the ear to catch. Do the other side.

The next morning you will be amazed how much waxy yuck has come out of their ears. Clean the OUTSIDE of the ear with a q-tip.  You may want to do it 3 or 4 nights in a row.

Do NOT do this if your child has had a perforated ear drum or has had tubes put in their ears!!!