Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Wrap-up & Challenge results

I am tired after the whirl of the holidays. Tomorrow we'll have some lunch with family and the madness will be over for another year. We did manage to get in some relaxing time, but it never seems to be enough...
Regardless we had a wonderful time, with friends and family, lots of snow, and I am pleased with my results for the Holiday No Plastic Challenge. We received gifts containing plastic but gave out very few. I think in total only 3 out of 30ish had plastic. Our gifts to Ky were his birthday rocking horse pictured above. And his FSC certified block set pictured below.

I gave out many fun gifts that I found at various Craft Fairs around the Lower Mainland. These tree ornaments are made of beeswax.

These mini trees are made of recycled residential woods: cherry and pear. I love giving wood as a gift for the tactile quality and for durability while being biodegradable.

This scarf was purchased from a very creative woman. I think her work is great, and her prices were so reasonable. My sister was really happy to get this for those cold eastern winters.

We were very blessed with wonderful gifts this year. But more than that we are so blessed with a wonderful network of people around us. I am very grateful for my family and friends. Happy New Year to those who celebrate it tonight. Dave and I were planning a fancy dinner out, but timing issues made the plans fall through. We thought we'd post-pone to another night when we can be out early and back early to put Ky to bed. Whether your plans have you out partying or curled up at home, have a wonderful night, and happy 2009 to you all.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Art of the Month: December

"The Birthing Year" 9" x 9" 2007-08

This piece has hung in our bedroom for the last year. I made this several years ago, more as an exercise than anything else. This symbol can be found in the book: Virgin Mother Crone by Donna Wilshire. There are four similar drawings titled "Woman displayed" or "Birth-Giver". I drew these out in a note book many years ago. They inspire me, they are images of power and strength. Since I was about to give birth when we moved into our current home, I put this piece up to focus my energy. I gazed at this image while giving birth and I have looked at it many times during the past year, while up late at night breastfeeding, or rocking Ky to sleep etc. Last week a new idea popped into my head. Name this almost past year "The Birthing Year" and label the back of the quilt block. At the beginning of each year I will make a new one with a new symbol and name it at the end of the year. I will keep them until I have enough to start joining them together. Eventually I'll have a quilt that will chronicle my life, a memory keeper. These will be very personal and just for me. The symbol I have chosen for this year is: triple spiral. Obviously since we are now three this one speaks to my family life, but it also represents magic on many levels. These spiral symbols are found carved in to stone and date far back in to pre-history. They are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and reminders of the eternal cycle of life.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Kyan's Birth Story

Kyan almost a year and almost walking on his own

A few days old, December 2007

First photo after birth, pink and perfect.

In honour of my son's first birthday I wanted to record his birth story in every detail that I can recall. For some reason I haven't done this yet, but I think I was waiting for this much perspective, a year of being a mother...

**as a disclaimer I am candid about bodily things in this post. For those who do not enjoy reading about clinical details of birth...proceed with caution.**
My pregnancy was good. I had a few hiccups: nausea, extreme fatigue early on, and near the end I could not get rid of a yeast infection. That was the hardest part for me, it was so uncomfortable and I cut sugar out in a effort to stop it; which was really hard. The risk to the baby was that he/she could pick-up thrush. An annoying mouth affliction that we could have passed back and forth. Luckily he did not get it. Now onto the birth story...

Christmas eve 2007, began like any other evening. I had cleaned and prepared most of the day for our annual xmas eve gift exchange/eating extravaganza. We had moved into our new townhouse the month before. I had finished working on the Friday the 21st and planned to have three weeks to clean, nest and prepare for our first baby's arrival. The baby was due on January 15th. I was nine months pregnant, so there was only so much that I could scrub and do but I bustled around and made it as nice as possible. The party began at 6pm and we had the usual chaos of food preparation, laughter, kids playing and jolly-merry making. I ate as much of the lovely food as I could fit into my tiny stomach, and even indulged in a piece of chocolate cake despite my sugar restriction. Unknown to me, Heidi told Matt that she thought I would give birth early. Something about my overall look and vibe. I can remember being very impatient, tired and uncomfortable. I did have some false contractions (or I thought they were), but I had no idea that anything was happening. The week before at my midwives appointment they had had a hard time finding the baby's head. They thought it was low, so Janice (who ended up delivering Ky) did an internal exam to make sure the head was down. It was, and she actually touched his head and he moved. I was 1 cm dilated. I was excited to hear that, but you can be 1 cm dilated for weeks so I did not assume that I would be early.
Everyone left our place around 11pm. Dave and I cleaned up and went to bed around midnight. I noticed as I was getting ready that I was having mild contractions, I remember saying to Dave that I understood why some women throw-up during labour because of how the contractions pulse through the abdomen and the stomach is squeezed right in there. I tried to sleep, but 15 minutes later I had had two steady contractions and they were strong enough that I knew I could not sleep through them. Both of us were in denial and were sure it was false labour. Dave started a bath for me and lit a candle. I willingly rested in the bath and breathed through the contractions. Dave decided to write down the time intervals. I kept remembering our birthing class and how the teacher had said that it wasn't real labour until contractions were 60 seconds long. Here I am sitting in the bath and some are 60 seconds, some are 20, some are 45, I have no clue if this is the real thing. I had no concept of time but around 2:30am Dave told me that they were steady and I got out of the bath. We were debating whether to call Heidi, who was going to be with us for the labour and birth, and then I noticed bloody show(the mucus plug coming out). This was when I realized that it was happening for real. We called Heidi shortly after. It took several tries to get through to her. Luckily her partner is a lighter sleeper than her. She arrived around 3am and after one last head shake Heidi assured us that I was in labour and we should call the midwife.
We had planned to have a home birth. A rule in British Columbia is that you must be 37 weeks or more to have a home birth. Midnight (aka Christmas Day) was exactly 37 weeks to the hour. Janice went to the clinic to get my files and then headed over. I did talk to her on the phone, I know that Midwives use this time to assess if the labour is in fact active. I talked to her between contractions and then passed the phone to Dave because I was unbelievably nauseous during the contractions. I held this blue plastic bin in front of me while riding the waves. It seemed unfair to have to ride two at once. Heidi would always take the bin away from me in between contractions and I would beg for it back as soon as one would hit. Finally I stood up for a contraction and I vomited. What a relief that was. I have never felt such relief from puking. Now it was only one wave to deal with.
Janice checked my dilation after she had set up all of her supplies. In my mind the number 8 was repeating itself over and over. She smiled and told us that I was 8 centimeters. I'm not sure what I would have done if I wasn't at 8 cm, I may have thought that I couldn't keep going. But that number was what I needed to hear. The whole time I laboured I was in a small area at the end of our bed in our bedroom and to the connecting bathroom. Probably a span of 10 feet, back and forth. I spent most of my time on the floor, knelling, rocking and moaning. My hips ached as Ky moved down the birth canal. My water broke when I was on the toilet. It felt like a pop, but I could not feel much water coming out. Somehow Janice was able to see that the water was nice and clear. How? I have no idea. Things got very intense after that. I expected to go to "Labour land" as our birthing teacher had called it. During contractions I did, but in between I stayed very alert. Pushing was hard. I did not want to be on my back, but I ended up propped up on Dave. I was so tired by then that I didn't care where I was, or how I was. I just wanted to get the baby out. I pushed for an hour and a half. My vulva was not very quick at stretching. I muttered about giving up several times. In between contractions I would pass out with the fatigue. They tried to use a mirror to encourage me, apparently it helps some women be more motivated in pushing, but I involuntarily closed my eyes when I was pushing. The sensation was so overwhelming, it took over my body and I had no control. I think I touched his head during the time he crowned. Once his head was out it only took one small push and there he was. Janice put him on my belly. I remember feeling Dave shake with sobs as I pushed Ky out. I always thought I would cry, but I think the shock and exhaustion made that impulse delayed. Ky was on my stomach while we waited for the placenta. I could not pull him up because the umbilical cord was short. Heidi said "it's a boy" first. Which was fitting because I said "it's a boy" when her son Sage was born. I stroked him, and remember thinking that he looked like his Daddy. He was born at 7:17 am and 7 lbs, pretty good for 3 weeks early. He grunted a bit after birth. But otherwise he was so perfect and healthy. We only had one boy name picked out. Kyan(pronounced like Ryan), which is a Celtic name and means: ancient. After my placenta was delivered and Janice had sewn up my tear, she encouraged me to go to the washroom. She passed Ky to Dave to hold and seeing the two of them together welled me up. Heidi helped me get cleaned up, and then I had some tea, and just marveled in the fact that it was over and I had done it. Dave and I were so lucky to have such a great team with us, and a healthy baby. The total labour time was 7 hours 17 minutes for me. I was really happy with that. It seems the number 7 is going to feature in Ky's life, or maybe it is our number together. I don't know much about numerology.

Yesterday was Ky's birthday party. We had a wonderful day with family and friends. It was small and simple and Ky was so relaxed he took a nap before cake time. I wish you a happy second year of life my son, your first has been the greatest of my life and I am so lucky to be your mom. Happy Birthday Kyan. And I will wish myself a happy birthing day, time flies... and I'm trying to make the most of it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Poem of the Month: December

I read this poem every year on Solstice.  It brings out the truth and wonder .

To Juan at Winter Solstice
by Robert Graves

There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether are learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison of all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right she crooks a finger smiling,
How may the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow is falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

Happy Solstice everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Giving Back

Just a short note today about giving back. We are not rolling in the money by any means, but we try to put our money where it really counts. One decision we made was to purchase our Yule tree from a charitable source. We found Aunt Leah's they have two Christmas tree lots in the lower mainland and their tree sales are their main fundraiser for the year. Aunt Leah's Independent Lifeskills Society fosters children and mothers in need of support on the road to self-sufficiency. They have a great selection on trees, I thought of Mrs. B when they mentioned the Charlie Brown trees "as is for ten bucks". We will get our tree from Aunt Leah's each year, and teach Kyan the importance of choosing where you put your dollars. Our other donation this season was to a local food bank through Dave's work. I would like to become more involved in donating to food banks, perhaps even doing it 4 or 8 (each Sabbat) times a year. As we face these difficult times in the economy, more people than ever will need to draw on food banks, and they will need more support from everyone. What we were able to do this year is just a drop in the bucket, but we all know that many drops could fill that bucket to overflowing. Do what you can, and have a blessed holiday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Baking & Snow

Today was our first big snow. We don't get much snow here and it doesn't stay very long so it is always great to take advantage when it is here. Kyan was a bit indifferent but I'm sure when he can walk in it himself he'll take more notice. Yesterday was very busy with baking. I made my Gran's famous pan rolls for the first time. They turned out okay. I baked them a bit too long but better luck next time. They are going to be for our Solstice dinner (just Mom, Dad & Baby with our gift exchange) and I also made shortbread for the first time. Shortbread is tricky, I overcooked it a bit as well, but it tastes good and I separated the overcooked for us, and will give the nice ones to our neighbor and take some to a Yule party we are going to this weekend. I can't believe that it is only a week until Yule eve. I still have birthday party prep to do, and a few last gifts to get. I'm enjoying the season though. Our tree is great, I'll post some pics soon. I hope you are all well and are getting some cheer from the season.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Book of the Month: December

This month in honour of Yule I have chosen Sisters Of The Earth edited by Lorraine Anderson. This is a compilation of prose, poetry, journal entries, essays and more by ninety women writers. All of the pieces relate to nature in different ways. Writers include: Emily Dickinson, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Alice Walker, and Rachel Carson just to name a few.
My favorite story in this book is a journal entry written on Christmas day by Theodora Stanwell Fletcher (1906-1999). The entry is an exert from her book Driftwood Valley (1946) which is about her stay in north-central British Columbia, Canada many miles from "civilization" while collecting flora and fauna with her husband John for the British Columbia Provincial Museum at Victoria. I love to imagine the isolation of that time. Living in a tiny cabin in 50 below zero Celsius weather. No Internet hook up or cell phones to be found. The story is called: Christmas in Driftwood Valley. I try and read it each Christmas morning, as it is such a romantic notion to be alone in a snow filled bush (much more romantic to imagine when you are snug in a warm bed!) Here is a small sample that will give you the overall feel of the story:

"By the time dawn was coming we had scraped two peepholes in the frost on the panes; and we stood quiet to watch the winter sunrise. The radiant peaks of the Driftwoods, cut like white icing into pinnacles and rims against the apple-green sky, were brushed with pink, that, even as we watched, spread down and down and turned to gold. Rays of the sun, coming between the pointed firs of the east shore, stretched straight across the white lake, and as they touched it huge crystals, formed by the intense cold, burst into sparkling, scintillating light. The snow-bowed trees of the south and west shores were hung with diamonds; and finally the willows, around our cabin, were decked with jewels as large as robins' eggs that flashed red and green and blue. No Christmas trees decorated by human hands were ever so exquisite as the forested trees of this northern forest."

She goes on to describe their meal and a lovely adventure out in the snow before the temperature makes another dramatic drop. I also love how she concludes the story:

"Have we greatly missed the things that make Christmas Day in civilization? Other loved human beings, Christmas carols, wonderful food? I suppose so, but I think that this lack is more than made up for by the deep contentment of our healthy minds and bodies, by our closeness to and awareness of the earth, and of each other."

Sisters Of The Earth is a wonderful collection of thoughtful and provoking works. I cherish my copy and think that any one who enjoys short stories with a nature theme would love to read it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Green Yule Wrapping 101

Here are the finished morsbags. They seem to be very strong bags, and despite using them for Yule gift wrapping I chose to use fabrics that would work all year round.
I also stenciled "Love the Earth" on them with fabric paint. They look great folded up and tied with ribbon as below. A rule I had for myself in making them was to only use fabric that I already had. If you don't have a large stash of fabric you can always check out the ends bins at your local fabric store. This makes it much cheaper than buying fresh off the roll. I have not been shopping for fabric in a long time but when I go I usually check the ends bin first, often whatever colour or pattern I need will be in there.

Our family has a tradition of collecting tree ornaments. I decided to decorate some boxes I had around the house to keep them in. These are also a great way to wrap gifts. You can reuse the box each year. I wrapped them with festive fabric. You can use regular wrapping paper or decorate them with stickers etc. I use fabric because it lasts a long time. These will not fade or get ripped for many years to come. Shoe boxes, or any that have sturdy lids work well. You may want to reinforce the corners with tape just in case. All you need is fabric or paper, scissors, a ruler and a glue gun.

I had many of these little organza bags left over from Kyan's newborn clothing. They look great with coloured tissue paper and ribbon. Smaller gifts work perfectly with these. Being creative with wrapping is fun, and helps keep useful things out of the landfill. Happy wrapping!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Harper & Compromise

The current political situation in this country is putting a damper on the magic of the season. I am really sick of Stephen Harper. He wants to run this country for the few, while spreading lies and putting forth a spirit of divisiveness. Prorouging the Parliament is the last thing we need. I am not sure if the Coalition is the best thing to do, but at least he needs to compromise. He is the Canadian George W. Bush. He only wants to "compromise" if it was his idea to begin with. The nature of the Parliamentary system is that the House of Commons needs to feel confidence in the leader. If they do not, then steps are taken to either remove that leader and select a new one, have an election or create a new leadership with a Coalition of the opposing parties. Since we just had an election we obviously can not incur the expense of another, so Harper should sit down with the opposition leaders and work out a plan. Instead he is talking about Canada's union being at risk (which it is not because the Bloq Quebecois are not in the Coalition), and accusing the "socialists" of trying to undermine democracy. Who is really trying to undermine democracy? Stephen Harper. His party was voted in to lead, but he has lost the confidence. He could step down or admit that he has insulted and mis-read the direction that our Members of Parliament think we should go in. Instead he has delayed any action to be taken by those Members until January. January may be too late for those Canadians who are in danger of losing their jobs. While Harper is cozy in 24 Sussex Drive for the holidays many Canadians will be wondering how long they can keep a roof over their heads.
I do not know everything about politics or how the country should be run, but I do know that Harper has never had my confidence, and this throws any chance he had of getting it down the tubes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Artful Pillows: Autumn

This week I am on the sewing bandwagon. I have finished my Autumn pillows and I've begun my Yule projects. I am making tote/grocery bags from I hope to have one per larger gift. I've set my sights at making ten. So far they are easy to make and so I think I should have them done by the end of the week. I've got some fabric paint so I'm going to paint a message on the side as well. I think they will be great gift wrap. I'll post images of them when I'm done.
When I finished assembling the pillows I realized that people may be interested in making their own. I'm sure there are lots of websites that give directions since pillows like these are very basic to make, but I will take photos of my Winter ones and post directions for anyone who is interested. Look for that post next year (probably late January or February).
After the bags are done I am making Kyan a stocking and re-doing Dave's. I made Dave's five years ago and did not have a sewing machine at the time. It turned out fine but it is too small, so I'm going to add some fabric along the outside. Keeping this all under control is challenging, but it seems to be going well so far. Its great to see all the Yule projects on every one's blogs. It helps to get my spirits up. Happy crafting!