Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another farewell...

I need to take a break from blogging for a while. This has been a terribly hard year, many ups and downs. It's not going to be good for me to look at everyone else's pregnancy and baby news on their blogs either. This hurt is running too deep for words.

I appreciate all of your messages of support. They were and are needed and I am very grateful. I hope you all understand my need for a time of silence. This blog will not go away. At some point I'll compile all of Andrew's posts into a page called "Andrew's Story" to complement the one about his brother.

Hug your children tonight. Call people you love. Thank God for your blessings.

I hope each and every one of you has a blessed Advent and Christmas.

with love,

Mat. Anna

Farewell for now...

May the memory of the infant Andrew be eternal!

Unanswerable Questions

God, where do you put this much pain?

Are there wells deep enough?

How many pieces of your heart can you rip out before it just stops?

How do you spend the rest of the day after you bury your baby?

What am I supposed to do with this tragedy that has been handed to me?

"How are you doing?"

What does the future hold?

How do you sing Memory Eternal when grief has stolen your voice away?

How do you tell people that you can't "fix" grief?

How long will it be before I hold my babies again?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Last day

It's 5:50 and I can't sleep.

I lay in bed and realized this is my last full day to be pregnant (sort of), perhaps ever. I don't want to forget to take a belly picture.

I'm terribly nervous about tomorrow. I'm going to write a birth plan that includes all of the things we want and DON'T want. We'll go over our requirement that the baby stays with us at all times. If someone really wants to see if she weighs one ounce or two (how much would she weigh, anyway?) then I'm ok with Father walking her down to wherever they keep the scale, but I think that's highly unlikely. If they do not accede to that requirement, then we will leave. That's a hard decision to make, but I don't make it lightly. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for the lab to "need" to check the baby in "for a few hours" or even five minutes.

So many things to do today. Liturgy this morning, of course. I'm not going into this ordeal tomorrow without having communed. I'll have Father anoint me tonight as well. My biggest priority today is making sure that everything is ready to go, lists made, bag packed, etc. We did find a basket that would work at Michael's yesterday but I have to line it and "pretty it up". I decided to take a small CD player and some Orthodox music to the hospital with us. I want to both avoid the silent room effect (I hate the TV) while hearing heart monitors and babies in the background and also want to not forget to focus where I need to be focusing.

One thing that will be travelling with us is an icon of St. Andrew. It's currently on the altar. Since this baby died on the feast of St. Andrew the name will either be Andrew or Andrea (ahnDRAYuh - I'm picky). Father asked them to rush the icon because it was for the burial of a child and they (the folks at Uncut Mountain) were most obliging. Not only that, but when it came, they put in an extra icon of St. Benedict as a Christmas present. I wrote them back to thank them and told them that what Father hadn't mentioned was that the child in question was our own, and we thanked them very much for their kindness.

The house is always quiet this early, but this morning it's preternaturally quiet. No quiet breathing in the other rooms and no Pickles climbing in bed with me. Friends offered to take the children from yesterday until Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on how things go, and we dropped them off yesterday. Last night I was naturally enough worrying about them, hoping they're happy, etc. I told myself that of course the children are fine. I'd trust these friends with my life and I've just given them five huge chunks of it. Worrying about them is something that I most definitely have no need of doing. Then I had a thought: I'm trusting friends who do love my children with them and telling myself not to worry. How on earth could I worry about my two children who are in Heaven and much better off than any of us? Sigh. It just comes down to missing them, not worrying I guess.

Sigh again. I mentally can't get away from tomorrow. Many of you over the years have praised my "pro-life witness" and boy, if this isn't pro-life witness - insisting that my baby of 13 weeks stay with me, then go home dressed in a tiny gown, in the face of people who would call her medical waste (not an exaggeration - true) - then I don't know what is.* I would appreciate your prayers that things go smoothly tomorrow.

That brings me to one more thing: gratitude. I can't believe the number of you who have done your detective work to find out my address and sent letters and cards, many handmade. You will never know how many times those cards (something has arrived every day) have lifted me out of a dark place. And only two of you have I ever met "in real life". I'm especially grateful for those of you who have taken the time to tell me, whether by card or email, how something I've written about this baby or Innocent has helped them or a friend or family member.* Knowing that good things have come from my children's deaths is bittersweet, but that's much better than bitter. I certainly don't deserve any of this, but I'm very grateful. We may have to get a bigger memory box or two for this baby if too many more cards come! (:

Given how much of a talker (writer) I am, I'm sure I'll post again before tomorrow morning. But I will definitely post when we get back from the hospital. I'm hoping to have a "bloggable" picture to post as well. Thank you all again for all of your love and prayers.

-Mat. Anna

*After some reflection I realized this all sounded rather self-aggrandizing. What I should say more clearly, is that I've been able to see how God has used bad situations for good. I'm honestly not trying to toot my own horn.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Christmas Story

I went in the thrift store Tuesday looking for a basket I could line to put my baby in. I didn't find one. I looked around to see if they had a nice box but they didn't. I went to the store afterward and got a casket and memory box. While I was at the thrift store I noticed they had a number of Christmas things out, notably some Christmas village houses, the kind with the light inside. I was fairly despondent so I didn't think about it too much.

Today we were going to be setting up the Christmas tree and putting the lights on. I had given some thought to how I wanted to do some of the decorating. I don't know how much sense it makes but I wanted to deliberately do something different. Even though we didn't have either of these babies for a Christmas with us, I had mentally worked them in and felt the need to change things around so I wasn't thinking so much about how they weren't here with us. You may remember the mantle I did last year. I suddenly thought about those village pieces and remembered that we had one already. What if I got a few more and did a little village on the mantle? Father said to go back to the store and get them. They were only a few dollars each anyway.

This afternoon I went back to the thrift store. I immediately picked up two buildings that appeared to be in working order. After glancing around I realized that the staff had put out a lot more Christmas stuff since Tuesday. I decided to have a look around. I found two old-fashioned china St. Nicholas figures and put them with the houses. Then I saw it.

A few rows over I saw the back of a stable. It looked just like the one we had when I was growing up. I held my breath and walked around to the other side. It was. It was almost exactly like the nativity stable I remembered. I was just beginning to be sorry there were no figures when my eyes caught sight of a small, decrepit cardboard box next to the stable. I looked inside. Wrapped in fragile brown paper were the figures. I carefully picked through them and realized the whole set was there. And they looked just like the ones we had growing up. I checked the price. Four dollars. I nearly cried right there in the store.

I got it, of course. I brought it home and showed Father. We both thought it was a Fontanini set - the base of each piece said "Italy". Father checked online and it is indeed a Fontanini, probably from the 1960's. How it got into the thrift store I'll never know. They had just put it out and the woman said she hadn't even looked through the box to see if all the pieces were there.

I've wanted one of these for years. We priced them last year but they start at at least $100. The overwhelming feeling I had, standing in the store (irrational or not) was that this was the babies' Christmas present to me. I wept when I got home and put all the pieces out. The only thing I had wanted for Christmas this year I couldn't have. But they gave me a Nativity scene.

Merry Christmas in Heaven, sweethearts.

Humility, Love and the Incarnation

I am so humbled by the number of you who have sent cards and letters, emails, left comments, prayed. I feel like there's some sort of misconception that I'm this nice person, a prayerful, holy person, and I'm so definitely not. I joke that I'm so far from being on the bottom rung of the ladder of St. John, I haven't even found the ladder yet. I know you all are my betters. But if pitiful, sinful people weren't here on Earth then there would be no one for the rest of you to pray for. It's hard for me to let people do for me, even to pray for me, but I have no choice right now. There are a few times in our lives when we are so beaten down that we have no choice but to let others lift us back up. It's humiliating, in the theological sense.

This is tangential, but read Nonna's latest post please. She's so much more eloquent than I and she expresses things so well. An excerpt:
Christ’s Love is a suffering love… it is compassionate – with passion (in the ancient sense) – it suffers with others, and so bears their burdens. I’ve said it before… Love hurts. It hurts to see people hungry, to see them in pain, to see them dying… When we love someone our hearts are laid bare for them. They will hurt us – whether by words, or deeds (or non-deeds) – by dying, or by suffering in front of us – by misunderstandings, or disagreements – by joys unshared, or expectations unmet… in some way we will be hurt. And that is when we can become more like Christ… it is then our life can live out the truth, “I must decrease, and He must increase.” Real love remembers the Truth beyond the pain… and it realizes the pain is an integral part of the joy. Love is the ultimate “bright-sadness” – as the times of the Fasts teach us…

So, how do we learn this love? We don’t… we live it. And we take the time to stop, to remember… we are to love everyone. Not just those who love us… We are to love the cold-hearted, the uncaring… we must remember that we need them. They are the ones who make us more and more like the One Who is Love.
Thinking about Christmas, the baby in the manger, has made me bitter a few times in the last week. My baby will be in the cold ground by then. But the honest reality of that incarnation is terrible. One of the gifts of the magi was myrrh. The Theotokos, in all of the icons depicting her with the infant Christ, is sad. The spear has already pierced her heart. As mothers we must remember that spear any time a child is conceived. Because on this earth, all life ends in death. But all death ends in life everlasting.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It's striking how many metaphors there are for grief. Storms, tossing oceans, valleys, mountains, roller coasters. One line from the Orthodox Church's memorial services keeps coming back to mind: "You who have trod the narrow way of grief..."
You who have trod the narrow way of grief;
All you who, in life have taken upon you the Cross as a yoke,
And followed Me by faith,
Draw near, enjoy the honours and celestial crowns I have prepared for you.
After Innocent died I couldn't help feeling rather shunted aside by the Church. Because my child had not been baptised he would not have a funeral, would not have panikhidas celebrated in church, would not be commemorated among the dead during services. I did come to terms with that and explained it here. The one thing that never failed to comfort me was the set of verses from the memorial hymn above. There have been many memorial services celebrated since Innocent died and at each one I looked forward to this verse. I felt like the Church was comforting ME specifically, acknowledging the pain that I had suffered and still suffer, granting it weight. That in some way there was purpose to the grief I suffered.

I'm feeling that once again. Next week we will lay yet another little still form in the ground. It's not spring this time. Pascha is not just over the horizon. The only flowers I can gather from the yard are camellias which aren't pressable (with the exception of the certifiably insane hydrangea in the side yard which has persisted in blooming this week despite weather to the contrary). Once again I will be whispering my baby's name during the litany of the faithful when it comes time to list the departed, since my babies aren't technically included.

God hears the cries of my heart. He weeps with me. I happened to read this the night we found out our baby had departed:
[Aslan has asked Digory if he will help rid Narnia of the evil that Digory (unwittingly) brought into it.]

"Yes," said Digory. He had had for a second some wild idea of saying, "I'll try to help you if you'll promise to help my Mother," but he realized in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could try to make bargains with.  But when he had said "Yes," he thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes, and he blurted out:

"But please, please - won't you - can't you give me something that will cure Mother?"  Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life.  For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
--C.S.Lewis, The Magician's Nephew
As much as I love my babies, God loves them infinitely more. I can't understand this, just as I can't understand why they are in Heaven and not with me. I can't understand lots of things. But I mostly accept that I don't have to understand, that God doesn't need me to understand, but to endure and trust.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

4 AM

It's dark at 4 AM.

At 8 AM I remember my child is in heaven. At 4 AM I wonder where she is. I wonder where Innocent is. I worry about them crying and not being held. My heart aches. My useless, empty arms ache.

I fell asleep reading last night at 8:00. Father stayed awake as long as he could, afraid I would wake up alone. When I woke up, I wasn't sleepy. I said the Jesus prayer. I remembered the wonderful woman in Tasmania who promised to keep a candle burning all day every day there until I delivered my baby, because it's nighttime here when it's daytime there. That way, if I woke up in the middle of the night I would feel someone praying. It's true. It was comforting.

At 4:30 I hunted around and found my book light and tried to read. Horrible grief sat at my shoulder, tapping insistently as I read frantically. There's only so long you can push it away as it gnaws into your spine.

Before 5:00 I gave up and cried. Father woke up.

Thank you, God, for my husband, who held me while I cried, who didn't offer idle rationalizations, who said, "I know," when I cried, "It isn't fair!" Who assured me my babies were happy, had never known one moment of fear, pain, hunger, sadness. I know that, I just need to hear it. A mother's heart is hard to comfort.

I cried myself out by dawn. Father went back to sleep. I read about children freezing on the prairie in 1888 in one of the worst blizzards in history. Pickles got me up to get him breakfast after 8:00.

My eyes are burning. They haven't felt right in 2 days. Someone changed the calendar from November to December in the kitchen. I feel like I fell through a time-warp. I read the emails accumulated from last night. I have so many to respond to. I'm grateful for the time each person spent sending them and leaving comments. I remind myself when I note that I've lost blog subscribers since Thursday that some people don't have any more room for pain in their life. I can understand that. I don't feel like I have room myself.

The day stretches out like eternity. Will I eat today? I don't know. Father will probably spoon something in if I refuse. He was alarmed when he realized how little I had to drink yesterday and the day before. The knowledge that I could have caffeine out the wazoo is so depressing.

I will probably make the blankets today. I made the gown and bonnet yesterday, can make the blankets today and then...a casket? What am I going to do for the next 9 days? I can't make diapers, I can't crochet a layette. I can't get a bassinet ready.

Waiting is so hard. But I would have cheerfully waited for a different outcome, not this.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Something pretty

I so badly want this baby to have something pretty. I feel like I did the best I could for Innocent under the circumstances. I was so worried about having an intact body (and not having to go through surgery) that I didn't do all I could for him. I don't really feel guilt; like I said, I did the best I could. But there were many times I thought "next time I would do this" even while acknowledging that assuming I would lose another child was rather morbid. I guess you could say I'm benefiting from experience.

I had assumed that babies this small were impossible to dress so I didn't attempt to make anything for Innocent. Afterward, I was hurt that I had to lay him in his grave "undressed". I've thought about it since and looked at his pictures many times. I decided that I would at least make the attempt to dress this baby.

The flannel gown opens in back and the sleeves are short and wide enough so that I shouldn't damage her arms trying to get them in. The bonnet is fairly simple. I was afraid to try to make a stocking-type cap because the size would have to really be right and I didn't want to damage her head.

I'll take these to the hospital and dress her after she's born. Everything is white, like a baptismal gown, so if this is a boy it will be fine.

I took the pictures on some of the flannel I'm going to use to make a little blanket.

It really helps to be able to do something for my baby.

Day 2

I appreciate all of the prayers and expressions of sympathy. I can't wake up from this nightmare. I'm trying to internalize what happened but it's so huge and horrible it just simply doesn't fit.

I'm making a "to do" list to keep me sane because I'm a list-maker.

1. Order icon of St. Andrew. (done)
2. Make measurement sketch from photos of Innocent - they will be the same size.
3. Make tiny white shroud and cap.
4. Make small flannel blanket in pink (and blue just in case).
5. Shop for casket.
6. Modify casket.
7. Arrange childcare for when in hospital. (friend working on it)
8. Pack hospital bag.
9. Make list of everything I want to do with the baby so I don't forget in my fogginess.

I've decided that I'm not going to let the hospital staff take the baby away out of sight even for a minute. I just can't trust that they won't do something to her or not let me have her back. What will they do, arrest me? Personal feelings simply don't come into play. It just seems much wiser to hold her and not let anyone take her away.

I can't forget that this is Advent. I can't forget that the feast of St. Nicholas is next week. My five living children will have a happy Christmas if it kills me. The reason I am going with the induction is so I don't risk miscarrying on Christmas eve.

I'm sorry this is so incoherent. I'm grateful for all of you, for your support and prayers. I want to let you know what's going on.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

There's no other way to put this. I couldn't find a heartbeat this morning with the doppler. We drove up the interstate to the hospital and my doctor confirmed with an ultrasound that the baby died. I last got a heartbeat, a nice strong one, late Tuesday night, so that means the baby almost certainly died yesterday, the feast of St. Andrew. I'm in shock. I feel like this can't possibly be happening again. My two babies died at the same age. In the event that I haven't delivered by then I have a scheduled induction Monday the 12th. They have assured me we'll be able to take the baby home to bury.

Please keep us all in your prayers. This is so hard.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fasting Coconut Soup

This recipe is adapted from a favorite soup (Coconut Chicken Soup) served at Surin of Thailand, a particularly awesome restaurant. Ok, so it's better with chicken, but it's pretty darn good the way we make it too. (: This is a good festal or company recipe.

[Your only issue may be finding the ingredients. I managed to work around it for the most part and it still tastes authentic so substitutions seem to be ok.]

1-2         canola oil
3 T         lemongrass (I used the paste but the original recipe calls for fresh lemongrass, the
              outer sheath removed, bottom three inches trimmed and minced.")
2 T         fresh ginger, minced (I sliced it instead so I could avoid the slices while eating.)
1            clove garlic, minced (I used pre-minced.)
2-3 t      Thai red curry paste (This is the one you may have trouble with. I used 1/2 t. red
              pepper instead.)
6 cups    vegetable stock/broth
3 T         fish sauce or soy sauce (I encourage fish sauce but don't smell it closely...)
1 T         sugar
2 14 oz   cans coconut milk (Regular works better than lite but either will do.)
1 pkg      extra firm tofu, slice into 1inch x 1/4 inch pieces and drain
1 lg pkg  mushrooms, sliced
               juice of 2 limes

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot. Add the lemon grass, ginger and garlic and cook (stirring constantly) for about a minute. Be careful not to let the garlic burn - remove from heat temporarily if necessary. Add the curry paste (if you have it) and continue to stir for another 30 to 60 seconds.

Add about 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth to dissolve the spices and stir well. Add the rest of the broth, fish sauce and sugar (and pepper if you didn't use curry paste) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, tofu and lime juice. Stir carefully (so you don't demolish the tofu). Bring back to a simmer and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve immediately (but if you're still working on dinner for the kids and it has to wait on the stove for another 20 minutes, don't panic, just reduce the heat to very low, cover and serve it when you can.) You can garnish with chopped green onions or cilantro if you like.

(Here's a link to a non-fasting variety. It's incredible.)

Life in the magazines

I only get one magazine: Southern Living. I used to get others (Better Homes and Gardens, Living, Victoria), but I got rid of them one by one. [I'd probably get Victoria again because I only stopped getting it when they stopped the magazine (temporarily as it turned out).] I like the recipes, I like the decorating ideas, I like having something to read. But magazines are weird.

They'll tout something like "simple living" and show a room full of "simple" things that cost an arm and a leg. They'll show a house that purports to be "authentically antique" full of things the designer/decorator found at auction, on the side of the road (in Virginia, of course), or in the home-owner's third home. The house itself is a recreation of an old design and cost a bundle. They'll show a house that's "green", full of energy-saving devices, reclaimed wood, etc., but it's on a small island off the east coast and everything had to be brought across by ferry to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

The featured dinner parties, barbecues, crab boils, etc., are attended by nicely dressed people in their late thirties to forties who do not have children (or whose children must be home with the nanny). Any parties that show children feature three at most (for all of the guests) and they are treated as fashion accessories.

They tout "flirting at work" as good for your career and include articles which mean that you'd better not leave those magazines around for your children to find. "Look sexy at any age" is a frequent cover story. [Let me tell you: when I'm 65, "sexy" had better not describe my "look".]

Let's just say that these magazines do not reflect real life.

"Simple Living" means living with what you have, making do, or doing without. "Authentically antique homes" feature doorknobs that stick, drafty windows and very few closets. "Green" means a clothesline in the backyard, bathing children in batches and letting your yard turn brown when it doesn't rain. And if you flirt at work (God forbid), you're probably going to get what you deserve.

I guess it comes down to what life is supposed to be. Is it supposed to be about impressing people, having the "right" things, buying extravagantly, winning "home of the year" contests and constantly feeling discontented? Or is it supposed to be about having humility, raising children, saving your soul and glorifying God?

Monday, November 28, 2011

12 Weeks 5 Days

That's where we are today. That was what Innocent measured when he died.

I don't think I properly realized the miracle that Innocent was. That something so precious and complex could grow from the union of two cells. Before he died he was kicking, moving around, possibly sucking his thumb. I never got to see it, but it was there. I try not to dwell on it but I wonder from time to time when exactly he died. What happened? Did he struggle? What did he think when he saw his guardian angel?

With this baby, I am in awe every time I find the heartbeat. I slowly move the transducer, marveling that he or she is in a different spot every single time. When I finally lock onto the heartbeat, trucking away at around 155 now, I heave a sigh of relief. I listen for a while. I know exactly what this baby looks like right now, having held the older brother in my hand at the same age. Occasionally I'll hear thumps and realize I'm hearing kicks. The last few days I'll be listening and suddenly, without my moving a millimeter, the heartbeat will disappear and I'll have to move over a bit to find it again. This little one likes to swim. (:

Miraculous indeed.

(This is NOT our baby, but a baby about the same age whom you can see moving quite a bit.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Crocheted Lacy Baby Cap in Wool

(Don't ask for the pattern. I made it up as I went along.)


We saw a parhelion (or "sundog") on the way home on Saturday. I'd have gotten better pictures if they hadn't been snapped through the windshield as we were driving. *grimace*

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top 10 Things I Thought About Today

1. I love Mentholatum. Love it.

2. Washcloths are rougher than handkerchiefs, but you'll use anything in a pinch.

3. The Hitchhiker's Guide books weren't as funny this time around.

4. I hate packing for trips.

5. Naps are a double-edged sword: helpful if you're exhausted but they leave you groggy and don't help your nocturnal sleeping pattern.

6. Is it worth it to suffer with only Mentholatum and Tylenol to keep the medication miscarriage risk to zero? Yes it is.

7. You know, I really like some 80's music.

8. I'd forgotten all about Micky Mouse Disco until Father pulled it up on Youtube. Hahahahaha....

9. I meant to cut my hair, but I'm too tired and feel to bad to care.

10. Twelve weeks tomorrow...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple

Joyous Feastday!

Today is one of the 12 great feasts of the Church. We commemorate the day that Mary, the Mother of God entered the temple as a three-year-old.

When Mary was three years old, Joachim and Anna decided that the time had come to fulfill their promise and to offer her to the Lord. Joachim gathered the young girls of the neighborhood to form an escort, and he made them go in front of Mary, carrying torches. Captivated by the torches, the young child followed joyfully to the Temple, not once looking back at her parents nor weeping as she was parted from them.

The holy Virgin ran toward the Temple, overtaking her attendant maidens and threw herself into the arms of the High Priest Zacharias, who was waiting for her at the gate of the Temple with the elders. Zacharias blessed her saying, "It is in you that He has glorified your name in every generation. It is in you that He will reveal the Redemption that He has prepared for His people in the last days."

Then, Zacharias brought the child into the Holy of Holies—a place where only the High Priest was permitted to enter once a year on the Day of Atonement. He placed her on the steps of the altar, and the grace of the Lord descended upon her. She arose and expressed her joy in a dance as wonder seized all who saw this happen.

The Virgin Mary dwelt in the Temple for nine years until, reaching an age for marriage, she was taken from the Temple by the priests and elders and entrusted to Joseph as the guardian of her virginity.

Troparion - Tone 4

Today is the prelude of the good will of God,
of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.
The Virgin appears in the Temple of God,
in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all.
Let us rejoice
and sing to her:
“Rejoice, O Fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation!”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Oh, and the sky isn't blue.

Wow, did you know that drinking water will not combat dehydration? According to the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) it won't.

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.

Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

German professors Dr Andreas Hahn and Dr Moritz Hagenmeyer, who advise food manufacturers on how to advertise their products, asked the European Commission if the claim could be made on labels.
They compiled what they assumed was an uncontroversial statement in order to test new laws which allow products to claim they can reduce the risk of disease, subject to EU approval.
They applied for the right to state that “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration” as well as preventing a decrease in performance.
However, last February, the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) refused to approve the statement.
A meeting of 21 scientists in Parma, Italy, concluded that reduced water content in the body was a symptom of dehydration and not something that drinking water could subsequently control.
Now the EFSA verdict has been turned into an EU directive which was issued on Wednesday.
This is nuts.
Ukip MEP Paul Nuttall said the ruling made the “bendy banana law”* look “positively sane”.

He said: “I had to read this four or five times before I believed it. It is a perfect example of what Brussels does best. Spend three years, with 20 separate pieces of correspondence before summoning 21 professors to Parma where they decide with great solemnity that drinking water cannot be sold as a way to combat dehydration.

*I couldn't not look this up. Apparently in 2008 a law was passed by these same folks (and subsequently repealed) that regulated the maximum curvature of bananas that could be commercially sold, and said that cucumbers had to be straight.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fasting Recipes

I was looking back in my archives for some fasting recipes and thought I'd just put together a list of some of my favorites.

Lentil Soup

Muffin Experiment (This one is more hilarious than helpful but I'm including it anyway.)

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Marinara Sauce

Coconut Cream Pie

Fasting Cracker Snacks

Biscuit Dough Doughnuts

In addition, Michelle posted a great (and easy) recipe for fasting Pumpkin Blueberry Muffins. Yum!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Handmade Endeavors

Let me preface this by saying gracious, am I tired. So I apologize for being skimpy lately and stingy with the photographs. Getting the camera out and focusing in so as to exclude the mess feels like an insurmountable effort.

So I really hope you appreciate this. (:

My mother sent me a book late spring which I have read but (shamefully) haven't actually used yet. Well, yesterday I decided that was absurd. I know many of you have heard of it (and probably have it): Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I got the ingredients I needed yesterday (I had never even heard of vital wheat gluten) and finally scraped up enough energy to get started a little while ago. I'm pinning my hopes on the payoff: good, homemade bread and making it again in the days to come without all the prep work. With the Nativity fast here, we all tend to eat more bread (yes, yes, carbohydrate addicts) and not only am I picky about the bread I eat but I don't want to have to shop multiple times a week to keep it fresh. Plus, it gets expensive.

The only picture I have to show you at the moment is the dough. That is some sticky stuff, let me tell you. It will go in the oven after Vespers tonight.

The other thing percolating is also from a book, one my sister just sent me. I had to tear myself away from it so I could start the bread. I had heard of this before on Pleasant View Schoolhouse and admired it but hadn't ever thought to get the book. It's Alabama Studio Style by Anna Chanin (click on her name to visit the studio site). How nice to see that raw edges can be beautiful. It's the edging that has always kept me away from applique. Thanks, Em!!

I wonder what I will make first?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Repurposing Tutorials

I love turning something into something else. That doesn't necessarily mean clothing.

Over the years I've found some of the niftiest repurposing tutorials ever. Some of them people have sent me and some I've just stumbled upon. I decided they were too fun not to share.

This Shirt Skirt Tutorial has got to be one of my favorites. Laura just sent it to me the other day and I'm sold. I haven't been to the thrift store yet but I'm heading there soon and will look at the 2-3X t-shirts.

These are extra large men's t-shirts lopped off below the sleeves and shirred at the top with elastic thread. No hemming.

This Smock from a Man's Shirt is from Anna at Pleasant View Schoolhouse. She is big on repurposing thrifted items and if you haven't visited her site, do it.

I myself have made aprons (here and here) from linen sheath dresses from the thrift store. I need to keep an eye out for more dresses...

This is one I haven't tried yet but I'm going to. Wool Soakers from Sweaters. Seriously easy.

What are your favorite repurposing projects?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."

--Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a)

Friday, November 11, 2011


Gee, I guess I've "arrived". Someone pinned my crocheted scallop border tutorial on Pinterest. (: I couldn't figure out how on earth I was suddenly getting all this traffic... (bemused look)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

No, I swear, this is for real:

Father brought home a CD courtesy of his spiritual father. I'm still wiping away tears. Sensitive people may want to sit down and put cotton in their ears to dampen the effect. Florence Foster Jenkins (born Narcissa Florence Foster...aptly named...) was a popular operatic singer in the first part of the 20th century. A famous quote: "People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing." Um, right. Being the generous person I am, ever willing to broaden people's musical horizons, I am sharing this with you tonight.

(Anyone ever watch Keeping Up Appearances??)

She's not the only thing that's gaga...

From Occupy Seattle General Assembly:
"Some people using labels, boxes, terms, on bodies and equipment, and telling people how to be or what gender to be. This is part of the system we're fighting against. We should respect people's own determination, living, and labeling of their own bodies and parts." --Lady Gaga
Labeling body parts? So what else do you call an arm? I can tell you one thing, I certainly would never call what's under her skull a brain. That would be so wrong of me.

(h/t Rod Dreher)

Do you know where your honey comes from?

Ok, I like honey direct from the "farm" when I find it or someone gives it to me, but I've never deliberately sought it out. I figured the primary reason for using such honey was taste (plus, supporting small producers). Oh, how wrong I was.

This article on the purity of honey is sickening. Especially since Pickles' favorite sandwich is PBH and he eats it daily. 
click to enlarge

More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn't exactly what the bees produce, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News. The results show that the pollen frequently has been filtered out of products labeled "honey."

The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world's food safety agencies.

The food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others also have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn't honey. However, the FDA isn't checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey - some containing illegal antibiotics - on the U.S. market for years.

Food Safety News decided to test honey sold in various outlets after its earlier investigation* found U.S. groceries flooded with Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin.

Toys aren't the only thing you shouldn't buy from China:
Chinese honey has long had a poor reputation in the U.S., where - in 2001 - the Federal Trade Commission imposed stiff import tariffs or taxes to stop the Chinese from flooding the marketplace with dirt-cheap, heavily subsidized honey, which was forcing American beekeepers out of business.

To avoid the dumping tariffs, the Chinese quickly began transshipping honey to several other countries, then laundering it by switching the color of the shipping drums, the documents and labels to indicate a bogus but tariff-free country of origin for the honey.

Most U.S. honey buyers knew about the Chinese actions because of the sudden availability of lower cost honey, and little was said.
The FDA -- either because of lack of interest or resources -- devoted little effort to inspecting imported honey. Nevertheless, the agency had occasionally either been told of, or had stumbled upon, Chinese honey contaminated with chloramphenicol and other illegal animal antibiotics which are dangerous, even fatal, to a very small percentage of the population.
Good heavens!! So how do you know what you're getting?
Ambrose, who was co-chair of the team that drafted the state beekeeper association's honey standards says the language is very simple, "Our standard says that nothing can be added or removed from the honey. So in other words, if somebody removes the pollen, or adds moisture or corn syrup or table sugar, that's adulteration," Ambrose told Food Safety News.
But still, he says he's asked all the time how to ensure that you're buying quality honey. "The fact is, unless you're buying from a beekeeper, you're at risk," was his uncomfortably blunt reply.
Well, that's it. The only honey we will have in the house from now on will come from local beekeepers who process and bottle their own honey from their own bees. Mom, since I know you're reading this, pick up a few jars when you come for Christmas. I'm dumping what's in the pantry.

*Read this article - even more chilling.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pro-choice? Think abortion is ok?

Then you should have no issues whatsoever watching this video.
If you can't you are a coward and a hypocrite.

Oh, and the baby pictured? The same age as Innocent.

Photo of my perfect 12 week 5 day old son after the jump.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Think about it...

Some things never change...

"Eggs --Clear, thin fhell'd, longeft oval and fharp ends are beft; to afcertain whether new or ftale--hold to the light, if the white is clear, the yolk regularly in the centre, they are good--but if otherwife, they are ftale.  The beft poffible method of afcertaining, is to put them into water, if they lye on their bilge, they are good and frefh--if they bob up an end they are ftale, and if they rife they are addled, proved, and of no ufe."

--from American Cookery, or the art of dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the best modes of making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and all kinds of Cakes, from the imperial Plumb to plain Cake. Adapted to this country, and all grades of life by Amelia Simmons, an American Orphan c. 1796

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cloth Diapering (and accessories)

I used cloth diapers on Pickles and had planned to use them on Innocent. As you may remember from my previous post I chose AIOs because Father wasn't entirely sold on them and I wanted them to be as easy to use as disposables. The big problem was the laundry - they're so hard to wash and dry.

Now that I'm looking forward to another baby in cloth diapers, I'm taking a look at what I have (figuratively - I haven't gotten diapers down from the attic). I do have lots of prefolds but they're pretty large. I have the AIOs. I have a couple PUL covers and some Snappies. That's about it. Thinking about the laundry issues with the AIOs is kind of depressing. I'm actually considering selling most of them on Diaper Swappers or Ebay and then buying smaller prefolds (and maybe some decent flats). I'll probably keep a couple (most likely the ones that have stains that won't come out) but I think the AIOs have had their day.

This is what I'm considering doing:


or Flats:


Fleece cover:

or Wool cover:

I plan on making my own fleece and wool covers. I can't knit, but I can turn thrifted wool sweaters into covers! There are many sites on how to do this. I am also considering making some of my own fitted prefolds. Again, there many sites with instructions. Old flannel cut up and edged with a zig-zag stitch will make good reusable wipes. It feels nice to get rid of all the synthetic stuff.

Probably will be more posts on this in the future.

(Most photos from Green Mountain Diapers)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

If it looks like trash...

...maybe it is.

See that bag of trash? "The bag filled with discarded paper and cardboard was part of a work by Gustav Metzger, said to demonstrate the "finite existence" of art. It was thrown away by a cleaner at the London gallery, which subsequently retrieved the damaged bag." (2004)

(2001) It is often said that modern art is rubbish, but never did it ring as true as when an art gallery cleaner binned a work by Damien Hirst because he thought the installation was exactly that - leftover rubbish.

Emmanuel Asare thought the piles of full ashtrays, half-filled coffee cups, empty beer bottles and newspapers strewn across the gallery were the remnants of a party in the west London gallery.

Although that is what it was, this rubbish had been arranged by Hirst into an impromptu installation, which increased its value by thousands.

Hirst had arrived at the launch party of a new exhibition of his work, Painting-By-Numbers, on Tuesday night at the Eyestorm gallery. When asked how he would like his prints to be displayed in the windows, the artist, famed for his formaldehyde animals, decided to create a new work.

The next morning when Mr Asare arrived for work, he decided to clean up the mess straight away by putting it all in bin bags. Mr Asare said: "As soon as I clapped eyes on it I sighed because there was so much mess.

"I didn't think for a second that it was a work of art - it didn't look much like art to me. So I cleared it all into binbags and dumped it."

Staff were dispatched to find the binbags in the rubbish, and salvaged the various objects, which they used to reconstruct the installation from photographs taken earlier.

(2011) An overzealous cleaner in Germany has ruined a piece of modern art worth £690,000 after mistaking it for an eyesore that needed a good scrub.

The sculpture by the German artist Martin Kippenberger, widely regarded as one of the most talented artists of his generation until his death in 1997, had been on loan to the Ostwall Museum in Dortmund when it fell prey to the cleaner's scouring pad.

The work, called When It Starts Dripping From the Ceiling (Wenn's anfÃĪngt durch die Decke zu tropfen), comprised a rubber trough placed underneath a rickety wooden tower made from slats. Inside the trough, Kippenberger had spread a layer of paint representing dried rainwater. He thought it was art: the cleaner saw it as a challenge, and set about making the bucket look like new.

A spokeswoman for the museum told German media that the female cleaner "removed the patina from the four walls of the trough".
"It is now impossible to return it to its original state," she said, adding that it had been on loan to the museum from a private collector and was valued by insurers at €800,000 (£690,000).