Monday, August 29, 2011

Bus Rides

Two weeks ago, just as Ezra’s daycare began its two-week summer hiatus, the public schools started their 2011-2012 school year.  This worked out wonderfully for Ezra.   Everyday at 3:30 we would sit on our stoop, eat a snack, and wave as the school buses passed on their way to the elementary school a block away.  Ezra’s obsession with buses has not wavered over the summer so this was one of the favorite parts of his daily routine. 
Amanda and I also enjoyed a school bus this week.  Rather than filled with anxious and excited children off to meet a new teacher, make new friends, and explore a new curriculum, our bus was piloted by Merry Pranksters and fueled by psychedelic drugs.  We did not ride this bus. We missed its stop by nearly 50 years, but learned all about Ken Kesey’s1964 cross-country, LSD adventure in the documentary Magic Trip.  The film was shown at the IU Cinema and followed by a Skype interview with one of the Merry Pranksters, Ed (Captain Kentucky) McClanahan.  Before setting out on their journey, Kesey and the Merry Pranksters painted their bus and christened it “Further” - a place that can only be reached by pushing one's own perceptions of reality.  With their bus trip and subsequent parties in the San Francisco bay area, the pranksters asked people "if they could pass the Acid Tests?" as they provided a counter-culture bridge between the beats and the hippies.
The spirit of our playful (yet very adult) painted bus full of costumed passengers merged with the innocence of Ezra’s buses by the end of the week in a different form: the Muppets.
Ezra was already a big Sesame Street fan.  Curious about how the newer episodes differ from the classic episodes I partially remember as a toddler, I searched Netflix for older seasons of the show.  All that was available via streaming was a twentieth anniversary special from 1989 featuring Kermit the Frog in his role as news reporter.  Ezra fell in love with “frog.”  We had already been listening to the Muppet tribute album The Green Album, and "Rainbow Connection" has always been one of Ezra’s favorite bedtime songs so we decided it was time to introduce Ezra to the The Muppet Movie Friday night.  “Look frog, SEE!”  "There frog!" Pointing and joyful clapping greeted Kermit with every appearance on screen.  The disappointed voice of a toddler questioning, “where’s frog? Want frog,” filled the room during the movies few Kermitless scenes.  He was partially appeased by appearances of “bear,” but was indifferent to the Muppet’s band, The Electric Mayhem, and their painted school bus.  A traditionalist, Ezra prefers his buses yellow and his Muppets green.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Snapshots: August 22-28

This week . . .
We built new shelves for our toys.
 We tried new hair styles.
We met "frog" and "bear."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Help Legalize Midwives in Indiana

Ezra was born at home. I'm grateful for the prenatal care we received from our midwife, grateful for Ezra's safe, quick, and uncomplicated delivery into the hands of a midwife, and grateful there is an obstetrician willing to provide back-up care for the midwives in our area in case a hospital transfer should be required.

Unfortunately, it is illegal in Indiana for midwives to deliver babies at home. According to data from the Midwives Alliance of North America, midwifery is prohibited in 10 states, including Indiana, and only 26 states regulate midwives. Midwifery licensure provides legal protection for midwives attending home births and also protects families by setting standards for midwifery training and certification.

If you support home birth and are a resident of Indiana, please join the Facebook group Indiana Push for Midwives to learn what you can do to help support upcoming legislation for CPM (Certified Professional Midwife) licensure in Indiana, which would legalize midwifery in our state.

Also at noon today, you can listen to local home birth advocates discuss the advantages of home birthing on the program Noon Edition at Indiana Public Media.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Belly Ice

Ezra is becoming a picky eater. He's never been a great eater - frankly, he's not that big of a guy and has never experienced the hunger of a sudden growth spurt - but he's given up a lot of his previously favorite foods. For example blueberries, bananas and yogurt are now all rejected. These are kind of biggies since they're healthy, and he now just seems to prefer carbs.

Ezra however loves ice. He asks for ice all the time. Since ice is not exactly full of nutrition, I froze some blueberries last week and offered them to him as "blueberry ice." I really like to snack on frozen blueberries and hoped Ezra would too.  He loves his (renamed) "belly ice," and asks for it constantly. Too bad he's not actually eating them! He puts them in his mouth one at at time just until they start to thaw and moves on to the next. It's good I like them because I'm the one actually eating them. At least  he is putting healthy food in his mouth, even if only for seconds.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Snapshots: August 15-21

We ate lunch in a cave.
We read new books.
We saw exciting things at the zoo.  Like...
 a giant tortoise,
a lemur family,
and many other wild animals.
We had fun with grandma.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Phantom Menace Unmasked?

According to our last town meeting agenda, how to deal with our “town menace” was one of the main topics of discussion. I missed the meeting and therefore the briefing on this threat. Discovering whom or what is menacing our quiet, little town has been my mission for the last week, and I have been asking fellow townspeople what they knew.  Mostly what I learned is that nobody attends the town meeting. The fact that we even read the agenda put us in the informed minority.

After mentioning the menace to a couple of neighbors they too became intrigued.  Like the “pesky kids” of the Scooby gang, we set out to unmask the menace.  This is what we discovered.  The perilous entity and horrific danger that is threatening our town is . . .

a man with a metal detector who has been frequenting our parks.

He is digging small holes looking for lost treasures.  Our threat is a human mole. I admit when Piper and I see him and his shovel on our walks we do become aggravated by his destruction and rudeness, but as Amanda points out he seems more like a “town nuisance” than “town menace.”   I am reducing our town alert warning from red to yellow. 

Snapshots: August 8-14

We went to the drive-in and watched Mr. Popper's Penguins (thumbs-down) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (thumbs-up).  Regardless of the movie, the drive-in always gets a thumbs-up!
We played hide-n-seek in a giant pile of dirty laundry.
We went to a party for our friend's third birthday, and had an egg race.
We remembered our Cheerios for the car ride to daycare.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Homebirth Dad

This post was originally published on The Bloomington Area Birth Services Blog where Garry is a regular contributor. 

Though it seems far from possible, my once-newborn son is now almost two years old.  The day Ezra was born seems like both yesterday and a hundred years ago.  As with all memories, his birth is quickly fading into a flash of moments. Luckily, Ezra’s birth was recorded with both photographs and multiple birth stories.  I always felt like my primary contribution to this series was fun to write, but lacked any insight into my experience as a father attending his child’s birth.  Looking through the birth photographs almost two years later, I realize I probably will never be able to capture in words exactly what that moment felt like.  I also realize there is no need to recount the circumstances of the birth.  The birth itself has been well documented, but what I have never discussed is how happy I am with our decision to birth Ezra at home.

Before continuing, I want to state that I do not think everyone should have a homebirth. How to birth your child is a choice that varies from person to person, and I do not think there is a wrong or right decision – only a wrong or right decision for you and your circumstances.  Homebirth was a great option for Amanda and myself.  The pregnancy was low risk.  We had a great birth team including a wonderful midwife and supportive backup doctor if a hospital transfer was ever required.  Most importantly, Amanda and I were both completely comfortable with the idea of homebirth.

When I mention Ezra was born at home, a common response I hear from mothers is that they were interested in homebirth, but their partner’s reluctance vetoed the option.  If Amanda had been pregnant at the time we first approached the subject of homebirth, I probably would have echoed this same unwillingness.   Fortunately, Amanda and I thought about having a child several years before we actually committed to it. During that time, Amanda began reading about pregnancy, birth options, and discovered a local pregnancy, birth, and parenting education and support center, Bloomington Area Birth Services.   We discussed homebirth in the safest atmosphere possible – one where the pregnancy was only theoretical.  During the gap between the first thoughts of breeding and the actual progeny, I had plenty of time to slowly become familiar with homebirth, learn more about it, notice when other people including several friends had their children at home, and realize what a supportive environment Bloomington is for homebirth parents. By the time Amanda became pregnant in 2009, I was not only comfortable but also excited with the idea that our child would most likely be born at home.

I am really happy that all of the circumstances came together to allow Ezra to be born at home.  I believe a homebirth made me more comfortable with the birth process, a better support person for Amanda, and helped me feel more relaxed in caring for a seconds old newborn.   Since I knew from the beginning of the pregnancy, that we hoped to have a homebirth, I felt very motivated to learn as much about birth as possible.  Hospitals give an illusion of an endless amount of staff.  There is always another doctor or nurse just around the corner to help out.  For our birth, we planned to have a midwife, her apprentice, a doula, my sister, and brother-in-law in attendance.  Knowing there were only 7 people attending the birth including Amanda (and my sister and her husband had never seen a birth before), I wanted to know and understand as much as possible about what to expect.  The statistical likelihood of me needing to “help out” seemed so much higher than in a hospital.  I was thankful for all of this extra preparedness when Amanda’s labor went faster than expected and I was home alone with her very close to transition.  I could not help but ask myself if I had prepared enough to actually deliver a baby.  I was relieved to not have to find out.

Having less people around also helped me to be a better support person for Amanda. Everyone at the birth had clear roles and jobs during the birth, and mine was to support Amanda and help her to manage pain.  The importance of this role was clear to everyone, and they insured I was able to stay focused without interruptions. Everyone also knew our wishes, needs, and personalities well enough to not distract us with unwanted advice or unhelpful suggestions. Everyone was on the same page the entire birth because the same few people were present for its duration.

Of course, homebirth allows more control over the birth, more privacy, and many other advantages during labor, but I think the true payoff is once the baby is born.  You and your partner are in the comfortable surroundings of your own home with your healthy, new baby. This made initial bonding and learning to care for Ezra much easier.   Everyone attending the birth stepped back to let us, the new mom and dad, care for our new son. We held him; we comforted him; he and Amanda learned to nurse; we gave him his name.  The process of getting to know Ezra seemed quiet and natural.  Personally, I would have felt panicked leaving a hospital with a brand new infant. After having hospital staff around to monitor the baby and supervise our caring for him, I would have built up lot of anxiety about caring for Ezra on our own without “experienced” people to help. Not having this unnecessary supervision actually made us feel more confident as new parents.  We had no reason to doubt our ability to care for our newborn unaided because we had already begun to do so.  Two hours after Ezra was born, the three of us were alone.  We were a new family caring for each other in the same place we would do so for years to come.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guinness Chocolate Cake

Amanda was recently telling me how she enjoys reading a certain cooking blog because the author’s writing is so predictable.  Almost every post begins with him stating how he has been wanting to try a certain recipe and then giving the reason he has finally made it.  Taking a cue from him…

I came across this recipe for a Guinness Chocolate Cake a few weeks ago, and have been looking for a reason to try it.  This weekend Amanda’s sister, Jessica, was visiting from North Carolina, and she had just recently turned 30.  What better way to celebrate her visit and her 30th birthday than with cake and beer – together at last!
Though the cake was good, it is not my favorite chocolate cake.  My heart still belongs to a vegan chocolate, zucchini cake (I’ll share that recipe some other time).   I would still recommend trying it, and would love to hear what other people think.  Next time I plan to use a darker chocolate like Dutch process cocoa, which was recommended by the recipe, and to cook the cake five minutes less.  Since I made the cake in two layers, unlike the recipe, I adjusted the cooking time to 40 minutes.  I recommend 30-35 minutes.
 The frosting was simple and delicious, and perfect to top with berries.

Guinness Chocolate Cake
By Nigella Lawson

Cake Ingredients:
1 c. and 2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 c. Guinness
¾ c. Dutch process cocoa, sifted
2  and 1/4 c. all purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking soda
2 c.  sugar
2 medium eggs
2/3 c. sour cream
1 tbsp. good quality vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients:
1 and 1/3 c. cream cheese
1 and 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
 2/3 c. cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 350F.

1. Add butter, cocoa and Guinness to a saucepan. Warm over a medium heat and stir until melted. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to cool slightly.

2. Add flour, baking soda and sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix together well. Pour in the Guinness/cocoa/butter mixture, lightly combine, add the vanilla, eggs and sour cream and beat everything together until well combined. The batter should be thick and dark chocolate in color.

3. Pour into a greased and lined 10″ angel food pan (or another straight-sided tube pan) and cook in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean from the center of the cake.*Note: This cake is very moist inside, so use your judgment regarding the skewer test. Do not leave in the oven until the cake has totally dried out — cook long enough so there is no uncooked cake on the skewer but there may be a few moist crumbs sticking to it after an hour of cooking. 

4. Leave to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the cake tin and placing on a wire wrack to cool completely.

Frosting Instructions
1. Place the cream cheese into the bowl of a mixer and beat on a low-medium speed using a whisk attachment (I find a paddle attachment tends to over-beat the cheese). Whisk until the cheese is smooth and there are no big lumps remaining.

2. Gradually, using a large spoon, add in the sifted powdered sugar and beat gently to combine. After 2 to 3 minutes, stop the machine, scrape any excess frosting from the sides of the bowl and beat on medium speed until lump free.

3. Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in the whipped cream, mixing to fully combine.

4. Place cooled cake on a cake stand and add the frosting, spreading out just to the edge without going over the side (never go over the sides of the cake) until the cake resembles a pint of the creamy black stuff! The idea is to capture the essence and simplicity of a pint of Guinness.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Snapshots: August 1-7

We practiced deflecting bullets with our magic bracelets.
We saw dinosaurs at The Indianapolis Children's Museum.
We helped our family water their garden.
We thought of new party tricks - like popping bubbles with our tongue.
We celebrated 30th birthdays.
 We relaxed in our pool.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Phantom Menace

Our life is a tale divided between two cities.  We work and spend the majority of our waking hours in a small, Midwest college town. We live and sleep in our church in a tiny town of 200 people.  Bloomington, where we work, has had a difficult summer.  The summer began with the disappearance of a female college student within a few blocks of her downtown apartment.  Last week a man took a woman hostage at gunpoint for over an hour.  A sniper with the city’s police department shot and killed the man.  I was surprised by both incidents as well as by the fact that the police keep a sniper on staff since most of the city’s “crime” involves rowdy, often drunk, undergraduate students.

Stinesville, where we live, has apparently also been experiencing crime this summer.  The nature of this problem is more unclear, or at least a mystery to us.  When picking up our mail at our post office this week, an item on the agenda for our monthly town meeting caught our attention.  The meeting would include a discussion regarding the “town menace” and whether or not the town could issue a restraining order.  We were intrigued.  Who or what is this menace?  How did we not know about him/her/it?  How is the entity menacing?  Is our church, desperately in need of painting, the menace? Our barking dog?  If the town is truly menaced, wouldn’t we be aware of it? We took our lack of knowledge as further evidence of our failure at integrating ourselves in small town life – specifically small town talk and gossip

All communities both big and small must deal with their menaces real, imaginary, and exaggerated. I’m reminded of a recently released book I have wanted to read. Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns by Judy Muller looks at the tiny weekly newspapers around the country.  These small papers, which report on local news and events, continue to thrive while their larger counterparts are collapsing.  But, before I sit down to read this book, I should probably first make an effort to meet more people in my own community, and find out what’s up with our own menace.

****Read The Phantom Menace Unmasked to solve this mystery

Monday, August 1, 2011

Snapshots: July 25-31

While Grandma Wanda was visiting, we went to the Monroe County Fair.
Ezra liked the baby ducks best of all the animals.
A little farm girl introduced Ezra to the goats.
Ezra and his new balls and his new VW "BUS!" shirt.