Monday, August 23, 2010

Houses for Haiti


It's been seven months since the earthquake that devastated Haiti and the media spotlight has long since left this little island nation. Yet, in spite of all the foreign aid that has poured in, well over a million people are still homeless. The live in tents that are tattered and worn by the fierce sun, hurricane winds, and torrential rains that mark summertime in Haiti. They live, if you can call it that, under whatever pieces of shade and shelter they can find, under old tarps held up by sticks, trying to stay dry, trying to protect and feed their children. They live in overcrowded makeshift camps, thousands upon thousands of precious souls, with nothing to protect them from disease, flooding, theft, and rape.

A Haitian woman and her children.

I've written before about the work of my dear friends Shelley and Corrigan Clay and their non-profit organization, The Apparent Project. They are working to provide employment for Haitians, as well as providing education, food, and housing as they're able. Many of Haiti's orphans still have parents, but their parents are unable to provide for them; they are poverty orphans. Shelley and Corrigan's heart is to provide families with the tools they need to stay together. At last count they were employing around 70 people making jewelry and other products which are sold here in the United States.

A beautiful necklace crafted by Apparent Artisans; even the paper beads are handmade!

One of the latest endeavors of The Apparent Project is to help build permanent homes for families who are still homeless. With a matching grant from the Netherlands, they are able to build a small but sturdy house for a donation of only $1600. That's about what many of us pay a every month or two for our rent or mortgage, and this will build a whole house!  They're able to purchase these homes from a company who also employs Haitians in the pre-construction phase. The $1600 includes everything- the labor (more Haitians given work!), all the supplies, paint, floor, etc. The Apparent Project doesn't take any overhead on house donations.

One of the four houses already built by The Apparent Project.

Now I realize that $1600 is more than most of us have jingling around in our pockets; that's where my friends and family come in. I felt challenged to see if I could raise the money to put up one house in Haiti, so here I am asking for you to join me in making this a reality. When I break it down it doesn't really seem like such a big deal. If all of my Facebook friends gave $10, we could put up a house! Or if 40 families could each give $40, we could raise enough money to get one family in a safe home! I'm going to ask my homeschool groups, friends, and family to join in this project, and my husband will ask his co-workers.

     This is my challenge to you, my plea on behalf of someone who is desperately in need of our help. Here's what I'm asking you to do:

  1. Click on Chipin at the top of this post. You will be taken directly to The Apparent Project's paypal page where you can make a donation.  
  2. Come back here and leave a comment letting me know that you donated. You'll be able to see how much progress we're making in the Chipin widget at the top. I have a couple of lovely necklaces from The Apparent Project, and everyone who donates and leaves a comment will be entered to win one of them. 
  3. Grab a "Houses for Haiti" button above or from the upper left corner and put it on your blog. (Just copy and paste the code and it will link back to this post. Also, please share this on Facebook, Twitter, through email, etc. Spread the word, share the love... let's build a house! 
  4. If you blog it, Facebook it, Twitter it, or otherwise communicate it, then leave an additional comment and you'll receive more entries to win a necklace. 
  5. Pray for the people of Haiti, the work of The Apparent Project and all the others who are working there. 
In the event that we're unable to raise a full $1600, then our money can join in with other donations to help build a house. In the event we raise more... awesome!  

Special thanks to Shelley Clay for the use of her photos, and to my friend Ali Telfer who designed the button. Ali does blog design and all proceeds go to help fund her family's adoption journey. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grain Free Scones

    A few years ago we had a lovely Sunday evening tradition of having "tea" for dinner. It usually consisted of scones, tea, and a few other small things, maybe some slices of cheese or hard boiled eggs. It was simple, and a nice way to end the weekend together. We got away from it in the last several months, as Erik, Peregrine, and Poppy have been off of all grains.
    I love to bake, and had been pretty proficient at doing gluten free, but grain free has been a new challenge! Thankfully, there's a lot you can do with both almond and coconut flour. When I posted on Facebook last week that we were having grain free scones someone asked me for the recipe so I thought I'd share it here. This is adapted from a recipe in Elana Amsterdam's wonderful book, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. I highly recommend both her book and her website, With no further ado, here's the recipe I've been using.

Currant and Lemon Zest Scones
(Cute little boy not included)

Sunday Evening Scones

2 1/2 C Blanched Almond Flour
1/2 t. Sea Salt
1/2 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t Cinnamon, Nutmeg, or Cardamom (optional)
1/3 C Melted Coconut Oil
1/4 C Honey
2 Eggs
1 T Grated Citrus Peel (optional)
 1 C Currants, Nuts, Dried Fruit, or Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet or two small sheets with parchment paper. 
In a large mixing bowl combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, and spice if using. 
In a separate bowl combine melted coconut oil, honey, eggs, and citrus zest; whisk to combine. Add wet ingredients and whatever nuts and/or dried fruit you're using to the almond flour mixture. Mix just until it forms a stiff dough. Drop the batter, in scant 1/4 cups, onto the parchment lined baking sheets. 
Bake for 12-17 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. You can do the toothpick test if you're not sure if they're done or not. Serve warm or cool. 

This post is linked to Real Food Forager's Grain Free Round-Up.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Letter to Pearl (at Three Months)

Pearl at Three Months

    My dear sweet little Pearl,
    Can you really be three months old? Already? It was a year ago we learned that God was blessing us with another baby. I was thrilled, of course, filled with hope and expectation and a tiny seed of a baby girl. The months went by, and as my belly expanded we all looked eagerly forward to the day you would make your appearance. There was a time when I didn't know if we would be able to have any more babies, and since then God has given us two more, your big brother Raphael, and you.
    You, sweet Pearl. The moment I particularly looked forward to for so long came and went, like it has with your brothers and sister ahead of you. It was the brief moment when labor was over and everything faded in the perfect and precious light of you. Your Daddy caught you and gently lifted you up onto my chest, into my weary arms. You were warm and soft and wet and perfect, and nothing else mattered. There are really no words to describe that instant, when I held you for the first time, when I saw your sweet face and your little body. It is so fleeting, that moment, and yet it will remain in my memory. I loved you already, of course, but now I could see you and touch you and hold you close.
    It seems like you just arrived, but already you've changed and grown so much. You were born perfectly soft and delicate, with dark hair and dark eyes; you enraptured each and every one of us. I'm so thankful for the first 40 days I had with you, when I had lots of time to snuggle and hold and nurse and cuddle you. I've learned, as all mamas must, that those days are too fleeting, that by the end of them the floppy little newborn is already gone, replaced by a bright and wondrous baby.
    You are scrumptious and soft and delightful, little one. You don't cry much, and when you do it's usually not too hard to figure out what you need. Your big sister Poppy, who adores you, knows "the list" and will sometimes help me rule things out: Is she hungry? Is she tired? Does she need a clean diaper? Even at night you rarely cry; I awaken to your soft stirrings and lift you close, where we snuggle and you nurse and are perfectly content together.
    Poppy and Peregrine love to hold you, to smile and coo at you or sing to you. You delight them, and all of us, with your big gummy smiles. I love how your whole body joins in with some of those smiles, little arms waving and legs pumping. Your first smiles were so tentative and we really had to work to get them out of you, but not anymore. Now you see us and break into huge grins. You bring us such joy.
    Raphael loves you too, and if you survive his brand of love you're going to be a tough little cookie! For as often as he hears the word, he doesn't have a very good handle on "gentle" yet... but we're working on it. He's had a bit of a hard time getting used to not being my "baby" anymore. Sometimes when I'm holding you he points at your car seat and says to me "Seat! Baby! Mama! Seat!" He loves to hold you too, with lots of help from Mama. I really have to keep an eye on him when he's near you. I think, though, that you and Raphi are going to be great buddies someday.
    You laughed for the first time the other night. You've developed some pretty great cheeks and now you're working on a second chin. I was trying to clean out what our friends call "the cheese factory", where your chin(s) meet your neck, and you laughed. It was the most beautiful and innocent of sounds. I know, like your smiles, that soon it will come easily, but for now we'll work hard to hear that sound. I look forward to lots of happy laughter with you!
    I love you sweetie, and I tell you so often. You don't know what the words mean yet, but you know you're loved. I look at you and wonder who you are, wonder who you will become. I am humbled at the task ahead of me, of raising you, and your brothers and sister. I so often fall short of the example I want to be, of the love you deserve. I'm glad you're part of our family little Brigid Pearl Annabelle. I can't imagine it without you.
    You are the sweetest baby of my heart.


Monday, August 16, 2010


Just as every child is unique, it seems that every labor and delivery plays out differently than the other. Having done this four times now, you'd think I might have some idea of how my body "does" it, but each time I'm surprised. Before the details fade even more, here is the story of Brigid's birth.
    I strongly dislike due dates. As much as I try to downplay "the date" as a magical day, it's pretty hard to ignore. Both of my boys were "late" and Poppy was "early" so I was really hoping we'd have a girl/boy pattern here and this baby girl would be early as well. Forty weeks of pregnancy were to be completed on May 17th, a Monday. I felt really good through most of this pregnancy, and even at the end I was ready, but not miserable. On Sunday night I started having some mild contractions, not strong, but something different than the Braxton-Hicks I'd been having for months. In the past, "those" contractions have never preceded real labor by more than a day or two. I got up Monday morning feeling like there was a good possibility that I'd go into labor that day, and thought it would be funny to have a baby actually born on their due date. Erik stayed home from work and I was able to rest and relax some. My mom, dad, and sisters were all "on call", waiting and ready to come and help when we needed them.

The Belly, in the "fullness of the time" , the day before she was born.

    On Monday afternoon both Peregrine and Poppy had dress rehearsal for their dance classes. My sister Alyssa offered to take them, but I wanted to go since I figured I would probably not make it to their recitals the following weekend; surely Baby would make her appearance before that! Erik and I decided to take them, and Alyssa met us there to help out and "just in case" we needed to leave. I continued to have contractions on and off throughout the day, and I remember walking around at the recital and actually having to stop for a contraction. I enjoyed watching my precious kids make their big debut; Poppy as a fluffy ballerina, and Peregrine tapping and tumbling away as a garage mechanic... they made quite a pair!

Peregrine and Poppy after their rehearsal.

    We got home, put the kids to bed, and decided we'd better get some rest too. Since it was the end of the day I hoped for a decent night's sleep and that "real" labor would hold off until morning. I lay down in my bed, arranging pillows, trying to get as comfortable as possible. Just as I would drift off to sleep I would have a contraction. They seemed to be coming about every 15 minutes, and getting stronger as that long night wore on. Being tired, I just lay on my side, breathing through them, sleeping in between. I frequently got up to go to the bathroom, and every time I did it would bring on more contractions. With all of my other labors my water had broken prior to or at the onset of labor, so even though the contractions were strong and regular I was still a little unsure as to whether this was "it" or not. I kept thinking it would really kick in if I got up and walked around, but I just wanted to sleep. As the night passed the contractions got closer together, but were still only about ten minutes apart. Through all of this my husband slept peacefully beside me, apparently unaware of my turning from side to side and numerous visits to the bathroom. I figured I might as well let him sleep, as he'd need all the rest he could later on. 
    My sister Alyssa had emailed me before she went to bed, saying she'd be up for a while and if I needed anything to let her know. I considered calling her or my parents, thought about asking her to bring over her yoga ball for me to sit on. But, as much as I wanted to have this baby, I really, really wanted some sleep first! So all through the night I slept in short stretches, in between contractions. They grew stronger, so strong that I was gripping my pillow with one hand, my prayer rope in the other, my fingers moving over the knots as I tried to focus not on the pain, but on Jesus, my strength and the giver of mercy. 
    Finally at about 5AM I was tired of laying there trying to sleep; I decided it was time to get up and test my theory. I woke up Erik, who kicked into gear. Sure enough the contractions started getting a little closer together. I sat in my rocking chair for a while and I think Erik made me eat some yogurt. I remember leaning on the counter, moaning, and Erik said that we needed to call the midwife. He's been with me through enough labors to know that if I'm moaning, it's intense, and if it's intense, it could happen quickly. My contractions were still only about 7 minutes apart and I think I argued with him a little, saying the midwife would just tell us to call back when they were closer together. We called my parents to let them know what was going on and then we called the midwife, Michelle. Sure enough, she talked to me and I guess I wasn't too convincing, because she suggested I take a shower or bath and call back when they were coming faster.
    In the time it took me to walk to the bathroom and get ready to get in the tub, I was having a contraction, a strong one, every two or three minutes! Erik called her back and told her we were going to head over, as he wasn't comfortable waiting any longer. My mom and dad got here quickly, and Erik and I, along with my Mom and Poppy, all left for the birthing center. It was a beautiful spring morning, and we got there about 6:45AM. The nurse checked me for dilation and you can imagine my surprise when she said I was at 8 centimeters! I figured it wouldn't be long at all before we would meet out little girl.
    I got into the tub, where I hoped to finish off labor and give birth. The water felt great, so relaxing; unfortunately a little too relaxing, as my contractions slowed down to about five or six minutes apart. It felt good to have a little break, but I had a hard time getting into a comfortable position and after a while I had to come to terms with the fact that the water wasn't "working" for me. The rational part of me knew I needed to let go of my desire to give birth in the water and try something else. Michelle, the midwife, had actually just delivered another baby that morning, so she arrived while I was in the tub. She had such a calm presence; I really appreciated her quiet manner and how hands-off she was. Erik was right there with me, of course, and my Mom and sisters, Alyssa and Gloria, were also there, offering strength, encouragement, humor, and sips of coconut water. My sweet little Poppy would run in every few minutes and say "I love you Mama" and bring me cards she was making in the other room.

Sister Love.
 We've all been at each other's births. I have the best sisters in the world! 

Poppy brought me a Poppy... I was surrounded with such love.

   I got out of the tub, (with some help!) and tried hanging on the squat bar for a while. It didn't escape my notice that the foam covering the bar had bite marks on it. Contractions at this point were very strong, and I think I moaned and sung and probably even roared a little through them. I leaned over the edge of the bed for a while, puzzled and beginning to feel a little frustrated that it wasn't happening more quickly. Michelle felt for the baby's position and said that she was still pretty high up, even though I was so far dilated. She suggested I walk some more, or that she could break my water. As much as I'm in favor of letting things happen naturally, I was very tired and knew that breaking the water would probably help bring baby down. After she broke the water, I labored upright for a few more minutes, and then Michelle suggested that I try laying on my side. At this point I was feeling the urge to push.

Intense for both of us... getting closer.

    The details become a little fuzzy to me at this point. I found laying on my side awkward, but, well, pushing is never comfortable! I usually feel a great sense of relief when it's time to push, like I can finally put all that energy into something instead of just trying to breathe through contractions. And while pushing is never easy, this time it was extra hard. I was seriously doubting that I was able to do it. I remember really roaring, so much that my throat was hurting, and my mom told me to tuck my chin. All of my strength, all that was in me, working, pushing, giving birth, bringing my baby to the light...

Love and joy!
My mom took this and you can see the beads of sweat on my face.

    And she moved through me, out of me; I always think that is the most incredible sensation! She was born at 9:21AM, just about 2 1/2 hours after arriving at the birth center. Erik caught her and placed her tenderly up on me, all warm and wet and new and beautiful. Joy filled my heart, filled the room. The moment of so many expectations, so much hope, had come to pass and our precious baby girl was in my arms. Poppy got up on the bed to admire and meet her new baby sister, and everyone joined in the thanks and happiness! It was a moment I had envisioned for so long; one of the sweetest memories are those moments when you hold your baby for the first time.  It's so fleeting and yet indelibly imprinted in my memory.

My Mom and my girls.

    Our little Pearl had no interest in eating for quite a while. I just held her close, snuggled up against me, enjoying sweet rest and the indescribable wonder of her. She was strong, healthy, perfect. There were a few details I only learned a little later. In the last moments of labor my eyes were closed and I was very internal. I didn't know if Erik had gotten to deliver her or not, as he has with our last two. I was so glad when he told me he was the one who lifted her up onto me. The midwife also said that Pearl was born posterior, or face up, which I think explains why pushing was so much harder this time. I didn't have any back labor in spite of her being in that position, and thankfully, I didn't tear either.  I also didn't know that Poppy had been very upset at seeing me so animated and loud at the end. Alyssa had stood just outside the door with her as I was pushing, and Poppy cried and told her that she never wanted to have babies. (She apparently has that wonderful quality given to women, the ability to forget the pain of labor. She told me this morning, when I was teasing her about not growing up, that of course she will grow up because she wants to have a baby! I'm glad she wasn't traumatized for life!) Alyssa also told me that two men from the laundry service were in the hall collecting the laundry and got a real earful! I bet the birthing center is one of the more interesting places they service.


She weighed in at 7lbs 6oz, our smallest baby by an ounce!

   After a while my sisters and Mom and Poppy left and it was just Erik, Brigid, and I. We all snuggled together in the big bed, just resting and enjoying the quiet. I slept for a while and Erik held our sweet bundle. We had several hours together, uninterrupted, before they even weighed her. I loved the atmosphere of the birthing center; it was so peaceful, homelike, and comfortable. Late in the afternoon my parents brought the other kids over to meet their new little sister. We left the birthing center around 7PM, a family of six! My parents took Peregrine and Poppy to spend the night, and so it was just Erik and I and "the littles". Our priest came over to offer special prayers for little Pearl, our newest blessing from God. 
Welcome to the family, little one!


    And so went the story of our dear Brigid's birth. It was totally unlike any of the other kids' births, unique just like her. We are so thankful that everything went well and that God chose to bless us with this precious little girl. Thank you all for your prayers and love!