Monday, December 29, 2008

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

Well, here it is: the story of Conan's birth. Be warned, it's a little graphic in places. I completely understand if some of my readers prefer NOT to know all about what it took to get my little dude into the world! But I feel like it's time for me to write it down for posterity - you can decide to read or not to read at your own risk.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Conan's winter storms finally abated and left us with this beautiful Christmas morning:

(I call them Conan's winter storms because they started 12/13 - the night after he was born - and continued non-stop for two weeks.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blue Boy

I felt strong enough today to play dress-up with Conan, here he is in the beautiful sweater set that Sandra in Chile knit for him. It's amazing how much time a baby takes up. The days just disappear and at the end of them it seems like all I've done is feed him, eat, and try and get a little rest myself between feedings while he naps. I'm starting to get my energy back, though - as you can see, I actually found a couple minutes to post on the blog here! Luckily between my Mom and Cary the laundry, dishes, shopping and cooking all gets taken care of without requiring effort on my part.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Conan Alexander Mapes

He's one week old today. He's cuter than all the cute things I've ever seen added together. Now if only he would sleep, even just a little bit, at night...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Today's Conan's official due date. I had a lot of contractions last night, they kept me up until 1 am but then faded away. Damn. We might be close or we might have another two weeks to go, no way to tell. Here's hoping we're close!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Diaper & Nursery Update

New diaper tech: Gussets and Fold Over Elastic (FOE). I'm pretty pleased with how professional these look! I used the Wee Weka pattern and made 6 diapers. They are size small/medium so they won't fit right away but they should work for several months, supposedly up to about 25 lbs. This was my first time using FOE (which you have to order online from diaper-making supply places, they don't have it at Joann's or other "regular" fabric stores) and it takes a little getting used to. But it sure does make a nice neat finished diaper. These diapers definitly take more time to put together than the simpler ones I started with, but I think as baby Conan gets bigger and more active the gussets will really make a difference. I used up nearly all of the 10 yards of FOE I ordered though, so I'll have to go back to regular elastic & turned seams for a bit until I reorder. I still want to make another 10-12 newborn/small sized diapers anyhow, so I might go ahead and incorporate gussets into those. They aren't really that hard once you get the hang of them, I was pleasantly surprised.

In the nursery, we finally finished repainting the old white dresser, brought it back into the house, and set it up. Finally there is enough room to really organize all the baby clothes we've been given into dresser drawers! We also put up two of Will's paper star lantens, which make a lovely soft light in the room when it's dark. It's really relaxing, it'll be a nice space to sit in the rocker and nurse.
Now we just need to hang a few pictures on the walls and the nursery will be officially done! That feels like an accomplishment, even though we didn't really have to do any major work. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to pull down the plaster, re-wire, insulate, sheetrock and paint like Brian & Abby are doing. It was exhausting enough for me just to move out the old TV room stuff and move in the baby stuff. :)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Are we there yet?

One week to go... I hope. I've been having tons of prodromal labor (aka practice, false, or pre-labor). Basically this means contractions that hurt enough to wake me up and make me gasp, but not strong enough to stop me from being able to talk or move around. They are usually regularly spaced about 10 minutes apart, last a minute or two, and can go on for hours before just stopping. Apparently this starting & stopping is not uncommon, but it sure is frustrating! And it can/could go on for weeks without any progress... or it could turn into real labor at any minute - the worst part is not knowing.

Also, my belly is enormous. In fact, we've been calling it "The Enormity". Here's a side-view shot from the other night (I was pacing through some contractions):

This angle is a little odd but I think really captures how encumbered (or maybe eclipsed?) I feel:
Conan continues to grow & thrive, the Midwife estimates he's around 7 lbs now. He's a strong little kicker, too, and none too happy about how crowded and sqeezey it's getting in there. I keep telling him if he wants more room, he needs to come out here. It'll blow his mind how much room there is!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Holidays

We had a lovely Thanksgiving day dinner with the Mapes clan. We really have so much to be thankful for: our families, our friends, our home, the absence of want. Life is so good...

Yesterday we celebrated Buy Nothing Day by, well, buying nothing. We've been celebrating Buy Nothing Day on November 28th for many years now. Although it certainly isn't the enitre solution, in a small way it represents hope for a change from our consumeristic society. I don't want to live (or raise a child) in a world where shoppers trample store employees to death trying to beat each other to "deals" on cheap material crap. Beyond the lack of humanity evidenced by unfortunate incidences like that one, consumerism is not sustainable, and indeed will kill all of us and our planet if we don't start thinking CLEARLY about what we really need and recognizing what is truly important.

On that note, I reccommend watching this video, "The Story of Stuff":
I hope that by being concious of the impacts of our actions we can eventually build a better world. That would really be something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Done Working!

Yesterday was my last day of work, now I'm officially on maternity leave! Woooooo!

It feels really good to be done, although it's a little wierd - I've been working my entire adult life, and now I've had this job for nearly 11 years. (whoa!) It's really strange to think I will not be working for 3 whole months, I've never had that much time off before. Even durring the time I was "unemployed" between graduating from college and landing my current job (which took about 8 months) I was actually working quite a bit, as a temp. While I didn't work full-time while I was in school (either college or high school) since I was about 14 I've always had at least a part-time job working evenings & weekends, holidays & breaks. This whole "on leave" thing is going to be a strange experience for me in many ways. I bet I can handle it tho! :)

I'm really looking forward to having some time to finish some baby related projects, not to mention nesting. I'm getting some crazy urges to clean things that I'd never considered cleaning before. I cleaned the inside of the dishwasher already, and the washing machine door has some serious hard water deposits that need to be scrubbed off. And cobwebs, OMG. And I'd never really noticed before, but there's dust and cat hair on the top edge of the baseboard trim, all over the house! Also the pantry and all the closets need to be organized. Something clearly must be done about all this, and soon... because obviously I can't have a baby in a house with dusty baseboards and a disorganized pantry! It's wierd - I know it's totally irrational, but I am powerless to fight the urge to clean these things. [shrug]

Here's one baby project that I did finish recently which turned out really nicely, I made a mobile out of the blessing dolls which people made for baby Conan at the baby shower: It's hanging over the changing table in the nursery. It's really neat to look at. Each of the dolls is so unique, and they all carry a little paper scroll with a blessing written on it. Here are a couple of the individual dolls:

They are made from clothespins, yarn, fabric scraps, feathers, and love.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Birthday Numerology

Today was my 33rd birthday! We've been having some fun with numbers, since I'm turning 33 on the 22nd day of the 11th month - and just came home from a birthday party held in apartment #44. So far the number 55 hasn't turned up (except as the speed limit, but I think that's pushing it) but we'll see...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

37 Weeks - Full Term!

Today is a special milestone - baby Conan is now officially considered Full Term. He probably won't be born for at least another two weeks (possibly up to five) but whenever he does decide he's ready it will be OK. Medically, his lungs & other organs are fully developed now and he wouldn't require any special care to survive "outside". He might be a tad on the skinny side at this point, as these last few weeks are all about accumulating baby fat, but otherwise he'd be just like any other newborn.

Besides Conan himself being ready, we've finished getting & organizing all the supplies we'll need for the homebirth, so we're ready too. Most everything we'll need is packed in this laundry basket, ready & waiting to be deployed whenever labor starts.

If you are curious, here's what is in the basket:

  • 2 dozen extra large blue medical underpads
  • 1 dozen 4x4 sterile gauze pads
  • 1 digital thermometer
  • 1 sterile rubber 2 oz bulb syringe
  • 1 8 oz. peri squeeze bottle
  • 1 bottle hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 bottle witch hazel
  • 1 bottle olive oil
  • 2 dozen regular sanitary napkins
  • 1 pkg maximum absorbtion maxi pads
  • 2 sets of sheets
  • 1 12x12 painters' drop plastic
  • 1 12x12 blue plastic tarp
  • 2 plastic garbage bags
  • 2 ziploc freezer bags, 1 gallon size
  • drinking straws
  • heating pad
  • large plastic bowl
  • hand mirror
  • clean wash cloths
  • receiving blankets
  • diapers
  • sleepers for baby
  • cotton baby hat
  • nursing nightgown

    And in the freezer there are a couple soft-gel ice packs, frozen juice concentrate, and several boxes of popsicles. :)

    The plan is to set up the birthing tub right in the living room (on top of the blue plastic tarp) and make up the futon/couch as a bed (sheets, painters plastic, second set of sheets). It's the biggest room in the house, and the kitchen and one bathroom are right adjacent to it. Also, the wood stove is available if we want (or need) to have a fire going. You never know, we do get some big winter storms around the time we're expecting Conan to make his appearance. I actually think that would be pretty neat, to have a big storm going on outside while we were snug and warm laboring inside.

    The only thing we don't have at home yet is the birth tub itself, which we are renting. We are supposed to pick it up on Saturday, so that shouldn't be a problem. We even have a special medical-grade hot water hose (regular garden hose is a no-no for this sort of thing) and a special adapter so we can attach it to the bathtub faucet for filling the birth tub.

    I can't believe it's so close! I'm so ready to be done with pregnancy. It really hasn't been very pleasant, and although I will always treasure the special feeling of having felt this little life grow inside me, I'm ready to have my body to myself again.
  • Saturday, November 15, 2008

    I'm an Auntie!

    Baby Chloe, just 5 hours old:

    Born 7:45 am on Friday November 14th, 6 lbs 4 oz, 19.5 inches long. A very quick natural birth at the Wenatchee birth center, no complications whatsoever. The whole family was home by noon on Friday, resting and getting to know each other.

    Sunday, November 09, 2008

    Belly Pictures

    Aimee came out an took some more pictures of me & my belly a few weeks ago, and as always her photos are truly excellent. This is my absolute favorite, it's like we're holding little Conan already.

    I was about 8 months pregnant at the time - my belly is considerably bigger than this now, if you can believe it:

    This is just such a nice picture of us on our front porch. Somehow it just captures that happy expectant life-is-so-good feeling that I have.
    We really are blessed with a good life.

    Saturday, November 08, 2008

    Receiving Blankets

    I took a break from sewing diapers (15 completed) and did up a few simple receiving blankets out of some really cute flannel. I think the elephants are my favorite:
    I've also made a gazillion cloth wipes and all the absorbant inserts we're likely to need for the diapers. Things are coming together in the baby room but there still seem to be a lot of things left to get ready, and not very much time... Eeek!

    Friday, October 31, 2008

    Miss Abstinence 2008

    These rumours about my condition are completely unfounded! I've just, um, put on a little weight, that's all. I would never tarnish the reputation of the Miss Abstinence title which I so proudly wear. I certainly will NOT step down! I will continue to wear my crown and hold my head up high as an abstinent role model for young women. Because I truly, truly believe in abstinence as birth control. Obviously.

    Happy Halloween, everyone! :)

    Saturday, October 25, 2008

    Birds & Deer

    More sure signs of fall - the chicadees have nearly cleaned out the sunflower seeds:

    And the deer are moving through our area again. These three are all "Don't mind us, we're just here to eat the grass" but I'm not fooled - I've seen the hoofprints in the garden! Not that there's anything much left to worry about, the only things still alive are the carrots, chard & kale that I plan to overwinter. Somehow the deer never seem to get too excited about those things.

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    They said yes!

    The water association meeting with our neighbors last night went very well, we've been approved to add a second connection to the main water line so that we can irrigate our orchard. We had a nice discussion over pie and coffee, and agreed (wholeheartedly) to sign something to the effect that this connection can't be used in the future to supply a whole additional house. Current county zoning laws forbid a second house on our parcel, but zoning laws change, and even though we'd never try to push through a lot division or anything, if we ever sold the property who knows what could happen. So now we can start buying & planting fruit trees! We won't actually put in the connection until spring, but knowing that we have the permission we could go ahead and start planting now - no irrigation will be needed over the winter months, that's for sure!

    In fact, some of you might be wondering why I'm so concerned about irrigation at all, given that we live in soggy whatcom county. True, it's wet most of the year, but sometimes we have long, dry summers (like last year) and especially in the first few years trees need to be watered regularly so they can get established. Grapes and berries, with their shallower root systems, will need water in dry years even after they are established. We won't need a lot of water, but when we do need some it will be crucial to have it available.

    It was nice to see all our neighbors and visit a little about what everyone's been up to. We always wave when we pass on the driveway, but it's not really the same as a visit. Of course, everyone is excited about Conan's upcoming arrival. Our neighbor Florence really stole the show by giving us this beautiful baby sweater she knit for him. It's simply gorgeous:
    I can hardly wait to see him wearing it!

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008


    Fall is definitely here. The days are shorter, the mornings are frosty, and the leaves are falling. Somehow it doesn't seem like it should be here yet, but on the other hand October is almost over... how did that happen? It seemed like just the other day that my due date was a long way off, and now it's just around the corner. Aiigghhh!

    Pregnancy continues to be a lot more tiring than I ever expected. On my midwife's orders I've cut back my work week to only 4 days now, which feels a lot better, but is still exhausting. In November I'll probably cut my work hours down even more. Everything just takes so much more energy with this big belly - getting up out of a chair, climbing stairs, getting in & out of the car, getting dressed - things I always just took for granted would be easy, aren't. And baby's still got 7 weeks to grow!

    In other news, tomorrow we're having the neighborhood water association over for a meeting to discuss getting a second hookup to the main water line so we can irrigate our (future) orchard. I'm a little nervous, but I'm hopefull we can convince everyone to grant us this favor. There's 7 parcels in our association, and each has 1 connection currently, leaving 2 "extra" connections. So in theory at least, there should be no problem in granting us one of the extras. Of course, if we get an extra one then there will only be 1 left, not enough to go around... but also the way the properties are layed out, ours is the only one which is divided by a stream in such a way that it would be really difficult to run water to all parts of it from just one connection point. So, fingers crossed. I'm planning on serving fresh-baked apple pie still warm from the oven, that can't hurt!

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    Jam & Jelly Step by Step

    I make a lot of jams & jellies in the summer, and you often see the results pictured here on the blog. I've realized recently that a lot of folks a) don't know what the difference is between "jam" and "jelly", and b) think making either is a mysterious and complicated process. So at the risk of destroying my image as some kind of domesitic canning goddess, I thought I'd show you all the process this time, instead of just the results. Here goes!

    The Mapes' are traveling, so we picked their delicious green grapes. Anyone lucky enough to have access to home-grown grapes, they make the most delicious jelly. Any kind or color of grape will do.

    After rinsing the grapes, pull the berries off the stems and drop them into a big pot. Sort out any brown or damaged ones as you go. It's OK to leave the small stems on each grape, just get the big woody stems out. Add a little water, cover and put the pot on medium heat.

    In about 20 minutes the grapes should be cooked. You want them to burst and let their juice out. A little mashing with a potato masher might help too. Turn off the heat, uncover, and let them cool somewhat, you don't want to get a steam burn at the next step.

    Once the grape mash has cooled, you'll need to rig up a juice strainer. I use a clean pillowcase (I have two which are designated for jam), a length of foam-covered wire which is sold for tying up garden plants, a big bowl, and the knob of a cupboard. You can also use cheesecloth in a colander, a store-bought "jelly bag", or whatever works for you. It just needs to be something the juice can get out of while keeping the solid bits - skin, stems, seeds - contained. And then you let it sit and do it's work, until all the juice is drained out.
    Incidentally, THIS is what makes Jelly different from Jam. Jelly is made from the strained juice of the fruit, whereas Jam is made from the unstrained pulp, including seeds. The choice of which to make depends on two main factors: how hard is it to prep the fruit for Jam (removing all those little grape stems would have been a real tedious process), and would the Jam be too seedy or have other textural problems if the fruit wasn't strained. If there's no issue with texture or prepping the whole fruit for jam, usually jam is what gets made. It's a slightly easier process, because you don't have to wait for the juice to drain. In fact, while I wait for the juice on a batch of jelly, I often put up a batch of jam...

    These are Organic Dapple Dandy Pluots from Goosetail Farms, and they are amazingly delicous. (One of the perks of working for an organic produce company!) Pluots are a cross between apricots and plums, and when they are this ripe they are very soft and juicy. To prep them for jam, I halved, pitted, and peeled them. One quart of fruit is all you need, usually, for a batch of jam.

    The fruit goes into a large saucepan and is heated to just boiling. I did a little mashing to break up the pulp. Once the fruit reaches boiling, add the pectin and sweetener (I used honey) according to the directions on the pectin package. My favorite pectin is Pomona's, but the co-op is out of stock and says they wont have more until January! So I'm trying out Ball's sugar-optional pectin.
    Once the pectin & sweetener are added, bring the jam back to a boil for a minute or two to cook it, then remove it from the heat. Let it cool for a couple minutes while you get the rest of the stuff you'll need ready - clean, hot jars (I just run them throught the dishwasher right before using, or you can soak them in hot water in the sink), a small bowl & spoon, funnel, ladel, tongs, jar-lifter, lids & rings.

    Once the jam has cooled a little, you'll see a frothy foam form on the surface. Use the spoon to skim this off and put it into the little bowl. It seems fussy, but this stuff will not go away, it will form a wierd-looking layer with a strange texture in your jam jars which will detract from enjoying the jam later. It's pretty easy to skim off at this point, so just do it.
    Once the jam is skimmed, use the funnel & the ladel to fill each jar to within 1/4 inch of the top, about halfway up the threads.
    I use all different shapes and sizes of jars. It doesn't matter if all your jars are the same size & brand or if you have a mis-match like these. They're still beautiful when they are all filled with jam! After they are filled, wipe the rims of the jars clean with a clean cloth moistened with hot water.
    I boil the lids in a small saucepan and then keep them in the hot water until ready to use. The tongs are for getting them out of the water without burning your fingers. Once the lids are on, screw on the rings. Note that the lids must be new out of the box, but the rings can be reused over and over.
    The final step is to process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. That's 10 minutes counting from when the water comes to a full boil. Once the 10 minutes is up, turn off the heat and leave the jars in the hot water for 5 minutes before removing them to cool on a towel. As the jars cool, the seals will set and go "ping"! Don't mess with the jars while they are cooling, or you might mess up the seal. I usually wait overnight before labeling the jars or checking the set of the jam for this reason. Then you can remove the bands and check the seals (the center of the lid should go down and the lid should be stuck on really tight) before you put the jars away for storage. Any jars that didn't seal (rarely happens) just need to go straight into the fridge and get used up, treat them like any other jar you just opened.
    By the time you've finished processing the Jam, the jelly juice should be pretty well drained from the pillow case, it should no longer be actively dripping. I've alwasy been told not to squeeze the bag (supposedly it makes the jelly cloudy) but it's pretty hard to resist. You can also pour a little hot water over the bag to flush the last little bit of juice out. In any case, once you are satisfied that you have all the juice you are going to get, take down the bag (set it aside to clean later) and measure the juice. 1 quart is generally a batch. With these grapes I got just a smidge under 2 quarts of juice, so I added just enough water to bring it up to a full two quarts in order to make a double batch of jelly.
    Bring the juice to a boil in a big pot. I always find that jelly foams up more than jam does, so make sure there's a lot of extra room in your pot - when jelly boils over onto the stovetop it makes an unholy sticky mess. Once you've got a boil going, add your pectin and sweetener, according to the directions. If you're making a double batch, remember to double the pectin (it sucks when you forget, trust me).
    See what I mean about foaming up? Compare the rivet in the pot between this picture and the last one. Pectin directions usually say something like "cook until the jelly reaches a rolling boil which cannot be stirred down" - well, that's what this is. Turn off the heat and get ready to fill your jars!
    Filling the jars is the same for Jelly as for Jam, although skimming off the foam is even more important with jelly. In fact, you may find that you need to skim the foam a second time after the jars have been filled.
    Wipe the rims, apply the lids & bands, and the jars are ready to process in the boiling water bath. The timing and procedure is the same for Jelly as for Jam, in both the water bath and for cooling and setting the seal afterwards.
    One more note - the only specialized canning tool you need (well, besides the jars & lids) is the jar lifter. This handy little gizmo (pictured above) makes it possible to securely raise and lower jars into and out of hot water without burning your hands. I think it cost about $4. Every other peice of equipment I use is just regular kitchen stuff that you probably already have. Anybody can make Jam or Jelly! All you need is fruit, pectin, and a little time in the kitchen. Give it a try... who knows, maybe next time I see you we'll be able to swap a few jars. :)

    Sunday, October 05, 2008


    With much help from Dave and some from Gabe as well, we now have a woodshed! We still need to get a few more boards to finish the siding slats on the remaining narrow end, but that won't be too much trouble. The cats love it... they've been going in and out underneath the floor all week, checking it out. Today we moved all the wood from the porch into the woodshed. It sure feels great to have all this firewood! Slightly over half of it is green new wood from this summer (mostly from the cemetary, you'd really be surprised how much wood you can fit in the back of an '84 rabbit), but we have a nice supply of seasoned wood left from last year as well. It sure seems strange not to have all that firewood on the front porch, it'd been stacked there ever since we moved in. It's so... open... now. But I'll get used to it. :)

    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    Hank's 'hawk hat

    Hank is one year old! His super fun punk-rock themed birthday party was on Sunday, and featured a piñata - for those of you keeping track, yes, it was a two-piñata weekend for me! Here's the "mohawk" hat I made for him, modeled by a spaghetti squash:
    And here it is again, from the front, modeled with LOTS more attitude by Sanford:

    It was even cuter on the little Hankster himself, but I forgot to take my camera to the party. Oh well...

    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    Baby Shower

    Aimee & Kriss put togther an absolutely lovely baby shower for me yesterday. Other friends helped out too, I thank you all for your efforts. I had so much fun! I really enjoyed having all my ladies, both friends and family, local and from out of town, gathered together for an afternoon of shower games and snacks and crafts and visiting. Also, there was a piñata! Nothing completes a party quite like a piñata. Tombi's Yam Cheesecake was also a big hit, and the blessing doll/angels that everyone made are going to be a very special keepsake for little Conan. I'll post a picture once I get them put together as a mobile or nursery decoration. They really are super special, each one is so unique. I got loads of wonderful gifts, you all are such generous and thoughtful people. Little Conan is a lucky little guy, to be born with such a wonderful supportive extended family and friend network. Thanks to everyone who came and helped make my shower such a success, I love you all. :)

    Update: Here's a picture from Tombi of my Sister-in-law Nadege and me comparing bellies at the shower. Nadege is due November 14, just a little over 3 weeks before me. I'm so excited that Conan will have a cousin (her name will be Chloe) so close in age.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008


    Can you beleive it? It's not even October yet and we woke up to frost this morning. Not a killing frost, but still - I think that's the end for my hopes of ripening all the green tomatoes in my garden. It's sure been a short, cold, wet summer. Oh well...

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    In the Garden

    Tomatoes are getting ripe, the red pear/cherry tomato is especially prolific. I also have good sized ripe red slicers, yellow slicers, orange cherries, and a few red romas. Lots more green and light orange ones still to ripen, hopefully the weather will stay warm and dry for them.

    These dark red sunflowers are really stunning, they must be eight feet tall. Most of the regular yellow ones in the mix have already finished blooming, so it was a nice surprise when these started opening up.

    I dug most of my potatoes today. The vines had died back on all but one variety, and the squash vines are encroaching, so it seemed like I ought to get them dug before I lost track of them. I'm a little disapointed in the yeild I got - good thing we weren't relying on these potatoes to get us through the winter! I planted late because of the wet spring, and I don't think they liked our heavy soil very much - in any case, 20 plants ought to have yeilded more than one full colander of small spuds. On the other hand, these will be delicious and tender, so I really shouldn't complain.

    The cosmos in the front flower bed are coming into bloom, they sure make an impressive display along the fence. You'd hardly know that there was only grass there until this spring, it looks so amazingly well-established now.

    It's a nice time of year, this late summer/early fall weather has been just glorious. I sure hope it lasts a few more weeks, at least. I'm not ready for the frost and rain just yet...