Saturday, September 6, 2014

Elsie’s birth story

Born 2:42 p.m., Thursday, August 14, 2014
10 lbs., 1 oz., 20 ¾ in. long
Elsie Eleanor, Named after two of her great-great-grandmothers

I had been having some short somewhat strong contractions off and on for a few days prior. Contractions started getting 15-20 min. apart Thurs. morning around 9 a.m., but very intense, like I needed to stop and moan through them. We called our neighbor Shirley to take care of the boys. (They kept asking me, “What’s wrong Mom?”) I called Susan, the midwife, to let her know what was happening, but I didn’t want to sound the alarm too soon. I thought maybe I was imagining things because in between contractions I felt fine. So I got things ready around the house (ya know, cooked some rice and folded laundry…), and finally packed a bag, “in case of transport”. (The checklist from Susan said to do that.) Turns out, I needed it!

I called the midwife about 11:45 a.m. and said contractions were 5-10 min. apart, so things might be getting more serious. Susan said that she had another mom in labor at her clinic so I needed to come there! The birth was not going to be a home birth, as previously planned. So, we got bags and food around, loaded up the van, and left by 12:30 p.m. The contractions slowed down a little in the van. We arrived by 1:15 p.m. and I was ushered into a bedroom. Susan checked me and I was almost dilated to 9 cm. I was so relieved to be almost done!

So I got down to the business of having a baby. Susan helped me get through contractions with warm packs on my back and rubbing my back and hips. By 2:15 p.m. I was fully dilated with bulging bag of water. It took me a few times to find a position I wanted to push in. First I was on a little birthing stool on the floor, then I was kneeling on the bed over a birthing ball. I tried pushing here and she broke my waters. Finally I was on my side and back and Susan’s helper and Susan and my husband helped to push on my feet because I really wanted to be standing. There’s just something that makes me feel stronger when I am standing. It took me a little while to tap into my “pushing muscles” but the baby slowly crowned and in about 15-20 minutes from the first push, out she came. (Jeff said Susan poured oil around the opening in the pushing process.) I had my eyes closed the whole time as I was trying to mentally focus on the task at hand. I remember Susan saying, “Megan, you need to relax and slow down.” I tried to relax my leg as best I could, as I could feel it was very tense and not opening up to let the baby come. But I’m not sure I didn’t very well… but it was shortly after she said that, that I said, “I can’t stop it, it’s coming.” And then the baby came out!

The cord was short, the baby could only be on my tummy. So they looked after my bleeding, gave me a shot of pitocin to help stop the bleeding. They seemed a bit concerned at the time. My glasses were off, so I asked if it was a boy—I thought the cord was the boy part, but Jeff said it was a girl! Susan said, “This is a big baby!”

Cord was clamped so I could hold baby on my chest. She was covered in lots of vernix. She came out crying and ready to eat, so I nursed her right away. Then she sucked her thumb for a while.
(After I had my baby, Susan went to help the other mother having her baby at the other side of the clinic. She had a boy and named him Jeffrey! So before we left we met Elsie’s “birthday twin”. It was a Mennonite couple having their first baby.)

After I’d had a chance to rest a while, and Susan’s helper Maggie had pushed on my uterus for a while (Ouch!), Susan weighed and measured Elsie. I was pretty surprised at the weight! She was a chubby baby with big cheeks, double chin and chubby legs! Her chest measured slightly bigger than her head, which isn’t the norm. Despite her size, I did not tear, nor did I have any skid marks! I was so pleased that bathroom visits did not hurt!

Another interesting tidbit… we changed names after we got to the clinic. There was a baby name book on the shelf in my room. We weren't going to use alliteration as we had with the other kids' names (Judah John, Andrew Allan, Enoch Edwin) but then decided to after all. We had the boy name picked out and I'm pretty sure we thought it was going to be a boy. After we found out it was a girl, we decided to change our original plan in favor of alliteration. 

We rested a while, then left at about 7pm to go home. We had forgotten a carseat in the rush to leave, but thankfully Susan had one we could borrow. Jeff picked up boys from Shirley’s after dropping me at home.

Boys were excited to see their new sister. Andrew said, “But it was supposed to be a boy!” But the boys are very sweet with Elsie and like to give her kisses on her head.

Brothers meet their sister

Baptism Day, August 24

Elsie with Susan at 2 week appointment

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sourdough Donuts

This recipe was written at the end of May. And somehow it's already July. What in the world?! A lot of traveling in between then and now. I'll spare you the details, mainly because it was mostly a blur in my pregnant memory, and I didn't take many pictures.

The reason for this recipe came about when we butchered our pig and made lard in early May. I will spare you the details... for now.

Since I had a lot of beautiful lard, my husband suggested making donuts. Doughnuts. However you spell it. At any rate, I have never made donuts before. And of course, I chose to make sourdough donuts. Because, as I’ve mentioned before, I am a bit obsessed with sourdough. I finally chose a recipe out of one of my old faves, The Presidential Cookbook, published in 1895. Now, this cookbook is very interesting, because it assumes that you know a lot more than today’s day-and-age cook knows. (In fact, I think in the future I’d like to share a few recipes, because they’re just a hoot!) But onto the recipe!

Here is the exact wording from the cookbook, followed by my interpretation!

Raised Doughnuts
from The Presidential Cookbook
Old-fashioned “raised doughnuts,” are seldom seen, now-a-days, but are easily made. Make a sponge as for bread, using a pint of warm water or milk, and a large half cupful of yeast; when the sponge is very light, add half a cupful of butter or sweet lard, a coffee-cupful of sugar, a teaspoonful of salt and one small teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in a little water, one tablespoonful of cinnamon, a little grated nutmeg; stir in now two well-beaten eggs, add sifted flour until it is the consistency of biscuit-dough, knead it well, cover and let rise; then roll the dough out into a sheet half an inch thick, cut out with a very small biscuit-butter, or in strips half an inch wide and three inches long, place them on greased tins, cover them well, and let them rise before frying them. Drop them in very hot lard. Raised cakes required longer time than cakes made with baking-powder. Sift powdered sugar over them as fast as they are fried, while warm. Our grandmothers put allspice into these cakes; that, however, is a matter of taste.

Sourdough Donuts (my version)
Makes about 3 dozen.
2 c. warm water (or milk, sour milk, whatever you have)
½ c. sourdough starter (mine wasn’t proofed, so don’t worry if you pull it cold out of fridge)
4 c. freshly ground flour (I used half red wheat berries, and half soft white wheat berries)
Mix together in the evening and let sit overnight.

In the morning, add…
½ c. melted lard (not too hot. I used lard because I had some readily available)
¾ c. sugar (I used raw sugar because that’s what I use instead of white)
1 t. salt
¾ t. soda, dissolved in a little water
1 T. cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
2 beaten eggs

Add flour (I didn’t sift, but maybe that would be better. I just didn’t have the patience for sifting) until the consistency is right. I ended up adding 2 c. ground whole wheat flour, and 1 ½ c. unbleached white flour in order to get the right consistency. You should be able to knead it and not have it be sticky.  I maybe kneaded it for a few minutes. Then covered it to sit. Now, I wasn’t sure how long to let it rise, but it rose for 4-5 hours because that's how my day worked out.

After lunch I formed the donuts by rolling out the dough (use more white flour) to about ½ inch thick and used a small canning jar ring to cut circles. Then I used my finger to poke a hole in the middle. Then I floured some pans and laid my donuts to rest. Again, being unsure how long to let them rise, they maybe rose for an hour or so. They didn’t look like they had risen much, so I was resigned to flat donuts.

I got my oil heated up. I used my candy thermometer and kept the temp between 350 and 375 degrees. Boy, did the donuts puff up!! I was so surprised! I did about 4-5 minutes per side, till they were a golden brown. They seem to darken in color after you get them out of the oil.

I left them plain, and just sprinkled powdered sugar over them as we ate them. Otherwise they would’ve just soaked up the powdered sugar. It took us about a week to eat them up. And they were pretty tasty. I will say they are a little dense, but I think most donuts just ARE dense, although it’s been years since I’ve had a store-bought donut.

And I have to tell you… the days I had those donuts, I had an amazing amount of energy! I worked through the afternoon without a nap and was still going until bedtime! For this mama who is always tired, that’s saying something. I am pretty sure it’s the lard. It sticks with you and satiates. And makes you forget to have a snack. Pregnant mamas need to snack. So I should just have a half a donut, maybe… ;-)

Before raise time
After raise time... not much difference
My helpers. They got to form their own donut.

Plumping up in the hot lard. I love my ceramic cast iron pot!

Finished product. Not picture perfect, but really... who cares?!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Good News and Bad News

Oh, hello! So it's been five months since I've posted anything. Yes, we're still alive over here. There's just been some things in the works that have been slowing us down a bit. Would you rather hear the Good News or the Bad News first? I usually like to hear the Bad News first. It’s always much more pleasant to end on a positive note, right?

I would like to preface this by saying I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I should share this information with the general public. But I finally realized that prayers should be asked for, and welcomed! That is what the body of Christ is for, to help bear each other’s burdens, and to pray on each other’s behalf.

About the Bad News, I'd like to give a few explanations. My husband has been dealing with some health issues for close to a year, such as exhaustion, lack of mental clarity, and strong pain in his lower legs. To make a long story short, after exploring different possibilities, we were guided to looking into Lyme Disease, so Jeff took the Western Blot blood test, which is the best test out there to tell you if you have the disease—or at least the indicators for the disease. So we have been waiting for the results for the last month.

According to the CDC, he would not have Lyme Disease. However, according to the lab, his body is producing antibodies to fight off Lyme Disease bacteria, which is a pretty good indicator that he does have it. While this news is not great news, we are glad to hopefully have an answer to what’s been plaguing Jeff. However, Lyme Disease is not something that you can just… get rid of. But you can try to minimize its effects. I am still in the baby stages of learning about this disease. I can tell you that we are working with a homeopathic physician on a treatment plan. Please pray that Jeff can find some relief from his pain, and for wisdom for our physicians to help treat it.

Now, the Good News. 

After two miscarriages in the past year, we are happy to be expecting a baby most likely sometime in August. I am not going to tell any specifics… like how many weeks along I am, or my exact due date. People tend to get hung up on those things, and frankly… it stresses me out. Stress = Not Good. So please just pray for a healthy baby to come when the time is right, aaaand that I can get through the summer wearing compression hose for my terrible varicose-veined legs. Nothing says Hot Mama like compression stockings. ;-) 

But this is the main reason why I've been so unimaginative, unmotivated and uninspired in the kitchen the past several months... I've been tired (still am), nauseous (finally over that, but it took a while), and tired (oh wait... did I say that already?). I have been sticking to the basics, foods with minimum thought (think meat and veggies prepared in the blandest of ways). I have loads of tomato products that I put up last summer and they do not appeal to me in the least, unfortunately. Well, they'll keep. ;-)

I hope to share with you soon what we've been up to around here... mainly the straw bale garden that my husband has managed to get going. Only two apples trees (of the 28 fruit trees we planted last fall) didn't seem to have survived the winter. We still have Wilbur (aka Bacon), although soon, very soon, he will have a new home in the freezer. And we still have our chickens, although we have lost three hens to sickness over the last several months. The hardest thing is trying to keep them out of the garden, those rascals. There are a few that keep getting in there.

Oh, and we still have our three boys. Never a dull moment. They're conflicted about the weather. They love snow. But they love to wear shorts. What's a boy gonna do?! Play in the mud, of course!

And Spring is here. I do so enjoy spring in Missouri. 

Thanks for reading, and I hope to get back to blogging at least a little bit in the coming months. ;-)

"Hey, do I smell?"
Sorry, I just had to add this one because it made me laugh.
There's a little glare, but it was the best one of all the boys.
Happy Easter!