Tuesday, November 27, 2012

One-handed eating: Early Bird Granola

When you're breast-feeding, like, all the time, having food around that you can eat with one hand is pretty important. It also really helps if that food is easy to put together quickly, and it's a huge bonus if it's healthy. You're running through calories really quickly, and you want to be putting the best stuff possible into your body when it's doing such critical work.

Just before Adam and I got married in the spring of 2009, our very dear friend, Mayumi, sent us a bag of  Early Bird Farmhand's Choice Granola from a Brooklyn farmers market. I had never been a very big fan of granola; it was kind of a what's-the-point food for me. Then I had this granola.

A rich, crunchy, deeply satisfying balance of sweet and salty, this granola hits all kinds of spots. When Mayumi sent us a link to the Greene Grape blog where its recipe was posted, we immediately started making it and it's been a staple in our house for years now. Since Kamal has been in our lives, I've developed a new appreciation for Early Bird. It's very calorically dense, but largely because of good fats like olive oil and the oils of nuts, seeds and coconuts, which makes it perfect for busy days when I don't have time to sit down and eat a decent-sized meal, but I need enough fuel to get me through the next couple of hours. Because it's so rich, I do still want to manage my portion size, so I just scoop a little bit of it into a small Chinese teacup. This way I can just tip little bites of it into my mouth as I'm breast feeding, writing, playing with Kamal, or filling out patient charts. (A shot glass would work really well for this too.) This portion size works perfectly as a quick snack, or, when combined with a small bowl of cottage cheese, as a delicious light and protein-rich meal.

I've substituted walnuts in this recipe for pecans since giving birth. In Chinese medicine, walnuts are considered tonifying to the Kidney qi. Kidney qi gets depleted from activities like childbirth and breast-feeding, so incorporating Kidney-tonifying foods in pre- and post-natal months wherever possible is a wise preventive medicine measure. (Some other kidney-tonifying foods include lamb, black sesame seeds, and black beans.)

Here's the original recipe by Nekisia Davis, first posted on Martha Stewart Online:

Early Bird Farmhand’s Choice Granola
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
1 cup coconut chips
1 1/4 cup raw pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
Coarse salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, pecans, syrup, olive oil, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and mix until well combined. Spread granola mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until granola is toasted. Remove baking sheet from oven and season granola with salt. Let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ten years.

Saturday night, 2:00 A.M., 2002:  I sing my heart out and shake my booty on a stage at some club somewhere between Maryland and Connecticut; the crowd hollers and dances at my feet; the lights are hot and bright and I'm sure I'm the shiniest thing in the place.

Saturday night, 2:00 AM, 2012: Kamal vomits in my ear.

So, yeah. Ten years makes some difference. I'm proud, though, that the parts of me that really define who I am in the world are unchanged, that being a mama, while a profound life shift, still leaves me wholly recognizable to myself; that I'm me whether in hot pants and high heels or maternity leggings and Adam's old socks (or, for that matter, in my lab coat and take-me-seriously pumps). Resourceful improvisation; real interest and connection in the people around me; a perpetual readiness to view every unpackaged, unpolished and unconventional experience as an adventure and every difficult experience as the foundation for a fabulous joke; an unusually high tolerance for looking completely ridiculous: these qualities served me then and continue to serve me now.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

This picture.

Our truly wonderful midwife, Colette, snapped this photo moments after Kamal's birth, and I'm so grateful that she did. It's only when I look at it that I really remember the breathless, astonished love I felt as he reached for me, wailing, like he was searching for something stable and familiar in the shocking new wideness he'd just found himself in.

With that memory, of course, comes a flood of other memories, all disjointed flashes. The exhaustion that pressed in on me after sixty hours of labor, so intense that I wasn't sure I'd remember how to eat or pee or even sleep. The metallic smells of the hospital stay I'd hoped to avoid by planning a home birth. The abject, shameful terror that surfaced whenever I thought about all the drama my lady parts had just endured, or wondered how on earth I was going to be a mother when I just wanted to sleep for weeks.

The vivid brightness and darkness of those early days seemed disconnected from any previously-known sense of time. I cried every day for a week, because I was fatigued, because I was afraid having a baby had been a mistake I couldn't undo, because I was frankly mourning the loss of our pre-baby life, and because I was deeply ashamed of all those feelings.

So, more than for anyone else, I'm writing this blog for the women in those first few days of motherhood. Those days are hard, and we don't talk enough about how hard they are, so when we struggle with them, we feel shame around that struggle. I had the great good fortune to be surrounded by a circle of other friends who'd recently had babies; when I reached out to them, they all assured me that I wasn't alone, that they'd all been where I was.

And most critically, they assured me that it would get better. It did, and that is the message I want most to  import here. I wouldn't want to repeat those first two weeks for love or money, but I wouldn't trade them, either. It was hard for all three of us, and bonded us in a way easier days couldn't have. It showed Adam and I how committed we truly were to the process of parenting and how committed Kamal was to staying and thriving in the world. Beyond the love we felt immediately for our tiny son, we learned respect for him in those hard weeks. We built a strong and balanced foundation for our new little family. And while our day-to-day lives with a now-fifteen-and-a-half-week old isn't what I'd call "easy," it's definitely easier--and it's really, really fun.

It does get better. I write here to show all the ways that it does.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Every day is a thanks-giving day.

Today feels like the right day to start a blog about one of the people I'm most thankful to know. Three and a half months ago, Kamal turned Adam and I from a happy, loving twosome to an even happier, loving-er trio. This small person and I have been heart-to-heartcore buds from moment one. We are on a journey together, one small, baby-socked step at a time, learning what works for us and ready to share it with you.

Happy Thanksgiving! May you have worlds and worlds to be thankful for. I know we do.