Baby Shower Tie Dye

Historically I have never loved baby showers. It should surprise exactly no one that the construct of most baby showers gives me (or gave my 22 year old self, anyway) the extreme heebie jeebies. All the cooing, all the fawning, all of the mandatory performative group gift opening resulting in a hat made of curlicued ribbons for a probably-already-somewhat-beleaguered-sober-woman-with-swollen-ankles-pounding-cake-at-10am. Also, where are the dudes? You call this a party?

Hearing my best group of (single, non-mother) girlfriends talk smack about an upcoming baby shower this spring in front of our 5 months pregnant friend (“God. They’re the worst. All the moms standing around looking tired just waiting for their gift to be opened and then saying (does awful high pitched voice) ‘I know it doesn’t look like much BUT HE’LL LOVE IT WHEN HE’S OLDER I PROMISE!’… “Oh yeah, oh yeah or like ‘THIS WAS A TOTAL LIFE-SAVER FOR US’… Seriously? BARF!”) makes me also think my 22 year old self was probably kind of a jerk. Sorry, Stacey + Ev!

That being said, there are aspects of the modern baby shower that definitely suck. And there are aspects of it that are totally and completely luminous, heart-lifting, and truly amazing. Under the latter file: bringing together a group of strong, fierce women at the height of their wolf-running-wisdom wherever they are on their trajectory towards (or away from) motherhood. Creating a kinship network of oral history and babe-rearing tradition based in experience and trust the likes of which would have existed if we all still lived in a village or on a commune but is now difficult to authentically muster from the smoking ashes of interdependent female communities in the age of distance and distraction. Experiencing the generosity of spirit and in-kind support at a time when you literally need a whole crap ton of stuff (did I need a gravy boat when I got married? nope. but when babe came along I sure as hell needed a car seat and thems expensive). Being given the opportunity to feel like the wondrous-yet-mundane thing you are doing—the thing that is at once as giant as the cosmos and as small as a pinprick of blood—is not a solitary, isolating pursuit relegated to bloated midnight lonelinesses and WebMD fear-cycles, but is actually an interconnected miracle in a long line of lady-power-history? That is incredibly potent. And, you know, love.

Chief among the legendary bummers at baby showers: no booze. GAMES.

I completely understand the desire for some sort of “activity” at a shower… after all, at a regular party there’s music and dudes and dinner and bonfires and shenaniganz and oysters and unpasteurized cheeses and someone might end up dancing on the picnic table so hard it breaks. At a baby shower? If you’re lucky, there’s ribbon hats and a diaper cake. Womp Womp*. If you’re unlucky, well, you might find yourself in a self-made hell of eating fake poop made of candy bars out of a Huggie. You can’t make this Baby Ruth up.

*(though, TBH, at Rav’s baby shower we did go through a case and a half of champagne and someone did end up asleep on the glider on the porch around midnight with a piece of fried chicken in her hand. IT CAN BE DONE).

Like everything in life (and in parenting, as ye being showered may soon discover) there can be a lovely middle ground for every dilemma.

Enter: TIE DYEING ONESIES.

As an “activity” it’s essentially perfect. It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s safe and non-toxic for babe (unlike paint or similar), there’s no fake poop (why is this even on a list), no one has to do it, it gives perhaps disparate strangers from different eras or circles in the mama-to-be’s life something to talk about other than their pregnant woman in common, someone is usually secretly (and perhaps surprisingly) excellent at it, and when it’s all said and done, the mama leaves with a ton of killer clothes for the little bohemian that, in addition to looking fresh to death, also do a great job at hiding stains. WINNING ALL AROUND.

Long story long (and the putative reason for this post) I’ve been point person for a few tie-dye-onesie extravaganzas at various showers (including my own) and subsequently, I’ve been asked for a breakdown of instructions and supplies multiple times since. After my dear one Reid wrote me this week asking for a rundown for a shower she’s throwing, I decided to just write it all down in one place. Perhaps the internet will find it and it may help like-minded souls avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous diaper games and nudge our collective inner-20-something’s feelings about showers from “BARF” to “actually, that was really so very lovely”.

Who knows, if there’s champagne we might make it all the way to “man, what a fun party!”

BABY SHOWER ONESIE TIE-DYEING

SUPPLIES 

  • White onesies– Gerber or Carters makes great standard onesies but WalMart also has a new in-house line of plain ones which are way cheaper/just fine if money is a concern (which it often is if you’re throwing the shower with a bunch of women in a group/sometimes all the time). If you’re fancy then you can buy organic ones from the local/sustainable purveyor of your choosing. If you’re really thrifty you can sometimes score plain ‘ol stained ones from thrift stores and that’s fine for this purpose. You do you. For people who don’t spend hours googling baby clothes, they call them bodysuits sometimes which can make it easier to search for them online. You’re welcome. You can explain Tinder to me some time.

Get an array of sizes/sleeve length. Ravenel somehow worked out exactly how many short sleeved vs. long sleeved onesies in appropriate size ranges for babe age at the given season (e.g. my Lois Rose was born in February so we had long sleeved newborn onesies, then a few long sleeved 3-6 monthers and a lot of short sleevers for that spring>summer, then a few short sleeve 6-9 monthers and a lot of long sleevers for summer>fall)… we had enough/still do for the babe to be outfitted in tie dye basically until she’s done with onesies/is in high school.

From divine mama Meags, here’s the exact breakdown of what they got for a winter babe:

3 Pack Long-Sleeve (0-3 Months)
5 Pack Long + Short Sleeve Variety Pack (3-6 Months)
5 Pack Long + Short Sleeve Variety Pack (6-9 Months)
3 Pack Long-Sleeve (12 Months)
3 Pack Short Sleeve (18 Months)

  • Dye- I love Procion dyes which are brighter/more colorfast, but do require a bath in soda ash fixative prior to dyeing. Rav bought AMAZING COLORS (turquoise, cobalt, green, and hot pink) for me, but this kit has primary colors which can be mixed. I ended up loving the prettier colors so it was definitely “worth it” to buy the colors individually.
  • Soda Ash Fixative: The “soda-ash” in the aforementioned kit is sold in a tiny cellophane bag like it’s diamond dust. It is NOT PRECIOUS. This Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (which is sold at most grocery stores in with the laundry stuff) is the same thing for like one dollar.
  • Large bucket or pot for the ash pre-soak.
  • Gloves- I bought a pack of these nitrile gloves for this purpose and have since become addicted to having them on hand for dealing with bones or skulls when I find them (or, you know, whatever you use fine touch plastic gloves for).
  • Squeeze Bottles You can dip the onesies into pans of the dye (and I use disposable tinfoil roasting pans for this purpose) but it’s also cool to be able to direct the stream of the dye to have more control over what goes where. Especially useful if there are any people in attendance who are secretly super good at this kind of thing you’ll get, like, five from that person with hearts and stuff shibori’d into it.
  • Rubber Bands- For tying up the knots/making the patterns
  • Individual plastic bags- Having a big stack of plastic grocery bags is super useful for separating individual onesies out when they are done being dyed so they don’t drip dye all over each other in a big pile and ruin everything. The onesies are also supposed to “set” overnight, so it’s nice to just have a paper bag full of the plastic bags corralled and not making a mess anywhere.
  • Aprons, plastic tablecloth, newspaper, etc– nice to cover the area/floor if doing it inside. Do it outside if you can.
  • Bring other stuff to tie dye if you want! Swaddles, crib sheets, or boppy cover for the mama, or old t-shirts/stained throw pillow cases/whatever you have lying around that’s old and tired while you have the dye stations set up it’s NBD to slap a new coat of many colors onto a tired old thing. Keep all of the things separate.

INSTRUCTIONS

Obligatory duh warning: dye will dye clothing and stain things. Use a plastic tablecloth with newspaper over it and gloves, but people should be mindful of their clothing. The squeeze bottles will also sometimes burp little toots of color.

  • Fill canning pot or large bucket with hot water and stir in 2 cups of washing soda/dye fixative.
  • Soak onesies in hot water with fixative for at least 15 minutes before dyeing. Washing the onesies first makes them more receptive to the dye but, honestly, not enough that it’s a deal breaker if you don’t get around to it. It’s a party! Relaaaax.
  • The ash water is not caustic or harmful, but some people find that it dries their skin out, FYI.
  • Mix dye powders in squeeze bottles to desired colors using hot water. Use at least a teaspoon of dye per bottle. More dye=more saturated color. Enjoy deep discussions re: primary vs. secondary colors/favored colors/gender normative color assumption.
  • Squeeze ash water out of onesie, tie/twist/fold and rubber band into your desired design, squeeze or dip dye onto onesie in desired location.
  • Place each finished onesie in its own plastic bag and corrall them all in another bag so whoever is in charge of processing them (the mama, someone else) can grab them and bounce when the party’s over.
  • Once the onesies are dyed they can just chill in their plastic bags until processed. At least overnight and not so long that they get moldy.
  • To process: Officially, the best practice is to rinse the onesies in cold water with their rubber bands still on and then rinse them under warm water while removing the ties before machine washing… but parties have happened where one or both of those steps have gotten skipped with fine results. How intense you want to be with it is up to you.
  • Wash onesies with detergent in the washing machine with hot water and a cold rinse. Et voilà
  • It’s nice to clean up soon afterwards so the dye doesn’t stain the squeeze bottles/any other thing. FYI, procion dye is fine to pour down drains in newly glazed porcelain/enamel sinks or metal sinks but may stain old porcelain sinks/tubs.

ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY BEST OF LUCK WITH YER BABES + YER PARTIES!

ps. Here’s Lois this week in her tie dye in the same raised bed with the same gardener (Ann Marie, tending bounty with grace, always) as in the first shot. Time flies when you’re making things grow. as an afterthought because the world be crazy especially ab babies:

I am a plebeian layperson. While the information herein is carefully researched and checked for accuracy, the author makes no warranty regarding the content of this website and will not be liable for any loss, damage, or injury arising from the use of any information on the site.

I am not a medical professional and the advice on this site and newsletter should not be taken as such. It is not the business of the author to render professional opinions or medical advice. Readers should always seek professional medical advice from their pediatrician, OB/GYN, or midwife, blah blah blah.

Thanks to lucieslist for the language.

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Be kind and generous with yourself

Recently my mother and I were on an email chain with a dear friend who is (hopefully) at Battle-of-Yorktown-status in her own journey through a serious illness. By this I mean that the last major engagement has more than likely been fought and won, the commander pissing in a hidden cave somewhere, not daring to show his face, but it’ll take a while for the news of victory to reach the outlying provinces and so there will more than likely be minor skirmishes and bummers throughout the colonies for the next little bit until armistice is declared and earthworks abandoned in favor of picnicking. This absurd off-the-cuff metaphor brought to you by your friends at Growing Up In Colonial Williamsburg™. Onward.

This dear friend is a real person. The kind of woman who is totally authentically herself at all times and has a sort of luminous power that she carries everywhere like a torch. She is a bringer of light. And she was telling us that this whole thing has made her feel… not quite like her old self. I answered that we’re never our same old selves, only who we are in the present and that there is a strength there. But my very own ever-lovin’ mama up and responded with this…and I quote:

What I now know for sure is that these extremely difficult (unasked for and definitely unwanted) experiences that show up in our lives provide us with an opportunity, if we are very brave and stand up to them, to become expanded versions of our previous selves. It’s the tempering of our minds and bodies as a result of going through hellish times that can introduce us to our most authentic selves: stronger and more resilient than we ever knew we could possibly be.

Also, it’s been my experience that the sense of fragility and feeling unmoored that arises when we have no choice other than to accept how much isn’t (and never was) in our control that helps us to become more compassionate of others because even though everyone’s story is unique to them, nobody makes it through life unscathed.

Be kind and generous with yourself in all things and try let it all unfold without undue worry. You are doing great.

And if that isn’t something to hold dear to your heart always and re-read in times when one feels at loose ends in the chaos and terror of the universe then I don’t know what is. This is an opportunity, dear ones, to stand up and be brave. Live with compassion. And in all else, be kind and generous with yourself. You are doing great.

*Those are also mama’s hydrangeas up top. They’re seriously like 15 feet tall.

Wild Geese

 

WildGeese

Just this time last year the world was frozen and deeply, softly, quietly covered with snow and Ann Marie was here, snowed in, I hoped, forever, but really only for a few days. We left the embrace of the woodstove and went out to the spring-fed pond, a small park nestled in a deep valley, to stretch our legs and rosy up our cheeks and be like children or wild animals for a hot second and revel in the just-being-outsideness of it. We went when the sun was getting long in the sky, that slanted winter light that—even if just for the single minute of 4:36-4:37 pm in February—is richer than any Provençal golden hour, perhaps made even more precious by its fleeting gilt. The little park has miles of trails, most of them impassable in the snow, so we just took the one that circumnavigates the pond—spring fed and running, but frozen solid nonetheless. Cold. Out on the ice, 30 or so wild geese sat all facing the same direction in the sun, like chess pieces, utterly still, utterly silent, and we could see them through the trees from our various vantage points around the water. As time passed, the sun gilded the ice, the snow, the geese, covered in that thin winter gold. We made it almost to the very end of the loop, around towards the back of the pond, immediately opposite the setting sun, at that exact moment that it began dipping under its ridgeline, the bones of naked trees stark against it, that all at once and definitely by some mysterious and ancient signal the geese took off in a collective rush of feathers and, once they reached altitude, put their harsh and joyous cries out into the stillest cold. AHHHHH. Time goes, wonder stays, this year it is lush and green instead of still and cold, but the geese still call overhead, wild and mysterious and constant like the sound of the high lonesome trains in the distance, and I am always reminded of this, from Mary Oliver.

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

What we need is here

IMG_2488

As the months pass quietly, ever-quicker, and the light went slowly, slowly, slowly, and then all at once to the fireworks of the thick-lit 3pm sunset into early, hushed dark, as family ebbs and flows out of our house like a warming tide, as small, fancy parcels intoxicatingly marked perishable and hand-hewn boxes of tiny lovelies ready to be gifted land on our porch as tokens of our far-off loves, and as we just polished off the last of the ham…Just this quick and quiet thought on need, want, and gratitude:

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

– Wendell Berry

Yass Kween

2015.4.20queencenterIt’s been a whirlwind spring full of adventure and blossoms (and yowza is it summer already?). Tales of THUNDER to come, but in the meantime, a little shout out to my girls in Shangri-La who we thought requeened themselves last fall and now we have proof. In short (just to blow your mind if you don’t know too much about bees/love Shakespearean-style epics): a beehive always knows how their queen is doing. Much like in any period drama, a small scrim of bees called the “retinue” surround the queen at all times and groom her and feed her and generally worship her. Only a few bees at a time comprise the retinue and they swap in and out so many bees have a chance to get close to the queen. Once the bees closest to the queen have swapped out, they then are able to send the pheromones of the queen to every ladybee in the hive in a complex game of telephone, so that every bee in the hive knows exactly what the queen is up to at all times. This is super important to all bees, as the health (and fertility) of the queen is necessary to the hive’s survival. If something happens to the queen, the hive can immediately tell. If the queen dies, if she gets squished by the beekeeper, if robber bees kill the queen, if her pheromones start to get weak, if the queen is just getting old, the hive will know. A very strong and intuitive hive (disclaimer: beekeepers are infinitely desirous of anthropomorphizing their hives. I do it, like, one million percent) will get the sense that their queen is failing and they will pick a part of the hive where the current queen seldom goes and they will start grooming a replacement to overthrow her. I put this Shakespearean cloak-and-dagger impulse in italics because it is truly incredible. Various factors (brood pattern, queen cells) led us to believe that we had this exact “re-queening” situation in Shangri-La last summer. Like her sister queen in our other hive, the old queen in Shangri-La had a red mark on her, so the only way to be sure that the hive had, in fact, re-queened itself, was to spot a new, unmarked queen in her place. This spring, we saw her, in all of her huge, beautiful, un-marked glory. Proof. Proof that these crazy divine bees know what’s best for themselves and proof that (on however small a scale) by keeping bees we are helping the species overcome the obstacles that we as humanity have set up for them. She’s in the bottom right corner, with a shiny exposed thorax (where a store-bought queen would normally be marked) about twice as long as the worker bees and surrounded by cells of larvae. Long live the Queen.2015.4.20QueenSideAnd in case you have trouble spotting her, here’s an image with an arrow:QueenArrow

A Bird in the Hand

IMG_0768Yesterday morning, just as the kettle began to rattle and sing for coffee, a bird came into the house. A little sparrow, a melodia, a song-sparrow, the kind with the delicately tiger striped tail feathers, the kind that came in the house last time when we had the downstairs window open all day to run the wire for the new antenna on the roof facing into the mountain shadow so Sweetheart and I could watch Jacques Pépin on the free PBS channel whose mascot is a dancing paper bag (oh the thrill of our bear muffin lives!), the same kind that Nipsey the cat caught in his mouth in 2.5 seconds like a jungle beast, the kind that Sweetheart liberated from the cat’s mouth while I squeezed shut my eyes and hopped in a circle almost crying saying “please fix it, please fix it” (and he did, the kind of bird that lived), you know, that kind of bird. In the house. He made a few mad circuits of the dining room and kitchen as I wildly shut the cat out and opened all the windows and doors and gently and firmly intoned “Bird, Bird, this way, this way”. The bird does not answer to Bird. The bird landed on the windowsill of the last closed window, sat there, and let. me. pick. him. up. I held the bird, with no birdlike tremor, just a tiny and soft warm little parcel, how brave, in my gentle paw for only as long as it took me to open the window, the screen, and set him on the porch in a patch of shade. I did not take his picture, for he was very real. He sat there, very still for a very long worrisome moment, and then took a deep breath and swooped off into the hedge. They are singing right now outside, the song sparrows, their wonderful looping and cascading trill, call-and-response. Is one of them him? The bird who I held in my hand? I do hope so.

Bear Muffins

We are all creatures of habit, or rather to say, humanity loves a ritual, or maybe that’s just to say, I love a ritual. The ritual of the bath, the ritual of the fire in the woodstove, the ritual of making sure we soak in the wood-fired-hot-tub every new and full moon (that’s a new one over here). Sweetheart and I aren’t always together, he travels frequently, we spend some time in NYC, we are out in the world, honestly, more often than not (where I try not to get freaked out by the disturbing lack of rituals in place when, say, one is eating boiled peanuts for breakfast in the lowlands of Mississippi… breathe sister, for this is the world and it is glorious). When we are together, though, two snug bugs in our old farmhouse, our days form a pleasantly worn pattern like the sound of a foot-treadle sewing machine, in and out with our carefully calibrated daily rituals of acknowledging beauty (which, let’s be honest, are mostly just about food and when to have it). We have long loved the ritual cup of tea in the evening, before bed, with generous spoonfuls of our bee’s honey put right in the hot water to melt off the spoon. We try not to be too precious with the honey we harvested last fall (it’s good for the soul + body + sinuses we say!), but it still feels insanely indulgent to actually eat it. And, since we can’t abide caffeine at the late hour (and because I grew up drinking it when Mama would enact a similar ritual of fixing it and reading to us while we drank it before bed ONE CHAPTER ONLY NO MATTER HOW MUCH OF A CLIFFHANGER IT IS), we drink Sleepytime Tea. Waiting for it to steep the other evening and looking at the iconic box in the pantry, it occurred to me, we live the life of the Sleepytime Bear:sleepytimebear With his cat, who flops, laid out like a hot breakfast on his worn-in oriental rug…IMG_3325 And his roaring fire…IMG_2215 His strange window full of jewel-bottles and plants…10684104_563492667088815_1013671846_n and his radio, and his cotton night gown, and his club chair, and his basket full of antlers or whatever. I mean look at him! The Sleepytime Bear knows what’s up. Basically, he’s our aspirational life model and we. are. nailing. it. Except for one thing… when I mentioned the startling similarities between the bear’s sweet set up and ours, Sweetheart said: Yeah, but he has muffins. Well, damn. Indeed he does.sleepytimebearcloseup We decidedly never, ever have muffins. BEAR LIFE FAIL. Luckily/fortuitiously/as if she could read our bear-minds, the next day, Mama sent me this muffin recipe, which employs chickpeas, almond flour, and olive oil in lieu of butter and white flour and has a healthy kick of cardamom and lemon (one of our/the bear’s probably favorite flavor combos). Once made, they have now and forever been named: Bear Muffins. Enjoy, and keep on living the life like a bear, one ritual at a time. bearmuffincloseup

Bear Muffins

adapted from the CIA

1 3/4 cups chickpeas (1 15 oz. can), drained and rinsed
Zest from two lemons
Zest from one orange
The juice from those lemons
The juice from that orange
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
2/3 cup whole wheat or regular flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsps ground cardamom (I love cardamom, so I keep upping it every time)
1/3 cup almond flour a handfull of sliced almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar (I use sugar in the raw or demerara)

—Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray (or flour them or line them with cupcake papers).
—Purée the chickpeas in a food processor until smooth.
—Add the lemon and orange zest and juice, olive oil, sugar, and egg yolks. Purée until smooth.
—Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and half the cardamom.
—Stir in the chickpea mixture, then add the almond flour.
—Beat egg whites until they hold semi-soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
—Break up sliced almonds with a knife and combine with sugar and the rest of the cardamom in a small bowl. Set aside.
—Scoop batter into muffin tin.
—Sprinkle each muffin top batter with some of the almond-sugar-cardamom mixture.
—Bake 12–13 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
—Let cool and then gently knife each muffin out of its tin.
Makes 12 muffins. I usually double this recipe to make 24. Cause they’re delicious and you know that’s how the bear would roll. Because the frothiness of the whipped egg whites will fall if left to sit, if doubling, it’s best to bake two muffin tins at once if you have them.