Blog

And So It Begins

Hey there. How’s it going?

 

I decided to start a blog, because I always have 1001 ideas and thoughts and stories running through my head, but especially stories. And because I love to write, I figured there was no better way to share those stories with my friends, family, and strangers, than a blog. I’m not sure how much traction this is going to get, but I know this much.

My mom always told me that it didn’t matter what I was going to be when I grew up, but I was going to write about it.

“I’m going to be a firefighter!”
You can be whatever you want to be, but you’re going to write about it.
“I’m going to be a police officer!”
You can be whatever you want to be, but you’re going to write about it.
“I’m going to be a journalist!”
You can be whatever you want to be, but you’re going to write about it.

And so I am.

This blog is important to me. I’m going to be open and honest, because someday, my daughter might read this. And although I will do all I can to keep her happy and healthy and loved, she will have questions. Questions about her past, my past, our family’s past. And maybe I’ll be here to answer those questions, and maybe my parents will be here to answer her questions, and maybe they won’t. So this will exist for her to read through and digest, and then I will be ready and waiting to answer any remaining questions she (or you!) have honestly, and with love.

Because honesty breeds communication, creativity, and community. But without the addition of love, honesty is brutal. How many people have heard the statement, “Well, do you want me to be honest?” and have known that the response isn’t going to be positive? Or how many people have heard “I’m just being honest” after the speaker has just said something cruel? There is an added emotion of fear and resentment attached to honesty that I don’t want to exist here. But who knows? Maybe no one will even read this.

 

The phrase “heartbeat in my fingertips” immediately came to mind for my blog name, because when I’m nervous, or anxious, or upset, I can feel my heartbeat in my fingertips. And trust me, there is nothing more nerve-wracking and exhilarating then opening yourself up to judgement in a BLOG.

 

So with all this being said, this blog will be a collection. Stories, poems, thoughts, recipes, ideas, rants, raves, letters. Buckle up kids, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

I’m just being honest.

 

-Natasha

One Sunny Day a Year Ago…

My, my, my, how time flies.

Somehow, some way, I blinked, and my sweet baby girl is turning ONE. So, on the eve of her very first birthday, I’m going to share my (our?) birth story. So…if details aren’t your thing, you might want to bail out now.

Ready.

Set.

Bail.

 

 

 

Okay. Are we all good here? Cool.

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One year ago today, I was 40 weeks pregnant and miserable. My hands were swollen, my feet were swollen, I couldn’t breathe because SOMEONE had her knees in my lungs, I was BURNING UP, I threw up every single morning for 40 weeks, and my heartburn was ridiculous (a banana and some water gave me heartburn).

The morning of June 12, 2016, I woke up early, sick to my stomach, and I instantly knew it wasn’t morning sickness. Typically, I would wake up, use the bathroom, drink some water, then puke, but that Sunday morning, I woke up to throw up. I went back to bed, and when I got up a few hours later, and went through my normal morning sickness routine. But when I threw up that time, I threw up blood. It wasn’t a lot, but it was just enough that it made me nervous, so I called Labor and Delivery (L&D) and asked for a recommendation. They told me it wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and go in, but they didn’t seem too concerned.

Jeff and I took a little bit to get ready. I ate some oatmeal and drank some water while Jeff loaded the car with our hospital bags and camera, just in case.  When we walked into L&D, it was quiet. We were the only ones there, so they took us into an examination room and hooked me up to those AWFUL monitors (if you’ve given birth, you know the ones. They get super itchy and ugh.) As soon as they caught Emmy’s heart rate, they were a bit concerned. Her heart rate sat between 180-200. I was asked what I had for breakfast, if I had any caffeine that morning, if I had been having high blood pressure, if I was pre-eclamptic, etc. And finally, the nurses let me know they were going to call my doctor in.

When my doctor got there, she monitored Emmy’s heart rate (which at this point had been between 180-200 for about an hour), and ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound tech found no problems (that she told me about anyway), and went back to talk to my doctor. Meanwhile, Jeff ran home to check on the dog and update our parents. While he was gone, our doctor came in and let me know that despite the fact that they had me lay on my left side, right side, and back, and had done an ultrasound, and monitored both our heart rates, that I was not leaving the hospital without a baby.

The plan was to give me Cytotec and Pitocin to start labor, but the start at the absolute lowest amount they could, so as to mimic natural labor. Jeff called to see if Dr. Jones had been in yet, and when I told him the plan, he got so excited he got on the turnpike and started heading north…although I was only about a mile to the west.

I got checked in early afternoon and started signing my MOUNTAIN of paperwork, including the approval for an epidural. I went into labor with a fairly open mind. I wanted to see how far into labor I could get without drugs or an epidural, but I wanted the opportunity to have the epidural as soon as I wanted it. So we got all settled in just in time to…wait.

Emmy’s heart rate came down and I hadn’t started any of my labor inducing meds yet, when L&D slowly started to fill up. Jeff and I got to enjoy the evening in a fairly comfortable room, watching the Tony Awards (where Hamilton won EVERYTHING, and I found a new musical to fall in love with). My pitocin was started at 10:00 pm, but then at midnight, a nurse came in and stopped my IV, because every. single. room. in L&D was full, and she and my doctor agreed to let me have one more night of sleep before breaking my water.

At 6:30 am on June 13th, my doctor came in and woke me up to let me know she was going to break my water, and wanted to know if Jeff would want to be awake for it. When I said yes, and she woke him up, he was a mess of sleepy and nervous, as was I.

As soon as my water broke, labor progressed fairly quickly. By the time I reached a 4, I asked for drugs. By the time I was a 6, I asked for an epidural.

I’ve had people, when hearing my story, ask why I didn’t just tough it out since I was almost done. First of all, how rude is that question? Second of all, I wanted to be able to experience labor with as much focus as possible. And unfortunately, my level of pain (back labor) was so bad that I couldn’t focus on bringing my daughter into the world, and I wanted to be able to really focus on her, not my pain.

I got my epidural around 12:30, and started pushing around 1:15. I had Ed Sheeran Pandora playing in the background, and my doctor, my labor nurse, and my husband/best friend in the room with me. It was such a happy, safe environment that I spent the majority of my time between pushes laughing hysterically.

Emmaline Harper entered the world at 1:37 pm. I did immediate skin-to-skin and delayed cord clamping, and my first words were “Hi Emmy!” As I held her and touched her beautiful face and stroked her thick, dark hair, I caught a glimpse of my doctor’s face and noted that she had gotten very, very quiet.

In all the flurry of getting Emmy and me taking care of, I was very aware of the fact that she wasn’t laughing and joking any more, and she had lines of stress across her forehead. And then I noticed the stress in the L&D nurse’s voices.

They pointed out that at the end of Emmy’s cry, when she sucked in a new breath, there was a rattle. They moved her to a warming table to better work on her, and my doctor let me know that the good news was I only needed two small stitches. Not bad at all. But she also let me know that due to the anemia I had during my early pregnancy, she had struggled to stop my bleeding.

Meanwhile, they let me know that Emmy had aspirated on fluid during delivery, and they were struggling to get the fluid out of her lungs. When nurses bent over her to work on her, she pulled their hair, spit in their faces, and threw a full blown, hissy fit.

I sat up so I could see what was going on, and counted the number of rags used to soak up my blood. 21. I will never, ever forget that.

The nurses let me know they had to take Emmy to the NICU to better help her, and Jeff needed to go with her. The hustle and bustle of the room slipped away and I suddenly noticed that I was shaking uncontrollably. No one told me that was a thing.

Also, no one told me that throwing up after labor was totally normal. Because that was terrifying.

As soon as I was able to walk, my favorite nurse took me to see Emmy in the NICU. A lactation consultant helped me getting Em to latch (which she did like a champ!) and helped me with pumping, because Emmy had to eat every 3 hours to keep her sugars up.

The next day, after Emmy’s lungs were clear, they detected a heart murmur. We consulted with a cardiologist that let us know that between her left and right ventricle, her heart hadn’t completely grown together, leaving a small hole. He gave us a referral to another cardiologist to see when Emmy was about 3 months old (where we learned her heart murmur was gone. Yay!)

And then on Thursday, 4 days after I walked into the hospital, I walked out with the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen. But I may be a bit biased.

And now, my sweet baby is going to be one. A whole year has bone by. She is smart, she is sassy, she is loving, and she has my whole heart. I have had the honor and the joy of not only getting to be her mother, but getting to breastfeed her for an entire year (more on this in a later post). And I have gotten the heartwarming pleasure of watching her interact with her daddy, who loves her more than anything in this world.

Emmaline Harper. Emmy. Boom. We love you so much. Happy birthday, sweet girl.

It’s SUMMER

Summer, summer, summertime!

I don’t know about you all, but I am PUMPED about this summer. Maybe it’s because it’s my first “break” as a teacher (my first day of break I spent an hour in the education section of Barnes and Noble), or that it’s my baby’s first birthday next month, or in two months it’s my fifth wedding anniversary…Who knows. But I’m loving it.

So for my first summer post, I’m dedicating it to food. Here’s the deal. I love food. I love it dearly. And when I’m not working myself to death taking care of 145 teenagers, a baby, a dog, a cat, and a husband, I love to cook. And I’m always up for trying new foods and new recipes, and this one is one of my favorites. So without further ado, Vietnamese banh mi street tacos!

I bought all of the ingredients, except for the tortillas, at Sprouts. The produce and proteins are SO fresh, and so affordable. If there’s one near you, you should DEFINITELY get your ingredients there.

I highly recommend you start by prepping all of your ingredients. It saves a couple steps later. Start by mincing two cloves of garlic, deseeding and chopping one jalapeno, peel and slice your cucumber into tiny strips, and grate about a cup of carrots, then slice a lime in half, and cut your tilapia into quarter inch by two inch slices.

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Look at all the pretty colors!

The first thing you want to do is marinate your fish. The longer, the better the flavor. Your marinade is the juice of both lime halves (really get in there. Squeeze it hard. Make it a summer workout!), all the garlic, all the jalapeno, all the fish slices (chunks? pieces?), a tiny pinch of salt (I’m talking pinch. The fish is pretty salty already) and a teaspoon of melted coconut oil. Stir it all up and pop it in the fridge to marinate while you work on the rest.

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While your fish is marinating, work on quick-pickling your cucumber, carrot, and cilantro.

Take 1/2 a cup of hot water and stir in about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar until it dissolves. Then add a hefty shot of vinegar. Taste it, I know it sounds weird, but taste it and see if it’s too vinegary or not vinegary enough for your taste.

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Pour the liquid mixture over the top of your cilantro, cucumber, and carrot, stir, and add that to the fridge with your fish.

Then gather the ingredients for your spicy mayo.*

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*Starbucks optional

Start with equal parts vinegar and sugar, approximately one tablespoon of each. Mix well. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sriracha (again, according to your tastes), and 3/4 cups of mayo. Stir well, taste, adjust according to preference. Pop that in the fridge and pull out your fish.

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Drain the juice out of your fish, heat a pan to high heat, then add two tablespoons coconut oil. When melted, dump the garlic, jalapeno, and fish into the pan.

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Cook fish on one side until lightly browned, about two minutes, then flip. Fish is finished when white and flaky.

Steam your tortillas, or, if you have gas stove, heat them over the open flame. They’re bomb, trust me. Mission makes these awesome street taco sized tortillas. They come in a purple package.

Fill tortillas with fish and grilled vegetables, add the pickled vegetables, and top with as much (or as little) sriracha mayo as you’d like. Finish with a couple leaves of fresh cilantro, and dig in.

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For lunch, we eat just these. Two is more than enough and super fresh. For a slightly heavier meal, add black beans or rice.

As always, proteins can be substituted to fit individual tastes. If you choose to make this, share it, and come back to let me know what you think!

Love you all, and as always, thanks for reading ❤

XO

 

Vietnamese Banh Mi Street Tacos
Time: About 45 minutes, start to finish
Serves: 2 (2 tacos a piece)

For Fish:
1/2 lb tilapia
Juice of one lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
One jalapeno, deseeded and diced
For Pickled Vegetables:
Half a cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
1 c. carrots, grated
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. water
Hefty shot of vinegar, adjust to taste
For Spicy Mayo:
1 T Vinegar
1 T sugar
1-2 T Sriracha
3/4 c. Mayo
Instructions:
1. Mince garlic, deseed and dice jalapeno, cut fish into 1/2 inch by 2 inch strips, slice lime in half, peel and slice cucumber, grate carrots.
2. Squeeze juice from both lime halves, add all garlic, all jalapeno, about a teaspoon of melted coconut oil, and fish. Mix until fish is well coated, then pop in the fridge.
3. Quick-pickle  your vegetables. Heat 1/2 c. water until warm enough to dissolve 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. sugar. Add a hefty shot of vinegar, stir, then taste the mixture to see if it’s vinegary enough for you. Add cucumber, cilantro, and carrot. Mix and pop that in the fridge as well.
4. Make your spicy mayo! Heat 1 T vinegar until warm enough to dissolve 1 T sugar (about 15 seconds). Add 1-2 T sriracha, then 3/4 c. mayo. Mix, and taste. If not hot enough, add more sriracha. If too hot, add a bit more mayo. Put in fridge.
5. Heat 2 T coconut oil in non-stick pan. Drain fish marinade, and dump garlic, jalapeno, and fish in the pan. Cook until fish is lightly browned and flaky and white inside (about 4-5 minutes).
6. Remove from heat. Steam tortillas. Add fish, vegetables, pickled veggies, and spicy mayo. Eat quickly before the fish gets cold. Clean up later. 😉

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Forever Home

If you cry easily, this might not be the best post for you. Because today, I’m going to tell you all my adoption story.

If we’ve talked for any length of time, really, my adoption has probably come up in conversation, because it’s something I’m immensely proud of. My parents PICKED me. How many kids can say that? I have a large, extended family, that is beyond wonderful and amazing and supportive and LOUD (you guys know who you are…). And on top of that, how many people can say that they’re the oldest, middle, youngest, AND only child? (More on that later).

Okay. If you’re still reading, we’re going to make it through now. I think all the super weepers are gone. 😉

 

I was born three days before Halloween, on a Monday afternoon, to a 14-year-old girl, in Northern Oklahoma. My biological mom debated on naming me Pocahontas, but ended up deciding on Natasha at the recommendation of an uncle (thanks Uncle Sonny!).

J and I were in foster care together for a while, living with some fantastic foster parents (I’m looking at you, Bruce and Judy) that I’m still in contact with, 25ish years later, and a group home in Oklahoma City that’s no longer functioning. Then when I was 2 1/2, I was separated from J and put into my own foster home, with my parents, Fred and Joniece. Here’s what I remember about that day.

I remember the rain on the windshield. I remember watching the windshield wipers swipe back and forth, back and forth, and being fascinated by the strip of blue at the top of the windshield that serves as a visor. I remember being told that I was going to live with a nice family where I would have a mom and a dad, and I remember being so, so excited about having a dad, because I didn’t have one.

When we got to my parents’ house, I remember my parents on the porch. And I remember my mom waving excitedly at the car. I’ve been told that I was in love with their labrador mix, Bear, and terrified of their rat terrier, Little Bob, because he would jump on me. I’ve also been told that I was so excited to FINALLY have a daddy, that when he picked me up, I peed all over him.

My parents decided to become foster parents after my mom worked at Head Start and saw a desperate need for foster parents. She went home after a particularly nasty experience with a child being sent back to an unsafe home, that she went home and launched into a 30 minute diatribe on the benefits of being a foster parent. Legend says, when she finished speaking, my dad said “Let’s do it.” I was their first placement.

I loved my daddy. More than anything in the whole world. So much so, it took me a few weeks to really be interested in having a mom (sorry Mama. I love you.). I hated going to bed so much that my mom took me to local doctor and got a recommendation for a new nighttime routine.

And so a new tradition was born. 3 books, and no more, and a glass of warm milk with “sleeping powder” (strawberry nesquick). And finally, right before bed, my mom would make a shadow puppet of a duck face and say “Quack, quack, see you in the morning.” As a promise she’d still be there when I woke up.

For those unfamiliar with foster care, the ultimate goal is reunification of families. So while I was living with my parents, J was taking classes and training and working towards regaining parental custody, which means over a period of time, visitation was added, starting with supervised visits to unsupervised.

The spring that I was 5, my bio mom was given full parental custody. My parents had a going away party for me, and I remember the presents I got, but I also know that I didn’t realize that I was leaving like…forever.

Not long after, something devastating happened. Something that I don’t remember. But what I do remember is sobbing hysterically, and begging her to call my dad. She finally handed me the phone, and I remember begging him to come get me.

A few weeks after, on May 8, 1997, my adoption was finalized. I was finally, forever, home.

As the years went on, I encountered horribly mean boys in middle school that made fun of me for being adopted (which is where I learned the MY parents PICKED ME line). I struggled with my identity (Who am I? Where am I from?) and I have been to multiple counselors over the years. But this much I know is true.

Fred and Joniece are my mom and dad. Not my adoptive parents. Not my foster parents. My mother and my father. They held me and cuddled me. They made me milk with sleeping powder and told me “Quack, quack, see you in the morning.” My dad took me to air shows in the Spring, and my mom took me for ice cream cones with a cherry on top at Foster’s on the first day of school. They held my hands the first time I got stitches. They held my heart when it was broken. And broken again. And when my daughter was rushed to the NICU shortly after delivery and I had no idea what was happening, my dad followed her, and my mom stayed with me and held me while I cried.

For twenty years, my parents have done everything in their power to make sure that I am loved, supported, and respected. They have loved my husband and my daughter. They have given me my space. They have respected my decisions as an adult, even if they don’t fully agree with or understand them. And they have never made me feel anything but safe and loved.

And if that doesn’t sound like real parenting to you, well then, you’re in the wrong place.

Twenty years. Forever home.

Spring Break Part II

So a few weeks ago, I made a post about Spring Break with my Little One. I mentioned briefly that we went to Arkansas to go visit my grandma, but I wanted to really expand on that today.

My grandpa passed away in 2012, so he never got a chance to meet my daughter. However, there were these songs that he used to sing to me growing up. One is “Poor Babes in the Woods” and the other is “Jolly Playmate”. I started singing these to Little Miss E when I was still pregnant. I sing them to her every night.

The first night we stayed with my grandma, E was struggling to get comfortable enough to go to sleep. After several hours of restlessness, I finally got her into her bassinet and ready to sleep. I was almost asleep when I heard (and my mom heard) a man’s voice sing the first few lines of “Poor Babes in the Woods”. The next night, when we asked my great-uncle about it, he told us he couldn’t sing the song at all. That he was familiar with it, but didn’t know it.

We spent a good chunk of the week with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, Kristen and Atalie, and Atalie’s sweet baby D.

We wanted so desperately to be able to go on a hike up the mountain to my grandpa’s homestead…But guess what happened in the mountains, in Arkansas, in March?

That’s right.

It snowed.

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So we waited, and waited, and waited, and on the last day, we finally called it, put E down for a nap, and my mom, aunt, cousin, and I hiked up the mountain.

Here’s my grandpa’s homestead story as I understand it.

My great-grandfather, James, was a very religious man. So much so that when his wife, Nina’s, brothers started a moonshine business in Oklahoma and hid the product on his land, he sold the land, packed up his family, and moved them to Arkansas on whim. While they stood at the train station, they met a military leader’s wife who thought their children were precious and let them live in her guest house.

James bought land at the top of a mountain, and then was known to slip away to fast and pray on the mountaintop, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves.

My grandpa described his mother, Nina, as being a strong woman that he looked up to. She did the cooking, cleaning, hunting, cleaning of the animals, harvest, child raising, etc. As the story goes, one day while James was on the mountaintop and Nina was taking care of the children, some neighbors came by, saw the family without a cabin, and built it for them.

They used the natural rock formations as walls, making the lower section as the “first floor” and the upper section as a “second floor”. They dug out of one section of rock to make a fridge.

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There were some beautiful artifacts left that our family refuses to touch. History, you know?

I believe that natural objects, like wood, stone, water, etc. can almost hold the energy of things that happened in that area. There’s a feeling of ease and calm that settles over me when I stand on what was the second floor of my grandfather’s homestead. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a palpable feeling of love that soaked into the stone and breathes into the air when touched.

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I love this place in a way I can’t begin to explain. And maybe in a way you can’t understand unless you’ve felt it too.

 

Till next time

xx -Natasha

Spring Break!

I’m a teacher, so I get the joy of having spring break, and the current school district I work in gave us TEN DAYS of spring break (if you count the weekends).

I spent Friday running errands, cleaning, and unpacking. I spent Saturday planning Little Miss E’s first birthday party with a dear friend, and then on Sunday, Miss E and I went with my mom to visit my grandmother in Arkansas. (More to follow on this at a later date.)

On the following Friday, I was unsure what I wanted to do. I figured Miss E and I would hang out together, maybe sleep in, maybe go out to lunch. Oh no.

From the time she woke up, she was only mildly content. By mid-morning, she was fussy as could be. She didn’t want her milk, she didn’t want a nap, she didn’t want cuddles…I almost reached the point of taking her to her daycare so they could have a turn with the fussiness (except I would have had to load a fussy baby into a car seat and drive across OKC), when I finally deposited her into her playpen and walked away.

THAT STINKER JUST WANTED TO PLAY BY HERSELF!

I felt a mixture of emotions. Happiness, relief, sadness, disappointment, pride…And I moved on.

I came up with a genius plan. I would make E playdough that she could eat and not die. Wonderful! I am across this great playdough recipe on Pinterest (which can be found here), and decided to amend it to fit what ingredients I had in my cabinet.

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This playdough. was. awesome.

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Not only was it an amazing texture, it was super easy to make.

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My Little One is still a little unsure about certain textures, and even she played with it. I ended up cutting up a plastic trash bag and taping it to our floor so she could sit and play with her playdough.

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So without further ado, please enjoy my favorite baby playdough recipe ever. I changed it slightly, because this is what worked best for us.

Edible Playdough
1/2 c baby cereal (I used Gerber oatmeal)
1/2 c cornstarch
1.5 T vegetable oil
1/4 c water
Food coloring

Mix baby cereal and cornstarch until well combined. Add oil, water, and food coloring all at once. Mix well. It’s very sticky, and I found the color blended best when I did this step by hand. Mix until it’s smooth and easy to shape. If it’s too wet, add a tiny bit of cereal and knead again. If it’s too dry, add a TINY bit of water. Play with your ratios as necessary.

The original recipe says this can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days, but that didn’t work out well for us. I don’t recommend trying to save it.

Thanks for stopping by! More to come soon ❤

-Natasha