Personal

Time Flies

My "baby" turned two this month.  And somehow, he knew he was supposed to blow out the candles on his cake.  *cue heartmelt*

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For others who might be looking for gluten-free, egg-free cake solutions, this is the recipe I used (along with a banana-avocado-cocoa powder frosting) and it was truly delish!

Fairbanks Breastfeeding Coalition 2018 Juried Art Show: Fairbanks Fine Art Photographer

This April marked the fourth annual juried art show put on by the Fairbanks Breastfeeding Coalition.  I just LOVE this exhibition.  An incredible variety of works are submitted every year and there are always pieces that surprise and amaze me.  I've been fortunate to have pieces included in all four shows now, and an image of mine won the second prize award in both 2016 and 2017.  

This year, my image won first prize.  

 "If Only I Had Another Set of Hands," ©2018 Sarah Lewis.   Special thanks to Brooke, Conner, and Colleen, models extraordinaire.   

"If Only I Had Another Set of Hands," ©2018 Sarah Lewis.  Special thanks to Brooke, Conner, and Colleen, models extraordinaire.  

 

I love that I can count on this show happening annually, because it gives my brain time to meander around and contemplate ideas without much of a time crunch.  The idea for this image hit me during the dead of winter, and I knew I wanted to make it for the FBC show.  It took several months to plan it out and put it together (mostly because passion projects are often the last things on the list to get taken care of...), and then to shoot and edit.  The whole process was surprisingly refreshing - following an idea just for me, with no expectations or requirements... I realized it's been far too long since I let such rabbit holes into my workload.  

A note to those who might like to share or use this image, since copyright is tricky in this day and age: if you are a sole individual (and not an entity) sharing online, please share but cite and link back to me.  If you would like to include this image as part of a website or publication, online or otherwise, please drop me a line first so we can chat.  Thank you! 

Ella Grace: Fighting PFIC at Seven Months Old | Fairbanks, Alaska

This is Ella.  

  Ella.

Ella.

This is Ella's mama.  

  Kassandra.   

Kassandra.  

And this is Ella's family.  

  The whole crew.  

The whole crew.  

This is Ella moments after she was born.  (Yup, I was there.)  I think you can feel the ecstatic reverence of her family's gaze in this picture; she was an answer to their collective prayers, and they chose Grace ("God's favor") as her middle name to codify how thankful they are to have her.  Attending her birth was one of the more remarkable experiences I've ever had.  

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Ella Grace is seven months old as I write this.  A little shy of a month ago, everything changed.  Kassandra texted me over Labor Day weekend to let me know they were in Anchorage in the Providence PICU.  Ella was in liver failure.  

I can't convey how shocked I was to hear that.  Liver failure??  This of course pales to what Ella's family was experiencing.  (*This seems like a good time to note that this whole entry is a paraphrased summary of second-hand narrative - there are of course a lot more nuances to everything.  But this is the jist, as much I've been able to piece together.)  After months of mild but nagging concern, Kassandra and Mike again brought Ella into Urgent Care, never expecting that they would be aboard an air ambulance to the PICU mere hours later.  All told, they spent a week in Providence with little more than the clothes they had thrown on that Monday morning.   

Ella improved rapidly.  She was able to leave the PICU in favor of a regular children's ward room after a few days, and soon they no longer felt she was in liver failure, but referred to the episode as a liver injury.  But they still didn't know why.  There were a whole lot of tests and a lot about what it wasn't (and a lot of stuff on the "wasn't" list was GREAT stuff to have ruled out!), but by and large it was still a mystery.  The Ryan family was discharged and able to come home to Fairbanks (while still remaining in close contact with Ella's new specialists in Anchorage) still waiting on answers.

The day after they returned home, you could see how improved Ella was - barely a trace of jaundice even in the whites of her eyes.  There was so much relief in her improvement.  

  Why yes, I  am  a living Cabbage Patch Doll.  

Why yes, I am a living Cabbage Patch Doll.  

But it didn't last.  Slowly, her liver enzymes started to show deterioration again; she had to wear little baby socks over her hands to stop her from scratching the terrible itching; and jaundice begin to creep across her complexion again.  At this point, the Ryan family prepared for a trip to Seattle Children's Hospital for a camera-assisted liver biopsy and exploratory surgery.  

As it turns out, one of the dozens of tests they'd been waiting on came in with genetic results just before they left for Seattle.  The biopsy surgery went well (apart from being terrifying, of course), and the next day, they got the news that the biopsy confirmed the test results.  

In Kassandra's own words: Yesterday’s biopsy confirmed [Ella's] diagnosis of a very rare genetic disease called Progressive Familial Intrahepatic Cholestasis, or PFIC. she has a mutation for Type 1, and for Type 3. However, since she only has one mutation for Type 1, they aren’t diagnosing her as Type 1, because it typically takes two mutations for Type 1 to present as disease. So she is officially diagnosed with PFIC3. In most cases, Type 3 is “better” to have than Type 1, but not always. This disease presents differently in everyone, and it’s not common enough for them really to know what to expect for Ella. At some point, she may need a liver transplant. Or her liver could stabilize and potentially be ok.

There was talk of removing her gallbladder, but that won’t be happening at this time, and we are praying it becomes a non-issue entirely.

PFIC is characterized mainly by the intense itching that comes from bilirubin build up in the system. We have a starting medication to try to help keep it at bay that we will use as needed. And other options to try later if it doesn’t work.

The biopsy also looked to see how damaged her liver is. Untreated PFIC will often lead to cirrhosis, and they wanted to make sure Ella wasn’t heading in that direction already, and she’s not! There is some very light scarring at this point, but nothing that they are terribly concerned about, and that will continue to be monitored as well.

So now the plan is simply to monitor her. We will need to return to Seattle in about a month for a follow up, and we will repeat labs at that time. In the meantime, we will continue the medications she is on to help keep her bile thin, and to help supplement her vitamin levels. We will also keep doing weight checks at home.

... we were devastated by the news we were given. Today we have more hope for a full life for our girl. This isn’t the answer we were hoping for, but God is still GOOD. We still trust Him and the purpose he has for Ella. I know we will have hard days, especially given that we really have no concrete answers here. But God is faithful and he will walk through this with us! Thank you all so very much for your continued prayers, they have carried us through this very stressful and uncertain time. 💕

Kassandra's strength humbles me greatly.  I have so much admiration for her ability to be grounded yet hopeful, joyful, in the face such unexpected adversity.  

If, like me, you're aching for any way to extend a little love and support to the Ryan family during this time, you're in luck.  Friends set up a You Caring page to collect donations to help offset all the incidental costs of travel and out-of-pocket medical care.  In addition, donations of Alaska Airlines miles would be incredibly appreciated - if you'd like to donate miles to the family, please contact me directly for info.  More than anything, the Ryan family would appreciate your love, thoughts, and prayers for Ella and their family.  

Shortly after sharing the diagnosis, Kassandra wrote this on her Facebook page.  I just wanted to take a minute to say a huge THANK YOU. It does not feel like enough, a simple “thank you”. But I say it from the bottom of my heart. I am so blown away by the support we have received from everyone, even complete strangers to us have donated to help offset the costs of all that Ella is going through. It has been such a blessing for covering the cost of simple things that would have been stressful without this help. Such as meals when we are out and about, and when we were in the hospital, and supplements we got for Ella today. Little costs that really add up. And these funds will help us cover Ella’s main med that she is on (that thus far, insurance is refusing to cover) for the near future. Every single one of you who have donated have really helped to lighten the load in a big way, and we are just so grateful. I never expected to receive the amount that we have. So thank you for giving so generously, each and every one of you. It means so much!

Fairbanks, I love watching you rally around the people you love.  You rock, little city.  

Ella's YouCaring page is here.  

Thank You, Fairbanks: A Letter from Student Midwives Hannah & Kluane

I've had the great privilege to work next to Hannah and Kluane many times over the past two years as they completed their midwifery apprenticeships at the Alaska Family Health and Birth Center.  The real bummer about apprenticeships, it turns out, is that they come to an end.  Hannah emailed me this week and asked if I might share this letter she and Kluane penned - INSTEAD OF STUDYING FOR THEIR EXAMS - to help share their deep gratitude to the community of Fairbanks for welcoming them into their families and training them as midwives.  

Please join me in sending them love and the best of luck as they embark on their next chapters!  As you'll read below, they will be holding a fundraiser at AFHBC in July to raise money for their upcoming charitible mission - I hope to see you there.  <3

And now, onto their words.  The following letter is authored by Hannah Brown and Kluane Tozier.  


To the women and families of the Fairbanks area:

June marks two years since we became student midwives, and also the conclusion of our apprenticeships with Alaska Family Health and Birth Center. Time flies, and all that. While we really should be studying and preparing for the test that will determine if we get to be real, grown-up midwives, we have been talking and can't help but reflect on our time here. Along with this reflection comes a need for us to express our thanks. 

None of this would be possible without you: the women and families of Alaska Family Health and Birth Center. Your willingness, patience, and good humor throughout every phase of our education has been amazing and so very humbling. We were never told that we were too young, or that we couldn't support a woman through labor when we have never personally experienced it. Through these years, we have laughed with you. We have cried with and for you in joy, as well as in sorrow and loss. We have been honored to witness the strength that can only be found in the birth room. We have watched you struggle and wiped your tears as you worked through pain and exhaustion to breastfeed your baby. 

The last few weeks have been emotional ones. We've slowly been collecting my "lasts" at the birth center: the last Monday of clinic with Julie and Kate, the last lunch with the midwives, the last initial prenatal with Manga, the last postpartum visit with Erin. While it's true that we could never have arrived at this point in our training without the women, babies, and families that we have served for the past two years, we are equally indebted to the midwives of Alaska Family Health and Birth Center. 

"Our" midwives. Oh, how I could go on and on about how much we love, admire, and aspire to be like each of them. These women are fearless in their love and support. These women are our heroes. They hold life and death in their strong but gentle hands. We have seen them be unflinching in their care through the dark moments, the painful moments, the moments when it is clear that they are grieving, too. We have heard whispered words of encouragement as a woman is at the end of her strength, as well as words of firm direction when danger is detected. These women have taught us so much, as women and as wives and mothers, as well as midwives. We will forever carry their teachings our my minds and hearts, and someday hope to be half the women and midwives that they are. 

Truly, the last two years have been the most incredible, joyous, and sometimes painful years of our lives. We have grown so much; and while sometimes the growing pains were more than we thought we could take, we have emerged proud of the individuals and midwives we have become.

Thank you so much.

We could never express our gratitude enough. We really never knew that we could grow to love and cherish so many wonderful families in such a short amount of time. 

The next chapter of our lives (and our journeys as midwives) includes a mission trip to the Philippines. We will be having a fundraiser gala at Alaska Family Health & Birth Center on July 2nd from 3pm to 6pm. This fundraiser will in part help us raise funds for our trip to the Philippines through the incredible organization Mercy In Action. Even if you can't give monetarily, we would love to see anyone who we served, for any encouragement or a kind word.

Love,

Hannah and Kluane

Cuban-style Plantains for Breakfast - Fairbanks Documentary Photographer

Plantains are kind of a new thing for me.  As you can imagine, they're not exactly Alaska's most common import.  Fred Meyer will usually have a small display of them between the organic and non-organic bananas, but half the time the miniature sugar bananas or red bananas are mis-identified as the plantains... or there will be none at all.  And when I do find them, it's rare to find green, unripe ones - even if they look green when I grab them, by the next morning they're bright yellow with brown dalmatian spotting.  

Ripe fruit is generally a good thing, though, right?  I would tend to agree, except for the case of the plantain.  Plantains are more like a potato than a banana, and you prepare tostones - those wonderfully smashed-looking savory discs that litter my Instagram feed's enviable plates - with green plantains.  

It's a good thing that ripe plantains can be just as delicious, if more undercelebrated.  It turns out Cuban-style fried plantains are made with only a few ingredients: over-ripe plantains, coconut oil, brown (or coconut) sugar, and salt.  

They're not something we make often, but it sure is fun once and a while.  It's a dish I don't think I would have ever considered making before the scientific findings that 'fat doesn't make you fat' really gained traction - and even then, it took me a while to overcome fat phobia.  (I remember the first time a naturopath told me how nutritious coconut oil was, and prescribed a tablespoon a day.  ...Plain.  Solid fat eaten off a spoon...  I'm pretty sure you could have made a fairly successful meme with the expression on my face.)  Of course, I'm not arguing that these are health food, but neither are they the anathema they once were.

But seriously, you heard about the corrupt research about fat (and conspicuously, NOT sugar) that Harvard's been generating for the past FIVE DECADES, right?

This particular morning, I had ripe plantains in the fruit bowl.  And Norah was wearing super cute jammies (I may or may not have squealed aloud upon finding them at Once Upon A Child).  And my camera was nearby.  And so this was breakfast.  :)

  Clearly, none of us had had coffee yet. &nbsp;

Clearly, none of us had had coffee yet.  

Eggs & A Slice of Light - Fairbanks Documentary Photographer

My daughter's preschool teacher recently gifted us a dozen homegrown eggs on what turned out to be a spectacularly sunny (and really chilly!) fall day.  Upon opening them, I saw they were a variety of sweet, muted pastel hues, and I couldn't resist the urge to take a quick photo in the bright sunlight.  That got Norah's interest, though, and as she came over to see what I was doing she began counting them, pointing out the different colors, and asking why they were different...and I "accidentally" made a photo essay about it.  (Hashtag, photographer problems.)  Seriously, though, you couldn't have planned a waldorf-inspired moment better if you'd tried!  We got to count, match, and talk all about chickens.  Every day since then, she's requested "pretty eggs" for breakfast and has painstakingly selected which two eggs she'd like from the pantone array of peach, ecru, pale turquoise, and almost-blue in the cardboard carton.

Picking up my camera and taking the time to indulge in personal work like this - documenting our everyday moments - has been so good for my soul.

A Morning with Kinderwoods Forest School - Fairbanks Childhood Photographer

My middle-little, Norah, scored a spot in Kinderwoods Forest School this fall, and I'm so happy it's been her first preschool experience.  The whole thing is just so neat I feel like pinching myself.  Twice a week I drop her off and watch her and her small heard of 3 - 6 year-olds hike off into the wilderness (in the mildest sense of the word, haha!) for a few hours of adventuring, snacking, tea-drinking, and learning. 

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Kinderwoods is "designed to encourage creative play, problem solving skills, adventure, movement, and love of the natural world. The outdoors holds the potential to support these goals as well as promote healthy emotional, physical, social and cognitive development in a way that indoor environments cannot. Children thrive out of doors and their bodies and minds need to be there."  {From the Kinderwoods website.}  

And truly, the story of how it all began is just as fantastic.  Beth, the founder (and current teacher), wanted to enroll her little one in a Forest School-type program.  When she found there wasn't anything like it here in Fairbanks...she opened one herself.  Needless to say, I'm pretty psyched that she's one of my daughter's first role models.  

Beth was kind enough to let me tag along with the class one day near the end of the fall session to make a photo essay on the Day in the Life of a Forest School.  It was so. much. fun. to watch my daughter be her own little adventuring person among all her classmates.  All these tiny kids were absolutely dwarfed by this gigantic forest, and yet each and every one was eminently at home there - completely comfortable playing, eating, drinking (and even peeing!) there.  

Simply adorable.  

Postpartum Freezer Meals Recipe Round-up {Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly}

As I started making my list for freezer meals (and baked goods, let's be honest) that I wanted to begin preparing before my third baby arrives, I thought I might as well share here as well in case anyone else in on the hunt for nutritious yet delicious food to nourish yourself and your family during the 4th trimester.  

My family has food allergies and intolerances, and the recipes included here reflect that.  We first began eating this way after my first child starting displaying symptoms of food allergies as a breastfed infant (he's now 6).  We went through an elimination diet with the help of the wonderful lactation consultants at public health and were able to determine that he reacted to cow's milk, wheat, and eggs.  MAJOR DIET CHANGE.  But years later, I can tell you without a doubt that it was worth it.  Our breastfeeding relationship survived and thrived, and we all adapted to our new "limitations."  I for one was surprised to discover that I actually felt a lot better - apparently I had low-lying intolerances to wheat/gluten and dairy as well.  While this won't be the case for everyone who goes through an elimination diet or changes their diet to benefit their nursling (cow's milk, eggs, and wheat are fairly common irritants for newborns, as are caffeine, chocolate, and soy), I am here to attest that with the right support, you won't feel deprived in the slightest.  

BROWNIES | gluten-free, dairy-free

Not normally a nutritious food, right?  Enter Elana's Pantry.  Though these are chocolate, they boast an amazing balance of protein, healthy fat, and carbs that make them (an incredibly satisfying) power food, especially for those middle-of-the-night nursing-induced ravenous hunger attacks.   Made with high-protein almond butter rather than flour, these are my absolute favorite, especially when made with dark cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips.  They also turn out great with flax "eggs," if those are out of your diet.  

PALEO PORRIDGE | gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free

There are a number of "n'oatmeal" (faux oatmeal hot cereals that are grain-free) and paleo porridge recipes out there, and they are surprisingly filling, nutritious, and delicious.  My favorites can be found on The Spunky Coconut blog as well as Elana's Pantry - the recipes are a mix of unsweetened coconut, dates, raisins, seeds, nuts, etc.  Kelly of the Spunky Coconut's new book, Easy Paleo Meals, also has several recipes and tips for preparing your porridge in advance.  Before baby, I like to prep the dry mix and divide it into individual portion sizes in small mason jars that I stick in the freezer until I'm ready to throw them in the blender with boiling water to transform into creamy hot cereal.  

KALE TART | gluten-free, dairy-free

This is a recipe included in Elana Amsterdam's book, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook.  I highly recommend purchasing this slim volume - I love Elana's recipes because they're simple and easy to prepare, don't require any weird ingredients (no xanthan gums or a million strange flours required), and always turn out.  I really wish we'd discovered it when we first had to go gluten-free!  At any rate, this kale tart is one of my favorite recipes in the book.  It's got both your veggies and protein in one dish, works great as a side or as a vegetarian entree, and have I mentioned that it's delicious?  

BONE BROTH & SOUP

I have to admit, I'm new to an appreciation of bone broth.  I just didn't know what it was until recently!  But since learning about it and experiencing its benefits (and deliciousness) firsthand, it's something I want to always have on hand.  There's nothing better by the mugful when you feel you might have a cold coming on, when you're worn down (...and who would feel that way postpartum?...), or when you feel like you just need a little extra umph in the day's nutritional intake - and, of course, it's the best base for soup there is.  We absolutely love our Instant Pot pressure cooker for quick bone broth - two hours and it's done! - and I love the tutorial on Nom Nom Paleo that details her foolproof method for delicious broth in the Instant Pot.  I believe it's in that same post that she talks about her favored method for storing her broth - she freezes it into "pucks" in silicone muffin molds and then puts them in ziplocks, so she can grab 1/2 cup portions and reheat whenever needed.  

ALMOND BUTTER FREEZER FUDGE | gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free

These are amazing little fat bombs, quick to grab for blood sugar boosts, super refreshing on hot days in particular, and surprisingly delicious in light of their limited ingredients.  Check it out on the Detoxinsta's site.  

SWEET POTATO STUFFING | gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free

This is a dynamite dish for dinner, but in all honesty, it's pretty much my favorite breakfast ever, especially if you throw a few sunny-side up eggs on top...the best.  It's hard to find unsweetened cranberries year-round, so if it's too late to stock up your freezer stash during Thanksgiving season, it is possible to order frozen cranberries from Azure Standard and other online grocers.  We often make it with white sweet potatoes and turkey italian sausage or my husband's homemade caribou sausage.  The recipe is written to make a huge batch, which is fantastic because we make it as written but bake it in two dishes - one for the fridge, and one for the freezer.  Each is a solid week's worth of breakfasts packed full of veggies, protein, and complex carbohydrates.  You can find the recipe on the wonderful food blog Fed & Fit.  

POWER BARS | gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free

Another of my favorites to have on hand, especially for those times when you realize your blood sugar is plummeting but only have one hand free because the other is full of baby.  High in protein, healthy fat, and topped with dark chocolate...they're easy to make, keep well in the freezer as well as the fridge, aaaaand they're amazing.  Check them out on Elana's Pantry.  

That's what I have on my list so far...what are your go-to freezer meals for after baby?