Monthly Archives: June 2009

HypnoBirthing

The Mongan Method of HypnoBirthing is a series of techniques utilized by a mother in labor to reduce, or even eliminate, the pain of labor by invoking positive effect language selection, the use of self hypnosis and removing anxiety increasing elements from birthing process. It is a technique developed in the late 1980s by Mickey Mongan based on the principle that birthing is a natural process that a woman’s body was designed to accommodate and not a medical emergency that required the intervention of doctors and medication. As proof of her theories Mongan presented the preponderance of births throughout history and in contemporary nations that were not attended by doctors or required the use of expensive or harmful medications and techniques. HypnoBirthing is a practice that has it’s critics, but works remarkably well.

We chose it because the class fit into our schedule.

The center through which we contacted our midwife, recommend taking one of the several classes they offered on labor. The many classes used different techniques to help the mother mitigate the pain and discomfort of child birth. Since neither one of us are cool with pain or discomfort, and we’d never had a baby, we figured it sounded like a good idea to get some additional education on the matter. Cameron looked at the schedule and reported that most of the classes were only offered later in the evening on weekdays and took several weeks to complete.

Some classes were offered on the weekends, but again, last several weeks. With our sometimes hectic schedules, devoting several weekends in a row wasn’t something that would work for either of us.

One class stood out though. HypnoBirthing was offered as a single day intensive training session. It was a nine hour course, and I suspected it would be mind numbing drivel, but taking it all in at once seemed preferable to stretching the agony out over several weeks. I likened it to be similar to tearing a band-aid off in one swift motion, rather than slowly peeling it back. I was counting on the trauma and shock to numb me into a state of willing information absorption.

Cameron seemed keen on the class. Like the brilliant and prepared student she is, she acquired a copy of the text book and read it prior to the class. I elected instead to read several old Batman issues and a collection of Alan Moore’s run on WildC.A.T.S. I was never a very good student, and I really saw no reason to modify a work ethic that had served me so well in the past.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the class, but I had my suspicions that it would involve some sitting around on bean bags and maybe some chanting. My expectations were very low, so when the instructor began by claiming she was not a hippy, did not eat granola and disliked the odor of patchouli, I’m sure she was attempting to address my unspoken concerns. That she gave the speech while barefoot, in a room decorated with prayer rugs that eschewed a door for a curtain with bells attached to it, and started the class thirty minutes late with no real apology or seemingly even understanding of the concept of punctuality did little to assuage my concerns. Besides, what was wrong with granola?

Any fears I had of this being some sort of wacked out hippy indoctrination program ended when she ordered pizza from Dominoes for lunch. I know hippies. Hippies eat better than this.

Four hours in, with my stomach rumbling over the last acidic remnants of the pizza, I was sure I wouldn’t make it. I attempted to check out by slouching down in my chair and nodding off, but Cameron kicked me. I didn’t think that was very kind, but I guess if she was going to have to go through labor, the least I could do was stay awake.

It wasn’t that the material was boring, or even that I found it distasteful. Quite the opposite in fact, the Mongan Method makes a lot of sense to me. It relies on the simple concept that a woman is genetically designed to make babies come out, and that the majority of problems related to child birth are the result of us enculturating the concept of labor as a medical emergency in combination with all the stressors we introduce. By engaging in selective vocabulary that removes negative connotations, and practicing a few basic principles of self hypnosis, the event can be remarkably less stressful than theĀ  medical and insurance industry would like us to believe.

Villainizing the medical establishment is a sure fire way to get me invested in your idea, especially if you lump in insurance companies. Unfortunately, that’s really all we seemed to be doing. The instructor would introduce a topic speak on it for a few minutes and then present an empirical anecdote to reinforce the idea. Her anecdotes were followed by other people’s anecdotes and before long we’d digressed far from the subject and were bitching about doctors and hospitals. Like angry war chiefs dancing around a fire, each of us would take a turn telling a story about how much we hated hospitals and why, only to raise the ire of the person across the fire from us. This would go on for more than an hour. It was less like a class and more like an interactive episode of Oprah Winfrey.

Which is all well and good, but I don’t want to watch Oprah for nine hours, especially after I’ve had to eat Dominoes. When it was all said and done, I think we spent about two hours reviewing course material and seven shit talking the medical industry. Cameron complained that she got more out of reading the book than she did from attending the class and had been hoping that the class provide the opportunity to expand on the techniques in the class and provide an opportunity to practice them. It sounds like a fair criticism, but then, I didn’t read the book.

The peculiar hazards of registering for a baby shower.

When I got married, many people used the lure of the wedding registry to help soften the blow of Wedding Chaos. It was suggested, rather explicitly, that even though several months of my life would evaporate into barely controlled chaos where the sane peaks would be represented by shouting matches over the color of napkins and the dark valleys would be circular arguments about family members that would surely end in tears or bloodshed, the wedding registry would more than compensate for my life derailing through the sort of comedic tragedy that is normally reserved for romantic comedies.

The wedding registry was, allegedly, some sort of miraculous and transcendental consumer experience that would salve all wounds and remedy all problems. As a child I would spend the weeks leading up to Christmas, flipping through the pages of the Sears catalog. I would select and make detailed lists of all the items I wished for Santa to deliver to me, ideally, free of charge. The lists were accompanied by calculations and even to my pre-teen mind, which had yet to form a clear understanding of the value of money through years of labor and tax payments, my greed was staggering.

The wedding registry, I was promised, shared the essential mechanics of my youthful Christmas ritual. I would select items that I would care to receive, and a list would be generated, accompanied by calculations that would allow me to appreciate that my greed for consumer goods had only increased beyond compensation for inflation. I could even register at Sears, where it was noted with a knowing elbow prod to the ribs and a conspiratorial wink, that one could add power tools and electronics to the registry.

The only significant difference between the wedding registry and sitting cross legged on the living room floor armed with the 1982 Sears Wish Book and a calculator, is the results. As a child I would “accidently” leave my lists laying about in conspicuous spots in the hope that my parents would make note of my selections and perhaps use it as a guideline for gift purchasing. My parents were either very inattentive to details, or attempting to teach me a lesson about money, because I don’t recall this plan ever working. As an adult with a wedding registry however, I could create a list of excruciating detail, make specific demands on model numbers, colors and quantity, and even rank items in order of priority, and people would buy them them for me!

Naturally, I assumed that a baby shower registry would be a similar exercise in wish fulfillment and consumer greed. Something that would dull the sharp edge of impending fatherhood by providing me an opportunity wander around a retail establishment armed with a laser pistol that magically granted me gifts.

I could not have been more wrong. I suspect that the baby registry will mark the Rubicon of my decline from confident, educated and logical young man into feeble minded and high strung foolish father with poor decision making skills.

A wedding registry is all about you, and what you desire. The things you select and request are not necessities. As helpful as a multi-speed stand mixer with a 5 quart detachable bowl is, it is not something you need to prevent the death of you or your spouse. A baby registry, on the other hand, is all about procuring things for your infant. Most of these items are very cleverly marketed in such a fashion as to imply to the mother, that without it, your child will die.

A mother bear will charge and attempt to consume a Toyota Prius if she believes it may increase the chance of risk to her cubs. Human mothers have a similar tendency to ere on the side of caution in defense of their children. Lacking the bear’s natural fear and antagonism to passenger vehicles, a human mother will instead rely on the helpful and altruistic assistance of retail outlets and consumer good companies to determine where she should focus her paranoia and fear.

The baby registry is therefore, not a simple exercise in selecting desired items, but a grueling and stressful test of a marriage where the selection of an infant thermometer becomes a gamble on the life of your future child. Selecting an infant bathtub isn’t simply a matter of determining which color matches your nursery and how convenient the device appears to be, but rather a decision frighteningly laced with the possibility that the product may contribute to the increased risk of death by drowning. Bottles must be BPA free. Diapers need to omit chlorine. Infant carriers must restrain without choking. Cribs must not have slats too far apart, or too close together. Additionally, and this struck me as unfair, you can not add power tools to a baby registry.

This was not fun.

To increase the stress of the situation, my wife is an Engineer. She seemed to be under the impression that this activity could be treated like a complex design problem involving comparison of lists, check of items off the list, and adding items to the list that were absent. This was something that could be calculated, weighed, compared against standards charts and crucial decisions about the future of our child would be revealed in the determination of product selection.

Random selections I made based on the simple algorithm of “Oh! Monkeys!” earned scorn and condemnation. If she heard the beep of the laser gun from another aisle, she would come running and I would suffer a withering glare and a stern lecture about my impulsiveness. This was not a game. This was important. Why was I trying to make her upset.

This lasted for nearly three hours.

It was grueling. I’ve participated in activities involving forced marching and the digging of large holes that were more emotionally satisfying. In the end though, we survived. Most of the important items on our lists were selected, and an additional list of items still needed was generated by careful comparison of the days results with other lists already secured. Neither one of us broke down in tears in the store, and I count that as a success. We did have one close call however, when my taste and judgement were called into question over the selection of crib sheets. I contended it had monkeys, she contended that is more of a nautical theme and therefore inappropriate in some fashion. I narrowly averted throwing a tantrum but managed to satisfy myself with a dour expression, a stomp of the foot, and the exclamation, “you’re a meany!”

At this rate of decline, the child will be raising us before it reaches the 8th grade.

I need to have a talk with my boy

I can only presume that he’s somehow gotten his hands on my credit card numbers, despite still having a few months left in the womb. We came home to an ominous looking box on our doorstep the other day. Contained inside the box, that was addressed to “Bean Hawkins,” was the following unexpected item.

Star Wars Fishing Rod

At least he’s got good taste.

Grilled Zucchini

For years I labored under the mistaken impression that I didn’t like zucchini. I can’t say for sure where this prejudice originated. If I forced at gunpoint to guess though, I’d say it was the result of a long standing disagreement I had with most, if not all, members of the squash family. This was a long standing conflict that only reached a period of truce when I stopped residing in my parents home.

This period of my life was known as The Decade Of Freedom From Vegetables And Experimentation With Scurvy. Most people call it bachelorhood. It was marked by dramatic increases in cheeseburgers and rib eyes, and a violent avoidance of most flora as a culinary option. This was an exciting period of my life that featured vitamin C deficiency and flirtation with gum disease. I don’t really recommend it.

Over the last several years, as my quest to not die at an early age from nutritional deficiencies has really picked up steam, I’ve been reintroducing a variety of plants back into my life. I’ve yet to give okra another shot at the pennant, but several other previously vilified representatives of the plant world have been called up from the minor leagues. Among those was zucchini, and what I’ve come to realize is that zucchini is not bad, but it can be made badly. As it turns out, this is true of all food.

The following preparation was improvised for a cook out with friends several weeks ago. There were people in attendance who were not interested in eating meat, so I elected to prepare a meat free alternative. I’m a nice guy like that.

Ingredients

  • dried or fresh herbs (see below)
  • olive oil
  • lemons
  • white wine
  • salt
  • zucchini

Ingredients

Dried or fresh herbs? Man, that’s a debate. I’m not going to get into it now. Just use whichever you like the most, or have available. For this particular batch I used thyme and oregano. In previous batches I used rosemary, savory, and thyme. Dill would probably be good too, but only if you liked dill. How much should you use? I’d say a tablespoon probably of each. Again, it depends on what you like, and keep in mind we’re making a marinade here, not baking a cake. Is that vague enough?

User your microplane to get the zest o… What? You don’t have a microplane? Go buy one. Right now. I’ll wait.

zest the lemons

Got it? Good. Now use your microplane to remove the zest from two lemons. Wait, you still don’t have a microplane? Fine, if you really must, you can carefully slice off the zest with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler. Be careful about getting too much of the pith, the white rind, it’s bitter. Seriously though, get a microplane, they’re awesome and versatile.

Juice both of your naked lemons and add the zest to the lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Toss in the herbs with two generous pinches of salt. Now for the wine. You’ll note that I’ve selected a Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio. I’ve selected this wine because that’s what was in my pantry. Feel free to use a chardonnay, riesling, or really any other white wine. My only caution here would be to avoid the old wives tale about not cooking with wine you would drink. It’s silly. You want to cook with wine that tastes good, but balance that with some sense. You don’t want to use a Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche 2006 in a clam sauce. So, I tend to keep some value wines around for cooking.

Whatever wine you choose, add about 1/2 a cup to the mixing bowl. Whisk to combine, and then whisk in several healthy tablespoons of good olive oil. I’m using a Sicilian Val Di Mazara, just because that’s the way I roll. Whisk everything in the mixing bowl real good. Don’t kill yourself, you could mix this with a boat motor and wouldn’t integrate, we haven’t included anything that will work as an emulsifier, so that lemon juice and wine will never combine with the oil totally.

Whisk everything together

Wash your zucchini up, and trim off the ends, but don’t peel it. We need that green skin left on to give it some structure and prevent it from falling apart when we get to the grilling. Cut the zucchini lengthwise in slices that are about 1/4 inch thick. If you cut them too thin, then they’ll go all floppy when they cook and turn to mush. I’m only using two zucchini here, because there’s only two people in my house. We’ve made enough marinade for 4-6 zucchini depending on how big they are and how thick you decide to slice them. 4 zucchini is enough to feed 8 people if this is going to be a side dish, 4 if it’s an entree.

Prep your zucchini

Once your zucchini is all sliced up, toss them into a gallon sized ziplock bag and then pour in your marinade. If you had to, you could do this in a glass or plastic tray or bowl, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The bags are the best way to marinade anything in my opinion. If you use a bag, that’s one more dish you don’t have to wash. Just be sure not to use an aluminium pan for the marinading. There’s a lot of acid in this marinade, and it will react with the aluminium and make everything taste funny as well as maybe ruin your pan if you leave the marinade in long enough. Once the bag is sealed, slosh everything around and try to separate the zucchini slices, they’ll try their darndest to stick together.

Add the marinade

Now’s the easy part. Wait.

Let it sit

Just let that bag sit on the counter for a while. Anywhere from 1/2 an hour up to a few hours. I wouldn’t leave it in there for much more than 2 hours though. While you’re waiting, you can heat up your grill. You want those grates nice and hot to leave some pleasant looking, and tasting, grill marks. Once your grill is hot and you’re done waiting on your marinade, pull the slices out of your bag with some tongs and lay them on the grill. Turn them over after a few minutes, they won’t take long.

Grill

What? You don’t have a grill either? Good gravy. Alright. You can do it in your broiler. After all, a broiler is just an upside down grill, right? It won’t be as nice and you won’t get those tasty grill marks though. Lay the slices out on in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them on the highest rack in your oven under the broiler set to high. Keep an eye on them, and in a minute or two, turn them over and repeat. Do us both a favor though, and get a grill.

Enjoy!

Voila! All done. These make a great side dish for a cookout. They are also a fantastic condiment for a grilled sausage or a bratwurst on a bun. Let em cool, and you can make a tasty vegetarian sandwich with them. Or, you can just take a fork and dig in.