Monday, August 19, 2013

Homeschooling: What I Need From You

That's right. Uncle Sam's here. This just got real.
Ok, no it didn't. He's not really here. But now that I have your attention...

School is starting up again. Remember when we were kids and we didn't start until, like, September?! Kids these days are starting in August! I feel like every year I'm surprised by school starting, taken aback by the sudden influx of school buses and crossing guards.

This year is a little different. This year, technically, Esther would be starting her first year of school. She's five years old and would be going to kindergarten. This is brought to light even more by the fact that my super cool nephew, who is the same age as Esther, is starting kindergarten and my other, younger yet still cool, nephew is also starting preschool. The kids at church who are her age are also going to school. Esther is not.

It's no surprise to most that We are not sending her to school. It's been the long talked about plan for years now. I have a good friend who once told me to find someone with awesome kids and ask what they do for schooling, and so we did! We did look into options in our area, but in the end decided to keep her home. We've even dabbled in some 'school' work here and there, mostly games and nature hikes. We've been following more of an 'unschooling' theme as of late, meaning we've been riding her waves of questions and discoveries. Sometimes we look stuff up on the internet, generally YouTube to find some crazy video (the last being of a cicada killer as we have one or two who have made our yard their home). Sometimes I come up with some sort of activity to investigate a certain subject (She wanted to know more about states because we live on the boarder of two states, so every time we cross, we talk about it. We've checked out flashcards, maps and atlases). I'm not at all sure what schooling will look like for our family at this point. I've done a lot of research, talked to a lot of homeschooling families. Preliminarily, I feel like we'll continue on an unschooling path, weaving in some work books, activities, and scheduled events here and there for a while yet. I think we'll be ever evolving as the children grow.

The big question is: why? I'm not homeschooling because I think the system is messed up or anything crazy
like that. Although I had a hard time throughout school for various reasons, I do know multiple people who loved school and I can appreciate that. I think that teachers have a special gift and the families who chose a traditional schooling setting, for whatever reason, are doing it because they feel that is what's right for their child(ren). And that's why I'm teaching my children: I believe that's what's best for them. 

What does this mean for you? Really not much:

1. Support. Please know that so much prayer, thought and research went into this decision. It's not something on a whim, not something because the 'cool kids' are doing it, not something because I want to show off or prove something. It's something that we feel is truly right for our family. I want my children to have the support of those around them as well, I don't want them to feel like their different or some how less than their peers because they don't 'get' to go to school. We need you to support our decision to do what we feel is right for our family.

2. Understanding. Please understand that our schooling decisions and ideas are ever evolving. We believe that schooling for each individual child may look different; most likely it will. At some point, our children may attend a traditional school, or not. That doesn't mean we've abandoned our values or ideas. I talked to a mama who sends her children to a really great Christan school. She said that each year, they pray for each child and make a decision from there as to what to do with them. I don't think it's a coincidence that even in the tightest of years, the Lord provides the finances necessary for her children to attend the school that He has for them. Another mama sent her babes to traditional school when they asked to go, one of which went for a while and decided to come back home for another year and try again the next year. Again, I don't know what our schooling years will look like for Esther, Abigail and Lydia. But I do pray that they will be directed by the Lord. We need to you be understanding as our plans and goals change with each individual child.

That's it! And in return, the same to you!
What does schooling look like in your family?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

World Breastfeeding Week: We Made It!!

I've been meaning to post this post for the last few days, but with World Breastfeeding Week happenings happening, I have been preoccupied! It's been an incredible week of boobie time around our area with the Big Latch On (we had over 50 latches!!), Lydia's FIRST birthday and party (post coming soon!), La Leche League blow out (just a normal meeting but complete with lactation cookies and boobie cupcakes and A MILLION people crammed into a tiny room, great time!), and a peaceful nurse in at our local mall tonight. Again, I say, "INCREDIBLE WEEK!" Plus, I've gotten to see some of my favoritest people in the world several times, always awesome.

More to the point: WE MADE IT!! Lydia reached her first birthday!! For this post, the more important part is that we nursed for an entire year!!! To recap, my first two little nurslings each nursed for six months (with supplementation) and two weeks, respectively. Even before Lydia was born, I became anxious that I would
have another 'unsuccessful' breastfeeding relationship (although, I believe ANY amount of breastmilk is beneficial and always correct mamas when they say they were unsuccessful.) I shared my feelings in an awesome group on Facebook and got a few mamas who immediately offered donor milk, which is something I don't think ever dawned on me! These mamas hadn't given birth yet either!

So it happened. I birthed my beautiful baby at home, surrounded by my amazing family and support system. She latched like a pro and I was filled with joy. And then she didn't gain and that's when I knew: if we were going to do this, we were going to need some help. You can read more about our supplementation journey here. We've been so blessed to have not one, but FIVE amazing mamas who donated to our sweet Lydia (you'll meet them here during World Milksharing Week!) and even had a large (over five gallons!) donation from a friend of a friend towards the end of our first year. All of this sacrifice and support was worth it! We made it to her first birthday!!

I'm so grateful!! Not only for our amazing milk family, but also for our wonderful lactation consultant, Natalie. She provided a wealth of knowledge and support, coming to our house a few times and inviting us into her's, fielding an amazing amount of calls (mostly while I was crying), diagnosing my insufficient glandular tissue and Lydia's tongue tie, and ultimately supporting us in our journey of milksharing and helping us figure out our nursing trainer. She still checks in with us from time to time. I'm telling you, this woman is amazing. (and now I'm also wondering if I get annoying singing her praises all over town all the time! It can't get old telling someone how awesome they are all the time, can it?!) I'm also grateful for my best friend, Adrienne. Although she was newly pregnant and chasing her own toddler around, she was at our house almost every day and available by phone constantly as well. Even dropping everything and coming to our house when the husband called out of desperation. She sat and found Bible verses to encourage me too. I was a hot mess, hormonal, cried a lot, and irrational. These two women (among others) loved me as unconditionally as another human can and for that, I'm grateful.

Some have asked me what's next. And to that, I say, "Ask Lydia!" At one, she's still a frequent nurser with no plans on weaning. Not that she's said anyway! I've had two goals in nursing: to make it six weeks and, then, to make it a year. We've accomplished both!! Now, we'll see where the next milestone leads us! 

So happy World Breastfeeding Week, everyone! And cheers to my first Nursiversary!!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Running: My New Found Love

Well, there's something I never thought I'd say. I never had a desire to run. Even in high school, I would come up with every conceivable reason why I couldn't run that day. I'd cheat my way through runs, cutting through neighborhoods to get out of it. And yes, even cutting class. Not only that, but I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma at some point in high school and although I was still active and an avid swimmer, I was told I'd never be able to run or anything like that (even with the use of my inhaler).

Fast forward to now: 28 years old, three kiddos.
Adrienne says to me one day at church: "I want to get a team togetheBix!" (a 7 mile race)
running before and after!
r to run the
"You're going to make me run the Bix, aren't you?"
And here it begins. I started the Couch to 5K program in a pair of yoga pants, a cotton t-shirt and some old Asics. I had tried to do C25K pre-number-two (I think? Now I can't remember) because my little sister had just started running and was really enjoying it. It was determined (by me) that I can't run. I no longer had an inhaler, didn't want to go to the doctor, and truly hated running. So, I quit. This time around, I told myself, would be different. I just vowed (sort of) to run a 7 mile race!

I signed up for a 5K that was scheduled for the exact end of the 8 week Couch to 5K program to give myself some motivation (hey, I spent money on this, I'd better do it!). It started out not too difficult, mostly walking. Of course, as the weeks go on, the walking decreases and the running increases. I had some asthma-ish symptoms, but I worked on my breathing and they went away. I also had some diaphragm pain, but again, I worked on my breathing and powered through. I felt so accomplished with each week! Physically, I felt amazing, too! I always ran at night, which brought it's own challenges. Over the course of my 8 weeks I happened upon raccoons (no shocker there), a deer, a coyote, and an opossum. I'm pretty sure I jumped at each one an equal amount. There's just no prepping you for rounding the corner to some beady eyed bugger. I also passed people walking, of course, and one other C25K'er, which was exciting. All in all, pretty uneventful which I'm thankful for.

Then my first 5K came: Hennepin Hustle. It's a flat course along the Hennepin Canal, very scenic, very awesome. The morning of, I realized this would be my first time running in daylight, which is a little odd. Never the less, I overcame and Adrienne and I ran it and ran it well! We did walk a tad, which discouraged me, but my time was 35:23! I was pretty excited about it! And felt great!

So then the Bix training started. I tried to continue to run, but with out actual goals it was difficult. I had also started a P90X Challenge which was getting in the way. There's a training day each week for the Bix every Thursday called the Bix at 6. So Adrienne and I decided we should probably run it so we can get a feel for the course. We ran with the babes in jogging strollers - Lydia, 11 months and Cadriel, 3 months. Holy bad idea, Batman!! It was particularly warm, jogging with strollers is particularly difficult. Also, they wanted to nurse about half way through, which was fine, but then they didn't want to sit in their joggers again. Read: we carried them the last 2 miles. Ouch. This did not prep me as much as make me nervous! I ran a few more times in preparation, sans babe, which helped.

The Bix came. Generally speaking, the Bix is known for being on a super hot, super humid Saturday. This Bix, though, was in the 50s and breezy! Perfect running weather! Adrienne and I didn't particularly have a time goal, but decided we would allow ourselves to run a tiny bit every mile. We waited and waited to start, sort of freezing the whole time! Finally, it was time to go. The course is super hilly, winding through a beautiful neighborhood. You turn around at 3.5 miles and go right back to the start for the finish. But so fun because there are a ton of people running and a ton of people watching and cheering you on. Everyone is having blast! The first hill is a seriously steep one and is right at the beginning. We made it up in good time and rounded the corner down the first street and found our friends and family cheering us on (but also freezing!).
We ran on and quickly passed the first runners already coming back! The winner's time was 32:14, which is just insane. We ran on. As it turned out, we really didn't need to walk every mile! We were feeling good, grabbing drinks as the volunteers handed them out. We found the turn around surprisingly fast and headed back. At every mile marker, there would be a person with a stop watch and mega phone, reading off the numbers as they changed. I cannot imagine doing that for 2+ hours, yikes. I can't recall what the numbers were at mile 5, but at that point we decided we would run this 7 miles in 90 minutes or less. We found our family and friends again and knew it was only a matter of time. Running back down that first giant hill was so easy and wonderful; a volunteer handed out popsicles as we passed. Mile marker 6 led us to believe we might not make it in the 90 minutes and our pace suddenly picked up. We rounded the corner and could see the finish line. Adrienne said something about sprinting and somehow, without question, that's what happened! We did it! We finished the Bix unofficially at 1:29:14 according to my phone, officially 1:28:41!! It was awesome, definitely something I'll never forget!

Onward, I'm excited to continue running and continue taking care of my body. Over the course of the C25K Program I lost 10 pounds and feel better than ever! I'm mapping out my next races and hoping to continue running at least one 5K for the rest of the year. I even found one in December that I'm planning on running with my sister!

Want to get into running but not sure where to start? 
  • I definitely recommend the C25K program. You can find an app, too, which is what I did. I used the Zen Labs one, but there are lots to choose from.
  • Get a partner. Running with someone is not only fun, it also helps you set a good pace: if you can't chat a bit while you run, you're probably running too fast.
  • Set a goal. Knowing I was signed up for a 5K at the very finish of my C25K was a constant in my mind, very encouraging.
  • Get you food in check. I'm sure there are people that eat absolute crap and continue to run. To me, that doesn't make sense. Making sure you're eating well (especially in the protein area) and staying hydrated are so important!
  • Another awesome app I just found is MapMyRun which will time you, find your pace and show your route. It also saves your runs so you can look back and see whats up. And it's free!
I'll leave you with this photo, as proof that running is fun if you want it to be.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I'm new to this concept. Gentleness. I wasn't raised in a gentle (or Christian) household. There was lots of
yelling and screaming, lots of spankings that all just went too far. Although I've never felt like these things affected my adult life, the truth is, they have. I'm pretty passionate, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is when paired with anger issues. I'm grateful that my husband came with some built in grace. My kids, too, for that matter.

When my husband and I started our parenting journey, I knew I wanted things to be different. I didn't have any tools to make things different and so the cycle continued. I can't remember the first time I spanked Esther, but it happened. I, shamefully, admit that I have spanked both of my older children and yelled at both of them, as well. Things the Holy Spirit has since convicted me of. He continues to work in me - to change me into the gentle parent he has called me to be. I am a work in progress. I often wonder if I will always struggle with being a yeller and a spanker. There are days when it's seriously a struggle. I'm ever pushing to make these changes stick. I'm grateful for how far I've come! This is my journey:

It all started when I, naively, started volunteering at the Natural Parents Network. At the time, I considered myself a natural parent. I cloth diapered, I recycled. Isn't that all there is to it? One night, while chatting with some of the volunteers, I admitted, "We spank from time to time for the 'biggies.'" (or something along those lines). Little did I know, a loving mama would rock my world with a simple little phrase: "You can stop anytime." She even added an emoticon smiley! I was so irritated. I have no idea if I did respond; I hope I didn't. A few weeks went by and I couldn't get this out of my head. It was a broken record: stopanytimestopanytimestopanytime.... driving me insane!! Every time I raised my voice. Every time I raised my hand. Unfortunately, I put it on the back burner (or, more accurately, crammed it into the broiler. I didn't want to see it.) No parent wants to think they are doing something wrong. No parent wants to thing that they've been hurting their children. The fact of the matter was: I was hurting my children. I was hurting my family. I was hurting myself.

Through a series of fortunate events, things started slowly changing. A friend at my (new at the time) church shared some information on the psychological effects of spanking, telling me that they don't spank at all. THIS JUST GOT REAL. A person I know, in real life, raises children that aren't terrible - AND SHE DOESN'T SPANK THEM!?! I remember telling this, in utter disbelief to the husband. Again, the Holy Spirit was working on me, bringing me examples of good, Godly families choosing grace based parenting. I could feel the changes happening. The husband and I talked. We were scared, unsure of what we would do with our kids. Even with spanking, our 4 year old seemed out of control. What would it look like to not spank? How would we discipline her at all? I thought of a friend who I respected; she has great kids! Surely she'll have answers! Her response: I feel spanking is a valuable tool in our parenting tool box. Sort of heart broken, I went back to the husband with this information. (said friend has since changed her ways and is now no longer spanking, too!!) We didn't know what to do. I prayed for wisdom.

We talked to our girls, mostly Esther who is now five years old, about spanking and yelling and how that made her feel. She used words like, "hurt," and "sadness." We let her know we were feeling those ways, too, and we were going to work to change those things. And we haven't looked back. The proof is in the pudding: our children are happier, they obey the things we ask them to do, they willingly talk to us about how they are feeling. They are not scared about being punished. I wish I could say we have it down. I wish I could say we don't have bad days. But we talk about those bad days. I am able to teach my girls grace through asking them for forgiveness and them doing the same. We forgive each other and move on. My new favorite thing to say to the husband and myself is something from Dulce's blog: "Breathe in grace and peace, breathe out anger, fear and frustration."

Here are some wonderful resources I have found helpful in regards to gentle parenting. First and foremost, we should be looking to the Bible for answers and to the Holy Spirit for help in deciphering those passages. There are many believers who use the verses in Proverbs about discipline to justify them spanking their children. Discipline comes in many forms. Research the root words, get back to the Hebrew. Meditate on His word. He will reveal His path for you.

Dulce de Leche, specifically her Gentle Discipline Tool Box and Christian Resources for Gentle Discipline
Hippie Housewife, specifically her article Rod Verses: Taking The Rod Verses Literally
Why Not Train a Child?
Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin - This is a free book in PDF form
How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

To say I'm new to this is the understatement of the century. I'm' still learning and growing. I have a few in-real-life gentle parent 'crushes' - I love to watch these mamas in action!! Totally fuels my fire!!

If you have any resources to share, please do!! I'm sure this won't be my last post on gentle parenting.
I'll leave you with these verses I've been meditating on for the past few days:

Ephesians 4:1-2 "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love..."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Is That an SNS in Your Shirt, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

My SNS components
After ten months of using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to supplement my daughter with donated breast milk, I've definitely had my share of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good.
I've been able to nurse my daughter for 11 months!!!! I'm still a little in shock even though I'm living it. With our first two, I didn't have the proper support (even being told I'd fail by the lactation consultant at the hospital with #2), I didn't have the knowledge, and the thought of asking for breast milk never crossed my mind. My first babe did fine on formula, thankfully. My second babe, not so much. She had terrible issues with ALL formula until we finally switched her to raw goat's milk when she was about 7 months old (if my memory serves me). Still not human milk, but what a relief. So, with Lydia, it has been an absolute joy to keep her at breast for this long. I had an amazing support system and moms who stepped up and provided us with milk before I even asked. I know that there are days in this journey that if I didn't have women (and my amazing husband) 'fighting' for me, I would have given up. I plan to nurse for as long as she would like, our SNS has made that possible.

The Bad.
(source unknown)
I sort of thought that when we got our SNS, things would be peachy keen. For the most part they have, but we haven't been without our hang ups. I think the biggest nightmare is running out of milk. We've been very blessed to have a 'main' donor, Sarah. Her son, Case, is 5 days younger than Lydia and she is one of the mothers who offered before being asked. Really, before Lydia or Case were even born, she offered to pump for us. But when she got the dreaded 'Six Month Drop' that some mamas experience, things got a little more...challenging. Although Sarah still does all she can, we have a few other mamas who've pitched in now, too: another Sarah, Adrienne, and not one, but two Jessicas! How awesome is that?! (We're getting back into 'The Good' now, aren't we?) It's been a little more difficult to drive around our cities to collect milk, but not too much that I would ever want to stop! We take a few more short little road trips (and sometimes include play dates!) and that's just part of life now.

The Ugly.
And now, we come to the point of this post. The ugly parts of the SNS. I'm going to try to condense this, because I could write a book! The worst part has got to be that, sometimes, it leaks. Sometimes it leaks a lot. And in weird places on your body. Like, when a mother leaks from her breast, it shows through in the appropriate spot on her shirt, right? But when a mother leaks from her SNS, it can show up in any number of places! I've looked like I'm lactating from the middle of my chest, my belly button and even my shoulder. I generally catch it quick enough to not be detrimental. Occasionally, when I've been wearing her or even just holding her close, the warm, flowing liquid goes undetected. 2+ ounces of breast milk goes a long way on a shirt, let me tell ya. This has been especially bothersome when the weather outside is frightful; having to put a soaked Lydia in her car seat and a soaked me in the driver seat while temps are below freezing is less than desirable. It also leaked one time while I was laying on my back getting adjusted. My chiropractor (a dude!) laughed it off, thank goodness, but for some reason I was mortified!

There's no way to get around saying this: I've got small breasts. So putting a bag between them with about 3-4 oz of milk in it tends to get noticed. Probably not too often, but enough. I think the most obvious part is when I don't have a high collar shirt on, the top of my apparatus shows. I always wonder if people think it's a pacemaker or something and that's why they don't ask about it. So there's a fun bulge between my breasts and a plastic piece sticking out of the top of my shirt. Maybe I'm turning into some sort of new age bionic woman? Maybe I'm growing a third, more giant boob? We'll never know.
My sweet little Lydia

And one time, the unthinkable happened, my tubing got a hole in it! This is why the company recommends you buy their package with two tubing sets in it (oh, my bad). So while we waited for our new tubing to come, we had to use bottles (well, not HAD, but it was the easiest option and worked out fine). When the tubing came, I had ordered the wrong part! I called the company, crying, and he expedited the right part. We were without our SNS for a little over a week. In that time, I realized how happy I was that we had an SNS in the first place. Which definitely makes all of this bad and ugly stuff sort of disappear.

So no, it isn't a cake walk to use an SNS. It might not be the right option for all families, for all situations. But I'm grateful that we have it, even if I do want to set it on fire every now and again.

Interested in knowing more about supplementing and donor milk? Check out these pages:
Lact-Aid Nursing Trainer System (this is where I got my SNS, I haven't tried another system, but heard good things about this one before ordering.I didn't have a ton of time to research. I'm very happy with my choice and this company!)
Human Milk 4 Human Babies I just recently became an admin for our state's HM4HB page. Amazing network. I'm grateful I've never had to ask for milk on this page and that my community just stepped up to the need. Lots of good information on informal milk sharing.
Eats on Feets Another informal milk sharing group.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Motherhood: A Team Sport

Today, I lost my baby. Abigail, who's three, was playing with some friends outside. I was a few feet away, chatting with other mothers, glancing over every now and again, as we all were. I did a head count and Abigail was no where to be found.

She often gets distracted by little bits on the ground, maybe she found a nice flower she was playing with or an interesting rock. I looked around the corner, then the other way. I asked an 'older' kiddo, not more than 8 years old.

"Abigail went down those stairs," he said, pointing to a stairway that led to a pool (empty and fenced in) and also to a fairly busy street.

Thus ensues the freak out. I ran back to my group of friends shouting that I could not find my child, already crying. Two of whom I know very well, others who I may have just met, ran over and immediately started looking and calling for her. I remember spitting out that she had a white t-shirt on. Older children were checking around, too.

Jessica grabbed my hand and immediately prayed that the Lord would keep her safe and that we would find her as we started down the stairs.
Steph ran inside to find if she had wandered into rehearsal (her older sister was in ballet).

So many things ran through my head, too many to name here. You can imagine. This all happened within about a minute, maybe a tad longer.

"Here she is!" I'm not even sure who announced it. I looked up and saw Steph holding her. I immediately shut my eyes and thanked God. I knew other mothers have not been so lucky.

I grabbed my sweet babe and hugged her a little too tight; she had no idea anything was wrong. She had been in the theatre, watching the girls dance. No big deal.

I reflected as we left for dinner: when I said I couldn't find my daughter, not one mother stayed seated. My two friends were up before the words left my mouth; I believe one saw the panic on my face. As I mentioned, mothers I did not know jumped to her rescue. They didn't think twice. I'm so grateful, not only for my daughter's safety, but for my team mates in this sport called 'Motherhood.'

This is certainly not the only time I'm thankful I'm not alone in this journey. I have so many mama friends who I rely on - some have 'been there' when a situation arises; some offer advice on what they would do; some offer a hug. They laugh with me, they cry with me. They come to me for advice and I to them. We have play dates, we have mama dates. We call and text each other. We Facebook, we email, we Pin! We pray.

"This might work."
"Have you tried this."
"That seems hard, I'm sorry."
"Let's do it!"
"I"ll pray for you!"
"I'm here if you need."

I could not be more grateful for my team - we don't have a leader. Not one is better than the other. We all bring different experiences and opinions to the table. We make each other better mothers. I'm convinced, Motherhood is a team sport; I'm glad I don't have to do it alone!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Food Day: Classic Brownies

Friday Food Day is a feature I try to do every Friday. Mostly to keep me on my toes, trying new things, but also to share with you my findings! Have fun!

Ok, I'll admit it: At one point in my life, I didn't think it was possible to make brownies 'from scratch.' I literally thought that brownies from the box were considered from scratch..I mean, you are adding stuff, right?! Doesn't that count?!

This is why when I found one (or several) recipes for brownies on Smitten Kitchen, the love of my foodie heart, I was elated! I sifted through her recipes that she's hilariously finagled and found this one she calls 'Classic Brownies.'

I cannot stress this enough: this recipe is DELICIOUS. And easy! I'm now requested to bring these brownies where ever I go and, in fact, have made them three times (for three different events) this week alone. I can officially say I'm sick of making them. But they're so freaking good! And easy! (Did I say that?!)

I haven't changed anything in this recipe except that I didn't use cake flour the first time, specifically because I didn't have any. They turned out well, so I continued 'screwing it up.' I also don't use nuts, only because my kids would declare mutiny and someone would find me locked in the attic or something days later. I can also vouch that her freezer storage idea is just divine.

One last thing, if you haven't done so yet, you should peruse Smitten Kitchen's site. Not only is she hilarious, I've never been disappointed with her recipes. And how often do you read a recipe site and laugh out loud?! She has things meticulously cataloged and also has a fun 'Surprise Me!' button, which can only lead to good things. Enjoy!

I'm copying and pasting directly from her site, as she has written it:

Classic Brownies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it) the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy. If overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.
  5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or, ahem, in the freezer until your resistance gets the better of you.)