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Happy Anniversary!

“Let’s work together, you and I,
alongside earthsongbeat,
heartfirst, handtouch
souldance.
please.”

–Holly Wilkinson
(in We’Moon on the Wall, 2014)

cropMolly 199Today is our 17th anniversary! When we got family pictures taken in May, the one above was kind of an “outtake,” but it ended up being one of my very favorites from the photo shoot.

We had a date last night courtesy of my parents and went out for sushi, alone, for the first time in what feels like a long time. After sushi, we went to A Slice of Pie and got a piece of apple pie with cinnamon sauce to share. While we love our children very much, we marveled quite gleefully at how delightful (and cheap!) it was to buy just one piece of pie and have it be enough. We went to the video store to rent a movie and as we walked in holding hands, we said, “remember what it was like to just do things together?” We were laughing, talking, and enjoying each other’s company and I had the realization that I also had when I went on my own with my mom to Kansas last year to wait for the birth of my nephew: oh, yeah. I’m actually a happy, funny, nice, and helpful person. Sometimes I feel like that gets drowned out or even obliterated by the mental fragmentation, constant distractions, and simple life management of parental life. We were together for eight years before our first baby was born and we had lots of shared, non-parental experiences. I realized last night that miss that. By the same token, we rarely spend time with any of the kids on their own either, they’re more of a group unit to be managed. I feel sad about that sometimes—wondering who they each are on their own terms and what our relationship, 1:1, is like.

While our goal for basically our entire marriage has been to live a home-based life with life and work seamlessly integrated together, the side effect of that home-based life is a type of oversaturation or enmeshment, wherein it is hard to appreciate each person, instead of working around, over, and through them. It also means that it feels good to sometimes get out and do other things. I love my home. I love being home and I love having a home-centered life. I don’t like driving places and rushing from place to place. My ideal week pretty much involves no more than two trips to town, preferably one. However, I also like small adventures and enjoying new experiences with my family. While you would think that day-in and day-out at home all together would be enough “togetherness,” it actually isn’t, because of that working around each other thing I already mentioned. Early this week, we all went to Six Flags near St. Louis and had a fabulous time. Next week, we’re going to stay in a cabin by the river. I’m not quite sure how we’ll do it, but I think we need to try harder to build in some couple time on our own, outside of the house as well.

(This is a little bit more of a depressing quick anniversary blog post than I meant to write! Sorry!)

On our anniversary, I always like to share this blog post with the poem a friend wrote about our rainy wedding:

We cannot know what will bring perfection. cropMolly 143
They had supposed that it would be a day
of exalted blue heights,
a tree-columned cathedral day
in the loftiest, most elegant
sapphire domed summer.

Sun blessing stone,
birds blessing sky
and in the gentle benevolence of that day
the bride and her ribboned maidens
would drift, pale and clear as flowers
toward the welcoming arms of her groom…

via Rainy Wedding | Talk Birth.

 

Telling About It: Tree Pose Yoga Goddess Pendant

In tree pose, she finds her balance 11223536_1643434975868718_5733380625052658785_n
despite asymmetry.
Flexible, yielding,
strong, and steady.
One-legged and whole…

I created our Tree Pose pendant to remind me that “balance” does not need to be perfectly symmetrical or even. Balance is about finding your center (even if one “leg” of your life is taking more time/attention than others…)

I encounter many other women who express teetering on the edge of finding that elusive and possibly-not-actually necessary “balance” in their work tasks and mothering tasks. I have a friend who describes balance not as making things “equal,” but as being like tree pose in yoga—you want one leg to be firm underneath you so you can stay standing up, but your two sides do not have to actually be “equal” in order to be balanced. Sometimes my balance is weighted towards work-at-home tasks, sometimes toward parenting, sometimes toward teaching, but I know it will continue shifting and I’ll still be standing. Find your center. That is the mental reminder that instantly pulls my own literal tree pose into balance for me during my daily morning yoga practice. Find your center.

I’m in one of those off-balance positions right now while I finish up the summer school session, work with my Womanrunes class, and prepare for our Red Tent Program beginning in August. I got out my tree pose goddess and put her on as a reminder to me, both to find my center, but also that this sensation is not new or terrible, it is just is here again. I re-read this past post:

…As I’ve alluded to in the past, usually online teaching blends seamlessly into my day, often taking roughly the same amount of time and energy that checking in with Facebook would take. During the two weeks each session that papers are due (fifth and seventh weeks out of an 8 week session), the work suddenly feels unmanageable and incompatible with motherhood and I feel taut, tense, and drawn. The kids are need-factories and I’m distracted and impatient and consumed with the NEED to get these freaking things GRADED and OUT OF MY HEAD!

via The tensions and triumphs of work at home mothering | Talk Birth.

And, Tanner fell asleep clutching my pendant:

<exhale>

Eightmonthababy!

June 2015 037

At river!

I’m mired down in paper grading and classwork right now, but I don’t want to let too many more days pass without a quick update about my eightmonthababy! This little guy continues to speed his way through life.

As of 8 months, this is what we’ve got going on:

  • Climbs stuff. For real. If he sees a box or an unsteady lid, or a stack of toys or laundry, he climbs up to boost his reach.
  • Smiles a funny, quirky closed mouth smile more often than a huge gumbly grin. It is kind of wryly amused smirky smile. I don’t remember my other babies doing this.
  • No teef! Not sure where they are, but its okay.
  • Claps to music. Loves music.
  • Also still loves to go outside. And, loves, loves, loves, water and swimming and baths.
  • Waves and says bye and hi and mama and wa-wa. More than once, has pulled my shirt and said “Mama, wa-wa,” which I take to mean he wants “Mama Water” (i.e. nursing). Had total Helen Keller moment with washing his hands and while they were under the water he June 2015 065suddenly made the connection. Later, when recounting the story of this lightbulb moment to others, he, sitting and looking with his little smirk, announced “wa-wa, indicating he had heard story and was confirming account!
  • Has specific noise that means, “something fell on me.” Happens with relative frequency due to aforementioned tendency to find things to climb on.
  • Weighs 22lbs! Is a big chunk. Is heavy and long.
  • Stands up alone from ground periodically. Also, stands unsupported when you set him down on the floor. And, just yesterday, took two steps alone supported only by bacon. Yes, was eating bacon (locally raised and nitrateless! Crunchy points intact?!?!). Had it sticking out of his mouth and Mark reached out for it for some reason and had one end of the piece and Tanner walked towards him like he would if his hand was held.
  • Is extremely energetic, grabby, reachy. Always spinning around trying to reach things and leans forward while you’re carrying him to “steer” you in proper direction. Very hard to hold! My dad described him as being like trying to hold “liquid metal.” This is very true.
  • Speaking of my dad, Tanner loves him very much! He also loves my mom and he goes over to their house with June 2015 039the rest of the big kids almost every day!
  • Realized that the days of the “softly furred scalp” have passed. He has tons of blondie-blonderson hair instead. I miss the little ripe-peach head, but the fuzzy hair head is very nice too.
  • Crawls fast. Puts on a burst of speed to catch up. Goes to find me. Looks in rooms for me.
  • I don’t take enough video!!!! My other kids are always after me about this in a semi-accusatory manner. My iphone is perpetually out of storage space and that’s why. I need to get with the program because he isn’t going to be an adorable, burst-of-speed crawler for much longer!
  • I still sit next to him at naps. Takes a long mid-day nap (with much flopping around and back-patting to stay asleep, hence the sitting next to him) and a short late-afternoon nap (usually on my chest). I finally feel like he nurses enough during the day and my milk supply is in sync now with how often I often to nurse him and how much he actually wants to nurse. This has led to much better night sleep for me, which for a while was a challenge—he was nursing probably eight times a night or more for a while (to make up for only little snacks during the day, due to being so on the go) and now it is more like three times. Clearly, at 22 pounds, all is well.

June 2015 013I think that the most unconditional love I’ve experienced is from my babies TO me. I’ve never been loved so intensely and wholeheartedly as my babies love me. I know that might sound weird and that we think of parents as the ones having unconditional love for their babies, not vice versa, but the depth of the mother-baby attachment is extremely profound and incomparable. It is also feels so simple and uncomplicated. I had the same depth of attachment with all my children, but with each one I feel more aware of how short-lasting this period of intensity is and I just love how much my baby loves me. While we’ll always love each other deeply, right now we are a motherbaby—a single psychobiological organism and there just isn’t anything else like it.

June 2015 067

At summer party/family ritual. I am nursing, babywearing, eating homemade cotton candy, and scattering rose petals in our summer mandala + holding scissors for trimming flowers…all at the same time.

Tuesday Tidbits: Self-Care

I spent the past weekend out-of-town at a faculty conference. The whole family went and they brought Tanner to me to nurse on Friday, which was a whole day event (7:45-7:30). He fell asleep in the Ergo after walking around campus and so I took him back into the conference room with me and he snoozed there for about two hours while we talked about assessment measures and course content. It is hard for me to feel grounded and rooted while traveling, particularly in a city. It feels hard on my nerves and even my own sense of self.

After the conference, we spent an extra night at the hotel and then met up with my parents, my sister, and my brother, SIL, and nephew for some Cousin Power and family fun. Each of us only had a roughly two-hour trip to meet in Columbia, instead of traveling all the way to someone’s house. We rented a basement apartment from Airbnb and had a delightful time. It was so much better to visit that way than in a hotel! Very nice! Before our visit we also went to Red Lobster for lunch, Target for dolls, Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us (coincidentally arriving right before they started a free Jurassic World Lego build kit), Shelter Gardens (like a mini botanical garden place), and Hy-Vee (for lunch after the conference ended Saturday morning).

I’ve been working really hard for the last month preparing my Womanrunes Immersion course and I feel a little unbalanced and skewed off-center. I keep telling myself that it is okay to keep working hard, because I’m “almost done,” and sometimes pushing is exactly what is needed. But, I’ve realized as I participate in my own course, that since there is always something else immediately around the corner, that “break” I keep holding out for never comes. I have to create it for myself. The course is going so well and has been really inspiring and magical so far, while also needing a lot of energy from me. I’ve committed to working through the course myself, not just guiding others through it, and I’ve already had to take a deep look at several issues…feeling on the verge of some kind of breakthrough now. From yesterday’s lesson this reminder:

When we lack proper time for the simple pleasures of life, for the enjoyment of eating, drinking, playing, creating, visiting friends, and watching children at play, then we have missed the purpose of life. Not on bread alone do we live, but on all these human and heart-hungry luxuries.
–Ed Hayes (Simple Pleasures)

And, then from another article:

“The more fully we experience life’s beauty, the less regret we have that we didn’t live and love in the ways we most longed to.”

Barefeet, watermelons, and sunburns – it’s summer!

Part of what I’m noticing is that I spend so much time keeping up with tasks online, whether teaching, or maintaining social media, or working on etsy listings, that I feel like I do not have enough time for physical, grounded, embodied, real-life practices that nurture me. I also recognize that part of this is having a baby and that by necessity, some things get pared away. However, I worry I’m letting things of real value get pared away though, while striving to “keep up” with all the rest.

This article makes the point that no matter how much the wellness industry burgeons, it cannot overcome overwork:

No amount of multivitamins, yoga, meditation, sweaty exercise, superfoods or extreme time management, as brilliant as all these things can be, is going to save us from the effects of too much work. This is not something we can adapt to. Not something we need to adjust the rest of our lives around. It is not possible and it’s unethical to pretend otherwise…

via No, it’s not you: why ‘wellness’ isn’t the answer to overwork.

What I’m working on, primarily, is self-created and self-directed, which feels very rewarding in a different way than working for someone else, it is still definitely possible to self-direct into overwork:

“These 24/7 work cultures lock gender inequality in place, because the work-family balance problem is recognized as primarily a woman’s problem,” said Robin Ely, a professor at Harvard Business School who was a co-author of a recent study on the topic. “The very well-intentioned answer is to give women benefits, but it actually derails women’s careers. The culture of overwork affects everybody…”

…Underlying this disparity are deep-seated cultural expectations about how men and women should act. Men are expected to be devoted to their work, and women to their family, as Mary Blair-Loy, a sociologist at University of California, San Diego, has described in her research.

“It’s not really about business; it’s about fundamental identity and masculinity,” Ms. Blair-Loy said. “Men are required by the culture to be these superheroes, to fulfill this devotion and single-minded commitment to work.”

“Women have an out,” she said, “because they have an external definition of morality or leading the good life, which is being devoted to their children.”

via The 24/7 Work Culture’s Toll on Families and Gender

While I initially committed this year to focusing intensely on baby-mama’ing and letting our business grow with its existing products and services, I’ve found myself feeling creatively consumed by new and exciting and yes, fun, projects, that have actually created a lot of new work for myself! (My motto for the year is to follow the inspiration and the inspiration can be so all-encompassing!) While parenting often feels like it directly conflicts with all the creation that is bursting to emerge, I also know that my children unlocked this in me. I would not be the way I am today and offering what I’m offering today, without having been cracked open by my babies!

“Art is mirroring and life became more complicated and richer in my opinion after Scout was born,” explained Harvey. “But the world was also much more terrifying to me.”

Riots and wars in the news— hundreds or thousands of miles away— feel more acute. In the fleeting moments of daily life— a baby’s first tooth or day of school— parents often become hyper-aware of the Sanskrit term kalpa, or the cosmic passage of time. Sarah Sze, mother of two daughters and celebrated sculptor whose work Triple Point was featured at the 2013 Venice Biennale, echoed the sentiment in an interview with The Guardian. Now that she had children, she explained, time was “more significant” and had “more weight.” And ultimately, Harvey believes, this intensity that motherhood brings isn’t a hindrance — it’s “an extraordinary gift for art.”

via Why can’t great artists be mothers? – Women in the World in Association with The New York Times – WITW.

Returning to the feeling of spending too much time online though, I enjoyed both of these articles, with their different messages. The first, on why it is okay to be on an iphone and at the park at the same time:

But you know what else? If you go around insinuating that women are somehow “bad mothers” for devoting some of their precious attention to their phones instead of their precious children, then frankly, I don’t have time for your big bag o’ guilt candy.

via On Parents and Phones at the Playground – Every Other Moment.

And, the second about the dangers of so much distraction:

Social media has created a cornucopia of opportunity for us to curate our experiences and serve them up in an endless buffet of images, phrases, ideas, pithy quotes, filters, and rants…

Without down time to unwind, restore and fill our senses, our bodies and brains sense something alarming and signal the amygdala, the brain’s 911 center, to contact other areas in the brain like the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The chemistry of stress tells the heart to pump faster, push more blood and oxygen into muscles so we can get ready to run if we have to, and raises blood pressure and inflammation. After all, that’s what the body does when we have a wound of any kind. Stress is the wound we can’t see.

Another reason we’re distracted is that we practice monkey mind. Our thoughts are racing and mocking for position. We can’t “think straight”…

via Redirect your focus before it’s too late.

When I was on the Board at Citizens for Midwifery, I was discouraged by the amount of time we spent on the Outrage Du Jour—what I called “putting out fires” work—rather than on the truer, deeper work and mission. It seems like every day on Facebook there is something new to get worked up over and to write outraged blog posts over and then that “crisis” passes and “everyone” is talking about something else. I try to avoid participating–whether it is birth-related, personal, or celebrity-related–because it just doesn’t have lasting value. So, I appreciated this post on Outrage and Letting Go:

“…Perhaps what we need is a reduced dose of Outrage and a higher dosage of Letting Go. You see, letting go of Outrage is not the same as embracing Apathy—Outrage and Apathy are obverse sides of the same coin. By refusing to be offended by life’s minutia, we refuse to step into Outrage’s blast radius, and thus we refuse to cast judgment arbitrarily. Ultimately, avoiding the Outrage is how we can approach controversial and interesting topics with honest, worthwhile discussions…”

Fake Outrage: Dealing with Criticism – The Minimalists.

Yesterday, a new book arrived for me to review and I’m really looking forward to it! (It does join a large stack on my desk.)

1978706_10155723230680442_8659481311478884417_nThis morning, I read a memorial article about Sheila Kitzinger too:

In writing her own fantasy obituary for a newspaper many years earlier, she imagined dying at the height of her powers: “She died as she would have wished, flat on her back on a table with her legs in the air, in front of a large audience, demonstrating with vigour the dangers of making women lie down, hold their breath till their eyes bulge and strain as if forcing through a coconut to push a baby out. She claimed that treating the second stage of labour as a race to the finishing post … could result in cardiac arrhythmia and even a stroke. She made her point.”

Rather than the melodramatic early death she conjured up here, Sheila died quietly at home surrounded by her family, at the age of 86…

via How to plan for a good death | Life and style | The Guardian.

Yesterday in response to my own Womanrunes prompts, I literally went outside to smell the roses.

11227964_10207110812918713_5387391899479469362_nIt was just what I needed and I need to move these experiences up in priority in my day, instead of being the last things I attend to. I’m also participating in this free offering:

Enchant Your Everyday: 108 Day Pilgrimage to Your Beautiful Life – Vanessa Sage.

This is a beautiful world. Don’t miss it!

Tuesday Tidbits: Happy Father’s Day!

“Fatherhood challenges us, but it also enlarges us and reshapes our perception of what is important in the world around us. As we take stock of this new world, we find that doing our job as a dad is inherently honorable and respectful, and brings to us the dignity that goes with the territory. Far from being emasculating, being a dad makes us men in the finest sense of the term.”

Dads Adventure

June 2015 050Maybe it seems too early to offer Father’s Day wishes, but we’ve been working hard on our new Papatoto daddy sculptures and also finishing up our new birth affirmation cards for fathers which are coming up as the freebie in the June newsletter (subscribe at http://brigidsgrove.com), so I’m in the mood! I’ve been mining my blog for past father-relevant posts and have been re-sharing them from the depths of my blog archives. So far, I’ve found a breastfeeding facts book review:

“Since partner support of a breastfeeding mother is one of the most important factors in breastfeeding success, the short book Breastfeeding Facts for Fathers is a valuable book indeed…”

via Book Review: Breastfeeding Facts for Fathers

And three more reviews, one for homebirth dads:

The target audience for the handbook is easily summed up in the prologue: “…I’ve met far more men who have responded to their partners’ home birth wishes with a mixture of shock, cynicism, and fear…Far from being domineering ogres who just want to see wifey tucked ‘safely’ away a hospital, these loving fathers have simply had very little access to accurate, impartial information about the safety and logistics of home births versus hospital births.”

via Book Review: The Father’s Home Birth Handbook | Talk Birth.

One a handy little guide for any father-to-be:

“Humanity cannot invent a drug that can work better than a mother’s body can manufacture or a knife that is sharper than her instinctual nature.”

–Patrick Houser

Book Review: Fathers-To-Be Handbook: A Road Map for the Transition to Fatherhood

And a long-time favorite resource, Fathers at Birth:

I greatly enjoyed reading a book that explores and expands the role of men at birth. In addition to serving as a helpful resource for men who wish to be active partners in the birth process, doulas will find helpful tips and tricks in the book, and childbirth educators will find language and ideas for reaching out to and better connecting with the men in their classes. It is a nice addition to any birth professional’s lending library.

via Book Review: Fathers at Birth | Talk Birth.

Father’s Day represents an important milestone for us, since it was this time two years ago that Mark gave his notice at his job and took the leap into a full-time home-based life with the rest of us. This was prompted in many ways by his desire to spend more time with his family, which I wrote about several years ago in my Fatherbaby post:

We have discussed how each of our babies has been a catalyst for big changes in our home situation. Our first baby was the catalyst we needed to move away from our by-the-highway-no-yard townhouse in a city and onto our own land in the country near my parents. Our second baby was the catalyst we needed to finish building our real house and to move out of our temporary house and into our permanent home. So, we are now wondering what kind of catalyst our baby girl will be?

via Fatherbaby | Talk Birth.

She was the catalyst to finally make the leap and now that we have Tanner, Mark finally gets to spend that precious year of babyhood with the baby and the rest of us. Here’s that catalyst baby girl and her daddy now:

Molly 151The wild raspberries are ripe a little earlier than usual this year and though we often make one on Father’s Day, we’ve already enjoyed a treasure of a cobbler from those we picked over the weekend. Here’s last year’s post with the recipe:

…I consider any berry picking expedition to be the very definition of success as long as there are enough berries to make a cobbler! It was so delicious I felt like sharing my version here, in case any of you would also like to enjoy one with your family during berry season.

via Recipe: Wild Raspberry Cobbler | Talk Birth.

Happy Father’s Day!

June 2015 034“The absolute miracle of a birth and the emergence of a new human being into the world catapults both mother and father into the realm of awe and wonder. They are flooded with non-ordinary feelings and energies that support a deep connection not only with the newborn and each other, but also with the mystery and power of life itself.”

–John & Cher Franklin in FatherBirth

Sevenmonthababy!

Molly 033I saved my seven month update post until we got our pictures back from our spring family photo shoot. I decided I really wanted new family pictures for Mother’s Day this year. It took a lot of date-wrangling, but we finally got them to work out at the end of May with our favorite family photographer (Karen has been chronicling important moments for us for more than five years!). We got some family pictures:

Molly 105Some grandparent pictures:

Some kid pictures:

Some couple pictures:

cropMolly 143

Lots of just baby pictures:

Some mama-baby pictures:

cropMolly 115 and some new profile pictures for me:

Molly 180Okay, seven month Tanner tidbits! He dances! That’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen since the last time I had a dancing baby. He loves the guitar. Mark plays daily and it is a sure way to attract baby-attention. He also still loves to go outside—writhes and twists to try to direct adult-transport-unit out of doorway. He claps hands and sort of waves. Also still seems to say with accuracy, “hi,” “love you,” and now “ma” (while crawling after me or looking for where I’ve gone). Since he is on the move so much, I’ve found we’ve fallen off the EC bandwagon almost completely, except for mornings and after naps. I remember going through a similar stag with other kids. His army crawl is ancient history and I’m afraid the only video I have is one the kids took of him! He speeds around the house in a normal crawl now and pulls up, including on flat surfaces with no handholds (like the front of the dishwasher). He cruises with impunity and even occasionally lets go for a second or just holds on with an elbow or part of one arm. He continues to push a little beyond what he is actually physically ready for and as such misjudges and bonks head more often than I’d like!

He is a little leaner and smaller than my past babies and he has become a pretty terrible sleeper. AND, he suddenly seems to think he only needs one nap during the day! I’m feeling pretty exhausted and worn down, similar to keeping up with the mobility and destructiveness of someone closer to one. He is like a rabid squirrel monkey on steroids. Wears me out! I can’t describe how constantly on the go he is with roving/waving/scanning-to-grab hands while riding along and twisting/leaning to jump out of arms and speed away (but, often when put down then frustratingly pulling immediately back up on my legs and crying and looking desperate even though he was clearly leaping down!). It feels like Alaina is constantly yelling “choking hazard.” He has an obsession with obtaining my chapstick, my laptop and mouse, and my iphone/ipad and pursues each with dogged determination. Luckily, he gives precious hugs and kisses to make up for wild-baby-on-wheels-style.

Molly 121 The age range span of all my kids feels really hard to manage lately. Just any one of them on their own (or the two older ones together) seems easy. All together, it feels like someone always getting overlooked, having to wait, or not getting needs met and that’s hard. We’ve definitely reached maximum household capacity!

Even though I’m worn out and feel “old” to be doing this (in the context of the age range of my kids and the fact that I’ve been toting a small person around nonstop for almost 12 years. If I was the same age and only had him, I might feel differently!), there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t marvel at what a treasure he is and how lucky we are to have him. He’s really amazing! And, I’m surprised by how surprising and exciting all of his developments are—you’d think I’d feel like, “been there, done that,” but instead he seems quite a bit different than other babies I have known. He’s so baby. We say it all the time, check out the babyness of this totally baby baby…

Molly 037cropMolly 043

Introducing…Papatoto!

Attached Father, Papatoto, daddy and baby art sculpture (dad, attachment parent, mother blessing, midwife, doula, childbirth, figurine)“When he becomes a father, a man leaves behind his life as a single individual and expands into a more inclusive role. He becomes a link in an unbroken chain. And in doing so, he himself undergoes a birth process–the birth of himself as a father.”

–John Franklin (FatherBirth)

Just in time for Father’s Day, we’ve finished our first ever father-baby sculpture. This seated father and child sculpture is 3 inches and colored with a beautifully swirly mica pigment. He is custom created in the color of your choice by request in your order (color choices: blue, turquoise, russet, lavender-gold, rose-gold, gold, bronze, copper, gold-bronze, purple, or green). He is a nurturing, loving figure! Papatoto means “fatherbaby” and represents the continued, symbiotic, connected relationship between parent and child that begins in the womb.

This fatherhood sculpture was created in collaboration with my husband to capture the father-child bond and how the baby learns to explore the world from the secure base of daddy’s lap. A new standing father with child on hip is coming next.

Birth affirmations for fathers coming up as our next newsletter freebie, so make sure you’ve subscribed!

“Nurturing is not a genetically feminine attribute. Tears and laughter are not the province of women only. The last time I looked, men had tear ducts. They had arms for holding babies. They cared about their children. And they cried at births…let the shared experience of childbirth reclaim the human soul.”

-Ariska Razak (midwife and healer)

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Nine is Divine!

May 2015 001Zander is NINE today! He is independent, empathetic, loyal, brave, outrageous, perplexing, intense, and completely ZANDER! He is loud and impulsive and generous and energetic. He’s always got his brother’s back. He is super interested in dinosaurs, animals, and monsters. He can have a very intense, laser focus when he is working on a project. He draws almost every day and his reading skills have finally improved so that he can even competently read over my shoulder when I’m reading to them at bedtime (side note to other frustrated homeschooling mothers of reluctant readers, particularly boys. Apparently, 8-9 is the magic point when it finally clicks. Whew. My older son was exactly the same and it gave me headaches for six years!)

It is weird for me somehow to look back at his birth while currently holding and nursing another baby boy. Is it possible that the next time I blink my eyes, this baby boy will be nine too?!?! My heart!

That said, I’d never wish Zander back to babyhood, because who he is now is so dynamic and so HIM. It is just a bittersweet juxtaposition to be holding one, while watching another get so big.

Presents have been opened and enjoyed today. Birthday breakfast request of link sausage, scrambled eggs, toast, and fresh mango has also been enjoyed. Bacon sandwiches are on the lunch menu and biscuits and gravy for dinner. (It is a pork theme today, apparently.) Birthday party is later this weekend, which is nice because we can just enjoy the day rather than preparing for company.

Zander’s birth was a super quick and intense train ride of a birth, two hours total, that literally drove me to my knees. You can read his birth story here: My Second Birth | Talk Birth. He was born in the living room of our little temporary house at 2:45 in the morning and parenting him has been an intense ride ever since!

Blink…

zanderfirstnursingcrop

First nursing, 2006

Cahokia Mounds Mini Vacation

At the beginning of May, we took a family mini vacation to the St. Louis area. We like to take family adventures each year, but with our current car-hating baby, options are limited. So, we decided to explore some things relatively nearby that were still new for us. We stayed at a Drury Inn in St. Louis (Drury Inns for mini-vacays are our family’s tradition. We like the free breakfast and dinner and the adults enjoy the free tequila sunrises and wine!). We picked a suite this time as a sort of “treat,” but we quickly realized that our family is actually big enough that we need a suite, it isn’t just a novelty indulgence! We stopped at Laumeier Sculpture Park on the way into the city. The kids were pretty whiny about the sculptures and Mark and I finally had to concede that we also have differing expectations of what counts as art (sticking a huge tire halfway in the ground is what we would call “playground equipment” and not “Earthmover,” an art installation of such delicacy as to not allow climbing on it, lest we disturb its majesty…). After a fairly short time at the park, we headed to a friend’s house where we had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon. It was really great and relaxing to have a “base” to retreat to like this, rather than hustling and bustling and having to live out of our car. I lounged on her couch nursing Tanner while our boys played, Alaina visited the many pets, and our friends made a taco buffet for lunch. It was a perfect day!

The whole time were were gone the weather was absolutely perfect. The following morning we headed to Cahokia Mounds in nearby Illinois. Cahokia Mounds is the site of the largest earthwork in the Americas and the largest, most complex “prehistoric” native site north of Mexico (and larger than London at that time). I have always felt a connection between my own sculptures and those of ancient people and I enjoyed spotting some familiar figurines in the museum.

After climbing to the top of Monks Mound while babywearing and breastfeeding and enjoying the view, we were ready for lunch. (We had a short time in which we were the only people on top of the Mound and it was really cool!) The kids are obsessed with Golden Corral after going with their grandparents on our last visit to the Chicago area. So, we went to the Golden Corral in Collinsville (I had a strategically planned birthday coupon for a free buffet too!) We were there at that terrible time for buffets—not lunchtime and not dinnertime—and so most of the food was on the cold and dessicated side, which was disappointing. The kids ate too much cotton candy and I ate a pile of mini steakburgers (after forcing the attendant’s hand by taking the very last dehydrated sad burger and thus forcing him to put out the sizzling new ones I spotted him hoarding on the grill). By the time we got back to the hotel, the last thing we had room for was hot dogs and tequila, but we ate them anyway!

The next morning we decided to go to the zoo, which was Alaina’s special wish. Unfortunately, we had a very difficult time getting there and parking due to road closures and full parking lots. We managed eventually, but didn’t have very much fun. I don’t like zoos at all, the boys were bored, and Alaina threw a screaming fit about wanting a stuffed monkey. We hit some highlights of the zoo and then left for Jilly’s Cupcake Bar. I got it into my head somehow recently that I needed a cupcake bar experience for my birthday (and for my 100 Things list this year). I looked for cupcake bars in St. Louis and amazingly enough there was a two-times winner of Cupcake Wars right there! This was one of the most exciting parts of our trip. 😉

After cupcakes for lunch, we decided to go to the American Girl store. I’ve been to the big store in Chicago and the small store in Overland Park, KS, but never to the one in St. Louis, so also as part of my birthday, I wanted to check it out. I had my eye on one of the new mini dolls. Unfortunately, we hit terrible traffic (it was 2:30, so we’re not totally sure why) and had to slog around for extreme amounts of time, some of which with a screaming baby (and a mother scrambling over seats and trying to nurse him in the car seat). We got off on a random off ramp and wandered until we got to the mall, which was much better than continuing to sit on the interstate.

May 2015 152When we left the store, we hit more bad traffic on the way and were running out of gas (and I was being very critical of this fact). We were also starving and worried about missing our free dinner! However, Mark is a good, calm city driver and we made it back to the hotel with time to space and only a mildly further car-traumatized baby.

We all got into the hotel hot tub together every night which was fun (the boys also swam in both the indoor and outdoor pools) and binge-watched a Naked and Afraid marathon, which we’d never heard of before. The final morning of our trip we enjoyed the free breakfast one more time and then headed out of the city, stopping at a different friend’s house for a birthday lunch on our way home. Again, this was a nice, peaceful, relaxing way to travel–so nice to have a comfortable, welcoming space to visit in, rather than trying to coordinate going out to lunch or something (hard to have quality catching up time with a bunch of kids in a public place!).

May 2015 153

Heart Art

cropMollyblessingway 126Twenty years ago today, after asking me out at Lion’s Club Park after a long day of making rope with the Boy Scouts, I went on a date with a tall, quiet, curly-haired boy. It was my first date ever and we had lunch, saw While You Were Sleeping at the theater, and walked around the park. Twenty years ago, people! While our lives have grown and evolved and changed and become broader and deeper and more connected and added four other lives to the planet (only one of which got that curly hair!), our original teenager-connection of respect, affection, friendship, security, complementary strengths, and sense of home-place in each other’s company, has never changed. I’m so glad that what started out as sort of a chance and unexpected pairing, became something so steadfast and strong.

I was thinking about what to post today and about our complementary strengths and I realized that I wanted to finally share our Heart Art assignment from the Sacred Pregnancy course I took while I was pregnant with Tanner. I didn’t end up posting about it right away because it felt private, but I did save a draft post about it to share someday. In this exercise, the couple paints a heart together and then fills in the heart with things they love about the other person.

When I told my husband about the exercise he said he didn’t want to do it. He is usually game to do anything I want to do and to support any project I care about, but this time he said, “you know how I am. If I’m at work and they do a team-building thing where everyone has to go write something nice about everyone else, that is my idea of hell. I’d rather do anything else than have to write things about someone else. Not everyone is into or likes this kind of stuff. I am not the kind of person who likes to do these kinds of things.” He then went on to say, “but if I can just tell you why I love you, I would say…” and then he listed off all my good qualities and made me cry and cry.

I decided I should honor his truth in that this is not his kind of exercise and that I would do the Heart Art activity by myself. But, then we were walking together as we do every night and he brought it up again, saying that it is writing that is not his strength, but that he really wanted to tell me all these things and it was beautiful and affirming to hear and I cried and we stood in our driveway hugging and kissing and crying together.

I’d painted the heart and added my side of the words after our first conversation and when I went back inside, I added his words to the other side. One of the best things about our relationship is how our skills/strengths complement each other and this exercise was another example of how that works.

August 2014 010Inspired by our heart art, I then I added these glass hearts to my Sacred Pregnancy altar where they remained until after Tanner’s birth in October.

August 2014 034

(Unfortunately, instead of watching While You Were Sleeping, reminiscing, and having a twenty-year-date, I have to go give a final exam!)