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Happy Halloween!

pumpkingoddessesHaving a one day old baby last year on Halloween eclipsed my years-long blog tradition of making a Halloween-themed blog post. I was taking a walk down memory lane reading older Halloween blog posts today and gathered them together into a new mini-post. A constant in the pictures for each is my Halloween troll pin. It was a part of my massive troll collection as a kid and I wear it every year! (I have two of them, so that’s why the hair color is sometimes different from year to year!)

In 2010, I was Scully: Happy Halloween! | Talk Birth

In 2011, their skeleton sweatshirts were new (Tanner now wears Alaina’s and Alaina wears Lann’s original from 2006): Happy Halloween! | Talk Birth

In 2012, I was Luke Skywalker wearing Yoda on my back: Happy Halloween! | Talk Birth

2013 was significantly more adventurous and involved wearing a gypsypriestess costume to Sirloin Stockade while wrangling five kids through the buffet by myself. It also involved some fabulous kid-quotes:

Let’s go to another park and continue this torturefest.” (as we were leaving the wet, cold, stormy park after homeschool playgroup)

And… “I guess this is the ‘trick’ part of the day.” (as we staggered to our various destinations)

Source: Happy Halloween! | Talk Birth

This year I dressed up as a sort of elf-priestess for my parents’ Halloween party:

October 2015 072And, as already shared in other posts this week, the boys went as Freddy and Bonnie from the computer game Five Nights at Freddy’s.

October 2015 037Tanner was an epic tiny Draco Malfoy:

October 2015 070Alaina went as a “nursing mama witch” to my parents’ party and as Bellatrix Lestrange to the playgroup Halloween party and to Trunk or Treat:

October 2015 038IMG_8839We love going to Trunk or Treat at the University, because the students always recognize and appreciate our kids’ costumes and hardly anyone there has to ask who they are–they recognize them without needing explanations! It makes the kids happy and this year it made me super thrilled because I was so tickled by my tiny Malfoy that I loved having him appreciated by all the college students!

IMG_8861The boys carved really good pumpkins this year and Alaina had the mummy pumpkin:

IMG_8838Childbirth educators will enjoy knowing that Halloween clearance can be used for CBE teaching aids in this post from Science and Sensibility: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators: Trick or Treat – Halloween Spoils Make Great Teaching Aids
Stacie BABE3 Two other tangentially related Halloween posts that I usually share around this time of year are:

What Really Scares Me: Social Attitudes Towards Women | Talk Birth

Fears About Birth and Losing Control | Talk Birth

 

Tuesday Tidbits: “Bad” Homeschooler’s Lament…

October 2015 052

Draco, Freddy and Bonnie from Five Nights at Freddy’s, plus “Nursing Mama Witch.”

Sort of a mish-mash round-up of posts for this week! Homeschooling has been on my mind a lot since this summer, when several of my friends decided to send their kids to school. Recently, we toyed with idea of sending Alaina to preschool, but after an impassioned discussion during our nightly walk on the veranda, we decided against it. As I’ve learned over and over again, usually our family is pretty happy until I get a bee in my bonnet to start monkeying with our “school” routine and issuing sweeping decrees about what must be done to whip us into shape into More Awesome Homeschooling People. Then…we’re all miserable, including me, even though we’re doing more of the “right” things. What happened this time is that I found this cool-sounding, do-it-yourself, homeschool journal workbook, and decided it would be perfect for my kids (I still think it could be!) to liven up our very stale homeschool routine, which has been pared away to virtually nothing after a busy summer and now a busy fall (it is really easy to keep coming up with endless excuses about why we can’t do school today…or today…or today). Anyway, short story is: tears for all.

A few nights ago, I was making rice crispie treats for the kids and Mark was doggedly laboring over phenomenal homemade costumes for the boys. I was holding the baby, a home-raised-by-us chicken was in the roaster for dinner, Alaina was painting Christmas decoration presents at the table, and the boys were advising Mark on costume fabrication. I noticed that I had a “tape” playing in my head about what a “bad mom” I was and, yes, what “bad parents” we both are. I was feeling bad because I keep not having time (that is also grabbing-baby-hands-free) to sew Alaina a neat felt goddess that she’s been wanting me to sew for her for at least three weeks. This was rolling around as well as homeschooling woes, some snappy moments, and listening/empathetic failures, and a few other miscellaneous woes over the last week. I suddenly thought: hold on. Where are these “bad parents,” of whom I think? I see a mom making rice crispie treats and a dad making costumes. Why am I doing this to myself?!

Anyway, I suspect I am possibly doing the same thing with New Homeschool Plan of Awesomeness. Last week, we took the kids to Magic House in St. Louis (while I was having a mini-mother blessing for a friend who lives there. The Magic House tickets were prizes they earned from the summer reading program at the library). We spent ages on Halloween party prep and enjoyed a fabulous Halloween party extravaganza at my parents’ house. We had some best friends visit from out-of-town and stay overnight, during which we had a cookout on the veranda and brainstormed collaborative business adventures. The boys spent tons of time on the trampoline and also playing computer games. They also read every single day and drew every single day as well as helped me with cooking projects (we’re digging roasted vegetables lately and also Chocolate Covered Katie’s almond butter brownies, except we use peanut butter in them. And, speaking of “digging,” the boys also helped Mark dig up a bunch of potatoes that we grew in our garden!). We finished watching the second Hobbit movie and moved on to enjoying the Worst Cooks in America. Perhaps we’re doing all right after all…

So, all that said, I read this article about what schools are like in Finland:

Once Morning Circle—a communal time of songs and chants—wrapped up, the children disbanded and flocked to the station of their choice: There was one involving fort-making with bed sheets, one for arts and crafts, and one where kids could run a pretend ice-cream shop. “I’ll take two scoops of pear and two scoops of strawberry—in a waffle cone,” I told the two kindergarten girls who had positioned themselves at the ice-cream table; I had a (fake) 10€ bill to spend, courtesy of one of the teachers. As one of the girls served me—using blue tack to stick laminated cutouts of scoops together—I handed the money to her classmate.

Source: The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland

I thought about how people devalue caregivers of all kinds:

What’s really going on here is we are discriminating against people who have to care for others, which is a role that society needs people to play. Right now we’re focusing on the problem that, if you’re at the top and take time out to take care of others, you’re knocked off your leadership track. But much more important is that, if you are a woman in the middle class or a low-income woman and you take even a day or two off to care for others, you could lose your job. You get docked pay. You don’t have access to affordable day care.

Source: Nurses, fathers, teachers, mothers. Why do we devalue someone the minute they care for others? – The Washington Post

I laughed about how we’ve been having babies for “too long”:

The maternity clothes you wore during your first pregnancy resemble the ones your mother wore much more closely than they resemble the ones you wore during your most recent pregnancy.

Source: 17 Signs You’ve Been Having Babies For Too Long – So-So Mom

(I didn’t actually identify with that many of these signs, but they were funny! I do identify with having spread out my parenting years quite a bit longer than many people I know!)

I thought about being an extroverted-introvert and how this is a challenging personality type to pair with the relentless “on-ness” of parenting, the constantness of a homeschooling family + home-based business.

4. You find it easy to connect with others and exhibit both introvert and extrovert qualities. You love meeting and interacting with other people and at times can be the life of the party but eventually, you have to go home and recharge.

Source: 13 Signs You’re A Classic INFJ | Thought Catalog

And, I mused about being a mother of sons and how that relates to “funny,” memes of the “hands off my daughter” variety:

The idea of threatening young women to keep their hands off young men is ludicrous, yet when roles are reversed it’s completely accepted and even encouraged. Why? In order to raise a generation of kind and respectful men we have to stop telling our boys they’re inherently bad (but it’s not their fault because hormones.) In order to create a culture of strong and competent women who can save themselves, we must first stop teaching girls that they need to be saved.

Source: Please Don’t Threaten My Son For Dating Your Daughter | Kasey Ferris

And when one family’s offhand joke becomes a viral reinforcement of the old message that a girls’ sexuality is somehow a negotiation between her father and her boyfriend, it’s just not so funny any more.

Source: Stop cheering for the old “Hands off my daughter!” shtick – Salon.com

My new school session began this Monday and runs until almost Christmas. My uncle is visiting from California starting tomorrow, we’ve got our playgroup Halloween party, then Tanner’s first birthday followed by Halloween, my aunt comes to visit from California, and we’re hosting Minecraft Club and then a Pink Tent event (for mothers and daughters) next week. I’d better stop blogging, we’ve got a lot more bad-parenting to pack in before the end of the year!

Look at this “bad mom” (gasp!) having FUN with her kid…

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Elevenmonthababy!

IMG_7742Somehow, our little October baby boy is now eleven months old! Here is what he has been up to over the last month:

  • Adds hot, chicken, dance, and pepper to his vocabulary (but also slips backwards in terms of speech and starts favoring baby-Chewbacca-style of communication instead. Not quite as “adorable” as Chewy though, even…)
  • He likes to nurse with me flat on floor and his head facing away from me, so my nipple is turned at a 90 degree angle, pointing the opposite way of the side he is actually on). Despite this, I still identify with this meme:

IMG_7811Only for me, it is more like, “nap time!” or, “he bonked his head AGAIN!”

And, experienced nursing mothers will recognize a certain subtle detail in one of our newest breastfeeding mama sculptures:

IMG_7847Yes, she is tenderly cradling and holding hands with her baby, but she’s also preventing him from twiddling the opposite side at the very same time…

Back to this elevenmonthababy:

  • He does dance steps and moves! Rather than the bobbing in place baby-style dance, he actually stomps his feet and does a little “soft shoe” dance step. Sometimes accompanied by frenetic arm flapping, head bopping, and a big smile of enthusiasm.
  • He specifically asks for harmonica playing and for the radio to be turned on. Also, drums with gusto.

    September 2015 027

    He got this drum and set it up and played it this way himself, even though we never play our djembe like that, nor has he seen one played like this.

  • Problem solves in what seems like a genius manner. i.e. This week, Zander was setting up a big cushion and Tanner was knocking it over and Zander didn’t want him to do that. So, Zander stood behind the cushion blocking it with his legs so it wouldn’t tip. “Ha! You can’t knock it down now!” he said, and Tanner instantly reached out and tipped the cushion towards himself instead of pushing it down away from himself.
  • He rips apart my Christmas cactus relentlessly. He likes how the little segments pop apart and is dogged about going after them, up to and including moving chairs, going around to the back side of the porch rail and leaning over to get to it, and reaching through cracks in the baby gate to de-segment it. He also loves to pop apart big baby legos (quatros). There is a certain thrill to the pop.
  • Pushes his little friend around on a bike.
  • Loves to go out to the veranda with us.
  • Switches to taking big steps instead of careful half steps and falls down more often. Also attempts to put on burst of speed when escaping.
  • Is verbal enough to do what is asked of him, such as “go get your spoon and bring it back to me.”
  • Speaking of spoons and verandahing, is obsessed with poking them down the cracks in the porch, never to be seen again unless a brother is willing to crawl under and retrieve them.
  • After playgroup at the river last week, I had to share on Facebook that another milestone that doesn’t have a sticker for the baby calendar is Baby’s First Leech. Ugh!
  • While at GGG, Tanner earned the nickname “Lightfingers,” because he is super skilled at quietly and delicately making off with other people’s possessions without them noticing.
  • And, speaking of fingers, he took Mark’s homemade-from-a-wine-bottle guitar slide without anyone noticing, broke it on the floor and cut open his finger. I don’t think I’ve ever had an 11 month old who bled from cutting himself before! 😦

I can’t believe that this time last year I was walking around pregnant, thinking I might have twins! I like to take re-creation photos from significant points from pregnancy, so while last year at GGG I was 35 weeks pregnant and posed for a picture at Venus Sanctuary, this year, we looked like this instead:

September 2015 077 September 2015 074Here are some more pictures from the last month, many are from GGG, where he did much “helping” with my booth:

The first year after a baby’s birth is filled with so many precious moments and so many poignant moments. It is like traveling out of a labyrinth, rounding familiar the curves and passages, and taking the same kind of journey with people and through places as I took while I was pregnant, but this time…coming out again, with the baby in my arms.

September 2015 197

Thursday Tidbits: Happy Birth-Day!

September 2015 008This week, our oldest son turned 12! I can hardly believe that it has been twelve years since Mark and I were snuggled up in bed marveling over our new baby boy! Lann is an amazing big brother, a helpful, responsible son, and a creative, imaginative, sensitive kid. He loves Minecraft, computer games in general, and making gaming videos for YouTube.

We had his birthday party earlier this month, so his actual birthday was pretty low-key (minus me scrambling to catch up with backlogged work from being away and poor Tanner being a crying, stumbling around, stressed out little mess from the same). We put up his nice new birthday trampoline and went out to dinner and had cake with my parents.September 2015 137Twelve years ago this is what I was doing…

…I felt very internally focused and yet still aware of the people around me, though I wasn’t talking to them much and spent a lot of time with my eyes closed. They kept commenting to me and to each other about how calm and focused I was being and how “in control” I appeared. I don’t think I was really showing how intense and back-to-back these contractions were for me. I also started to have lots of internal pressure feelings during contractions when I was on my hands and knees.

My First Birth | Talk Birth

On Sunday night, Alaina, Tanner, and I got back home from Kansas after five days away. Gaea Goddess Gathering was an experience, as always. Vending was a rewarding experience with lots of lovely connections woven, but many other elements felt like something we survived! It is quite physically taxing to be there–not enough food, water, or sleep, too much climbing up seventy steps up a steep hillside while breastfeeding + babywearing! And, weather extremes this year—90+ degrees, then rain and wind, then cool. I couldn’t have done it without my mom, who helped me way more than I should have expected her to. It was also fun to spend so much time with my sister-in-law and my little nephew (she also helped me a lot!)

September 2015 077The other day I told my husband that it is interesting to me how I was “maxed out” when I only had one little baby. And, now I have four and I’m still maxed out (but that first little baby is now a twelve-year-old who helps take care of the other babies, so in some sense it is easier to have more kids than less kids!). I also told my mom what the midwife for my second baby told me: one kid takes all of your time, so a second one can’t possibly take any more.

There are a lot of things that are easier about having an older kid and some things that are harder:

And, I no longer smell like piss. So, there’s that.

Sure things have gotten easier in ways. I can leave the house now without small humans attached to me. I sleep for stretches longer than three hours. And I haven’t been vomited on in at least a few months. But in some ways, it’s so very much harder. (Plus they aren’t as cute and easy to forgive anymore.)

Source: It’s a Lie; Mothering Doesn’t Get Any Easier Scary Mommy

What this article doesn’t address is the complexities of having both big kids and little kids at the same time. That is what feels hardest right now and I think it may get harder before it gets easier. Time always feels shorter than I dream of it feeling.

When I was nursing infant Lann, a moment with my then-teenage brother still stands out to me: he walked in while I was nursing Lann to sleep at my parents’ house and said, “oh, he’s having nursies.” The normality of “nursies” to a teenage boy is important (and now that teenage boy is in his twenties and has a breastfed baby boy of his own). I’m surprised to realize that Lann will remember more about me nursing Tanner than Tanner ever will.

What did they learn from those experiences? Well, hopefully, they learned that human bodies are just that, bodies. We respect them and we revere them and we don’t shame them. Because they don’t deserve any of that.

This is where the change starts. With my kids and your kids and the kids who see us feeding our babies without embarrassment. Things become normalized one act a time.

I’ve given my kids the opportunity to see something I hope will serve them in their lives. My son’s partners will never have to be concerned that they won’t be supported. My daughters will know the normalcy that is child birthing and feeding and rearing.

Source: Breastfeeding and Teenage Boys | The Leaky B@@b

Thinking about the swift passage of time from that tender, new mother and soft, fresh baby of twelve years ago to the boy whose head is now past my shoulder and who records tutorial videos, reads about the solar system, totes his little brother on his hip, and fixes breakfast for everyone, I feel oddly comforted by the information that some cells from each of my kids, might be with me forever:

The new study suggests that women almost always acquire fetal cells each time they are pregnant. They have been detected as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy. In later years, the cells may disappear, but sometimes, the cells settle in for a lifetime. In a 2012 study, Dr. Nelson and her colleagues examined the brains of 59 deceased older women and found Y chromosomes in 63 percent of them. (Many studies on fetal microchimerism focus on the cells left behind by sons, because they are easier to distinguish from the cells of their mother.) Experts now believe that microchimerism is far from rare. “Most of us think that it’s very common, if not universal,” Dr. Nelson said. But it remains quite mysterious.

Fetal cells are frequently found in breast tissue, even in milk, for instance. The researchers argue that children might thrive more if their fetal cells drove up milk production.

Mothers also nurture their babies with body heat. The thyroid gland, located in the neck, acts like a thermostat, and fetal cells in the thyroid gland in theory could cause mothers to generate more heat than they would otherwise.

Source: A Pregnancy Souvenir: Cells That Are Not Your Own – The New York Times

 

September 2015 065

Tenmonthababy!

August 2015 060Tanner is ten months old and stepping out all over the place. When I started keeping notes for my ten month update post, I’d put that he was crawling around with rocks in each hand clicking on the concrete floor—crawling fast, and clicking along so you can hear him coming. As August progressed, that crawling-fast baby disappeared and turned into an all-out walking baby! I knew the day was rapidly approaching and I actually was surprised when he wasn’t walking at the start of nine months, given how skillful his furniture navigation skills were at that point. In our family, we don’t count the baby as truly walking until they go ten steps in a row unsupported. He did 27 steps in a row on August 19 and hasn’t stopped since. He skipped over the sweet, heart-breakingly darling “walk to Mama!” stage and has never once walked holding onto our hands the way babies do (breaking your back at same time). We tried, “walk to Mama! Walk to Daddy!” and he would get so excited he would jump and jump and fall down. He started walking by walking away from us, back to us, heading out across the living room or kitchen from my legs. From the 27 steps, he moved quickly on to walking while holding items, pivoting, changing direction, turning completely around, squatting down to pick stuff up and walking away with it, etc. He also climbs onto the couch and apparently stepped down the steps at my parents’ house alone too (touching wall for support). His steps have been adorably tiny—less than a half foot-length between each and with a slightly hunched forward posture (prepared to catch self in fall) and we joked that he isn’t really walking, he’s just rocking his feet from side to side and propelling himself forward upright that way! (kind of penguin-style) But, even the last few days have seen bigger steps, more confident about not falling down. In the same week he shifted from fast crawling and careful walking, to choosing walking most of the time, no matter what else is happening or where is trying to travel. I sense that the last vestiges of a crawling baby in the house will be over by the next week or so.

August 2015 006

Like mother, like son. “Grinding corn” at the Newburg Children’s Museum two weeks ago.

Can I take a few minutes to :::::sob:::::? While I delight in baby milestones, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been “cheated” out of the last three months of having a baby! He is remarkably toddler-like and not just the walking, but the talking too. He actually asks for things saying, “me, me, me?” or, “meeeeeeeeeee!” with lunge + grab, when not getting his fair share. We’ve heard him say high five, bad, cat, ow, bye, ball, yum yum, rock, dad, doll, block, and “away” (while putting blocks away in tub: “bock. way.” Is that a sentence before ten months? 😉 )

He also kisses baby dolls on the head and snuggles his face into theirs. And, he makes music with everything—rattles bracelets, drums on surfaces, strums the wires. He is remarkably good at figuring stuff out—i.e. dropping something between slats and then staring at it, trying to reach through to get it and that doesn’t work, so bends down and reaches around and under to retrieve it instead. He loves to eat whole peppers from the green house and merrily rides out to pick them with Mark every day.

He crushes All. The. Things. It is nonstop chore keeping him from ruining the rest of the house and the people in it.

Working at our table at Mamafest last weekend.

Working at our table at Mamafest last weekend.

He is also a very rough nurser—preferring to nurse upside down with legs standing up over my shoulder, while I’m lying on my back (usually attempting to practice yoga). He makes the same “bratty” face that all my kids have made and that I remember my youngest siblings making too: nose wrinkled up, smirky smile, and a snuffing, hissing sort of sound with tongue against teeth while doing something intentionally naughty or destructive. (He also says, “bad” while getting some things, which makes me really annoyed with my other children, who have been known to holler “BAD!!!!” at him when he is getting into their things.) He also has a knack for raising one eyebrow in surprise. I can’t do that myself, but all of my kids can and got it genetically from Mark. Tanner seems really young for it though!

Tanner is a morning baby compared to all of our other kids. He is ready for bed at about 8:30 and wakes up at about 8:00 each morning with big smiles, hugging me, snuggling, and ready to go. When I pick him up, he adds an extra oomph/leap to it so that he flies into the air and into my arms. He will lean from my arms  to hug and snuggle everyone else in greeting–face leaned against chest or head, saying good morning.

At the end of last week, we went to Magic House with friends in St. Louis. The kids had free tickets from the summer reading program at the library. We had an amazingly good time. I figured I might as well put the photos from it into this post as well!

August 2015 053Last year, when we went to Magic House, I was pregnant with Tanner. What a difference a year makes! That is what I mean about being “cheated” out of three months of baby. This time last year, I was pregnant and there was no Tanner in the house. Now, there is a toddler boy! What happened?!

Recreating pregnant picture from previous year as well as modeling new silk skirt from my mom!

Recreating pregnant picture from previous year as well as modeling new silk skirt from my mom!

August 2015 063

The tiny judge in this picture cracks me up every time I see it!

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Parenting Big and Little Kids at the Same Time

July 2015 146

The biggest (almost 12) and the littlest (9 months) at Alley Spring at the end of July.

I’ve been trying to post this post since last week. But, then Zander stood on my closed laptop and broke the screen. (Luckily, Mark is a genius and Amazon has overnight shipping so it had the screen replaced within 24 hours and was ready for me to take to the first night of class at the Fort). Then, while we were at Mamafest on Saturday, there was a big storm that took out our internet and apparently our dryer too. The ISP can’t fix said internet until possibly Friday, which creates a near crisis survival state in a home with two work at home parents. It is hard to teach online and to ship orders with only one little iPhone’s connection to the outside world!

I’ve been really crying out for rest lately and interestingly, this forced hiatus has felt like a welcome change. We spent the morning sitting on the back deck, drinking tea, reading magazines (that with working internet perhaps would have remained unread for 6 months), while the kids played (alternating with wigging out about spiders and screeching about Tanner getting too close to the edge of the deck). 

This was going to begin as a much different post, but a lot happens in a week as well as a little refreshment and perspective offered by some time off “verandahing” (as Leonie Dawson would say). I woke up yesterday morning telling Mark, “today I will be full of enthusiasm…and making lists.” And, indeed, I did make lists. I made lists of what matters to me/us to include in every day, every week, every month, every other month, and every year. I’m ready for our home to be our haven, our own “retreat” space, and to have it feel as nice and nurturing on a regular basis as it feels to be on vacation. I’m ready to stop pushing and forcing and trying so hard to take care of everything…and then one more thing after that. This is going to mean some significant changes to my blogging here, but I will save that for a separate post. 

It is hard sometimes to feel so full to bursting with inspiration and ideas constantly, while coupled with the realities of the needs of a household of six people. I’ve been feeling down and discouraged about changes in friendships, homeschooling, projects, and more. Tanner has been teething (maybe), sleeping poorly and napping worse, and has morphed suddenly into a full-scale walking baby. Adequately parenting a multi-age range of kids feels virtually impossible. Meeting the needs of one usually means another’s needs are left unmet. I usually feel like I am not “enough” for my kids, while in the rest of my life I feel like “too much,” like I’m overwhelming and too intense for the people around me.

Tanner is a baby-on-wheels walking baby (leaving totally impressive destruction in his wake) and suddenly saying lots of new words intentionally: “ball” and “cat” and “ow,” “Dad,” “rock” and “yum.” Alaina is perpetually in need of attention and help. The older boys blessedly give each other attention and are helpful with Tanner, but increasingly pick on Alaina and taunt her in a way that really needs to stop. When they have things to tell me, I usually have to say, “not now,” or “hold the baby.” Instead of having those fabled bonding-with-pre-teen-boys conversations in the car I always read about, instead we are all loudly singing, “bay-bee, bay-bee, baby, baby, baby,” in an effort to keep Tanner from crying so hard in the car he throws up. “We HAVE to listen to them talk about Minecraft now,” I lament to Mark, “or when someone offers them cocaine, they won’t feel like they can tell us!!!!”

My mom, also a parent of four, split by age much the same as my own, tells me it actually gets harder from here!

So, my posts I highlight today are a potpourri of offerings about big kids and parenting in general…

First, a spot of humor:

The research found that despite using the same disciplinary methods, 100% of the children were more responsive to instructions spoken at a normal voice level if they came from someone other than their mother. To receive similar behavioral results, the women in the group had to raise their voices to that of someone being attacked by several large animals.

via Study: Children Are 800% Worse When Their Mothers Are In The Room | Mom News Daily.

And, then the bad news. Research on the happiness of German parents drew some grim conclusions…

Life has its ups and downs, but parenthood is supposed to be among the most joyous. At least that’s what the movies and Target ads tell us. In reality, it turns out that having a child can have a pretty strong negative impact on a person’s happiness, according to a new study published in the journal Demography. In fact, on average, the effect of a new baby on a person’s life in the first year is devastatingly bad — worse than divorce, worse than unemployment and worse even than the death of a partner.

via It turns out parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment — even the death of a partner – The Washington Post.

It was interesting to note that the effect was even stronger in parents who are over 30 and have a higher level of education.

Luckily, it turns out that the whole four kids thing is a winner though in the parental life satisfaction arena!

Families with four or more children enjoy the greatest life satisfaction, a five-year study by Perth’s Edith Cowan University has found. Bronwyn Harman, a lecturer in the School of Psychology and Social Science, asked parents from different family types about resilience, social support and self-esteem. She found that parents with four or more children had the best ratings in each of these areas. The second-highest life-satisfaction scores, separated by just 0.25 per cent, were parents who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ). “With large families, we think they have social support within the family,” Dr Harman said. “The kids are never bored, they have someone to play with and they get independence quite early on.”

via Bigger is better: Parents with four or more children happiest despite chaos, research finds – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

A couple of years ago, I spent some time musing about why parenting feels so hard and why do new mothers often say, “why didn’t anyone tell me?!” The individual pieces of parenting aren’t that hard and it is hard to point specifically to anything as “the reason” (which is why remarks about said hardness are so frustrating and mystifying to first-time parents while still pregnant), but I settled on the fact that it is relentless. That’s what’s hard. It never stops. And, once you start it, it basically keeps going to the end of your life!

I sink down onto the kitchen floor and cry.

I cry because the work of motherhood is relentless.

I cry because I’m tired.

And I need a shower.

I cry because it’s taking me half an hour to cut up these damn plums.

And I cry because I love these kids so much. They’re beautiful and curious and funny and complicated and completely exasperating. They deserve my patience, and I want to give it to them, but today it’s buried under a heaping pile of demands and I yelled at them instead.

via I’m Not Taking A Break. I’m Breaking. – Scary Mommy Scary Mommy

Moving on to the big kids though and those car conversations we don’t get to have…

I am sorry that when you are starting to explore girls, finding your own independence, and wanting some adult conversation, the toddler is saying the same thing a hundred times in a row at the top of her lungs and we cannot hear you.

I am sorry that every time you want our attention, the baby starts crying or needs something. I am sorry that when you first wanted to drive, we did not trust you with the kids in the car and so it took awhile before you could get your hours up on your learner’s permit.

I am sorry we do not pick you up at the train station when you finish work more often, because we are either settling your baby brother, feeding him, or fell asleep waiting for your text.

I am sorry I cannot remember what time your game is on Sunday – or anything you have told me, for that matter – because I have not slept a full night in over a year.

via Dear Teenager, Sorry About The Toddler And The Baby Scary Mommy.

And this ode to big kids that rings so true for me right now:

You didn’t sign up for this position. You didn’t choose to be the ones born first, a few years earlier, and if you asked to be in this situation, you probably didn’t know what being the older one actually entailed. Real babies and real toddlers, well, they’re a whole lot different than the stuffed animals you used to push in the toy stroller and put to bed in shoe boxes, aren’t they? Yet, you handle the younger ones with an unexpected patience and gentleness (OK, usually), and a lot of the time, you “Big Kids” do a better job of not totally losing it in the face of an unruly 2-year old’s demands than most adults. It’s inspiring. Big Kids are a parent’s unsung heroes. Thank you for holding the fussy baby while we fumble through our trashcan of a purse looking for our credit card so we can just pay for these diapers and get the hell out of the store and home before nap time.

via A Thank You To The Big Kids Scary Mommy

In the midst of all these ups and downs and multitudinous chaos’ of daily life, I am stunned by the bookended realities of my biggest boy and my littlest boy. In looking at the two of them together, it is all right there, in a heart-rending way that means, in fact, I am paying good enough attention and I am, myself, enough after all.

I knew that it would all go very fast, but I still, somehow, forgot just a little bit that once those years were gone, they were gone forever and irretrievable. I forgot, for a moment or many, that it’s a special grief that parents must continually and consistently endure: being at once nothing but grateful our children are growing and healthy, and yet at the same time, painfully aware of the loss of something with each year they put behind them…

via Just Like That Scary Mommy.

At the same time I’ve been feeling this tension and strain and perpetual “push,” I felt moved to create a new sculpture. She was created to remind me to be tender with my heart and to hold my own center with as much love as I’ve cradled my babies, all ages of them, for the last twelve years.

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Ninemonthababy!

July 2015 045I find the NINO point with all my babies to be bittersweet: nine months in, nine months out. As I think about things I did last year and see old pictures going past via the “memory” feature on Facebook, I’m regularly stunned by how quickly time has passed and what an integral part of our lives our little T-bot is. It is also interesting to me how the Return to Non-Pregnant Woman feels. Pregnancy is so encompassing and then, it is over, and the physicality of it, the unity of it, the specialness of it–that thoroughly embodied and yet somehow transcendent state–becomes a memory. A poignant memory, yes, but one I find that fades in terms of being able to thoroughly mentally “touch.” On the same note, I also notice that I am only two pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight (which was actually about 10 pounds over where I feel most comfortable/happy). I’m fascinated by how it takes nine months to transform into Fully Pregnant Woman and nine months to restore one’s old self.

Speaking of poignancy and NINO, my brother, SIL, and nephew were visiting at the end of the month during his first birthday and we took some more re-creation pictures based on the tandem pregnancy pictures my mom took of us while we were waiting in July of last year for the birth of their baby. I notice now after excavating last year’s pictures, that I did not actually pick out the same outfit to wear even though I was certain I had picked it correctly!

What a difference a year makes! I also wish we would have re-created this one somehow:

IMG_5959Okay, so back to the ninemonthababy. He has his first tooth and his second! (7/23 and 7/31) He loves music, especially rattling rattles (which he also bangs on the floor really hard). One of his dancing moves is to wiggle his arms really fast and enthusiastically. I put a short clip of dance action with arm skillz is on Instagram here and the longer video is on my Facebook. I’m so glad my mom took it! Super cute!

While not clearly enunciated by any means, he seems to say: raisin, more (+ the babysign), brother, yay, mama, kitty, and that sound that means “icky” that moms make to tell babies not to touch stuff. As I’ve noted before, he also seems to ask to nurse by requesting, “mama, wa-wa” (mama water!).

He points and claps. He likes to find rocks to eat. Also, he used his talents to “catch” a leech at the river on our mini vacation. Yes. I looked down to see him carefully pinching up an absolutely gigantic leech and kind rolling it thoughtfully around (I suspect in preparation to eat it). He still makes his cute little “Cabbage Patch” face (see opening photo) and I’ll be sad to see it go now that the teeth have come in.

He seems to have dropped his second nap. He pinches the tender skin on the back of my arm in a horrible manner and leaves bruises all over me.

July 2015 023He loves Daddy extra-much. Mark told me the other day, “he likes me the way I always hoped our babies would like me.” He will go to Mark when sad and loves to go with him to explore outside (often, leaning out of my arms and into Mark’s and then looking back and waving, “bye” to me!). He crawls super fast to greet Mark when he comes inside and in the mornings leans over from my arms to give him a “hello again!” hug and snuggle.

July 2015 030

Featuring Cabbage Patch face!

Mark describes Tanner as being like a “force of nature”—i.e. not caring what destruction it may leave in its wake!

He remains a super up-down, up-down, up-down baby, meaning that as soon as he is picked up, he wants down and vice versa. Repeat. It can be extremely wearing! He also doesn’t hold on to be carried, but instead leans forward, propelling you with his momentum and almost flinging himself out of your arms. He pivots and twists and leans forward and “surfs” with only his feet touching your body and the rest straining into mid-air. He retains the keen sense of injustice that I think may be most acutely experienced by those who are the youngest of four. He has a funny little half kneel, half squat that he does to reach up. He stands alone all the time (plus can squat up and down unsupported) and has taken two steps in a row unsupported.

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Soon to be a scene of the past!

We went to Six Flags in late July. I hope to write a separate blog post about it soon, because it was such a great time! We also went on a mini-vacation to a lakeside cabin near the river at the very end of July. He still hates the car, but does okay if I’m sitting in the back with him and Mark is driving (not always possible).

July 2015 058

Looking down from the top of Colossus (ferris wheel).

It is hard to find time to write a nine month blog post because said nine month old absorbs a lot of energy! And, he bangs the keys and eats the mouse whenever possible.

July 2015 003I took the kids to playgroup at the skating rink in July and Tanner was playing on the slide for the first time. I sat at the bottom looking up at him and remembering the other babies and little children I’ve waited for at the bottom of this same slide. For him, it was new. A discovery. For me, a bittersweet déjà vu and pang of re-recognition: the world spins so fast. I thought of how much changes and how much stays the same. The different friends who’ve opened their arms to babies at the end of that same slide with me and how many of them have moved away, had more babies, experienced changes, and I’m still there: at the bottom of the slide. My oldest son is almost 12. Yesterday, he was a baby on the slide. I wondered if in 11 more years, I’ll still be taking kids to that skating rink….the wheel rolls.

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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!

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:

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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

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…

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First nursing, 2006