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Happy Birthday, Tanner!

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I actually got the perfect picture this morning of our birthday boy! Tanner is TWO! He says: “I’m two!” He speaks in 2-3 word sentences and adds words every day. He can basically say anything. He loves tools and fixing stuff and “working” with mom and dad. He watches closely enough that he even blows on the tops of the heads of tiny goddesses when he sits down with them and tries to work on the tops of their heads. He likes cars and trucks. He is the first kid to run to help when someone says, “help,” including trying to be the other side of furniture moving. Loves swings and big boots and running fast. Is observant and attentive and clever. Likes knives (too much!).

Falls asleep in my arms each night, just like he did the day he was born.

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His birth video is here and his birth story is here

We having his birthday party tonight and going to a Halloween party. He has a dinosaur costume as well as a karate kid t-shirt so he can be Johnny, the blond kid from the Karate Kid movie (he was Draco Malfoy last year. Apparently, I can only think of blond-hair-related costumes and bad kids in movies are blond?!) I have made a non-professional-looking pumpkin cake with super yummy pumpkin cream cheese icing.october-2016-076

I can’t image a world without a Tanner in it! He is a powerhouse, a dynamo, and an inextricable part of our family.

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Talk Books: Lost on Hope Island

Patricia Harman is an experienced midwife, beginning as a community midwife in the 1960’s and goatmidwivesthen becoming a CNM and maintaining a busy practice with her obstetrician husband Tom. Her memories about midwifery practice are some of my all-time favorite midwifery memoirs. She has a delightful gift with sharing stories, wisdom, and creating what feels like a true relationship with the reader. Now, she has put her attention into a new project: fiction for middle-grade children. Her first child’s novel, Lost on Hope Island: The Amazing Tale of the Little Goat Midwives, tells the story of two siblings, Trillium and Jacob (ages 12 and 8) who are shipwrecked on a small island in the Pacific Ocean and separated from their parents.

Lost on Hope Island is set in the modern day, it is not a Swiss Family Robinson reboot. On the island, the children must learn how to survive with only each other, and the goats the inhabit the island for company. They make some surprising (and convenient!) discoveries left behind by previous homesteaders on the island that help them survive and they develop close relationships with their goat friends. After the traumatic death of one baby goat, they learn how to help the nanny goats on the island give birth to their kids when they encounter difficulties (specifying that their mother and grandmothers are midwives and they know that if a mother isn’t have any trouble, it is best to keep your hands off and leave her alone!). This tale is not a fantastical or “glitzy” children’s read, nor does it shy away from complicated and difficult topics, instead it opens the door to real questions about relationships and feelings and how to draw on one’s own strength when you think you can’t go on. It is unusual to find a middle grade children’s book about realistic people in unusual, but not fantasy, circumstances. The book is illustrated with charming little hand-drawn pictures of the goats and the island’s adventures.

I read Lost on Hope Island out loud to my kids at bedtime over the course of a few weeks. My kids are ages 2, 5, 10, and 13. The older boys groaned a bit about reading it and found the goat-birth scenes to be a bit “icky,” but after they settled into the rhythm and pacing of the story, they listened with rapt attention and we often mentioned the story at other points during the day. My five-year-old daughter loved the book and it taught my nearly two-year-old son how to both say “midwives” (in a truly adorable fashion…he would get the book and bring it to me saying, “mid-wiiiifes”) and also “bey-aa” like the goats in the story.

If you are looking for a family read aloud, this adventure story with a birth-worker twist, is the book for you!

Past reviews of Patricia’s other books:


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Crossposted at Brigid’s Grove.

Happy Father’s Day!

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“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)

It is almost Father’s Day and Brigid’s Grove is taking a some time to acknowledge fathers. We have two downloadable father-related gifts:

We also have some Special Father’s Day sale items in our etsy shop.

Father’s Day represents an important milestone for us, since it was this time three 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.

The baby girl of which I spoke was the catalyst to finally make the leap. Then, after Mark was home full-time we had another baby, Tanner. For the first time in his parenting career, Mark was finally able to spend that precious year of babyhood with the baby and the rest of us, together, where we belong. They have a very tight bond and a beautiful connection.

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“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

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Past Father’s Day blog posts:

Article of the week:

10 Things To Reject In the Delivery Room | Consumer Health Choices

What I’m reading lately:

Burning Woman!

What is going on at Brigid’s Grove:

Other news:

On the blog:

Upcoming in-depth courses with Molly:

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Eighteenmonthababy!

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The serious little face. The fishing pole. The lactivist-baby t. The tiny Crocs. The blond hair.

This is what an eighteenmonthababy looks like.

I feel inspired to share a quick update post about our little Tan Tan and his adventures in becoming March 2016 012Boy instead of Baby. He is adding new words constantly. I cannot keep up with them all. We’ve skipped right past the stage at which I can keep a list of the words he knows how to say, because he can say anything (albeit with limited range of enunciation. So, most words are not clear, but you can ask him to say anything or repeat anything and he will do it. He will also follow instructions like, “go find a dinosaur and bring it to me.”) He is also starting to do a few two word combinations: “big car,” “yes, dog,” “Daddy, outside.” We are lucky in that he’s been able to shake his head for yes and no for many months now, which eliminates lots of frustration and confusion in communicating with someone with limited vocabulary. This month he has begun verbally saying, “yeah” as well though.

He adores going outside and would live outside all day long, in whatever weather, if he could. He April 2016 043loves playing on the trampoline and runs around on it in impossibly fast circles with blond hair sticking straight up all around his head. He also runs very fast inside and there his hair flops up and down in an adorable fashion. He has begun using the potty with some regularity on his own accord. Often wakes up with a dry diaper and will even pull at his pants saying, “pee pee, potty,” sometimes.

He has to do a lot of keeping up with everyone in the house and has a tendency to run after me/get left behind while I’m doing whatever it is that needs my attention. Falls asleep for nap each day in Ergo and sleeps by my leg in the bed, waking instantly if I try to get up without him.

Fascinated by the cats and enjoys the fact that we have baby kitties right now for him to study. Stares with delight. Says, “wow!” and “yay!” and “uh oh” liberally and has a most indescribable twinkle in his eye + the most impish grins and expressions of any toddler I’ve ever seen. Climbs on stuff. Jumps off stuff. Uses my body as jungle gym. Is a wrestling act to even keep him in the air while holding him, as he writhes and twists and climbs my body instead of just sitting on my him. Wants to be on counters and tables March 2016 007constantly. Desperate to “help” with all business elements like packing orders and attaching jump rings. It is hard to take good pictures of him because he is constantly in motion. I’m not sure if it is the fact that I’m older than I used to be, or that I have four kids now, or that I have a business to run, but it is extraordinarily tiring to parent this small delightful whirlwind of a person. I feel literally worn out and worn down by him at the end of every day. It is physically exhausting just to hold him. And, even exhausting and a physical strain on my body just to nurse him while wrestling his other hand around from my other nipple and holding myself up as he flops from side to side, kicks and twists his legs, stands up, etc. while also nursing. He has a huge presence in life and in our family. He is good at “rolling with it” in terms of noise and chaos and people suddenly swinging him up into the air. He is funny and clever and a tiny problem solver and “engineer.”

He also loves his shovel.

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I can hardly believe he is one and half already and yet, he is so here with who and how he is, I forgot that he hasn’t always been in our family.

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Tuesday Tidbits: Breastfeeding Wisdom & Social Context

December 2015 029Like all of life, breastfeeding occurs in a context. While it is easy to simplify it down to a matter of “personal choice,” the issue is really much broader than that and people often overlook the powerful influence of the systems surrounding them on the accomplishment of women’s breastfeeding goals.

This article takes an in-depth look at why breastfeeding, and the benefits of breastfeeding, don’t need to be “debunked” or have a “case” made against them. (My only critique of the article is that it falls into the comfortable default of “formula as the norm,” by saying things about how babies that breastfeed have a health advantage. Actually, they don’t. What they have is a normal species-appropriate immune system developed in direct response to a diet of species-specific milk.) It is a long read and covers a lot of important ground so settle in…

What the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other organizations failed for too long to note, however, is how difficult breastfeeding can be. Yes, they showed the world how beneficial breastfeeding was, and, yes, they helped design policy to ease the transition back to work. But the messy, exhausted moments that change a mother’s mind about breastfeeding? The bleeding nipples, the crying baby, and the paralyzing fear that the baby’s not eating enough? The back-to-work struggle and the boyfriend who thinks breastfeeding is dirty?

Those were, for a long time, left out of the breastfeeding conversation beyond a cursory, “Yes, it will be hard, but it will be worth it.” It’s this difficulty, and the fact that it remains unaddressed in many ways, that drives so many women to start supplementing with formula or to stop nursing altogether.

The most frequently cited challenges associated with breastfeeding include pain, supply issues, work-related pumping issues, and lack of support.

Source: The case for breastfeeding: what skeptics miss when they call it overrated – Vox

Luckily, breastfeeding also develops species-appropriate cranial development, jaw structure, and facial development. This also in-depth article looks at how the motions of breastfeeding shape and develop the skull and jaw muscles for life (at the end it also has some interesting comparisons of the shape of infant skulls after chiropractic adjustment soon after birth). Again, it uses language that implies breastfed babies receive a “benefit” in this area, while in reality breastfed babies simply have normal craniofacial development.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BREASTFEEDING – A Craniopathic Perspective | Speaking With Major

When we swing too far towards the science of breastfeeding though, we overlook the intense emotional impact of new parenting and the widespread lack of sociocultural support for healthy parenting, especially parent-baby togetherness. This is the context in which breastfeeding occurs and it is often one that actively or passively sabotages the breastfeeding pair. This mother writes heart-wrenchingly, and all too familiarly, about her postpartum experience:

I have many days when I feel truly well, and I have other days when I wonder if I’m still climbing. But in the meantime, I’m living life, I’m enjoying lots of moments and not enjoying others and learning to be fine with that. Because when well-meaning people tell you to “enjoy every moment” they are setting an unrealistic goal for any parent. Many aspects of parenthood are simply not enjoyable. Instead, I focus on feeling every moment, good and bad. If I feel afraid, that’s okay, I just sit with it and let it pass. If I feel sad, I allow myself to cry. And if I feel happy I clutch that joy to my chest and absorb it into my soul, and try to keep it safe forever.

Source: I Can’t Enjoy Every Moment – Postpartum Progress

Another powerful systemic variable is our national workplace culture and the lack of reasonable parental leave:

When it comes to women and work, the largest myth of all is that working is somehow optional. Like men, women work for personal fulfillment and a passion for their job. Also like men, women work to support themselves and their families, and always have. The reality in the United States today is that earning money is an absolute necessity for the vast majority of women. And the sad truth is that we aren’t doing anything to support them or their families — not because we can’t, but because we won’t.

Source: We act as if work is optional for women. It’s not. – The Washington Post

I often feel puzzled and angry with myself about why I can’t do everything in one day. “Is it really so much to ask?” I say, waking each morning with the optimistic faith that during that day I should surely be able to eat adequate food, exercise, play with my kids, spend time writing/reading/personally enjoying something, work on my many projects, and go to bed/wake up at a decent hour every day. Unfortunately, it apparently is too much and the most we can hope for is to “pick three”:

This sounds harsh, but it’s true, according to a recent interview with Storenvy founder Jon Crawford on Founder Dating. “Work, sleep, family, fitness, or friends–pick three. It’s true. In order to kick ass and do big things, I think you have to be imbalanced. I’m sure there are exceptions, but every person I’ve seen riding on a rocket ship was imbalanced while that rocket ship was being built. You have to decide if you want it,” Crawford declares.

Source: Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends: Pick 3 | Inc.com

And, while picking three, things slip away. As I’ve written before, my daughter fell asleep with her head on my arm every night for nearly four solid years until Tanner was born. Now, her opportunity to fall asleep on my arm is hit or miss, depending on whether my arm is occupied with him, and increasingly, even when I do wiggle an arm free for her, she only lies on it for a few minutes before she says, “I’m going to lay in my own bed now,” where she then lies, snuggling her pile of pandas, until she falls asleep.

…I tried.

I tried to capture her smallness. I tried to hold on to the last breaths of her babyhood. But try as I might, it has slipped right out of my grasp. Despite my efforts to slow down and enjoy every moment since everyone told me it goes so fast… all I have left are memories and photographs.

But it doesn’t mean that I can re-live it. Not really. Some of my favorite memories of her as an infant will always be of bedsharing. She always started the night in her own bed, but after her first wake-up of the night, I’d scoop her out of her room and bring her into our cozy nest to feed her and quickly soothe her back to sleep. And for the most part that meant that we all got more sleep… except for the times I’d find myself staring at her while she slept. I’d watch her tiny chest move up and down, and memorize every little detail of her perfect little face. I’d think to myself this is crazy, what are you doing, go to sleep. But those memories, in the dead of night, the ones where there aren’t any pictures – are the clearest in my mind’s eye.

Source: The Beauty In Bedsharing | The best season of my life

This nighttime savoring may also be due to actual addiction to baby-head-sniffing…

Most of the women struggled to pinpoint the baby smell, although they generally said it was a pleasant one. Their brains, however, told a different story. When sniffing the baby pajamas, the dopamine pathways in a region of the brain associated with reward learning lit up, LiveScience reports. Other odors, like those of delicious foods, trigger this pathway, and the same dopamine surge is also associated with satiating sexual and drug-addiction cravings. This mechanism influences us by triggering “the motivation to act in a certain way because of the pleasure associated with a given behavior,” Medical Xpress writes.

Source: The Smell of Newborn Babies Triggers the Same Reward Centers as Drugs | Smart News | Smithsonian

December 2015 006Other related posts:

Thursday Tidbits: The Flow of Life

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This watery blue birthing mama sculpture is making her way to Alaska right now.

I recently got a copy of a new book, The Other Side of the River, to review. Written by Eila Carrico and published by the wonderful Womancraft Publishing, it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that I’m going to like the book. Plus, that cover! Amirite?

January 2016 026A blog post Eila recently wrote about flow and yoga (and chaos) spoke to me this afternoon:

I learned how to let go of perfection and control by watching the traffic patterns of this small town in Tamil Nadu. There were no signs and rules about where and how to walk, drive, or ride through the streets. There was just an invisible feeling of one’s way and a trust that we will look out for one another. I walked at first, hesitant to enter into the hectic currents of auto rickshaws, massive lorries, herds of uniformed schoolchildren, bikers, bone-thin stray dogs, and shirtless, turbaned old men with ox drawn carts. They all co-existed in this little dirt road, with their diverse speeds, agility, and force. Somehow, they were all given space and flowed together to get where they were going.

Source: Chaos: The Cure for the Common Practice — Annapurna Living

I then enjoyed this blog post about the flow of a Red Tent:

…We might sing a chant like ‘A River is Flowing’, or ‘Mother I feel you under my feet’. There is a time of breathing out before we look forward to the new moon, and write down our positive intentions, changes we plan to make for the month ahead. We share these with the group, which again leads to open discussion. A lot of the themes are about self development, and giving ourselves the time to look at how we are, and how we move forward with renewed strength and courage. The evening flows on, and we end with a song like ‘Evening Breeze, Spirit Song’

Source: [guest post] My Red Tent – Moon Times Moon Blog

Speaking of Red Tents, I recently wrote a FAQ post about the differences between Red Tents and Women’s Circles (and my own two programs about the same): What is the difference between a Red Tent and a Women’s Circle?

This article looks at the increase in Red Tents around the world and the role they play as a safe container for women’s multifaceted experiences:

But while these huts may have been used to restrict, control and keep tabs on women, the modern-day equivalent is an altogether more empowering experience. Like the women in Diamant’s mythical Red Tent, members of modern groups are finding support, sanctity and solace in sisterhood. And because women aren’t all menstruating at the same time anymore, Red Tents are usually held around the New Moon so there is a regularity to the meetings and every woman is welcome.

Source: Why women are gathering in ‘Red Tents’ across the UK

As a homebody introvert type of person, I’ve still been feeling a call for “adventure” lately. My life seems drawn in and “small” somehow lately and I want to go somewhere different and do something different. We are going on a special trip to the ocean this month and I’m really excited about it. I also am reasonably confident that I have the gene for “bloom where you’re planted” rather than the gene for frequent travel: The Genetic Reason Why Some People Are Born To Travel All Over The World – Living Outdoor

I’m not really known for my “flowing” personality, but I have maintained a dedicated daily yoga practice since 2000. I recently laughed until I cried while trying to do a Brigid’s Cross yoga pose suggested by one of my Womanrunes Immersion students:

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So comfy! So flowing! So serene!

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This is the picture I laughed hysterically over. My “perfect” alignment. My serene atmosphere. It’s a thing of beauty!

I wrote about the messiness of living a creative life with children in a post at SageWoman: Claypriestess

And, about the everyday underworld descents of parenting (featuring fondant pandas) at Brigid’s Grove: Everyday Inanna – Brigid’s Grove

And, I returned to an older post about listening to the soul of art:

“I will be gentle with myself.
I will be tender with my heart.
I will hold my heart like a newborn baby child.”

This song by Karen Drucker replayed in my mind as I sculpted. The baby woke, the watermelon got dragged along the floor collecting dust, and it was time for our collaborative dinner, so I had to put her away unfinished. When we got back to our own home, I was compelled to finish her, working feverishly as the baby pulled on my legs and I said, “just a few more minutes!” to the older kids who were trying to play with him to let me work. Again and again I re-rolled the clay baby’s head, trying to make it “perfect,” and worked to lay down the strands of her hair, against of the backdrop of this often-chaotic, noisy, home-based life we’ve consciously and intentionally created together. She was created to represent holding my own center in the midst of motherhood. I will be tender with my heart. I don’t create sculptures like this because I AM so “zen” and have life all figured out, I make them to remind me what is possible if I listen to my soul.

Source: Listening to the Soul of Art – Brigid’s Grove

If you’re looking for pockets of joyous creation on your life, you might enjoy this Creative Joy playbook from the beautiful Jen Louden: CreativeJoyPDF.pdf

In other tiny, creative tidbits from life, Mark originally drew this mandala for one of our free goddess greeting cards bundle for the holidays. We then started using it as the logo for the Creative Spirit Circle and for our new Womanspirit Initiation program. I decided to get a print of it made to hang in my tiny temple (kids’ clubhouse turned personal work space) and I’m so very pleased with how it turned out!

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My Rainbow Girl is FIVE! (plus, pandas)

January 2016 036Five years ago today I was snuggling my new baby girl on my futon nest in the living room. It is hard for me to even describe what joy and healing she brought to me. When I look back at pictures of myself from the days following her birth, I see such radiance. While I have exulted in the births of all my children and they all rank as the most transformative, meaning, joyous, and loving occasions of my life, Alaina’s birth was possibly the most truly, bone-deep sensation of relief and happiness that I have ever experienced.

I feel like I have missed out on a lot of the last year with her after having Tanner. We were a tight-knit little unit until he was born, she would fall asleep with her head on my arm every night, we played and read together every day, we cooked together and did laundry together every day, and I often did little fun and special things with her. I felt like we actually had a “balanced” family in the sense of “mom and Alaina” + “dad and the boys.” Tanner’s birth changed a lot and she had the hardest time adjusting to the “displacement” of a new sibling of anyone. My boys have each other. They give each other attention. They are each other’s best friend. They play and talk and learn together. They have each other’s backs. While it is an adjustment to make room for an additional brother, their tight bond and unity is intact and unchanged, basically impervious to the addition of more siblings. Alaina, fifteen months after Tanner’s birth, still gets upset about whether or not she can go to sleep with her head on my arm (if he’s nursing, she can’t, she has to snuggle by my back and gets sad and dejected. If he isn’t nursing, she can and is happy). She spends a lot of time waiting for me to play with her and often seems very attention “starved,” in a way that makes me feel sad, guilty, and irritated all rolled up in one. In the family structure now, there are the brothers, mama and Tanner, and then Alaina, kind of floating around by herself wishing for someone to play with her or read to her or pour milk for her, etc. (Apparently, Mark is also displaced in my family structure sense right now!)

There never seems to be enough time for me to give her everything she needs and wants and even though she is still pretty little herself she often has to wait for Tanner to be helped, or has to put things away because he is destroying them, and so forth. We are finding Tanner to be a super high-need and pretty destructive toddler and in the “need hierarchy,” he ends up “winning” even when she legitimately needs things too. I find myself feeling a real sense of almost grief at the disappearance of the last year of my other kids’ lives. I have long been frustrated by “you’ll miss this when they’re older”-style commentary, but it has become even more poignantly evident to me lately as Lann rapidly catches up with me in height, that the specters of “missing this,” often seems to be raised only with regard to babies and young children. I rock at the baby-momming. I don’t miss anything. They sleep on me, ride along with me, feed from my body, and are a part of me. I cherish them daily—drawing up long breaths of their hair, admiring their little hands and chubby bodies, cradling them to me, but as I do this very thing, make sure I am not missing out on any tenderness of baby-momming, I am actually, in a very real sense, missing out on what it was like to have a four year old girl in the house. The only four year old girl who is ever going to live in my house as my little daughter is now five instead. I am also missing out on what it is like to have twelve and nine year old sons. They are older and while I’m not dwelling fruitlessly in my memories of their baby selves, I am actually missing their current selves. It is passing me by right now, because I have a one year old December 2015 012who simply needs me more, requires more from me, and is quite literally more in my face. I feel like the people who say to “enjoy it now, it passes so quickly,” when they see me with Tanner, are completely missing out on the fact that I have three other kids who are also passing quickly by. Is it only babies and toddlers that we fear missing out on? Not cherishing enough? Forgetting what it is like to have? I feel like comments like that actually devalue older children—like, aren’t they good enough and interesting enough now that I don’t need to pine back for their babyhood?

Luckily, in the last two months, Alaina and Tanner have started playing together. They push doll strollers around, play with pretend food, play a chasing + laughing game, play in boxes together, build with blocks, and she also likes to bundle him up and pushes him around on an office chair. I Lann's Phone 390hope they are soon going to be on the same “team” and be buddies who can count on each other, rather than obstacles in each other’s path.

While I have managed to scrape up a little bit of time to play with her almost every day since he’s   been born, it has often been distracted, hurried, or halfhearted. However, we have started a new thing just this month in that we have specific playtime together every night after dinner. We are having tons of fun and she seems relieved to have some time to count on getting with me, rather than just waiting and hoping I’ll get to her. She seems charged up afterward and is thrilled to get to that part of the day. The irony of having a home-based life in which we spend almost all day in the company of all family members is that focused time together is rare—it is diffuse, scattered around, fragmented, because everything is always happening at once, in the same space. There are no boundaries between our lives, work, relationships, etc. This saturation factor means it both feels like we all spend “too much” time together, while also not Lann's Phone 423quite having enough time for one another.

Interestingly, this morning she slept until 11:00, just has she has been “programmed” to do since birth. She was born at around 11:00 in the morning, actually, rarely went to sleep before midnight through her entire infancy (often being awake and happy until 1:00 a.m.), and usually sleeps until 10 or 11 in the morning, after falling asleep between 11:30-12:00. Due to this night owl bedtime, Alaina and I have also found some time for us at night after everyone else has gone to bed. After I’ve read to all the kids at bedtime and Tanner has fallen asleep nursing, Alaina and I stay up sitting in my bed, Tanner sleeping next to me, and we color in coloring books or make bookmarks or cards, and chat and talk. She likes to choose an oracle card with me and write a Womanrunes symbol on her arm. I mostly just listen to what she has to say and agree and exclaim at the right places and she colors and colors, content in my finally undivided presence.

So, anyway, this five-year-old girl. She’s tall. We checked her height on the door frame compared to brothers and she is the same size or taller than they were at her age. She wears 6-7 size clothes, but is extremely choosy about them. Pants are an issue because they can be loose at all, so she is fond of pairing size 6 shirts with size 4T pants that are faded and high-water. She has definite ideas about what clothing meets her criteria for comfort and stylishness and we almost always just let her choose and decide her own ensembles for the day, unless we are going to town, and even then, I usually say, “sure, too small striped leggings will be great with that dress!” because, truly, it really doesn’t matter as long as she feels good in what she is wearing. After visiting an exhibit about China at the Magic House last year, she fell in love with pandas. She likes wearing black and white clothes and calls December 2015 035herself Panda Girl. My mom adopted a World Wildlife Fund panda for her for Christmas and she carries the stuffed panda the adoption came with around with her everywhere. My aunt got her a great panda hat that she loves to wear (along with a [non-panda] poncho my mom crocheted for her and a handwoven silk scarf that she helped my mom weave. When I feel guilty about not doing all the special things with her I’d like to do every day, I remember that she also has lots of opportunities, including helping to make and glaze real pottery cups and bowls and weave on full-sized looms using silk yarn with her talented grandma, that many little girls her age never have!).

We planned an epic panda birthday party for her yesterday. I labored over homemade marshmallow fondant icing the day before, even using specially ordered non-artificial black food coloring that cost me $12. I ranted extensively as I kneaded and kneaded the fondant the about how I could instead be one of “those people” eating frozen Taquitos and watching TV and what possesses me to always overperform and overdo. I yelled at the kids, had to have Lann come drag Tanner away of me as he hung from my legs crying while I couldn’t pick him up because my hands were covered in black powdered sugar cement). Why do this to myself and to the household atmosphere?! I’ve said before that I’d rather be the mom that does cool and fun stuff with her kids and sometimes yells while doing it than a mom who doesn’t yell, but who doesn’t do cool stuff because she’s afraid she might yell, or maybe because she doesn’t have ideas to share with her kids. (Of course, an awesomer option, would be to be the mom who does cool stuff and also doesn’t yell, but I’m not holding my breath on that one!)

After I constructed the first tiny panda and saw how cute it was and how excited she was about her cake, I felt such a sense of thrill and triumph. I thought that if I hadn’t decided to do it and make it easier on myself, sure, I wouldn’t have yelled, but I also wouldn’t have felt the empowering sense of having done exactly what I imagined doing and I would have taught my daughter to give up on hard things and new things and trying it anyway. And, isn’t that just like her birth, in the end? I could have done it differently and maybe more easily, but nothing compares to sinking down on my knees in my futon nest holding that rainbow baby girl in my own bloody hands. Those pandas too, while less earth-shaking and life-changing, were birthed from my own love and effort into my black-icing hands, and my willingness to do it myself, for the ones I love.

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Happy birthday, dear one!

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