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Twelvemonthababy!

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Tanner is ONE! I already shared his birth video in honor of his first birthday, but I also want to wrap up my “monthababy” posts with an update about this twelvemonthababy. Note the photographic continuity between the photo above, taken during his twelfth month for our Women in the Wild inspired photo shoot fundraiser, and this one, taken following my ceremonial bath and sealing ceremony after his birth:

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This baby is full of fire. He accidentally gave Zander a bloody nose. He says, “whoa!” and “wow!” and he empties cabinets, climbs on tables, gets into drawers, climbs on surfaces and does a stomp-dance. He pulls books off the shelf. He throws a ball (and other things). He makes music with many things, some intended for music, others not. A friend with an 18 month old posted on her facebook that her child is kind of like having a pet chimpanzee: it was cute as a baby, but now it is bigger and dangerous and you maybe shouldn’t keep it as a pet after all. I identified with her description of what it is like to have a little person of this age in the house! I remember the boys calling Alaina, “the Destroyer of Worlds,” so I also know (hope) it will pass. There is an oppressive element to taking care of him lately that I also remember from other children and I “joke” that it is like living with an abusive spouse because of how he changes the rules all the time as well as what he likes or what will keep him happy. That said, he gives the best, most gentle hugs in the history of the world–flinging arms around my neck and lightly patting my back while kind of crooning to me. Baby hugs like this make me know I’m doing something right in parenting, as does the way he gently cradles baby dolls and kisses them on the head with a sweet smile. That’s what he knows! He hugs Alaina in greeting every morning, flinging arms around her waist and leaning his head on her stomach and seeming to say, “Lainey.” He will lean in to each brother in turn, patting back and seeming to sing-song their names. Sometimes he walks in the cutest slightly bent over crouch (like he’s sneaking up on something).

This isn’t the crouch, more of the race, but here he is ready to roll!

He likes to be walked to sleep in Ergo most of the time, nap and bed time. He has a different timeline than the rest of the children in our family, wishing to conk out at 8:00 or a little before at night and get up before 8:00 in the morning. This is great for me, who always thrives on fresh morning energy, but less great for our other kids who are more like 11-9:00 types (or 11-10, in Alaina’s case), because this means we always have kids up with us. There is no such things the mythological, “when the kids are all in bed, it is ‘me time,'” thing I hear other people talk about. I also end up staying up later than I personally prefer in order to catch up on work or writing.

When I first started writing this post, he had four teeth, but now he has eight! He can walk backward skillfully and climb up on couches. Not only does he do the baby-buns-dip dance, he also stomps feet while spinning in circle at same time to dance. I’ve never had a barely one year old who could do that! (He did it at 11 months.) He can step up by holding onto a door frame or wall instead of having to get on his knees first. Though, lest I fall into a trap of thinking he is too much of a genius, my friend reminded me the other day that he also eats dirt. 😉

Like I remember with two of my other kids, his talking has diminished a lot this month. He’s reverted to grunting and pointing and making a pretty awful strained sound to get what he wants.

I am an official elimination communication and cloth diaper failure this time around. Too many things to keep up with and catching poop and pee has fallen off my priority list.

I mentioned that my weight has returned to my pre-pregnancy weight and I’m actually only three pounds away from my pre-pre-pregnancy weight now (pre-Alaina). Possibly related, but more likely related to the fact that mothering him is a lot more like having an 18 month old than a 12 month old, my period returned on October 22. This is the earliest moontime’s return that I’ve experienced in my maternal career!

I can’t believe he is one and yet, hasn’t he always been here?

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In this picture, Alaina said, “Mom! Quick! Take a picture before you forget how little he is!”

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(I do see how little he is, but I also see her!)

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Happy Birth-Day: Tanner’s Home Water Birth Video

_DSC0461fToday, my sweet, energetic, fiery, powerhouse of a baby boy turned one! In honor of his birthday, Mark finished putting together Tanner’s birth video. This is the first time I’ve ever had any video of any of my children’s births and it feels tender to share (which is why it took a year to put it out there). Birth is a very private, inner experience for me. I like to give birth virtually alone. So, having video feels like having another observer there, and birth for me is about not being observed. The music that plays in the video is the song Standing at the Edge from Sacred Pregnancy that I listened to throughout my pregnancy and then hummed to myself during labor. When I shared about my sealing ceremony after his birth, I mentioned how meaningful it was to me that this song started to play both as I was entering my ceremonial bath and again as I was getting back out. Well, guess what happened when I went to take a shower this morning on his birthday? This song was also the first to begin as I stepped into the shower!

The written version of his birth story is here: Welcoming Tanner Matthias! | Talk Birth

I’ll do a separate Happy Birthday blog post in a couple of days. I just wanted to make sure to get this video up today! I spent some time at Tanner’s naptime today going through the cards from my mother blessing ceremony and enjoying that energy and affirmation, rather than rushing to my to-do list.

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Tuesday Tidbits: “Bad” Homeschooler’s Lament…

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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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Tuesday Tidbits: This Time Last Year…

As I mentioned in my 11 month update, the first year of life with a new baby feels like a journey through a labyrinth. The moments I experienced last year while pregnant take on a particularly poignancy as I round the curves of The Return, this time with baby in arms.

I love the moments of continuity…last year with my pregnant belly, this year at the pumpkin patch with a toddler selecting his own pumpkin.

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Last year getting my pregnancy photos taken and having a mother blessing, this year having some breastfeeding photos taken (note: carefully selected goddess sarong for photographic continuity!).

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_DSC0457fInterestingly, this time last year I was taking online instructor trainings for Sacred Pregnancy and Sacred Postpartum. This year, quite by accident (in terms of exact timing), I ended up starting the Sacred Pregnancy Birth Journey instructor course online. I won this course in a Red Tent fundraising auction via Moon Times in the winter, but I didn’t actually take it until this month.

For today’s tidbits post, I’m taking a walk down memory lane and looking at posts from around this same time last year…

Stretching time, wondering about twins, and making a belly cast:

I felt on the edge of tears from the time I woke up almost until the time we did the belly cast—feeling stressed, rushed, and WHY. However, we had a great time doing the cast (even though we had to stop to rescue a hummingbird from the actual jaws of a cat, save Alaina from being clawed by another cat, and answer computer questions from the boys. Sometimes I have to pause and realize that the overwhelm I feel lately is probably just a feature of the realities of having three kids with various needs already, a job, a business, a dissertation to write, books waiting to be born, and several serious life passions and be preparing to add another human to the family. Perhaps it would be weird if I didn’t feel overwhelmed and a little panicky, rather than it feeling like it is a personal failing that this is how I’ve spent a lot of time feeling lately.)

Source: Stretching Time | Talk Birth

Then, painting and re-painting that belly cast into a fall leaves theme that I still love: September 2014 122

I am 100% pleased with the re-do. Sometimes a revision is exactly the right choice! I feel like the comparison of my first attempt and my second looks like one of those side-by-side Pinterest comparisons, only both of these were from me!

Source: Belly Cast! | Talk Birth

And, from there, making another belly cast with the intention of creating a pottery belly bowl:

During this pregnancy, one of my personal philosophies has been to do stuff that I haven’t done before. This is my last chance to be pregnant (really!) and I want to make sure I leave no stones uncovered or cool stuff undone!

Source: Belly Bowl! (and new altar bowl) | Talk Birth

And, it worked!

Completed Pottery Clay Belly Bowl! | Talk Birth

I mused over whether I was ready or not:

The inexorable march towards Birth-Day is such an interesting, liminal place to be in. It both feels “mysterious” and inevitable. The closer I get to my official due date, the more wide open the possibilities seem as to when he will be born…when, in reality, the options narrow each day! I still have a certain sense of unreality about the whole thing—like, am I really going to do this? Am I really going to have a BABY????!!!!!

Source: Ready or Not! | Talk Birth

But, my Sacred Postpartum training really helped me prepare, as I took a ceremonial bath:

And, that is when I had my “breakthrough” moment. My eyes were prickling with tears and I said: “I associate taking baths with being weak and wounded.” I associate baths with cleaning blood away from myself and gingerly poking around for tears in my most vulnerable tissues.

Source: Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing | Talk Birth

And learned how to make Happy Tea:

I’ve been interested to note that I’ve dreamed with increasing realism about the baby for the last three nights in a row. Last night, I was getting him latched on for the first time. The night before, my mom and Mark had brought him to campus for me to nurse on my breaks from class. The night before that was a water birth dream (two actually, both about twins). To me this indicates that whatever lingering “not readiness” I might be experiencing in my waking life, my subconscious is getting it. At some level, my brain is getting down with the idea of really, truly having another baby and it is incorporating him into my dreamscape/life accordingly.

Source: Sacred Postpartum: Happy Tea + 40 Week Update | Talk Birth

My Mother Blessing ceremony also helped me recognize my own strength and courage:

I discovered in this post-ritual reflection that it is just part of my personal process to be able to say, and be vulnerable enough to have people hear, see, or read, that I think maybe I can’t do something or that I’ve said yes to too much. The answer for me is not, “then don’t” or “stop” or “quit” or “take it easy,” it is to move forward and to see, again, that I was actually enough for what scared me or felt too big or too exhausting.

Source: Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual | Talk Birth

In the power of ritual, I learned (again) that life is like birth, and we give birth as we live.

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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.

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    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.

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Story Woman

September 2015 123Yesterday, I went searching for a quote for one of my Red Tent Initiation students. She had shared some powerful reflections about the vulnerability required to reveal our personal stories—there is a lot of risk, sometimes shame, and more, bound up in our ability to uncover ourselves and speak our truth. What I wanted to communicate with her was the idea that in sharing our stories, including the painful pieces, we free other women to do the same. Our courage to be vulnerable, to be naked, to be flawed, to experiment with ideas, concepts, or ways of being gives permission for other women to do the same. I went to a workshop at Gaea Goddess Gathering in 2012 that was about dancing and the facilitator said that when facilitating ritual, you have to be willing to look a little ridiculous yourself, have to be willing to risk going a little “over the top” yourself, because in so doing you liberate the other participants—“if she can take that risk and look a little goofy doing so, maybe it is okay for me to do it too.”

After a lot of digging through old posts on my blog, I found the quote! It is from one of my favorite authors, Carol Christ, who said:

“When one woman puts her experiences into words, another woman who has kept silent, afraid of what others will think, can find validation. And when the second woman says aloud, ‘yes, that was my experience too,’ the first woman loses some of her fear.”

This is part of what makes Red Tent Circles so powerful! It is also part of what makes the Red Tent course itself powerful—when the women in the course are willing to dig into the journal questions, assignments, and processes, to turn them over, to explore how they work in their own lives…they lose some of the fear and they encourage others to lose their fear too.

As I was mining my blog for quotes about the power of story, I came across my older post: I am a Story Woman. In this post, I describe how I was preparing a ritual for New Year’s Eve and planning to include the chant: I am a strong woman, I am a story woman. My husband raised a question about it…

 “I’m not sure about this,” he said, “what is a story woman anyway?” I wasn’t able to give him a solid answer at that moment, but guess what, I am one.

In fact, didn’t I just write earlier this week that story holds the key to the reclamation of power for women? How and why does this work?

Because of these two things:

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.”

–Hopi Indian Proverb

“We feel nameless and empty when we forget our stories, leave our heroes unsung, and ignore the rites of our passage from one stage of life to another.”

–Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

We need to hear women’s stories. We need to hear each other into speech. We need to witness and be witnessed. We need to be heard…

Source: I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth

Over the summer, I was interviewed by Lucy Pearce for her Be Your Publisher Author Interview series. My interview came out today. Since months have passed since we talked, the details of our conversation have dimmed in my memory. (I’m also noticing that I need to get over my own fear and vulnerability that listening to me talk can somehow be perceived as a “bonus” to anyone!) So, imagine the delight I felt when I saw some of the words she chose to describe our interview conversation:

  • Learn to mine your blog
  • The importance of sharing our stories as we navigate the challenging parts of life.
  • Turning a blog into a book and very wise advice … Don’t die with your music still in you.

Just yesterday, I was mining my own blog as well as musing on the importance and power of sharing our stories.

I am a story woman.

The other quote she mentions, don’t die with your music still in you, has been a guiding philosophy in my life and work for at least twelve years. It comes from the work of Wayne Dyer, who passed away last month. I used this quote to describe my relationship to writing, identity, and wholeness as a person, in a vulnerable post about the power of story in my life in early motherhood:

…I’ve finally realized that maybe it was literally my words dying in me that gave me that feeling and that fretfulness. They needed to get out. I’ve spent a lifetime writing various essays in my head, nearly every day, but those words always “died” in me before they ever got out onto paper. After spending a full three years letting other women’s voices reach me through books and essays, and then six more years birthing the mother-writer within, I continue to feel an almost physical sense of relief and release whenever I sit down to write and to let my own voice be heard.

Source: Birthing the Mother-Writer (or: Playing My Music, or: Postpartum Feelings, Part 1) | Talk Birth

Just this year, we’ve ordered printings of our Womanrunes books four times, published our Red Tent Resource Kit manual then added twenty pages to the second printing and re-released it, and published my new Earthprayer, Birthprayer poetry book. I’m working on my dissertation: 275 pages of past writing (much mined from older blog posts) and 145 pages of data collected from others, as well as a companion book project. I am getting ready to publish a miscarriage support group manual that I wrote for The Amethyst Network a few years ago and I have big plans to significantly expand my Ritual Recipe Kit ebook into a much longer, print, resource manual in 2016.

I am a story woman.

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Talk Books: Earthprayer, Birthprayer, Lifeprayer, Womanprayer

Looking for readings for women’s programs or mother blessings? My newest book might be just the collection you need!Earthprayer_Birthpr_Cover_for_KindleThis the wisdom
of woodspaces
this is the meditation
of Earthplaces…

Earthprayer, Birthprayer, Lifeprayer, Womanprayer is a 114 page book of earth-based poetry containing four thematic sections all cropSeptember 2015 025rooted in connection to the land and to the cycles of life. This poetry collection is one of the results of my committed, devotional year-long “woodspriestess” practice. I maintained this practice throughout 2013, eventually spending approximately 330 days during the year in the same place in the woods listening to what they had to tell me about life, myself, and the Earth.

In late December 2012, I decided to begin a year-long spiritual practice of checking in every day at rocks in the woods behind my house. I committed to spending at least a few minutes there every day, rain or sleet or shine, with children or without, and whether day or night throughout 2013. My idea was to really, really get to know the space deeply. To notice that which changed and evolved on a daily basis, to see what shared the space with me, to watch and listen and learn from and interact with the same patch of ground every day and discover what I could learn about it and about myself. I wanted to really come into a relationship with the land I live on, rather than remain caught up in my head and my ideas and also the sometimes-frantic feeling hum of everyday life as a parent and professor. cropSeptember 2015 021

I tend towards a Goddess-oriented, panentheistic, spiritual naturalism. When I enter the woods, I often experience what I have termed “theapoetics”–-spontaneous, spoken aloud poetry that brings me into direct connection with that source of life I call the Goddess. These theapoetical explorations form the heart of the book.

A digital version is also available in print-ready pdf. If you previously purchased the 60 page digital version, we are happy to offer you a 20% discount on the newly expanded version of the book. Please contact us for the discount code to use.

The book is also easily available with free Prime shipping from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

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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.

IMG_7256

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