Vacation, Phase 3: Legoland

I apologize to any new followers who are wondering where the birth stuff is on this birth blog anyway! I’m on a roll with my vacation recap posts, so bear with me as I finish my series, then I’ll get back to business 🙂

After the tourmaline mine, we checked into our new hotel, The Carlsbad by the Sea Resort, and left behind our beloved Ramada Carlsbad (lamented over for every day we spent in a hotel after that!). We went to the beach and out to dinner with Mark’s best childhood friend and his wife who coincidentally now live not that far away from where we were in CA. The next morning, we hopped up for phase three of our journey, two days at Legoland. We started out the day feeling like we’d made a pretty grievous error in thinking it was remotely sensible to go to two different theme parks back-to-back (three if you count California Adventure as separate from Disneyland–you do have to pay more for it and go through a totally separate gate to get in, have your ticket scanned again, etc.), with only a single day’s break doing hard manual labor digging through rocks in the hot sun in between the big park adventures. We were all super tired, the kids said they would rather just go to the beach, and it was Memorial Day. Actual bleeping Memorial Day and there we were headed off to join the masses of other yahoos getting spun around in the sun. I was also worried that Legoland’s rides/atmosphere would not measure up to Disney’s and with only a day’s separation, the contrast would be just too clear. We ended up leaving the hotel a little later than I wanted and got to the park only fifteen minutes early. I fretted all the way over about the “crowds” and we cooked up a plan to leave and go to the attached SeaLife Aquarium as soon as it got too crowded at Legoland, then return to do the rest of the park the following day when we anticipated it would be less crowded. We decided to pay to park there, so that we could go back to our car to feast upon peanut butter sandwiches rather than expensive park food. Imagine our surprise to pull into a nearly empty parking lot…then walk right through the entrance gate and straight up to stand right by the rope closing off the attractions until the opening moment. Turns out that Memorial Day at Legoland was the best. It was practically empty all day and was basically perfect.

Since I didn’t have a lot of foreknowledge or expectation of what the park would be like, I just enjoyed it a lot. Very Zen of me, but this loosening of any attachment to outcome or experience, really freed us up to just enjoy what is. Legoland was one of the highlights of our whole trip for me because we actually felt laid back and relaxed there and it was so unexpected. Alaina was big enough to go on just about every ride and we were flexible about stopping to play on “little” stuff we would have breezed right by at Disneyland. I’d read a tip online not to go to Legoland for the rides, but to go for the experience. The post I read said that if you went for the rides you’d be disappointed, but if you went to watch your kids have a good time and to enjoy the full experience of just being at Legoland, you’d have a blast and we did. We sat in the Duplo Village and let the kids build with huge Legos and climb into big Duplo playhouses, we actually went to The Big Store and to the Minifigure Market and let them buy (surprisingly affordable) souvenirs. We never shopped at all at Disneyland, too much GO! Keep MOVING! Oh, and remember my “get your money’s worth” obsession? Legoland is practically free compared to Disneyland too. And, we actually found on clearance cool stuff at one of the shops that we bought for people for Christmas—cheap, significantly discounted, things that people will actually want (can’t say what in case they read my post!). When I think about Disneyland, I remember how hard we pushed and how we “triumphed” and enjoyed pretty spectacular highlights like working the single-rider line at Radiator Springs Racers. I felt really successful about getting the max we could out of Disneyland for our dollars spent. And, almost all of the rides there truly amazing events and not mere “rides.”

When I think about Leogland, I remember things like watching the kids play in the water park area and pushing Alaina on the swing and watching her “drive” the blue Lego car she was obsessed with and of all of us sliding down the big slides of Dune Raiders in sacks as a family and riding up to the top of the Beetle Bounce all together and feeling our stomachs wooosh as we rode back down, of sharing tasty Granny Apple Fries without feeling like we were “missing” something or “wasting time,” of my boys’ faces as they ran through the Aquarium exclaiming in amazement at everything they saw as well as their sheer delight at touching real sea cucumbers and sea stars. I remember Alaina lifting her arms above her head and screaming as we zoomed around the Coastersaurus together and of Mark shoving another mom and kid’s little Lego boat around as we crept around the little Lego boat school riverway at a total snail’s pace, but with our kids really driving their own Lego boats. We did almost nothing at Disneyland that involved all of being able to go together as a family, since we had to keep switching off with one adult going on the little rides with Alaina and one boy, while the other maximized the efficiency of going on a big ride with the other boy. Legoland is built for kids in the 3-12 range, basically. It was all families with kids at about those ages—we saw no teenagers in the whole place, it was like an entire demographic was missing. Lann, at almost ten, was almost “too old” for a lot of it (but he wasn’t and he never said anything like that). Alaina, at two, was “just right” for almost everything and probably had the most fun of us all. My expectations of Legoland were lower, but the experience was actually richer in many ways. I loved it! Of course, I loved Disney too and it was a trip to remember, but there is something to be said for just having fun with your family. Duh.

As far as the rides, think kind of like basic carnival type stuff, no show-stoppers or big thrills. The very “biggest” rides at Legoland are about as good as the rides at Disneyland like Gadget’s Go Coaster and Goofy’s Sky School and most of them were much tamer and not as good as things like Alice and Little Mermaid. And, they’ve got no clue how to do ambiance like Disney does. It is really a park for pretty young people, which is fine, because that’s what we’ve got! Many of the rides were very sloooooow paced, but having the whole family be able to ride them together was pretty priceless. And, my boys never complained about anything being too slow. I will always remember the thrill of shared discovery of going together to somewhere that none of us had ever been and didn’t know what to expect and of the sense of the “bonus” surprise of having a practically empty park to ourselves to enjoy. It put us on the same playing field in a sense, in which we could all discover and experience things together for the first time, rather than having the parents already know everything about Disneyland.

Oh, they had big signs all over about NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR WATER, so we dutifully left ours in the car and went back out at lunchtime (which was a genius plan, btw), but everyone and their brother brought water in…we saw them…and no one ever said anything to stop them.

The second day was surprisingly much more crowded than actual Memorial Day—there were lots of school buses there for end-of-the-year trips. So, after enjoying some of the things we missed the day before, we headed to the Sealife Aquarium, which was another unexpected sleeper hit. It is structured oddly in that they only let you in as a group and you have to wait for group to go in with. And, once inside, you process sequentially through without any real opportunity for backtracking to see anything you’d like to see again. It had a very one-way-street feel and you just kept going until you came out at the food court at the end. Alaina desperately wanted to go back to see tiny turtles, but there was no real way to do that without being re-admitted. Anyway, at the Aquarium is where we finally saw the looks of joy and delight and excitement on Lann and Zander’s faces that we’d expected to see at Disneyland. They had so much fun and acted like it was the greatest place they’d ever been.

Interestingly, I note that I have way more pictures of our Legoland expedition as well, because I actually was moving slowly enough to pay attention and enjoy what was around me! As always, click on any picture to enlarge and then scroll through slide-show style to see bigger images and captions.

Legoland closed at around 5:00, so we actually had plenty of time to go back to enjoy the beach!

Vacation, Phase 2: Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

When I say we went on a trip to California, I’m seriously talking about a trip. This was a multi-phase, multi-destination, multi-purpose, multi-plane-trips, heck of a trip. Essentially, it was four different vacations in one, plus it was a family visit for my grandma’s memorial services. The second phase of the journey was a trip to the Himalaya Tourmaline Mine near Lake Henshaw, California. We’re a family of rockhounds and have wanted to go to this mine ever since we saw it on Cash and Treasures a couple of years ago! Unfortunately, we discovered that it was not a good match for the toddler among us. If we were doing it again, we would have only paid for Mark to dig (kids dig free), because I seriously wasted my money by paying for me—I did almost nothing, because Alaina got so clingy and crabby and whiny and wanted to be held the whole time (incompatible with digging up piles of rocks and carrying them around in buckets and lifting them into washing pans and sorting through them). It was hot and all the kids got fed up and really wanted to leave. We did not find very much in general and it did not feel like it was worth the money and time we spent. We did find some small pieces of pink and green tourmaline, so it wasn’t a total bust, plus we were able to check this off our bucket list! Lake Henshaw was about an hour’s drive from Carlsbad and it took us through several reservations. I felt sad to see the apparent poverty all around and then a gleaming, tricked out Harrah’s right in the middle of the dust and scrub of what was clearly very undesirable, inhospitable desert land.

After driving from Anaheim the night before our mining expedition, we checked in to the Ramada Carlsbad. They had overbooked during Memorial Day weekend and so upgraded us to a suite. And, it was a sweet suite! It was our most favorite hotel room we’ve ever stayed in. We loved it! I need to start checking out suites everywhere, because it was SO much better than a regular hotel room. We hated to leave it—unfortunately, it was only a brief stopover of a hotel and we had to switch to the Carlsbad-by-the-Sea Resort instead (which had also been overbooked for Memorial Day and was unavailable on this one night that we stayed at the Ramada. Since the Carlsbad-by-the Sea Resort seemed completely unprepared for us to arrive, in hindsight, I wish I would cancelled that reservation and remained at our beloved Ramada for the remainder of our time in Carlsbad). We barely had time to take advantage of the sweet suite though. We didn’t arrive until the late evening and then left immediately to go to the OCEAN! It was Alaina’s first glimpse of “big water” and the boys wanted to play on the beach even though it was dusk. We then left and went to Wal-Mart to get something for dinner to microwave in the awesome kitchen of our sweet suite. Our credit card was denied for the first and only time on our trip while on this expedition—apparently, plane tickets and Disneyland tickets, and rental vans, and gas purchased up and down the state do not raise any flags, but a 9:00 stop at a Wal-Mart in Oceanside is a red flag for likely fraud! I got multiple text messages and an email from the credit card company and had to call them the next day to sort it out properly!

Now, pictures! (to enlarge, just click any picture and then continue to click through the slide-show format rather than the thumbnail views below)

Next, we headed for Legoland for two days!

Trumpet blast! This is my 800th post on this blog! I wanted to do something fun/special for my 800th post, but I couldn’t really think of anything, so I just went with what I felt like writing, which was this second installment in our vacation saga. I’ll do something special when I hit 1000 instead! 😉

Vacation, Phase 1: Disneyland and California Adventure

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping and I have been torn about whether or not to do any California trip recap posts the way I had intended. I had a lot of thoughts, observations, tips, and memories that I felt like sharing, but as more time has passed the “have to” element is starting to feel burdensome rather than enriching. I took all the pictures though and thought of the tips…

We flew into LAX on a Wednesday, rented a van and then drove to Anaheim where we stayed in the Clarion Anaheim. I specifically picked the hotel because it had a little café in it in which kids could eat free breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was no free breakfast for adults, but I figured that was outweighed by the kids also being able to dinner for free. The little restaurant was called the Palm Tree Cafe and it was so good. I read mixed reviews online, but the paninis we had there were truly the food-highlight of our entire vacation. We never ended up eating better food anywhere else that we stayed during the whole two weeks. Of course, hunger is the best seasoning and all and when we staggered in exhausted from our Disney fun, we were so grateful to have food that it was the best food on earth. The breakfast buffet was really good also with lots of fresh fruit and also bacon. And, the dishes were all real—cloth napkins, real forks, etc. I feel like the hotel choice was smart for the food, but it was longer walk from Disneyland than I anticipated and we ended up having to buy the ART pass after all so we could take a shuttle to and from the park. It wasn’t expensive and it was totally worth it.

We did walk to Downtown Disney on Wednesday night and we also walked home from the park one afternoon and to it one morning.  We accidentally were there during the Monster summer event (celebrating the release of Monsters University) in which the park was open 24 hours and it was also Memorial Day weekend. Pretty unexpected bad moves for us! Oh yeah, and it was also Grad Night on both Friday and Saturday nights, for which all the graduating high school seniors in the state were there for a special event (apparently 10,000 of them, I read!). In hindsight, since we had three-day park hopper passes, we totally should have gone to the park for half a day the day we arrived on a Wednesday, rather than going on the Saturday of Memorial Day for a partial day. I guarantee that Wednesday afternoon/evening would have been more “productive” than Saturday was. Thank goodness we had Thursday and a “Magic Morning” (get in one hour early) that day, because Friday night (the 24 hour event night) was insane and Saturday was pretty horrible after about noon (it only opened at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday too, which was a bummer).

Things I wanted to remember to say or wish I had remembered to do:

  • Needed long-sleeves for the kids–it was surprisingly chilly a lot of the time.
  • and needed hats to protect from sun. Mark, Alaina, and I all had one, but the boys did not.
  • the Ergo was an absolutely life-saver. I do not know what we would have done without it. Alaina rode in it constantly. I joked that I felt like I was “two years pregnant” because of how I waddled all over the park with her strapped to my chest. (I’ve never been one for the back carry with the Ergo—it puts pressure on my neck/shoulders that way and feels like it is pulling me over backwards. It also gives me tension headache-migraine-of-awfulness, which I had the entire first day, but ignored in the spirit of fabulous fun, even though a part of me imagined drilling several small holes in my skull to let out the pressure. On the front, we’re golden, except for the two-years-pregnant waddle and the slight ridiculousness of carrying a massive person around on your chest instead of back.)
  • a nice, everyone-wins compromise about expensive food in the parks is to get things to share so that everyone gets a “taste” of park food and then supplement with packed snacks or leave the park to eat other food. For example, we went to the Hungry Bear restaurant, but instead of getting a whole lunch for everyone, we got a chicken sandwich for the adults to split and one kids meal for the kids to split and two of the big, fancy lemon cupcakes for the family to split—so, everyone got to enjoy the satisfaction of eating a fancy cupcake, without actually having to buy five of them! This cut down on some of the bugging from the kids about buying food all of the time, but saved us money. And, btw, the boys didn’t even finish eating their entire pieces of the split-in-thirds $6 cupcake, so I’m triply glad I didn’t buy them each one!)
  • I read a tip online that if you are doing Disney with young kids, you should to go back to your hotel room for a midday siesta and recharge time–this would be during the hottest part of the day when things haven gotten crowded. Then, go back over in the late afternoon when daytime visitors are heading home. We did this on Friday and it was a good choice, because we were able to eat our beloved, life-saving paninis at the Palm Tree Cafe and rest a bit, before heading back into what had become madness.
  • If children are bugging for yet another treat, go to the Ghiradelli chocolate store at California Adventure and they’ll give you free chocolates!
  • Good shoes really matter. Even though they didn’t match my outfits, I brought my favorite pair of Teva Terradactyls to wear and never regretted it.

Here is my Facebook summary of our Disneyland and California Adventure adventure:

Thursday at Disney was great. We ran ourselves ragged and were exhausted and hungry, but we did almost everything there was to do at Magic Kingdom. We had a “Magic Morning” on our tickets for that morning, so we got in an hour early. Plus, we quickly learned that Alaina was our best “fast pass” ever and took the slightly scammish approach of collecting as many rider switch passes as we could in the morning when lines were short and then going back in the afternoon and actually using them when lines were longer. We felt like we’d gotten our money’s worth and fully “done” Disneyland by the end of the day on Thursday. On Friday, the parks opened at 6:00 in the morning and so we did California Adventure that day. It was pretty good in the morning though headliner rides were closed until 9:00, which was obnoxious, but smaller rides were walk right on affairs. The big Cars ride was a different story, but we worked the single rider line and the rider switch (because of Alaina) and got it done swiftly too. We also looked pathetic enough, I guess, at the Toy Story ride, which was the last ride we hadn’t done there, that the entrance guy gave us a special pass to come back in an hour and go straight through the fast pass entrance.

Most of the smaller rides remained walk right on or maybe 15 minutes—so, Little Mermaid was gone on like five times or more and the Monster’s Inc ride and Muppets 3D, etc. were all easy access as were all the little rides in Bug’s Land (Alaina’s favorite) and things like Mater’s Tractors in Cars Land. It was the night when it started to get insane–we went back to Disneyland thinking we’d do a few things before Fantasmic and it was an awful mob scene over there that was virtually unwalkable (but, it was how I worried the whole three days might be, so I shouldn’t complain that it was really only that time). We found a place for Fantasmic that was actually good viewing because we stood behind the chairs for the premium viewing, which meant people were sitting and thus we could see over them. And, the nice people in front of us said our kids could come stand in front of them so they could see even better. They actually closed access to Fantasmic then and wouldn’t let anyone else in to that section of the park. When it was over, we staggered slowly away through unbelievable crowds and out a “secret escape route” we were directed through that took us behind the kitchens and where the Jungle Boats are stored and stuff like that. Handily, we watched the fireworks as we staggered and then went gratefully to the hotel even though it was not even 10:00 and the parks were still open until 6:00 in the morning!

On Saturday, the parks didn’t open until 10:00 and were already pretty busy. We did as many favorite rides as we could and got some rider switch passes for big ones and fast passes for Space Mountain (Lann actually ended up going on Star Tours four different times thanks to our fab strategies), but it quickly turned into even 45 minute waits for things like Alice and Roger Rabbit. We went back to California Adventure and did some final rides there, either on the little kids stuff which still was only five-minute waiting, or to things we’d gotten switch passes for in the morning (so, we successfully did Cars with less than a 20 minute wait two different times, even though the regular line was 120 minutes and the line to even get a fast pass was crazy). So, it wasn’t really THAT bad, all things considered! 🙂 We just had to push really hard and drag kids to things they were saying they were too tired for, because we knew it was getting worse all the time. We were worn out! But, we got our money’s worth anyway! Legoland was much slower paced.

In general, I feel like maybe we actually pushed too hard—I felt like we didn’t have enough food, enough clothes, enough water, enough sleep, or enough rest pretty much the whole time and the kids got pretty whiny and complained a lot more than I ever did at Disneyland as a kid (and my mom was the exact same kind of pusher that I was, so it wasn’t that I had a more laidback time—getting our money’s worth is a powerful motivator in this family!). We walked a LOT and got pretty exhausted and depleted (the kids more than the adults—I felt pretty hyped up and almost “manic” the whole time!). The kids all had colds and mild fevers for at least one of the days. Mark got horrible “burns” on the backs of his knees from his shorts rubbing against them and I got a similar spot on my shoulder from my hat. All of our feet ached like crazy by the end of the day even with our carefully selected good shoes–I felt like perhaps I wore my heels to the bone! I feel like our kids will mainly remember excessive walking and being hustled from one place to another and usually getting NO for an answer about buying more and more and more expensive snacks, rather than all the fun we actually had once we got on the rides!

While I toted Alaina around in the Ergo for hours (often while nursing) at Disneyland and Legoland, I also had a lot of reminders that she is not really a baby anymore: strolling up to real babies to check them out and saying gently, “hi, baby!” with her knees bent slightly, head inclined, and hand outstretched in friendly manner; riding on genuine rollercoasters at three theme parks while laughing and (fake) screaming and raising her hands in the air and saying “fun!”; crabby expression and raised hands and “yes, bigger!” when told she is too small to ride something…she’s a real girl now!

Pictures, pictures, pictures! (Click on any to enlarge to full size and then scroll through like a slide show, rather than peering at the tiny gallery pictures)

We left after the parade and drove to Carlsbad, California to prepare to go tourmaline mining!

Birthdays! (and lots of other stuff)

My birthday was at the beginning of this month. I uploaded some pictures and was going to just post a quick post, but then some days passed and then some more days. I added some more pictures and thought of more things to write and it has just been languishing in my drafts folder. Things keep happening and so I think I’ll add a couple more pictures before I post, blah, blah, blah. I almost deleted the whole thing since now May is practically over and my bday was weeks ago, but since I bothering uploading the pix, I’m just going to post it!

May is a busy month for us. It is my birthday and then Mother’s Day and then my mom’s birthday and my dad’s birthday and Zander’s birthday. We also have a whole group of our work party friends who have May birthdays (and playgroup friends too!). May 12th was the 18th anniversary of my first date with my husband. May 16th was the fifteenth anniversary of my college graduation. I feel like I’m getting old! And, it is weird to think about how close that college student girl feels and also how very far away she feels. My parents both turned 60—I had a surprise party/healing ritual for my mom as part of our spring women’s retreat as well as a ceremony for our 12-year-old work party friend whose birthday was the same day. On Mother’s Day, we had a family memorial ceremony for my grandma. In the middle of all these celebrations, I’ve been wrapping up the school session (including grading almost 100 papers…split up in two batches of almost 50), preparing for the summer school session, plotting with Mark about him quitting his job, trying to help motherbabies breastfeed happily, trying to stick with some kind of homeschool “schedule” for my kids (using the term extremely loosely). Oh yeah, and my tiny little sweet daughter also had major dental work under general anesthesia last Tuesday. One of my Facebook friends pointed out that no wonder I’ve been feeling taxed. Yeah, duh. I don’t know why I can’t extend myself that grace. Instead, I’ve been berating myself at various intervals about my “inability” to handle it all. I’ve also been planning our big trip to California. $2300 later and WAY too many hours thinking, checking, and strategizing, I ended up with five plane tickets and we’re going. We decided to to go ahead and make a full vacation out of it—Disneyland, tourmaline mining, Legoland, and Pismo Beach! My grandma’s committal service (which I am planning and facilitating) and her celebration of life luncheon is in Fresno in the middle of our trip.

This week as I tried to finish those last bleeping papers, I found out that I’d made a mistake with our plane tickets—having a p.m. flight from San Diego to Fresno rather than the a.m. flight I thought we had. I almost lost it. Flipped out. I’m serious. I felt like I had officially exceeded my actual ability to cope and that I may possibly break down in some way. More. Than. Humanly. Possible. To. Handle. As it was, we made the semi-bizarre choice to just buy some new tickets that restored the “rightful” a.m. flight schedule. These middle-of-the-journey tickets were only $68 each and we decided it was really a fairly trivial amount and we should just do it. We’re taking our family of five to CA with carry-on luggage only and we’re packing like a boss! Seriously, we’re rocking this thing.

Oh, and just this afternoon I also finished my twelfth class for my D.Min degree. I’ve got about 14 left, plus my dissertation. I have three in progress and signed up for two more to start during the summer session. How do I do it?!?!? Heck if I know. 😉 Maybe it is time to feel impressed at my own capacities again rather than mad at myself for not getting more done, for being “behind,” for staying up too late, for taking too long to return phone calls, for leaving some emails unanswered and books unreviewed, for being sometimes short-tempered, for screwing up a.m. and p.m., for not getting around to the blog posts I’d hoped to write, for not keeping up with requests for new sculptures, for not having a birthday surprise of some kind for my dad too, and for never feeling “finished” enough to rest.

Here is what I originally swiped from my Facebook to share about my birthday:

Uh oh. I spent the first 8 minutes of my 35th year still working on these dang bibliographies. This has been my worst/least productive grading stint yet (the CA trip planning/purchasing ate up my usual “free” day). I’m determined to have a FREE day tomorrow (okay, technically, today, but it doesn’t count until I go to bed!)–I’m going to wallow around in books and listen to guided meditations (you know, with the three kids climbing on me!) and plan rituals and celebrations and not do anything I don’t feel like doing 🙂

It is SO flipping hard to focus on grading these bibliographies when my brain is turning over Disneyland plans, hotel reservations, car rental, and also finding just the *right* stuff for my grandma’s memorial service. The good news is that I have some really rocking students this session and they make some of the grading easy!

Later update:

Thirty-four years ago I was born! As my birthday present to myself, I DID manage to finish grading the last bibliographies and I’m taking the day off to hang around and wallow in books. I think I might do a tech-off day (or, at least, a class-off day!) Oh, and I bought two tiny little Japanese dolls for myself at Goodwill too. I do birthdays right!

When I wake up and hear rainfall on my birthday I always feel like the planet is wishing me a happy birthday too (there was a heavy rainstorm the day I was born). Alaina told me I should have a cake with “nonnie babies” on it. On my actual birthday, my mom took me to a tea room in a neighboring town for a birthday lunch and then I came home with three kinds of tea and the kids and I had a tea party! (in many ways an excuse to eat sugar cubes and this involves sort of obsessive negotiation over them rather than just enjoying ourselves!) I asked the boys if they would play with Alaina so I could have an easier time getting ready to go. After about ten minutes, Lann said, “whew, she’s pretty much like an energy tick.” I rolled! I love having a nine-year-old and a toddler. So much different and easier than having a toddler and a preschooler was.

Okay, so here is a gallery of the pictures I meant to post on several occasions, plus some more I just added in today:

Kids: Hilariously Awesome & Awesomely Horrible

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh at Zander’s creativity and dramatic style or to take him to therapy! Today, he showed me this drawing titled, “Never Camp Outside.” It is both kind of genius and disturbing…


Never Camp Outside

Other features in the series: Never Box a Bear, Never Dive into a Volcano, and Never Sleep in the Street…


Never Dive into a Volcano


Never Box a Bear
(yes, that would be a headless guy with blood spurts)

My kids are all pretty sensitive to violence in the media and we avoid exposing them to violent TV shows/games as much as possible, but their own brains come up with a lot of horrible stuff—if it comes from them, they’re okay with it and enjoying grossing people out. If it comes from outside of them, their tolerance is a lot lower (example: just today they watched a Good Luck Charlie episode and had to hide their eyes when Charlie was almost breaking a glass reindeer).

When we had a lot of snow days recently the boys got all into getting embellished (with washable markers) for a movie project! Pretty creepy!

A friend on Facebook commented that I was a “cool mom” for letting them draw all over themselves like this and my response was, cool or crazy or lazy or a combination of all three.

When it was Alaina’s turn to get embellished via washable markers (“beware a tiny girl with a blue marker,” Lann was heard to say), she then did some work on my cheeks too…
February 2013 126
Later, I was making pumpkin cookies in the kitchen and waxing eloquent to Mark about human trafficking and the roots in patriarchal religious structures and then looked in the bathroom mirror and saw my face was still decorated…sort of reduced the oomph behind my impassioned soapbox!

Speaking of Alaina, this month she learned how to say her own name. Instead of calling herself baby or “me,” when asked she’ll say, “Lainey” often accompanied by, “me tiny.” Last week, she described herself as strong and funny (true), and she petted my face and said, “Mama, pretty!” (Lest I become too conceited, I recall her also describing Daddy’s 1956 tractor as “pretty” recently). She also says both “thank you” AND “no thank you” and also “love ya! And, she loves squeezing into a box outside with her favorite kitty, Gizmo:

Zander’s drawings made me think I should do my own series. First up for me, based on some of today’s experiences, would be:

Never Read the Comments

(on any articles online about things that I care about and on YouTube videos whether I care about them or not)

Never Buy “Delicious” Fish Oil Capsules for Kids

(unless you like throwing away $17, five years later)

Never Trust “Tastes Exactly Like” Recipes from Pinterest

(banana ice cream…cauliflower pizza crust…garbanzo bean cookie dough…I’m always instantly intrigued, however, if you don’t have dietary restrictions that prohibit the “real” versions of these things, don’t bother experimenting with them. Your family will thank you.)


Birth art journey: mamapriestess

This month during my computer-off retreat I felt the itch to add to my birth art journey collection. I haven’t made a new addition to it since Alaina’s dental work in September. Since she is so very interested in rituals and likes participating in women’s circles and wearing my special jewelry and setting up altars (this month two words added to her vocabulary were “altar” and “sacred bundle.” Adorable!), I created a mamapriestess sculpture as the next in my series:

It felt perfect to me, which was great, because I’ve been experimenting with (single) priestess sculptures since my priestess ordination in July and I had a lot of bum starts like this unfortunate try:

20120918-175749.jpgCouldn’t figure out yet HOW to do a standing figure after so many creations of seated figures. This one quickly ended up in my closet as did this one:


Not only not very attractive and leaning over, but ended up with burned hands and a broken skirt piece too!)

My next attempt was this one:

20120918-175651.jpgAh! Getting better! Then, this one:

20120918-175533.jpgI created a mini version of her intending to include it in a “sacred bundle” at a festival, but I didn’t end up using her for that after all:



Larger priestess and mini priestess and tooth decay sadness mama sculptures.

I became enraptured with the tiny priestesses though and made this one also, who is still one my favorite sculptures (I call her the Womb of Creation):

20120928-130033.jpgEach figure in what I think of as my original birth art series has a special meaning to me. It is a 3-D journal of my life with my daughter. Each figure either had a message for me or was created to express a message or a lesson or to incorporate some aspect of my identity or to capture a memory. Here was the full series this summer:

20120918-175358.jpgAfter making the newest mamapriestess to add to the birth art journey series, I was on a roll and I created this version which I like even better:

February 2013 062And, I made a mini-mamapriestess as well:


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Then, I started making other mini mamas and their babies:

February 2013 120856227_10152570363905442_1915663021_oAnd, I made a custom sculpture for Journey of Young Women:

February 2013 164Before mailing, I included her figures in a little grouping of minis on the altar for our women’s circle ritual this month:

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The same week that my picture of my first custom sculpture order taken on my kitchen counter in front of a humble cake pan lid took off on Facebook (seriously, it had around 250 likes and over 130 shares, which is pretty close to “viral” in terms of birth art I think 😉 ), I also had two photos entered in a Goddess art contest in which this one won a prize…20120918-175346.jpgThese figures are very near and dear to my heart and really represent my own journey through pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is a way that feels very meaningful to me, so I appreciated the feedback from the contest hostess on the photo also:

I love this one, Molly. It’s so perfect in its simplicity. The cast of shadows from the bright sunshine is lovely! The detail and uniqueness of each of the Goddesses Gathered is amazing! I find myself looking at each one wondering which is me! Such a special little altar for the Goddess. I can imagine myself focusing all my prayers in the center…. knowing that they will either slip through the crevice as dream seeds planted in the richness of the dark unknown, or being lifted upward to be gathered by the air, the wind and the very spirit of life and infinite possibility. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

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And this photo was a runner-up in the art contest 🙂


The “famous” cake pan lid photo!

In new experiments this week, I tried making some very tiny sculptures to use as pendants, with one continuing the “mamapriestess” motif…

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Even tinier than that are these two I just finished late last night:


And, if I do say so myself, I made a pretty cool sculpture using a rock I found in the woods:

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And, since my mamapriestess sculpture was about her in the first place, at her insistence, I gave the first little mini-mini mamapriestess to Alaina to wear as a necklace:


20130223-171242.jpgFinally, lest anyone think all I do is waltz through the forest photographing my art in the sunshine and feeling all Goddess-esque and Earth-mama divine, this is really what is sometimes like behind the scenes:


Crabby and wanting to go back inside (note my hand holding her back from stepping on me).


Scratchy knocking-stuff-down cat and toddler with pig ball “helping” me set up my little sculptures!


She also is very, very, very eager to help me put the pigment on (note the table and her arm!)

While this birth art journey has very much been intertwined with my pregnancy-after-loss journey, my preparation for birth, incorporating the lessons of birth, and expressing the phases and feelings of life with my new baby-turned-bigger-baby-turned-toddler as well as my life as a woman, I realized that it was high time I add another figure to my series that includes all of my kids!


They’re all bigger than this in proportion to me, obviously, but these aren’t meant to be perfect representations (I also don’t just have a smooth, faceless head!)

I also finished a bunch more sculptures late last night (my oldest said they look like a rainbow :)):


In giving birth to our babies, we may find that we give birth to new possibilities within ourselves.

Everyday Blessings

Happy Birthday, Big (little) Girl!

MollyNov 067Happy Second Birthday!

How can it be that TWO YEARS ago I was giving birth in my living room to my precious baby girl? Has it really been that long ago that I felt that intense, sweet relief at her living presence and the knowing that I DID IT and we were both okay?

Here’s what our world is like right now with this little treasure in it:

  • Can talk now. I worried a little about her speech and whether she was “ever” going to talk. She does now, though not in sentences and not with fluency. But, man, she can say all kinds of words. Like…
  • Says yes adorably (“jes” or “dash”/d-yes kind of)
  • Says things like: thank you, dude, spicy, sparkly, birthday (also poop, butt, and boob)
  • Says “um…” I didn’t know that started this early! And, because of our jobs, Mark and I have worked pretty hard to cull this from our own speaking, so I’m surprised she’s picking it up anyway.
  • Still has sour milk/yogurt baby breath. I love it!
  • Skip-hop-gallops to do or get things.
  • Seemed to call me bratty yesterday when I was whining about her not going to bed! 😦
  • In another “bad mom” confession, a couple of days ago she was being aggravating about going to sleep and was nursing really roughly, etc. and I was crabby at her and said, “what is wrong with you?” and she said, “Done, mama.” And, I said, “you’re done with mama?!” and she said, “JES!”
  • Nurses around ten times a day–is pretty rough and I’m getting pretty fed up with being manhandled and abused!
  • Loves having rituals and setting up candles. (Says, “ommmm” while doing so)
  • Remains a night owl and is routinely up til midnight.
  • Clearly self-identifies as one of the kids–runs to join in with everything. Will do yoga and gymnastics, carefully studying and imitating.
  • Tuesday hit big girl milestone in that I left her (and the boys) with a friend for 1.5 hours in between me leaving for class and Mark picking them up. First time in nongrandparental care. She did a really good job and was happy and played like one of the kids!
  • Rides scooter under own power, but also cackling with glee if someone else zooms her around!
  • Knows some colors and can count to three (or, at least two). Blue is favorite.
  • Has thing for “pretty” clothes and wants to change clothes, choose own outfits in dramatically different way than I’ve been used to with prior children.
  • Loves dolls and real babies. Loves, loves them. I may actually have to have another baby just so I can give it to her.

Here’s what I wrote when she was born. And, about her birth. And, here’s what I wrote on her first birthday.

Video of first “dude” saying (plus, bonus “boob” thrown in for good measure):

I think it is officially time to stop saying I have a baby. I have a two-year little girl now!

Happy birthday, sweetness!

Holiday Pictures

Now that the first week of January has passed, the holidays seem like a distant memory! However, I purposely took several pictures with the intention of doing a personal holiday-in-review post, since it also seems unfortunately easy to forget favorite gifts of the season. So, here are some photos from our family’s Christmas in 2012!

“May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder”

–J. Donohue





Happy Holidays!


My effort to make a collage greeting card this year to actually mail out to my family members was thwarted by an uncooperative photo site that would not allow me to preview my collage (meaning I would just have to randomly accept the results!). So, I decided to make a virtual holiday greeting this year and thought I’d pair it with a companion update post about what we’ve been up to 2012 (kind of like one of those annoying holiday letters, only more annoying, because I’m not even bothering to actually send it via real mail!)


Two big projects to report this year: First, thanks to our work party (more on this later) we have a completed greenhouse building! You can read more about the process and progress on our not-often-updated farm blog:


Second, Mark has launched a Let’s Play series of Minecraft videos on his YouTube channel, RockHoundGames. Check out his most recent video and if you or your kids are Minecraft fans make sure to become a subscriber!


Lann & Zander:

Speaking of Minecraft, the boys are big fans as well and even included a Minecraft themed picture in our family photo shoot! 20121218-231111.jpg

The boys have changed a lot during this year. One important change is that they’ve both been taking Taekwondo classes at Vessell’s Fitness (same place my own brother and sister both used to go)! They’re really committed to it and go to class twice a week for a total of four hours.

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Oblivious to the ninjas stalking us through the forest…

They also take gymnastics class which I am less impressed with because it is twice as much money for half as many classes and 1/4 as many hours, but they absolutely love it! I got some poor-quality home video recently of their cartwheeling action:


She is turning into a “real girl” instead of a baby! As long as she wasn’t talking, I still felt like she was my baby. Now, as she adds new words every day, I feel like I’ve got a little small girl instead of a baby. I caught her just saying a brand new word in a quick, poorly filmed video (my cell phone was plugged in to charge and it is hard to take a video when you’re tied to a wall!). For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, there’s a much longer version of “Can You Say…” uploaded in my videos there.

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“Nonnies” on the rocks is a favorite!

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I’m still teaching at Columbia College—both online and in-seat at the Fort on an every session basis and in Rolla on a twice a year or so basis. I love teaching online because it is perfect match for family life and integrates almost seamlessly into my days (as long as you don’t talk to me during paper-grading time!). I also love teaching in person because I love the face-to-face interaction as well as having the same students in multiple classes so that our relationship deepens over time. In January, I start teaching a hybrid class for the first time (half online/half in-seat). It should put me home before the kids get home from taekwondo! I’m really looking forward to that format. I’m still working (slowly!) on my D.Min degree in women’s spirituality. I’ve finished nine of my classes so far and I’m thisclose to finishing the tenth. On July 1st, I became ordained as a Priestess with Global Goddess and I’m really enjoying branching out more formally into the “women’s mysteries” and rites of passage work that I’ve been doing informally for a number of years. I was thrilled to officiate at my brother’s wedding in October and then at another wedding just last week.

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On the priestess rocks in our woods and wearing my beautiful silk robe hand dyed by my friend.


Handfasting with the lovely bride and handsome groom!

Other things that happened with our family in 2012…

We also had around 25 work parties with our amazing work party group. Being involved in this mini-community has enriched, enhanced, and changed our lives in many good ways. Our biggest project as a group was to help our friends build their straw bale house from scratch! (In 2012, we personally benefited from work party in these ways: gutters on our house, new coat of plaster on the interior living room and kitchen walls, and almost completely finishing our huge new greenhouse over the span of three work parties [see pix in Mark’s update above]). Here is a beautiful video slideshow of our friends’ straw bale house project (my dad, Tom, shows up a lot in this video because he helped on lots of other occasions other than our scheduled work party days):

This is an impressive amount of progress for less than a year!

Happy Holidays from our home to yours!


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All photos, save the greenhouse pix, taken by the incomparable Karen of Portraits and Paws Photography.

Celebrating Pregnancy & Birth Through Art

This article is adapted from my notes for past birth art workshop presentations. It is part of a story for the Winter 2013 edition of the Friends of Missouri Midwives newsletter.

Celebrating Pregnancy & Birth Through Art

by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, CCCE

See other posts and pictures about birth art here.

Birth art is one of my favorite birthy subtopics and I used art during my pregnancies, postpartum, and continuing in life today. I love exploring birth art with women and I’ve presented on the subject at multiple conferences, as well as hosted a “birth art booth” at our local MamaFest event this past fall. Art can play an important role in self-discovery and preparation for birth and parenting. Art used during pregnancy and following birth can be powerful tool of validation, celebration, exploration, and insight.

Why is art during pregnancy is useful?

Art during pregnancy is primarily as a tool to tap into “right brain” consciousness and express unexplored gifts, primal wisdom, or release hidden fears. Creating birth art can help both women and men explore your feelings, memories, beliefs, and perceptions surrounding birth outside of the confines of the spoken or written word. The purpose of birth art is to explore what you find within as you create your art and not the final product—as Pam England describes, birth art is as raw, honest, spontaneous, and personal as birth itself.

Art during pregnancy can be used for:

    • Birth preparation.
    • Exploration of fears.
    • Celebration of feelings & experiences.
    • Fun!
    • Visualization.
    • Focal point.
    • Exploration of the unknown.
    • Self-discovery & insight.
    • Healing.
    • Revealing unconscious patterns/ideas.
    • Celebration of the power of the female form.
    • Celebration of new life.
    • Representing hopes/dreams.
    • Communicating hard to verbalize ideas/feelings.
    • Exploring “right brain” methods of understanding the birth journey.
    • Explaining concepts in new ways.
    • Symbolic/spiritual insights.
    • Revealing hidden birth wisdom.
    • Expressing creative gifts.
    • Mementos

Types of art exploration in pregnancy:

    • Sculpture—variety of mediums (fiber, clay, pottery…)
    • Painting
    • Drawing
    • Photos
    • Jewelry
    • Belly casting
    • Body art (such as henna)
    • Collage
    • Mandalas
    • Decorating objects—prayer box, wreath
    • Quilting

Birth Art Examples:

Two Suggested Exercises for Birth Professionals or Parents:

Based on Pam England’s LabOrinth article, I enjoy showing parents how to draw a birth labyrinth (several examples can be seen in the gallery above). Drawing a labyrinth with an explanation of how this type of image can be used to explain/explore the progress of labor as opposed to medical models such as cervical dilation charts or labor progress “bell curves,” can be a very eye-opening exercise for parents. The resulting image is a powerful visual of “normal birth,” instead of “clock watching” birth. I’ve made two posters than I use when I teach birth classes. The first shows a rough Friedman’s curve and a cervical dilation chart—these images are part of a deeply ingrained cultural view of birth and it is hard to shake these associations. This linear birth structure may be how we view labor from the outside, but it is not how we experience it from the inside, the labyrinth is a more appropriate birthing image as it feels from within and this is why…

      • No shortcuts—have to keep going til the end.
      • Speed varies.
      • Can’t get off the path (no falling off the curve).
      • Can get through blindfolded.
      • One step at a time will get you through—one foot in front of the other (one contraction at a time).
      • Can’t get lost. If you get out of the lines, you get lost—try to take shortcuts, get lost. Have to continue on your path.
      • Can crawl if you need to (or run!).
      • Circular (nonlinear)
      • No right way to finish.
      • Contemplative
      • Meditative
      • Journey
      • Everyone gets to the same place eventually—can go own speed, some fast, some slow
      • Do not need instruction to complete (no birth plan)
      • No timeline
      • No need to study.
      • Can rest if you need to.

My other favorite group birth art project is to painting small pregnant goddess figurines (I make big batches of these in a mold using plaster). My most recent experience in doing so was at Rolla Birth Network’s MamaFest event:

This experience reaffirmed for me that birth art is about process not product. And, also that I don’t have to personally do anything to have the process be a meaningful one to participants. As an example of what I mean: at MamaFest, a very young mother came into the birth art sanctuary. I gave her my one minute spiel about the purpose of birth art and she painted her figures alone in the room for about 20 minutes. When she emerged, she showed her figures to me and explained what all the symbols and colors meant. Then, with tears in her eyes, she hugged me and said thank you and left. This was a mother I’d never met before and I’ve never seen again. And yet, we shared a special moment through birth art.

Molly Remer is the Friends of Missouri Midwives newsletter editor. She enjoys blogging about birth, motherhood, and women’s issues at