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Home from the Beach!

12783712_1710227505856131_31295821355430542_oSo, I posted that I’d finished my dissertation and then I ran away to the beach and haven’t posted since! We’ve been wanting to take a family vacation to Dauphin Island for several years now. Last year, Tanner was an infant, so we didn’t do it. The year before I was pregnant with him and it didn’t seem like a good time to take a long car trip. We have been feeling the itch for a family adventure for a while and then we found out how much lower the beach house rates are in the winter and in January we decided to just go for it. We went for a week at the end of February. While we have tight bonds with Pismo Beach on California’s central coast, Dauphin Island, Alabama is the closest ocean-access point within driving distance for us from our beloved but landlocked Missouri, so that was the clear choice. Paying for gas and driving six people somewhere is much less expensive than flying six people to California! Aside from a very short stop at Castaway Cay on the Disney Cruise Mark and I went on in 2001, we’ve never been to an island before, nor have we seen or experienced the Gulf of Mexico.

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We were worried about how Tanner would handle the drive, so we split the trip there into two parts, but on the way back we just powered through and did the whole drive in one day (it is about 11 hours if you don’t stop, but took us 14 to get home due to one dinnertime stop and then a disastrous accidental wrong turn when we were only one hour from home! And, yes, somehow, it is actually possible to be in five states all in one day!). Tanner did an amazing job, no tears and just kind of accepting of his state of confinement. I sat in the back seat with him the whole time, crammed between two car seats, unable to face my body fully forward and instead having to sit sideways. Was it worth it? YES! Not only did we feel like brave, intrepid, adventurous explorers doing cool things with our family, but we had a beautiful and fun and unforgettable time together on the island. The weather was quite variable with the kids able to be in just bathing suits the first two days, the wind becoming so ferocious the following day that we couldn’t really go out (and the house literally shook the whole night!), to icy gusts of wind that required down coats and hats (and horrible windburn for Mark on his hands). We ate fresh crab legs and shrimp, bought amazing cinnamon rolls and french bread, and ate one dinner of delicious whiting that Mark caught in the ocean. We petted stingrays at the aquarium, drove back over the thrilling bridge to the mainland and ate dinner at Golden Corral in Mobile, AL (and got our week’s groceries at Wal-Mart). We stopped at a bayside park and all went on the swings together. We spent hours upon hours walking on the beach and picking up shells, just like we imagined. Except for Mark, we also all got fevers and coughs and sinus headaches to varying degrees, sprinkled throughout the trip. Tanner was extremely clingy the entire time and I spent what felt like 12 hours a day wearing him in the Ergo and nursing him at the same time (in addition to the coughing, he is also getting what seems to be six new teeth at once!).

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Excited about stingrays!

I became obsessed with taking full moon, sunrise, and sunset pictures with my new camera and not only did I not succeed, I ended up annoying Mark by fretting over the photos instead of enjoying the moment.

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We built sand castles and dug holes and sketched a labyrinth in the sand with our toes and walked it. I made a goddess in the sand and spent hours memorizing the charge of the goddess poem and reciting it on the beach into the hair of my dozing baby.

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We took boxes of goddesses and Womanrunes books with us and mailed them to people around the world from the tiny island post office (hope they all make it to their destinations!). I got sidetracked by Facebook advertising campaigns that weren’t working. We baked pound cake and ate raspberry sorbet. We went to bed by 10:00 and were up by 6:00 to watch the sun rise.

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We were very often the only people within sight on the beach. We had trouble differentiating whether that made us fools or geniuses, but there is nothing like a broad open stretch of sand and sea, with only your most treasured loved ones around you.

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The Return from a trip is often exhausting, not just the travel day, but the re-integrating into “real life,” especially when it doesn’t slow down (and all my students submitted their final papers Sunday night!) Maybe I will come back and do a more detailed recap post with more pictures some other day, but I’m betting that this is all I’ve got!

I have the Red Tent and Womanspirit programs beginning on March 21st and I also go back to teaching at the Fort that same day. I have a training manual to finish writing, a website to update, and spring ritual kits to finish creating. The kids are still coughing and I’m sitting in my bed next to my sleeping baby writing this post when I really should be grading papers. And, I’m so, so glad we carved out the time and space to be adventurous together anyway. It was totally worth it.

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After the third try to take awesome priestess robe beach pictures I gave up and asked Mark to take a reality mamapriestess beach picture instead.

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“I and so many other mothers before me have fully lived this ritual of connection and sustenance. We are the Life Givers, and we are holy in our work.”

–Jennifer Pratt-Walker (in SageWoman magazine)

Cahokia Mounds Mini Vacation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cousin Power!

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”

–Diane Mariechild

One of the fun and unexpected benefits of adding Tanner to our family is that he actually gets to have a close in age cousin. My nephew was born in July and it is exciting to imagine what good cousin-friends these two little boys are going to be! It was also super fun to be pregnant at the same time as my sister-in-law. I didn’t know what a fun connection that would be! My mom, Tanner, and I drove to Kansas to visit them over the weekend. We went with some trepidation as it is an almost five-hour drive and Tanner had been in a car seat exactly two other times before! (One that was a horrible experience with desperate red-faced screaming inducing maternal trauma.) The trip went well, however, with only one real stop on the way (also one short side of the road one just a few miles before our safe Dollar General haven was reached) and even better on the way home.

When we pulled into their driveway, I felt a real sense of having come “full circle.” It was taking cousin-belly pictures together at their house that I first announced my pregnancy on this blog: New Baby! We then returned to wait with anticipation to wait for the birth of Ronan and we took lots of pictures together: Cousin Bellies! When Ronan went two weeks past his due date, we experienced the Lento Tempo of being “ladies in waiting” together. I had to leave to come home to give a final exam (and check in with my family!) and cried as I drove away, worried I would miss the birth and also feeling reluctant to leave the timeless, liminal quality of being at their house full of anticipation. However, I did not miss the birth, but instead was honored to witness my sister-in-law Jenny dig deep into her own strength and resources to bring their baby into the world in a powerful home waterbirth, that then informed my own decision to welcome Tanner into my arms in my own first water birth three months later. After Tanner’s birth, Jenny and Ronan came to stay with us to help provide excellent postpartum care. So, making another trip to see them and bring Tanner to visit them, felt like another round of the circle that began with our overlapping pregnancies.

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While there, we joked about the Cousin Power all around us, because both babies experienced developmental leaps with Tanner smiling huge big smiles and “ah-gooing” clearly for the first time (previous smiles were single episode events and not ongoing spurts of interaction and communication) and Ronan rolling over for the first time.
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Another feature of the trip was Tanner riding around exhibiting serious head control, pumping legs action, and solemn eyes of observation.IMG_9649


As fun as it was to be pregnant together, it was even more fun to put our babies side by side and watch them kick and smile and look around together!

I do love me some continuity, so I asked my mom to take some more “cousin belly” pictures of Jenny and me together, but now with cousins on the outside instead!

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And, then we had to get some nursing cousins pictures too!

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 “Birth should not be a celebration of separation, but rather a reuniting of mother and baby, who joins her for an external connection.”

–Barbara Latterner, in New Lives

 

Stretching Time

September 2014 160Getting back from a trip is like giving birth: take it one step at a time, remember to breathe, honor The Return, accept the unexpected, anticipate some chaos and disarray…

However, there aren’t as many boxes of jewelry and sculptures stacked around my living room when I have a baby usually! Streeeeetch tiiiiiiime.

I posted the above as my Facebook status yesterday morning after having returned from a four-day trip to a festival in Kansas. When I originally wrote: “streeeeetch tiiiiime!” I was thinking of a fantasy of literally being able to expand time, but realized immediately after posting that it can more rightfully be read as time to stretch my own capacities. Just like giving birth.

I feel like I’ve been pushing myself incredibly hard over the last two months. I keep thinking: just this one more thing and then I can rest. But, one thing leads to another thing and then just one more thing (hmm. Is that like labor too? One contraction at a time…) Of course, like most of my life, all the things are good things, there are just a heck of a lot of them. August 2014 123I also recognize this as a recurrent fall season feeling for me, regardless of pregnancy. I date my awareness of it to my first miscarriage in 2009, but perhaps I engaged in this same cycle of drawing away, folding in, and wishing to retreat before that as well and just didn’t write it down.

My oldest son turned 11 this week! Isn’t that incredibly big?! I’m glad he is gracious enough to have his birthday celebration this coming weekend, since I didn’t get home from Kansas until 6:30 on the night of his birthday. Having his brand new computer as an early gift right before I left for my trip helped a lot! Speaking of his birth, here are three versions of his birth story, one from my mom…

I arrived at the Remer home at about 10 p.m., where Mark let me in and told me Molly was in the shower. When I got upstairs, and unloaded my belongings, I could hear Molly humming “Woman am I” from behind the bathroom door. When she came out, wrapped in a green towel, she was so adorable that I had to take a couple of pictures. She said she’d had 7 contractions while in the shower, and was glad I was there.

via Lann’s Birth Story–Baba Style! | Talk Birth.

One from Lann himself…

Swimming

Swimming down out of mama.

Crying!

Nursies.

Happy now.

via Birth Stories by Two Year Olds… | Talk Birth.

And one from me:

After checking the baby’s heart rate and my blood pressure, the midwife asked if I wanted an internal exam. I said that I did. She checked and said, “the baby is at +2 and I can’t find a cervix.” This was highly confusing to all of us and so we asked what she meant and she said, “your cervix has disappeared” and then said, “you can start pushing when you feel the urge.” I was in complete disbelief and stared at her and said in total seriousness, “are you telling me the truth?”

via My First Birth | Talk Birth.

One of the things that made the prior week extremely difficult and stressful (and is the reason that I completely skipped making any posts for the week), is that Mark’s back went out and he was in extreme, lying-on-the-floor pain and thus unable to finish the molding and casting we had planned for sculptures for the Gaea Goddess Gathering, nor able to do any finishing work on the large quantities of pewter inventory we needed for me to be able to take for my booth there. I did not do a very good job taking care of him at all. It was an unexpected, very bad-timing hurdle and I did not handling it gracefully or with any Zen-like aplomb, instead felt over-the-top stressed and unhappy, especially since I was also supposed to be able to grade midterms during that time and did not get a chance to grade a single one until the actual day of my class, and then only under stress, duress, rushing, pushing, and snapping. WAHHHHHH!

This experience reminded me that the problem I find with the often repeated and popular self-care advice about “asking for help” or “learning to receive” is that almost always everyone I can think of to ask for help has just as many things on their plate and on their minds as I do. Adding to someone else’s to-do list doesn’t feel like “receiving,” it feels like abusing! When I posted this thought on Facebook, a gracious friend responded in a way that soothed my heart:

There are seasons to these things. I feel like we’re all paying into a giant karmic pot…I try not to pass up what feel to me like simple or easy ways to give (if it’s easy, it doesn’t count, right? Wrong.) even when I’m in a season of receiving. Have you considered that your writing, which probably comes as naturally to you as breathing, is a huge gift to the community? If I lived near you, I would totally offer to double some of our meals to share (or clean your bathroom or whatever), out of gratitude for what I’ve gained from reading your blog posts and articles. It may well be that what you need now, and hesitate to ask for, could be on someone else’s “easy” list. And if it’s not, well, we have to trust each other to express our boundaries.

Some things, like grading midterms, just can’t be passed to someone else, much as I’d like to. Others can be. My example that actually prompted me to post was a really simple and semi-stupid one and it was that I needed a piece of black fabric cut in a circle. I couldn’t get to where it was stored by myself with my big pregnant belly and Mark couldn’t get it for me because he was lying on the floor with horrible pain (chiropractor appointment the next morning helped, luckily). I couldn’t ask my mom because she was driving to KS. So, I messaged two friends who both kindly agreed to do it for me without hesitation, BUT, I know that in asking it added one more piddly task to their own huge to-do lists and meant that they had to dig in their closets for me, since I couldn’t dig in my own. While small, it was exactly the kind of thing I mean—passing on a piece of something that is on my personal list, grows someone else’s and it doesn’t seem “fair.”

This is by far not the first time I’ve had this thought—Mark being out of commission suddenly and unexpectedly is what prompted it this time—but I think it whenever I read a “tips” list and also sometimes when someone reaches out to ME for support, receiving, or help and it feels like it is going to tip me over the edge from “handling it all” to “freaked out and need to hide” and I don’t want to be that person for someone else…like we’re all just passing it down the line! Theoretically it might be a “seasons” thing and most of my people are in a similar season with similar balancing and juggling experiences of their own. But, I don’t know. My mom is 61 now and her overall commitments don’t seem to have slowed down any in this new season of hers—instead of just plain old regular kids needing time and attention from her it is adult kids PLUS grandkids, as well as still friends, husband, projects etc.

All that said, I do feel very grateful that my current class at FLW is one of the Best Classes Ever ™. I am not in an emotional position right now to handle problem students or class conflicts and this class has neither, just interesting, engaged, responsive, fun, committed people from lots of diverse backgrounds. They are working on a great class project right now too: Community Outreach Project.

Regardless of everything else, fireside drumming and dancing was on my agenda and I off I went. Two friends and I packed up my car and headed for Gaea Goddess Gathering in McLouth, KS, where we met my mom, my sister-in-law (and nephew!), and another friend as well as friends we’ve made at past festivals. I had a booth for Brigid’s Grove and also gave a presentation on Womanrunes on Saturday afternoon. I had the beautiful experience of meeting some Brigid’s Grove fans in real life who touched me with their stories and honored me with sharing their journeys. I later overheard one describe me to someone else as I walked by as, “she is my favorite artist.” <blush>

While we had stocked up on our various goddess pendant designs, I was surprised to find that my niche is apparently still in birth art, regardless of setting. The pieces that spoke to the women at this festival were still our birth spiral pendant, our baby in the heart pendant, and our mama goddess pendants. Until this year, I did not fully realize it was possible to make these kinds of connections with others through the creative work of my hands and it really feels like a sacred trust.

Here are some pictures of our (very red) booth:

And, I have to note that if I was about two more weeks pregnant, I think these stairs at Camp Gaea would tip me over the edge into labor!

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Speaking of pregnancy, I am 35 weeks now. I have what feels like a million contractions a day AND I have to admit that I still sometimes think the baby is twins, despite the two ultrasounds and the fact that I am not measuring big. I’m so weird! I haven’t checked his heartbeat myself for months now, because he is so wiggly all the time, but yesterday I felt like checking it and I still found two heartbeats in distinct locations, both with the “clop-clop” classic sound of a real heartbeat rather than one with the “whoosh” of a cord. They were different rates too—one on each side of my belly (still have that sensation of having “two sides” that I referenced a long time ago) and when I went to listen for the “other one,” I knew exactly where it was and went straight to it, just like I knew where the real baby’s heartbeat was. I’m a freak, I tell you.

Speaking of twins though, my friend Bibi finished writing up her surprise homebirth of twins story recently and it is a wonderful read:

…We talked about the possibility of an ultrasound to find out about possible birth defects or twins or the hundred other scenarios that had run through my mind. The best idea that our midwife gave me was to sit quietly with myself and determine what I really needed. So that’s what I did. Every night I asked my baby if he or she was okay.

The answer was yes. There is no other way to describe it, but I just knew that everything was okay. I knew that there was a mystery to this pregnancy, and I certainly suspected twins, but with no concrete evidence I thought it was wishful thinking…or maybe I didn’t want to know because the idea of twins scared me as much as it thrilled me.

via Surprise Twins: A Birth Story | The Conscious Doer.

And, returning to birth art, here is my MANA birth art display mock-up pic (as best as I could do on a concrete wall, that is!). This involves complicated couriering of the items by my sister-in-law to her midwife in KC, who will transport them to St. Louis for MANA in October (we can’t attend as vendors because it is the same week as my due date, but we were asked by the organizers to provide a “local birth artist display”) and then back to KC for my SIL to eventually get back to me in Rolla. I just love circles of women and how needed connections are found or work out…

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While at GGG, I also finally had a chance to wear my belly bindi to this year’s main ritual!September 2014 198My mother blessing is tomorrow afternoon and today we needed to make a belly cast to paint during the mother blessing as well as clean house and so forth… (even though I just got home Sunday night. What am I doing?!) Oh, and grade all the papers that were submitted over the weekend?!?! 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.) And, I truly think it turned out to be my prettiest cast:

After we finished, I felt like I’d finally shifted gears in my brain to accepting that this is what I was spending my day on, not scrubbing the toilet or grading 25 papers. I then set up my birth altar for the mother blessing:

I had a lovely time. (And then I did clean the toilet and the bathroom sink.)

Today Mark also hung up a poster that I’ve had for a year. I want to remember this!September 2014 118I got a lot of lovely brand new mama goddesses listed on etsy this evening too:

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Illinois Trip

Last Wednesday, we got up at 4:00 in the morning to leave for a trip to the Chicago area to visit Mark’s family. We haven’t seen them since 2011 and it was high time for a visit! We originally planned a longer (and more expensive) trip in July that included some sight-seeing (and American Girl shopping), but ended up re-scheduling that trip due to my being in Kansas for my nephew’s birth and because we’d made some foolish decisions in choosing the July dates for the trip in terms of the end of my school session with paper grading work, etc. Luckily, I’d gotten 100% refundable train tickets in July and all of our other reservations were easily cancelled too. This revised trip was solely for visiting relatives rather than rolling a mini-vacation into it. It turns out that train travel in September was only $250 for all five of us, rather than the $450 we’d paid in July! (Good to know for future travel dates.) We took Amtrak from St. Louis to Chicago and then walked to the Metra station which took us to Mark’s family’s town in the Chicago-area suburbs.  We opted to travel with backpacks only to make the walk and the train ride easier and it was a good choice that proved we could do backpack-only travel (we actually packed more than we needed and could have traveled even lighter!). I did end up buying a heavy sculpture at a cool store (Ginger Blossom) and things like new shoes for the boys at a $5 Below store and thus having to borrow a duffel to take home, however (this was optional though and I could have chosen not to buy them or shipped them to myself instead). We hadn’t realized when booking the trip that the Metra connection back to Chicago on a Sunday morning didn’t start until after we were supposed to be at Union Station and so we ended up needing my father-in-law drive us to the city on Sunday morning, which was a hassle for him and I felt bad for making him have to do it! However, in general, we are big fans of train travel and I’d recommend it to people with little kids (and husbands with back problems that make long drives really, really hard on him). I always feel very capable and adult when I successfully pull off a trip—especially when it includes walking with three kids for a mile in downtown Chicago!

The kids got to meet two cousins for the first time—Mark’s sister’s son and Mark’s cousin’s little daughter. It was funny to see how much our little nephew looked like Lann when he was little! And, he has the same face shape and smile Mark had when he was a little boy. No one took any pictures that had me in it, so it looks like I wasn’t even there! This is one of those in-lieu-of-scrapbooking posts and so below is a brief gallery of pictures from the trip. If you click one, it will open up larger and you can see the captions.

I am leaving again in ten days to go to Kansas for the Gaea Goddess Gathering. I really don’t like the revved up/gotta catch up feeling of getting home from a trip (and getting ready to leave on another one). Today I have been snappy, irritable, and tense and my mind is racing with various to-dos. It is hard to feel fast-forwarded through the first part of September, when there are so many things to take care of at home, for my classes, and inventory to prepare for my booth at GGG.

I’m 33 weeks pregnant today and feeling kind of physically “weighted down.” I don’t know how much I actually weigh anymore because I kind of don’t want to check! It is hard to get up and down and I keep sleeping on my back involuntarily and waking up with a seized up feeling in my sacrum as well as round ligament pain. I feel like I’m having trouble eating enough of the right foods at the right times. It is something that I neglect until I am low-blood-sugared out and crabby and headachy. I have this issue when I’m not pregnant too, but I feel like this pregnancy has been the most difficult for me in terms of getting enough to eat at the appropriate time, rather than when I’m desperate and kind of freaking out. I have loads of practice contractions, I swear every 15-20 minutes all day long, and the baby has been doing short stints of practice breathing as well as lots of bumping and jumping. I still occasionally feel like it could possibly be twins (why do I continue to have this weird neurosis, I wonder?), because of a couple of things that feel unusual about his movements—like hiccups being in two different places or dramatic movements/”rolling” limbs sort of sensations—as well as how lumbering I feel in general. Only one baby though!

I miss my Sacred Pregnancy class, because it was the thing I was doing to connect to the baby and to being pregnant. Now, I’m back to feeling more like he is a “deadline” than a new person! It is unbelievable how many things there are still left to do and take care of before he is born. Today, I found myself ordering birthday presents, planning Lann’s 11th birthday party and trying to squeeze the party in somehow between my GGG trip, my mother blessing ceremony, and my aunt, cousin, brother, and sister-in-law’s visit at the end of the month. These are all good things, but I kind of just want to run away into the woods and sit on a rock. Other than our fall women’s retreat, the end of my classes, and a work party at our house, I have most of October blocked out as rest time and primarily unscheduled for anything much else. I have had to work hard to maintain this boundary and say no to other potential scheduled activities in October-December. And, handily, I’m almost completely done with Christmas shopping already!

Time to pick back up our work on new and ongoing projects and also getting inventory prepared for our upcoming booth…

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Magic House Day Trip

This is one of those posts that is in lieu of keeping a scrapbook!

As one of their prizes for the summer reading program at the library, the kids got free tickets to Magic House, a children’s museum in St. Louis,. In an unusual stroke of convenience, three of our St. Louis area friends (two of which have Magic House memberships already) were all available to meet us there on the same day at the same time (when does this ever happen without major machinations?!). And, the kids’ best friends from our own town were also able to go and met us there. It is a chaotic, loud, and crazy place to meet if you think you are going to get any quality friend visiting in, but it was a lot of fun for everyone and I’m still a little in shock that it worked out so well to meet everyone! I’ve never been there before (our kids went with Mark a couple of years ago), so I staggered around in kind of a sensory overload daze looking at everything. Thank goodness my friends were familiar with the place and could steer me around when I stood still for too long. I expected that our families would end up getting separated from each other at some points–too many people to coordinate all walking around together–but I didn’t expect to divide by age more than family. So, I ended up following Alaina around to the sections she wanted to go to with my two friends who also have little children and Mark ended up taking the boys around to the parts they wanted to go to with our two friends that have bigger children and sometimes we all overlapped!

Because I was mostly with Alaina, I don’t have many pictures of the boys doing cool stuff, but here is a gallery of the few pictures I did get from our expedition:

After using our free tickets for Magic House, we then took a quick trip to Hobby Lobby (despite wishing to boycott, they were right on our way and we had things we needed to get!) and unashamedly went through the line as five separate transactions thus getting five 40% off coupon purchases. The kids have never been to an IHOP and there was one right there, so we decided to go there for dinner before leaving the city. Handily, kids eat free at IHOP from 4-10. I had no idea, so that was a nice surprise! However, the power went out shortly after we placed our order and resultant delay in getting our food meant that we got five dinners, plus bonus plates of toast, happy face pancake, and lemonades for the road for $7 total. I think this was officially the cheapest little day trip we’ve ever been on! (The waitress said the lemonades were because we were the only people who were nice to her about the wait.)

Me to kids while waiting at IHOP as they were getting antsy and writhing around: “this is what is called a public place.”

Alaina, loudly: “no, this is called a BUTT place.”

Apparently, many of hours of fun at Magic House do not contribute to beautifully behaved three-year-olds, because after this incident, she also peeked over at other diners and stuck her tongue out at them when they waved nicely to her. At least she was useful in getting 40% off by going through the line with her little handful of money at Hobby Lobby. 😉

LLL of Missouri Annual Conference

This past week Mark and I went to the La Leche League of MO conference. It was the first time we’ve gone anywhere together without any kids for TEN years! (And, technically we did have one with us, but he’s still in utero!) We were very grateful for my parents who hosted our kids for overnight fun. The conference schedule was packed and very tight. We got there at 8:30 on Thursday morning and didn’t leave until 10:30 Friday night. (The first day was scheduled from 11-10 [vendor set up is why we were earlier] and the second from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. These LLL conference organizers don’t mess around!)

We set up our Brigid’s Grove vendor’s booth first and Mark spent the majority of twelve hours two days in a row sitting at that booth!

After getting our booth set up, I set up our LLL Group’s boutique table. We always have a pretty good table, if I do say so myself. I’m not sure if we sold much though, since the sales are handled by the conference and a percentage of the profits comes later on (based on everything I had to pack back up to go home, I’m thinking it was not much).

June 2014 017We then had lunch and some introductory presentations and then a keynote presentation about making medical decisions which was given by a wonderful physician I’ve known since before I had Lann. I then went to her breakout session on “vaccinations and other controversial topics.” Due to the tight schedule, the next session began immediately and I enjoyed listening to a very informative session on Pumping in the NICU, for moms establishing a milk supply while expecting to be pump-dependent on a long-term basis. At dinner, I got to sit with LLL founding mother Marian Tompson (this was a perk of early registration) and got a picture with her. (Not the most flattering picture of me, but oh well.) I’m so inspired by these seven founders and what they contributed to the world. (I reviewed Marian’s book a couple of years ago here.) In the picture she’s holding her copy of the Amazing Year workbook that we distributed (with permission) in preparation for my own session the following day.

June 2014 024After dinner, I went to a session on Slow Weight Gain. Even though I’d signed up for another session after that, I took a little break and sat with Mark instead before going to an Area meeting for my Group’s area.  We then packed up the booth and took our wares to our room where we FaceTimed with the kids for a little while before bed.

The next morning began early with re-setting up our booth and getting some breakfast and then going to my first session which was called the Proficient Pumper and was about helping mothers achieve their breastfeeding goals while expressing milk. This was followed by a helpful session on assessment of tongue tie and then lunch. The conference organizers bought two of our nursing mama goddess pendants as thank you gifts for the two primary speakers and I was delighted to see Marian Tompson wearing our little nursing mama while giving her lunchtime presentation (which was about self-compassion).

10277612_10204178609655464_2447639414533920230_nAfter lunch, I got my Womanly Art book autographed and a fresh picture with Marian, both of us sporting our mama goddess pendants from Brigid’s Grove. 🙂

June 2014 031I opted to skip the next session, since I’d signed up for another one about pumping and I’d already been to two other pumping presentations by that time. I wanted to have a little down time to focus on my own upcoming presentations and make sure I felt centered and prepared for them. It was hard to focus though as I was nervous as well as distracted by everything else going on.

June 2014 035I sat in for a while during the alumni presentation where different anecdotes from LLL history were shared by Marian and other LLL “lifers.” Then, I got set up for my own first presentation: Create Your Amazing Year, using Leonie Dawson’s workbooks and my own experiences. I started out pretty nervous, particularly because there were people I’ve known for a long time in the audience and somehow it is easier to present in front of “strangers” than to friends! I warmed up though and surprised myself by sharing more little snippets about my students than I originally meant to. I was worried about sounding like “commercial”–either for the workbooks (for which I make no money!) or for my own business, since my experience of the Amazing Year workbooks is integrally tied to the jewelry business Mark and I have co-created—but it didn’t feel that way at all. I’d worked really hard on making a little slide show presentation that was a good visually accompaniment to my ideas and had all kinds of happy, useful little pictures and quotes and inspiration in it. I finished my hour with exactly four minutes to spare, which was pretty good since I certainly had never rehearsed it verbally to make sure my timing was right! I learned from birth class work though that one page of notes gives me one hour of material and that held true for this work as well.

After this session was dinner and a nice presentation by Marian about LLL Leaders changing the world. Following dinner was my final session, Active Birth and Pelvic Mobility. Since my session was scheduled from 7:30-9:30 p.m., I anticipated that people would do “conference math” and decide to go home early and skip my session. I was right. I had 12 people signed up, but only three actually came and none of them were actually registered for the session! We  had a really great time together anyway and they seemed appreciative of the information and excited about what they learned. I finished early on purpose to make sure to get back for the close of the silent auction, but ended up having to wait around then for the other speaker’s session to finish before the auction actually closed. I got outbid on the lovely breastfeeding mermaid picture I wanted, but I did win a nice new, red BumGenius diaper and some Soft Star Shoes for new baby boy.

While our Brigid’s Grove booth was never exactly hopping with activity, we did double the (very modest) sales goal we’d set before leaving. I told Mark not to expect many pewter sales, because lots of people don’t have tons of extra money they bring to conferences, and to expect lots of small bead and charm sales from people wanting to bring little, affordable gifts home to people. I was totally wrong and most people skimmed right past the traveling bead shop (I think because it was too much to look at for the tight conference scheduling) and headed straight for the pewter. We sold completely out of our breastfeeding mama goddess pendant! We were invited to have a booth at an upcoming LLL mini conference in St. Louis in August and we’re strongly leaning towards going.

Pewter Breastfeeding Mama Goddess Sculpture Pendant  (custom sculpture, hand cast, LLL, IBCLC, nursing))…She’s just feeding her baby. Is she? Or is she healing the planet at the very same time?

Milky smile, fluttering eyes, smooth cheeks, soft hair. Snuggle up, dear one. Draw close. Nestle feet to thighs, head to elbow. And know that you are encircled by something so powerful that it has carried the entire human race across continents and through time for thousands upon thousands of years on its river of milky, white devotion.

via Pewter Breastfeeding Mama Goddess

The most beautiful thing about conferences like this is the sense of continuity with work that has been going on for 60 years, as well as a sense of connection with the many, many women present and past who have served other women. The face-to-face time with Leaders scattered around the state is invaluable and I am surprised by how connected I feel with these friends I only see at most once a year. I’m not sure what my role in LLL will be in the years to come, as I feel myself moving further and further away from my original interest in one-on-one helping, but I’m pretty sure I can’t help but be a “lifer.”