Monday, December 21, 2015

I Want to Remember... happy she is to engage in imaginative play for hours on end - especially when she's the mama, I'm the baby and O is the big sis. 

...the way she fills my pockets with treasures when we are out in nature. thrilled everyone in our family is when we come back with full bags from the library. Well, not O yet, but she'll come around. hard E works to help bring our project ideas to life.

...her excitement each morning at coming out to see what the Kindness Elves have left her to do for the day and what their note says. always put our families needs before any pressures that may come our way and to realize it's okay to slow down for awhile and focus inward when we need it. soak up every ounce of my girls through the ups and the downs.

...the way O peeks around a corner with a smile, smiles with her eyes and brows at me from across the table, lights up with a smile every time she sees me, E, or I coming her way. afternoon visit from my mom and oldest nephew where we enjoyed homemade cocoa and stove-popped corn and he and I played hide and seek together.

...these warm December days and how pink that tree looked against the grey storm cloud rolling by.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I Want to Remember...

...drinking hot cocoa and decorating the tree with Iz while O napped and E hung decorations out front.

...realizing I have the power to heal myself in more ways than I knew.

...the hawks. All of them. And how they are always there to remind me to stay focused through these challenging months of patience, hard work and transition.

...walking in on Iz cooking at her play kitchen in nothing but a dinosaur tail and sparkly cape. unseasonably warm day to do yard chores with one girl on my chest and the other with her garden gloves on and working alongside me.

...juicing all the old mealy apples with zI and drinking up the results...even if those results left a dirty sock kind of taste in my mouth. She was delighted.

...putting love into our home and feeling the love being put back out.

...watching Iz jump and bounce on the couch full of joy in front of our front window with the outdoor garland and ornaments just behind her.

...escaping to the backyard for alone time with my Iz and making pretend fires out of pieces of branches, cooking imaginary marshmallows over that fire and making s'mores out of bark and leaves.

...that it is okay to lean on others and to not have to do it all alone.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I want to remember...

...these days of having a three year old and a baby (now 9 months old) and how beautiful and trying and overwhelming and full of joy they are.

...backyard bouquets and freshly picked peppers from tiny proud hands during the warmer days this summer and fall.

...the way O snuggles into my chest with a bashful smile when friends or family look her way.

...and also the big grins she flashes at them and the way her dimple pops when she does. hard we are working to reach our goals while knowing the reward will be that much sweeter after these years of patience and perseverance. I have grown and the differences that can happen in such a short time. always be grateful and kind and to let those things guide me in this life. E can catch me off guard with his silliness and make me laugh at a time I least expect it.

...Iz brushing my hair for fifteen minutes after receiving her new brush and then having me take a turn on hers. My love for this girl and her way with the world runs so deep.

...snuggles with E while the girls played this morning and how good it felt to just be holding one another without a baby on one of our hips.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What it Feels Like

I know what it feels like to run barefoot through dew covered grass, no fences to stand in my path.

I know what it’s like to burn trash in barrels atop cinderblocks.

I know how it feels to stack cords of wood and to be warmed by their burning as the snow covers the pump and the pines with an equal dumping of snow.

I know what it feels like to collect tomato worms in jars, sit gazing at cows grazing, ride propane tanks like horses and lounge on a boulder beneath a mimosa tree with nothing but a clear blue sky beyond it’s fluffy branches.

I know what it’s like to unearth treasures forgotten long ago in sheds, off-the-beaten-path piles, or from the very soil I walked upon.

I know what it feels like to stand outside of glowing warm windows and to look up at nothing but the blackest sky with the brightest and most abundant starts.

I know how it feels to be safely tucked under quilts inside while hearing a howl from the woods and feeling goosebumps pop up on my skin.

And also I know how it feels to be back in the tub and hear someone holler that another snake’s gotten in the front door.

I know the hard work that comes with feeding animals day in and day out and keeping them healthy and keeping their water from freezing over when the temperatures drop.

I know the satisfaction that comes from a day of using your body fully and with love and despite the new stumbling blocks that come with each new day.

I know so much and I know so little and I want some clarity on what I want even though maybe I know, but then again I don’t think I do, but then maybe?

With time, without pressure, with staying open and staying true. My heart, my life, my girls and my guy. Really all I want is them, fully, and plenty of time outside and creating and with friends and with things about as basic but as fulfilling as they go. With that it feels pretty clear, but longing will always remain.

Hmm. We’ll see. We will. At some point. Always. And not always forever. But for now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sweep Away the Debris

Driving along back when I was young, still a teenager, but nearing the end of those years, I remember a friend saying how she didn't know how she would ever go on if she didn't have her boyfriend (now husband) and how dependent I thought she was and how I never wanted to be that way, so dependent on someone and so reliant on them for my happiness that to be without them would ruin my world. The thought of letting myself that close to someone was terrifying to me although I did not realize it was the problem at the time. Years were spent deflecting any attention that would come my way, placing up the thickest and tallest of walls and pushing back hard if anyone dared to push in my direction, never letting anyone close enough to hurt me themselves because I had enough of that from those who were meant to love me and was also doing enough of that hurting to myself so as to not let anyone else get to me first.

Deep romantic relationships were blocked at every pass in favor of close friendships all around and though that sometimes hurt in its own way it felt safe, safer than anyone else's arms ever did at the time. True intimacy was passed up and replaced with other distractions and obsessions to take my mind far away from the affection and closeness I was so desperately missing but so afraid of that to live without it forever felt more realistic than ever getting to a place that it felt safe. So, I carried on and focused on myself and over the years did a lot of work to get to a place where it didn't feel so scary, where my walls thinned and shortened just enough that a few could manage to peek over or walk through, but not too close, for as soon as I felt any push or any wish for something more I would retreat to the safety of my dysfunction. But, time continued to pass, work continued to progress and I stumbled upon someone who didn't push at all, someone who allowed me to pull.

So, pull I did. Rather than accept an advance, I had the comfort of doing the advancing, feeling more the predator than the prey and more in control in the way I needed to move forward rather than scuttling back to safety. Frustration sometimes came at feeling as though I was more committed but looking back I realize that anything more would have caused me to retreat, something I nearly did a handful of times regardless of the dynamic. For someone who found any kind of closeness or emotional dependency to be terrifying, the fact that I let him in at all is remarkable. The fact that we are now married with two children and stable and happy and whole is unbelievable. The fact that I now still have trouble admitting I would be lost without him, but that being without him would leave me lost is progress even if it once seemed weak. The knowledge that I am capable enough and strong enough to face life alone is a comfort, but the fact that I don't have to and don't want to is even more comfortable. So, my strong silent type of a husband, thank you for allowing me to pull. Thank you for being patient while my walls slowly degrade and we work together to sweep away the debris. Thank you for helping me to find the tools to help disassemble the more stubborn portions. Thank you for being so damn calm and normal that I am forced to look inward to my own gunk and clean it up rather than having an easy target to place the blame on for my faults and sorry for the times I make you the target anyway. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for loving me.

Photo shot by our wonderful wedding photographer Virginia Harold

Friday, July 31, 2015

This space has been calling to me lately, or at least the need to write and to feel like someone is listening even if that "someone" is a wide open expanse. So much has been on my mind that I need to work through, need to talk about, need to give room to breathe but I am feeling a certain sense of not feeling like I have the right person/people to talk about them with for whatever varying reasons and that is making me feel a bit alone with it all and that brings me here to this space where I can talk all I want whether anyone is listening or not, where I can work through my thoughts and check back in with myself in the days and years to come.

As my children continue to grow and I think about our future I am brought face to face with the hard reality that I am truly figuring it out as I go with no real framework to guide me, no real healthy examples to follow, no real idea what I am doing. So much hard work has been done on my part, years of it, yet today as I drove home I saw a man that made my stomach clench and my eyes tear up at remembering while I type this, for he reminded me of someone who caused me years of pain that only ended once my mom found her freedom in recent years, but that still haunt me in ways I am only slowly uncovering. During my years of work the true impact of his actions were not in the forefront of my mind, in fact at that time I didn't really realize their full impact as he was still in my life. I was still having to play nice and pretend and those actions kept me from really being able to let the true pain sink in until the day finally came when I knew I would never have to see him again and from that point on the pain has little by little seeped up to the surface and has been felt so deeply that I fear if I ever ran into him on the street I would panic, would turn and run the other way, would shelter my children from his gaze because even the thought of him laying an eye on them is enough to make me sit here near sobbing. He didn't have to love us, we didn't share any blood, there was no obligation, and I only guess that is what he believed to be true because the near twenty years he was in my life, in the entire childhood and adolescence spent sharing a home with him, in the day in and day out of life I can truly say I never think he loved me. I never felt warmth from him. I never felt cared for, safe or protected. Rather than finding his joy in delighting the children, he would get his delight from igniting our joy just to extinguish it so he could find his own joy in our dismay. Truly, it is painful to think about and painful to live, but still only part of the picture. So, every day I love my girls hard. I give them the hugs and the affection I was starved of for many reasons from many people and I only hope they can feel the sincerity of that love. I hope they feel safe. I hope they feel protected. I hope with all the hope in my heart that they know that my greatest joy comes in seeing their joy and that I would never do anything to break their trust in that love or to make them question its authenticity.

I was warned once that as my children grow I may start remembering things I have forgotten, start being reminded of things from the past and my own childhood, start having to do some hard work once again, and it seems as it is time. With their growth and with other positive but still big enough to be overwhelming changes happening, it is more important than ever that I make stopping to process a priority. Make keeping my own health and the emotional health of my family a priority and keep challenging myself to attempt to thrive despite past pains rather than just surviving through them. All I know is that I don't want to look back and wish I would have challenged myself to grow sooner, to look back and realize all I missed out on because I was too scared to face the pain that stands between the here and the there. Ignoring the feelings, pushing aside the pain, it all seems easier in the day to day as it is the most inconvenient to pal to have along for the ride, but then a day turns into a week turns into a month turns into a year and you find yourself losing those chunks of your life that you will never get back and I refuse to do so. So, during this year of focusing on our family I will include focusing on myself as well because in order to be the mother and wife I want to continue being, I have to work hard to not let my past destroy the beautiful present I have built for myself. I refuse to let him or anything else have that kind of power.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 26, 2015

As seems to be common these days I am once again being pushed to let go, to grow and to put in the hard work needed to change. We are spending money we don't have to defend ourselves for something we didn't do, but doing it all the same for the peace of mind and the freedom on the other side, knowing that kindness will win out in the end. We are missing out on experiences small and large due the particular place we find ourselves in and we are feeling the struggle on our journey as we feel the weight of such things piling on, but when you wipe away the stresses and the sadness and the unfortunate state of things, we are happy.

Today I am all in - I am choosing happiness over everything else and choosing to let go. To put on my blinders a bit to what is happening outside of our four walls to focus on what is inside. This year we may have to miss out on some things we were hoping to do, we may purposefully pass on others, we may not be in the loop with the rest of the world as it can all be a bit too much, but we will be in the loop with us. We will focus on our family and our home and our pets above all else and we will nurture these things with everything we have and will consider anything beyond that as extra, a bonus, a compliment to the fulfillment we will continue to find amongst ourselves. We will tune out distractions that get in the way of showing our love fully and giving our "us" what it needs to thrive.

Today I promise... tune out distractions to tune into love. let those I care for know in all the ways I know how. resist technology temptations that distract from what matters most of all. allow my pen and notebook to provide the therapy and guidance I need most. keep our family and our goals in the forefront of my mind and not let outside pressures or desires cloud my vision. hug my fella and our girls close and show them that I see them, to let them know they are known. put kindness, love and compassion out into the world. allow myself the space to breath and remember and further discover who I am at my core.

It may not look like much from the outside but these past twenty-four hours have led me to a clarity I was seeking, a path I needed to travel and the strength I needed to take the first step. The journey ahead will no doubt bring all of the proper insights and struggles needed to find my way.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Fulfilling the Desire

All I want are a few minutes to write, to capture all of these thoughts and strung together sentences onto the page before they once again dissipate, but the days come and the days go and once again I am left with an empty page, time for writing sacrificed for time with the ones I love most which is really no sacrifice at all.

At times I am desperate for the release, for the therapy that happens when I place pen to page, but one of the many lessons I have learned in these short years of parenting is that nothing stays the same for long – a day will come again when I have the time I desire, but only at the sacrifice of no longer having a warm baby on my chest, so I squeeze in the moments when I can, O in the crook of one arm while I write with the other.

Time to do as I desire may be hard to come by in this season, but today I commit to myself that I will make time to do one of the things I crave most even if it is in small doses, to promise myself to capture these moments and emotions I want to look back on – the best gift I can think of giving myself as the years continue to come and go. This desire is not a new one, but it is one I have left unfulfilled for far too long whereas writing used to be a daily habit.

 Journals fill a suitcase in our art room and were set aside when the weight of the words became too much and though they are heavy and though I will happily bundle and burn them when I am through – at the time those words are what helped me through – some may have alcohol some may have drugs, but I mostly have bic pens and cheap notebooks. I know I will never regret taking the time to write, I will only regret all of the words unwritten and while these days I am not looking for salvation so much as savoring, the words are just as important and the desire for release is just as strong.

Notebooks and pens will once again be kept handy and even when I find myself exhausted and drained I will find myself to them to capture even those moments for the beauty of their rawness. It may be a challenge and it may happen one-handed, but it will always be worth the effort.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Love and Community

O was born six weeks ago yesterday and that little tidbit is a bit hard to swallow but also very comforting. This time around I am much more settled into this role, much less worried about the little things, much more in the zone of just enjoying it all and not worrying about the things I now know won't matter two years from now.  And you know, I never really did announce that here did I? That I had a baby? Well hey - that up there is O next to big sis and it has been true love all around from the first moment I held her to my chest and Iz peered into the birth pool and touched her tiny head.

Lying and saying two is no big deal would not be doing myself or anyone else any favors. Two is so full of love and so worth it, but it's hard folks. Sleeping less, giving up my time for projects and husband snuggling, living with less showers and more general chaos, well, I was prepared for all of that, knowing that while it is hard it is fleeting and that we would make it through in one piece, but the part I couldn't prepare for even though I knew it was coming and the part that I really knew would be hard (and that is) was Iz no longer being my one and only, for sharing our hearts and time with another and how that would be for her and I both. Mostly we get by and squeeze in time where we can but I can see how much she needs more time with just me and how I need time with just her, where both of my arms, my lap and my attention are there for her alone. We are working on it every day and I know with time we will have more one-on-one time and I look forward to Mama and Iz dates in the future, when baby sis is old enough to stay to play with E while Iz and I hit the town or the trails together just two of us. She is such a joy and so conversational these days that I am trying to soak it all in and burn these days into my memory so as not to miss her at this incredible point in her life. And E? If you're reading this? Remind me to hand over O when your own arms are free so I can scoop up Iz to gobble her like a cob of corn, okay? We really do need those moments to fill up our hearts.

Luckily though, our hearts are pretty content as is thanks to having such a wonderful community on our side this time around. When Iz was born I was very happy and so in love, but the days soon became long and lonesome. I felt isolated and with a particularly challenging baby even more so as I was hesitant to even get in the car to drive anywhere more than a few minutes away. Luckily, one day when I was around six months old I did and that eventually led us to where we are today, with our wonderful mama tribe. This time my sister and my two closest mamas were there by my side as O made her way into the world and when my 30th birthday came just two days after O's birth there was a home-cooked birthday meal and special handmade treats and the company of our tribe to make the day special. Further meals have been provided and more importantly company and emotional support as we settle into this next stage and I truly don't even let myself think about what I would do without it as I know I won't have to. Being me a little part of me is still waiting for the other ball to drop, for it all to come crashing down and for me to be left feeling alone in this journey once again, but I know that isn't life these days, that good things can stick around and that these ones are here for the long haul and that one day I'll even get to the point where I feel that I deserve that love and where typing that and admitting it doesn't make me anxious.

Love love love though, it is here in this home and here in my heart for these incredible girls of mine and there is no doubting that. Rubbing my cheek against O's full head of hair, snuggling up to Iz for a story or listening to her hilarious ramblings as she spends hours going back and forth on her swing, baking with I while O is wrapped to my chest - those things make my body max out on love to the point I think my skin may start to crack. And just as everyone says it does, that love just expanded right on out to encompass O once she was born and scooped her right up into the fold. I guess we're in what everyone calls the fourth trimester right now, those first few months on the outside, so I hold our tiny one close and know it will all fall into place even more than it already has, that we will hit our stride a little more each day, and that I am lucky as can be to have a crew on my side this time to help me find my way if I start to go astray.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Day in My Chaotically Content Life

Thirteen days in to this mama of two journey and life continues on as to be expected. There are no days of climbing out of bed whenever I wish, rolling over only to switch breasts for my eager nursling, no days of lounging on the couch with a warm cheek to my chest while netflix loops its way through episodes of shows long forgotten. These days my feet must hit the chilly wood floor before their dads exit the door and the slap of two year old feet come to a pause as she comes knocking on our door, seeking out her mama, but more importantly her baby O.

E has already prepared food for Iz and put her in fresh pants and if I am lucky he has also left me a glass of smoothie on the counter to give me a jump start on my day, assuring something finds its way into my stomach before lunchtime. I join her at the table, leaving O in our room to sneak in one on one time with the gal who made me a mama and trying to soak in her beautiful toddler essence in those early morning moments before the demands of the day and of her tiny brain sneak their way in. Soon O's chipmunk noises alert me to her needs and we all come together on our bed to change her diaper, complete her post-tie-release stretches and to bring her to breast for comfort after those darn things are complete. Before too long a carrier is plucked from the stash and our littlest is tied to my chest so I can continue on our day, meeting the needs of both girls the best I know how and trying to maintain some semblance of parenting in the ways I desire, something that is hit or miss but that I keep aiming for all the same. These moments with her cheek to chest will replace those on the couch this time around as I scuttle about putting away the many loads of laundry that come with two cloth diapered gals, three animals and two adults - one of which is still in the thick of the days of leaving puddles of milk in her wake. 

We carry on about our days, rotating from activity to activity to keep Iz entertained - from play doh to button sorting to books and back around again. There are snacks and lunches, diaper changes and milk stops scattered amongst our activities and if I am lucky a few moments of independent play for Iz while I sit and nurse O, but more often than not she is right there beside us, rubbing on baby sister's ear, stroking her head or jumping around beside us as I breathe deep and tap into my patience. I have had to let some things go while holding on to the hope that we will find our new normal and find a way to keep my toddler more stimulated and less like a wild animal. Some days go well and I high five myself as I climb into bed, others result in a friend walking in the door to find me on the couch nursing O and Iz on the kitchen counter in nothing but a diaper, covered in stamp pad ink, hair in a rats nest and with hands and counter full of cookies. Some days there may be tears from all parties, some days E comes home to three happy girls and even a meal on the table, but each and every one of these days gives me more than I ever could have imagined I even wanted, more growth than I ever thought was possible and more tricks up my sleeve for the next go round as my feet hit that wood floor the next morning. One can prepare themselves as much as they want before diving into this parenting gig but if I have learned anything it is the simple fact that this journey is as "learn as you go" as they come.

I'm not sure what will happen tomorrow, a week from today or in a years time but by taking each day as it comes I can stay (relatively) sane in the mist of it all, leaving yesterday in yesterday and leaving tomorrow for tomorrow, this time around I have chosen to do nothing more than to focus on the now, to not expect anything from previous days to carry over and to just give each one the best go I can muster while meeting it face to face and with a fresh perspective. Less than two weeks in to this new journey I can tell that approach is serving me well and giving me the grace and self-acceptance I deserve. There may be the thank you cards that still need sending, a financial situation that is just a bit too tight for comfort, piles of laundry and a sixty pound dog trying to steal dinner off the table while his six pound sidekick waits in the wings, but none of the chaos that can creep in day to day should stop me from soaking this all up because for every glass of grape juice spilled on the couch there is also a toddler cooing over her sister while she rubs her gently and tells her how much she loves her, for every snack stolen by a dog there is a warm baby against my chest and for every sigh of frustration there is the contentedness for looking around and knowing this is my life, this is it and I will be best served soaking it all up exactly as it is.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Year of Projects: Projects 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59 & 60

This (past) year I aimed to complete 52 projects - here are some of them: 

Project 53: Two more child-sized cowls for my sister's girls just because.

Project 54: A yellow sweater for Iz. I had started this months and months ago and set it aside when picking up the sleeves left me flustered, so I finally picked it back up and challenged myself to make it happen, leaving me with my first completed long-sleeved sweater. Pattern is called Tiny Tea Leaves.

Project 55: A big batch of tea infused chamomile lavender lip balms for our family and to add into gift packages for some ladies for Christmas. These were so easy and rewarding to make and something I look forward to making more of in the future with different blends of oils. So simple and rewarding.

Project 56: A red "In Threes" for my girl who specifically requested a red sweater. This one made in the next biggest size so she can wear it next Fall.

Project 57: A tiny orange "In Threes" for our tiniest girl. This will probably fit her best next fall/winter as well and I can't wait to see her in it.

Project 58: A little grove of pine trees I created for Iz's stocking.

Project 59: A wooden cradle for our baby-loving girl for her Christmas present. Basic plans were found on Ana White and we added sloped sides and a little cut-out on one end for our little moon gazer. Inside I sewed up a simple pad and pillow to cozy it up a bit.

Project 60: An orange "Wyatt" sweater for Iz. Orange is her current "favorite" color and she had been asking for an orange sweater for awhile so I made this as her second Christmas present and have loved seeing her enjoy it and always smile when she requests to wear it.

(no photo right now)

And with that my year of projects is complete! I'm really satisfied with how that challenge inspired me to grow and dive in to my creativity and am still enjoying the results of that creative surge as we start this next year. Lots of sewing happening around here and I'm looking forward to sharing. I wasn't planning to challenge myself to a certain number of projects to complete in this coming year, knowing we will have our hands full with our second daughter being born, but I've hit a creative streak of sorts (trying to get in as much as I can before things have to slow down) and am over 20 projects in so only time will tell!


Monday, February 23, 2015

A Year of Projects: Projects 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51 & 52

This (past) year I aimed to complete 52 projects - here are some of them: 

Project 45: A simple child-sized rolled cowl using a pattern from The Rhythm of Family. Knit up so quickly. I had to learn a loose cast-off to make for a stretchy edge - a nice new skill to add to the mix!

(no photo now but like mine below just smaller :) )

Project 46: I altered the child-sized cowl and through a bit of trial and error worked it up into an adult-sized cowl as well for a mama and me set for us gals. So thick, cozy and warm.

Project 47: Some simple crayon rolls for coloring on the go. One for my gal and two for parts of her best pals Christmas presents.

Project 48: A big pile of cowls! Two mama and me sets for my dearest mama friends and Iz's dearest pals and another adult sized one for a long-time friend.

Project 49: A trio of purple hats for Christmas presents and such. The largest for my mother-in-law, the medium for a niece whose sister received one for her birthday and a tiny one for their baby sister (our newest niece who was born this January).

Project 50: A felt tic-tac-toe roll I made up to gift to my oldest nephew for Christmas. This was really fun to come up with and put together.

Project 51: A big batch of soy candles - my first ones ever. I used pure soy wax and cotton wicks from Bramble Berry and essential oils to add a bit of scent. I love how these turned out but will increase the amount of oils next time around - there will definitely be a next time. Made in 8 oz jars and finished off with a piece of scrap fabric and a little label affixed to the top to add some charm. These were included in gifts for some mama friends and my own mom, a few are scattered around our home and a few remain in my cabinet for future gifting.

Project 52: A simple "pixie" type hat for Iz inspired by a friend on Instagram. For this I just measured her head, knit up a rectangle with a bit of garter stitch sides, seamed it up and added some braided ties. She calls it her dino hat because of the shape (and possibly color?).

(no photo right now)

And that brings me to my goal of 52 projects, but stay tuned for another 8 to be shared in the next few days to wrap up 2014's year of projects!


Friday, February 20, 2015

A Year of Projects: Projects 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 & 44

This (past) year I aimed to complete 52 projects - here are some of them: 

Project 38: A simple cotton hat for a young friend of a friend facing her next round of chemo. Was happy to add one to the mix.

Project 39: A helper stool for I to use around the kitchen. This stool is used multiple times every day and I am so grateful E could whip it up for her. We don't have the extra safety feet finished and installed yet as it hasn't felt necessary for us (we used oak rather than pine to make for a nicer and heavier stool which I think helps with this...and our girl is pretty mellow on it) but I think we'll still add them on at some point. Plans from Ana White (link to actual plans isn't working right now, but you can search for helper tower and find them if you're looking).

(no photo right now)

Project 40: Some replacement hats to make up for the ones I went weird on and made a bit short and small. Love seeing these hats keeping all of my favorite kids heads warm.

Project 41: A rainbow hat for my gal using the scrap organic cotton from the large knit blanket I made for her earlier in the year. This was originally going to be for the little girl I made project 38 for but knit up larger than I expected so Iz was happy to take it on as her own and I should have known that it would suit her perfectly.

(no photo right now)

Project 42: A matching/memory game for a niece's Christmas present using felt and fabric. Iz received a similar set handmade by a dear friend for her birthday and I ran with that inspiration in order to make a couple gifts.

Project 43: A knit baby blanket using a honeycomb pattern for our February girl.

Project 44: Another matching/memory set for another sweet niece.

So many fun things to make and gift. I can't believe I'm still playing catch-up in sharing them here, but I made it to a total of 60 so will be sharing the rest in two more batches in the next week or two. I'm already 21 projects in this year...kind of going crafting crazy so I need to get caught up so I can begin sharing those (lots of cute baby things).


Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Last Milkies

On January 17, 2015 we took to the woods, and there, bundled in our coats and hand knits, I and I snuggled together for her to have "milkies" for the last time.  This is not how I ever imagined things going, hoping to let her gradually wean whenever that would happen naturally, but as I have learned along this journey of life and of motherhood things do not always (or maybe it's ever) go quite the way you expected. After a rough December of impossibles this was another impossible yet necessary move I had to make for our family and my health, even with the heart-wrenching pain that comes along with it and I think it's important for me to capture that story: 

After birth she gained weight well and I was constantly trying to manage an oversupply, thinking that was what was causing some little issues we were having with her clicking, frequent spit up, near constant nursing after the newborn days were through, and many other things that all pointed to resolving themselves once my supply was more under control. The only problem was that even when I would block feed and have a more manageable supply it would quickly jump right up again due to her constant nursing and as time went on things continued to feel more uncomfortable rather than working themselves out.

Luckily, I eventually found my way to a nursing moms group and over the next few months as things weren't working themselves out I slowly started opening up to others and realizing that this just wasn't how things should be. I shouldn't be uncomfortable and my supply really should have regulated a bit more by then. It was slow going opening up and finding out what was going on as I thought I was just needing to handle it on my own. Others were coming in with newborns who would refuse to latch or were going back to work and unable to pump enough for their sweet babies, how was I supposed to bring up an issue of having too much? Eventually I did turn to the leader one-on-one and open up about what issues we had been facing. She checked inside I's mouth and with that we had our first clue as to what we were facing.

She recommended we go see a chiropractor who specialized in diagnosing tongue and lip ties and providing craniosacral treatments post tie-releasing procedures and we made an appointment right away. We got in right around I's first birthday and she found her to have a pretty severe posterior tongue tie (one that can be easily overlooked but cause large problems for baby and mom) and lip tie as well and recommended us to a local specialist who would be able to officially diagnose them and correct them if needed. We eventually got in to see the doctor and she confirmed the ties and performed the laser release. The procedure itself was rather quick and painless but still hard on all three of us due to her having to be constrained for safety reasons. It took less than two minutes and I stroked her and sang to her all the while, while also feeling guilty for not knowing sooner, for having to do this to her at an older age. They said to be ready to nurse immediately after to provide relief for her and because many moms notice an immediate change, making nursing no longer painful, but that wasn't the case for us and at her age it was really a hit or miss. 

The aftercare was brutal, having to do tongue and lip stretches at regular intervals to avoid reattachment and having to be done in the middle of the night, waking her up to do something I could tell made her distressed but that was necessary if we didn't want to go through all of this again. Counting down the days was how I was living at that time, dreading each time the clock came around to another time for stretches. This is another thing that would have been so different had we known as a newborn. Most people I've talked to who have had that experience say the stretches are no big deal, just a swipe of your finger prior to nursing and then carrying on, but with an over one year old the distress and the physical strength exuded each time I had to do the stretches was overwhelming. About a week in we also had an extra uncommon obstacle thrown our way, one her doctor had never seen happen before, when one night she started bleeding from her mouth. We were told a bit of blood could happen during healing, but in this case the blood kept coming and quickly picked up in volume until she was vomiting up blood, covering her white onesie from head to toe and without us being able to tell what was happening. At the same time she was pulling chunks of congealed blood from her mouth and eventually a piece of what we could only think was tissue in the shape of her tongue. We quickly dialed 911 and had a paramedic at our door, but by the time they arrived the bleeding was slowing down and the vomiting had stopped. They talked through things with us and were able to assure us she was swallowing blood (bleeding from above the shoulders can apparently come at large volumes) and the upset to her stomach was causing her to throw it up and that the chunks were congealing as they rested in her mouth, but with a bit of uncertainty on the tongue shaped piece. They stayed for a bit but things having calmed down they recommended we went in to the ER to have it looked at whether we went with them or on our own, so we decided to go on our own. On the way there she slept in her seat, once waking up to pull a piece out and then falling back to sleep and resting peacefully. We sat in the ER parking lot for a long time letting her rest and waiting to see if the bleeding had really stopped and in that time we were able to get in touch with her doctor and talk things through and all together decided to let her continue to rest rather than putting her through more distress since we had now narrowed down where the bleeding had come from and there was nothing more that could be done, making plans to see her at her office first thing in the morning. 

The next morning we went in tongue shaped tissue in hand and it was concluded I had a reaction to the numbing gel used on her ties before lasering (something they don't always use but had for her since her ties were so thick), something they had never had happen before in all of the many cases they had seen. This reaction basically caused a chemical burn to her tongue and as a sunburn would peel after a certain period of time, that's what had happened with her tongue and her scabbing and had caused this whole ordeal. While having an answer was comforting it was also heartbreaking thinking she could have been in any additional discomfort and the mama guilt was strong, even though I know there is no way I could have known about all or any of this, but still wishing I had and that it was all just a dream. We carried on as usual, but with permission to just do the stretches a couple of times a day and to not wake her up for them, which was such a relief. 

The bright spot to all of this is that we noticed a change for I immediately. She was always an unsettled baby and suddenly she seemed happier and less stressed, like a pressure valve was released and she could finally breathe easy. She began tolerating more solid foods when she had previously still been gagging on many. She began making more variety of sounds and vocalizations. So many things changed that we knew that while it was a hard thing to go through that it was worth it to provide her with that relief, to help her release the tension she had no way to control. 

Unfortunately the pain on my end only continued to increase. With children having the procedure at an older age (she was 1) their nursing habits and muscle memory are so fixed from doing things the same way for so long that there is no guarantee, but I stayed hopeful. I brought her for craniosacral adjustments up until the point where they could do no more (due to her fighting/biting of the doctors fingers) and her having really done all she could do without it providing any improvement on my end. I talked to lactation specialists and gathered any tips, but really we were left where we started, with her nursing fairly frequently and my nipples blanched and painful after each time. 

Many may wonder why I would continue despite such pain, but I don't know how I could have stopped. Her milkies were everything to her, still such a huge part of our day and while the pain was not enjoyable it was something I had grown accustomed to and at that point was willing to put up with in order to provide her with that comfort, security and nutrition. At the same time I did eventually begin offering her a snack when she would ask to nurse after it not having been that long and trying to slowly help her along in decreasing the frequency of our sessions. Around 22 months she showed signs of being ready so we night weaned with ease and over the next few months I was able to gently and gradually help her along to only nursing before nap and before bedtime, with an occasional third time in the morning, but rarely. 

Being pregnant at this time only meant an increase in the already-present discomfort and pain and I wondered how I was going to establish a new nursing relationship, how I would even be able to know things were going well with our second daughters nursing if my nipples were already so sensitive and uncomfortable, how I would stay sane trying to nurse a newborn all day long through that discomfort and how I would not become resentful over the entire ordeal. At the same time weaning I, taking away her milkies...thinking of doing so felt impossible. Eventually though, it was wearing on me so heavily (physically and psychologically) that I knew it would have to happen for the sake of our entire family, I included. So, now and then I would mention that one day the milkies would be gone and tell her all of the other wonderful things we could do together instead and I would try to put us in situations to cut out the nap time nursing by doing a car nap a few times a week if things would work out that way and there was a day or two where she didn't nurse at all just due to the nature of our day and travels. At that point we were only a little over a month out from my due date with number two and I knew I needed to do it now in order to have time to work through things with her before baby sister was here and nursing around the clock, so I decided on a day that we would share our last milkies. 

That morning we went to the woods, enjoyed time in nature, and eventually when I was as ready as I was ever going to be and had found a nice spot, we sat down and I talked to her. I asked her if she wanted milkies and explained to her that this would be the last time, but that we would always be able to be close and share special time together. We talked for awhile and then she snuggled in and latched on and tears filled my eyes, my chest tightened and I felt like I was doing the impossible in willingly saying goodbye to these moment, but knowing it was what had to be done for us all. I let her see me cry, letting her know I would be okay, but that it made me sad and that I loved her and we sat with her nursing from each side one last time for a long while, holding each other close and taking each other in, gazing into each others eyes in a way that is so unique to the nursing relationship we have shared. When enough time had passed she sat up and I held her close and hugged her tightly and talked to her about how much I loved her and what a special person she was. 

We then traveled to a place called Build a Bear together to have her create a special baby. She chose a dalmatian dog and I recorded a message from me to her onto a small device placed into her paw, letting her know she could always squeeze the hand and hear my voice if I was ever not near and she needed that comfort and that was that. 

The first few days were hard on us both, more me than her as I felt like I was rejecting her and denying her of something so important to her, but we easily worked through those couple of tough times on her part and one night of us crying together seemed to really make an impact in helping her to understand it was hard for me too, that I wasn't happy to be leaving those times behind either. From that point forward she has mentioned milkies from time to time and we will talk through it but in general we are now at a good spot to move forward. There are still times I ache to pull her in, to let her nurse freely and to provide her with that comfort, but we have found our way on to other things and while nothing will ever replace those 2 years and 4 months we shared in our nursing relationship, I know there are so many other beautiful parts of our relationship waiting to bloom and reveal themselves in the days, weeks and years to come. 

I know for some people the end of nursing is not such a big deal or it is something they look forward to, but for me it is hard. Staying strong and continuing through the pain in order to maintain that part of our relationship was not easy, sometimes it felt unbearable, but it was also such a rewarding and meaningful part of our relationship and not one easily left behind. At the same time, I look forward to starting a new journey with our second daughter who is due just three days from today. There is a part of me that has always wondered on this thing I always heard other moms talking about - about the flood of hormones with letdown that would leave them sleepy, elated and in love, something I have never experienced due to our unique circumstances. Maybe I will have that opportunity this time. I will never regret any part of mine and I's journey, but I want to feel that feeling, to have things as they "should" be this time around. 

Meanwhile I will look back on our months together with her at breast with joy and with pride and while it is hard for us both I know our relationship goes much deeper than those moments and that our closeness will remain and continue to thrive in the years to come. I have always done absolutely all I could for my sweetest girl and I will continue to until my last breathe. She is more than I could have ever imagined, she is incredible. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Birth of Our Oldest Daughter

Just one week out from the due date of our next daughter I have finally pulled together the story of Iz's birth, written quickly and without much editing and with only the most modest of photos included, but captured here for us to revisit in the years to come: 

The warm summer days were continuing into September and you were still nestled in close at over 40 weeks. That Thursday  I opted out of book club and opted in to sticking close to home and an early bedtime. My feelings of anticipation grew through the following days and on Friday I began to feel like I wanted to eat every delicious food I could think of after weeks of not caring much about food at all. Friday we stocked up at Trader Joes and when asked our plans for the weekend said, “maybe having a baby” with smiles on our faces. Things were certainly feeling more real. The following day we had our now weekly appointment to our midwives office where everything checked out fine for us both, and we left knowing it was likely that the next time we visited this office it would be with you in our arms. That would turn out to be true, for on Sunday night I was up every hour with gentle cramping. Come morning nothing had really changed, but I still felt as if something different was happening and on Monday morning was teary-eyed when trying to send your dad off to work, not really wanting to be alone, but also not wanting him to use up one of his few vacation days before you made your arrival. Much to my relief he decided to stay and while I spent some time rolling my hips on the yoga ball he would time the contractions as I signaled to him their beginning and ends. With this we found them to be pretty regular, but they weren’t causing discomfort so we leashed up the dogs and headed out for a long walk, thinking it may help pick things up, but if not it would at least help the dogs burn off some energy before what could be a long night for them. After the walk things seemed to slow down, if anything, so we went ahead with cleaning up the house, blowing up the birth tub and double making our bed – just in case.

I was feeling a little defeated and restless and your dad suggested we get out of the house for a bit, so we drove to our favorite little falafel spot and got a couple to go, continuing on to Forest Park to enjoy them in the cool car while people watching, a favorite pastime of mine. With arms rested on my big round belly I filled it up even more with every last crumb and we moved on to cap it off with a stop for soy frozen yogurt on the bench out front of the shop, somewhere we’d visited a few times over the summer, my belly a bit bigger with every visit. While your dad drove us home I texted our midwives an update, letting them know we were out and about, but that nothing had changed and we planned to relax at home and wait and see. So, that’s what we did. As the afternoon stretched into evening I was feeling restless and ready and did a bit of sneaky nipple stimulation to see if it would help, but had no such luck, so I thought a relaxing walk with just your dad and I might be nice before returning home and settling in for the evening, so we set out around the neighborhood, breathing in the warm early autumn air and enjoying the late afternoon light unique to those long September days. Still, everything felt the same so I prepared for sleep and we put the dogs to bed. I sent a quick text message to our midwives telling them everything was the same so I was going to get some sleep. After burrowing into bed, your dad quickly joined me. I gave my nipples a couple pinches just to see, but then breathed out and laid back, hoping sleep would take me. Your dad flipped off the light and within a few short moments I bolted up with a contraction that finally felt a bit more substantial and then another, there was no way I was sleeping through these. Retreating to the hall bathroom I used the toilet, but with the next contraction found myself lights out and on my toes, hands resting on the vanity with eyes closed and hips swaying back and forth as I focused on breathing through it. It seems my early labor took it very easy on me, but then things went from zero to sixty in no time at all. I’m sure our midwives were surprised when your dad called to tell them the show was on the road only minutes after my text that nothing was happening. Though I know it was over half an hour, it felt like only minutes before Jennifer arrived and was placing the Doppler on my stomach to check in on you.

Before long I left the hall bathroom and moved to the toilet in the bathroom off our bedroom. The lights were off and there were candles glowing and casting off a warm light. I stayed in the bathroom awhile rocking and swaying before stripping free from my clothing and finding my way to the birthing pool and the comfort of the warm water. As each contraction came I would breathe and moan through it, trying to let it wash over me and taking time to doze in and out of sleep while leaning on the edge of the pool between them. Such intense feelings came over me but I never once thought I couldn’t do it. I did hope you would make your way out quickly and for a bit of relief from that intensity, but all the while I welcomed the contractions with a “yes” and with my mantra, “you can do anything, you are so very strong”. All the while your dad was by my side, solid and strong, offering drinks and bites of food to me on occasion, though I didn’t feel much like eating. I spent a long time in the tub, getting out to use the bathroom once or twice, but quickly returning to that comforting space as soon as I could.

Things weren’t progressing all that much, probably due to just how comfortable the water is for your mama pregnant or not, so Jennifer and Dad helped me to our bed to try to help things along. I pushed on my back for some time with legs pulled back, but the pain in my back was so intense that I couldn’t do it for long and tried hands and knees, on my side and then a bit more on my back. Jennifer helped, massaging with olive oil in hopes of helping you past the cervical lip you were caught on for so very long. Slowly but surely we worked together and soon I could feel your head and with that felt a surge of strength to continue. Not having much luck on the bed we moved me down to a squatting position, with Dad behind me, holding me for support and that is where you and I did the last hard work to get you into my arms. I continued to push with each contraction, pushing through them for as long as I could and soon your head came out, followed not long after by your perfect little body. Suddenly the moment we had waited so long for was here and your blood and vernix covered body was being held tightly to my chest. It was 9:05 in the morning and after a long night of work, tears of happiness and relief filled my eyes. The first things I said were, “that’s a big baby!” and “I love you!” and both were true. We stayed there together in that small nook between our bed and bathroom before being assisted up to the bed where I held you, just me and you for over an hour, waiting for the placenta to come, soaking you in and with everyone else cleaning up around me, something I know happened but have no recollection of. With the placenta yet to be delivered, Jennifer prepared for Daddy to cut your umbilical cord and once he had, I placed you in his arms for the first time so I could be helped to the bathroom. His eyes instantly welled up as he held you close and you found comfort in his arms, resting quietly as I worked to deliver the placenta, something that happened a couple hours after your birth and with a bit of help from a couple drops of herbal tincture beneath my tongue. We looked at the placenta and you had your measurements taken and a little check up to see that you were healthy and strong, which you were, our 10lb 3oz girl at 22 ¼ inches long. Jennifer and Linsey helped get everything cleaned up and us all settled in for some rest and left toward home, leaving me feeling like a superhero and us all together as a family of three for the very first time.  Never before in my life had I felt so empowered, so strong, so capable in my own body. Thank you for this gift my sweetest girl.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Embrace Joy

Always one to welcome a fresh start, a clean slate, a fresh page in a notebook, it is no surprise that New Years is my favorite holiday. Others may not realize this as it goes on with little outward fanfare but I love the internal shift that happens as the year rolls over, the one that has passed is reflected on and dreams for the next one are set in place.

This past year has probably been the best one yet as I grew into myself and into my role as a mother. We settled in to having all of my family back in town, new not-ever-going-to-let-them-go friendships became firmly established, our second daughter began her life on the inside just before our first celebrated two years of life on the outside, my goal of 52 projects was surpassed, we began simplifying our home in a big way and I felt more like myself than I ever have before. Maybe it is because I spent so much of my twenties doing the hard work of mucking through my past and trying to arm myself with better tools for facing the future, maybe it is just time, but while many I know feel like they lost themselves since becoming a mother, I do not feel like that at all as in many ways I am just now finding myself, or the person I have always wanted to be and I owe much of that to allowing myself to dive in to creative projects this year.

My creativity is at a high and I have made more this year than I have in so many previous ones combined and throughout that process I have begun to find the person I know is hiding underneath the one riddled with fears of not being good enough and maybe that is because looking into my daughters eyes I can now realize that I am everything to her and perfect in her eyes. She does not see the doubts over my shoulder, the crooked stitches or the uneven lines, she sees me, projects in hand, heart full and mind challenged. She doesn't care about the supposed imperfections and in her not caring I have learned to let them go myself. I use those few rare hours we are apart to fill my hands with creativity and many of those together creating alongside her, exploring with her, enjoying each other in our perfect imperfection.

She often turns to me - some random object in hand - and asks, "mama make this?" even when I had no hand in it at all and it makes my face fill with a smile each and every time. I always hoped for my one-day children to grow up in a home full of creativity even when I was not tapping into my own and I can see it happening every day as she believes we can make and do anything and with each requests for a mama-made, each question of who made what, each smile as she picks out a bit of yarn or fabric fuel is thrown on my fire and I dive in again to keep the flames alive. 

So yes, this last year was one full of creativity, something I hope and believe I will now keep alive as long as I am, but in this new year my focus will shift a bit as we welcome our next daughter into our arms. One project has already been completed with a second close behind, but there will likely be many fewer than the year we just put to rest as my intention for the coming year is simply to "embrace joy". This means allowing myself to love and embrace our now calmer home, saying "yes" to our moon walks even when I am not dressed for them, holding my husband and my daughters close and coming to know them even more fully, letting the worries and doubts slip away and reflecting with gratitude every day.

This last year was a wonderful one, but at many times it was more full of more stress than I could handle in our home and still feel truly happy and like I was being the person I wanted to be. Things have changed now, my stress level and general mood are so drastically different now that I would barely believe it if I weren't living it and though the heartache is still here and this past month will haunt me for an amount of time I cannot know, I am free now. I am free to squeeze joy from everything that comes my way and truly embrace joy as we journey into 2015.