Summer Wrap Up

August 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm (Family, GOJ, MJ, Parenthood, PJ, WJ) ()

Every time someone asks my kids what they’ve been up to this summer, and this is a favorite question of adults to kids and other adults alike, my kids’ response is “Nothin'” and a shrugging of their shoulders.

I started the summer practicing, and really have always used, an “Embrace the Bored” parenting style. I don’t over schedule my kids (generally). And I don’t feel the need to prepare specific activities for home either. We have plenty of toys, plenty of yard, plenty of books, plenty of craft supplies. Go.

I have a box for our unfolded socks that is labeled “Are you bored? Fold socks.” Translation- don’t talk to me about nothing to do or I’ll find something for you to do. My kids know that mentioning boredom will get them either an instruction to do a chore, a recitation of my motto “Only boring people are bored”, or a lecture on how being bored is a privilege of the rich. Or all three.

Still, I know what irks me about them being ho-hum about their summer is that I wish we’d done more. There were days we lazed around and bickered all day, and I knew we’d be better off getting out, but just didn’t quite have it in me. In practice, “Embrace the Bored” seemed to lead to kids stretched out on couches, clearly bored, but smart enough not to say so. What do bored school-aged children tend to do, I found? Not find a great book to read, but pester various siblings until they find the sibling that yields the biggest reaction. The littlest one, interestingly, is happiest to occupy herself. You can usually find her at the kitchen table, drawing.

I can’t say I’m ready to give up “Embrace the Bored”. I’m not sure why there was not much taking up of interesting projects or play this summer. Perhaps that’s just my point of view. Maybe there was internal processing going on that will bear fruit later, during those hours sprawled on the couch, repeatedly and unfruitfully asking for more screen time (my rule was an hour after your morning chore was done, no more until Dad gets home and we may decide to watch something as a family, may not).

I do wish I’d arranged a few more get-togethers with some of the boys’ school friends. They did play nearly daily with their neighborhood friends. That may have gone a long way to feeling “fun”, more than anything you can pay to go see. But arranging such things is not really my forte, and I was also looking for a job all summer. So I was trying not to commit to anything too far out, such as a camp they could have done with friends. We mostly did family day trips. Even then, some of us like to leave the house more than others. The same kids that complain we didn’t do much this summer have to be dragged out of the house more often than not.

At any rate, all these Nothin’ replies and my usual self-criticism had me feeling some major Mama-guilt about their summer. So I made a list*. Turns out, it wasn’t Nothin’. I had a lot of fun at some of these activities, and I believe the rest of the family did too. Maybe it’s just that the older kids get, the less they know how to do Enthusiastic well. Teenagers are not known for their enthusiasm. Maybe we should have done much less and we’d have gotten over the Bored hump. Maybe many things. My conclusion after some reflection is that we tried to do some fun things, and you win some you lose some. They can choose to believe they had an awesome summer, and they can choose to believe it sucked. Like all things, I can’t control what anybody else thinks.

I will show them this list, though, so in case their teacher asked, they might have something to say. ūüôā

*Here, for the record, so you don’t believe what you hear from my kids, is

What We Did This Summer (June – August 2014)

Charter boat fishing off Westport for salmon (SUCCESS!)
Set up, played in, and maintained our 18 ft above-ground pool
Hosted my Aunt Elly and cousin Chris (in his twenties and therefore way cool for all of my kids) visiting from Alaska
Celebrated my Grandpa John’s 90th birthday camping in Corvallis, OR
Returned two weeks later to celebrate his life in memorium
Visited the Flying Heritage Museum three times, including their annual air show and the last flight of the White Knight)
Bought and lit fireworks for the first time
Visited my parents’ home in Port Angeles
Hiked to Marymere Falls
Had Date Night at Diamond Knot Brewery
Attended gymnastics classes
Backpacked up the Elwha River
Camped with family friends at Flowing Lake- canoed, fished, tubed, and attempted waterskiing
Played at Wild Waves
Celebrated Willa’s 4th birthday at Birch Bay Waterpark
Petted animals, ate junk food, rode ponies, and watched the Logger Show at the Evergreen State Fair
Boated with cousins on Lake Sammamish
Celebrated Father’s Day with a ferry ride and drive to Point No Point Lighthouse- fished
Toured Whidbey Island, visiting the Coupeville Arts Festival and toured Fort Casey bunkers and lighthouse
Hosted and attended several bbqs with friends
Hosted a family party for Willa’s 4th birthday
Attended a Glow Birthday Party at Jump Planet
Played at Auntie Laura’s house on Lake Jane twice- kayaked, swam the lake and in her neighborhood pool
Visited the library at least once a week
Swam at Rattlesnake Lake
Loaded and emptied the dishwasher ~130 times
Shopped for, fixed, and consumed ~360 meals and snacks
Dirtied, washed, sorted, and folded ~180 loads of laundry
Read at least one full book geared for adults
Read many many books geared for children
Climbed to the top of Guemes Island with friends
Celebrated Backwards Day
Swam at Lake Washington with cousins at least twice
Caught our first crab
Camped at Blue Mountain with Dad’s co-worker and son
Went to the Fremont Solstice Festival
Played at Edmonds Beach a couple times
Watched the Bothell Fourth of July Parade
Flew to San Diego for a job interview
Swam at McCollum Pool
Spent a couple days watching our road get repaved
Replaced electrical cables in Mark’s truck and got it running again (both boys helped)
Had friends over and played in the pool and Xbox (many times)
Attended eight doctors visits (caught up on all the check-ups and multiple specialist)
Attended three dentist visits (Holy Cavities!)

Permalink Leave a Comment

8:43 am

August 6, 2014 at 4:27 pm (Family, Parenthood, WJ) ()

Republished in honor of World Breastfeeding Week

A Breastfeeding Story
(with plenty of other trivialities mixed in)

The three older children have just left.¬† I am rain-drenched from going outside in a T-shirt and yesterday’s flats to help load them and their three carseats and three backpacks and buckle them in.¬† No, scratch that.¬† I watched my friend buckle them in her car while I distracted her by asking questions about her weekend.

My bi-weekly gift of three hours alone with four months-old Willa has begun.  First, pick her up and ask her what we should do first. 

Coffee, she says!¬† I pour a cup of the pot Mark brewed at 5am and set the microwave for 44 seconds.¬† I am no coffee snob.¬† What to do while we wait… (because I am so neurotic about efficiency I couldn’t possibly just stand there and talk to Willa- which is how I end up completely scatter-brained and inefficient)… laundry!¬†

Move clothes into the dryer, taking care not to drop them in the cat’s water dish like I always do.¬† Put muddy clothes from Saturday’s rainy park outings into soak.¬† Notice Willa in her bouncy seat is chowing down on her hand.

Yo ho, are you ready for a nap already?¬† Clearly you are hungry, but are you tired also?¬† Not so much looking like it, but let’s try for it anyway.¬† Mama’s got things to do.¬† Three hours, three hours!

Go upstairs.¬†¬†¬†Hmm, the bed is stripped.¬† Because, like I always do, I left Willa naked there this morning, thinking I’m sure she won’t pee this time.¬† And like she always does (and every other baby, and I know this and choose to ignore), she peed.¬† Find some baby blankets, and we lay down.¬† Oh, and find my cell phone.

It’s a source of pleasure and guilt.¬† I often (okay, usually) put Willa down with my cell as amusement.¬† Check email, check Facebook, check blog reader.¬† A triplet of websites each time.¬† It makes nursing even more enjoyable.¬† What’s not to love about lying in my comfy bed, with a warm cuddly baby, reading amusing anecdotes?¬† And if I can hear Mark¬†outside the bedroom taking care of a screaming¬†three-year old¬†and It just took a little longer than usual to get Willa down, honey, well, so¬†be it.¬† (We’ll see if he gets around to reading this post.)¬† I do worry I’m making Willa believe she’s not worthy of my attention, though.¬† Like I should stare at her beautiful baby face and sing her to sleep every time, not just sometimes.¬† My own little Mommy-guilt dilemma that I bash myself with multiple times a day.¬† I know I’m a nutball, I know.

We lay* down.  I twist her to her side.  She grins at me.

I’ve always been a big side-lying nurser.¬† I like it for being able to leave without disturbing the baby after she falls asleep.¬† I know moms that never master it, which I cannot fathom.¬† It’s so useful.¬† Try it, really, you’ll like it.¬† (Disclaimer:¬†¬†You do not?¬† Okay, do what you like!¬† I’m not saying not side-lying nursing makes you a bad mother.¬† Or not nursing at all!¬† Or not having children at all!¬† Though if you don’t, you probably stopped at the words A Breastfeeding Story.¬† Okay then.)¬† And it’s easier on your wrists/arms.

She whimpers in her sweet Willa way as I adjust pillows and shirts and blankets.¬† Letting me know she truly is hungry.¬† Good, we’ve timed it right.¬† She’s not full-on crying, so I also know she’s not starving.

She latches on easily, begins gulping.¬† Greta asked me the other day why Willa sounds like a pig when she nurses.¬† I suppose she does, a little.¬† At least she sounds like what I imagine pigs to sound like, because I can’t say I’ve spent much time among real live ones.

I launch Google Reader.¬† The light from the phone draws Willa’s attention.¬† I move¬†a pillow between it and her face.

Her left arm flails around until it finds my right thumb.  The (second) connection Willa-required for nursing and sleep.  Her grasp seems to me a loving hug.  I need you, Mama.  Not just for food but for tender touch.  I am happy to lose my texting thumb to her.

Her eyes close quickly.  I have always loved the early morning nap that babies seem to take just after breakfast.  Sleep seems to come easily at 9am, and not always so easily at 2pm for that afternoon nap.  Time passes.  A belly fills, a social media fix sated.  A content smile on two faces.  Or perhaps mine is more an amused smile, and hers a content smile, or as much of one as a nursing baby can manage with a nipple in her mouth.

Time to get up and work around the house spend too much time writing a blog entry.  I let her hand go, and it does not flail.  A sure sign she is asleep.  I release my breast from the gentle sucking she has continued.  Ease her to her back.  Her hand immediately and desperately searches her face.  Thumb finds mouth, mouth sucks vigorously.  Fingers fan above.  The sucking quickly slows.  She is fully asleep.

I tiptoe downstairs, remembering my cold coffee still in the microwave, in love with my baby Willa Apple Merigold.

20140806-093055-34255163.jpgthe only side-lying nursing photo I have, six years pre-Willa

*lay/lie? Enlighten me if you know!

Permalink Leave a Comment

May- Heather’s Brain Download

May 30, 2011 at 8:13 pm (AJ, Family, MJ, PJ, Twins, WJ) (, )

May is always crazy busy in the JaRuud household.¬† Three birthdays and Mother’s Day, all with requisite multiple celebrations, meals, present purchasing and opening, card making, and general merriment.¬† Add this year our life shift to me working again, and it’s a wonder I’ve made it through with a smile on my face.

We went camping this weekend near Blewett Pass.¬† I went late and left early, leaving truly 90% of the camping work to Mark.¬† I wouldn’t feel comfortable sticking him with that all the time, but it was really¬†nice to arrive to camp with a tent set up and leave this morning (to go to work) with only my clothing bag and no kids.¬†

People keep giving me sad looks when I tell them I have to work on Sundays.  (So far anyway) I feel no such dissapointment.  Case in point: on weekdays I get up at 5:45, spend over two hours getting myself and four kids ready to leave, and drive an hour to drop off kids at three different places.  Today, I was able to rise a full hour later, 100 miles away from work, and still arrive at the exact same time.  And then I just work four hours.

I tried to get Willa to sleep for a nap and bedtime yesterday in a tent.¬† Her apparent reaction:¬† “Mama, what the hell-¬†what is this place?¬† Where’s my bed?¬† Why is it cold?¬† Why is it light out?¬† You think I’m going to sleep here?¬† Uh unh, no way, no how.”¬† I’d nurse her and nurse her but she’d startle awake when I tried to stop no matter how asleep she’d seemed.¬† I wasn’t successful until I put her in her familiar carseat.¬† My theory- with my others, especially the boys, I always nursed them to sleep and we traveled with them all over carnation.¬† They never cared as long as they had me.¬† Willa hasn’t nursed to sleep in quite some time.¬† She hasn’t seemed to need it, and sadly, I’m just always needed elsewhere.¬† She nurses and then I leave her awake, and if she’s sleepy, she’s asleep in minutes.¬† But this means, she’s less attached to me and more attached to her own bed.¬† It makes me a little sad.¬† I’m going to tell myself it’s just who she is and try to lay off the mama guilt that I can’t do as much for my fourth child as my firsts.

I’m just happy to nurse her at all.¬† Last weekend, from Friday through Tuesday, she went on a nursing strike.¬† SOOOOO¬†not fun.¬† I felt like I was a first time mama with a¬†newborn again, which no confidence we would ever get the breastfeeding down.¬† No sleep from trying to nurse, getting bitten, and then pumping at all hours of the night.¬† Without the help that often comes with having a new baby.¬† No, instead, I was trying to juggle a family birthday party and full time¬†work and houseguests¬†and… and… and.¬† Yes, I’m fully aware all of this may have actually caused said nursing strike.¬† It turns out I had all the right instincts about what to try, and she¬†finally came around just after I took her to the doctor and determined she was medically fine, no ear infection or other problem readily apparent.¬† Same logic applies as that this weekend we put up tarps to (successfully) avoid it raining.

What I wanted, during the nursing strike, was somebody to understand my plight.¬† Mark was helpful and fed Willa bottles when I was frustrated, but he didn’t seem to get how awful it was making me feel to keep offering such a sensitive (physically and emotionally) part of me and getting rejected.¬† He kept saying “Poor Willa” and I wanted somebody to say “Poor Heather!”¬† Actually my mom did and I’m grateful for that, but I was a wreck; I seemed to need it hourly.¬† I have treasured the “extended” nursing the other three and I have shared, and I was NOT going to give up easily.¬† My naturopath actually told me “at ten months, maybe she’s done with the boob.”¬† Numerous books and google searches will tell you, a baby will almost never self-wean before 18 to 24 months.¬† I honestly wonder if I should be thinking about switching doctors… is that crazy of me?¬† It was just such a blatantly false piece of information, and I’m glad I didn’t trust it.

Friday before camping was the boys’ “friend” party.¬† For the first time, we forked over the cash to have it outside¬†our house.¬† It was a fun, but I’m not sure if it was truly worth the money.¬† It doesn’t feel like we created the memories that we have past years at home.¬† Though the boys came home happy, neither has mentioned a word about it since.¬† Yes, we had more kids than we would’ve at home, but other than that… I think maybe next time if I want to spend money on a party I’ll use it for a house cleaner beforehand.¬† Or afterward!¬† But check out the giant squid cake we made!¬† (I have many more birthday pictures but I can’t find the cord to download them.¬† Grrrr.)
Squid cake

Yes, our cake “plate” is a Rubbermaid bin lid.¬† And yes, I’m well aware it is a major phallic symbol.¬†

For their birthday, their class made them “birthday books”, with well wishes and what-I-like-about-you’s¬†from each classmate.¬† Two of Auden’s gave me pause-¬†“What I like about you is that your brother is Parker.”¬† “You are lucky to have Parker as your twin.”¬† While I agree with the latter, it makes me worry a little about their twinship¬†and being in the same class.¬† (In their current program they have to be in the same class.)¬† It’s wonderful to have somebody to do the things you don’t know how to do, but it can’t last forever.¬† Right now Auden reads for Parker and Parker makes friends for Auden.¬† It’s been fascinating to watch… my own personal twin study.¬† (I know it’s not really a study with an n of one-¬†just anecdotal.)

How glad am I that I have another day to savor before we all go back to school and work?  Very!

 

Permalink 3 Comments

8:43 am

November 15, 2010 at 11:40 pm (WJ) (, , )

A Breastfeeding Story (with plenty of other trivialities mixed in)

The three older children have just left.¬† I am rain-drenched from going outside in a T-shirt and yesterday’s flats to help load them and their three carseats and three backpacks and buckle them in.¬† No, scratch that.¬† I watched my friend buckle them in her car while I distracted her by asking questions about her weekend.

My bi-weekly gift of three hours with (four months old yesterday- what happened?!?) Willa alone has begun.  First, pick her up and ask her what we should do first. 

Coffee, she says!¬† I pour a cup of the pot Mark brewed at 5am and set the microwave for 44 seconds.¬† I am no coffee snob.¬† What to do while we wait… (because I am so neurotic about efficiency I couldn’t possibly just stand there and talk to Willa- which is how I end up completely scatter-brained and inefficient)… laundry!¬†

Move clothes into the dryer, taking care not to drop them in the cat’s water dish like I always do.¬† Put muddy clothes from Saturday’s rainy park outings into soak.¬† Notice Willa in her bouncy seat is chowing down on her hand.

Yo ho, are you ready for a nap already?¬† Clearly you are hungry, but are you tired also?¬† Not so much looking like it, but let’s try for it anyway.¬† Mama’s got things to do.¬† Three hours, three hours!

Go upstairs.¬†¬†¬†Hmm, the bed is stripped.¬† Because, like I always do, I left Willa naked there this morning, thinking I’m sure she won’t pee this time.¬† And like she always does (and every other baby, and I know this and choose to ignore), she peed.¬† Find some baby blankets, and we lay down.¬† Oh, and find my cell phone.

It’s a source of pleasure and guilt.¬† I often (okay, usually) put Willa down with my cell as amusement.¬† Check email, check Facebook, check blog reader.¬† A triplet of websites each time.¬† It makes nursing even more enjoyable.¬† What’s not to love about lying in my comfy bed, with a warm cuddly baby, reading amusing anecdotes?¬† And if I can hear Mark¬†outside the bedroom taking care of a screaming¬†three-year old¬†and It just took a little longer than usual to get Willa down, honey, well, so¬†be it.¬† (We’ll see if he gets around to reading this post.)¬† I do worry I’m making Willa believe she’s not worthy of my attention, though.¬† Like I should stare at her beautiful baby face and sing her to sleep every time, not just sometimes.¬† My own little Mommy-guilt dilemma that I bash myself with multiple times a day.¬† I know I’m a nutball, I know.

So we lay down.  (If you find a mistake in the lay/lie grammar, please alert me.  Most of those grammar rules come easily to me, but for some reason this one causes me trouble.)  I twist her to her side.  She grins at me.

I’ve always been a big side-lying nurser.¬† I like it for being able to leave without disturbing the baby after she falls asleep.¬† I know moms that never master it, which I cannot fathom.¬† It’s so useful.¬† Try it, really, you’ll like it.¬† (Disclaimer:¬†¬†You do not?¬† Okay, do what you like!¬† I’m not saying not side-lying nursing makes you a bad mother.¬† Or not nursing at all!¬† Or not having children at all!¬† Though if you don’t, you probably stopped at the words A Breastfeeding Story.¬† Okay then.)¬† And it’s easier on your wrists/arms.

She whimpers in her sweet Willa way as I adjust pillows and shirts and blankets.¬† Letting me know she truly is hungry.¬† Good, we’ve timed it right.¬† She’s not full-on crying, so I also know she’s not starving.

She latches on easily, begins gulping.¬† Greta asked me the other day why Willa sounds like a pig when she nurses.¬† I suppose she does, a little.¬† At least she sounds like what I imagine pigs to sound like, because I can’t say I’ve spent much time among real live ones.

I launch Google Reader.¬† The light from the phone draws Willa’s attention.¬† I move¬†a pillow between it and her face.

Her left arm flails around until it finds my right thumb.  The (second) connection Willa-required for nursing and sleep.  Her grasp seems to me a loving hug.  I need you, Mama.  Not just for food but for tender touch.  I am happy to lose my texting thumb to her.

Her eyes close quickly.  I have always loved the early morning nap that babies seem to take just after breakfast.  Sleep seems to come easily at 9am, and not always so easily at 2pm for that afternoon nap.  Time passes.  A belly fills, an amusing blog is read.  A content smile on two faces.  Or perhaps mine is more an amused smile, and hers a content smile, or as much of one as a nursing baby can mange with a nipple in her mouth.

Time to get up and work around the house spend too much time writing a blog entry.  I let her hand go, and it does not flail.  A sure sign she is asleep.  I release my breast from the gentle sucking she has continued.  Ease her to her back.  Her hand immediately and desperately searches her face.  Thumb finds mouth, mouth sucks vigorously.  Fingers fan above.  The sucking quickly slows.  She is fully asleep.

I tiptoe downstairs, remembering my cold coffee still in the microwave, in love with my baby Willa Apple Merigold.

Permalink 3 Comments

Halloween Anecdotes

November 2, 2010 at 4:49 am (AJ, Family, GOJ, PJ, Running, WJ)

Halloween magically went off without a hitch this year.¬† No fights about eating too much candy, no costume disasters.¬† The worst thing that happened was Greta tripping while trick-or-treating, trying to keep up with her brothers and friends, who were running from house to house.¬† Hopefully the magic of Halloween will spill over into the magic of Thanksgiving and the magic of Christmas, rather than meaning we’ve used up our one good holiday of the year and Christmas will suck.

I almost thought I ruined it.¬† Meaning to fill them up on nutritious food prior to the candy, we prepared noodles, chicken, and sweet potato fries for dinner.¬† The noodles and chicken, at least, are one of the very few sure-fire eats for Greta and Auden.¬† Halloween night, though, Greta refused all of it.¬† Plain noodles, are you kidding me?¬† What’s objectionable about that?¬† I generally don’t believe in food ultimatums, but I made one.¬† “If you don’t eat a bite of sweet potato, you can’t eat any candy tonight.”¬†¬†¬†

It was time to leave, and she wasn’t going to budge.

I couldn’t figure out how in the hell I was going to stay true to my word and not have a tantruming 3-year-old on my hands.¬†¬†Before I could think of an exit strategy, we were on our way.¬† Keeping her from eating candy while hurrying from house to house was easy.¬† Time passed quickly; two hours later we arrived at home.¬† I reminded her that she could have candy tomorrow after she’d had better nutrition.¬† And her reply?¬† OK Mom.¬† What?¬† Seriously?¬† Hallelujah!¬† She went easily to bed, with me in disbelief putting her down.

How cute is this girl?
Peas!

The Friday before I brought the girls to the Halloween party at Auden and Parker’s school.¬† They didn’t even load them up with cookies and candy.
Lots of fun Happy Halloween!

That night, the high school cross country team held a Pumpkin Run.  Nothing like candy to motivate kids to run.  Parker was just sure he was going to win a trophy.  I was doubtful.  Thankfully he was happy with a ribbon and three pieces of candy.
Nothing like candy to entice kids to run

I have recently become aware that I have failed in teaching my children how to pose for photographs.
It

This morning, November 1st, Parker says to me, “Let’s light the jack-o-lanterns again tonight. Then, tomorrow, let’s put up the Christmas tree. I just love celebrating the Holidays!”

Permalink 1 Comment

A Camping Alphabet Post

September 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm (AJ, Family, GOJ, MJ, PJ, School, WJ)

I’m the volunteer¬†“librarian” in Auden and Parker’s class.¬† Last week’s theme was alphabet books, which inspired this post on this weekend’s camping trip with Auden and Parker’s school.

A is for Auden, my favorite babysitter for Willa.¬† He’ll willingly sit next to her while I do things like go to the restroom or fetch water.

B is for Bailey’s, what I’m drinking in my coffee this morning to recover.

C is for coffee.  Which I needed Saturday morning and did not ever get.

D is for downpour, of the long-lasting kind.

E is for eagle, an animal our family is constantly on the lookout for.¬† It’s actually pretty amazing how often we can spy a bald eagle around here.¬† Me, I forget to look up, but the generally boys have less to pull their eyes downward.¬† Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

F is for fort, that the boys and friends had ever so much fun making.  Bonus for mom is the exhaustion that carrying huge driftwood logs all day entails.

G is for Greta, a girl of her own mind.¬† You know how you see moms walking away from their children, saying, “OK, I’m going now,” and the kid eventually runs to catch up?¬† This does not work with Miss G.¬† I can get out-of-sight a hundred feet away, peek to look back,¬†and Greta¬†is still¬†squatting to look at rocks, completely unconcerned for her safety.

H is for Heather has a Headache.¬† When the sun appeared at noon, we were beachcombing with no sunglasses or hats.¬† Within an hour, I had a headache from squinting.¬† Within another hour, I had a really bad headache and was dragging four children back to the campsite so I could puke in the bushes in peace.¬† I certainly have experience with the combo of camping and throwing up, but it’s supposed to also involve whiskey and a rocking good night beforehand.

I is for insane, my mental state when I agreed Mark should go down to the Husky-Nebraska game from the camping spot.¬† Had I calculated between tail-gating, driving, traffic, and the game itself I’d be left alone for EIGHT hours with four kids of widely varying interests and walking speeds, I would not have said “Oh sure, honey, you’ve wanted to go to a game forever.”¬† Or more realistically, as he really has wanted to go forever, we would not have gone camping.

J is for just barely, the way I held it together.

K is for Krispy¬†Treats, our contribution to Saturday night’s potluck.¬† (Parker’s contribution- I couldn’t think of K.)

L is for living room, where we had our cosy fire on Saturday night.

M is for Mark, who was a sight for sore eyes when he returned from the game.¬† How grateful I was at that moment that I am not a single mom.¬† Sometimes I love my husband because he’s my Man, sometimes I love him because he’s¬†Help. Picture “Oh, Help” as¬†asked for¬†by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

N is for new friends.  All the craziness was worth watching my boys develop friendships with kids they will know for years to come.  And I met some very nice parents, also, although I had to get past my anxiety that they were all wondering what in the world I was doing there with four children by myself and beholden to their help.

O is for Oreo.  What is a mother to do to contain her four children while she vomits?  Give them Oreos in the tent!  Crumbs be damned!

P is for Parker.¬† Parker, who loves life to its fullest, then crumples and still needs his Mama’s fullest attention.

Q is for quit, which is what we did Saturday evening.  I have never made the decision to come home a day early from camping, but in this case- best decision EVER.

R is for Ranger Dave.  A very nice guy invited to give an instructional beach walk.  What happened instead, however, was a sit-quietly-at-a-picnic-table-listen-to-me-ramble.  My children were not amused.  School on a Saturday?  Too much to ask.

S is for Survivor Games, which Parker played with fifty other kids from his school.

T is for tent.  Thank goodness for rain flies.

U is for Urine.¬† Middle-of-the-night urine in sleeping bags, daytime urine puddling in shoes.¬† Urine, urine, urine.¬† Greta did not once use the actual campground bathrooms the entire time we were there, if that’s any indication of the clothing changes we had.¬† Though I’ve considered her potty trained since last January, I finally put her in a pull-up around the time I started throwing up.

V is for van.  A mini van is to be celebrated when packing up camp in the dark rain can be done by throwing it all in the back without rolling a camp pad or stuffing a bag.

W is for Willa, my sweet sweet easy baby.  Oh my goodness how I love this little (big!) bundle of fleece in my lap!

X is for the pedestrian X-Ray, which we did not need to examine the fish spines we found on the beach.

Y is for yurt, which we were not staying in, unlike many of the families.  But now we know how to spell it!

Z is for the zealous love that I feel for this camping family of mine.

Permalink Leave a Comment

My childhood friend, Laura Ingalls

August 29, 2010 at 12:34 am (Family, Parenthood, WJ) (, , )

laura ingalls

In an effort to spare Willa from¬†sharing her sibling’s¬†frustrations¬†in navigating through¬†their¬†third year¬†with little spoken language, I’m on a campaign to jabber incessantly to Willa from birth. I have no proof this will help, but it can’t hurt.¬† Seems like¬†the worst thing that could happen is¬†creating a non-stop chatterbug with a big vocab.¬†¬†Not having had one, I find those kids unbearably cute.¬† Words spoken in conversation¬†seem more likely to hardwire the brain’s language synapses (though I have done no actual research on about how people learn to speak).¬† But again in the philosophy of “the more, the better”, and since I¬†like to do it, I’ve been reading to Willa while she nurses to sleep.

All four other family members have separately walked in on the two of us, cuddling and¬†reading, and expressed wonder about who I’m reading to.¬† The answer seemed obvious to me. I know I’m far from the first person to come up with this idea.

I decided to start with the Little House books, since they have simple language, good for my purpose. And I had wanted to check out their suitability for read-alouds to the older kids.¬† Laura Ingalls and I¬†have a long history. They were the first chapter books I read myself, and pretty much the beginning of my life as a bookworm.¬†¬†My parents listened when I suggested “Laura” as the name for my baby sister, so that shows the degree we¬†enjoyed her books!¬† I have a distinct memory of wanting to know what happened next with Laura, but also wanting to participate in recess activities with my classmates. I solved the problem by turning jump rope while reading.¬† Talk about nerdy!¬† Picture me with my oversized brown plastic-framed glasses and my straight bangs with a perm in back, and you’ll get the full nerdy effect.¬†¬†This is still kinda how I interact socially in large groups.¬† I want to watch and feel involved without actually talking.

Growing up I read the whole series¬†Little House series every year or two when I’d run out of other material.¬† My copies are dog-eared and pages are falling out.¬† These days I’ve been known to start a book, only to discover a chapter into it that hmmm, I think I’ve read this before.¬† Unlike now, every passage of this series is comfortingly familiar.¬† But I last visited the Big Woods over a decade ago.¬† I hadn’t quite realized how many of the themes I now disagree with, or how profoundly some of these negative¬†themes had been ingrained into my thought processes and affected my life.

In the first few chapters, different characters get a good thrashing, their jackets tanned, and a spanking.¬† [Is there a difference?- I don’t want to know.]¬† It’s hard to argue that physical punishment wasn’t effective in keeping children “in their place”- safe, helpful, and¬†undisruptive to adults.¬† It’s not the method most parents I know use today, though,¬†and makes me cringe.¬†

On the other hand, from a mother’s perspective I am a bit envious of how nicely behaved Laura and Mary seem.¬† One day, they have been traveling by covered wagon all day (no DVD player, folks!) and Laura (understandably) says “I want to camp now!¬† I’m so tired.”¬† All Ma has to do is say “Laura” and the whining stops.¬† I can tell you, I wish I had that power over my kids.¬† “She did not complain any more out loud, but she was still naughty, inside.¬† She sat and thought complaints to herself.”¬† My whole family would be better off if we complained only to ourselves, I think!

I had a therapist ask me once if I was Catholic, because I have that famous Catholic sense of guilt.¬† No, I’m not.¬† But I can still find a way to find guilty about just about any action.¬† I honestly think my natural proclivity to guilt was enhanced by adopting Laura’s guiltiness, after reading her so often.¬†¬†¬† Poor Laura is chided for being greedy after she spends a happy day collecting so many pebbles by a river that she rips her pockets.¬† Today most parents would be carrying the pebbles for the child.¬† She spends the ride home feeling shame at not being “good and sweet” like her sister Mary.¬† Laura is a fun-loving wild girl, the one I’d choose to play with.¬† But she spends a good deal of her life feeling guilty for who she is- her very nature.¬† She wishes she was different- less “naughty”, not brown-haired, more ladylike.¬† She is¬†a human case of nature vs. nurture- a constant internal struggle between her¬†innate tomboy nature and¬†her¬†upbringing by a strict schoolmarm.¬† A child like Laura today would have adults worried about her low self-esteem.¬† I recall wanting to slap good little Mary myself, reading as a kid.¬† Now I just want to give¬†Laura a hug.¬† Motherhood gives a different perspective.

I have no problem modifying younger children’s books as I see fit.¬†¬†I usually read Mommy as Mama, for instance, because that’s what I like them to call me.¬† And I often read only the first sentence on a page with more, if it’s more consistent with the child’s attention span- or my tiredness level!¬† But “chapter books” seem sacred.¬† Can I really just edit them as I see fit?¬† First of all,¬†my boys are¬†getting close to literate enough to notice.¬† Certainly if I skip a whole passage.¬† But it’s more than that.¬† It’s not my writing.¬† To edit is to tamper with the author’s intent.¬† If I omit reading the admonishment that it’s shameful to cry, is that akin to putting underwear on David?¬† Some ideas present themselves as good opportunities for historical discussion.¬† Why Ma says she hates the Indians, for instance.¬† The Little House books have more ideas that need further explanation than I remembered.

When I began re-reading them, I thought I might forego reading them aloud.¬† After settling in, I know I won’t.¬† They contain more good than bad.¬† Throughout the extreme hardship of pioneer life, she conveys a simple contented happiness that I still long for.¬† They work hard,¬†then play the fiddle.¬† They¬†love each other.¬† And, if I ever need to make a door solely out of oak and leather, I’m set.

I can’t resist quoting this to end:

“They were all happy that night.¬† The fire on the hearth was pleasant, for on the High Prairie even the summer nights were cool.¬† The red-checked cloth was on the table, the little china woman glimmered on the mantel-shelf, and the new floor was golden in the flickering firelight.¬† Outside, the night was large and full of stars.¬† Pa sat for a long time in the doorway and played his fiddle and sang to Ma and Mary and Laura in the house and to the starry night outside.”

Now who can resist spending a moment putting oneself in that idyllic space?¬† Even if washing clothes in a tub and butchering a hog isn’t your cup of tea.¬† And now, back to Memphis Beat

Permalink 3 Comments

a beachy ten things

August 28, 2010 at 6:39 pm (Family, GOJ, WJ) (, , )

Inspired by SouleMama, ten things that are bringing me great joy right now:

◊ this weather: partly sunny, highs in the upper sixties

◊ Car Talk

◊ twenty-four hours alone with my girls

‚óä observing the last minutes of Willa’s night sleep, as often as I can.¬† She stretches her tightly-closed¬†fists as high as they will go.¬† Which,¬†in a baby-proportioned body, is an inch or so above her head.¬† She wiggles her head side-to-side.¬† Finally one eyelid parts slightly.¬† “Oh, you’re here”, she seems to think.¬† “Hi Mama.”¬† Both eyes open slowly and she starts to coo.¬† Telling me her thoughts.

‚óä an almost-three-year-old girl whose language is blossoming.¬† “Sorry” has finally entered her vocab!

◊ the independent spirit of that same three-year old.  This is where she spent most of our last beach trip, off by herself, enjoying the sand.
The old and the young at the water

‚óä my brother-in-law Justin, an awesome uncle.¬† The only adult in our family willing to brave the Pacific Ocean above his shins…
It takes dedicated swimmers

…and throw a few boys around.
Uncle Justin is a great uncle

‚óä the success of my latest I-need-some-help-around-here plan.¬† I (un)imaginatively call it Half Hour of Work.¬† Every day my six-year¬†olds and I set a timer and choose jobs off a post-it list until it beeps.¬† Then we do something fun.¬† Before-hand I’ve gone around and determined what things need doing that are six-year-old¬†appropriate.¬† It is A-MA-ZING how much we can get done.¬† Thursday, for instance, the entire downstairs was picked up and vacuumed, clean laundry was hauled upstairs for folding, a couple of weeks¬†worth of socks were matched, and the dishwasher was un-¬†and re-loaded.¬† More importantly than the actual work is the improved moods all around.¬† You’d think they’d grumble, and they do, a little (and in one instance a LOT).¬† But it has ended up improving everybody’s day immensely.¬† I feel supported, and more able to devote fun¬†time to them afterwards.¬† Their¬†moods have improved and even fighting has decreased.¬† I know they like the attention afterwards and that’s most of the change.¬† But I think deep down (perhaps waaay¬†deep down) they like the feeling of having done a job that helps the family.¬† I had expected the physical result of a cleaner house but I seriously had no idea how much it would affect family relations.

◊ knitting again (I wonder for who?)
Apple blanket

‚óä Shutterfly and the completion of a family memorabilia project I’ve been working (ok, postponing) for close to two years.¬† Haven’t seen the finished product yet but I have high hopes.

Permalink Leave a Comment

ten things + 1 about Willa‚Äôs birth

July 21, 2010 at 3:51 am (Family, WJ) ()

In absence of the time* and mental distance to finish an organized birth story yet, here instead is a list of

{ten memories/thoughts from the night of Willa’s birth that bring me great joy right now}

All day sleeper

– Holding Mark’s hands with every contraction.¬† I needed an anchor, and he was it.¬† He later remarked he was glad I wanted that, as it was something he could do without having to say something that he¬†worried might be “wrong”.¬† I know some women complain later about what their husbands said.¬† I can’t think of a single thing said by¬†my loved ones¬†that could remotely have been construed as “wrong” or annoying to me.

– Discussing between contractions why the date of her birthday ended up¬†just right.¬† Every day in early July I knew someone with a birthday that I thought she might share.¬† Around 6pm every day I’d think “I guess she’s not sharing so-and-so’s birthday”.¬† As much as I wanted to go into labor every day, especially that Tuesday, I wasn’t in love with the 13th for a birthday.¬† I’m not really superstitious, but the 14th is so much better.¬† It’s the birthday of¬†two of Greta’s special PEPS friends, one whose lovely, homebirth-supportive mama Jessica was photographing the birth.¬† And easy to remember, as my own birthday is the 14th in a different month.¬† As we neared midnight, I wanted it to end SOON.¬†¬†The thought that it was better for it to take sixty more minutes¬†carried me though the 11 o’clock hour.¬† That transition hour seemed LONG.¬† Like hours and hours.¬† I could see the clock above my head.¬† I’d look after what seemed like an hour and it would be five minutes.¬† After midnight, I was oblivious to the time.

РThis probably comes from the crazy mental state of labor.  When my water finally broke during pushing, speckles of vernix floated to the top of the birth tub.  Against the soft light of the room they appeared to magically sparkle.  What a change from all my other births in which the water broke with meconium, and thus worry, about the baby(ies).

– Knowing (later) that my sister Alison read my birth plan and followed it by lighting candles around the room.¬† Now, it’s true I didn’t really see them at the time.¬† The diameter of a birthing mother’s circle of sight is so incredibly small, especially if she isn’t given a reason (intervening people or circumstances) to widen it.¬† I¬†did notice the smell of them unconsciously.¬† I was incredibly touched that she honored my wishes.¬† I know she felt a little like she wasn’t sure how to help.¬† But I was so happy she was there.

– When¬†the baby who would soon be named Willa¬†came out, someone put a towel over her right away.¬† As soon as I saw her, I thought “Greta” and just knew she was a girl.¬† Someone mentioned we should check the sex.¬† I wasn’t yet ready to move a muscle and quickly refused.¬†You know¬†when you fall and land hard and¬†you’re not quite ready to move and see if all is intact? ¬†Both Alison and Mark thought I was refusing because I didn’t want to know.¬† I already knew!¬† They both said they were going crazy not knowing.¬† I’m not sure really how long it was, maybe only one minute, maybe five, before I peeked and confirmed for everybody what I knew.¬† A second daughter, evening out and completing our wonderful family.

– The people there (Mark, midwife and two students, doula, sister Alison, photographer Jessica) have uniformly described me as strong and/or powerful.¬† While I might brush off these descriptions by asking, “You mean screaming at the top of my lungs and uncontrollably swearing?”, I’m going to choose to¬†remember the powerful feelings as strength in getting through it, rather than that it felt out of control at times.¬†¬†In light of the fact I was pushing out an almost ten pound baby and all.¬† I watched the couple videos Mark took of me pushing.¬† They’re pretty dark, but it was the sound I wanted anyway.¬† I’m loud, but maybe not as loud as I thought I was.¬† The pushing stage of Auden and Parker’s birth¬†felt quite similar.¬† Auden and Parker’s was harder in that I had to do it twice, but pushing out a baby 2 1/2 pounds bigger took more work than each of them individually.¬† I had the idea previous to Willa’s birth that hers would be different, at home, with only one baby, having done it before.¬† Really though, I’d probably get to the same labor space no matter how many babies I pushed out.¬† It’s a little hard to let go of the wish for a quiet calm birth, but I can see¬†now that’s it’s not my way.¬† I may be laid back about a lot of things, but I don’t think anybody would describe me as very peaceful.¬† More like opinionated and strong-willed, down-to-earth.¬† And that’s what showed in my births.

[Two sidenote kid stories: 1) Auden¬†likes acquiring quarters, and we’ve been trying to stop swearing, so we’ve resorted to the ol’ quarter-for-catching-me-swear rule.¬† One day I explained some of the things I might do in labor, and he decided to give me an exemption on the quarters for labor.¬† Alison told him he missed out on about $40.¬† 2) Parker REALLY wanted to watch those birth videos.¬† He tried multiple times during dinner with my brother-in-law before I took the camera away.¬† Mark found him immediately after dinner holed up alone with the camera, watching them.]

– How much I love the symbolism of Willa’s name, some unrealized when we picked it.¬† Willa Apple Merigold.¬† Greta called our baby Apple from the beginning.¬† It stuck amongst all our family and friends.¬† I know a couple people didn’t think we’d actually use it, but I love it.¬† Merigold is for my Grandma Betty, whose middle name was Merigold (her mother’s maiden name).¬† Time will tell if Willa will be even half as dainty and lady-like¬†as she was.¬† With three older siblings to toughen her up, probably not.¬† Grandma Betty was known for her “Apple” pies, which I didn’t even think of until later.¬† She lived with us from my fourth grade year until she died just before my senior year of high school.¬† I wish I could’ve asked her about mothering twins, but she lived a long eighty-seven year life.¬† A couple years back, we had an apple seed sprout in the compost.¬† Mark planted it, and it’s now a few feet tall in a pot.¬† He didn’t tell me until the day of Apple’s birth that he intended to plant it over her placenta.¬† And in case you’re wondering, Willa is just plain because we like it.

38Corv'91'16
Grandma Betty with the rest of our family in 1991

– The individual reactions of each of Willa’s siblings.¬† Alison and Mark tried to wake all of them around 2am when we got settled in bed, but were only successful with Parker.¬† He looked and looked at her, and¬†stared straight at the camera for Jessica.¬† Serious business.¬† He’s been interested in the medical aspect of my pregnancy all along and would’ve taken part in the perineum inspection if Alison would’ve let him.¬† Auden and Greta came in the next morning.¬† Auden got a big grin and claimed he knew there’d be a new baby that morning.¬† Greta was especially touching with the awed way she spoke and gently¬†inspected Willa.¬† She never asked her name.¬† She knew it was Apple.¬† One of her first observations, with a forlorn look,¬†was, “Mom Dad Auden Apple hair match.¬† No Greta.”¬† But your hair matches Parker’s, Greta.¬† Two boys, two girls, two brown-haired kids, two blonde kids.¬† Though Apple’s brown might not stay.¬† After a cuddle¬†Greta ran to get two of her dresses, one for each of them.

– Feeling secure in the knowledge I picked the right birth team.¬† I knew my midwife believed I could do this and was there for help, and was keeping Willa and I safe with periodic monitoring.¬† Otherwise, she was hands off.¬† I had my doula there to encourage me and back Mark up as the main support.¬† With the two student midwives, it ended up that seven people surrounded me in the tub.¬† I asked for them to tell stories to avoid feeling like I was an animal in an aquarium.¬† I think it lightened the mood.¬† I smile at remembering when the midwife came in, the doula told her “She likes it when we talk.”

– I didn’t cry after Willa came out.¬† At the time I was just so relieved that the pain had stopped.¬† I remember saying something over and over.¬†¬†“Thank God you’re out”, or something to that effect.¬† What did make me cry was looking at the placenta.¬† I won’t go so far as saying it was beautiful, but something about looking at what attached her to me, where she grew into a human being, it brought tears to my eyes.

– People keep asking me how long labor was.¬† I wasn’t sure how to time it, as there isn’t a specific point to hit “start” on a stop watch.¬† My other two labors started with water breaking and contractions within an hour, a whole lot more obvious.¬† The other question people ask is “Was it an easy labor?”¬† Huh?¬† It was short and wonderful and powerful and touching and the best I could’ve hoped for.¬† Easy?¬† No.¬† I did find the answer to the length question though.¬† I’d been texting back and forth with Jessica as contractions started up.¬† At 9:30pm I sent her a nicely worded and punctuated seven line text about the state of things.¬† At 9:49pm I sent her a text that said “Yes think come now”.¬† So I’m thinking labor started between 9:30 and 9:49pm.¬† Three hours of strong labor.

There is no perfect birth.¬† But a three hour home waterbirth supported by people of the mama’s choosing is pretty darn close.

*Ha!  This probably took at least as long as the chronological story that is most birth stories.  I have never claimed to be succinct, in blogging or otherwise.

Permalink 2 Comments

‚ÄúDue‚Ä̬†Date

July 9, 2010 at 10:30 pm (AJ, Family, GOJ, MJ, PJ, WJ) (, )

I’m not sure these types of posts read well, but I feel the urge to write and it can only help my waiting-and-waiting-for-a-baby mental state.

Pretty much all from yesterday, ten things that bring me great joy right now:

– Having a husband who listens- at least some of the time, and more so when I’m 40 weeks pregnant…

– My sister Laura, who’s been helping me with my children from Day 1.¬† She moved in with us for the summer when we had newborn twins.¬† Yesterday she, my kids, and I hiked down to Lake Washington.¬† She took a crying Parker back up the trail after we were halfway down for a Band-Aid.¬† Without her, the trip would’ve ended there.¬† I wasn’t physically going to make it back up and start again, and Parker wasn’t going to brush off his injuries.¬† [Reminder to self: Pack Band-Aids for all walks, no matter how short.¬† 2/3 of my children needed them.]¬†¬†Auntie Lala carried Greta in the water, which I couldn’t have managed with my pregnant sense of balance, the rocky ground, and the boat wakes.¬† And, she chased Greta down in the grocery store parking lot during our post-hike popsicle run.
IMG_0964

– Auden and Parker, who made the steep climb up from the lake in the 90 degree heat without a hint of whine.

– Living in the Pacific Northwest.¬† The heat of the last couple days reminds me to be grateful we don’t live somewhere this hot all the time.¬† I’ll try not to complain about our ten days of heat for the year, despite the coinciding of this year’s with my due date.

– No PNW list of yesterday’s joys could be complete without (if you have one)- our window A/C.¬† Even if it seems a little¬†tacky in the front window.

– Finally having the energy and gumption to make a decent meal.¬† The memory of last night’s chicken fajitas still makes me happy.

– Greta, who after all the day’s activities, went to sleep early SO easily in Parker’s bed.¬† She asks every day all day to sleep with one of her brothers.¬† Nevermind she’s fickle about which one and that they use it as a bargaining chip with her: “Greta, I’ll let you sleep with me if you give me that XYZ.”¬† There’s not anything¬†more precious¬†to a Mama than her children sleeping¬†together.
37/365 Sleeping quarters in the cabin
Sailing in the San Juans, July 2008

– Having my cell phone battery die yesterday and recognizing how much better I felt.¬† Various well-meaning family members keep texting, emailing, and calling me every day to see how I’m doing.¬† Fine, thanks!¬† Mostly woman who already have babies; don’t they remember?¬† With my previous pregnancies I was careful to fudge my due date a little and tell all a later date than true 40 weeks.¬† This time I didn’t think I needed that since I’ve never been overdue.¬† And I’m still not!¬† But as I’ve gotten close, I’m getting the¬†constant barrage¬†this time.¬† Yes, yes, I’m hormonal, and I know they are just excited.¬†¬†I’ve still decided to turn off my phone for peace of mind during part of every day.¬† (Which I know will just freak them out that I’m in labor.¬† Ha ha ha.)¬† There goes the phone now… seriously.

– My LightWedge, without which, I couldn’t survive the insomnia.

РWater- in the form of Lake Washington, wading pools, and clean ice cubes that no one has to think twice about consuming safely.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »