Thursday, February 09, 2012

Toddler's joke...

Four of us gathered over soup & bread at the dining room table. Logan joyfully asked, "So, does anyone have a good joke for me?" Stephen excitedly raised his hand as high as he could & called out, "I oh, I oh!"

He's mostly non verbal, and now 27 months old.

We all gave him our fullest attention as he told us a very animated tale. It went something like this: "uh n' ah n' ah," as he gesticulated appropriately for skilled joke presentation.

His joke got a seriously colorful laugh out of his siblings & mom! Oh my, how my side hurt!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

NoVA Endangered Species Club

I am thrilled to present the blog pages of our eldest child. He & his younger sister have a deep concern about animal welfare, and he has particularly taken an interest in the idea that some animal species might be wiped out of existence if not cared for by the earth's caretakers--we humans! The blog features activities of his local, self-originated Endangered Species Club.

For my husband and me this is a foundational proof that homeschooling is working for our son. He has an entrepreneurial spirit, and his leadership skills come forward well in this environment. He does not bully; he manages. This is a smart working space for character development in him.

Next up is a large project which requires many elements of coordination--a fundraising lemonade stand.

The rest of the details are on the blog.

Proud of him!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Charlotte Mason summed it up pretty well!

Charlotte Mason's Student Motto

Charlotte Mason created a motto for her students that is inspiring and thought provoking. We have written the words on our kitchen white board and have decided to make it our new mission statement for our family. We hope you enjoy the student motto as much as we have.

I am a child of God, a gift to my parents and my country. I am a person of great value because God made me.

I ought to do my duty to obey God, to submit to my parents, to be of service to others, and to keep myself healthy with proper food and rest so my body is ready to serve.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. God has made me able to do everything required of me.

I will resolve to keep a watch over my thoughts and choose what's right, even if it's not what I want.

Charlotte Mason taught her students the motto I am, I ought, I can, I will. I am means that we can know ourselves and understand what we're really like. I ought means that we have a moral judge inside us that we feel we're subject to. It lets us know what our duty is and compels us to action. I can means that we have the ability to do what we feel is right. I will means that we resolve to do what our inner moral judge has urged us to do. These four thoughts make a perfect, beautiful chain.

I am sorry, cannot tell you where I got the wording for this. I found it in my digital notebook. No intent to break (c) rules whatsoever. I will credit it if/as soon as I find its source.

I gander he was a Michiganian

I am throwing away copious amounts of paperwork in my attempt to streamline the townhouse where we will most certainly continue to live for at least another year. It's 1000 square feet or so for 5 of us, and the children are growing! So, since leaving isn't yet an option, we have to make some more room for those long leggy kiddos--it means throwing away my piles...organizing the details...changing my ways!

In going through one pile I came across this fantastic little poem from the turn of the century:

There was a man in Michigan
A citizen of Lansing
Who used to pass his time, alas!
In frolicking and dancing.
As one could see, no goose was he
But still it was no slander
When folks would say, in spiteful way
He was a Michigander

Bloom's Baby Ballads Verse by James O'Dea (pictures by Harry Kennedy; hand-lettered by Chas. Costello)
Entertainment for Young & Old Replete with Seven Colors
A 34-page Picture Book of Humorous Jingles
Sol. Bloom, Publisher
54 Dearborn St., Chicago

Var Lachland Christian Academy

Well, we've named our school, and established a slogan, and we're starting lessons on Khan Academy now, so that I can track the kids' progress on the gorgeous Kahn learning tree. Loving it!!

Using parts of our last names we have created the school name Var Lachland. In German the Lachland part means Laughing Land. I'd like to be a laughing land. I invite that JOY to enter our home environment. Can we use the school name & slogan ("Where the correct answer is 'Yes! and Amen!'") to guide our direction? Can we establish some foundational goals for ourselves based on that, plus the idea that "'I can't' never did anything!"--the expression my Grandpa Smith instilled in me? I'd like to try. I think I need some solid guiding principles.

Now, for a scripture verse to support the rest.

Why is any of this necessary? It it just a matter of giving myself a frame around our school life--something that helps guide me, personally, on the days when I feel aimless.

Back soon with our Scripture. I'll pray that one makes itself clear--not just the standard "Train up a child in the way he should go..." I don't think. Something inspired & specific to Who We Are, and What We're Doing...

LEGO Club!

The kids have been featured on their LEGO club's blog page. So fun!!

Teagan! Featured @ Reston CC

Teagan is now front-and-center on the Reston CC homepage. Cute girls!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hands make Christmas

It's the eve of Christmas Eve and I cannot sleep. I'm evaluating & reflecting--have we done it right? Have we brought Advent to the heart of our children enough this year? Do they clearly understand who Jesus is, and why there is a celebration in December?

Should there be a celebration in December? The presents . . . given as a representation of love . . . of Jesus? I think it's a smidge confusing, as I try to package it. The magi brought gifts to the Savior baby, so we give gifts in memory of that? How does a Nerf gun, for example, or a Rubik's cube have anything to do with Emmanuel!? God with us!?

One Christmas the last package that arrived at our home was from Tom's grandparents--in it were four antique ornaments. Grandma and Grandpa had gone through their collection from 60 years of marriage and chosen to share the ornaments with all their children and grandchildren. Colorful & fragile, they touched my husband deeply. From those same grandparents, small, handmade crosses on stands for each great grandchild. Tom held the ones for our children and turned them over & over in his hands, saying this was what he was looking for at Christmastime.

So, we always handmake a part of our Christmas, with child-crafted gifts, hand stamped wrapping paper, or some other personalized touch to add humanity to the chaos of ribbons and boxes. As beautiful as it all is lain festively beneath the tree, I ask myself, what is this all about!?

And yet, we cannot seem to help ourselves as we try to share things we love with our children--things that we know will excite them. We anticipate that giddy enjoyment of uncovering the surprises personally chosen for them. They crawl on their hands & knees to read every tag, and make wild guesses at boxes' contents by shaking them, sizing them up, or thinking of the originating giver. What is this about, this massive swapping of gifts!?

It's a tidal wave, and no matter how much we try to erect a barricade, forward it tumbles onto the shores of our living rooms. Every year we sit back and stare at the presents after they are unwrapped and share a sigh of overindulgence not unlike the one released after an overfilling of Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing. But, we are Americans, and this is what an American Christmas is.

It's too late for any of us to change Saturday morning's plans or slow the rushing water from every source, and I'm not trying to sound the Bah-Humbug bell, but I want to take a moment to applaud my dear friends who have seriously and intentionally taken on the Advent Conspiracy. I pledge to explore that more again next year . . . in September or October!

Trying to raise grateful children is not an easy task--Christmas morning can prove to work against those efforts if we are not careful. This year I am most excited to give my children their subscriptions to magazines that matter to them. My son wants to launch an Endangered Species Club of his peers, so I subscribed him to the Sierra Club. Teagan loves animals and wants to either be a farmer, a zookeeper or a veterinarian, so I subscribed her to the National Audubon Society.

Yes, I know, those mags are aimed at adults. We will read them together and they will be stored, not allowed to roam each room where they'll end up under throw rugs or on the back of the toilet for "necessary" reading. What I'm talking about is feeding their passions and helping them find their ways in this life. It's elemental to their education, and to their growth, I think. Hopefully, this feeds the meaning of Christmas a bit--the Jeremiah 29:11 part.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The other thing I do consistently is purchase ornaments, symbolic of the nativity in some way, from fair trade organizations like Ten Thousand Villages. As they unwrap images of Jesus, Mary, or the nativity, I expect that these things, delicate in their hands, will reinforce the biblical lessons we try to lead all year.

But, I'll always ask myself on the days immediately preceding and following The Big Day: have we laid this out right? Are we bringing them the lessons they need to be honorable citizens of the world, community and family? Are they learning to love & serve our Savior this way?

I will keep questioning, keep reshaping, and keep hoping that all our best efforts with our children will not spoil them like a bad fish that's been left too long on the counter. Please, Lord, may my children only ever live with a pleasing fragrance--may their lives serve as an incense of praise! May Christmas teach them about you!!

Heavenly Father, most of all we are grateful for this season when we can pause and contemplate what you did for us! Having this period on the calendar forces the issue and we are blessed with the reminder that not only did you die on the cross and rise again, but that you started as a flailing and naked baby, born from a woman, wrapped in swaddling clothes. How this is possible is beyond me, but I'll forever thank you!! Merry Christmas, Jesus!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Spirit

"Little Drummer Boy" played overhead as I stretched to reach the top shelf of the refrigerated section for a jug of apple cider. Suddenly I found myself keenly aware of the lyrics, and the irony of their play in this place.

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum

Others bustled about me in layers of warmth, also reaching high and low for this or that, all in the same vein--with lists in hand; all with one same purpose--to accommodate guests. Most seemed fully unaware of the songstress' background voice.

A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum

I couldn't help myself--humming wasn't enough, I had to sing out!

Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum

I confess, I was overcome with this sense that Christ brings more to us than Himself at this time of year. I would venture to guess that many--if not most--of the shoes shuffling past others today don't belong to Believers in Jesus as Savior of their souls, but for a few days every year, despite religious affiliation (or none at all) the world shuffles to prepare a place.

To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum

The very Christmas after the September 11th attacks on our nation I drove solo from Virginia to Kentucky to spend Christmas with my father. We hadn't been together over ham or hymns for years, if ever, and the divide between us was vast. But the state of the nation and the spirit of Christmas blended in such a way that I felt compelled to bridge the abyss. It is still one of the most memorable Christmases of my life.

rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

I was the Unforgiving Servant when it came to righteous indignation about my dad, and all I judged him to be or not to be. In 2001, however, I stretched to reach the top shelf of the meaning of God's grace and forgiveness, and there I found joy and peace. I recall how Dad and I both found ourselves weeping in the candlelight service at a welcoming Methodist church as "Silent Night" filled the air. We sang until our voices cracked and we couldn't sing any more.

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum, When we come.

And that, I think, is the "more" that Christmas brings--as a holiday/a season/a day, even. First there was a virgin and a promise. There was an unexpected pregnancy and an unexpected adventure. There was a manger, there were shepherds, there was the star. First there were the astronomers--wise men--magi, and there was a jealous king. There was threat of death, and departure for safety. There was that baby--that confounding and miraculous birth.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum

In that flesh, and in those hands and feet, God made Himself more known to the world than He ever had before. He was no longer distant. He was no longer quite so mysterious--and yet, more so! He was warm, and He loved. He was both firstborn and a second Adam. He was the Promise.

It has been a long year for our family--longer than a year. We have struggled, but we have been buoyed by community, by others' thoughtfulness, and by the creative gifts of our loving God. When we wondered how we might pay a bill, someone stepped in with an unexpected means. When we had desires and hopes, there were those who anticipated our needs. In all of our married life, my husband and I have never seen the Lord in flesh as we have this year. He has been personal, and warm. He has held our hands through the hands of His people, and He has loved.

I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum

Standing there in Trader Joe's today, listening to "Little Drummer Boy," I sang out--and I got misty. Jesus came for each of the people scurrying around the store--even as they scurried. None knelt before him then but shepherds--and the angels who were all present. Here, in the back aisle by the coffee samples, I may have been the only shepherd; but the angels were present, and I felt them. Mothers in America have invited their lost children to the supper table for Christmas Eve and daughters have packed their cars to drive cross-country to heal broken relationships with their fathers for Christmas Day. Sisters, friends, brothers, enemies--everyone tends to be moved in some emotional way by the lights and the chorus. There is expectation (and often disappointment because of that expectation)--there is power in Christmas that somehow moves with or without an acknowledgment of Jesus' part.

I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum

After all, scientists have studied the ancient writings, star maps and legends to pinpoint his birth more likely in April than December, anyway; the Christmas tree was nothing the Apostles ever dreamed of; there were not shopping malls and carols, no sleighs of horses, or Christian saints to discuss in the early church--in fact, there were barely buildings to meet in at all. Christ is, with or without Christmas. And, it seems, Christmas is, with or without Christ. There is a spirit of Christ's joy that permeates the air regardless of a belief in Him. To me, this seems like a very good thing. Decorations glow and shine and dress up otherwise tacky lawns (or make them tackier), and somehow, whether people praise Him or not, He is praised!

That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

Finally, I listened to the crux of the song--this poor boy played his best, and that was his gift for the King. Gold, frankincense or myrrh were not required. His music wasn't wrapped, but it was presented with an attitude of gratitude, and this is how we ought to live every day. In every very action I ought to be giving my best for Christ. In every movement of my body I ought to be praising him! I grumble about my jobs. I resent some of the things he asks me to do. Don't you? But poor or not, play your best! Bring what you do have before the King of Kings. Your gift is seen for all that it is and none of what it is not. On Christmas, as they give their best to others, Christ is served even by those who do not know Him, who deny Him, or worse, work against Him! The Holy Spirit was present at the grocery store today. THAT is Christmas.

Make it a joyful one! Merry Christmas.

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Last Time I Saw You...

Teagan was asleep beside me, where she'd fallen, quite exhausted, last night. Daddy chose the couch so she & I could cuddle in the queen size bed. Her hair was all over her face as she began to wake, and I stroked her face. She popped up and said, "Hey! Last time I saw you were..." (something I have now forgotten). It was the way she started her sentence, "Hey!" that caused me to respond.

"Hey! Last time I saw you you had hair in your face!"

Then she said, "Last time I saw you, your eyes were closed."

And I retorted, "Well, the last time I saw you, you were zonked!"

We went on for about 15 minutes coming up with one funnier thing after another. It was a blast! I highly recommend this new game we just made up--it's likely to become part of our morning routine & family culture now. Just start thinking of things you might actually say to someone you haven't seen in a long time.

"Last time I saw you was at our high school reunion!"

"Last time I saw you, you just barely made your plane!"

"Last time I saw you, you were covered in clown makeup." were pregnant! were in labor!

...there was a torrential downpour. were being chased by that bear!!

HA HA! The possibilities are endless! It's great for catching someone off-guard when they appear to need something fun to do--like waiting in line; driving on a long trip somewhere; just waking up . . . The application is also universal.

Well, it's a new one for us. I'm looking forward to being surprised around the corner by my sweet girl's funny answers.

"Hey! Last time I saw you, you were fully naked!"

"Last time I saw you, you had just been born!"

"Last time I saw you, you were bald!"

"Last time I saw you was at your wedding!"

These are some that we exchanged this morning. You could add the element we started to add at the end--the answers have to come quickly, and cannot be repeats. The game ends after you lose three points (points can be lost when the player takes too long to respond, repeats something the other player said, or uses something crass that seems inappropriate).

"Wow! Last time I saw you, you were only 6 years old!"

"Last time I saw you, we were on safari in Africa!"

"The last time I saw you, you were dressed like an orangutan!"

"Oh! The last time I saw you was at the hospital, getting stiches!"

Oh, and one last rule, it's even better if you choose something you're not actually doing at the time. The funnier & more imaginative, the longer the game will last.

"The last time I saw you, you were lifting off in that hot air balloon!"

"The last time I saw you, your boat was sinking!"

"The last time I saw you, you were blogging after midnight..."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tic Tac Toe...with emphasis

This afternoon I demonstrated for Teagan some of the string games I learned as a child --"witches broom" (AKA bananas, fishing spear or janitor's keys), cat's cradle, a couple of slip string tricks (like hand catch), and more. She was enthralled, took the old, green, yarn loop from me while I loaded another pile of laundry into the wash, & immediately transferred what she'd learned to string play with her feet! Instead of trying to create the web of Jacob's ladder, she laced the string around her big toes & began pulling it this way & that, creating new shapes & calling out to me, "Look, Mamma! It's a party hat!"

The yarn loop broke under the pressure of one yank after another twist & pull. Teagan asked me, "Can you knot this for me, Mamma?" To which I of course answered, "I can knot!" We giggled because she got the "cannot/can knot" homonym joke.

Then, as she played with her feet & string a bit more, lying on her back on my bed, she again called out to me, "Mamma! Look, I made Tic Tac Toe."

When I looked, sure enough, she'd created a perfect little crisscross between fingers & toes that precisely resembled the board of the famous boredom-busting pen & paper game. Better, yet, Teagan made another joke:

"Yeah. Let's call this Tic Tac TOE!"


That girl! She kills me with her quick wit! Yes, Teagan. That is authentically a Tic Tac TOE board.

(This picture, below, was a reenactment; the crisscross was difficult for her to reproduce.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

"Good Feeling Clothes"

When I was in high school my friend & fellow art student agreed with me that certain clothing brings on great emotional security--you just feel good when you wear it.

Here are some portraits of my daughter wearing her own idea of "Good Feeling Clothes" over the past couple years. I LOVE her independence in choosing what to wear ever since she was barely old enough to speak in full sentences!

Most of what you see here are hand-me-down items, but Teagan made them all her own by the way she layered & matched the various bits & pieces.

Whatever you do, though, please don't call her beautiful! (She hates that.)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Eyes Have It!

The kids, their dad & I had the recent opportunity to dissect a cow's eye. The entire experience was fascinating, and had us all staring deeply into each other's eyes for a much closer look than we'd taken before. In gratitude spirit, I thought I'd post the beautiful ones I could barely take my eyes off--they owe their color to their maternal grandmothers, and their parents:


Our friends who visited for the weekend were well on their way across state borders for their return drive home. Teagan was in the kitchen with me as I cleaned up the dried pancake batter from that morning's breakfast. We were sharing with each other some of our memories from the weekend, when she noticed what I was doing--soaking paper towels, wringing them just so they didn't drip, then laying them all over the stovetop.

Tea: "What are you doing?"
Me:"I'm putting these wet paper towels on the mess--the water softens the food stains so I can clean more easily. Your dad taught me that technique."

We continued tidying up around the kitchen as I started on a snack for her. Enough time had passed for me to believe the paper towel trick had worked, so I swiped up the now-soft batter swiftly & efficiently.

Me: "See, Tea? Isn't your dad genius?"

Teagan replied in her usual way, without skipping one beat:

"Did someone teach him that?"
Me: "Well, sure! Probably his mom..."
Tea: "Then he's not a genius. If he knew it all on his own he'd be a genius. But, if someone taught it to him, he's not a genius."

May I remind the reader that my daughter has not yet turned five?

I did not teach her the definition of the word genius, by the way. So, by not being taught...couldn't we say she is!?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Searching for the word...

...been gone so long...

...wondering the good of the blog...

...fighting myself. fighting the addictive personality rooted in my family tree...

...but now I find this glorious site--thanks to a fellow homeschooler's facebook post.

Yes, I can join the Gratitude Community. How sorely I need to practice gratitude!

Gratefulness... none of these words capture what I'm trying to say...what my welling tears communicate.



I am praising my sweet Lord for 1000 things...and it might take me some time to recapture that attitude of gratitude...only because I've been in a fog...self has become central. I've believed the lie of boredom. I've allowed restlessness to move me past the real, here & now.

So, now I'll begin by bringing to mind one thing. One thing for which I am immensely thankful--

Today: my children's lips, which I love to watch, when they speak. Even as they backtalk, their lips are beautiful. Soft. Untouched by passion. My children are finding their ways--sometimes through raging tantrums, sometimes through whining--but more often in laughter which I undervalue, or in questions which I ignore, or in fair demands of my attention.

Tomorrow: I will not only look, but listen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Playground or Ice Cream?

After what proved to be a luscious dinner in downtown Berryville, the thought came to mind to grab an ice cream at the place two storefronts down. We'd all talked about it before our meal, but Logan said he wanted to go to the tall, fabulous playground down the road where we'd built some memories a year before. Because the sun was close to setting I said we would not have time for both--if we stopped to get an ice cream it would be too late to go to the playground; if we went to the playground first, the ice cream store would be closed by dusk.

Logan took a tally--Teagan wanted ice cream, Logan wanted playground, their grandma & I were neutral. He managed, in his slickest, convincing way, to bring Teagan around to his side by telling her we could get ice cream any time.

So, we went to the fabulous, tall playground, with tunnel slides 25' in the air, a sand pit, lots of running bridges and unending fun. I stayed in the car with Baby Stephen, (now 4 months old!), while they played wildly with their beloved grandma. It was a joy to watch them shining with laughter--but then Logan knocked his head & came running to me.

He'd really just brushed his ear hard against some equipment, but it hurt enough to prefer Momma's sympathy, so I was looking him over & kissing him when his sister & grandma came to investigate. Teagan asked right away, "Is he OK?" and then, when assured that he was, chirped, "So, can we go get ice cream now?"

The four of us laughed so hard that I had tears in my eyes! No, Logan said, he felt well enough to go back to playing. So they did...for almost 2 hours!

Oh, gorgeous day! I think I owe Teagan an ice cream date!

Black & White

We pulled out of the Berryville playground at dusk, before any officials came to chase us away. Teagan called out her good idea: "Let's play 'I Spy!'"

My mom stated that it was a little dark to be able to see much for I Spy, and since the car was moving, it would certainly be a challenge. Quick-witted Teagan replied, "We can just say things that are black or white!" What a smart gal.

She went first.

"I spy something black."

I guessed the shadowed trees. I was wrong. Mom guessed a truck that was approaching. That was also not the right answer. Logan picked out something, too, but none of us knew what Teagan was spying. She laughed and asked, "Mom? Do you have any more guesses?" No, I did not--nor did my mom or Logan--we all gave up.

With great satisfaction she blurted out, "The road!"

Oh my, how I laughed & laughed! The road!! A perfect thing to spy at night in low visibility, regardless of how fast the car is moving! SmartTea!

Then it was Logan's turn. He spied something silver. I guessed my car (which is really more of a grey than silver), but was wrong. We all gave it a try, but none of us was thinking big enough, still! Logan revealed the answer--"The stars!" These two are good I Spiers!

Teagan's turn again. She saw something yellow. Tell me why I wasn't thinking about things that stay put even while I move my car at 60 MPH!? I guessed the yellow lights of the car in my rearview mirror & my mom guessed the flashing caution light up ahead. What was Teagan spying?

The moon.

Smart kids. Fun game. What a lovely day!

Tending The Garden of Your Marriage

I've been published again. This is part one of a series.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Talk About Marginal Living!

"Some 2 million children are now taught at home, or about 4% of the total school-age population, according to HSLDA."

Check out this article about the German couple who has been granted asylum in The States to be able to educate their children at home!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Family Rooster

It is 8:45 AM. Teagan just sat up in her bed & called out (twice), "Cockadoodle dooooooo!"

She was a bird from the beginning, with soft sweet coos that reminded all of us of a mourning dove. Born in the year of the rooster ('05), she has found her calling (ahem) as our family alarm clock.

How I love my unique & independent daughter! Her humor, her timing, and her joy in the morning!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fringe Living

Our children are non-vaccinated, uncircumcised, home or midwife-birthed, homeschooled, infant-potty-trained kids who eat organic meat & free range eggs, recycle, and do not watch TV.

We're living on the margins, I guess.

This is a beautiful place for me to be--these are things I've chosen intentionally. This is why I work more than anything at building & maintaining relationships with like-minded women. There are very few, really, who might cross into more than one or two spheres of our venn diagram. That is why it can get lonely out here on the edge, and why I reach out beyond my real life geography to this online world.

Just a thought...

Friday, November 20, 2009

He's Here!

Announcing the birth of:

Stephen Lawrence
born Tuesday, November 17th @ 9:45 PM
at home in Reston, VA
9#, 21.5"
long & skinny fingers & feet/toes, and BLOND!!

Thank you to SO many of you who supported our homebirthing adventure throughout! Wow--we are so pleased with our decision.

Because I was "in labor" for about 3+ weeks*, the end result was VERY fast!

I started regular contractions (again) @ ~ 6PM on Tuesday night, hopped into a cozy tub from 6:30-9 PM, while Logan had the exclusive privilege of watching "The Return of the Jedi" during a special Daddy/Son date, since Teagan was out with her Namma. As soon as I stepped out of the tub, everything moved fast, meaning my informing our midwife, Tammi , was too late! My dear friend, Devon, a doula, who lives 2 miles from our house, arrived about 10 minutes before Stephen was in our arms--she "caught" him while my 6 1/2-year-old son took photos & Tom brought me ice water. My daughter was out for an overnight with my mom, and though they got up & came as quickly as they could (Teagan dressed in her jammies & pink floral robe, Mom having changed first), they just missed the birth, arriving about 6 minutes after Midwife, Tammi & her birth assistant, Liz, who arrived about 6 minutes after Stephen! Our house was a flurry of activity under dim lights until about 1 AM. Miss Teagan got to cut the cord!

Stephen's first three days at home have been relaxing, as a wonderful bonding time for our family--the children are vying for their chance to hold & touch him at every turn and Namma has been a tremendous help--we are so grateful for her lengthy stay & will hold on tightly for the remaining time we have with her--she will head to Michigan for Thanksgiving with the Gould/Smith/Varga families in Midland, Michigan on Monday.

Stephen is sleeping & nursing well, and is alert like his big sibs were--looking around from one of our faces to the next, and trying to take in his new world.

We gave him the middle name, "Lawrence," in honor of both my late grandfather, my mom, Lauri, and my dear Uncle Larry. His first name is after the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen, spelled with the "ph."

* (dilated @ 4 cm by 10/26, 5 cm the next week, 7 cm on Saturday...regular waves of contractions came for 3 hours at a time every few days for weeks!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweet Matrimony (or not)...

Logan stated, last night (again),

Mom, when I grow up, I want to marry Teagan.

I'm sorry, Lo. You cannot. We are supposed to marry into other people's families, Sweetie

But, let me just ask you one thing. Is it illegal?!?!?!

Yes, It is.

He demonstrated a small tirade of righteous injustice--grrrr'ing & gripping his teeth/fists, then responded,

But, Teagan is so sweet!

Isn't that lovely? Despite our occasional struggles as a family, there is an awful lot of love & appreciation going on around here. I am a happy momma this morning. I encouraged Logan to closely monitor the boys who court his sister...she shouldn't marry any man who hadn't passed by Big Brother's approval.

Ha ha! I have a funny feeling no one will ever measure up to his scrutiny. Heaven help the boys who try.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Pregnancy Affirmation

I don't remember how I got on this email list, but I receive a daily Pregnancy Affirmation in the inbox now. Sometimes the expressions are relatively mundane, and I skim them, but today's matched my need perfectly:

Every pregnancy is different.

Yes--every pregnancy is different from one woman to another, and from one baby to another. My labor & deliveries of Logan & Teagan were unique, and Stephen is proving to have his own ideas, too. My mom & I were discussing, today, how much Stephen is in control right now. Well, I know God is ultimately the one in control, but He is working with my son on the date & time of this birth...and I am just a vessel. I have no real say in the matter! I can eat well, take my supplements, drink water & be my healthiest, but I cannot push if pushing isn't appropriate. I cannot hold him in, if I'm not "ready." Stephen will enter this world when he & his angels deem it's time!

This is one of the greatest challenges of pregnancy--to release that need to control all activities in my world. An infant will unravel you with sleepless feedings...jaundice...reflux...colic... There is so very little in my control in the months ahead. While I set a routine in place, and while I retain CALM in my spirit to learn Stephen's needs in balance with our family agenda, I will need to release so much control. Thematic in my Type-A lifestyle!

These are the lessons of the past few days. While we were still in the month of October (12 days ago) I was dilated to 4 cm already, my cervix was at 50% effaced, & Stephen was in a 0-station position in the birth canal. This past Wednesday (4 days ago, 11/4), all of that had progressed to 5 cm, 70%, +1. Since then, I have lost the mucus plug & had "bloody show," plenty of contractions, but no broken bag of waters, and no baby in my arms.

Mom breezed up here as soon as she could (arriving Wednesday night), and like with Teagan's prenatal period, we hurried up so we could wait. The goodness of that right now is that Mom is caring for my older two, who LOVE her time and attention, and I am getting all this freedom to wonder what to do with myself! I have cleaned. I have cooked & baked. I have soaked in a tub. I have taken naps. I've paced, wondering how to sit still and just rest! But, I have had four delicious days of "doing" very little. I've read a few more chapters in a book.

Ahhhhh....Stephen, my sweet, take your time. I'm not rushing you. You are healthy, and you may enter the world whenever you want to--your sister's ready to catch you!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Looks like we made it... 37 weeks, that is! ;-)

Now, to hold out for "Namma's" arrival. Just hold tight, Stephen!!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Now, THIS is why I'm still up at 4:47 AM! Stephen has decided to moon walk across my upper abdomen. What a wonderful gift! While I've been enjoying plenty of movement from him over the past two months, these are the moves I've been waiting for--the obvious sense of a particular limb or extremity! He's always awake at 4 AM (thus, so am I), but his movements are more subtle. Tonight? A full-on "hello" from my son.


Thank you!

The little things...

I asked Tom to take care of a nasty-looking moth this evening, which found our ceiling fan lights an utter fascination. Smoosh it! (He vacced it up into the Dust Buster--smart solution, as I was later able to release it outside with the kids!).

Then I glanced over at our jars of "kept" caterpillars, wondering if I might have just incited the murder of one of our very own "pets"--but all were still contentedly behind glass, kept under lids.

In the meantime, Teagan & I stuck 6 dead yellow jackets in a remnant Ziploc bag after church today to bring home to show Logan. We found a mound of mulch under a tall, old, oak tree to be teeming with dying yellow jackets! We walked around that tree at least six times pointing out to each other one fading insect after another. They writhed from the tree trunk bark down to the roots, stepping slowly across the ground & falling legs up into little water puddles. There were at least 30--most in some state of departing life. Only six could be scooped up as already lifeless--the rest just sadly struggled. The cold is getting to them.

This is part of our homeschooling! These are animalia arthropoda insecta and it is fall! We aim at a Charlotte Mason schooling approach, with plenty of outdoor experiences leading our connectedness to the world around us (though I truthfully have a lot more to read to claim this officially...). Yep, we collect bugs; practically every day! Our Natural Science Lab is the largest classroom space we can find--wherever/whenever teachable moments arise, we stop and learn together.

And, now, leaves & acorns are piling up all over the house--so many undone projects right now! We tracked down native area leaves based on a piece in The Washington Post, but will have to do a re-collect this week, as our first set are already browning, and I'd like to iron these collections into wax paper for a lapbook. The area is really starting to burst with color, but the deep reds are not popping quite yet.

These are the little "things" that build a rich education. Horrah to homeschooling!

Forget THAT!

Yeah, um, nevermind that gluten-free thing. It's too much to take on with 3-5 weeks till Baby is born, and the other 30+ foods we try to NOT eat. My dear husband lost a few pounds (that was fast!), and agrees we can try to eat FEWER bready foods (though he insisted on his famous bratwurst wraps tonight, and we had blueberry scones with breakfast), but he complained of starving (bless his heart) only a few days into the New Family Food Plan. It was humorous to me (clearly I wasn't starving him...), but I was finding the process of planning more restricted meals & recipes to be more labor than I need to think about right now.

Speaking of labor, I made the possibly poor decision to watch a number of homebirths on YouTube last week, with my children sitting one on each knee. Sharing with my kids isn't what I regret (I'm glad they clearly understand what to expect); what I think undid me a bit was the recall of that Ring Of Fire that comes at the near-end. Oh, you know, somewhere between crowning & shoulders! Oh...Man! Women are right when they say you "forget" the pain.

Because Logan's birth was relatively quick (3+ hours in total from first morning contractions on a Thursday as I woke to dress for work to his placement on my body which followed an hour water labor), and Teagan's was an Olympic sprint to the finish (she emerged within minutes of my being rolled into her birthing room), I have anticipated this coming birth as a piece of cake to be savored by all involved parties. Baby pushes, I push, a few tight-eyed grunts and out pops our son. Teagan's urgent birth was terrorizing to me--moving so fast as to steal all control from The Momma. Logan's was nearly-perfect, tainted mostly by his "blueness" and immediate removal from my side. This one...well, he's a whole different person, isn't he?

As an individual, he seems to have a different idea, already, about his entry into the world. I've been having such strong Braxton Hicks contractions for so many weeks as to be very on edge about the timing of this birth. Sure, sure, the little baby counter above says I have 32 more days...WHAT!?!?!? Thirty two more days!? How did that come upon us so quickly!?!? Oh, as I was saying, the little baby counter above says I have 32 more days, but I've already been contracting for about that many, and I just feel a sense of "readiness" all the time...that is a slightly disturbing mental state to retain long-term.

I am NOT necessarily ready, as I have these lists of items to purchase, organize, stow aside, etc. to provide for my midwife, myself & Baby Stephen. Birth may not need to be treated as an emergency, or as an illness, but it ought not, either, be treated as a non event. I know that my other children's needs/schedules have both helped to positively distract me from an already-passed eight months of pregnancy (again, what!? Really? Eight months have passed!?!?), but also may have prevented me from fully owning this moment. I have told friends recently that I feel in some suspended state of denial--we planned for, dreamed for, hoped for and prayed for this little life to come into being, as we looked at our family like one missing a member, and now he's almost here!

Who will this little man be? Whom will he resemble? What is his temperament? Who will he grow to become?

My elder son stated this evening that he's excited Baby Stephen will be here soon because it means Namma & Dampa are coming. Funny. He doesn't particularly care to meet his little brother as much as to see his distant grandparents. That's my boy! He has been stressed about Stephen coming, as we've observed from many behavioral issues we've been managing (or trying to manage) for a couple months...but I am anticipating that the physical meeting of these two boys will bring about a bonding that will last a lifetime, regardless of Logan's current concerns.

When your child has Sensory Integration Dysfunction (AKA Sensory Processing Disorder), there are many issues that "concern" him, and bring about anxiety. In Logan's case, he is hyper aware of scents which others barely acknowledge--especially those related to, say, diapers! Unpleasant bathroom smells which most of us sort of expect and manage to work around can send my son to a gagging response that almost causes him to vomit.

In a similar way he has ears like a bat. My parents nicknamed me Radar as a child because I have this same frighteningly aware sense of hearing. A buzzing kitchen light distracts me so much when I'm cooking that I'd rather work in a poorly lit room. I can detect dripping faucets from several rooms away, and an analog clock cannot coexist in my bedroom as the ticking second hand is as bad as water torture to me. Sometimes when I rest my head on my pillow the sound of my own heartbeat, or of my eyelashes blinking (no I'm not kidding) will keep me awake, tossing & turning for ages--hence my eternal issue with insomnia. My husband doesn't like music on when we sleep (that keeps him awake), so I have occasionally fallen asleep playing music through earbuds off of my iPhone. So, Logan has those kinds of ears. In kiddie music concerts at the library this summer I watched him cower at sounds that most of the kids in the room were celebrating. We have to be careful not to sit too close to speakers, or he'll cover his ears & tuck in his head in what seems like pain.

Give that child the thought that a crying baby is going to enter his world.

So, stinkie diapers and screaming lungs enter 1000 square feet with a SI kid. Yep, I can see where Logan's fears originate.

Add to that the fact that Daddy has been unemployed since Monday, August 31st, and our overly-aware emotional boy also kicks into gear. What does a family do without income? Will we ever buy a minivan to give us all elbow room? Will that hoped-for single-family house come to us sooner, or now, even later? How will he sleep at night? How will his outdoor playtime be hampered? What in our world is about to be upended?

So, 32 days...or less. Deep, deep breathing for Momma, frantic continued job search for Daddy, belly-kisses & whispered "I love you's" from Big Sister Teagan to The Swelling Belly, and a lot of anxiety from Eldest Child.

Lord, reign over it all!!

Over all the earth
You reign on high
Every mountain stream
Every sunset sky
But my one request
Lord my only aim
Is that You’d reign in me again

Lord reign in me
Reign in Your power
Over all my dreams
In my darkest hour
You are the Lord
Of all I am
So won’t You reign in me again

Over every thought
Over every word
May my life reflect
The beauty of my Lord
‘Cause you mean more to me
Than any earthly thing
So won’t You reign in me again

"Lord Reign In Me"
(Brenton Brown)
Copyright © 1998 Vineyard Songs (UK/Eire). All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


We've had some richly disturbing behavioral issues here--so I decided to go the "drastic" route of choosing gluten-free living for the kids and me. After one week I must say I am FAR more even! I have had to deal with discipline issues like always, and the only day I really lost myself coincided with a sneak snack of 2 mini Twix bars (which we purchased for the Halloween crowd early because I had double dollar coupons). That was yesterday, and I felt myself edgy just before I, sugar PLUS gluten...yeah, not a good choice. Tom's already feeling withdrawal from bread--he was complaining to me this morning that he didn't know how he'd make it gluten free! That seems like a good indication that he needs to go gluten free. Anyway, where did I get this idea? We have several friends whose children have autism or Celiac, and live without the glutenous grains, testifying to the observable differences in their homes. Our son has his own set of circumstances which are "special" and the two of us butt heads regularly in our common areas of weakness, and I feel like we need every advantage on our side. So, we've completed one week of a more restricted living. *sigh*

By removing gluten, I am certainly making meal planning that much more difficult. Still, it's a challenge we can overcome, right?!

Restrictions For Teagan (21 + relatives):

CITRUS: tangerines, oranges, grapefruit, lemon, lime
FRUITS: grape +2, plum +2, cherry, strawberry
HERBS/SPICES: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, oregano, sage, tea
NUTS:cocoa, chocolate, soy, brazil nuts

My Restrictions (12 + relatives):

PROTEIN/BEANS: kidney, pinto (+3!), chicken, eggs
FRUITS: coconut, cranberry, tomato
DAIRY: cow's milk (& all related products)
GRAINS: quinoa!, wheat
OTHER: baker's & brewer's yeast

I am so grateful for this link I received from another local homeschooler--365 gluten-free slow-cooker recipes!!! A Year of Slowcooking.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Deep Breathing

Baby Stephen will be here in 56 days or less, according to my counter up top. I am 32 weeks pregnant today. Wow. This is overwhelming me, because my nesting instinct is very strong, and I know that this "nest" ain't ready! We have freecycled dozens of items to simplify our lives, and yet it feels like we've made almost no dent in the massively overwhelming possessions that overtake these 1,000 square feet of our home. I have to think bigger--I have to dump boxes of things, not one little item at a time. Sure, I feel freed by the packages I leave on the door with strangers' names on them, knowing our "things" aren't going into the dumpster or a landfill, but being repurposed by someone else! But, we just haven't moved enough OUT!

I want to feel comfort & peace when I enter the door--I want to feel less oppression of things! A dear friend of mine just downsized by more than half--they moved from a single-family house with a large lawn, playset, sunroom & sandbox, into a townhouse community where the lawn is done, a pool is available, and they share walls with neighbors. This move has proven to be a wise one for their family, and she seems so content in it! We are already there--living in small space for three years, knowing our neighbors intimately, and asking God constantly to help us remain content where he's planted us. I do feel contentment about living debt-free, that's for sure! But, despite our pared down existence, there is still too much stuff! We are bibliophiles, and half of our house resembles a library--so can I pass these books on? Well, it seems that at least once a week we reach over the futon to pull one of those tomes off the shelf to share with someone else--so, I love having access to books that have meaning to us, and have shaped our thinking, values & philosophies! That's a hard one.

Anyway, all this to say, I don't feel ready, yet, to be the mother of THREE children. I know there is more I can do to simplify all aspects of my life--spiritually I am delighted Tom & I have found a new weekly small group; mentally I am psyched that I have 6-8 new free hours each week while my children are in AWANA, gymnastics, Scouts, Sunday School and Movement & Motion with other leaders...I am not "needed" there and so I am having some nice "get ready" moments then; physically, I am going to take some of those new hours for massage, acupuncture & chiropractic care, as Stephen is riding low and pinching lots of parts of me. Sooooooo, I think the weeks ahead are looking up, and I think we're going to BE ready before he comes.

Or, at least, I'm HOPING so!!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Teagan washed her hands in the Starbucks' ladies' room, then reached up for the papertowels, which were far out of her reach:

"They don't like kids!"
she exclaimed!

I pulled a couple towels down for her, agreeing!


Logan & Teagan were looking all over the house last night for Logan's favorite buddy (stuffed animal, "Seal," which is actually a stuffed manatee). I reminded Logan that if Seal is so important, then Logan needs to be responsible for knowing where he is at all times! "Seal...seal!" the two of them called out over & over, as if the inanimate, grey, well-loved creature might suddenly reply, "Here I am!" Teagan wanted her parents' help and called down to Tom and me, "This is NO JOKE!"

Tom & I thought that to be so funny we couldn't contain ourselves!


Teagan was having sweet moment with her dad, just talking about random whatnots, when she suddenly said, in all seriousness, "As I go through this life, I am going to need someone to drive me around."

As I go through this life!?!? Where does she come up with this stuff? We are certain Teagan will grow up to be a stand-up comedienne. She is hysterical!!!

More Caterpillars!!

I didn't previously record the little fuzzy white caterpillar we found in June--

Apparently, it is a Fall Webworm: (this one? Hyphantria cunea (Arctiidae)? We kept him till he closed himself in a little netted wrap, but the rain got in his jar and drowned, as much as I love nature, and feeding the birds and all, I cannot say I mourned the loss of a WEBWORM!!

This area is teeming with cool creepers!

Now, here's the record of another slinkie dude we found about 10 days ago. I almost stepped on this black, fuzzy guy, tucked quietly into a corner of our shed (nowhere near tasty green leaves). I used the fantastic site, "What's That Bug?" to get me started down the right identification path, then more online searches to positively ID the little guy. Since I have recently lost the battery of our digi camera, I had to take these pics with my iPhone, and there's no macro lens or focusing power on the iPhone cam, so I apologize for the quality of these photos!

You might not be able to tell from this shot that it has orange stripes around each body segment:

That was a major clue to its identification. Another clue was how it curls up when you to touch it, to protect itself:

This is most certainly a Giant Leopard Moth (AKA the Hypercompe scribonia)! The one I reported about in my last entry was an American Dagger Moth (Species Acronicta americana). So now we have both in jars near the window. The GLM is doing really well, eating fresh leaves and discarding little pebbles to the bottom of the jar (if you know what I mean). The ADM weaved himself a rough bag around his body weeks ago, and hasn't budged.

Here is the ADM's "cocoon," difficult to discern from a dead leaf, and especially difficult to see through the glass jar with my iPhone photo options! Ugh. Anyway, it's still cool to be watching the metamorphosis of two local crawlies!

By the way, another great bug ID site is, where I was able to identify this tuxedo-wearing sweetheart we found in July while blackberry picking as a Clymene Moth a tiger moth also of the family Arctiidae (like the Giant Leopard Moth & Fall Webworm!):

[more details, for homeschoolers learning classifications]:

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
No Taxon (Moths)
Superfamily Noctuoidea

Then, the distinctions come @:
Family Arctiidae (Tiger Moths)
Subfamily Arctiinae (Tiger Moths)
Tribe Arctiini
Genus Hyphantria
Species cunea (Fall Webworm Moth - Hodges#8140)

Family Arctiidae (Tiger Moths)
Subfamily Arctiinae (Tiger Moths)
Tribe Arctiini
Genus Hypercompe
Species scribonia (Giant Leopard Moth - Hodges#8146)

Family Arctiidae (Tiger Moths)
Subfamily Arctiinae (Tiger Moths)
Tribe Callimorphini
Genus Haploa
Species clymene (Clymene Moth - Hodges#8107)

Family Noctuidae (Owlet Moths)
Subfamily Acronictinae
Genus Acronicta (Dagger Moths)
Species americana (American Dagger Moth - Hodges#9200)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

All Wrapped Up

Wow! Day One, found the caterpillar; Day Two, it spun itself onto the maple branches into a weird net of brown flecky silk stuff. Cool! Now, is our pickle jar large enough for him to get those wings opened up and show us all of his ugliness?

We'll see. Update to follow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Transforming Backwards

Here's something weird in nature. When you typically think of a caterpillar changing into a flying insect, don't you consider unfolding beauty? So, how can this be explained? We found this gorgeous caterpillar on the sidewalk today.

Oh, MAN, is this thing UGLY when it turns into the American Dagger Moth!

Regardless, capturing, researching & investigating this caterpillar was one more beautiful moment in my children's childhood:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

More dreams...

I had a dream

About what?

That I found the Monitor & Merrimac.

Oh? Where were they?

Near a harbor.

Tell me more.

Well, I don't remember a lot of it, but Seal was in it.

(Seal is the name of Logan's stuffed manatee, who goes everywhere with him).

I fell in a pit and I called the rescue people and they said, "I'm coming that way," and then there was only two people and I wonder why, and then I just said, "This doesn't look like rainbow color one," so... but it was and Lambchop was down there with me. They needed to yell down, and said, "Littlest first!" and then everybody said, "What's happening here? What's happening here?" But they just walked past. And then they said, "Do not enter, because I am rescuing people.!" So they all never came back. So I stayed over there and good thing he had two ropes to tie into the holes so no one could come in his way. That's the end! And I went happily home ever again. And then he was trying to grab the paper that say, "Do Not Enter, Everybody!" And then somebody else fell into the pit because they were too tired, and they said, "Is you the littlest first?" "No, I'm big!" "OK. I'm coming down to get you." And there was two, you know why? 'Cause one was to go down and tie Lambchop and the other one was to pull him up. (age 3 1/2)

She Will Be King!

Teagan woke halfway through the night & asked me to crawl into bed with her. Then she told me, "I don't have any dreams."

"Would you like some?" I asked, "What would you like to dream about?" I thought of her recent declaration that she'd like to be a zookeeper when she grows up. "Animals?"

"No. I dream of castles."

"Oh. Castles, huh? And are you a princess?"

"I am King," she reports.

"King? OK. Are you a kind king?"


"You're not? Are you a mean king?"


"Who are you mean to, Tea?"

"To the bad guys."

"Well, OK, that makes sense. You are mean to the bad guys. Are you going to throw them in the dungeon, then?"


Huh. My daughter! Her brother's influence is strong & obvious, no? Let her dream on!

No Hospital Homilies For Me!

The third "9th" was her road--not 9th Street, or 9th Place, but 9th Road! Arlington's weird like that. Tammi was outdoors, weeding, as I approached. I waved from my car, as I signed off of a rare phone call with my sister. A gardening midwife. Fits!

We started talking right away as if we'd met before, though this was our initial intake. I was surprisingly taken aback by the neat-as-a-pin interior of her living room, the clean berber carpet, the feng shui of it all. No one could find themselves uncomfortable here! I was parched, and Tammi was happy to oblige my request for a tall glass of cold water.

So, I'm committed to doing this! I feel empowered. Brave. Even nervous, but I am readying myself psychologically and spiritually to take on this experience differently than I did with my first two children. I am ready to trust myself, my Father in heaven, and Mrs. Tammi McKinley with the birth of Stephen Lawrence!

Birthing at home. Women around the world squat against a tree and birth babies in all sorts of climates and environs, but in America we have medicated birth and turned it into a dire emergency worthy of latex gloves, pale green masks & beeping machines. Before there were fetal monitors and doppler instruments, there was the Grand Creator of all Life--and a plan for birth which managed to work for...oh, you know...THOUSANDS of years! Yes, yes, many remind me, infant mortality was high in the pre-industrial age...

Do you realize that the infant mortality in AMERICA is higher than almost any modern country? True. We're second to LATVIA!! I read it in The Post, and here is CNN's report on this shocker! And, those are babies born with all the medical interventions you can muster up! Vacuums suck babies into the world. Forceps pluck & pull them out. Knives are ready to cut into Momma to extract newborns at the show of a stray eyelash (*blink*). But, our babies die here...just like anywhere else in the world. We have not perfected this process. Why? Because the truth about Life is that nothing is perfect, and we have no guarantees--even that we get to hold the babies we carry in vitro.

I know women who have tragically (even painfully) lost their babies at all stages along the 9-month waiting period, as well as those who've held their babes in arms as they passed away within hours of taking their first earthly breaths. Truthfully, no woman is immune. Not you. Not I.

Now, with that sobering thought in mind, let me tell you about my two babies' births. I labored for a mere 5 hours with Logan. Some at home, some along Hwy 64 West, some in a soothing "hot" tub, and the final bit for 45 minutes on a queen size bed. It felt really fast for my mom, husband and me, but it was just perfect, because I was able to play my laboring music (hand-selected songs that take me to a "happy place"), and get into a rhythm with my body and emerging Baby Boy. I know my 5-hour labor is not necessarily typical, but then I didn't take any drugs which altered my body's reactions to the natural processes going on within me...AND, I think I have an unusually strong pain tolerance. Mom birthed my sister and me quickly, so it's apparently in my genes.

But, Teagan's birth was briefer... a LOT!

My mom sneezed at 4:45 AM, I woke up, my water broke, and it all began. Our 35-minute drive to the hospital birthing center was almost 5 minutes too long. Same as Logan: labored at home, labored in the car (SCREAMING, "Don't Come Yet, BABY!"), briefly labored in the room. VERY briefly! Teagan was born within FIVE minutes of my entering that room. I was unable to undress myself, and she was born while some clothes were still on me. I almost had a parking lot baby.

She was perfectly healthy, but the birth was totally out-of-control frightening to me!

Before I go on, I want to say that I do not want my post to come off as a judgment of any mom whose birth was 100% hospital/medical/typical of American births today. A dear friend recently C-sectioned, and I cannot make a call on that process for her--it's none of my personal business, and the event has passed. Sweet Baby Girl is here! THAT is the most beautiful icing on whatever cake sits beneath.

Many, many friends of mine (& family) have not had the birth experiences I have--my sister-in-law was in labor for something like 35 hours!

But, in light of Logan's & Teagan's births I have to make a decision that matches MY body's reaction to this process, and the fact is, I move FAST when it comes to birthing babies.

So, now we live in Northern Virginia. What do you know about DC traffic?

How about this fact? In an article from three weeks ago:
"Washington, D.C. Made Top 10 Most Traffic-Congested Cities – Traffic Jams Persist Despite Recession."

Top Ten? It is NUMBER 2, behind L.A.!

No, I do not live in DC proper. I live 25 miles outside of the city. We are a "bedroom community" to the nation's capitol. Traffic out here is steady, heavy & somewhat predictable, but baby-labor is not! What if I start laboring at the same time as I did with Lo & Tea? We were on 64 West with both babes during morning commute times, and my husband wasn't breaking any speed limits to get us to DePaul!! I got to the hospital around 8:30/9-ish for Lo, and 6:30 AM for Tea. Those are PRIME traffic jam hours in this neck of the woods.

Would I prefer a highway birth, with the dirty car floor at my feet, and the kids in the carseats feeling confused and scared as Daddy tries to decide whether to keep advancing towards the hospital or pull off of Fairfax County Parkway & endanger all of our lives as he helps deliver our son in cramped quarters?! But, if this baby follows Logan's or Teagan's patterns (i.e. my body's mode of birthing), then that possibility is pretty high, on my way to meet up with the OB/GYN at the hospital 8.22 miles southeast of us.

So, I've thought, & I've prayed, & I tried to make it work, driving out to an OB/GYN 11.63 miles from home, taking Fairfax County Parkway to Rt. 50 East to Lee Highway. Highways. Parkways. Routes. It's heavy traffic! In the end, that facility and I had a different idea about my birth plan, and it was easy for me to walk away.

That is what led me, today, to a safe, sweet, peaceful house in Arlington, Virginia. That is why I took the advice of 16 homebirthers in my local homeschooling community and set up today's interview. I believe in a Creator God who designed my body to do this thing!, and I know that He has given me everything I need to do it well, and even solo, if I needed to! Women, today, simply do not trust our bodies. We don't understand them, and I think it is far too easy to trust the white-coated professional who tells you what to do, where & how (but not always why!).

Hmmmmmm. Sort of reminds me of some people's criticisms of the Church! When the homily was in Latin, and frescos and stained glass were meant to illustrate the point to the masses of illiterate, people just trusted what they did not understand (literally! Even as Latin became a "dead language!"). They trusted the man in the white robe & peaked hat. They did not ask questions, and they, therefore, did not always come to know the depth of faith that I feel I have access to today. The Church fell apart by leading by the "Follow Me Because I Know Better & I Say So" leadership style. Some of those men in peaked hats horribly misused their authority--permanently devastating many people. Our recent American history reports some of the worst abuses of authority the Church has known.

Are today's hospitals not today's Old Time Religion with new coats & caps?

Maybe it's the Protestant in me that prefers relationship! Relationship with my Savior which starts at my opening my own copy of Scripture and kneeling at my own bedside talking to the One who made me; and relationship with my children as they work with me to enter this world. Oh, yes, this fits me much better than the sterile, brightly lit room that begs for my insurance dollars to fill the coffer. The parallels are getting stronger in this metaphor! Shew--that's a whole new essay!! Thinking aloud, here...

Anyway. We'll be giving birth in the living room. Oh, man, am I glad I have women around me who prodded me to consider it more seriously! Thank you, Ladies!

Oh, had I a golden thread
And a needle so fine
I’d weave a magic strand
Of rainbow design
Of rainbow design
In it I’d weave the bravery
Of women giving birth
In it I’d weave the innocence
Of the children over all the earth
Children of all the earth
Far over the water,
I’d stretch my magic band
To every city,
To every single land
To every land
Show my brothers and my sisters
My rainbow design
Bind up this sorry world
With hand and heart and mind
Hand and heart and mind
Oh, had I a golden thread
And a needle so fine
I’d weave a magic strand
Of rainbow design
Of rainbow design

Eva Cassidy, "Oh, Had I A Golden Thread" lyrics

Monday, July 13, 2009

Facebook Faceoff

The Foundation: Loss
Since I attended three elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools (and more colleges than I dare share with you), the theme of loss has always been a thread in my life history. I met young girls I loved & spent endless hours with them—sometimes for three or four years—and then our family had one or another reason to move away. The moves were distant, and staying in touch typically lasted just a year or so. I eventually lost track of sets of friends with each transition, as our maturing lives meant many changes across the distance, and I often tired of the gossipy update letters about my former classmates. Our lives diverged significantly, with different college choices (or not), marriage (or not), faith decisions (or not) and career paths, which left us with less common ground.

Where Rediscovery Equals Healing
With Facebook, I have been able to connect again with one after another friend from my past, and hold on. In those reunions with people I lost over time, some of my young-child hurts have been healed. I have rediscovered friends from Michigan, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and beyond. Gaps in my life story have been filled! Four hundred fifty five friends later, and…

What? Did I just type 455 friends? Well, Facebook labels any connections you make on their site, “friends.” I cannot say I’d make a date for a cup of tea and a Saturday matinee with all 455+ of those people I’ve linked to online (many are former or current colleagues in business or homeschooling), but that is one of the appeals of this social networking space—that your former boss is offered the same label as a sorority sister: “friend.”

Facebook quickly became an active and addictive escape for me. My older son is an intense child, wild in his own ways, and often difficult to parent. When I preferred to part from him and enjoy myself hidden away in the dark, I disappeared into the bluish glow of my desk and the deceptively inviting screen, where I peered into any former co-ed’s pages to “meet” their children, see where they live, and check out their wedding photos whether we were even in the same cliques in high school. Facebook is like the largest party I’d ever attended, where everyone has brought along a photo album to pass around! Better than that, we pull out the Scrabble board & challenge each other’s word power, or play a mindless game of “How Well Do You Know Me?”

I used to have mixed up dreams like that. After so many moves, I would wake up talking myself out of believing that Amy knew Christine, who knew Susan. In the dreams they’d all been together with me for some occasion, but when I woke, I separated them again—one was in Michigan, one in Texas, one in Connecticut. They’d never met in real life, though I was sure they’d like each other if they could. On Facebook, each can now see comments posted on my “wall” by the other, and my dreams of childhood are playing out before me! Amy and Christine join Susan to write me notes where the other can see, read, and even respond! What a freakish “miracle!”

Watching my dreams come alive on the flat screen kept me up too late at night. I confess I was daily checking first thing in the morning; daily popping back in after lunch; daily playing games in the evening! Whenever I felt restless in the mundane, I chased the curious & intriguing on Facebook. YouTube videos posted by “friends” were hysterical, or made me ponder a new thought. Emails coming into my network-only inbox were more intentional and specific than the overflow of spam, phishing and newsletters cramming my regular email inbox. Photo albums are just fascinating, and new baby announcements are always a quick and absorbing draw. I cannot fathom how many hours of my weeks were sponged up into Facebook over the months that it had control over me.

Time to Take Inventory!
What happened in my home, though, was not so fun. My children were getting my back more than my face! My already challenging son began acting out more intensely, and our home became troubled. What could be so much more intriguing on that screen than getting on the floor with my son to examine the details of his newest city build-out? LEGO blocks, Lincoln Logs and train tracks crisscrossed our floor in intricate detail, but I was annoyed when he called me to look, because I had another post to write!

I was raised in a home where addiction ruled many adults around me—and their peers. I had to recognize, quickly, that Facebook held and controlled me just like going to bars to socialize and drink had gripped my mentoring adults in my own childhood. Did I want my children to be Adult Children of a Facebook Addict, in lifelong recovery because of their absent mother?

Downsizing the Screentime
Lent approached. It was obvious what I needed to leave behind for those forty days. Another friend of mine initiated a Facebook group of others preparing to breakaway for the Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday season. Our group grew, and national news engines got wind of it. I was interviewed for the Wall Street Journal about the coming fast!

Leaving Facebook for forty days was one of the most freeing decisions of my life. We traveled to see family, and the children had their mom back during a beautiful spring. We walked more, we played together, we baked, I attended the annual March for Life in D.C., and met up there with my fellow Facebook buddy IRL ("in real life"), who was also fasting. The hours I had sacrificed to the screen were back, and belonged to my family. I even got pregnant during my Facebook Fast!!

As the Lent season came to a close I felt no starving desperation to log back on. I waited a few days, and slowly returned. I set a boundary for myself, and committed to only sign in on what I termed, “Facebook Fridays.” This worked for a couple months, but then I got sucked back in by cheating on a Saturday, then a Tuesday, then 5 days in one week. This is what you might call “falling off the wagon!”

Facing Down Facebook
How does an addict break away? COMPLETELY! The trouble with Facebook, is that my live address book is there. If I can’t find someone’s email address or phone number, I sign onto Facebook, and shoot them a message, or post on their wall. I make business contacts there as well. Worse than that, though, is that I have been witnessing online! I reconnected with a friend now living a lesbian lifestyle, with a high school pal who’d found Jesus, and with a woman adamantly pro-choice. I have posted over and again, justifying my words as “salt and light.” Occasionally, posts get very controversial, heated, and even mean between “friends” over issues of politics and/or religion (pre-Lenten fast, the McCain/Obama election was a particularly busy posting period for so many of us!). I often put my virtual foot in my virtual mouth because of my passionate feelings on particular topics…

And of course, once again, my family is left in the dust when I engage with digital faces instead of the tender ones growing up too fast around me!

The only way I can personally manage Facebook is to have someone else manage it for me! I gave my husband my password, asked him to change it, and now he has the only key to my profile. I am returning to my once a week dedication, with his help. He can sign me on at 10 PM on Fridays, and I am committed to be off before midnight. In this way, I can maintain the online relationships I want to, hide the updates on people I don’t need to hear from regularly, and see the newborn photos of my dear (true) friends’ children. In fact, so many of my IRL friends have migrated their main communications to Facebook that it is nice to pop in occasionally.

As I have been very frank on Facebook and on my blog pages about my addiction, the beauty is that others have admitted (on my wall!) pulling their own use back due to my leading example. There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong or evil with Facebook or other social networks—as I’ve mentioned, I’ve found Facebook to be a nearly miraculous tool for healing in my life! But, for those with addictive personalities or backgrounds, it can be such a “Time Suck” (can you hear the sucking sound of your life going down the drain?).

That was the case for me. Maybe you need a Facebook Fridays Fasting plan, too? Or, if you struggle with addiction in your life, already, perhaps you need total abstinence. Don’t be afraid to face yourself in the mirror in your honest inventory of your “need” for Facebook. Go ahead, have a Facebook Faceoff!

What can replace your time online? Scripture reading, prayer, devotions, exercise, time with your husband, children, the friends who’ve been there long before Facebook, and will be long after you sign off. Everything you used to do before Facebook & Twitter got a hold on you! Rediscover your IRL life!! Inhale, exhale, and then read over my modification of AA’s Twelve Steps, print them, and stick them on your computer screen!


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"My Stupid Mouth"

This is the song that repeats itself in my head every time I have the STUPID idea to break away from fast of my once-a-week Facebook Friday. See? This is true addiction! Knowing what not to do, and diving right in, anyway!!

My stupid mouth
Has got me in trouble
I said too much again
To a date over dinner yesterday
And I could see
She was offended
She said "well anyway..."
Just dying for a subject change

Oh, another social casualty
Score one more for me
How could I forget?
Mama said "think before speaking"
No filter in my head
Oh, what's a boy to do
I guess he better find what soon

We bit our lips
She looked out the window
Rolling tiny balls of napkin paper
I played a quick game of chess with the salt and pepper shaker
And I could see clearly, An indelible line was drawn
Between what was good, what JUST slipped out and what went wrong

Oh, the way she feels about me has changed
Thanks for playing, try again.
How could I forget?
Mama said "think before speaking"
No filter in my head
Oh, what's a boy to do
I guess he better find one

I'm never speaking up again
It only hurts me
I'd rather be a mystery
Than she desert me

Oh I'm never speaking up again
Starting now... Starting now

One more thing
Why is it my fault?
So maybe I try too hard
But it's all because of this desire
I just wanna be liked
I just wanna be funny
Looks like the jokes on me
So call me captain backfire

I'm never speaking up again
it only hurts me
I'd rather be a mystery
than she desert me

oh i'm never speaking up again
i'm never speaking up again
i'm never speaking up again
Starting now, starting now...

(c) John Mayer

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Defeat...or not!

My challenging son has taken me to the end of myself. I find I have no creativity, little joy, and barely even a foundation of energy to make it through this new day. However, I poured my salty tears out on my floor last night--twice--and I know this with all of my heart--the Holy Spirit intervened on my behalf, and Jesus heard me.

I do not feel refreshed this morning--I didn't sleep enough last night. I do not feel energetic this morning--the memory of yesterday is too profoundly present. What I do feel is hopeful, even in my exhaustion, because I stand on the Word of God, which makes so many promises to me. First is that when I am weak, He is strong (1 Corinthians 4:10). No, no, not "he," Logan (although, certainly he is STRONG!)! No. I am talking about my God! My God is bigger than my weakness! This firm faith I have carries me through my scratchiest & most painful moments.

I wrote an article about this very issue that was just published in the July 2009 edition of My Friend Debbie, today, called "Hope in His Hands." The bottom line, if you don't have time right now to pop over there to read the entire piece (though I highly recommend it!), is this:

" I am not capable of overriding God's plan for my children. I will do my very best to be a good mom to them, and some days I will soar as the best mom they or any child could have! But, other days I may be their “worst enemy”—or even my own--working against the plan of God! However, I am not capable of defeating God's plan. This is the hopeful message I have to share with myself today--and with you. Even on my son's most miserable day, he was still created with a purpose. This message is for everyone!

I think that's all I have to say about that. I'm going to follow Dr. Laura Schlessinger's advice now, throw out vanity (my eyes are puffy & I look ten years older today), and, instead, "Go, take on the day!"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Indelible Embrace

Logan and I pulled up to the house after two hours of Mommy/son time, while Teagan had remained at home with Daddy for her nap and dinner. As my headlights hit the townhouse wall, I noticed, in the lower right hand corner of our front window, Teagan's beautiful face and her fingers, pulling her up on tiptoe. She had been watching for us, missing her brother, and as soon as we pulled in, her sweet eyes disappeared from my sight, and she ran to tell Daddy we were home.

As Logan stepped out of the car, Teagan ran down the front steps, her arms wide, straight into the open arms of her brother.

They hugged, and Logan picked her right up off the ground.

Some have joked that I cannot remember portions of my life for which I do not have a photograph, but that priceless moment will never leave my memory. That is all any parent could ever dream for her children! Tom & I recalled it tonight with tears welling up in our eyes. They adore each other so much! I pray they make room for Baby #3 in there somehow!!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Deconstructing the Decomposing

Daddy? What are listening to?


Oh.... (seems to be Tom replies:)

...a composer.

Ohhhhhhhh! (long pause). What's a decomposer?