Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the category “Mama Manna”

Guts and Pastels

​In honor of Mother’s Day, a message to me from the version of my mom that lives in my intuition:

Beyond the pain and mess
After the harsh words and forget-me-nots
There lingers the warmth
From which we all came.

That warmth is more important than getting it right.

Share your soul-fire with them
Let its imperfect authenticity
Envelop them
As you once did.

Nothing is more raw than motherhood.
The blood and mucus at birth are no anomaly:
Resist the urge to pull crisp linens over them.

Your time will come to fade like cut flowers.
Until then, use your roots.

————-

Something about Mother’s Day has always slightly unsettled me. Too many pastels, not enough guts. This poem, siphoned from the incredible woman who warms my memories, steadies that wobble for me. I’m a little more ready for the onslaught of sweet chaos that will be my tomorrow.

IMG_20170305_190615252.jpg

It Began

It began with a cup of tea.

Well, I suppose it began with an herb garden long dreamt of and finally constructed that now houses the plants harvested for that cup of tea.

Although really the herb garden dream was a natural offshoot of holding regular circles on that bit of earth.

And of course the circles came to pass once I opened to and claimed my witch-self.

Which unfolded as it did because of Rapunzel.

Whom I met when I birthed a baby and joined a playgroup.

Which happened because Thor and I moved across the country and created life here.

We chose exactly here because Florence offered to rent us her house. We chose this part of the world because my dad moved here years before and we came to visit and loved it.

He chose here after he exhaustively researched ideal places to live.

He did that research in part because he was beginning to live a broader, more wholesome life and wanted a location that would foster that growth and in part because he was tired of Wisconsin winters.

His broader, more wholesome approach to life evolved after the wakeup call of a marriage in ruins.

A marriage in ruins from two people unable to evolve past the disparity between their current disconnect and their earlier happiness.

Their earlier happiness which brought me into the world.

But I digress.

I mean, arguably it began with the dawn of time.

But it is also true to say it began with a cup of tea.

What began?

My morning ritual.

I have long craved a morning ritual. Certainly for my entire adulthood and probably my entire childhood as well. And yet I’ve never managed to form one.

A couple of years ago I felt the tug to begin an evening ritual and it is still with me now, constantly evolving to meet my needs.

This month I felt a similar urge, and instead of either talking myself out of it or beginning with an unsustainable attachment to detail, as I had in the past, I found myself choosing anew each day to harvest a few leaves of hyssop for morning tea.

To leave the house in the morning is pure joy, even just for a short walk through the obstacle course yard and back. It calibrates my day subtly yet completely.

A few days ago, I found morning yoga happening on a daily basis almost without impulse, a natural next step.

Yesterday I began to compose a new piece of music before I’d even finished yoga, and even managed a shower afterward thanks to Thor holding down the kiddo fort.

Bliss.

A Gift Moment

Owlet has been sick. A fever that hit 105.2 at one point yesterday, to be precise. She’s doing a bit better today… Better enough to be grumpy with her little brother for running into their bedroom to see if she wanted to play outside.

“Go away!” She shouted peevishly. “I’m trying to sleep!”

Thor and I had just asked Platypup not to pull on the curtains while playing “I’m a jertain in the curtain,” jump on the bed where baby Cria was lolling about, or use the windowsill to climb the wall above the bed. His sister yelling at him was the last straw, and he thumped sadly down the hall away from his family, giving what Owlet last year affectionately dubbed his “choo-choo train” sob.

Thor tried to go comfort him but Platypup yelled at him to go away so after a few tries he and I switched places; he flopped down next to a chipper, chubby, rolling baby and tried to keep her from the edges while I followed the howls toward a tear-stained face peeking out from a tightly wadded blanket.

He let me share his blanket and sobbed into my armpit. As we snuggled, I said all the right things for once, about how hard it must be not to be able to play with Owlet and how he must miss her and be worried about her, and that gave him words to then articulate those things back and cry it from his system.

The tears soon tapered off. We sat up and had moved on to an animated discussion on the dietary habits of walruses (as googled for him by Daddy at daybreak) when Owlet came in and joined us in our blanket nest.

After a companionable lull, Platypup mumbled, “I’m sorry I woke you up.”

“That’s ok,” she said with that odd mixture of frustration, chagrin, and deeply abiding love known to parents everywhere. “I wasn’t asleep. I was just trying to fall asleep.”

“I wanted you to come play with me. I miss you,” he added quietly.

She grinned at him. “Want to play now?”

He instantly lit up, and off they scampered.


That is far from the way most of their arguments go, of course. They are four and six, after all. But I was able to just sit there, doing nothing at all, and watch them make up with as much grace and honesty, if not more, than I have ever done.

This is a gift moment, I thought as I sat there, stunned, a glimpse of their future selves. This is one of the most useful skills a person can have, and they have already managed it once. The day will come when they or someone they love has really messed up badly, and this is how they will show up.

The Making of a Family

Thor and I are done creating new life. I knew this from the moment Cria arrived with exactly the same certainty I felt after Platypup was born and I was instantly, intensely aware that we had another babe waiting in the wings. Infant pajamas still render me weepy, newborn eyes hold me breathless, but our family is complete.

There are many rational reasons to be done: limited space in our house, limited zeros on our self-employed paychecks, limited sanity in our heads.

None of those are true reasons. You could squeeze six children into our three bedroom house if you really wanted to without anyone calling CPS. We are blessed with funds from deceased relatives to draw upon in tough times. And our missing marbles rolled away before our firstborn rolled over; additional kids just rattle the half-empty drawstring pouch some.

The truth is one does not simply add a child to a family as one might take a fifth towel and plop it onto a stack of four. Pregnancy in and of itself is a tax before any new person emerges, not just on the one bearing the child but also on the partner providing scaffolding and on any existing children whose still-wet clay forms bear the marks of every one of our choices. And every addition — no matter how beloved — every new addition cracks the familial structure wide open. Fractures its foundation, shatters its windows, and requires intense work rebuilding.

We may prefer not to recognize that our bundle of joy is a wrecking ball. But failing to acknowledge a fact never does seem to wither it one iota.

My solitude delighted in and was forever altered by my love for Thor. Our quirky twosome had a gorgeous miraculous iceburg crash headlong into it when our baby was born. The harmony of our family trio and the pea pod coziness of the parent-child duo groaned and stretched and made space for a sparkling quartet. The sturdy balance of our quadrilateral: two grown and two growing, two male and two female, two dependable and two incorrigible, as well as the comforting triangle of two small hands in my two big ones lay in ruins before reforming into the five pointed star we cherish today.

Every prior family unit must be cradled and mourned before the new larger family unit can properly set.

I am lucky. We are lucky. Each newcomer has been welcome, uncomplicated. We’ve only had to deal with increasing in size. All the cracks have been and continue to be painstakingly and willingly filled with copper and gems by loving hands. The choices I made were the ones my heart craved: to wed a person of heart, depth, and wit with whom to bear impish humans. 

I am not naive enough to believe the years ahead do not include their fair share of labor, but I’m no longer willing to intentionally launch the cycle of breaking and mourning and reforming the treasure that is our family. And so we have arrived at one of those moments when it is easy to see how the present alters past and future alike. Now we were always heading towards being a family of five. Now we will be remembered as a family of five even after we are all gone.

Co-Sleeping Haiku

Baby in the bed
An island, cozy and warm
In sheltering cove

Each night, like clockwork
Ere I’ve fully awakened
My breath restarts yours

Lungs, sensing a gap
Sharply inhale when you pause
And yours follow suit

You lie between us
Caramel robed in chocolate
All gooey sweetness

Night begins to fade
Two older fledglings fly home
One roosts beside me

Cramped, beloved nest
Our world for a few short years
A harbor of love

Refining Our Scholastic Balance

School decision making may be the most nerve-wracking of all the parental dilemmas.

Our country prides itself on being chock-full of choices (but without so much as a pamphlet to see us safely through). If you’ve ever been concerned about the toxins in your beauty products or the protein content in your pet’s diet, you know the time sinkhole that is internet research.

Now pretend that choice might make or break your child’s future happiness, their eventual career(s), the very wiring of their brain, not to mention all of your familial relationships, and you begin to grasp the enormity of what we parents are asked to do, not for ourselves, not on behalf of an adult or a teenager, but for a child just beginning to sprout, whose needs and desires are still partially obscured.

Way worse than shampoo or dog food. The columns of pros and cons run off into the distance like Platypup’s favorite number: infinity.

If you’ve been coming ’round these parts for awhile, you know I’ve been here before. Three years agoTwo and a half years ago… And most recently this past fall, when we actually enrolled both Owlet and Platypup for the first time.

If I’ve written at least five (six, now) posts on the subject, you know it’s been mulled over endlessly. Thor and I frequently discuss school matters using the semi-coded, intentionally complex language of parents within earshot of their children: “I got a phone message from the scholastic institution in the style of my early childhood and after we submit the appropriate forms on behalf of our male descendant we can observe the occupants in their native environment.” (Translation: the Montessori school says we can tour after turning in some initial paperwork for Platypup.) My friend Kula and I sip tea, commiserate, and take turns as sounding board. Her daughter is right between Owlet and Platypup in age and our opinions on educational philosophies and the various local schooling options always track closely in tandem; no one bears witness to my “what feels right?” soul-search better than she. I sneak-attack interview complete strangers whose offspring are homeschooled or who attend a school on my list. And of course when the moon is full, the cats noisy, or the children restless, I lie awake at night and relentlessly chart and rechart potential courses until I force myself to yoga-pee-meditate back to sleep.

Then a couple months ago, a new chapter in Owlet’s schooling jumped out and threw itself across our path.

Owlet began in the fall at a partial homeschooling program, which we enjoyed but quickly realized was probably not our home long-term due to its tiny size and undeviatingly standardized curriculum. As we explored other options, we came across another hybrid program that seemed much more our style. We applied in November to transfer (this year if possible or at the start of next school year if not) and waited.

We had resigned ourselves to the luck of the lottery for Fall 2016 and were in full on, baby-anytime mode when we got the call: there was an opening if we wanted to take it.

Thor and I tore our hair out a little over the timing of it all (a couple weeks before my due date) but we toured and adored it, took Owlet for a trial day at which she had a blast, and officially transferred… On what turned out to be two days before Cria’s birth.

Bam! Huge life transition times two.

It could easily have backfired, but the combination turned out to be perfect for Owlet. As much as she loved her new school, she was really, really, really sad to leave her first teacher, and a tiny baby sister was an ideal distraction. Her class of fellow kindergarteners and first graders has given her a wealth of friends — and Thor and I a pack of like-minded parents! The curriculum is whatever we want it to be, with expert guidance to take the hassle out of homeschooling. Instead of the worksheets and textbooks that prompted alarming statements like “I hate science,” we have interest-driven projects and research and games. Because the curriculum is so perfectly tailored to the individual student, I can say without hesitation that all three of our kids will thrive here. Maybe there’s a curveball in our future, but for now, this fits us to a T… I know, because my midnight agonizing on the subject has ceased, and with all the newborn nursing sessions and cramped co-sleeping configurations, that’s saying something!

  

   

Tangerines (and tupperware)

Some days our friendship is a tangerine
Ripe with laughter, wittily sour

Some days our friendship is a faded rose
With its musty scent of outgrown youth

Some days our friendship is a worn cotton cloth
Soothing fevers, binding wounds

Some days our friendship is a stalled car
Aching shoulders haul through the intersection

Some days our friendship is a word sung well
Summoning soul-dancing goosebumps

Some days our friendship is a pair of pennies
Almost forgotten but for a faint chime

And truly I cherish it as a coin just as much as a song
A wrecked car just as much as a fabric scrap
A boutonnière as much as a tangerine

For each has their place
And to do otherwise would be to leave fruit molding on the shelf
While eating dusty petals.

We two, we understand this
And so our friendship is the most tenacious of wildfowers.

————-
I say “we two” but am thinking of several people at once, folks who have hauled my sorry crumpled fender through more than I can recall and whose presence makes me happier than sushi (though the best, of course, is sharing sushi with these lovely souls). In addition to my beloved oldies-but-goodies I have been so fortunate this past year to find more and more kindred spirits, and I feel encircled now by people both local and far-flung who together form the village I once longed for, a village I am proud to call home.

A village that gifted us a bevy of meals for weeks after Cria’s birth! And a village, therefore, to whom I promise we will return jars, tupperwares, and casserole dishes one day soon… (Seriously! They are all clean and waiting for my scattered brain to remember to deliver them when next we meet.)

Here are the ones vacationing atop our fridge:

  

And Baby Makes Five

Fourteen days ago this enchanting imp made her grand entrance: 

 

She built up the suspense with two days of painless “warmup” (more frequent than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been experiencing for months, but definitely not yet active labor) during which I optimistically visualized dilation occurring and stockpiled sleep and food like the apocalypse was looming.

My first labor was a day and a half. My second was half a day. Both natural births, neither of them abnormally difficult, but both involved a sleepless night and more than two hours of pushing. I was hoping for shorter and easier, of course, but preparing for endless.

I began bedtime with Owlet and Platypup pretty certain labor was almost upon us but still able to read to them and sing a few songs. Then singing during contractions became more challenging so I put on some music and sat at the edge of Platypup’s bottom bunk until he fell asleep. I kissed an engrossedly reading Owlet goodnight in her top bunk and headed out to the living room. It was a little after 8pm.

I pulled out a favorite book I was rereading (Destiny’s Song, by Audrey Faye) in anticipation of tackling its newly released sequel during the nursing marathon that is the newborn period. Contractions were closer together and no longer ignorable, but I was still able to read through them awhile, and then read between them until I finished the book around 9pm.

Next I entered what I think of as the “restless” period. Contractions were… Bothersome? Not painful exactly, but just… irritating, and I wasn’t able to settle into a groove of coping with positioning or visualization or anything the way I remember doing in my first births. I stood, I walked, I sat, I leaned, I squatted, I crawled, I reclined on my side, I used the birth ball and Thor and the back of the chair. I even did a few half sun salutations — mostly to ease my mood a bit.

I stopped being able to simply draw long slow ujjayi breaths through contractions and began to make low, quiet moaning sounds. Thor had been keeping an eye on the clock and asked a couple of times whether I thought we should call our midwife yet. I was grumpy, completely unsure whether this was even active labor yet, and each time said I didn’t know. Then I threw up, a common sign of labor well underway. Thor went ahead and made the call.

Soon after, my water broke a bit. Fictional births almost universally cast this as the first sign of labor, and for a small percentage of laboring moms it is. But not for me! With Owlet, the midwife broke the bag of waters manually late in first stage to help a long slow labor accelerate, and with Platypup, it leaked a bit toward the end of the first stage and then exploded suddenly on my midwife mid-second stage. In other words, for me, any amount of water breaking = baby coming.

And the tornado hit. So fiercely that I felt I had no coping skills at all. I anchored to my breath and held onto its well-practiced steady undulation for dear life as contractions seemed to overlap, with any brief potential break in the action obliterated by an impatient babe who seemed to be attempting to tunnel out. Her every movement seemed to pummel the same spots that bore the brunt of each contraction. With each contraction I filled my core with deep, resonant sound that could almost but not quite drown out the pain. I had dropped to hands and knees when I felt my water beginning to break (I was actually able to warn Thor in time for him to slip a waterproof pad underneath first) and that is where I stayed, all ability to move having vanished.

In the time it took our midwife to drive from the next town over, I went from waffling on whether it was time to call to unquestionable certainty that she should already have arrived.

The midwife agreed. She opened the front door at around 10:30 and immediately called the second midwife based on my voice alone. Then she came into the room, checked the baby’s heart rate, got the rest of her equipment into the house, and at my request checked my dilation.

I was completely dilated other than a small lip.

A couple of contractions later my body begin to push on its own. A few more and I could tell the baby’s head was already crowning. Thor got ready to catch with our midwife’s assistance and as her face emerged they were both surprised to see the caul still around it. I was able to stop actively pushing and just breathe instead (a feat that was frankly impossible in prior births) to ease her out gently. Moments later she slipped free into Thor’s waiting hands.

It was 11:08pm. A mere three hours after I’d put our two children to bed, we now had three!

I held our new daughter sitting back on my heels after she had been passed up to me and was able to change positions without needing major support. Getting comfortable was another matter, but the last two times I basically became jelly instantly post-birth. I was glad to feel I still had strength left.

Our second midwife arrived minutes later. After the initial postpartum activities (checking us both out, cleaning multiple meconium explosions, inspecting the placenta, pushing super hard on my belly to help the uterus shrink — the usual) Thor went to bring in the big kids.

Owlet was instantly awake. Platypup would not be roused right away so Thor brought Owlet in first and went back to try again.

Owlet came in all wide-eyed and hushedly excited:

  

Platypup stumbled blearily into the room, spotted on the floor the white and black couch cushions we designated as the ones that must stay on the couch (the others can be played with), and apparently his sense of order was offended, because he immediately attempted to rectify the situation (fortunately without putting them directly in a pool of blood) without so much as glancing around for the baby. I managed to draw Thor’s attention in time for him to rescue the pillow in question. Then we reminded Platypup there was a new baby sister to meet!

    

Eventually we all migrated to bed together: Baby “Cria” in the middle, Thor and I on either side of her, Owlet and Platypup on either side of us. We sang to Cria for the first time; Platypup asked for Rainbow Connection and Owlet requested Onawa’s Waltz. Sleep was fragmented, Platypup kept me far too warm, and my escapes for water/bathroom breaks were acrobatic feats, but our first night as a family of five is already etched in the rosy hues reserved for memories most beloved. One sweet, cozy, crowded family.

   

  

  

  
 

  
First outing: going to sushi to celebrate our two week old!

The time between

I am an elephant. A cranky elephant. A cranky, creaky, elderly elephant. A cranky, creaky, elderly elephant who needs to sleep more hours than there are hours. And eat more food than exists.

Which is to say, there is likely still at least a month and a half to go until our third baby makes an appearance.

I am ready to nest. And yet who would attempt to nest now, when nesting means wrestling space for clothes and diapers in drawers and closets already full of four people’s things? “Nesting” the third time around looks a lot more like intensive purging and a lot less like tenderly folding tiny onesies.

Today I entertained the notion of never teaching again after this birth (but not with any real seriousness). In almost the same thought-bubble I considered suggesting Thor quit one of his bread-and-butter gigs, because third-hand smoke is a *thing* (which it is, but thankfully I can count on one hand the times my pregnant nose has even noticed that he was in a facility where smoking is permitted). Later, I enthusiastically plotted the new little kid classes I’m putting together for this coming summer.

A smart fortune cookie would say “you are in no condition to make life decisions.” The word on the back would be “dàn jiǔ” (eggnog).

One of our cats is missing. The shy one. Pajama. The one we took in as a feral teenage waif of a kitten. I spent a whole summer taming her, almost a decade ago now. She barely ever leaves our yard, and she is terrified of strangers.

  
I am hopeful she will return. The only other time one of our animals has disappeared was the last time I was pregnant — also during the winter. Our cuddle-bug Cricket vanished two weeks before we moved. Fortunately our new house was quite close to our old one so we could still patrol the same neighborhood. He was gone a whole month. Thor found him walking down the sidewalk only a few blocks away. He was skinny as all get out, writhing with joy to be home again. Blessedly safe and sound.

So we find ourselves turning the page of the year as one would flick a waiting room magazine. Soon our beautiful baby will make his or her debut. Hopefully sooner than that, if we are lucky, our little tuxedo cat will have made her way back.

Of course, we are hardly just waiting. We are doing all of the living we always do; flipping pancakes, quelling squabbles, making music, collecting stray shoes from the yard before they decompose or acquire residents, brainstorming for our family/businesses/selves, sneaking eggnog from the fridge. On top of it all, we are posting flyers, scanning shelter listings, and taking walks in the dark making real cat-calls that sound something like a drowning bumblebee with an urgent secret. We are meeting with midwives, gearing up for the routine glucose tolerance test, going to yoga, and clearing the aforementioned space for nesting to eventually occur. We are having serious conversations with children about guns, and dinosaurs, and maybe not coming into our bed quite as early in the wee small hours of the morning so mommy can have enough room for her beloved body pillow and therefore just possibly get enough sleep to stay sane.

But we go through it all cloaked in the stuff that makes daybreak so beautiful and at the same time so damn tediously suspenseful that you seriously regret leaving your bed just to see it. I remember my dreams well these days (because I am so often wrenched from them by the incessant need to use the loo) and I can say with certainly that my every hour, waking or sleeping, is draped in dawn’s mauvy gauze.
 

cloaks of a different sort (handmade by Granny)

 
I wish I could tell you that by the third child I know to cherish this last bit of breathing space before the hurricane of newbornhood. I mean, I do “know” it. But actually doing the cherishing is a challenge when your skin, your brain, your bladder all resemble nothing so much as a water balloon filled by a child too young to know not to fill with the maximum amount possible.

Still, there are moments quintessential to this in-between period. Time spent watching my lurching belly. Time doing my witchy thing, wrapping my unborn babe in love and protection, summoning my cat home with an open beacon of a heart. Time making sure my older babies are properly treasured, my marriage nurtured, my body kept healthy and strong — with a side of eggnog and a nap if I can get one.

Because this time around, I know I am preparing the right way. Not by reading every prenatal book ever written, like my first pregnancy, or by planning endlessly for the practical aspects of having two children, like my second, and all the while, both times, knowing there was something more important and yet less tangible I should be doing, but unable to reach it through my pregnant haze.

This time I am focusing on my emotional state, my spiritual exploration, and above all my connection with each member of my growing family. In this glittering stillness between inhale and exhale, I am growing like a weed. A very rotund weed. And I feel certain there is no better way for me to honor this time between.

Hygge and Marriage

Weddings grow families. This simple fact was woven throughout the sweet ceremony my dad and his wife Florence had this past weekend to formalize and celebrate their long-term relationship.

Surprisingly enough, theirs was not the only wedding on the week’s agenda: a couple days ago my stepbrother Waldo was wed in South America and this weekend my sister Gemini will tie the knot in Asia! And my family is roughly quadrupling in size… Which combined with the multiple continents thing must make us something of an international sensation.

Unsurprisingly, I have had marriage on the mind as of late. I have also had “hygge” on the mind ever since reading The Danish Way of Parenting earlier this year, a book I definitely recommend. Hygge is difficult to define succinctly but easy enough to comprehend once you’ve been given a description or two. (The best definition I’ve found is this one.) Essentially, it is a cozy, everyday delight in togetherness. Hygge is highly prioritized in Danish culture and is theorized to be one reason they are the happiest nation on earth.

We’ve experienced a lot of family gatherings this year — my mom’s side assembled for my grandmother’s memorial back in May, we attended the annual reunion my father in law’s side has every July, my dad’s side had the first of what will hopefully be many reunions in August, and this weekend some of dad’s and Florence’s children and siblings came together for the wedding.

During all of this extended family time I was delighted to notice lots of hygge. I hadn’t really realized it before, but my little nuclear family is surrounded by hygge experts. In addition to all of the above, my mother in law’s side and my first stepfamily are also experienced in the art of hygge (and both are overdue for reunions of their own). Perhaps this combined heritage is why Thor and I recharge best in a little familial cocoon at home doing nothing in particular?

During the ceremony my dad talked about their reasons for choosing marriage over simply continuing to enjoy life together without that particular label. Chief among reasons was this: the formal extension of family. As a couple, marriage was a nice symbol of their connection, but beyond that, within the larger context of their families, they each wanted to formally induct the other into the sweet, sarcastic, weird, wonderful bunch of people they grew up with or raised and clearly treasure.

My dad also asked the assembled, his family by blood and his new family by marriage, to encircle him and Florence, to support them when needed and help them remember their origins and their best selves and thereby strengthen them individually and together.

It made me consider that hygge may be as important as romantic love in the making and keeping of a marriage. Whether that hygge is with a family of birth or one of choice, time spent with those who have loved us unconditionally for as long as they’ve known us may be what keeps us sane, helps us delight more fully in our blessings, and allows us to better weather the inevitable jolts along the journey.

With that in mind, best wishes of much hygge to all, especially the (many) newlyweds!

————-

And now, for your enjoyment, here are Owlet and Platypup reenacting their wedding contributions. (Their new cousin was part of the live act, so imagine a third adorable imp in the first two videos.)

First, a song:


Skiddamarinky dinky dink
Skiddamarinky do
I love you
I love you in the morning and in the afternoon
I love you in the evening underneath the moon

Next, a poem by Ogden Nash:


To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it
Whenever you’re right, shut up.

And finally, a Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton:

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: