Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the category “Milestones”

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.

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Starlit Grief

​The moon is not visible from my window
And this is good.
Starlight is more illuminating of grief.

I hold my ceaseless craving for your warmth
Gently these days.
I take comfort now in its omnipresence.

The way the stars of this time and of this place
Are merely hints.
Would that I could see nebulas in their stead.

You and the unpolluted sky are both here
Safe in my heart.
Your absence, like your presence, lights my way home.

In the Spirit of Mabon

Autumn is… shall we say “subtle?” (Just to be kind?) in California. Once one has lived here a few years, a small step in the crispness direction can be perceived at daybreak and twilight. The occasional tree bursts into flames of color to indicate the season of trees bursting into actual wildfire flames is nearly at an end. The apples ripen. Zucchini and tomatoes runneth over. Stores following nationwide trends have amusing sales on items that are year-round in Cali, like patio furniture and sunglasses.

Cria tried her darnedest to thwart my attempts at a small circle this evening in honor of the Equinox, but I plied her with milk and song and eventually won my witching hour.


 I rarely plan my circles in advance and this one was no exception. The theme that evolved was this:

As the year turns toward its close, may I savor the sweetness it has brought me and accept its challenges as the invitations they always turn out to be.

Happy Mabon, my friends, near and far, and blessed be.

Because Love

Tell me why the stars do shine

Tell me why the ivy twines

Tell me why the sky is blue

And I will tell you just why I love you

I sing this song to our kids frequently (it is the first song in Platypup’s “set” — each of our kids has a group of songs I’ve been singing them to sleep with since they were born). I love the melody and the imagery. I hear the usual version has something to do with god in the second verse, but my version is what my mom sang to my sister and I:

Because of our love the stars do shine

Because of our love the ivy twines

Because of our love the sky is blue

And now I’ve told you just why I love you

No song is safe around me, and I thought about writing my own version, with the scientifically accurate answers: “because of fusion the stars do shine; because of friction the ivy twines; because of Rayleigh scattering…” well, there’s where it loses that special something.

Lying in bed one morning last month, it occurred to me how well this song describes, well, love itself. Lasting love, anyway.

First you need that giddy, falling in love spark; aka fusion, the reason stars shine. Fusion, the smashing of two into a new wondrous one, with all the heat and exponential explosion of excess energy that comes with it. The stuff that literally powers life as we know it.

Then you need to make like ivy. See, ivy twines the way it does because it turns toward the direction of any friction it feels. Pull your mind out of the gutter, friend; that’s not where I’m headed with this one (though THAT kind of friction is also important). When obstacles get in the way of ivy, does it give up? Does it relinquish its hold on its entwining partner vine? It does not. Ivy always makes it through, with sheer persnick. Or at least it tries as hard as only an invasive vine can.

Equally important is your outlook. Why is the sky blue? Because gas molecules absorb and then release more blue hues than other colors, which are allowed to pass through the atmosphere mostly undetained. Nothing poisons a promising relationship faster than picking on the daily annoyances with which all of us plague our loved ones. Don’t turn the sky red over mislaid socks and refrigerator transgressions. Absorb the many minute moments of magnificence and then allow them to paint your beloved as the ever-changing, mysterious bright skyscape of a soul that they are.

Two years ago Thor and I hit the mud and nearly lost one another, due to mundane things like parenting and work schedules and non-mundane things like identity and spirituality. We would have, had that initial fusion not been refueled. Had we not clung like ivy. Had we not chosen to see blue.

Happy birthday, Thor! Thanks for making like stars, ivy, and the sky. I love you more than I can say, sing, write, or photograph, but these lines and pictures are trying their best anyway.


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!

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:

Announcing… Ninja!

Thor and I had always planned to have two kids. And when I say always, I truly mean from the first moment we discussed the possibility of ever reaching that very far-off seeming point. Two. For sure. Two and only two.

And then Platypup was born… And within days I knew I wasn’t done.

Thor was not convinced, possibly because his hormones were not in a blender on high with the top off. So I figured we should wait to officially debate the issue until Platypup turned three. It seemed as though we would have a better sense by then of what it felt like to leave the baby/toddler phase behind, catch up on sleep, and decide whether to sail onward into middle childhood or give round three a try.

Well, this past May our Platypup turned three, and, like clockwork…  

 Halfway between Thor’s birthday and Father’s Day we learned the good news. Above is that quintessential “what am I squinting at?” ultrasound photo used to estimate a due date. Turns out our little Ninja is due in February — clearly already determined to distinguish his/herself from the rest of the family, who are all lumped together in Gemini territory.

Us parents are excited. The kiddos are over the moon. This is going to be awesome. Bring on Baby No. 3!

P. S.  This is totally how we dress all the time. The proximity to our Talk Like a Pirate Day party (Sept 19th, one of our family’s sacred holidays) is just coincidental.

   Aaarrr! Now that I’m not nauseous all th’ bloody day, I’ll have yer guts fer garters iffen ye don’t rustle up some grub!

  Avast! Hold on just a bloody minute, if’n we be havin’ another set o’ hands on deck, ’twill it mean our kitchen’ll ne’er again be swabbed’n stay swabbed?

 Yaaaar! I’ll soon ‘ave two wee bilge rats teh do me bidding!

 Ho ho, I won’t be th’ lowly cabin lad anymore!

The second first day (in a row)

Platypup’s firsts are invariably so different from Owlet’s. Partially this is because for us parents, everywhere the first child ventures is uncharted territory. Second children feel less stressful overall (though they certainly have their moments, especially when they deviate from the map you made based on your first child’s path and you’re all “wait a second, honey… I think this says ‘here be dragons!'”) but mostly this is because in addition to two parents, Platypup has Owlet. Think the world’s best combo of friend, comfort object, and parent-in-training. So where, for example, her initial experience with day camp last summer was a huge adjustment for the whole family and we stayed over an hour or so that first day before she could stomach us leaving, he was ready to wave us off in minutes.

Big sister’s here. See ya!

He was a little apprehensive this morning for his first day of preschool (and also sad because Granny was heading home after a fun-filled visit) so I gave him lots of snuggles and a pocket stone in case he needed something to help him remember we loved him and would be back to pick him up soon. But we weren’t there more than a few minutes again before he was settled in and happy to stay.

   
(Just arriving)

 (Done with photos, guys. Geez. Always making a big production out of everything.)

I keep checking just in case it only seems that he rolls easily through territory I distinctly marked as bumpy the last time around. But he is very clear about the things that do distress him: not being able to do the top button on his shirt, for example, or the presence of inedible things on his plate (seeds, shrimp tails, bones, bay leaves, all must be evicted promptly). Or his sister going somewhere exciting like kindergarten without him.

I worry that maybe we are, in fact, horrible parents who aren’t making a big enough deal of these milestone occasions with our second born. And then I have to remind myself, no, we are just meeting each child where they are. If he needed more from us to ease his transition to preschool, we would be giving it without hesitation.

  
(Seriously, this is moments after arrival.)

Of course, it helps that his school is such an awesome place to play, who wouldn’t want to be there?

Fledgling

It was Owlet’s first day of kindergarten today, and she was first out of bed in the morning.

Well, kind of. Actually, Platypup was technically first up — at dawn he crept into the room where his visiting Granny was sleeping and rather startled her, but she snuggled him back to sleep.

Owlet usually comes into our bed for morning cuddles, but today she headed straight out to the living room, perhaps assuming that because Platypup’s bed was empty he must already be there. I was already awake, dozing a little but mostly plotting and fretting and hoping, so I followed a moment later and found her curling up under a blanket on the couch, a sweet dozy little bundle of a girl. I joined her for awhile, both of us soaking in the nourishment of the mother-daughter bond on a monumentous (slightly scary) day.

Thor appeared soon after, pancake batter in his wake. I kept Owlet company while she dressed. To battle her nerves she chose a couple special objects to bring with her — a small stone and a blue feather — which I filled for her with all the love and security and groundedness I could muster.

Once breakfast hit the table, kindergarten apprehension was mired in a pool of maple syrup and the cheerful clatter of five busy forks. It emerged soon afterward, however, in waves of worry that were met each time by a reassuring adult but never entirely quelled. We might not have made it out of the house without difficulty if not for Platypup. When it was almost time to leave, Platypup flopped on Granny’s bed with a slightly melodramatic air. He said he was sad Owlet was going without him. “I’m gonna cwy,” he announced over and over, flopping around and beginning to tear up.

Owlet came to him almost at once, murmuring the reassuring words of a born nurturer and stroking his back and head, looking intently into his eyes and giving him sweet hugs. (This is the point where my own eyes started to fill.) After a few false starts, more touching goodbyes, and a last-minute geranium blossom to join the stone and feather, she, Thor, and I were off!

Concern for her little brother carried Owlet as far as the car, but once we were underway she grew quiet and pensive again. We parked, played a little shadow tag on the short walk to lighten the mood, and entered the school.

   

Thor and I stayed for the first 45 minutes or so by teacher invitation — it is a small K through 6th grade class, and everyone seemed to understand without being told that Owlet would need a little time to warm up. After some initial introductions, the class headed to the library to pick out a couple of books for the week. Reading always invigorates our little bookworm, and though she didn’t like me saying Thor and I would be leaving after library time, the joy of new books mitigated her discomfort somewhat.

We returned to the classroom, books in hand, watched as the teacher cleverly paired older students with younger ones and explained the next activity (something about verbs), and then we said our quick goodbyes. I peeked at Owlet as we crossed the threshold. To my surprise, she was already looking at the teacher rather than us, which I took to be a very good sign.

We returned home to a Platypup thoroughly revived by the thought of adventures with Granny all day. Between errands and teaching, the hours passed, and before long Thor and I were basking in the glow of an entirely changed Owlet, who bubbled with stories under the kind eye of a teacher she clearly adored as she brandished her handiwork:

   
 
The top photo shows the Little Dipper and several constellations Owlet made up and gave letter names to. (Generous soul that she is, she brought home a couple marshmallows to share with Granny and Platypup.) The artwork at the bottom involved pencil, salt, and watercolor; there is apparently a starfish in pale purple in the middle.

One day does not a school year make, of course, but I’d say we are off to a beautiful start!

Fledgling

It was Owlet’s first day of kindergarten today, and she was first out of bed in the morning.

Well, kind of. Actually, Platypup was technically first up — at dawn he crept into the room where his visiting Granny was sleeping and rather startled her, but she snuggled him back to sleep.

Owlet usually comes into our bed for morning cuddles, but today she headed straight out to the living room, perhaps assuming that because Platypup’s bed was empty he must already be there. I was already awake, dozing a little but mostly plotting and fretting and hoping, so I followed a moment later and found her curling up under a blanket on the couch, a sweet dozy little bundle of a girl. I joined her for awhile, both of us soaking in the nourishment of the mother-daughter bond on a monumentous (slightly scary) day.

Thor appeared soon after, pancake batter in his wake. I kept Owlet company while she dressed. To battle her nerves she chose a couple special objects to bring with her — a small stone and a blue feather — which I filled for her with all the love and security and groundedness I could muster.

Once breakfast hit the table, kindergarten apprehension was mired in a pool of maple syrup and the cheerful clatter of five busy forks. It emerged soon afterward, however, in waves of worry that were met each time by a reassuring adult but never entirely quelled. We might not have made it out of the house without difficulty if not for Platypup. When it was almost time to leave, Platypup flopped on Granny’s bed with a slightly melodramatic air. He said he was sad Owlet was going without him. “I’m gonna cwy,” he announced over and over, flopping around and beginning to tear up.

Owlet came to him almost at once, murmuring the reassuring words of a born nurturer and stroking his back and head, looking intently into his eyes and giving him sweet hugs. (This is the point where my own eyes started to fill.) After a few false starts, more touching goodbyes, and a last-minute geranium blossom to join the stone and feather, she, Thor, and I were off!

Concern for her little brother carried Owlet as far as the car, but once we were underway she grew quiet and pensive again. We parked, played a little shadow tag on the short walk to lighten the mood, and entered the school.

   

Thor and I stayed for the first 45 minutes or so by teacher invitation — it is a small K through 6th grade class, and everyone seemed to understand without being told that Owlet would need a little time to warm up. After some initial introductions, the class headed to the library to pick out a couple of books for the week. Reading always invigorates our little bookworm, and though she didn’t like me saying Thor and I would be leaving after library time, the joy of new books mitigated her discomfort somewhat.

We returned to the classroom, books in hand, watched as the teacher cleverly paired older students with younger ones and explained the next activity (something about verbs), and then we said our quick goodbyes. I peeked at Owlet as we crossed the threshold. To my surprise, she was already looking at the teacher rather than us, which I took to be a very good sign.

We returned home to a Platypup thoroughly revived by the thought of adventures with Granny all day. Between errands and teaching, the hours passed, and before long Thor and I were basking in the glow of an entirely changed Owlet, who bubbled with stories under the kind eye of a teacher she clearly adored as she brandished her handiwork:

   
 
The top photo shows the Little Dipper and several constellations Owlet made up and gave letter names to. (Generous soul that she is, she brought home a couple marshmallows to share with Granny and Platypup.) The artwork at the bottom involved pencil, salt, and watercolor; there is apparently a starfish in pale purple in the middle.

One day does not a school year make, of course, but I’d say we are off to a beautiful start!

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