Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the tag “change”

This Solstice brought to you by the letter B, the letter C, and the number 4

It’s been awhile since I wrote regularly. Things have been shifting in ways that are difficult to put into words, and lately I’m finding myself fueled by more active ways of feeding my soul: doing “my thing,” of course, first and foremost, but also music-making, reading out loud with Thor (lately, he’s been reading Debora Geary to me while I frantically try to finish a knitting project in time for Christmas), and lots of yoga.

Tonight seems right to get caught up a little, to honor the passing season and in particular the turning point that Solstice seems to be for me this year. As I mentally flip back the calendar pages, I am amused to discover a few common threads, which I shall share with you, Sesame Street style.

***This update on Platypup and Owlet brought to you by the letter B.***

B is for Beds. Specifically, bunkbeds (double points!) lovingly handcrafted by Thor over the past several months. Platypup has always slept in our bed. Naps were more variable but nighttime was always in with us. This was intentional; looking back on the various sleeping arrangements we tried with Owlet, being in bed with us was by far the best in terms of minimizing sleep interruptions as well as easiest on the heart. All kid-parent combos are different; this is what worked for ours.

Owlet had been at least beginning the night in her own room starting at about 20mo, but over the summer my old strategy of having Platypup lying on my belly while we put Owlet to sleep in her twin bed (both kids nursing) and then transferring him to our bed stopped being feasible due to Platypup becoming one hefty sack of flour. Thor had been helping when he wasn’t working, but in the summers he works almost every night. Solo parenting bedtime was a lot more manageable when I began putting both kids to sleep in our bed every night, especially knowing the bunkbeds were in the works and they weren’t going to be there indefinitely.

But now the bunkbeds are complete! And gorgeous. And effective… Sometimes they ask to sleep in our bed instead, but only once have we actually begun the night there since they were completed (Thor was working overnight in the city and I thought it would be cozy. And warmer! I was right). They come in with us sometimes if they wake in the night and other times both are there till morning. The first few nights Thor and I were both stunned by dreaming returning full-force, and I was irritated but entertained to discover I lost the ability to roll over in my sleep at some point in the past five years, resulting in some pretty sore arm joints most mornings.

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B is for Breastfeeding. Drumroll please… Owlet self-weaned! Once summer ended and Thor stopped working every night, I oh so delicately, serenely — nay, angelically — suggested he might want to take every possible bedtime for the foreseeable future. Side effect: no more routine bedtime milk. It faded out really quickly. First both were still nursing the nights Nils had to work, then just Platypup since I told Owlet she had to choose between nursing and having me reading to her (hard to hold a book with two latched on) and she often chose to read, and then both just sort of forgot about it as Daddy’s dairy-free routine became the norm. (Woooooo!) Platypup still nurses some mornings, but if I’m not up for it I can distract him by mentioning breakfast.

B is for Books. Owlet has been reading to herself since a little before she turned four (I know, freakishly early, and not our doing — she just really got into it), but now she is totally speedy and while she still prefers to be read to, she also can be found increasingly often tucked cozily into some nook or other with blanket and book. Also on the subject of books, due to the aforementioned bunkbeds and lack of bedtime breastfeeding, I do a lot more reading at night, and Owlet is totally into chapter books. We’ve been indulging in some of my very favorites, like Pippi Longstocking and Ramona, and I can’t wait to pull out my boxes of childhood books from the garage and share them all with her. Platypup usually falls asleep right away, but sometimes he writhes around getting his blankets settled first. I’m not sure how much of the story he is following as he drifts off, but I can tell he’s listening.

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B is for Boisterousness. Holy hell! Two kids are crazy pants. It doesn’t matter whether they are having fun or terrorizing one another, there is a lot of energy rampaging through our house all the frikkin time. Owlet was on the quiet side, especially before Platypup was born, so this snowballing explosion of insanity was rather overwhelming at first. Still is, some days, though we are getting our sea legs somewhat.

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B is for Bunnies. We moved them inside for the rainy season and it is perfect timing; the kids are old enough to really pet them (and in Owlet’s case, to hold them carefully) and help make sure they don’t chew on any stray books or pajamas that may be lost under the couch. So they are getting out of the cage a lot more than the last time they lived indoors with us.

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***This update on me-beyond-parenting brought to you by the letter C.***

C is for Change. There’s been a lot of new stuff going on around here. All of the above speaks to change, of course. And I’ve written some about my own changes, especially in finding a spiritual practice that suits me so entirely. (I’m out of the broom closet now — proudly wiccan. Still atheist, although a friend of a friend mentioned animism recently which also fits.) Thor and I have been changing, too, in really important good ways that are occasionally terribly uncomfortable and ultimately make us stronger. There is a whole ton of open, honest, willingly vulnerable conversation flowing between us and I would take this beautiful ever-evolving partnership we have now over who we were a year ago or two or five or twelve without hesitation, every time.

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C is for Courage and Conviction. If you’ve known me awhile, you may laugh; I’ve not generally lacked for either. But I’m mastering a whole new level here, mostly due to an increasing trust in my own intuition. This includes getting around to saying things when things need to be said without stressing over them for long and knowing from deep within my core whether a particular action should be taken or not.

C is for Creativity. Not just of the artsy kind, either. Yes, I’ve been songwriting and knitting and inventing my own branch of witchcraft (tee hee) but I’m also learning to cast a wider net when the usual options are failing. No solution is too outlandish to at least consider for a moment, and the impact on my daily interactions with kids, Thor, students, and friends has been substantial. I’m more fluid and at least a teensie tiny bit less stubborn.

C is for Connection. It is getting easier to deepen relationships with those around me as well as reach out to far-flung family and friends. I’ve struggled and mostly failed in the past to keep up with my siblings, college friends, and extended family, only partially consoled by our ability to snap back together like pop beads whenever we visit one another. I’m far from perfect, but I’m doing a lot better, and my college best friend and I actually have an established day and time to chat, which is no small feat for two employed people with small children, and are talking at least a few times a month. I cannot tell you how good that feels.

C is for Centered. I am not immune to the ups and downs of daily life. I still yell at my kids. I still screw up, all over the place some days. I don’t have any illusions of being mistaken for His Holiness the Dalai Lama anytime ever. But. But I come back to center so easily these days. Right now I’m working on and getting better at letting difficult emotions run through me for a solid, unsteady moment and then depart, leaving me able to catch my balance and move on in a way that feels even more healthy than all the flax and burdock root in the world (though both of the above are pretty super).

And the number 4? Well, I have a family of four, am one of four siblings, routinely gather in a group of four close friends, have a four year old (who not infrequently acts like a fourteen year old), and really ought to yell “fore!” just as a matter of course on my funky winding path through this life.

Oh, and of course it’s still 2014 for another week and a half. Happy Solstice, everyone! May this darkest night bring you peace and healing and big piles of warm things like cats and blankets.

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Open Heart

Things are shifting.

They always are, of course. I am fairly intolerant of personal stagnation and have been known to prod things better left alone for the sake of change. But most of my growth lately has been specifically as a mother (and when I say lately I mean for approximately the last four years nine months).

This past month or so, however, I’ve gone back to growing as an individual, in ways that may inform my parenting but are not so firmly welded to it.

There are surface changes, of course. Easy enough to describe. I have carved out room for music making and dates with Thor and time with friends. I am crocheting and plotting creative things for my students and exercising regularly. I am more forgiving of my own mistakes and those of my kids. I am even learning how to talk to strangers.

But those feel like symptoms. At the root is something that makes all of the above suddenly more manageable.

We need to rewind and begin further back. Picture child-me. I am half bookworm, half gymnast-dynamo. Shy shy shy in new places with new people, but incorrigible chatterbox with those I trust. Deeply drawn to animals and the outdoors. Always a spiritually inclined atheist. Prone to spend whole weeks in one continuous imaginative play. Incredibly resistant to teeth brushing and sleeping. I crave balance in all things: food, art, belongings, my own footsteps. I get goosebumps and that delightful tickly-spine-neck-shiver feeling constantly — while reading, watching movies, or listening to almost any kind of music. I cry easy as breathing.

Teenage me is much the same, plus the maelstrom of losing my mom and a definite reduction in visible shyness.

But college me does something new. College me learns to say what I mean on the first try, to close doors, to draw clearer boundaries and stick to them. I stop taking everything so personally and finally figure out how to allow friendships to settle naturally onto the many different levels between best friend and acquaintance. I find a career and a life partner hoping but not knowing either is as permanent a choice as they turn out to be. And without conscious intent, two things happen: my imagination gradually begins to confine itself to realism, and little by little I abandon my endless pursuits of philosophical truth and gut-level soul-baring emotional connection.

Late twenties me continues down this path, developing wonderful life skills like eating healthily and exercising routinely. I bear a child and apply my intellectual ferocity toward raising her. I do an incredible amount of nursing. I nearly cease composing. I bear another child. I begin to drown slowly in “isthiswhatmylifeisnow?” because I feel the lack of something I cannot name and my brain is leaching out with my milk and there is never a break in the action for more than the bare minimum of recharging.

I begin this blog to light my way through the fog that is mothering small children. A few weeks later, my friends’ son is diagnosed with JMML.

I am so well-protected by this point, my crybaby heart sheathed in such tough stuff, that even as I weep and hope and grieve and hope some more, I am suddenly forced to see how I now keep the world at arms length. Unnerved, I begin to poke, to goad myself to the level of feeling I remember from childhood. But my barriers are strong enough to keep me out, too.

I turn outward, toward the practical assistance my hands can offer, but all the while I chip and chip and chip away at my own tough shell.

As I do so, I don’t truly think it is still in there, the overly sensitive soul I remember having had once, but I feel compelled to try.

Eventually I can tell I am making headway. The goosebumps, the shivers, they never went away, but now they are multiplying. I am living less in the safe, boring middle and more in the highs and lows. I feel ever so slightly more awake.

My friends’ son dies.

I feel the choice, as clearly as though I hold one in each hand. I can reshutter the windows, rebar the door, shut my eyes, and hum. Or I can become a ground wire for unbearable grief. There is never any question of which I will choose, of course. I am pulled to emotional midwifery like a crane fly to a pouch light; always have been.

I form a handful of true friendships, deeper than I dreamed was possible to do as an adult. And, like honey that has been resting on the shelf for awhile, I slowly begin to ooze from my jar. A year or so passes and I hover in limbo, jar open and tipped upside down, heart ensnared for the moment by friction alone but moving oh so glacially toward freedom.

And finally, suddenly, out I fall.

And here I am. Maybe it was a song, or a hug, or just the right words that finally pulled me all the way out, but regardless, here I am. Willingly vulnerable. Writing prolifically, intoxicated by music, by love of family and friends, finding that mythical center-amidst-chaos that previously seemed an impossible goal plastered on a Facebook meme.

At first it feels a little like being in love, complete with fluttery abdominal butterflies. But even when that initial glow fades, my cracked-open heart remains. Oh, it still gives half-hearted attempts at closing up shop, but I think it’s just teasing, and I am wise to its ways now.

And I have my best people on the job to keep it that way. Owlet and Platypup’s incessant shenanigans and impossible heaps of love. Gertrude and Alice’s craftiness and laughter in the face of sadness. The immeasurable treasure of Rapunzel’s mirth and wisdom. And Thor’s steady, ever-loving presence offering a perfect counterpoint to it all.

Things are shifting, and my heart is open to whatever is coming next.

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(Owlet gave Platypup her old violin for his birthday. He is thrilled.)

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