a letter to my 3-year-old

dear oliver,

i’ll just tell you right now, this is a love letter. there’s no denying it. i am head over heals in love with you. it’s that crazy kind of love that i want to shout from the mountain top. this love is irrational and all-consuming. i can’t help it. i just think you are the very greatest. when you turned one, i published your birth story. when you were two, i wrote you a somewhat desperate letter. but today, my ollie, today, you are three, and i have nothing but praise. sure, you struggle plenty as you develop that pre-frontal cortex. and i reach the end of my rope often. i loose it sometimes… but more and more you are an utter pleasure to be with. you speak kindly and impress people with your “thank you so much!” and your “excuse me, mama…” people often comment on how verbal you are and we all get such joy out of conversing with you these days. you are full of great ideas like sharing fruit with our neighbors, or mesquite bunny crackers. i love how you pronounce festival, “festibal” and tell your papa to “send me a text.” you give great kisses and hugs, and randomly exclaim that you love us. recently you commented that something was “stress-able.” i asked you what you meant and you said, “you know, like, yelling.” i think you are really smart. you like to riff on words and rhythms. “crack an egg, crocodile.”

i love your physicality and how you move your growing body. you can ride FAST on your balance bike and aren’t afraid to try new challenges at the skate park. you know yourself, though and don’t try anything outright dangerous. generally, when you want to go somewhere, you don’t walk or run, you gallop. -a modified skip that i better get on video before it’s too late.

your focus and patience is increasing every day and you are a joy to work with on projects like paper mache, or even vacuuming or doing the dishes (sometimes). i love how you are using your imagination more and you can tell us stories. you are figuring out so much all the time. you want to know the what-where-why about everything and your questions are getting more complex.

you are starting to learn what is pleasing and displeasing to the people in your life and often choose actions that will please. we are very charmed when you do this! the other day a friend of yours was crying because he wanted a toy that another kid was playing with. once you understood the situation you marched over to the kid and emphatically explained why they should give up the toy “to make jonah feel happy and not cry).

oliver lee, we are so glad that you are here with us!




figuring out holidays

something i struggle with a bit as a parent is how to handle holidays & traditions. when to keep up the family or cultural tradition, and when to change the tradition to reflect my values and needs better. growing up, my mom and oma were really good at making festivities grand. there was much preparation and many components to every holiday or birthday. the women who raised me were both “super-mom” types who would stay up late into the night to finish a surprise project and make things perfect. i am not that kind of mom. sometimes i wish i was but, my super-mom mom also taught me to take good care of myself, that stressing over perfection is really not worth it. i learned that the people i love would rather have me happy and relaxed than have a pinterest-worthy birthday party. for me at this stage of my parenting career, that means not staying up late. it means not single-handedly cooking a meal for 10 people. it often means not buying gifts. last year it meant completely forgetting my husband’s birthday. oops. stressing over holidays and birthdays doesn’t feel good, but ignoring (or forgetting) them doesn’t feel good either. so i’m trying to find that middle path. doing simple but meaningful celebrations. for easter i had about 50 different egg decorating craft ideas pinned on my pinterest board. i started stressing about where i could find white eggs that we could use that came from non-CAFO chickens, and then i realized. i already have eggs. most of my chickens lay pretty brown eggs and my auracanas lay green ones. so ollie and i broke out the water colors and crayons and decorated a few eggs. i sprouted some wheat berries for easter grass, and acquired a few edible and non edible easter treats (small chocolate bunny, a few chocolate eggs, yogurt covered raisins, bubbles, marbles, and a rubber ducky) i did buy some plastic eggs, because hand felting easter eggs is just not something that’s gonna happen this year. i was planning to make the easter cake my oma always did, but it may not happen.


before you know it

it’s the most cliche cliche out there; before you know it, your kids are all grown up and the time you spent feeling smothered by them becomes a wistful memory. well, i’m not there yet, but this week i’ve seen many glimpses of a future life that does not involve offers to eat mud “chocolate” or questions like, “are you love me so much, mama?” and the thought of that sweetness going away is pretty sad, much as i look forward to what will be possible as oliver matures.

the last month has been especially challenging for me, as you may have gathered, with oliver going through a very hard time coinciding with the most intense season of my job, and damian working like crazy on his permaculture design certificate, and my dad’s alzheimer’s has suddenly required more support than previously, and then i found myself in the ER with kidney stones, and and and. i have blog posts planed for everything i just mentioned, so stay tuned, desert permaculture geeks and alzheimer support people! but the point of this here post, is to record that in this moment, friends, i am not overwhelmed or exhausted. well, actually, i am overwhelmed and exhausted still, but not as much. i can see the light at the end of the exhausted and overwhelmed tunnel! it just took a few little things to add up to a much happier, centered experience. here’s what i think helped:

  1. damian finished his course. (yay!!!)
  2. two of oliver’s molars broke through, this may be the main cause that he was suddenly able to contentedly entertain himself for stretches of 20 minutes or more (hallelujah!), this improved mood also means that i have less fear for my physical safety. the random throwing of wooden toys and head butting has decreased significantly.
  3. the last session of not back to school camp (that’s my job) started, which means that the mad rush to get all my campers forms and waivers and payments and health insurance card photocopies and travel plans is done for the year.
  4. my brother-in-law, nathen, decided a two-year-old would make a good assistant for a small construction project and took oliver several times this week for an hour or so each time. nathen, i am so grateful, and also extremely impressed that you drilled, sawed, and hammered with my toddler at your side. i used the time to sleep, cuddle with my man, clean the floor, or stare at the wall. it was amazing.
  5. i stopped pissing blood. take a moment right now to notice how well your own kidney’s are functioning, and give thanks.

since oliver has been feeling better (or maybe it’s since i’ve been feeling better) i’ve been so amazed at the developmental leaps he’s making. for instance, he’s discovered imaginative play. it’s so sweet to listen to him chatter to himself acting out little scenes. he’ll pretend to eat a watermelon, and then pat his belly and say, “i’m full now.” maybe that’s not very impressive to you, because that’s what kids do, but i’m just so honored to be here to watch that emerge from him, when it wasn’t there before. he’s also singing more, and his little voice is just way, way too cute. now i’m gushing. i’ll stop. you can tell by the pictures. check out my new instagram sidebar–>

breastfeeding; it’s like smoking, only good for you

the other day at the park another mom asked me if i was still breastfeeding my 13 month old. when i told her i was, she said “wow, you’re a superhero!” i’m not one to argue with somebody calling me a superhero (we are all superheros), but her comment shocked me because i really don’t think of breastfeeding as heroic. sure, there are challenges to face from time to time, but in my culture bubble there’s a heck of a lot of support to meet breastfeeding challenges (my mother-in-law, who lives next door, was a la leche league leader for something like 20 years. and my mom was also a LLL leader and breastfed me until i was almost 5. so you see why breastfeeding a 13-month-old doesn’t seem unusual to me). it got me thinking back to that article, “the case against breastfeeding” and the stance that breastfeeding is this huge burden and sacrifice. i don’t want to discount other mom’s struggles, i know they are real. but for me, breastfeeding is the opposite of a sacrifice. i don’t breastfeed because i’m willing to sacrifice myself for my baby’s health, i breastfeed because i’m lazy, indulgent, vain, and cheap.

i’m lazy because i don’t want to get up in the middle of the night to soothe a baby between sleep cycles, i just want to roll over, let my baby latch on and go back to sleep.  when i’m having dinner with friends, i don’t want to have to leave to put my baby to bed, i’d much rather just nurse him and let him fall asleep in my lap. at bed time i don’t want to bounce and sing and rock my baby to sleep, i’d rather just lay there reading a book or playing with my ipod while he nurses himself to sleep. when we go out somewhere, i don’t want to have to think about balanced, nutritional snacks to bring along, i just want to go and nurse if my baby gets hungry.

i’m indulgent. i like to take lots of breaks during the day. i like the feeling of serotonin and oxytocin released into my blood stream. when i’m doing a million things at once and getting frazzled, breastfeeding gives me a break, a pause, to just sit (or lie down!) and breathe and be still.  i’ve never been a smoker, but i used to be jealous of the smokers i worked with. when things got hectic and stressful, they’d go out for their break and i’d watch through the window as they took a slow inhale, their shoulders dropped, and they came back in with a fresh, calmer perspective. breastfeeding gives me the relaxed shoulders and fresh perspective, and instead of bad breath and higher cancer risk, i get to feel connected to my baby and a decreased risk of cancer.

i’m vain because i want to be slim and trim while eating tons of everything delicious and full of calories. i’d rather burn calories by making milk than exercising or dieting.

and i’m cheap. i like growing my own food and making things from scratch. breast milk is the only thing i can think of where the very best quality is also the cheapest option.

the case against breastfeeding

i recently read an article titled “the case against breastfeeding” which, incidentally, is not at all a case against breasfeeding, but more of a list of (valid, i thought) complaints about parents oppression, sexisim, and patriarchy. but the title made me mad (i’m pretty sure it was meant to). the tone reminded me of pretty much everything i’ve been reading these days. like the recent time magazine article which talked of “mothers driven to extremes” (sleeping with your baby and breastfeeding past age 1). i’ve been noticing that pretty much everything i read about parenting takes a very polarizing “we are right, they are wrong” sort of a view. even the sweet books about waldorf inspired childhood and attachment parenting imply that other philosophies are misguided at best and cruel abuse at worst. and it’s not just the literature. at play dates and la leche league meetings i hear moms speaking defensively about their views and casting harsh judgment on parents who do things differently. i hear almost nothing but blanket statements condoning or condemning everything. bottle feeding is horrible, breastfeeding past infancy is twisted. sleeping with your baby is dangerous (you could roll over and smother them), putting your baby in a crib is dangerous (they could stop breathing and die). disposable diapers? you hate mother earth, cloth diapers? you’re a fanatical hippie. diapers of any kind? you’re forcing your child to sit in his own excrement, how horrible. diaper free? now that’s just crazy. sending your kids to daycare means you don’t love them, but if you stay home you better not try calling yourself a feminist. and on and on and on.

it’s just too bad that all this judgement leads to more parents feeling more insecure and defensive, which leads to more seeking of the one right way, which leads to more judgment of ourselves and other parents.

so here’s a thought. what if we all just do like mayim bialik suggests and “reserve judgment for people who beat their children, sell their daughters into prostitution, or deny women the right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives.” we could channel all the energy it takes to give advice into actually supporting parents. it seems one thing that all sides of the “mommy wars” agree on is that our culture does not adequately value caring for children, and whether it’s a stack of dr sears or babywise books on your shelf, it’s a heck of a lot of work.

i’m trying to catch myself when i judge other parents. when i find myself thinking how they should be doing it differently, i want to ask myself instead what i could do to support them as a parent. that could be actual physical support -doing some cleaning or running errands together, or it could be emotional support- listening to the complaints without giving advice. i’ve found that for me, exercising just a little empathy -putting myself in their shoes and seeing what’s hard about it, goes a long way in quelling my urge to judge. and when i judge less, i find i feel less judged. i’m probably being judged the same amount either way, but it feels a lot better.

care to join me?