Road Weary

Yesterday we did a first ever (and let’s be real, unlikely to be repeated for many, many years) 9+ hour drive with the children in one go. Also a first ever? A six day trip with the children, and as any of you currently living with the 10&U crowd may know, a TRIP is very, very different from a VACATION.

Yes, we did touristy things, but no, I would not call our Black Hills Extravaganza a vacation because we had to do all the normal parenting things but with a bunch of extra hours in the car, sugar, loosey-goosey bedtimes, and not in our own house. While I know what I signed up for when having (this many) children, I also know that I look forward to the day when B and I can once again travel in such a way that does not involve working harder than we do when we’re at home.

Of course, the trip itself had a slightly heavy undercurrent as our real reason for venturing so far from home with so many young children (maybe by the end of this post, I’ll get mentioning that so much out of my system) was to pay final respects to my grandpa, Cliff, and attend his internment ceremony at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, SD. So yes, tourists over the weekend and once again mourning on Monday. But it was good that we could be there because I slipped up big time when we attended his funeral in March by not taking a moment to say my actual goodbyes to him, and on this trip I made darn sure to get the closure that I needed.

After tears and hugs and goodbyes post-ceremony, it was time to hit the road home because two kids had camp starting this (Tuesday) morning and we knew were looking at 7hrs, 45mins even without kid stops and a time zone change to boot, so on we rolled.

img_0819Truth be told, the kids did well. Ben did amazing (he drove the whole way). And I did my best to be a solid co-pilot, spotter, DJ, snack and water provider, fight-breaker-upper, and food source (breastfeeding while traveling post coming soon, friends). While I thought it would be the tireds that got the best of us, it was really the discomfort of being in the car that long that did us in.

We spent many, many hours driving last Wednesday and Thursday to get there, and many more each day of our trip to see the sights scattered around the Hills, but yesterday took the cake. Or rather, it ran over the cake and smashed it good and flat. I think Harrison and I felt it the most as he was the poor kid stuck in the middle of the back seat bench with no proper place to get comfy for sleep and my back was just PISSED by the time we were halfway home. And unfortunately it’s still not very happy with me, even though I can’t fault it one bit because of all the work it did all trip long of schlepping Wilson in the Ergo darn near everywhere (including 250 ft. below ground in Wonderland Cave).

The hope with the night-trip home was that the kids would sleep, we’d transfer them to their beds when we got home, and that would be “it.” The problem with a plan like that is that the children must actually sleep, which 3/5 of them barely did (and 1/5 of them I don’t think did AT ALL). And, again, I get it. Discomfort, lights (sun and then headlights), the sillies — all of these things make it hard to sleep. In the case of RL, the stars (which apparently she’s seen very little of in her life thanks to her sleep strict parents) were justimg_0823 too beautiful to watch to bother with sleep, and so. On we continued, through was sounded like all the bugs in Nebraska until just after midnight when we got back to Hastings where we promptly got all the kids in their own beds and then collapsed in ours until the whopping time of 7:13 when the first kid got up for the day. Keep ’em up so they sleep longer in the morning? No such luck.

So, in case you see us stumbling (no, really – Trumy fell at least three times more today than an average toddler clumsy allows) or gimping around in the days to come, just know that we are in post-travel fallout, doing our best to realign bodies and sleep patterns while also being very grateful to have been there and back on our trip.

Goodbye, Gertie

Gosh darn it. I’m sitting here feeling a little un-tethered right now. In less than three month’s time, I’ve had to say goodbye to my last two grandparents.

The last blow came, initially, after my first week of teaching summer class (and the night before we took family pictures). My parents called to tell me that my grandma Gert’s nursing home had called them about wanting to have a meeting to put her on hospice care. They told me she’d been pretty out of it when other family members had been there the previous weekend, but Ben and I decided last minute Friday night to pack up the kids and hit the road Saturday morning post-pictures, so we could go see Gertie one more time.

Y’all, it’s a miracle those pictures are as good as they are because I cried a lot that night. This is all just so heavy heart making and also hit so soon after the loss of my Grandpa Cliff (just for clarity’s sake: Cliff was my maternal grandfather and Gert my paternal grandmother). And we knew it was a long shot that she’d be coherent enough to visit with us, but we wanted to try.


The stop at the nursing home was tough. She had declined drastically from the time my dad had last seen her and we had allll the kids with us, so I was trying to keep my brave, light pants on even though I was shocked by her appearance. She was not awake but also not asleep, if that makes any sense, so we tried talking to her a bit with the kids, but then Ben and my dad took them on a walk through the facility halls so I could just sit with her for a bit. I put my hand on top of hers, talked to her a little bit, and cried. That’s really about all one can do in a moment like that. And I said my goodbye because I knew that if they were talking hospice, that meant the end was near.

Getting to do that was a gift, really, and it’s one I’ve never had before with any of my other grandparents prior to them passing. It doesn’t make the loss any easier but I am grateful that she got to hear from me my thanks and gratitude for all that she did for me over the years. I thanked her for loving me. I thanked her for giving me my dad. I thanked her for being my grandma.

I spent a lot of time with my grandma when I was younger. Their farm was always less than 10 minutes away from us (even when they moved to a different farm place) and I spent countless hours roaming around her house and yard (and outbuildings, which apparently my parents did not know about until a week ago) where she would let me pull all of the cans out of her cupboard and rearrange them (yes, I sometimes did extremely strange things for fun as a child) and was always sure to hide the Twix bars in the same spot so I always knew where to go to sneak one. She made me hamburgers and mashed potatoes for lunches (because, again, weird kid), and taught me the beauty of games like Solitaire and King’s Corner.

After I left for college, my grandparents moved to town, and on almost every trip home, I’d pop in to see them. When I learned, my sophomore year, to quilt, my grandma recruited me to helping her with various quilting projects when I was home for breaks and holidays. She was also forever trying to give us stuff from her house (I use that vague word because seriously, there’s no way to categorize the randomness of what she might try to get you to walk away with after a visit), and I’m convinced she continued to work night shifts as a nurse for years and years and years just so she could slip us some mad money whenever my grandpa wasn’t looking.

Grandma Gert was fiesty. I heard stories about her card games (oh my gosh. so many card games!) and her quick mouth from people decades younger than her who worked with her at the State Hospital and got such a kick out of her. I heard that quickness myself over the years, and I have to think that I learned something about raising a big crazy crew from her, the mother of five boys and one girl. If my kids get together and laugh some day as they tell stories like hers tend to do, my heart will in fact burst wide open.

Right now my heart feels cracked for a different reason. We know what comes next because we’ve been here before and really, not that long ago. We’ll gather our gear and load up the babies to make the trip to be with family and friends to remember and honor another life that was thankfully long but of course never long enough.

Our last photo all together, from our SD travels last July. 

Give Thanks

If you’ve been keeping up with the FB posts here lately, you’ll know that our Crazy May has indeed continued the last few days with RL taking another turn for the sickies Friday night (and then being totally OUT of it all day Saturday) and then Truman following suit (in the messiest way possible) late Saturday afternoon, resulting in more couch “sleeping” and So. MUCH. Laundry!

In the midst of all this chaos I realized I dropped the ball last week on Teacher Appreciation gifts (and also Mother’s Day cards, because adulting is hard), so the kids are taking them this week instead.


Now I know in the past I’ve done “crafty” TA gifts because I’ve written posts about them (as if someone might pin them – *snort*) but clearly that’s just not happening in our world right now, so instead, a little truth for you. This year I went the “support local businesses” route instead, buying gift cards for teacher gifts (for coffee/alcohol, depending on their preferences – lol) and, a first, store bought (but still local!) cookies to share after LT’s preschool program.

Do I feel bad about this? Not at all. It’s what we could do and no one wants anything coming directly out of my house right now, anyway, so it’s all for the greater good.

img_0100Also for the greater good? Actually expressing gratitude (that gets hard when you’re low on sleep and immune systems), and by this I mean: writing thank yous.

Now. Writing thank yous is something my mom made us do always when we were growing up. I know I sometimes drug my feet a bit on it, but I’m pretty sure I always did them and the habit has stuck with me. I continue to send thank yous because I think they matter and I think they help us focus on the good in our life (and I don’t believe thank yous are just for responses to gifts, an idea that is supported by this book which is a great read), and I want my kids to do the same.

Writing thank yous is clearly nothing new in this house, but this weekend you would have thought I threw the biggest curve ball EVER when I asked the boys to do theirs to accompany their Teacher Appreciation gifts (RL was still convalescing and she wrote a thank you note of her own volition on Friday for a friend, so she’s clearly not part of this).

For the record, I was age-appropriate in my asking. HD was asked to write his in entirety and LT was asked just to sign his.

To protect the not-so-innocent, I won’t go into detail about what ensued, but it was ridiculous and long-lasting enough to frustrate even the utmost of patient parents (which I doubt we were given the lack of sleep and abundance of sickies in our house this week).

Eventualllllllllllly, they got their acts together and completed the tasks (and yes, HD wrote the perfectly lovely note I knew he was capable of doing). It’s not that they don’t appreciate and like their teachers; they just didn’t like and appreciate me telling them to tell them. And I get it. Forcing them to do thank yous creates one more power struggle here at home, but dang if it isn’t one that I’m going to keep after because I do want them to give thanks (preferably with a more grateful heart, but we’ll get there). I want them to know how to look around and see all that is being provided for them and to be able to express gratitude for it because those are valuable tools (and gifts).

Eventually we will find a way to remove the struggle from our thanks giving, which as you can see, RL has down in the best new-writer fashion:img_0128img_0126



Like a Ninja

At some point during our trip to Houston, I earned a new nickname: Mama Ninja. It was bestowed on me, of course, by my husband because my Type A Game was in top form and I really was doing a ridiculously good job of anticipating what was coming next or what the kids needed before they asked. Or Ben would think of something we needed to pack for a days’ activities and I would be all, “Already on it” and he’d call me “Mama Ninja” or just Ninja in response.img_2152

Now, many of you saw the pic on IG/FB of poor skater/hipster/Royal Lincoln’s pants
to know that not ALL things were coming up Ninja while we were gone, but actually, I might argue that somehow getting a 2.5yo to wear size 6-9 month pants (and totally Work them all through a wedding and reception) is in fact very much Ninja like, but I digress….

Ninja also became a compliment from my husband whenever we pulled off something seemingly impossible or at least very tricky on our little vacay. Like, get ourselves to the airport, return the rental, take a shuttle,
check-in, and have everyone use the potty all while hauling all of our children and all of our luggage as we waited for my parents who were getting a ride from my brother and meeting us before heading through security. Ninja. Or us getting split up during security after ending up in a line (so not marked either way) that was not “set up for children” but all of our crap was already on the conveyor/going through x-ray, so Ben stayed with the bags and I walked over in my socks wearing one baby and leading three others who were all hanging on to each others’ hands to go through the child-approved machine one at a time before meeting up with Daddy again. Ninja. Or simply walking all of us and all of the aforementioned crap through the airport as we waited for our first flight out of Houston Hobby. Ninja.

Now, you might notice, rightly, that many of these Ninja moments are not mine in solitude. Often, for my Ninja skills to come out, my partner had to be at the top of his game, too, which he thankfully was for most of our trip. That he was aware of the effort I was putting out and willing to comment kindly on it was just icing on the cake.

We’ve been home for a week already, but it would appear that Ninja is here to stay, as I continue to duck, dodge, flip, and float through the daily navigation that is Life as Six, and let’s be real, when is summer break ever quiet? Besides camps and play dates, and a garage sale plan, we’ve added some big plans to our summer itinerary and Ninja skills are going to be downright necessary to pull them off, I think. So it is good that Texas gave me an opportunity to practice (and no, no flipping way are we flying anywhere again any time soon, and no, we never could have done Texas without the help of my parents and other family members who entertained a kid when necessary or helped us keep tabs on everyone in busy times/places — apparently I come from Ninja stock, yes?).

Included on this ever-expanding summer itinerary are several road trips, one of which will lead me to my first-ever yoga festival experience at Wanderlust in Aspen-Snowmass in July. Thank you New-to-us-Fridge for not squashing those dreams during Appliance Gate! It will take Ninja preparatory skills, though, to get both myself and my family read for this venture (and my longest separation from Trumy ever! 😦 ) but in the immediate now, it means more yoga. Much more yoga!! trying to get myself ready for three long days of multiple practices in higher altitude. And so, yoga every day, which as you may have read Friday, is off to a feel-good start!

It just so happens that this weekend is also special in that one of my teachers is in Hastings for the first time teaching new YTTs and I got to take her class yesterday that involved a cue near the end that instructed us to put a foot down at the back of the mat like a, you guessed it, Ninja!

Summer ’16 – the year of the Mama Ninja.

I love it.

Real (not snapchat) flowers in my hair, via RL’s flowercrown from the wedding! ❤



Run, Run, Welschies!

We have been on the ground in Houston for a little over 24 hours already, but our adventures to get here started at 4 a.m. yesterday (actually 2:50 a.m. for me, thanks to Truman) and what a wild ride it turned out to be to make it to the Lone Star State!

As many of you know, we are down here this week for my brother’s wedding and we are so excited to be able to visit them for the first time since he moved her several years ago (like before Linky, I think). And as many of you also know, traveling with little Littles is no small undertaking so Ben and I have been planning this out for months and I spent the last two days prior to leaving organizing, washing, and packing. Fortunately my parents agreed to fly with us so we could have a 1:1 kid to grownup ratio which was super helpful, but I think even they will tell you that yesterday morning turned out to be a bit more of Whoa! than any of us anticipated.

B and I have only flown once since having kids and that was out of Omaha, so leaving from Grand Island yesterday, we really didn’t know what to expect. Everyone told us, NBD, the airport is so small, it takes no time at all to get through and ready for flights, but apparently even Central NE is feeling the TSA crunch because at shortly after 5 a.m. on a Tuesday, we ran into a complete bottleneck of airport security line waiting.

Thank goodness the kids were riding high on excitement; they did just fine (OK, as fine as could be expected which means answering the same question of “When is it going to be our turn?!” 1,000x). The grownups, who are a little better at telling time and counting just how many people and minutes stood between us and the metal detectors, however, were having more trouble keeping blood pressure levels down as we waited! I mean, our plane could only hold 37 people – how could it take 45+ plus minutes for us near the end of the line, to get through?!

Yes, I realize 45 mins. is actually nothing compared to major airports, but it cut us so close to departure time, which turned out to be a joke anyway because unlike a major airport, they actually waited until everyone got through security and on the plane which meant our first flight left the ground close to 30 minutes late which means you can probably guess where this story is going.

First, however, let me stray to a side story about clouds. I love clouds. Like, addicted to watching the prairie sky, love clouds. But if you put clouds between me and cruising altitude and/or the ground? In those cases, I no longer love clouds! img_1982

And, unfortunately, we had some serious ones to get through on our way up in NE and then more on our way down in Dallas. The ascent was the worst. As in, we were bouncing around so much, I was eyes closed, taking deep breaths so as to not freak out the nursing baby in my lap or the 2yo in the seat next to me, but awkward fear giggles still burst out of my mouth more than once when we hit particularly intense pockets of air. So, so not fun! But ultimately fine because nothing was wrong with the plane and eventually we got through it so we could enjoy the “ocean” of clouds from above.  And the best, best part? None of the kids freaked out or urped! Those are huge traveling with Littles WINS!

Tangent done. Back to arrival in Dallas:

Thanks to TSA and clouds, we obviously landed late in DFW. And since dear husband picked flights that left only 50 minutes between connections, the grownups were again in panic mode about time well before we hit the ground.

Although we got off the plane quickly, we still had to wait for our stroller and carry-on that had been placed in the belly of the plane (that was OK – gave everyone a chance to use the restroom and me to find out the number of our next gate) and by the time we started chugging through the terminal, we were in T-minus-10-minutes-or-less from making our next flight.

Again, the children were troopers. Well, the children that were with me, anyway.

See, we totally did the family strung out Home Alone running through the airport thing, with my mom and I leading the way with HD and RL, and my poor dad (who does not run) carrying (carrying!) the baby and Ben pushing the stroller with a pissed-off Lincoln who was screaming “Me not baby!!!” and trying to bail the entire sprint! You guys. I can’t even make this stuff up!

But the Bigs were awesome. They had their back packs on and were RUNNING their little legs off looking for Gate B-13 which turned out to be hella far away from B-39.

At one point, in the middle of some long and steamy, seemingly temporary hallway, Mom and I almost called it. It seemed next to impossible that we would make it, much less our luggage, and there are tons of flights from Dallas to Houston, so again, NBD, right?! But the kids kept up moving (and all the other boys were still somewhere behind us), so we kept moving, too.

And wouldn’t you know it?! We totally made it! We were literally the last people to rush up to the gate counter and we had to wait anxiously for 2 minutes for everyone else to catch up (Gma had run back to help Gpa with Baby), but they got there and we got on the plane! I can only imagine what all the other passengers thought when they saw us, sweaty and flustered and with four small children, boarding that aircraft! But by golly, we did it, and 37 minutes later, we were in Houston and shockingly, so were our suitcases! That almost surprised me more than us making the flight.

But here we are, deep in the heart (nope, the belly!) of Texas, settling in to our accommodations and getting some nice family time and some fun activities (so far power yoga for Mama with future-sister-in-law last night and a morning trip with the grandparents to the zoo, today). More adventures await, no doubt!


Even though it has been 10.5 years, I still remember the first time I drove into Hastings with Ben. He was in the process of moving here to begin his first year of teaching and I was along for the ride as the relatively new but supportive girlfriend. I was 23, and about to start my second year of grad school in Lincoln. I don’t know why I remember that particular arrival so much, other than my soul must have been registering that this was the start of something big.

In 12 months’ time, we were married and living in Hastings, and I was the one about to embark on my first year of full-time teaching. I knew no one outside of work other than the people Ben knew through his work, but it didn’t take long for us to form a bond and routines with people who helped make this completely unknown place feel OK. Now most of you know, I’m from SoDak, so it’s not like I moved halfway around the world and had to adjust accordingly, but having grown up in the same house, in the same town my entire life, setting out as a married actual grown up in a town/state I had never expected to land was in fact a large adjustment.

It would be two full years of living here before Hastings registered as home. Before we had kids, B and I made trips to visit our parents all the time – monthly actually, I think, which seems wild to me now because currently we are lucky to all make it to those spots more than a couple/few times a year. So in the early years, going home meant going to see our folks. And while those places will always be home, it occurred to me one night in the fall of 2008, as I drove back into town after a long day of teaching and parent-teacher conferences in Palmer, NE (an hour away) that I was relieved to be in Hastings and I was in fact home. I can still remember in this case as well what the city looked like as I made my way toward our house that night; in hindsight, I wonder if my very being knew we were about to take another step toward home-building by learning that I was pregnant for the first time that same fall.

In the years of babies and an in-town move since, our attachment to this once-unkown place has grown. Of course it is not so much the town or the house that do that in terms of their physical presence, but the people and opportunities and connections we have made in our almost decade of married life here. We have people who ground us, support us, help us, and love us, here and away. And while we cannot know for sure what the future holds, I think both Ben and I stop on a pretty regular basis to survey the life we are leading to think, “Holy moly cow. We are blessed beyond words.”

Hard to see, but a little shot of all six of us cruising down the highway in the van.

That was certainly the case yesterday, anyway, when we returned from our very first overnight trip (to his parents’ house) as a family of six (yes, Trumy is 5 months old; yes, they only live 1.5 hours away; yes, that is lame on our part, but we’ve been thwarted by weather and illness or both on every other attempt). We had a great time seeing family and Truman turned out to be an awesome traveler (of course he did), which gives us great hope for future trips. Driving back into town this time was one of those “Man, I have four kids?! I have four kids!” moments, plus feelings of accomplishment, joy, and relief from our whirlwind trip.

So although home will always mean being with the people I love the most, I cannot help but recognize the work we’ve done and the gifts we’ve been given in making this current place our home.


Oh, No She Didn’t! /Oh, No! She Didn’t!

I come from a family that does not look well on discussing bodily functions. As in, it’s simply not done.

My friends in college knew this about me and knew I would cringe and correct them if the table-talk started to creep toward all things gross, not because of a squeamish tummy, but simply because it was so engrained in my brain that this is not what one discusses.

So maybe I’ve lost my mind a bit if I’m considering talking about what I’m considering talking about here, but for the love of the sweet mother of all things holy, there are some things in life a girl should know and knowledge doesn’t come from silence. That being said, I wonder if I can code talk my way through this so as to cover  my (the body part of which I’m speaking) a bit….

You see, something I did not know prior to my surgery on Monday is that pain pills stop not only the pain but also the most important bodily function possible (behind, I suppose, breathing and urination from proper hydration), especially when very little movement of the body is also part of the healing process.

How did I not know this? I’ve had four babies. I’ve taken pain pills at the hospital before (even though my births have been drug free, you can bet your sweet bippee I’ve gone for a bit of the good stuff afterwards!)! But only once has a doc sent them home with me and come to think of it, that is the one time I had the, um, hardest time recovering (un)said bodily functions.

I thought that was all birth-related, though, as I learned after my first baby to not give up the, um, Colace 10262220_10102233042461973_6769345122144537144_ntoo soon because that only ends in difficulty for the mama. Side Note: when asked birthing advice from friends expecting their first child, this is seriously what I tell them (so I guess my Don’t Speak policy about bodily functions really only exists with my family, and mainly  my poor father who is probably ready to disown me at this point). I had no idea the pain pills were part of the problem.

So, lesson learned from my first surgery is this: for the love of the sweet mother of all things holy, TAKE SOME DAMN STOOL SOFTNERS ASAP AND CONTINUE THEM UNTIL YOUR BODY HEALS.

End of shouting, I promise. And so much for the code speak.

Since I didn’t know this lesson until it was too late, I’ve had a rough week. My nose is improving, yes, but I am still pretty well worn out from lack of sleep and all the mouth breathing while trying to sleep, but the last few days have been extra hard because my belly was slowly becoming extra hard and visibly full.

The realization of this, and ensuing semi-panic, began Wednesday, which was technically Day Three.

The trying all the things OTC and sending the hubs to the store for all the fibrous foods and natural digestive aids consumed Days Four and Five, as did the one gentle yoga pose I could manage (drawing one knee into the chest at a time while laying on the floor) for several minutes last night.

The actual shituation did not come to be until today, Day Six, and I kid you not, it was worse than childbirth without drugs. I could write a damn novel detailing this morning’s events but even with my loosened tongue (I blame motherhood of young children on this because no bodily function is either controlled or off limits when it comes to them), I still have some boundaries here on the blog.

So, my friends – if any of you are still brave enough to call me “friend” now that I’ve put this lovely gem out there for the world to see – should you ever find yourself faced with a medical procedure and pain medicine plus bed rest, for the love of the sweet mother of all things holy, TAKE SOME DAMN STOOL SOFTNERS ASAP AND CONTINUE THEM UNTIL YOUR BODY HEALS.

Because I didn’t, and then I couldn’t, and now I probably shouldn’t have done this either, but consider it my PSA for 2016.

May you never actually need this advice.


Care Package

Are you familiar with the Love Languages? Have you ever read the book or taken a quiz to see how you give/receive love in this life? It’s a fantastic read and a remarkably eye-opening concept that can clue you in to what you desire from those around you in terms of feeling valued, seen, and loved; it centers on five different Love Languages (words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch).

Book plug aside, I think one extra love language that exists in my own family centers on food (maybe this is an off-shoot of acts of service?). Like many, we have seasonal and holiday traditions that include certain special foods (my fave, the four different soups on Christmas Eve, one selected each by my mom, my dad, my brother, and myself); but in general, my family definitely shows love via the kitchen. My dad makes my mom eggs each morning for breakfast. My mom takes menu requests whenever us kids come home to visit. And you should see the way they both (have always) plied my husband with seconds and thirds when we are there (they must think I don’t feed him)! Food is nourishment, but food is also together time and food is certainly full of love in my family.

It makes sense, then, that I was drawn to a task this week that centered on expressing thanks and gratitude through the preparation of food. As I’m sure you remember from earlier this month, the biggest Welschies (i.e. B & I) did not so much handle the week of the 4th so well. We were both stressed out and, honestly, pissed off, at various points in the week by inconsiderate people and their need to blow up fireworks near our house (or in Ben’s case, his head). I ranted a fair amount on Facebook and also requested ideas of what else could be done to honor those who serve (or have served) in the military. I found out from a local mama friend who is also a military wife that she would soon be sending cookies to her husband’s unit, if I wanted to help with that and I said yes. She contacted me this weekend to see if I was still interested and I again said, “Yes!!”

Bless her sweet heart. She not only took requests, but set the goal of sending each member two dozen of their said requests, which ended up totaling darn near 80 doz. cookies! Yeah, that’s not a typo. 80 dozen. I did what I could to help by taking on 19 of those dozen which I managed to complete last night post-book club and this morning while The Bigs were at camp (and Lincoln tooled around with Ben). I’m blaming the extreme heat this week for my flat chocolate chip cookies (and possibly my pregnant brain for thinking it could remember the recipe without looking), but the peanut butter ones and the Monster Cookies turned out great (and oh, my, does that recipe make a huge batch). In total I did 6 dozen chocolate chip, 3 dozen peanut butter, and 10 dozen Monster.

So here is our family’s response to fireworksIMG_0391 this year: Cookies. And lots of them. Made with love and many thanks, “for the soldiers” (as we explained to HD & RL). It may be a drop in the bucket in terms of really giving back, but if something homemade for someone local serving away from their own families can bring a little light and love into their day, then we are so grateful to use this as a means to celebrate Independence Day.

Monster Cookies (this recipe came from a small town or church cookbook at my parent’s house)

Ingredients: 6 eggs, 2 c. brown sugar, 2 c. sugar, 2 t. vanilla, 2 t. Karo syrup, 4 t. baking soda, 3 c. smooth peanut butter, 1/2 c. butter (softened), 9 c. oatmeal, 1 c. chocolate chip, 1 c. M&Ms

Directions: Mix in order given. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 9-11 minutes at 350 degrees.

Makes: 7-10 dozen, depending on size.

Little Owl

Oh, Miss Raegge. This morning RL found a big cardboard box (thank you bolster order!) to play with in the living room and she had a fabulous time coloring it, climbing in and out of it, and setting up shop (which actually meant calling it a spaceship and then a white car and then a school and then a sleeping house). She played pretty much on her own for the better part of 1/2 an hour like this – hopping in and out in order to run over and find new treasures in the desk drawer (lanyards, paper clips, unspecified sets of keys, etc.) to add to her box. At one point she was having a birthday party with a cake and candles, naturally, and when she blew out the candles, I overheard her say (in perfect imitation of the Too Much Birthday book from the Berenstain Bears), “I only want five babies!” Well my ears totally perked up at that and I had to clarify, “Five, Raegan? You want five babies?” “Uh-huh. Five!” she told me and the whole exchange made me smile and reflect back on this weekend (P.S. HD is a huge fan of babies, too, and has told me before that we should have ten – I may have baby fever, but whoa, we are not having ten! – so don’t be surprised if someday I’m a grandma with lots of grandbabies!!).

During our first prenatal module this past weekend, we learned that when a woman becomes pregnant with a girl, that baby girl already has all of her eggs inside her that will someday become her own children. Isn’t that the most amazing fact?! When you track it forward and backward, it’s rather mind boggling. It means that when Raegan was in my tummy, I also carried the eggs that will become her future children and my grands. It also means that my mom technically carried all of my kids in her baby bumps and my grandma carried me once upon a time, too. When you look at pregnancy and family in that way, doesn’t it just make you feel so connected? My maternal grandmother has been gone for over a decade now, so to suddenly have this knowledge that connects me back to her is incredible. It’s a beautiful intertwining of past, present, and future, really. And when Raegan declared that she would someday have five (that was a fun typo – I just typed fine the first time), I had no doubt because I’ve already carried those sweet babes and can’t wait to hold them again.

Another realization this weekend was learning more about the story of Lakshmi…not from a point of worship, but rather awareness of her connection to and symbolism of beauty and abundance. She is the goddess of “wealth, fortune, love and beauty, the lotus flower and fertility” which is perfect for a mama with baby fever and who also has a daughter who is suddenly talking about her own future baybeys. I also had to smile bright when I heard that Lakshmi’s creature vessel is the owl. If you’ve been with us from the beginning, you know I love all things owl for my Sweet Baby Girl (even her crazy baby owl eyes). I also smiled at that information because our teacher had encouraged us to wear Lakshmi’s colors (pink and gold) and adorn ourselves beautifully this weekend with jewelry and whatnot and look at what I almost packed:

Costume owl jewelry that I have tucked away to someday give Miss Raegan. I ultimately decided against it because I knew I wouldn’t want to practice in it, but how amazing is that? Once again, I already had the knowledge and the connections within myself. I just needed to see them. Very auspicious indeed!

A Change in Policy

In the last few weeks, some friends have shared with me some amazing happenings on the interwebs related to breast feeding and mamahood  including a photography endeavor called The 4th Trimester Bodies Project, the websites/Facebooks groups of The Leaky Boob and The Badass Breastfeeder, and lastly, this outstanding commercial from Luvs:

Seriously. If you have any interest in nursing, it will be worth your time to check out these resources. And if you’re still not convinced that breast feeding deserves a place within our society, watch this and see if she doesn’t change your mind.
Now by no means do I mean do go all Mommy Wars here and get up on some pedestal about how you should feed your baby. Just feed your baby. That’s all I ask. I don’t care if there is a fox or a box or socks involved – you do what is best for you and your bambino(s).
For me, breast feeding has always been the preferred option. I suppose some of my parenting preferences, like natural birth and nursing, came from the stories I heard from my own mom about how my brother and I were raised. Not that either of those things were pressed on me by her or anyone else; it’s just what I decided I would aim for prior to Harrison’s birth, knowing full well that I may not get my wish. Fortunately, though, I have now been able to have three natural births and have been able to nurse all three of my babies. For this, I consider myself and my family very blessed.
Now that’s not to say that breast feeding has been an easy road for us. In fact, I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why nursing is so hard, but holy moly cow, it is. In some ways, my struggles with each of my kiddos has been the same, mainly thanks to my battles each time with Thrush. Trying to learn how to nurse while teaching a newborn to eat all while enduring stinging nipples for weeks or months on end? That is not easy. Neither is dealing with all the other little oddities and problems like poor latches due to tiny mouths (I know all babies have small mouths, but my children seems to have especially miniature versions, I swear) or plugged ducts or engorgement or pumping before every feeding or cracked nipples. But I have been there/done all that and more. Of course, it was because I wanted to, or chose to at least.
Actually, if I hadn’t been so committed to nursing and had such amazing support from my hubby, I probably would have said forget it. Newborns are stressful enough without all the boob drama, so I can see why many mamas opt for formula. Actually, we had to opt for formula too, with Raegan, but not until she was 13 months old. At that point I was too sick from being preggers with LT to keep up with all the bodily demands of her plus him plus myself, and the little stinker wouldn’t drink cow’s milk (still won’t, except for from a cereal bowl), so we did an older infant formula for six months to get her through the transition of baby to table food. See, I am not kidding when I say you do what you need to do (for each of your littles because each one is bound to be different).
However, what I’ve realized about my commitment to breast feeding after looking at all of the above mentioned resources is that I made another, rather odd now that I think about it, choice. I don’t have a single picture of me breastfeeding any of my babies. I suppose I thought I was being modest by not taking any, but when I look at the images posted to those various pages mentioned above, part of me is sad not to have visual proof of all that we went through and just how far we made it as the HD & Mama and RL & Mama teams. Because the pictures I see on those sites of those mamas and their babies are beautiful. Beautiful for the bonds and connections evident between parent and child and beautiful for the sacrifice I know it takes to make those moments happen.
Had I thought to take pictures of myself nursing Harrison or Raegan, I could have done so just for us. It’s not like I would have had to post the pictures to Facebook albums or even put them in the baby books. But having them in some form, even just on our computer, would be so helpful now that I am nursing their little brother. That way, Harrison could see for himself that yes, I did feed him with milk from my tummy (the expression he used when he watched Raegan nurse as a baby) and Raegan could know that she too got lots of “Milk! Milk! Milk!” from Mama, because these days they both ask in their own ways, quite often, if I nursed them, too. So when I think back about what a big part of their babyhoods nursing was and about how nursing has shaped me as a mama, I am shocked and a little heartbroken that I don’t have those images to share and reassure them with now.
Even though I like to be an equal opportunity mama, I think I’ll make a change this time. I think I’ll make sure that we get some snapshots of Lincoln nursing so that we can all remember what this was like. And so my kids can see, even when they are way past baby stages, that this is a great and healthy, perfectly normal and natural way to feed babies. Because hopefully, someday, it will be my daughter’s turn to make this decision or my sons’ turns to support their wives and I want them to know, to see, what we chose for them. Not to force their hands but just to say this is what we did for you. And it was beautiful.