Monday, October 20, 2014

The Inner Mama-Bear Roarrrrrs

"Hey you!" she yelled down the bike path towards my eight year old son.
My son didn't respond, but kept walking.
"Hey kid, stop!" she yelled again.
Again my son didn't respond. 
She tried again, this time shouting even louder than before, "Hey stupid kid! Stop walking, so my dog can sniff your dog!"
This time my son heard her and stopped walking. She had a look of pure annoyance on her face as she stomped up to my little boy. She was an older woman, probably in her late fifties. She had shoulder-length gray hair, and was wearing a knee-length jean skirt to walk in. 
She had been following behind him on the bike path for quite sometime, trying to catch up to him, she'd explained. She really wanted their dog's to meet each other by sniffing each other. 
"Why didn't you stop when I called you?" she asked.
"Uh, I don't know," my son replied. "I didn't know you were talking to me."
"Well, who else? You're the only one here, aren't you?," she asked.
My son just looked at her blankly. He isn't one to bother with superfluous questions such as the ones she was now throwing at him.
"What are you doing anyways?"she began again.
"Is this your dog or someone else's?"
"Why didn't you stop when I told you to?"

He finally gave quick, short answers to her questions and then hoped she'd go away.
"I'm walking." 
"It's my dog."
"I didn't hear you."
 She seemed satisfied enough, lingered for a moment longer, letting her little dog sniff our big dog's behind, then continued on her way. 

Every morning after we drop off my 6 year old and my four year old at school, my home-schooled 8 year old and I spend the next hour exercising. Sometimes we take our two dogs hiking up in the hills, or sometimes I jog on the bike path while my 8 year old rides his bike in circles around the baby and I. Today was a beautiful, sunny day, and we chose to both walk the bike path, bringing one of our  Border Collie dogs with us. 
Sometimes I walk at a faster pace than my son, and then wait for him at one of our meeting points. It was there that I was waiting, watching from afar, when that woman approached my son. I couldn't hear what they were saying, so I waited until he got closer to ask him. I could tell something was wrong by the look on his downtrodden face.
"What did that lady say to you?", I asked immediately, figuring something in their dialogue must've caused his change of mood.
"She called me a stupid kid because I wouldn't stop and let her dog sniff my dog."
His voice was soft and sad. His eyes were lowered to the ground. My heart instantly hurt for his hurt feelings.

"I'm so sorry, sweetheart." I gave him a big hug. "Some people are just mean and say the wrong things," I explained. "It was wrong of her to say that to you, but all we can do is ignore her and move on. Some people are just crazy like that."  I felt satisfied with my response and could see that he was feeling better already. I know from experience that there are some very unreasonable, grumpy people out there, who will be cross with you no matter what you do. I've had to let many things go in my life that I could've taken very personally, been very hurt and angered by, but chose not to. Choosing to ignore mean people and walk away takes huge amounts of courage and maturity, in my opinion. 

This is where I wish my story ended.
But, in true Sally fashion, I'm afraid I've got more to add to this situation.

I looked down at my son again. His big, brown, innocent eyes looked back up at me. 
"But why would she call a kid she doesn't even know, stupid?," he asked.
I could suddenly feel my blood starting to boil. I could feel my calm, cool demeanor melt away and be replaced with red, hot, steaming anger. It was starting to seethe over the top of the pan, and I knew I was going to have to say something to that lady. He had a point: why would some strange lady call my son stupid? 
She had no right to say that! In fact, she wasn't going to get away with this!
 My pulse quickened, my heart-rate started soaring. My inner-mama-bear was starting to growl. I looked ahead up the bike path and spotted her 300 yards away. I smiled sweetly at my son and said,"I'm gonna run real fast and catch up with that lady. We need to have a quick chat." 

I had 300 yards to decide what I was going to say. I had 300 yards to sort out my angry feelings and decide how I was going to let this strange woman know that it's actually not okay to call my son stupid. I had 300 yards to keep asking in my head, "What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do?" I also had 300 yards to change my mind and turn around, to forget the whole thing. 

My 300 yards ended quickly, and suddenly I was right behind her and her sniffy, little dog, too. I blurted out of nowhere,"You grumpy, old witch! How dare you call my son stupid! How dare you think it's okay to call my child names!"
She looked shocked. I was still fuming. I'm pretty sure there could've been fire coming out of my nostrils. Or claws protracting from my fingers....
"I am not mean!" she responded emphatically. "I am a very nice person!" 
"Yes you are mean! You're the grumpy old hag that called my son stupid! And now you have two choices here: You need to either apologize, or go back into your house and don't come out until you learn to be nice to children!" I responded just as forcefully. I stared her right in the eyes, waiting for her next move.
"Well, I'm sorry." she replied. "But you're no better than me, calling me names like this."
"Well, I'm not a grumpy old witch out to hurt the feelings of an eight year old boy, am I?" I shouted back.
"It doesn't matter who it is," she said back.
"Yes, it does!," I said back.
"No, it doesn't," she said back.
"Yes the hell it does!," I said back, even angrier than before. "You hurt his feelings, and ruined his morning, and it matters to us."

And then we parted ways. I grabbed my son and our dog, and huffed home. She took her scowl and her dog, and huffed home. "What a terrible lady." I said to my son. "Let's make sure we never pass her on the bike path again, if we can help it!"

I went home feeling really terrible. I'm pretty sure I felt more terrible than my son even did in the first place! I'm pretty sure I felt more terrible than If I had just...moved on. Let it go. Ignored her. Walked away. When we set out for a walk that morning I never wanted to make an enemy in my neighborhood, but now I had one.
The inner turmoil I now felt was way worse than the entire situation, and I brought this on myself.  On that day I made a choice to go against my first instinct and then do the one thing I shouldn't have done--lower myself to her level.
True, that lady said a mean and inappropriate thing to my child, but it's my job as the (mature, responsible) parent to teach him how to respond appropriately in these types of situations; because they will happen again. And again. And again. That's just the crazy way of the world.

Since becoming a mother 8 years ago I've discovered an inner-mama-bear I didn't know existed. I try to keep her tame and locked up in her cage, but every once in awhile she escapes with the hungry, ferociousness of a wild animal in late winter. This mama-bear wants to protect her children from the unpredictable cruelness of the world. She wants to Roarrrrr at those who offend her children, and claw at those who may want to hurt her young, baby bears.  
My inner mama-bear is more aggressive at times depending on the level of stresses happening in my life, but that's no excuse for calculated anger and retaliation. 
I am still learning to use my mama-bear instincts as a tool for good. I think as mothers we've been hard wired to naturally want to protect our young, and when the timing is right, our mama-bear jumps to the occasion and saves the day; like the time I turned around to see a large dog about to jump on my child at the park. My instincts kicked in and allowed me to kick the dog back before he pounced. Or the time at the beach when a random kid was throwing sand at my children. My mama bear swept in and made him stop without a second thought. Or the time a kid at the park broke my child's toy, so I spoke with his mother immediately and made certain he replaced it with his own money. You see, mama-bear often just wants to protect, nurture, and make sure her young ones get treated properly in life. 
This other creature that came out that day might have been more of a mama-Mountain lion. They are more calculating in their actions. They carefully sneak up on their offenders and pounce when the timing is right. They aren't only trying to defend their young, but also trying to attack and take-down their victims with a vengeance. There have been many cases of mountain lions pouncing on people without notice in the recent news. I may be part of a growing statistic!

Over the past month we've seen "The Stupid Kid Lady," as my son refers to her, walking on the path at the same time as us. Each time we pass each other, we awkwardly look the other way. Sometimes I pretend to be on my phone. Sometimes I look down and pretend to fuss with the baby. Sometimes we cut across the grass to avoid her completely. Sometimes the collective powers of my inner-wilderness-creatures begin stirring, ready to defend the dickens out of my child once again. But most of all, I feel a knot of regret in my stomach for allowing this women's bad behavior to affect mine. 
I hope I can do better in the future. 

**Has your inner-mama-bear ever come out in a situation like this? How did you handle it and what did you learn from the experience? (tell me I'm not alone!)

Friday, October 10, 2014

So I married a Gardener

My husband plants the vegetables each year and I help harvest and eat them. I think we make a good team because I've never really enjoyed gardening. It's always seemed such a tedious and unpredictable task to me. 
I mean, you take special care to plant these little seeds, acting so carefully to water them and nurture them, and then wait patiently while they may or may not grow well according to a zillion little determining factors: such as early frost, pests, squash bugs, heavy winds, hungry animals, or bad soil. When they don't turn out, it's very disappointing! I've watched my herb plants die a thousand times over. (However, It might be because I'm highly distractible and forget to water them.)

So I'm pleased to say that my husband manages each year to grow these amazing, productive, fruitful gardens of which I am very proud and appreciative of. In fact, he's so very particular about his garden that he won't even let me touch it until it's ready. He maps out where he'll grow each plant, marks off barriers, makes walkways, rakes up the soil, then blesses the earth with seeds.
And voila! Just like that, his garden grows. And grows and grows, until we've got veggies coming out of our ears.
(I actually said that once and my 6 year old looked into my ears for veggies. He took it literally.)

My favorites this year are the pumpkins, tomatoes, zucchinis, broccoli, carrots, and basil.
I LOVE pumpkin everything! Our pumpkins get turned into pies, cookies, muffins, breads, smoothies, and pancakes. And later on, Jack o' Lanterns.
The zucchini most often gets turned into zucchini garlic stir fry. I also put it into smoothies for a nice, smooth texture, and bake it into breads. I like it raw dipped in hummus, too.
The tomatoes get turned into salsa fresca and tomato soups!
 The carrots get used in stir frys, salads, and just for PLAIN eatin'. The boys love eating them even more, knowing they helped to clean and scrub them.
 Finally, my basil gets used in salads, soups, and lasagna. And the broccoli gets steamed and eaten nearly every night with dinner. Next year when we have more time, money, and resources, we're going to can and preserve the vegetables for later. That way, we can enjoy the garden goodness all year long and not let as much go to waste. I see hundreds of quarts of salsa in my future. 
*This year he also grew corn, bell peppers, delacata squash, green beans, sugar peas, several types of lettuce, spinach, and cilantro.

I love vegetables so much that I would marry them, if I wasn't already married to the world's greatest vegetable farmer. Thank you Micah for providing wholesome sustenance for your family. We love our yearly gardens and look forward to many, many more to come.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sometimes you just can't breathe....

Our four year old started doing this thing several months ago where he gets really upset and starts crying and then says that he can't breathe. As four year olds often are, the smallest little irritations can set him off-- perhaps one of his brothers knocks over his lego creation, or someone takes a bite out of his sandwich, or his pancakes are cut the wrong direction, or his mom tells him not to karate chop his brother, and on and on it goes. These episodes often start with hiding in a corner and crying, then escalate into  full-blown panic attacks, where he is arching his head back, stiffening his entire body, and grunting through foaming lips that he can't breathe. My husband and I are used to them by now and know how to deescalate the tantrums, or even better--nip them in the bud before they start! But today he got set off at the wrong place and time where mom and dad couldn't help him: at pre-school.

Our little buddy loves going to pre-school, and absolutely loves his teachers, Cassie and Kayla. I drop him off everyday with the ease and comfort of knowing he's going to have a wonderful time and come home happy! However, today when I walked up to the front of the school to pick him up at the normal time, he was surrounded by four paramedics. My heart dropped through my stomach. I got out of the car and ran over to him as fast as I slowly could, what with carrying a 20 pound 2 month old, sleeping in his car seat. It was all in slow motion. Even though I could see my four year old sitting up, all my worst fears started to surface-Perhaps he had a seizure and will be stricken with seizures the rest of his life! Or he was stung by a bee and went into epileptic shock! Or a psycho kid in his class stabbed him with scissors! But soon enough I found out that he simply got really upset, went into his "I can't breathe" crisis mode, then his teachers called 911.  Phew! I calmed down immediately. I looked him in his big, brown eyes, gave him a huge mommy hug, and felt so much love for my little drama boy. (Who apparently got upset because his teacher had asked him to please try pouring his own water before she could help him pour it. You just never know what will trigger a meltdown...)

Now I'm not saying his tantrums aren't important or real, because they are very important and real to him. In his little mind he probably feels so upset that he feels suffocated beyond reason. By saying "I can't breathe, I can't breathe," over and over again, he is telling us that he needs help coming out of this dark and scary place where his feelings are so vulnerable and unreasonable that he can't make sense of anything! So even though it seems funny and overly-dramatic, I understand his behavior completely. I also understand that it could be very terrifying for his teachers to not be able to help him. The paramedics checked his vitals, gave him a sticker and a pen, and made him feel all extra special.
The worst part for me was that they couldn't get ahold of me or Micah because they didn't have the correct prefixes for our phone numbers. So they sent two policemen to get my husband at his work-place high school. They interrupted his classroom to say,"Your son had an incident at school and you need to come with us." I'm sure his heart dropped, too. By the time Micah showed up, I was still sitting in the grass with a happy, talkative four year old, a sleeping baby, four paramedics, one teacher, and now two policemen. 

All for our little boy who just can't breathe sometimes. 
We love you little Jonah. 
Sometimes I can't breathe, either. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Greens for Grandma

 I'm a huge fan of the green breakfast smoothie. Not only because it makes me feel really good to eat vegetables for breakfast, but because it reminds me of my Grandma Lois who lived to be 100.
She used to blend Dandelion greens in water and drink it straight, yo. Not even a sweetener to chase it down with! Now that's hardcore. 
Her other keys to health and longevity were a daily dose of Cod liver oil, sodium-free foods, and only eating meat in the winter. She died in February of 2011. I think about her all the time, mostly because I do a lot of things that remind me of her, like blending green stuff up in the blender and drinking it. Only I add sweetener. My Grandma didn't have Pinterest growing up, but if she did, she might've loved collecting recipes for green smoothies, like me. 
I printed out this Green Smoothie Formula and taped it onto my kitchen cupboard. It's been a lot of fun concocting different smoothie recipes by following this guide: 

You seriously can't go wrong with this! I've thrown some really odd sounding ingredients together in the blender, yet everytime my smoothies come out tasting delicious!
The other day I added:
 2 cups water, a handful of spinach, a handful of zucchini chunks, 1 frozen banana, 1 green pear, 1 Tbs of Peanut butter, 2 Tbs of soy protein powder, 1 Tbs of flax seed, 1 tsp stevia, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. 
I blended til smooth, then found myself in super-smoothie heaven. MMMMmmmmmm.

**This next ones for you, Grandma! Maybe someday I'll even be brave enough to try Dandelion greens.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Progress Happening Here

Sometimes it's hard for me to see the progress of things as we busy ourselves from day to day, week to week. The days start to blend together, as I'm running about trying to meet and balance everyone's wants and needs. (including my own!)

I wake up and make breakfast. I feed the baby. I drive Odin and Jonah to school. I drop them off then use this time to exercise. Baby goes into the jogging stroller, we jog around the loop. Zadok rides his bike alongside me, or stays home and reads. We pick up Jonah from school. We run errands. We go home and make lunch. We play games. We do chores. We read books. We pick up Odin from school. We go to the pool. Then there's Cub Scouts, and friend play dates, church meetings, and park days.
Laundry gets done, dishes stack up, laundry stacks up, and dishes get done. And round and round it goes....
Until in the midst of it all I realize that progress is happening: 

Odin is reading really well! In fact, he's reading entire books when several weeks ago he couldn't really read at all. And little Jonah is happier than he's been in months, as he's become pre-occupied with his fun, new pre-school. And Zadok is growing more social, making new friends and involving himself with Cub Scouts. He made a special new friend at church that he loves to play with each week. And Malachi is starting to Coo and make baby GA-GA-goo-goo noises, and when he smiles he throws his head back and smiles with his entire body. He isn't spitting up as much, either.
And Micah and I are happy. We love being parents. I have lots of activities, meaningful projects, and friends to connect with. My pants are getting a little looser everyday and I am feeling energy come back again. Micah is doing awesome at his job as a science teacher. He can also ride his bike 50 miles at a time without being completely  wiped out afterwards. And our family calendar is full. Our lives are full, and we are making progress. We've been here in Cedar City for one year now since we moved back from Hawaii, and life is not only flowing along, but there is also an overwhelming feeling of happiness and progression as we go.
It's a really good feeling.

Sometimes It's hard for me to see the big picture of what it means to my children to have me for their mother. I can get down on myself and feel like I'm going to miss some very important piece to their childhood-- that perhaps I'm overlooking something essential that will come back to haunt me when they are all grown up and gone: Did I give my middle child enough attention? Did I listen to my children enough while they were telling me stuff? Was I patient enough? Did I teach them correct morals and values and be the example they needed? Did I feed them healthy foods and teach them how to eat intuitively? Did I teach them how to find their path to happiness?

It's so easy to start worrying if I enough.

Today as I was sitting on the floor in the living room and watching my little children dance, and roll, and jump, and couch hop, and do all the crazy kinesthetic things they do when I sit on the floor, I had a time-freezing moment. It seriously felt like time stood still for a few seconds, and I was in a bubble of perfect awareness. And in my bubble of perfect awareness I saw myself from the eyes of my children. And from the eyes of my children I saw a mother who was enough. 
Because in the eyes of my children, I am the center of their entire Universe. Micah and I are the foundation of their existence! They came into this world with nothing but their bare baby butts, and here they found a mother who loves them. I was able to see today in this vision of absolute truth, how lucky they are to have ME. 

There's progress happening here, and I am a huge, important piece of it.

Thank you God for giving me this sweet reminder. The end.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Feeling Amazed

I feel amazed this morning at all I have. 
A family to love.
A husband with a job.
A home to live in.
I am amazed that we have this home to come back to, to retreat from the outside world. I don't have to go out there If I don't want to, and I love having that option.

I am grateful for the options our family has.
We have the option to send our kids to school or keep them home for homeschool.
We have the option to birth with a midwife at home or birth in a hospital. (or both!)
We have the option to attend church and worship God as we please, or choose whatever belief system we want to.
We have the option to grow our own garden and eat from the bounty of our harvest and also shop from a store to get the things we need.
We have the option to see medical professionals when we're sick, or gain knowledge and treat symptoms on our own.
We have the option to wear what we want and dress how we please.
We have the option to voice our opinions and be heard by our government.
We have the option to make things--create art, write books, paint walls, and decorate.

Our streets are clean.
Our children are healthy.
Our soil is rich in minerals.
Our stores are stocked with necessities.
Our water comes out clean from the faucet.
Our toilets flush.
Our windows keep out heat and cold.
Our neighbors are friendly.
Our neighborhood is safe.

I don't take these things for granted. Not one tiny bit. I am amazed everyday that I live in a situation like this. That these blessings are available to me at this time in my life. 
I feel gratitude every single time I run the washing machine and dryer, that my children will have clean clothes, and all it takes is the push of some buttons. 

I have a lot to be grateful for and I feel amazed today that this is my life.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dropping Awesomeness in my Bucket all Week

Every now and then I run across a something on the Internet that totally affects my life for the good! Maybe it's a blog post, or a news piece, or a spiritual thought, or a thoughtful essay on a parenting website, or something someone posted on my facebook newsfeed.... This one came to me through my facebook newsfeed from a friend and it's called Drops of Awesome. Please read it! The idea is simply wonderful. I've been thinking about it all week and applying it to my life and it really works! I've been able to combat so many negative thoughts with Drops of Awesome and have been filling my positive bucket to overflowing. I've noticed a real difference in how I see myself, especially how I've been able to build myself up instead of beat myself down when I want to feel good.
The first day I tried this concept of Drops of Awesome I caught myself off-guard. It was just last week. I had just finished a great exercise jog around my neighborhood, where the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was filled to the brim with happy endorphins!  I felt so good I was grinning from ear to ear!  However, right as I was floating on Cloud 9 my negative mind chimed in with: "Why do you feel so good? You're still fat! The jog didn't change a darn thing. You gained too much weight this pregnancy and you still have 30 more pounds to lose and all you did was run around the neighborhood! You don't deserve to feel good until you've dropped all this weight," said my inner demon-monster.
Right as these negative thoughts were barging their way into my mind I immediately remembered Drops of Awesome and filled myself up with positive. Yes, I am bigger and more out of shape than I want to be, but I feel great right now! My body is healthy and strong, and my baby is beautiful. My amazing body grew this beautiful baby and I get some drops of awesome in my bucket for jogging around the block!
Kathryn says in her post,
"When I started thinking about my life in terms of adding these little Drops of Awesome for every tiny act of good, I found that I was doing more and more of them because it’s a lot more fun to do good when you’re rewarded with joy, rather than being guilted about every failure in your past." Kathryn Thompson
So I started rewarding myself for more things I was doing well all week. Things I had put off forever, things I hated doing, and things that I needed to change about myself. 
I jogged around the neighborhood after not jogging for 9 months. Drops of Awesome!
I finally bought my son his scout shirt who turned 8 in march, and sewed the patches on. Drops of Awesome!
I mowed the backyard lawn and picked up dog poop after never doing it, ever. Drops of Awesome!
I swept under the kitchen table this week. Drops of Awesome!
I started reading my scriptures everyday....again. Drops of Awesome!
I was patient and loving with my four year old when he threw another tantrum at the breakfast table. Drops of Awesome!
 I've been able to see how these Drops of Awesome really move you forward and help you to be a better person, even when you've failed miserably in the past.  I wasn't patient with my four year old yesterday. Not at all. His illogical freak-out episodes were driving me insane and I lost my temper more than once. But today is a new day! Instead of me getting upset with him about eating his breakfast when I asked him to, and him crying about his food, and us both being angry, I made a Lion den under the computer desk where we ate our breakfasts together. We laughed, and roared, and ate scrambled Zebra. I didn't beat myself up for not doing this yesterday because I was an awesome mom today. Drops of Awesome!
See how this works? 
"In the end, it’s really about allowing yourself to feel joy and allowing yourself to be proud of the small victories of life. This builds momentum and you want more drops in your bucket and when you don’t get as many, you pick yourself up and say, “What can I do next?”
What I can do next is keep exercising, keep feeling good, keep being patient with my challenging son, keep serving my family, keep being happy for who I am, keep enjoying my new baby, keep combating negative thoughts, and keep remembering that I am not perfect, but I can do better each day.
** Seattle-based blogger Kathryn Thompson just came out with her first book, a journal based on this blog post. It's called, "Drops of Awesome: The You're-More-Awesome-Than-You-Think Journal." From Amazon: If you aren’t rooting for yourself, who will? Drops of Awesome is that unique discovery journal about celebrating the amazingness of you. Based on the viral blog Drops of Awesome, this book helps you become your own biggest cheerleader and tells your inner critic to stick a sock in it.
And I want it! I want to pre-order it from Amazon here and start my own personal Drops of Awesome journey! I'm so excited!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

7 weeks Mally Pie

*He weighs 15 lbs and is 23 inches tall.
*Everywhere we go people tell me how adorable he is...and how big!
*He's wearing 3-6 months outfits now.
*He spits up a lot after he eats. Sometimes the milk comes spilling out the side like a fountain. Then he burps and eats some more.
*He shoots milk out of his nostrils sometimes. It's freaky.
*He started to genuinely smile at 6 weeks old. It's the biggest, most happiest baby smile, and always makes me want to cry because he looks so happy! He does it once a day.
*He loves to be held and will only take a nap in his swinging swing or if I'm holding him/wearing him. 
*He likes his mom to hold him best. :)
*When I smell the top of his head I am filled with happy, loving, nurturing happiness. (someones needs to bottle and sell baby head smell!)
*I noticed that at 2 weeks old he would get excited when he heard my voice. i.e. he would start chewing on his fists or look around the room with wide eyes and move his head from side to side. He knows his mama!
*He's always so warm. And squishy. 
*We call him Mal-Mal or Mala or Mally Pie. 
*He sleeps right next to me in bed, between Micah and I. 
*He sleeps like a rock for 7-9 hours straight then wakes up grunting for milkies. (none of my babies have ever slept this long at night!! 2-3 hours MAX. I'm reeeeeally loving this!)
*His dad gave him a baby blessing on Sunday. It was a beautiful, powerful blessing just for Malachi.
*He's loved and adored by his family.

We are so blessed to have baby Mal-Mal. I can't imagine our lives without him. He completes our group of boy children perfectly! 
My house may be a disaster, all my projects pushed aside, and personal hygiene in question, but there is a whole lotta love for this baby, which makes it all worth it. 
At the computer with mama.

Sleeping with his pinky held high.

We take him on dates with us.

6 week photos

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Homeschool,public-school, pre-school, Mom-school

I just got home from dropping off my first grader at elementary school for his third week, and my pre-schooler for his first day of pre-school. I wasn't expecting to cry as I walked to the car as I've been really excited for this day to come, but tiny tears came anyways. What a big, grown up kid he is!! We are sending him to preschool for 2 1/2 hours, 5 days a week, to give him extra fun stuff to do while mama gets my ducks all in a row. Of course I forgot my camera today so here's a picture of Jonah in our backyard on a random day that isn't the first day of pre-school:
Family dynamics are such an interesting thing! When my kids were younger I pictured us doing the same things forever: we'd wake up whenever we wanted to, cuddle in bed and read stories while I nursed a baby, eat a leisurely breakfast, then go play outside at a park for hours. Our days would drift blissfully by as we laughed, and played, and explored the world around us.....
But alas, our dynamics have changed! Each of my boys has an innate desire to learn and grow in different ways, which has taken our children in several different directions, each on a unique path which they need. 

Odin loves first grade. He loves his teacher, he loves his friends, he loves worksheets, and homework, and organizing his desk! He loves P.E. and drama, and art and computer class. He loves being at school, overall. When I pick him up everyday he is genuinely happy and excited about life. I overheard him telling his big brother the other day,"School is really fun fun! You should come to school, too- You would like it!" 
Since I forgot my camera on the first day of school here is a random picture of Odin roasting a hot dog in our backyard that is not the first day of school:

Actually, the truth is, Zadok would really hate going to school. Zadok is not cut out for any of that formal education stuff-and that's ok. I like him home with me where I know he's learning and growing in his happiest environment possible. We started Zadok out this year by doing an online homeschooling curriculum called K12.  (Basically third grade public school at home.) At first I thought it would be a positive thing for Zadok to have his own computer, his own classes,  and to answer to someone else besides me, but after a week 1/2 of it we realized that the overly structured, demanding schedule was putting too much stress on the both of us. 
So, we're trying to figure out what to do about that. I'm hoping I can tweak the program so we can skip all the "busywork," and get down to igniting the light of learning, because,

“A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit.” – Hebrew Proverb

One thing that has been confirmed to me through this experience thus far, is that Zadok is truly a natural learner. He absorbs anything and everything he reads, and picks up on most new concepts immediately. He doesn't need to be told what to learn, he just needs to have resources put in front of him so he can. He's such a brilliant kid, I feel blessed to be on this journey with him. He has come a long way in overcoming his anxiety and shyness and is continuing to move in such a positive direction. There's still certain things he will NOT do, (like sing at church, participate in his primary program, put on bowling shoes, smile for a picture, or play team sports ) but there's a really long list of awesome things he DOES do, which makes this mama proud- (like reading advanced novels for his age, playing complicated card games and computer games, rocking at spelling and vocabulary, being a fun friend, being cleverly witty, writing books on dragons, helping his little brothers, making good choices, and basically being awesome.)
Z-boy working on a school assignment for K12. He mostly just likes wearing the microphone thingy.
I won't lie, I really missed Odin his first two weeks of school. I wanted him home with me. I wanted all of us together again. I felt guilty for sending him to school all day while I still had my other three boys at home. I started to worry that I was doing the wrong thing by sending him to first grade. Anxiety and fear started taking over my thoughts instead of peaceful assurance. I started worrying that my boys wouldn't be as close as they are right now. I worried that Odin would make new friends and then Zadok wouldn't be his best friend anymore. I worried that I would exhaust myself everyday packing Odin lunches, driving to school twice a day, and keeping on top of his homework.
But all those fears dissipated as I continued to pray.
 I've found myself easing into a nice routine that we're starting to enjoy. As it turns out, I like dropping Odin off at school! I  like saying hi to his teacher, meeting the other kids in his class, and watching him settle into his little desk. My little Jonah likes to walk in with us to say goodbye to Odin, and stares at everything with big, curious eyes. 
 I also like picking him back up! I like seeing his happy, excited face, and hearing all about the fun things he did on the drive home. He even started eating the healthy school lunches, which I thought he would never do! (This makes my life much, much easier.)
And I don't think I have to worry about these two boys not being as close. They have so much fun when they are together, and the space apart may give them time to recharge for their next round of craziness.  
So in the end, I know in my heart of hearts that we are making the right decisions for education/learning/growth right now-- For Odin, for Zadok, and even for little Jonah who is our pre-school pioneer. He had a great day at pre-school today, too!
So, my fear and anxiety is lessening as I read the scriptures and pray for guidance. I know that when we do the simple things that God asks us to do, everything else falls into place. 
I am also learning so much right now as a mom. I can feel the growth inside my soul stretching into new dimensions. My children teach me so much and give me the experiences I need to be a stronger, wiser, and overall better human being. I feel like I am deep in the depths of Mothering-101, and might even pass the class!

And did I mention I have a huge, chunky baby? 6 weeks old and growing. I love him!

On a side note, I might wonder someday how I was able to type on my blog with a newborn baby in my home. (A newborn baby that wants to be snuggled constantly, doesn't sleep without me holding him, and requires sustenance every 2-3 hours). Well, this is how:
He sleeps on my lap on a nursing boppy while I hunch over and type over his big baby body. It's not so good on my back, but that's the price I have to pay for wanting to write on my blog. :) p.s. Love the photobomb, Zadok.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stop, Drop, and Pray

Shortly after Micah and I were married (in 2004) we moved to Los Angeles, California where we both sought employment in our areas of interest. Our goal in moving there was to both finish college while working at jobs we enjoyed. 
We had a hard time finding jobs at first! Micah was hoping to get his old job back at the LA Zoo, but  that didn't work out as planned. And I was having a tough time finding a job working with at-risk-youth, like I had wanted. As our first month in the big city started to unfold, we desperately needed money to pay our rent due the following month.  
After weeks of interviews and struggling to find the perfect job, I finally got hired for a youth rehabilitation program for troubled teenage girls coming out of the juvenile detention system. I was so excited to start working again, and especially for a job I knew I would like. Micah was still unemployed for the time being.

Fast forward a month later: I have locked myself in the bathroom at work and am crying on my knees, praying to God that I can get through another day of this horrible job. There's a large, terrifying black girl named Ashley banging on the bathroom door yelling at me to give her the weekly allowance she deserves or she'll punch my face off.  She's been calling me "Dingy White Bitch" all week long. In fact they all call me that-- all six of the girls that live in the transition home I work at. It hurts and it bothers me, but it's not the worst of the problems I have at this job.  I'm the only white employee working as a mentor at a transition home for inner-city black and Hispanic kids coming out of jail. The kids don't like me nor do they respect me. They break all the rules when I'm on shift. They make fun of me. They walk all over me. And I can't even begin to empathize with the horrible life situations they must have come from before they arrived here! My fellow employees aren't friendly towards me. I feel useless and vulnerable at this job. 

Ashley's threats are starting to scare me as she gets louder and more aggressive. "Open the door you Dingy white bitch! Open the effing door or I'll punch your face in." 
I say a prayer one more time, get off my knees and open the door. I smile sweetly and professionally, and try my hardest to stay calm. I also look out the window wishing desperately that my co-staff is on her way up the doorstep. She's also a large black woman, and she knows how to handle these girls. One quick word from her and they'll be back to the expected, acceptable behavior. But she's not here, yet. 
"Now Ashley," I say, "You know you can't have your weekly allowance until you finish your chores and clean your room. This money is for after dinner when we take you to the dollar store."
"Shut the eff up you Dingy White Bitch," she yells so close to my face, I can smell her flaming-hot cheetoh breath enter my pores. She continues, "My supervisor said I could have the effing money now, so hand it the eff over!"
I want to cry. I want to open the front door and run away from there. I want to tell this young fifteen year old girl  that her life will amount to nothing if she keeps playing these  stupid games. 
The games and lies and excuses never seem to end at this transition home, and in these girl's lives. There's always a problem, and it always seems to be my fault (or anyone else's) that needs to fix it. 
Right when I think she's going to let me have it, my co-staff, Veeona, pulls in the front driveway. Ashley goes and sits on the couch with the other girls watching TV, acting like nothing ever happened. She smiles as Veeona walks in the door. I smile and pretend I'm a hard-ass mentor for inner-city bad kids who's tough behavior and threats don't bother me a bit. 
When my shift is finally over I get in my car and cry all the way home. 
But I made it! I made it another day, and a paycheck to pay the rent. Micah was hired at an animal clinic the next day, so I quit that horrible job and never looked back. 
However, years later, as I reflect back on that experience, it was here that I learned to stop, drop, and pray whenever I was in a stabbing situation. I would stop what I was doing, find somewhere to drop to my knees (usually the bathroom) and pray with all my heart that God would protect me and help me to get through another day, another hour, or another minute of this job. It was that bad. Maybe even worse than the Flash Flood experience, but I'm not sure--they come pretty close. 
I know that the Holy Ghost was guiding me and helping me in some hard situations, as my pleading prayers were answered each day, each eight hour shift. I even found a place in my heart to pray for these troubled girls who may never know a better life. 

Recently I've been applying this same principle to my current family situation, as I've been facing some pretty tough challenges over here. 
With the kid's school starting, (public, preschool, and an intensive homeschool program), and all the kids  getting the flu, and Micah starting work, and me taking care of the new baby, and trying to get organized, and making meals, and trying to get enough sleep, and keeping the house sanitary, and me getting mastitis, I just about lost my mind. Seriously. I started having the worst anxiety I've had in years, and felt like I wanted to cry, non-stop. Or open the front door and run far away.....
I can't even dare to compare my wonderful  life as a mommy to working at that job, but I do know that when I feel so overwhelmed that I want to cry and run away, it's time to stop. drop. and pray. 
So I did. Wherever and whenever I could. 
And I could totally feel the spirit guide me, and the inspiration fill me, and the anxiety melt away, as I figured out how to conquer each challenge that came my way.

Anyways, these are my thoughts today. Pray, pray, pray. I don't have much time to blog these days, but I found a little window of time to share these thoughts from my heart. 

Yours Truly,
Dingy White Bitch

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our 4th Baby Birth Story- a planned home-birth with a surprise ending!

This is the birth story of our 4th baby boy, Malachi, born July 19, 2014. He was a planned home-birth with a surprise ending! 
Our very first baby in 2006 was a natural, un-medicated hospital birth.
Our next two babies were home-water births attended by a midwife in 2008 and 2010. I thought I'd mention these details just to add broader understanding to our experience.

*For those who get squeamish with birth details, feel free to scroll through and look at the pictures. For those who love reading birth stories, read on and enjoy!

Labor started Saturday morning July 19th at about 6am, with short contractions happening every 30 minutes or so. I was also starting to lose some blood, as my cervix lining was thinning out. This was a good sign, (as I was assured from our midwife. It had been 4 years since I’d gone into labor, and my memory was pretty fuzzy about what was normal.) At around 12:pm I sent Micah to a nearby Thai restaurant to get me a bowl of red coconut curry and rice. I wanted to eat something yummy before the real work began, and this was the only thing that sounded good!
While he was gone my contractions were getting stronger and longer, about 3-4 minutes apart and 1 minute long. As soon as he got home we called our midwife and Micah started filling the birth tub in our bedroom. Our boys were bouncing off the walls with excitement when we told them that it was finally time for baby to come today.
 Next I tied a sarong loosely around me, so I could walk and labor comfortably around the house. I began to walk up and down the halls of our home, stopping periodically to sound and breathe through each contraction, and also stopping to drink sips of red hot curry.
Our midwife and assistants arrived at about 1:30pm. I continued to labor at home as planned. It was very peaceful and cozy in my bedroom. 
Micah came into the birth pool with me and supported me, as I needed him. It was a very special experience to have him in the tub with me. He was a strong support for me throughout this entire experience. He even made me laugh at moments when I should’ve been focusing on breathing. 
It felt so nice to have confident, supportive friends in the room with us also. Our birth team was made up of my midwife Dyanna, and her two apprentices Gina and Paige. My friend Jillian came to take pictures. Her energy was peaceful and calming, as well. We listened to the labor music CD I had made, and talked when moved to do so. I got a little emotional during the labor just because birth has never been easy for me. I was scared for the pushing part because that has always been my biggest challenge in birth-(to push through the pain and exhaustion at the very end when all I want is to give up.) But, I worked through my tears, breathed through the hard contractions, and was overall eager to get to the end of this. Everything was going in a positive direction as the hours ticked away, and as baby Malachi worked harder and harder to get here.

When I felt the urge to start pushing (at about 5:30pm), at first the baby wouldn’t budge because of an anterior lip, as well as the giant, bulging bag of waters, which he couldn’t get past. Over the next several minutes I switched positions in the tub, pushed really hard, and popped the bag of waters. My midwife was going to help by moving the anterior lip over as he emerged. He was trying so hard to come out! I pushed and pushed and pushed through several more contractions. Our midwife could feel his head, and his little patch of hair. He was so close- so very, very close to coming out!

As I started pushing through a final contraction, I was suddenly overcome with excruciating pain all through my left thigh and abdomen.  His head had tilted ever so slightly, putting pressure on a nerve. It felt like someone stabbing my side and abdomen over and over with a knife, putting me through the worst torture imaginable. It seemed that I was no longer participating in normal labor as I was now in a crazy, alternate universe of debilitating pain. I remember yelling over and over,” I can’t do this! All I feel is pain. All I feel is pain!” I started hyperventilating and I couldn’t calm myself down.
My midwife had me get out of the birth tub at this point to try pushing on land because I couldn’t push in the pool any longer. So, my husband held me up under my armpits as I used his bent knees to support my bottom weight underneath me on the carpet. I tried pushing through a few more contractions but crumbled over in exhaustion in the end. The nerve pain was just too much for me to bear. I insisted that they take me to the hospital, give me drugs, and put me out of my misery. In fact, I begged for everyone to take me to the hospital, give me drugs, and put me out of my misery. I was done pushing, done breathing, and done being in such horrific pain.
At this point our midwife gave me two options:
1. Lie down on the bed, try to calm myself down, and push when I was ready again. 2. Go to the hospital, get drugged, put myself out of my misery, and then push.
I didn’t need to think this over very long.  I couldn’t possibly see #1 happening without being put through hell and back so I chose #2. I needed immediate intervention and this was my answer.

The next part of being in labor is an absolute blur. I’ve heard that when people are in such excruciating pain they don’t remember details. I sort of remember my midwife and husband trying to get me to walk up the stairs to the carport, and me being confused about what we were doing. I even remember refusing to go. I remember crying and screaming a lot. Then I vaguely remember getting in the back of our car while Micah sped me over to the hospital, which is just a few blocks away (thank goodness). I remember being hunched over the back seat of the car wearing a wet sports bra and a giant diaper, and yelling in pain. I also remember being hysterical in the parking lot of the hospital while I waited for a wheel chair to push me inside, while hanging onto Micah and Jillian’s shoulders. I recall trying to differentiate between nerve pain and labor contractions and not knowing which was which anymore. Then I remember being wheeled into a room in Labor and Delivery and being placed onto a bed, totally naked. I remember holding onto the rails of the bed, whaling and crying, and begging everyone in the room to help me. There were nurses coming in and out, hooking me up with an IV, putting me on a fetal monitor, taking blood for labs, and checking my cervix while they were at it. It felt like pure chaos to me--not at all what we had planned.
My husband was right there next to me the whole time, as well as Dyanna and Gina and our friend Jillian who had been taking pictures the entire time. Their presence brought me great comfort, within the chaos. The next thing I remember is sitting up on the side of the bed while a needle was inserted into my spine. Then within 15 minutes this amazing feeling of relief and happiness come over my entire being. It felt like big, fat, magical, Pixie Dust got sprinkled over the entire lower half of my body, taking the pain completely away. Not only did the anesthesiologist give me an epidural, but he also gave me localized anesthesia for the nerve pain. I could no longer feel my labor contractions, or my lower extremities.
 A huge smile spread over my face. I could suddenly breathe again, think again, talk again, laugh again, and exist in the moment. Yes, I was still having our baby!! Just not under such hellish circumstances!

For the next couple of hours I was able to rest and relax on my little hospital bed of relief before it was time to push again. Only this time I had a doctor in front of me telling me when to push, and a fetal monitor keeping track of my contractions. The epidural made me itchy and shaky, but it was 1000x better than the debilitating nerve pain, by far. In fact, I decided right then and there that I was blissfully in love with my epidural and would never birth naturally again. (Euphoria)
My feet were up in stirrups at this point, with a nurse on one side, and my midwife on the other side, both getting ready to pull my legs back towards my head when it was time to push.  The sensation was starting to come back to my legs and toes at this point. I could also feel mild contractions in my uterus every few minutes. I started to get worried that the nerve pain would come back, too, so I wanted to hurry and push out the baby ASAP. It was 8:40pm when the doctor told me to push hard with the next contraction, so I did. Then he told me to slow down a bit, so I did. Apparently he had to move that pesky anterior lip of my cervix over, since it was still blocking the passageway. Then he told me to push hard again, so I did. But, as I was pushing this time, I could feel a bulging pressure slide through me. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever felt in my entire life! It wasn’t painful, but instead It was a tiny, squishy baby body passing through my body, and I loved being able to feel that little miracle.

I looked down to see Malachi’s little body curled up in the doctor’s gloved hands. Then the doctor put him immediately on my chest. I cried out with happiness, relief, and pure joy.He was darkish purple and covered in blood, vernix, and meconium. I loved him immediately. Our baby Malachi was here safe and sound, and I could finally relax and enjoy him.

This whole experience was really surreal, if not altogether CRAZY. I always wondered what it would be like to give birth under these circumstances, and suddenly there I was, pushing my baby out under anesthesia in the hospital. By the time I got home from the hospital Sunday evening, I was completely exhausted and wiped out. It felt as if someone had run me over with a truck, then left me with a baby to take care of. I laid in bed all day the next day, not only in immense physical pain from the strain of my labor and birth, but also in deep, emotional pain from the intense trauma from the pain I had gone through.
As I looked around our bedroom at what was left of our peaceful, planned homebirth, I cried at the loss of what could have been. I was so close-- so very, very close to pushing our baby out in that birth tub, until that nasty nerve pain started. I was so close to having the peaceful, gentle homebirth we had planned. I was so close to holding my baby in my arms without going through all that pain. I could still smell the raw, powerful fragrance of natural birth, lingering in our bedroom. I could still feel the intensity of the moments as if they were still happening all around me. It was almost too intense for me to be back in our bedroom so soon. The birth kit supplies were still scattered about the room. Towels and sheets lay bunched up on the bed. As I looked around our room I couldn’t hold back my big, sad, broken tears every time I thought about my difficult birth experience.
“Don’t think about it, Sally,” I told myself over and over. “You have a big, beautiful, healthy baby boy in front of you, and that’s all you need to focus on right now. What’s done is done and now it’s time to move on.”
So I would try hard not to think about it and redirect my focus back to my beautiful baby Malachi, with his adorable, little, newborn face, his tiny, fuzzy ears, and those big baby lips puckered up for nursing.
If memories of the hardness of my birth started to surface and break my heart, focusing on his little face mended it all back together again.
Throughout that first day at home my family brought more happiness into my heart. My little 3-year-old Jonah brought me apricots in bed, fresh from our backyard tree. My 6 year old, Odin, wanted to kiss and snuggle the baby anytime I wasn’t holding him. His genuine enthusiasm for his new baby brother melted my heart. And my 8-year-old Zadok’s eyes lit up right when I got home. He would constantly ask me throughout the day if I were okay, which was very touching to me.
Throughout the next few days my thoughtful and caring husband held me tightly every time I needed to cry it out and be held. He would calm down my outbursts of confusion and sadness, and assure me it would all get better in time. Soon enough I would forget the pain, forget the trauma, and only be able to remember the awesome parts.  And of course, getting to snuggle in bed with a beautiful, perfect, delicious smelling newborn baby, was the most healing of all. These sweet and tender moments with my family helped me to eventually get over it and move on from feeling bad about my experience.

In fact, as I’m writing this story 3 weeks later, I can see clearly the blessings and meanings in all of it! I can see how God’s hand had led me through this experience the entire time, and how it has changed me for the better! What we experience during birth has a powerful impact on how we see ourselves and the world around us, and can influence our feelings for good or for bad. I feel like this experience gave me a new perspective on the reality of birth trauma, and has allowed me to be even more empathetic with other’s hard experiences. It has enabled me to better serve those around me who may need my understanding and help. It has also allowed me to be more positive and trusting in our local hospital community, as they were so friendly and respectful, and helped me immensely in my time of need.
I had a fairly negative experience at a hospital with our first child, which prompted us to have the next two at home. However, this experience seemed to heal me of that. (I kinda wasn’t kidding when I said I loved my epidural…)
I also realized that we can’t always control what we have planned, and that’s okay. I know that God has bigger plans for us than we can see for ourselves, and often what we learn from an experience is more important than the experience itself.

Now, when anyone asks me how the birth went, I tell them it was awesome! And I really mean it! There were so many awesome things about this birth experience, that the hard things have just melted away! Here’s a few awesome things about the birth of baby Malachi:
*It was awesome when I got to labor in the birth tub with my husband. *It was awesome when he made me laugh. *It was awesome having my boys in the bedroom with us, their sweet faces so close by. *It was awesome having such a caring and competent midwife and her two wonderful apprentices in my home. *It was awesome when I was able to feel all those pains go away at the hospital. *It was awesome when I pushed our baby out and felt his body slide through me. *It was awesome when I held him for the first time and felt his squishy baby and kissed his squishy face. *It was awesome seeing the proud look on my husband’s face as he admired our new baby boy. *It was awesome when baby started suckling right away. *It was awesome that the doctors and nurses at the hospital were so friendly and helpful. *It was awesome when the nurses cleaned everything up and made sure I was comfy cozy in my recovery room. *It was awesome when I got to rest all night with my baby next to me in our own hospital bed. *It was awesome when I got to order food from this huge restaurant-style menu the next morning and stuff my face because I was starving! (French toast, blueberry capote, fresh fruit, cranberry juice, and chocolate pudding! MMMmmmmmm)
*It was awesome when my boys came to visit me the next day and held the baby for the first time. *It was awesome that my friend Jillian captured everything on camera. *It was awesome to receive so many blessings of comfort from my husband when I needed them. (Before the birth, during the transition to the hospital, and several days postpartum.)
***It was especially awesome that baby Malachi weighed 10 pounds and one ounce of awesomeness, and continues to grow bigger and healthier every day. I am extremely blessed to be his mama! I love you my squishy Mal-mal.