Random Thoughts about Willow

Willow and I usually wake up together, but sometimes, every once in a while, I wake up before her. I get up with Owen, while she sleeps in, and he and I spend time together… or on even more rare occasions, Owen sleeps in, too, and I get time all by myself, as the toddlers like to say. In either case, when she finally awakens, she calls to me and I return to the bed and to her. On these days, she looks at me as if she is not entirely sure it is me. She stares, and I wonder what she sees, what she is thinking. “Is this really my mama?”, perhaps. After a moment or two, she always asks to nurse. She nurses, and my mind peacefully retreats until she is done. Then, finally, she has the look – “YES! That’s my mama!” and is ready to start the day.

Today, Willow was looking at a book with side by side images of babies and animals. She was holding it open to one of the pages where a sleeping, sprawling baby is contrasted to a similarly stretched-out monkey. She tells me this baby is “sleeping about an elephant”, which I at first take to mean “scared about an elephant”. (Willow was terribly frightened about an elephant some time ago at the San Antonio Zoo, and that event has replayed itself in conversations ever since.) So, I repeat this back to her, only to realize by her expression that that is not what she meant at all. She repeats herself, and I suddenly understand that she means the baby is dreaming about an elephant; she just did not have the vocabulary to express dreaming. Wow. We haven’t talked about dreams much, I guess, but at 2 1/2, she clearly has some consciousness about it. Of course, I knew she had dreams, I just did not know she thought of the act of dreaming while she was awake or was conscious of others dreaming. It blew my mind a bit. What is she dreaming about, right now, as I type?

Big Thoughts

Tonight, Owen was full of intense whisperings and kisses to me as I lay nursing Willow to sleep and the light slowly faded from our room. Our lives have been touched lately by death. Geoff’s mother Judy passed away several weeks ago. My mom’s dog died this weekend. We found a dead rodent in our back yard this afternoon. I’m putting this all down so I can remember.

He started off kissing my hands, over and over. “Those are for you to keep.” Me: “Of course, I’ll keep them forever and always.” “I love you, Mama. I will always love you. Sometimes I say I won’t love you, but then I forget about that.” Me: “Yes, sometimes you’re angry, and you say things out of anger, but then you change your mind.”

“Later on, when I’m a grown-up, if the house next door is still for sale, I will buy it and live in it so I can be close to you.”

“Will you hear my whistlings when you die?” Me: “Do you mean will I still be able to hear you whistle after I’m dead?” “Yes” Me: “I don’t know, love… what I know of death is that you can’t move or speak anymore, and that the body decomposes and turns into tiny pieces that are part of the earth and air.” “But could you hear my whistles in your ears, like remembering when I was a little boy?” Me: “I would love to say yes, that I could hear you whistle, but I just don’t know. I don’t know what happens after death. I could think about you whistling as I’m dying…” And here I start quietly shedding tears, imagining that particular scene, and feeling sorry that the hard part about living is the dying, that death is the ultimate period to life’s sentence, that we all eventually have to say goodbye. I don’t ever want to not be here, away from him.

Already I forget what his last thoughts were just before he fell asleep… I do know that his mind moved away from this subject and that we talked of other things. My face is freshly wet again, though, writing all of this down. I feel so lucky to be here. What a miracle that any of us are here at all. I hope it’s a long journey.

Language Acquisition, Part I

We’ve used sign language with both Owen and Willow, and we have really enjoyed the experience. This is mainly because it gives us a way of communicating with them at a much earlier age than we would otherwise. Signs like “Eat” and “More”, “Cat” and “Baby” are ever-so-useful in everyday situations. However, every now and then, we’re blown away by some completely original thought, communicated via signing.

For instance, when I first got my hair cut last winter, I often put it up in pigtails to get it up and out of the way. The first time Willow saw me thus, she stared and stared. I figured she was noticing the difference and was getting used to it. All of a sudden, she started doing the “Dog” sign, panting with her tongue out. It dawned on me that she thought my hair up looked like puppy ears! So, basically, she called me a dog. Though it was in the middle of the night, we had a good laugh about that one.

Owen’s Belated Birthday Thoughts

Ok, so Owen is five! Actually, he’s been five for a while, and I’m just now writing about it.

On the morning of his birthday, Owen woke up and said “I’m so excited that I’m five! I’ve been waiting years for this!” So true, and spoken so earnestly, sweet guy.

As for his celebration, this was the first birthday where we let him decide exactly who would be invited, given a small number of invitations. Well, small is relative, I know. This year’s celebration was smaller than last year’s, when we tried out the open house all-day party idea, but once all the relatives and siblings and all were added to the mix, it was still sizable. And yet, we missed some folks that we had been used to seeing at his party. So, Geoff and I have vowed to start having more gatherings of our own so that we can see all of those people then instead of using Owen’s party as the excuse.

But I digress…. back to the party. It was pirate-themed, and we had so much fun with this one. Thanks to cousin Adam, who rigged the cannonball launcher to its maximum launching potential, the kids spent lots of time trying to lob balls through a hula hoop we had taped to the deck railing. We also had the kids dress up as pirates, if so desired, walk the plank, and then we topped off the festivities with a backyard treasure hunt where each clue was hidden in a bottle somewhere in the yard. Each clue led to the next clue, which ultimately led to the treasure chest buried in a pile of leaves in the garden. And, oh yeah, Uncle Roger read a pirate book, we had a treasure chest cake, and yummy food to top it off.

I am terribly behind on thank-you notes (from a person who got all the supplies for sending holiday cards out, albeit late, and then never did…), and at this rate may never do it, but I am so thankful to everyone who came and helped to celebrate his day with us. It was a lot of fun!

We also continued the tradition of letting the birthday person pick the restaurant on the actual birthday, and Owen chose our new favorite Thai place; Thai Titaya’s. I hope his love of great food never diminishes!

I also hope this coming year offers many bits of happiness… Happy birthday, Owen!

another kind of rain

OK… and then there is the other kind of rain, the kind that just sticks around, being quiet and lasting forever long, making me feel kind of mopey. It’s a great kind of rain for when you’re at home by yourself and you can make a cup of tea and curl up on the sofa with a good book, and perhaps a cookie or two. Or when you have a sleepy babe and you get to wrap yourself around his or her warm little body and nap. It’s not-so-great when you have one such babe and then a preschooler who wants desperately to do anything but nap and is literally bouncing on the bed and spinning round and round.

Is this the voice of experience? Oh, yes, it is. So, after a long morning of Owen contending with two sleepy kinfolk and one really long, gentle rain, I figured I owed it to him for a little puddle-stomping. So, out we went, with Willow in a high back carry in the Kozy and an umbrella overhead.

The snails were out in full force, and Owen found a good collection to take along for the walk. He eagerly showed them to several neighborhood girls, who were quite good-natured about ooh-ing and ah-ing over them. I was a little worried these particular snails were doomed to live out the remainder of their days in Owen’s bug box, along with the pill bug remains from last week (oops), but no, O found a good spot next to the deepest puddle on the street and set them all free, even the one he dubbed ‘the tiniest ever’, who really was amazingly small.

We ended up at the neighborhood plant store, where O got to feel the water in all the fountains (and Willow only got to wish she could) and then to visit his favorite stone kitty cat. This is something he dearly loves to do. Wherever we go, if there is some inanimate creature, Owen will take a fancy to it and want to carry it all around, caring for it as if it were alive. (Remember the lame Halloween duck??) It’s an endearing quality, and it shows his more empathetic side, which I try to remember when he starts chasing the real cat around at home. Speaking of, we wound our way back home just in time, before crashing blood sugar and dire thirst made the walk unbearable.

This leisurely trek was just what we needed to restore everyone’s good spirits. I’m thankful that’s all it takes, sometimes.

our screened porch

I love our screened porch. It is more of a sneak preview of a screened porch than the bona fide deal. But I love it anyway.

There is something so relaxing and right about sitting in it. Ever since Geoff rigged it up last weekend, we have eaten every single meal out there. Every single one. That should tell you something.

The other day, Owen and Willow and I sat outside, protected by the shelter of the porch and the screens, and watched a big storm roll in. My mom and I used to do the same thing from her porch, only it was the front of her house, not the back, and it was minus the screens. I imagine people having watched storms for eons… from the shelter of caves and other structures. It resonates with my soul, and I love that I can pass this small joy on to my children (I hope).

For the past several years, Owen has been afraid of storms, wanting to be inside, away from the crashes, but for a long while I have deeply wanted him to feel the energy of a good thunderstorm. I knew he would be hooked if he did. And now, I think he does. He sat on my lap, next to Willow, and we just watched and waited, feeling the wind kick up and watching the trees sway.

During the very first storm after Geoff and I moved to this house, I noted that the experience of storms is different here than at my childhood home. Here, because of all the tall trees, we’re really in the middle of it all. At my mom’s, on a high hill, one feels more detached. It’s still a moving experience, but it is definitely different. Different caves, different perspectives.

It is interesting to imagine what Owen and Willow will take from having grown up here in this house… the smells, the light, the swaying trees, and now the porch in a storm.

beastie

One night, in the not-too-distant past, Owen roared in his sleep.

The Birth Story Plus

Below is the birth story that Monica wrote up. Also a new picture medley to check out. Enjoy!

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In the announcement that we sent out already, we said that labor was 5 hours, but please note that was only the ACTIVE labor part. I’d been having contractions on and off for a few days, but they started in earnest on Friday.

That Friday afternoon, Owen and I had plans to see a friend’s place for the first time. This friend lives at the Rhizome Collective (a very cool place, BTW, check out their website at www.rhizomecollective.org). While there, it became increasingly clear that the contractions I was having were indeed true labor ones, especially when I had to walk away during them from the crowd of folks who either lived there or were visiting. I must admit it felt strange to be in labor around people I was just meeting for the first time. After we’d taken a walk, had a snack, and visited the turkey and chickens enough (not to mention our friend!), it was time for us to leave for home. I thought Owen might fall asleep on the way back home, since it was close to 6:30 by then, but no such luck. He had been talking about getting hazelnut gelato after our visit, and I think this lured him on to keep sleep at bay. So, we stopped at the gelato place in 26 Doors on the way home. I didn’t have any really strong contractions there, thank goodness, but it took some convincing to get Owen home, since he wanted to stay and eat there. By now, contractions were still widely spaced, like 8-15 minutes apart. I was doing my best to not get too excited. I wanted to go about our lives as if nothing was happening, because I had no idea how long this kind of labor would last.

At home, we enjoyed our treat (kind of a rare one) and got ready for bed. I remembered what our midwife GB had said about having a glass of wine and going to bed during early labor in order to get extra rest, so I asked Geoff to open a bottle of wine, and I enjoyed my second treat of the evening. Afterwards, I went straight to bed, wondering what might be in store for us. During the night, I woke up my usual 3 – 4 times to use the bathroom, but I did notice rather strong contractions each time. Still, I was able to get plenty of rest that night.

The next morning, the same routine persisted. Contractions were about 8-15 minutes apart still, yet strong enough that I had to breathe through them. By mid-morning, they had picked up slightly, but then they petered out by lunchtime. I began to think we would have an October baby. We all had projects going on, so that helped keep us occupied. Geoff was working on a computer rebuild, I was cleaning and starting to work on a mobile, and Owen was listening to music, among other things. At around 2:00, a friend and his son stopped by to see if Owen could play at their house until 4:00, so he took off with them. I think my brain/body needed this mental break, because it seemed labor got stronger after this. I talked with my mom on the phone and asked her to be available for Owen after 4:00. I also called GB, who recommended another glass of wine and rest. I promptly took her advice and went to bed.

I woke up around 4:00 with three really strong contractions. Being on hands and knees helped me make it through these. I was about to lay back down when something made me double-check, and, sure enough, there was bloody show. There was just a little blood, so I immediately went to the bathroom, where the rest of the plug came out into the toilet. I called and called for Geoff, but as luck would have it, he was out of the house, helping transition Owen from our friend’s house to Grandma’s car. The contractions were a little far apart still, but I called GB anyway to let her know the status of things. She was excited about the progress, and told me to call back once the contractions got closer together; 4 – 5 minutes apart. I continued to labor on hands and knees until Geoff got back.

Once Geoff returned, around 4:30, we decided that he should start working on cleaning up the computer project in our living room and setting up the birth tub. I also decided to go ahead and run some regular bath water until the birthing tub could be ready. At this point, things get more hazy in that I can’t really remember specific thoughts, although at the time, they felt completely coherent and rational. I stayed in the water and found that laying on my left side was the best way to relax through the contractions, so I was like this for a good bit of the time. Moaning during contractions also felt really good.

At one point, I believe around 6:00, I felt that I needed to go to the bathroom, so I got out and headed for the toilet. No bowel movement, but my legs started shaking, and I thought, “Hmmmmm… Urge to poop, shaky legs, could this be transition?? Nah – too early still.” Contractions were still somewhat widely spaced – no closer than about seven minutes apart. Geoff called from the other room to say that the tub was ready whenever I wanted to use it. He helped me into the tub, and it was really one of the best feelings I’d ever had, getting into all that warm water. I relaxed there for a small while, leaning forward against the side of the tub. The tub had a small leak from the previous folks, who apparently used it in the backyard as a hot tub before their labor actually hit, so Geoff had to keep re-inflating the sides as the air leaked out. Then, the first contraction in the tub hit, and I realized my body was pushing!

I immediately said to Geoff, “I’m pushing, but I think it’s too soon!” Visions of a swollen cervix and transfer to the hospital appeared before me. I had Geoff call GB, who instructed me to get out of the tub and onto the bed with my bottom up in the air to prevent pushing before either she or Laurie, the other midwife, got there. Laurie was only 10 minutes away, but GB was still at her home in Dripping Springs. I was worried that we would have the baby before they got there, but I needn’t have, since it took another two hours of pushing before our little one arrived.

I’ve heard many women say that pushing was their favorite part of labor; that they’re happy to finally be doing something active. Not so with me! It was just plain hard and exhausting. GB and Laurie offered up several different positions to try, but I almost wish I’d gotten back in the tub as GB suggested at one point because my pushing contractions seemed really strong and effective in there. I guess I was a little worried about needing to transfer to the bed just before the baby was born, and we hadn’t discussed water births ahead of time.

As it was, we tried laying on my side, sitting on the birthing stool, and, finally, laying flat on my back. I was surprised that the last one was the most effective for me. Later, Laurie divulged that this is the position they pull out at the end if they can tell a mama is just plain ready to get the baby out. It tends to get the mama working really hard, mainly because it’s so uncomfortable – ha! I must say it was really helpful to be able to push against the two of them with my feet, raising my hips off the bed. It was also wonderful to have Geoff near my head, holding my hand. His physical presence gave me a feeling of constant emotional connection and support.

Our baby girl came into the world at 8:58 pm, and we snuggled right away. My mother had brought Owen home about 5 to 10 minutes beforehand, so they were able to come in as soon as they heard her cry. It worked out really well, I think. I had a second-degree tear, so after the placenta came out, GB and Laurie stitched me up. It had been very difficult to slow down pushing at the end, even as I knew that might mean a tear. There was something unusual about the placenta, but I’ll have to follow up with them to find out; I don’t remember the details now. GB also noticed how Willow had her legs after birth; all folded up with the feet pressed at an unusual angle against her body. This completely explains why I didn’t feel many leg movements up high, even after the midwives helped to turn her from a breech position at 36 weeks. Her APGAR scores were 9 at birth and 10 five minutes later. She developed just a small case of jaundice, which cleared up with a little sunlight.

It was nearly 2:00 am when Laurie left, and GB decided to stay the night with us to help with the nursing, since it took a bit for Willow to latch on. It appears that she has a very specific spot that she likes to have stimulated in order to nurse, so we are currently using nipple shields. She is gaining well, but I hope to wean from the shield at some point over the next few weeks. GB has remained an incredible source of support and wisdom for the nursing, including going on store trips to buy miscellaneous items and making multiple visits to our home.

I am so pleased to have had our baby at home; it has been intensely gratifying to simply be here in our own space. We are all smitten with our little one, Owen included. He loves to be near her, holding her hand, kissing her. I’m really looking forward to their relationship blossoming even more over time. Here we are at one month, which is hard to believe, and already she has changed. She is starting to really smile at us, and giving the occasional coo. She seems surprised at her own voice. Even as we celebrate her arrival and rejoice over her recent developments, I look forward to the little walking, talking person she will become; to see what thoughts are in her head and what dreams are in her heart.

Love, light, and happiness…

Monica

New Year’s Day Toast

For a while now, Owen has enjoyed toasting our glasses, which he calls for us to do by saying, “Let’s cheers!”. This morning, after spending a fun night at Austin’s first First Night celebration and having a night of good sleep, Owen woke up in a very happy mood. We all snuggled together, and at one point, Owen said ‘Body cheers!’. Indeed, it felt like we were toasting each other with our kisses and hugs. I really love this image.

Laguna Glorious

This afternoon was beautiful. The weather was a tad warm for mid-October, but the sky was sunny and the air clear (not to mention my nose, which had been clogged for a week, and is thankfully doing much better). We took a trip to Laguna Gloria to visit the grounds with Sara and Thomas, and I’m just so happy we did.

We threw coins into fountains, ran around the sunken rose garden, rubbed stone lions, sat on a pier, watched two herons soaring and fishing, played in the mud, and generally had a good time visiting. Sara and I reminisced about the Fiesta days and mourned the cascarones.

I’m just glad the park is still open to visitors. What a wonderful secret, so close to us. And Owen even fared better, emotionally, while having his second no-nap day in a row. I chalk it up to the outdoors.

(Thanks, Geoff, for making this blog possible!)