redemption

The shifting of the desert weather beckons us outside.   And so our family life shifts as well.  Lunch is often consumed on a blanket in the park or at the edge of the rocky wash beneath cottonwoods.    Calls of friends on scooters and swings ring out from across the playground.   In the wilds it is the call of the quail and woodpecker that we hear most.

She searches for lizards under the rocks, she sits in the cradle of the mesquite’s branches, and he rubs the grit of sand between his palms, natural exfoliation.   I press my back onto the unfamiliar coolness of the desert floor and let the sun warm me from the inside out.    We emerge with pinker cheeks and the smell of earth’s perfume jammed beneath our fingernails.

                     

    

The sky is the ocean, tipped upside down.  It is wearing her spotless blue cape most days.

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There is little time for writing anymore.

Between play dates and school pick-up and walks to the park and learning how to cook meals for nine (oh, did you know that one of my BFF’s and her three girls have been living with us?) and homework and wrestling laundry…I have little energy to do anyone other than crashing out between a few warm bodies at night.

I miss the writing.

But it is there, perhaps in a different form.  It lives in me the way that sun penetrates every pore of my skin as I push him in the swing.   It does this because there is no other way, because that it what it knows, because it feeds me.  Because sun creates energy and so do the words.   And an object in motion remains in motion.  So does intention.

My breath and his breath as he rolls over, asleep from the potion of breastmilk, are the words.    The writing unravels in her curious and intuitive questions.    I eat the words as they come out of the oven and then lick the crumbs and leftover letters from my lips; no one ever needs to even read them.   When she twirls her lean body and sings about the imaginative (real) world she plays in, well, the words are her nourishment.  And as I watched her fall asleep between the waves of her labor, words were plunked down slowly into my hands:  redemption.  anchor.  sacrifice.  breath.  And when he was born, the same words rose like steam from my heart.

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I tap out alot of the words via text messaging these days.  It works for my mamalife and my mama-friends.   Between the streaks of blessed desert winter play time are streaks of melt-downs and sibling torment that are just as memorable.    I also wipe a good number of asses.  And the 911 text messages are a lifesaver.   They are a mini-novel – my own autobiography – in the making.

In the teeter-totter of motherhood, my goal is to stay rooted at the fulcrum.  Not too much drama on either end.  You have balance, but then again, what good is the ride if you don’t give into the ups and downs?  If you never let yourself feel the way your belly floats on the way down or the way your feet dig into the dirt and push you back up again?

What’s a wish if you’t don’t work for it, sweeping the dreams and words from your core unto the winds with your very breath?

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At the fulcrum, I have a vision board.  I have my word of the year (equanimity).   I have my wild-crafted flower essences imbued with love from the tiny hands of my girls.  I have my apothecary botanical truffles made by the whirling dervish hands of my best girl.  I have a thick memory foam mattress topper and the deepest bathtub I’ve ever slid myself into.  I still have placenta capsules in the cooler and plenty of cresote and lavender that get gratefully crushed between my fingertips most every day.   I have a circle of women who cry with me and raise the roof for me and also know how to raise well-deserved hell.  I’ve got a few bottles of wine, a few new $2 dresses, and a supply of dark-as-midnight chocolate.   I’ve got triple layer of smiles.

    

I’ve got Instagram goodness and even some frozen waffles that I sandwich together with square slabs of melted butter.  I’ve got divinity without dogma and salvation without a deity.  I’ve got a man who brings me Orchids and his daughters Freesia.  I’ve got Ireland and Chicago and Washington and Canada and lots of Midwestern love.  I’ve got Red Rocks and dusty footprints on the trail behind me.   I’ve got the knowledge of a direct connection in the middle of the fleeting, implosive moment between anger and Source.

Spark.  A little death.  A little life.  It’s gotta have both to exist.

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All of this can be armor or balm.

And I still crave the words.

The ink-ribbon upon the paper kind.  The unspoken kind.  The graffiti on the wall kind.  The subliminal and psychic and on-the-tip-of-the-tongue ones.  The scrawled with a peacock feather upon your heart kind.   The lyrical kind.  The calloused-finger kind.  The backspaced and empty space kind.  The salty, bitter, sweet, and sour ones.  The ones that catch in your throat and rise from your womb.

I’ll take them.

On Idle…

How do I [try] to “parent” my children?  I answer with the below genius manifesto.   I come back to it often and with gusto.

Which makes me remember, I keep being reminded that we don’t parent.  Our children often parent us.   We can guide, and listen, and provide options, and of course – we keep our children safe.  But mostly, I try to sit still, shut up, stop talking, and watch the miracle of childhood unfold.  Sometimes, it gets very messy.  And that ain’t no joke.

THE MANIFESTO OF THE IDLE PARENT

From The Idler website.

We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work
We pledge to leave our children alone
We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they are born
We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals
We drink alcohol without guilt
We reject the inner Puritan
We don’t waste money on family days out and holidays
An idle parent is a thrifty parent
An idle parent is a creative parent
We lie in bed for as long as possible
We try not to interfere
We play in the fields and forests
We push them into the garden and shut the door so we can clean the house
We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small
Time is more important than money
Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness
Down with school
We fill the house with music and merriment
We reject health and safety guidelines
We embrace responsibility
There are many paths
More play, less work

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If I could talk to my self when I was pregnant for the first time (and have the benefit of knowing the kind of mama I’d morph into) here’s what I would say:

Pregnancy & Parenting PART I

  • Stock up on SmartWater and fresh fruit and veggies for juicing.  These were the main two things that go me through my mild morning-sickness and increased my energy.
  • Do whatever you need to do to get consistent chiropractic care (with a professional trained in Webster technique).  Beg, borrow, barter, steal, pay.  Do whatever you need to do.
  • Take monthly pregnancy photos.  Cheesy ones will suffice.   Get professional ones taken when you are really big and ripe.  Enjoy this process.  Love your body.   Revel in the power and magic that is your body.
  • Find your tribe.   Those mamas whose couches you will wear out, whose ears are willing to be bent at any moment, who can swiftly and tenderly place your child on her hip as if they were her own.  Find mamas willing to nurse your baby if necessary, and who will drop unprompted gifts on your doorstep just when you need them.  Find a mama on the internet, on text, on email, on Skype who will answer your technological call on those days in which you can’t muster the will-power to clean up one more mess.  Mamas whose homes waft of soup, and brownies, music, laughter, and a few stinky diapers.  Find your tribe.
  • Count on this:  You will do and say things you never thought you would.  And you will not do and say things you always thought you would.  This is a double-edge sword.   Example:  I never thought I’d bribe my children.  Bwahahahaha.
  • Repeat this every single day you parent:  Live in Love.  And Love Wins.  Feel what it’s like to let go of pOWer.
  • Note to Self:  Don’t believe the hype that Living in Love means conditional parenting/conditional love.  Children do not need to be trained like pets, or disciplined with the voices from your own childhood.  They also do not deserve to be disciplined with the voices of our culture that doesn’t respect their connected-to-the-earth spirits and their need to explore and question and Live in Love.  That said Living in Love is a daily practice.  Hard.   It holds a mirror up to your very own face.   Forces you to look.
  • Give yourself the gift of co-sleeping.  The family bed heals.  Dreams are shared.  Breath rises and falls upon your neck, warm and sweet.  Tiny hands find your heart.  Nursing is seamless and you can do it while you sleep.  You’ll know when you and/or your child are ready to transition to a different sleeping arrangement.   Yes, sometimes all you’ll want is your own space back.  Sometimes, small elbows are shaper than a knife.   Sometimes you’ll curse your decision.   Live and Sleep in Love.
  • Pick.  Your.  Battles.  And then let 95% of them go.   Doing this helps me feel content in my vision of being a granny in a rocker on a wide, wooden porch and not regretting the fact that I chose reading books with them instead of forcing them to clean their messes up every time.   Life. Is. Too. Short.   And then you are gone, and your children are left with memories.    And someday, they will say to a dear friend, deep in conversation “Well, when I was growing up we heard alot of___________and felt alot of___________and I always seemed that ___________ was the most important”.   I hope my kids will fill in those blanks with one word:  LOVE.
  • No, it isn’t easy.  And you won’t have all the answers.   And it will challenge your own view of yourself.  If it doesn’t, then try harder.  Go deeper.  Question everything.   Quell the voices.  Sit in silence.  Cry as often as you can.   Smile when you want to scream.   Hug when you want to lash out.  Crumple to the floor in desperation when you need to.   Ask the wind for advice;  she often replies.   Heal in warm baths and sweet slumber.
  • For the sleep deprivation:  Get lots of vitamin D and fresh air.  Take your placenta pills and supplements and B12.  Eat chocolate and drink green juice.   Sit on couches with your mama-tribe.  Do yoga in the park with your kids.   Barter with your favorite chiropractor.
  • Nurse on demand.  You’ll get so super good at it that you won’t even notice you are doing three things at once while nursing.   I can stir a pot of soup, nurse a baby, and text message all at once.   Not that such a thing deserves bragging rights, no.  It’s simply a nessassity.
  • Forget nursing bras (for me, at least).   Live in tank tops with built in support.   Layer if need be.   Stock up on V-neck shirts in soft fabrics.
  • Ditch the nursing cover unless you are truly opposed to modest/natural/normal/easy/best-you-can-do nursing in public.  Babies generally don’t like being covered when nursing anyways.  And it’s just another thing to pack and to put on while your baby is crying.   It could make a good picnic blanket, however.   Ditch the Boppy too (though it was indeed helpful after my C-section, so I guess I’d say this to my 2nd-time-pregnant self), as it is bulky and baby seems to just slide into the crack and not be able to get close enough to my body.
  • For the anxiety and crazywildtimes:  Get cozy with The Rescue Remedy or other flower essences.   Love up on homeopathy.   Befriend the nightly glass of wine.   Practice alternate nostril-breathing and Emotional Freedom Technique.  Sing at the top of your lungs.   Master the dance-party in the car and in the middle of the messy living room.   Meet the grass with your nose as you fold into child’s pose.  Go grocery shopping alone.   See “For the Sleep Deprivation”.
  • Wear your baby.  In a supportive carrier that is good on your back (not the ones you can find in Babies R’ Us and Wal-Mart).  Often and everywhere.   Start with your favorite wrap/carrier when they are newborn (I love the Moby) and then graduate them to a more structured carrier as they get older (my fav is the Ergo). Pop them in when they are fussy.  Nursing “issues”? Sleeping “issues”? Colic/gas “issues”?  Wear your baby and find that most of those issues will dissipate.  Wear them when you bake and cook, while you fold laundry and stroll the neighborhood.  When your carrier is covered in flour, and grass, and cookie dough, and spit up, and breast milk, and food then you know you’re really living.   When your baby knows the sound of the straps clicking into place and the motions of you sliding them in, you know it’s all working.  Life is best lived on the chests and backs of mamas.

More later.   But until then, tell me what you wish YOU could go back and gently share with your pregnant self….

jeanette leblanc photography

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