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It is no small thing to talk about the child who made me a mother at age 24.

Isaac’s cries, his coos, his giggles, his feet plumping up, taking one tentative step then another- these were the things that ushered in my adulthood. They were the soundtrack playing while I became more patient, a bit stronger, more selfless and a bit more myself.

These days I am reminded of Isaac’s toddlerhood (not the tantrums or the sobbing, mostly) but the incredible deliciousness of discovering his apartness from me and the novelty getting to see him from a far. I remember noticing his growth- how large he would seem in my mother’s arms, or at the top of a slide. I remembering him returning to me more himself than before with a satisfied grin and sturdier legs – a being who owned his space in the world.

These years will be more of the same. I am proud to be your mother- the one you can leave and return to as more and more of yourself. You are funny, you are kind. You are smart. You have more thoughts at one than most people I know. You are fiercely independent and helpful at the same time. You are a loyal friend, brother and son.

When you were born, the nurses put you on my chest and my first words were struggling ones- words I know now are the very essence of young motherhood trying to integrate the pure body experience of pregnancy with the reality of a needy,wet human in her arms. I said, “Is that you? Is that you? Is that who you are?”

Every day since day that you have told me, “Yes.”

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It’s too insane to be real. A baby-swinging mother, from Russia now living in Egypt, can show you on the internet how to do ” intense baby yoga” with your newborn. And it is crazy. Sane mothers everywhere look at their screens and hope it is a newborn doll – like the slightly surreal looking ones used in childbirth classes at hospitals.  The video quality is just poor enough to allow for disbelief. But then, Gawker says it is real.

I’m hanging on to disbelief – yes, for the obvious reasons – I don’t really think this is a safe newborn practice. I am old school:  swaddle them, support their heads, keep them warm! Plenty of time for nose-dives when they are 2, that’s what I say. I’m also hanging onto disbelief because this woman seems to be offering herself as a path for mothers to take – come, you can belong here, be part of our baby-yoga-swinging community. You can do this and belong.

We seem to be finding smaller and smaller camps to divide ourselves into as mothers. Are we so unwilling to hang out with people who do not mother similarly to ourselves? Do we do this while we tell our children they are unique and special? Do we do this while we teach them to celebrate the diversity in their communities, be that home or school, town or country?

Did our mothers so sub-divide themselves, or where their fewer divisions. You were poor, middle class, or rich and  you were black, white or latina. You lived in the suburbs, country or city – but that is all. Are we more fearful? More confused? More lonely?

When I had my first child the term “Attachment Parenting” was just hitting the streets of my community. There was no internet in the way we have now. No websites, coaches, groups and fan pages. There was one sling for sale in the whole wide world.  I visited an attachment parenting play group and felt it was a group too exclusive for me.  I could not believe there was only one right way to mother. I could not be so vehement about umbrella strollers. I’d grown up in an odd little corner of Manhattan where Harlem met Columbia University. To me, attachment parenting meant rigid hippies in suburbia who had Subarus. If they had to walk as far as the mothers of Harlem, they’d have umbrella strollers too.

I never went back. I continued to breastfeed. I continued to use a stroller and a baby carriers of various sorts. I continued to “co-sleep” until none of us slept well and then we put the baby in a pak-n-play. We didn’t call it “co-sleeping.” We called it sleeping and the babies slept, with us, until they didn’t. When friends or family asked how we slept, we said, “great!” or “terrible,” depending on the day. I breastfeed and let them grab food of my plate – and formula fed when faced with Henry’s intense medical challenges.

Before the wrath of the attachment parents visits my blog in the night, I have many friends now who refer to themselves as attachment parents. They use strollers, have a long way to walk (and some of whom have Subarus.) But I won’t pick.  I won’t pick breastfeeding or formula feeding or extended co-sleeping or cribs, schooling or not – nor will I pick attachment or whatever its opposite may be.  And I will not pick intense baby yoga swinging. I’m assuming you won’t pick that one  either, but I’d love to know what you won’t pick. Or if you have picked, why it works.

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7 Very Quick Takes, Getting Late on a Friday

1. Ha, hilarity! I dreamt I agreed to write a 50,000 word novel next month & told a bunch of people on the Internet about it! Oh, wait….

2. Believers and skeptics, what are your thoughts on spiritual powers? Henry has been showing some incredible stuff, in the emotional arena – kind of like Deanna Troy from Star Trek Next Generation, (I sense sadness, Captain). The other day, while Henry & Theo were upstairs watching TV, Isaac was downstairs crying in a kitchen chair. The day moved on. About 8 hours later, Henry sat in the chair and asked, “Why was Isaac crying in this chair?” I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while, but haven’t really much more to say, than this: um, wow, okay, that was odd. And, trust me, he couldn’t have heard it from where he was, plus Backyardians is the best show ever.

3. Writing Buddies, sigh. I’m much more inclined to not tell all of you I am planning to write a novel next month. I’m even less inclined to post excerpts and progress on the website, but I’m going to do this because the part of me that wants to hide my notes, excerpts and word count will win out & I will do nothing. I’m actually more frightened of the extroverted attempt at novel writing than by the 50000 word count.

4. Kitchen Design Challenge: Though is a more traditional whistle rather than a hum, I do like my new yellow teapot that arrived this afternoon. It looks lovely in the kitchen and does not shriek. Parts of the kitchen remain problematic, mainly the part in which I have three boys and no washing machine (yet). The lovely Laundry Fairy remains faithful, so we are very blessed to have such help. Yet, every now and then, someone gets dirty enough that I’d like put his whole self in the washing machine not just his pants and mulch filled shoes. And if you are guessing that that self is Theo, you would be correct. He is some sort of dirt, sand, sauce, jelly, mulch magnet, far more so than Isaac and Henry were at age three.

5. At the risk of repeating myself, I want to re-share this amazing song that has been singing in my heart at its most fragile time of year. My sister Jenni shared it with me & now I have developed my very own Peter Mulvey obsession.

6. This weary month of illness, general October depression and migraine’s is more than half over & I’m ready to bake half a cake and eat it myself in celebration. I’m ready to re-join world that includes healthy people, grown-ups, work and getting outside.

7. I’ve done a 180 on having Matt around the house. It’s much easier now. We are finding a rhythm to the day. He knows when to leave the unsalted butter on the counter alone (= Karen is going to bake today) and I have learned when he is up for doing something non-work related, or which of the kids he can keep an eye on for a few minutes while I run out. It is absolutely great to have him home for dinner every Thursday no matter what, plus the whole weekend. The houseful of boys is showing improved spirits, and Matt is really getting to do a lot of hands on parenting of our most difficult and precious Henry. That is worth its weight in gold. Henry is a complex little puzzle, but once you are in, you are in. Matt is really working it right now, and Henry is rewarding him greatly with lots of love and play and very good behavior all around. I am ready to retire! Hopefully soon, Matt can work from home maybe 2 or 3 days a week not just one. Woot! I think I may have just blogged about marriage and the sky did not fall.

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aX = aY
Where a = 10 year old son
and X = dad is away at MOCCANY for weekend,
and Y = dad’s copy of Bone.

aY + b = potential family disaster
where b = pancake syrup in a diner, plus 2 younger brothers

aY + c = aY-b =I am a protector of the arts and world peace
where c=mom saying “leave it in the van,” and tolerating the subsequent shrugging of 10 year old shoulders.

****
S(X) + k = getting kicked in the bed by small but bony feet
where S = sleep and k= little kids discovering the big
empty spot next to mom in the Strobel foam mattress.

*****
X + E = I get pizza and chicken curry dosa
where E = me going to New York to surprise Matt, meet his friends, see the art and have lunch with my sister and dinner with my dad.


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Another round of 7 Quick Takes, hosted by Jennifer!

1. Birth

I just got back from a pretty short birth. I can’t share too much, but I will say that the mom shares a name with a Disney character with red hair and a fish tale. My children believe I a birth doula to mer-mommies & animated characters everywhere now. I rock! Tomorrow I will make cookies and they will know themselves to be the luckiest children in the world and enter into an era of no whining or fussing! Also they will sleep past 7am.
Anyway, the birth was lovely, though labor was pre-term & I started having deep thoughts about the NICU. The baby was born in excellent condition, tiny but strong. I hope all are having peaceful night.

2. Good-byes

Henry had his last day of preschool, after 2 years with the same teacher. Jen is one of the only other adults who has shown a no fear attitude towards Henry & his Sensory Processing stuff and towards whatever behavioral component is kicking along side it. The gift that has been to me in the midst of diagnoses and specialist and PPT and IEP, is indescribable. Henry loves her and can’t wait to see her in Kindergarten…except, she won’t be there and I don’t know how to break the news. In addition to which, his preschool is changing locations. Even though we are moving on anyway, it is strange to think of our preschool to visit. Our ten year old Isaac went there eons ago. Later this summer, we will say good bye to Henry’s occupational therapist when we move to Northampton. Christine understood Henry from the moment he first screamed “no swing!!” and then climbed on it & laughed like a giggling chubby baby. I will miss her. Isaac’s viola teacher is moving to the west coast. I’m not quite sure how to thank these women who have invested their time, love and passion into my little ones. Any thoughts?

3. The Mommyblogowaromarkesphere thing is back again. Hide! or Write!
Insert my total intimidate re: all debates about mommy bloggers, product give aways, reviews, promoting, press passes, etc….. Um, hi! It’s me, Karen. I blog here. Hope you like.

4. More Birth
I love my work. I love going to births. I am now free in late June/early July. Any takers?

5. Money
Last week Catherine posted about the recession, wondering if she is alone in feeling the pinch, knowing she couldn’t be, but reaching out in the dark for a hand of assurance. I’ll extend mine out there…yes, it hurts. More energy than I care to spend has gone to finding a doctor who will take our rather shabby insurance plan, a plan we have in order to have more money for food, rent and clothes….more later, I promise.

6. Joy
Is it possible that I have not told you about the Coldplay concert we went to see? A sweet friend gave us her extra tickets. I’ve spent the last week trying to explain to my friends and family how amazing it was. I’m at a loss for words. It’s a bit like trying to describe a spiritual experience. It was the most joyful rock concert I can imagine. At one point, Matt said, “Church should be more like this,” to which I heartily concurred. It was loud, beautiful art that included video, large helium balloons and millions of paper butterflies….um, so, it was really great, yeah. (See, it always ends flat. I cannot describe it. Writing fail.)

7. New York
Got a chance to be in New York with my best friend last week. It was terrifically fun until I started to violently vomit on the highway as soon as we left the city…um, suburbia allergy? Only Sarah could get me laughing, stripping down in the parking lot of a Sports Authority in the dark to change, telling me she’d outed me to the employees – giving them a good story in exchange for help finding cheap clothes fast…so even that part was as fun as it possibly could have been, because I was with her (see my grudge match with Italy post for more).
So, I woke the next morning with a migraine & Matt took their car to the fancy new car wash in town. I took a pain pill from my wisdom tooth surgery, at some toast and was cured by Coldplay that night. Life is good.

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Another round of 7 Quick Takes, hosted by Jennifer!

1. Birth

I just got back from a pretty short birth. I can’t share too much, but I will say that the mom shares a name with a Disney character with red hair and a fish tale. My children believe I a birth doula to mer-mommies & animated characters everywhere now. I rock! Tomorrow I will make cookies and they will know themselves to be the luckiest children in the world and enter into an era of no whining or fussing! Also they will sleep past 7am.
Anyway, the birth was lovely, though labor was pre-term & I started having deep thoughts about the NICU. The baby was born in excellent condition, tiny but strong. I hope all are having peaceful night.

2. Good-byes

Henry had his last day of preschool, after 2 years with the same teacher. Jen is one of the only other adults who has shown a no fear attitude towards Henry & his Sensory Processing stuff and towards whatever behavioral component is kicking along side it. The gift that has been to me in the midst of diagnoses and specialist and PPT and IEP, is indescribable. Henry loves her and can’t wait to see her in Kindergarten…except, she won’t be there and I don’t know how to break the news. In addition to which, his preschool is changing locations. Even though we are moving on anyway, it is strange to think of our preschool to visit. Our ten year old Isaac went there eons ago. Later this summer, we will say good bye to Henry’s occupational therapist when we move to Northampton. Christine understood Henry from the moment he first screamed “no swing!!” and then climbed on it & laughed like a giggling chubby baby. I will miss her. Isaac’s viola teacher is moving to the west coast. I’m not quite sure how to thank these women who have invested their time, love and passion into my little ones. Any thoughts?

3. The Mommyblogowaromarkesphere thing is back again. Hide! or Write!
Insert my total intimidate re: all debates about mommy bloggers, product give aways, reviews, promoting, press passes, etc….. Um, hi! It’s me, Karen. I blog here. Hope you like.

4. More Birth
I love my work. I love going to births. I am now free in late June/early July. Any takers?

5. Money
Last week Catherine posted about the recession, wondering if she is alone in feeling the pinch, knowing she couldn’t be, but reaching out in the dark for a hand of assurance. I’ll extend mine out there…yes, it hurts. More energy than I care to spend has gone to finding a doctor who will take our rather shabby insurance plan, a plan we have in order to have more money for food, rent and clothes….more later, I promise.

6. Joy
Is it possible that I have not told you about the Coldplay concert we went to see? A sweet friend gave us her extra tickets. I’ve spent the last week trying to explain to my friends and family how amazing it was. I’m at a loss for words. It’s a bit like trying to describe a spiritual experience. It was the most joyful rock concert I can imagine. At one point, Matt said, “Church should be more like this,” to which I heartily concurred. It was loud, beautiful art that included video, large helium balloons and millions of paper butterflies….um, so, it was really great, yeah. (See, it always ends flat. I cannot describe it. Writing fail.)

7. New York
Got a chance to be in New York with my best friend last week. It was terrifically fun until I started to violently vomit on the highway as soon as we left the city…um, suburbia allergy? Only Sarah could get me laughing, stripping down in the parking lot of a Sports Authority in the dark to change, telling me she’d outed me to the employees – giving them a good story in exchange for help finding cheap clothes fast…so even that part was as fun as it possibly could have been, because I was with her (see my grudge match with Italy post for more).
So, I woke the next morning with a migraine & Matt took their car to the fancy new car wash in town. I took a pain pill from my wisdom tooth surgery, at some toast and was cured by Coldplay that night. Life is good.

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When I was in high school, I taught Sunday School to three year olds. One Easter Sunday, I asked the crowd assembled on red carpeted steps if they knew what Easter was about. Hair twirling commenced, as well as classic Sunday school answers such as “God.” “Jesus.” “The Bible.” There were also prolonged descriptions of egg hunts, bunnies and treats, dresses, hats and parades.

This was typical; though I was a very, very young Sunday School teacher, I to expect it. My opening question was just a ruse for me to tell them what Easter was about. How it wasn’t just about the bunny, the chocolate, how it was, in fact, about God, Jesus and the Bible. These kids and I had an understanding. We were there to swap information. My job was to help them up a level their comprehension of all things, God, Jesus and The Bible. The regular Sunday School attenders were sure to keep their answers in the category of religion. Already at age three they knew what type of answer to provide in the church setting. In the short course of three years of church attendance, they had been indoctrinated (um, taught? sorry, cynical pastor’s kid here.)

As children, we all know the answers our parents and teachers want to hear. My children apologize quite quickly when sitting on our bottom step in time out. I suffer from the temptation to let them return to play when I hear the words, “I’m sorry, mama.” However, I know that first initial “sorry,” is really code speech for, “I don’t want to be in time out & I don’t want my mama to be upset at me.” If we are having a really great day, time outs on the bottom step lead to a change of heart. We no longer talk fresh to mom or swipe toys. We reflect on our actions and make decisions to do something else with our time, like read a book or drive some trains around the track. We aren’t always having such a good day, but that certainly is my goal for the purpose of using time-outs as a discipline tool. The quick “I’m sorry” must be followed by a true repentance, or we are sure to have day of escalating consequences and frustrations. Slowly done the process to achieve that deeper apology is not easy, but worth it to me…when I have had enough sleep to remember to do it right.

Today is Good Friday. As I posted before, I am somewhat intentional not providing an abundance of religious education in our home. We often miss church and Sunday school. We often go a day without talking about Jesus or God. This is less a sign of the commitment in my own heart, then a sign of my discomfort in feeding my kids the right, God, Jesus and The Bible answers to life’s deepest questions. I know what I don’t want to teach them, but haven’t exactly found a way to teach them what I want them to know.

Maybe, I’m just chicken and don’t want them to hate church later. I know I am fearful – fearful of over manipulating their souls to my own end. I did have them baptized. On their behalf, I chose the Christian faith for them. Having entrusted them to Jesus, I fear mucking it all up in my desire to control the outcome.

The best Sunday School answer I ever got came that Easter Sunday. One little boy was confident he knew the true story of Easter. He stood up on those worn out red carpeted steps and announced that Easter was the day that Jesus comes out of his cave to look for his shadow. Awesome.

Spring is here;life is here. We rejoice in the season. Tomorrow I will cook a Seder for some family and friends, to honor and respect that part of my heritage that means so much to me. My kids will not eat the bitter herbs – or much else – but without them the honeyed carrots don’t mean that much to me. Without the darkness of the cave, we never know how bright the sunlight might be. So, good answer, little one. I hope you are still chasing sunlight in the shadows. I know I am.

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