Chiara: 4 months old

I told myself before having Chiara that I wouldn’t judge myself  too much until my baby was 4 months old. I knew from my postnatal experiences with Scotland and Anders that it took about that long to start feeling “normal” again- less hormonal/sleep deprived/crazed. I’d say the pattern held true this time too. While I still have days where I feel like my brain must be marinating in hormones, largely I feel like myself, and the thought of taking on projects outside the general care and feeding of my children seems possible. This upsurge of energy resulted in my front flower bed finally being planted. (Taking advantage of a perennial sale at Fred Meyer I went on light around 9:00pm bought 25 perennials, and called it good!) While it will certainly look better when things fill out, I have been loving the color and texture from our large picture windows.

Chiara, as well, has started to break out of her shell and is adding many new vocalisms, expressions, and movements to her repertoire. Just today we were walking around a museum and she would squeal, kick her legs and giggle- a huge grin on her face every time one of her brothers walked by her. I’d never heard her laugh so much!

She’ll often wake up in the morning and lay their in her bed cooing and sighing. She’s “talking” more. Her range of controlled non-crying sounds has really diversified in the last two weeks. She talks the most when its just she and I in a quiet room, but from time to time she’ll “talk” while she’s around the boys and they’ll excited exclaim, “Mom! Chiara just said goo!”

Her arm and hand dexterity is getting smoother and more intentional. She loves to suck on her fingers (and naw on my hands and arms), and can take her passy out of her mouth.

She continues to prefer being upright. She’ll do a stomach crunch if you lay her in a reclined position and hold it for an impressively long time. We got a bumbo chair from my Mom. She prefers it to her deeply reclined bouncy seat, though she’s still not strong enough to sit in it for an extended period of time.

She rolled over from her back to her belly last week, and can do it quickly now. As a result she can work her way around the rug, rolling, scooching, and wiggling.

We had a few weeks about a month back where she was sleeping from 10:00 to 5:00, but now she’s typically wakes a couple of times a night. I was so hopeful that I was going to start getting consistently uninterrupted sleep. How could I be so naive with a third child!

When I’m really tuned into her and keep her on her ideal schedule she is a happy easy baby. Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible to live a normal life with two other kids and do so. So some days she cries a lot. (Sunday being the worst!) For some reason its hard for me to admit that she’s a “hard” baby. Some people delight in emphasizing how difficult their babies were, how continually they cried. But I’ve always felt like my babies sent clear enough signals that if I was in tune I could assuage their crying before it got out of hand. With Chiara there are plenty of days where I’m so busy with other things that I’m not following her cues. Or I can’t follow her cues because we’re not in a situation where I can, say, rock her in a quiet room, or lay her in bed, and on those days she cries a lot.

Chiara loves her brothers, but prefers them from a distance. She tends to get fussy if she’s sitting between them reading books on my lap for example. Or if they’re over top of her and she’s lying on the ground. But she’ll squeal and smile if she’s in my arms looking down at them. I suppose their constant movement and volume unnerves her.

She’s still a total Momma’s girl. I love her.

Anders has really increased his awareness and care for Chiara. He’s quick to sing his adorable version of “Trinkle, trinkle wittle star” whenever she cries in the car. He loves to find  and give her her passy, and asks several times a day to “hold her.” (Though he only wants to for under 30 seconds.) He’s also taken a renewed interest in our one baby doll. He sleeps with his baby, (As he so often finds me doing with Chiara in the mornings, after her 6:00 feeding.) It’s beyond precious.

Chiara goes by many names, but mostly: Chiara, Baby Jade, Ari, and occasionally Tom calls her Kiki.

I’ve felt a surprising oneness with her femininity. It feels good to have another little lady in the house. I get a kick out of choosing her outfits. Today, at the Viking festival, I found myself asking in depth questions about how this woman was braiding ribbons into a girl’s hair. I’m so curious to see how raising a girl will pan out! I adore her.

Blessing dress

As I mentioned do to a blow out I didn’t get a picture of Chiara in the actual dress she was blessed in on the day of. So now, more than month later, I finally did. Here’s a few picts of Chiara 3.5 months old in her blessing dress.

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A name and a blessing for Chiara

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In our church there is a tradition of giving new babies a name and blessing in front of the congregation. Similar to how Christ was  presented at the temple, but without the animal sacrifice. It’s a lovely tradition and one all look forward to, the family of the child and the congregation. Traditionally, the babies are dressed in white. The name and blessing isn’t essential and isn’t an ordinance or covenant, but for me it is an act of hopeful foreshadowing.

We had a lot of family come out for Chiara’s blessing. Tom’s Dad flew in, and my parents, and two siblings came. It made for a lovely weekend. Wanting to treat them all to some fun Seattle adventures, while also making it kid friendly, we decided to visit one of my favorite local parks for a morning hike. The weather was beautiful. The adults enjoyed the chance to chat amongst gorgeous scenery, while the kids had a blast romping about in the stream that flows through the park. It was one of those times when I felt so proud of where I live. Being able to drive ten minutes and be surrounded by seclusion and so much natural beauty is one of the things I love best about Seattle. I think we’ll be visiting this park a lot this summer!DSC_3792.jpgIMG_4248.jpg

I was nervous that Stan, being the only attendant from Tom’s side, would feel awkward surrounded by my family. But I needn’t have worried. He showered attention not only upon my boys but my nephew Keiton. He and my Dad shared long conversations. He took as many opportunities as he could to hold Chiara. He cuddled with Scotland, and told the boys bedtime stories.

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Furthering the Seattle experience we hit up a Pho place nearby to give many of our guests their first experience with Vietnamese food. The food was tasty, and watching the kids eat noodles with chopsticks was entertainment enough!
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Anders adores his Grandma and they have a very sweet relationship. He wasn’t too keen that she often had another baby on her lap, as he’s always been her baby in the past. We got to meet Bria for the first time. She’s such a doll, and Scotter loved how easily he could make her smile. (He’s taken to heart that he’s “good with babies.” and takes every opportunity he can to interact with them.) IMG_5636.jpg

In all honesty this was a photo op. I handed Chiara to my Dad and she was happy for about three minutes. She’s a major momma’s girl, and few had success holding her for long. 
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My Mom “read” Anders his “Andy book” half a dozen times, and gave Scotland his first crocheting lesson.

Sunday was an awkward day. We have church at 1:00 which left us with a long morning. We fixed a tasty crepe breakfast- and then there was a lot of waiting around for the “event.” Looking back I wish I would have used the morning to photograph Chiara in her dress, and take some family shots. We ended up taking them after church – which meant Chiara wasn’t in the dress she was blessed in (because she soiled it second hour.) And it was a bit rushed, but thanks to Devin and Jessica’s impressive photography skills we still managed to get a lovely photo of the group. I would have liked to have gotten a picture of Chiara and all those who took part in the blessing. As well as one with just her and her brothers, but people needed to head out, and she hadn’t been very accommodating. I’m still hoping to do a photoshoot of Chiara in her actual blessing dress. The one you see here was a backup- it’s a 9-12 month size.

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When the time came to go to church, my mom came with me into the dressing room to dress Chiara. Chiara wore the dress my mother made for my sisters and I, a necklace Brigette made for her, and a headband I made for her. (From the same fabric and lace from which my wedding dress was made.) My mom also crocheted her a gorgeous white blanket, but it ended up being too big and cumbersome to use for the actual blessing. She looked beautiful, and I was so proud. It was a sweet moment being in the mothers’ room with my mom, preparing my little girl. It reminded me of when my mother helped me dress in white before I received my endowments in the temple. I look forward to the times in the future when I’ll again help my daughter dress in white, for her baptism and then for her temple endowment, and sealing.

With my thoughts turned to Chiara all morning I hadn’t thought to prime the boys about what was going to happen and how they should act. Or to make a plan to split them up as there was plenty of family to help with them. Scotter ended up being a pill- and kept elbowing Anders which caused him to yell out, which caused me great consternation. (Scotland, unfortunately, has a history of acting out in sacred moments.) I ended up missing the middle section of the blessing because I was separating the two boys, Scotter being particularly naughty. Chiara, as we expected, screamed throughout the entire blessing. The mic went in and out. But Tom forged on and offered a beautiful prayer in her behalf. I was proud of him for continuing with the blessing despite the distractions. It would have been easy to just end it quickly, to spare everyone the distress of hearing her cry for so long. But he knew what was more important, giving his daughter a beautiful blessing to lay the foundation to many more blessings throughout her life. While I missed the middle section, (and had to say a brief prayer of my own to calm my frustration with the boys) I felt the spirit strongly witness to me of the worthiness of my husband. You’d think I would have thought more of my daughter, but my greatest impression was of gratitude for a Priesthood-holding husband, who was willing to call upon the Lord’s power, despite distraction. My heart went out to Chiara who was so distressed by the end of it all that she was shaking. It didn’t take much for me to calm her, she’s such a Momma’s girl. (Barbara Bradford, the grandmother of the ward, came up after and said, “They should just have the mothers hold the babies. Someone should suggest that!”) Knowing how frazzled she gets with others, I really should have asked. 

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There are few things as gratifying as seeing two people you love, love each other. It always means the world to me when my siblings make the effort to get to know my children.

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Devin is to thank for all the best pictures in this post! DSC_4181.jpg

Our family of five- in case you’re wondering, my legs haven’t been cut off and sewn on the incorrect side, they’re just awkwardly crossed. 

If I’m honest, I was a bit disappointed in the way the blessing weekend went. In my attempts to be “relaxed, and chill” about everything, I hadn’t planned things out enough. I’d hoped for a nice celebratory meal after church, but didn’t really consider that doing so would require me to make everything before hand. (Because most didn’t eat lunch and were really hungry after church.) So rather than a nice “formalish” dinner it was a stand around and eat a small bowl of soup in a paper bowl, type of deal. With all my attention placed on getting Chiara ready I didn’t take time before church started to teach my boys about the name and blessing and prepare them for what to expect or how to act. As a result the whole experience was lost on them. As a result, I didn’t get to experience it either. I didn’t ask anyone to take notes on the blessing. Tom’s recollection of what he said is all we have.

The weekend was also a bit stressful because, naturally, everyone wanted to help with Chiara and have their “moment” with her, but she only wanted to be held by me. With the demands of hosting – answer questions, and attending to guests, I wasn’t as quick with responding to her cues. I spent much of the weekend calming her down after some well intentioned guest tried to hold her.

IMG_5671.jpgDevin took this last picture of me. I really like it, because it captures me right before we were readying to leave. My mind is turned to the list of things I’ll need for the day: diapers, wipes, activities for the boys, the dress, headband, blanket, a back up dress, spit up cloth, camera, etc. I’m smiling, while balancing a baby, a bag, and stuff for the boys. You can’t see them but I’m surrounded by family, all wanted to help. But no one knows what I need to prepare, no one can hold the baby without her screaming. It’s how I feel often, overwhelmed but unable to delegate.

As I mentioned, Chiara is a momma’s girl. I have cared for her 98% of the time in her near three months of life. Add to that the 9 months of gestation and we have quite a bond. I adore this little girl. I can’t kiss her squishy cheeks often enough. I’ll do anything for her wide-mouth smiles. I love napping with her on my chest. Her feminine coos and grumbles thrill me. But, she’s got a “good set of lungs” (as probably ten people commented after the blessing). And her strident cries completely unhinge me. There have been some incredibly intense moments since her birth when I have become overwhelmed to the point of tears at all that’s being asked of me. But paired with those moments are feelings of complete bliss while I sing her to sleep in my rocking chair, my mothering chair. Times of total joy as I see all three of my childrens’ heads forming a triangle as the boys coos and squeal at their smiling sister. This period of mothering is very physical. I’m exhausted at the end of the day, and sore in the morning. But I find myself often thinking “I’ve got to write this down, I don’t want to ever forget it.” Chiara is changing so quickly and while part of me is itching to start exercising again, teaching more, studying more, doing more, none of these things ever seem as important in the moment as savoring the feel of her breath as she sleeps on my arm, singing her to sleep and then rocking her long after she’s faded off, or waiting for her delayed coos as I ask her questions.

Unfortunately, Chiara’s blessing weekend was a good example of me getting caught up in less important details at the expense of the more important ones. And while I do it far too often, I’m determined not to let the pressures of the high-achieving adult world strip me of the slow sweetness of infancy.

Scotland’s Preschool Graduation- and questions about raising excellent kids.

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Second year down, who knows how many more to go!

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Ava, Noah, Jane, Scotland, Cole, Daniel (and Hazel)

We wrapped up Scotland’s second year of preschool at the end of May. Our final class included a talent show and graduation ceremony. When I asked Scotland what he wanted to do for the talent show he quickly replied “Moves!” And moves he did. He adorned himself in his self-created dress ups, and chose to perform to music from “The Chronicles of Narnia,” his latest obsession. (He’s listened to the audiobook of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” around ten times.) When it was his turn to perform he walked out with confidence, a wide smile on his face. He danced around the stage, doing warrior moves, clearly imagining himself dressed like King Peter from the movie. It made me happy to see him so confident in his creativity.

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I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but one of my goals as a parent is to do everything I can to assure my children feels safe and confident in smiling. I’ll never forget watching a primary program and noting that the majority of the kids were trying so hard not to smile. Only a few smiled confidently- as I looked at their parents they had wide grins spread across their faces too- and were the type to wave from the audience at their child. My hope is that as I model smiling, and create an atmosphere of support and joy, I can prevent the trend towards forced seriousness.
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The first boy to perform was Noah, one of Scotland’s best friends. You’ll likely remember that hey did Tae Kwon Do together. Noah demonstrated his tae kwon do walking motions, and hand motions will skill and precision. I was impressed. Again I wondered if we should have let Scotland quit at the end of March. I composed several posts about this decision in my head, but they never made it to the keyboard. But it was a hard choice and I want to explore my feelings more here.

Scotland started Taekwondo, excited, enthusiastic, focused and determined. He went twice a week from September through March. But around December his enthusiasm started to wane. Noting his stress his instructors moved him to an easier class. (A joke of a class where they ran around kicking balloons.) Disappointed in the quality of instruction, I asked that he be moved into a more challenging class. He was, and the teachers were strict with him, often calling him out in class for loosing focus, or not following instructions properly. One a few occasions their public rebuke brought him to tears (though both times he wiped them away with a hard face, while continuing his hand motions- determined not to let anyone see.) The first time this happened my eyes moistened and I wanted to run out on the floor and hug him, and tell him it was okay, he was doing great. At the same time I was proud of him for taking it, and moving on, for continuing with the class and trying hard. Used to abundant praise, Scotland took the high standards and intermittent rebukes hard. Slowly his enthusiasm waned and his desire to attend flickered out. He threw a fit every time I told him it was time to get ready for Taekwondo, and towards the end, he looked miserable all through class. With a baby due any day, and our contract at an end, after a much deliberation between Tom and I we decided to stop taking. The decision was really hard on me. When should you make your child tough it out? When should you force them to learn the hard way, that sometimes things aren’t fun, but you do them anyway. Looking back I realize that Scotland was getting a lot of pressure from both me and his instructors. Perhaps if I’d let them be the hard-nosed ones, while I was the encouraging supportive one, he would have enjoyed it more. Wanting him to progress I would give him suggestions and voice observations on the drive home. I encouraged him to practice in between lessons, but he didn’t want to hear it from me.

Scotland signed up for Taekwondo hoping to learn ninja moves, and at first he loved it. He learned to kick, block, punch. But as soon as class consisted mostly of set steps and sequenced moves, he lost interest. He’s very free spirited, and prefers creativity and self expression. In class his moves would lack strength and energy, but when he came home and did his self-created “Utah Taekwondo” his moves were impressive- sharp, strong, and exact. Sometimes I could praise his improvement at home, and pump him up enough for him to demonstrate the same skill in class. As a result, on a few occasions he received open and abundant praise. Even being asked on two occasion to demonstrate for the entire class. He loved “sparring,” but he hated the repetition of the same steps over and over. Obviously memorizing those sequences would have been very good for him. And the process of learning technique before performance is common to most activities. (I think of the percentage of time spent at the barre in my years of ballet.) But I had to wonder how that same technique could have been taught to Scotland, in a way that he would have been receptive to. Then I wonder: is it better to mold instruction to the student, or require the student to conform to the style of the teacher? Is it worth it to force a child to continue with something they hate, or find a way to teach the child the same lessons in a way they enjoy? How much does a child really learn when they are being forced? But some children

This leads me to the other dilemma that has been plaguing my mind of late: whether to send Scotland to a public kindergarten, or homeschool him. The question arose when I learned that half-day kindergarten isn’t available in our district. I hate the idea of sending my five-year-old to school for essentially seven hours a day, with transportation. Not only do I dislike the thought of Scotland being gone that long, but I also hate that that would mean that Anders would be without his best friend for the same amount of time. Then if he does extra curricular activities, that is more time apart. The thought makes my heart sick. Yes, my boys have their fights, and there are days when the thought of separating them permanently seems brilliant. (They are such gems on their own.) But for every one period of strife there are three moments of beautiful kinship and joyful play. Hearing them belly laughing and squealing with delight together is enough to “fill my glass” for a day. I can’t help but worry how their relationship will change if Scotland is gone most of the time. And then to think of all that Scotland will miss in Chiara’s development.

From time to time I let my imagination run wild with the potential of homeschool, and it’s grand. I love the idea of each boy taking their backpack full of magnifying glasses, binoculars, sketch pads and field guides for a day of learning and exploration on the beach, or in the forest. I can imagine days spend creating maps, planning out treasure hunts and setting them up for each other. I want the joy and memories that would accompany this sort of learning environment. I love the idea of child-led projects, of Scotland meeting with people in the community to explore his interests. The potential is great. But I worry, would I really do those things? or would the daily minutiae of caring for three children and a home, win out, and would home-school become mundane workbooks, and a harried mother-son relationship. Would I seek out the sort of diverse and dynamic community I want my children to be raised in, or would our homeschooling be insular and isolating.Would the demands and time needed to homeschool being a boon to Anders and Chiara? Providing them with expanded exposure and experiences, or would it leave them on the sidelines? Realistically it would probably be some of all of these.

Then there’s the weighing of benefits. Do I do the most good with my time by creating learning and bonding experiences for my children, or helping in my community, expanding my vocal studio, or serving at church?

I could go on with these questions all day. One day I’ll be super excited about homeschooling, then the next day I’ll start to feel really anxious about it. So the next day I’ll decide I’m going to send him to public school and just pull him whenever I want. I’ll feel really at peace with that for a few days, but then I’ll start entertaining ideas about homeschooling and I’ll decide to do that again. . . and the cycle continues.

In keeping my options open I’m on the “list” for five different schools! I guess you could call me indecisive. It’s hard! Not only am I making decisions that affect my life, but the life of my children! Whew.

In the end it comes down to this: I want my children to be excellent, joyful, happy, hard-working, curious, creative, kind, faithful and close. I’m just not sure how to accomplish that!

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Pam’s visit/ Mother’s Day/ Chiara’s one month

I’m so distraught. I stayed up late one night writing a thoughtful and thorough post to cover these three topics. I thought I published it, but something must have happened.  A week later I noticed that it never published, and all the written content had been deleted. 🙁 So here’s a quick retry.

My wonderful mother-in-law came to visit earlier this month and was SUCH a huge help. She offered continual patient and loving attention to the boys. She held Chiara tons so I could attend to the boys, the house, and myself. She cooked, kept our house immaculate and kept the laundry going. And super excitedly she helped lead and inspired three huge organizing projects: Scotland’s room, the toy “closet” and the garage. She even bought us a label maker, something that feels like a heritage piece coming from her!

Mother’s Day:

Chiara: One Month

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Chiara is a pro sleeper, often only waking once between 10:00 and 7:00! She is growing increasingly awake and alert during her wakeful periods, which we are all enjoying. This week she’s started smiling a bunch!

She’s a major Momma’s girl. It’s so satisfying when she quickly calms after I pick her up, even though she was hysterical before. She’ll then do this darling pathetic little whimper- as if to tell me all the reasons she was crying. She loves the ergo, and I typically end up holding her/carrying her most of the day, which is starting to take a toll on my back. Time to get back to yoga!

She struggles with a good amount of reflux. Some days she can be super spitty. (A few days ago she spit up so much that she soaked through her swaddling blanket, her fleece pajamas and her onesie- I too was soaked to the skin! If I burp her and keep her upright for a while after eating, she does much better. But if I lay her flat right after feeding her (like to change her diaper) she’ll usually spill a good deal of her meal.

She hardly opened her right eye the first week of her life, but it has gradually opened up bigger and bigger. It still tends to be less than her left. (As you can see in the above picture.)

She loves to be held tight to your chest, and will often snuggle her head into my neck. She has a strong neck and will often push off from my shoulder and look around, or can push up from her bassinet and flip her head from side to side. (She sleeps on her stomach.)

The boys adore her, and make time each day to come over and coo at her. Scotland likes to put his hands on each of her cheeks, cradling her face. (She doesn’t much like it.) And Anders will often bring her toys. Too often they get competitive with each other, and end up getting pushy around her, which makes me nervous, and makes her cry. I’ve been so grateful that she’s started to sit happily in the bouncy seat for longer periods, because it’s given them an opportunity to sit next to her and interact happily. A few days ago, she started crying. Anders immediately jumped up and said “Passy!” and then ran and found one, then came back and patiently tried over and over again to get her to take it. Finally she started sucking on it, and his face lit up in joy. They both so desperately want to be helpful, and I’m always trying to come up with ways for them to help with her.

Chiara has such a feminine cry, I love it!

Like her brothers she’s started loosing her baby hair on the top of her head. Its an unfortunately genetic tendency because it gives them such an odd look for a month or two while their new hair grows in. Lucky for her, she can wear bows. I spent the evening a few nights ago making her a few more. (And totally caught the headband making bug! I can’t stop thinking about making more!)

After she sneezes she makes this sweet little coo, that I just love.

She’s quite a serious child, and often looks rather worried or concerned. When she gets sad she has the most heartbreaking frown- with a protruding lower lip.

Her eyes are taking on more and more of a blue cast.

She loves to sleep on my chest. And while it keeps me from sleeping deeply, I love it too. I love feeling her breath, and feeling her little squirms and stretches!

She sleeps in a bassinet in our room, and we’re working on getting her to take at least one nap in there during the day.

She’s a great nurser, and is quite timely with her two hour intervals. She follows the wake up, eat, play, sleep pattern consistently, making her pretty easy to read.

Overall, she’s a easy baby (for me, Tom might tell a different story). Especially since she’s started to spend some of her wakeful periods in the bouncy seat, and her naps in the bassinet this past week.

We all just love her!

 

Looking like a scrub

Today, I found myself at the Richmond Beach Strawberry Festival in an old college tee shirt with paint all over it, dirty yoga pants, wearing Tom’s flip flops. My hair had been haphazardly pulled up at some point during the morning- clearly without the use of a mirror, and my face bore no makeup. A wet spot appeared over one breast due to forgotten breast pads. To be fair I hadn’t intended to go to the festival when I left the house. No, we were just going to hit the last twenty minutes of the comic book event that the library was hosting- because there were a bunch of guys dressed up as super heroes. But when we got there and the event was essentially over- and there were no super heroes in sight- my caped and masked boys were quite disappointed. Looking for some other way to enjoy our Saturday sans Tom (he was helping with a move) I thought we’d swing by the festival. I didn’t really think it through- we just went. I didn’t have a water bottle, or sunscreen, or a nursing cover. I looked like a scrub. But we went, had a great time, and I came home with three happy children who were thrilled to have jumped in the bounce houses, tasted the strawberry short cake, played on a new playground, and rolled down hills overlooking the Puget Sound. (Well, I’m not sure they appreciated the lookout, but I did as I nursed Chiara as discreetly as I could without a cover.)

Friends, it’s come to this. . .

Thank goodness I live in Seattle, where going out au naturel is the norm. I guess when you add a baby to your mix, you have to subtract something else. Today, I chose to garden and organize rather than get ready. And I chose to get out and make memories with my kids, instead of worrying about my appearance. So next time you see me, and worry that “I’ve let myself go” don’t worry, I’m just holding on to what’s truly important!

New Goal: Make more music with my kids!

A friend just shared this article on facebook and I wanted to share it here. We read to our boys twice a day. But while we certainly make music, this article made me want to increase the amount of playful music making in our home. Tom and I are both musicians, we love music. The classical music station is always playing in my car, and we often put music on while we make dinner. Scotland sings made up songs all day long. But I rarely make music- despite being a professionally trained musician. I was intrigued by the emphasis on creative, informal music making. As well as the need for parental interaction. I always feel affirmed as a mother when I read studies, like this, that indicate that mothering can’t be outsourced.

Here’s the section from the article that particularly spoke to me:

“The true power of musical play lies in the unique blend of creativity, sound and face-to-face interaction; the learning is strengthened by its basis in a positive, empathic emotional relationship.


Forget CDs and toys that beep, playing music should be a shared experience. www.shutterstock.com

Parents are increasingly enrolling very young children in specialist music classes – undoubtedly a positive development. Reading, however, is rarely “outsourced” in this way, and this study suggests that parents should feel encouraged and empowered in tapping their own inner musician before looking outside the home.

As with most aspects of parenting (in my personal non-scientific experience), there is no substitute for a parent’s personal involvement, even if it involves long-forgotten modes of behaviour such as taking simple pleasure in making sounds.

Being playful with sound is something we’re all born with – indeed, toddlers are humanity’s greatest virtuosos in that regard – yet too many are silenced over the years by the “better seen than heard” brigade.

It’s no accident that we talk about “playing” a musical instrument; a turn of phrase that too easily becomes sadly ironic if formal music lesson structures calcify into strictures.”

Chiara: 1.5 week photoshoot

I had so much fun photographing our little beauty yesterday. Chiara likes to be very warm, or preferably sweaty hot, so despite the heater pumping away next to her, she wasn’t keen on an undressed, unwrapped state. I was hoping to get a few more newborn body picts- capturing her skinny legs, long feet and narrow belly. Alas, maybe another day! 

…because life isn’t all peaches and cream

 

Chiara Jade Foutz: a birth story

Birth is a sacred time. I believe it should be hallowed, reverenced, prepared for. As I alluded to in this post, I spent the weeks leading up to Chiara’s birth preparing emotionally and spiritually. I wasn’t surprised when my due date came and went, and had a feeling that she would be born on Tuesday. I told my midwife this at my appointment the Thursday before and she exclaimed “Alright! That’s my day! Let’s do it!” and we gave each other a high 10.  When my water broke around 9:00PM on Monday April 4th, I was excited our baby was coming! As is procedure I called the midwives to let them know, they suggested I come in, but as I wasn’t having any contractions I suggested I wait and hour and let things start happening. Tom and I busied ourselves gathering our stuff. (Tom was SO excited!) An hour and a half later I checked back to inform them that I was still not contracting. We agreed that I’d come in, and just make sure the baby was doing okay. Caroline Hulet came over to sleep with the boys, and we headed to Northwest Hospital. Fetal monitoring showed that the baby was doing great, but the light meconium staining in the amniotic fluid resulted in our having to spend the night at the hospital. The midwife was sure that things would get moving soon and that the need for inducing or augmenting labor wouldn’t be necessary. Though she informed us that if I didn’t go into labor on my own, they would start me on pitocin in the morning. I spent a long sleepless night anxiously wishing my body into labor. I had heard that pitocin contractions were so much more painful than natural contractions and that you just didn’t get induced without an epidural because the pain was so much more intense. I worried about my hopes for an unmedicated birth. Determined to get things moving Tom and I set off to walk the halls of the hospital the next morning. (One administrator who saw us on our rounds later told me, she originally saw me from the back and thought I was a visitor, and then when she saw I was pregnant got concerned I was trying to run away!) Our speed walks were unsuccessful so around 8:00AM they started the pitocin. They fed it in super slowly (too gradually it turns out due to a miscommunication) so I didn’t start to experience painful contractions until around 12:30. We filled the morning, chatting, walking the halls, and generally trying to pass time. My mom arrived around 10:00. (Caroline took the boys to her house in the morning, and then my Dad and Dantz picked them up around 10:00 and cared for them the rest of the day.) The waiting game was hard on me. I was genuinely eager for hard contractions! (I also had a headache from uncomfortable hospital pillows and sleepless night.)

Due to the pitocin, the baby had to be constantly monitored, which meant that every 15 minutes the two nurses (Becky and Maggie) had to adjust the bands to get them to pick up baby’s heartbeat. I suppose the fact that I couldn’t sit still didn’t help! I kept hoping that walking the halls would speed things up. Finally, around 2:15 active labor started. I was so relieved, this is what I had prepared for!  This time around the birthing ball was my best friend, with my arms resting on the end of the bed I circled on the ball while Tom rubbed my lower back. Together we worked our way through the contractions. It was very much a united front, Tom was there rubbing my back, massaging my neck, and lending support through all two hours of active labor. Because of the need for monitoring the jets on the jacuzzi weren’t an option this time- which was too bad, since I had really appreciated that approach with Anders.  I got up and walked from time to time but the contractions hurt so much more when I was standing that while it felt like it lent more “progress” it didn’t feel worth it. Not to mention laboring in the hall, with so many people looking on, was awkward.  I feel the need to be very focused when I’m in active labor. Breathing and relaxing through the contractions is what allows me to cope/relax into the contraction. And having so many people in the room through the entirety of the labor wasn’t ideal. But with my eyes closed and music playing I was able to focus inward, and be one with the baby and Tom.

I was very aware of transition, and fortunately, because I identified it, was able to encourage myself through it, saying “I got this, I got this, I got this.” But I found myself suddenly annoyed by the two nurses who were never more than five feet away, watching and adjusting the fetal monitors. I suddenly couldn’t stand how strongly they smelled of purel, nor did I care for Toms un-showered un-deodorized state. I grew annoyed that things were taking so long.

While in transition, I switched to a deep child’s poise on the bed after learning that I was only measuring at a 6. (This was probably around 3:50)  As I lay there in child’s poise, my face resting in the pillow, Tom continually rubbing my back, I realized that I was controlling and preventing the tail end of the contraction from running the full length of my body. As soon as I relaxed into the final part of the contraction, it started running to the very depth of my pelvis and I went from a 6 to complete in 15 minutes. (Which meant the neo-natalogist wasn’t present, as they had hoped.)

I feel the take home lesson from labor this time, was trusting my body’s timing. I was so sick of waiting that I really wanted to push things along and my midwife said several times, “There is no need to rush.” Interestingly, it was my own involvement that resulted in the slowing of labor- even though I felt more control- I was in my own way. My body knows how to labor and I had to trust my maternal instincts and not my logical brain.

I needed someone to coach me through the breathing in the final stages but nobody did. I lost my focus, whimpering at the intense pain of the ring of fire and tissue ripping. I started hyperventilating which caused my arms to go numb. I was in an awkward position for the pushing stage, I didn’t feel very set up or supported like I had with Anders when Mary gave me detailed instruction. I suppose it’s because Michelle knew it wasn’t going to take long. I held Tom’s hand on the left and my Mom’s on the right  I gave two or three good pushes and then Michelle had me continue to push between contractions (because Chiara’s heart rate dropped to 50) and with that and two more pushes she was out! Around the third push I reached down and felt the top third of her head. This brought me such intense joy and I couldn’t help exclaim “My baby! Oh, My baby!” After the fourth push I felt Chiara kick inside of me- and I laughed as I said “She just kicked!” One more push and she was out and on my chest.  I can’t express the intense joy I felt. My eyes brimmed with tears and my lips spread wide in a smile as I held my sweet tiny little girl. I couldn’t get over how small she seemed, how beautiful she was, how much love I felt for her.

After Chiara was born she stayed skin to skin on my chest for over an hour. The nurses suctioned her, wiped her up, and checked her out without removing her. (Chiara immediately worked her way to my breast and started nursing)  Tom stayed at my shoulder, his arms encircling us. I felt such a strong bond between us this time. We were truly in it together.  I sensed more joy and confidence from Tom, more assurance and peace that “I had this.” He knew what to do, or what to ask if he didn’t.  Despite the flurry of activity from the nurses and midwife after the birth, it felt like it was just the three of us Tom, Chiara and I- wrapped in this warm light of love and unity.

Tom left to get Scotland and Anders (and my Dad and Dantzel) around 5:00. The boys were so excited to see and hold Chiara and were so sweet in the hospital. They enjoyed the celebratory meal of pizza and pop that Grandpa brought. We had bought each a small present (a foam sword and shield to “protect their sister.”) And when asked if he was ready for his present Scotland said “Baby’s the present!” When they were getting ready to go Anders asked “Baby come?” They enjoyed sitting on the bed with me and pushing all the buttons, laughing hysterically as the bed moved in all different directions.

Tom gave Chiara her first bath that evening around 10:00. (New research suggests you wait at least six hours.) I spent the night with Chiara sleeping on my chest- in complete bliss. Finally, my baby had arrived!

Now in pictures:

Brothers/ Grandparents visit:

First Bath:

Morning After:

Heading home:

It’s crazy to think that more than a week has passed since this sweet girl entered our lives. We fall in love with her a little more everyday. She loves to be cuddled close- preferring as much body contact as possible. She’ll often nuzzle her way under my chin, so I can feel her little breath on my neck as she sleeps. She’s a great nurser- patiently working with me to get a good latch. She sleeps well during the day- in the Ergo, swing, or Daddy’s lap. She isn’t keen on sleeping on her back, and so we’ve taken to letting her sleep on our chests in the rocking chair, or in the swing at night. She’s easily soothed, and, so far, seems unperturbed by the loudness and craziness around her. She likes to be wrapped tight, and enjoys her pacifier. For the first few days she mostly opened just the left eye, and even still she’s slow to open her right eye. The boys love to hold her, and are always excited when I invite them to help with her in some way. Despite being an average sized baby, we all still can’t get over how tiny she is (compared with Anders). She has long thin fingers and long thin feet. We adore her!

Full term- full of joy

My due date was four days ago. I was two days late with Scotland and nine days late with Anders, so I expected it this time around. Especially since I’ve been measuring small.  I can genuinely say I haven’t felt any frustration. I believe in letting babies come when they’re ready. So despite the many queries, I don’t plan on inducing. I’m grateful for midwives that feel similarly. I’m also grateful that I’m blessed with healthy and strong pregnancies that, while including their measure of pain and discomfort, are very manageable. In preparing for childbirth this week I’ve been reading “The Gift of Giving Life.” It’s a compilation of essays by LDS women about various aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve appreciated their sacred, optimistic approach and found great peace and comfort in their view points.

I was feeling rather grumpy a few weeks ago, I was experiencing a lot of pelvic pain, and was getting frustrated with how it was limiting my activity level. I allowed my own discomfort to seep into my interactions with the boys and I let things go sour for a little while, until I got tired of myself and decided it was time to take a different approach. No body likes a negative Nelly. I determined to spend more time in prayerful contemplation, and to find some literature to help me garner greater optimism in my situation. It’s worked marvels. Instead of grouching about my inability to do some things, I’ve savored the opportunity to do other things like reading and playing the piano. Instead of pushing the boys and trying to keep things uber productive, I’ve slowed down and done more with them. I’ve taken time to linger at the playground, or take a picnic. (The gorgeous weather has been a HUGE boon!)  Their behavior has improved significantly, there’s been more love in our home, and we’re all a LOT happier. I’ve gone from dreading and stressing about the delivery to looking forward to it. I’m not sure I look it, but I feel “the glow.”

This all goes to show the power of spirituality. I’m reading a book called “The Spiritual Child.” It’s a fascinating book! It discusses the scientific research behind spirituality and its merits. I highly recommend it to everyone, but especially to those who aren’t religious, and who are unsure of how to approach spirituality in their children. I credit this book also for helping me flip my perspective- at least in my interactions with the boys. I can be a pretty high-strung, intense Mom. And my tendency is to run a tight ship- whether my boys like it or not! But this book really emphasizes the importance of focusing on more than academic and intellectual pursuits. It’s helped me re-analyze where I should be placing my emphasis as a mother and helped me decide that teaching collaboration, friendship, kindness, service, anger management, joyful living, and spirituality is more important than time management, reading, taekwondo, cleanliness, or organization. And interestingly as I’ve given greater emphasis to things like kindness and service some of the other things that I used to harp on have become less of an issue- like messy eating, or defiant behavior. I believe strongly that example is the greatest teacher. (Though I think about it more than I do it!) As I’ve tried to set an example of helping and service these past weeks, we’ve done chores together– instead of me doing one thing and they doing another. I’ve sought to be playful and collaborative about it, and then been surprised as they continued to help as we moved from one chore to the next to the next. (While normally I’d be happy if they completed one chore.) We’ve spent more time reading the Friend, singing primary songs, and memorizing scriptures. I’ve been more vigilant with FHE lessons. And, as promised, the spirit has increased in our home. The boys have been less contentious, and I haven’t been stressed out and annoyed by the time Tom gets home.

I’ve relied on the empowering nature of the Atonement. Each morning I’ve prayed for the power to use a soft answer, to feel greater love and understanding, to be more patient and creative, and each night I’ve marveled at how God blessed me with each of those things. God is real. He has such a desire to uplift us and bless us, to help us become our best selves, but we must ask!

I know that the next six months are going to seriously test my grit. For a while I feared it. I thought: If I’m struggling to be level headed and patience with my boys while sleeping eight hours a night, how on earth am I going to survive when I’m sleep deprived? And then I turned to my Savior, and the last few weeks have been, beautiful. I feel hope that with complete reliance on Him these next six months need not just be endured but enjoyed. Of course, I’ll have to do things His way. But having reaped the blessings of doing just that these past weeks, I’m looking forward to it!