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Love that boy,
like a rabbit loves to run …
Love to call him in the morning
love to call him
“Hey there son!”

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He got long roads to walk down
before the setting sun.
I said he got a long, long road to walk down
before the setting sun.
He’ll be a long stride walker
And a good man before he’s done.

— excerpt from Love that Boy, by Walter Dean Myers

 

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both
and be one traveler, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth..

and both that morning equally lay
in leaves no step had trodden black.
oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

— excerpt from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

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I was blessed to spend much of Mother’s Day weekend in the company of my mom, attending several events she organized as part of the 5th Northwest Women Writers Symposium. On Friday night we listened to  Reyna Grande speak about her experiences with crossing borders — the border between the U.S. and Mexico, which she risked her life to cross illegally at age 9, as well as the borders of culture and language that she continued to cross after arriving in Los Angeles. (I highly recommend her excellent memoir The Distance Between Us for insight into the Mexican immigrant experience). Ironically, Reyna’s speech coincided with Donald Trump’s appearance about a mile away.

On Saturday I attended a memoir workshop taught by Oakland-based writer and former Portlander Ariel Gore. Ariel is the founder of the parenting zine Hip Mama, as well as the author of several books including her recent memoir, The End of Eve, about caring for her mother at the end of her life. Or, as Ariel described her book, “it’s a comedy about domestic violence.” The End of Eve is also excellent; a compelling read that is both heartbreaking and funny. I was thrilled to attend Ariel’s workshop and enjoyed exploring the difference between external and internal narratives.

I’d meant to bring my new copy of The Essential Hip Mama for Ariel to sign, but I was cleaning up my child’s diarrhea right before leaving the house and ended up rushing out the door sans book. A lot of my time is spent cleaning up other people’s shit. I guess that’s motherhood for you.

Speaking of Hip Mama, I have a pretty hip mama myself. Not only does she organize this fabulous women writer’s symposium every year, she once rode all the way from Indiana to Oregon on the back of a motorcycle. She traveled all over the world while working for an international adoption agency – to Cambodia, South Korea, China, Romania, and the Ukraine. She now works for a feminist research center at the UO. But most importantly, she babysits Marie on Fridays so that I can get work done. Thank you mom, for all that you do as a mom and grandmother, and also for being one of my most loyal readers 🙂

I’m thankful to be living in close proximity to my mom, and it’s been special these past few years to have my grandmother as a neighbor as well. In an age of unrootedness and disconnected families, it feels counter-cultural to choose to be deeply rooted in my family and community.

I’m all over the place tonight..must get some sleep.

What are some things you love about your mom? And if you are a mom, I hope your day was a special one.

 

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My parents with Paul in Newport.

January is the cruelest month, perhaps. The glitz and the busyness of the holiday season is over. We’ve overextended our budgets and our waistlines. Our out-of-town friends and visitors have gone back home, and now we’re realizing that keeping our New Year’s Resolutions may be harder than we thought. If we want to get in shape, we might actually have to exercise and cut back on donuts. Reality hurts sometimes.

This was the first year that Marie kind of understood what Christmas was about, which meant this was the first year we had to start lying about Santa. And even though we took Marie and Paul to meet Santa  and get their pictures taken, she didn’t seem to really buy it. I’ve assured her multiple times that Santa is real but she still seems skeptical. I made the mistake of putting a book that we already had in Paul’s stocking and Marie said – “Hey, we already had that book.” I didn’t think she would notice, but that is the trouble you run into when your child is more intelligent than you are. At almost 9 months, Paul certainly didn’t know the difference.

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Well, I think this guy makes a pretty convincing Santa, if you ask me.

Marie’s highlights of Christmas included a new bed (with a slide and a tent underneath!), a ballerina music box, an Elsa dress, and ballet classes. These were all gifts from various grandparents. Spencer and I only got her a couple of gifts, one was a fairy wand she had asked for and immediately snapped into two pieces on Christmas morning. I believe Paul’s highlight was the dump truck he got from my mom. For me the the nice part about Christmas was watching Marie have fun and also spending time with family and friends. I also enjoyed donating to Mercy Corps and talking with Marie about what that meant. She started praying for the people who would benefit from the donation.

We were so busy leading up to Christmas and during the week of Christmas and New Year’s, and now I have a little more space to reflect. As I mentioned, January can be a hard month. But I’m actually feeling renewed and hopeful, despite the fact that Paul is teething and hasn’t been letting me sleep much lately. I’m looking forward to this year, and I’m looking forward to this month.

A few things I’m excited about this month:

  • going to a Duck basketball game
  • doing my first community service project of the year with Marie
  • watching Paul learn to walk (he’s already taking a few steps)
  • taking Marie roller skating for the first time
  • taking Marie and Paul on play dates with her friends
  • watching Marie’s ballet lessons
  • finally finishing the Gregory Maguire novel Spencer got me for my birthday
  • Tuesday mornings at MOPS

And that’s just this month. Life is full of gifts. I’m so grateful.

 

 

Baby Paul just turned four-months-old last week. He’s a happy little guy with a warm smile and an infectious laugh. His dark red hair has been falling out, leaving bald patches on the back and sides of his head. We’re curious to see if it comes back the same color, or perhaps light blonde to match his eyebrows. Recently he started rolling over from his back to his tummy and getting stuck. This has led to more frequent nighttime wakings.

As for me, my hair has also been falling out for the past month or so. I’m about at my pre-pregnancy weight, but the hole in my abdominals hasn’t healed, so I’ve started doing exercises to correct that. My moods are up and down – I’m not quite sure what my baseline mood should be anymore, since I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 4 years. I also haven’t gotten very good quality sleep for the past 3 + years since my daughter was born.

I’m tired.

I miss working and interacting with other adults regularly.

I’m thankful for two healthy children. Very thankful. I’m enjoying the many opportunities to snuggle with my baby. I know the snuggling age will go by quickly.

It was perfect weather for baby's first trip to the beach.

It was perfect weather for baby’s first trip to the beach.

Well I’m having a bit of a rough day, so I figure a good way to lift my spirits is to do something nice for someone else and send out some virtual hugs. I’m thankful to Teresa from Motherhood: The Journey of a New Mom for nominating me for a Liebster Award. This came at the exact moment I was lamenting to my husband that my blog was not as successful as I would like it to be and maybe wasn’t worth the time commitment. So thanks Teresa for giving me a little bit of encouragement when I was needing it! It’s always nice to hear that someone has read and appreciated my blog.

I would like to go through the official steps of accepting the award (writing 11 facts about myself, answering 11 questions, thinking of 11 questions for other bloggers to answer, nominating 11 blogs with less than 200 followers), but realistically I don’t think I’ll get around to it. But I will take a moment to answer 3 of Teresa’s questions and send out virtual hugs to 3 bloggers whose work I enjoy.

3 Questions:

1. What made you start a blog? I started this blog because I have always loved to write and had some extra time since becoming a stay-at-home mom. I also wanted to document my experiences as a mommy.

2. Coffee or tea? Tea for sure. If you’re ever in Portland, be sure to visit my favorite tea shop, Tea Chai Te.

3. How did you choose your child’s name? I think names are very important! knew that I wanted Joy to be part of her name, because I want her to be a joyful person, and we agreed on that as her middle name. I chose Marie for her first name because Marie is my middle name as well as my mom’s, also for the biblical name Mary.

Virtual Hugs:

So in lieu of passing on the Liebster Award, I’m giving virtual hugs to several bloggers whose work I enjoy! You guys are fabulous!  Be sure to check out these great blogs.

1. Lemon and Mayonaise (lemonandmayonaise.com): This is an excellent blog for discovering eclectic music. Also this blog has a nice aesthetic.

2. Two Oregonians (twooregonians.com): An around-the-world travel blog with amazing photos. I was happy to have the opportunity to live vicariously through Ted and Bethany’s travels. Start with Peru and work your way back around to Oregon.

3. The Ten Thousand Hour Mama (tenthousandhourmama.com): Another great Oregon-based mama blog about the ups and downs of parenting an infant.

What’s a blog that you’ve enjoyed and would recommend to others?

 

 

 

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It’s easy to let fear take on more than its share of control in your life — especially when you’re a parent. Starting in pregnancy, the potential fears can be overwhelming. What if I miscarry? What if my baby has a disability? What if my baby is healthy but has a rare vaccine reaction and develops autism? What if….

The list of things to fear is endless. It can paralyze me if I let it.

When my daughter was about five months old she decided she was a tummy sleeper. She had the ability to roll from her back to her tummy, and every time I placed her on her back to sleep, she would roll over. Being the rational person I am, my response was complete panic. Despite the fact that she was five months old and could easily move her head, I assumed she would suffocate if she slept on her stomach. I flipped her over to her back each time, waking up as often as I could to check on her.

Obviously this was not a peak time for my mental health.

At some point I called the pediatrician, who assured me that if she was able to roll over on her own, her muscle control was good enough that stomach-sleeping wasn’t a concern. Whew! I could check a fear off my list.

Still, then and now, there are more things to fear, rational or not. Anxiety has been an on-and-off problem throughout my life. I once fainted after feeling a lump on my spine in the shower. Cancer. In fact, it was a small patch of infected skin.

I used to let fear hold me back from doing things. In high school, I wanted to try out for the cross-country team but I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough, and besides I didn’t really know the other kids on the team. I loved to sing and would’ve enjoyed being in the choir but in middle school the choir director hadn’t allowed me to participate, so I figured I wasn’t choir material.

What if I had continued to let fear prevent me from doing things I should be doing? What if I’d been too scared to volunteer to ride in that cute guy’s truck on the college trip to Sunriver? Ten years later, we’re married with a beautiful daughter. What if I’d been too scared to become a teacher? I would have missed out on two years of impacting the lives of fourth graders, and perhaps more yet to come. What if I’d been too scared to try to become a writer? Or more importantly, a mother?

I want to keep choosing to face my fears, and live life to the fullest each day. I want to, as Teddy Roosevelt said, choose to dare greatly in my life.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…who at best knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….” — Teddy Roosevelt

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How have you struggled with fear in parenting or life in general? And, have you ever risked failure in order to achieve a goal?

photo credit: Celestine Chua via photopin cc

 

A few of my favorite books.

A few of my favorite books.

As part of a recent Facebook game, I made a list of ten books — excluding The Bible — that have impacted me. I chose (in no particular order):

10 books that have influenced me

1. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
2. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
3. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
4. The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
5. The Poetry of Robert Frost
6. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
9. This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Also, I’ll share my favorite book I’ve read this year. I’ve read a lot of good books so the competition is steep and maybe I’m slightly biased because I had the chance to meet this author and take a writing workshop from her, but here it is (drumroll):

Live Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love by Debra Gwartney

I was also inspired to reflect on movies I’ve watched. I’ve seen so many movies over the years that I found it impossible to make one Top 10 list, so I had to break it up by category. Again, these lists aren’t necessarily in any kind of meaningful order.

10 documentaries that entertained, inspired and/or influenced my thinking:

1. Lord Save us from Your Followers
2. What Would Jesus Buy?
3. Jesus Camp
4. Grizzly Man
5. Supersize Me
6. Food Inc.
7. Sicko
8. An Inconvenient Truth
9. Encounters at the End of the World
10. Blackfish (just finished watching this yesterday but it was very impacting — fascinating, informative, and highly disturbing all at once).

10 comedies that really made me laugh:

1. Sideways
2. Little Miss Sunshine
3. Juno
4. Stranger than Fiction
5. The Princess Bride
6. Pretty Woman (well it’s not that funny, but I can’t resist the storyline).
7. Say Anything (I love you young John Cusack)
8. Office Space
9. Zoolander (yes it’s a terrible movie, I know).
10. I Heart Huckabees

10 dramas that have either entertained, allowed a good cathartic cry or led to a deep phobia:

1. Lord of the Rings trilogy
2. American Beauty
3. Jurassic Park
4. Jaws (is it safe to get back in the water yet?)
5. Romeo & Juliet with Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes
6. The Breakfast Club
7. In America
8. A Beautiful Mind
9. Good Will Hunting
10. Dangerous Minds (had to include an inspirational teacher movie)

What about you? What are some of the books and films that have most influenced and inspired you, have made you laugh the longest and cry the hardest?