Monday, March 19, 2012


There is a great sense of excitement at the end of the week when Ava wakes up and realizes "it's Friday!" Ava has declared Friday her favorite day of the week because she knows that when Dada gets home from work after nap time our weekend begins. His arrival is greeted with "Dada's home!", a running leg hug, often a hand off of the babe, a bit of a communal snack and perhaps some dada beer. We chat, catching up on our week, then begin dreaming of how we'll spend our precious next two days. This past Friday was particularly exciting given the promise of incredible weather and the accompanying ideas of potential outdoor weekend adventures.

Will denies that his presence is novel given the extra time he's been spending at home to help with mister Eli; still, there is such a different feel to those weekend days when we are all together. Sharing meals and snacks, taking family walks to the lake and around town, helping each other with cleaning and chores, plenty of opportunity for music time, mama and dada staying up late (actually, we're lucky if we make it to 11 without passing out) to eat cookies and watch replays of Poirot, and lots of time for play, reading stories and trying to identify the birds that visit our bird feeder. The weekend always seems endless on Friday eve and far too short on Sunday nights when we're cleaning up from dinner and getting ready for bath time. 

This weekend seemed to signify even more as warm temperatures melted much of the ice on the lakes and lured neighbors and their lawn chairs outside. Last year's nubs of sidewalk chalk were dug out of storage, reminding us that it's time to stock up again. Parents called out reminders of caution as their kids raced across the street to join in on the play. The sounds of Will's banjo wafted through open windows, mingling with chatter from clusters of folks up and down the street. Even the buds on the trees and wispy blades of grass made appearances. Not only is spring well on its way - we were given an early taste of summer. 

I have a feeling we will see that frost again; we may even see more snow. But sitting here in a t-shirt as I type I revel in knowing, yes, we have made it through another winter. 

Enjoy your Monday and have a beautiful week.

Friday, March 16, 2012

This Moment

{this moment} - A SouleMama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baby's Surprise and Last Minute Longies

Knitting, or any creating really, for little ones who haven't been born yet is so extra special to me. Every stitch is an opportunity to imagine what that being will be like, to send a wish for a beautiful, joyous life, to imagine that little body filling out the folds of the fabric as it is created. The sweater grows stitch by stitch, just as baby grows day by day. And as the knitting grows it lays gently on that swelling belly as if already keeping the little one inside warm. The other beautiful thing about knitting for new little ones - if your gauge isn't quite right, well, they'll grow into it at some point, won't they. Such instant gratification. So forgiving.

I felt myself a tiny part of a long tradition of knitters as I made this sweater for baby Eli, my first Baby Surprise Jacket. So many thousands of knitters have created their own version of this garment created by the inspirational, and so so funny Elizabeth Zimmermann (I read Elizabeth's books like some might read David Sedaris - laugh out loud in public funny. Who knew knitting could be this humorous?). I was fueled by the thought of these knitters before me as I worked on this sweater; just as I was fueled by the thought of the countless women who have given birth before me as I birthed baby Eli. There is a richness that comes from such a legacy.

I worked from Elizabeth's original 1968 newsletter instructions published in The Opinionated Knitter using Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage hand-dyed wool. Not only do I love the colorways of this wool, I love the soft structure it lends to the garter stitch in this pattern. The buttons are porcelain "stencils" from the turn of the century that I found at Becky Lyon's vintage and antique button and clasp sale at Linden Hills Yarn this fall. Ravelry notes for the sweater are here.

Turns out those last-minute longies were not so last-minute after all. I whipped them up (with plenty of time to spare) using my leftover yarn from the Baby Surprise Jacket and some random blue from my stash for the i-cord. Once again, I sing the praises of the sheepy pants pattern I used to make these and several gifts for friends' babes. So easy, well constructed, and with lots of options to customize. These are about as simple as they could be, but I wanted to ensure they'd be ready in time to keep those tiniest legs warm during the Minnesota winter. Here are my notes for the longies.

There's nothing cuter than a little one in hand-knits, don't you agree? And given how fast this boy is growing, I better get those needles up and running again - just as soon as I figure out how you find time to do that when you are mama to toddler and newborn...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Welcome Eli Willam

Eli William greeted the world just over one month ago, the morning of Wednesday, January 25, 2012, happy and healthy at 7 pounds, 14 ounces.  This sweet, precious boy has added a whole new dimension, and so much love to our family. He's also been reminding us of those so many things you tend to forget as your youngest child grows farther from the baby days: how impossibly small and helpless a newborn babe is; how irresistible those tiny fingers and toes really are - and how absolutely terrifying it is to clip those tissue paper thin nails; how the smallest coos and grimaces can inspire the deepest love, awe and sometimes outlandish worry; how your body and mind stumble in that dreamy daze when you reach what in any other circumstance would be an intolerable state of sleep deprivation. And he is already teaching us so much: that our capacity to love is limitless; that experience really does make things seem (a little) easier; that when you feel completely overwhelmed, just pretending you are calm can go a long way towards getting you there; that even in those moments when the toddler is tantruming, the baby is crying, the dog is barking and you really have to pee, somehow you manage to handle it all - and on a good day, maybe even with some semblance of grace.

After my first pregnancy with Ava, which concluded with a c-section for her breech presentation, I found myself in the position of being a mother without ever having experienced labor or even a 'real' contraction. While this isn't so strange, really - many women become mothers without going through labor be it due to scheduled c-section, adoption, as a same-sex partner, etc - I admit that, to me, it did feel strange, and a part of me was left longing for the experience of laboring and birthing my child. And even as vbac was presented to me as an option this time around, for much of my pregnancy part of me still never fully believed that I would have a vaginal birth. On some level I was convinced that something unexpected would once again get in the way of that.

My experience with Ava's c-section birth was nearly as positive as it could have been and I was grateful to be able to come to terms with the fate of her birth weeks before it came to pass. I softened my wishes for the 'perfect' birth and accepted our reality of what would still be a beautiful birthing of our beautiful girl. And so I was hesitant to once again get my hopes up for a birth that was more in line with my original ideals. Eventually, with the help of Will and the rest of my caregivers, I began to hope and believe that I could do it this time.

Honestly, I was surprised when at 30-something weeks our midwife told me Eli was head-down. Ava never got there. She remained confidently head-up for the final months of the pregnancy. No acupuncture, moxibustion, pelvic tilts, homeopathy, or ECV could convince her otherwise. And, indeed, she followed that trend after her birth - always insisting on a vertical orientation as an infant, and walking before learning to crawl. So, perhaps the hope started there, when I learned for the first time that Eli was in position. And that confidence grew as he remained in head-down, and my efforts shifted towards rotating him into optimal fetal position.

Nature and life continually teach us not to get too attached to our expectations - I try not to form too many of them, since it is rare that things turn out just as we envision (and often I do think this is a good thing, since our imaginings can sometimes be limiting). But it can be so hard when deep down you really do want things to go a certain way...

I am so grateful that Eli and I were able to have our vbac, though I certainly could not have predicted our birth story. In life I tend to move very slowly - in my thoroughness it can take me a long time to complete things. Apparently, this is the way my body births. After two exhausting days of early labor, active labor finally began on the morning of the 24th. With the progress we had made over the prior two days, it seemed the rest of the labor and birth might be swift. 24 hours later, including 5 1/2 hours of pushing, baby Eli was born into his Dada's hands. The whole process took over 72 hours. Now having gone through both a cesarian and vaginal birth, I am amazed at how much easier (for me) the recovery was from the latter. And I am so grateful to have experienced the amazing amazing experience of laboring and birthing as it has been done by so many women before me.

While at first glance it may seem like it's just mama and baby doing the work, so many people come together to make for a successful birth. I am convinced that had I not had my dream team of caregivers, Eli's birth story would have turned out very differently. Had Mimi and Poppy not been here to care for Ava such that I didn't have to worry about her well-being and could focus completely on what my body needed to do, had our doulas not been there to help me relax and cheer me on through the long nights without sleep and the toughest contractions, had the nurse and all others in the room not kept up their exuberant cheering for every single push during those long 5 plus hours, had my midwife not had the patience and trust that we were making progress, that baby was doing ok, that I still had it in me to last through those 3 days of laboring, had Will not been so supportive and invested in my birth experience to be there with me every step of the way despite his exhaustion, I'm certain the ending of our story would have been different. So, I am grateful to all of you, and to modern medicine that helped me in ways that allowed for much needed rest and relief at crucial times. And I am so grateful to you, baby Eli, for hanging in there through it all and staying strong the entire time.

Slow and steady goes it. Apparently this is my mantra in birth as well as in life.

Now we are home, day by day figuring out our new rhythm as a family of four. First with help from family, then just mama, dada, big sister and baby, and now, as Will gradually returns to work, myself adjusting to being a mama of two. And Ava adjusting to her transformation from only child to big sister.

Birth is so much more than a two-person equation - through Eli's birth, so many new roles and relationships have been born. We look forward to getting to know and love this precious boy more and more in the years that lie ahead. And we look forward to getting to know ourselves in these new roles as they deepen over time.