I started this as a newsletter for my essential oils mailing list, but then I realized that I had so much I wanted to share that it was really a blog post! So here we are, I would love to hear from you in the comments, say hi, tell me how you’re doing, what’s new, anything really!
Things here in sunny California are great. We have no idea how long we will be living here since we tend to get the moving bug every few years, so we are savoring all the unique things about this place. The weather is totally amazing at this time of year, cool and grey in the early mornings, sunny and warm all day, hot and lazy in the afternoon, and cool again in the evening. It reminds me so much of Jerusalem, and the plants that grow here are similar, so I get homesick for Israel often. There’s even an olive tree with it’s dusty green leaves growing right in our yard! It’s funny how having some parts of a place make me miss the whole much more than being away from it entirely. I’m reminded of the autumn in New York and get homesick when the leaves fall here. The “fall” here is not anything like my experience on the east coast, but there are enough reminders to have me hankering for chilly apple picking and walking through Central Park listening to great music or chatting with a friend.
Back to summer in California, the kids are enjoying the beginning of pool season (and all of our generous friends who let us swim in theirs!) and I’m feeling well, getting rounder as I’m 25 weeks pregnant already! I’m looking forward to Mo finishing teaching for the summer (tomorrow is his last day), and while I had hoped he might want to work at a camp we could all join him at, I’m glad he decided not to work at a camp this year and we are all staying close to home for a low key season. We are planning to hit the public pool nearby, perhaps the beach a few times when we get ambitious, and just make plans with friends as we go. I have very fond memories of summers spent playing outside with friends, eating popsicles, and swimming in pools and lakes, and I’m already enjoying having just that kind of simple summer with my kids. I forget sometimes how happy they are just to climb a low tree, or go for a swim. Those simple visceral pleasures are so well enjoyed by little ones who remind us what really feels good.
Of course as we begin this season of sun I’m so grateful to have my oils! My number one oil to have on hand is Lavender to use on any sunburns or to soothe bug bites. When we swam with friends in two different pools on Monday I forgot how much the water can intensify the sun. Ben got a burn on his shoulders and cheeks so I mixed a few drops of Lavender with coconut oil and rubbed it on before bed. The redness never got itchy and was faded by the morning. To prevent bug bites I rub a little Purification (which contains Citronella) on forearms and ankles, or for the littlest ones just on their clothes. Another good combo is Lavender, Rosemary, and Peppermint, which smell amazing together or separate and also keep the bitey bugs away.
There was another day last week when I was so very thankful to have my essential oils available. The kids woke up in cranky moods and I was fighting a headache, so I rolled on some Stress Away and centered myself to start the day. I keep a roller top on my Stress Away and use it about five times a day when things get tense, which, believe it or not, happens rather frequently with three young children around 24/7! It really helps me keep my cool and I feel really proud of myself when I’m able to keep myself calm in the face of the ups and downs of the day. I lost my cool yesterday morning because I overextended myself without taking care of my own needs, and I realized it has become much less often that I lose it with the kids. That feels like a great accomplishment!
After Stress Away and a good breakfast I was feeling fine when a little later in the morning the kids wanted to move the beds in our room around to play, and I discovered a major mold situation under one of our mattresses! I knew it was a little musty because in Northern California the buildings aren’t well insulated and condensation builds up on the inside during the winter. I didn’t realize the whole box spring had become full of mold and even creeped onto our mattress! I was very upset and needed to address it right away. I cut the fabric, foam, and cardboard off the box spring and threw it away, leaving just the wooden frame, which I will get rid of soon, but in the meantime, isn’t nearly as bad without the coverings. Then I stood up the mattress revealing the stained underside. I made a solution of half rubbing alcohol and half warm water (as Google told me) and added two capfuls of Thieves all purpose cleaner. I sprayed and wiped down the mattress and frame, then sprayed them again and let them dry with an exhaust fan running. After a few hours the difference was amazing! The room didn’t smell moldy anymore and I was so glad I had the Thieves on hand to help kill the mold and bacteria. Soon we will be getting simple wooden bed frames to encourage air circulation, and re-treating the mattress with the Thieves solution and letting it dry in the sun.
After our morning home repair adventure, my very sensitive four year old turned up with a few mosquito bites that were driving her crazy. When she gets upset about a booboo, no one will have peace until it is soothed! I rubbed on a tiny bit of Lavender oil and she stopped complaining right away. The beautiful thing about an oil like Lavender is that it not only stops the itching, it also helps my sweet girl calm down.
That’s about it for my updates, and my “I love essential oils!” testimonials, everything below is part of the monthly essential oils information. If you are curious about how the oils work or would like to try a free sample, read on, then email me at email@example.com, reach out on Facebook, or leave a comment below!
Young Living offers amazing free gifts every month when you make a purchase. I refill my supplies of the products I use regularly (that replace the toxic things I no longer have to buy at the drug store or Target!) and always earn free oils that I love. Here is a graphic with this month’s promotions:
I can’t wait to receive my FREE Abundance (a spicy, grounding blend), Joy (uplifting, romantic floral blend) and AromaEase (an oil I haven’t tried before that is great for calming and energizing). I subscribe to the monthly Essential Rewards program so I get a customized box (of whatever products I choose) delivered every month, as well discounted shipping and earning points for free products. It’s like the best healthy subscription program ever!
Here is a great podcast on using essential oils with kids!
Our team has amazing resources with beautiful graphics about how to use oils with kids, for cleaning, and for beauty. Let me know if you would like to take a look and I will send you a link!
Below is some quick info from Casey Wiegand (my wonderful team leader) about why I use Young Living essential oils instead of any other brand. I have many friends and acquaintances who use the less expensive oils that are easy to find in stores because it is easier to buy a less expensive product, but when putting something on our bodies and especially our children’s bodies, we have to ask ourselves, what is really in that bottle? How well does it work? What are it’s true effects? How concentrated is it and long will it last?
“Can’t I just buy Essential Oils at The grocery store?”
Essential oils are not regulated therefore companies can put any filler or additive into what they call an “essential oil”. Most of what you will find at the grocery store is either another ingredient altogether or has toxic fillers in it.
When you are using essential oils on your body for any reason related to health or skincare, it is very dangerous to use these types of oils and can actually bring more harm. You can have reactions to these types of oils and they can make conditions worse.
Young Living has rigorous testing and standards for their oils.
No fillers are ever added to Young Living’s oils and no toxins are present. In fact, they don’t even use pesticides or herbicides on their crops or soil so that toxins won’t be present. Anything that comes from a farm outside of Young Living’s farms must meet these strict standards as well.
You can visit the Young Living farms anytime you want and see their methods of growth and testing. That’s how open they are about their purity.
You can see YL’s seed to seal promise on their website. “Seed to Seal” is not a slogan, it’s who Young Living is!
I personally wouldn’t trust anyone else when it comes to my family!
Sending out lots of love to you and yours from me and mine!
Please keep in touch, and let me know how you are doing!
Winter in California is kind of an oxymoron, since none of the attributes I readily associate with the season are present here. I guess if we drove into the mountains I would remember my youth in the Northeast and be filled with nostalgia. As it is, I find the winter in Silicon Valley to cause rushes of nostalgia for the years we spent in Israel. Cool but rarely cold, sometimes rainy. Colorful leaves falling throughout the fall and winter season, eventually leaving enough trees bare that we can appreciate the spring.
Truthfully, the grey winter days are welcome after all the relentless sun the rest of the year. In Israel as well as here I have had the common compulsion among Northeasterners to take advantage of every day of beautiful weather, as you never know when it might turn rainy, cold, humid, icy, etc. Except here you do know that it will be gorgeous just about every day, for eight months of the year, so I find the unpredictability of the California winter almost comforting.
Today it rained all day. In the morning we went to the library where there were many other toddlers and their caregivers seeking indoor, but out of the house solace. In spite of my love for the age group, nothing gives me claustrophobia quite like a crowded indoor space of knee high cuties. I just need to get outside. So we stayed just long enough for Ben to select his batch of graphic novels, and for Ella and I to choose some story books, preferably about princesses (Ella’s choice), preferably not entirely offensive to girls and women and totally lame (my choice) which is no small feat!
We headed back home for the afternoon but after a few hours Mo needed to get some work done and we were all filled with the particular kind of ennui that inhabits all apartment dwellers on rainy days. I don’t exaggerate when I say that we live mostly outside of our home, partly because we like to and partly because we have to. There isn’t anywhere to escape when there are three rooms, five people, with one sleeping and one working. Unless I wanted to be ambitious and bake something which I don’t think my messy kitchen could have handled right now, we needed to get back out. Zeecee announced that she was, in fact, awake, so we packed up and headed out to the last place any sane mother of three would willingly go the week before Christmas: Costco. The parking lot was full, it was raining steadily, and all I really needed was a gallon or two of cashews to make some more of the tamari maple delights the kids and I came up with last week. Obviously it was imperative. I decided to take it as an adventure and prayed for decent samples. Alas, there were super weak samples, except for the Vitamix demo guy who saved me with fruit smoothies just before the long wait in line. It’s the little things, folks!
After calling Mo to ensure that he was in fact working, and not heaven forbid relaxing or watching something on Netflix, I concluded that we needed to go somewhere else before heading home for the day. I thought about the possibilities for 4pm on Monday afternoon and came up short. So, another trip to another library it was! We currently had only about seventy library books in three boxes in my home, why not twenty more!? I have tried visiting the library without taking books with us but it is significantly less fun for everyone, especially me, who is the most enthusiastic connoisseur of children’s books in our family. I would say that I spend a good seven to ten hours a week reading aloud so it is basically my part time job to read these books. You’d be surprised how many bad ones are out there. Sexist, boring, too long, too sentimental, aimed too much at parents. The best ones are the opposite of all of those characteristics and there are plenty that are delightful. One of these days I’ll start posting about the good ones!
It turned out that the library we went to tonight was having a super cute international holiday traditions scavenger hunt with a clementine and a tiny candy cane as the prize for completing it. Ben powered through and Ella and Zeecee and I helped a little, mostly by not not letting Zeecee tear all the books off the shelves in his wake. On our way back to the car in the dark I remembered that I had told Ella she could more thoroughly splash in puddles and go down the slide at the nearby park once we were finished at the library. The responsible adult in me said to take the kids home and feed them dinner, but the part of me that is learning to loosen up and have more fun said drop the books in the car and get to that slide!
We arrived at the empty and street lit playground and Ben tapped me on the shoulder and yelled “Tag!” I don’t care who you are, if you are able to run it is irresistible when a kid tags you and runs away! Zeecee thought it was hilarious and the sight of her toddling around in her third time’s the charm hand me down blue rain coat with dinosaurs all over it was one for the memory books. At one point once we were all soaked and winded Ben remembered that near the park is a street where every house is decorated with lights and asked if we could go. I went with the theme for the evening and said “Of course!” The sensible me said, “We can drive by.” Ben suggested walking, and again I decided to go with it.
We stomped through every puddle in that park, watched the steam rise off the public pool where swimmers were practicing, and eventually made it to Christmas Tree Lane. I will say, as an adult, the displays are heartwarming if not awe inspiring, but for a kid it is truly magical. Little trees covered in colorful lights line the curb up and down the street, and each house has some sort of lights or display set up. We pretty much had the sidewalks to ourselves which I imagine is rare at this time of year, unless it’s raining as it was tonight. We don’t celebrate Christmas but I find that something like this whets the kids curiosity and desire to be part of whatever festivities are going on at this time of year.
Part of me was still trying to be practical or responsible or just a tired grown up so I thought we could just walk halfway down the block, cross and go back up the other side. Had I ever met a child? What was I thinking? Of course we needed to see the entire street, couldn’t I see that house up there entirely covered in red lights and what was that in their yard!? We had to get closer to see. Anyway, we saw all there was to see and tromped back through the park, leaving no puddle out of the kids boots. I kept watching them gracefully sprint and indelicately slosh their way through these little bodies of water and thinking how lovely it is to be a kid. Their only practical concern was making sure they would be allowed to ride home in their underwear after peeling off their soaking wet pants.
When we finally made it back to the car poor little Zeecee had had enough of riding in the carrier on my chest while wearing a drippy rain jacket. The big kids were stoked and peaceful at the same time, having had a tiny candy cane, an epic night time puddle adventure, and a visual smorgasbord of lights. I told Ella to get right in her seat and she said, “But I have to pour out my boots!” I thought I misheard her until she sat on the edge of the car, removed her boots one at a time, and poured out about a cup of water from each! Something about it filled me with happiness. We got in the car and ate handfuls of those unsalted pre-maple tamaried cashews all the way home.
As I watched the headlights reflecting off the wet pavement, streaming toward us while driving carefully down the busy thoroughfare, I thought of how all that was keeping us safe was a fragile agreement among drivers to each stay on the proper sides of a yellow line we can’t even see very well in the rainy night. It’s just that simple agreement, and belief in its power, that keeps us all where we belong. So at the end of our adventure I feel thankful for the moments when I can step over boundaries and make the choice to be free, and fun, and spontaneous, and for the moments when boundaries hold firm and keep me and my treasures safe. I hope my kids feel the same way.
Wishing everyone happy holidays and a great 2016 to come!
I go through my day, hoping for the best, trying to be present, wondering what comes next. I follow my toddler across the playground, sometimes wishing to be standing closer to my friends, so I could actually hear their conversation, and chime in. I remember to look around at the trees in the afternoon sunlight and marvel at the pure delight that is autumn in California. The sun is so warm, the breeze so cool, the leaves fall yet we stay in shirtsleeves. I feel lucky and fortunate and grateful that my kids are roaming around on a lovely safe playground surrounded by friends and trees. I wonder what’s for dinner, and know it’s up to me. I remember what feels like a million years ago walking through the market and deciding what to make at 7pm, knowing it was just for me. Now my work day is just nearing the end at that time, and I know it’s never really over. Because these heartbreakingly sweet, heartbreakingly frustrating people still need me nearby, need help to fall asleep, return to sleep, to wake up in the morning and eat. They look to me for help, advice, and information, but mostly nourishment of body and soul. This is alternately empowering and suffocating, inspiring and intimidating. What if I don’t know how to take care of myself? What if I forget for a moment how precious they are to me and tread on their trust? They always forgive me, partly because they need me so much, but I hope also because I honor their trust most of the time. I notice so many things about each of them changing every day, and I take mental notes and pictures of a million moments as they flash by. I remember moments from the time before I had kids, which somehow seems like I was only half me, or half awake, or swimming underwater maybe. Not because kids are so magical, but because the day my son was born so was I. Everyday I wake up more to life. My kids offer me the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. All I have to do is stop trying to turn them into whatever I think they should be, stop insisting on what I’m sure I have figured out and they need to know, and just really see them. Witness and listen, and just spot them as they climb, literally and figuratively.
Yesterday Ben and I were talking about working toward a learning goal and after I got frustrated and tried to force something with threats and incentives he said, “Ima, just let me go at my own pace.” I dropped everything, thanked him, and started over. Today he picked up the work in question and told me he would do it by himself and just check in with me if he needed help. Then tonight in bed we were laughing about something that was nothing but it felt so wonderful to just laugh and be silly. I’ve learned that often the best way for me to connect with my kids is through humor. I tend to take myself too seriously and get bogged down by the woes of the world, so it can be both difficult and so healing to just let go and laugh at nothing. It turns out I have a very similar sense of humor to a seven year old boy, at least a seven year old boy who love potty humor and any kind of pun. I’ve found the best way to respond to gross kid humor is to out gross him, which he loves. Mo thinks we’re both ridiculous. Ella tries to get in on our jokes but she hasn’t quite gotten the nuances of potty jokes yet so she mostly just says any rude words she can think of and then commands us to laugh. Which in itself is funny, so she gets her laugh after all. Even Zeecee makes jokes without words. I’m telling you, she makes us all laugh just with her eyes. She also likes to climb all over us when we are laying in bed and there really is something funny about a one year old coming and sitting on your head when you’re trying to read a bedtime story. There is a lot of humor in life if I’m willing to look for it, and stop dreading the disaster that hasn’t happened yet. The truth is that the disasters that will inevitably come, please G-d not soon and not often, are not the ones I play out in my head. They will probably be unexpected and random and my rehearsals won’t make a bit of difference. Pain is pain is pain whoever and wherever you are. My fear of the unknown is outweighed only by my courage to take each moment as it comes. I’m only learning what that means a little every day, and I have to trust that that is okay.
All photos from Mo’s phone (thanks baby!)
I hope to update more frequently to share our journey with you!
Today is Mother’s Day, something which I remembered partially, and was very proud of myself for getting a small package into the mail for my own mother, although it likely won’t make it until tomorrow. However, my husband forgot. I didn’t really think to remind him a few days ago when I remembered long enough to head to the post office with the kiddos. After that I forgot again until this morning when I woke up sandwiched between my daughters, after a night of nursing my nine month old every twenty minutes, feeling groggy as if I hadn’t slept at all. I brought the girls out to the living room while my husband and son slept on, and I remembered.
Today is Mother’s Day! I should be in bed right now! He should have had the kids make messy but cute homemade cards! We should have plans for an idyllic family day, or I should have the day off! I didn’t really feel resentful at this point, but I was working up to it. “Haha,” I thought, “I’ll tell him it’s Mother’s Day knowing he forgot, and now he’ll feel guilty and let me go back to bed!” Then I remembered his usual statements about Hallmark holidays, “Everyday is Mother’s Day.” I used to think this was an excuse, a way to ignore a chance to make someone feel special, but today I finally get it.
Of course we should show our mothers that they are special on Mother’s Day, and I’m sure my husband will offer me some flowers or something today, but please, let’s not forget moms the rest of the time. As a homeschooling mom of three, I spend a lot of time thinking about parenting and motherhood, and as far as I can see, it is generally under-appreciated, overlooked, overwhelming, and pretty much impossible to feel like we are doing a good job in this society, at this time. Working moms are frustrated that they aren’t with their kids as much as they would like, at-home moms are frustrated that their work isn’t valued, everyone is frustrated with household tasks that there isn’t enough time to do, self-care we’re supposed to be taking time for that seems more like a burden than a luxury, a lack of maternity leave, vacation time, and support from dads who are working outside the home. And where do we find nurturing, non –competitive, deep social connections with other mothers? How do we create a fair, supportive relationship with our spouse that prioritizes our own personal time as well as our partner’s, as well as time to grow as a couple, as well as satisfying family time? How do we connect with our children deeply and authentically when they are in school for eight hours a day and have homework in the evenings and we are all exhausted?
These are not happy, friendly Mother’s Day sentiments, so I’m sorry if I’m reminding you of something negative on a day when we should be celebrating. I do want to celebrate mothers today, including myself, and I want to do it the way my husband suggests when he says, “Every day is Mother’s Day.” He may have forgotten that the calendar says to remember moms today, but yesterday he let me sleep in for three hours while he cared for and played with our three children, and managed to keep them quiet in the hallway so they didn’t disturb me. Then he took our two older kids to the park for two hours while I spent quiet one on one time with our baby. He does one or both of these things every Saturday. The day before he took the day off from work to spend the day hiking through a redwood forest in a nearby state park with our two older children. As a homeschooling mom this was a great break, even just for my mind not to have to keep track of all the kids. I appreciate the way he helps care for our family, by working outside the home, but also by genuinely witnessing and appreciating the work I do in the home, with our kids. To the best of his ability and time, he offers me time off to recharge, and listens to the details of my day, and my ideas and problems. If I need support, I know I can come to him, and that makes my life and work not just possible, but meaningful.
In the past few weeks I have had a conversation with a long time nanny who doesn’t have her own kids. Her husband passed away, then she went to culinary school to become a pastry chef, then she had breast cancer and after recovering, began to work as a nanny, and has been caring for others’ children as if they are her own for the past thirty years. I found her story moving and inspiring. I also spoke with a friend who is a mother of two who told me that she had an older child who passed away a few years ago, something I hadn’t known and almost couldn’t imagine, something that I have thought about every day since. When I think of her sunny demeanor and obvious love for her two younger children, I feel sadness but mostly a tremendous amount of hope. I had a long conversation about motherhood with a twenty-four year old mother of two who is struggling to make ends meet by working nights in a restaurant and caring for her little ones all day, giving a whole new meaning to working a double shift. These women inspired me to remember that we may see women with children today and have a sweet or sentimental thought or word for them, but we don’t know the depth of their stories, the complexity of their struggles, or the nature of what motherhood looks like for them. There are many people for whom this day is unbearably sad, whether they have lost their mothers or children, or long to be a mother. I would ask us all to be compassionate toward the daily struggles of every kind of mother, to work toward appreciating our own work and our partner’s, and to care for ourselves and each other with love.
I get lost in the haze of daily tasks, one to the next to the next until we finally make it out the door and I feel like I have narrowly escaped something. I’m not sure what, but it was really chasing me back there, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that sun on my face, because it’s now more real than the stress I was swimming through while making lunches and listening to my kids argue. I also find myself sinking into the depths of love for these kids at least a few times a day, which has to be a pretty good rate, considering all the tasks and chasing and arguing. When I look at them, and really see them, it’s thrilling and terrifying and beautiful and painful and above all, I see that they aren’t mine. They’re here on loan from G-d, from their future selves, from the universe or nature or whatever higher power you believe in.
My two year old daughter closely guards her feelings in a way only a two year old can. She is feisty and emotional, and her true softness is hidden inside. It can be hard to get a genuine snuggly hug with her, but last night after helping her work through some big intense feelings and sad sad tears she sat on my lap and asked me to put my hand on her chest while I held her. I felt her heart beating under my hand, so fast. I almost couldn’t believe it keeps that up all day and all night, every day. How can I remember to be grateful for that heart beating it’s rhythm so quickly, tirelessly, without even a thought from me? I feel like my children’s caretaker, and I try to be their teacher, I know I’m sometimes a great example, but I’m not running that heart. She is. They are. The great machine of life is running it’s current through the bodies of these people who were once a part of mine. I have to sit here knowing that and still go to sleep and wake up and make more lunches, and somehow love them and see them, really see them. It’s hard so much of the time, but I will remember to be thankful for these fast little hearts growing in my care. Of me, but not mine.
I have been avoiding writing for a while now, for a few reasons. Most of all, I feel like I have so much to say that I don’t know where to begin. All day I think about beautiful or sad or frustrating or encouraging things that I want to share, and then when I sit down in front of the computer I can’t seem to remember. The poetry of life is fleeting and I can’t seem to get the rhythm back when I have the space to let it flow. I want to share everything that has happened in the past five months since my daughter was born. I want to share everything I’ve discovered living in a new place and being a mom of three children. I want to tell you all about homeschooling and how far we’ve come on our journey. I’m just not sure where to begin, because there’s so much, just so much juice we’ve been squeezing out of life during these past months. Some of it has been sour, but much more has been so so sweet, and I want to share it with you.
First, California. From the moment I stepped off the plane with three sleepy children and into Mo’s arms, I have felt the basic different-ness of this place. I grew up in the Northeast, and visited family in the Northeast, and maybe went on a few school trips as far north as Montreal and as far south as Virginia, but that was it until I was twenty-one. That was when I got on a plane with a backpack and a duffel bag and went to visit my boyfriend in Israel where he was getting his Masters degree. I stayed for two years and came back married and with a beautiful baby boy. Fast forward, and we’ve moved from Israel to New York, to Israel again, to New Jersey just long enough to give birth to my first daughter, to Miami where I gave birth to my second daughter, and now to California. Each of these moves has given me the chance to see a place with new eyes. Once we become familiar with a place, the new eyes are gone and everything is imbued with our experiences and memories. I understand now why people love to travel, partly just for that incredible sensation of being new again, because we are seeing ourselves for the first time in a new place.
As I imagined it, the Bay area would be a liberal, sort of hippie, forward thinking place. People would be a bit friendlier than in other cities I had lived in, but maybe less “real.” Beyond that I didn’t have many expectations except for the food. I imagined the food would be awesome. I haven’t been let down, not a drop (accidental nursing joke, sorry guys). The weather is gorgeous, it was hot when we got here but nothing compared to the hundred degrees and humid we came from in Miami. Now it is cool, usually sunny, occasionally rainy, never needing more than a hoodie or a rain jacket. It is like perpetual fall and spring combined somehow. Unfortunately that means Mo has allergies all the time, but otherwise it is heavenly.
On to the homeschooling. I thought I would be tripping over homeschoolers out here, but after being part of small and close knit community of homeschoolers in Miami I have been a bit let down. While I have made some connections with really nice families, everyone mostly seems to be doing their own thing. I don’t have a car to use regularly so that limits us geographically, as does having three kids to bring along to any activities that do require transportation. These factors initially seemed isolating, but have turned into an enormous blessing. The biggest lesson for me has been to just slow down, keep our life simple, and recognize the beauty and potential in staying close to home. We walk most places and often spend six hours a day outside. There are four awesome parks and playgrounds that we can walk to, and on the way we can stop at the coffee shop or the little local grocery store. We can walk to the abundant farmer’s market on Sunday. We can walk to two bookstores in our downtown area, and the only chain is a bank. This small town lifestyle has been incredibly beneficial for me and the kids. They have a sense of place here. We see the same kids at the parks and the same people working in the shops we frequent. The kids are greeted warmly and we are comforted by the simplicity of our routine. I have noticed that not many families here have more than two children. People tend to make comments to me along the lines of “Wow, you have your hands full!” To that I can only respond with an equally inane platitude; “The more, the merrier!” Which is actually true. I really am happier with our little bunch of kids than I would be otherwise. There are moments when I am frustrated, tired, overwhelmed or just plain want to be alone, but I had all of those feelings sometimes before I had kids. What I didn’t have was the ability to be present to enjoy the millions of moments of sweetness that these little people bring to my life. I am ever thankful that we stumbled into homeschooling, by having difficult experiences, being honest with ourselves about them, and making choices to live according to what we truly value. As much as I struggle, question, want to grow or be different, and wish for certain things to change, I know that I am living every day in a life that I have chosen and worked hard for.
As crazy as it seemed at first, and as difficult as it has been at times, we made this move out here by following our hearts and doing the footwork, with a lot of help from our friends and family. I am grateful to you all, and to ourselves, and I can say that while our journey on the west coast is just beginning, we are honestly living our dreams. I’m so glad we continue to pursue them.
My 30th birthday was on Sunday. About a month ago I decided that I would like to do 30 blog posts in 30 days to celebrate my 30th birthday. At first I thought I would start before my birthday. That idea got washed away in the tide of baby/child/house/self/family care and I thought I would start on my birthday. I almost did, because I sat down to write an update post and ended up writing my whole birth story on my birthday. That was a great gift to myself! In the end, I’ve decided to write 30 posts in the next month or so, but I won’t keep a tight deadline of 30 days. I am really excited to give myself the gift of time, and honoring my creativity and need to write. I can’t wait to see where the next 30 posts take me!
For now, here is the story:
These past few months have been a bit extreme in the scope of our experiences, but truly full of blessings. In the months leading up to the birth of my youngest daughter, Zeecee, Mo was offered a job in California out of the blue. We had been happy with our life in Miami in many ways, but he was less than thrilled with his job there and I was really not enjoying all the driving I was doing while homeschooling. We have both always wanted to live on the West coast and have tried several times to find viable work options out here, to no avail. Our first choice had been Vancouver Island, but after spending two weeks there in 2013 we realized that it didn’t feel like the dream we wanted to pursue any more. It was a bit of a letdown, since we had had it in mind for so long, as sort of a carrot to work toward. We had mostly put aside the West Coast idea and worked to move forward in our life in Florida.
The job opportunity coming out of the blue seemed to offer a special choice to us. It wasn’t great timing, since we would have to rush to move just before the baby we were expecting would be born, or wait and move after. Mo wanted to go before, I was in love with my midwife and friends in Florida and wanted to wait. Neither decision was ideal, moving to a place without very many friends or close family nearby is always a challenge. I felt that with two older kids homeschooling and expecting a new baby it would be impossible for me to pack up and move in a matter of weeks, then land without much support on the other end. I knew that giving birth in Florida with the support and love of friends and family there would be easier in certain ways, but harder in others, especially since Mo had to be in California on a certain date. Either way we knew we couldn’t predict exactly what would happen.
Thankfully children and especially new babies make it clear to us that we are not in control of the unfolding of events. The more important, scary, and seemingly needing to be well planned and controlled the event, the less control we actually have. I worked so hard to let go of my illusions of control, even as I was sure that the baby would come early, just to make the move easier on us since Mo had to start work in California on August 18th. My due date was August 7th, so I figured she would arrive a week (or maybe three weeks!) early. Early enough to give Mo some time with her and me some time to recover before he had to leave, but not early enough to eliminate the possibility of the homebirth I had been planning, or to cause any health problems. Consciously I knew I wasn’t in control, yet I had it all planned out with wishful thinking.
Lo and behold, in the way of life and love and babies, she waited until a full week past my due date.
I tried everything during that week. I saw the chiropractor every other day. I had acupuncture every day. I wept with joy and sadness and fear and bravery. I held my children in my arms. I went on so many dates with my husband that we had nothing left to say to each other across the table of our favorite restaurant, and just held hands while watching mindless action movies, maybe hoping the loud sounds would startle the baby into coming. We talked to her, we asked the kids to talk to her, we sang to her, we offered her kisses if only she would come into our arms. We prayed and walked miles on the beach, trying to jostle and appeal to her. I floated on my back in the bathwater warm Florida Atlantic and watched the sunset over the land while Mo laughed with joy at the sight of my huge round belly glistening atop the sea. I embraced the chaos, I was full of love, I was sure I was open in whatever ways I possibly could be.
My cousin who had come to help with what we assumed would be the postpartum recovery had been with us for a few days already, and my mom was arriving the following day. It was four days before Mo was set to leave and we had had enough. We visited the midwife at 8pm and talked about our options. I wanted to know what our last resort would be. It was apparently showing up at the hospital where my midwife had connections with a very pro-homebirth doctor who would be willing to dilate my cervix with some kind of a balloon and potentially still send me home to labor. Instead, my midwife gave me an exam and was able to manually dilate my cervix slightly. She gave me a bottle of castor oil as a next-to-last resort, and we headed home. I started having contractions about 20 minutes apart. I rested, we talked, we were sure that this had to be the time because we were out of time.
Around 1am the contractions stopped so I took the castor oil and went to sleep. I tossed and turned on the couch then woke up at 6:30am feeling one of the effects of the castor oil. After about an hour, the effect we were looking for kicked in and I started feeling contractions. They started strong but not overwhelming, about 10 minutes apart. By 8am they were five minutes apart and I was sure it was really happening so I called my midwife. She told me to call her back at 8:30. My labor was progressing quickly and by then I couldn’t speak very clearly on the phone so she began to hurry over. She told me not to rush, sort of kidding, but I could hear from her voice she was just hoping she would make it in time.
The castor oil had kicked the labor into high gear and we were a bit surprised but so excited and going with the flow. Then whatever we might have called the flow turned into a torrent and by 9:15 I was literally screaming because the contractions which might be considered waves were crashing over my head. I couldn’t get a handle on the pain which might be considered intensity but lets be real, it was pain. Mo had taken my cousin and Ella to my lovely friends house in the next town over. By the time he came back it was really real, and I had no idea what to do. My blessed midwife and her assistant walked through the door seconds after Mo, and I managed to walk into the front room where we were planning to give birth. The women were calm and assertive and started coaching me through the contractions which at this point were basically running into each other. I remember standing between them, seeing the morning sun through my closed eyes, tears squeezing out, fists clenched, trying to breathe through the intense pain. My midwife said I was going to to pass out with the way I was breathing so she told me to bring my breath all the way down my body, to let myself open and go in the same direction as the pain instead of holding myself and bracing against it.
I sat on the yoga ball in front of the couch while my midwife’s assistant held a hot compress over my lower belly. Bless her heart it was the most helpful thing I could have imagined. She rubbed essential oils on my thighs, she cradled me in her arms like a child, she supported me in a way I couldn’t have asked for. Meanwhile my midwife who has been attending births for over thirty years held the space and gave directions, overseeing every motion and just fully attending to the moment. Ben had decided he wanted to be with us for the birth so he helped Mo blow up and fill the birthing pool with water. As soon as the pool was ready I felt the baby moving down and I decided to get in. I knelt and leaned forward against the inflated wall, resting my face and arms over the edge. The hot water held me but I didn’t float. I felt a contraction and this time it really was like a wave, and I was able to ride it instead of getting washed under. I felt the baby’s head but I was mentally in another place so I think I very mildly said something like “the baby is coming” and I’m not sure if anyone heard me or realized that I meant right at that moment because I felt quite calm and peaceful at that moment. One more contraction came and I gave a strong push, and our sweet baby was in my hands. I pulled her out the rest of the way, lifted her above the water, and held her in my arms. She began breathing right way, and the next few minutes are a blur. I know that I was helped out of the pool and over to the bed, we were wrapped in towels and blankets, and she laid on my chest and tried nursing right away. She was so very calm and never cried, just looked around. I had asked for Ben to leave the room once I got into the birthing pool because I didn’t want to be distracted and felt that the moment of actual birth was maybe too much for him. We called him to come back just after she was born and he and Mo and the midwives and I were all filled with so much joy to see our beautiful baby we had waited for.
Stay tuned for the full story of Mo flying off to California three days later, and how our life is unfolding now that we are all reunited on the West Coast.
Big news! We are moving to California! Mo was offered a job in Palo Alto out of the blue, and if you know us you probably know that we have been trying to move out to the West Coast for about 10 years (since we first met). This is the first time that a viable opportunity has come our way so we are going for it! The timing is extremely difficult because Mo’s new job starts about 10 days after our sweet baby is due. This is totally crazy so the plan so far is to give birth here in Miami, and have Mo go ahead of us to start working. My mom and cousin will come stay for a little while to help us, and then we will head out in early September. Yup, it’s as crazy as it sounds! We are so very excited to go to the Bay area that we are willing to take on this next adventure, and if you know anyone out there you think could help us find a great place to live, please put us in touch!
I will write about more details soon, but in the meantime, I have an ode to Miami that I want to share with you.
I see you and your strip malls, lining the wide roads paved over sand,
shells hiding under your pavement.
I see your trailer parks across the street from casinos,
your traffic jams, everywhere, all the time.
Your poorly stocked libraries, and abundant vibrant flowers and fruit trees.
Your Latin food and music like no where else.
I see your Bentleys and BMWs and Mercedes and Porches, and that’s just at the light in front of me.
I see your street art, jumping off the crumbling buildings with so much color in the sun that my eyes fill up and I can’t think, or over think, or even worry anymore.
I see you for miles, because you are so flat, and so sprawling.
I see your beaches, like I have never experienced before, because you are the only tropical place I have ever been. I feel your white sand and vibrant blue warm water and I know why people vacation here.
I see your strip clubs and worry about the sex trade and human trafficking that I have heard runs rampant here.
I see your people of all colors, shapes, sizes, and styles, and I am so much happier here than in New York. Everyone here seems happier than in New York.
Mostly it’s the sunshine, which I need more than I ever knew. The heat makes me a little crazy sometimes, but the sun on my face never does.
When I walk outside in the early morning or at sunset, and I feel a breeze that was just recently traveling over a warm ocean, I am thankful I got to know you Miami. I never would have known your beauty, or your ugliness, or your strange subtleties if I hadn’t been forced down here by practical circumstances.
I see myself here, in Miami, like I never thought I would.
Here are some photos from our latest trip with friends to our favorite neighborhood, Wynwood.
I take Ben and Ella to a homeschool group in Miami Beach on Tuesdays, and each parent has to volunteer an hour of his or her time every week. Since Ella is a bit…high maintenance at this age, the volunteer coordinator came up with the wonderful idea of letting me make healthy baked goods for the weekly group. I have made something different each week, usually either cookies or muffins, and for our year end party I made a really yummy (if I may say so myself) superfruit cobber. Today was our last meeting for the school year, and I’ll be honest with you, I think I saved the best for last. I’ve been looking at this brownie recipe every week since I started my baking project, and I always lament that I don’t have any cooked sweet potatoes, nor do I want to take the time to make them. Well my friends, I had a lovely baked sweet potato just waiting to be turned into this dessert and I am so glad I went for it. I may or may not be eating one with Haagen-Dazs right at this very moment!
12 large dates, soaked in warm water until soft, then pitted
1 cup cooked sweet potato
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 cup raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350.
In a blender or food processor blend dates with eggs, coconut oil, and vanilla until relatively smooth. Add sweet potato and blend. Scoop into a bowl and stir in dry ingredients.
Bake in mini or regular muffin tins or a 9×13 baking dish. I used mini muffin tins and got about 40 adorable little bite size brownies. If you are not using muffin papers make sure to oil the tins, I’m sure lining a baking pan with parchment paper or oiling it well would be helpful too. The recipe says 30-35 min for the 9×13 baking dish, my mini guys took about 20 min but I recommend checking them after 15.
I have been away from the blog for some time now, for several reasons. The main one is that I’m pregnant! If you know me personally you may already know this, as I am just over the halfway point, which I almost can’t believe. We are very excited and the kids like to talk to my belly. Well, Ben likes to talk and Ella mostly gives raspberries. Thankfully everything is going fine and after an exhausted and nauseous first trimester I’m feeling good. However, it has been really difficult to get back to writing regularly. I certainly don’t want to abandon the blog, because life is interesting and I have so much to say, all of which has been thought of and passed along with the stream of days. I owe it to myself to sit down and sort it out.
For now, I’ll share a little bit of what we are up to. We just got back from Legoland, which was awesome. Every Monday during certain months they offer a homeschool day where tickets for the kids are $5 and accompanying adults are $25. This is a huge discount, as the usual price for two adults and one kid would be around $240! My dad was working in Orlando so he drove down to meet us at a Hampton Inn (which was a great hotel) and he and I took the kids to the theme park for about half a day. The park isn’t huge, and can certainly be covered in one day. The day was overcast which was perfect because it wasn’t too hot. We weren’t so committed to seeing everything, but we wanted to make sure we hit certain spots that Ben was interested in. He has a few books about the Chima series characters so he was very excited to go on the Chima ride, a water filled extravaganza which my dad was kind enough to accompany him on. As Ben ran toward the entrance he said, “Grandpa Jim, I’ve been waiting my whole life to go on this ride!” They both spent the rest of the day air drying as we saw Lego versions of various cities, and walked through the other areas of the park.
There weren’t many lines over five or ten minutes, which was extremely helpful for our five year old, and there were even a few rides Ella could go on. She loved the carousel and we took her with Ben to see a short 3D movie, which she enjoyed and wore the glasses the entire time. I prepared snacks and lunch ahead of time (thanks for the mini fridge Hampton Inn!) and we made it through the whole day without buying anything. Until the very end of course, when both kids got a few early birthday presents from Grandpa Jim. Ben picked out two colors of knights so they could duel, and an eagle toy which he built from the instructions by himself this morning (I’m always so impressed that he can do this). Ella, in true form, picked out a pair of flip flops and some bright red sunglasses.
For me, the trip was a welcome break from the usual what’s-for-dinner-time-to-switch-the- laundry routine. As always it was fun to go away, but after a 3 ½ hour drive each way alone with both kids, I was also very happy to be home. We were all thrilled to see Mo again, and as we walked through the store together the afternoon we returned, both kids demanded his attention and wanted to be in his arms. These little reunions can provide some of the sweetest moments.
As I drove home down stretches of two lane highways with cattle grazing on either side I appreciated the beauty of Florida. Growing up in the Northeast I have a bias toward the nature I am most familiar with, yet I have grown to appreciate the somewhat strange beauty of Florida. The tropical trees and plants, the swamps, the beaches, the weird trees… I love it at this point. I never would have expected to like living in Florida, but it has become a place I will always love, even if we move away.
I plan to follow up with an end of school year homeschool diary update soon (Ben’s classes are finishing up), and I have so many recipes I’ve been making and loving that I want to share.
I hope you have all been well and I look forward to being back on the blog!