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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Homeslice: Aug 20, 2017

A slice of life from August 20, 2017.



We discovered ArtForKidsHub.com and the big kids LOVE learning to draw along with this cool family!  Super easy instruction with an intensely cheerful attitude.  I highly recommend turning any child who can wield a pen on to this site.



The crawling master.  And a month later she was walking.









The morning is the perfect time to paint outside before the Texas heat gains intensity.  And if the pavement gets colorful, so what?  I actually like seeing the acrylic splashes as a reminder of our fun.








Happy At Last

Celebrating Tennyson's 3rd birthday at Fiesta Texas
It's been about two years since I've last blogged here and, really, I have social media to thank (not thank) for that.  As well as having created a new blog that was natural birth-plant based focused for a project I was working on (so feel free to delve into the depths of that one.  I really like some of the recipes.)

The big news in the interim is:

  • We've gone plant-based (since May 2015) -which is basically vegan
  • Had our fourth baby, Miss Truly Anne
  • I celebrated 8 years as a photographer and we decided it was time to trade roles, so Brian's starting a business and I'm getting to be full-time mommy --and LOVING IT!
During the past two years I was doing so much soul-searching and kept seeking the answer to "what's my greater purpose?"  Focusing on being the provider and always feeling guilty for not being mommy enough, pushed by overwhelming messages from business owners/entrepreneurs/life coaches on social media to "hashtag hustle" and "live your passion" and "do what you were created for" -my very being was spinning in confusion.  

"I'm more than just a photographer; anyone can hold a camera and take pictures.  WHAT am I SUPPOSED to be doing with my life?!?" my heart shouted, the last sentence ringing in the vastness of space.

This June I took Truly on what was planned as a work trip to Alaska, back to my roots.  It ended up being a wake up call that I desperately needed.  Surrounded by women who knew and loved me -me before I became so engrossed in being the breadwinner, so engrossed in what I produced- I realized that my greater calling, the thing that I was so desperate to do with my life was right in front of me the whole time.  I wanted nothing more than to be a mommy.

Four children and I finally wanted to simply do the best I could at caring for and raising them.

When I got home I wanted to jump right into in and, unfortunately, went about it all elbows.  I'm full-blooded border collie and that means ENTHUSIASM! Lots of enthusiasm.
After a couple weeks, I simmered down and it dawned on me that with all the nurturing I was wanting to do, I should probably start looking at the care of our marriage.  13 years and it's been one heck of a roller coaster.  Chatting with my sister, she recommended a book that has consequently changed our LIVES.  I kid you not.


And then I found


After the first book changed my whole perspective and solidified a nagging feeling I'd had for years which asked, "what IS the role of a man in these modern days??  Aren't they the ones who are being 'beat up' and marginalized now?" and the second book I have read and continue to reread as a guide to understand, support and love on my husband daily.

I also realized that social media was driving me bonkers.  It's commonly stated that, despite living in the most comfortable, prosperous, well-provided for, easily accessible time in the history of planet earth, we are more depressed than ever.  "Hashtag first world problems."  I thought in quippy facebook posts.  I took photos of everything I ate and did and realized I was trapped in thinking I had to justify my existence to...who?  Everyone?  Filling every crack of time with flipping through social media posts while, quite frankly, ignoring my children and husband, I was trading creating a facade with actually having a life and relationships.

After listening to a podcast where Dr. Laura told a caller that if she wanted to have a better marriage she needed to get off social media I told Brian I was going to cut the cord.  Heck, was I nervous about giving up my electronic addiction.  But I did it.  I stopped posting.  I stopped checking.  I removed the apps from my phone.  Within a few days, do you know what happened?  Peace.
I began to have a sense of peace in my life.  Two weeks later I began to stop thinking in social media blurbs.  My children had my full attention.  Conversations -wonderful, long conversations- became a regular thing with my husband.

I got a life.

And I tell ya what: I have never been happier.  Our marriage has never been better.  Our whole family is happier.

The proof is in the pudding.  The ideas in those books may seem archaic -the roles of women and men- but I've got news: the "modern woman" is one unhappy gal because YOU CAN'T HAVE IT ALL.  So pick what makes you happiest and stop being so damn selfish.  Those are my main takeaways.

Every woman should read these books.  Every. Woman.  After years of feeling unloved, yearning to be cherished, wondering why my husband didn't treat me the way I felt I deserved, I got a great big splash of reality like an ice bucket challenge.  I had been the one sabotaging my own happiness.  Not him.  He was simply reacting to my attitudes and behaviors.  True, no one is perfect and not every challenge we'd been dealing with was 100% my fault.  BUT.  By changing my perspective and attitudes, it was like flicking a light switch on and -SHAZAM- everything changed.

Let's get even more personal here.  And the reason I want to is not to overshare, but the speak truth into an area that is severely being overlooked and not talked about.  The care of our marriage, the care of our men, creating the happiness we as women are desperate for.
Once I changed my attitudes and perspectives, began thinking more about what would make Brian happy instead of being so darn selfish, all of a sudden (literally) Brian began reacting to me and treating me the way I had pined for.  Love, affection, romance, tenderness -all these things flooded into our lives.  He developed a spring in his step, he was HAPPY!  The disgruntled, angry attitude that was pervasive for years melted away and I saw the man I fell in love with: an idealist, a visionary, a playful, fun-loving, happy, witty, funny man!

He wrapped me up in his arms and said, "I've got to write a thank you note to Dr. Laura.  She gave me my wife back!!"

As Brian says about our situation (me as provider, he as nurturer,) we were trying to wear each other's pants.  They didn't fit.  Once we got our roles back to normal -the way we were biologically designed- we both were happy.  No more fighting upstream.  Going with the flowing.

After a few days in Alaska, surrounded by loving people who had shared history for decades, I finally began to feel like Kelly again.  A feeling I hadn't had for YEARS.  I was a person, not a product.
In August Truly and I went to a family reunion in Cape Cod and I remember feeling quite lost.  I wasn't sure how to "be" -again, I wasn't a product, I was a person.  I was so out of practice being around people and not representing what I did.  Looking at my sister and brother-in-law and their fabulous clan of six children, I noticed that they were just there.  And everyone loved them.  No one cared about what they did or made or produced for a living.  They added a sweetness to any room or situation they were in.  We all flocked to them because of who they were, their essence.  
I wanted to be that.  I want to have that about myself.  I want to bring that to my family.

I want to raise good people.  And Brian and I both agree that we don't care if they grow up to be waitresses or garbage men or attorneys or rodeo clowns.  We just want them to be able to operate in the world and make whatever they'd like of their lives.  We want people who know they can choose happiness, and that's just a perspective.  An attitude.

So I'm finally regularly cleaning my house.  Every Monday.
I'm baking bread with my kiddos.
We're reading stories together.
We're walking to park and playing Trolls: The Movie soundtrack as loud as we can on our little portable speaker while swinging.
And, most importantly, we're all very happy.

Another book I highly recommend was given me by my dear friend Gina Murrow, owner of Paint-a-Scarf.  Her mother gave it to her and she passed it on to me.  It helped me realize that all these talents I have that I've been trying to hawk are invaluable resources to infuse into my homemaking and mothering.



Truly Anne's Peaceful Natural Home Birth

I was standing in the kitchen talking with Brian about the birth experience I wanted to have this time.  My second natural, home birth and I knew what to expect -the feelings, the challenges, the process. All things I had missed with my medicated hospital births for my first two children.  This time around I had read Spiritual Midwifery by the queen of American midwives, Ina May Gaskin, and I wanted to have one of those sensual, cosmic, romantically connected experiences with my husband so many of those birth stories share about.

When I told him this, Brian looked at me cock-eyed.
He's not the feely-touchy-emotional type and I already knew bring this up with him would be slightly awkward.  But his insight surprised me.
"Yeah, but that's not really you."
"What do you mean?" my turn to look at him cock-eyed.
"When you stub your toe you want to yell and throw stuff.  I mean, you're not really good with pain.  I just don't see you wanting to be super connected when you're trying to push out a baby.  You kind of want to be left alone."

I had to stop myself from objecting, because...he was right.  You see, I either wanted that psychedelic-hippy-lovey-dovey kind of cosmic birth, or I wanted to walk out into a lake by myself and push out a baby alone.  Guess what?  I got both.

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For 10 months I'd been preparing for this experience and I wanted it to be richer, fuller, more enjoyable than any of my previous three births.  I wanted it to be as natural and, for lack of a better term, "mother earth" as possible -my body doing what it was naturally created to do, free of fuss and fear, full of acceptance and peace.  Time and again I read testimonies of how women were able to master their bodies with their minds, how attitude is so much more powerful than circumstance.  I wanted a beautiful birth experience and to feel the deep connectedness I heard about.

A day or two before my due date I took 2 tablespoons of castor oil mixed with orange juice at noon and laid down for a nap.  I got around 2pm and by 3pm the castor oil was kicking in.  FYI, the world wide web says that castor oil takes 2-6 hours to take effect.  And who ever thought of CASTOR OIL?!  That stuff is ridiculously nasty.  I do highly recommend the OJ mixer, though, if you're going to do it.  And drink it fast.

I noticed regular contractions soon after, but no more intense than the usual bout I'd had on and off for several weeks.  Within your last week or two of pregnancy you wake up with the burning question, "Will today be the day?" and tiptoe (or power walk) through each hour waiting anxiously for any signs.  It gets downright exhausting, particularly from all the false hope of early contractions.  I waited it out.

By 4pm they were still strong and I dared to tell Brian, "I really think it may be tonight."  I've cried wolf so many times (thanks, early contractions) that he remained non plussed, but I held on to a thread of hope that this was it.

While making dinner for the kids the intensity really began to kick it up a notch.  I'd stop what I was doing and breathe through the contraction.  "Ah-ha, now this is beginning to feel like labor."
At 6:15pm I texted Salli, my midwife, "Think we're having a baby tonight.  Strongest contractions yet, about 3-5 min. apart. Will keep you posted. Probably headed to the shower soon."  I like to be in water as much as possible when I labor. It also makes clean up so much easier.

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I went into my bathroom and lit candles.  A crap ton of candles.  I started relaxing my body and breathing and thinking positively about the contractions leading to a baby that night.  I turned on soothing instrumental music.  I took a picture of the set up and shared it to Instagram (because that's what you do nowadays, right?)

It still didn't feel real yet.  And then it did -but I had to claim it.  I popped my head out and looked down into the living room at the family,
"I love you guys and I wanted to let you know we're having a baby tonight."
Brian had been laid up all day with a terrible head cold/sinus infection and now had to take over the evening routine with our three kids.  Fortunately the children were game for an earlier bedtime and Brian rallied himself to wrangle our crew while I labored in solitude.

The shower started, I got in and began to focus.  The main thing I had in mind was how Ina May and all those birth stories talked about riding the wave of the contractions and not letting yourself go headfirst into them, pummeled and lost in the pain.  A famous saying from those fabulous hippy midwives is to think of contractions not as pain, but an interesting sensation that leads to having a baby.

I began to visually ride the wave of each contraction.  As I kept myself above the pain -placing my mind on top of it, believing my body was capable of gracefully handling this natural occurrence and these were good, positive sensations that would bring about my baby- I maintained strength.  I smiled.  I reminded myself to delight in the experience.  And you know what?  The "pain" no longer roared; my surfboard confidently and serenely floating on the crest of each wave.
And another thing surprised me.  It felt completely out of body.  As I stepped into the shower and prepared to have a baby -not with the hippy-love-romantic connection with my husband that I originally wanted, but alone- I didn't feel any resentment whatsoever.   Instead of feeling pity for myself or anger towards the situation or my husband for not being at my side (which is, sadly, much more in line with how I'd normally react,) I was hit with a wall of love and grace.  Let me just say, this wasn't me.  It was something beyond me.  And I am so thankful for it.  It was as if stepping into the shower, I was stepping into a portal of love.  There's my hippy-dippy-cosmic-love stuff.
I texted Salli at 7:15pm, "1-2 min. apart, it's happening.  Really strong.  I'd say it's safe to start packing up."

The first of the 3 midwives, Heather, arrived by 7:40pm.  She checked baby's heart rate while I stayed in the shower and I hung out there for a few more minutes.  The hot water was running out and I wanted the gals to check my dilation, so I got to the bed.  Salli and Jessica were there - my beautiful crew of 3 was complete.  Their gentle, quiet demeanor a comfort, the soft lamp light warming the shadowy room.  I was 7-8 cm dilated, 100% effaced with my water bag bulging.  This was music to my ears.  I laid on my side and focused on enjoying the process, riding on top if each contraction, keeping my mind in a place of strength, relaxation and openness.

I remembered several stories I'd read about laboring mothers who decided to enjoy the process and be happy and peaceful.  I talked with my midwives, I remembered to smile, I said positive phrases through my contractions like, "welcome, baby," "Open, open, open," "yes, yes, yes" and "I love you, baby."

Worried the castor oil was going to make a return performance, I felt like I needed to use the bathroom.  Waiting on the toilet for a minute, my water broke.  How very convenient, wouldn't you say?

I stepped into our garden tub, the hot water replenished, and within a few minutes I felt the urge to push.  Oh, that warm tub full of water felt so good -there is nothing like birthing in water, I cannot recommend it highly enough!

When the urge to push comes, your body goes into auto pilot.  "Sorry, lady, but you're not the boss anymore."  Salli extended her hand to me and I squeezed the heck out of it as I began pushing (Salli, I love you!)  After a few minutes, Heather stepped in and let me wring her hand to heck.  Soon baby's head was crowning.

This was the first time I had really experienced crowning this way.  It was very calm.  It was also very tight.  We worked together to breathe gently through the urges to push so I could slowly stretch open with the mounting pressure.  Oh my gosh, I'd never felt the skin of the vagina around the baby's head so taut like that!  I'll be honest, I was worried.  "How in the world am I not going to tear?  I'm stretched to the max already?"

Finally baby's head was out.  Now for the rest of the body.  And here's where it felt the toughest.  I asked if I needed to move my position.  The ladies guided me to standing with one leg up on the tub, Captain Morgan style.  Now it was time to push, push like I'd never pushed before. 
Brian came in, just in time. Thankfully Jessica went to let him know baby was about to arrive.
A handful of pushes, two really big ones that ended in roars, and the baby was born at 8:45pm, an hour after the party started.
A girl.
Our Truly Anne.

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She came out bluish and limp and beautiful. Her heartbeat was good, but her lungs had fluid in them, so the midwives swooped in and began working on her while I held her on my chest.  Suctioning her lungs, rubbing her extremities and back, blowing air into her.  I had read about babies taking awhile to get going and, while I was concerned, I wasn't worried.  Her color began to come in, turning a sweet pink, and her breathing started to strengthen.

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I snuggled with my girl in the tub while we waited for the placenta to deliver. Salli cut the chord and wrapped her up, handing her to Brian while I transitioned to the bed.

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Jessica and Salli did my exam and the baby's measurements and vitals checks.

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During our 2 day postpartum home visit, Salli said, "If there was one word I'd use to describe your birth it'd be Peaceful."  I think that sums the whole experience up for me.
It may not have been what I envisioned, but in many ways it was just as rich as I'd hoped it would be.  And the inner strength and lesson on mastering the mind I garnered are gifts I hadn't anticipated and will now be part of my make up forever.  My story.

A note from Salli, my midwife:
"Truly's birth is very special to me in so many ways.  It has been an honor to help you through two pregnancies and two amazing births!
I was sharing your excitement and joy when you let us know that your sweet babe was finally on the way.  Remembering that your previous birth happened quickly, I urged my husband to drive faster!  We all arrived in a timely manner, because we hate missing births!
Your sweet countenance during labor will forever be etched in my memory.  Even at 8 cm you were smiling and chatting with us.  When it got really intense after your water broke you simply said, "Now I feel like pushing".
Recognizing the power of the forces of your body you then worked with your body to bring your sweet Truly down and then very gently allowed her head to crown, all the while guiding her out with your hand.  It was so beautiful to witness your composure.  Truly an honor.
Thank you allowing me to be a part or Truly's welcoming.  I love you so much!"

I want to thank my fabulous midwives Salli, Heather and Jessica and recommend Central Texas Birth Center to anyone in the area with 10 out of 5 stars (that's a 200% recommendation.)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tennyson's First Birthday

I mean, come on.  That face, right?
Our boy is still pure sunshine.  He's just a happy guy.
We celebrated today -a day early- since I'm flying out of town tomorrow morning to shoot a weekend wedding in Atlanta.  MiMa and Boppa came over, Papa baked four kinds of scrumptious cupcakes/muffins and Tennyson gladly showed off his new walking moves.  Yep.  He's walking.  Our earliest walker of the bunch.  





MiMa and Boppa are so sweet.  They always bring a little something so each kid has a surprise to open, even when it's not their special day.  Thank you so much, sweet Betty and Barry!


Just watching Tennyson's reaction to seeing his present.  PRICELESS!




He held the monkey and kept waving (open, close, open, close) with his hand.  OH MY GOSH, it was THE sweetest thing!







Brian has become quite the master baker.  All these delights (four different muffins/cupcakes) are all vegan recipes.  It's hard to believe there are no eggs in these bad boys -SO stinkin' moist and fluffy.  (Yes, yes.  I know how blessed I am.  I can legitimately ask, "What's cookin', good lookin'?")







Bringing on the "Cupcake Smash."



For awhile, it was just....hm...squishy.





Taking instruction by example.


(Thank you, MiMa and Boppa, for the balloons!)



And any mess like that deserves a birthday bath.

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