The honor of Breastfeeding: the good, the hard and the ridiculous.

Last week was World Breastfeeding Week! (which you can learn more about HERE) I breastfed all 3 of my natural born children. I thought a lot about my journey. Each one was different.

IMG_2107
He couldn’t get comfortable, I wanted to wait until 6am when the alarm goes off…

Three was born  at the very tippy top start of the breastfeeding movement. I had little support from anyone but my mother and husband. I was told that she would starve, not grow, be spoiled, and never be as healthy as her formula fed counterparts. I fought back from doctor’s advice, family judgement and a nasty case of colic to be able to nurse her until she was 12 months. I regret stopping then. I don’t think she was ready and neither was I but I caved in the face of expectations.

Four nursed until she was 8 months. She switched to mostly formula and she liked it just fine. Things in our life were insane then and returning to a job at that point made nursing her hard. Besides once she could have her Daddy feed her she was less than interested in nursing. She is still a major Daddy’s girl and I think she honestly prefers him to me.

IMG_2067

Five is lip tied and is nursing on at 16 months. Nursing him has literally been excruciating at times. He also cluster-fed for 6 months straight because nursing was hard for him too. There were some major life events going on and I feel like nursing him was a comfort thing for both of us. Nursing a walking, talking, goofball toddler is… interesting… But extended breastfeeding is also ridiculous. Five likes to poke me, prod me, flip upside down, kick me in the face, roll his cars over my neck. It has moments were I literally do not want to. But the kid is persistent and will work HARD to get that boob out for a sip of milk. It doesn’t matter when or where. When Five is thirsty for some milk he will get some milk.

Breastfeeding overall is AMAZING. Nursing provides a connection to a child that is beyond words. Watching this human that you pushed out of your body by loin or surgery thrive on this stuff that comes out of the boobs you previously used to lure your mate is AH-MAZ-ING.

I honestly still lure my mate with these girls (even though they are a little flatter and lower … actually they are more like sad pancakes… far different than they were when I was 20). He is easily distracted, firstly… and boobs totally make him forget what he was doing. Plus, I am lucky that every change my body has gone through in bringing his daughters and youngest son into the world he cherishes.

I really started to look at my body differently. My body is badass. My body can run races, lift edges of sofas with one hand, function highly with extended periods of sleep deprivation and nourish infants.

IMG_2113
This is my life now…

That being said. Breastfeeding is hard AF. It can be lonely, painful, it is exhausting. It is not as rainbows and glitter party as it looks on the surface. Mothers looking up at their infants with love. That is there. But so are sore nipples, wonky milk supplies, dietary things (I had to stop consuming dairy… and Dairy is my drug). Breastfeeding is very literally done with: blood, sweat & tears.

Which makes it so beautiful. So empowering. When it is hard know that you can reach out to the mothers around you and they will (despite what the internet does) lift you up. They will love you on your journey. They will give you advise and cheer you on. They will tell you what has worked for them and they will tell you jokes. But most of all they will be your TRIBE. They will fight for you no matter what you decide to do.

So in honor of World Breastfeeding Week I lift up my medium cup of Dutch Brother’s Carmalizer in honor of all the momma’s out there that fight the fight for the future. That despite bleeding nipples and two hour sleep intervals still use their temple to let a new temple grow. Here is to you. Here is to me.

IMG_2114

A past that Haunts: America & Racism

This is just MY personal opinion. Based on MY personal experiences.

I grew up pretty normal. An American kid. In a southwestern town. My parents aren’t perfect, we were poor and they had issues they overcame in order to provide for their children. We are also a family that check {caucasian} on every bubble sheet or document. My siblings all have a white name. I did not. As the child of a previous marriage I carry the name of a man I never met. It really was a beautiful name. Also, I look white, my natural hair is an auburny-brown, fair skin with lots of freckles… I never stood out by any standard. However, after 9/11/2001 my world changed drastically.

Because of this I have an interesting take on racial profiling.

I was placed on the FEDERAL NO FLY LIST. I have had difficulty getting my passport when all I want to do is sit on the beach in Mexico with my husband while One through Five splash in tidal pools. All because my maiden name. Because it is persian. middle eastern during a time that our country is at war with the middle east. I was called terrible things by the parents of friends. I was physically harassed by TSA agents, Police officers and many others. All of them said the same thing to me “But you look so white.”

I LOOK WHITE. They wouldn’t have harassed me if my name had been that of my siblings and the man that actually raised me: because it is generic and that makes me not a threat.

I cannot even imagine the terror that people of actual color, people that cannot change how the world looks at them by getting married. I changed my name for a number of reasons but mostly because it is so white. Like the Scottish version of Smith. My husband has seen the difference between how a white kid in Louisiana and a black kid in Louisiana are treated for resisting arrest. Louisiana has a history of killing based on race (please refer to the police killings following Katrina)

There are GOOD police officers. I have met them. I know them and they literally rescued me after a car accident while my husband was away when I was 200 miles from home.

There are bad police. My very own Maternal Great Grandfather was a bad, racist police officer.

Good officers do not deserve to be hung for the crimes of the rotten ones. They need to be held up by our nation as the example. GOOD Cops that picked up the badge to protect and serve. Good officers deserves to work with officers that are there for the same reasons they are: the greater good. To help rescue those in need from those that are preying on them, to be role models for our children and who we as Americans can turn to with out fear, no matter our race/religion/creed, for help.

Good police officers do not deserve to be sniped out by an angry man like what happened in Dallas.

BECAUSE NO BODY DESERVES TO BE MURDERED. IN COLD BLOOD. DUE TO PRECONCEIVED IDEAS.

But the BAD cops, that are crooked and scared and racist and violent, need to have consequences within the realm of the laws that they swore to uphold but bent to their will, tried by the people they promised to protect but betrayed and not get away with murder of unarmed People over and over.

Racism in this country… It is ugly. It is there. It is heartbreaking when that racism causes people to FEAR for their lives. for their children. I am white. I happened to have a name that was middle eastern. I feared for my safety. I feared for the safety of my muslim and middle easter APPEARING friends after 9/11. I have been called horrible names. I have had my life placed under a microscope and was told that I should just accept it because it was for the greater good of the nation to have my Constitutional rights infringed on (and yes you can always tell when your phone is tapped, mail is intercepted and when you are disproportionately pulled for “random” checks). I was able to hide from that as soon as I became married.

People of color cannot and SHOULD NOT EVER have to hide for fear of preconceived ideas about themselves. Not every Black man is a thug. Not ever Muslim is a jihadist. Not every Mexican is illegally in this country.

Black lives matter movement is important because they are American lives that even 70 years after the Civil Rights Movement still have to stand up and say “Hey, we are here and we deserve to be equal.”

I don’t see the BLM as just for black people. They are the voice of every oppressed person in this country. Black, brown, muslim, LGBTQ. Of every marginalized person in this country. We should all stand up because this is America and we are free to have our voices to point out unfair treatment. To voice out when we see infringement on the rights of the people around us.

To the people that think that a group standing up and requesting the same civil liberties and basic human rights as you are asking for special treatment (IE the right to get married…) then you need to maybe go out your front door and find a little empathy.

Because if we don’t we are no better than the people that turned their heads to oppression in the past.

Summer Break is gonna break me.

First & foremost:

I loooove my children. All 5. I love spending time with them. They are enchanting and amusing and creative.

HOWEVER, now that the disclaimer is out of the way:

Summer 2016 is upon us. I have 5 children, 2 dogs and a crotchety, lunatic cat (I am not petting her fast enough and she is attacking me) in my house.

Winters here in the valley of Arizona are perfection. Chilly but sunny, no snow on the ground unless you go up to the mountains.

Summers are a different situation. It is supposed to be 107 this week. ONE HUNDRED and SEVEN degrees outside. At that point it is too hot to sit in the shade. It is close to 95 degrees at nine in the morning. It is like living in the sun.

Something breaks in your soul when you have to brave 117.

Thank goodness for the public library. The library I take the kids to is literally a gift to my mental health. For some reason during less than ideal weather my typically awesome, chill kids turn into bickering, whining jerks.

IMG_1028

The Library (bold and italics and said in a honey voice) is where I take them to explore the world in air that is conditioned for comfort. Long live the public library. Long live the librarian that accepts with grace the completely convoluted tale of the search for the book with a red cover that number two will take her on.

IMG_1014

There are infant story times, music, science programs, reading challenges, BOOKS, air conditioning and currently a very cool Maurice Sendak exhibit.

Plus, the wifi here is AMAZING.

Motherhood Rising

My heart didn’t know it could love this way until I was already up to my neck in motherhood. Love is exponential and never ending. Love, it grows and ebbs because it is alive, it needs to be nurtured and it needs to be recognized for it to thrive.  Mother’s day has many people thinking about their mother’s, about motherhood and how to be a better mother.

I didn’t want children. I wasn’t raised in a open and affectionate childhood. My mother loved us in an amazingly practical way. My mother is ever practical and also reserved in her affection. It wasn’t warm and it had some truly dark moments. My parents are human and have truly human flaws (you can read a bit about it here)

My mother loved us the best she could and at the time it was painful. Painful to see the love other mother’s poured into their children that was so tangible and physical. My mother loved us by working hard and in that had to be absent. She loved us by giving us what we needed and sometimes that pushed a hug or eating a meal together aside. My siblings and I have varied paths on how to deal with the emotions from a childhood where we clung together to emotionally survive.

But because of this jaded view on nurturing I didn’t want kids. I had no idea of what my spirit was capable.

Everyday my cup spills over.

I knew that being a mother and a partner in parenthood with my husband was a great gift.

Number One and Two are lights in the world. Opening my eyes to the love that can be given and received. I am so blessed to be a part of their growth. For all it is worth I give thanks every day that their biological mother brought these 2 amazing young men into the world.20151013_112617

My biological children… Three, Four and Five: my knowing each of them begins before they breathed this air or felt this sun on their faces. Each a private conversation for 40 weeks (41 for Five). When a woman is pregnant there are moments of turning inward, of a small psychic connection between her and her child.

Sometimes, Motherhood is exhausting. It is hard and painful and emotional. It is never perfect. But in it’s challenges and moments of frustration there is a lesson. There is an never ending reward of helping this amazing combination of you and your love become an adult. The reward is the journey. The reward is watching them grow into adulthood, seeing their successes and their failures. Not to solve every problem but to nurture them to be able to solve their own problems.

Motherhood is the gift that I never knew I needed. This mother’s day I thank the universe for giving me these humans to watch, teach and learn with.

 

 

On Family, On Addiction

This one is bound to be heavy. Just a bit of a warning.

My mother is dying.

Dying. To see it in writing is almost more painful for me than when she looked at me dead straight while we reclined in her bed waching Criminal Minds and announced it as if she was letting me know she wanted to go get tacos.

That is how she does things. She just says them. There is no beating around bushes or skirting issues. No “We should talk” platitudes.

just fact. even on really sensitive issues that fuck with a 14 year olds head. but fact.

She is sick, her body is failing itself. She is an addict, which just speeds the other sickness.

It was just us for the first moments of my life. She was young and alone and pregnant. She might not have always made the best decisions but she made the decisions that she felt were right. She always protected me from the ugly horrible things. From the glaring otherness that has been my place in life.

1934368_1206588728045_7730243_n

 

But she is dying. Lupus is killing her. A pack of cigerettes a day from the time she was 16 and COPD is killing her. Stress of being a single mother. The stress of loving a man that dealt with addiction. Being an alcoholic with a recent bender going on day 9 14. Those are all killing her.

And it scares her. It scares me. I have finally after being angry at her for so long over the details of my childhood. Knowing what I know now, as a mother, I can see (not always agree with but see) why she did what she did.

But I need her still.

I need her to be there for my kids. I need them to know this amazing, strong woman. This woman that created life and held it up and built up her children despite the odds. We just got home. They just started to get to know her.

12111985_10207722191355966_3155283543028657445_n

She has so many stories that I am yet to hear. Maybe she wrote them down. Maybe they are just locked away in her mind. Memories that she hopes die with her. But they are her history. and mine. I need them… I am compelled to know the details because with every detail of her life I have discovered more of myself.

This past 3 weeks has been emotionally exhausting for me. For my siblings. For my father loves my mother more than words. Watching her give up because the pain and because the alcohol makes it hurt less until the alcohol has worn off is slow and agonizing.

She finally agreed to go the hospital. She is now at least not drinking anymore. But her body is still failing.

I remember now why I rarely drink at home. I remember now why I feel uncomfortable when I make “that mom joke” about drinking a bottle of wine. My mom did that. She either doesn’t drink or she does and our life veers off course.

Flaws and everything she is my Momma and I need her. I need her sober. We need her.

Addiction has rewritten so much of my life. Taken away the possibilities and the might have beens for many things. It is something that I wish didn’t exist but does and it shapes so many of our lives.

 

 

Lovely, Lovely Butterflies

Before life got a bit crazy and super hectic with the Hubster working full time and attending University full time we took a minute to really spend time together. We had lunch dates. We went on hikes. We knew that coming up that we would not be able to spend as much time just together. That the time we get is valuable… a really long period of time apart during his military really impacted how we view the moments we get.

On this particular morning we took the smallest of the hooligans to a magical place called Butterfly Wonderland.

20150821_122408

Then we went and looked at all the chrysalis. A nursery of baby butterflies. I didn’t know that chrysalis’ come in every texture and color I could imagine. The kids… and me… really loved catching the chrysalis’ shake while the butterfly tried to break out into the world.

Next to the gorgeous Butterfly Garden where butterflies are free to flutter about. This room is designed to look like a rainforest with plants and flowers everywhere. And WOW it was absolutlely beautiful, peaceful and exillerating. Ellie and Four ran around delighted by the little flying jewels and the coi pond. At the time my hair was really really purple so the butterflies really couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t edible.

My favorite part of this entire day was watching my husband with our youngest daughter and yougest son. My husband is an amazing father. Always taking the time to explore the world with our five children. In married life there are always moments that you find yourself falling head over heels for your spouse.

Life gets busy. We have jobs. He is in school. Before he was busy doing army things. We have a whole heck of a lot of kids that always need attention or conversation or guidance. But there are moments where I look up and the world stops. This day was one of those days. The relaxed, joyfulness of his time being spent exploring these little flying bugs with a four year old and a 6 month old really made my heart soar and my stomach flutter.

I found a man that loves me. That adores the humans we are raising… that loves babies and toddlers and children (and eventually teenagers but we shall see how much he loves that) being a father . That sits still for minutes and minutes so he can let his four year old inspect the butterfly that land on his head.

I am so glad that we have the life we are building. That we get to rediscover the world through the eyes of our children. Those moments make me rediscover the love I have for my husband. Day after day.

 

Hard Work and Dolls

This weekend I fullfilled a long dream of Three. And I won’t lie. A life long longing of my own. We went to the American Girl Doll Boutique. It was delightful. A little overwhelming because ALL THE CHOICES but Three was absolutely in little 8 year old girl heaven. And I was over the moon, too.

image
Samantha. My favorite.

I alway wanted an American Girl doll. I poured over the catalogs. I read the books that the dolls inspired… inspiring a life long love for historical fiction. Samantha, Kit Kittridge, Addy!

I really loved the costumes. However, my mom had a bunch of us to support on her own. There was no doll for me.
image

These dolls are expensive. They cost a pretty penny. They are quality dolls. However, as a family of 7 with a scrambled together income while Dad is finishing his degree it isnt something we can just do.
So, we made a deal with Three. If she saved her allowance and could pay for 1/2 the doll her aunt and mom and dad would pay for the other half.
image

Teaching these five humans about working hard and making good choices is really important to us. Starting in kindergarten they get one dollar per school day, payable at the end of the semester after graded come out.

These are the stipulations:
Must attend the entire day.
Must complete homework.
Must complete work day chores.
If they have below a B they owe us 10 dollars.
If they are caught: lying, stealing, cheating or other infractions they lose that weeks allowance.

They have to keep track of their cash flow. They each have a balance book. If they take out an advance for book fairs, special snacks and Christmas shopping that is up to them. (They always take out money to buy eachother gifts and it makes me smile)
image

They must save up for a goal.

Three accomplished that. She set her goal and worked hard to achieve it. We are so proud of her.

The store was amazing. Every thing she dreamed of. She knew what she wanted before we walked into the door. But as soon as she walked in she was like a kid in… a toy store.

After an hour and a half she decided on Lea Clark. Lea is from Missouri. The state we lived in for nearly 4 years while Daddy served on active duty in the army. She travels. She loves animals. She is brave. She has the same hair color as Three.

Lea is just right for Three.

Three is still a sweet innocent child despite suddenly being picky about fashion. Despite what the world around us seems like.

And I am thrilled for her. I am thrilled to be able to have this moment with her because honestly despite the world around me. In my heart, I am still that eight year old wishing and dreaming over a catalog of dolls

image
Lea and Bunny reading while their girl is at school.