Friday, November 18, 2011

TV-Free Toddler - Tea Flower

Today's TV-Free Activity: Tea Flower Watching
Materials: Clean glass jar, jasmine tea bloom (or other blooming tea ball), hot water, crayons
Ages: 2+
Time Filled: 15 minutes
Note: This is NOT self-directed.  Close supervision required.

You may have noticed a lapse between posts.  I must admit, I have fallen off the TV-Free wagon.  This is because, simply, I have not slept in 5 months.  I had foolishly hoped having a newborn would afford me better sleep than I had been getting while pregnant.  I was enormously uncomfortable, besides just being enormous, and had to pee every 2 hours all night long.  I had this blind, naive hope that Malcolm would be sleeping more than 2 hours at a stretch by this point, but he seems to have regressed to sleeping 90 minutes or less.  So now, while I blessedly don't have to pee all night long, I am still getting up all the time to void liquid, just now it is from my boobs.

Anyway, I digress.

I fell on this activity purely by accident.  I a fun craft in mind for today after lunch, but needed to stop at the craft store for some glitter and glue this morning on the way home from getting Lucy at preschool.  Then, I realized how insanely difficult it is to "stop by" anywhere with two small children.  So I was going to skip TV Free today (again) and clean up the kitchen while she watched 20 minutes of Dora.  I was cleaning up lunch and noticed the box of jasmine tea blooms I had left out from when I went through my extensive tea collection a week or so ago.  These "blooms" are dried jasmine tea tied cleverly so that when the are steeped in hot water, the ball opens to reveal a lovely flower, all while brewing a cup of yummy, fragrant tea.  I thought Lucy would enjoy watching the flower bloom.
Which she did - look at her oozing excitement! :-P  She actually did say "That's really cool, Mama!", so she did think it was fun to watch - only it was taking too long to hold her attention for very long.

What she DID enjoy was drawing on the hot glass with a washable crayon.  She found a yellow crayon on the floor and started to draw on the jar.  I was about to stop her (I thought she would have to push too hard to make a mark and possibly spill the jar of hot water), when I noticed that the heat from the water was melting the crayon.  It was like she was using a mess-free paint brush!  I am not sure if regular crayons would work as well as the washable ones since they are much softer than standard crayons.  And the really cool part is that the crayon literally just wipes right off the jar.

I like this activity for a number of reasons.  1) It uses your senses - watching to flower bloom, feeling the hot glass, smelling the jasmine tea, tasting the tea.  2) It provides an opportunity to talk about being patient and delayed gratification (I am certain my 2 year old is not the only one who has trouble with this).  3) It is a different sort of art project - one that can be wiped off and done over again as many times as you want with little or no mess.  I am sure there are other things that are at work here, but I am too tired to think of them.  Lucy was really focused during this activity.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TV-Free Toddler: Washcloth Soup!

Today's TV-Free Activity - WASHCLOTH SOUP!
Materials: A few large bowls, measuring cups, spoons, wash cloths, towels, water, ice cubes, things that float and things that sink
Age: 2-3 years
Time filled: At least 30 minutes, or until the water ends up all over the floor.  I recommend using this as an enticement to keeping the water where it belongs, as in "once the water is gone, we are all done playing."

So this activity might not be for the faint of heart.  It involves allowing you toddler to play with bowls of water inside.  Well, here in the DC area it is an indoor activity, since the weather has turned cold already.  If you are in warm country, feel free to take it outside.

Here's the set up: Lay a few towels down (a double layer might be a good idea).  I had a few extra foam floor tiles, so I put those down as a water poof surface, in a vain attempt to save our hardwood floors.  Fill a few bowls with water of different temperatures.  Put out a bowl of ice, several mixing and pouring implements, and a bunch of wash cloths.  Then start mixing!  We talked about the different color washcloths, how ice is cold while the water was warm, how to blow bubbles with a straw, that the coaster sinks, but an apple floats.  She poured and mixed and splashed and splashed and poured for a good long time.  The main thing to remember in any sensory activity like this is the refrain "The ______ stays in the ______."  The water stays in the bowl, the rice stays in the bucket, the beans stay in the bin, the WATER STAYS IN THE BOWL!  OR AT LEAST ON THE TOWELS!  THE WATER STAYS ON THE TOWELS, Lucy, or WE ARE DONE PLAYING WITH THE WATER!  That is how it goes at our house.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Postpartum Haze: Impressions from Day One

The feeling of his head in my hand as I waited for the last contraction to help push him out.  Angel-soft hair.  Little wiggles - he is moving! - as he works to get his shoulder free and join the world.  A strong wave of pressure, a breathless second, a loud cry, my baby is born into my own hands.

Joy!  The air comes back into my lungs, back into the room.  Labor is over, life is beginning.

Catching my breath.  Lucy is coming up the stairs, walking towards us.  Kevin at my side, kissing my head, welcoming his son.  Slippery little man in my arm, crying his little head off!

Out of the pool, onto the couch on shaky legs, surrounded by loving arms, beautiful women, ecstatic family.  Is this umbilical cord a little short?

I feel triumphant, breathless, strong, a warrior, a goddess!  To say "I did it!" seems trite and silly, but I did it!  I made this!  I birthed my baby, in my own house, on my own terms, letting my body do what it needed to do.  Birth is in voluntary, you just have to allow it to happen.  And I did.

Oh the perfection.  Sweet-smelling, gooey little baby snuggling against my chest.  The warm, safe presence of my husband beside me.

Hungry baby, latching on with no trouble, eat eat eat!

And then Lucy is with us.  What happened to my sweet baby girl?  Who took my little girl and turned her into this GIANT?  She's HUGE!  And what big TEETH she has!  Lucy, "Want MAMA MILK! MINE!"  Meltdown in the works.  Oh dear, here we go.  I am not sure I want to nurse this enormous wolf-child who somehow has replaced my daughter.  But the wolf-child insists and I am blissed out on birth and baby, so have at it kid.

Tandem nursing for the first time.  I am already stark butt naked in front of a roomful of people, why not sling a few boobs around for good measure?

The room clears out, we are alone, me, Malcolm and Kevin.  Admiring our handiwork.  My God, he is perfect.  Are those pointed ears?  Does he really have pointed ears??  My God, he is perfect.  Sweet smelling.  Soft.  Squishy.  Still covered in mayonnaise and goop, but wonderful to see, smell, kiss, cuddle.  Bliss.  Absolute bliss.

Mairi (midwife) makes eggs.  Lots and lots of eggs with cheddar cheese in them.  I devour a heaping bowl.  Then more.  Then toast and pineapple coconut water then chocolate.

I take a delightfully hot shower.  OH GOD I AM SO HAPPY TO NOT BE PREGNANT ANYMORE!  Oh God, what a smooshy, misshapen belly is left over from bring pregnant.  It looks like someone took a purple marker to a lump of sloppy bread dough.  Racing stripes.  Don't look.  There will be time for assessing the damage later.  I am scrubbed and cleaned and in my cozy red bathrobe and snuggled back on the couch to watch Kevin watching his son.  More bliss.

There is a minor amount of poking and prodding and checking and measuring done on me and my girlie parts.  It feels like there must have been an atomic bomb that went off down there.  I am glad I don't have to look at it.  No tears, just a split, just swelling, little bleeding.  Kat (midwife student) says "Seriously, Jenny, I was wondering if you lost any blood at all!  But it's in the placenta."  Oh.  Okay.   

Newborn exam.  Malcolm does not like it.  He's a big boy!  8 lbs, 14 oz!  Lucy watches.  Kat explains to Lucy what she is doing.  Lucy cares very little.  "Want to see Baby Muffin," she says, not fully understanding that Baby Malcolm IS Baby Muffin.  I am now almost certain she thought that my belly button was the baby I was growing in my belly.

Bed, blissful, beautiful, cozy, clean.  My bed.  Ah.  I cuddle up with Malcolm on my chest, skin to skin, and Kevin at my side.  We can hardly sleep for being exhausted.  We can hardly sleep from being so in love.

But sleep overtakes us and afternoon slips into evening.  He sleeps on me all evening, all night long.  I can't think of a sweeter day.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

TV-Free Toddler - Driveway Paints

Today's TV-Free Activity: Driveway Painting!
Materials: Cornstarch, water, food coloring, muffin tin or other small containers, paint brushes
Age Range: 2 years and up
Time filled: An hour or more if you can take it

Here's a step-by-step or making the paint.  Please ignore the half-empty bottle of wine inthe background.  I swear I wasn't drinking.

Fill each muffin...receptacle?...with a generous scoop of cornstarch.

Pour enough water in each...bin? completely cover the cornstarch.  Stir well.  You want it to be watery, not a gooey, thick mixture.  I thought I remembered vaguely from cooking with my mom as a kid that the water should be either hot or cold to make the mixing easier.  However, upon further reflection, this was to make mixing the cornstarch into GRAVY easier.  So I don't think it applies here.

Mix in desired colors.  I think using gel food coloring would make more vibrant colors.

After mixing your non-toxic, fully washable (and even edible...if you're into scarfing on straight cornstarch) paint, head out to the nearest paved surface and have fun!  This stuff is great.  After it dries, you can literally brush it off your clothes.  It paints on like this:

And dries like this:
The colors are really much more vibrant that you see here.  I have a crap-tastic camera.

Can you tell she picked her own outfit today?

Friday, October 28, 2011

TV-Free Toddler - Balloon Bonanza

Today's TV-Free Activity: Balloons!

Materials: Several balloons
Age Range: 2-4 years; possibly older
Time filled: 15-20 minutes

We went to a friend's second birthday this past weekend. We left with a belly full of awesome rainbow cake and 2 goodie bags filled with, among other fun things, several balloons. So yesterday after she woke up from her nap, I blew them all up and let her have at it.  Also fun to have on hand are cylindrical pillows to use as a bat and pieces of light-weight fabric to bounce the balloons around on.  This one didn't last as long as I would have liked.  She got bored fairly quickly and went from tossing the balloons to using them to hit the baby in pretty short order.  At least they were balloons and not the drumsticks she tried to hit him with yesterday...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TV-Free Toddler - Dixie Cup Castles

Today's TV-Free Activity: DIXIE CUP CASTLES!

Materials needed: Dixie cups - a lot of them (one box will do for one kid, if you have more than one, get a box for each)
Age range: 2 years through middle school age (and beyond - I still enjoy stacking the cups)
Time filled: 15 minutes to 2 hours+, depending on the age of the kids

Mama's Dixie Cup Stash
This is a fun activity for a huge range of ages.  I used to do it with my 1st - 3rd grade kids at summer camp.  I used it with middle schoolers in an after-school program.  On days when I was totally taped out idea-wise, I would dump out a box of 400 or so dixie cups and an hour later, they were still creating amazing three dimensional castles all over the room.  A friend of mine said they made it into a drinking game in college.  So I figured what is good enough for drunk college students is good enough for my 2-year-old (they are so similar anyway).

So here's what you do:  Open a box of Dixie Cups (or 2 or 3 boxes) and start stacking.  Lucy doesn't have quite the hand-eye coordination required to stack pyramids, but boy did she have fun knocking down the towers I built for her! Look at the gleam in her eyes...

While I was mindlessly stacking cups into towers, Lucy started thinking up her own creative uses for them. She found an egg carton in the box of cups and asked "Lucy want eggs in here?" Of course, one refusal is never enough, so she said, with greater emphasis, "Lucy want REAL eggs in HERE! RIGHT NOW!" And again, no. So, being denied the opportunity to sling raw eggs all over the living room, she started putting the dixie cups in the carton and saying "Mama want eggs for dinner?" and then throwing the carton around, thus validating my decision not to give her real eggs to play with.

Her next project was lining the cups up in a row and stepping on each one while saying "CRUNCH!" 

When she got bored of that, she moved on to crushing them in her hands. She also kicked them, threw them, jumped in them like a pile of leaves, jumped on them and beat on them with a drumstick.

All in all, good fun for about $3.00 worth of cups.

DISCLAIMER:  What you see pictured here is about 10 boxes of Dixie Cups salvaged from my drama camp days.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Interview with Children's Book Author and Mama Blogger Anna Deskins!

Anna and her girls
Your children's book, The Adventures of Smitty looks magical. Tell us about it.
It's the story of a magical island of little creatures called Smilies and the mischievous little main character, Smitty. He's such a naughty boy. Haha! All the moms and kids I've shared it with have been giving me such a wonderful reaction. I cannot believe it. I have to tell you how excited I am to finally have a life-long dream come true. Writing The Adventures of Smitty was really about finding a story that I would want to read to my children at night. It has to be exciting but not scary so that my two daughters can go to sleep. Basically, I was looking for that perfect blend to read to my kids at night and decided, "Why not try writing my own?"
We've had a lot of changes in our life recently, so I want to make sure that when I put my daughters to sleep that they feel safe. I have short chapters because I know how busy we moms are but if you can just sacrifice 5 minutes at night reading to your kids, it makes a world of difference. Your kids will never forget it. And although we're running around the whirlwind of life, our kids grow up so fast, and that time that we'd rather finish watching what happened in our favorite soap opera instead of reading to our kids will never come again. I hope that The Adventures of Smitty and books like it help moms do exactly that.

Reading to our kids is so important!  Now, You are recently divorced. How have you been able to continue writing when going through such a change?
Yes, it is by far one of the most challenging points in my life. To see a marriage you thought would last forever to not last forever was difficult for the two of us. I really learned a lot about myself and most importantly, it's brought me closer to my daughters. I think that's what really motivated me to finish this children's book no matter what. When you're going through changes in your life like this, you need something to hold on to. There's a part of you that wants to prove that you can make it, that you will be a success even if it's not with the partner you originally imagined building a life with. I had to keep writing, for my kids. I want to show them that they have to keep strong, no matter what.
We as women, as moms really need to stick together to support each other and our dreams. We're living in an age when I think we're finally realizing, although we want love, the men in our life aren't the answer to everything. We have to stand up on our own two feet and keep going. True love will happen, but until then, we have to keep moving forward. Our children depend on us and we depend on us.
In addition to being a children's book author, you're also a small business owner. How do you juggle taking care of two daughters and at the same time running a business?
Yes, I am a fashion designer and have a retail store. Any type of creativity is what I'm passionate about. That's why writing The Adventures of Smitty was so important to me. Let me tell you, running a small business in today's economy isn't easy especially when raising two girls at the same time. But somehow, it seems someone's watching over me because my dreams are coming true no matter what. To have that many moms glowing about my children's book, means so much to me. And I know my girls are proud.
When do you ever have time to write?
You mean, in between laundry, running a business, chasing my girls around the house, cleaning the house, and flying back and forth fromMiami to New York? Haha? That's one thing I've learned, when you really want to do something, you find a way. Things fall into place if you just go for it and that's what I want to encourage all the moms who are reading this right now. Whatever your goal is, you can do it. Don't let the challenges in your personal life stop you from going for your dreams. Just go for it and it's almost magical how things fall into place.
Where can we get a copy of "The Adventures of Smitty"?
Right now, it's available online by going to: You can also visit my website: where you can read more about my writing process, my recommendations for other books and my own adventures in Mommyhood.
I'm so grateful for your support and the support I'm getting from so many wonderful moms who dream of writing children's books one day too. Writing The Adventures of Smitty has been such an emotional experience for me, a true journey as I was going through so many changes while writing it. It's truly been a blessing in my life. It, along with my daughters, and that guy upstairs have really pulled me through a challenging time.
Thanks for the interview, Anna. And let's go out and support a fellow mom by getting a copy of The Adventures of Smitty today. I know I will!

Monday, October 24, 2011

TV-Free Toddler - Ice Cube Dump

Okay, I own it.  I have gotten lazy.  We've watched a LOT of TV in the last few months.  Somewhere along the line of slogging through the last three months of a super-uncomfortable pregnancy and then slogging through the last month of postpartum haziness, I forgot that a 2 year old shouldn't really watch as much TV as Lucy has been watching.  I comfort myself with the flimsy tale that at least she hasn't watching actual TV with endless commercials driving my pure, innocent daughter into a foaming at the mouth consumer zombie.  She watches the good TANGLED and UP.  And WALL-E and ELMO and DORA the EXPLORER and WALLACE AND GROMIT and CARS and THE LION KING get the picture.

On a seemingly random - but I promise you related note - it is election season.  This means busy season at the Capitol Steps.  This means my husband is traveling a lot.  This means I am alone with a ravenous newborn and a 2 year old a lot more than normal.  And that all adds up to me being tempted to pop in another DVD and sit in front of the telly yet again while I nurse one or both of my children.


So my challenge is to find an activity every day (uh...or at least every other day, I'm not Super Woman...and I DO still have a newborn) that fills the following requirements:

1) Does not involve the television
2) Fill from 15-45 minutes
3) Can be at least partly self-directed by a 2 year-old
4) Isn't always an art project
5) Involves an exploratory or sensory learning experience.

I realize that this is a way of life from some moms.  I envy the Super Moms who can somehow manage to always have a developmentally appropriate activity planned for their little ones, can keep a schedule, clean the house and cook a fully organic dinner from scratch with one hand tied behind their back while the other hand is writing their disertation.  This is not me.  I am a Slacker Mom.  I embrace this.  I don't read child development books.  I let Lucy play on her own for long stretches (though I think this is actually a good strategy -  she is excellent at entertaining herself and has a great imagination).  Because we work in the evenings and rarely have time at that time of day to sit down and eat dinner together, she eats random meals that one of us throws together while the other is on the way out the door for a show (um...let's see...peaches, spinach, veggie burger and uh...yogurt.  Done!).  I can't manage to keep the bathrooms clean and I don't go to parenting seminars.  Though I really think I could use a few.  I wing it.  I think we're doing okay, but the TV habit has got to go.

Today's activity was actually a chore I needed to get done.  We bought a new refrigerator when we moved into this house, a little over 2 years ago.  About 6 months ago, I noticed the water from the fridge filter tasted...funny...Not like hard water, or a chlorine taste.  It tasted like mildew smells.  YUCK.  I pull out the manual and see that the filter needs to be changed every six months.  So we needed a new filter...a year ago.  This, of course, immediately fell to the bottom of my list of things to do, since we also have a Brita filter on the faucet.  A week or so ago, Kevin noticed that the ice was tasting funny, too.  I am shocked that it took him this long to notice, frankly, since it is made with the same water that was going through the filter.

ANYWAY, we finally got a new filter. So I had to run water through it for 3 minutes or 1.5 gallons-worth. Then I had to get rid of all the ice in the ice maker. 

So I handed to Lucy a big pastic bowl and emptied the ice box into it.  Each time I scooped another cup of ice into the bowl she said "LOUD!  Loud, Mama!" with a sort of shocked glee. 

We went outside to "water" the plants with the ice.  She picked a planter and dumped three full bowls of ice cubes into it. 

Lucy loves to water the plants.  This morning, she picked up a stick and was sort of waving it around over each of the plants as we walked up to the house.  I asked her what she was doing and she said "I watering the plants, Mama!"  See - great imagination!

After the second trip outside (with bare feet), she pulled out her special equipment - the froggy boots!  These are about a size too big, so she had a little trouble walking in them.

On the fourth trip out, I asked her to pick a different plant to freeze with mildew-y ice cubes.
After we finished, she took a souvenier.  I asked her to throw it away since it tasted yucky, but she said "Want to lick the yucky ice."  Okay, kid, whatever.  When we got inside, I noticed it was gone and saw that she had put it on the window sill.  I guess even Lucy knows yucky water when she tastes it.

So maybe today's activity was a cop out.  But kids love to help and I needed to get this job done.  And, it filled those 20 minutes after lunch and before nap that I am always tempted to fill with an episode of ELMO'S WORLD.

Of course, now she is up from her nap an hour and a half early.  And I am already wondering which episode of Dora I can stand to watch again.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Malcolm's Birth

My sweet baby boy was born at home at 8:27 am on September 23, 2011!
I had woken up for 2 or three days feeling very energetic (despite sleeping very poorly)…and I tried very hard not to do anything useful with this energy, hoping it was a sign I would be having the baby soon.  But I was still 2 weeks from my due date, so I assumed that it was a fluke and I would soon go back to feeling exhausted and crabby.  On Thursday night, I went to be early without eating dinner, which was very weird for me, since I had been eating like a starving horse for weeks.  But I just wasn’t hungry.  I lay in bed reading, playing scrabble on my phone, re-reading the last 2 chapters in my Hypnobabies workbook.  I was laying there for hours, not being able to sleep.  I wasn’t having any contractions, other than the strong Braxton-Hicks I had been having for several weeks.  Around 11:30, I started to feel a change in the contractions.  They were coming regularly and starting to feel a little more “real”.  Nothing urgent and nothing painful, just…real.  So I started timing them and was a little surprised to see them coming 5-7 minutes apart.  I tried to get to sleep, but it just wasn’t happening.  I got up to use the bathroom and noticed some spotting.  It wasn’t enough to be called a bloody show, but definitely spotting.  Funny what thrills you when you are nine months pregnant!  I was thrilled to see that little bit of blood!  Maybe this was it!

I got up to walk around and have a few glasses of water to see if that would stop the contractions, but they kept coming.  They were not terribly strong, but definitely regularly.  Around 3:00 am, I sat on the couch in the living room trying to decide if this merited a call to my midwife when I had a really strong, long contraction, as if in answer to my uncertainty.  So I called Mairi to let her know I had been up for a while with fairly regular contractions.  She suggested taking a shower and trying to get back to sleep.  So I took my late-night shower and oh did it feel good, but it didn’t do anything to make the contractions slow their pace.  I tried really hard not to wake up Kevin, figuring this would put me to sleep, but also wanting him to get a good night’s sleep if this actually was it so that at least one of us would be well rested.  I climbed into bed and he said “Are we having a baby?”  So much for not waking him.  I said I didn’t really know, but that we should try to get some sleep.  We both lay in bed for a while, and finally Kevin got up and I rolled over to try to sleep again.  All this time the contractions were staying regularly at around 5-6 minutes and lasting about a minute or so.  At 4:00 am I gave up trying to sleep.  I went downstairs and found Kevin watching TV and he asked if this was it.  I was sort of thinking I was going to have another start-stop-on-and-on-for-days labor like I had with Lucy, but it was feeling pretty progressive at this point, so I said “I think maybe yes…”  At this point, I could still talk through contractions, but I had to stand up and lean over the couch or stairs or something to work through them, so I knew they were getting stronger.  I had stopped timing them, so I didn’t know if they were getting closer together or not.  

So for the next hour and 45 minutes, we set up all the things that we should have had ready before I went into labor.  We dragged the birth pool and supplies up from the storage closet.  We dug out the electric air pump, the pool liner, the thermometer, towels, shower curtains.  We tried to figure out how to turn on the electric air pump without waking up Lucy 2 hours early.  We ended up plugging the pump in out on the deck and attempting to keep the pump outside and the pool inside, hopefully making it quieter, but in actuality, we were just allowing dozens of mosquitoes to pour into the house (this we didn’t discover until later in the day when we all ended up covered in red bumps).  Of course, all efforts to remain quiet were thwarted by the fact that every 4 minutes or so, I had to drop what I was doing without ceremony and get on all fours to work through another contraction.  After literally tossing the air pump across the room as another contraction started, I decided that it was time to call Mairi again.  So at 4:45, I called Mairi and told her I never got back to sleep and the contractions were now strong enough not to talk through.  She called Kat (the student midwife who would also be attending the birth) and they were on their way.  I was starting to think I wasn’t going to have time to even fill the birth pool at this point.  But I was desperate for the warm water, so I went ahead anyway, as Kevin laid out the shower curtain and towels on the couch, lit some candles and got snacks out for the descending hordes.  I started filling the pool, and called my dad to let them know that if they wanted to be at the birth, they should get on their way as soon as possible.  Apparently my mom was not convinced and repeatedly told my dad this was false labor and they should wait for another phone call before heading out in the middle of the night.  I am so glad they didn’t!  Then I noticed that I hadn’t put the liner in the birth pool.  This wasn’t really an issue…but it sure would make clean-up a lot messier without a liner.  There was already 6 inches of water in the pool, so instead of taking the time to drain it, I just put the liner in over the water and started filling again.  And of course, I accidentally moved the faucet while I worked through a contraction and only noticed when the pool was almost full that it was only 80 degrees.  Never try to do anything requiring any measure of precision when you are in labor.  

Kat and Thaddeus (her 4 month old son) arrived around 5:15 and Mairi arrived a few minutes later.  I sat and chatted with Mairi and Kat between contractions.  I hadn’t gotten to practice my Hypnobabies as much as I intended, so while I was not experiencing a perfectly comfortable birth, it certainly wasn’t mind-numbingly painful.  I sat on the couch and breathed through a contraction, and I remember feeling like the earth was opening up and pulling me down.  I literally felt as though I was sinking down further into the earth with every contraction.  Mairi said that was Gaia reaching up and embracing me.  What a lovely image to get me through each increasingly challenging contraction.  We finally got the pool hot enough and I jumped in and stayed there for the next three hours.  I dozed between waves of increasing pressure, trying to remember my relaxation cues.  I read a quote recently that said “birth is involuntary; you just have to allow it to happen”.  It was so much easier – and much more effective - to just let all my tension go and relax into the pressure than to tense up and fight it.  

Lucy woke up sometime before 6:00 am and came down to see what all the commotion was.  She was so incredibly sweet the whole time.  She brought me water and kissed me and patted my head and said “Feel better, Mama” and asked me what was happening.  We had watched a lot of birth videos in preparation for her being at the birth, so I told I was just working hard to get our baby out, like the moms in the videos we watched.  She seemed to understand and was perfectly at ease and really happy to be helping Mama to have the baby.  Eventually, though, she wanted to get in the pool and when she wasn’t allowed to do that, she got bored and restless so Kevin took her to get dressed and play downstairs.  I kept looking at the clock, knowing my parents were on the way and wondering when they would get there.  I wanted Kevin with me, and I didn’t know what we were going to do with Lucy if this lasted all day, which I was fully expecting.  I remember noticing that the sun was rising, seeing that it was 7:30 am, and thinking “30 minutes and my parents will be here to help…”

I heard ELMO’S WORLD starting on the DVD player, and then I heard my parents coming in the front door.  30 minutes had passed in what seemed like an instant.  I had been having pushy contractions on and off for a while.  There were super intense, 90 second or more, this-baby-is-coming-now contractions interspersed with gentler (relatively, anyway), calmer pressure waves.  I was grateful for this unexpected pattern, since it gave me a chance to rest and gather my strength, even though there was never a full break between contractions.  My dad and mom were talking loudly as a particularly long, strong wave hit me, and I remember having my one, less-than-zen moment of labor when I shouted at the top of my lungs “PLEASE STOP TALKING!”  Actually, I might have shouted “PLEASE SHUT UP!”…you’d have to ask my parents.  And I am sure I had more than one less-than-zen moment, I just don’t recall themJ  At one point, after breathing my way through another pushy contraction, I opened my eyes to see that Kat had put Thaddeus in the bumbo right next to the birth pool.  He was smiling and cooing like he was cheering me on.  It was such a delightful, unexpected surprise to see his sweet little face smiling at me – it reminded me what all this was for!  

A few minutes after my parents came, my water broke (according to my labor summary report, this was at 8:09 am).  Clear water, lots of vernix, all is well!  I don’t know how many times I pushed, or how many contractions I had after my water broke.  I don’t remember having a conscious urge to push.  Each pushing contraction did all the work for me.  I tried just to let my body go limp and allow my uterus to do the work for me.  I honestly don’t know how anyone could do anything BUT allow the process to unfold – it was so completely out of my control.  I couldn’t control what sounds were coming out of my mouth, I couldn’t control how my body was moving, and I certainly couldn’t control what was happening in my womb.  The impression I have from the last few contractions was of me, hanging over the side of the pool, body getting jerked downwards and arms flailing about as if I were being mauled by a shark or rolled by a crocodile or something.  Kevin assures me this isn’t what happened, but that is the picture I have in my mind.  These contractions felt like there was a very strong someone pulling downward on a rope tied around my solar plexus on the inside.  On Kat and Mairi’s suggestion, I checked myself and found the baby’s head was less than an inch away from crowning!  Soon, soon, soon!

I had torn pretty badly with Lucy, and really didn’t want to do that again, so as I felt the baby crowning, I covered his head with my hand and applied a lot of pressure where I felt the most stinging and pulling.  Then suddenly, his head was out!  Kat urged me to push again, without a contraction, to get the rest of him out; I guess there is only so long you want a baby’s head underwater before there is a possibility of him trying to take his first breath underwater – which isn’t a great idea.  I gave some pretty hard pushes, but he was not moving anywhere.  I still had my hand on his head, and I could feel him wriggling and turning, helping himself to be born.  This was absolutely the most amazing thing I have ever experienced.  My sweet baby and I had been working together this whole time so I could finally hold him in my arms.  Mairi thought his shoulder was a little sticky (not quite stuck, per say, but not in a hurry to come out), so Kat gently helped the shoulder out while I waited for the next contraction.  Ouch.  One more wave, one more push, and Malcolm swam out into my hands.  I pulled him to my chest and sat back, giddy and laughing and crying all at the same time.

At Malcolm’s huge first cry, I saw someone ushering Lucy up to meet her new baby brother (I have no idea who it was, who was actually there when he was born, or what might have been happening outside the little circle of me, the baby and Kat).  She stopped at Thaddeus and patted him on the head  – she might have thought he was the new baby - and came over to me and the baby.  She put her little hand on his tiny head.  It was so wonderfully, deliciously sweet to have my husband and my baby girl a breath away as we all met our baby boy together.  

SEPTEMBER 23, 2011
21” LONG

I am glad he didn't stay in for another 2 weeks - he would have been a ten-pounder, easy!  

Later, Kevin told me that Lucy had been downstairs saying “Mama’s making lots of noise.  Like a heffalump!”   

We moved to the couch where Malcolm took to nursing like a pro – I didn’t even need to help him latch on!  When Lucy saw Malcolm nursing, she immediately wanted to nurse as well (had to stake her claim on Mama, I suppose!).  We had our first tandem nursing session ten minutes after Malcolm was born. I credit Lucy with helping to birth the placenta a few minutes later, and for the amazingly small amount of blood I lost. 
Welcome to the world, little boy!