July 28, 2015

If you want to continue getting my blog posts by email, please resubscribe!

Hi friends!

If you would like to continue receiving my blog posts through your email you can subscribe through feedburner, or head straight over to BoldHeartMama and find the Subscribe By Email field in the left hand navigation.

Thanks guys!

July 20, 2015

I've moved to BoldHeartMama.com!

Hi friends, I've moved!

Head on over to my new space at BoldHeartMama, I can't wait to share it with you!

If you're a bloglovin', RSS, or blogger follower, you'll need to add my new blog address to continue receiving my posts in your feed.

July 16, 2015

Blog Rebrand and the BoldHeartMama Storytelling Series

I'm currently working with Stephanie Gimlin from How Sweet Designs, on a rebrand for my most special of special writing places here at Marbles Rolling.

Through the process of writing here over the last six years—sporadically at times, but always with purpose and a deep need to process and write about my experience as a mother—I developed my voice and realized my passion for words and storytelling.

The name change is long overdue and I'm a little nervous about the switch to a new domain and all that comes with that. For now I'm sticking with blogger and, while wordpress has moved higher on my radar for the near future, I'm taking this transition one little step at a time.

Thank you for your patience as I move all these little pieces into place over the next week or two.

My new brand will be called BoldHeartMama to better capture and reflect the spirit of my approach to mothering and life.

The site will remain a blog with the addition of a landing page for the BoldHeartMama Manifesto, and an opportunity to sign up for the BoldHeartMama newsletter.

I also have a fun and inspiring new project that I'm developing called the the BoldHeartMama Storytelling Series, which I'll be sharing more about in future posts. Spoiler: I want to hear from you!

I can't wait to have a new online space to live in and I look forward to sharing it with you soon!

July 15, 2015

Small Comforts and Little Luxuries: Summer Edition

It's full blown July here in Virginia and I'm sharing a few of my current favorite things with you in this Summer edition of Small Comforts and Little Luxuries.

These posts are about the little things that don't cost a lot (though they may feel like a splurge!) but add value because they are delightful. As you seek out facets of life to enhance your own comfort, pleasure, and joy, just think of purchases like these as part of your self-care. :)

Alima Pure Luminous Shimmer Eyeshadow in Leone: $12.50

I'm in love with Alima Pure's mineral makeup line. Their luminous shimmer eyeshadow in Leone is eye brightening, and makes a perfect easy one-layer application for an almost naked summer eye. It's great for days when you want to look polished but not made up, and it double times it for date night when used as a highlighter.

Alima Pure Satin Matte Blush in Apricot: $20.00

A subtle matte orange that layers well and gives just the right warmth for cheerful summer cheeks.

Omni Focus for Mac, a Personal Task Management Platform:
$40 each, OS X/iOS 

After more than 15 years of paper agendas, I finally went digital! Since quitting formal work I have not had the same need or responsibility to be organized, but man does it feel nice to be on top of all my personal projects and commitments again.

First I transferred all my dates and scribbles from my old planner into google calendar. That alone was a huge improvement.

I dowloaded a 14-day trial of OmniFocus, which seamlessly merges your calendar and your to-do lists in a novel interface that makes the very effort to be organized both pleasant and easy.  It took me a few days to optimize use but I was convinced before the trial ended to buy an app for both my phone and laptop.

OmniFocus is the best of both worlds, merging the freedom and satisfaction that paper always offered with the electronic advantage of efficiency. No more notes scribbled on scraps of paper and stuffed in my purse, swallowed by the mess on my desk, forgotten in notes on my phone, or shuffled into a pile on the kitchen island. No more reliance on a huge hardcover agenda to lug around or forget at home. Everything important is in one place, easily accessible and synced to my phone and computer.

I feel more productive than I have in years, which may also have something to do with the fact that the boys are growing up, but either way, if you're looking for an organizational system that *could* change the way you feel in your life, you may want to check this out.

Cleopatra by Tocca:  $18.50 for miniTocca 0.5 fl oz

Inspired by the Mediterranean seductress, Cleopatra, this is my current favorite perfume for Summer. It stays in the heat, and a little dab goes a long way.

Top Notes: Bitter Grapefruit, Lush Greens, Cassis Bud
Middle Notes: White Jasmine, Peach Nectar, Tuberose
Bottom Notes: Warm Patchouli, Golden Amber, Rich Vanilla Musk

Mesh is IN! Crux Capri: $89.00

These are my go-to pants for lifting workouts. Sexy and fun, I get a lot of compliments, and the mesh is both functional and cooling.

I also have these Training Tough Crops from Lululemon, which are equally airy and better for outdoor running and sweaty SealTeamPT workouts. (If you're local, let me know if you want to come out with me and try a workout this Summer!)

Primal Pit Paste Natural Deodorant: $10.95

One of my goals this year was to reduce our use of plastics in the kitchen, and chemicals in my makeup and body care products. Throwing out the kidware and bringing in some stainless steel and aluminum options made for an easy transition and fortunately, brands like Alima Pure and Primal Pit Paste have bridged the gap in an area that I thought was going to be really tough to find alternatives I could be happy with.

I work out most days of the week doing a variety of activities from weight lifting, to walking the river, running outside with sealteampt and around town with the kids. As a former "clinical strength" deodorant girl, I am here to report that this brand (with baking soda and arrowroot powder) is very effective and works as well as any other I've tried, for the first 24 hours. After that, not so much but good enough! I've stuck with the unscented version so far, but the new coconut lime sounds like a beachy-fresh scent for swimsuit days.

Summer Strawberry Wallpapers for Phones and Desktops: 

I'm a lover of strawberry anything (and everything) and over the winter I got a strawberry tattoo that wraps my forearm so I could sport them year 'round. Now that it's mid-July, and in the mood for a girly wallpaper for my phone and desktop, I found a few options that bring a little summer sweetness to my usual online chores.

The stay sweet design is on my phone now, and Design Love Fest's little berries remind me of a pattern from some fabric on the baby blanket my mom sewed for me in the 80's, which makes me happy.

Clockwise from top right: The Wonder Forest, Design Love Fest, Designs by Miss Mandee

I want to hear from you! What small comforts and little luxuries are keeping you cool and feeling good this Summer?

July 13, 2015

Family Photos at Libby Hill Park and a Mini-Session Photoshoot Coupon for my Local Readers!

We haven't had family photos taken in over a year and I'm pretty sure we've landed in a new phase of life with these two boys of ours, so it was time.

All the change and growth that has come as we've transitioned away from the toddler years has made way for a sudden shift in the last twelve months to more independence and autonomy. It has been transformative for all of us. As the Summer rallies on I'm truly enjoying the ways that our life here in Richmond—and my mothering adventure too—continues to grow more carefree, and peaceful. 

We chose Libby Hill Park for this midsummer photo shoot to highlight not only our family but the city we love so. The views from this hilltop vista, overlooking the James River and the Richmond skyline, actually inspired the original naming of the city as they were reminiscent of those from Richmond on the Thames, in England. 

Summer in Virginia is a sultry time of year and the last few weeks have brought rain and thunderclouds on top of it all. Sunday evening up on the hill was surprisingly cool and breezy.

We met up with Jake from Courage & Co Photography for a few easy shots of us and the kids who are now four and six. (It's good times, I tell you!)

Here are a few of my favorites.

If you're local to RVA, and you want in on a great deal for a mini-session of your own, keep reading!

Now for the fun part! 

Jake's style is fresh, modern, photojournalism and he's offering my readers a 30 minute mini-session in a favorite Richmond locale for the sweet price of $60.00! 

A mini-session is a great way to celebrate important milestones and all the everyday moments in between. And 60 bucks is a real deal!

Email Jake at courage.co.photo@gmail.com and include in your message the offer code: MarblesRollingRVA 

You can also find Jake on Facebook and WeddingWire for more portfolio images. 

July 5, 2015

Hatching Ducks: our experience from start to finish

At the start of Spring we decided to hatch something. Roscoe first wanted to hatch snakes, but what would we do with a bunch of snakelets once they were born? Then we had the idea to start a flock of backyard chickens but with another baby on the horizon, as well as an eventual move, I wasn't keen to make any long term pet investments with this project. 

We talked to our homesteading friends to see if anyone had fertilized eggs we could hatch for them—eggs of any kind—with intentions to return the babies once they were a week or two old. A homeschool family we know was interested in growing their domesticated flock of Welsh Harlequins and offered us eight eggs with hope that four or five might hatch. In return we promised to lend them the incubator we purchased so they could do their own hatching experiment later in the Summer. 

Female Welsh Harlequins, the mama ducks
We ordered our incubator from Amazon and timed our egg pick-up around some weekend trips we had planned to be sure we'd be home to turn and tend to them properly.

Gathering Eggs:

The eggs were laid on Sunday and Monday, and gathered on Tuesday morning.

Eggs gathered from the coop and transported in our lunch cooler.

We carefully placed all the eggs into our modified egg transporter—a cooler with a hot water bottle inside—and cautiously drove the 45 minutes back to our house.

Eight cozy eggs 
The incubator was warm and ready after some tinkering earlier in the day with the heating element. We filled one of the four water reservoirs full and confirmed the temperature at 100 degrees.

With pencil in hand we wrote Os on one side and Xs on the other, placed them all O side up in the center of the incubator and set the temperature gauge resting on top. 

Newly placed eggs in a fresh incubator, the temp needed to rise after we had the top open.

Incubating Eggs:

Day one of incubation started on April 7th around 2pm.

We turned the eggs every morning when we got up, after lunch, and just before bed.  Every day turning Xs to Os and Os to Xs three times. 

Following the incubator's instructions, every few days we replenished the water in the plastic reservoir at the bottom of the incubator to regulate the humidity. Some use a wet-bulb thermometer but we used this illustration of proper air sac size as a reference for how the eggs were responding. Humidity during incubation is a big deal in hatching ducks: too much can make the ducklings grow too large to move around as needed for hatching while too little can make the ducklings too small and too weak to hatch. 

From our perspective the eggs looked just like eggs doing nothing, which drove me a little bit crazy over time. We didn’t know for certain that they were even fertilized.

On the second night we began to candle the eggs with the flashlight of my iphone and at first we could see a little round mass in front of the yoke but we couldn’t know what that meant yet. Then a few days later we saw veins. The cells were beginning to gather in a pattern to take the shape of a living little thing, with veins glowing orange as they spread each day thicker and wider inside their little egg house. At day five or six we saw the flicker of hearts beating.

By day ten the candled eggs were mostly dark as the ducklings grew to take up more space. Sometimes we could make out the shadow of a beak and little webbed feet. Backlit by our makeshift egg candler, I recognized the spastic involuntary movements of a developing embryo, like peering into the womb with an ultrasound. If you like this kind of thing check out this gestational chart of candled duck eggs

As the babies continued to grow, we had to adjust the temperature slightly lower to accommodate for the body heat they were generating. We kept turning and turning and turning, every day. Merritt thought he made a good mama duck and the importance of our daily effort was not lost on him.

Roscoe turning the eggs

Days turned to weeks and as we neared the 25th day of incubation we made a trip to Southern States to gather our supplies for hatching: a plastic bin, a heat lamp, baby duck crumbles, water and feed dispensers, wood chips, and meal worms for treats. 

Stylin' at Souther States

Eggs on Lock Down:

We went home and prepared for lock down, the last three days of incubation that serve to prevent turning of the eggs so the ducklings can get into the optimal position for pipping (see below) and also to allow humidity to build up in the incubator.

Because the hatching process for this breed can take up to three days, proper humidity remains especially important in the last few days of incubation. If it's too low when the duckling makes the external pip, the egg's membrane can dry out and effectively shrink wrap the baby inside. We didn't want that to happen so we filled a second channel of the incubator's plastic liner with water and also added a wet hand towel.

On the 29th just before lock down I quickly candled each egg and all but one looked viable. That one seemed more cloudy inside and I couldn't make out any distinct movements, but I wasn’t sure.

The brooder box all set up and ready for ducklings.
The eggs were laid on as many as three different days, so in consideration of those eggs laid on the 5th and 6th of April, we put them all on lockdown a few days early. I'm not sure this was necessary but it didn't seem to hurt. In hindsight, even though the eggs were fertilized on different days, gestation was suspended until we put them all in the incubator together on the 7th and the eggs were warmed to the correct temperature. This is a trick of mother nature to suspend development for up to a week in order to accommodate a mama duck's pattern of laying an egg or two every day for 7 or 8 days before setting on her nest to brood.

Pipping, Zipping, and Hatching

When a duckling is ready to hatch the first thing she does is use her beak to break through the air cell and to breath air on her own. This is called the internal pip. Sometimes the egg rocks around a bit at this point, and often you can hear the duckling peeping inside. Hours or even a day later the duckling will make a little dent in the egg shell that you can see from the outside—the external pip. Then hours, or even days later (in our case) the duckling will "zip" and make a little row of pips from which it will eventually emerge. The waiting is the hardest part and during this time the duckling is doing all the things that we know and don't know about in order to be born, like absorb what remains of the yolk, which provides a 24-hour supply of nutrition for hatchlings in the domesticated wild as mama duck continues to brood her remaining eggs yet-to-hatch and also makes it possible for hatchery chicks to be transported without food or water through the mail to new homes.

You can read more here about what hatching looks like from pip to zip.

For us it was a long week of waiting because nothing happened until Sunday May 3rd, FIVE days after we put the incubator on lock down. During that time I second guessed everything we had done and even opened the incubator to add more water, which is a big no no! When I could hear some cheeps and some egg wobbles coming from the incubator I guessed the chicks had internally pipped, which made all of us practically burst with excitement.

On Monday one egg had an external pip, and by Tuesday there were four more with external pips, but still no hatchlings. 

On Wednesday morning the first egg zipped and at around 7pm that evening three babies hatched nearly at the same time!

We were supposed to leave the incubator closed to preserve the humidity for the other babies still working on zipping, and to prevent wet hatchlings from getting too chilly but our little ducks had long legs and once they got their bearings they could stand pretty close to the burning hot heating element in the roof of the incubator. Having burned myself a few times I definitely did not want them to even brush against it so I opened the lid and the boys transferred the ducks to their new home in the brooder.

That night I woke at three in the morning and followed the red glow radiating from the light of the heat lamp to peek in at the babies in the brooder and to peer into the incubator in case any others needed to be transferred. The anticipation felt a little like Christmas. 

The brooder box with five hatchlings. Roscoe and Merritt took advantage of the lighting for a new star wars scene.
On Thursday another baby was born before we left for preschool, and as dinner time approached frantic peeps from another duckling called us to the incubator yet again. When we tried to move him he was still attached by his umbilical cord so we waited a little longer to transfer him. 

Meanwhile, the questionable eighth egg was starting to turn colors, a bad sign. We later decided to see what was going on inside and as it turns out that little one probably died about a week before the hatch. 

Thursday night the 6th baby hatched, and we woke up Friday morning to the chirping of a newly hatched seventh.  

Altogether incubation lasted thirty-one days and hatching was spread out over three. This breed generally has a 27 day incubation but variables of temperature and humidity can have an impact. 


At first the babies slept a lot. Their new little bodies working hard just to be, tired from days of pipping and zipping and hatching. But once their feathers dried they were quite entertaining. One of my favorite memories was walking into the kitchen to find them huddled together, simultaneously hushed for a few moments, their heads nodding off like drowsy old men. Then one downy head popped up with a cheep to startle the rest into a high speed waddle-sprint for their crumble feed—little webbed feet thwapping with each step, and a total disregard for any siblings in their path. The boys came to take a look and as I started working on breakfast I overheard their voices, "Gentle, be kind to your brothers!"

Another fun time with the ducklings was bathtime. Of course they love water and the bathtub was a perfect place for them to play. We filled it up just a half inch of warm water and they spent a long time preening and splashing, and darting the length of the tub leaving long wakes behind them. 

Cutest little ducks you ever did see.
Another thing I appreciated about the ducklings was how vocal they were, like little alarm clocks, or watchdogs. Once, the heat lamp accidentally unplugged and they all started chirping in alarm, which prompted me to get out of bed to check on them, thank goodness! The temperature of their box also had to be adjusted as they got older and better able to regulate their own body temperatures. If their box was too hot they would spread out and chirp, too cool and they would huddle together and chirp. If they were quiet then I knew they are happy. 

The kids couldn't wait to share the ducklings with Merritt's classroom so we took them for a couple hours on one of the last weeks of school. 

Show and tell at Preschool
As they got a little older we let them forage around in the back yard for short intervals under the kids' watchful eyes. 

A photographer and his muse
Two weeks after they were born the brooder was cramped and the ducklings were eating a half bag of feed a day and requiring daily or twice daily litter changes—too much for me to keep up with!

We drove them back out the farm and passed them off to their new home with a real lake, and a whole flock family.
Saying goodbye

The ducklings return home!

June 7, 2015

Two New Perspectives From Our First Year of Homeschool

Summer with my wild things
In our first year of homeschool I grew beyond my own perceived limits of time and energy and even fed my hearty appetite for solitude, all the while mentoring Roscoe to meet his own challenges and to dig more deeply and joyfully into his learning. It was a year spent navigating family life as we do, with an added layer of personal responsibility for Roscoe's kindergarten education.

At different times throughout last year—certainly in the many months leading up to September after we made our decision to homeschool, and then periodically throughout the Fall—I could feel myself leaning in to a lingering whisper that demanded to know where all these days of play and work were taking us. Was it really true that I could only take this one day at a time?

How would my personality and his personality, our strengths and weaknesses and interests co-exist, and grow, and where would we be at the end of the year? Would Roscoe learn to read? Would he learn to write his name? Could our homeschool really be everything he needed and could I be satisfied in my singular role having set aside most everything else at that point to pursue this path of motherhood and homeschool?

Learning to live with uncertainty this year—all the practice I've had just sitting with my uncomfortable feelings of NOT knowing, and without guarantee of anything be it homeschool or mothering, for that matter—has helped me to find peace in the process of work unfolding without the burden or pressure of expectation. I make no assumption about where Roscoe's work will take him, or the pace at which it will develop, or the form it will take on. I may have said that before, but I really mean it now.

I've expanded this mindset to also release myself from pursuing a burning need I often feel to analyze the details of how my own professional work will develop, as I am only one person, and my career ideas and dreams are bigger than our life can hold at the moment. I'm not worried though, because there will be time for it all. Just not right now.

I'm beginning to embrace the idea that life is simply a series of projects amassed over time. Relief seeps into my core at this notion of a life's work because it grants me permission to indulge my whims and curiosities, and to be moved by my energy when it flows, gathering new ideas and inspiration along the way to pursue what is meaningful when it is meaningful and letting go of expectations for myself when it no longer feels so.

Another theme to emerge from this year is a renewed trust in my mothering. When the boys were young I was naively and rightfully certain that my instincts were true. I believed wholeheartedly in my mothering self from the moment I became a mother, maybe even before that. Of course no one can know everything, but I was certain that I could see my babies for the little beings that they were, and I could listen to them and know them and meet their needs without fail when I honored my own instinctive desire to act on their behalf—in giving birth to them, in feeding them and sleeping with them, in setting boundaries and giving them freedom to explore their independence.

When the boys were young my early parenting decisions were sheltered in the safety and privacy of our home, and I readily dismissed the high stakes and demands of modern motherhood as our culture markets it to us. It was easier then though. This past year as we moved beyond and into the elementary years, I felt a shift, our parenting choices less private and on greater display than ever before. We are out in the community at times when other kids are typically in a classroom. Family and friends can't help but weigh in on our homeschool, a difficult conversation to entirely avoid—I'll admit—when they meet Roscoe's cool enthusiasm for kindergarten-at-home in response to standard pleasantries like, "How old are you?" and "What grade are you in?"

With Roscoe moving one day at a time further from the standards of the Common Core as we peel away to pursue something of our own making—and with growing awareness for what his public and private school counterparts are doing—I've entertained my own thoughts of time lost if our homeschool doesn't pan out, and just what would happen then?

The last year and a half I've been challenged to be unaffected "by what everyone else is doing." Always a devil's advocate and unafraid to unearth every stone big or small until I am satisfied, in temporary moments of weakness I've sat with the possibility that there could exist some thing that he needs that I don't have to give, or that I can't harness for him, or that I can't help him to harness for himself. In my heart of hearts though, I don't believe these sentiments apply to our homeschool any more than they do to mothering in general. Haven't we all wondered this at one time or another, homeschooling or not?

Sure, it can feel vulnerable to do what everyone else is not doing, but with some perspective on this first year I've found courage and new confidence in how all these pieces relate to each other in the bigger scheme of our life. I may have felt unsure for a while there, talking myself through and putting on a brave face, wondering what's the worst that could happen? But after this year, intimately involved and actively practicing our intentions, I truly feel a new level of trust in my boys' learning process, and in myself as their mother and mentor.

PBH kindergarten was everything I hoped it would be. Constrained by very little and free to do as we pleased, our time was ours, our schedule was ours, and every day was a new adventure no matter where we landed.

A whole school year has passed, our first together, and we're grounded now on the other side having better learned how to pursue our interests in the context of our relationships and family life.

We are so free. Free to be our true selves, undefined by the expectations of a culture to which we don't particularly identify. The happy realization through this last year has been to find out that living up to our own expectations is more than enough.

April 29, 2015

Telling the story of the Modern Nature House design with updated images, elevations, and 3-D drawings

The images I shared from my last post were screen captures from my phone. The official pdf images tell a more complete story of the house design so far, so I want to share these with you too. 

I've included the elevations and 3-D drawings.
Floor plans


Back, and Side facing the lot next door

The lot that sits to the right of our property is empty now, but we assume the owners have future plans to build. We're hoping to get started first. :) Both lots are about a half acre, ours is a corner lot and the front and back of the house face a road. The design creates pleasing views of the house from both angles and also creates a shield for whatever happens on the lot next to us.

As much as we love the look of glass houses, our lot isn't set on a wide open prairie or ocean vista, it's hillside looking out over a wooded neighborhood. The windows we do have are strategically placed to provide specific vantage points.

The house is situated on the land in a way that allows for near perfect passive solar orientation so the light will be magical here.

If you missed it in my last post you can check out our houzz.com ideabook to see how exterior materials can be used to convey the natural world in a house this modern.

April 27, 2015

Exterior Schematics: The Modern Nature Home

The basic floor plans were completed a few weeks ago, but as the house evolves in whole all the parts get updated, like the addition of hatch windows to connect the guest bunk with the screened-in porch, a mini-bar outside the master bedroom, and some reconfigured doorways on the second floor. Note that despite the likelihood of another baby we will be keeping the house design as is with only two kid bedrooms. :)

When Scott first revealed the exterior schematic our initial reaction was to the very modern design.

Whoa. So modern! Are you surprised too?

We liked it but after a weekend of eager conversation we've really grown to love it, and while it's more modern than we had envisioned for ourselves, it is truly what we asked for and is incredibly well thought out.

The materials we choose to finish the exterior will integrate the nature element into the design. At the moment we're considering stucco, cedar, fiber cement, and metal.

Both the entry and the "back" front a road because we have a corner lot. The patio concept has yet to be developed.

The next phase of this process will include determining exterior materials, developing the construction documents, and a review by the structural engineers.

The budget is also taking shape as we have identified some key materials and products to use for interior flooring and counter tops.

Here are two (skewed) screen shots of the most recent floor plans:

To see how a house like this can be pulled off in the ways we imagine, check out these images from our Houzz.com Ideabooks.

April 21, 2015

Making the Call, Thoughts on Trying for a Third Kid

It's a warm rainy morning and we've cleared our schedule to savor a whole day at home for lounging and relaxing. There's a chocolate cake in the oven, the boys are engrossed in minecraft how-to videos, and I'm cleaning out the fridge with a covers playlist. Days like this make me think I could add another to my brood. #springfever #searsbros

I had all but convinced myself that two was enough. 

Two boys just 19 months apart. Same interests, a shared friendship. So neat. So conventional. So very manageable. 

There would never be need for a bigger car. Knowing we were done would be my invitation to purge all the baby stuff I’d hoarded away in the attic for later. Stuff we had purchased with every intention to pass down to more siblings and more siblings. Bins of tiny clothes for every age from newborn to five meticulously organized and stacked high, and myriad piles of plastic bags lumpy with toys—their return on investment yet to be realized. 

With the passing of just a few more seasons, I imagined these intensely physical years of mothering as the backbone on which I’d lovingly carry the salty milk-stained bittersweetness of what the days had meant to me—the sense of purpose I felt, the tender love and emotion that overflowed, the demands that screamed for me to reach and grow, my disappointment and my deepest joy of joys—I’d gather it all up with a fierce adoration, press our best memories to my heart, and we’d jet steadfast into the next phase of our life together with construction of our home on the brink and international travel penciled into the future—plane tickets are cheaper for a family of four, than five or six, didn’t you know?

With our youngest born when I was 28 we would remain forever young, parents with an empty nest at 44. Our shared fantasies of having kids out of diapers, and of sleeping through an entire night uninterrupted, had started to feel not only entirely possible but oh so very close.

The blossoming freedom we’d recently found as our boys grew to be four and five, we wanted more of that. In our marriage, which had fluctuated with great happiness and responsibility over the years, we’d learned to adapt and to thrive, and the elusive promise of a time when we would again have proper energy to give to each other and to ourselves had finally arrived. 

We established equilibrium with greater wisdom for what we needed as people who also happen to be parents.

A vasectomy was discussed—although neither of us made an effort to find out more—and we tabled the conversation for later because somehow the decision to declare an end to childbearing felt as big and weighty as had been our initial decision to begin in the first place. 

To make a decision so final felt like a painful responsibility. More bearable was to let time take the burden for us until one day I would understand for good that the opportunity had passed, and by then our life would surely have melded into whatever it was meant to be and the expected sting of a closed chapter would be lessened in hindsight.  

We did nothing and time passed as we knew it would. At 32, my endocrinologist emphasized that if I valued my future fertility I should consider freezing my eggs—if she were me that’s what she’d do—as early ovarian failure runs in my family history and I already have one autoimmune disease. 

The stakes ratcheted higher. Fertility is not forever.

Perhaps just waiting to see if and when our emotional tides turned wasn’t the best plan after all. If we could save ourselves from the disappointment and expense of waiting too long then the smart thing was to choose a path, knowing that every year could make a difference. 

But oh a passive wait seemed so much easier than committing because I wasn’t feeling like myself—still carrying baby weight from my pregnancy with Merritt, suspended in a body that wasn’t really me—and mothering my two wild boys day to day, homeschooling, life in general, it was all I felt I could handle.

Then there was Andy, adamant since shortly after Merritt’s birth that he was two and through. To make it all work in my mind—to meld my husband’s desires with my own perceived limitations—I built a convincing case that two could be enough for me. 

Certainly Roscoe and Merritt were enough. I had to believe it. How could they not be?

I looked for signs to push in one direction or the other. The scenarios of every day life under a microscope to glean what I could, longing to know if I was cut out for more. 

As my friends became pregnant with their third and fourth kids the radiance of pregnancy was lost on me, and even in the face of the sweetest parts of newborn baby life I was relieved to feel completely unruffled. Even the prettiest sleep-filled babies and peaceful mamas didn’t spark the wanting flame inside me, and it began to feel as if the passing of time really would soothe all. 

Yet, in the back of my mind I knew that none of it mattered as much as I owed it to myself to wait to make a decision until I could find my way back to my pre-pregnancy self, because it wouldn’t be a fair call otherwise. 

Staying fat had made it possible to tuck all the fear and questions away for another day, and avoid trying to solve the puzzle altogether. Ambivalence for wanting another baby, and doubt in my ability to maintain my own standard of mothering in the face of it all added another layer but the fat held all the power because I knew as long as I carried it with me I wouldn’t put my body through another pregnancy.

For reasons beyond having another baby, for good reasons like I was just ready and I had the time and energy to make it happen, I started to let go. The weight that I carried with me into the NICU and well into Merritt’s preschool years, the image of myself that I had grown to know and even like, I was ready to say goodbye—a final triumph to rail against all that my second pregnancy and birth had brought to my mothering experience. I had held on long enough.

The season turned and Spring brought us back in tune after a long Winter. When we emerged all seemed possible and the wanting for another child, a wanting that I had just buried somewhere deep because the timing was all wrong, it resurfaced just as the daffodils and periwinkle were blooming.

To feel the wanting again brings me peace, just as it makes me feel like my world is closing in on me. I won’t pretend I’m unafraid. I won’t pretend that the reality of another premature birth isn’t occupying space in my mind, or that the ugly frightening aspects of NICU life and postpartum anxiety don’t intimidate me. I can’t pretend not to wonder how the waning of my patience and a waxing need for sleep in the first trimester will impact my temperament to mother the boys during that time. I can’t hide that it feels damn good to be me again, or pretend that vanity and body image mean nothing.

I know what mothering in the first five years looks like for me and my memory of the details make this decision one for my bold heart and not for my logic.

The unfolding of the journey is the very stuff that life is made of and I think I’m willing to take a chance without knowing how the story will end.

April 12, 2015

Seasonal Celebrations: 12 weeks to Seasonal Living and lots of photos

As Winter officially turned to Spring last month it was hard not to celebrate, wasn't it?  

In lieu of Easter, as much as I enjoyed the tradition growing up, we focused our energy on welcoming a new season around the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. 

We counted down the days and intended to catch the first sunrise, but ended up sleeping in later than usual and woke up to rain anyway. 

I put out a little bowl of milk chocolates and a jar of salted caramels, and invited the kids in the afternoon to pick out some new science tools. Roscoe chose the Visible Man, yet another dissection specimen, and a blood typing kit. Merritt chose a magic school bus experiment kit about germs.

Roscoe typed his dad's blood: O+
We cleared out the craft closet and found vouchers for an ant farm and a ladybug house. We bought an incubator and took a visit to our friend's farm to pick up 8 duck eggs. The embryos are now about 6 days old with tiny beating hearts we can see when we candle them at night.

Welsh Harlequin embryos at 6 days gestation
As if by magic the week that followed was warmer than usual and we enjoyed more time at home in the afternoons, hanging out in the backyard with windows open and breezes blowing through.

We went for a little nature stroll through the backyard and the boys took note of the many signs of Spring: new blades of grass, acorn sprouts, periwinkle, leaf buds. 

Sunlight through the fence, new daffodils, green shoots

We gathered some knitting and art supply scraps to assemble a nest builder for the birds.

Merritt put together a still life from backyard pickings and I strewed some colored pencils and paint.

He was curious what Daffodils look like under the microscope. He found a tiny slug inside one who turned out to be very entertaining under magnification with its little retractable tentacles.

On the patio we drew flowers with chalk on the patio out back and consulted the Smithsonian's Natural History book as reference, one of our favorites.

We played with paint and explored making new colors. 

When April came we took a long holiday weekend to celebrate our wedding anniversary as a family on a sprawling farm near Sperryville, Va.

I loved the guinea fowl best. The noisy little watch birds run around in a small flock on the lookout for anything unusual or threatening. Our bedtime routine was interrupted one night by their squawking, and when I had finally given up on the boys finding sleep we peered outside to see that the hens had an unwelcome skunk visitor surrounded from the ground up. The boys ran outside in their jammies to check things out.

One guinea hen in the treetop, five on the ground 
Skunk chase
On Saturday, Andy and I hiked Old Rag, a 9+ mile circuit hike to the top of a rocky outcrop with an intense rock scramble to the summit. We didn't put a lot of thought into preparing for the hike, which made for a mentally challenging climb. We were underprepared for the number of hours it would take, the cooler windy weather that morning, and the demands of navigating a maze of boulders. The heights were dizzying but the views were gorgeous. Andy and I read our vows to each other at the top. I dug for them in the attic boxes before we left and it had been at least six years since I read them last. I had looked forward to discussing ways to revise them moving into our next decade but they read as true as they had ten years ago, even though we wrote them for each other when we were just 21.

I'm thrilled that Spring is here and I want to celebrate it every day. How about you?

Check out the HomeSpun Seasonal Workbook if you're interested in starting your own intentional journey to Seasonal Living.
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