Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now


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Weekend Wisdom

After meditating this past weekend, I think I am a little wiser. The first day was frustrating. My mind was racing. My breath was practically inaccessible as a guide.  The intention to sit and breath while being mindful of your breath, not your thoughts is so simple, yet so challenging! What consumes the mind? My distractions included but surely were not limited to: memories (and various spin-offs), chores,  work, thoughts about meditation, standard daydreams, and particularly close to “my heart and mind”  the never-ending to-do list! I even thought about back shelf items in the refrigerator that needed dealing with! I would label the thoughts “thinking” and move back to my breath.  I also had a song stuck in my head the entire weekend! It was a children’s song which I firmly believe are created for the sole purpose of embedding themselves in parent’s heads!

While there were a few insights, one that I’d like to share had to do with being hurt and figuring out what to do with “it.” For starters, this insight actually evolved to a reasonable plateau, meaning I  reached a workable place with it. Like climbing canyons in the Badlands, there seems to always be another level to climb and I’m sure this is no different. However, for now, the view is fine here. Also, it is one of the insights I think I can work on daily and “share” with the girls.

An important aspect of the path of the warrior (Shambhala) is to be fearless which accordingly is the result of true compassion and tenderness. So you share your heart, you remain open, but then you get hurt. Then what? How do you continue to trust and embrace FEARLESSNESS when you’re hurt?

Fortunate for me, I got “hurt” during the meditation weekend! I shared something personal , a thought not yet quite complete and later someone replied to it in such a way that I interpreted as diminishing. What do I do? Here I was in this safe haven and now–hurt?! I didn’t engage in the habitual spin right away–why did she say that? did she misunderstand me? how could she have said that?!?! I tried not to engage in the spin-off narrative which I knew would only enlarge the hurt, the why, the million thoughts about it, etc. I continued to come back to my breath since I was at a weekend meditation after all and just breathed.

I sat with it. I tried not to think about it. I thought about it. I breathed. I came back to it.  AH!!  It was back, it was gone. I thought about it on different levels –intellectually, emotionally…to some degree just to get my mind around it. What was IT that hurt me? How did the hurt feel and where? The situation was “fortunate” in that I wasn’t easily lured to the typical blame pointing of the perpetrator. I kept coming back to the situation I was in and what I was currently feeling rather than speculating the why. I found myself more inquisitive than masochistic in my reflections of this pain. It was real but so unreal.  Eventually I decided to stop actively thinking about it and  TRY to get back to meditation. When a thought came up, like any other time, I would label it gently and come back to my breath, my body, my soft gaze.

I discovered something interesting. The more I practiced “the practice” so to speak, the less the pain was, the less it actually existed. It nearly faded before me. Just like any other “hurt” experience, this had a solid storyline, a misunderstanding, a victim, a perpetrator, etc. It had its own intensity and drama and as I sat with myself, it settled IN me that the story was what caused that pain. I felt this, not thought it. The words the misunderstandings, the exchange and the REACTION. The more I sat with it, the more I meditated, the less my pain existed. It almost became laughable, not because the situation was in any way trivial, but because the solution (or at least in part) is just so simple.  Why would I continue to dialogue with the distractions, the pain, the fear when I can experience the world fully, right now?

What can derail a day, a week, or even years can also begin to dissolve with this practice. WHile requiring immense honesty and discipline,  sitting and reducing the distractions, seeing them for what they really are can liberate us from the small irritations to the large dramas we live with daily.

http://durham.shambhala.org/meditate.php


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Monday Handwork

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Documenting our lives, processing some of it through writing,  sharing my experiences (as a way to support & educate other moms, moms of twins), and developing a creative space for myself have been just some of my more humble goals in creating this blog. Ah, but life ebbs and flows and I suppose I didn’t take full advantage of those ebbs! Wait, were there any?

When the girls were younger– especially around 2 years and under, I would just about feel comfortable,  just about exhale that famous sigh of relief  (ebb) when a new development, problem, disruption would bust in, completely unannounced (flow)! Typically a new stage, a new need….change.  It would often take days or weeks to even recognize that that’s what it was! Oh, change. Again.  It is understandable to first reflect on recent events such as diet or sleep patterns as the source of the problem.  “Maybe once we settle back into things from our weekend away, things will be normal.” Whatever that is! Many of these so-called “changes” I think, were more pronounced because of the twin factor. Frequently, it had to do with their interaction–being the same age and therefore developmentally similar, they tend to work these new developments out with each other. Not so much fun.

From these times, the girls grew and therefore there was a need to alter things just a bit. Just a simple  reminder that things are always changing and we need not get too comfortable with any one TIME.  The real gift of being home with children is this–to be constantly reminded of the consistent change. To live each moment, right? However, on the very practical level of raising children and staying at home with them all the time, needs change  and more often than not it requires one to take a step back and re-think the current situation. As parents, that’s a big part of our job. What isn’t working? What is? Where is the source of conflict or issue? Some personal reflection and output is essential. What was the solution? 100% of the time “it” simply required my presence. Walk them through the transition, guide them through the disagreement, have an increased presence around these iffy times. I say simply, not because it is easy, but it is an easy answer and one that as parents can be too often overlooked while we cast our sights on other potential solutions–sleep? diet? personalities?. They need us to teach them.

It is such a pleasure that I have been afforded these years at home that I have been able to step back and tweak our little world to better meet their needs, to help them grow and provide them with quality time together, opportunities to take it all in, a chance to not rush…to make this world (our itty bitty world) a sweet place.

We have always had a daily and weekly rhythm. I can’t emphasis enough the importance of this practice –especially with twins, but really I think it benefits all children. All children truly need and desire some “flexible” routine in their days. At 3 months and at 3 years. Our routine has evolved over the years  to meet our needs. Monday is Handwork Day this year. I love it because it provides an opportunity to make things and take care of things–with our hands! After the typically busy  weekend and especially busy Sunday, I really looked forward to these nesting Mondays at home. We have made cards, soaps, lotions (one especially designed for bumps and scrapes made with marigold oil), clay bowls, various decorations for holidays, flower arrangements…the list goes on!  We have embroidered, knitted, planted and weeded our garden, sewn napkins, felted!

If there’s time after the morning activity, we often sit at the dining table and “journal.”  While at times I have drawn a blank on the eve of Handwork Day, I can usually come up with something! Make something, fix something or take care of something. Those are my perimeters! I value being able to teach them a skill and the value of caring for our belongings and our home.  Also, handwork is so much about working with them, right beside them–it really is special!  What an opportunity for me it has been, too!

Today we did circle time (play games and sing songs), then mended a two special ceramic bunnies and a wooden tray. We then ran outside before the rain and played hopscotch. Before lunch we all  wrote and drew in our journals.

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christmas eve– it all comes together

I have really enjoyed preparing for Christmas this last month with the girls. We inaugurated the month long festivities with lantern making on their birthday, then on to decorating the house with pine and holly, ornament-making ensued, followed by neighborhood walks where we left gifts and cards for our friends. It has been a truly mindful time. We have tried to bring more light inside, more of the outside within our walls, making our nest, as the girls would say. All of it is beautiful.

I can list the ways that having children has altered “my” life- changed it from what IT WAS. However, I know that this last month wouldn’t have been about tapping into the magic of living without them. It isn’t just that children remind you of the simplicity of life or love, but they offer you true, genuine opportunities to tap into it.

In response to worrying about the sale of a house several years ago, a friend of mine said, well, it is out of your hands! I felt liberated hearing his words and was so impressed with both the brilliance and simplicity of his words! So much or really everything is that way, isn’t it?? It all comes together.

 

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around here.

04/19/2011

change around here

Sylvie coming to help, check.  Missy coming to help, check. The girls’ schedule written out, check. Food cooked, check. Stephen’s time off?  My work time off?  Pre-op?  Check, check, check! Surgery????

CHECK.

In my late 20s, as I puffed on a wonderful cigarette, I said rather dreamily, I really, really want to run a marathon. Mmmm, exhale……..And that’s when I got into great shape. I put down smoking for another crazy addiction- running. I quit smoking, trained and ran a few marathons, started yoga…and generally stayed in good shape for years…  Then, sometime later, I got pregnant with twins and gave birth to full term girls, accruing some damage along the way. I developed a hernia about half-way through the pregnancy…and then another. My stomach measured 44 weeks pregnant at 28 weeks, so one can only imagine what happened to my stomach muscles by the time I REALLY reached 38.5 weeks! I think they tried to meet up around my spine as my abdomen grew larger and larger, pushing them farther and farther away form where they once stood, strong and tight. Oh, that might have caused another hernia…

There’s the emotional and psychological transformation that accompanies mama-hood and then there’s the PHYSICAL.OH, the physical. I gained 85lbs during my pregnancy. My feet grew. My back ached. I got carpel tunnel.  I nursed my girls for a year, many months of which was through painful and persistent “plugs.” It was all OK though. The girls were healthy and full-term. That’s what I wanted and I got it. I survived and  in time I would just have to get back to a smaller, healthier self, right???? Maybe not marathon material, but something a teensy bit close to it?? Oh, maybe one day and maybe not. Just at least 50, 60lbs lighter and a lot stronger?

It took time. Nursing helped. Walking helped. The “Pilate’s for Dummies” helped. Yoga helped. Slowly, over time my old physical self surfaced. Albeit, a little different looking than the time before twins occupied my uterus! I lost nearly all the weight over 2 years. I got leaner, I got stronger, but still my back ached. Still my stomach muscles couldn’t contract. Still I had abdominal hernias protruding from my stomach.

I researched quite a bit before deciding on surgery. One of my yoga teachers told me I could correct the hernias (or lessen them) through yoga. The problem was I also had this abdominal separation (diastasis recti) and anything good for the hernias seems to be bad for the muscle separation.  I hoped I could fix the muscle separtion and one day get the hernias repaired. One day later when I didn’t have twin toddlers totting about. The more I researched though, the more I learned how I unrealistic that option was. I needed to repair the hernias AND the muscles. If I only fixed the hernias, more than likely they would come back due to weak stomach muscles.

So I did several consultations. I found THE surgeon. I manuevered the long and arduous insurance drama. I went to several appointments. I danced the insurance tango some more. Cried lots. Was it going to happen? Would it be OK? How would the girls fare during my recovery? How was I going to be a mama to them post-op?How would I deal with work? How would we manage? Oy, oy, oy!

The day came and it went. Like all days. I went in. I had my surgery (I managed to tell everyone in the OR the bliss of Widespread Panic as I drifted to sleep). I stayed the night. I went home. I walked around like an older person. I took pain killers and emptied my drain.

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I got majorly bored.  I SO appreciated the help and relaxed knowing they were with people I trusted. The girls had fun visiting with family and friends. I got to know my red couch.I am still getting to know my red couch and trying to breath into this repaired body some wholesome air. For the first time in over 3 years, it is really all about healing me. Of course, mama health and happiness is KEY all the time, but right now, with an abdominal binder and swelling across 1/3 of my body I am given full permission for it to be about me.

I have slowed down physically. Maybe to catch up not only with this major surgery, but with the last few years of physical change.


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art on wednesdays

03/23/2011

Wednesday Art

Mondays we go for walks. Tuesdays we bake. Wednesdays we try to do something artisitc.  Which is not to say that we can’t explore our “creative side” on other days, but we always dedicate time on Wednesdays for these endeavors.  I am ejoying the growing options as they age!

We color with different types of crayons, pencils, and chalk. We sculpt with “play dough” or actual sculpey clay (and make real things)! We finger paint  and paint with brushes. Watercolor painting, though is our favorite.

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So, more often than not, we paint with watercolors. For toddlers it allows a little more opportunity to play with color than with other “thicker” paints that just glob up so quickly and look brown no matter what the combinations. Watercoloring is a little more forgiving in that respect and they seem to be able to control the colors a little more. In the end, their paintings have several distinct colors. Watching the two of them side by side, it is truly amazing to see their different styles and interests. Arlene fills it all up, big strokes and in the end, her paintings are usually more “filled in.” Ada’s paintings seems to have more strokes and lines. She also leans heavily toward blue.

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We play music or I’ll sing, or both while we paint. I try to just play around with the colors like them, not painting anything specific. Otherwise , they think it is my brush that makes the pictures on my paper and they want to “svap” with me. This can go on and on…! I am really enjoying their narratives while they paint. They talk about painting eachother, themselves, Papa, Mama, Kinsey, and from time to time Lou-Lou, their canine cousin who lives in Dallas.

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fresh muffins on tuesday

03/08/2011

tuesdays & baking

We generally follow the same routine everyday with the exception of one major activity. Tuesdays is for baking (or some kind of cooking with the girls if I can’t swing the baking). I had hopes of expanding beyond blueberry muffins, but they love them and I have finally got the recipe down.I like having this routine early in the week because then we have yummy snacks for the week! AND, baking with twins does require a little more of that early week energy…

Some of our weekly routines are even starting to sink in–although a little cross wired. The little, little one said today: “Monday, walking!” OK, so it is Tuesday, baking…but I think they’re getting the idea!

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away and back

02/22/2011

night away and coming home

Having our time– for just the two of us, occasionally comes in the form of a night away seeing our favorite band, Widespread Panic.  We need the time and space away from the daily routines to relax a bit, unwind, and have a blast together! We feared a long winter break from our band, but alas their 25th anniversary shows saved us in February! Atlanta was awesome and to boot it was Valentines Day…We met lots of great people, danced and sang along most of the night!

It has taken several days to find the routine and rhythm of home and work, but I think we hit our stride yesterday with a walk at the Museum of Art in Raleigh. They have got great trails surrounding the museum–paved, wooded and all dotted with interesting art structures. We did this walk when the girls were just weeks old and now again for the 1st time since, 2 years old…

We do take walks a lot and I am so grateful the girls are great walkers! I’m so happy that these beautiful strolls make up so much of their time–the movement, the scenery, the smells, the hand holding and the entire experience…creating them!

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Now a couple years later…

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spontaneous fun

: : a stump

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led to a curb, to a hill, to a vacant lot, to a big old tree and some fun found!

While playgrounds and museums are absolutely great, Ijust love when we find some spontaneous fun on a typical outing. Sometimes I find the park a little hmmm…boring and the museum or set activity, too defined with expectation, like “this is what you do.” Of course those activities can have their own dose of spontaneity and I’ll  have to work on that. Our walks and random little finds offer variety and creativity. I also find I get to engage with them more…

It also reminds me of experiences in New York City where there’s a different little world just waiting to be found, maybe around the next corner!


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need more hours? try nighttime…

 

 

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I was definitely nervous about “the nights” before I had the girls.  How was I going to stay up most of the night nursing and caring, only to get up and do the same all over again, but sleep-deprived?!  Nursing every couple hours? No major stretches of sleep? It really did stress me out!  It wasn’t like this new no-sleeping thing was going to hit me after a restful period in my life. The couple months before having the girls I mostly slept propped up or on the couch because of the weight and discomfort.  I dreaded the idea of being exhausted all day, eyelids burning and drooping while alone with the girls!  Why not just sleep when the girls sleep?

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I didn’t like the idea of sleeping the day away and promised myself that as soon as I felt OK, I would try to have normal schedule. You know, shower, cook, go out and see people, maybe take a nap here and there…which I definitely did do once and awhile!

Better than coffee though was this dream: I had imagined that I could pump milk and others would feed them at night. Oh, yes, that’ll be great. We’ll take turns! Ha, the reality was quite different.  I had to nurse and pump (stored bags and bags of milk for months and months) because of an over-supply of milk, so no bottles and nighttime sleep.  Will write more onproblems with breastfeeding later… Having said all that and now making it nearly impossible to believe, I slowly looked forward to the nighttime and I am not just saying this in retrospect!

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It must have something to do with those prolactin hormones (which apparently relax you), but it was pretty easy getting up in the middle of the night, most of the time.  Stephen and I would have sweet talks about the girls, finish conversations from the day before or even start some that had taken the back burner. Many nights we just watched them and smiled…all in that soft, quiet, not- so intense sleepy nighttime.  It afforded us time to let THIS SINK IN. We are parents. We have two babies. We are up in the middle of the night taking care of two babies and one is laughing at us!

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It was our little cocoon complete with quiet and stillness that only comes around at 3 am. It was dim and warm and without the need for shades on our windows, we got to watch the beautiful, dark sky all those wonderful hours. Sometimes there was even snow in the early morning.
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We were close with each other, with the girls and it was just our little world with Nicolette Larsen singing in the background (and soon us in unison). Larsen’s Welcome to the World Lullaby
We were happy with those nights and as I said, I really looked forward to them. It was a whole new day for us, in the middle of the night and it was so much more precious than the other hours because it was just ours.  Occasionally, Stephen would sleep through some nursing sessions, but mostly he did help with the diapers, swaddling, getting me more water. I like to think that even if we had had 1 baby, he would have been up with me, with us.  A lot of people would ask me, but doesn’t he have to get up for work?  I tried to find gentle ways of saying, yes and me too.  I don’t know why my day of caring for two new human beings was not “work.” Not only was he sharing responsibility, but it really was a beautiful opportunity for us–just the 4 of us to share. Like this beautiful furry arm in the morning.

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People have said, oh you get up because they’re your children! I’m not convinced.  I can barely wake up now when they cry in the middle of the night. Once I started to get some decent sleep and nursing was cut back, an unspoken agreement set in- I can’t get up anymore. I sleep SO heavy and can barely get up in the morning after 8 hours, let alone for a crying baby after 2 or 3…Which by the way, has been happening a lot around here. I have been told (since I can’t get up to save my life) that Arlene is crying in the wee hours, standing in the corner of her crib with all of her “stuff” thrown on the floor. She just wants to be put back to sleep and Stephen does this and then mumbles the storyline to me as he falls back asleep…

:: Writing about the nighttime came to me a few days ago.  As Nicolette Larsen’s voice came on the ipod, I was overcome with nostalgia. Oh, Nicolette! With an album cover you just can’t judge (because what is inside, is just wonderful and sweet and perfect), it is full of beautiful heartfelt songs for babies. Ah, those first few notes just grabbed me so unexpectedly! Emotionally and physically it swept me away from the present to a time not so, but so, so long ago! Her voice and that all too familiar music brought me back a couple years to the first few months after the girls were born. Specifically to the months of nights, where we often joked we got to “spend more time together” because there was a lot of time…together all those dark hours in the nighttime with our two babies. There was nursing, soothing, changing, cuddling, and listening to Nicolette Larsen. We played that album over and over. If it was near the end by the time Stephen and I were going to go back to sleep, he’d start it over from the beginning. It soothed us all. I can’t really seem to listen to it without being THERE and even the girls take on an distant look when she comes on…IMG_0101IMG_0007 - Copy


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breastfeeding twins

breastfeeding twins

While the reality of “pregnant with twins” changed some of my plans and expectations, it did not change the goal of breastfeeding. In the middle of my pregnancy I started to familiarize myself with breastfeeding. I read up on breastfeeding twins–from the technical aspects (which didn’t make much sense to me having never breastfed) to the health implications, especially for twins who could very well be premature. I found a lactation consultant who had coincidentally breastfed twins herself! I took a lactation class. While it didn’t really prepare me, it continued to familiarize me with breastfeeding and inspire me–I could do this, right!? I connected with La Leche League,  an international organization which educates and supports breastfeeding. Here is a link about nursing twins on their site: breastfeedng twins FAQ

Suddenly breastfeeding becomes something to consider, like anything else, and in reality, most of us have not had much exposure to breastfeeding moms. Yet, we’re expected to know and understand it because it is “natural.” Nursing my babies was an important goal, yet I had ZERO experience with other women nursing their children.  I wanted to nurse because it was a much healthier option, a way to be intimate with my 2 babies, and essentially free! So, familiarizingmyself with the culture of breastfeeding was extremely important…it gave me a sense of what was to come.  Of course, nothing can ultimately prepare you for what is to come! You have to imagine it and see it working out positively and then just wait for that moment when your baby/babies come around and you give it a try! Having a supportive and informed spouse there by your side is also essential.

Once you start breastfeeding, it is important to maintain the support so that you can reach your goals. My first goal was to see where it would go as long as I could, maybe a few months. That changed into 6 months and then a year. In the early months, I found it inspiring to remember that all they really need is to have a few basic needs met. In the beginning it is all about being close and feeding them. Oh and a few diapers! Nursing them does 2 in 1 easily & with twins, at the same time! Holding, loving and feeding! No bottles to clean up later.

I found going to La Leche League meetings extremely helpful. Those first few months, most of what I did was nurse two babies every 3 hours! To sit around with a  group of nursing  or experienced nursing women and nurse was soooo nice. It normalized the whole experience and felt wonderful to connect with other nursing moms, along all various stages.

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and wonderful cuddles afterward!

Some must-haves:

  • Information ~ books, class, La Leche League meeting calendar
  • Lactation consultant ~ I recommend connecting with a consultant before you have your baby/babies either through a class or call. This way, when you need her, you already know her and she knows you!
  • A nursing set-up ~ I did get a twin nursing pillow (very helpful), nursing tank and bra or two…Since you don’t know what size you will be after birth, I found a couple nursing tanks really useful. In the end, I just wore my regular tank tops and just slipped a side down…
  • A pump and the accessories ~ I rented mine from the consultant. Since I was really motivated, I wanted to have the pump at the hospital to pump if the girls didn’t nurse right away. Both did within an hour of their birth and I still pumped hoping to bring my milk in faster, which it did!
  • Support ~ Breastfeeding is demanding, challenging, and new! It is also hard to continue in the face of “easier” options like formula. Having your partner be involved and supportive (in the education and importance) of it will help.
  • Forgiveness/Sense of humor  ~ Since breastfeeding is demanding and most of us experience our share of tears and frustration, it is very helpful if you can be easy on yourself as much as possible. I had to have someone help me with this!

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Having help when I  nursed them one at a time (or anytime for that matter), was great. Thanks KR!

There’s more to write on this topic for sure. I am so grateful I nursed as long as I did and really, it goes by so fast! Now I have 2 year olds and it seems like forever-ago that I nursed them! I wanted to continue after a year, but faced some problems and had to be realistic about the quality of my life and their life. It was time to move on. It was a really beautiful and special time that I shared with my girls and my husband. I wouldn’t change anything about those sleepless nights or demanding days…and that is the truth.