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Farm Fresh Road Trip

Six kiddlets and one mama heading up to Chicago area for Independence Day weekend.
Minute 1: tan I have a snack now?
Minute 7: it takes a wong time to det to Gigi and Opa’s.  (Repeat every 2-3 minutes) 
Minute 11: pass out multiple “pixie cups” of cheddar popcorn accompanied by threats of being tossed out the window if you spill any
Minute 20: wait for train
Minute 30: Burger King drive through
Minute 36: I’m hungry, tan I have a snack now? 
Minute 49: enter expressway with very minimal exits and much construction and no shoulder
Minute 53: air conditioning starts blasting heat. Even shutting off fans does nothing to stop it. Roll down windows, hope for the best. There is NO WHERE to pull over. 
Minute 58: three year old, red in the face and exquisitely in pain begins scream crying “top on the side of the road to doe peepee and poopoo!!”
Minute 59: thankfully see a sign declaring we are not far from the only exit for another 35 miles because there is no way to pull over in the construction and traffic 
Minutes 59-65: Hold it baby, can you hold it? 
Big brother: just pee in your seat! Hahahaha!!
Minute 60: Nine year old, red in the face and exquisitely in pain begins scream crying, because of a leg cramp
Minute 66: baby wakes up.
Minutes 66-80: Take kids into gas station by turns. Deny requests to buy fireworks, toy cars and snacks. 
Minute 85: return to tollway. 
Minute 86: I’m hungry. May I have a snack? 
Minute 87: is it my turn with the kindle yet? 
Minute 88: miraculously, shutting off Suburban has fixed the heating issue, at least temporarily, and air conditioning works once again and we can roll up the windows.
Minute 88-120: negotiations for Kindle turns, drinks of water, much conversation and laughter and “It take a wong time to det to Gigi and Opa’s house”: arm in backseat stroking baby’s head
Minute 100: Cadrian gave Denton the Kindle so he could play Math V. Zombies, but only after he used up all the bullets so poor five year old had to do too hard of math problems for him in order to get more bullets. For some reason this made me laugh hysterically. Aviana to the rescue–provided him with a well stocked arsenal.
Minute 115: finally stop laughing. Hysteria  may have other sources… 
Minute 121: let boys in third row have popcorn bag
Minute 121:30: uhoh!–the popcorn dropped all over the floor and seat
Minutes 122 continued: feverishly feed baby grapes to keep her quiet. She bites into them, eats their guts,  spits out the outsides. Don’t care. At least she’s not crying.
Minutes 123 continued: everyone gets louder and louder the heavier the traffic gets and the closer we get to our destination. 
Minutes 125 and on: Jokes like: why did the cow cross the road? To get to the other side. Why did the calf cross the road? Because he was nursing his mama
Minutes 126 and on: Brielle texts my friends with video of crying baby. And texts whomever will text her back
Minutes 127 and on: children wave exuberantly at fellow drivers and shout things they thankfully (hopefully) can’t hear like “hey lady! You’re fired!” 
Minute 140: notice phone battery (and therefore GPS directions) is getting dangerously low. Charger in a bag in the way back. Carry on bravely. 
Minute 145 and on: childish jabber noise and intermittent baby fussing accompanied by the constant pinging, baaing, and general noise of Elivette’s Todo Math game 
(Don’t forget the “it takes a Wong time to det to Gigi and Opa’s house!” Every few minutes)
Minute 183: ARRIVE AT DESTINATION 
Now it’s “how wong befowre Uncwle Torydon dets hewre?”
Clean out popcorn, grapes, at least half a pint of blueberries,  and an entire garbage bag of trash. 
Ahh. We’re here. 

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Stitch Fix #2

Stitch Fix is my favorite. I did my first Fix six months ago and liked all the items I received. I felt so pampered. Retail shopping is something I rarely, if ever, do and Stitch Fix fits nicely into my life. 
You fill out a form to let them know what you like, about your lifestyle, and preferences in color and items. Having a fashion Pinterest board is helpful so your stylist can get an idea of what your tastes are. (Here’s mine: http://pin.it/KfI3CjD
I was excited that I got two referral bonuses to use ($25 each) and in addition if you keep all five items they choose for you, you get 25% off! 
It costs $20 as a styling fee, but if you keep an item, you get it taken off your order. These items averaged $30 after the discounts. 
Now with the basics out of the way here’s what I got:
Elaine Ikat Print Pocket Front Knit Tee
I would never have picked out either the color or the pattern, but I really like it. It’s extraordinarily soft and will dress up if I want. The light color is more of a light blue than is showing in the picture.
Banzai Twist Detail Top

This is a dressier fabric that I would worry about spilling on or the kids goobering, so this is strictly a going out of the house shirt. I don’t own anything green either, so I am surprised how much I like it. The twisty neck is a fun detail, and I could still wear a necklace with it. 
Montgomery Cross Front Top

This is a knit fabric, also incredibly soft and, I think, quite flattering and nursing friendly

Halle Printed Flare Skirt

I really love this skirt. It’s got a vintage feel in both feel and pattern. I have one almost like it with polka dots. It has the unfortunate flaw of being a bit too snug and not having an elastic waist. Since having all these kiddos, I am all about the elastic waist. I may alter it so it’s more comfortable, because it is definitely not an all day item as is. 

Sam Hi-Lo Short Sleeve Tee

This shirt, again, is amazingly comfortable and so soft! I’m quite tactile so that matters to me quite a lot. It is a good basic piece and a lot higher quality than what I am used to wearing. 
However, it is not very forgiving. Here is what it looks like with the wrong pants and wrong bra.

If I keep all five items, the discount basically lets me get 1 1/2 of them for free. And as an added incentive, I don’t have to go to the post office! 
 What do you think? Would you keep them all? I need to decide by Saturday. (You have five days to decide, I just couldn’t get the pictures taken and the post done right away.)
If you decide you want to try Stitch Fix, I’d be honored if you went through my link: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/6383365
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Gentle Parenting in a Big Family

I first became committed to Gentle Parenting–parenting without threats, spanks, yelling, anger–three years ago. We always have been Attachment Parents–breastfeeding, baby wearing, cosleeping are a few of the tenets–, but  I didn’t understand Gentle Parenting or Peaceful Parenting, or how it could possibly “work”. I even joined a Gentle Parenting board and tried to learn more, almost a decade ago, but it was not a good fit at the time.

Gentle Parenting as described eloquently by L.R. Knost “is guiding instead of controlling, connecting instead of punishing, encouraging instead of demanding. It’s about listening, understanding, responding, and communicating.” It is a concious shift away from the way I was brought up, away from what everything in my body is demanding, away from the gut center of my brain.

Gentle Parenting is, I think, a bigger challenge for me than traditional parenting because it requires more from the parent. More thought, more emotion, more connection, just more. No matter how you parent, or how many kids you have, it’s hard, don’t get me wrong. When I had two little daughters and I was spanking, it was hard. Now though, I have to think more about why I’m being reactive and what is going on in my child and what is the behavior trying to tell me and teach them how to problem solve at the same time I’m trying to change a diaper and spell a word and give directives and help a child and there are six of them!

I follow several Gentle Parenting pages on Facebook and it seems like they all have one or two children. It feels frustrating because they offer their good solutions, and say things like “if you…then they will…” and it just doesn’t happen right away. The dynamics in a home with one or two children are very different than a home with several. I am dealing with teenagerish hormones at the same time I’m nursing a baby with four loud and active and strong children in between!

I don’t think I thought this “big family thing” through very well.

It is hard to coach a small child through their big emotions. It is hard when some kid is lying stiff as a board and mad faced in the middle of the floor when everyone else is following directions and  you know if you stop and help this kid through it, everyone else’s well oiled machine-ing will grind to a halt. It would be so much easier to say, “Fine. If you’re not going to clean up then no TV tonight.” Or “Fine. If you’re going to act that way, you don’t get to be with the family” and physically drag that child to the corner. I know this, because even though I’m committed to Peaceful Parenting, I’m not perfect at it. 
There is still yelling and still anger, and still fights and frustrations and upsets. The differences are dynamic though. Instead of angrily telling my child “You’re acting like a brat!” (yes. I said that.) I can now angrily say, “I am so angry right now! I feel so frustrated when you hit your sister! I need to calm down! (I take some deep breaths, and ask, more calmly)What can we do differently next time?” I am teaching my children important skills when I do this.
I see a huge difference in Aviana at 3 and Elivette at 3. Elivette knows she is respected as a human being and an integral part of our family. I thought I was showing the same sorts of things to Aviana, but because I punished her when she threw tantrums, didn’t allow her grace when she was angry or “disobeyed”, because I honestly thought I was doing what would teach her how to be a compassionate, loving grown up. 
Elivette and Aviana handle their emotions completely differently. Aviana, almost 12, has been ‘gentle parented’ for three years, but Elivette has known it this way her entire life. Aviana will sneak pinch or hit her sister when frustrated; Elivette will cry “I’m so mad!” and we’ll work through it together and let her feel those emotions and let them dissipate. Aviana is used to stuffing them down because they weren’t accepted for so much of her life. Elivette doesn’t really have tantrums, because she feels heard most of the time, and knows she’s accepted. Aviana threw tantrums of epic proportions. 
I know a lot of it has to do with personality and I know each child is different. I don’t want you to read this and think “I gentle parent and my kid still has fits. I must suck.” That is NOT what I’m saying! I just know this to be true in my own family–that I am seeing the fruit of this hard work of gentle parenting these lovely chiddlers, as they grow into compassionate, loving adults.
(As an aside, I was spanked, screamed at, belittled, criticized, hurt, and more, and I still grew up to be a lovely human being. This post is not meant to give guilt trips. At. All. I’m just trying to relate how positive of a change this has been in my family, and how I am seeing delightful things happening here. )
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Farm Fresh Family Update

Brielle and Finnella looking for books on CD

I haven’t blogged for six months! I have lots of good reasons/excuses, depending on how you look at it. But I miss it and I enjoy it and I am doing it for me, so I’m back! It’s hard to let go of expectations–like how blogging has kind of turned into article writing, and I don’t always (ever) have the brain space for an actual article, so I felt like I couldn’t compete. But with whom am I competing? And why!?

I’m learning a lot about myself and being a better self.
The Farmer: He’s busy with the farm as always. He’s got more cows than ever, and more feed lot cattle too. He’s putting up a lot of forage (hay, rye) for the winter and to hopefully sell. He’s working on spraying now. He does his best to take children with him whenever he can and to be home for dinner, or at least bedtime. As any working parent knows, it’s a challenge to be pulled in a lot of different directions, and with farming, you can’t leave your woes behind at the office, it’s always there. Staring you in the face. Glaring at you.
The Farm Fresh Mama: I’ve got my hands in a lot of different pots. I’ve gotten back into serving my community as a doula and love holding space for mamas so they can see their own power. It’s a beautiful, celestial calling.

I have more than doubled the garden this year. I’m doing Square Food Gardening and trying something new, Straw Bale Gardening. I don’t think my peas are going to make it, and will have to start over with them, but everything else looks good. I’ve gotten a new hobby of “planning”, which is writing my to do list and decorating it, and writing down what we did in quick bullet points in a composition notebook. It’s a fun segue between scrapbooking and keeping track of what I need to do on the backs of kids’ drawings. Writing “water garden” in my planner helps it actually get done. Funny how that works.

Finnella on Memorial Day

I’m doing something new with the boys for school, called Easy Peasy Homeschool. The woman who put it together did a curriculum for ALL THE GRADES, of activities to do with links added. It’s amazing she did this and I am so thankful. It eliminates the problem of never being able to find the book I need. It doesn’t matter how organized I am, there is always a missing book! They like being able to play games and be on the computer. 

I love homeschooling and seeing their successes and the delight for learning gleam.
Aviana: This child is almost as tall as I am and it blows my mind. She weighed as much as a bag of sugar when I brought her home from the hospital and now she’s looking me in my eye. IN MY EYE! She earned Memory Master again this year. I am proud of how she puts her mind to something and attains it. She’s going to be a seventh grader. She plays piano and earned a spot in a special recital for students who have been given a Superior rating three years in a row at festival. She took up violin this year too and we are putting her in orchestra at the junior high. I’m feeling nervous about that, almost like sending a child off to kindergarten!
Brielle: She’s as precocious and adorable as ever. She achieved Memory Master in Classical Conversations this year, as a nine year old. That is a big deal! She plans to do it the next two years and try for National Memory Master, which would put us on a cruise (and makes her my favorite)! I love how much she can do when she puts her mind to it! 
Cadrian; My sweet boy has grown so much this year! He is reading better than ever, helps me garden, and is our chief breakfast maker. He specializes in Toad in a Hole and oatmeal. He is amazingly thoughtful and kind to me (which is why he’s my favorite), and absolutely likes to stir the pot when it involves his siblings. 
Denton: He is learning right along side Cadrian and often feels shuffled in the middle. He’s sensitive and tough at the same time, the tough being a cover up for the sensitive. I wish people could see the sweet and sensitive easier, because it’s so easy to start off going toe to toe with him. I’m so thankful I discovered what Gentle Parenting really means before he ever got spanked (because he’s my favorite). It’s hard enough to figure out how to help him reach his full potential with the respectful parenting tools I DO have in my arsenal. He’s as bright as a brass button and full of his own ideas. 
Elivette: She is talkative and adorable and loves to say “Pwetty Pwincess Pwease”. She sports dresses all the time and often a tiara. She is smart as a whip and as thoughtful as you please. She has an amazing memory and astounds me with what she comes up with. Her three year old year has been so completely different than the older girls’ (probably because she’s my favorite). I can’t help but wonder how much my parenting shift has had to do with it. She 
Finnella (my favorite) has turned one! She has been taking some steps here and there. She loves being outside and in point of fact is sitting right next to me on the couch literally screaming at me because I am not taking her outside. I stood up with her just now and she stopped screaming. I took her outside and put her in the swing and she smiled. She knows what she wants and doggedly goes after it.She likes her swing in the tree the best, but will happily crawl around where ever we are. She doesn’t like the feel of the sidewalk or grass so crawls on one knee and one foot. She waves, babbles like crazy, and lets you know her needs, but doesn’t sign anything yet. 
One more thing that I wanted to mention is how vital my mama tribe has become. I have always had friends, but in the past couple of years, I have been given the gift of people who understand my heart and my very soul in a way I haven’t experienced. It has helped me become more like the person I’ve always wanted to be.

D, F, E, B, A and C and me on a hike at Starved Rock State Park
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Stitch Fix and more

Baby Girl, Sweet Fizzy Baby, is six months old now.

 I am starting to feel like I can do this thing, this mothering six souls thing. I am not crying every day any more and I am laughing. It feels wonderful to laugh again.

One thing that really helped is the Handsome Husband and I went on a short impromptu vacation to Las Vegas of all places. We went with another couple which just made it even better. The laughter! The being a person, not just a mom! The space in my brain!

Finnella and me waiting to go up in the High Roller

The Farmer, Finnella and Me at Hoover Dam

Just some farmers checkin’ out the big city.

I’ve also been having a hard time because I am still wearing maternity jeans and leggings all the time. I realize I’m 40 now and this is baby #6. I know that appearance isn’t everything. I know my heart and love and compassion matter more. I know all that, and yet it still bothers me that I went from my high school size pre-pregnancy to not even being able to fit into my “fat clothes” now, six months later.

I heard about Stitch Fix and thought it might help my self view a little bit to have some nicer things to put on this amazingly capable, mama strong body. I decided to join Stitch Fix because I never have time to shop for myself. I’m only just now leaving the baby with her dada for any length of time. Stitch Fix is an on line stylist/personal shopper. You fill out a detailed profile for yourself, noting what styles you like and any details you think would be pertinent, such as needing access to be able to breast feed, or a preference for no holey pants.

I also like that it’s completely free to join and there is no commitment. I signed up to just try one fix, although you can do it monthly if you want to. There is a $20 styling fee that you only have to pay if you don’t keep anything from your order. If you keep all five of the items they send, you get a 25% discount. Since I’m almost exclusively a Goodwill shopper, the prices are definitely high for me. I hardly have anything in my closet I bought new.

I got my first Fix on Tuesday, unfortunately when I was sick in bed and couldn’t even bring myself to open the box. I tried on the items yesterday and decided to keep all five because the discount was equivalent to getting one of the shirts free. One interesting thing about my Fix was that I wouldn’t have even tried on most of these items if I were in the store and saw them on the rack.

This is a navy asymmetrical cardigan and infinity scarf. The cardigan makes me appear to have a waist πŸ™‚ and the pop of pink in the scarf matches almost everything in my closet and keeps me warm.

This is a grey crochet inset shirt. The fabric is “nicer” than what I usually wear (nearly always tee shirt fabric). The cut isn’t super flattering but  I really like the details and the fancy feel of the fabric.

This is a charcoal extraordinarily soft tee shirt. Business up front, party in the back! It’s perfect for accessorizing with something, perhaps a bold necklace or a scarf.

I wasn’t too keen on a tank top in my December Fix, but I thought maybe I could wear it under a jacket or cardigan and I would be warm enough. My sister-in-law does this all the time, so maybe it will work for me too. Nevertheless, I can wear it in the summer because I love the scalloped hem, the gathering at the yoke, and the button detail in the back.

If Stitch Fix is something you would like to try, I’d love it if you used my referral link!
https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/6383365

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Birth prayer banner making written by Brielle, age 8

We have been making birth affirmations the past few days.the first day we made water color paintings with my mom, Rose Hains, and Lydia Hains.

then that night I wrote calligraphy on them.what?!?!?!?!?!?!? You say that’s NOT calligraphy?!?!? Ok fine. it’s not ACTUAL calligraphy, but My brain is Too tired to do ACTUAL calligraphy at the end of the day. Then that morning Brielle made them into banners.don’t you like the pattern? The thing is that we ran out of the white ribbon, THEN we ran out of the pink ribbon.

  We still have more to do. last night Brielle wanted to do more, but I said no.

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The Perfect Home Birth of Finnella Blessing

May 31: I had been getting more and more tired of being pregnant and trying different tricks that might get labor going for several days. Of course it was nothing drastic as my due date wasn’t until 9 June. When Kevin and I went to bed that night, he noticed I had a “piddle pad” a reusable thick cloth pad one could use for incontinence; we used them for changing pads for the wee ones. He was teasing me about it; but I pointed out that my water broke as my first labor symptom with Elivette and I wanted to be safe, in case that happened this pregnancy too, I knew only about 15% of labors start with breaking waters, but maybe it would bring me luck. Unfortunately, I’d been sleeping on it for several days too, and it had done nothing to start labor. πŸ˜‰

We had been in bed for a while, and were still in that drowsy awake stage of pre-sleep when suddenly, I felt a tiny “flick”, and boom: the precautionary mama cloth I was wearing, my pajamas, the piddle pad and the mattress pad were all soaked! Guess who was glad I had preemptively protected the mattress now!

I knew it could be a while before contractions started, but I went ahead and texted my midwives and the people who had promised to be in prayer for us, around midnight. I was excited and jittery and found it hard to get to sleep. I got a surprising number of replies too, which helped keep my mind calmer. I’m thankful for my night owl friends.

I woke up around 7 as usual, and no more signs of labor, just the occasional gush of amniotic fluid reminding me how I wasn’t laboring. By 10, I was starting to get resigned to the fact labor was not going to happen, and frustrated about it. My mother-in-law picked up the three youngest and the girls and I kept busy around the house. We went for a walk down to the lake about 1/2 mile from our house. It was pretty and peaceful and I would have stayed there most of the day if not for a heavily pregnant woman’s need to relieve herself frequently and the fishermen I wouldn’t want to see me do so. We trundled back to the house and relaxed a little.

At lunchtime, Kevin wondered if he and Aviana could drive a few hours to go pick up the milking LaMancha goat he found on Craigslist. I said they may as well, since I wasn’t going to have the baby. My midwife thought it was possible it wasn’t my actual amniotic sac that ruptured, but the forebag. She also thought that perhaps it wasn’t amniotic fluid at all, but pee. I was positive THAT wasn’t the case.  A friend,meaning to be helpful, bless her heart, told me she had gone to the hospital one day thinking her daughter would be born, and she wasn’t born for 17 more days. And my discouragement grew.

I posted on Facebook , “We aren’t having a baby, but we are getting a milk goat, so yay.” The support and solace my friends offered were bountiful. My photographer and friend, Kelcy, commented that there was still plenty of day left, and that made me feel a little better.

At 3ish, I felt a twinge of something. A dozen minutes later, definitely, something. I put the first birthing wave in my contraction app at 3:30. I texted my midwives again. Kathy lives an hour away and I’m not known for long drug out labors.  Sarah, my midwife’s assistant and friend and I chatted for a while. While we were going back and forth, my uterus amped up. Now the waves were about five minutes apart. I told her I would feel more comfortable if she were with me. She texted back, “ME TOO!” A little later she told me she would leave as soon as her husband got home from getting a chicken.

Meanwhile, Kevin was still 45 minutes away from home after picking up the goat.

Kevin got home eventually, and he started filling up the birth tub. Sarah arrived soon after, much to my relief.   Aviana felt strongly that JuneBug, the goat, needed milked then and there. Since I had the tub ready now, and Sarah was with me, I was ok with that. The contractions were coming right on top of one another. Getting in the tub spaced out the contractions so I was able to have some breath of a break; I was amazed at how the water helped!

During the time they were down at the barn, I had a contraction that was ‘different’, one that made me feel if Kevin and Aviana didn’t hurry up with that goat, they were going to miss Fizzy Baby’s arrival!
My good friend Karen arrived. She was here as support for the girls. We wanted someone to specifically be with them, in case of anything going awry especially. She was absolutely perfect in her role, and supported anyone who needed her. She and Brielle went downstairs to get some fruit ready to snack on. The watermelon tasted wonderful. It was the first time I had ever eaten in labor.

Close to 6, I told Sarah she had better tell Kelcy she had better come. She texted back, “I can see your house.”  I asked her if she would braid my hair, as it was starting to get wet and was all in my face annoying me.

It was such a peace filled, calm hour. Aviana tried to read some Baby Blues comics to me when Wanda was giving birth. It was amusing for a while, but quickly got to the point where I needed it to stop. I had some praise music playing. The birth affirmations were hung on the mantel so I could read them, and I would think of one when a birth wave came on, over and over again as a meditation.

 It wasn’t long before things started to intensify incredibly. A few days before, I had watched a mare give birth out in the open air. It was beauty to behold. She would get up, turn around a few times, and then lie back down again. I found myself sort of spinning around in the tub, and thinking of that mare.

 The mare was so composed and tranquil. I was starting to get noisier, but I felt like that mare. I never once felt scared or worried or out of control. With all of my other births, there was at the very least one moment, if not a whole scene, where I felt tumultuous.

A couple of times, as a birth wave crescendoed, I started to say “no” and then I caught myself and released myself into the passionate force of the moment. Being able to do that, being given the safe space, being surrounded by love and prayers, being completely mentally comfortable, was awe striking.

Soon, my birthing waves changed and my body needed to start pushing Fizzy Baby. There was no one moment of “Now, I shall push.” It was a gradual buildup and I didn’t really notice exactly when it was different. I never got checked to see if I was complete. No one told me what to do. Everyone just supported me and held me emotionally.

I had my hand on her head, and could feel as she began to come out into the world. This was a wonder-filled stage for me. I had never felt as in control before, so aware and internally calm.

I have seen several videos depicting the mechanics of birth (start watching about 1:40) and knew cognitively what was happening. Now I could feel it happening to my own baby, under my own guidance, under my own hand! I could feel her head molding. I felt her head turn and then her shoulders slide out, and then she was here!

 She didn’t even cry at first, just opened her eyes and looked at me, and gazed around at her new world. It was astonishing to see her be so peaceful and placid.
My legs started aching and shaking immediately after she was born, and I started whining about soon after that.  Somehow they managed to get me out of the tub, and into bed. There I delivered the placenta. Kathy assisted Aviana in its delivery. 
Finnella– heart–  placenta
 Brielle then cut the cord, and Finnella was forever her own person.
 We all fell immediately and irrevocably in love.

 Our phenomenal midwives.