Mamahood

Daughters

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I have few memories of Octave being a still baby, even as a newborn. In hindsight I can see that the lack of memories has less to do with my memory and is more telling of her little spirit. Her energy was and still is big, loud, and kinetic. I can so clearly see and feel her desire to do more, see more, say more, feel more, give more, take more, be more.  So. much. more.  Her rest is seldom, both literally and figuratively.  Just her presence, let alone her words, beg me to dig deeper than I’ve ever dug and to see myself clearly.  She rocks me, shakes me, and leaves me upside down before she asks me to arrive at my fullest potential, every.single.day.  She is my mirror, my joy, my teacher of patience. This is such a beautiful blessing but usually after it is unflattering, hard and messy. I am most certain she heard me preach to the world all those years ago just how much I LOVE being taken out of my comfort zone, because that is exactly what she does almost every hour of every day. But oh how she melts me. She melts my heart deep and wide, making herself at home in the most untouched spaces inside these bones. No one can soften me the way she can, truly no one.

Bijou is only nine months old but her differences are obvious, even from the most oblivious passerby. When she was growing inside my belly I could feel her little spirit already teaching me something different from her sister. She came earth side and those words I swore I heard her whisper in my womb, became a little louder but only loud enough for the most steadfast ears. She is present, and rooted, exuding a comfort that I never knew until I knew her. She doesn’t question or ask much of me, she just looks into the deepest place she can find and wants me to stay there with her. Her spirit feels so familiar that when I look deep into her eyes I feel like I have known her my whole life. Yet sometimes I feel like I don’t know the first thing about her. She is equal parts mystery and transparency.

I’ve been told to be careful how I talk about and compare my daughters differences. Surely I understand and want to be sensitive, yet I can’t help but find it to be more helpful than harmful.  I think it would be lovely to be a grown woman reading words your mother wrote about you from the moment she first met you.  I think it would be empowering to look back over your life and see how some traits were so uniquely you, even from day one. I think it would be positive to teach your children that their differences are celebrated and needed, not only inside a nuclear family, but in this world.  But selfishly this sifting, organizing, and reflecting is good for me too.  I feel the need to articulate and understand how and why they grow me. It’s important for me to express that just because one might make me more uncomfortable or stretch me to my max, does not mean that I value and love her any less than the one who holds my hand right where I am at. Their differences are what I need, and even more, what the world needs. These girls are my daughters, but I am forever their student. It is from them I am learning the most complex, heart wrenching, visceral love I have ever known. Every morning I see my life lessons laid before me inside my bottomless cup of steaming truth, but I’ve only begun to take my first sip.

Maple Christmas Cookies & Mamahood

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Last week I took the only bus in Casper, (that looks like a resort shuttle,) to the dentist.  It took an hour to get there, and an hour to get back.  This means that with travel time, and dental work, I had about 3 1/2 hours all to my lonesome.  I brought my favorite Ina May Gaskin books, but I couldn’t read because motion sickness got the best of me.  So I sat, and I looked out the window, and I let my thoughts take over.  Rarely do I get the opportunity to truly be alone, and revel in my thoughts.  Sitting on a bus brought back sweet memories from some of the most formative years in my life.  Taking public transit made me feel young, and alive, and ready to grab onto life again.  Even in Casper, Wyoming, a silly little shuttle bus, with a bus driver who will stop in route, (at what appeared to be a random house,) for coffee creamer, has potential to flood my memory, and bring me back.

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I remembered the time I was on a bus, in the middle of no man’s land, Croatia with Jasmine, while a chicken sat directly behind us.  A chicken!  I remembered many long days of dancing in NYC, followed by slightly, and sometimes not so slightly, boozy nights(usually margaritas), poetry, and real talk.  I remembered convincing Jasmine and Adrienne to hold hands with me in the middle of union square, and scream at the top of our lungs, at the completion of our year-long professional program.  I remembered my roommate and dear friend Jess, getting terribly annoyed at my constant theatrics, and inability to go to the bathroom with the door shut.  Living life in a few hundred square feet with my complete opposite expanded my heart and mind to levels I never knew were possible.  I remembered standing in gold sparkled Toms on the day I vowed forever.  I remembered that just before Christopher got an unexpected job offer in Denver, I had started my own massage practice in NW Portland.  I forgot that just a year before I met Christopher I was researching where I wanted to study chinese medicine, specifically acupuncture.  I dreamed of China.  I still do.  I remembered standing on a mountain top in Italy, while I shaved my head, and cried tears of joy, because I had just faced one of the few things that scared me.  I remembered improving to Ani Difranco’s “Joyful Girl,” on stage, and under the stars that night with my newly shaved head, exposed for all to see, and scared shitless about what I might just do next.  I remembered taking a 34 hour train from Oslo to Budapest because I read in a European dance magazine about an audition that sounded like my dream opportunity.  I arrived to find myself awkwardly placed between perfect hungarian ballerinas, the only one without ballet slippers, and a few extra traveling pounds.  I was cut within minutes.  I cried, I laughed, and I drank a lot of espresso.  I missed Hannah so I flew to London.  I missed Chandrae so I flew to Los Angeles.  Then I ran out of money, so I flew home.

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I remembered that living in the moment has always been my thing.  Caution to the wind, was always my motto.  So after all these flash backs I started to wonder where this woman went.  I have a husband who fell fast, and hard for these qualities, and I have a daughter who shares a deep enthusiasm for life, and by her toddler nature, has no choice but to live in the moment.  My closest companion, and dearest friends love me for exactly who I am, the spontaneity, the messiness, and all.  So I’ve been asking myself, where did I go, and why?

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I read this post, from a blogger I love, and admitted something about myself that I had not ever recognized, or perhaps have been too afraid to admit…

I love being a mama, but becoming one has not been natural for me.  I didn’t always dream of having children.  Not because I thought I didn’t want them, but I’ve always been so lost in the present that I hardly ever day dreamed about the future until a few seasons before my heart and mind were ready to embrace a big change.  So while I adore this role more than any other role I’ve known, it has not been natural, and I have carried guilt for feeling this way.  This guilt has quieted my intuition, and taken away my confidence.  I have agreed with hundreds of other women who appear to have it together and seem to know more than me.  I hear things like, children need rhythm, children need consistency, children need…fill in the blank.  It’s all rather overwhelming, and so I’ve assumed that they were probably all right.  Octave may or may not need consistency or these things people claim, that is not the point.  The point is that I recently realized that I’ve projected my own needs on Octave.  I am the one who has needed structure, and consistency, and this has been a fairly new need for me.  When something doesn’t come natural, you have to work extra hard at it.  With that hard work, and maybe out of survival, I’ve replaced spontaneity and freedom, two qualities I’ve known well, with structure and consistency, while all along telling myself this was good for Octave.

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Octave is intuitive, and she is smart.  I believe she has sensed this all along, and she buts heads with me most when I work against myself and my better judgement. It’s as if she is trying to remind me of who I really am, and is asking for the real me to be her mama.  She needs me, my inconsistency, and all.  She needs my mess, and vulnerability.  She needs that Mama who will sing, dance, laugh and cry, whenever the moment arises.  She needs to see me admitting that I have no idea what I am doing.  She needs to knows that most of the time I feel too young and immature to be telling someone else what to do.  I want to guide her, and teach her, but I just can’t get behind being a super strong authoritarian, it is just not me.  When I explain myself and reason with her, which contrary to popular belief TOTALLY WORKS for me, she responds really well.  That may not work for others, but this is my style, it’s who I am, and Octave knows that.  When I explain the who, what, when, where, and why, even to my almost two-year old, I see major progress.  When I parent with my heart and guts, she believes me, I believe me, and we are both much better off.

I’ve doubted myself because I have not ever seen my ideals played out, because I don’t have an example for the type of mother I want to be.  That probably sounds like I have a stressed relationship with my own mother, but that is quite the opposite.  I have an incredible mother, who I have always been very close with.  She has always given me room to be exactly who I am, without judgement.  My mom was my biggest supporter for moving to NY at 18 and or following my wanderlust, learning about different religions, or whatever else I was curious about, and questioning social norms.  She’s always supported me, even when I came home with a shaved head!  Nothing was ever too much for her, or at least she did a good job at biting her tongue.  With that said, I have many examples of great women, and mothers in my life, but I have danced to a different drum most of my life, and I always thought I would parent the same way.  I have bits and pieces I can adopt from my own mother, but ultimately, I am still very different from her, and will do things very differently.  Not out of spite, but simply because I am not her.  And while paving a new path alone has always given me a high, I will admit that with another little human, it is kind of scary.

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Deep down, I just want to just be me, a messy, inconsistent, confused, spontaneous, present, laid back mother who loves her daughter fiercely.  It’s taken almost two years to realize that this is what Octave needs and wants too.  In the last few weeks we’ve turned over a new leaf.  Last week we wore helmets, and danced on wet pavement outside of Target, simply because she asked me to dance with her.  She always asks “mama dance,” at the least opportune time, but for a feeler ready to smash her face back into life again, her timing is impeccable.  Later, we laid down together right in the middle of the snowy sidewalk because there were squirrels to watch, and were we really in a hurry to just get home and sit?  These are little things, and yet they are everything.  No agenda is more important that what life brings when out eyes are open and our hearts are ready.  These past few weeks, I’ve been available for what each moment may bring, and this is me to the core.  I am finding my very own rhythm, and I am trying not to be afraid of my inconsistencies.  I am trying not to parent in fear. Sigh(deep.)

This little lady of mine…I have so much to learn from her.

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Maple Sugar Cookies

Makes 2 dozen (depends on size)

2 1/3 cup spelt flour*+ more for rolling out

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 egg, at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Favorite cookie cutters

Sprinkles

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces full fat cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla extract

* All purpose works fine too.  I prefer using spelt in place of white flour and prefer its taste and texture over whole wheat, which tends to be super heavy.

Directions: In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In a stand mixer or large bowl, if using a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add maple syrup, egg, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Slowly add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Divide dough in half and place in a large piece of plastic wrap.  The dough will be slightly sticky still but it will work well once it is refrigerated.  Wrap in plastic, making sure dough is completely covered, using your hands press down to create a small square.  Let rest in fridge for 2 hours, but overnight is best.

Preheat oven to 350.  On a floured surface, roll out dough to be 1/8 inch thick.  Cut dough into desired shapes, and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  This will vary depending on the size of your cookie cutters, so watch carefully.  Let cookies cool before frosting.

For the frosting, beat together cream cheese, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Store in the fridge until ready to use.  Garnish with your favorite sprinkles.

 

What I Do All Day…

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I did not grow up in a culture where food was celebrated.  Food was something I did or did not eat and was the reason for me feeling frustrated while standing in front of a mirror in pink tights and a leotard.  Most teenagers ate chips and lounged in sweats after their nightly sport or activity.  My reality was much different and it felt like food had the ability to get in the way of my biggest dreams.  There was a huge disconnect because I had never watched food grow.  I had never seen food transformed. I had never handled a root from the ground and made it into something new with my very own hands, or even watched my family do this.  Food was far from me, even when I was in the process of eating.  In fact I hardly even ate dinner around a table, slowly and with the people I loved.  Don’t worry, I had a great childhood.  I was just always at the dance studio, eating my meals in the car or the studio lobby.  I wanted this lifestyle and I had parents who supported it.  I would not have wanted them to do anything different, because I would have been devastated reducing my five nights a week of dance to two or three.  However, in the last few years I have felt the need to re prioritize my life, with the most basic things, like food, being held to a higher standard even when our culture does not embrace or encourage this.  It is nothing new to say our culture thrives off of quick fixes and short cuts, quantity over quality and getting the biggest bang for our buck.  We spend more money and time on dressing and fussing over the outside before nourishing the inside.  In a world that just gets faster every day, I deeply crave to slow down and take the long route.  My experiences in Italy greatly influenced this area of my life, making it the center, the foundation and teaching me that it is not too bold to schedule your life around food rather than fitting food into your life.  I have been convicted and encouraged, realizing that God gave me this body to take care of and how I treat it is a symbol for how I feel about the One who created it.

Being a Mama and having my own family, I have the chance to create a new rhythm and a culture where food is celebrated. This has been one of the greatest desires for my family.  Although Octave is only 13 months old, she is already learning about our family rhythms, especially when it comes to food.  My hope is that she see’s me celebrate and enjoy food.  If she see’s me prioritize my time by preparing food for our bodies over the internet, tv and running busy errands, she will understand the importance without me ever saying a word.  I hope it is something that will not  have to be taught because it will be second nature.

I also want Octave to have memories of a fragrant kitchen.  For her to remember her childhood in scents, tastes and textures. I want her expectations to be high, and for her to crave real, whole, nutritious food.  I want her to remember her childhood when she is in the kitchen, sustaining and giving life to her own family, if she desires to have one.  It doesn’t matter whether she loves to eat or cook as much as I do, that is not the goal.  I just want her to understand how foundational food is.  For her to not stress over what goes in her body because she knows the food she eats is healing and lovely and too much fun to worry over.  It took me too many years to not worry over food. To not make lists of what I should and should not eat.  To not calorie count and feel guilty about things I ate that didn’t fit into my silly numbers.  In my early twenties I learned that numbers are nothing, but ingredients are everything.  That was just the beginning.

All of these words were inspired by the question I often get asked.  What do I do all day?  It doesn’t offend me one bit because I am curious what other people do all day too.  It’s a good question.  It just seems like being a stay at home mom is kind of counter cultural these days.  It’s almost as if society is waiting for you to get a real job.  Staying at home with Octave is a blessing.  It is my joy and my life, not a job.  In between playing with her, reading the same book five times over and jumping on our bed, (yes we do that!), I am in the kitchen.  Just this week I realized that what I do all day can be put into a sentence.  What I do all day is love on my babe and create a home where food is celebrated.  I probably won’t say that when people ask, that just sounds kind of strange and pompous without the back story.  But, it is true.  That is what I do all day, and I am beyond grateful for the ability to be able to do so.