I Could Have Slept All Night

September 26, 2014 by

giphyI’ve heard it often sited that sleep deprivation can have the same physical effects as intoxication. This factoid is usually told as a cautionary tale to cross country truckers. Its only been recently that I’ve heard the same tid bit applied to new parents.

Months of broken sleep totaling less than 6 hours total means most parents of newborns are walking around legally impaired.

Maybe this explains why baby Ugg boots are a thing.

While the physical toils go uncontested, little is made of the psychological effects of so many restless nights. What happens to a person sitting night after night in a dark room, rocking and humming to a semi-sentient creature?

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Song parodies of course!

This is my most recent accomplishment. You can decide if picturing Audrey Hepburn is a help or not.

I Could Have Slept All Night

I could have slept all night

I could have slept  all night

and still have slept some more

.

I could have closed my eyes

and dreamt a thousand things

I’ve never dreamt before

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I only know if she

wouldn’t have screamed for me

I could have slept

slept

slept

all night

So don’t worry about us parents. We’re just up all night rockin’ to the rhythm of our own insanity. But seriously, though, if you see us driving with that “baby on board” sticker, it may just be best for you to leave a little extra space. We really can’t be held responsible for what we may or may not do on less than 6 hours of broken sleep.

Quick Fall Decorations

September 26, 2014 by

We’ve had nearly a week straight of less than 100 degree temperatures!! While part of me is sad to see the peak of hurricane season come and go so quietly, a larger part of me is relieved things are finally cooling down. The first day of cooler weather, I walked outside with the kids to play in the yard and just took a deep breath and said “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have survived another Louisiana summer.”

Less humidity is invigorating. Immediately my thoughts turned to crisp weather and the holidays and of course I wanted to decorate! At this point in life, seasonal decorations have to come cheaply and easily. I can’t really pull out extensive craft supplies to work on a 3 hour project, nor can I spend $50 on a single wreath. But it’s still fun to decorate and change the house for a new season, even if it’s not Better Homes and Gardens perfect. So here are some of the things I’ve done around the house for fall!

fall shelvesThe easiest decorations to make are ones for sale at the store ;) There are some beautiful things out there, but the often cost a lot. Or at least what seems like a lot to me. I went to the Dollar General and picked up these things. The leaf tile I bought at JoAnn’s last year at their after season sale. All told, I spent around $10

The rest of our decorations are pretty much Dollar Store crafts. I got these three large felt shapes and simply hot glued them together. I laid the center leaf on top of both of the side pumpkins. Voila, a table runner!

Table runner

Evangeline and I made these pumpkin garlands to hang in front of our two windows in the dining room. It would have taken me 5 minutes, but it took a little longer because I used it as a learning opportunity and let Evie do most of the assembly. These are foam pumpkin shapes from the Dollar Store. It’s hard to see in the picture, but some are plain and some are covered in glitter (Evie got to practice making patterns). Using a hole punch, I put two holes near the top, then Evie sewed a jute string through each one.

pumpkin garland

This last project was a little more involved, but just as quick. I saw this idea on Pinterest for using embroidery hoops to make little pumpkins. The original pin left the hoops plain and went for a natural and slightly more abstract look. I decided to make mine a little more animated looking. It takes two embroidery hoops to make one pumpkin — one outer ring and two inner rings. I made one large pumpkin and two small. You inner lock the two inner rings then slip them inside the outer ring and tighten the screw. I found the larger ring was easier to do; the wood of the smaller rings are thicker, but it worked just as well.

Embroidery Hoop Pumpkin

I painted the inside and outside of the rings in alternating yellow and orange. Once they were assembled, I cut brown stem looking pieces out of thicker construction paper. I bought a vine of fake leaves from the Dollar Store and using hot glue, I attached the stem as well as the leaves. My version takes a few more steps, but it does give a different look.

pumpkins

Are things cooling off where you are? Are you making any preparations for the fall season? The kids and I are starting on our Fall Gallery Wall in the dinning room. So be on the look out for new additions to that.  In case you’ve missed the others, we’ve done a Spring Gallery Wall and a Summer Gallery Wall too.

Writing the Opposite Sex

September 17, 2014 by

As soon as I possibly could, I read The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). It came as no surprise that I loved it! What I enjoyed the most was the character development of both Robin and Cormoran. This was partly because it makes me happy to see Rowling setting up for a continuing series (keep ‘em coming, J.K.!!). But also, Rowling has such a knack for writing complex, diverse and completely realistic characters; it is fun to watch them develop. After finishing The Silkworm, I spent a few days just absorbing the novel and allowing my mind to wander.

I noted how aptly J.K. Rowling can write characters of the opposite sex (hello entire male cast of the Harry Potter series). She’s able to write characters who think, process, speak and act in completely believable male ways. At the same time, her male characters are not stale or sterotypes. They are complex, well-rounded characters who develop through the story and display various virtues without being feminized. Each one unique to himself and not a copy of characters who’ve come before (save maybe Fred and George;) )

Of course this train of thought went off in many directions: are female authors as a group more capable of writing characters of the opposite sex? Is there some empathy more readily available to women to write a male character with depth? Are there as many equally complex and dynamic female characters written by male authors?

I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had thinking about this lately. I have had a continuing conversation comparing characters written by authors of the opposite sex. There are some obvious short comings to these comparisons: lead or iconic characters are less often female and as a whole in the western literary world, more authors are male. So by sheer numbers, it isn’t an apples to apples comparison. But I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the best characters written by authors of the opposite sex.

My criteria were: enduring characters who’s stories retain some level of popularity today, characters who are believable and realistic in their gender (thus showing apt skill of the author to write more than a simple characture), characters who have some real depth or complexity to them, not merely cardboard cut-outs.  I also eliminated characters based on real people or folklore since they lack complete originality from the author. So here goes the fun!

Most Notable Male Characters Written by Female Authors:

  • Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – Few male American characters have the strength of character and virtue prized in Atticus Finch. He is an enduring and beloved character both for his perseverance of conviction and his unconventional role as a father. He walks in both compassion and strength, an educated man who is a friend and advocate of the everyman. Atticus Finch is a man we would all be proud to know.
  • Rhett Butler from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind – In direct contrast to Finch’s still-water, easy-going character is Rhett Butler. Just as enduring of a character, Rhett is pretty much everything Finch is not. He is a fun-loving, self-serving, woman-wooing son-of-a-bitch who we all love. Margaret Mitchell reveals the true depth of Rhett Butler, however, many times. Yes he is a war profiteer, but his convictions also lead him to serve in the army. Sure he just wants to save himself, but Scarlett would never have made it out of Atlanta without his help. Bonnie. I’ll just leave that there. As we see Scarlett hardening through the war, Rhett softens. From the beginning, he sees through Scarlett’s facade and shrewdly knows her for who she really is. He opens himself for love and accepts responsibility all while retaining his virile rugged masculinity.
  • Albus Dumbledore from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series– Really I could have chosen nearly any male character from the series (Harry, Hagrid, Lupin, Lucious) but I’ve already gushed about how great of a writer Rowling is. When it comes to Dumbledore, what isn’t there to love? He is a brilliant mix of genteel strength, power and humanity. He is a man who craves power and prides himself on his intelligence. Yet there is a self-deprecating humility about him and a level of penitential self-control which keeps him on a narrower path than the likes of Voldemort and Grindlewald.  At the close of the series, Dumbledore’s many faults are revealed. These faults serve to humanize the great wizard and embolden the hero, Harry to ultimate victory. While I wouldn’t characterize Dumbledore as a father figure to Harry, I think it is safe to say without a doubt that their dynamic would be entirely different had Dumbledore been written as a female character.
  • Severus Snape from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series — I tried to limit myself to one Rowling character, but I think it would be a discredit to this list to leave off Severus Snape. Just thinking about the final revelations of Snape’s characters choke me up. Throughout the majority of the series, Professor Snape is simply a brooding bitter man with questionable allegiance. He hates Harry because he hated his father, he’s disgruntled in his job and he wears all black. Until, oh until, we find the true strength and loyalty of his character. Despite all the years, all the danger and all the heartache, Snape remains true to the memory of the only woman he ever loved. He protects her son at all costs and ultimately puts himself in such danger as to lose his life in order that Harry may proceed to victory.
  • Maxim DeWinter from Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca — I considered also Richard Grenvile from the same author’s The King’s General, but I don’t find him to be as enduring in the pop culture sense. Maxim is, to me, the epitome of  a haunted man. His brooding and sudden shifts of mood are terrifying while his passion and affection for his second wife melt your heart. DuMaurier perfectly writes the masculine version of a character haunted by guilt and ghosts. He turns inward, scared and ashamed of his secret until he snaps and lashes out violently. Only then to return to the Maxim his wife loves.

Men Written by Women

  • Honorable Mention:
    • Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice
    • Dr. Frankenstein from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
    • Ashley Wilkes from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind

Most Notable Female Characters Written by Male Authors:

  • Lady Macbeth from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth — Is there a female character with more depth or more complexity than Lady Macbeth? I think not. Themes of power, desire and ambition are common in Shakespeare’s plays, and in Lady Macbeth they are absolutely explosive. She laments and curses her womanhood, which keeps her from killing Duncan herself and achieving her ambition. Despite her woman’s breasts however, Lady Macbeth’s blood is thickened and her passage to regret is indeed stopped up. She is haunted by guilt and ghosts much like Maxim DeWinter, however, her’s is an entirely different path altogether. Never is there a story of more woe than this, of corruption and destruction upon Lady Macbeth’s soul.
  • Ophelia from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet —  You don’t get to be “The Bard” for nothing. Shakespeare’s dramas seem to be an exercise in “how many ways can a person be driven to madness?” While Lady M is the cause of her own crazy, Ophelia is driven mad by her lack of power and control. It is the sudden withdraw of those powerful men who kept her safe that lead her to her own end. Lady M is driven mad by her strength while Ophelia is undone by her weakness.
  • Blanche DuBois from Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Names Desire — Speaking of crazy. It would seem male authors are most apt at creating women whoare driven to insanity. Like Ophelia, Blanche is a woman who’s support is pulled out from under her. During her visit to her sister, she reveals the truth to her situation. She slowly looses her grip on reality while still trying to maintain the standards of her social status.
  • Irene Adler from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia — Not a crazy person. Or at least not in the same sense of the others on this list. Here is a woman bedecked with the highest praise and honor Sherlock Holmes can possibly allow. “The Woman”. Surely hundreds of pages can be written on Doyle’s choice of title. Irene Adler is not merely a female version of Sherlock Holmes. Rather she is a woman who is able to gracefully move through society while also possessing wit and intelligence to match Holmes. She carries herself with pride and gentility and is not easily undone or intimidated.
  • Hester Prynne from Nathanel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter The Scarlet Letter is an enduring story for many reasons, one of which is the unique take on shamed women. Hawthorne does not merely recreate a character of low morals who is caught in her debauchery and serves as a warning to others. When Hester becomes pregnant out of wedlock, she is immediately shamed by the community with a scarlet letter sewn to her dress. But through the story she bears her burden faithfully never seeking retribution or apology. She retains the love she has for the father of her child, without naming him and destroying his character along with hers. In this act she illuminates the inequality shown to men verses women who commit the same sin. She is a woman of strength, integrity and silent grace.

Women Written by Men

  • Honorable Mention:
    • Lisbeth Salander from Steig Larsson’s Millennium series
    • The Wife of Bath from Geoffery Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

I am perfectly willing to admit my lists may be flawed, especially the latter. During this exercise I realized I have not read many of the classic books with female characters written by male authors, namely: Anna Karenina, Lolita, Les Miserables or Sophie’s Choice. Also eliminating folk tale type characters did limit the second list greatly. There have been some male authors and poets who have beautifully breathed life into many females of the past. So there may be some big holes in the lists. But it was a fun thought experiment none the less.

Who makes your list? Which characters do you love who were penned by an author of the opposite sex? Do you think the sex of an author effects how well they are able to create characters of the opposite sex?

As Long as Hope Still Has it’s Bit of Green

September 11, 2014 by

Last year I posted “I never want to repeat a year like this last one.” At 26, I was optimistic. At 27, I am more realistic. My life is meant to change, yet not change. The more things change the more they stay the same. And, hey, maybe that’s just life.

When I wrote my birthday post last year, I had no way of knowing that in less than 2 months time we would be getting another surprise:

New Baby

And that set in motion another year that felt awfully similar to the year before and the year before. It’s like we got a little do-over but without the traumatic house-buying fiasco. But I suppose it isn’t fair to say things are the same. Things have certainly gotten cuter around here (and louder and smellier and …)

#'s 1,2&3 Baby of the Family Mama and Reuben

 

And little by little things are getting better. Genevieve has moved in with Reuben so Ryan and I have reclaimed our tranquil bedroom (minus the incessant baby monitor). The chickens have a full run now so our yard (and drive way and carport and patio) aren’t covered with poop). And look! We might get a tropical storm this weekend!

not reuben or genevieve...

Chicken Run

Twenty- six, twenty-seven, what’s the difference? We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again. And, as long as hope still has it’s bit of green, I’ll dare to say this again: I hope we don’t have another year like this last one. Maybe this year will be calm.

 

Ode to Nicholas Sparks

September 1, 2014 by

Kelli:

Yes indeed! Sometimes the best thing to set your mind to is a little bit of fluff

Originally posted on Tales of a Crazy Person:

In light of this very nice long Labor Day weekend, I thought I would start a new book.  When things get really tough for me I usually try to occupy my mind with simple things.  Sometimes that means watching Doc McStuffins on the Disney Channel and sometimes that means reading “fluff” books.  Fluff books for me are those that indulge my love of romance and a good story but does not necessarily require a profound meaning or even be that thought provoking. It may seem silly to waste my brain power on something so trivial but when life is so stressful on a daily basis a little bit of fluff is just what I need.

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I don’t care what anyone thinks but I LOVE Nicholas Sparks books.  Especially ones that have a movie.  Yea Yea I know…they all basically have the same plot: there is some sort of relationship that…

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Back in the Saddle

August 25, 2014 by

Thus begins our fourth week since Ryan’s returned to work. I had to check the calendar and count because it has all blurred together. The first day was probably the easiest because the kids were so shocked by my constant presence, they were on their best behavior. The novelty wore off by the second day.

Dad’s in charge this summer

Overall, however, things have been going better than I expected. As I laid in bed convalescing over the summer (read: dreading the end of Ryan’s vacation time) I started thinking of ways to make this postpartum transition easier than the last. I concluded that I need to be proactive about my own sanity. Keeping myself calm has become my new priority and that’s made for a few changes.

I’ve worked to get back into a routine around the house and so far I’ve been successful every other week (I’ll take it!). When Ryan was home this summer, and exclusively in charge of the oldest three kids, he managed to get them all to nap at the same time each day. I have become the protector of this schedule! Our days are much more structured and predictable now. What a relief! This also means that I have a better sense of what’s going to happen each day and can pick when the best time would be to do a craft, watch a movie, unload the dishwasher or exercise. A little bit of foresight goes a very long way.

We made a castle and royal family out of paper towel rolls and clothes pins!

Having a weekly schedule also helps keep me from becoming frazzled. The points in the day when the kids are occupying themselves without fighting are short and sweet. I have to be on top of my game if I want to complete a task before they notice I’m not hovering over them admiring every tower they build. When these times come up, I know what needs to be done. There is a lot less frantic bouncing between half done chores when I can say “ok, today is Tuesday; I just need to keep the laundry going and the bathrooms will wait until Thursday.” More importantly, it helps me find “me time” during the day. Rather than trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity, energy and willpower out of myself to do one more chore, I can recognize that what needs to be done for that day is done and I can (gasp!) sit down and relax. Hello sanity!

Some of the biggest changes, however, I had to make within myself. Come to find out, I’m a pretty uptight person. It only took 4 kids in 4 years to realize I need to loosen up a bit. The kids have areas in the house that are almost exclusively for their use. And I’m not so worried about keeping those areas pristine.  I’ve found that it doesn’t bother me too much to see a messy play room, backyard or hall bathroom and if the kitchen, living room and master bedroom are picked up and kept neat then I feel much calmer. I’m happy to let the kids play throughout the house, but I’ve become more protective of those spaces and make sure they get straightened up throughout the day. So when Evangeline eats her breakfast at the living room coffee table and somehow manages to get every pillow and blanket thrown on the floor amid her trash and dishes, I don’t freak out. I can better accept that where kids are, there messes are also. But when  breakfast \ morning TV time is over and she’s ready to move on to the next thing, she has to pick up the living room first. She can make the mess, but she doesn’t get to leave the mess.

Seriously, though, where do these blankets keep coming from??

This brings me to my second major mental unclenching:  allowing Evangeline more freedom. She is one of those toddlers who is too smart for her own good. Since she began walking, Evangeline has forced us into this very delicate tug of war. We want to encourage her personal growth and curiosity, but we don’t want to have to keep cleaning up the honey she climbed up on the counter to get off the top shelf and spill time and time again. I am trying to better direct her energy and skills. It is now her sole duty to check for eggs each day, a chore she delights and takes pride in. She is also able, willing and allowed to help fold clothes — something I never let her do before. She and Felicity are in charge of switching the laundry over. God bless a front loader! By loosening up just a little and allowing Evangeline more (guided) freedom, we’ve all been getting along much much better.

Big Helper

 

I’ve been enjoying my children much more. More often than before I have the feeling that I can do this. It’s exhausting and there’s no way around that. Genevieve is doing great, but not so great that she’s sleeping through the night and feeding herself during the day. Reuben is still the girls’ rag doll they carry from room to room despite his shrill whining. And big mama micromanaging hen, Evangeline, can’t take the hint when Felicity tells her to just leave her alone. But somehow amid the chaos we’re finding a little bit of order, a little bit of freedom and a lot of stories for the blog!

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How The Reading Goes

August 14, 2014 by

Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the old blog. I’m just going to plea newborn status and move on.

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So, we’re over halfway through the year and I figured it’s time for a little reading challenge update. Since I last updated in April, my book count has taken off. As of today, I’ve read 23 of 35 books and 6,692 pages out of 11,000.

Audiobooks have helped those counts a great deal while not adding much great substance. I have no shame though in admitting that I greatly enjoyed listening to back to back Nero Wolfe novels.

Speaking of goals, however, I have done very little to further my Southern works repertoire. Thanks to the magic of audiobooks, I’ve listened to A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Conner and The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I can’t recall much emotion following the completion of either of those books, but I’m at least glad to have them crossed off my list. Since reading those in early April, however, I’ve read nothing else Southern related. We’ll see if that bug comes back around to motivate me before the end of the year.

I have read some books that I’ve enjoyed including; The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch, The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Salinger Contract by Adam Langer The Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill and The Silkworm!!

I didn’t get into the Harry Potter fandom until after the books were all published, so I missed out on the anticipation and worldwide excitement for each release. Although Cormoran Strike pales in comparison to Harry Potter in the global scene, it’s been fun to be a part of the excitement. The second installment was a little grittier than The Cuckoo’s Calling, however it was a great read. Galbraith\Rowling included a considerable amount of character development in The Silkworm which makes me even more excited for this series to continue.

I am proud to announce I finished a non-fiction, non-audiobook! My brain has been moving so slow lately, it’s taken a lot of motivation to pick up a book. But Thomas Cahill did it again; he enraptured my attention in the 5th book of his Hinges of History series, The Mysteries of the Middle Ages. I read the first installment, How the Irish Saved Civilization, then skipped books 2-4 and picked up in the middle ages. Ryan enjoyed my reading this book, as I think it is one of his life goals to prove to the world that the 11th-13th centuries weren’t stagnant, oppressive bleak eras when people sat around waiting for the Enlightenment. For me, it was very enthralling and all mostly new. I feel I have a much better framework for how the lives of St. Francis, Thomas Aquinas and Dante fit into history, as well as new-to-me important figures such as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Giotto. I look forward to reading the next installment covering the Renaissance.

I haven’t set out to read book series, but I find myself in the middle of a few. In addition to Cormoran Strike and The Hinges of History, I’ve  also been following  The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The third installment, The Prisoner of Heaven was refreshing. The first two went from dark to darker so it was nice to have a slightly lighter story. Albeit not entirely a light and fluffy book. It has made me want to go back and re-read the first two as this book fills in a lot more history absent from the first ones. It feels like there’s a lot of discrepancy, but it may be that I’m not remembering everything correctly.

As for what’s next, I’m not so sure. I’ve been listening to a lot of TED Radio Hour episodes on NPR and have tucked away a few book recommendations. I’ll have to wait and see what our library has. I dare say we’ve had a pretty calm month. The school year has started again for Ryan, so I’m in the deep end of solo parenting 4 under 4. We’re trying to get back into the groove of a routine, or at least eating every day. Each day is a little bit different, just enough to keep me on my toes. If you don’t see me around here much, know it’s because I’m trying to survive and may not have time to document it.

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3 of the 4

Toddler Craft — Beach Scene

July 21, 2014 by

Our summer gallery wall is growing.  It’ll still be summer for a few more months, so we are getting our money’s worth out of these crafts. The girls got a special treat this summer and went with their grandparents to visit their aunt in Florida! This was their second encounter with the ocean, and it went over much better this go around. Beach theme and sea animal craft ideas are all over the internet, but it wasn’t until this past week that I figured out how I could incorporate some into our gallery wall.

We did this craft in two stages, mostly to spread out the art time to fill up two days. First we made the ocean scene, then we made the sea creatures.

Beach Wall Collage

Ocean Scene :

  •  1 Blue Poster Board
  • ~ 5 sheets of Sand Paper
  • 1\4 sheet of Green Tissue Paper
  • Glue Stick
  • Scissors

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I first cut a blue poster board in half, then went along the top cutting peaks that would be our “waves”. I glued these together so we had one long strip of blue “water”.

For the sand, I cut my sandpaper into about 2″ strips, then cut a wave patter on the top.  Evangeline covered the back of the strips with glue and Felicity stuck them down, running the full length of the bottom.

The “sea weed” are strips of green tissue paper cut in a wavy pattern, then glued into place.

Sea Creatures :

  • Small Paper Plates
  • Scissors
  • Paint \ Crayons
  • Tissue Paper (Optional)

There are thousands of ideas to make sea creatures out of paper plates, construction paper, toilet paper rolls anything you can imagine. I decided to do ours this way because I could cut the shapes out ahead of time and bring them out ready to be colored. Besides the crab shape, we didn’t have to add anything on to the paper plate. It was more of a one step craft for the girls. Sometimes that’s nice.

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I cut jelly fish, fish, star fish and crab shapes out of my small paper plates. For the crabs, I cut the claws out of scrap paper plate edges and used a dot of glue to attach them. I tried to make an octopus, but I just couldn’t quite make it work.

Evangeline (age 3) used makers and Felicity (age 2) used crayons to color the fish, star fish and crabs. For the jelly fish, I tore up pieces of blue, purple and pink tissue paper and the girls stuck them on using a glue stick. They just as easily could have colored them, but this was a little more fun.

* I thought I had googley eyes in our craft box,  but I didn’t. I may come back and add some on later because how fun are those? For the time being, I just colored black circle eyes. I saw an idea to use tin foil on the fish to look like scales. I came close to doing it, but at the last minute opted not to for no real reason at all. I still think that would look really neat.

Since the sea creatures are small paper plates, I was able to just run a glue stick along the backs of each and stick them on the poster board. Voila!

Ocean Scene

 

Ocean Scene (2)

Evangeline is having so much fun with this beach scene up on the wall. She goes under it and plays like she’s at the beach; she runs in front of it jumping over the waves. I think someone really misses the beach! I’m glad this craft is helping her hold on to the vacation dream a little longer.

Summer is so long and our wall is getting smaller. I still want to make letters to spell out “summer” but haven’t decided how to do it yet. Other than that, I’m tapped out for summer craft ideas. I’m not sure what we’re going to do until October.

Summer Gallery Wall

 

The Birds…In Your Mind and In Your Backyard

July 14, 2014 by

Good fiction should cause an emotive response. A master storyteller can make the reader feel any emotion through their words; Severus Snape can make you cry, Anne Shirley can make you laugh and Ignatius J Reilly can make you throw up a little in your mouth.

There are those authors and stories, that produce not only an emotional reaction, however, but true emotional scarring. Every reader has at least one story, one scene that has haunted them long after the book was finished (and stored safely in the freezer). War of the Worlds, The Shining, Sophie’s Choice, stories that are so superbly written that their readers are positively traumatized.

For me, it was the shortest of stories that left the largest of neuroses. Many of Daphne Du Maurier’s stories have held me spellbound, rapt in nervous anticipation, but it was her most famous short story that did me in. It was a dark and blustery night in the townhouse where I lived by myself before Ryan and I were married. The crepe myrtle trees scratched at the window as I read The Birds. Like a moron. I did not sleep that night and I don’t believe I slept the next night either. The idea of birds turning sentient intending to take back the control of nature from man was haunting. Never was a bird’s beak so sharp or eyes so evil than after I read The Birds by Daphne Du Maurier. Close proximity to a bird still causes a physical reaction of panic: my body goes rigid, my heart palpitates and I hold my breath until I can be reasonably sure my time has not yet come to be pecked to death by a pigeon.

That being known, I don’t think enough credit has been given to me on how well I’ve done with the free ranging chickens in my backyard. I haven’t once freaked out, not even when one waddled really close by me. When the avian apocalypse does occur, I hope the chickens will remember how friendly we’ve been.

But then yesterday I saw one of them fly and I lost my shit.

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I didn’t know if she was mounting an uprising or if the others would follow suit, but I ran like a bat out of hell just the same. I went into the house hoping the windows would hold out if this really was the beginning of an insurrection. I haven’t been outside since.

All of this to say, thank you Daphne Du Maurier for making homesteading such an emotional journey for me. It would be easier to “go green” if I didn’t have to face my [completely rational] fears head on every time I go to check the mail. But that’s what good writing does, I suppose.

Have you read anything that has made a lasting impression? Is your daily life affected by a story you’ve read?

The Problem of Birth Culture

July 10, 2014 by

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For obvious reasons, babies and birth are often on my mind. Even if I weren’t having a baby a year, I’m surrounded by friends and family who are. Despite living in a region of the country with the highest epidural and Cesarean rate, I’m actually pretty natural-birth minded. It is my outlook that birth ought to be respected as a natural process and intervened with as little as possible.

That being said, of my four births, all have been hospital births involving pitocin and epidurals. My last three were full inductions. Feel free to laugh at the irony. I do. It is ironic that someone who says they want as little intervention as possible has ended up 4 times with every intervention in the book short of a section.

The greatest irony, however, is that of all my births it is the first and not the three inductions that has given me the most grief and emotional turmoil. Even after delivering a baby for the second time, I was still struggling with remnants of trauma from my first birth.

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The first time I went into labor, I was dead set on seeing it through with no pain medicine and no artificial augmentation. My water broke early and my doctor wanted to start pitocin right away. She “put me on a clock” to deliver by 18 hours. I fought her tooth and nail and delayed pitocin trying every natural induction method I could find in Dr. Sear’s The Birth Book. Ten hours later, after having been up for over 36 hours already, I had made no progress. I was in shock, exhausted and defeated. After ten hours, my fever spiked and in went the epidural and pitocin.

That’s it. That’s what traumatized me for years after. Not the physical shock of birth pain, not even delivering in an OR under threat of section. Nine months of pregnancy, 18 hours of labor, 2 hours of pushing, Evangeline’s first cries, none of it came to mind when I thought of that birth. I thought of failure and defeat whimpering for an epidural.

I could have been better prepared for the birth and I certainly could have had more support from the hospital facility and staff. But regardless of the physical surroundings, it was the mental circumstance that made this such a profound experience. I spent months before the birth reading up on natural labor propaganda. I was convinced that the need for medical intervention was a myth. At most it was just needed for the most extreme\emergency situations. A real woman need only trust her body, breathe in the right rhythm and her body does the rest. My prenatal education also had me convinced that any intervention would snowball into needing an emergency section. My doctor would pump up pitocin until the baby went in distress just so she could get me in and out of a section in time for her golf game. My child would languish for days under the effects of the epidural, not latch or nurse well and never go to college. My baby would suffer if I were too weak to resist interventions.

Since Evangeline’s birth, I’ve come to know more women who have been similarly traumatized by changes in their birth expectations. Why is this such a big deal? Why does intending a natural birth mean any deviation is a personal failure? Why is the natural birth culture so militant?

If a woman is going to go through labor and delivery without artificial pain medicine, she needs support. She needs complete support and focus. One lone nurse suggesting “a little something to take the edge off” and the laboring woman’s focus can be completely thrown off. To make it through delivery, a woman needs to believe she can do it; she needs to visualize herself doing it and she needs to hear everyone around her telling her she is doing it and she can keep going.

But what happens when medical intervention is needed? Everything the woman has been working for, envisioning and expecting is suddenly derailed. Most often, she feels it is her fault, her body’s fault. Something about her is broken and she failed to birth her child. This sense of failure and of brokenness can last for years and completely taint every memory associated with the birth of her child.

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It is true that to pursue a natural birth experience, it helps to push all thoughts of intervention out of your mind. But we need to stop pushing it so far that it becomes an enemy at the gate to be fought at all times. Modern medical interventions have their place in obstetrics. Not just in extreme or emergency situations. Giving an exhausted mom pain medicine or an epidural to a mom with high blood pressure, is good. Artificially rupturing membranes to kick start a stalled labor can help. And opting for a scheduled section to avoid a probable emergency situation in labor, is a good thing.

If women went into labor with a more balanced view of these practices, maybe the trauma of labor would be slightly less. Maybe more women would come through labor, not focused on what didn’t go according to plan, but all the resources that helped her bring her child into the world. There has to be a way of respecting both the natural process of birth and the benefits of medical interventions. Surely we can acknowledge the place these interventions have in the modern birthing process. Maybe by doing so, more and more women can understand the success of their labor and delivery does not hinge on a black and white birth plan.

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Tales of a Crazy Person

the life and times of an introvert getting it all back together

Kimberly

Places to land

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the poetic wordsmithing of [B]ettina and [A]veri [D]ylan

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