Isn't it obvious?

Everytime Hollis sees this he points and says, "That's you, Mommy!"

A lesser woman might have asked, "What about this reminds you of Mommy?"

And a lesser woman might also have been relieved with, "Shes eating grapes!" as a response.


The upside to the dreaded drop-off

Today was the best day, yet, in our little Mommy-goes-away experiment since Hollis has been melting down.  I read him a few books on a yoga mat, pointed out other kids saying goodbye to their mommies (happily, I might add), and asked him to walk me to my shoes and help me put them on.  He gave me a big hug and kiss and started to whimper as I walked away, but as soon as I was out of sight I could hear nothing but children happily squealing and their bare feet slapping the cork floors.
The receptionist had seen me hover by the front door before listening to his wails, but this time she chuckled and said, "Of course he's great on the last day!"  Good thing for us we go back for Round 2 soon.

And something I hadn't really expected out of all of this heart-ringing woefulness at drop-off: the sheer joy and exuberance of pick-up.  I mean, WOW.  Wowwowwowwowwow.

Usually, Mama is every day.  Boring.  Staid.  Always there.  No big deal.  It's Daddy who gets the sprint and leap into his arms.  It's Papa and Mimi who get dragged all over the house being told about all the goings on from that day.  It's ReeRee (that'd be Sheree) who gets the kisses and toddler arms wrapped around a thigh.  It's basically everyone who comes and goes who gets to be the cherry on the sundae.  Mama is just the boring ol' banana.

But not anymore!!  Oh. My. Gawd!!  I'm special!  I mean, really, really special!!  

It's happened every day I've picked him up and every day I get excited thinking about it.  The door to the yoga studio opens quietly and unnoticed.  The children are playing with balloons, doing crafts, reading books, generally running amok in some sort of organized chaos and then one of them notices the door is open and a mommy is there!  A dozen little faces search for their own mommy and then my precious little face sees me and he blazes a trail to me, his face split into a grin from ear to ear and he nearly knocks me off my feet as I wrap my arms around him.

Sheer freaking bliss, I tell you.  BLISS!!

Sigh... I am still high from the baby lovin'.  Seriously.  Amazing. 

I feel like I got this mommy gig in another big way these past few days.  Man... how lucky am I?? 

 Peace out, yoga camp!


I still feel like I need to make excuses

With BlogHer ramping up en force and it only being a couple of weeks away I feel like I should apologize for the white noise I've been posting.

I am fucked up, y'all.  I can't bring myself to write.  If I'm not parenting (i.e., during naps) I'm on the couch either sleeping or watching TV.  Seriously.  It's all I can do.

Family, I'm going to officially ask you to stop reading this blog.  It's nothing personal, I just want to reclaim this space - a space I never really stamped as my own from the beginning, but I'm doing it now - in order to work through the next few months.  I'll continue posting on the private Tumblr account with Hawk updates, but this blog has morphed into a Jessica-log more than a Hawk-log anyway. 

I'll put warning headers up for the next several weeks, possibly months, because I don't think anyone reads everything I post on here and this little notice might get passed up.  If you choose to read anyway, don't mention it to me.  I love you guys.

Friends, you'll be reading things you probably think I should have called you to tell you about, but I can't muster the energy to make more phone calls.  Just be patient with me.  I love you, too.

Readers, maybe you'll still be there by the time I post meaty things again... I surely hope you are.  You all rock.

So, till things start clicking again, I guess I'll see some of you in NYC.  And please, no one worry.  I'm doing fine and so are Rooster and Hawk.  Things are just changing, that's all, as things tend to do.


PS: Who's going to NYC?  I don't want to miss a single lovely lady while I'm there.


When "feminist/breastfeeding blogs" are bad words

I can't even remember what the big hullabaloo was last year with moms, but I do know it was the first time I'd ever heard of the "Mommy Wars."  It could have been about stay-at-home-moms vs. work-out-of-home moms, or mothers vs. non-mothers, or moms who aren't employed, but have their kids in daycare vs. moms who are with their children all day long... the list goes on (and on).

Today, the war of words has drifted to style of parenting and all that falls under certain categories - or, at least, perceived categories and their associations.

On one side, we seem to have the group of mothers who dedicate their public spaces (i.e., blogs) to breastfeeding advocacy, natural child-birth practices, cloth diapers, organic foods, baby wearing, a mother's rights to knowledge and support via legal channels, gentle and non-physical discipline, bed-sharing, not letting their kids cry it out, Cesarean-section avoidance, and keeping their sons' penises intact.

The other side includes mothers with space devoted to telling other mothers that it's ok to formula feed, opt-in for the epidural and scheduled C-section, that disposables are a God-send as are the jars of baby food at the grocery store, a woman should go somewhere private to breastfeed for modesty's sake, spank, have their babies in a separate room from day one, let them cry themselves to sleep, and who circumcise their sons.

Pretty black and white, right?

Wrong.  So wrong!

Not one family is all or nothing.  There are mothers who breastfeed the first, but not the second child; who have an epidural, but refuse inducing; who spank, but don't do CIO; who formula feed, but make their own baby food.  Nor is anyone "wrong" for doing what fits best for their situation and personality.

I don't know why we've done this to ourselves (pitting mothers one against the other, yet again), but we have.  Sure, I might never spank my son and I could give you 100 reasons why, but I would never tell you you were a piece of shit for deciding to do it with your family.  Of course I think MY way is better, it's why it's MY way.  I mean, of course!

And therein lies the rub for all of us: We all think our way is the best way.  It's a necessary job requirement when it comes to parenting.  We have to be married to our methods - and also flexible if the outcome is not what we were expecting - in order to be consistent, fair, and stable.  We have to commit!

I hate it that a blogger I really like because she's witty and wry got absolutely FLAMED for first, a guest post saying it's ok to use formula, and second, for an interview she gave about using over-the-counter drugs for uses it's not intended for.

Jill's whole shtick at Scary Mommy is that she's devoted, but also out-numbered, and sometimes chooses the path of least resistance (like letting her youngest eat like a dog), and yet other bloggers I also esteem (for entirely different reasons) feel entitled to go after Jill's posts with the fury of a mother scorned.  And beat up and with the wind knocked out of her Jill writes this:
For all of you perfect parents making perfect decisions in your perfect lives, this isn’t the place for you. Why don’t you look up some of the feminist/breastfeeding blogs? Those folks always seem to have the right answers.

And, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.


I get that breastfeeding is intrinsically linked up with feminism, but why do feminism and breastfeeding always seem to be linked up with bullying those who choose differently?  And likewise, why do the women who formula feed bully us, too (I've seen it and it's not pretty, either)?

The reason, I think, that feminist/breastfeeding bloggers go so hog-wild whenever anyone ever says that it's ok to formula feed is because they're thinking of protecting that one woman out there who's on the verge of giving up on breastfeeding because (and no one argues with this) breast milk is the best thing for a baby.

Ok, I get that, but going after a humor blogger whose main goal is to entertain and be light isn't the way to do it because breastfeeding might not be the best thing for every woman and her family.  (And let me tell you that I practically choke on those words, but I also believe it.)

If I were that breastfeeding mom whose nipples were bleeding and baby was crying and whose mother kept telling me that she used formula and all 5 of her kids were fine I don't think I'd read Jill's guest post and think, "Hey!  She's right!  I guess I'll stop!"  I would do more research and really ask myself the hard questions.   Breastfeeding is intrinsically linked up to more factors than simply a woman's desire to breastfeed or not.  She needs support, she needs will power, she needs determination, she needs love, she needs focus, she needs education, and she needs examples. 

We haven't always been such an "enlightened" group of parents.  So many used to be hit, beaten even, children were sold to be apprentices, girls were given to old men to bear him heirs, families were split up, children were treated worse than livestock in many cases (the Dark Ages, anybody?).  And certainly NOT to say that any of that was ever ok, but I feel like I need to remind people that WE SURVIVED THE IMPERFECTIONS.  We still created amazing human beings capable of great love, innovation, art, wonder and intellect despite their deplorable childhoods.  Just because not everyone parents the same particular way today does not mean the fall of civilization as we know it.

This is how I think it should go:  I'll tell you about my life, my decisions, and my reasoning if you care to hear it.  I will show you what I think should be done by example, not by badgering or belittling and not by humiliation or condescension.  And you do me the same favor.

I don't know... I'm just so sick and tired of all the animosity between these two camps.  Mothering is hard, the most painful, soul-searing, isolating, and important thing I'll ever do in my life.  The last thing I need is to feel like I have to defend my decisions to women who've made different ones.  I beat up on myself enough as it is.

(Side note: I linked to some blogs that I think are good examples of those "camps", but  I could be entirely wrong, so please let me know and I'll revise.)


Should I really have just left him??

 The little person who owns me.

This week Hollis started yoga camp.  My mom saw a little blurb about the studio in the paper back in May and it looked like something Hollis would enjoy while also getting our collective feet wet regarding separation and autonomy.

It's Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays from 9 am to noon.  The kids do crafts, eat a healthy snack the parents have packed and if diapers need changing that's taken care of, too.

I've never left Hollis with anyone he didn't already know before so this was a really big deal for me.  We talked a lot about yoga camp and he was excited before he ever showed up and I felt I'd done as much parenting prep work that I possibly could.  Day 1 went swimmingly.  Hollis gave me lots of hugs and kisses as I departed and happily dove into a gigantic toy-filled trunk.

When I came back at noon he was very determined to tell me how I had been gone.  "Mommy, you were gone!  You were GONE!  But you back.  And you hold me.  Kiss.  Fun!  Mommy, you were gone!  But come back."

I held him tight and he waved goodbye to Amy and her assistant Remie and they told me he'd done wonderfully.

Day 2, same scenario as I left: lots of kisses and hugs, no signs of strain, and when I picked him up we had a similar conversation.  Unlike Day 1, however, we had plans with my step-dad for lunch which Hollis was very excited about... until, that is, I wanted him to sit in a booster seat.  He clung to me, wouldn't lift his head and sobbed big, hot tears.

What in the world???  This child is the antithesis of clingy.

I picked him up and held him on my lap while he continued to lurch with sobs and bury his face in my neck.  Obviously yoga camp was taking its toll.

That brings us to Day 3 and it's now 10 am.  He was very excited to return to camp and see his friends (that'd be Amy and Remie, naturally).  He shoved his Crocs into a cubby and ran to the yoga room where half a dozen kids wandered around kicking balloons, reading books, or pulling toys out of the trunk.  His warm little hand gripped mine and pulled me inside.  Remie said hello while Amy balanced three little girls on her knees.  And Hollis just kept gripping my hand.

That's when I knew today was different.

I parent Hollis with a keen memory of my own experiences as a shy child and also with the educational awareness of a counselor - I want very badly not to project my own childhood personality (and issues) onto him - I want him to navigate this world as Hollis, not as Jessica's Son, so when I knew he was going to protest me leaving I was truly torn.

Do I stay and hang out??  What message does that send?  That when he's a little scared Mommy will stay and that makes everything better? Or do I go?  And the message is that Mommy leaves and I can  rely on myself to get through a tough spot of emotions?  Or do I leave and send the message that MOMMY LEAVES when I'm scared?

It took a couple of tries before I could get out of his sight.  By that point Amy saw our little drama playing out and she came to intervene. She asked him if he'd ring the bell to start the class, to be her special helper.  He warmed up to that, but kept a wary eye on me.  He gave me more kisses and I took a deep breath and walked away as if to the front door, out of his line of sight.  I could hear him crying and Amy talking to him about kicking balloons and playing with his cement truck toy.  The cries weren't alarming other than the fact that he was upset and the receptionist, who had a direct view of him, confirmed to me that his face was affect-less and he was just making the crying noise to show his displeasure with the scene.

I told her that this was new for us and had to take another deep breath to fight back the tears... I was sweaty and dusty from the trail, basically looked a hot mess, and felt vulnerable enough without breaking down in tears in front of a complete stranger.  I managed to ask, "You'll call me, right, if things get worse?"

She smiled and said, "Oh, of course."

I walked the last few steps to the front door and walked out into the blanket of heat that is Austin in nine in the morning to the woeful moans of an angry child filling my ears.

And I still don't know if that was the right decision.  By leaving him under (mild) duress am I upbraiding all the work I've put into instilling complete trust in me and the adults who love him?  Is it wrong to leave him?  Or, shit, is it just my own personal abandonment issues wreaking havoc on my perspective??

In any case, my plan this afternoon is to take him to get some ice cream and reconnect and cuddle and reassure him that MOMMY ALWAYS COMES BACK.  If not for him, then definitely for me.

What do you guys think??  Any suggestions?  What did you do to get through this kind of anxiety and milestone?


Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry

After half a dozen hugs and kisses delivered at the end of a cross-
room sprint I have left Hollis at yoga camp happily playing with toys
and balloons.

Without me.
With people I don't know.
For the first time EVER.
Oh my God.

How am I ever going to handle sending him off to college???


Quel suprise!

I went to stash my water bottle under the stroller and this is what I
discovered: three identical $68 bras.

Can you guess what I'll be doing today?

I sure hope Nordy's understands that almost-three-year-olds are very grabby... and like to squirrel things away.


Whole foods in, wholesome feelings out

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their struggles and successes with healthy eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

 This week's delivery (image via emwinslow's flikr)

I was born in 1975 which means my parents were hippies, and then yuppies.  We started out our lives with homemade foods and clothes because that's what they could afford, but as their incomes increased my parents' idea of "food" also broadened to include the fancy "food stuffs" (there's no way today that I can call it just "fancy food".   The processed cheeses, breads, and meats lined our fridge as did shiny aluminum soldiers of Shasta and Coke Classic sodas.

A very typical dinner for us growing up might be hot dogs wrapped in those pop-can croissants with a piece of American cheese... and some boxed mac 'n cheese.  Or maybe we'd mix it up and have cheddar-wurst... with some boxed mac 'n cheese.  We also ate meatloaf, fried shrimp and rice with a mayo-ketchup sauce (that I still crave to this day), spaghetti and meat sauce, Jiffy-Pop popcorn, cream of chicken soup, and ribs.  And sodas.  Lots and lots of sodas.

A few years ago Anthony and I did a White Trash Wednesday weekly dinner party with our friends wherein we made all the dinners from our childhood.  I made everything I listed above and Anthony added Shit on a Shingle and some amazing hotdog medley that included its own aluminum foil pocket.  We drank Pabst Blue Ribbon until bedtime and laughed at our parents' sweet naivete pertaining to nutrition.

So, it's rather shocking to me today to say that I am about as far from that as I could possibly be without actually growing my own foods.  When Hollis was born I became hyper-aware of what went into my body since I was breastfeeding.  Then, in a desperate attempt to discover what caused my eczema, I went to the allergist and discovered some alarming things about my food, unrelated to my careful consideration about breastfeeding.

Naturally, I became even more aware of the food I was eating and serving once I started putting it into Hollis' body directly.  His little body seemed so pure, so innocent, so unaffected.  I couldn't just jam it up with a bunch of fake food bullshit like I did with mine.

Today, we eat 85%-90% local, organic produce and I try to only eat animals whose processors commit to their humane treatment in both life and death.  I love eating meat and believe in my omnivorous roots, but I can no longer contribute to the brutal lives they lead and even more sacrificial and disrespectful deaths they suffer just so I can eat cheaply  (I'm talking to you, Fast Food Chains).  Not to mention the entire supply chain mayhem the workers and environment also suffer.

Mmm. Fake, chemical candies.

My biggest struggle getting to this point was the cost and the commitment to really convert all the way to whole foods.  It's amazing how often modified whatever sneaks into an innocent jar of jelly or Aspergillus in the form of citric acid sneaks into Swedish Fish.  But, I've finally turned that corner and decided that nothing is more expensive than poor health, so I'm willing to spend a little extra on food in order to feel better both emotionally and physically.

My best resources here in Austin are Farmhouse Delivery, which is fantastic.  I get the bi-weekly bushel and it's more than enough for two adults and a toddler, and it's only $39 a delivery, which is considerably cheaper than supermarket organic produce that was trucked in from CA or IA.  I also have Central Market and the Whole Foods Flagship, not to mention Sprouts and Newflower Markets within 10 minutes of me, and several local farmers' markets.  I may not be able to walk to these stores, but they're definitely within my home radius and I take full advantage of them.

Over all, I'm pretty happy about my food choices and I'm hoping to pass on to Hollis a love and respect for his own body and the animals and land we share this life with. 

Now, if only I could find an organic wine that didn't taste like ass...  That would be brilliantly green and organic of me!


 of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated July 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Love The Real Food Community — Much like many people who follow AP/NP values, Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! takes the parts of the "real food" philosophy that work for her family and leaves the rest. (@bfmom)
  • Feeding a Family of Six — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children gives helpful tips for feeding a family of six.
  • Starting Solids at 6 Months — Did your doctor recommend that you give your baby cereal? Sheryl at Little Snowflakes discusses how whole foods are so much healthier (and more delicious) than traditional cereal. (@sheryljesin)
  • Am I What I Eat? — Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. has figured out a way to avoid grocery stores nearly altogether.
  • Are We Setting Our Kids Up To Fail? — Megan at Purple Dancing Dahlias found that cutting out the junk also transformed her sons' behavior problems.
  • Changing your family's way of eating — Lauren at Hobo Mama has techniques you can try to move your family gradually toward a healthier diet. (@Hobo_Mama)
  • Real Food — What kinds of fake foods do you eat? And why?! Lisa C. at My World Edenwild talks about why she chooses real food.
  • A Snackaholic’s Food Battle — Julie at Simple Life wants to stop snacking and get into the old ways of cooking from scratch and raising her own food. (@homemakerjulie)
  • Food, Not Fight — Summer at Finding Summer doesn't want her kids to grow up like her husband: hating everything green. (@summerm)
  • How Do You Eat When You Are out of Town? — Cassie at There's a Pickle In My Life wants some tips on how to eat healthy when you are out of town.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Food! — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker hopes that by serving her children healthy, balanced meals, they will become accustomed to making good food choices. (@sybilryan)
  • There's No Food Like Home's — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing revels in the Bajan food of her upbringing. (@BlkWmnDoBF)
  • This Mom's Food Journey — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment made a journey from not paying attention to food to growing her own.
  • Who Knew Eating Was So Hard? — The challenges involved in changing to healthier eating habits take on a whole new dimension when you have a child who has difficulties eating. kadiera at Our Little Acorn shares her own experiences. (@kadiera)
  • Loving Food — Starr at Earth Mama truly believes food is her family's medicine and is willing to spend days preparing it the traditional way.
  • Food Mindfulness — Danielle at born.in.japan details how her family spends money on each category of food. (@borninjp)
  • Food for Little People — Zoey at Good Goog wants to bless her daughter with happy traditions built around good food. (@zoeyspeak)
  • Eat Like a Baby — Have you been told that you should not equate food with love? Kate Wicker at Momopoly shows us why that's not necessarily true. (@Momopoly)
  • Food — Deb at Science@Home tries to teach her children three rules to help them eat a healthy diet. (@ScienceMum)
  • Healthy Living Lactose Free — MamanADroit gives us tips on how to eat healthy if you are lactose intolerant (or just don’t want cow milk). (@MamanADroit)


9:31 pm: Hollis has an expansive understanding of what "bed time" means

Where he should have been.

Where he was (that's the closet, by the way, plush with his pillow, nightlight "Bus Owl," and his Tonka sticker book).


Austin, I don't hate you anymore

A couple of weeks ago I started walking on the Townlake trail on the river.  It's a 3.5 mile loop and it has invigorated me.   A lot is going on for me personally and even though I am a trained therapist and know the benefits of regular, vigorous exercise I'm still surprised at how good I'm feeling.

It's hot here, like really, really hot.  By 9 am it's 80 degrees with intense humidity, but I'm not letting that stop me.  I sweat, I push, I challenge myself, and for 50 minutes my mind wanders to happy places while my muscles burn and my skin glistens.

I see so many different bodies, all so beautiful in their many permutations: heaving, wet, muscled, soft, jiggling.  I'm reminded that my body is wonderful and lovely and that I'm lucky to have this life and this shell.

Hollis is with me in his (I originally typed "my") fancy-schmancy stroller (I highly recommend it for anyone with back pain and a city/country-mouse personality like mine) and I am well-equipped with snacks, tractor-books, lots of water, and bread for the critters we visit along the way.

I feel as though I could do anything just by completing this one physical act each morning.  I miss it on the weekends when I let life get in the way; I fall asleep exhausted looking forward to it in the morning; I want to at once share it with others and keep it private, for my heart alone.

This new ritual is rejuvenating me.  I can feel it in my soul.  I'm falling back in love with Austin and its sultry, liquid summer.  I can't look away from the beauty that is this town: skyscrapers nestled among green, rolling hills and a languid, lazy river.  It breaks my heart it's so many parts of new and old all tangled together.

Thank you, Austin... you're saving me.  Not only are you reminding me why I'm here, but you're making me feel good about it.  One sky full of cotton-ball clouds, one canopy of luscious green trees bending over me, and one young, hungry swan-family at a time. 

Looking east from the ped-bridge.

Looking west.

Crossing Barton Creek which feeds into the Colorado River.

The sidelong, surreptitious stroller glance all toddlers seem to have down pat.

Herd of turtles.