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Eliza's Newborn Pictures

These pictures were taken a week before we closed on Meadowbrook. You wouldn't know it by looking at them, but I was barely holding it together. Four kids, a newborn, packing, I had gone back to work the week before. We took all of the pictures in my bedroom, because it was the only room that wasn't completely or partially packed. Boxes everywhere, exposed nail holes on the walls. A mess. Me, the house, my life. I ordered 5 dresses from ASOS (free expedited shipping and free returns, can I get an hallelujah?!) and wore the only one that fit. And thank goodness one fit!

I have learned so much about myself over the last year; I imagine this growth is just the beginning. One of the things I have come to appreciate is that I don't let the bad stuff ruin what's good. A new baby. A new sister. The love that comes from that, all good stuff. The rest of it? It's over and I survived.

I knew even though so many parts of that week were parts I would want to forget, this moment wasn't one of them. It's so easy to talk about (or think about) our problems, but it's so much more enjoyable to talk about (or think about) our joys. These photos are some of my greatest joys.

Eliza's Birth Story

I am not sure how this happened, but my baby is a month old today. It's been a blurry whirlwind. I know all parents say that, but given the events of the last month, mixed with having a newborn, truer words have never been spoken. I thought, since I didn't get to it sooner, that today would be an apropos day to finish her birth story.

Eliza's due date is still a mystery to me, though I am sticking with my guns that her actual due date was October 18. Her chart at my OB still says October 15. So depending on who you believe she was either 3 or 5 days late. Friends couldn't believe that with all of the stress in my life, I didn't deliver preterm, but I kept saying that she was waiting for it to be safe to come out, waiting for me to secure us a house, waiting for it to be calmer.

In the weeks leading up to her birth my OB's talked frequently about induction. The first time was because her fluid was looking low, but they waited and checked her again a few days later and my fluid was better. The second time was because I was already 4 cm dilated and full-term, with a history of laboring fast. They warned me there was a good chance I wouldn't make it to the hospital. But I really wanted to have a gradual labor, with time spent at home, I wanted her to come on her terms. I wanted it to be just like the movies, where a woman's water breaks and she smiles and says, "it's time!" and gets driven to the hospital by the frenetic, but lovingly concerned husband.

The week of her due date I had an appointment to see my therapist and I talked to her about the lady at the pizza place and the night in the bathtub. We had already talked about my reiki sessions and the idea of spirit guides. Sidenote, what I love about my therapist is that she believes in spirituality and the law of attraction, but is also a real LMHC. In a conversation that I believe was no accident, she told me that all of the things I have been practicing and reading about were all based on a book called A Course in Miracles (which I have since downloaded but, sadly, have yet to read). She told me about Gabby Bernstein, who wrote a book called Spirit Junkie, and said that Gabby was fun to follow on Instagram.

The night I went into labor with Eliza, I climbed into the tub at the end of another long day, and began scrolling through my phone to entertain myself, as I often do in the bath. After surfing Facebook and clearing out emails, I hopped on Instagram. I remember feeling overwhelmed with life and wondering if this baby was ever going to come out. And I thought about my conversation with my therapist and remembered the suggestion about Gabby Bernstein and searched her profile. Her post that day was this:

I started thinking more about why Eliza had yet to come. As of my 40 week appointment I was 5 cm dilated and 70% effaced. I had been progressing steadily from week 37 on, and each week my OB's scratched their heads at how she was still hanging tough with my body so far along. I thought about this mantra, and wondered if my own fears were holding me back from delivering her. Fears of how I would survive as a single mom of four under four; fears about whether I am enough for these babies; fears about how raw it would feel to labor with her dad, who was no longer my husband, by my side; fears about being wide open and vulnerable and alone; fears about being homeless. So many fears.

I decided to give it a try. I sat back in the tub, closed my eyes and began to breathe. About a half hour later my phone buzzed with a text message from my brother asking if I was still awake and if I wanted to talk. It was 9:42 p.m. I jokingly told him that I'd call him when I got out of the tub so that it wouldn't be awkward, and we had a bit of stupid sibling banter (that I'm including, because the whole convo cracks me up).

By 9:50 p.m. I was on my fourth heavy contraction and calling Joe to get him to help me out of the tub. These weren't the little Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been having for months. I knew this was the real deal. I called Joe and he was walking the dog, I calmly said, "I need you to come home, I need help." And then I hung up and called our nanny. 

She was roughly 30 minutes away, and again I calmly said, "okay". But in my head I was thinking I didn't even have 30 minutes. I wondered if she would still want to work for our family if she watched me deliver a baby in my living room. I wondered if I would want to employ someone who saw that much of me. And then I had another contraction and my crazy thoughts disappeared. My contractions were strong and coming fast. I called my OB and left a message that I was in labor with the answering service.

Joe got home and we finished throwing stuff in my hospital bag, I paced my bedroom, bending over the bed or the dresser with each contraction. At that point they were under 5 minutes apart. Joe called our nanny for a sit rep two or three more times. She got to our house at 10:15 p.m. and I was already walking to the car. The contractions were coming faster and getting stronger. 

We flew down the driveway and got stuck behind the most conservative driver that ever lived. It was around that time that the on-call OB called me back. She asked all the normal questions (how far along I am, how dilated I was at the last appointment, how fast my contractions were coming, what kid was this for me, how far we were from the hospital) I squeaked out my responses in between contractions...over 40 weeks...5-6 cm...1-2 minutes...number four...35 minutes away. She later admitted she didn't think we'd make it to the hospital after speaking to me on the phone. 

We got on the highway and it was raining. I could see the speedometer reading 90-95 mph and I kept telling Joe to slow down, that I was afraid of his speed. He works at the hospital in which I delivered all four kids and he kept telling me to calm down, focus on keeping her in, and let him drive, that he knew the road, and he would get us there safely. We made it almost two exits before we got pulled over. Joe kept trying to get out of the car to tell the officer that I was in labor and I was screaming at him to stay inside so that the cop didn't draw a weapon or something. And then I was screaming in pain. Joe started shouting out the window, "My wife is in labor! My wife is in labor!" The cop took his sweet ass time getting out of his car and then meandered over to our car even more slowly. When he got close enough to be in earshot, he looked at Joe confused and then shone his light in on me. I was mid-contraction and moaning wildly. The officer, who was all of 22, looked panicked and started waving us forward, shouting, "You're all set! Just go! Just go!"

We passed four more cop cars on the way to the hospital, and didn't get pulled over again. So while this guy didn't give us a police escort (probably didn't want to deliver my baby on the highway), it seems like he did, at least, radio ahead. 

My contractions were 1-2 minutes long coming every 1-2 minutes. They were painful and I was literally holding her in with all of my might. Joe kept telling me, "Just keep her in, Nik, just keep her in." I was breathing and moaning and holding myself up with the oh shit handle, the whole time thinking I was going to deliver her in my husband's car. 

We got to the hospital and the valet was already gone. Joe threw the car in park and left it running. I was freaking out because it's not the best city and I was afraid someone would steal our car. In hindsight, it was a funny thing to be worried about given the fact that I was literally giving birth in the entrance of the hospital. There were no wheelchairs and the elevator was farther away from us than the stairs, so we took the stairs. I walked up two flights of stairs, stopping to breathe through each contraction, to get to the next bank of elevators that would take us to labor and delivery. A hospital employee who was on break or starting their shift or something, held the elevator door for us and when he realized that I was literally having my baby right there, he ran ahead of us off the elevator and alerted the nursing staff. 

Several nurses came running around a corner, one had a wheelchair, but I couldn't sit. I just did not want to sit. They got me into a room and I stood next to my hospital bed, leaning forward on it to work through a few more contractions. Joe went to go move the car. I remember thinking he wouldn't make it back in time. I took my clothes off and got into my gown. I was checked into the hospital system at 10:57 p.m. 

A young nurse came in to start my IV, I was having back to back contractions. I told her I didn't want an IV and she grabbed my arm to start the line, and that's when I verbally assaulted her telling her to stop touching me with her pointy stick. I didn't see that nurse again. 

They asked me if I wanted an epidural and I said yes and then no again immediately. I remember thinking there wouldn't be time, there wasn't enough time. I knew if it hurt that much that I was close and it would be over soon. A nurse checked me and I was 7 cm, when my OB came in a few minutes later she checked me and I was fully dilated and ready to push.

The first few contractions felt wild and out of control. My OB gowned up and sat down as I started to push, and my water exploded with a force that surprised everyone in the room. The pain got even more intense and I became even more frightened. I thought about the pain and the fears and all of the things keeping me wild and scared, and then something shifted with my next breath. I exhaled and let it all go, giving into the process, giving into the fear, surrendering. 

As I focused on my breathing, I got very quiet. And then I pushed and pushed and pushed. In between contractions I actually had (short) breaks to regroup a bit. I stayed quiet, except to say a few times that I was tired, or that I didn't want to ever do this again. And then on one contraction Joe, my OB and the nurse that was helping to hold my leg started encouraging me to push a little longer and a little harder. My OB told me to stop pushing, she adjusted Eliza and then she told me to push again and a few seconds later I felt her pass through my body and my perfect baby was on my chest. 

I looked at her and I cried, "We did it baby girl. We did it. It's just you and me. It was always you and me. We did it." And I wept and kissed her sweet face. I got to hold her for over an hour and nurse her. Her grip and her latch were strong, and we sat together. Nursing and clutching each other.

Eliza James was born on October 21 at 11:27 p.m. weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces and was 20" long.

My perfect, spiky-haired, gorgeous baby girl came into the world 1 hour and 45 minutes after I opened my eyes in that bathtub.

Because I had no IV, they couldn't push pitocin to deliver my placenta and that took almost a half hour. I actually felt guilty for holding up my OB, but when my body was ready I could feel the contractions start again, and I pushed through one contraction and the placenta passed me, the room cleared out, and I was alone with my baby girl. Joe came back from calling his parents and our nanny and said goodnight and we were alone together again. My miracle baby and I, holding onto each other.

I now understand why people preach about natural births. I'm so glad I held out and let her come on her own terms. From beginning to end, her birth was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Once I let go of my fears, it was so peaceful and so natural. I understand now why I was given the gift of this child, this little healer, this tiny warrior. I am thankful each and every day.

{ 1 week old }

{ 2 weeks old }

{ 3 weeks old }

{ 4 weeks old }

seven things, not six and not eight, just seven ...

thing one:
late last night Our #2 turned up and on sunday my folks appear too! tis less than a week to Thanksgiving and it is truly beginning to feel like the holidays. it has been 2 years since my folks came to stay, we are all quite giddy waiting their arrival and i have promised them they will not have to stand for a whole 2 weeks and that there will be chairs and a bed for them to rest their weary bods.

thing two:
i will be participating in the 2nd Makers Market this december 6th from 9 to 6 at Tolt Yarn and Wool. my little stall will be a medley of vintage and handmade with a sprinkling of 'one offs' from my studio. if perchance you would like to pottle on by to see me, i would like that so muchly 

thing three:
alas and alack, the last of our chickie peas, Little Voice, was taken from us this past weekend.

 it has been 6 years since those funny little feathered friends came to live with us, the very reason for us moving to Mossy Shed. 6 years of every evening some bod shouting through the shed "has someone popped the chickens away?" and 6 years of me standing at the kitchen sink each morn watching them pace up and down ready to be let free to roam another day. my man said upon discovery of Little Voice having gone to the great las vegas in the sky, albeit not looking her finest, "we may be planning our future but we must still live in the present, therefore i vote we find ourselves some chicks next spring" i have no idea where that profound wisdom came from, but i liked it, i liked it a whole lot and in turn this made me like him too.

thing four:
i have finished up my 'woolly tattoo'-ed sweater but cannot don it for the cold dip has gone away and now we are positively tropical in temps with a bit of damp. i fear if i put on my turtle neck wool sweater i may just have a bit of a panic and overheat, thus it will have to just wait looking splendid upon a hanger till such time the temps dip again

thing five;
the new issue of PomPom Quarterly appeared at work yesterday, i had not planned to go in but a need to change a few displays was required so off i trotted. where upon i saw a copy and flicked to just one page which happened to have mittens upon it, not just any old mittens but crocheted mittens, the likes of which i have never seen before. be still my beating mitten loving heart. i was smitten, i needed to make those mittens. all plans to make Our #3 a knitted beanie to keep his nuggin warm this scottish winter went out the window. all plans to figure out a crochet version of the 1930's cowl went out the door. all plans to make a granny neckerchief to share on this here shiny space went out the cat flap. for all i have eyes for is this peachy pair

thing six:
i did not know when i wrote about the book i read this past week how many dearies it would resonant with, i felt i was not putting things into words correctly, that it was swimming all jumbly and bumbly inside of my head, mixed up with so many emotions and i could not let it come out clearly but i need not have fretted for it would appear the gist of it was understood. it is an emotional and physically draining process when you start to sort through mementos from years gone by. 
i am tres happy to think when i read the comments on facebook that perhaps this little book will help others join me in treading not so fearfully 'the path of letting go'.

thing seven:
dearest readers, happy happy weekend to you, may it be filled with love, light, learning and lots of joy

On measures taken to keep us listing slightly to starboard.

Today, 21st November, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in the Temple, is the day chosen by us to grapple with the demands both of monastic observance and communication with the outside world. Since both are necessary.

Leave the world and give yourself to Me.

In monastic life we follow St. Alphonsus who as a young man was directly told by a voice from heaven: "Leave the world and give yourself to me." This led him eventually to Ciorani where he and his early companions were described as "the solitaries of Ciorani."

From young manhood until his death when over 90, 
whether as solitary, missionary or bishop
Alphonsus, our father, left the world 
and gave himself to Jesus.

The spiritual men who knew St Alphonsus and his companions, including his first biographer the Servant of God, Fr Antonio Tannoia, C.SS.R., considered those first Redemptorists to have lived their monastic life as did the early Desert Fathers in Nubia and the Thebaid. Fr Tannoia’s high praise for St Alphonsus is echoed without exception by other writers.
Repeatedly expressions are used such as:
“a hermitage, a lonely, solitary spot” (the Monastery at Ciorani) where “Nubia and the Thebaid never saw coenobites more given to contemplation than our hermits”
“the blessed hermitage” where the saint’s life “might be compared to that of the anchorites of the desert.”
Scala which was the cradle of the institute is variously described as:
“the desert”
“the hermitage so well adapted for recollection and prayer”
“difficult of access”
“this desert", where a "truly eremitical life began for all of them”
“the solitude of the anchorites of Egypt” where “we live in calm and silence far from the tumult of the world, hearing nothing of what is passing there”
“the new Thebaid”
“the solitude” where they lived “on the hill alone, like Jesus in the desert.”
The monastery of Iliceto: "the hermitage”
The monastery of Caposele:  “the hermitage”
The monastery at Villa degli Schiavi: "the hemitage."

The cells of Papa Stronsay.
The early life of St Alphonsus and his companions is our beautiful heritage. 
In the monastery-island of Papa Stronsay we cherish this ideal.
In a far inferior degree we strive to pursue it.

All this is true. It is also true that our holy vocation calls us to the apostolate and the salvation of souls. St. Alphonsus was as on fire in his search for souls, as he was, at other times, in search of solitude.

Venerable double vocation! 

Yes! To continual prayer in solitude, 
cut off from the world, as a hermit. 

Yes too! 
To untiring mission to souls,
 in the midst of the world, as an Apostle. 

These two directions, like identical twins, wrestle with each other. They always did. They still do. St Alphonsus, in the early Constitutions of 1764, brought the two vocations to an almost perfect balance.

"Thar she blows!"
The Good Ship "St Alphonsus," making for port 
but slightly listing to starboard.
She is in search of big fish. Indeed she's ... a whaler! 
-but rightly ballasted to her starboard side.

St Alphonsus, as it were, constructed his sons a fishing boat to go in search of souls, but he ballasted the ship in such a way that it always slightly listed to starboard, the side of solitude; under the gaze of the Star of the Sea, the Morning Star, the Stella Matutina.

Our Lady! Our Sweetness! Who fixes us in our love of solitude, 
search for God and flight from the world!
She is called Porta Caeli, Gate of Heaven, 
obtaining grace for the salvation for souls
 through missionary efforts on the fishing boat's port side. 

As a measure to protect our vocation to solitude and, in the good sense, our call to flight from the world, we have decided, as an experiment, that from today we will greatly limit our use of the Internet, keeping its use to Thursdays. We will post on the Internet (Blog or Facebook) only on Thursdays. We will receive or reply to email only on Thursdays.

Our little boat Stella Maris 
has set her course for the solitude of the sea. 
We keep you in our prayers, 
and ask for yours, for us.

Thursdays will see us back into port, 
fresh, buoyed up, and surely still listing slightly to starboard.

tidying up ...

i have just finished up a book with a cat on my lap in bed at 10am this morn, this is highly risque of me and not my usual morning routine. however when i rolled out of bed this morn at 6:30 to get Our #4 to school i noted upon my return (in pj's still) that is was my only morning in the longest time when i did not have to be out and about somewhere. 
so i took my book and a passing cat back to bed.

the book i am reading is called 'the life-changing magic of tidying up' by marie kondo and you can find it online if you go searching. it found me in an odd roundabout way which makes me once again wonder about how the timing of these things comes to be.

i have read it from cover to cover and placed little sticky notes here and there for fear my aging cogs will not retain. i realize all along i was purging with the wrong intentions, i am thankful to marie for pointing this out. it is not about what you wish to get rid of, but what you choose to keep and why. what brings you joy the moment you look at it and only keeping those joyful things in your life. she also holds your hand when it comes to letting mementos and photos go.

i have come to the conclusion i hang onto the past, always have and i wonder if i always will? according to marie, i will not if i follow her easy but strict rules for tidying up once and for all. i find it even more interesting that it takes a stranger of whom i have only just met to give me the ability to let so many things go, things which i was hanging onto because of who gave them to me or how they came into my possession. i realize despite having these things in my life, they cannot bring back that person and all but a few of those things actually connect me to a memory of that person. i do not want to live in the past any longer.

whenever i read a book such as this, i become a believer. i like books which lighten the load we carry, i like books which help clear the air and the noise in our heads and our bodies. i did not know i liked such books until a few years back one rescued me. i like that marie believes if i tidy up (clear out) once and for all, the weight i have been feeling the past few years will be lifted. of course it is quite possible you may read the book and think she and me are quite bonkers. truth be told i think it is a little too but i do not care, all i care is, right now i can let the past go and the future, (specifically a bricks and mortar dream) and truly live in the present.

my creative corner after tidying up. fret not, Miss Ethel is safely tucked under the table resting quietly until our next spin together
i told my man all about what i had learnt (half way through the book) the other day, when he came in from spending 5 hours picking up the debris covering our acre of moss. i told him it was terribly important to hold each possession in your hand and ask the question "does this bring me joy?" and if not, then its okay to let it go, even if at one point it did. i then continued telling him we can only have things in our home that bring us joy from now on. he looked at me covered in dirt, dried bits of leaves and pine needles and said "my leaf blower and lawn mower bring me no joy, i do not need to hold them in my hand to know that. shall i thank them, then get rid of them so we can slowly be buried under a pile of yard waste?"

 darn and drat, i have a 'non believer clever bod' in my midst. alas, marie does not talk about non believers, her wisdom only goes as far as to say, 
"where you tidy, others will follow" ... mmmmm, interesting, very interesting.

woolly tattoos ...

i do not wish to do anything else, forever and ever, other than stitch woolly tattoos on knitwear.
 i am pondering stitching 
'I ♥ MY MUM' 
upon my man's sweater sleeve whilst he is at work today.

my cogs are whirring with the 'woolly tattoo' possibilities and wondering if one could travel the world with suitcase and yarn in hand, teaching folks to woolly tattoo their yarny garments. i asked my man this morn whilst he was deep in thought, if this maybe so. if i plotted and planned and worked really really hard, should we, could we, would we, possibly have a chance in a couple of years to see the world whilst woolly tattooing from town to town?
"why not?" said he distracted 

already i was elsewhere... 

ah yes indeedy! i can see it now! 
and in my head i have left home two years early

things, oh so many things ...

thing one: 
i blog every day, it just happens most days it stays in my head and never ever gets tippity tapped out here. today is a day of tippity tapping.

thing two: 
it has turned tres chilly around these parts, when it does so and i see frost on the ground it makes me think of old blighty. i lay in bed last night pondering if i were brave enough to wear my mittens out of the shed. this morn i arose, still pondering and decided not to rush things and instead donned my thermal vest and woolly tights.

thing three: 
there is a magazine on the paper shelves over here called Flea Market Decor and the dec/jan issue is hot off the press. you will find me on page 110 where upon a jolly nice article was written about trimming different trees for christmas. 

my lovely friend Ingrid's wood and wool x-mas tree is in one of the photos and if perchance you wish for such a little wood festive tree for yourself you can find them in her most spiffy shop alongside of crochet patterns and other bits of wood and woolly goodness. 

thing four: 
last night i embarked on an embroidery project despite it being against the rules and regulations laid down in my newly made set of rules and regulations. 

i should be thinking of making wares for the up and coming Markers Market on december 6th at Tolt Yarn and Wool. yes i should, for last year it was really rather wonderful and so many dearies came to see me, i am hopeful they will this year too but they will not if i spend my time embroidering selfishly for myself and do not have a thing to put upon my little table at the Makers Market. i have had one thought, my folks arrive shortly and i am thinking they will probably want to insist upon helping make things with me! i will say "no no no, dearest folks, i will not hear of it" and they will say "oh but Tif, it truly would make us so happy to help you and spend quality crafting time altogether, please please let us help you make" and that will be it, i will have no choice for i would not wish to make them sad and think they are not wanted.

thing five: 
a little whiles ago, Karen Templer of Fringe Association invited me to be part of her Our Tools, Ourselves series where she asks 'makers of all sorts' questions about their tools.

 i must confess i was quite trembley about the whole thing because Karen's blog is a big knitted fish in a big yarny sea. a big yarny sea i have found myself doggy paddling in, ever since being thrown in the deep end a year ago when Tolt opened its doors. putting aside my dog paddling ways, if you would care to ganders what thrilling answers i came up with to very interesting and thoughtful questioning, then please click here or click here or click, click, clickity, click here

thing six: 
as i have been clearing my head and my shed quite manically of late, and then fretting i will clear so much away, nothing will be left in my head nor my shed, i realized this could and never would be. all i was doing was making space for opportunities to present, or doors to open, or perhaps not, does not matter. for what mattered was what i noted upon my clearing ways, as i bagged things for thrift, stacked others to sell, plotting and planning our next move, not actually knowing exactly when it would be nor where we would go, it finally happened. the moment that caused a crack in my heart four years ago when our #1 left home and subsequently, two others followed in her footsteps, the moment that left me struggling to move forward feeling quite visible and alone without them by my side. 

well that cracked heart i do believe has patched and pieced itself together again, it may have taken four years, with many a dip in the road, but i have got there in the end.
 and it was with rather a tearful moment i realized sitting amongst the piles of 'to-gos' and 'to-stays' that when the time comes for the last of my lot to leave in the near future, i will be more than ready suitcase in hand, a skip to my step and my man by my side, to start a new chapter, taking with me many treasured possessions, most of which i will be carrying in my head and my heart and not as one might have suspected, my little suitcase.


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