Mamahood.

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So I’m sitting down to write something euphoric about how I love being a mother more than anything (which is true) and how I always wanted to be Mrs. Darling from Peter Pan growing up (also true) when in the kitchen where Jonathan is with Edmond I hear a glass breaking because Edmond is into everything these days, and so he grabbed a mason jar and it fell and broke into a gazillion pieces and chaos ensues as we try to clean it while Edmond cries to be picked up again, and really, that is what parenting is these days: euphoria and chaos and bliss and madness.

This week was rough. Edmond was going through a growth spurt, not napping well, wanting to be right in my arms constantly, and with all that going on I was not on my a-game and did lots of smart things including dumping a whole pint of yogurt on the floor.

Which is to say our lives aren’t perfect. Parenting isn’t easy. Edmond isn’t always in a great mood. I’m not always in a good mood.

Parenting is hard for perfectionists, because there just isn’t a way to do it perfectly. You read everything you can, sort through all of the varying opinions, stake out your position, give something a go, and then – woops – a few weeks later decide you need to make a 180 and start over.

And parenting might be especially hard on goal-oriented perfectionists (me) who feel they need to be constantly at work towards achieving a goal. I am a multi-tasker, and often have dozens of projects in progress at the same time. There’s my poetry and prose and my writerly ambitions, there’s this house and all the improvements we’re still hoping to make, there’s Forest Mountain Hymnal, and then there’s this new role of homemaker I’ve taken on where I’m trying to make homemade dough at least once a week, cook at least 5 family meals a week, economize in whatever way I can, and support my husband at his 50-hour-a-week job.

All this is aside from the fact that I have OCD which often gives me all sorts of little hang ups about these projects as I go along. (Fortunately, my struggles with OCD have significantly lessened the older I’ve gotten, which is an amazing blessing).

Recently, though, I read a wonderful book which has helped to reground me: Sharifa Oppenheimer’s Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children. The book is spiritual though not religious or Christian, and is an overview of how to raise children in a Waldorf-inspired home.  Even if you never go the Waldorf route though, there is a plethora of useful advice within the book, including how to talk to your children about difficult topics like death, how to foster imagination, how to deal with nightmares, how to create a peaceful bedtime routine, etc.

What is most special about this work though is the emphasis it places on peace and calm. Oppenheimer’s main message is that as parents we need to slow down and create a rhythm for our family that focuses on the beauty and magic of the everyday. In life, I think that has long been of upmost importance to me, and this book served as a refresher course on what that looks like in a family with young children.

“Looking inward, I find that when I give myself wholeheartedly, opening into the moment with curiosity and wonder, time elongates and I am surrounded by the deliciousness of Now. Those moments that I can approach with true gratitude and wonder live somehow in the realm of timelessness. Perhaps gratitude is one of the doorways into Eternity. Our young children still have one foot in the Eternal, in Heaven. We can join them there, if we give ourselves enough time.” Sharifa Oppenheimer

I am not perfect at this. Not near. But I feel so blessed to be able to give it a go. To try and learn peace and model it for Edmond.

Because there’s this other way that my son makes me mindful of Eternity: he is the part of Jonathan and I most likely to carry us on into the future. He is likely to be our most lasting achievement. Perhaps I’ve written the next American novel and I’ll be famous for it for centuries; perhaps Forest Mountain Hymnal will take off and Jonathan will be the next Pete Seeger. That would be amazing.

But it would be entirely possible to focus so much on achievement that one forgot to live and to take proper notice of life. To enjoy the pleasure every morning of a slow cup of coffee. To take a walk around the yard and note the progress of trees. To feel the coming of the night and the autumn, to rejoice even at the frost, the wrinkle, because to do so is to be mindful of our mortality and to live moments well.

What novel could I write that would ever compare to the complexity and magic of a baby? What song has ever been written that reaches the perfection of the muscles, cells, framework bones of any human living? What could I ever create that would be better than an entire life – a new being on this planet? a new soul unto itself unique?

I can never quite wrap my head around the existence of us all; we are the result of years of love and families formed. The chance that we are here at all is so minuscule and yet when I look into the face of my child I have no other choice but to think there could never be another world than one with him in it.

And so every day I muster all my strength. I try to model what it is to be patient even when I don’t feel it.  I slow down and play with Edmond, sing to him, cuddle and kiss him even when I have a thousand other things I need to do. Because for me, that is what mamahood is all about. And it is a role I cherish with all my heart.

I’ll close with a poem by Kahlil Gibran, that serves as part of the introduction to Oppenheimer’s book:

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

Glory. Amen.

Mini-Fall Fest with the Durhams

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I’ve said it before, but it is such a blessing to have the Durhams as our family friends! To have a family with so many shared values is so helpful and affirming. On Sunday, they had us over for a mini-Fall fest. Over the years, this celebration will likely be more elaborate and involve the kiddos more, but this year it was wonderful enough, with Merrill’s gumbo, a test-run on baby birthday cake, and some arts and crafts. Jonathan even sang a creepy autumn song. It was great.

Edmond at 10 months.

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Edmond is ten months old today! He has taken his first baby steps, has five teeth, and is more fun than ever. He has been on his first plane ride, and gone to the zoo for the first time. Yesterday, he had his first “sweet” ever – a small taste of pumpkin pie made by his Gram for his dad’s birthday.

Edmond can cuddle, babble, and play. He loves all musical instruments, is crazy about his parents, grandparents, extended family, and friends, and loves books. He has so many new tricks, but favorites include finding his toes, clapping his hands, and an adorable fake laugh. He loves nursing, and now signs for milk (which is a little more subtle than trying to pull my shirt off in public, so that is appreciated).

Not surprisingly given his parents, he is very stubborn. He can be amazingly willful, and Jonathan and I have to work very hard not to laugh when he grits his teeth and throws a spoon on the floor after being asked not to, or picks up a computer cord and flings it after being reminded not to touch wires.

Edmond is the most charming handful around, is friendly with strangers, and can give some pretty adorable kisses if he’s feeling inclined.

As parents, Jonathan and I are being kept perpetually on our toes, but we’re loving it. I am a huge sap when it comes to this kid (alright, I’m a huge sap about most things), and I almost cannot bare how quickly Edmond’s first year is passing by. Fortunately, with each day, we fall more in love as a family and Edmond gets a bit more fun, so I guess I’ll have to learn the passing of time as best I can.

Here are a few photos from lately, and more photos can be seen on the previous post about Baltimore and upcoming posts about our mini-fall celebration with the Durhams and our photo session with Gentle Hearts Photography.

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Also, to say that we are a little excited about the next three months (1st Halloween, 1st Thanksgiving, 1st Birthday, and 2nd Christmas) is a glorious understatement.

besties and a babe in Baltimore

last week Jonathan, Edmond, and I had the sheer pleasure of visiting our best friend (and Edmond’s god mother) Hanna in Baltimore. we had visited her once about four years ago, and since she makes a trip southward on at least a bi-yearly basis, we figured a trip to her was well over-due.

so we hopped on a plane! we were more than a little nervous about taking Edmond on his first flight, but he was such a champ. like. it was amazing. he fell asleep during take off on the way there, and slept the entire flight. on the way home, he fell asleep shortly after boarding, woke up about half-way through the flight, and proceeded to calmly sit in our lap and read for the remainder of the flight (including quite a bit of turbulence). for a kid who normally is happiest when frenetically scampering about, this was a huge, welcome surprise. he even waited to make very cute and happy but oh-so-loud screetches until we’d landed. so that was great. we’re already scheming about where we want to fly next.

Baltimore and our host Hanna were both amazing. we loved the town, loved getting to explore non-stop, enjoyed getting to see Hanna’s friends and parents who we’re so fond of, and could not have had a better time. we went to the zoo, went on numerous walks, saw the harbor, ate lots of delicious food, and just generally reveled in getting to spend so much good time with our best frand. We also got to see Jonathan’s bff from childhood, Don Lafleur, currently attending grad school in Annapolis.

Pictorial evidence is below:

This one though. Love her so much.

This one though. Love her so much.

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WHAT ARE THESE BERRIES AND HOW ARE THEY REAL?

WHAT ARE THESE BERRIES AND HOW ARE THEY REAL?

Table manners, ya know?

Table manners, ya know?

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Gentleman Moody

Gentleman Moody

Grumpy gus at the harbor.

Grumpy gus (just in need of a nap, really) at the harbor.

Making friends at the Fudgery.

Making friends at the Fudgery.

Look who we found!

Look who we found!

Edmond is so spoiled wherever he goes. Sheila and Tim, Hanna's parents, were so sweet with him and had brought him many board books and two adorable toys!

Edmond is so spoiled wherever he goes. Sheila and Tim, Hanna’s parents, were so sweet with him and had brought him many board books and two adorable toys!

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Do you play croquet?

Do you play croquet?

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26 looks good on you.

26 looks good on you.

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Paradise early (Another Beautiful Weekend in Sewanee)

“Here we are in Paradise early: Sewanee, it is so beautiful that people who have been there always, one way or another, come back…” – William Alexander Percy

This past weekend was spent in Sewanee, celebrating the union of two beautiful souls, Kathryn and Eva. It was such a joyous celebration, and we were able to see so many people we love the Friday and Saturday leading up to the ceremony. Sewanee never ceases to live up to my ever-high expectations for it. As a community, it can’t be beat. We went on a beautiful hike to Proctor’s Hall, we had beer with friends on the steps of Shenanigans, we ate way too often at Stirlings. We spent time with Joe in the Green House, and drove through Sewanee fog to get to our hotel room in Monteagle. Never will I be able to express how much I love my alma mater.

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Edmond at 9 months.

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Yesterday Edmond turned 9 months young. He truly seems on the brink of toddlerhood – it is amazing to me how much change and transition we humans go through our first year of life!

At 9 months, Edmond is so much fun. He crawls, stands, “cruises,” and may be walking any day now. He loves being chased and tickled, will crawl across the floor at his fastest speed to get to a drum or guitar, and occasionally slows down long enough for some very open-mouthed but oh-so-sweet baby kisses.

Edmond has started demonstrating that he knows some words, which is endlessly fascinating to his parents. He knows ‘firetruck,’ ‘dog,’ ‘kitty cat,’ ‘monkey,’ and knows many, many loved ones by name. He has sounds that he attaches to many of these things and people, but no true words yet (short of babbling ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ and ‘baba’).

Edmond has also gotten so much better at entertaining himself. In the morning as I’m making my coffee, Edmond is typically flipping pages in his favorite books, and on our most recent family trip to Sewanee, Edmond contented himself by ‘reading’ in the back seat. He also loves examining toys before throwing them flippantly, often with a shrug. It cracks me up.

Edmond has four adorable teeth. He enjoys all foods and we have almost stopped buying baby food. Edmond loves apples, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and tried bread for the first time yesterday (and, of course, loved it). He is still loving nursing (as am I).

Edmond loves Minette and is really sweet to her 55% of the time. She is sweet to him 98% of the time.

Jonathan and I feel so blessed to be his parents and are so crazy about him. We’re amazingly sentimental about every little milestone, and are trying to cherish each new phase as best as we can.

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These two know how to play, I tell you what.

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Life lately.

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We, the Moodys, entered in to a whole new phase of life this week.

Jonathan got hired full-time as an Education Assistant at Cameron College Prep, a charter school in our neighborhood (it is actually our zone school, so Edmond might attend there in 10 years for middle school). It is 60% Latino and 20% Egyptian. Jonathan will be working with the ELL department, and over the next couple of months, will help as they develop a “Newcomers Academy” curriculum, intended for students who have only recently arrived to America. He will eventually help head this new program, and will work as a teacher starting next year. 

In so many ways, this job is his dream job. Jonathan has already told me so many stories of the students he has met there and the hardships they have experienced already in their short lives. This is what he has dreamed of for years: to use his Spanish language skills to help people in his hometown. As an additional perk, he can bike to work (and it takes about 5 minutes). He also gets paid summers off. And he has to wear a tie to work each day (which means his wife thinks he looks like a stud).

This is a huge piece of the puzzle in our lives. It cements the decision I made last January to resign as Aftercare director, effectively becoming a stay-at-home mom. I now teach only three hours a week, and this too is a perfect position for me to be in – I love my co-workers, love getting to use my French each week, and am excited about the opportunity to perfect my teaching skills with the low-stress commitment of one section a week. Best of all, I am able essentially to be a stay-at-home mom, and make our lives at home as peaceful and economical as possible. I’m already loving getting the house in tip-top shape, making the chickens my responsibility (traditionally, Jonathan took care of our little girls), and cooking more. 

I am also able to focus on being the best mom I can be, and for me in this season, it means trying to create a peaceful, no-stress environment for my little family, and to take time to really enjoy Edmond. As a mom with diagnosed OCD and a generally high-strung personality, I am trying to make my life at home a meditation, and to take time to appreciate each day that I am given with my darling boy. I could write a whole post on this process.

Lastly, Jonathan getting this job opens so many doors for us and allows us to continue to dream big. This summer while Jonathan is off, I will begin taking graduate courses towards getting my MFA in Creative Writing. I am so excited about this and it too feels like a piece of the puzzle falling into place in our lives.

We are also going to be traveling a lot more — with my teaching schedule and Jonathan’s school schedule, there will be several opportunities for weekend trips and longer trips — we’ve been dying to go on an adventure and now this will be possible. We’re thinking Baltimore for our fall break, and perhaps a trip to Quebec for Jonathan’s spring break. 

This Saturday, we’re also taking a trip to look at a Tiny House. Whether or not this one works out, our future plans include Airbnb, having a space for guests again (Edmond’s nursery used to be our guest room), and having a little home to take away from home. We’re so excited. 

Also, I want to add some ducks to our chicken flock. We’ll see if I can convince Jonathan.

All this is to say, the other day after finding out Jonathan got hired, I was driving home with Edmond babbling in the back seat, and I couldn’t think of one thing that I was stressed about or worried about or frustrated with. Life will happen, expectations will change, seasons will come and go. I might not always be this happy. But dang. Life feels great right now. And we feel so grateful and blessed. 

Edmond at 8 months.

 

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Time feels like it is flying by, and Edmond is 8 months old. At 8 months, he is “cruising” a little bit, waves hello (but not bye), babbles and coos and grunts and squeals constantly, is a champ when it comes to eating solid food (he loves carrots and celery, parenting score!), and makes each day a new adventure. We have had such a fun summer with him, and love watching him grow. He still loves Bear Snores On – it is our go-to when he is fussy in the car or on the changing table. It will stop him from crying about 95% of the time — but he has started loving other books too. Every Thursday we go to the library together and pick out board books to read for that week. Edmond continues to LOVE music and the outdoors. He is attentive whenever his dad or I play music, and loves strumming the strings of Jonathan’s classical guitar. He is into everything and is constantly on the go. We love this little one more than words can express. 

"Ice cream" - just frozen fruit blended together.

“Ice cream” – just frozen fruit blended together.

Peekaboo with Luke and Fristl.

Peekaboo with Luke and Fristl.

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Play date with Genevieve

Play date with Genevieve

 

Edmond at 7 months.

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Our sweet boy turned 7 months on Sunday.

At 7 months, Edmond crawls, pulls himself to standing, and has a love/hate relationship with his walker (which he moves forward in about 1/4 of the time).

He babbles constantly, loves wrinkling up his nose when he smiles, and screeches when very excited or very upset.

He loves all foods (except avocado). We more or less gave up on baby-led weaning, although Edmond still self-feeds with a loaded spoon, and we try to give him as many semi-solids as we feel comfortable with.

Edmond’s favorite book is Bear Snores On, and with or without the pictures, if he hears it he will grow super attentive and listen to the whole story. Really, all you have to say is, “bear” and he grows so interested.

With Jonathan in Guatemala this last month, Edmond underwent a major sleep regression and now seems only satisfied when sleeping with his mama. That said, we at long last took the bassinet out of our room and he now sleeps around a half of the night in his own crib.

He loves Minette, swinging, and swimming.

While Jonathan was in Guatemala, we stayed with my parents and it was so much fun to see them in grandparent-mode full-time. They were so generous with their time and resources while Jonathan was away — we’re so grateful.

In the last month, he went to Michigan, East Tennessee, and Sewanee. He has gotten to see all of his great-grandparents in the last month, and got to spend some very sweet time with my Nana for a quiet and sweet weekend at her house. He has met much of his extended family at reunions and here in town. He celebrated his first 4th of July, and went swimming in a pool for the first time. He slept through his first movie at the theater.

Jonathan and I love him so much. Having a baby is harder than anyone can prepare you for, but it is sweeter and more magical than you can imagine too. At every age, Edmond has gotten more and more fun (but that didn’t keep me from balling this morning when I put more of his little baby clothes in storage).

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for even more photos, you can visit instagram.com/jonathan_and_rebecca

the last three weeks.

After previously having spent less than 24 hours apart as a married couple (shocking, yes!?), Jonathan and I recently spent 3 weeks apart while he studied in Guatemala in conjunction with his Masters. 

 Needless to say, our last 3 weeks looked pretty different. 

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Hopefully, when Jonathan has some spare time and isn’t too busy job-searching or baby-gazing, he’ll be able to post all about his adventures away. In the mean time, words can’t express how happy Edmond and I are to have our main man back safe and sound. 

We celebrated this week with a good-ole Father-versary (since Jonathan missed our anniversary and his first ever father’s day while he was gone). 

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