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The Moody Mommy

Confession: I can be a slave to my moods.

I am not even-keeled, I am erratic. I don’t think I used to be like this. It might be a product of motherhood. Hyper vigilance and sleep deprivation and all around lack of down time and intellectual stimulation.

But I also have great moods, and great days. Like the other day, which included exercising and creating, fresh air and real conversation.

I felt great, until the witching hour. Usually I throw myself into housework and dinner when it comes. But when everything was on the table and the chicken wasn’t ready, I realized I still had time to kill before the sprint that is dinner-clean up-bath-bed.

I moved the kids to the living room. I put on the music. Not kid music. Hip hop. I turned up the volume. I danced.

I realized that if I stood in front of the window, the people in traffic would be able to see me dancing. Only at rush hour, which coincides with the witching hour, do the cars stop in front of my home for a moment. Maybe I could make them laugh. Maybe I could bring them back into their bodies for a moment. Maybe I could brighten one moment of the monotonous commute. Maybe I could connect with San Francisco in a new way.

When I started dancing, Giovanna ran towards me, squealing. She got down with it. At the sight of her big sister’s moves, Skyla also squealed in delight. She rose up on her little chubby knees and found the beat. It was. So. Cute. I squealed as well.

I didn’t dance in front of the window that night. But I did beat the mood and proceed to have a lovely evening in which Giovanna snuggled Skyla to sleep in her crib. When I looked at the video monitor and saw my big girl comforting my baby girl, the two clutching onto one another, one year-old head resting on five year-old shoulder, my heart exploded.

The next day at the gym childcare, Skyla was only happy if Gigi held her on her lap. Which was bittersweet. But God how I am grateful that these girls have one another, and that I get to be their mother.

I’ll be dancing again tonight, trying to beat the mood.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Happy First Birthday, Skyla + Date Carrot Cake Recipe

My baby is one. She taught me how to love all over again. She completes me in ways I didn’t know I was incomplete. She inspires me every day to be better than before.

Read the story of Skyla’s home water birth here, see the photos here.

I didn’t quite have the time to bake a healthy cake from scratch for Skyla, but since I did this for Giovanna’s first birthday and similar iterations (albeit with more sugar) for all of her subsequent birthdays, I scraped together stolen minutes and made something wholesome. Which meant the cupcakes were not even close to being in the oven when our first party guest arrived. Alas, the creation was worthy of the chaos. Even if she did smear and smash it more than she ate it.

Here is my recipe, inspired from a few different sources.

Date & Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cake:

1 cup whole wheat white pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or combination of nutmeg & ginger)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
coconut sugar (I just sprinkled this in, probably 1/4 cup, but 1/2 cup may have been better)
3 eggs
1 stick melted butter
zest of one orange (I probably zested less than half of the orange because I was short on time!)

Pulse in food processor–
approx 3/4 cup pitted dates
3 chopped carrots

Combine all ingredients, spoon into 12 muffin tins and bake 20-25 minutes at 350.

For frosting:

8 oz cream cheese
1 stick of butter
maple syrup to taste

Combine in mixer and use a frosting spatula to frost cooled cupcakes. For best results, add sprinkles.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Tell me what life is about

Lately she’s been saying things like, tell me what life is about. Her voice dreamy and her eyes wistful. She wants to know. She senses that oceans and galaxies lie beyond her grasp. After all, her world only recently turned itself upside down when we moved from our hometown of Seattle. She seems to recognize that life is fragile, that small moments can change everything, that big feelings are fleeting, that nothing lasts forever, and ultimately we will all die.

Her daddy & I try to answer her questions.

I said, love. Life is about loving other people.

He said, but people forget a lot. They think it’s about themselves.

She said, I think it’s about peace. And harmony.

There have been other questions, too.

I told her that I’m not really sure what happens when we die. That nobody really knows. That it’s the greatest mystery of life. Death.

She worries about us dying, about her grandparents dying.

I told her that we will never be separated because we live in one another, we are one another. We are not the same, but we are also not completely separate. We are oneness, embodied.

When I see her smile, I smile.

When I see her hurt, I hurt.

When I see her learn, I learn.

I told her, I think life is about doing what you love. Someday soon, I’ll teach her what it means when something moves you. I want her to recognize what moves her, so she can know her purpose. I want her to know that the universe will guide her by speaking to her heart.

She knows how to ask. My next job is to teach her how to listen.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Where are your holes?

“And the child brings again a fresh quality to life. Every child is primitive, a barbarian; now the mother has to civilize. Every child is a barbarian, remember; he is animal, wild. And the mother has to give him culture, has to teach him the ways of life, the ways of man. It is a great work. You have to remember that – that your work has not finished, it has started. Take it joyously!” – Osho

I started thinking about intentions. It seems we can boil our multitude of motivations down to a few key intentions. The deeper I go, the more I recognize my desire to help other people. Not because I think I have some kind of special authority or knowledge, but because I do not. My struggle is precisely the point. My struggle exists so that I can write my way through it. By writing my way through it, I can help other people.

Maybe. If I can get out of my own way.

The more we get out of our way, the more people we teach. We each of us have our own methods of teaching, our own things we feel called to teach, and practice, so that others will learn by example. A lawyer is under oath to practice the law so that she may lead her clients to follow the law. An accountant helps people to manage their money. A salesman educates his customers about the value of his product. A barista in a coffee shop is there to make sure you enjoy your coffee, and your morning too.

The lessons can be both subtle and glaring. They come through only when the teacher believes in the importance of what she’s teaching.

I’ve grown tired of the cliche that motherhood is hard. Hard doesn’t even begin to describe it. Hard is a ten mile run or a job interview or a bad date.

I like Osho’s description better. It is great work.

Motherhood runs a long, winding gamut. I can only speak from my position on it. So let’s be clear on who I am: I am a full-time mother, that’s 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I have a growing career, but not a paying job. My husband, the money-maker, often travels and I am left to parent alone. I have two children at home all day but for the 9 hours per week of preschool for the five year-old. On some occasions, I have a third glorious child. I always have several bodies to care for–to clothe, feed, bathe and love–though my husband eagerly shares in this work when he is home.

I am endlessly vying for time to write sentences, fragments of sentences, poems, blog posts, essays, short stories and entire novels.

Even on the days that I do almost everything right for them and for me, I still often feel that something is missing. Something I don’t notice until I get to the end of the night and it’s not there. In its place is a hole. I think this is why so many binge eaters tend to consume their calories at night. They try to fill the voids with food in their attempt to become whole.

When I run into troubles with my family, I start looking for the triggers. Some of them are easy to find, but many are not. Maybe she’s not getting enough social stimulation or he’s coping with the changes. Maybe she’s teething or she’s not eating enough whole foods. Maybe he’s under a lot of pressure or she feels unseen.

Today my girls and I exercised and we went on adventures and we connected with other parents and kids. Today we cooked and cleaned and walked and read books and played.

Today I disciplined. Today I tried again to teach my little animals the ways of the world–the importance of bathing after you blow out of a diaper and apologizing when you cave to the compulsion of stealing.

Today I spoke to strangers. Today I corresponded with friends. Today I posted lines from a poem to Instagram in an effort to connect with other poetry lovers.

But when I got to the end of the day, I felt a deep well of sadness rise in me. Beyond my duties as a mother, I struggled to see my worth as a human.

That’s when I started thinking about intentions, and how I can help other people. Which brought me here. Back to my words.

Where are your holes and how can you fill them?

Since I do not have a paying job, my holes often exist in my net worth, in my isolation, in my writing career. Writing novels is a huge risk. There are no guarantees. Many artists, particularly women artists, have to work extra hard to be seen.

Part of filling my holes is sharing and connecting with my blog readers.

Part of filling my holes is writing as much as humanly possible.

Part of filling my holes is reading as much as humanly possible.

Where are your holes and how can you fill them?

As always, I am available via email, lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com, and I love hearing from you.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Sisters: 5 years and (nearly) 1 year

They make my life brighter and deeper. Something bottomless lives inside of them. I see it in their eyes. When they feel joy, it soaks through to me, and for a brief moment, chaos becomes peace. I sense the precision in a leaf’s fall to the ground. I see the inherent beauty of flaws, the growth brought by discomfort, the pain that forces us to expand our notion of happiness and lack thereof.

When I drop off Giovanna at preschool, I like to loiter a bit. I put Skyla down and I let her interact and inevitably someone says, “what a smiley baby.” Regardless of how loudly she screamed in the carseat just a moment earlier, or how soundly she slept until I gently lifted the carseat out of its base in the vain hopes that she might stay sleeping (she never does), she still finds it in her to smile at people when they smile at her.

During these drop-offs, Giovanna loves to swoop in and pull Skyla onto her lap and assert her ownership. She kisses her baby sister and coos at her and tries to walk her around by standing behind her and holding her by the hands and encouraging her to take steps.

Lately Skyla has taken to rewarding her big sister with a giant open-mouth on her face. In the mornings when GiGi comes in to snuggle, in the evenings when the day accumulates with rambunctious delirium, in the in between moments, between giggles and head wiggles and tickles. Skyla goes in for the kiss by grabbing a fistful of GiGi’s bobbing curls and pulling herself towards her big sister. Then we all squeal and coo and I get that good full feeling of being whole rather than broken, complete rather than fragmented.

Back to the head wiggles. Skyla has a way of wiggling her head back and forth that is less like a nod or shake and more a dance move or a bobble-head impression. Sometimes she does it when she is so super excited about something that she can’t believe her good fortune. It’s like the “thank you” before she picks up the new toy or the blessing before she eats something delicious. She wiggles her head to the beat of a good song. She wiggles her head when we prompt her by wiggling our own heads. And she wiggles her head for no discernible reason but the simple joy of existing.

We’re not sure where she picked up the head wiggle, it could be an innate gesture, though we do suspect GiGi, whose curls are often bouncing, had something to do with it. They’ve begun to play together, or at least side by side. Snatching dolls and building block towers and knocking them down. Mostly, though, their play includes hugging and holding and kissing. Two little animals showing their love the best way they know how.

This is only the beginning for these two. God willing, they have a lifetime to learn from and delight in one another. Meanwhile, I’ll be in the background, facilitating their childhoods with a gentle hand and soft voice (one can hope), and writing my way through the bittersweet thick of it.

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To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

On Failing As A Mother

I’m a failure as a mother.

Lately, these words run through my head almost daily.

I try to write my way out of it. Around it. Through it.

Hence my essay published today on Mamalode.

“Chaos is part of our home ground. Instead of looking for something higher or purer, work with it just as it is.” – Pema Chodron

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To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

5 Most Important Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Motherhood

At 5 pm on my daughter’s fifth birthday, I popped a bottle of champagne and poured a single glass. I’d survived my first five years of motherhood, maybe even thrived at times, and since motherhood is something we so often do alone with our kids, it felt appropriate to toast to my kids and drink alone.

Many of us humans of the female persuasion know from a young age that we want to be mommies. I don’t remember a lot about early childhood, but I do remember being five myself and persuading my best friend’s two year-old sister to be my child. “Hug my legs,” I would tell her.

Fast forward 24 years and it seems everywhere I go I have a child clutching onto my legs. The baby loves to pull herself up onto me, one hand on the back of each leg. It’s as sweet as I knew it would be, and harder than I never knew it could be.

For all the mommies struggling today, for all the women struggling to become mommies, for all the women wanting to become mommies, not today but someday, this is for you.

1. Women are strong (and hire a doula). Society teaches us to fear birth, both the pain and the risk of it. But the World Health Organization estimates that only 5% of c-sections are true emergencies. 95% of the time, we can birth our babies without complications. That being said, interventions lead to more interventions. Drugs are great, empowering in their own way, and hospitals are helpful because they take pressure off of the mother. Even if we choose these gracious safety nets woven by the 21st century, we can still have faith in our natural ability to birth. Your beliefs can go a long way in helping and hindering your birth. My best advice? Hire a doula. A professional labor coach will help you in ways you cannot foresee or understand now. Contact me for Seattle-area recommendations.

2. You must fill your own cup. Your kids are going to demand a lot out of you. Everything, in fact. It’s only natural. Don’t try to do everything by yourself, don’t get bitter, don’t be a martyr. Ask your partner, parents, friends for support. Ask them to take care of your kids so you can fill your cup. You know what it is you need to do, now do it. You will be a better mother and you will have more to give and your kids will benefit from spending time with other caregivers. You might feel guilty at first. But when you see how much better you run when you aren’t on empty, you will understand. Also, no one else can fill your cup for you. Not your husband or your mom or your best friend or your partner. That part is up to you.

3. Do what works for you. Nobody but you and your partner knows what’s best for your kids. Many people will be quick to judge your methods or suggest alternatives. Take their advice with a grain of salt, even if you asked for it. (And they’ll give it to you, whether or not you asked.) Parent the way you feel comfortable parenting. Birth the way you want to birth (fearful or fearless!). Let your kid cry it out or don’t. Bed share or don’t. Discipline the way you want to discipline. Figure out what works, and go with it. You have something called mother’s intuition for a reason: survival.

4. Enjoy yourself. This started as “don’t take everything so seriously,” but that didn’t feel right. There is nothing more serious than the love we feel for these brand new humans for whom we are solely responsible. I read a blog post recently that connected our exhaustion to the hyper vigilance we must practice every single second of every single day to keep our babies alive. Sleep deprivation aside, taking care of small children 24/7 is the most exhausting job in the world. You deserve to have a little bit of fun while on the job. Go get an ice cream cone. Turn up the music and dance, or make videos of your children dancing. Pop some popcorn and pop in a Disney movie. Invite your mom friends over for coffee and let the kids make a huge mess. Drink the coffee, dammit. Don’t worry so much about what they’re eating or how much TV they’re watching. If you ever feel guilty, just go outside and chase your kids, and I promise their giggles and your endorphins will help you remember that everything is actually okay.

5. This won’t last forever. They are so cute. You just want to inhale them, don’t you? When they giggle, you feel so much joy that it hurts. And it hurts because it’s all temporary. Children grow up. You can give them every thing and tell them nothing about life, but they will still grow up and they will still leave you. Someday you will miss them. Someday you will ache for little voices and little feet and little bodies that wake you up all hours of the night. You will miss the laundry and the messes and the hands always reaching for you. These bittersweet truths have helped me through the dark hours when I am lonely, bored, isolated, tired, under appreciated, overwhelmed. It is a tragic relief: you will not always be a mommy, but you will always be a mother.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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