Lucia

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This should be a different kind of Labor Day weekend for me.

Shortly before my last post in December we found out we were expecting, with a due date of Sept. 2. We were thrilled but a little nervous because we had recently had an early miscarriage (called a “chemical pregnancy”), but everything we read and everyone we talked to said those types of miscarriages are incredibly common, and not to worry. As this pregnancy progressed and my belly started to grow, we were repeatedly reassured everything was going wonderfully and normally. During the pregnancy it was discovered I had a large ovarian cyst and so there was an ultrasound done to look at the cyst and during it they also did a full anatomy scan of our baby at 13 weeks. I had never been able to see any of my babies so early and it was amazing to see our little one moving around! Little arms and legs, little face. We were in love. We were assured by the Maternal Fetal Medicine Dr. that the baby was “perfect” and that since we were now in the second trimester, the chances of miscarriage were now only about 2% so we could breathe easy and release our fears of another miscarriage. The ovarian cyst would be monitored but was not a threat to the baby in any way.

Shortly after the appointment my morning sickness finally eased and as a week or so passed I began waiting to feel the first “flutters” of fetal movement. I was feeling so much better physically and mentally and happy to be in the second trimester. In the middle of March (one day shy of 15 weeks pregnant) I had a tiny bit of spotting and called my Midwife’s office to check in. There wasn’t much concern but they recommended I come in anyway just to be on the safe side. They used a small in-office ultrasound to look at baby and immediately I could tell something was wrong. There was no heartbeat. My sweet baby, who just two weeks ago had been called “absolutely perfect” by the Dr., was gone. I sat sobbing in the Midwife’s office waiting for my husband to join me. My baby’s picture was left up on the ultrasound screen, completely still. I called my friend (and doula) while I waited and sobbed out the situation to her on the phone. Once my husband arrived we were sent to Maternal Fetal Medicine again, where it was confirmed that the baby had passed away, perhaps not long after our last ultrasound.

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It was five days until I had a D&E surgery to remove “the demise,” as the Dr. referred to it. We had to tell the boys what had happened. They didn’t completely understand, but they understood enough. They asked a lot of questions. They were frustrated. They tried to comfort me. I spent my time alternating between grief and overwhelming anxiety about the surgery. I had never been through surgery before and it seemed so invasive, so harsh. I was carried through the waiting time by an immense amount of love. Being a doula, I have many friends in the birthing community who understand the emotional gravity of pregnancy loss. Many people reached out by calling and sending texts or emails. The Midwife who delivered my two other children called personally to talk.  My friend and doula who I called in the waiting room checked in every day. She was like a lifeline in the darkness. She listened, she cried with me, she texted just to say “I love you.” My gratitude to her is immeasurable.

After surgery there was a sense of relief that the experience was “done,” but it was at this point that the finality of the loss set in. I experienced crushing grief. It was like all the wind had been knocked out of me. Again, there was an outpouring of love. A meal train was set up in a Mom’s group on Facebook and friends and even strangers delivered meals. Each meal, each text, each visit, helped carry me through. I am so incredibly grateful for the support we received.

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A week or so after the surgery we received the results of the genetic testing done on the baby (the testing was offered to us since we had experienced a second trimester loss after a perfectly healthy ultrasound). They also tested me for some blood clotting disorders. Both tests came back as completely normal. They could find no reason for why this happened. The only piece of information we received was that our baby was a girl.  We named her Lucia Isabel.

This Labor Day weekend I should be celebrating the arrival or impending arrival of a sweet baby girl. Kissing sweet baby cheeks and counting little toes. There is a parallel life I can still see running along in my mind of “what could have been.” I realize miscarriage is still somewhat of a “taboo” topic, which is why I’m writing this blog. 1 in 4 mothers experience miscarriage. It is much more common than anyone thinks and many people suffer in silence, believing perhaps they haven’t earned the right to grieve, or that people won’t understand, or even not wanting to “burden” others with their sadness. Even though I didn’t get to meet my baby in person, she exists very much in my heart. I am so grateful for every single person who reached out, even in the smallest ways. I’m not sure I would have made it otherwise. If you are afraid of reaching out to someone who is grieving because you “don’t know what to say,” please set that aside. There are no perfect words you can say. But there are things you can do. Bring a meal. Drop off a bag of chocolate, tea, or flowers. Give a hug. Text randomly to say “I’m thinking of you and I love you.” Your presence and your love speaks a million times louder than the “perfect” words.

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Today I have just a photo and a teaspoon of ashes to remind me of the sweet little girl who lives on now only in our hearts. Lucia means “light” and Isabel means “pledged to God.” She is a light pledged to God and the little flicker of her spirit continues on somewhere in the universe, maybe everywhere around us. I thank you for listening to my story. The words have been rolling around in my head and heart for a long time but it is not something I’ve wanted to revisit. But today, my due date, there is some catharsis in telling the story and getting it out. I thank you for listening, and I thank you for your love.

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The flowering photos in this post were taken shortly after the loss. The boys had just read the children’s book “Forget Me Not” by Michael Broad and said that the purple flowers were Forget Me Nots to help me remember the baby.

Acts of Kindness

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” -Aesop

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Merry Christmas Eve everyone! In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share a little bit about a few things we did this year to help instill in the kids that the true essence of Christmas is not just the mad rush of opening and amassing presents, but in the sharing with and giving to others.

Inspired by an awesome post by another Mom in a facebook group about her family’s Random Acts of Kindness, I talked with the boys about ways we could show kindness to others this season. They were very excited to participate. I read them a long list of Kindness Ideas this Mom had provided. Unsurprisingly, the kids were immediately drawn to the ones that involved animals. They also were super excited about making treats to share with our neighbors (especially the neighbor kids they love to play with).

First we started by making big batches of treats to share. This included a delicious, very buttery Chex Mix, a huge double batch of pillowy soft Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Sweet Glazed Popcorn.

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We contacted a couple of animal rescues to ask about ways we could help. The Dakota Dachshund Rescue said their dogs can always use toys, and they also invited the boys to come down to a Meet and Greet they were having so that the kids could walk the dogs and show off to prospective adopters how friendly and gentle the dogs were with kids. The boys were SUPER excited about this!! We made some handcrafted felt “dog bone” toys and put together a big basket of treats to share with all of the dog foster families who were working at the event. The boys also made cards for the foster families that said “Thank you for loving dogs.” And “Thank you for rescuing dogs and giving them bones.”  They had an awesome time giving their presents away and also walking the dogs. They are both huge animal lovers and always say they are planning to be “animal doctors” or “animal rescuers” when they grow up.

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We also planned a trip to the Sioux Falls Humane Society to “pet cats” as the kids said. The staff at the Humane Society told us the cats ALWAYS need extra attention, especially the older ones. The kids were very excited about getting to play with the cats since Wyatt is allergic so we don’t spend very much time around cats otherwise. We put together a bag of cookies for the Humane Society staff and made cards that said “Thank you for rescuing animals” and “Thank you for our rats” (we adopted the kids’ two pet rats at the Humane Society).  We also brought a 50# bag of dog food as a donation.  The staff at the Humane Society awarded the kids with “Certificates of Appreciation” which made the kids just beam!

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Mathias’ nickname is Ty Ty and this is how he introduced himself to the Humane Society staff

We also made a big basket of treats and the kids took them around and delivered them to our neighbors and friends.  They loved having people open the door and the kids would shout “Merry Christmas!” and deliver the treats.

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I am so glad we did this as part of our holiday celebrations this year. It was wonderful for the kids to get to choose what they wanted to do and I think it really made an impression on them about what having the “Christmas Spirit” is all about.

Helping animals this year also touched my heart greatly as our little Pancho dog has been dealing with some serious health issues since about 6 weeks ago. At 13 1/2 years old he has been in and out of the vet’s office, on medications, and even overnight at the ER vet. Eventually our vet told us there was only so much we could do anymore. We processed that we likely have only a short time with him anymore and have been doing everything in our power to keep him comfortable fed, hydrated, and very, very loved.  Being able to channel some of our energy into helping other rescue animals felt fitting in honor of Pancho’s life. (Pancho was rescued from an abusive situation and placed at the Missoula Humane Society at age 3, where we adopted him 10 years ago).  Pancho passed away at home with Wyatt and I at his side the very same day we finished up with our Acts of Kindness at Humane Society. He spirit is now free of suffering and running free in the Great Beyond with his fur brother Reuben. Our hearts are very tender right now and we have been keeping the memory of his spirit alive by placing a flickering candle on his bed and near a piece of art that inspired his name.

Pancho’s bed and “house” (he liked to sleep under a desk near our bed). A flickering candle reminds us his spirit lives on.

Pancho’s bed and “house” (he liked to sleep under a desk near our bed). A flickering candle reminds us his spirit lives on.

A piece of art titled "Pouchie Villa Rides Again" inspired the name of our first pet, a little chihuahua named Pancho.

A piece of art titled “Pouchie Villa Rides Again” inspired the name of our first pet, a little chihuahua named Pancho.

May you have a wonderful Christmas and be filled with the spirit of sharing, giving, and love. May you hold your loved ones tight. May you be generous and kind. May you be thankful for all you have and let a spirit of gratitude and joy come into your hearts. This is your wonderful chance at life. It’s worth it to be kind to our neighbors, our friends, strangers, and the little creatures of the world. Amen.

Homeschool: Kindergarten First Quarter

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Fall brought an exciting new dimension to our lives: homeschooling! We “officially” started Kindergarten with Harper at the beginning of September. I will admit that even though we had been talking about doing homeschool for years, as the actual start date approached I started to question our decision. I started feeling overwhelmed by the task set ahead and began thinking way too far out into the future about the sustainability of such a seemingly herculean task. Luckily, we were able to make a deal with ourselves that we would just take it one year at a time and not get swallowed up by the enormity of long-term homeschooling. That truly was a great decision because it I don’t think we would have even started otherwise. I am so glad we forged ahead because homeschooling is going amazing well!

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Drawing “B” Butterflies

We are using Oak Meadow’s Kindergarten curriculum, having graduated from the Oak Meadow’s Preschool learning guide (which we had been using for two years, along with following the concepts from Simplicity Parenting). I had started looking into Oak Meadow many years ago as it is a gentle, “Waldorf-influenced” curriculum with a special focus on nature and the arts. The Kindergarten curriculum focuses on language arts through lots of storytelling and reading, introduces all the letters of the alphabet; introduces numbers and basic number concepts;  music/movement through songs and fingerplays; is filled with quality arts and crafts; and weaves nature and science into almost all lessons. There are no worksheets or copywork in the curriculum, although we do add in a few workbooks for math and language arts just because Harper finds them fun. Even though the curriculum is very gentle and doesn’t introduce reading yet in Kindergarten, Harper is easily picking up on reading so we just follow his lead. I have to say, it is absolutely thrilling to see him start to read!

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He asks for us to play this “game” all the time. He asks us to put a  “puzzler” on the board and he sees if he can sound it out.

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He needs help spelling but asks for help so that he can write sentences on the board.

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“Mom, can you help me spell Robot?”

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Turning “H” into a house

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We read “The Three Little Pigs” alongside Jan Brett’s “3 Little Dassies” and the kids wanted to compare/contrast the stories

Oak Meadow encourages a daily rhythm, which I have to say has been the biggest component for success in our homeschool life, as well as our regular non-schooling life. Even though some days are wild and unstructured, most days we do fall into a regular rhythm (I will post on that soon for families who are struggling to find their daily routine). Having the kids know and expect that every morning we will eat breakfast, get dressed, do chores, and then start school has made a huge impact on their behavior and makes our day run so much more smoothly.

Mathias (age 3) has been doing Harper’s Kindergarten curriculum right alongside him, to the best of his ability. He absolutely loves it! He and Harper are basically inseparable so there is no way we could ever leave him out. He is picking up on so much.

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Mathias surprised me when he jumped up and wrote this (backwards) “D” on the chalkboard when I asked if anyone could write one.

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Making his own contribution to the chalkboard

We start every school session with a “Morning Circle,” which includes songs and fingerplays, show and tell (the kids have added this at their request), and reviewing the concepts we’re working on. We then dig into whatever we’re doing for the day. We usually do language arts on M, W, F and Math on T, Th. Science, Crafts, and Music/Movement are interspersed throughout the week.

I do a weekly planning session the weekend before we’re going to start. Oak Meadow does not give a daily schedule but instead introduces the concepts and projects of the week. I usually go through the calendar of activities and combine that with the curriculum to create the daily learning objectives and activities. We do a lot of field trips and spend a ton of time outside in nature. Between hiking excursions with family, getting together with homeschooling friends, The Great Plains Zoo, the Outdoor Campus, Siouxland Libraries, and the Museum of Visual Materials, we manage to keep the calendar pretty full.

Completely engrossed in looking for insects in the fallen logs

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Digging for bones with some homeschool friends at the Outdoor Campus’ “Backyard”

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Whole family out for a hike

Because the curriculum is so gentle there is enough flexibility for improvisation and also for adding additional special projects. For instance, a couple weeks ago the Great Plains Zoo added a mongoose exhibit and Harper, the little scientist he is, became completely obsessed with learning everything he could about mongooses. So we researched mongoose facts at home, watched mongoose wildlife videos, and even read Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki Tikki Tavi.” Harper was absolutely thrilled!

To me, this is a perfect example of the beauty of homeschooling. One of our main objectives in homeschooling was to let the kids “geek out” on whatever interested them and to follow down any rabbit hole their interests led them. The are both extremely curious kids who truly do love to learn. They are making homeschooling very easy as they are so excited to learn new things, to hear new stories, to work on projects, and to propose new topics of interest.

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“Rikki Tikki Tavi”…not for the faint of heart!

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The kids making crescent rolls for “C” week (C being the shape of a crescent, and the first letter of the word). Oak Meadow is very hands-on and often includes baking in the curriculum.

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Making homemade crescent rolls

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Making and counting snake eggs

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Giant “A” to walk around; One Sun with 1,000,000,000 rays

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On a field trip at the pumpkin patch with the OWL Homeschool Collective

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Running the Sioux Falls Area Running Club’s Kids Cross Country Series

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Checking out the Greenway after a heavy rain

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Making the most of rainy fall weather!

We’ve had a wonderful fall filled a with ton of learning and fun. We are looking forward to starting our Winter Quarter next week. We took out some of our winter decorations today to make a seasonal corner in the house. We will update on our homeschooling adventures as we go!

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Fast Forward

Hard to believe, but it’s been well over three years since I’ve kept up with the blog.  Life kind of turned on at warp speed for a while (our second son, Mathias, not-so-coincidentally turned 3 in May) and blogging just became hard.  But, the pace of life is feeling a little slower now so I’m going to attempt to revive the blog as there are some great radical homemaking adventures happening that I want to share!

So what has happened since the last blog post?

We built a new chicken coop…(March 2012)

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The new chicken run

And spread the love of backyard chickens by getting involved in local organizing to ensure it remained legal to keep chickens…

Summer 2012

HGSF printmaking

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August 2012 265Kicking off the first annual Sioux Falls Tour de Coop…we were the first stop!August 2012 265

And welcomed, Mathias, our second child into the world….(it was a whirlwind!  Hopefully I can share his birth story sometime) May 2012

May 2012 130

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And grew together as a family of four…

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June 2012 125

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And grew other things….

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And these boys…well they just kept growing too…

Summer 2013

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Mathias 1 year oldMathias 1 year old

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And we moved to a ranch in the Black Hills (2013)….

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And because of Murphy’s Law ended up moving back to our old house 3 months later!

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End of the trail for that adventure.

I trained with DONA International to become a birth doula and started on my birth work journey. (Fall 2013)

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And the next June (2014) we witnessed two milestones. Celebrating our 10 Year Wedding Anniversary…

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And losing our sweet Reuben dog at the age of 10.

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And the boys just kept on growing! (Here they are with some “cheep” entertainment)

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And we took trips as a family….

Summer/Fall 2014

on the train in DuluthOn the train in Duluth, MN

bayfield wiHiking in Bayfield, WI

And in Jan 2015 I left my job as a community organizer to build my doula business and spend time more time at home with the boys.

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And this summer (2015) the boys turned 3 and 5…how can it be?

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But despite the business we took a lovely vacation to CO and saw some old friends…

RMNP 2Rocky Mountain National Park 2015

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And currently we are just settling into Fall with a recent trip to the apple orchard with our local homeschool collective (more on that new adventure soon!)

Hoversten Orchard 2015

What a whirlwind! Thanks for this little trip down memory lane. I’ll admit I’m a little misty-eyed looking at all of these photos. But we’re all caught up now so I’ll be posting more regularly now! Look for updates soon.

Winter

It’s been quiet at the blog but that doesn’t mean it’s mean it’s been quiet around here.  Our active and ever-growing toddler (20 months already!) and the demands of busy work and life schedules have kept us hopping.

One busy toddler, two dogs, and six chickens...we've got this thing!

But we are staying warm and snug in the little house, enjoying the fruits of our summer labors with lots of warming meals made of our produce.  We are ever-thankful for the freezer full of veggies and two deer that have kept us well-fed this season.

Solstice Dinner

Braided Challah Bread

We are trying to carve out a mindfulness, a slowness, despite the busy season.  Our evenings are precious to us.  It is our “slow time.”  Cooking nourishing family dinners, reading lots of books to our little one and taking time to play, and evening cups of tea and good conversation keep us connected and grounded.

Holding onto the light during the long nights

Snuggles with a sleepy boy

We’ve also made a commitment to maintaining healthy bodies.  On top of eating well, we have been able to stay active thanks to a mostly open winter (we are just now experiencing the first significant snow of the year!).  We even enjoyed Christmas Eve runs on the bike trail in 50 degree weather.  It has been wonderful to experience a late winter and enjoy the feeling the warm breezes and sunshine far into January.  On colder days and now that the snow and ice has arrived, we head to the YMCA.

All of has made for one happy, healthy Mama, which is good because I have a very important job this winter: growing our second child.  Yes, we are expecting another son in May this year.  We are so very excited to expand our family and can’t wait to meet this little boy.

Happy Mama at 20 weeks

Hope you are finding your peace this winter, no matter how busy you may be.  Sending much love, and will try to update more often!

Sioux Falls Urban Chicken Ordinance Reviewed

Our little family made the cover of the Argus Leader today for a story surrounding the ordinance that allows urban chickens in Sioux Falls.  The ordinance is being reviewed by the city council, so if you support allowing folks to have some food security by keeping layers in the city, let them know!

Here is the story:  Squawking Over Urban Farms

Photo credit Devin Wagner, Argus Leader

The New Gals

We welcomed two new ladies to the flock last week, a pair of Ameraucana pullets from a local farmer. We needed to add to the flock since little Harper has a not so little appetite and is rivaling Wyatt in his love of eggs.

They spent the first night in the garage in Rube’s kennel, then the second day in the kennel by the chicken run to introduce them to our hens. That afternoon we let them into the run where several of our hens stood curiously by while others started implementing “the pecking order.”

Harper and his steadfast fascination with the chickens

The chicken social hierarchy is a very real thing and our flock has been working hard at making these young gals realize they are at the bottom of the totem pole. The poor chicks have been hiding out in the coop most days, cowering when the “big” chickens come near. We were a little concerned they might not work it out (especially because our Rhode Island Red seems really seems to have it out for these gals), but just today we finally spotted the pullets out in the chicken yard mingling (from a distance) with the other birds. Whew! Hopefully soon the birds will figure it all out. Anyone know of a chicken whisperer?

Taking refuge atop the shade hut

These ladies are gorgeous! We’re loving our beautiful mixed flock, and looking forward to blue/green eggs these ladies will be providing!