How NOT To Go Camping With Your Baby

20140723-132007-48007482.jpg1. Pack you, your significant other’s, and child’s entire closet, two coolers worth of food, tent, camping gear, half your house, but forget your camera. Be forced to use your phone to record the first trip and rely on the pictures Grandma takes with her camera that you know will most likely stay on her camera along with your wedding pictures from two years ago.

2. Have panic attacks about your baby’s sun exposure at elevation, cover him with a blanket in the warm afternoon sun. Do this even after you’ve applied tiny dabs of zinc oxide based sunscreen because you refuse to apply it to any place that might reach his constantly open mouth for fear of poisoning him with the sunscreen’s other ingredients.

20140723-132006-48006854.jpg3. Spend the entire first evening around the fire catching by hand every mosquito that flies in the vicinity of your precious little one. Learn that you are at an elevation too high for West Nile to Survive & loosen up your mosquito watch only to let your baby get a cluster of bites on his forehead the next morning.

20140723-132003-48003737.jpg4. Buy the Geranium Essential Oil based bug spray. It smells beautiful and the mosquitos agree. Refuse to put DEET on your almost 6 month old, so opt for a mosquito net from the tackle shop next to the lake instead. Your baby will think this is a great new fun game of peek-a-boo. For half an hour. Spend the next 30 minutes passing it around the campfire and pretend it’s a wedding veil.

20140723-132002-48002766.jpg5. Chase after a black bear your brother sees while on his hike, only to have him visit your camp later in the night. Clean up your dinner “dishes” and any food, but leave out your football and smelly tacklebox to play with. Be grateful he only left teeth marks on the ball and box and a paw print on the car window.

20140723-132005-48005630.jpg6. Do not leave your baby under the care of Grandpa and Grandma so you can take the pink canoe out for a spin on the lake under a GORGEOUS Colorado sky.

7. Let your baby, who is sensitive to any dairy you eat, have a small bite of ice-cream from cute store by the lake. Enjoy a night of little sleep and lots of gas.

8. Panic when your baby bites a strap on his stroller and starts bleeding a little from his mouth. There is only enough blood to tinge pink a quarter sized bite the white blanket he sucks on instead, but worry that he is very hurt. Ignore his giant grin:

20140723-132004-48004013.jpg9. Be forced to notice his grin and learn that he has cut his first tooth. Wonder for too long if that’s what caused the blood, miss the beauty of the flowers blooming around you.

20140723-132004-48004793.jpg10. Only relax by the last day you are there. Finally see the blue in the sky, calm and stillness of the water, gentleness of the breeze, giggle from your babies lips, love from your family. Look back on the weekend and hold onto that moment and a handful of others, and VOW to yourself: Next time I WILL relax.

20140723-132004-48004309.jpgWith Love from Colorado,

Keri

Happy Campers

20140720-175158-64318991.jpgSorry I’ve been quiet lately. We went on our first camping trip. It was beautiful and fun and a definite learning experience! I’ll have plenty more to write about this week–my mind has been spinning with soooo much to say. (Balancing being mom & wife, exercise as medicine, 10 ways to be a more beautiful new mom, what NOT to do when you take you baby camping……)

But for today, I have mountains of laundry, camping gear, soggy food from the cooler and a baby who just sprouted his first tooth (and turned 6 months) to take care of. In the mean time, something I wrote was published! Check it out here:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/07/motherhood-is-crazy-keri-hanson/

20140720-175158-64318652.jpg20140720-175157-64317852.jpgWith Love from Colorado.

Keri

 

The Scary Side of Motherhood.

*from our session with http://cyphotography.net/home.html

*from our session with http://cyphotography.net/home.html

Look at me. Smiling in this picture. Smiling in every picture I post. Smiling in all the words I write. Bliss. Motherhood is pure, heart expanding gladness. I have never known love like this before. I can’t count the amount of time I’ve spent staring at this child with a beautiful ache in my chest.  Each day I am amazed: The way his little eyes take in the world–so intently curious, fascinated with everything. The way he raises his eyebrows in surprise at people, reflections of himself, new textures and sounds. The softness of his skin or fuzziness of his hair. New sounds he makes, words he forms that he doesn’t know he is saying. I spend hours trying new ways to make him smile. I spend more moments then I can count with tears of gratitude in my eyes. How did I get to be so lucky to have this little soul come into my life?

I was blessed with an easy pregnancy. No morning sickness, a feeling of vibrant health and beauty, a glow, an excitement, a feeling like I was a walking miracle. Pregnancy was the most beautiful experience in my life, and I was so ready for him to be born. He was 10 days late. Labor was hard. Really, really hard and nothing like I had planned. Nothing like the beautiful births that preceded ours from our friends or the other expectant parents in our birthing class. It was messy, scary, and life changing. For three months afterwards, I couldn’t talk or write about it without involuntarily shaking. I’m still amazed that he made it earthside alive. I’m still amazed at his strength. My heart hurts when I look at the pictures of those first days–how his little face is twisted in pain. Must have been a serious headache.

20-20-IMG_9410We left the hospital the next day. I still remember the fear and anxiety. I still remember wondering, “If we leave, then who will be there to take care of me?” It’s a selfish thought, I know. But at the time, I was weak and bleeding and in pain and running on adrenaline only.

Luckily, we’ve been blessed with an easy baby. He rarely cries. He is content, happy, healthy and a joy to have in our lives. Even still, this has been one of the hardest times in my life.

I bled bright red for 7 weeks post-partum. Friends and family and even one of our midwives said, “Try not doing as much. Rest more. Don’t do so many chores.” But I was more still than I have ever been in my life. There were no outings, there was barely any housework-save for a load of daily laundry, and I had stocked the freezer full at the end of my pregnancy.

For months, just the thought of going to the grocery store seemed like a trek to Everest. I was just so tired. Beyond exhausted. For the first 5 months, I chalked it up to the hours in the night I spent not sleeping. My baby nurses like a newborn. 8:00-8:30 is bedtime, top off at 10ish, awake around midnight, 2:00, 2:40, 4:00ish, 4:55. Up for the day in between 5:30 and 6:15. Almost every night. I’ve never been a good nap taker. This here is good reason to be tired.

But not this tired. Not heavy head and weighted eyelids, airy fuzz feeling pulsing through your veins. Not stand up and nearly  faint. Not cut every corner cleaning (both myself and house); I draw the line at maintaining hygiene for my son. Not too tired to think about getting more than one or two things a day done. I used to teach high school, rode my bike to work, trained for and ran a marathon, taught 3 yoga classes and waitressed on Friday and Saturday nights. All of that took a lot of energy. I’ve never slept more than 6-7 hours of sleep a night.

So what gives?

When you go in for your six week post-partum check-up, they hand you a questionnaire. Maybe I wasn’t completely honest about my energy & interest levels. But the two scary questions: Have you ever had thoughts of harming your baby or yourself? were an emphatic no. No I would never do anything to harm this child, and because this child relies on my body for his survival, no I cannot hurt myself. The love I have for my son is beyond any love I have ever known, beyond any love I could have guessed at, is deeper than the ocean and just as constant, and wider than the horizon. I would do anything for him. Cliche? Yes, but true. Anything. Even learn to finally be kind to my body, even make it through the days and sleepless nights, even give every ounce of life and vitality I’m not sure I have to make sure that he is happy and healthy and strong.

It’s the love that keeps me going. Because I do not feel strong. Only in the last two weeks have I forced myself to really run again on a regular basis. Running is hard when I feel like I will give birth to my insides after only two miles, but afterwards I feel more alive. I’m pushing for yoga a few times a week too. And writing more. Things I didn’t previously feel I had the energy to do.

I’m starting to come back to life. Breathing life into my weary bones by doing what I used to do before I gave birth to a life outside mine. Maybe these last few months my body’s been in shock. Maybe I’ve been mourning losing the life that once was mine. Maybe postpartum depression is about more than thoughts or desires to hurt yourself or your child.  I think so.

I’m just learning that I can do both. Be a full time mother and run, write, teach yoga, cook real meals from scratch, create, make, hike, connect to others, be open about all that I’ve been feeling, accept their lifeline. It just takes more work. I’m relearning how to do everything I did for 34 years alone while caring for this child.

Run? Yes, but do so tired and pushing a stroller. Write in bursts throughout the day during nap time. Do yoga with your child on your mat underneath you practicing his own tummy-time. Meditate while nursing. Cook while showing him colors and smells of vegetables. Paint while wearing him and dancing to miss tiny hands dipped in color. Put your phone on speaker and call your own mother. I don’t have the luxury of alone time. Not yet. Maybe one day. For now these small steps are of great help.

And I’m writing them here in hopes that maybe this will help another new mom. If it’s you–don’t wait to reach out for help. Any help you can. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a great mother. You can be sad and still love your son or daughter. You can dance in between elation and rage, your heart can sink in sorrow and soften with care. Postpartum depression and long term sleep deprivation have similar symptoms. I’m still learning this. But I also think that what I’ve been feeling is more than the exhaustion from lost sleep since each day I’m starting to feel a little more alive.

With Love,

Keri

 

Home for the Weekend.

20140710-172542-62742949.jpgDuring college, I came home during summer breaks but didn’t live with my parents. I was too young to be a park ranger but worked for Colorado State Parks. All day long I sat in the little booth taking money for day passes at the park entrance. Every hour lasted an eeeeternittttty. It was seasonal work and paid what most part-time seasonal college students make, but there was one amazing benefit. I got to live in the park ranger house for $45 a month. This was the view from my front yard–in the park. Each morning I made my tea and sat on the porch soaking in the sound and the sun.

After I graduated, there were a few lost  and wandering years, but I wound up back home. Teaching at the same high school from which I graduated. At the time, I was outwardly sensitive–even a bit defensive– about this. I didn’t want to come across insular or provincial, unworldly. I didn’t set out to be any kind of hometown hero. It just kind of happened. Inwardly, I was glad for this. Small town though it was, I’ve always loved my home town. Well, maybe not the town, but the areas surrounding it and the people who live there or nearby are wonderful.

20140710-172546-62746148.jpgSince having Easton, I have been so homesick. I miss the mountains more than ever. So many days, I wish I could buckle him in the carseat and drive up to the mountain park for a shaded place to spend an afternoon. So many days I wish we could escape to Little Box Canyon and spend an afternoon watching trees sway in the breeze. I wish I could drive to my moms and stop to feed the Appaloosas or watch sheep or cows. I wish we’d run into 8 people at the grocery store we knew, and each would share their stories about when their child was his age. I wish I could teach yoga again in a barn.

This homesickness is more pronounced, I think, because I’ve been fairly housebound. Initially, it took me a while to heal from labor & delivery. Even when the bleeding finally stopped, I felt weak. Still do some days. There is also the problem of breastfeeding in public. I’ll write about that another day. There are days I wake up weary-eyed and too exhausted to think of going and doing and facing traffic and stoplights and city busyness or businesses. And finally, we don’t get out because we have much farther to go.

Getting outside is no longer a 10 or 15 minute drive. It’s more like 40 minutes to an hour. And once we get there we have to share the space with other people, probably not the people I was trying to escape, but still. I’m homesick for the West slope, the dirt roads I know, the slower paced life, and simple life I know how to navigate. I’m homesick for finding directions by landmarks: the big tree whose branch lightning took, the rock shaped like a face, the third meadow once you pass the gravel pit, or past the blue house with the old abandoned church next to it.

These days Siri just gets me lost. I type in an address and wind up a block away, but I might as well be in Spain. Even though it’s easier to know North from South now. Need a landmark? The mountains are West. Home is West.

20140710-172544-62744695.jpgThey say home is where you heart is. And my heart is with my husband and son, but my heart pictures us there. It pictures us in a small home with a wreath on the front door and a tree we planted in the front yard. My heart sees us watching as Easton discovers grass with his bare feet in the back yard. Watches us driving with the windows rolled down, a cloud of dust trailing behind, to the perfect place in the aspens on a Sunday afternoon. It pictures us picnicking, and wading in the stream–wet and muddy past our knees, and loading up the car only after the sun has gone down. It pictures us giving Easton a childhood not unlike my own—simple, beautiful, dirt & laughter filled, in a small Colorado town.

Sigh. For now, I guess visits to Grandma & Grandpa’s will have to do. That’s what we did over the long weekend. And since then I’ve been busy dreaming about it & feeling so lucky to have been given a love for Place and People too.

20140710-172543-62743349.jpgWith Love from Colorado,

 

Keri

 

Censoring Motherhood. Protecting Our Children. Loving Ourselves.

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Have y’all heard about the Fourth Trimester Bodies Project? It’s beautiful. !!! This is a screen shot of a regram of their deleted Instagram account. Their account keeps getting removed. You know what doesn’t? This sickness. I’ll save you the screen shots of his account. If you click on the link, do it when your children can’t see.

This is infuriating to me. The supposed reason behind deleting the Fourth Trimester Bodies project account is because it shows nude children. I get it. Protect our kids from sick pervs who somehow lust after little naked baby butts.

But…wait a freaking minute. Instagram accounts aren’t limited to adults only. They are public profiles, easily searched and found. Some of my friends and family members have children with instagram accounts. Shouldn’t we also be protecting our children from soulfully sick men with a low sense of Self who lust after emotionally broken women? Shouldn’t we also move towards protecting and helping those women? Aren’t they someone’s baby (not babes) too?

20140703-084935-31775838.jpgI’ve never been a fighter. Most of my life I let myself become a victim; I tuck my head to my chest and crumble into the hollowness instead of raising my fist. Turning the other cheek is a good practice if you are a fighter, but if you are meek to the point of weakness, you just feel wrung out and dry.  Neither are balanced. Neither create peace–within me or in the world.

Motherhood has changed that. Motherhood has made me more of a fighter. I guess I didn’t see myself as something worth fighting for before I saw the miracle of my own child’s eyes. I wanted to be wanted, wanted someone to fight for me, but I didn’t do any of the fighting myself. Instead, I fought with my body:

“BE SKINNIER, dammit! Fit into these jeans, fit into this bra, fit into society’s expectations of what women are supposed to be.”

Motherhood has changed that. My body grew a human being. My body birthed that being. My body is nourishing this sweet little soul that I fall more in love with every day. And because of this, for the first time in my life, I am falling in love with my body. I am experiencing what a miracle it is to move and be human. I am moved by the power & beauty of true, naked femininity.

20140703-084935-31775041.jpgI stumbled upon this quote from the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams this week:

“What is REAL?” the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit .

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. But once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Motherhood is making me Real. Making me want to be Real and fight for what is Real. The women featured on his Instagram account are alive and real, but maybe not Real in the sense of honesty. Make up, filters, highlights, dyes, fillers, plumpers, injections, puking, not eating, over-exercising are not Real. I’ve been there. I was anorexic/bulimic for years. I don’t want to start more wars against women–we do what we need to to feel good about ourselves. But if you are posing in a way that makes you an object, do you feel GOOD about yourself, REALLY?

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I don’t always feel good about myself these days. At 5 months post-partum, I’m soft. I’m losing hair in gobs. I have suitcases under my eyes. Concealer won’t conceal them.  Yes, there are days I try. Days I wish I could afford highlights, had energy to workout like a fiend, days I dream of slathering on a pound of Sephora. But why bother? All of these–the softness in my belly, the thinning of my hair, the lines around my eyes all lead to love. Maybe men won’t see the beauty in my or other women’s 4th trimester bodies.  But maybe some of us will begin to see the beauty in ourselves. And maybe we can raise our sons and daughters to see us as we Really are:

Strong, fiercely protective, wise, wildly alive, vibrant, whole, healthy, brave, kind, loving, compassionate.

And that is beautiful.

 

With Love,

Keri

5 Months!

20140628-152807-55687901.jpgI’ve given up on 52 weeks. For this year. Maybe next year I’ll have it together enough to keep up. For now, I’m a few days late on this little man’s 5 month birthday. So, my dear son, at 5 months old you:

*Are a brave and valiant sleep fighter. Each night you battle for several hours, until drifting into dreamland.

*Do not really care for any purees, so we will just stick to baby-led weaning from here on out.

*Nurse like a newborn round the clock–every two hours or less!

*Weigh over 21 pounds.

*Like to laugh. No really, especially when the end of the day comes, you start to laugh at everything. It’s pretty cute.

*Like being worn a good portion of the day.

*Love being upside down. Maybe you can show me how to not be afraid of inversions one day.

*Try to fit the whole world in your mouth. Teething much?!

*Are fascinated with light–sunlight, ambient light, flourescent light, all lights you love. In the dark you get wide-eyed and quiet. You keep doing that baby–seek out the light and keep your eyes peeled in the dark.

* Like music, all kinds, but have a major appreciation for rap and hip hop. You like rhythm I think. You also like Dr. Suess books for the same reason.

*Still hate tummy time. In fact, you know how to roll over now, so if you are on your tummy for more than a minute or two, you grin and roll over. I am worried you will walk before you crawl at this rate.

 

In fact I worry about you all the time. It’s part of love. My love for you grows everyday, and I love seeing the world through your eyes all over again. You are the greatest miracle and biggest blessing I have ever known.

With Love,

Mom

 

What Does It All Mean?

Photo by CY Photography (http://cyphotography.net/home.html)

Photo by CY Photography (http://cyphotography.net/home.html)

You guys! The coolest thing just happened. And I’m one of those people. The kind who think that things don’t just happen. Maybe it’s because I was an English major and have been trained to look for the symbolism and theme in everything. Or maybe it’s because I believe in God, in the Universe, in a Collective Consciousness, in a Being that is beyond me. Either way, I believe that events and strange happenings, chance encounters & serendipitous stumblings have MEANING. That things happen for a reason.

And something happened yesterday. Well, a couple things.

First, I woke up to Aunt Flo. The first visit since I’ve had this little bundle of energy, poo, drool, love & JOY. That means a number of things:

1. The return of my moon. Return of monthly shedding cycle–releasing what isn’t needed. The gravity of being a girl.

2. Groan, mess,  & haphazard, unshowered trip to Target first thing  upon waking for supplies.

3. Mental conversation about family planning/birth control.

4. Google searches for breastfeeding and monthly cycles.

5. The forgetting of chocolate in pre-caffeinated trip to Target for supplies. What was I thinking?! It doesn’t matter, because it led to an afternoon trip to Whole Foods where this really cool, amazing thing happened.

20140620-123112-45072956.jpgThis little being and I went to Whole Foods in search of chocolate, Mother’s Milk tea, & cherries. Side-tracked in the soup aisle, we  were approached by a man.

“How old is your baby?” he said.

“5 months old” (I’ll post about this later!).

“He’s beautiful. What a healthy,strong boy. Babies like that always remind me of my mother. She was a midwife.”

” We were under the care of midwives!”

“You should look her up, my mother. She was amazing. Her last name as Aragon,” he said while digging his Driver’s License out of his wallet to show me how to spell his last name. “This was in New Mexico. She was amazing, my mother.”

“What was her first name?” I asked, both touched and amused by how proud this man was of his mother.

“Jessie. Well, we called her Jessie. Her name was Jesusita. You should have seen her office. There were hundreds of—-“

“Pictures of all the babies she delivered?” I finished his sentence, picturing my own midwives’ office. And exhibiting one of my worst qualities.

“No–Awards! She met President Clinton’s wife. You should look her up. Remember the name.”

“I will.”

We chatted a bit more–about his own sons who had died–one in Iraq and one in a motorcycle accident. About his faith in Jesus. About how seeing babies like mine gave him a bright hope, that we had blessed him with our presence. I thanked him for sharing, and he thanked us for listening–for our being there.

And then I went home. I googled Jesusita Aragon, Midwife, New Mexico. You Guys. Holy Wow. I found this:

Screen shot 2014-06-25 at 9.28.25 AMScreen shot 2014-06-25 at 9.28.42 AMThere was more. I read as much as I could find in bursts throughout the evening. Insane. Her inspiring life. I wished I would have gotten his contact information. Hungry to learn more about what it was like for him to grow up with his mother, I long to hear more. But I didn’t. Maybe serendipity will strike again and I will see him again. Maybe not.

But what does it all mean?! I keep thinking about this too. Here’s what I have so far.

1. I have spent the last couple days super frustrated. My little boy is actually sick with his 3rd cold–in 5 months. And I hate when he’s sick. More than anything! Our neighbor’s 5.5 month old has his first cold. My sister’s son didn’t get his first cold until 6 or 7 months. Both of those boys were/are bottle fed. I’ve spent countless hours breastfeeding on demand. I don’t eat dairy or soy. I eat organic. I make my own freaking deoderant to avoid chemicals leeching in to my breastmilk. I take Vitamin D, a good probiotic, DHA. I eat loads of greens and a rainbow of produce every single day. And despite all this, my little one has been sick more than the formula fed babies I know. It makes me want to throw up my exhausted hands in resignation. Makes me want to question my beliefs about all of my holistic, natural health practices. This is in no way meant to make mothers who bottle feed feel bad–WE ALL ARE DOING THE BEST WE CAN! And, heck, the bottle fed babies in my life are sick less than my son. But I want to believe that chemicals are not good.I want to believe that these HARD choices I keep making are worth it. And I can’t help but long for a more natural life. And on a day when I am most questioning my hippie lifestyle choices, I run into the son of a powerful midwife-healer. A sign?! Don’t give up. Follow your beliefs thoroughly as you can along this sleep-deprived path Keri.

2. I want my son to be proud of me. I’m not a midwife. I didn’t finish Ayurveda school. I’m not using any of my multiple degrees or certifications. I’m not Teacher of the Year anymore. I’m a mom. A stay at home mom. A mom who started this blog post yesterday and couldn’t get her shit together enough to finish the post until today. A mom who is giving her completely imperfect everything to her little one 24 hours a day, every damn day. This mother must have done both–mothered and worked, and not only worked, but worked miracles. I’m no miracle worker, this much I know. But I can do more, and I WANT to do and BE more for me and my son. I want my son to speak of my with love in his heart and pride in his eyes for the woman his mother was.

3. Since having Easton, my prayer life has been sporadic at best. The most consistent prayer I utter is Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you God for the insane gift of this little guy. I can’t even understand how much I love him. I say this prayer daily, but I’ve been feeling like the busy-ness and tired-ness of this new life has eclipsed part of my old life. An important part. Gratitude is great. But I need to make space for self reflection and silence. So that I can figure out what it all means. What am I to do and be–for me and for my husband and son. So that I can hear the voice of God in whatever stillness and silence I can grab and go forward on the path made for me with grace and humility.

4. Am I missing anything? Any outsider’s perspective more sane and less sleep-deprived than mine?

5. Isn’t this woman’s story crazy amazing?!

xo.