Why do we need to build an orphanage?

Do you know what happens to a child in South East Asia when her parents separate?

Do you know what happens to a boy when his mother marries a new husband?

Have you read Grimms Fairy tales?

Take the worst step parent story in a fairy tale and multiply it by at least 100 and you will get an idea of what happens to kids in these situations.

Stepparents don’t care for stepchildren at all. Children are treated like servants, sent out to beg, or sell flowers, or cigarettes, or their bodies to earn the family money. They are beaten, abused and abandoned.

There is a boy in our care who came to us after his stepmother passed away. He has scars from the day she took a break from beating him and poured hot cooking oil on his head instead. His vision is impaired because of it. His name is Suchart and he has the sweetest smile, plays the longest and laughs the loudest. He wants to be a doctor some day.

 The worse the poverty the worse these children are treated and it’s an entrenched cultural norm that will take time to change, time and generations.

So what can be done? What can you do?

For starters, we care for the children. We give them a home. We give them a chance. We get them medical attention and school and proper food. We find people who genuinely care about them to care for them.

But we don’t stop there because that doesn’t change anything for any other kids. It doesn’t address the source of the problem.

So we use that orphanage to change the community. We help it to establish businesses that provide an income to take care of the children and also provide jobs and resources to the surrounding community. We hire villagers to work in the businesses, things like farming, producing traditional handcrafts, microfinance, clean water and energy, and entrepreneurial education. See Building a Self Sustaining Orphanage

We figure out how taking care of the kids no one wants can be the means to bring change in the community as well, and then we go ahead and do it.

Phase 1 is to finish building a home for them and get the farm up and running to raise food for them to eat and to sell. For details on the next 4 stages you can download our executive summary here.

We're halfway to owning the land outright, to use as we need. If we don't get the rest in time for Aaron to pay it off on his next trip to Thailand in October we will default on our contract and lose everything we invested in last year. The kids will continue to be without a permanent home and their existence will continue to be on a subsistence level, dependent on the whims of the western donor.

It's crunch time. We need you.

Please donate now to help us get there. Every little bit counts. I had 2000 or so unique hits to this page just last week, if each one of those people gave $5 we'd be done. Better give $10 just in case.

Update **** As of Saturday September 10 our total was $5236.50. That's just over half of what we need. Donations keep trickling in, thank-you. I've started another giveaway with different prizes to try and help raise the rest. September 30 is our absolute deadline. If you have donated since Saturday I'm going to go ahead and enter you in that one to say thank-you. I am so thrilled with how far we've come, and hopeful for how far we have left to go. (We could use some more prizes too if you make or sell something cool...)

We have so many cool prizes that some great businesses and people have donated to help make this fun. I want to feature each individually so check out the links below so see more and how to enter to win a prize. Every donation, retweet using the hashtag #thecharisproject, and facebook share of our page, or our cause, is eligible to win a prize. Winners will be chosen at random from all entries after the contest closes shortly before midnight on Saturday, September 10, 2011.

Heartstamped copper necklace, Abundant Love by Christy Klein Originals

Secret Agent Josephine's ABC's a children's book by Brenda Ponney

6 copies of Mr. Ray's new album Hello World and a free 45 minute in home concert experience for Calgary residents.

An Ipod 8G nano, your choice of color

Birth Preparation Class from Birthing Paths Childbirth Classes

Easy Canvas Prints 11x14 custom canvas print.

Good News To the Poor Package and Gemstones

More to come.... This spot will update.

To find out that we're legit check our Guidestar Profile, or, come with us to Thailand. If you don't like Paypal you can donate through our causes page.


Building a Self Sustaining Orphanage - Christy Klein Originals Giveaway

So we only have one donation so far. I guess you guys are holding out to see what kind of prizes we've got lined up.

I'm so excited about the things that have been donated this year. They are all things that I like very much and kind of wish I could keep....? NO? Ok. Here is the first one. These are for you.

Hand-Stamped Copper Heart Necklace - Abundant Love

You guys, when I asked Christy, the woman behind Christy Klein Originals, if she would be willing to donate one of her fabulous creations again this year for our fundraiser I had no idea she would pick this one.

This is my favorite of all her necklaces. I've had it pinned on Pinterest for months now, ever since I first saw it.

Look at the gorgeousness. I love the blurb she wrote about it in her shop too. I want to be the woman she made this for.

I know, you are asking yourself how you can enter to win this lovely necklace.

As you know, we need to raise $10,000 to finish building an orphanage by September 30. Why we need to build an orphanage.

We need your help.

To enter to win this lovely prize you can make a donation to our cause, it doesn't matter how much.

You can also tweet using the hash tag #thecharisproject with a link to one of these posts, or share our facebook page, or cause.

Winners will be chosen at random from all entries after the contest closes shortly before midnight on Saturday, September 10, 2011.

To find out that we're legit check our Guidestar Profile, or, come with us to Thailand. If you don't like paypal you can donate through our causes page.


Who wants to build an orphanage?

So you may have heard of this little non-profit that I co-founded, administrate, and have some fancy and official sounding titles in, because they won't let you incorporate in California without at least 3 officers and there were no other takers for the positions of CFO and Secretary. Apparently it involves a butt load of work and there aren't many people who are willing to do it without an accompanying salary of some sort. I don't even get benefits.

I do however get the satisfaction of helping a lot of really wonderful little kids in Thailand to have a safe place to live, be able to go to school and be taken care of by warm and loving people who really care about them. I get to be part of the exciting work of figuring out how we can maximize our impact in that region and make it so that our care for children is also something we can use to bring development and change to the communities and villages where these kids are from. I get to watch a dream of self sustaining orphanages that use socially responsible business models to provide for themselves and to transform communities come to life and start to happen.

Some day, when it's possible for anyone who wants to care for orphans to receive training on how to set up a home and run businesses that provide for the financial needs and help the community and everyone in aid, development and orphan care thinks about it differently as a result of the work we're doing right now, I will get to say, with some satisfaction, "I helped do that. I helped make that happen."

I also get to come to you today, and ask if you want to be part of that story too and offer you the chance to be part of making that happen.

Wait. Come back. I have prizes.

Last year you helped us to raise $7000 to buy a truck for the Charis Home so the kids could have a safe way to get to school and back, and to a doctor when they are sick.

Do you know what those smart, smart people are doing with the truck you helped purchase? They are running a transport business. When the truck isn't in use to drive children places they use it to transport crops to market for local farmers, they use it as a taxi to give other people rides. They charge for their services and as a result they need less money from us than they did a year ago.

It's our goal to bring them to the point where they don't need us at all! It's also our goal to replicate this model in other places where there is need. Our end goal is that years down the line businesses run by orphanages have revitalized communities, eliminating the factors such as poverty and social disintegration that cause these kids to need an orphanage in the first place. Essentially, we're trying to put ourselves out of business.

Well, that's the vision, the short version. (For a copy of our executive summary go here.)

Here's what we still have to do to get there.

We need $10,000 by September 30.

We owe $6000 still on the land we purchased last December. We received a very generous donation for the first half, which we thought would be the full amount but that land was so remote it would have cost $12,000 more to develop it. The land we decided to purchase was initially more expensive, but ultimately much cheaper, for starters, we don't have to build a road to it, or set up utilities. Also it's in a very good community.

They have already graded and prepared the land for buildings.

We estimate the cost of building an orphanage to be $2000.

We estimate the cost of starting a biointensive farm that will provide food for the children and to sell at local markets to be about $500.

We owe a remaining $700 on a smaller piece of land nearby with a fish pond on it that we are going to teach the business manager at the home to use for aquaponics, which is essentially using fish pond water for fertilizer and plants for filtration and growing two crops in one really quickly, and really efficiently.

It will take another $1300 estimated to actually set up the aquaponics system.

If we can't pay off the land at least by the time Aaron goes to Thailand again in October we forfeit it and the money already put into it. We can't afford a loss like that. The kids can't afford a loss like that. They are living in a rented storage facility waiting for their permanent home to be built.

Will you help us?

Like I said, there are prizes. I will be telling you about them over the next 2 weeks. (Teaser... Ipod anyone?) To win you have to make a donation and leave a message on our facebook wall saying you donated, which is where paypal will send you when you are finished. Some prizes will have a way to enter a 2nd time which I will tell you about. Some prizes are regional. We will draw winners at random from all of the entries after the fundraiser ends just before midnight September 10, 2011.

We can not do this alone. Please tweet, share on facebook, and tell your friends about the chance to help any way you can. You never know who will be interested unless you ask them. I always go into these things feeling like it's impossible, it's too much, and it won't happen. So far, you have always proved me wrong. So I'm counting on you guys to do your magic yet another time for the sake of these kids.

Thank-you so, so much.

To find out if we're legit check our Guidestar Profile. If you don't like paypal you can donate through our causes page.


Letters to a New Mother - Part 6 - What I wish someone had told me

Five nights after my first baby was born I woke up drenched from head to toe from what can only be described as a hot flash combined with a breast milk fountain. I spent the next 6 months sleeping on towels, with towels tucked over me to avoid having to wash sheets all day. I had expected the milk, but the excessive sweating was a total surprise.

"Why didn't anyone tell me about this?" I wondered.

(I moved onto tight sport bras and nursing pads eventually, instead of towels.)

When my hair started falling out in clumps in the shower at around 2-3 months postpartum I had to ask someone else if it was normal. Turns out you aren't going bald when this happens, you just haven't shed any hair for 9 months and now it's going back to normal.

When I sank lower than I ever remember sinking after the Girl was born I had never heard of postpartum depression before, other than the word baby blues. I didn't know there was a way out. (For me it was regular exercise, the endorphins were enough to kick my brain/hormones back into gear.)

The point is, there are a lot of weird things that happen in our bodies, hearts and minds in the process of becoming a mother. Modern life has a way of isolating women who are home taking care of children. We often don't know anyone else who has babies near by. Maybe none of our friends has had a baby yet. Our mothers may live thousands of miles away and maybe we don't want to parent like they did anyway. So who do you ask if this weird thing going on is normal or not, or talk to about your fears and doubts?

Well, the internet of course.

I've shared my top 3, now it's your turn. Tell us what you wish someone had told you before it happened. Tell us if you found a useful solution too. And if you are wanting to ask about something, go ahead and do it here also. Let's together make a little resource for women who haven't done this before and are looking for answers. Because no one should have to mother all alone, don't you think?


Letters to a New Mother - Part 5 - You can do this

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I remember a night, shortly after my first baby was born. I lay there wondering if he was going to wake and cry again, and kind of wishing someone would come and rescue me by taking him for a little while so I could just sleep again. Then it hit me, "If I don't do this, no one will. This baby is my responsibility and his life is in my hands."

It was like someone tossed a bucket of cold water on me, startling me awake. The weight of it settled into my heart and for the first time I really understood how serious this act of being a mother is. There is a tiny person absolutely dependent on you. What you do is everything to that little person. It will affect them the rest of their life.

It's scary to think of, and maybe overwhelming, and exciting also. You probably don't feel ready. No one does.

But I believe in you. I know you can do this.

If I can, I'm sure you can too.

It gets easier. You adjust to losing your old rhythm of life, you stop trying to hold onto it, and you find a new rhythm. You learn what you baby needs and what you can do, what you should worry about, and what you don't really have to.

You will get stronger. Stronger than you knew you could be.

You'll do for your baby what you wouldn't do for yourself, and grow in ways you wouldn't if it was only you in the picture.

You may feel exhausted and overwhelmed. This is a blessing in disguise for it brings you to your limits, where you have to stretch and grow and lean into strength that comes from elsewhere. It will drive you to your knees, and that's a good place to be. At the end of yourself is where you find the source of true strength and the help you need.

So be gentle with yourself. Just take it one moment at a time. Do the next thing, and then the thing after that. Pray often. If dishes go undone because you fell asleep with your baby on your chest, that's a good choice.

Be gentle with others also, especially your husband. It's important to remember to be kind, even when you are exhausted. I tell you this as one who failed to be kind on many, many occasions. You will wish you had chosen kindness, always. Try to remember that.

You will get a lot of advice. Some of it will be helpful to you, some won't be. In the end you are the one who needs to live with the choices you make as a parent, not anyone else. So listen to your heart, listen to the Spirit within you, listen to your husband, and your child.

You are going to make mistakes. You will make some really big ones. We all do. Now stop worrying about it and do your best, choose as well as you can. Understand that even our very best parenting needs to be redeemed.

You can do this. You have to do this. You will rise to the challenge.


Letters to a New Mother - Part 4 - How to Get Strong

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

You get strong by doing things. It's really that simple.

Let's say you wanted to run a marathon for example, not that I ever have. Taking a daily nap night not be the best way to train for it. You have to actually run. You have to make yourself run just a little bit farther when you are already tired and want to quit. You have to run a little farther and faster than you did the day before and you have to do it every day. This is how your body gets stronger, gains endurance, and you get to the point where you can finish running miles and miles without embarrassing yourself by falling over and dying halfway through.

Motherhood isn't that much different.

Those moms you see who seem to do everything well in ways you find impossible to even imagine, they started just like you with one little tiny baby and no idea what came next. The beauty of motherhood is that it comes in stages. At first all you really need to know is how to feed them, help them sleep and keep them clean. You can handle that.

You don't need to have the next 18 years figured out. Heck, not even the whole first year. You can do this one day at a time. You keep your head down and you keep trying and every day you can go a little further, and you'll find you are a little bit stronger than the day before.

Some time after your baby is born you will triumphantly find that you have finished a load of laundry and made dinner, all with a newborn in tow.

A few years down the road you may have more children and someone will offer to take the older ones for a day while you stay home with the baby. You will be so excited for the rest because after having more children you realize that a day at home alone with just the baby is like a vacation compared to having several others around too. You will get so much done that day. You will wonder why this all seemed so much harder the first time around. Then you will realize that you are stronger.

The secret? Don't try to escape.

That's like taking a nap when you should be running. This is like trying to get away from the labor that will bring the baby to you. The only way out is through. Mom time and me time sound nice, in theory, and it is important to make sure we take care of ourselves. But "me time" doesn't strengthen you. It doesn't make you better able to cope with what you have to do as a mom, day, after day, after day. If you haven't rolled up your sleeves and put in the effort to learn how to be the mother you want to be to your kids, time away doesn't really give you anything at all, except maybe the desire to have even more time away and the perspective that our family and real life are an annoyance and an interruption to your preferred life of time away. (This is not to say don't take rests or breaks to refresh and recharge once in a while, just to put them into perspective for you.)

You have to learn how to work caring for yourself, your body, your mind and your spirit into the every day of taking care of your children too. Maybe that means strapping the baby on and going for a long walk and praying as you move to keep the baby soothed and your heart connected. Maybe it means going out to visit friends less so you can have more time at home to find a routine. You will have to figure that part out.

If you keep at it, keep trying to gracefully perform what is given to you to do, you may look up several years down the road and realize that other people are looking at you wondering how you manage to do what you do, and thinking to themselves that they could never do that so well. You can smile and know deep down that you are far stronger than you could have ever become with out these children you mother, for every day they made you run an extra mile and all those miles have brought you here.


Letters to a New Mother - Part 3 - Biology

Part 1
Part 2

It's important to understand what your body is doing right now, and what it will do in labor and afterwards. It can make you feel crazy sometimes, all the changes. Here again it's helpful to know that you aren't the only one and even more importantly, there's a reason for it.

Let's start with the symptom you probably noticed first, your digestion. When you are pregnant your digestion literally slows down, leading to all sorts of uncomfortable side effects, such as heartburn, gas, and nausea, to name a few. But there's a reason for this. When you digest food slower you absorb more nutrients from it. You can be eating the exact same amount of food and your body automatically does what it needs to in order to get extra nutrition for that baby.

You may have morning sickness, which is probably a combination of the slowed digestion and low blood sugar from needing so much more food all the time to support all that rapid growth going on in your uterus. So please eat. Please eat as nutritiously as you are able, several small amounts throughout the day, and make sure you're getting a lot of protein, because protein takes longer to absorb so your blood sugar stays more stable, and your baby needs it.

You may have heard people joking about mommy brain before. You may find you are spacing out and forgetting stuff. You may be extremely emotional and sensitive. It's all true. Your hormones are conducting an all out campaign to make you a more nurturing, responsive and caring person. They are flooding your brain and actually changing it's structure. This is a good thing. This is how woman can go from somewhat ambivalent about children in general to completely and utterly infatuated with one infant in particular in the space of about 9 months.

It's frustrating to feel like you can't rely on your brain to remember things any more, or to not suddenly start crying in the middle of a cleaning supplies commercial, or to not suddenly take every single thing some one says so personally. But I can promise you that it won't always be this difficult, and you won't always feel this crazy. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, but there comes a day when you feel normal again. This normal will be nothing like your old normal, you won't get that brain back again, but the brain you have will still be able to do all those everyday things again, plus more.*

In the meantime, may I suggest, ever so gently, that all those people who suddenly seem to have turned on you and spend all day dreaming up new ways to be mean are probably not doing that at all. Remember, you are the one who is changing. Your husband probably didn't just become cold and distant, you are just needing far more reassurance than you normally need. For example. (Not that I have ever had anything like this happen to me when I've been pregnant, *cough* 5 times crazy *cough*.) If at all possible, try not to make any big changes like relationships or careers or 10 year plans when this stuff is going on. You'll look back and realize that your head was on a little crooked, to say the least.

Now, I know you're freaked out about labor and delivery. It's how big? It comes out where? I feels like what?

Here again, I'd just like to reassure you that your body is on your side. It was designed to do this, it can do this. Do yourself a favor and trust in your body for a change. That's a hard thing for a woman to do in our culture, but give it a try. Take care of yourself, walk, eat right, get plenty of rest, gently belly dance and hula, and get to know your body more intimately. It is your body that will get your baby out. You really need to just learn to get out of the way and trust it to do it's job well.

An aside: Your doctor doesn't know everything. Your GP probably took a total of 3 classes on labor and delivery in all 4 years of medical school. Your obstetrician has probably never witnessed a completely normal, undisturbed birth with no interventions. They are trained to deal with emergencies after all. Don't let anyone tell you what to do simply because it's more convenient for them and their lawyers to have you conform to their assembly line approach to getting babies out.

How you get the baby out can have a huge impact on how you enter into your first months of motherhood. It can be incredibly empowering and you feel like you can do anything, and that's just from the hormones alone. Ecstatic Birth - Hormones During Birth You don't need to have a euphoric post labor hormonal cocktail to bond well with your baby or to gain the confidence and resilience you will need to mother the child you birthed. I didn't the first time and we bonded just fine. But it sure helps.

So read. Read about how you hormones work with you in labor, read about natural childbirth and women who learned their bodies.

(Here's a short little list of my top 4.)

Ina Mae's Guide to Childbirth - Ina Mae Gaskin
Birthing From Within - Pam England and Rob Horowitz
Born Free - Read all the unassisted birth stories if you have the time.
Rediscovering Birth - Sheila Kitzenger

As you read and try to wrap your head around this just remember one thing. Birthing babies is something you can only learn by doing. Until you've been through it you really don't know what it is. Your body, on the other hand, knows what to do. You can't really help it much at first, when you don't know how, but you can get in the way of it doing it's job. So in the end, get out of your head and down into your body as much as possible. Let yourself slip away and be carried on the euphoria of the moment and relax and let your body do it's job.

You can do this. You were designed to be able to do this. Trust. it will come.

*Some of this I got from skimming through a book called The Mommy Brain.


Letters to a New Mother - Part 2

Part 1

I was about 4 months pregnant with the Boy and my dis ease was growing. I wanted this child. I had spent 2 or 4 weeks after we agreed to try and get pregnant blissfully convinced that I actually was already, and I wept for 3 days when I learned I was not. A month later I was pregnant. I feel like I ought to apologize to my friends who tried so hard for so long to conceive for being so flippant about the whole thing, and so fertile.

But it was slowly dawning on me that I was/am a very selfish person. I felt myself pushing back against this unseen weight, rebelling against the all that I had begun to see that this child would take, would demand actually, and I despaired of ever being strong enough to do it.

We were staying with my MIL at the time and she was zealous about me getting a daily walk in every day So one day, just before sunset I walked the red dirt country lanes alone until I came to a stop under a pepper tree. In the shelter of those fragrant branches I poured it all out. With many tears and much snot, I might add.

"I can't do this. I'm much too selfish to love this child the way he deserves to be loved. The way he ought to be loved. I just don't have it in me. I like my comfort too much, my freedom."

Then, because this was a prayer, I delivered an ultimatum, born of desperation. "If you want this child to be loved the way he ought to be loved than you are going to have to help, because I can't do this alone."

The Boy's name means "God is my helper" by the way, as a reminder to me, each and every day, that I don't have to do this alone.

I don't care if you believe in God or not, I don't believe you are alone as a mother. I think every protective instinct and ounce of love in a mother's heart is a gift and a grace that she is strengthened with that goes hand in hand with the gift of a child. I think you will find you have the help you need too. You may need to ask for it.

I know I got the help I needed. That night the resentment building in me dissolved and I was free to fall in love with my baby, to lay and stare at him as a newborn and give grace to his stumbles as a toddler, and to listen to his never ending rambles about Legos as a boy.

It may be different for you, but I'm confident that along with the gift of the child with in you came the strength and grace you need to parent him or her, at least in seed form. As my MIL likes to say, "Babies make mothers."

We'll talk about how to nurture that in a later post. For now just remember that strength is something you gain by doing. You will find you have it, it may surprise you.


Letters to a New Mother, Part 1

A very dear friend is pregnant for the first time. As many have been over the past few years. I find that the few things I have to say that are valuable to them aren't much different from one to another. This is for my dearly loved friends who are expecting a baby. This is for you.

You're supposed to be excited. At least, you think you ought to be. Everyone else seems to be. If you are in a loving and supportive environment I expect they would be excited for you to bring a new life into this world, a new person to love.

Maybe you're not in that kind of environment. Maybe you weren't trying to get pregnant. Maybe you are wondering if you should stay pregnant. Maybe excitement is the furthest thing from your mind and desperate and frightened are more accurate words for you.

I'll tell you a secret. I'm pretty sure every woman is afraid at some point during her first pregnancy. It doesn't matter whether she wanted to be pregnant, tried to be pregnant, or tried not to be pregnant, there comes a moment when she realizes the enormity of what it is to be the mother to another person and she is afraid.

So while everyone else around you is feeling emotions of some sort or other about this child you are mother to, you don't feel like you can tell anyone about this fear and doubt that occasionally grips you. You wonder if it means you are a bad mother that you aren't all that excited about this child in your belly who is giving you heartburn and nausea and a growing waistline.

You may even think that you are the only mother to ever feel this way. We are good at keeping secrets, us women. We keep the things we fear close, we rarely talk about it with someone else, and that's why we all think we're alone.

But you're not alone.

However lightly or dreamily you began this enterprise of motherhood, you are now in the thick of it. There's no taking it back. You are now and forever a mother, no matter what happens to the baby, and the only way out of this is through. You are just now realizing how serious this all is. You wouldn't be human if the implications of motherhood weren't overwhelming.

You are starting to get a glimpse, through the body that feels out of control, the choices you are making about this baby in 9 months, of how much being a mother is going to require of you. You are not sure that you have it in you to give what is needed, to love as you believe your child ought to be loved. You have so many silent, private doubts.

You needn't be concerned. In fact, the fact that you are concerned is the reason I'm not very worried about you. I see in that the desire to do the right thing and to care about your child and that is a very good place to start.


Mission Statement

I started working on a mission statement a few months ago. While intended as a guide for life originally it also works out quite well as a blogging/writing mission as well. A mission statement is handy to have because it allows me to evaluate something I'm writing or doing in light of how well it supports that mission.

So, after several week of thinking about it and revising, etc. here is my personal/blogging/writing mission statement.

I choose to be an agent of redemption, to heal what is broken, mend what is hurt, restore what is lost. I will bless in word and in deed. I choose to believe the best of you, for as long as is possible. I will say yes to and celebrate what is good. I will speak life, where there is death, love, where there is hate, that whisper the hope of joy in the midst of suffering. I welcome all that life offers, joy and pain in all their ever mixing combinations. I will laugh. I will not fear.

Do you have a mission statement or guiding principle? Will you share it with me?



So I won a new smart phone from the AT&T Phone Fairy at blogher. It was awesome. I was just chatting with her and asking her what she was doing at blogher and in answer she asked me what kind of phone I have.

So I showed her my $8 tracphone from Big Lots with the pay as you go plan. It's the phone I got in case of emergencies on the freeway, that kind of thing. It was not very useful to be trying to keep up with everyone at blogher online with that's for sure.

Then she gave me a new HP Veer 4G with 30 days of free service. It's cute and smart, as apposed to my dumb phone, and does stuff like connect to the internet. I haven't even figured out how to tweet on it yet. Still trying to choose an app for that. Yes, it's the small choices that overwhelm me.

Anyway, this afternoon it rang, which was odd because I haven't given anyone the number yet. But someone from New York called and when I answered giggled and hung up. Is this a New York thing, this prank calling?

My husband suggested that if he had answered the person on the other end would have complained about their date last night.  He was referring to another "prank call" that I wrote about a few years back. I suddenly remembered that the person named in this post emailed me a while back and told me her phone had been stolen at that time and asked me to please remove her name from the post title. I had no reason to not believe her and I really meant to change it. But it sort of slipped my mind until that phone call. Hopefully it hasn't cost her any jobs in the meantime to have that out there attached to her name. Unless of course it really was her who prank called my husband and then she totally deserves it.

I'm not sure it will go away, since her name and number are embedded in the permanent url for the post, but I did what I could.


One Year Old

This is the sound of my heart quietly weeping as I type that. Seriously, one year old! How and when did that happen? Have I been asleep? Where is my newborn?

It is so bittersweet this growing up thing. I just can't get used to it. I'm never been the fastest to learn or adapt to things and children just never stop changing and needing something new, day and night and it's hard to keep up.

This morning began much as your very first morning here with us began. You lay in bed between mommy and daddy as brother and sisters snuck into the room a few at a time. Except, instead of sneaking in to see their new baby, whether it was a boy or girl, they were sneaking in to get me to do up a party dress because it's your birthday, they must look pretty. They were also sneaking in to complain about each other to me, which was my cue to get up too. Instead of just laying there sleepily you sat up and crawled and grinned at us, making happy to see you noises. You snuggled your head into my face, somewhat violently, grinning the whole while. Then, when we left the bedroom, in instead of me carrying you, you crawled to the door and opened it yourself.

You, little boy, are really making the switch these last few weeks from baby to boy. You don't walk yet, but you climb everything. Incidentally, you had an uncle who did that and he's a professional stunt guy now. You sneak up the step stool beside me in the kitchen and when I turn, there you are, 2 feet off the floor, big grin on your face, standing on the top step holding the railing and grinning in pride. I'd put the thing away for a while if I didn't need it every 4 minutes just to get dinner on the table.

You smile, all the time, at everyone. You love to have people around you. The story of a 4th child is never just yours you know. It's also the story of how you fit into and interact with the sibling who have gone before. It's the story of how your presence affects them and who they are because of you. You are good for us. You bring out the best in everyone. Your big brother swells with the pride of being able to parade you around on his shoulders and show you his cars and the trains we have saved since he was little for any little boys, or girls, who came after and wanted to play with them. Last night he was with you in the bathroom and noticed just in time that you needed to poo and plopped you straight onto the potty, holding you there making cue noises for you until you were finished. It was only the second time you have ever pooped in the potty. I was so proud of both of you.

They still all have a race in the morning to finish their chores you know. The first one to finish is the first who gets to hold you when you wake up. You aren't all that fond of being held anymore, preferring to crawl and play and climb and bounce but they still all race for the privilege. Sometimes you are gracious and let them.

You are the only thing your biggest sister sees when you are in the room. She's the first to notice if you put something in your mouth, the first to call you. She would stare at you and play with you 24/7 I think if I, or you, let her. At least, whenever there's something else she rather not be doing staring her in the face. She's your strongest advocate, saving you from dangers real, and imagined.

Little told me today that you were her "bestest wittle baby broddur ever!" I guess that means she loves you too. She still likes to torment you with kisses.

You take all this love in stride, warming to it, bestowing gracious smiles on everyone, and affectionately pulling their hair or bashing their teeth in with your super sized skull. When they all leave you behind with mommy to go off on an adventure you crawl the rooms searching for them. You love to be part of a crowd.

At blogher you made friends with everyone. All you had to do was crawl up to someone and smile for them to hand you their smart phone, or their jewelry, or swag, or even let you dump the entire contents of their purse, all the while smiling at your adorableness. And when you were tired of being a ladies man you just conked out completely in the swing or stroller and even then they stopped just to look at your feet for a second. I think they all missed their babies. Thanks for being my party date little man. You were the cutest guy there.

For your birthday dinner we had Navajo Fry Bread and beans. You can eat the beans. I made coconut lime rice pudding, so you could have a gluten and dairy free treat for your birthday. We had to keep you from falling asleep in your high chair before you saw the candle, and then we had to keep you from grabbing it.

We decided to buy you a water activity table for your birthday. It's perfect, you can stand and splash, two of your very favorite things.

I have been sad about losing my baby. I have felt that the time went too quickly and I didn't spend enough of it just looking at you. But a week or so ago I looked at you and you look like a boy just beginning, and I wondered what you would say when you can talk, and how long it will be before you do actually walk and I made the switch from sad to excited to see who you are in another year, and what kind of person you will grow into. So we threw a party. I'm glad you are you, and I'm glad you are getting bigger.

I love you so, so much.



I went to blogher and all I really got was a dominatrix for a friend.

Well, and I made friends with a gangster too. Actually, it was she who introduced me to Dead Cow Girl, the dominatrix. I'm not making any of this up.

The second day as we were all chatting over lovely hor d'oeurves and mojitos, Blogher does things up well, the subject turned to how uncomfortable I felt at first when blogher featured my post about spanking.

"You wrote a post about spanking?" She asked. "It's so interesting that you would say that because my husband and I were just talking about that today. I've felt so bad about it [the thought of spanking] that I thought I was going to have to be the dominatrix who is in the closet about spanking her son."

They had been having discipline issues with their 2 year old. She was going to turn to my post for advice. The humor of this conversation, considering the fact that you could call her a professional spanker, was not lost on us. In fact, we laughed a long time about it.

We spent a lot of the weekend together, going to parties, sitting and chatting, and stalking Ricki Lake. When stalking celebrities it helps to have a stroller, people get out of the way for you. Then I tried to plant an idea, because in the whole of The Business of Being Born, I waited for them to say something I consider crucial to the discussion. They come close, but never outright seem to state that a woman's right to information and to give birth how she chooses, in a way that is best for her, not best for doctors, lawyers and insurance companies, is a feminist issue, and perhaps the last frontier of women's rights here in the west. So I grasped Rikki's hand as we skooched our way past her, leaned close, and said, "Thank-you for highlighting birth choice as a feminist issue because it's so important that woman recognize it as such."

Then we collapsed in giggles in the elevator.

She told me about her childhood getting bussed to Sunday school and the mean "church ladies", as she called them, who badmouthed her parents right in front of her. We talked about being moms, and her repeated attempts to have another baby, our shared experiences with miscarriage. We talked about eating real food, a passion we both share, her vegetable garden and grass fed beef. We helped each other dress for the final parties Saturday night. We have more in common than not.

She was surprised to discover that I would be heading to church the next morning to teach Sunday school. I guess she figured a Sunday school teacher wouldn't want to hang with her knowing what she does for a living.

It seems to me that to not befriend someone because they have different values and norms from me would be to miss out on a friend, and have a poorer, meaner life because of it. I would have sure missed out on a fun few days anyway.

It was Gandhi who said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

That was all I could think to say after she told me the horrible stories of churches she attended as a child. She nodded in agreement.

I'm pretty sure some of my readers could be offended by this story, if you choose to, for taking offense is a choice. That's fine with me though. I know who I would rather resemble, and I have a feeling I know who he'd be hanging with at blogher. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been the church ladies. He would have probably offended them too.


11 Years Ago

I married this man.

He has loved me when I didn't deserve it, shown me grace when I needed it most, and stuck around when sticking around was the hard thing to do.

Without him I wouldn't be the person I am today.

I'm so very glad he chose to marry me.

I still like him 11 years later.

 I'm spending our anniversary at a blogging conference and he's watching the kids this weekend. He's a really great husband, have I mentioned this?

Happy anniversary hon. I love you.
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