I let this space lie fallow for about ten days over Christmas. My blog and my family all needed a little rest, but during that break our lives were full of heartwarming moments, resting, friendship, and joy.


Christmas morning began very early—long before dawn. And while I am far, far from a morning person, I leaped out of bed to make sure the boys didn’t start without us!


We opened gifts from Santa and stockings by the fireplace, while eagerly awaiting the first cup of coffee. Santa gave Lucas a slingshot! He gave Asher some yarn and a kaleidoscope! And both boys got some groovy knights on chargers. The big gift for Lucas was a 4-in-1 woodworking tool that functions as a lathe, jigsaw—and two other things that I forget. Asher got some high density foam dragons that he and Daddy could build.


We had a beautiful Christmas morning, just the four of us and Solstice dog, gathered around our Christmas tree. We watched the world outside our windows lighten and we opened book after wondrous book.





Christmas treasures


Ian got some new workout gear and a kettle bell (and books). My sweet boys gave me slippers and a cute hat, which Lucas described in detail to Ian before they went looking for it. Ian gave me a gorgeous pair of gray leather boots.


Asher brushed my hair for me.


These are gifts from Asher and Lucas to me and Ian. Asher made a sweet gnome for Daddy and a beautiful silk scarf that he painted for me. Lucas carved this amazing candle stick in woodworking class at school. It is simply wonderful!


We ate yummy sticky buns for breakfast and had time to play and read a little before we went visiting.


The star of the show this year was sweet baby Jack, our new nephew/cousin. It was Jack’s first Christmas and that was so very special for all of us.


Cousins Proud daddy Matt

Seeing Lucas holding Jack was delightful. He’s just peachy.

Dad and Asher Zoe and Lucas

After visiting Ian’s family we went to my Mom and Dad’s and visited with them and my brother and his dog Zoe. There were many wonderful presents. My mama knitted me and Ian hats and scarves. The boys got Legos. What more could we ask for? My grand score: six more oil painting classes.

We wrapped up our Christmas by hosting 50 people at a party at our home that evening. Friends from near and far joined us here to celebrate and catch up. Our home was full of love and laughter and charming, smart people. The goth kids arrived at 11 p.m., right on schedule. I think we fell into bed at 2 a.m. on the 26th!



I’m not going to get anything done today until I write a bit. I am all pent up and my feelings on all subjects are all over the place. They’re mixed up because I haven’t been writing, which is my process for sorting things out, for determining what matters, what to hang on to and work on, and what to let go of. I’ll try not to make this too complainy because there’s really tons of good stuff.


I am very busy with work; I have three projects going full speed ahead. Well, the truth is two of the three projects are taking up so much time that the third is languishing and I hope to get back to it ASAP. I don’t know when that will happen and it’s worrying me. I hope it goes without saying that I’m very glad to have the work. I am. Really.

Pretty computer. So new, there is no dust!

My computer died last Wednesday. My main, desktop, do-everything-on-it computer. I will spare you the emotional trauma of this and just say that I have a new one now. It’s a great new machine and my old data is fine. “Hard drive is robust like ox,” said my tech support queen. This is a VERY HAPPY thing. I am still tweaking and finding workarounds to this happy thing, however, as the happy thing is far from optimized at this moment and I don’t have time to optimize it … yet. Nevertheless, all of this will be better soon. In the meantime, I’ve struggled to keep those three projects moving forward.

I just fell in love all over again. #violin #waldorf #home #son

The boys are doing great. Lucas is adapting gradually to the greater expectations of fifth grade. (I have a whole post on this topic brewing in my head.) Lucas is really enjoying both soccer skills practice and his twice weekly karate class. Asher is zany and clownish and enjoying the hell out of life, it seems. Both boys are healthy and happy. Managing them is like herding cats, or monkeys, um—good-natured, sometimes-disdainful-or-obstinate, constantly forgetful catmonkeys who are generally too busy singing or shouting or bickering or spilling or bouncing through the house to listen to you. Or me.

I’ve gone over to my sister-in-law Kellie’s house a couple of times to help out a little with baby Jack, her newborn son. He is beautiful in every way—utterly perfect—and is finally seeming to get a handle on this breastfeeding thing. Some babies are stubborn like that. Holding a teeny baby has got to be one of the best joys of life. I only have to hold him a moment before he has cast a dreamy spell on me and I find that everything else fades away. Still, I did that so-familiar thing of holding baby and editing one-handed. It brought back so many memories and feelings from when my babies were small. Anita Martin, the charming and talented photographer who took Matt and Kellie’s wedding photos has taken some gorgeous shots of them with new baby Jack. They are truly spectacular. Our love goes out to Matt, Kellie, and Jack during this difficult and wonderful newborn time.

Harvest Faire  and the Walk Now for Autism Speaks events both happened last weekend. (I’m planning to write more about this.) It was community service weekend, to be sure. Consequently, it felt rather like no weekend at all. Today, Friday of the following week, I am running on fumes. (Return to the first paragraph under “Lately.”)

I’m also supposed to be writing a book. I hope to get back to that ASAP before my coauthor disowns me.

I love the fall. Can’t wait to hit the pumpkin patch and start work on those Halloween costumes.

I miss painting sooooo bad. It’s been too long and I now feel fear when I think about picking up a brush. Isn’t that the way of it? I’ve lost my momentum and with it some confidence. It’s a thing I have to correct at the soonest possibly opportunity. Must buy that fancy light so I can paint in my house at night. Must get back to class. Mustn’t forget what I’ve learned so far.




Birthday Letter to Asher

Oh, Asher!

Three? Three years old? Already?

I suppose all of my birthday letters start out this way: How can you be this age already? (And isn’t Mommy predictable?)

Let me try to explain:

Mommy lives in two times, simultaneously.

In one timeline, the days are 30 hours each and they lumber by in no hurry because, really, where is there to go? There are runny noses to wipe and spills to mop. Toys spread out and toys are gradually raked back into their proper places, ebbing in and out, much like waves on a beach. Our rhythm and routines are routine; they simply push us through the hours slowly. There’s no real urgency because tomorrow will be very much like today or yesterday. Life is punctuated by visits to and from grandparents and trips to the grocery store. I only know it’s Tuesday because we’re out of Strauss vanilla yogurt. We creep silently toward each weekend with some anticipation because then Daddy will be home during the day and we’ll all enjoy his company.

The other timeline is faster and, frankly, I think you’re completely unaware of it. You don’t realize how quickly you are changing because you have plenty of other things to think about, like whether Lucas is touching your stuff or Daddy remembered to buy more yogurt. You don’t notice that you’re acquiring new information so fast it makes my head spin. Shiny new words pop out of your mouth every hour and sometimes I have to stop and wonder, where on earth did you hear that? I can practically watch your hair growing.

This is the timeline that people with older or grown children always refer to when they say, “Oh! It goes by so fast! Treasure the time when your baby is little!” And sleepily I think to myself, Bull! It doesn’t go fast. In fact, the minutes between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. numbered about 40,000 this morning. Because when we’re in it, in the trenches of every hour of every day, it’s slow going. But even as I restrain my temper and hold my tongue, I know those other parents are right, in a way. They’re talking about how one minute you need help to reach something on the countertop and the next minute you’re pushing me away with a forceful demand, “I do it by mySELF!” One minute you’re all about cuddling in the rocking chair, and the next you cannot be bothered because, as you explain so clearly, “Mom, I’m too busy.” And one day you won’t want to cuddle at all anymore and you’ll be borrowing my car keys and scrounging in my purse for cash. And then I’ll think just like all those other parents. I’ll know that my stint of living in two times is over, and they’ve merged into one, luge-like race.

But never mind. Let’s not borrow trouble, shall we?

And how can my meager words capture a picture of you now, on your third birthday, about to start your fourth year in our family? I guess I’ll start small.

You now have a wealth of likes and dislikes and you’re not afraid to tell us all about them. Your favorite colors are yellow and purple—your birthday cake was purple. Your favorite animal seems to be a hippo, although you also like cows, and mice, and aliens. I’m pretty sure you think aliens are just another everyday barnyard animal. You also think hippos and monkeys and zebras belong on farms, too. You enjoy the Bennetts’ cats a lot, but grandma’s dog Tolly is just a bit too tall and bouncy for you to feel entirely comfortable around her. She always licks your face and her tail accidentally bops you in the side of your head. Bacon (NoNo and Mars’s dog) is another story! You cannot get enough of Bacon and you think it’s hilarious that his name is Bacon!

Pretend play and role-playing are coming into the forefront of your play routines. You like to play firefighter, alien hunter, superhero, builder, guardian of Princess Mommy, store, and office—these last two games mostly involve your dumping everything you own (and much of your brother’s stuff) in a giant pile and then sitting in the middle of it—not unlike a 3-year-old dragon lazing atop your mountain of stolen gold.

Until just recently, you did all of your playing in the family room (where you could make the pile of stuff really big). You seem now to have discovered your bedroom, and have turned it into a factory. You are playing in there now more than ever before and you really like to have a witness. “Do you want to come in my factory?” you invite sweetly. You don’t like hearing no for an answer, though. At the moment, the train table is piled high with your toys all in a jumble. If I move anything, if I put any little thing away and you catch me doing it, you get really mad at me. Nothing will send you into a rage faster than when we touch your stuff. “DON’T TOUCH MY STUFF!”

About one week ago, we touched your stuff in a big way. We moved your brother’s bed into your room with the idea that the two of you will share a bedroom for a while. We had been discussing it for about a month and you and Lucas are very excited about it. You even became convinced it was your idea. “How ‘bout this idea? Lucas’s bed up high and Baby Asher’s bed down here!” So far this is working out pretty well. You don’t want to go to sleep at the same time as Lucas, but I think that’s just a matter of time and our sticking to it. We have let you stay up too late for too long for you to easily accept an abrupt change of routine and an earlier bedtime. We’re making the bedroom move in stages. It is our sincere hope that this will be a very positive thing for you and Lucas both. We’re hoping it might bring you closer together and encourage you to get along well. We’ll see…

Just this morning, the morning of your third birthday, you ran into our room and made a pronouncement. I was asleep at the time, so I don’t remember exactly what you said, but I remember thinking, My goodness! He really has learned to talk! Every day you perfect the art of communicating with us. You also are developing a juvenile sense of humor: Your favorite words now are “booty butt” and “poop,” which are both understandable and somewhat embarrassing. I mean, it’s not good manners to tell all the adult women you know “You have a big booty butt.” I’ve caught myself trying to soften the blow by warning my female friends before you can spring that little gem on them. You seem to say it just to see what will happen, given that you make the same size comment on a great variety booty butts.

You ask me pretty often these days whether I have a penis. When I answer in the negative, you’re not pleased and frequently claim you don’t have one either. Worse, you sometimes say something like “I don’t want a penis. I cut it off.” I assure you that penises are good and nice and you should have one. Boys have them and it’s great!

Asher, I’m delighted to report that you are learning to eat vegetables. You still would rather not do it, but you have a more pragmatic approach to mealtimes now. If you want dessert (often strawberries or oranges or apple slices), you have to muscle your way through some spinach leaves or a couple of carrots. I bless your preschool teachers every time you accept your fate and start munching on plant foods. You’re acquiring a taste for potatoes and the other day you even dove into a pile of asparagus. I said a silent hallelujah while hushing your brother’s groans and moans about having to eat it. You still ask for “chocolate dinner,” though, as if you’ve ever gotten a chocolate dinner! When you cook for me in your kitchen, you often serve chocolate dinners.

I noticed that you were developing an aversion to the doctor’s office. We have had to visit Dr. Felix three or four times this fall/winter; the first time was for a flu shot. You began protesting, saying “I don’t need a doctor. Doctor is creepy. I don’t go to the doctor.” We have started playing doctor in the hopes that you would build up more positive associations, and for your birthday, we bought you a groovy doctor’s kit and stethoscope. I think you’re more comfortable now with the idea that doctors fix people and make them feel better. Today at your birthday party you blew through all the band-aids that came in the kit. You say, “Be really, really brave” as you come at me with your wooden hypodermic needle. All the party guests left with their owies well treated by Doctor Baby Asher.

And speaking of your name, you still refer to yourself as Baby Asher. Sometimes you announce “I a big boy.” I think that your teachers are working on that idea at school. After all, big boys get to do more cool stuff. You have proven me wrong about the potty training—you still have no interest in using the potty. Silly mommy, making false predictions about when you’d learn those potty skills! Still, I’m hoping that your buddy at school will inspire you to start doing it. And I know boys tend to train later than girls do.

Occasionally, you are a furious wildcat when it’s time for a nap. The other day I held you in my arms and swayed on my feet while you howled and spit, clawed and hissed, groaned and growled, thrashed and scratched and wailed for 35 minutes. Then, you collapsed in a heap and slept for two solid hours. You just don’t want to rest. You are far to busy doing your own thing. But I persist and I fervently hope that you will continue napping through the next year at least.

Dear Asher, you are both my fascination and my tiny little nemesis. You offer us such joy, such pleasure, and such tribulation! You are my perfect, exquisite little torturer and I love you through it all. Thank you for being my darling, my Angel Boy. Thank you for falling asleep in my arms and by my side. Thank you for gracing my life will all the laughter, snuggles, and goofy grins. My heart is full to bursting. My life is richer for you.

I love you, Baby. My Little Big Boy Asher. Happy Birthday!



“I Captain Baby Asher. You Captain Mommy.”

“You want to buy something from my store? Like a chocolate milkshake?”

“Whatchu doing, Lucas?”

“I want to watch a program.”

“I need a nack (snack).”

“You like my daddy? You like my brother? You like a baby? Me?”

“I don’t like this dinner.”

“Baby use your red phone?”

“Can we eat at a restaurant?”

“Leave me alone. I need to work.”

“I a superguy. A superhero!”

“Look out! Aliens are coming!”

“I need water. One ice. Two ice.”

“Baby touch your nipples GENTLY?”

Happy Birthday to My Brilliant Boy

Lucas, you are six years old today! Six years ago we held you in our arms for the first time. You were tiny; only 6 pounds and 8 ounces. You had lots of dark, dark hair and a wrinkled up face and red skin. We dressed you in mismatched baby clothes—because you surprised us and we didn’t have all the new ones laundered yet. Somehow, we were so focused on the birthing, we forgot that at the end of it, we’d have a baby and a photo op. Somehow, you were both early (two and a half weeks) and late (productive actual labor didn’t start until 48 hours after my water broke). We danced you into this world; we tranced you into this world. When you arrived, you cracked open the sky and all the light of heaven flowed into my life. 

This is not your birthday letter; I need more time to create that. This is just your birthday post, to say “Wow. We’ve made it so far!” Today was stormy, intense, wonderful, aggravating, and sweet, just as six promises to be. I’m looking forward to learning all the amazing and soul-splitting things you have to teach me this year.

Happy Birthday, Star Child. You are the whirl in my whirligig, and you’ve got me spinnin’ right ’round. I love you to the moon, all the way past Pluto, through the next hundred galaxies and back again.

Dear Asher

(I promised myself I’d finish this post before Lucas’s birthday.)


Dear Asher,

Today you are 15 months old. I have mentally started this letter to you a thousand times since you turned one three months ago. I can’t really explain why I haven’t really written it until now, except to say that I’m sort of speechless when I think about expressing to you all I feel about you and your first year of life.


So I’ll just dive in, and let the words come higgledy-piggledy as they may. Perhaps I’ll sort them out later on. Perhaps not.


You are a dream come true. You are not the dream I thought you would be, but I’m more in love with you than I thought possible. This is amazing to me. It fills me with overwhelming joy to find myself besotted with you, adoring you, treasuring you. There was a dark moment before your arrival when I wondered if I could. Now I know it’s all OK. We are fine. We are as we were meant to be. I know this is only the first of many important lessons you will teach me.


At 12 months, you were always happy, easy-going, and adaptable, so long as I wasn’t too far away. Your smile was like sunshine and your laugh completely contagious. They still are now, but now, at nearly 15 months, we see another side to your personality. Now you are very good at showing your displeasure when something is bothering you. Now you tell us so clearly what you want and how you want it. Now we see you experimenting with a greater range of moods and expressions. You have a pout that is beyond adorable. You have a glower that would be truly intimidating, if it weren’t so funny: eyes glaring out from beneath knitted brows, lowered head, pouty mouth sometimes featuring a prominently jutting lower lip. What is amazing is how long you can maintain this go-to-hell look. (There is a photography of me as a very young girl wearing Oakland Raiders pajamas and the exact same go-to-hell look. Whenever you flash this look at my parents, they get all nostalgic for the days when I was small and prissy.) You seem to have a stubborn streak in you that may ultimately rival your brother’s. You also seem to have the capacity to hold a grudge for quite a while. Now you throw tantrums when things don’t go the way you want them to, like if we take something away from you, such as a sharp knife or a tiny LEGO piece.


Most of the time, however, you are happy. You are playful and initiate games with us and with Lucas. You still love peekaboo, though it’s not the Ultimate Game it was a few months ago. You like people to chase you through the house, saying “I’m gonna get you!” in a singsong voice. You laugh like crazy when we play chase.



You crawl so fast now! I keep thinking you will walk any day now, but I keep being wrong about that. I suppose I will be wrong until the day I’m finally right! Anyway, it’s impressive how quickly you can cross the room. Sometimes you chase after balls or a pacifier. Sometimes you’re rushing toward me to be scooped up and spun around and nuzzled.


We spend a fair amount of time outdoors now that the weather is so beautiful. You bravely explore the backyard, navigating steps, crossing bark-filled planters, sitting on my flowers. You seem to like the grass lawn and the bark a lot. I see you scratching your little fingernails into the earth at every opportunity. You love coming across a puddle of water from my garden hose. You sit in it, splash, and hoot your pleasure, signing over and over again “water!” The sign is often accompanied by your saying “wa wa wa” as your hands touch your lips.


Your signing is blooming into a truly useful method of communication. I’m so pleased that you are able to make your needs and wants known by using signs. You’re a little inconsistent sometimes still, and you sometimes confuse them, but more often than not now you perform a babyish variation on the signs we’ve taught you. Let’s see … you now use these signs: water, eat, more, milk (sometimes), dog, hat, cold, phone (you made this one up yourself), please (rarely), pluggie (rarely), fish, cookie/cracker. Just today you began signing for “meat.”




You also communicate with a whole range of whoops and hoos and finger pointing. The clever combo of the sign for “more” and strategic pointing usually makes it clear what you want. This combo is very often “more phone,” “more water,” or “more mommy.” Basically, “more” also functions as “I want.” You’re saying “Hi!” with waving now, particularly if you see a child or a beautiful woman pass by. You smile charmingly as if to say, “How you doin’?” You don’t say goodbye yet, but you do wave whenever it becomes clear that someone is leaving, or that we are leaving other people.


Although it used to be very simple feeding you, now your eating is unpredictable. Some days you want only finger foods, or “real” food; other days, you seem to prefer eating only baby food purées. I think your favorite foods are peculiar in one so young as you: onions, meat, strawberries, broccoli, freeze dried apples, peanut butter, stir-fried veggies such as bean sprouts and celery. And things that most babies love, such as bananas and avocados, seem to gross you out. Some days you’ll eat rice, others not. You get a horrified look on your face every time I offer you diluted juice, so I’m thinking you don’t have much of a sweet tooth yet. Which is just fine by me. I had better go cook up some onions for you.


We are having some trouble with your rough hands these days. You delight in pinching my tender spots, especially my breasts and nipples, and frankly, it hurts like hell. I know you think of these items as your own personal property, but they are mine too. We talk a lot about having “gentle hands” and using “soft touches,” but you don’t seem to care to follow our advice. It’s awful when you’re drifting off to sleep (which is my objective) and you knead my skin in your talon-tipped hands until I’m crazy from the pain and irritation. But since I want you to be sleeping, I try to bravely survive it. Sometimes I fail and jump up shouting “Ow! Ow! Ow! Cut it out, Dammit!” This is not a good nap-promoting strategy.


You also hit your brother sometimes or pull his hair. This is largely due to Lucas’s weird need to put his head on you as often as possible. I watch him approach your face with his own, and see you grimace and try to lean away. I think he wants to love on you and cuddle you as much as the rest of us do. Sometimes you’re willing to tolerate his affections. In fact, just yesterday I saw him lean in and you gave him the most giant hug around his head and kissed him in your slobbery way on his cheek.



Shades of sibling rivalry do appear sometimes, however. The worst is when Lucas climbs into my lap or into my bed to snuggle me. God forbid if he gets between you and me! You squeal and whine and cry and try to kill him for touching your mommy. We’re always telling you, “I’m Lucas’s mommy, too, Asher. You have to share, just like he has to share.” Then we spend some time reassuring Lucas that you don’t realize you’re being mean and stingy. You’re just a baby. The great thing about Lucas is that even if he gets angry with you, he rarely holds a grudge against you for more than a moment. It’s really rather remarkable how much he is willing to forgive. Truly, you have the best big brother ever.



What I love is how you show affection to me. Sometimes you reach up and put your hands on either side of my face. You hold my face so tenderly and bring your own forehead close to touch mine. When you hold me there, head to head like that, I feel really loved. I can’t explain why you do this, but somehow you’ve come to associate  bonking foreheads gently as an expression of loving devotion. Which is fine, most of the time. When you do it in the middle of the night—when you crawl over me while I’m sleeping and slam your noggin into mine, waking me out of a sound sleep with searing pain—I don’t like it so much then.


So far, you really seem to like other children. When we go to our “Mommy Baby” class, you love to say “Hi” to the other babies and want to touch their faces. Yesterday we were there and you really owned the room. Your behavior was different, as though you finally decided you felt completely comfortable there. You explored every nook and cranny, swept toys of the shelves, got into the tree blocks, and cuddled every Waldorf-style baby doll before biting it in the head. You strutted your new talents (briefly standing unaided) and flirted with the teacher and all the mommies. It was as though you decided to put on all your charm and have a great time. You really seem to like Willow, the cute little girl who visited our house last week with her mom Peggy. You played nicely with Cameron and Gavin and Noah, too. When we visited the farm, you got super excited when we stood by the sheep enclosure and by the chickens. You rapidly signed “dog” repeatedly while whooping with pleasure. At this point, every animal you see is a dog to you.



So, yeah. Standing up is the big deal these days. You can walk a little if we take your hands and help you balance, but you don’t like to do it for long. You know, though, that these new skills are important because we make a big deal out of them, clapping and praising you and telling you how big you are now. You look so proud of yourself. I honestly thought you’d be walking by now, but you seem to be on your own timetable. Given how fast you crawl, I guess walking from place to place would really slow you down.



You are brilliant, too. I am constantly amazed at what you already know. You seem to have figured out the use of nearly every household object. You know that keys should be inserted into locks, that the computer mouse makes the pictures on the monitor change, that the spoon is for stirring. You know what the TV remote does, and how to turn on or change the TV station if the remote had been hidden from you. You know exactly what button to push on the DVD player to make the disc eject. You know what a hairbrush is for and what a toothbrush is for. You adore the phone more than anything else and have figured out its major buttons, including speaker phone. You sit placidly for long stretches flipping the pages of books like a lifelong reader. If you try really hard, you can even use table utensils appropriately. It’s weird to realize that you really are watching everything we do with every object all the time. You learn by watching us, which reminds me to be on my best behavior.



There is more to say. I should talk about cosleeping with you, going places with you, how you’re now into everything and much mischief. But perhaps I’ll save those things for later. I suppose I wasn’t speechless after all.


Asher, I love you completely and forever.



P.S. I’m sorry I forgot the camera when we went to your first dental checkup.

What’s Next? Israel, of Course

I guess I did a good job on Syria because today I was offered a project copyediting Israel, 2e from the same children’s publisher. Maybe after this one I’ll tell them what my hourly rate really is. In the meantime, they’re getting good value for their measly money.

I have a couple of strategy guides going: one full-size guide that’s almost done and another tiny hint book. I’m hoping another one to three guides will come my way soon.

The chapter on pet massage that I was told to research and write has been placed on hold. It seems the publisher for that textbook isn’t actually sure it wants to include that content. Now I’m supposed to do market research instead of writing research. Thanks for yanking my hours back, folks.

Related to work worries are my summertime worries, which have awakened rather early this year. Looking ahead just a hop, skip, and jump from now reveals twelve yawning, empty weeks until school starts again. Although summer has always been my favorite time of year, I now understand why my mother dreaded it, and why every time the words “I’m bored” were mentioned in her house, she went insane with rage. 

This summer I’ll have part-time childcare for Lucas and Asher. Today I registered Lucas for a weeklong, half-day camp at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center. The program is for first and second graders and  it’s called “Signs Along the Trail.” He’ll get to comb the trails near the American River with the group looking for evidence of animal activity, use binoculars, make notes, play games, do crafts, and meet some Nature Center animals.

I’ve recently found out that several of Lucas’s classmates will be doing a Waldorf-oriented Summer Art Camp and I’m wondering if we can swing that, too. It’s not cheap. Lucas is quite the artist nowadays and enjoys working with crayons, charcoal, beeswax, watercolors and other paints, and even pastels. I think he would really like this camp.

There will probably be more swimming lessons too.

But all this still leaves me with the challenge of working while caring for Asher nearly full-time. As he gets older and more mobile (meaning into more stuff), it gets harder and harder to accomplish anything during the day. I’m often wiped out by 8:30 p.m. and find it challenging to work at night, too.

All this sounds complainy—but today I’m really in a decent mood. I’m glad to have the new project. I love the fact that when I tell the Universe I need more work, something usually arrives in my lap. Hopefully my childcare challenges will resolve themselves in the same manner. 

So, thank you, Universe. And if you could figure a way for me to earn a decent living and still wrangle my kiddos, I’d really appreciate it.

Breastfeeding, Illness, and Medications

A while ago I alluded to my recent crisis. The “crisis” turned out not to be one, so rest easy. I want to write about it because … well … because I learned stuff that other people might want to know.

I was recently sick with a cold; you may remember my bitching about it. The cold seemed to go away, then returned and settled in my lungs as a respiratory infection. This is what colds do in my body. It’s tradition. I relented and went to see my doctor, Dr. Chen on a Monday morning, now two weeks ago.

Chen confirmed that I had an infection in my lungs, confirmed that this is indeed what colds turn into in people like me—people with chronic asthma and allergies. Right. I knew that. Chen listened to my breathing and exclaimed “You’re really wheezing bad!” Right. I knew that, too. She prescribed two medications for me: prednisone (a corticosteroid) and Zithromax (a brand name for azithromycin, which is an antibiotic).

Then she told me I would have to stop breastfeeding Asher and “pump and dump.” I am beginning to think that this phrase is a favorite among physicians everywhere. I expressed my dismay about this, and she launched into a discussion about how these two drugs are needed to make me better—that I would NOT get better without them—and that surely I don’t want these drugs to go into my milk and into my baby.

Right. No, I wouldn’t want that.


So, I left Chen’s office and drove directly to the pharmacy at Raley’s. I shopped for a few items while waiting for the pharmacy people to fill the scripts. While I shopped, I got more and more upset. I put a can of Earth’s Best organic baby formula in my cart and tried to imagine Asher happily taking a bottle. Or a cup. Or anything other than mama milk at bedtime. I bought the drugs, bought my other items, and came home. By the time I got home, I was crying.

Ian had been watching the boys for me while I went to the doctor’s office. He was naturally alarmed by my tears. We sent Lucas out into the backyard so I could fall apart and tell Ian what was wrong. I sobbed as I told him how I didn’t want to take the meds. I did not want to stop breastfeeding. I felt that Asher was old enough now that there was a serious chance that if I stopped nursing him, he would wean. Nursing is a beautiful symbiotic relationship: My body makes enough milk to meet the demand of my nursling. Without the demand, the body stops making milk.


I was looking at taking seven days’ worth of drugs, plus two more days of dumping my milk and using formula “just to be sure.”

Asher gets a good portion of his nutrients from “real” food now, or from purées. But he still nurses at least six to eight times in 24 hours. At this time, Asher was still sick with the same cold I had had, and was feeling miserable, and was therefore nursing for comfort and more often than usual. Even though he might be physically able to wean without a huge negative nutritional consequence, he is still very much a baby. Or a toddler, if you will. Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend continued breastfeeding until the age of two. Studies show that the immunity benefits of breastfeeding change as the baby grows. Some immune factors decrease, but some increase: Lysozyme, an immune factor that attacks the cell walls of bacteria and kills them, is present in greater concentrations after the first year than before.

Breastfeeding Asher is crucial to me for a lot of reasons. When he was first born and I got so shockingly sick with a uterine infection and then septicemia, my milk did not “come in.” In the hospital, they had me on something like ten different drugs to combat the infection and save my life (three different antibiotics—Flagyl, Levaquin, Vancomycin—steroids, an anticlotting drug called argatroban, two asthma drugs, potassium chloride, phosphorus, insulin, mucomyst (a drug I was told was supposed to protect my kidneys from all the other drugs they were giving me), guaifenesin, dilaudid as needed for pain, and Xanax).


It was only through great effort and single-minded determination that I eventually became able to breastfeed my infant: I had to pump every three hours around the clock for weeks. Following doctors’ instructions, I had to dump out my milk for six weeks before I was allowed to feed my baby my milk. 

So here’s where I wax poetic. We need to breastfeed. Both of us. It is our primary and primal form of communication. It is a panacea for all hurts, fears, insecurities, and worries. It makes us sleepy. It makes us feel peaceful, in harmony with each other, and safe. Breastfeeding my baby makes me feel worthy—that I am a good mother. It increases the happy hormones in my bloodstream, and helps me stay patient when faced with the many frustrations of raising small children. It burns calories that I would find difficult to burn otherwise, given my circumscribed (read: housebound) activity. It provides him with perfect, tailor-made nourishment and protects him from all sorts of health problems. It also protects me from future health problems such as osteoporosis and possibly even breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers. Nursing is the perfect start to every day, the perfect way to drift off to sleep, the perfect way to reunite after an absence. It is our special time together, our unique bond. We are not ready to give it up.

My doctor’s recommendation that I stop breastfeeding and “pump and dump” was greatly disturbing. It threw me into a panic and dredged up all sorts of terrible feelings that were born in my illness last year. It churned a lot of dark, gloopy fears around and threw them back in my face to be felt all over again.

Ian talked me down a bit. We discussed my not taking the drugs. But I was sick and felt very ill. Not breathing properly sucks, by the way. I wanted to feel better. But I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding Asher.

We turned, as we often do, to the Internet and to books. I spent an entire afternoon researching online and flipping through some books on breastfeeding that I have. And for those of you who might still be reading, here’s what I found:

You do not have to stop breastfeeding when taking MOST medications. 

Doctors have an incomplete understanding of lactation and medications. Drug studies are not done on nursing mothers or babies, therefore little hard evidence exists to prove that continued nursing when taking meds is safe. Serious research on breastfeeding and the nature of breast milk has only been done in the last 20 years. Therefore, to the established medical field, breastfeeding while taking medications is not safe. To the drug companies, it’s less risky simply to say “ask your doctor” or “don’t take while breastfeeding.” They avoid lawsuits that way. Same with the doctor. I gather from what I’ve read that very little time is spent on lactation in medical school, so doctors who may even be pro-breastfeeding don’t really know much about it. They take the conservative stance, as my doctor did: Don’t breastfeed while taking meds.


But, two of the biggest experts in lactation and breastfeeding, both MDs, say most medications are fine to take while continuing breastfeeding your baby. Only a very small percentage of most drugs makes it into breast milk, usually less than 1%.


Tom Hale, MD, (a lactation and drug specialist and author of Drugs and Mother’s Milk, 13th ed., and Drug Therapy and Breastfeeding), Jack Newman, MD, (researcher and author of The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals Into Human Milk) all say its OK to breastfeed even when taking these specific drugs (prednisone and azithromycin) and not to worry about baby. The 2001 AAP publication (Table 7) says there is “no reported signs or symptoms in infant or effect on lactation.”

In fact, there are lots of medications that are safe to take while breastfeeding, but your doctor may not know that. Whether a medication is safe to take depends on a number of things, such as:

* maternal serum drug concentration

* whether the drug is absorbed through the gut; many medications are delivered in other ways, therefore almost none enters the milk

* whether the medication binds to protein

* the size of the drug’s molecules (“In the early postpartum period, large gaps between the mammary alveolar cells allow many medications to pass through this milk that may not be able to enter mature milk. These gaps close by the second week of lactation.”—Spencer, MD; Gonzalez, PharmD; and Barnhart, PharmD, American Family Physician, July, 2001)

* age of the infant (premature and newborn infants are more at risk if they absorb mother’s medication through her milk, as their livers don’t filter the chemicals out of their bodies as efficiently as older babies and toddlers)

* amount of milk the infant is receiving (young infants nurse more than older babies and toddlers)

* the drug’s half-life (drugs break down within the body, so if you time the medication well, such as by taking it immediately after a feeding or during baby’s longest sleep, the drug may well be out of your milk by the time baby feeds again)

* dosage and frequency of dosage (a drug that you take frequently is better than a longer-acting dosage; if you take it frequently, it means the drug breaks down relatively quickly)

* whether the medication is one that is normally prescribed to infants and babies if the medical condition were theirs and not mother’s

* whether the medication will affect the mother’s ability to make milk for her baby (oral contraceptives fall into this category)


Jack Newman, MD, in The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, (published by Prima!) has a whole chapter on breastfeeding while on medication. He says, “The essential question in all this is: Does a small amount of medication in the mother’s milk make breastfeeding riskier than not breastfeeding? The answer … is almost always no. Breastfeeding with a small amount of medication in the milk is not riskier than feeding the baby formula, except in a few specific situations. It is almost always less risky. There are safer and less safe drugs for mothers who are breastfeeding, but the majority are still safe. Health risks exist for both the mother and the baby when the mother does not breastfeed. This may not just be a question of taking the baby off the breast for a week or 10 days. It may be a question of permanent weaning, since off the breast for a week often means, in practice, off the breast forever.”


Newman goes on later to say, “You should not assume that your doctor or even your pharmacist knows much about drugs and breastfeeding or that they are concerned with helping you continue to breastfeed. Often the information they may use to decide if a drug is acceptable during breastfeeding domes from the drug manufacturer itself, found in a book called the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties (CPS) in Canada and the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) in the United States. The manufacturer is concerned about its own medical legal liability, not the importance to the mother and baby of breastfeeding.”


Tom Hale, MD, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at Texas Tech University School of Medicine, has a website and a Q&A forum which discusses specific drugs. He answers the questions himself and specifically discussed prednisone and azithromycin, as well as many other medications:


This site is a clearinghouse of info and links to many good online  sources:


The American Academy of Family Physicians introduces the topic of breastfeeding and medications in this way: “Physicians receive little education about breast-feeding and even less training on the effects of maternal medications on the nursing infant. Yet, concern about potential harm to the nursing infant from maternal medications is often cited as a reason to advise discontinuation of breast-feeding. Overwhelming evidence demonstrates the benefits of breast-feeding and the deleterious effects that can result from premature weaning.” You can read the full article here:


Here is an easy-to-read table of drugs and their relative safety/risk when breastfeeding:


La Leche League’s website ( has three articles specifically about medications in mothers’ milk. One is written by Tom Hale and he says “In a 14-month-old breastfeeding baby, the volume of milk provided is often so low that the dose of maternal medication transferred to the infant is minimal to nil.” This is exactly Asher’s present age.


William Sears, MD, a huge proponent of Attachment Parenting and breastfeeding has a website, too. Here’s an article on the benefits of breastfeeding “from top to bottom”:


This is just a small sampling of the information that is available. It was enough to convince me and Ian that it was safe for me to take the medications my doctor prescribed to me and to continue breastfeeding our baby, with no interruption or big change in our routine. I made an effort to take my meds after Asher had nursed and right before his longest sleeping period of the day, but otherwise we continued life as normal. Within 24 hours, I felt about 40 percent better for having taken the drugs. The day after that, I felt enormously better and very grateful I had done my research and decided to take them.


We carefully observed Asher during this time. He didn’t change in any observable way, except for the better: He gradually got over his cold after a few days. His mood improved and he returned to his normal happy, healthy self. 

I’m returning that baby formula to the store unopened.


The moral of this story is this: Do your research before you take the advice to stop breastfeeding your baby, and don’t assume the doctor knows all the info. Don’t risk losing the most perfect symbiotic and health-promoting relationship two human beings can have. It’s too important to throw it away.

Does He Really Fall, Mommy?

I’ve just finished tucking my 5-year-old in for the night. We have an elaborate but working bedtime ritual (bath or shower, brushing teeth and hair, stories, candle prayer with all of us, lights out, songs and cuddles with mommy) that begins just after dinner and ends with me creeping out of the room in the dark. I sing the same eight songs every night. Then I choose from one to six others in a regular rotation—I’m just wacky enough to mix ’em up once in a while! (Yes, I am a rockstar.)

The second-to-last song is always “Rock-A-Bye Baby.” I used to not sing this song to Lucas, but he started asking for it about a year ago. I figured one of his teachers sang this song at naptime. The last song is always “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” This one is by far his favorite lullaby.

Tonight Lucas asked me, “Does the baby really fall out of the tree, Mommy?” And I was left momentarily speechless. Because … well, I KNOW! What a terrible thing to sing to a small child! This is exactly why I chose not to sing it for so long! 

I said, lamely, “Well, it’s a way of saying the baby falls asleep.”

The internet says:

The words and lyrics to this nursery rhyme are reputed to reflect the observations of a young pilgrim boy in America who had seen Native Indian mothers suspend a birch bark cradle from the branches of a tree enabling the wind to rock the cradle and the child to sleep. The rhyme also hold a warning on the choice of bough!

Wikipedia elaborates.

(author unknown)

Rock-a-bye, baby
In the treetop
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall
And down will come baby
Cradle and all

Baby is drowsing
Cosy and fair
Mother sits near
In her rocking chair
Forward and back
The cradle she swings
And though baby sleeps
He hears what she sings

From the high rooftops
Down to the sea
No one’s as dear
As baby to me
Wee little fingers
Eyes wide and bright
Now sound asleep
Until morning light 

I think I’ll try to learn the two last verses.

PVC, Phthalates, and Lead 

I’ve been doing a lot of crawling around on the Interwebs lately. I’ve been learning about some icky stuff that they put in … well … everything, but in particular in children’s toys. Like teething toys. That babies. Put in. Their. Mouths.

Ian, who is smarter than me—or at least better at adding 2 and 2 together—just asked me, “What about pacifiers?”

Oh crap. 

Dear God, 
Please, PLEASE do not let me find out that creepy dangerous chemicals are in the pluggies that I lovingly place in my baby’s eager, sucking mouth multiple times every day. I really cannot live without pluggies. They are the life raft I leap to regularly to save my sinking sanity. They are the balm to my weary, hounded soul. I cannot make it without pacifiers.
My nipples won’t survive. My jangled nerves will jangle their last.Please. Please.

OK. More research is in order. Possibly some of you will say, “Duh. We’ve known about this for years.” Which is completely understandable given that I shun The News because it’s scary and makes me cry.

Synchronicity is a bitch. Ya know? Just last Friday I bought a book called Toxic Sandbox ( So far, I’ve read the lead chapter and I’m halfway through the mercury chapter. Guess what the next chapter is! Yep. Plastics, including phthalates. 

It seems phthalates are implicated in smaller scrotums, smaller penises, undescended testicles, reduced sperm count, reduced testosterone, testicular caner, liver cancer, and damaged kidneys IN RODENTS. It seems that these chemicals “feminize” babies and small children. The EU has banned products containing phthalates.

So, my gut reaction right now is to go buy a lead testing kit and to throw away every single plastic item in my home. Not sure how much will be left in my home if I do this. Dammit. 

See? There IS a reason (beyond aesthetics) I’ve been asking for and buying wooden toys for my boys for years.

  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2018 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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