Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
Enjoy Your Life.

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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Friday, July 19, 2013

When Breastfeeding Sucks: 13 things to try

I'm excited to announce that I will be writing regularly for RichmondMom a local online magazine. My first article went live this afternoon and I'm thrilled for the opportunity to write in more detail on topics related to pregnancy, normal birth, postpartum, and mothering. 

If you've been following along for a while you know that I treasure the breastfeeding relationships that I shared with my two boys (Merritt just weaned a few months ago!) and I have written about my experience many times over the years. (Click on the Breastfeeding link in the left nav sidebar under Our Stories to read more.) 

Still, breastfeeding can be really hard work and it requires a huge time commitment and a share of personal sacrifice.  Like other aspects of mothering there are moments of pure love and bliss, as well as fear and loathing.

I would love your ideas for future topics, please share in the comment section.

If you are like most pregnant and newly postpartum mamas then you are aware of the many benefits that breastfeeding offers to you and your baby. You also probably have a goal in mind for how long you would like to breastfeed whether it be until you transition back to work, six months, one year, or more!

Breast milk is a human baby’s normal food, and while the physiology of lactation is a natural process, breastfeeding is a learned skill and many mamas say it can be really hard at first.

Even if you don’t experience any of the most common complications like low milk supply, nipple pain, engorgement, plugged ducts, or mastitis, you may still find the commitment and the demands of breastfeeding around the clock to be exhausting.

So what do you do if the mechanics of breastfeeding are going well, but the effort required feels herculean and you secretly wonder how much longer you can keep at this? Whatever your goals, whatever your challenges, many mamas share your sentiment.

Here are a few suggestions to help get you through: 

1. Know what is normal nursing behavior for a healthy newborn. Calm your fears, gather your confidence. Newborn babies nurse 8-12 times every 24 hours. That’s a lot of time spent nursing! Read up if you can before your baby is born. Check out from the library or buy your own copy of a comprehensive and evidence based reference guide like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and visit Find a local chapter of La Leche League and attend a meeting—you’ll meet other moms in all phases and stages of breastfeeding who’ve been there and done that so bring your baby, or a friend, and a list of whatever is on your mind. Most importantly, take heart and know that you are not alone in navigating the highs and lows of nursing your baby.

( the full article here)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Drafting dreams

We've finally identified the general vicinity in which we want to build a home and live in from here until forever. What a declaration! I'll share more about the area in another post but it is about 5 miles outside the city and there are many multi-acre lots for sale--something that has been really hard to find! For about a week we have been eyeing a parcel of nine acres situated on a lovely country road across from a quintessential span of open field.

We get excited thinking about how a move outside the city limits (to the East End) could actually translate to an increased use of the City's offerings for us. The main road that connects the area to the city pours directly into what is called Shockoe Valley which leads to the hip and happening spots in nearby Church Hill, Shockoe Bottom, and Shockoe Slip. We are so familiar with the West End of the city and nearby suburbs that we tend not to venture into downtown and beyond unless we have a specific errand to run, and proximity certainly increases access.

We've been through land inquiries before so we don't have our hopes up yet, but we are moving slowly through the process of acquiring information and considering negotiations.

Regardless of the lot (as long as it has flat topography!) we are drafting a design concept that we call the nature inspired industrial horse barn. It may sound a little crazy, but after years of dreaming this feels like the perfect floor plan for the way we like to live with one large communal living space and separate private rooms for sleeping.

Here are images of the rough design concept, without exterior detail. Just a basic shape, and some interior walls. For reference the square footage would be around 3,000. The design element I love most is the modified dogtrot, or breezeway, that connects the main floor space to the open air in the front and back yards.

If you're not familiar with houzz, it's similar to Pinterest but focuses on living spaces. You can check out our idea books here. We each add to them when we can and review them together in the evenings for fun.

What do you think, can you picture it?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Boundaries, FAQ answers

A while back readers posted questions to an FAQ requestToday I'm sharing more about how we prioritize the family's needs in the context of a larger family structure.

Anonymous asks:
"I would like to know how you manage these intentional life choices within the context of a broader family structure - So, how do you explain/justify and support your efforts and money spent on eating well to extended family who just don't get it? How do you keep an eye on your overall family goals when they are challenged by other needs you must attend to (for example, spending time with or caring for or celebrating with extended family members and friends when it might seem to come at the expense of immediate family)."

After giving it some thought, the answer to both questions really comes down to boundaries.

As parents, Andy and I have not always been good at establishing healthy boundaries, especially within those familial relationships where they are probably needed most (i.e., grandparents!). Even though we are more aware and wiser to the better outcomes that having clear boundaries and expectations can create for all involved, we are still learning how to be effective, kind, and true to ourselves when we express our needs to our families and friends. Holding others accountable for respecting our boundaries is the other aspect of boundary setting that we often struggle with. Setting boundaries is iterative and lifelong but worth the benefits of improved communication and the preservation of important relationships. Our individual and family needs will change over time, so there will be plenty of opportunity to practice until it becomes second nature. (I like this article on boundary setting and accountability.) I'm breaking this up into two parts:

1. How do you explain, justify, and support your efforts and money spent on eating well to extended family who just don't get it?

When it comes to how we spend our money, what we eat, and/or how we invest in our health we don't typically discuss these topics with our family (or friends). While I love to talk about actively sourcing and preparing the foods that we eat, how we see our family's place in our food chain, and the importance of eating good food from animals that led good lives (including the health benefits of eating animals that have been fed their normal diets), I reserve those passionate discussions for individuals whom I know share my views. Otherwise, I'm happy to explore these topics when asked about them directly but, as with politics, I generally don't go out of my way to go into detail.

It is very likely that neither set of grandparents, nor most of our friends fully understand our motivations to seek out pastured/local/seasonal/organic foods, and that's ok. We are fortunate that criticism and other negativity from our immediate circles are not part of the dialogue around this topic.

2. How do you keep an eye on your overall family goals when they are challenged by other needs you must attend to (for example, spending time with or caring for or celebrating with extended family members and friends when it might seem to come at the expense of immediate family time.

As a new mother I was surprised to find that one of the most challenging aspects of my transition was the effort required to navigate the fundamental and necessary shift in family dynamic that occurs when a daughter becomes a mother and a mother becomes a grandmother, or really when any adult child becomes a parent to the next generation. The simple fact challenges the established ways of communicating and interacting.

When we became parents the importance of maintaining a routine became clear early on. While we were learning to live at a slower pace, and to care for our nuclear unit, our extended family's expectations had not changed all that much and their requests began to feel more like unreasonable demands, with consequences. After some trial and error and attempts to compromise, we realized that pushing the kids past their limits in order to partake in activities or events to which we had committed ourselves (by choice or obligation) just wasn't working for us. These scenarios almost always ended with feelings of disappointment and frustration as our ability to fully engage and enjoy the time spent was hindered by the extra effort required to care for unhappy babies and toddlers.

The solution was to set boundaries by communicating the kinds of activities that our young family could commit to participate in while also being honest about what we couldn't manage, at least for now.

When it comes to participating or not in family and other social events we do pick and choose what we feel is reasonable and on what level. We may decline an invitation altogether or suggest an alternative that works better for our family. We may participate in only a portion of the activities scheduled for a given event. We may make special accommodations in order to ensure our family's needs are met at the same time that we are meeting the needs of others. There have been times when Andy and I really wanted or needed to show up for an event, like a college graduation, and we knew that the kids would require naps mid-day and that they wouldn't likely be able to sit through the entire ceremony. In order to make it happen we planned ahead and did the best we could. We have become very comfortable dropping everything and leaving when it is clear that the kids can't tolerate a given situation. In the case of the graduation, they boys were animals and Andy left with them so they could nap in the car and I stayed behind to witness my little brother receive his diploma.

We've also developed a level of comfort for the scenarios in which an identifiable compromise doesn't exist, and in those cases we choose our family. I understand that life is lived in phases and right now when the kids are so young and when it is our responsibility to meet their basic needs* we remain flexible but prioritize their needs and our parental sanity over the needs of others. It doesn't always please everyone, but it is necessary for us.

Our extended family has grown to better understand our changed priorities, and as a result their expectations have also changed. They don't seem as disappointed as they may have been early on. Another important detail of our story is that we live in a different city from our families, and most of our close friends, so distance makes our independence and autonomy easier, if not built-in.

*basic needs: nutrition, sleep, rest, downtime, safety, connection, cuddling, fun, and mastery (Peaceful Parent, Happy Kid).

Monday, July 1, 2013

Spring Babies

I don't know what it is about the Summertime but it makes me want to have another baby.

Maybe it's Virginia this time of year, with its long daylight hours, balmy heat and humid nights, heavy rains and intense thunderstorms, and a beckoning call to open air living. Or maybe it is the slower pace that we keep in the summer months of of June, July, and August. It all seems so suddenly easy. The mornings escape us with Merritt taking a nap at 10:30, and the afternoons are so carefree, they demand less structure and more adventure. I can create in the kitchen with the back door wide open as the kids play naked in the backyard. The sun is still up when Andy gets home for dinner. Bedtime follows closely behind and Roscoe and Merritt are so beat from our explorations of the day that they fall asleep without a fuss as their curls hit their bed sheets, which leaves entire evenings for Andy and me.  Perhaps it is human nature that we mate in the Summer so that we can have babies in the Spring like all other smart mammals.

It is true that whenever we find some peace and simplicity in our life we start to believe that we have it all it figured out. We can push away the fear that we sometimes carry, which whispers that we've taken on too much, that we weren't cut out for parenting in the plural sense, that we'll never have a full night's rest again in our lives; and then shortly after we settle in and decide it's a good time to get pregnant.

I'm definitely there, but also thinking that we'll hold off for a little while longer, although it is taking some effort not to just go for it. The boys start preschool in the Fall, and I'd like to try on that routine for a bit and also wrap up the lactation course that I'm midway through before willingly beginning what I anticipate to be a challenging pregnancy.

Roscoe has recently taken up an imaginary friend who he claims is his sister. She lives in North Carolina and has quite a history. I'm taking this as a sign that our family will be rounded out with a little girl on this next go 'round.
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