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!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Birth Plan: 5 steps to a better informed birth experience

I wrote this piece about birth plans for RichmondMom. You can read the full article here

“My doctor told me to keep my birth plan short and to the point, how do I fit in everything I want to include? I don’t want to be too demanding.”

“You can’t really PLAN labor, won’t my care provider tell me what I need to know?”

“A friend of mine brought a bunch of copies of her birth plan to the hospital when she went into labor and no one even looked at them!”

“I’ve read online that care providers and labor and delivery staff laugh in the face of birth plans. Should I even write one?”

“My sister is a labor and delivery nurse, she warned me that moms who write long birth plans are the ones who end up with a bunch of intervention and babies born by c-section.”

As a doula and childbirth educator I work closely with women, and their partners, as they prepare for the intimate life event of birth. I encourage every family I work for to develop a birth plan as part of their childbirth preparation, and as an integral step in their personal journey to becoming better informed consumers of maternity care.

The dismissive messages that often characterize discussions around birth plans undermine their many benefits and true purpose as a communication and information gathering tool. The process of writing a birth plan serves in at least three ways:
  1. To help you to identify your needs and wants for labor, birth, and postpartum care.
  2. To begin, or continue, a dialogue about your needs and wants with your care provider in the context of her practice style, and the policies and procedures routine to your chosen birthing place.
  3. To engage your birth team to facilitate and support your birthing goals.

Reframe the value of your birth plan as the PROCESS by which the document is created and the degree to which you utilize it as a communication tool before labor begins. To merely present a birth plan document to Labor and Delivery staff on admission to your birthing place is to miss out on many of the benefits of having created the document in the first place.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Preschool Days

Happy faces for the first day of school

We are two weeks into our first official preschool year. Roscoe and Merritt are enrolled at a small private Reggio-Emilia based program just 5 minutes from the rental house we are moving into next month. (Did I mention we are moving?!) 

The BAPP preschool is for children ages 2-5 and runs 9:30am-12:30am, 5 days a week. Merritt is in a class that meets 3 days a week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. 

Merritt hangs his tote bag on his hook first thing when he enters the classroom

I'm so grateful that we got in, we were on the Wait List for months last year as they only accept a limited number of new students each year because of its small size and because the siblings of current students have preference, and this year there were a lot of rising little brothers and sisters.

Every morning when we arrive the kids wash their hands and the older ones sign in.

I smile when thinking about what his signature will look like by the end of this year.
The teachers document the children's learning throughout the day, and every morning at drop off I look forward to reviewing the latest photos and stories that are hung throughout the classroom. 

I love that the children's curiosity drives the lessons of the day. 

An investigation story

Observations from the two year classroom

A comparison activity

More observations for the little ones

A story about how the kids worked together to build a house. And then destroy it.

I love how compassionate the teachers are. I'm learning a lot just listening and watching for the short periods of time that I am present in the classrooms every day.
Teacher Anne & Roscoe, and Merritt in his classroom
Before school began, I was impressed that the boys' teachers made home visits to meet each student in their familiar space. It is such a warm and thoughtful way to begin their relationship. The older children pick a symbol to represent them at school. Roscoe picked a dragon. 

Outside there is a huge wooded play yard perfect for exploring. Roscoe learned how to pedal a bike on his first day.

It's kind of incredible the amount of time every day that is now devoted to some aspect of school. I'm still figuring out the logistics of drop-off routine and pick-up lines but I can already feel the difference that the schedule makes for all of us. I have little chunks of time every day to break from my mothering role (and to work!), and they have a little home away from home that suits our family so well.

If you're interested in the Reggio-Emilia approach you can learn more about the philosophy here, and thoughts on incorporating the ideas into your home life here.  

How is the back to school transition going for your family?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Foraging for Chestnuts

After living in the nature starved landscapes of Northern Virginia, we were smitten with our backyard space when we moved back to Richmond in the Fall of 2011. Canopied by a variety of mature trees, I was so happy to be nearer to the outdoors in general, that I downloaded this guide to native Virginia trees intent to learn to identify not only those that grow in our backyard, but also the foliage we regularly encounter on our walks by the river.

Unfortunately, this daughter of a Forester didn't get much further than to recognize the already familiar flowering dogwood that gracefully grows outside our bedroom window. I think an illustrated guide would have served me better.

Then one day, these green urchin-like pods began to fall from one of the trees that I had struggled to identify. In the mornings we would peer out from the screen door to spy on the squirrels who cautiously ventured out into the open to gnaw at the prickly puzzle that is the outer shell of burrs. 

And we weren't thrilled when our carefree playtime in the yard was upset for stepping on small clusters of burrs (or prickles as we call them). Without shoes, which we hardly wear when back there no matter the season, even those most careful about traversing the lawn could not avoid them. And still, the largest tree in the yard continued to drop more burrs with each day that passed.

From Fall burrs to Springtime pine sap and Summer inch-worm infestations, we realized in our first year here that there are imperfections to be found even in something as lovely as living with nature.  

American Chestnut
The following year, as the last burrs were hitting the ground, we mentioned our nuisance to the neighbor with whom we share a fence-line, and he supposed they were chestnuts. 


This year we were prepared. When the burrs began to drop three days ago, we started harvesting them. We are foraging for food in our own backyard!

We find them on the ground like this:

There are usually between one and three chestnuts nestled inside each burr.

Like the squirrels, we have to wrestle with the casing and take caution not to be poked. They really do hurt!

The only safe way to hold them is by their little tail stem.

Once the nuts are freed, we sweep the burrs up and throw them behind the bushes along the perimeter of the yard.

Our next step is to prepare the chestnuts for roasting. It can take a few days for the starches of the nut (which is primarily carbohydrate instead of protein as most nuts are) to sweeten up a bit. They are resting in the fridge for today at least, and maybe another day tomorrow.

Do you have a good chestnut recipe to share? I would like to try this parfait with chestnuts, sugar, whipped cream, and rum extract. I'll probably also roast a batch to eat with butter and sea salt, I hope the boys will enjoy them for snack.

Quintessential autumn

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Perc tests and septic systems: an update on the lot

The soil test was completed Thursday of last week. The results show that the land cannot support a conventional septic system and so an alternative system costing $10,000 - $15,000 dollars more will be required in order to build a home here. We requested a small adjustment in the sale price and received confirmation late last night that the seller has agreed. The next step will be an official survey, but there really shouldn't be any surprises there.

On Friday we were asked to confirm the location of the soil test to be sure that the general vicinity of the test was the basic location we envision for the house to sit. Andy and I were able to leave the boys with our neighbors and drive out to the lot to explore it for the first time. Before this weekend we'd only walked the cleared area that fronts the road.

Tick prevention and the accessory of the season: a machete

One of the first things we encountered was a pretty impressive dumping ground for housewares and appliances! Otherwise, the land is mostly untouched. It is very flat and completely wooded with typical Virginia pine and oak. It looks like the land was cleared, maybe in the 40's for farming, because the regrowth is natural but still seems young. The lot is a rectangular shape and gently slopes up to a little peak somewhere in the middle (that would be the place to build the house). Passed that point (the last 1/3 of the lot), the foliage changes a bit and then turns to marshy ground. Somewhere toward the back of the lot (we didn't make it that far) there is a seasonal creek that leads to a large body of water that began naturally, but has been damaged by years of gravel mining in some of the 400 acres that surround the property.

The soil test was based at this little clearing roped off with twine (bottom right). The machete was helpful for the underbrush and overgrowth, and especially for the spiderwebs overhead.

It is exciting to think about the ways that we can maximize use of the different aspects of the land. We envision clearing a couple acres in the middle for the house and a few key dwellings, namely a garage, workhouse, and guesthouse. These will be incorporated into the site plan that we'll have drawn up once we identify an architect, but we will construct them over time, probably many years. Otherwise, we would like the land to remain undisturbed for the most part. It would be nice to clear some trails for walking, and perhaps build a boardwalk through the marsh so that we can enjoy that space as well. A boardwalk that leads to a patio overlook would be serene.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bringing into Focus What Matters Most

The end of Summer felt a lot less peaceful than any of us would have liked and so by late August I was restless (and hopeful) for a new season to begin and a new rhythm to take hold.

One especially chaotic weekday morning I declared a family brainstorm to encourage the kids to participate in defining ideals for our shared home life. I wrote enthusiastically, my words filling the room as the boys colored furiously, big and small, to fill in all the white space.

The themes that emerged included: Peace and Quiet, Sleep, Love, Respect, Less Screen Time, Special Time, Being Kind, Responsibilities, Daily Routines, and Meal Time.

Later I identified some actions we could take to achieve our intentions. I wrote them out on colored cardstock and then over the course of a few days sat down with Roscoe, in particular, to discuss the details. How can we show each other that we love one another? What are some ways that we can be respectful to others? How can we say thank you with our actions, and how can we show our appreciation to our friends or family?

I've learned so much from Brene Brown over the years, and I recently listened to her short audio book Imperfect Parenting. One of the things that resonated with me is that family should serve to meet our primary need for belonging. No one should have to hustle (or feel like they need to) in order to be loved and respected in their own space. Our family is our home. We each bring ourselves to the table, and we are enough.

I added Belonging to our list of major themes because it is at the heart of what I want for all of us, and the triad was complete.

As if I needed an excuse to take out the kids' water paints and brushes, I enjoyed a little late night creativity and combined the brainstorm, our former mission statement (that has since been revised), and a few key phrases I've been carrying with me to create what has become our family's quick reference guide to what matters most. It serves as a guidepost for me and Andy as we strive to create an environment that reflects these ideals, and as a reinforcement tool for all of us.

A quick reference guide for home life
When home life feels overwhelming, how do you find calm and clarity? What is your process for bringing into focus what matters most?
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