Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas makes me think of Midwifes

I love this painting, its by Giotto called Nativity. It was painted a realllllllly long time ago (maybe around 1310). There are many paintings like this one. Not like it in the sense that they look like this, but that it contains many similar themes, people, animals and things like that. During this era of Italian art you can usually always find Joseph sulking down in the right or left hand corner, and in many pieces Mary is laying down next to the baby. And my favorite part that is usually always included is a MIDWIFE! In many paintings you can actually see several midwives. In this painting the midwife is on the left side, in pink laying Christ in the manger. She is not part of the Holy Family, you can tell this because she does not have the gold halo around her head.

We have record of midwives a few times in the bible. In the days of Moses it was the midwives who were saving the Isrealite babies when the Pharaoh ordered them dead . So we know midwives were delivering babies as long as mothers have been pushing them out really. We also know from many historical stories that a mother was always surrounded by other women in birth. She was nurtured, mothered, coddled, pampered, encouraged, loved, kept warm, understood and fed by other women. Her mother, her sisters, her neighbors, her midwifes were there to take care of any need she might have during and after birth.

What I love about these old pieces of art is that back in 1310 everyone knew that a midwife or several were caring for Mary. If you do a net search for Nativity art, Renaissance era, you will find painting after painting in which Mary is surrounded by women, the midwives, or women holding Mary's hand, laying a blanket in the manger, holding a bowl or things like that. Mary is usually always either nursing her newborn, or laying down next to him.

In contrast what is weird to me are the newer pictures you see of the Creche, there are no midwifes, not to mention no women at all. Mary and Joseph are usually standing, or he is standing and she is kneeling, and they are surrounded by men. I mean I know that the shepherds arrived at some point, but there were probably still some women bustling about caring for the recovering mother. Why don't our nativity sets come with the midwife? Why is a new mother who just pushed a baby out standing up? In the new pictures and ceramic replicas of the Nativity, Mary and Joseph don't look like new parents, she doesn't look like a teen mom experiencing motherhood for the first time, learning to nurse for the first time. I don't know about all the other first time mom's out there, but my first baby knocked me back a few steps. I had no idea what to expect. I was cared for by three midwives, two girlfriends and one husband who even took the birth preparation classes. And still I was in shock, nursing was a huge learning curve, my body didn't feel like standing that's for sure.

My general thoughts about this are as follows; people in our culture don't see birth, natural birth, babies enter the world, or mothers with newborns the day the baby came out of her. Until they have babies themselves. Those dudes who are designing those Nativity sets have not been to very many births let alone a home birth, midwife birth, out of medical setting birth. How can we imagine what birth was like for Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus if we have no idea what birth is like, what midwives do in a birth, how they nurture the laboring mother and the postpartum mother. Also another thought I always have about the current day creche is why that baby is always alone. I mean I know the "and she laid him in a manger" part of the story, but in all the Renaissance era pictures that mother is laying next to her baby, nursing him, keeping him warm. I love looking at the old Italian pictures of the Holy Family after birth. It usually always looks like a family after welcoming a new baby into their home. And I love the presence of women caring for them, her midwifes and doulas... as I will call them, those servant women mothering the mother.

Merry Christmas

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Update

I took no pictures of the madness that we encountered on Monday. But here is what happened.

I awoke on Monday morning having most of my supplies on the kitchen counter, I was missing a single item, the pans. I loaded all of my ingredients into the car, two children, a hand full of diapers, Owen's blankie of course and headed down the road. At 9:45am I was in line buying my 8 inch round tin pans. I made another stop to get some other things that had nothing to do with the day's activities, but things I needed like more felt!

My children and I arrived at the cooking house at 10:25am and let ourselves in. I started the first step in our roll making. About the time I was finishing up the first step, setting the timer, and locating my daughter, friends started arriving! First K arrived with baby J and her ingredients, she brought SUGAR! Then P (who actually lives at the cooking house she just had to run an errand and so that's why we beat her to her own house) arrived with her two girls and then our friend B arrived with no kids (but she did a great job playing with all of ours, or adding the next ingredient when babies needed mom), and then H arrived with her two daughters, one of them is just two weeks old. The last two friends to arrive were really just there to hang out, not so much cook. Which is always nice. The more the merrier right!

So picture this: five women, seven children, 14 eight inch pans, 4 bags of sugar, 2 bags of flour, 283475238745283745827358728 pounds of butter, 4 dozen cookes (that actually got made by the children---the one's old enough to make cookies that is), napping babies, three nursing mom's on a couch waiting for the dough to rise, kids jumping on the trampoline, kids full of sugar driving mom's crazy, an impromptu birthday party for the kid down the street (yes random but it did happen),two ovens, 6 hours later 14 pans full of 98 wonderful rolls!

I should mention that this is a great holiday tradition to start with your friends. Next year I will take pictures of the madness!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Things

Santa Child

Sick Child

Nervous Child

Crafting too much to blog
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Dealing with Santa

My little thinker...twisted, but still thinking...
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Monday was the Feast of St. Nicolas, according to the church calendar. Every year we read an Advent book and the readings coordinate with the different feasts and celebrations on the historical church calendar. So Monday evening at dinner my husband read to us about St. Nicolas.

It really is a beautiful story. According to our book (there are many different versions, where I find they differ is in the details) this saint lost his parents at some point and inherited their money. With the money he did many good things for people who were poor. One famous story says there was a family with three daughters and they were very poor. So poor that the daughters might have be sold as prostitutes, and one night St. Nicolas came by their house and threw three bags of silver in the home. Maybe down the chimney... and maybe that's how the tradition of Santa coming down the chimney was born? Either way he did enough great things for people in need that the church now recognizes him as a saint.

Today is Friday, five days have passed since we read that story, and to be honest I was unsure how much Marin really listens to our evening Advent readings. There are beautiful pictures of historical art in the book and she likes to look at those and ask questions about what is going on in the picture. But today we discovered how much she is listening. The following conversation took place this morning in the car after we took Daddy to work.

* Part of our Advent reading gave the estimated birth and death dates of St. Nicolas (I feel this is important to note for the following conversation)

M: Mommy my friends last night..
me: Oh yeah A and W?
M: yeah they don't know that Santa Claus is dead.

Halt conversation as I pee my pants, swallow down my heart and carry on...

me:... what did you say?
M: they don't know he died a long time ago
me:...ummmm you didn't tell them he died did you?
M: no I just know they don't know
me: OK no matter what any one says about Santa we never say he is dead OK
M: OK, but what did Daddy say about him?
me: you mean what we read in our book at dinner?
M: yeah
me: (I'm really confused at this point as to how Santa is dead) well are you talking about St. Nicolas?
me: Santa Claus is the memory of St. Nicolas. St. Nicolas was a man who lived a long time ago and helped people with the money he inherited from his parents, or so the story goes.
M: but he's died now

me: well he lived a very long time ago. But he is not the same as Santa, so we don't say, Santa is dead. Santa is very alive to many people. So when kids talk about Santa you can pretend with them. Don't ever disagree with them about Santa because lots of families have different traditions, like we make cookies for Santa and know its pretend but mommy loves that tradition because its what she did as a little girl, even as a big teenager my family always had a big family night decorating cookies together and then we would pick our very favorites and put them on a very beautiful plate and set them near the fire place. Some families do other things like put oats and carrots in their yard, and other things to think about Santa, or as a way to celebrate Christmas. Santa is a tradition, and he is part of the holiday for people who believe he is alive and pretend, and for our family Santa is a reminder of how we, like St. Nicolas need to help care for people who do not have what they need. Santa is always there to remind us that God takes care of us, and gives us everything we need and even enough to help other people, the way St. Nicholas helped people.

M:can I write a letter to Santa

me: sure, there is actually a box at the Post Office for you to put it in

M: can I stay home today?
me: no you need to be at school today, but don't say anything about Santa. OK

We want to celebrate Christmas, we don't want to lavish our children with gifts, we don't want them to think its about getting, even though there will be things they get. Christmas is about a baby being born, a baby who changed the world. We don't want our focus to be Santa Claus, but he is a part of Christmas, even if you don't "believe" in Santa, he is part of Christmas. For us we want Santa to remind us of St. Nicolas and how he was deeply convicted to be concerned about poverty, especially children. Maybe he was the beginning of social justice? Or maybe he is simply there to remind us that Christmas is not about us, or our children, or Christmas Eve dinner. But St. Nicolas and Santa are there to remind us of that little baby who was born into poverty, in a barn, to a teen mom, came to change the world, and make things right. Maybe we need Santa Claus to be our reminder to take care of the people who need more than we do. This does not mean we don't also enjoy and take part in our own family traditions, in fact they should become more meaningful to us each year. The more I understand about Christmas the more grateful I become that we celebrate this holiday. That we have a time where we are supposed to have a family night decorating cookies, going to church rehearsals, planning a feast with friends. These are the things that should remind us how much our family and friends matter, and that we should take the time to slow down and do something for the people who need a little help.

On that note, this year I am starting a new tradition. My two friends Katie and Paige and I are getting together with our children (the children part might be tricky) to make a huge batch of cinnamon rolls. Some for us, and many more to take to our friends home with new babies. Welcome new babies, we can't wait to meet you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Owen went to bed...

Owen went to bed Sunday afternoon with a fever and woke up Tuesday morning with...
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Thoughts

I love this, could anything be more delightful than being 10 steps away from sinking your toes into the white sand of the Gulf Shores (no oil for sure!). Holding your dads' hand and making your way down the steep stairs of the boardwalk, five seconds away from running wildly over the cold sand, looking for sand dollars and blue jelly fish.

Little kids need space to run and play, but they also need an adult to walk with, otherwise you might miss something, or worse they might. Marin's Aunt is wonderful, we all love her.

Looking for something little red?

Taking time to write her name in the sand. She wants the beach to remember she was there. Every time we visit the ocean we always say "goodbye", and we always feel a bit sad for going. Like we are leaving a good friend, I guess we probably are.

On to other thoughts. We have a sick baby, this is not what we are seeing today, this happy little guy. Sick babies make mommies mentally sick...with worry. You watch them when they sleep, you count wet diapers, you fret over tenths of a degree on the thermometer. And then they get well, and you are tired from your sleepless nights, but grateful and that's all that matters...of course a nap is always a nice ending to illness.
Another random story: Our baby is so in love with this beautiful blanket. My daughter never had a "lovey" or any
thing she was attached to, she was attached to me, only...for a long time. But this little guy shrieks with joy when he is reunited with this blanket. It was a gift that we are continually grateful for. Owen and his brown blankie, love at first sight really does exist even in newborns! Happy Monday I hope you get to snuggle up tonight with a warm blanket and rest.
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