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Mama Says
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Winter 2009

THE

Issue No. 12 Montpelier, VT

Mama Says
Motherhood and Spirituality
ISSUE
Free at drop-offs or $10 by subscription 

Mama Says
Mama Says is a forum for expression, education, and dialogue; it is a collective
of the voices of our community.

Mama’s Ten Favorite Books on Motherhood and Spirituality:
Your Children Will Raise You: The Joys, Challenges, and Life Lessons of Motherhood by Eden Steinberg Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla Kabat-zinn Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin The Tao of Motherhood by Vimala McClure The Path of Parenting: Twelve Principles to Guide Your Journey by Vimala Schneider McClure The Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Our Lives and Why We Never Talk About It by Susan Maushart

Mama Says began as a newsletter, created to trace the personal evolution of ourselves as parents. Now, Mama Says, Inc. is a community network organized around improving the lives of families through support, education, advocacy and communication. We invite you to join our work or submit writing. Contact us at:
Mama Says, Inc. P.O. Box 381, Montpelier, VT 05601 amesolomon@yahoo.com Mama Says, Inc. © 2008 Editor: Amé Solomon is a mother, writer, midwife living in Vermont. Layout: Sarah Madru and her husband live and work from their home in Plainfield, VT, which they share with their two children and two cats.

Featured Artists:
Cover Art by Linda Wooliever. Linda is the mother of two beautiful kids, owner of Vermont Fiddle Heads, graphic/web designer and an artist. Photography by Christa Emmans. Christa is an artist specializing in oil painting, teacher, and social worker living in Vermont.

Mother Rising: The Blessingway Journey into Motherhood by Yana Cortlund, Barb Lucke, Donna Miller Watelet, and Pam England Mother's Nature: Timeless Wisdom for the Journey into Motherhood by Andrea Alban Gosline Our Share of Night, Our Share of Morning: Parenting as a Spiritual Journey by Nancy Fuchs and Fuchs (out of print—
but the library may have it).

ment of the beautiful life she leads with her swashbuckling husband, Mike, and two mindblowingly spectacular daughters, Dakota and Ani. You'll find her most days at the Plainfield Co-op up to her elbows in fruits and veggies and most nights in her rocking chair beside the woodstove with a cat and a half finished crossword in her lap.
Kids Activity Page by Brian Goodwin. Brian is a proud papa of 2 who enjoys art, music, stale cereal fragments and unwanted sandwich parts.

Drawing by Kristin Brosky. Kristin lives in Plainfield and in constant amaze-

 

editor’s note
When I was younger and studying to be a midwife, I found analogies to the birthing process everywhere I looked. In the laboring mother I witnessed her writhe in pain, breathe through tremendous difficulty, reach deep down and make peace with her situation, surrender to the process, and face her deepest truth as she and her partner brought forth new life. Most remarkably, I saw women find a warrior-like internal resolve; even those soft spoken ladies would access their mother lion during transition. Every birth inspired reflection on the power and wisdom women innately possess and for me to have faith in my own inner fortitude. I marveled as the natural process unfolded free of self judgment. I observed how they hurt more if they became scared, and seemed more at peace with their pain when they accepted it—which often helped the baby come sooner. I learned from them that there was pain with purpose, and that we can make it through the most mind-numbing, excruciating pain, even though we sometimes think we can’t. In the end there is triumph, joy, and empowerment beyond measure. Birth work gave me a glimpse into a holiness I had no awareness of before—I found that the very air becomes crackly alive, a precision focus occurs that makes nothing more important than those very moments that the shoulders deliver and the baby takes its first breath. The deep peace between the mother and baby as they bond is blissful and sacred. These days, I find sacredness in the daily activities of life—the surrendered weight of the baby asleep on my chest, the sunlight shining on my son’s hair as he runs through a cosmically green meadow, trying to explain karma to a five-year-old. And when the going gets tough, I try to remember to take deep belly breaths and nourish myself with affirmations of encouragement and love, just as I did those women in labor. In the pages ahead, you will read of other mothers (and a papa) who write about their experiences of faith and what they believe in. It is a lovely patchwork of diverse voices. I hope you enjoy our new format and some of these new—and old—voices of Vermont mamas. Please submit essays that will make us laugh for the next issue. Any parenting story that will produce a smile, giggle, hoot, snort, chortle, or guffaw will do. Send quickly! Need amusing material immediately or may possibly lose perspective due to the long winter and cabin fever with little kids. Deep breaths and blessings of the New Year, Amé Editor, Mama Says

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god and condoms
by Joanna Tebbs Young
kind of way.

The word God strikes fear in my heart. And not in the “Fear ye, the Lord,”
No, my fear is the same kind that caught my breath and vocal chords when, after listening to a news story on AIDS, my five year-old daughter asked, “What’s a condom, Mom?”

Who’s God? Where is he? Who’s Jesus? Is Jesus a baby? He is still alive? Are the Indians still alive? (OK, that last one is a little off subject.)
Yes, I could give the stock answers: God is in heaven. He made us and looks after us. Jesus is his son. He was a baby once, just like you and me but now he’s up in heaven with God. (And yes, there are still Indians but once upon a time mean white people made them leave their homes and so now they live in places called reservations, but they don’t wear feathers in their hair and they definitely don’t say “How.”) That’s all a five year-old needs and wants to hear. It’s all her growing brain can compute. But I can’t do it. I cannot feed my child the same crap I was fed. Problem is, I haven’t yet, even after 36 years, completely excreted that crap. It’s in me, ingrained and indoctrinated. I cannot answer my daughter’s questions with honesty because I’m still asking those questions myself. When she asks, after umm-ing and ahh-ing for a while and throwing beseeching looks at my husband hoping he will jump in with an inspired answer, I gingerly tell her, “God is love, honey. Energy. It is all around us. We are God.” My husband looks at me as if I have just used the terms chromosomes and DNA to explain where babies come from and my daughter sits there with a blank look on her face, her mind whirring with the concept that if she is God, then Jesus must be her son. Just like I’m not quite ready to explain what a condom is, I’m not prepared to explain God. The subject is too big, too difficult, too scary for a little girl to understand. God and I aren’t the best of friends right now. We’re not so close. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t lost my faith over dead babies and hurricanes, I never blamed him/her/it for things like that. No, I just don’t quite get God. The God of my childhood no longer makes sense to me but I have yet to come up with anything better. No, that’s not exactly true. I have a rough sketch but I am far from connecting all the dots. How can I teach my child something I’m not sure of yet? Let me explain it this way. When you are a baby you learn the language spoken to you by your parents and those around you. The language becomes your own, part of you. You don’t think about how you say things, you just say them, and you think, write, even dream, in that language. When you begin to learn a new language you slowly learn words and phrases. Every thing you hear and say has to be thought through – translated from your native tongue into the new language. As you become fluent, however, you find you no longer have to think how to say what you need to; it has become in-

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grained and makes as much sense as your first language. Faith is like this. The beliefs you were taught as a child is your native tongue. It is part of you. As you grow older you need a new language, one that is more useful, but it has to be learned – ingrained – before you can be fluent. Right now I am still learning the language of a new, more meaningful faith. I have a glossary (really, I do! – I made myself a dictionary of terms so I can sit in church and attempt to translate what I hear in the hymns and prayers into my own, new language) but it’s not making complete sense to me yet. My God to god dictionary has some pages missing. Apparently, by age five, a child has already formed a concept of God. I know when I was five I would sit on the toilet and “pray” for Him to wipe my bottom. And, I guess that’s what I have to remember – God is Love, God is Energy is as far out to a child as atomic science is. While I struggle to rebuild a belief system that has long since crumbled, I have to lay foundations for my children on which to build their own faith. If God has to be in heaven for now so he/she/it can eventually reside in their hearts (or not), so be it. At least I can give them something to believe in, a language to learn, which they can then use to translate whichever way they choose.

Zachary Knox Griefen, Attorney 
Environmental & Land Use Litigation  zgriefen@cbs‐law.com   
Cheney, Brock & Saudek, P.C.  159 State Street  Montpelier, Vermont 05602  www.cbs‐law.com  (802) 223‐4000   

Joanna Tebbs Young lives in Rutland, Vermont with her husband and two young children where she is a grantwriter by day, and journal, blog and essay writer by night. You can read her blog at: jlucymuses.blogspot.com/

the solstice moose
by Lydia Busler-Blais

The Solstice Moose came to our house a few

nights ago. Life had been hectic and incessant with performances and year-end projects and family, but as sure as there is chaos every year, there is the Solstice Moose to combat the entropy. She is one of the most comforting beings in our life, stable and strong and predictable, yet encompassing an element of spontaneity for the curious amongst us. Best of all, there is little expectation from her save for the constancy of her existence. Now we ponder a single question: will the wonder ever end?

How does one create a tradition? There needs at least to be either a creative spark or a need. I suppose there were both in our case, but more of the former. While a common tradition had been handed down from our families, our communities, indeed our entire society, as we held our baby we knew that we opposed the rampant commercialization of the Christmas holiday and

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destructive moral degradation of our children in the process. We were defiant of what we saw as an insidious judgmental power over our views of ourselves and of our own beliefs. On the other hand, we yearned down to our very marrow for the ancient traditions of the season binding us together and defining us as human. There were and continue to be constant certainties we love to be a family, we love winter and playing in the snow, and we love hunkering down to create winter nourishment. We had and continue to have a strong connection and reverence for the Earth and its austere seasons and bounty. On the Summer Solstice we married. On the Autumnal Equinox we make a pilgrimage every year to the Common Ground Country Fair in Maine. For the Vernal Equinox, we play in the snow or combat the mud while nurturing seeds for our garden. On Winter Solstice, we had always played in the snow and gifted friends with a meticulously prepared feast. In this, it was time to include our child. My husband and I knew that we had come to the time for a decision. Every family decides whether to go with the traditional flow, to follow a stricter or looser tradition, or even to ignore tradition entirely. We had fun asking ourselves in earnestness what mystical being might grace our house and add wonder to the longest night of the year. We chose the Solstice Moose. She is a mother moose from Northern Canada and she has a family that she leaves each year in order to travel impossibly fast to each of the children in the world with Solstice wishes and bring them a single gift. And without a television or magazines with rampant advertisement to children, those wishes seem to come uniformly from the heart and not from expectation or societal "fit". For our child, I wrote and illustrated a book called The Long Night of the Solstice Moose that we love. And our son has written his own book, draws the Solstice Moose for fun, leaves a handwritten letter for her each year alongside of a cup of warm nutmeg milk, and spreads the joyful word. Solstice is a peaceful holiday, and it is ours. Days later, we participate in two other Christmases and endure the commercialization and the waste, but we carry the peace of the Solstice in our hearts. 

the Divine with humor and honesty will lay a foundation for Noah to explore his own relationship with Allah with confidence and grace. For now, what I hope to instill and protect in Noah is the sense that Allah is an awe-inspiring vast force of universal love. How do we do this? I believe it is as simple as it is complicated; by modeling kindness, love, mercy, compassion, justice, patience, forgiveness, and the many other qualities of Allah I believe Noah will come to know this Divine Love in a tangible way. Children have an innate connection to the Divine, but as they get older they embark on a journey of spiritual maturity. As parents, we can model this journey by committing to the inner work it takes to evolve within ourselves and with our own relationship to the Divine. Rahima Baldwin says it well: "Qualities such as reverence and prayer cannot be taught. They must live within the parents. If prayer is a living reality for the mother and father, then he or she can communicate that to the child and teach, through example, about prayer."

Sarah Keeley is a Certified Birth Doula who is passionate about supporting women during their childbearing years. She lives in Montpelier with her husband and son.

Lydia Busler-Blais is a teacher and improvisatory and solo performer of french horn, a composer, and President of the Hunger Mountain Coop who homeschools her 9 year old son, Tristan.

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"mama, what is allah?"
by Sarah Keeley
nuggles, stories, and quiet conversation are the ways in which our 3 year old son Noah drifts off to sleep each night. Sometimes fifteen minutes; sometimes up to an hour is spent lying by his side in the darkness before heavy regular breaths and stillness in his little body wash over him and we know he has slipped into the realm of sleep. Some might wonder why we do this, night after night, when it can take so long. Shouldn't he be able to fall asleep "independently" by now? Perhaps. But the truth is that we love it just as much as he does. After a busy day…often filled with plenty of normal struggles to be found in any house with a very spirited three year old…what could be better than snuggling up next to his warm peaceful body to talk about the adventures of Ruff the bear and George the elephant? And this cozy bed time is when we get to the really important stuff, such as "Mama, what is Allah?" My husband and I are Sufi Muslims. Sufism is a spiritual path based on the inner teachings of Islam. As Sufis, we use the name "Allah", which means "The One" in Arabic. Back to one of our first actual conversations about Allah, it went a little something like this: "Well, Allah is bigger than any thing, animal, or person. Allah is everywhere and in everything..." Noah interrupts. "Yeah! Allah is the puppet at the Capitol." Hmmm. This is a bit of a predicament. My son is thinking the mother-earth puppet from All-Species-Day is Allah. I have to give him some credit here. The puppet is way bigger than him and it invokes a magical feeling in his heart which is most certainly related to Allah's presence. The puppet represents mother earth and it is our belief that nature is one of Allah's most pure reflections. But I do have a bit of a conflict with the thought of him thinking Allah is something other than Allah! So I decide to see if we can explore this a bit deeper without running the risk of being too intellectual or ruining the magic of his vision of puppet = Allah. "Well, love, Allah's spirit is behind the mother-earth puppet, but Allah is not a puppet. Allah is actually much bigger and more profound. Allah is in everything. Allah is Love and Allah is in your heart!" I shared a few more of my humble interpretations of Allah, and then Noah replied very thoughtfully: "Yeah. I know that. But how did Allah put Love in my heart if she doesn't have real hands?" All I could do was laugh. The truth is that the discovery of Allah is a lifelong process and I certainly didn't expect this conversation to come to completion anytime soon. My hope is that our ability to talk openly about the realm of

keeping warm every day
by Brett Ann Stanciu

S

Last year, my husband and I installed a wood boiler in our house.

Finally, our house was not just marginally and very partially heated with a woodstove, but fully and wonderfully filled with a habitable heat during the last interminably long winter. As a side boon, our hot water is now heated with wood too. During the summer, I let the firebox simmer: every few days it needed restarting. With no kindling, the repetitious task was onerous. My husband’s solution was that our nine-year-old daughter would saw five sticks of kindling a day.

Thus began a daily argument. While our daughter has other chores, she particularly resented this one. Every day! He wants me to cut wood every day! It was unfathomable to her that she couldn’t do this strenuous chore just once, and be finished with it. Her kindling pile and sawhorse became a ground of strife, a place she went to alone. I discretely watched from a distance as she tousled with sticks of birch and maple. She is a fierce child. She went at this chore with all her might, sometimes smacking the bow saw against an ash tree, deliberately sawing pieces too small or too long, and sometimes doing it just right. In the basement, I let her light the fire, showed her how well her kindling burned, and how necessary it was to catch the flame. She continued to complain: Every day! He expects me to do this every day! Save for a neck injury that precluded me from using the saw, I might have wavered. But I didn’t; I needed that kindling. Late in the summer, one morning after a night of rain, my daughter looked out the kitchen window to where she had left her pieces of wood on the deck. She must have intended to bring them in, but had forgotten. “Look at that,” she told me with regret in her voice. “All that hickory I cut. All that nice wood that took me so long to cut…soaking wet.” I studied her, this child of ours. How glad I was to see that remorse on her face. To witness that she valued her hard work, the tangible product of that work, and that she knew both the work and its result were needed. Even greater, that she saw, through her own negligence, she had compromised those valuable things. It was one of those moments in the flurry of living, when our life was very still, and yet shifting, turning, edging inexorably from this girl’s sweet childhood to the realm of grownups. I crave such a long life for my beloved girl, my innocent one, whose idea of naughtiness is to hide my books. How much sweetness I wish to dole out to her and soothe the ruffles in her life with pineapple and chocolate.

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At nine, my girl is struggling to master the times tables, those strips of math that will harbor in her for the rest of her life. Deeper in her soul, though, than the reflexology of multiplication, I want this lesson imprinted: whatever destiny hands out to my girl, I know she will inevitably face agonizing questions of choice and an uncertain path. At the very least, I want my daughter to meet these with strength in her hands and head, and the pulse in her heart to value herself. In a handful of decades our world has grown so much larger. For most Americans, the known world has widened phenomenally in a few generations. As we’ve gained in distance, we’ve lost so greatly in closeness. In our world that so values things, we’ve turned away from cherishing what most nourishes us every day: homemade food on the table, bread hot from the pans, a house warm in the winter, a family coming together at the table. My daughter is gifted with a plethora of choices that eluded her greatgrandmothers. Have no misunderstanding: I am grateful for this. Yet wherever she travels in her womanly journey, I will assure she carries -- not in theory, not in her head, but firmly in her hands -- the capability to care most elementally for herself and for those dear to her. In her heart, I ask, let her value the daily work and the intimate sacredness of home and hearth, and to be careless neither with hers, nor with others’.

rate the tree and cook and eat good food with loved ones. But where was the meaning? I looked to my family and realized they were not largely Christian, but rather celebrating the "American holidays". I gradually continued to step further away from the traditional holidays of my family. I found my own spiritual path, but never really pulled together a tradition of ritual or celebration. Then I had a child of my own. I wanted to give her the gift of ritual, tradition, and gathering and sharing with others. But as a parent I wanted to give her this gift in the context of the parenting and lifestyle we have chose as a family. We honor the earth and the cycles of the sun and moon, and we value simplicity. But it seemed to me we needed actual family and community centered traditions and rituals. I turned to books and community with similar beliefs, and I thought long about those things I loved to do as a child. Then I began to create the beginning of our own traditions. We are closing in on the third year of celebrating with our daughter. I save notes to help remember what we have done and what we will do, and we are still piecing together new things. It certainly does not feel familiar like those common practices and customs of my childhood. We are sometimes alone in our celebrating, and not always part of the larger community. But it does feel good to create something meaningful for us. Our hope is that we can continue to make a genuine connection together so that our children have warm fuzzy traditions to pass onto their children.

Brett and her family are sugarmakers in West Woodbury, and her two daughters are educated at Orchard Valley Waldorf School.

Colleen is the mother of an almost three year old girl. She and her family are enjoying the community, simplicity and beauty of Vermont after a year of travel abroad.

the birthing of a mother-god
by Becca Clark

Intellectually, academically, and theologically, I will insist to you that God has

. . . for fifteen bucks!
To learn to use the wrap thebabywearer.com has fantastic video clips to watch with directions. on how to use different types of carriers. She offers (no sign-up needed) videos, too, which are great. A local baby wearing group meets the second Thursday of each month, 10:30am-12pm at the Montpelier library. Contact Leila at 802-505-0004 for more information. Another good site is wearyourbaby.com. There is free information

no gender, that the Divine transcends such finite categories of personhood. In my writing, speaking, preaching, and public prayer, I strive to remove all gendered pronouns and indeed gendered descriptions and images from my godtalk. Still, it is hard to ignore the ingrained images of society and my Roman Catholic upbringing. And private prayer is a different story. In my private prayer life—feminism aside, intellectualism aside, thealogy (that’s the feminine of theology, no kidding) aside—in my private prayer life, God was Father, brother, or lover for the longest time. Maybe it’s a desire to find a strong centering male figure as someone raised largely by a single mother. More likely, it’s the habit of the Lord’s Prayer and years of cultural assumptions that I never got around to challenging. So, for over two decades, my God was a male God.

Until I got pregnant. Motherhood changes everything. The more I encountered the fear and excitement of creating, the more I found myself praying to a Creator who creates as I do—one who does not mold creatures from clay, but births them from the mystical depths of Herself. The more I felt the physical pain of pregnancy and anticipated the physi-

Leila Breton and her baby boy

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After dinner we light candles in our pumpkins, chant, and sing together. Then we make a fire. At the fire we each take a turn naming something we wish to work on or be free of in the new year. Usually that is something social or emotional. What I mean is, I won’t give up my ragged coat or eating candy. This is something personal for us to work on, such as internal negative judgment, or micro managing the other people in the home. We try to mentally prepare before the occasion and work out a costume to represent it. After we have spoken what we wish to shed, we throw it to the fire. Of course our daughter, at three years old, wanted to be a fairy, and it’s not really an age that’s easy to let go yet. But she sweetly stood by the fire like the adults and talked about why she was a fairy. Hopefully this simple ritual will grow deeper for her in the coming years. As a child I always looked forward to holidays: whether it was because of a break from school, the community excitement, a family gathering, or the promise of presents. I look back on childhood and remember the fun and tradition involved in holidays: baking, cooking, decorating, singing, and exchanging gifts. There was a period of time in adolescence when I stopped being so thrilled about holidays, perhaps because the family excitement had dwindled or my interests were directed elsewhere. In my adult years I began to think more about why I celebrate holidays and slowly found myself stepping away from the traditions which had once been exciting and comforting. I thought more deeply about the Christian roots of the holidays my family chose to celebrate, and the materialism involved. I knew that my own spiritual beliefs were not Christian, and I was trying to make less of a materialistic impact on the world. Still, celebrating the familiar traditions was just plain fun. I loved to go home for Christmas and deco-

cal pain of labor, the more I prayed to a god who would know such pain. You can keep the suffering Christ; I don’t need someone who’s experienced the agony of crucifixion, but One who has endured the agony of transition. The more I prayed about what I was experiencing—all that I was experiencing physically and mentally and spiritually—the more I wanted a Mother. When my birthing did not go at all according to my plan, but was instead an emergency c-section under general anesthesia, I mourned the loss of the birthing experience with a Mother who must know what it is like to have the act of creation be so difficult and unpredictable. Throughout my pregnancy and my first few weeks as a mother, I found myself crying out to Mama, and not meaning the human mother I have known and loved so long (although I desperately wanted her by my side as well!), but the Divine Mother, who created us pained, nervous, creating, jubilant mothers, all in Her image. Later, in the quiet moments nursing my daughter, I marveled at God’s love that, like mine, must be so vast it sometimes hurts, so uplifting I could lose myself in it. When I cried tears of joy or frustration at my daughter’s antics, I imagined Our Mother shaking her metaphorical head with amusement or sadness as we make the same, foolish, childish, human choices over and over. When my daughter runs into my arms, seeking comfort and caress seconds after screaming “I no like you; leave me alone!” (she’s almost four, can you tell?), I know for certain that God’s heart breaks and mends a million times when one of Her children runs to Her. Even now, in the pain and frustration of more than a year of failed attempts to conceive a second child, I believe I can hear God sighing, whispering that parenthood is never easy, never without struggle and sacrifice and frustration and tears, never to be taken for granted. She should know. In short, as I made and make this transition, as I continue to become a mother, God for me becomes one too.

how to make a baby carrier . . .
by Colleen Kutin
1. Get about 5 yards of gauze material from any fabric store. Usually it can be found extra cheap in the fall, when it is often on sale. (Most any fabric will work, it’s mostly a matter of personal preference). The fabric is usually about 40-45 inches wide off of the roll. 2. Cut the fabric to about 30 inches in width. It could be cut all to 22 inches and two wraps could be made as well. This would be extra economical! 3. For a good looking wrap that does not fray, hem all around the edge of the fabric.
Wraps can be very versatile and fit to various body types. They also double as a great blanket, pillow, and towel, and they fold up tiny for travel.

Becca Clark is the pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, Montpelier and Grace United Methodist Church, Plainfield, and maintains a blog at www.pastorbecca.com.

Mama Says Online Blog http://mamasaysnews.blogspot.com

~ a place to read & post creative writing about the mothering experience ~

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bringing spirituality into the home
by Michelle Broaddus

I am a young mother of three. My daughter is almost nine now, my stepson
is four and my baby is eight months old. In my home we strive to teach the children about many different traditions throughout the year. As parents, one of the most important things we do for our children is to bring spirituality into our everyday lives and infuse magic throughout the seasons. While our children are young, we strive to give them a solid foundation and deeper meaning to life. We work to guide the children to live the everyday magic, to have intention with every action, and to give thanks for all the gifts life provides us. We are now preparing for one of my favorite times of the year: Yule. The children and I decorate the Yule tree with handmade salt dough ornaments, strings of popcorn and cranberries, colorful paper chains, paper spirals and other little decorative objects. We ritually clean the house thoroughly and cleanse the air with copal, sage, cedar and mugwort. Together we make special bread that we put prayers and wishes for the new year into. Some of the kids prayers have been, “I wish for happiness for my family” and “I pray for healing for the earth” or “good snow to sled with” and “a good harvest from the garden next year”. And sometimes they pray silently too. The bread we make is a sweet yeasted bread that we roll into separate balls and place dried fruit into the center of, after which all of the balls are put into one pan and as they bake, they all meld together into one big cohesive loaf. Then we melt honey and butter on top and eat it with hot chocolate on solstice morning. On the longest night of the year, after I read some solstice stories to them, the children go to sleep in eager anticipation of magical dreams and awaken in the dark to greet the newborn sun! Together we bundle up and go outside to wait for the birth of the sun, then come in for a warm breakfast. Once inside, we turn our hand made construction paper suns from the dark to the light side and begin the birthday celebrations. The day is filled with ritual and celebration. We give each other gifts we have been secretly crafting and give thanks to all of the spirits. We make chocolate cookies together with lightly colored icing to represent the light coming out of the dark. Stepping forward through this day together we let go of the past year and give thanks, and we pray for goodness in the coming year while looking forward to the longer days to come. I work to encourage our children to remain open to all forms of spirituality without judgment and to see the beauty in all the various ways of honoring the divine. My partner and I strive for our home to be a place full of love and rich with culture. We honor the divine mother daily through laughter and song. We give thanks to the spirits and the earth before we eat meals, remembering all of the energy that has gone into the food we share. We work together to co-create our reality and I seek to invite depth and mystery into our lives.

Virgin and Child, by Joovs van Cleve, painted in 1525

creating family traditions
by Colleen Kutin
ecently Halloween passed. Our daughter, now three, has more awareness of the holiday, people talking of dressing up, and trick or treating. But we are hoping that since we began with our tradition when she was young, she will know Halloween a bit differently. For us it is a time to honor ancestors and to begin the year anew. We have started a ritual we call The Feast of our Ancestors. We spend the day making traditional food from recipes passed down through the family, such as dishes from each grandparent's heritage. We place pictures of ancestors on the table. We say a grace that includes thank-you to them and tell stories about them while we eat together. We make "Kutin Dressing”, something my paternal grandmother created that’s made of eggs, walnuts and saltines, which was traditionally served at family get-togethers throughout my childhood. We make pineapple Jello, a dish my maternal grandmother made and served when I was a child. I took on making these dishes after my mother passed away when I was nine years old. A sweet and sour cabbage originating from my partners grandmother is also on our table, and spaghetti and butter cookies from both our mothers.

R

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my mother’s hands
by Maggie Morris
When I was small and unappreciative of such regard, my mother stitched with patience. She made me dresses to match my sisters, crocheted blankets for all the new born babies, and rolled out dough so we could eat Pierogies. Now, her hands transparent, gray and knotty knuckled with age, I finally see with clearer eyes. What sense of duty cramped her slender fingers as she worked? Sewing long into the night I can still hear that old Singer machine lull me to sleep. Such grace that laid the stitches fine and even, soft and gentle, stitches still full of love after all these years. I never knew the depth of her devotion, the stamina of seams [and hearts] that bind. Need a scrubby?, New hat or scarf? Something hemmed or taken in? Want her to finish that blanket you started? Maybe you have a taste for cheese cake, goumpki or chicken soup, or when she makes potato salad, do you want her to leave a portion out because you prefer it warm without onion? She will you’ll see, automatically. There’s a shirt in my closet, denim and worn thin, ribbon embroidered flowers by “you know who”. It’s hanging there waiting for the next time my heart weighs heavy with missing her. Sometimes I just touch it, other times I put it on to feel her arms hugging me once again. My Mother’s Hands, they tell so many stories. My great full heart, wonders if I’ve thanked her enough.

I am the Mother and spiritual keeper of the home. I take care to remember Spirit, invite and honor and embrace Spirit. It is important to me that my children have a pure and fulfilling spiritual life. This is just as important to me as making sure their bodies are clean and that they are well nourished. As their mother, I help create a foundation for the children, a grounded place for them to take off from. I want that place to be inspiring and freeing, so that they may continue to be curious and learn more about religion and spirituality as they grow.

Michelle Broaddus is a mother, CMT, ATMAM Practitioner, Doula, and Herbalist. In Michelle's practice she specializes in the Arvigo Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Massage. Michelle has been trained in traditional spiritual healing with Dr. Rosita Arvigo in Belize. Inspired by the indigenous ways of working with Spirit, Michelle strives to create and teach a way of life connected with nature and love.

bath

by Michelle A.L. Singer
My belly rises up Through the bubbles Like a righteous island— At six months My body is overcome By curves. When I step out naked In front of the mirror I am stunned to see A familiar figure— Not mine But The Venus of Willendorf As if I had posed For the statuette Myself.

Photo by Christa Emmans

Maggie Morris lives in Montpelier where she creates aprons from repurposed fabric and clothing and writes poetry.

Michelle Amy Lakey Singer is a freelance journalist living in East Montpelier and is due with her third child in late Febru-

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paths of spirit
by Linda Pruitt

As I recall, the “Mommy and Daddy don’t believe in God” conversation

came about quite naturally: with parents who are impassioned gardeners, our daughter spent her time digging in the earth, and learning the cycles of nature. She has been part of six years of harvests--garlic, hops, and lavender, hundreds of potatoes, onions, and carrots. At night I would show her the waxing and waning of the moon and draw her attention to the silvery light when it fell across her pillow. Again and again we shared the story of the transformation of a seed, an egg, a child. She is by my side when I mark the Solstices and Equinoxes. “Nature is the most powerful and precious thing”… I have reminded her countless times.

Birthing from Within mentors continue utilizing pain coping practices throughout their lives, which keeps them continually fresh and energized, on equal footing with the emerging parents in their classes. Life always offers us another new sensation as we continue growing, and a new opportunity to observe our breath. The practices begin here with the breath. In time we learn to distinguish the voices that we hear inside us that comment on our sensations.
Do you find that you have an inner voice telling you what a perfect and amazing parent you are? Does your voice remind your body throughout the day of what a powerful and beautiful being it is that’s supporting your growing child? Or does your inner voice claim you could be a better parent than you are right now in this moment? Perhaps your inner voice claims you are a terrible parent in some moments. Which ideas from your inner voice improve your skills as a parent? Which voice offers you support, understanding, and patience. Imagine your inner voice parenting you each moment. Is it a good and loving parent? Is it the parent you want and need right now? Most parents today don’t work under the best conditions. Most of us were parented ourselves in a manner no longer feasible if we were consciously parented at all. And many of us travel the journey to parenthood resolved not to repeat abuses or emotional neglect from our childhood experience. We may expend extraordinary effort to rebuild a community outside us that can offer our children a different life. How do we rebuild that community from within? As we cultivate awareness of our inner voice that talks to us throughout each day, we can learn and choose to transform that voice, our own inner voice, into an angelic warrior that supports us and loves us unconditionally. As we develop that friend and confidante within, we can cope with the challenges that parenting sets before us and not only be present and loving for our children, we can also be present and loving for ourselves. I invite you to join me on the journey of parenting from within.

At four years old she was infatuated by all things Ancient Egyptian . (Can you recite the details of embalming a mummy or which disembodied organ rests for all eternity in which sacred canopic jar?) As her mother, I used this doorway into the past to teach her about world mythology--Egyptian, Greek, Roman, African, Hindu. I remember saying very clearly, “Mythology is a story people use to explain the Big Questions. Like, how people were created and what life is all about…” But then came the big guns—the Rite Aid window with its glaring Christmas display, the friends who were Santa crazy. And of course the first year at kindergarten with classmates counting down incessantly to that day- the day of days- the day of piles of presents. And my response was measured. At first I replied to holiday decorations downtown and store windows with a calm demeanor. “There are many ways to believe and many ways to celebrate,” I explained. “Some folks celebrate a holiday with a character named Santa. We don’t celebrate that one because we do not follow Jesus”. (Insert age appropriate back ground story on Jesus Christ.) “You can’t say you believe in Jesus just for presents. He is important to some people.” For a time that was all that was required of me. Despite the delicious irony of his given name, my husband Christian is an atheist--to the bone. We have had our share of philosophical conversations with our daughter. Wherever they originate, they usually meander to: some folks think this, some think that, Mom thinks this, Dad thinks that and you will decide what you believe for yourself when you are ready. The most important thing is: You are free in your heart to believe what you choose. No one can make that choice for you. But now--first grade has asked me to call on all of my reserves of patience and compassion. Apparently, six year olds are developmentally prone to some God obsessive behavior (I say this sincerely.) Classmates have told Sophia that she has to believe in God, that even if she says that HE doesn’t exist, he made her anyway. End of story. As I try to pull it together and offer constructive feedback and grounded wisdom, my blood boils. I feel flames of hatred crackling at my feet and the agony of every wrong our planet has endured at the hands of those who do not affirm the power and sovereignty

Marianne Donahue Perchlik is a certified Birthing From Within Childbirth mentor, offering childbirth preparation classes for first time parents as well as for parents birthing a second, third or forth time in Central Vermont. Marianne is beginning an interactive segment on WGDR’s The Quilting Hour specifically on Parenting from Within, 91.1FM fourth Wednesdays at 9:30 am. She is the mother of three children. She is preparing a new group class for first time parents starting in January. Contact Marianne at chikabee@sover.net

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parenting from within

by Marianne Donahue Perchlik

of Mother Earth. I take a moment and recognize the weight of what was spoken, set it in context, provide a bridge to her experience and wait there until she crosses it. “We walk the path of Mystery,” I tell my child, “No one knows the answers, and there is no one answer to be had, nor one question to be asked. We do the best we can do. There is no book for us, no easy out, no script to follow under duress.” I find ways every day for her to connect with the natural world. When the dark comes, I tell her the light will follow. We believe in the beauty of vernal pools and bloodroot flowering brilliant white in the woodland grass. We believe in peace and justice. We believe in each other. Mothering led me to a richer spiritual life. What I once practiced in the abstract became embodied prayer through pregnancy and birth: the rites and rituals of mothering- the experience of being lost and surrendering, the unity of chaos and pure love. But I know we have just begun. Christmas is the tip of the iceberg. I have already had to navigate Halloween, Thanksgiving, and that which my child recites daily in school: The Pledge of Allegiance. What about the tides and currents of girlhood and then adolescence? Where will they take us? Our spirits travel together.

Have you found that the labyrinth of life has you standing as an initiate in

the mystical passage of parenthood? With all of the bustle and the many details of parenting, it may not be immediately apparent that your position as Mother or Father is essentially archetypal and requires constant on-the-job contemplation. Most religious traditions distinguish the religious or contemplative life to childless mystics, offering little earnest support for parenthood as a path of initiation. Yet most of us quickly discover that it is difficult to reach the perfect image of parenthood that we dream for ourselves. More often we stand in moments of complete exasperation without any model to imitate and without a mentor with whom we can honestly explore the journey of our life as parents.

In most spiritual traditions there are undoubtedly kernels of wisdom that can offer us inspiration. As parents however, we need a bit more than inspiration. Many of us live in a constant state of spiritual emergency that we often don’t even recognize. Making an appointment with a religious leader or finding a spiritual community that supports us is just another epoch chore on a long list of chores. We need assistance and we need it now! Are there some Cliff Notes that offer a few spiritual shortcuts that can work in our home? Is there an angel that might step into my body and show me exactly how to approach this situation with my son? Well, actually, yes there is! There are a collection of practices used in preparing couples for childbirth that offer on - the-job sustaining spiritual support for us as parents.

Birthing from Within Childbirth mentoring offers a menu of coping practices developed for use by parents in labor. Birthing from Within mentors all over the world teach these exercises to prepare a pain coping mindset. We learn that pain is not so difficult to bear as suffering is. We learn to distinguish pain and sensations from suffering, which is the negative or otherwise difficult story that our mind tells us when we experience certain sensations. A single labor contraction might not be as difficult to bear, for example, as the voice within that tells us we can’t do it. The coping practices draw on ancient spiritual traditions from all over the world. We begin with simply becoming mindful of breath, and returning ourselves to the great river of our own breath that is streaming within us.
Take some time to notice your breath. Get a journal for yourself and answer these questions one by one: How does your breath differ as you travel your daily path as a parent? Begin in this moment to observe the river of your breath as you travel through one day. Perhaps upon waking it is like a tiny trickle of melting snow in early spring. After coffee perhaps it becomes a coursing torrent. How is your breath as your infant contentedly rolls on her back on the floor? How is your breath as you look for a sock, trying to get out the door? If your breath were a feast laid out on a table before you right now, what would be on that table? In this moment is your breath a thin broth? A slice of home made bread? A bowl of noodles? Or perhaps a complete roast beef dinner with string beans, popovers and roasted potatoes?

Linda Pruitt writes and mothers to the gol'durn best of her ability in Montpelier Vermont where she lives with her atheist poster child hubby, triple Gemini/Aries Moon First Grader, and ill mannered cat in his golden years.

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papa says

by Daniel Levitt

Problem: I am unable to separate my person from my role as a parent.
It used to be the other way around…I would try and extract useful bits of parenting out of the hazy life experience of my younger and more fun self. It’s like I was constantly looking to pull blocks out of a not-so-magic sack of wisdom, assemble any sage advice that had trickled down to me to build a tower of stable eternal love and kindness…and I was usually out. I’d feel around to the bottom of the sack, sometimes come up with an uneven, rough cut fragment of wood, and try to fit it in place with a hammer. Inevitably, I’d have to call my mother or mother in law to borrow some of their blocks. Often something inconsequential, a groggy 5:45 A.M. call, “How do you make oatmeal mom?” “Oh, really? That’s it?” she’d reply. Also more serious questions…advice on sick kids or how to keep my youngest from eating their own poop. Slowly the solid foundation of blocks added a story, and then an additional east wing. But that was all before. Now, I am left trying to figure out how to find the overwhelmed, incredulous kid that started this whole thing. I keep trying to convince myself that I should try to persuade their mom that we need a pool table…The problem is, I don’t really believe it myself. All the stories you hear from twenty-somethings, each one describing a locale more exotic or more obscure, where they are currently building a solar powered well, or a recycled hospital. I used to want that too. Now I try to read a little National Geographic as a pint sized gnome throws plastic toys at my head. More often, I find that I’ll do anything I can to lock the door and keep the world out while I play with my personal troupe of jesters. What changed? The new me says that I am doing my job, but the old me is screaming obscenities. He’s getting hard to hear over the spontaneous and impromptu wrestling matches, impulsive sledding marathons and mashed potato fights. It sounds like he’s even saying something about writing this for a parent’s paper. I’m just not really listening anymore. Screw it, even kids can grow up.

Daniel Levitt lives in Vermont and has been tickling his children excessively since the year 2000. Kali Ma-ma by Kristin Brosky