on healing, exercise and pottery

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It’s been six weeks since my surgery, and I feel back to normal. Well, as normal as you can feel with a newborn. Luckily, L. is a decent sleeper. Usually. OK, last night not so much, when he was up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. But three nights ago my little 7 week-old gave me a 6-hour stretch, which had me dancing to “Foot Loose” around my living room. (Another exaggeration, I can’t help myself today.)

I’ve been walking and I tried to run a few days ago. That wasn’t happening. It’s hard enough to run after a pregnancy, but now I have a surgery to contend with, so it will take more time. I’m trying to be patient.

We took the boys rock climbing in the Jemez mountains yesterday and A. set an easy climb for them (and me), but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Rock climbing is harder when you’re carrying extra weight and I have 10 more pounds to go. But it was lovely being in nature — trees! Fresh air! Sunshine! I’ve missed day trips like this.

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In other news, I opened an Etsy shop to sell my pottery. I was simply investigating how to do it, and then suddenly it was done. I went with Erin Killian Pottery so it’s easy to find. My sister-in-law is a graphic designer (check out her stuff at Beth Killian Design) and she whipped up a logo for me.

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I haven’t formally announced the shop to family and friends yet — I want to tweak it a bit and maybe add a few more items. I’ve read it’s good to have 20-30 items to start and I have 16 up there. Who knows, that might be enough. On Saturday, I started to throw again for the first time in two months. I made four mugs and three small ring bowls and felt relaxed and in my element. I’m pretty sure I think better when I’m throwing clay. A. said, “Look at you, you’re filthy!” and I nodded and gave him the biggest grin. It feels good to be back to myself again.

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the first weeks (not home)

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If A. and I have learned anything in the past two weeks, since our third boy, L., arrived at almost 11 p.m. on July 5, it is to respect the fever.

In L.’s first two weeks, he spent three nights at home. All of the rest were in the hospital. The first two were the standard recovery nights. The next one was because his bilirubin numbers (jaundice) were too high and he needed light therapy. And then, a week after he was born, I was admitted for a 104 fever.

The fever came on five days after L. was born. And it broke with Tylenol. But by the third day, I knew we had to go in. Something wasn’t right.

At the OB/GYN triage, my fever spiked. The pain was concentrated in my lower back and head and I was so cold the nurses put four warmed blankets on me and I was still shaking.

That Tuesday evening, my pulse reached 220, which had the doctors running to see what was going on. I was on IV antibiotics, but it wasn’t till the next morning that they knew that I was septic (blood infection). That afternoon my right lung started to hurt when I breathed. And by Thursday, my liver enzymes were rising.

The blood cultures finally showed I had group a strep — an aggressive bacteria that releases toxins to shut down your organs. And the way to treat it is to act fast and get rid of the source of the infection. For me, that meant an emergency hysterectomy.

My doctor told me I was the fifth case the hospital had seen in two years (some were flown in from rural New Mexico, one was after a home birth), and the other four ended up in the ICU. One of them died. Because my doctors acted fast, I didn’t have to go to the ICU and I came home a week after I was admitted. I’m still finishing up IV antibiotics to get rid of the blood infection.

It was a scary week, and I plan to write about it more fully, but that’s what we’ve been up to. And I’m grateful for good health care, fast-acting doctors and, truly, my life.

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getting ready for babe no. 3

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I’m two weeks away from my due date, and feel like I’m barely holding this baby in. Achey back, waddling when I walk, pressure on my bladder, swollen ankles. The baby is doing constant dance parties inside of me and punching me in uncomfortable places. I’m amazed I ever worked in this state. I’m eating well — I cut out all ice cream and treats in the last three weeks — and yet I’ve still gained 45 pounds. This pregnancy? Hardest yet. It’s probably because I’m 39. And because we’re living in a dry climate at almost 6,000 feet. And I’m spending my time with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. And it was 100 degrees today.

But the end is near. And the sleepless nights holding a sweet newborn are quickly approaching. We still don’t have a name. A. is finishing up a dresser for the big boys — made entirely out of 2x4s — so we can move the one with a changing pad into our room. I registered at UNM hospital last week, and A. installed the car seat (three seats in the back of a tiny Mazda 3, thank you very much).

I’ve been trying to keep the boys engaged with fun summer activities while I rest. Play dough, ice pops, the trampoline park, playing with the hose in the backyard, play dates with friends, library time and dinners on the deck.

Today, I picked up the last batch of pottery I’ll do for a while. My mind spins daily thinking about different combinations of glazes and what my “style” is. I’m cleaning up my shop, knowing I’ll have to shut it down till probably the end of August, though the thought makes me cringe. Then, I’ll throw more and open an Etsy shop. I’ve realized I can’t keep this hobby up without selling — it’s expensive and we can’t keep everything I’m making. And the truth is, I’m excited about a new challenge, but I won’t be able to launch it till the fall. Until then, I’ll put my energy into three boys under 5 years old. Wish me luck.

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artists’ trading cards and letting go of self doubt

When A.’s parents visited in late February, I had one full, glorious free day to myself. Nonni and grandpa boarded the Rail Runner train to Santa Fe with my two boys at 9:30 a.m. and I had till close to 6 p.m. to do whatever I liked (with CM’s school conference smack dab in the middle of it, but no matter). I decided I would write a bit at a coffee shop, throw some pots and get exercise in no particular order.

While at the coffee shop, I researched things to do in Albuquerque and surroundings. And that’s when I stumbled on the Women and Creativity conference. I missed most of the events, but it looked like I could still be involved in the poet’s post trading cards project. It involved me beautifying 10 cards and sending them back to the organizer, and then I would get 10 back in the mail from 10 different artists.

I donated $10 to the cause and signed up. When the blank cards arrived several weeks later, I felt like a fraud. Real visual artists were filling these cards out — my arts are clay and writing. But I pulled out some water colors and painted, and man did it feel good to let go of any self doubts (I had no stake in this) and ego and take a paintbrush to these tiny cards.

IMG_7190Last week, I received the 10 in the mail, and I opened them up like a joyful little kid. (I also had my joyful little 4 year old next to me, who was excited as I was.) The cards are spectacular. And every one is completely different. They’re mostly from New Mexico, but one is from New Jersey, one from California and one from Pennsylvania.

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I haven’t decided what to do with them — I might take my favorite few and frame them if I can find something suitable at Michael’s. But the point isn’t (and wasn’t) the end product. It was the process — it was more fun than I expected. It gave me a bit of perspective to calm down and change gears and relax creatively. And that’s what I need often when I’m throwing pots or writing a story. Perspective.

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throwing, throwing, throwing: my love of pottery keeps growing

I’ve mentioned before that I’m hooked on pottery, but this weekend it reached a fevered pitch as I tried to replicate vases and mugs from my last batch.

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My lovely teacher Lois Hinman (click to see her work!) in Ridgecrest, Calif., always told me that she started selling her pots (decades ago!) because it’s an expensive hobby and she couldn’t take the money from her family. I’m starting to feel that way, too — each firing (including bisque and glaze) is close to $100, not to mention the clay and the glazes. And we don’t have enough cupboard space for all that I’m making!

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So, now I’m thinking about how to sell — where, what that means, coming up with a plan, etc. Of course, I’m also 28 weeks pregnant  (entering that third trimester, yeesh!) and slowing down physically, so that will keep me from doing it anytime soon.

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But, I like the idea of creating a plan and having inventory for when I’m ready to enter a show or put pieces up on Etsy. Maybe I’ll do it sooner than later, but given how tired and achy I’m starting to feel, I doubt much will happen before baby boy no. 3 is at least three months old.

IMG_7025What I love about the process is not only the physical act of throwing and creating useful, beautiful things, but also the challenge — starting a “business” is scary. And entering a show is scary. And I don’t even have a kiln yet. Once I get a kiln (after we move out of our rental) I can start to mix glazes. There is always, always more to learn with this craft. And I have a long way to go to be really good.

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But the bottom line is I love it and that passion isn’t going away.

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If you are a potter or artist with a small business and have any tips or suggestions along the way, I’d be grateful!

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clean living — will it help my allergies?

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It’s spring in Albuquerque, and the way I know this, besides hearing the birds sing in the morning and watching the trees bud with white flowers, is that my allergies are getting the best of me. I started up my nasal spray and eye drops, but now, every night before I go to sleep I need to shower to get the pollen out of my hair and change my pillow case. I was reading to CM the other night on the couch, and I nuzzled my nose into his thick hair, and then I had a fit of sneezing, which made me sad. I should always be able to snuggle my 4 year old.

I’ve read that eating clean and removing chemicals from your house can help with allergies (as well as digestive issues and chronic pain). During my recipe searches, I stumbled across this cookbook by Amie Valpone. There’s a section about beauty and cleaning products called “10 never-use ingredients” — including parabens, amines and sulfates — so I’ve been going through my products this morning, seeing what it might help to change.

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I’m ready to try new shampoo (though I’ve been using Aveda for a decade) and get rid of my shaving cream. I can keep my sunscreen and lotion. I’ll probably try a new laundry detergent. I plan to dust more often. It’s a tedious process examining my beauty products and cleaning products for toxicity, but if it can help, even a little, with snuggling my boys, it’s worth it.

I’m also working on reducing gluten, sugar and dairy in my diet (it seems to be helping my energy levels, though I don’t plan to give up coffee or all sugar, let’s be honest).  I never thought I’d like chia pudding, but this recipe for Creamy Chia Pudding is surprisingly delicious — and filling. I’m also putting cashew cream on strawberries. Next, I’ll try the french toast (made with gluten-free oats) and the pumpkin enchiladas. If you want to read more, here’s Valpone’s website. Happy eating and cleaning, everyone!

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the open road, two kids and a pregnant lady

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One thing I miss about pre-kids is the ability to travel easily and efficiently. A. and I would book a flight a few weeks ahead of time, pack a backpack each and off we’d go. I’d buy a guidebook and most likely read the works of a novelist from the country we’d visit. Our last international trip was to Iceland in 2012, when CM was 5 months old.

So instead, during this “we have small kids who wouldn’t appreciate a long, expensive trip to Europe or Asia” phase, I’m embracing traveling locally. And locally for us, right now, means New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Texas — where there is stunning scenery and lots of hikes (I put a premium on being outdoors with the kids).

So, this past weekend, we packed up the car, picked up CM at 3 p.m. from school on Friday and drove. Our only agenda was to go to Arches National Park, just north of Moab, Utah. We ended up driving more than 800 miles in three days (about 4-5 hours per day) — from New Mexico to Colorado Friday, Colorado to Utah and back to Colorado on Saturday, and home to New Mexico on Sunday.

And guess what? It wasn’t miserable. The boys were troopers (there were a few whiny “I’m tired of driving” and “Mama, can I hold you?” moments but overall it was a success.) We didn’t have reservations, so we stayed in small Colorado towns (Moab was booked up — I never knew how popular it is!) We told lots of “made up” stories in the car, the boys paged through books (CM read “Hop on Pop” out loud) and we listened to music.

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Highlights: Arches National Park, though now that it’s March, it’s starting to get busy — there was a half hour line to get into the park.

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Dinner and dessert in Telluride.

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And touring Native American history at Chaco National Park in New Mexico on Sunday. The village was built between 800 and 1200 A.D.

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The boys were giddy. I loved the feeling of adventure. A. was happy. My hope is these little trips will prime them for longer, more intense trips in the coming years.

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early morning bliss

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I went to bed early last night with a sore throat, woke up this morning feeling refreshed. The house is dark and chilly, the sun is just now coming up, and all of the boys are sleeping. I can hear owls hooting in the distance, birds tweeting in the pine trees in the backyard above our deck. I want to grind some coffee beans, but I don’t want to wake anyone up. This quiet is so rare.

We have tulips sprouting in the back yard, and the leaves on my beets are growing bigger by the day. I hope the tulips flower next week when my parents arrive, and that I can dig out the beets from the soil and share them on the dinner table. I swept the deck of pine needles; I’m excited for spring.

I’m feeling the baby kick often now. I’m only 24 weeks along, but it’s an active baby, says my kindly doctor from Michigan, who hugged me the last time I saw her. I tried to have CM feel the kicks — I put his chubby four-year-old hand on my round belly. “Be patient,” I said, but the baby didn’t kick. “I love my new baby brother,” he said.

I’ve been absorbed every day in this presidential race — consuming as much information as I can find. I sit in my pottery shop and trim wet clay off of the feet, listening to my friends at NPR. I’m comforted by their voices in my shop. Today is mega Tuesday — and this evening, after dinner, I’ll watch the numbers roll in on my phone.

I’m waiting for the click of the door, for CM to peer at me with adjusting eyes and then collapse into my arms. For CP to call out, “Mama, I’m awake! Hi mama!” And then we start our day together. Every moment with them, I think about how we can spend as much time outside as possible — the park, a hike, the Botanical Gardens. I want my boys to love the fresh air, to get dirty and feel free and unencumbered by the world.

And now that the sun is fully up, I’m ready to grind my beans and smell my espresso bubble up from the stovetop.

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travels, another boy and the NYT cooking app

Our household has been a cesspool of germs for the last month — coughing, sneezing, runny noses. Once I gain my voice back, we should be (mostly) healthy (god, I hope). But despite the colds, I’ve been traveling, throwing pots and feeling like myself again after hibernating this winter during my first trimester.

I flew up to Seattle in February to see my best friend S., who is ready for a life change (and she already met an awesome man!). Before I left, I was the crazy mom who worried about getting in a plane crash. It was the first time I’d flown without my boys and I couldn’t help but think: How would my boys deal with that grief? A., who is awesome, would be a great single dad, but I think something like that would destroy my oldest. Needlessness to say, I’m OK. The flight was easy and relaxing. S. is staying in an airbnb in Capitol Hill. It was a beautiful space full of plants, personality and a view of the Cascades. (It inspired me to throw more potting pots for our house.) We cozied up in the rainy weather and talked for hours, and it refreshed my soul.

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And then A.’s parents arrived, and they gave A. and me a weekend away. We drove to Utah and camped in Canyonlands with our telescope. I had no idea Utah was so pretty? It was amazing to see the winter Milky Way and inhale the fresh air. In the middle of the night, I heard coyotes howling and we woke up to cows mooing.

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In the last month, we also found out that our third baby is healthy with big lips (ha). We’re having another boy. Three boys! I wasn’t surprised — there hasn’t been an girl born into A.’s dad’s side of the family since the ’40s. But in 10 years, I’ll need to plan a lot of girls’ weekends. A lot of them.

I’ve been throwing pots and writing more. My pottery skills are getting better and better — the progress is incredible. I’m considering trying to sell some pots once I can function again after the first 6 months or so of sleepless nights with my third. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram lately looking at potters’ photos — what they make, the dimensions and how they developed a style.

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I’ve also been trying many new recipes I found on the NYT Cooking site — including my favorites (both easy to make), the Vaguely Vietnamese Slow Cooker Pork Tacos and the Red Lentil Soup with Lemon. And the Banana Oatmeal Almond Smoothie — yum.

And I harvested my first broccoli head and the beets and spinach are (finally) coming in. I’m excited to plant tomatoes and basil in May. Our backyard is blooming with tulips — it’s almost spring!

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get rid of clutter: it makes kids happier, too

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My almost two-year-old is entering his defiant phase.

“OK, CP, time to clean up!” I say after dinner. “You’re in charge of the Legos.”

“No,” he says with a smile, and then turns in circles, arms out like an airplane. Or he walks away and grabs a toy car and starts pretending it’s zooming on the furniture. And then grins at me with that infuriating glimmer.

“CP,” I say with a sterner tone, pointing at the rug. “Legos.”

This happened three nights in a row. Three nights ago, when his exasperated brother tried to boss CP into cleaning, CP took a heavy wooden car and hit CM in the mouth. CM wailed; I put CP on the couch, and he giggled at me when I told him how unhappy I was and we don’t hit in this house. (I later told A. it was time for me to read up on toddler discipline again, because CP’s personality is so different from CM’s. I default to this woman’s advice, and I’m also going to pull out some of the books on my shelf.)

Two nights ago, when CP wasn’t cleaning after several prompts, A. and I decided to put the Legos away. He put them on top of the fridge, so CP could see them and ask for them.

Yesterday morning,  CP was wandering the house.

“Mama, I can’t find the Legos anywhere,” he said in whiny voice, hands up-turned.

“CP, you didn’t clean up last night,” I said. “You don’t get to play with them for a few days.”

He cried for a moment and then said, bottom lip out: “Ohhhh.” It’s tricky because I’m not sure he really gets it yet.

But here’s what I noticed. With the Legos out of sight, the boys got along better. They played in a huge cardboard box we’ve had for two weeks that we turned into a “house.” They giggled and pounded on the box like it was a bongo. Then they jumped into a toy bin and pretended it was a hot air balloon. Later in the morning, I took them on a hike in the Sandia Foothills and they walked on what was left of the snow and jumped in the mud, and CP made up a song that went, “CM, I loooove you.”

The boys don’t need much to be happy. We’re all about simple play. We want to foster their independence, creativity and love of nature. Sometimes the best idea, even though it can feel hard in the moment when they’re upset, is to simply put those toys away.

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