New Braunfels Train Show Jamboree Review

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In this post, I am going to describe our family’s experience at the New Braunfels Train Show Jamboree, which was less than stellar. I have not found other reviews for this event online, and hope our story could help other families in the future.
On this, my personal blog, I do my best to post positive and contemplative things, which I hope can have an impact on my readers. This story will be an exception to the usual programming around here.
Overall, the event was advertised as family friendly. We didn’t find it to be a child or family-friendly event. It is an event designed for adults, specifically elderly retired men, who collect and build vintage, expensive, model trains.
So, here was our experience Saturday.
My boys are 18 months and 4 years old. The four year old is currently enthralled by trains, specifically, Thomas wooden railway trains. He has a train table and train track at home, and owns several of the Thomas engines.
First off, we drove an hour to get to the event. Secondly, adult tickets were $8 and child tickets age 3 and up were $2. Third, they only accepted cash, so once we arrived, we had to leave again to go get cash. Once we got inside, we were sorely disappointed.
Here’s some information from the website that talked about the event.
– “Over 60 Vendors from Texas, and some from out of state, displaying on over 300 tables, for you to buy, sell, or swap.”
In reality: When we entered the main room, we found collapsible type tables set up all over the room, with model trains laying on the tables, and elderly men selling them. There were signs everywhere saying “do not touch.” The prices of the train parts averaged $200 to $2,000 and some were more expensive than that. We walked by table after table, looking at vintage, collector items of adult toys, in prices no parent would allow a small child to touch, even had there not been a slew of “do not touch” signs. As we passed table after table, my son would look longingly at a few trains that took his interest and ask, “Mommy? Are these for touching?” No.  “How about these? Are these for touching?” No, I’m so sorry, son. Occasionally, I allowed him to place a finger or two on a train priced under $200, because he was so patient and gentle, and because I couldn’t stand to answer his quiet question, “Mommy, could I touch this one? How about this one?” with yet another, “No.”
Based on the advertised phrase “for you to buy, sell, or swap” we got the impression that attendees of the event could buy, sell, or swap items. My sweet son had brought a bag of his Thomas wooden trains that he was hoping to swap or sell or buy with other kids. Of course there was nothing like this, as all the sellers were set up in advance, and nothing like his was being sold.
We finally located ONE table that sold child toy items, including a few Thomas trains. All the train toys at that table were priced substantially higher than the identical items can be purchased at regular stores like Target or Toys r Us.
– “Kids get to be a Junior Engineer at our Famous ‘Kids Run the Trains’ Layout.”
In reality: We asked if there was anything here that kids could do, and were told there was a place kids could run the train. We went to that area, and found a running model train engine set up on collapsible tables. It was made from miniature size pieces, very fragile, vintage, with lots of “do not touch” signs. The model train on the track was going around and around, and the table was set up at about an adult’s chest level height (too high for kids to see easily). There was a separate table nearby, with a black electric box that had a handle to make the model train start up and go around, or stop. The black box also had a button to make the engine whistle sound, and the horn to sound, and the lights to turn on or off.
My son was allowed to sit in a seat next to the elderly man who was using the controls. The man connected an engine to the model train on table, then came back to the black box, near where my son was seated. Wordlessly, the man pushed the red lever, and the train began to go around and around. Then he pushed some buttons for the whistle and lights and horn. Then he allowed my son to put two fingers onto the red lever and touch the lever, without moving anything, while the elderly man continued pushing the whistle and horn and lights button.
Since the lever seemed so simple, I rather expected him to let my son at least pull the lever down (stopping the train) and push it back up (starting the train back up again), but he did not. Since pushing the buttons for the horn and whistle also seemed extremely simple and impossible for a four year old to break, I expected perhaps my son to be allowed to do so. Instead, the man continued pushing the buttons repeatedly, and telling my son, “Listen!” After about a minute of patiently waiting, holding two fingers gently on the immobile lever which the man kept gripped in his fist, my son quietly asked to go do something else.
– “Extra large exhibit of Lego Trains”
In reality: There was quite a large table set up (perhaps 8 ft by 8 ft) with a very fun looking lego train going around and around on tracks through a lego city. It was colorful and had a few Disney type characters built from lego, in the lego city where the lego train was going around. There were high plexiglass walls around everything so it could not be touched, and also a barricade to keep people several feet away from the plexiglass. There were no stools to help a small child get up high enough to see very well. And even if they could see very well, you were so far away from the train, you couldn’t see details to well. After watching the train go around and around a few times, perhaps a couple minutes, that was all there was to see.

The ticket prices for this “Train Show” were $8 per adult and $2 per child 3 years old and up. We were in the entire exhibit hall less than thirty minutes. My sweet son walked all around the building, holding my hand quietly, asking at each table, if there was something he could touch. No, nothing you can touch. Over and over again. Even on the “Famous” place where “kids run the trains”, that was false advertising. I don’t consider it enjoyable or interesting to a child to be allowed to barely touch a lever, without moving it, for sixty seconds, while an adult does all the fun stuff (which the child could be capable of doing).

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As we left, we asked staff members if there was anything “child friendly” to do with the train show – perhaps we had missed something. They recommended leaving the show, and driving a few minutes away to ride the miniature train for which we had the free tickets. They told us we should have received the “free tickets” when we entered the show. Of course we hadn’t, but they were kind enough to give them to us at that point. The staff also recommended the New Braunfels Railroad Museum (which is free). And they recommended McKenna Children’s Museum (which we have been to, and there are high ticket prices there, even though it is a small children’s museum).
We didn’t come to New Braunfels today for the children’s museum; we came for a train show, for my train-loving son to have an awesome train-filled day. Clearly there was nothing for him at this train show.
– “Free Ride Ticket to the Landa Park Miniature Train for all children, age 5 and under.”
We drove a few minutes away to Landa Park, hoping to put our children on a free ride the “miniature train.” The Landa Park Miniature Train is quite similar (if not nearly identical) to the one at the San Antonio Zoo / Brackenridge park.  We soon learned that in order to ride it, we were expected to purchase adult tickets ($3 each), since the free tickets were only for our children. They wouldn’t let us on the train without purchasing adult tickets, and of course we could observe it was not something we could send our children alone. We declined to pay more money at this point.
We walked across the street, and had a picnic lunch at Landa Park. There are several playscapes at the park, quite fun for children. We spent a little time there, and the kids loved it, while the adults tried to lick our wounds of disappointment over the two failed events thus far today. But you know, it’s a park. There’s lots a great parks in San Antonio which aren’t an hour’s drive away.
– “Museum Store with thousands of items available at low cost.”
This was the last stop of our day. We drove to a third separate location, the New Braunfels Railroad Museum, which is indeed free. Surprisingly, at the free museum, you may also receive a “free child ticket” to ride the miniature train. The same ticket we had received at the Train Show (the ticket that was just for children, where an adult still has to pay). The same ticket that was marketed in the event advertising as a benefit of attending the Train Show. At the Railroad Museum, you ask for a child train ticket, and they will give you as many child train tickets as you need. This would be a great (free) way to get a discount on riding the train, should riding the miniature train be something you wanted to do. You could do this any day the Railroad Museum was open, which is much of the year. It has no connection to the Train Show Jamboree.
The Railroad Museum was small, taking about thirty minutes to see everything. However, it the best part of our day, because there are actually things a child can do.
You can go inside an old train engine, and a dining car, and had it not been under renovation, also a caboose. You can pull the bell of the train engine (too difficult for a kid to do, but they had fun trying). You can pull levers inside the train engine. You can sit in a chair in the dining car and pretend you are riding the train (they also rent out the dining car for parties).
Inside the “museum”, which is the old train station, there are a few rooms. One has old antique train station and train parts set up behind barricades (again, where you can look but not touch). One room has a few model trains at adult eye level, behind plexiglass, and the model trains do not run.
In another room, there is a train table for kids to play with. You know, the kind of train table you have in your house, because your child loves trains. Just like that one you have at home, and maybe at daycare or church. Only this one has a handful of broken tracks and a few cute Thomas train engines. Later, when I asked a staff member about things a child could do, they actually directed me to that train table. As if a train-loving child has never seen one before, and it would be “so” exciting to them.
In another room, there are several more adult miniature model train displays, at adult eye-level, behind high plexiglass walls. One is operating, running around and around the tracks. In that room, there is one Thomas child-size toy train at a child’s eye level. It goes in and out of tunnels so fast you almost miss it, and of course it says “do not touch.” In this room there are a few stools for kids to look at all the operating model train that you can’t touch.
In a final room, they sell a very small assortment of overpriced train type toys. It’s about the size of one fourth of the Target Dollar Spot. I’m really not sure how someone decided to market this as “thousands of items available at low cost”, unless they included cheap disposable toys like jars of pencils, stickers, and stamps, that parents buy just to get the kid to stop asking them to buy something.
At this point we finally purchased a small train for $13. It included a battery-operated engine, tender, two boxcars, and tracks for the engine to go round and round, that we could set up and enjoy at home. You will need to purchase batteries elsewhere, or hope you have some at home. At least you can set it up and enjoy it at home. Where it can be touched.
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I wanted to go into detail, so you could “see for yourself” through my eyes, the experience of a family and a train-loving four-year-old, at this event. I didn’t want to merely say “we didn’t think it was child-friendly.”
For families with train-loving kids, I could definitely recommend visiting the New Braunfels Railroad Museum, which is free and open much of the year. I could also recommend picking up free child train tickets at that Railroad Museum, and using them to get your kids on the Landa Park Miniature Train for free, since paying $3 each for adult tickets wouldn’t be so bad at that point.
I could honestly never recommend the Train Show to any family with children under ten years old. And I’m not sure I would take any child, except perhaps a model-train obsessed teenager who has a few thousand dollars in allowance money to spend. The people the event is designed by, and for, are adult collectors of high-end, vintage model trains. The one Lego train set up and the laying a finger on the train lever, are a bad joke for a child, and for the parent considering the price of admission. You could have done a lot of fun things for $20, and this event just wasn’t one of them.

Tidying Up the KonMari Way – Step Two – DEAL WITH YOUR OWN STUFF in your own spot (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo)

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There’s a few basic principles in Marie Kondo’s method of tidying up your home. One that is fundamental is deal with your own stuff and your own self (my paraphrase).

In the book, she talks about her childhood obsession with organization. When she became bored with organizing her own room, she took liberties with common areas shared by her family. She disposed of possessions belonging to other family members that she observed they didn’t seem to use or need any longer. While the shocking question, “Who would even do that?!”comes to mind when reading her story, how many of us want-to-be-organized people sharing a home with want-to-keep-everything people, have been guilty of disposing of something that doesn’t belong to us, on the sly?!

My hand is raised.

Sorry, honey.

So Marie says, deal with your own stuff. Her method has you sort items in your home by category, rather than by location. Large categories have smaller sub-categories, to keep things manageable. The first category is clothing. Your own clothing. Not your spouse’s clothing, or your children’s clothing. Your own. You gather ALL your clothing from EVERY location where it is stored – your closet, your husband’s closet, the attic, the garage, the coat closet, and you bring all YOUR clothing into one spot, and begin to go through it.

She also emphasizes each person in the home have an area of the home that belongs to them, such as their own closet, or dresser, or desk. Each person should keep their own things in their own area.

Your stuff. In your spot.

Any home occupied by more than one human, has shared areas, and shared items. She instructs you not to mess with items outside your domain. She says not to nag other home occupants to follow her method, not to dispose of their things, and not to insist they tidy up, simply because you are tidying up.

Keep your hands to yourself, as we tell children, and deal with your own items. The shocking result, is your stuff begins to change, you begin to change, and your household occupants take notice.

This concept – your stuff, in your spot (my paraphrase) – is one of the life-changing parts of KonMari for me thus far.

I used to internally blame my husband and children for the mess and clutter in our home. As I’ve worked through the KonMari process, I’ve had a humbling discovery. The shoes on the living room floor are mine. The bottles covering the bathroom counter are my herbs. My clothes were stored in my closet, my kids’ closet, my husband’s closet, the coat closet, the attic, and the garage. Many of the excess items and excess spending – was purchased by me. When I thought we needed something, I would buy three varieties, just to be sure one of them worked out. We would keep all three. When I found something else we needed, I would buy two identical ones, so we would have a spare.

I shopped too much. I stored my things all over the house in everyone else’s space. I am the culprit. (Well, one of them. There are four culprits living in my home. And I am definitely one of them.)

Many folks new to the KonMari method struggle with stuff that belongs to their spouse, children or other household members. Depending on the age of the children, it may be appropriate to do some categories for them, and other categories together with them. But for adults, her answer is this – leave it alone. And for anyone beginning the method, for now, as much as possible, focus on your own items. She has you begin with two categories that are clearly personal – clothing, and books. There are clothing and books in your home belonging to other people, but it should be obvious which ones are YOURS. Do them first.

Tidying Up the KonMari Way – Step 1 – READ THE BOOK (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo)

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I consider myself an organized person. I was more organized in my past life. That is, before I had children. I’ve also said it’s easy for me to throw things away. In fact, organizing could be one of my hobbies.

Despite this, I can’t seem to keep our home tidy, neat, or organized.

Despite organization, we still had SO. MUCH. STUFF.

Our Stuff was anything but simple. Stuff overwhelmed the homes and apartments we’ve lived in, no matter how small or large the space was. I would stand in the center of my home, looking around at all the Stuff, and thinking, “Stuff. With a capital ‘S’.” All this Stuff was practically a living being.  It took over my home, my life, and made my organizing attempts futile.

Then We Bought Our First Home…………………………

We moved into our first home in March last year. In preparation for the move, we trashed or donated So Much Stuff. I truly could not believe that in my “organized” home, I found somewhere around 10-15 huge black trashbags of TRASH. And another 10-15 bags of donation items. Things I didn’t really use or no longer needed.

I also found stashes of things I kept purchasing, forgetting I already had enough. This included perhaps 30 miniature Kleenex packs designed to go in your purse. Even more humorous, I always kept one of those little packs in my purse. And would forget it was in my purse. I had been known to purchase a box of Kleenex while in a store, out of desperation, while the mini pack of Kleenex was in my purse.

Another stash item was photo paper. I found three separate stashes of 4×6 photo paper, each stash with several packs of 100 sheets each. In all, probably well over 4,000 sheets of 4×6 photo paper. I had never used any of it.

Before we moved, I had clothing from my “old life” in a business career. I sold a bit and donated some. I kept a lot. Just in case. I had SO much clothing from having a job where I was expected to look professional, attractive, and put together every day (and where other women dressed to the nines and had much greater incomes than I did).

As we packed, I knew things were getting packed, that I would unpack and not need. Some fantastic folks from church helped me (since I had a two-year old and newborn while we were packing to move). Sometimes I let them pack up a whole closet or section of the house, without looking at the items myself.

I was shocked and proud of how much we disposed of prior to moving.

Then we moved. Family and friends helped us. It took two loads in the largest Uhaul truck. Our home had been 900 square feet.

Our new house was 1300 square feet. And a garage! And attic!

As we unpacked, I trashed and donated more. Besides the Stuff from the home we were renting, we had three storage units. One of those storage units we’d had for about seven years. It was full of decorations, childhood and sentimental items.

All that Stuff arrived in our new home, and garage. My mother in law came for a week right after we moved. She played with the kids while I settled into our home. She helped me do projects while the kids napped, and was amazing. While she was here, I unpacked the survival areas – kitchen, clothing, bathroom basics.

After she left, we faced the daunting task of everything else. It was slow going. It was hard to know what things we needed in the new house. And if we didn’t need it, but didn’t really want to get rid of it, then what? It remained in a box in the garage. Benjamin built decking in the attic above the garage, and we moved lots of Stuff up there. The garage was still primarily full.

Then We Read The Book………………………………………………

A Facebook mom group was talking about the book. I was drawn to the tile. I read it on Kindle, and was completely captured by this method of purging and organizing a home. It was like nothing I’ve heard of before. It resonated with my deepest intuition and desires.

One key component of Marie Kondo’s method is to deal with your own Stuff – not the Stuff of your household members. Even when their Stuff annoys you and gets in your way. Deal with your own self and your own Stuff.

So I did. I began with the clothes in my closet, as she recommended. In our old home, my clothes filled 3/4 of our shared closet, 90% of our kids’ closet, and perhaps 10 boxes of off-season items stored in the garage loft.  In our new home, I had clothes in my closet, my husband’s closet, the coat closet, the garage, and the attic.

My husband knows I love clothes. One day after purging my closet during the kids’ nap, I sent him a text with a photo of all the items I had cleaned out of my closet for trash or donating. I informed him that my clothes were no longer in his closet. He was astonished.

Then I did our kids’ clothing (because they were too little to do it themselves, plus I had a good idea of which items they enjoy wearing or not). I got rid of perhaps 50% of what was in their drawers, yet they still had tons of clothing. I went through the kids clothes of different sizes in the attic, and filled 9 giant trashbags to give to a friend with a new baby boy. We still had more than we needed in each size.

I showed my husband the kids’ new tidy drawers, my tidy closet, and the practicality of the KonMarie folding method for clothing.

We talked about the book, about our Stuff. I know he wants to be more organized but struggles with how. We both know he keeps more than he needs, but has a hard time letting go.  Reading is also hard for him, so he agreed to let me read the book out loud to him.

We read slowly. One or two nights per week, for an hour or so. It’s a short book, so we got through it in a bit over a month. About halfway through, he was ready to tackle his clothing (the first category she recommends in her method).

I made a worksheet of the categories and order she recommends, and we’ve slowly been plugging away.

I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve been proud of my husband, and of my son, for sorting through their things.
We’ve slowly been experiencing the life change she talks about in her book.

What To Know Before Reading the Book ………………………………………………..

I would recommend any American with a normal amount of American Stuff in their home, to read this book. Whether you feel are organized and want to tweak more, or whether you feel buried in chaos and mess. It will be useful to both parties.

Marie Kondo is Japanese. She is a professional organizer in Japan. She has developed her signature method over many years of trying different ways of organizing her own home, and client homes. Her basic principles are effective and inspiring.

Some parts of her method, and some of her ideas, are a bit extreme to me. Her religious beliefs filter in throughout the book, and affect her instructions to readers.

An example. When you dispose of an item, she suggests you “thank it” for its service to you. A loved pair of shoes that is too worn out for continued use, but served your feet well for many years. Tell the shoes “thank you”, as if they can hear you, before disposing of them. For items you purchased but never used, such as a sweater on clearance. Thank the sweater for teaching you, it is not your style. In this way, she says you communicate with your belongings, and it helps your process of disposing of items.

Since I’m a Christian, I don’t believe the objects I own have souls, can hear me, or have a life I need to speak to them about.

However. I DO indeed have a soul. I DO indeed have emotions. And I do indeed have a mental, emotional, and sometimes spiritual response within myself, and with God, as I touch and make decisions about items I own. With certain items, it was freeing – and just what I needed – to talk to the item, or better yet, talk to God about the item.

For example, when I found my collection of folders and notes from each of my college classes. So organized and neat. So perfectly labeled. I’ve been lugging that heavy box around for over ten years now. I kept it because I thought I could use my notes when I homeschool my children. I’m realizing there will be plenty of homeschool resources when I get to that season of my life, and the likelihood of those college notes helping, is slim.

But it was REALLY hard to think about dumping it in the trash. Really hard.

So I laid my hands on the folders, touching their spines, and prayed. Thank you God, for my education. Thank you for my professors. Thank you for that season of my life. For the good parts of it that shaped me. For the sad parts of it that shaped me. Thank you for the lessons and people that affected my life during that time., helping to make me the woman I am today.

Then I threw it into the dumpster. And it was easy. I felt relief and peace.

I believe God created us, loves us, and wants relationship with us, I believe all religions (including those who claim atheism or no religion), are in fact part of each individual’s journey to find Him. So I’m not bothered by Marie Kondo’s philosophies. I see them through the view of our loving God, and translate her concept into something that makes spiritual sense to me.

My Summary of the Book In a Nutshell…………………………………………….

– Write a vision of WHY you want your home to be tidy. Dig deeper than “to have things neat.” Dig into your feelings of frustration or fatigue, into your dream of peace, time to do things besides clean, etc. This vision statement is your personal motivation to keep you going through the process.

– Touch every object in your home and ask your intuition, “Does this object spark joy for me?”
– If it sparks joy, keep it.
– If it does not spark joy, dispose of it (trash, donate, or sell).

– Tidy your entire home in that manner, over the course of a few months.

– Tidy by category rather than by room.

– The categories are as follows: Clothing, Books, Papers, Komono (miscellaneous, which includes several subcategories such as kitchen items, hobby items, personal care, CD/DVD, etc.), and Sentimental (photos, keepsakes, etc.).
– Gather all objects of one category, in one place, then sort the entire category at once, to determine joy sparking items. If the category is too large, break it into sub-categories (such as clothing: tops, bottoms, accessories, etc., or books: non-fiction, fiction, reference, etc.).
– ONLY AFTER sorting a category and discarding non-joy-sparking items, organize what is left in that category. She gives specific tips for each category on best ways to store / organize the remaining items. Since the quantity of items is greatly reduced after sorting them by joy, organizing becomes easy and fun.

– Complete your entire home in a “short” time (she says less than six months).

– At the end of it, your home will be filled with items which spark joy. Every object you touch, every item you lay hands on, should fill you with joy all day long.

– Making a drastic, quick, noticeable shift in your home like this affects your whole being with such intensity, you will be moved to change other things in your life, have time for new things you desire, etc.

To “KonMarie” or “KM” an object, does not mean to dispose of it. It means to touch it, ask yourself if it sparks joy, then dispose/donate it, or find a place for it in your home.

Each Point of the KM Method is Key……………………..

Each of the items I mention above are key to the efficacy of her method.

Tidy without touching things, and the decision making process is harder. Our bodies are emotional, physical, mental, etc. Touching and holding items gives the greatest dimension and aids in deeply attuning to your own heart.

Dispose of things for reasons other than sparking joy, you get stuck in ration, and eventually derailed. Humans are both reason and emotion. I used to get rid of things if 1) I didn’t use them any more and 2) I didn’t see a possible future where I might use them. I kept WAY too many things by this method, which I never ended up using. Things I would have liked to use and enjoy, were buried in things I might need someday.

Tidying by room instead of by category, does not allow you to locate duplicates, or notice the sheer volume of objects in a certain category. It may allow you to discover a joy-sparking blanket hidden away, that can replace a worn-out blanket you’ve been using without knowing you owned something you liked better. Tidying by room is also the most common method people use, and a common reason to fail in tidying.

Purging / discarding BEFORE organizing is also key. Trying to fold and organize Too Much Stuff, soon reverts to unorganized chaos. Surprisingly, in our home, when an area was over crowded, once we discarded things and kept only what sparked joy, the items that remained fit PERFECTLY

Going through everything you own, in this manner, in a brief window of time, really does affect your entire sense of being.

It was important for slow decision-maker / processors like myself, to go a bit slowly. I would not have wanted to do all categories within the course of two weeks (if that were possible). I needed time to pay close attention to each item. I needed time for my inner person to change, which it did, during the process.

In the categories we have sorted so far (we are part way through Komono), we have eliminated around 75% of what we owned in each category. Shockingly, that left us with still more than we needed, and plenty to go around. It doesn’t feel sparse, it feels just right.

My Tips For Beginning the KonMarie Tidying Method……………………………………..

Read the book. Read all of it.

As you read, make notes of key sentences that motivate or inspire you. Make a list (or google a list) of the  categories. Bookmark or highlight sections to reference later.

Begin with your own stuff. If you are able, and your household members show interest, read the book to them or have them read it. Don’t force them. Don’t purge their stuff (I have made exceptions for my children in certain categories, and let them help in other categories, based on their age and capability). With older children or your significant other, let the change you are making with your own items, be an example. There’s a good chance they will become interested as they see you making progress and becoming a happier person.

Before beginning a new category, re-read or reference your notes / highlights from that section again. It always helped motivate me, and remind me of certain details about that category, which I had forgotten since completing the book.

If you begin to purge things from your house simply by reading my blog post, or hearing things from other people, you could make good progress for a while. You may also get stuck at some point, or give up because it isn’t working.

So. Read the book. There’s lots of great details in the book to help you over stuck spots. Read it before you begin, if you want to do this method. Give the author and the method a chance by reading what she wrote, before you begin. It’s not like any way you’ve tried to clean your house before. The book is a bit repetitive, I believe on purpose, as repeating key points helps readers remember them. And you will need to remember them, to get through the process.


Stay Posted for My Experience with Each Category………………………..

It truly has been life-changing thus far. Each category has taught me things about myself. Allowed me to face my past, my present, my hopes for the future. Some changes are already happening within me, and in my days, and more are to come. God is good. He can even use organizing to change my heart.

Noel is Born! | The Birth Story of Tobi

*** Photo Credits…. First two photos from Jax’s birth taken by our birth photographer Ann Marie Itschner. She was not available for Tobi’s birth. The birth of Tobi was photographed by Monica Barrientes. I edited them, with Monica’s permission. My sister Mercy Persyn took photos during the newborn exam, shown at the end of this post. Just wanted to give credit to our awesome photogs ***

*This is a birth story. There aren’t any “R” rated images, but it’s a birth story with birth photos and descriptions of body parts.*

When I wrote the birth story of my firstborn, I had a reader comment, “You had a traumatic birth.” Other readers said the intensity of my story was just how they remembered their own labor.

I was surprised by the first observation.

I wrote the story of Jax’s birth the only way I could find to do so – from the inside not the outside. From the intense and insane thoughts that rattled my brain and body as I labored and delivered a 10 lb 4 oz firstborn at home without medication.

Photo of Jax’s Birth by Ann Marie Itschner
Photo of Jax’s birth by Ann Marie Itschner


My overriding thought during Jax’s labor was the sensation that I was dying. It wasn’t that I believed I was dying; I just had no other way to name the intensity of pain. Yet somehow, at the moment my brain was saying, “I’m dying”, another part was saying “Open. Open your body, swing your hips, open to let this baby come through.”


I don’t feel traumatized by Jax’s birth. In fact, the intensity I experienced is rather normal for first-time un-medicated births I’ve seen. Horribly painful and I won’t lie about it.

Yet conversely, intensely rewarding. I am SO proud of myself for delivering a 10 lb 4 oz firstborn baby at Home, without medication. I am SO proud that my body can do this. That most women can too.  I was SO happy to be at home, in my own safe element, surrounded by people I know and love. No one to take my baby away from me except my family. No one to do things to me without my consent. No arguing for my birth experience to be preserved. My own room, my own bed, my own peace.  And my son, born into this safe, peaceful place.


I’m a birth photographer. I’ve observed births of all kinds. Difficult natural births, and easy natural births.  Traumatic hospital births and healing hospital births.

I’ve seen many natural births (home or birth center) that were easy.  These moms made birth look like a walk in the park. Or a comedy show.

I’ve seen laboring mothers hiking stairs at 9 cm, making everyone in the room crack up at 10 cm, and making not a single sound of pain while laboring or pushing. I’ve seen babies born naturally and quickly – from first contraction to delivery in less than an hour – without medication or intervention.

I’ve seen mamas who make natural labor a comedy show with a dramatic happy ending.

While my experience with my first born – that of intense pain and a sensation of dying – is an experience many women share; so too is the peace and ease I’ve observed in many of my clients.

During my pregnancy with Noel (our womb-name for our second child), I kept my mind open about the delivery. And I prayed for it to be quicker and easier.

To summarize my labor and delivery with Jax, from a medical event perspective…..

– 10 hours of total labor, 8 hours of that was active (very painful) labor, 1 hour of that was pushing.
– Third degree tear to my perineum (not from his head but from his elbow when he pushed his arm out after his head emerged), which required a lot of stitches and a lengthy healing time.
– Hemorrhage that required IV fluids, methergine, and pitocin to stop the bleeding.
– Postpartum fainting.

This time I wanted to experience a shorter labor, no tearing, no hemorrhaging, and no fainting. I also hoped for a water birth.

…………………………….

My labor story with Noel began Monday evening. I attended a church class that met in our home, and left early. During the meeting, I could not get comfortable in any sitting position, and was antsy and anxious. I slept fine that night (as well as one sleeps at 39 weeks pregnant), and woke Tuesday morning, still uncomfortable all over. I did not consider I could be in labor, but hoped I didn’t have many days of pregnancy left.

I took a walk outside with Jax about 9:30 in the morning.  He rode his tricycle. The tightening sensation of the Braxton Hicks was still painless but seemed rather regular. Just for grins, I decided to track them in an iPhone app, during our walk. They were regular (every 3-5 minutes, and around 1 minute long), but didn’t hurt.  That timing was the same way I began labor with Jax, but it hurt almost right away.

We got back from the walk, and I continued pacing around the house.  Standing still was uncomfortable, even though I wasn’t in pain.  My mom kept telling me I was in labor. I kept saying I was antsy and uncomfortable, but couldn’t be in labor since it didn’t hurt.

At some point I called Benjamin to come home, because I was too agitated to take care of Jax.  I managed to bring all the birth supplies from storage in the closet, out into the birth room, and get Benjamin started on setting up the birth pool.  He and I took another walk, knowing by now, that today was indeed the day.




We called our midwife, Robin around 1:30 in the afternoon (oddly enough, we called her about 1:30 in the middle of the night last time!).  I had several dreams during my pregnancy that I had an easy birth with my baby, and it was so quick and easy that Robin missed it. I didn’t want that part of the dream to come true!

Robin and her assistant ShaeLynn arrived by 3:00 in the afternoon. She checked and I was already 6cm dilated! I couldn’t believe it. I was in pain at that point, but it was bearable. And I had my full presence of mind. I could talk between contractions. I could even talk during them, saying things like, “This sucks. Why does labor have to hurt so much?!”


As a photographer, I know we’re not at the end, until the mama stops talking, and has to fully concentrate. She zones out from the world, and enters a mental labor land. I knew I wasn’t there yet, and had time left. But I was relieved it was already SO much easier than last time. Last time I thought I was dying by 2cm, and this time, I was merely convinced “labor sucks” at 6cm.

By 4:00 pm I was in the birth pool. My mom coached me during contractions. She also read me amazing Scripture verses she had prepared for this moment.






Benjamin was in the water behind me, holding me up, just like last time. My sister Mercy arrived, and would intermittently coach me, or give me water or juice to drink.  They put a fan on my face because I was too hot in the water tub (just like last time).  At some point, I vomited (which I also did with Jax, but early in labor compared to late in labor this time). Eventually the second midwife, Julie, arrived, who I had not met before.





“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby, that He may remain with you forever.” John 14:16




“Don’t be afraid, he said, for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong! As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger.” Daniel 10:19

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

“The Lord said to him, Peace be to you, do not fear. You shall not die.” Judges 6:23




“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.” Isaiah 43:1-2

When she read that one, I immediately knew it had to do with my perineum, and crowning, and being able to pass through that “fire” without “burning” (tearing / damage to my perineum). I asked her to read to me a few more times and felt so much strength.




“There is nothing to fear, for I am with you. Do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes I will help you, yes I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand!” Isaiah 41:10





About 4:30pm, there was an unexpected knock on the door. It was my friend Elisha, who hopes to one day have kids and have natural births. She was picking up a bag of gluten-free flour she needed for a recipe.

She had tried to pick it up the day before, Monday. She called Monday afternoon, checking to be sure she could stop by to get it. I was napping, and had my phone turned off. I didn’t get her message until late that evening, and called to apologize. She laughed, “I figured you were in labor.” I laughed too. “No, no, not in labor; just napping. I’ll put it on the porch for you. Pick it tomorrow when you leave work.”

Now, here she was, arriving to pick it up, knocking on the door. And like she joked, I was in labor! In labor, in the main living area of the house. She opened the front door and unknowingly stepped into a delivery room!  I heard someone say she had come in, and laughed to myself.  During my pregnancy, I considered inviting her to the birth, but wasn’t sure if she would want to come.

Now she was here. And at 9cm, I still had the presence of mind to say to her, “Hey! I’m 9 centimeters! Wanna stay and watch a baby be born?!” She stayed.

Around that time, I began having a certain pressure behind my pubic bone. My midwife thought the pressure was the water bag, and the sensation was the baby rocking his head trying to break it. She said, “You can keep doing what you’re doing, and eventually it will break. Or I can break it, and this will be over pretty quickly.”  I waited a couple more contractions, then asked her to break it.

She says it broke with the slightest pressure of her finger. Then she grabbed the crown of Noel’s head,  gently pulling and tilting his head into proper position.

With my water broken, the full pressure of Noel’s head was against my cervix. The pain escalated, pushing me over the edge. I felt the sharp knife-stabbing my insides that I remembered making me scream with Jax, and I flopped around in the tub, trying to escape it.  I hit the intensity of the “I’m dying” wall.  At the same time, I knew I was SO close. It wouldn’t be very long like this.  Ten to twenty minutes passed, then I could feel my body instinctively begin pushing.

It’s one of the lovely things about natural labor, and out-of-hospital labor. You don’t have to wait for the doctor to show up in order to deliver the baby, and they don’t have to “verify” you are fully dilated before “allowing” you to push.  The midwife is always there. And she can tell by a mama’s labor progress and physical/vocal expressions, whether or not she is ready.  I had only two vaginal exams in Noel’s labor, and the last one had been less than an hour ago. When my body was ready, I didn’t need anyone’s permission, and I didn’t have to wait. I followed my body’s cues, pulled my knees up, and pushed.

To my midwife’s records, I pushed less than ten minutes.  To my memory, I pushed four contractions total.








I’m a highly sensitive person when it comes to my body, touch, smell, taste, and physical sensation / experience.  With each of my son’s births, there is a “defining moment” physically, that I can repeat in my memory. It is rich, beautiful, and raw.  I can recall that moment at any time, and enter it again in my mind. It is a sensation of my primal self if you will.

……….

With Jax, that moment was when his body slipped out of me. I couldn’t actually tell when he was crowning, or when his head emerged. I’ve heard crowning described as “the ring of fire”, and I didn’t experience it with Jax at all. His entire hour-long passage down my birth canal felt like tearing and burning, and it was not distinguishable from being inside, to being outside. I did however, feel a great sense of relief of pressure when his head emerged.  I paused, asking if he was okay, touching his head, waiting for another contraction to be able to push him out.  When it came, and his huge 10 lb 4 oz body slipped out, that was my most visceral sensation.  I felt as if I could feel every part of his little body – every shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, bony and bumpy and poking me, and yet slithering, slipping out of me.  I grabbed him under his armpits and tried to bring him up to me, but Robin stopped me. His cord was only long enough to lay him across my hip.

………..

With Tobi, pushing out his head was the most visceral sensation.  I felt the pressure as if needing to poop, and remembered that I needed to push “down”, just as if trying to poop.  His head quickly progressed under my pubic bone and into my birth canal, and it was such an intense pressure. I was thinking to myself in shock, it feels like I’m pooping a grapefruit. That is SO. MUCH. PRESSURE. Pooping grapefruit SUCKS.  I knew it was his head, but it was such a different sensation that Jax.  I REALLY wanted his head to get out fast, because I was not liking the feeling of his head pressing my bones and body apart.  It was maybe only one or two pushes with that intense grapefruit-in-my-bowels sensation, before he was crowning, and Robin told me to stop and blow, to avoid tearing.

She had been worried my whole pregnancy about me tearing again, especially since the old tear had formed some white scar tissue that wasn’t stretchy.  Benjamin worked on rubbing the scar tissue with some oil, in the weeks preceding the birth, and I’m sure that helped. Plus prayer. Always prayer.

I was glad for her alerting me that it was time to pause my powerful pushes, and wait…. I submissively blew short panting breaths, waiting, holding back, allowing my perinium to stretch slowly and gently over his head.  At the next contraction, I pushed again, and his head emerged.  Relief!

And again, the three minutes of eternity. Waiting.  Joyfully rubbing my sweet baby’s head, hoping he was okay under the water, even though I knew logically he was still getting oxygen from his cord inside me.  I knew how close I was.  I caressed and massaged his little soft head under the water, tickling his little ears and feeling his wispy hair under my finger tips. I felt happy and elated.


Then another contraction, and his body.  Robin was holding onto him, and it felt like she was twisting and yanking his body around to get him out. She tells me it was just the baby, moving and turning to emerge.

Then, he was out of the water. I grabbed onto him and pulled him up to my chest. I threw my head back in joyous relief, and held my baby.  One arm around his back, the other under his bum.

With my hand tucked under his bum, I touched his skin and felt that he was boy.

With a laugh, I yelled loudly, “IT HAS BALLS!!!!!”

Later, watching the video, I nearly crawled into a hole when I watched that part.  It’s not like me to yell. Or be crude. Or refer to body parts by slang instead of correct terminology.

But labor removes your inhibitions, sort of like being drunk, and there I was, yelling to the room, “It has balls!”














With Jax, I tried to keep an open mind about our baby’s gender, but this time, I couldn’t help hoping for a boy.  Jax has been such a delight, and we both felt he would love having a brother to play in the dirt, and drive toy cars, and tractors and bulldozers. Not that a girl can’t do those things.  I was so happy he was a boy, just like I was happy with Jax.

Tobi Mitchell was his name. We announced it.  Tobi with an “I.”

I yelled, someone get Jax back in here!  My dad had been watching Jax. They had come in the room minutes before when I was pushing, and Jax asked to go back out of the room. I was making too much noise and it frightened him (he was almost three years old).  My dad and Jax came back in, and I breathlessly told him a baby brother was born, Tobi. Noel was his name before, but now that he was born, and he was a boy, his name would be Tobi.

Tobi was born at 5:51 pm.

If I count from my walk that morning with Jax, I was in labor eight hours.  But if I count active labor from when Robin arrived, I was in active labor around three hours. And pushed for less than ten minutes.

The news got better. I had a day time labor. I had water birth! I didn’t hemmorhage. I didn’t tear!!!!!

My mom said it was the most peaceful labor she had ever seen. I was thrilled with how easy it was compared to Jax.  It had only been intense for around thirty minutes or so.

I was also thrilled that Tobi came at 39 weeks (Jax was 40 weeks), and was born in November.  We had called him Noel since his due date was early December but I really wanted a November birthday for my baby.  And here he was.  Two days before Thanskgiving.

We had two birth photographers on-call for us, friends who were willing to shoot for me at a reduced rate.  We called both of them earlier in the day, and it was a toss up for a while, who would come.  Finally Monica was the one. And oddly enough, her family was celebrating Thanksgiving on that day! Even though Thanksgiving wasn’t until Thursday, they were celebrating on Tuesday. She put the turkey in the oven, and drove to my house. What a special friend.


Just the right day at just the right time. He was born on November 25, the same day of the month as Christmas, just one month earlier!















Oh to hold my sweet son after just a few short hours of intensity!
Oh to have two boys!

To not be pregnant any longer when I had been so uncomfortable the past few days and weeks. To have a November baby!

To deliver him in the water in front of the Christmas tree.

To have my family and friends surrounding me!

It was everything I wished and prayed for. I clung to this tiny little one, rubbing his back to help the oxygen flow into his lungs, caressing his body still smooth and slippery from vernix (which Jax hysterically calls vinegar).


And oh to have childREN not only a child.  In that moment, the world was perfect and I would not change a thing. 

My sister Mercy, who is in nursing school, cut the cord and got to hold Tobi.  Benjamin held Tobi, and Jax got to check him out.  Our friend Tina arrived, just minutes late. Maybe we will remember to call her in time to see the birth of baby #3!

In the meantime, I delivered the placenta, and got out of the tub feeling like a million dollars.  I requested a bag of IV fluids, to prevent dehydration and fainting – just in case.  After the IV bag was finished, I felt even better.  Robin checked me to be sure I didn’t need stitches, and I didn’t!  Our friend Tina showed up.  Benjamin called his mom and insisted I say hello on Facetime. I love my mother in law so much, but was not up for talking right then ha!

Then, I WALKED back to my room. After Jax was born, I was hemmorhaging and fainting, and Benjamin carried me to my bed. This time I walked all the way across the house on my own two feet. I was sore, but I felt amazing.

One of the things I love about having a birth photographer, is they capture things 1) that I would have otherwise forgotten and 2) that I didn’t even see happening – like Mercy, Jax, and Tobi hanging out in the other room with new toys my parents bought for Jax.






























Tobi weighed in at 9 lb 8 oz, and 21 inches long.  Just shy of Jax’s 10 lb 4 oz and 22 inches, but also a week shy of Jax’s gestational age.

My sister Mercy is studying to become a nurse. She’s also been married a bit over a year, and is eagerly anticipating the day when she and her husband can start their own family. Between those two things, she wanted to help out with Tobi and snatch him up any chance she could.  She was a huge help.






By this point, it was nearing Jax’s bedtime. Someone gave him a bath. He started getting cranky. But he did so well. He was sweet as could be with his new brother. He gave him lots of kisses, and checked out Tobi’s latch.  Jax was still nursing about three times a day when Tobi was born, so they were going to have to learn to share. We had talked about it while I was pregnant. I was so proud of Jax, watching him transition to a big brother.




I love this sequence of the four of us.  It reminds me of so much of what I love about home birth.  Peace. Family. Rest. Cuddles. Security. Safety. Usually at this point in the hospital, the baby is taken away to the nursery for several hours.








There’s also something special about the relationship with a midwife.  By the end of one pregnancy, you feel close to them.  By the end of the second, she feels sort of like a second mom.  Robin’s expertise makes me comfortable to do this huge life work at home.  She is wise, educated, calm, and knows which calculated risks are safe, and which ones not to take.  She knows what to watch for to signal a crisis, and can act promptly and calmly in any scenario. She handled the complications after Jax’s birth with great skill.  I can trust her to take care of me and my babies, and that is such a peaceful feeling.










Our lovely birth photographer Monica went home to eat some cold Thanksgiving dinner!  My sister Mercy took the rest of these photos with my camera.











I am special. I was born at home!

Jax’s birth was not traumatic for me, but it was physically painful and mentally difficult.  It never occurred to me during his labor to ask for drugs, or to ask to go to the hospital.  It wasn’t an option on my radar, and it somehow never crossed my mind.  I do recall wishing there was a labor “light switch” so I could just switch off the pain for a while. I just wanted a break, for a few minutes, or hours, then I would be ready to finish up again later.

Tobi’s birth was everything I could ask for. All the people I wanted to be there were there, except my sisters who live out of town.  He was born in the water, in front of the Christmas tree. I didn’t hemmorhage, or tear, or faint. His labor was so easy and so much less painful.

I look back on his labor and delivery with great joy. I can almost laugh inside with the exuberance of how perfect it was. I can recall that it was horribly painful, but it was such a short time, less than thirty minutes, and by that point in my labor, I knew exactly where I was, recognized the sensations, and knew the crazy pain would be over soon.

I got the boy number two I had been hoping for. I held him in my arms, on my chest, and never wanted that moment to end. So much relief. So much joy.

The hormones that create labor also flush the mother’s body with ecstasy when she meets her baby – it is an emotional experience of freedom and delight comparable to none other.

I feel blessed. So blessed, to have this kind of amazing birth.

There were so many prayers for all of this. When Tobi was 36 weeks and still feet first (not a safe position for vaginal birth), I was nearly in a panic. I wrote this post, where I had to surrender my hopes and dreams for his birth.

I had laid my hands on my belly, and spoken to him in a rather firm voice, “Noel, this is your Mommy talking to you. We love you. The world is a safe place. It’s okay for you to come when you’re ready. The Bible says children are to honor their parents. This is your Mommy talking to you, and I’m telling you to turn around. Put your head down where it belongs, and stay there.”  Days later, at a 37-week sonogram, he was head down, and stayed there, and delivered that way.

After this emotional journey of surrender, I was given the greatest gift – to have the birth I dreamed about, the son I dreamed about…..  What joy. Thank you Jesus.

Eleven

A few weeks ago, I was tidying the living room while Benjamin was in our bedroom folding laundry. We heard a loud “pop!” I thought, “what is he doing in there?” He came out and said, “You’re going to wake the baby!” Once we realized neither of us made the noise, we started looking around the room. He smelled electrical burning and began digging around the computer desk. I noticed my computer was turned off.

Even though it was nearly midnight, Benjamin opened up my computer, diagnosed a power supply failure, and took the time to order a new one before he hit the sack next to his already sleeping wife.
While he worked on the problem, he called out to me, “That’s why you love me “
Yes, it absolutely is one of the reasons why I love you.
When I was a junior in college, I was thick in an all-consuming media institute as part of my undergraduate degree. I did a few free or cheap video projects for friends, as part of my learning journey. One was for a part-time student / part-time missionary. He was a student at Oral Roberts university, where I attended, but was older than your typical undergrad. I was helping him edit a short promotional video to help with fundraising efforts.
He brought me several video tapes and explained how he wanted clips assembled. I did the work, and played it back for him to approve or tweak.
All my good friends at college knew expressly that I wasn’t planning to date during undergrad, or knew implicitly that I had the “do not date me” vibe. (Or so I wa told by a close guy friend).
Resulting from my express or implicit do-not-date demeanor, I didn’t get asked out in college. My opinion at the time was that I was “never” asked out. Looking back, I can see that several awkward friendship outings were probably pseudo dates lacking the verbal communication (on the part of the guy) that this was in fact a “date”, (which is what a girl wants to hear).
On this occasion, it was more than awkwardly obvious.
He and I were in the public computer lab where I spent nearly my entire waking life that year. A few other media students were in the room, quietly working on projects.
I was trying to be my best professional college self, looking mostly at my screen while we discussed the project. He, on the other hand, was staring a bit guy creepily at me instead.
“Have you ever considered getting married?” He asks out of the blue.
Um, wow. Silence.
“Yes, I imagine I will get married at some point, probably not during college as I would like to finish my degree first.” 
HINT. Not so subtle HINT.
“Well, have you ever considered marrying a pastor or missionary?”
Increasingly awkward. 
I had spoken with this guy on two ocassions for a total of twenty minutes probably. Which means all I’ve got going for me is my looks and the fact that I could be his wife slash free video editor. Given that my looks are moderate, I’m going with the latter being the greater attraction.
More bluntly this time, I responded with, “No, I haven’t. Probably I need to marry a computer technician who can keep my computer running while I work on video projects.” Then I turned my face to the computer and made the rest of the conversation as brief as possible.
Little did I know that the computer technician who kept our entire lab of media computers running that year, would be my future husband. It was one of those things you say rather flippantly, with no idea what is in store.
Eleven years of marriage later, my computer technician is still fixing my PC and my heart. Love you, Benjamin. Looking forward to the next eleven.

Nana Rose and the Zoo

This summer, Benjamin’s mom, Rose, visited us, especially to spend time with her grandson.  It’s the second time she’s been out to Texas since his birth.  The first time, he was just six weeks old.  Suffice to say that he has changed a lot since then!  We also visited Benjamin’s family this Christmas, so almost everyone on his side got to meet Jax.

If I had been deciding on a husband without ever meeting him, making my decision solely on how fabulous his mother was, I couldn’t have it better than I do with Rose as my mother-in-law.  She loves Jesus, she bubbles with joy, she adores me and Jax (well, who wouldn’t hehe), and we have great conversations about everything from cooking to natural health to faith.

I have been thrilled each time she has come out to spend a week with us.  We’re still getting along splendidly by the end of the week and are eager to have her back anytime (as anyone who has relatives can attest, the same cannot be said for many family members when you live in the same home with them for a few days, wither immediate family or extended!).

She taught Jax the sweetest little ditty, “Thank you Jesus for _____ and ______, Thank you Jesus for Jax!”  The fill-in-the-blanks might be any random thing we were enjoying at the moment, like the sun, Mommy, food, etc.  He would laugh EVERY time when she finished singing it.  Perhaps it was hearing his name in song, perhaps it was her joyful giggle when she would sing, but he loved it.  Periodically I remember to sing it to him, and he still loves it.

The San Antonio Zoo has this hysterical underwater aquarium exhibit where you walk in admiring this massive wall of colorful fish against a rocky background.  Then after a few minutes, your brain says, Hey those rocks have tails!  Hey! I’m looking at hippo butts!  And chuckles erupt around the room.

I’m unsure why Jax likes alligator/crocodiles so much.  Perhaps it is the little game I’ve played with him making a chomping sound with my mouth while opening and closing my hands like a crocodile mouth, tickling parts of his body when my hand “chomps” down on him.  He calls it “a-gih-day-dor.”

Just a really wacky looking bird.  God is so creative, and clearly has a sense of humor.

These giant birds (cranes perhaps?) were standing up high and one held his wings over everything like he was supervising or preparing to pass a judgement.

One of Jax’s words that sounds French, “eh-too-want.”  The other is trampoline, “eh-too-een.”

I didn’t get a photo, but there was a tiny baby monkey hanging onto a mama monkey in one of the monkey exhibits.  The next time we went to the zoo, it was a bit bigger, but the daddy monkey was break dancing for about fifteen minutes.  I wish I had taken a video, but I was afraid my phone might frighten him away.  He was leaping and rolling and seriously looked like he was break dancing.  It was unbelievably hysterical.

On a subsequent trip to the zoo, the mama tiger spent fifteen minutes ROARING at her baby tigers.  It seemed that she was trying to get one of them to obey her and follow her to a small landing area, but it was busy playing with a pumpkin, and clearly ignoring her cries.  Once again, comical.  Parent-child troubles occur in nature too.  Ah, such is life.

The zoo has a wonderful little play area for kids with lawn mowers on a grassy slope, and a shallow “river” type area where they can wade or splash in the water.  I could see coming during the summer just to play here with a toddler.  We may get season passes to the zoo this year; Jax loves all the animals so much.

| Filed under animals, stories of my life

Sometimes You Can’t Choose Just One

This is my Mommy and my Tita.  Two incredibly special women who spent a lifetime laboring over tender spirits.  These photos were a surprise opportunity when I dragged Jax and all his Grandmas outside to photograph them together while Nana Rose was visiting this summer.

I couldn’t choose just one or two. In fact, I didn’t delete any of the images I captured of these two together.  The years have been long together but what remains is shorter still.  This is how they look, with joy shining through their faces, and the wrinkles and smiles telling the story of toil and tears and love overcoming it all.

Their expressions aren’t perfect ones, but they are the ones their loved ones see in them every day.  The yearning gazes, the happy crinkly laughter, the gentle caressing kiss.  When I look at these photos, they show me the true spirit of these women that is as visible to those who know them as the sparkle in their eyes.  I don’t want to brush away a single crease because we put them there – us their children and grandchildren and  great-grandchildren and loves – and time tells a story too deep for words.

| Filed under stories of my life, tita

My (Current Obsession) Confession

So…… I apparently have an issue with small obsessions.  I get obsessed learning about something new, and pour myself into it. Sometimes it’s a hobby (photography).  Sometimes a subject (home birth). Sometimes a creative project (photo blogging my pregnancy with Jax).  Sometimes it’s free (cooking, well besides the cost of food).  Sometimes it’s expensive (Crocs shoes).

I get attached to whatever my newest thing is, go crazy about it for a few months, and move on to the next obsession.

My confession is that the current obsession is baby carriers, and they can be expensive.  I’ve been buying.  And selling.  And trading.  I’m at a point where the energy of the obsession is dying down.  So now I’m mainly selling off things I bought that aren’t working for me.  And trying not to buy anything new.

I haven’t wanted to talk about this on my blog, because I know some people will criticize or judge me for spending so much money.  Or wearing my toddler instead of letting him walk.  Or whatever.  Everyone has hobbies.  Everyone has their areas of weakness for spending money.  The good news is so far I’ve been able to sell what I’ve purchased for within $10 or so or what I paid for it.  That’s not much of a loss for a hobby.

When I prepare to sell a carrier, I do so with a mix of my other hobbies / obsessions: fashion and photography.

I take photos with my super awesome camera (on tripod, using remote).  I have two remotes now, because Jax always wants to hold one.  He says, “Thank you,” when he wants something.  His, “Thank you” means, “I want to have that right now.”  When I’m holding the remote and taking photos, he says, “Ish ooh! Ish ooh! Ish ooh!” over and over like a broken record until I hand him the remote. So now we have two remotes. One for me; one for Jax.

When we take the photos of the baby carrier I’m selling, I dress Jax and I up in matching outfits, that also coordinate with the colors of the baby carrier or wrap.  I fix my face and my hair, because if we’ve learned anything from the billboards and magazine covers, it’s that looking good sells stuff.

So then, I have this baby carrier I’m trying to sell. And I have gorgeous photos of me and my adorable son wearing said baby carrier.  And then I don’t want to sell it, because we look so good in it.  But I do sell it, because I can’t keep them all, and I’ve determined not to be the person who owns 200 wraps (believe me, they are out there, and I’m not judging, I’m just saying).

I’ve talked with Benjamin about this new obsession, and I described it this way.

It’s like you’ve never worn shoes in your entire life.  You’re a grown adult, never worn shoes.  Someone takes pity on you, and gives you a pair of sneakers.  Walmart brand, white sneakers.  You are amazed.  Your feet don’t burn when it’s 100 degrees outside in Texas and the asphalt is radiating like an electric stove top.  You can walk through burrs and drought-dried grass without being stabbed.  It is heaven.  You wear your sneakers everywhere.

You are allowed into places were previously you were banned by the “no shirt no shoes no service” rule.  And when you go to those places, you see other people.  Other people wearing shoes.  And you realize, wow, there are so many different shoes out there!  I had no idea!

So you save up your pennies and buy a pair of flip flops. The cheap plastic ones from Old Navy.  And you are amazed.  Your feet, no longer sweaty and sticky!  Supported but not suffocated.  It is heaven.

This journey continues, slowly, as you eagerly investigate the world of shoes.  Soon you discover water shoes for wading in Texas streams, high heels for fancy events, and simple flats for church.  The world slowly unfolds into brands, prices, fabrics, textures, and colors.

So can you own just one pair of shoes?  How about two?  How about ten?  At what point do you own a sufficient variety of shoes to adequately cover the gamut of life events, weather demands, and outfit coordination needs?  Were you better off with bare feet?  Were you better off before you discovered shoes existed?

So here I am.

I started my baby wearing journey sixteen months ago with a grey Moby Wrap and an ErgoBaby soft structured carrier in galaxy grey.

I haven’t counted how many carriers I own at the moment.  It’s less than 20.  They’re not all staying here.  Many are going back out and three are currently up for sale.

But I’m going to share them here.  Judge if you must.  But I hope you won’t throw the first stone unless you’ve never had some kind of obsession either.  And if you haven’t ever had an obsession, well, I hope one day you do.  They’re fun.

I will share carriers I’m selling, and what I thought of them.  I will share carriers I own, and why I love them.  I will share the photos we take, and I will take photos of the ones I’m keeping and not just the ones I’m selling.

It’s my current obsession, so I can stay silent, or I can share.

My next obsession needs to be free.  Any ideas?

Oh, and I would be so so happy if I could somehow get more people into baby wearing.  Not to spend money on wraps, but to have babies close and cuddly.  But my theories about baby wearing are for another post.

Some Things Explained

I used to blog daily during Jax’s morning nap (60-90 minutes) or afternoon nap (30-60 minutes).  He now takes one thirty-minute nap per day.  During that time, I’m like a crazy person, trying to tidy the house, put away laundry, pay bills online, edit client photos, and whatever other things I need to do that are difficult to do when he’s awake.  He hates it when I’m on the computer, and will give me 10 minutes max to be sitting at the computer when he’s awake, before he comes over to me and begs to be held.  So my only computer time is after he goes to bed at night – about 60-90 minutes daily, before I have to go to bed.  During that time, I have to pay online bills, respond to emails, edit client photos, edit personal photos, handle business paperwork, online shopping for things we need, and more.  I’ve had to abandon outfit photo blogging, because there are just isn’t time to fit it all in without cutting into my own sleep.

I’m spending less time on the computer, and more time with Jax during the day.  We do a lot of playing outdoors, since it’s still nice out (not too hot yet).  We play inside too.  I cook, and clean, with him awake as well.  We run errands, visit Tita, read books, etc.  

I got several colored skinny jeggings with birthday cash, and have been wearing them almost daily.   But since I haven’t been blogging outfit photos, I haven’t shared my new summer clothes.  Every once in a while though, I’m taking outfit photos anyway, so they’re now sitting in my pile of photos to edit and blog.  We wore this outfit on March 1st.

These jeggings are a pale aqua, almost a minty color.  I was surprised to see how much of my wardrobe they go with.  They are $10 at Walmart, if they still have any in stock.

Oh, and the only reason I’m blogging this post right now, is because my mom took Jax to run errands this morning.  I’ve been baby-free for a couple hours now.  The house is tidy, the laundry is started, I’m caught up on client photos, and I handled several important phone calls. 

Now I’m sticking up one blog post before working on the sermon I’m preaching at church on Sunday.

It’s called A Life Free from Worry.

They asked me to do it because I’m such an expert on worrying.

I meant to say, I’m at expert at worrying. 

It’s a sermon solely aimed at preaching to myself, about one of my greatest personal weaknesses.  Hopefully the Lord will give me something inspiring to say other than I KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO WORRY ALL THE TIME AND NOT BE ABLE TO STOP WORRYING AND THEN WORRY EVEN MORE BECAUSE YOU’RE WORRYING SO MUCH.

| Filed under fashion, stories of my life

Tower of Americas San Antonio

 

My mom bought Jax this tuxedo for Christmas.  My sister had purchased tuxedos and fancy dresses for all the other cousins, and they were supposed to wear them in a photo.  The photo never happened.  In fact, they never even wore their fancy outfits.

I wanted Jax to wear this suit at least once before he grew out of it.  And we had a groupon to the Tower of Americas.  So we got dressed up and went.  It might have been our best family outing day in existence.  All three of us had a blast, and it was just as fun and special as I might have hoped.  More so in fact.

We arrived early with enough soft light for portraits on the beautiful grounds.  Jax, always the inquisitive explorer, made the rounds checking out the fountains, steps, and pools of water.

 

 

We went on a Tuesday night, and were lucky to run into free parking at UTSA downtown.  It’s free on Tuesday nights.

I’ve been up in the tower once before, but I had no memory of how insanely windy it is.  The windows go up high enough for safety, but are open above that.  We have other more perfect looking photos, but the wind-blown crazy ones are my favorite.

 

 

Just like we accidentally chose free parking Tuesdays, we accidentally chose the right time of day to visit.  It was perfect daylight when we arrived, and while we walked around the observation deck, it slowly transitioned through sunset to complete dark.  The city softened, then sparkled as we watched.  We couldn’t have accidentally planned it better.

| Filed under jax reilly, stories of my life