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Tuesday, November 5

Our Wonderful Samhain

Pumpkin carving was an adventure this year.  This was Baby E's first time and Papa J was her pumpkin-day buddy.


 The cold gooey insides did not entice her, but Daddy helped her out and carved a wide grin with 2 little teeth, one for each tooth Baby E had gotten this month.


Doodle Bug did his own thing this year and ended up with a crazy one-eyed monster pumpkin.



Trick or Treating in northwestern Pennsylvania is always a gamble.  Without fail, it has either snowed, sleeted, or been below freezing on October 31st for the past six years.  Because of this, we usually divvy trick-or-treat up between a few local events at nursing homes and shopping centers.  It makes those expensive costumes worth it (instead of 1 night, we get 3-4 nights use) and there are usually activities offered.

Doodle Bug chose to be Dracula after being super-hooked on the movie Hotel Transylvania this month.  We didn't want to burden Baby E with too much, so we got her a "my first halloween" onsie and wrapped her stroller in spider webs and glowsticks.




Doodle Bug's interest in ritual continues.  This year, we participated in a neighborhood ritual wherein we wrote letters to our beloved dead and burned them in a balefire to send to the spirit world.

Unfortunately, just prior to the ritual, Doodle Bug suffered a painful loss.  A neighbor knocked on the door to see if we were missing any Skylanders.  She had found some remnants in the parking lot.  Sadly, it was Chop-Chop.




He was Doodle Bug's favorite character.  :(

We shed a few tears and then had a long talk about being responsible with our toys so that the rest of our Skylanders would feel safe.

During the Fire Mail ritual, he drew a happy picture for Chop-Chop and a few pets he's lost over the years.  We all threw our letters into fire and then had a candle-lit procession towards the community hall for an Ancestor's Dinner.

I used to like the traditional Dumb Supper, but seeing as how the Dumb Supper is usually a silent experience and my family and quiet don't often coexist, we renamed the experience the "Ancestor's Dinner".

We dress up a little.  We cook a fancy dinner.  We light candles and dress the table with photos of the dead.  We gather, we tell stories, we cry a little and laugh a lot.




I think that sums up the growing sphere of traditions for Samhain In the House of Mama Stacey.  We often throw a massive Halloween party as well, but this year we were unable to rent a space and with all the hectic family stuff going on, we decided against it.  Perhaps next year :)

Friday, November 1

Are you waiting?

I met another woman the other day who practiced her Paganism "in the closet".  She insisted that she is still going to pass it on to her child, but wants to wait until they are old enough to understand. 

I hate this.



Wednesday, October 30

Starting Genealogy - My October Project

Not to get into too many details, but cancer sucks.  It has stabbed at our family over this past year.  As my grandmother lay in her bed, a priest came to visit her from the nearby Catholic church.  He administered last rites and gave her communion, which she mustered all her strength to partake in.  I could see her spirit lighten.



As I sat beside her and visited with her children for a few days, I realized that I have so many questions for her.  I wanted to hear the story of how she met my grandfather.  I wanted her to tell me about the neighborhood she grew up in.  I wanted to know about my grandfather (who passed when I was only 2 years old) and his time in the service. 

My eldest aunt was rumored to have been a bit of a genealogist, but she had only done our current family (which I admit is extensive).  I asked around and found a copy of my great-grandfather's journal.  He had, at 83 years old, sat at a typewriter and wrote until he couldn't remember anymore.  Out of curiosity, I Googled the oldest relative that he had recorded in his journal and struck gold. Harvard Press had, in 1905, published a book all about the history of my family name.



The best part was that it was available as a free E-book.  Papa J loaded it on my Nook and I have been pouring over it.  I signed up with MyHeritage.com and started etching out as much information as I could piece together from it in collaboration with my great-grandfather's journal. 

Friday, I am taking Papa J's grandmother and grandfather out to dinner and to talk about their family tree.  I was brainstorming about how to get as much quality information as possible, when I came across a suggested questionnaire online.  More than simply tracing names, it suggests asking the family member you're interviewing about things like childhood chores, where they went to school, how they celebrated the holidays, etc.  The list is transcribed from V. Allee's 1978 article (in Family Heritage Magazine), "A Family History Questionaire" and can be found HERE.

Some Sample Questions...


I am truly looking forward to the dinner and a chance to sit with Papa J's grandmother and talk about her past.  Even more so, I'm eager to sit with her on the kitchen floor, doing shots of vodka and looking through photo albums.  That day will soon come.  


Tuesday, October 29

Hunting for Witches in your Family Tree

For the month of October, Mama Stacey has been working on genealogy.  Prompted by family deaths and illnesses this year, I began to research my grandmother's family.  Turns out that they're pretty prominent throughout European history and I am happy that I will get to share my findings with my children one day.

I have traced myself back to a man named Matthias Button, who was embroiled in one of the earliest witch trials in America.  He was a witness against a vagrant named John Godfrey, who was tried several times for witchcraft in Massachusetts.  Godfrey later took vengeance on my ancestor by burning down his home and killing his wife.

Pentucket, later Haverhill


When I retold the story to Papa J, he encouraged me to research his Italian grandfather's family line as he was fairly certain that he'd heard rumors of Romani blood in his family when he was younger.  I am looking forward to meeting with his grandmother later this week to look through photos and try to get as much information as I can from her.  

In the American version of the popular British television show, "Who Do You Think You Are?", Sarah Jessica Parker discovered that her ancestor had been accused of witchcraft, but thankfully released before being executed.


Have you ever delved into your ancestry?  Has it ever crossed your mind that you may be descendant from someone accused of witchcraft?  Millions around the globe were from the late 1500s into the early 1900s.  Of course their were infamous surges, the Salem Witch Trials here in America and the Trier Witch Trials in Germany, amongst others.  Records were kept and many of them are searchable. 

If you are curious, American Ancestors has an article which lists web and real-world resources for your to peruse.  Hunting for Salem "Witches" in Your Family Tree, by Maureen Taylor.

http://www.americanancestors.org/hunting-for-salem-witches-in-your-family-tree/
Here is a collection of links to resources, should you want to take a peek.  These links are gathered with the help of About.com and Google.

Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive & Transcription Project - Scanned and transcribed documents from the trials, historical maps of Salem, transcribed diaries, etc.  It has a list of accusations and profiles of notable people during the hysteria. 

Witches in Colonial America - An article put out by ProGenealogists of Ancestry.com.  This lists all of the names of accused witches in New England and documented outcomes.  

Genealogy of Witch Trial Ancestors & Families - Hosted by RootsWeb/Ancestry.com, this offers the genealogy of several accused witches in Massachusetts, USA.  

Essex Witch Trials - Trials listed by name.  This site also includes a collection of documented confessions and court documents.  British.

The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft - Here you will find a database of the nearly 4,000 people accused of witchcraft along with a 'further reading' section.


Witches & Witch Trials in Ireland - A small compilation of accused witches in Ireland.  There are not many entries as of 2013, but research continues.


Happy hunting!!!

Thursday, October 10

All Natural Parenting 6 Month Check-In

When I found out I was pregnant last year, I went on a naturalistic rampage.  I researched cloth diapers and homemade diaper rash creams and read everything I could about breastfeeding.  I was anti-vax and pro-attachment, anti-sugar and pro-SAHM.  I memorized milestone and developmental timelines.  I was determined to "fix" everything I'd done "wrong" with Doodle Bug ten years earlier.

Now that Baby E is 6 months old, I am out of crazy mode.  Things I have come to know are that loving your children and letting them be are what winning parents do.



Diapers


Well, we tried using Kushies all-in-one cloth diapers.  I couldn't wait to use them, however it proved difficult.  At first Baby E was way too small for the newborn size and the waterproof covers did not provide any give for her umbilical stump.  By the time Baby E grew long enough that the newborn diapers didn't reach all the way to her armpits (!), they no longer fit around her waist.  We said goodbye to $100 worth of unused diapers and graduated to the infant size.  These worked for a few weeks, but the heat of summer made them miserable to wear.  Baby E would sweat and dampen the cloth.  The cover acted like an incubator and her skin would flush.  I had to start using coconut oil a lot.  Sweat also made it difficult to tell if she was urinating enough or just sweating a lot.  On super hot days, or days when I was traveling a lot, I began using disposables. 

Honestly, by the end of July we said goodbye to cloth all together and began buying disposable.  While the environment may not be happy with me, our wallet was.  Cloth had cost us $100 for 10 newborn size and $150 for 15 infant size on top of $3 per day to wash and the cost of liners, wetbags, special detergent and shipping.  Pampers have more sizes, don't require me to haul a wetbag around with me all day and at $35 box lasts us a loooong time.  Our initial investment in cloth was over $400 and only made it 4 months.  We have only spent $70 for 3 months of disposables and there is no more need for ointment/oil.

We can now travel and do whatever and know that leaks and wet rotting diapers are not a worry. 


Picnicing in an RV park with her great-grandparents.

Vaccinations


This is a decision every parent has to make for themselves.  I researched pros and cons and dangers and in the end, some of the major anti-vax concerns didn't hold water for me.  Even with Doodle Bug being a special needs child who had received vaccinations, we chose to selectively vax.

Nothing to do with vaxing... just Baby E out to dinner for her 6 month "birthday".

Sleep


I really wanted to make use of the handmade, antique cradle that Papa J's grandparents gave us.  We rearranged the bedroom to fit the thing.  Will the baby sleep in it?  Only for a rare nap.  Even though Papa J had co-sleeping concerns, he eventually caved after many screaming sleepless nights.  Baby E is happiest and sleeps the best when she is snuggled into her little spot at the head of the bed, solidly between her parents.  She rolls over to nurse when she needs it and rolls onto her back to sleep.  She gets 8-10 hours each night and is in good spirits during the day because of it.


 Food

I swore that this time I was dedicated to all natural, vegetarian, organic, dye-free, no white sugar "stuff".  I was also pretty sure I was going to gung-ho breastfeed and not even bother with food until her first birthday.   Articles about allergies and gluten haunted me.

This was about the time I started to realize all those comics that joke about how relaxed a parent gets the second time around were spot on.  At three weeks I dipped Baby E's pacifier into Reddi-Whip and gave it to her.  She has tried waffles, fruit (through a mesh bag), spaghetti and even a touch of ice cream on one crazy hot day.  We did purees for a bit, but after some research into baby-led weaning, I just let her gum on whatever I'm having.  She shares a wedge of creamcheese slathered onion bagel in the mornings and plays with rice at night.  She still breastfeeds for all of her meals, even after plowing through a handful of spaghetti.

We introduced spaghetti at Mabon.
 Breast Feeding

I had awesome visions of breastfeeding at night and pumping so that either of us could feed her during the day.  I saw myself going out to shop or hang with my girlfriends while Papa J cuddled Baby E and fed her from a bottle.  We bought a pretty pump and special bottles that mimic the shape of my breast/nipple. 

Pffft!  This little girl loves boobies.  She has been a breastfeeding champ since day one.  She is a happy, chubby boobie baby... so much so that we can't get her to take a bottle at all.  I pumped in the beginning and still have about a 3 day supply of frozen milk, but I don't even bother anymore.

Also, my friends had been very supportive of my desire to breastfeed and bought or made me nursing covers.  I used them for about 10 days and then said "the heck with it!".  If you're around a nursing mother and her infant, you may just see some boob every now and then.  The only time I ever really felt self-conscious was trying to nurse Baby E in the middle of a carnival while sitting under a tree, surrounded by college kids.  At that point, I'm not even sure it was the breast feeding that bothered me, but the idea that someone may see my stomach (as a goddess-sized woman, this has been a bother for me since highschool).  Other than that moment, my worries about being 'seen' are far behind me. 

Not to mention, it's kind of addicting.  It's easy, it's free, it's good for me, it's good for her and she LOVES it.  She gets silly with it and adorable with it.

Baby E having a morning nip.  She is no longer happy to lay beside me.  She climbs right on up.


Development


I worried the first time the doctor asked if Baby E was rolling yet and I had to say "No."  A friend of ours had a baby just 3months prior and it is soooo hard to not compare children.  It is sooooo tempting.  But, after one momentary freakout (afterall, I already have one child that didn't keep up and was eventually found to be autistic and mentally retarded), I put all my books away and unsubscribed from my weekly email checklists.  EVERY baby is unique and I am dedicated to letting Baby E be her own person without pressures.  I think that starts now.

To this day, Baby E hates tummy time and only rolls over if it's absolutely needed... but she sits on her own, is army crawling, babbles, tracks well and is, above all, happy.



Having a baby 10 years after my first little bundle is really like starting all over again.  I didn't have anything left from Doodle Bug's baby days save for his sling (which a decade of wine and chocolate left me unable to fit anymore).  But, once you're a parent, those skills never really go away.  Papa J was trying to dress her the day we brought her home and couldn't figure out how to get her onsie on.  He looked at me and I sat down beside him.  Out of the blue, the ghost of a memory surfaced and I remembered how to do it.

The gift that this last 6 months has given me, other than a beautiful baby and an appreciation for my adorable family, is the realization that I didn't do half bad as a single mom raising a special needs boy.  There was nothing to 'fix' in my parenting.  I did nothing 'wrong'.  That peace of mind is nice to have.  

Being "mommy" to a tiny baby again is just terrific.  I'm still not sure if I want another one, as my pregnancy and the delivery were just miserable (STILL not fully healed!) but I'm a lot more open to the idea than I was in week one.  :)

Baby E rockin' out.  LOVE the hair.

Tuesday, September 24

Our Mabon Tradition

This was the eighth year that we packed up and headed for a tiny cabin along a skinny creek, surrounded by hemlocks and sassafras trees, for Mabon weekend.  I brought along our "Beware of Witches" sign, just for kicks.



We began with a small Harvest Moon ritual on Thursday night.  This was exciting for me because this was the first time Doodle Bug voiced a desire to officially take up a role in ritual.  I helped him to call upon quarters and salted the circle.  Afterwards, he eagerly awaited a chance to do it again for our sabbat ritual on Saturday.



We chose to create commemorative t-shirts this year.  We began by taking a nature walk to collect things we wanted to stamp onto our shirts.  I chose sassafras leaves and some local apples.  Doodle Bug chose a large long leaf from a wild plant and a rock.  The rock print didn't turn out the best, but he knows what it's from and he's happy with it.




We stuffed garbage bags into our shirts so that the paint wouldn't bleed through.  We used acrylic paints because that's what we had and we know from experience that it really doesn't wash out :)

Apples are a main feature of Mabon for us, so we made sure to include apple prints.  We sliced them along the core to get the traditional "apple" image, but also sliced across the core to get the hidden witchy star to show through.



We ended up enhancing the star with a dark color.



We then added "Mabon 2013" to our shirts.



On Baby E's I added stamped swirls from the end of a cinnamon stick.  They turned out really well.



I also had both of the kids put a hand print on mine, and let me tell you, getting a 5 month old baby to cooperate with that was quite a task.



The power went out for about 6 hours one night and it was pouring rain out.  We passed the time by playing card games and talking with each other.  It was nice to be unplugged for awhile.




As the cabin has an electric stove, I resorted to cooking dinner over the cabin's woodburner.  It turned out very well.  Our mock-beef stew and garlic toast was excellent on a chilly evening. 



Equinox morning, I made a double batch of buttermilk pancakes and we smothered them in apple butter syrup.  Baby E tried pancakes for the first time and devoured them.  My baby girl is getting so big!




Our ritual was small this year as it was a bit too cold and wet outside for a fire ritual.  (I'm not the best at being able to start a fire on a good dry day, let alone a soggy one.)  After the rite, we shared a giant spaghetti dinner as has come to be our tradition.



We reveled in witchy junk food and our new board book, "Room on the Broom".



And I took an embarrassing amount of baby pictures!

Baby E wrapped in Mama's scarf.

Trying out a jingly anklet.

Always, Dr. Who.


Wednesday, July 31

Baby E Meets Her First Drum

Today, I found Doodle Bug's very first djembe hanging behind a door.  It's a tiny thing, only about 10" tall and has plenty of battle scars.  I took it down, dusted it off and gave it a good thwack!  It still worked.

After our morning nap, I handed it to Baby E.


At first, she only really cared for the string.





Eventually, I stood it up for her and gave it a ding.




She loved it!




I truly look forward to festival season next summer when it will be time for the Mama Stacey clan to rejoin the flow.



Thursday, July 25

Summer's End


Yesterday brought the first real chill of summer’s end. 

As much as I appreciate having central air in the depths of summer, I HATE the smell of all that recycled air.  So, I turned the thing off and threw open every window we have.  A pleasant breeze kept our house in the mid 60’s all day and took the staleness with it.  By late afternoon, it was brisk enough for me to pull out a hoodie for our evening walk.  This morning, I didn’t feel quite so awkward about making myself a large mug of hazelnut coffee.  From my perch on the porch with Baby E, I noticed the morning sunlight coming in at a different angle.  Our chives have seed heads on them and the butter crunch lettuce is bolting.

The first harvest is upon us.

There are sure to be many more warm days throughout August and September, especially here in northwestern Pennsylvania where the weather seems to be a constant roll of the dice… but days like these are a pleasant reminder that autumn preparations are just around the corner.  

This is when Mama Stacey’s tunes take a slightly somber turn to the likes of Damien Rice and Ray LaMontagne.  We burn candles with deep aromas and begin to pack fresh herbs into glass jars and pour golden oils over them to steep.

In the House of Mama Stacey, we celebrate the European tradition of Lammas (the celtic Lughnasadh).  We do this on the second of August.  For us, it is a celebration of warm days, cool evenings, golden grains, vine-ripened fruits, and a time to harvest herbs.  We feast on wine (even Doodle Bug gets a taste, although his response is always “Yuck!”) and flaky breads and roasted vegetables.  We may have a fire, we might braid grass, we might make poppets from freshly cut stalks of lavender, mint and stevia.  We might wear peacock feathers in our hair and listen to the sound of the cicadas hum.  There is not a whole lot of structured ritual in our festivities.  I find that children don’t need it.



One of the most exciting portions of this particular harvest celebration is that Baby E is ready to eat!  Sharing seasonal foods with her at this stage in her life seems to be a deeply spiritual ritual onto itself.  Roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes, teething on frozen green beans and carrot slices, mixing brown rice cereal with mother’s milk, smooshing apples and gumming pears….  What better way to celebrate the harvest? 





Friday, June 28

Fatherhood Friday

Papa J loves Doodle Bug, this I know.  However, I wouldn't be fooling anyone if I said their relationship was smooth.  The step-father/step-son dynamic can be quite complex and we have just as many tumultuous nights around the dinner table as we do peaceful ones. 
, along came Baby E. 

 



Our baby girl is VERY attached to me.  She is "mama's girl".  Has been since birth.  She needs to hear me, touch me, be on me, sleep near me, sit by me... she has her hands curled in my hair every day and her head resting on my breast every night.


The same can not be said about Papa J.  Our baby was (and still is) a crash-course in patience for him.   There was a period where she would honestly scream if he so much as looked at her.  He could hold her without incidence only if he stood directly beside me and she could see me.  And even that only lasted five minutes.

Almost every idea he had about what it meant to be a dad seemed to fly out the window.  I noticed that there was even a shift in how he approached Doodle Bug.

His fuse was longer, his words softer.  I caught him offering to play video games with Doodle Bug (my partner is a video game perfectionist, so this is RARE).  It was as if he appreciated the company of a child that wanted him around.  

But, bless his heart, Papa J kept trying to bond with Baby E.



He couldn't sit with her, he couldn't calm her, he couldn't bathe her... he could barely change a diaper without her releasing red-faced screams.  This, combined with the strains in his relationship with Doodle Bug, began to make him doubt his ability to be a good parent.  Late at night, he would whisper his sad lament across the pillows to me, "She hates her daddy." 

My darling Papa J was in a funk.

And then, on Father's Day, as if she knew how important it was to him, it happened.

All day long, she reached for him, sat with him, slept on him.  Mom was dirt... daddy was all the rage!

Did she finally understand that he was taller and there was more to see from his shoulder?  Did she discover that chewing on his fingers was more soothing to her gums?  Did all those nights of sleeping beside him help her to accept his scent and heartbeat in addition to my own?

Maybe.

It could also be that he made her laugh.  If you can make a girl laugh, she'll love you forever.


And now she just can't get enough of him.