Dear Charlotte: your Dad is a master letter-writer

[Charlotte: The following is a letter written by Dad as part of my Christmas present in 2017. He has, for years, been an amazing letter writer and this one is one of his best. I have many tattered and yellowing pages that he wrote me from Africa back in the early 2000s, but until Christmas I hadn’t gotten a letter from him in years.  This one is for both of us.]


December 2017

My dearest love(s),

You know more than I that the year since Donald Trump’s election has been a unique year for everyone, but most of all for women. I have been inspired by your criticism of our president for a variety of reasons but most definitely for his disrespect for women and disregard for women’s issues. While one day I might have appreciated Trump’s acknowledgement of “locker room talk”, what has become public about Men’s treatment toward women in the last year has taken that term to a new level, and I can no longer associate myself with that and can not promote to our son as a right of passage.

Your attention to women’s issues, while it has always been there, has inspired me to think more deeply about how everyone in our society should play a part in acknowledging problems, redressing issues, reconciling, and moving forward to create a more equal and respectful society. Your thinking has caused me to reflect on the world between women and men. I have reflected on how I relate with women, how my male peers should do so, and how we should teach our kids about women and gender issues. My reflection is because of your passion.

You know that I enjoy music for its musical and lyrical enjoyment, and this summer I came across an NPR project for and by women which, in this case, addresses women in music. This year Turning the Tables promoted a list of the 150 top albums by women musicians prioritized by the artists’ popularity, societal and/or industry relevance, and their address of women’s issues.

I collected the top 10 albums for you from a variety of locations which will be made a available to you digitally. Included in this shared file resides lyrics of each song on each album in respective order and also an NPR review of each album. I thought this list of albums might provide some meaning to you in terms of exposure to important women artists, ideas that were important to them, and perhaps some ways which you might relate.

To Charlotte in particular – You are currently almost five, and it is almost impossible, maybe reluctantly, for me to conceive how life will be like for you when you mature into a woman. While living in the present, I am just enamored with your infectious smile, intelligence, and curiosity. But someday you will be that woman, and you will be confronted with a variety of struggles that your brother and I will never experience ourselves. While your mother and I promise to always be here for you when you encounter trying times, but we may not always be able to be there, nor will not necessarily seek our help. In short, there will be times in your life when you will face many of life’s challenges independently, and thus someday you must develop that strength, constitution, and support systems on your own. Your mother and I are here to help you in this regard.

Charlotte – these 10 albums does not serve as a guide in womanhood. That is not my point. I simply think your reading this message might give you a tiny glimpse into your mother’s life at this moment; what has partially occupies her mind, how she might look at the world, and maybe even her perception of how our society perceives her (and you). If you’re wondering what the hell I’m writing about, just ask. We can fill you in,  

You two are the most important women in my life, and I want you to know that I respect you more than I may normally communicate. I don’t know how or when our society will unshackle itself of gender discrimination and despicable disrespect, but I believe that we are living in a pivottable moment which point we are beginning to witness the testimony of women that will force change to occur in the home, in the government, in public, and in the workplace that women demand in a free society. In this world, women and men will be judged by their merits. I have faith in this, and I hope change will occur very soon.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy!

Your loving husband and father

Fred Follansbee (Dad)


“He want mummy”

Charlotte is becoming a pro at speaking in full sentences.  This morning from her crib I heard “I WUV you Grampie” on repeat.

Last night at dinner it was “peanut butter and jelly sandwich for you” because she didn’t want the beef stew.  (“you” actually means herself.  pronouns are tricky!)  “Just put it over here” when the sandwich was finally delivered.

Or “There’s another baby here!” when she is tired of having to act like a big girl.  (She’s right.  We demand a lot of this not-even-two-year old).

But I have to shamefully admit that there is one that really gets me.  “He want mummy”.  He being Baxter, and mummy being me.  And this sentences goes hand in hand with the one so often spoken by my husband, grandparents, visitors, friends, etc.  “I think he’s hungry, you better feed him.”  He allllways wants mummy.  And according to well-intentioned others, he’s alllllways hungry.  Which means this mummy never gets a break.

Resuming work yesterday after a two week vacation, I returned home to chaos.  Between the hours of 4-7:30pm, someone was always crying.  Usually more than one someone.  Charlotte needed ice in her cup, help on the stairs, a play mate, a hug, new socks, a different book.  Baxter needed…well, mummy.

I went to bed feeling pretty sorry for myself, and felt even more defeated and frustrated when Baxter woke up at 11:30, 1:45, and 4am.  At 6:15 this morning, I tried to pump with my broken breastpump (more on that later).  I checked my email, and found this article/blog shared by my mamas group that put it all in perspective…it brought tears to my eyes thinking that these days of being needed won’t last forever.  It was timely, emotional, and spot-on.  So I stopped feeling sorry for myself, and changed another diaper.  Life goes on, and these moments are so short.

Enjoy the read!  Click here:

Welcome baby Baxter!!

“I can’t feel my hands.  How can I sign the paper if I can’t feel my hands?  Also, I have to push. NOW”.  Scribble, scribble.

Surely the nurse at Mercy Hospital thought I was a huge b*tch.  But this baby was coming, and I wasn’t going to have it in the hospital lobby.

The morning had started like most of our Sundays, with breakfast and a long walk.  I went my parents for my birthday BBQ, leaving Fred and Charlotte at home to meet me later.  But within a few minutes of Fred’s arrival, he had me hobbling into the car with contractions that were 6-7 minutes apart, out of nowhere.  “This will take all afternoon” I thought.  I probably had just walked waddled too far that morning.  We drove 2 miles home and mentally prepared to hang around the house….but by the time I got up the stairs, we were turning right back around.

1:40pm:  “Call the midwife!  Tell her…..”  (woah, big one.  breathe, breathe, breathe).  “Tell her I can’t talk and I might throw up!”  She advised us to line up childcare for Charlotte (done), pack our bags (done) and get to the hospital.  This was just an hour after the first contraction.

Fred was breaking every traffic law he could, calling Aunt Julia and speeding through red lights amidst my urging to “go faster!”  Scarborough to Portland is a long drive when your contractions are 3 minutes apart.  Gripping the seatbelt and digging my heels into the floor, it was all I could do NOT to push.  We fled the car and left it (running) in the traffic circle at Mercy hospital, where a security guard sauntered over with a wheelchair.  “I have to push!”  I tried to scare him into moving faster.  Faster!

The moment I stood from the wheelchair, my water broke all over the floor.  “Just breathe through this one, and in between the next we will get onto the bed,”  Ellie the midwife soothed me.  Her voice was the only calm thing in the room.  All around me nurses flitted about and Fred nervously held my shaking hands.  I later found out that Ellie was already holding the baby’s head as I stood in the middle of the room.

Six minutes and three pushes later and I heard the sweet, hiccuping little cry of a baby–a boy!–as I struggled to lay down.  My eye caught on the clock next to the bed.  2:22pm, just 13 minutes after I’d shouted at the nurse who wanted me to sign papers.

Frederick Baxter Follansbee, known to us as Baxter, joined this world ten days early.  6 pounds, 10 ounces and 19 inches long.  Like most things (ok, everything) in my life now, this post took me forever to write.  Things just don’t seem to happen on time, or efficiently anymore!

Baxter’s birth was the last thing that happened quickly around here.  So quickly, in fact, that Papa has already dubbed him “Speedy”.  This boy was in a hurry to join the party, and nothing was stopping him.  But if given the choice between Charlotte’s 14+ hour labor and his 13 minute debut, I’d take his any day!  [click on the pictures to enlarge].

September 7, 2014.

Mommy & Daddy daycare

Charlotte did not attend day care this summer, so we had LOTS of time to explore southern Maine and do a lot of fun things as a family.  Our last few weeks as a family of three have been very busy…soon to get busier with the arrival of Baby ‘Bee #2 any day now!  Click on the pictures to enlarge.


It’s been a busy summer here at the Follansbee house, trying to get our new pad up and running the way we want it.  It’s a lot of work to buy the house, and then even more work to make it your own!

We’ve had a number of DIY projects going on simultaneously…which is always an adventure when you have a pregnant Mama ‘Bee, and a toddler ‘Bee that is not in day care all summer!  Fred takes care of the outside and heavy lifting projects, while I’ve been free to focus my energy on more creative and decorative tasks.  Here’s a peek at what we’ve been up to…

We’ve been converting an old dining room into a playroom for the kids, since we are having a nanny and the kids will be home all school year.  They need space to play, and room to hold their growing collection of toys!  I made these picture labels so that we can start to teach Charlotte how to put her toys away in the correct places (click on the pictures to enlarge):

As mentioned above, our nanny comes to join the family one week from now!  She is actually an international au pair, traveling from Italy this year to live with us.  Her name is Ilaria, and she is currently a hair stylist by trade and has been an au pair in Belgium before.  Needless to say, we needed to turn our spare bedroom/junk collection area into a proper home for her!  Here are the before and after shots:

With cabinet space being almost non-existent, we’ve had to come up with some creative storage.  Here is our magnetic spice rack, affixed to the refrigerator door: IMG_0885







Fred is building a sandbox for the backyard!  Charlotte is really into textures and scooping/pouring lately, so hopefully it will get a lot of use this fall (and not just by the cats).


Fred also built us a compost bin this spring:

Of course, with all the DIY-ing going on, Charlotte couldn’t be left out of the fun.  Here she is finger painting a masterpiece in the backyard.

“Da. Beep beep!”

My latest assignment in the writing course I’m taking was to draft a piece using only dialogue.  It didn’t take much imagination to come up with this one!


[Mother and daughter playing on the living room floor.  It’s a mid-summer afternoon, and both are eagerly awaiting daddy’s return from work.]

Girl:  Da?

Mom:  Dad will be home soon!

G: Da? Wook?

M:  Yes, dad is at work.  

G: Car?

M:  Yes, dad drove his car to work.

G: Car.  Da.  Wook.

M:  You got it!  What should we have for dinner when he gets home?

G: Bebbees.

M:  Well, we have to eat more than just berries!

G:  Bebbees.  Peese?

M:  Berries please?  Yes, we can have berries.  But we have to eat something else too!  What should I make for dinner?

G:  Chee.

M:  Ok, something with cheese.  How about eggs with cheese.  A quiche maybe?

G:  (does not speak, but shakes her head vigorously “yes”)

M:  Quiche with cheese and berries it is!  (picks up phone to text dad and ask when he’ll be home)

G:  Meme?!?!?!  Cahh meme???

M:  No, I’m not calling meme.  We talked to her this morning.  I’m asking dad when he will be home!

G:  Meme!!!  Hiiii meme!

M:  Oh you’re so sweet.  You love talking to meme, don’t you?

G:  Yes.  Papa.  Meme, papa.

M:  Right, we can’t forget Papa.  What do you think Meme and Papa are doing right now?

G:  (does not speak, but pretends to go to sleep)

M:  You think they’re sleeping??  Silly!  It’s the middle of the afternoon!  I don’t think they are sleeping, haha!

G: Meme.  Papa.  umm hmm.

M:  I bet Meme is cooking dinner.  And Papa might be reading the newspaper.  Or he might be helping Meme cook.

G:  Bebees?

M:  Well, maybe they are having berries for dinner.  We’ll ask them when we see them tomorrow!  We will say “hey Meme, did you eat berries for dinner last night?”

G:  Haha.  Meme.  Bebees.  Chee.

M:  Sounds like our dinner.  

G:  Da?

M:  Dad is at work, remember?

G.  Da.  Wook.  Car?

M:  Yes, dad is at work and he took the car.  

G:  Da!  Wook!  Car!  Beep beep!  Da!  


To escape

I’m taking a graduate level writing class this summer, and while I generally don’t like doing school work in the summer, there is one bonus to this class…it’s making me write! If you’ve checked Mama ‘Bee recently, you’ll see that I haven’t been doing much blogging. There is just so much else to do! But here is a piece I wrote for my class. The prompt was “Where do you go when you need to escape?”


The place that I go is a sticky, rubbery piece of foam that is about 1/2” thick and often covered in remnants of sweat and beach sand. It’s black lines guide my ankles and toes as to where they should be, and it’s porous pink groves cushion my aching back and my tired legs. It’s a tiny space, maybe 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. But it’s mine. All mine. And nobody can touch me, or need me, or ask me to do things while I’m there.

The sounds: I hear the breath of others around me, all while trying to block it out and focus on my own. Inhale, hold, exhale. Loud in my ears, like the ocean. My feet sometimes squeak against the rubber, my heart sometimes pounds in my ears as we hold a pose for 10 breaths, 9…8… I listen to the teacher’s commands, but they mingle with the soft sounds of Nada Sadhana, Ray Lamontagne, or sometimes classical piano. Somehow my body still knows what to do. My downward dog feels different every day, but I still know how to get there.

The smells: The air is heavy with sweat, but sweetened with a gentle hint of lavender and mint.

The thoughts: Bouncing and meandering, my thoughts are at once on the poses and the postures, my daughter, tonight’s dinner plans, the checklist of chores that awaits me at home, the unfinished lesson plans that I left on my desk. I adjust my hips and lengthen my spine, vowing to put all other thoughts outside the boundaries of my mat for the rest of class. But with the next breath, I wonder if it’s too early for potty training or too late to stop at the grocery store?

The feelings: For the first time today, my body is mine. Here in this tiny little space, a rectangle of foam that allows for escape, there is no toddler pulling at my pants, and no hungry nursing baby begging to be fed. There are no students looking for hugs or help with tricky word, and there is no husband wanting a kiss or an embrace. It’s me time. All me. I just wish I could get here more often.