Monday, August 30, 2010

"Bad Mom" Confessions

1. I loathe Dora the Explorer. Dora is banned in our house. My oldest is very aware of this, and has apologized for watching it at other's houses (which I don't care about, so long as I don't have to watch it). I don't have issues with teaching kids, or kids tv in general. But I do take issues with people yelling as their normal speaking voice. Billy Mays as well as the entire cast of Jersey Shore grate the same nerves within me as Dora. Plus, my mother ran a home daycare. The half hour or so of TV time was generally reserved for Dora or Blues Clues. I got played out on these shows long before I had the desire to be a parent. Other shows I don't allow include SpongeBob, Yo Gabba Gabba (we listen and dance to real music, thanks), Angelina Ballerina, Max and Ruby, and the vaccination episode of Sid the Science Kid.

2. I don't like that certain food brands, books, and experts are trying to convince and encourage me to hide the healthy benefits of food to my kids. We are not close to being a super healthy household. But I'm not trying to hide the benefits of healthy foods OR the pitfalls of junk food. If I always hide veggies in other foods, how are my kids supposed to know they love them? If I make yummy chocolate brownies and hide that they are full of healthy zuchinni, they go into the world only knowing they like brownies. Completely oblivious that they also like a healthy, good for them vegetable. Be honest! Offer different presentations of foods kids aren't crazy about, but don't lie about their presence. My oldest has proclaimed her hatred of broccoli for a year or so now, but loves broccoli soup. Knowing the soup has broccoli gives her a push to try it in other ways.

3. I don't buy into the idea of pushing learning on kids. Stimulate your baby's mind with these DVDs! Teach your newborn to read! If you don't, how will they get the early acceptance to Yale before their 10th birthday? Maybe they won't. And maybe they won't want to. We are definitely closer to unschooling than prep school on the education spectrum. We try to help the kids learn by fostering their own learning goals and interests. I've heard people say that kids won't learn without structure and an adult telling them what to learn and showing them how. Maybe for some kids that's true. But like most things, learning isn't a one size fits all thing. My 5 year old loves letters. She knows how to write all of the letters (and asked to learn how to write without pressure from us), and regularly sits with a notebook asking us to spell things so she can learn to write words. She asks what words in books, magazines, and signs are. We tell her, and she works on sounding them out and memorizing them. She is going to attend homeschool classes at the zoo because she's asked to learn more about animals. Expanding on her natural desire to learn has worked well for us, and I'm not embarrassed to say that we haven't gotten any acceptance letters yet, and my 5 month old is illiterate.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Music and Pictures and Midwives, oh my!

This past week, I took my Lucy to her second concert. Her first was a Casting Crowns show at 2 weeks old. This was a heavy metal festival that I took my little sister to. It was 4 bands, and we were there 6 hours (4 hrs of music). All outdoors. Now at the indoor concert we used earplugs and had a folded receiving blanket around her ears. She was also was in the Ergo, which added a couple layers of a strong canvas over her ears as well. Well, for this outdoor concert I didn't do any of that. We were outside, and chose a spot on the lawn that wasn't close to the stage and was to the side of the speakers to allow for sound dispersal. Frankly, the Hanson concert I had attended (without baby) earlier in the month was much, much louder than this metal show was due to the sound distribution and our location on the grounds.

I did my research before taking a baby to a concert. My oldest went to a show just shy of 2 months. We always make sure if we are in an enclosed location that proper ear protection is used. My own mother suffers from hearing loss, so its not something I am cavalier about. I do not feel after the research that I've done that I am putting my kids through any kind of danger.

So, you can imagine my surprise when my little sister, Lucy, and I were accosted at this show. We were on a quilt on the lawn and using the quilt as needed to block the sun from Lucy (same as we would've been doing in the backyard at home had we not been at the was a nice day after a week of hellacious heat indexes). An older woman started yelling at me, saying I had no business bringing a child there (she was there with her own, albeit preteen, child), and that a mother needed to learn to make sacrifices and not be so selfish as to harm their child for their own pleasure. Wow. I calmly explained it would be more harmful to leave my child away from my lactating breasts and that I have three happy, healthy, thriving children so I think I'm doing just fine raising them as I see fit. Visually unsatisfied with my lack of emotional response, she huffed off angrily. My little sister asked why I didn't get angry AT the woman, because I was visibly upset after she walked off.

I explained to her an important lesson. One that the lady, and many need to know. Some people will ALWAYS need to belittle others to boost their own ego. They need to point out the flaws of others in order to overlook their own insecurities. Perhaps she was having a bad day and trying to cut a seemingly young, new mother down was going to be her easy fix to get her jollies and feel better. But, the lesson is this: be confident in yourself and do what you know is right for you and yours, and those people can't get to you. They can try, and they will try. And yes, it upsets me when they do simply because I don't like being exposed to rudeness, ignorance, and immaturity. But as long as you are 100% ready to stand by your choices, its best to not let those people ruffle your feathers. It gives them what they want and encourages them to spread their toxicity to others. Make the cycle stop with you. Maybe that lady simply moved on and was mean to someone else. But maybe, just maybe, not getting a rise out of me made her think before attacking someone else. I hope it did.


Lately, the need for creative expression has become more important to me. I haven't really done anything creative since my oldest was born some 5 years ago. This is a lifetime for me. Before that I played piano, journaled (not online, but pen to paper), took pictures, acted a little, sang in chior, etc. I had been using massage therapy as a creative outlet. But my wrist issues had that on the backburner as well. I was stagnating. This pent up creative energy was threatening to explode out of me like a volcano bubbling beneath Earth's surface.

I bought a $1 composition notebook. I've written 3 short poems and a few lines of stream of consciousness writing. All of it fit on one page. But it calmed the bubbling lava within me. Then, I busted our my camera. Shooting candids of the kids. Playing with focus, aperture, and cropping. Its made me feel renewed. I'm currently doing a photo shoot for my little sister. We got some amazing nature shots today, and will be heading downtown to do some in an urban setting later this week. Its great to have a creative outlet I am passionate about and that comes naturally to me.


Speaking of passions; I've decided its time to actively persue a midwifery education. Its time. I've looked at my options. I am vehemently uninterested in persuing a degree in nurse midwifery. There are amazing CNMs out there, and we need more great ones. But I'm not supposed to be one of them. I'm still figuring out my personal feelings on licensure for non-nurse midwives. I can see good and bad in both options. That being said we don't have a lot of education options to begin with, and less where I live, an area currently unfriendly to DEMs and C/LPMs. Of the distance options, there were two that I could realistically consider, given the financial and travel obligations. I'm still in the process of deciding for sure, but am currently leaning towards a program in Michigan.

This isn't my only option. Another local 'birthy' mama who I feel honored to call a friend is using self directed learning to work toward practicing as a DEM. I have so much respect for her. I know the discipline self teaching takes. And I just don't have that in me to give right now. I need the structure and guidance because otherwise I become too easily overwhelmed and wind up never making forward progress.

Because of the fact that neither of these schools participate in financial aid programs, I will be paying out of pocket. and working full-time in order to do so. Its a sacrifice, but one I feel compelled to make. Women need options for providers who will give them, their bodies, and their babies the respect they deserve during such a vulnerable, miraculous time in their lives. Especially women in our area. I feel excited and honored and humbled knowing that in just a few years I may be that option for some of these women.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Homeschooling By the Seat of Our Pants

This summer, like last, was spent debating whether or not we would enroll Anna-Lee in our local public school. In the end we kept her home, but didn't really do any official homeschooling. We watched a ton of PBS shows, she played on her Fisher Price Computer Cool School, and we practiced capital letter writing and letter/number recognition. But we weren't particularly consistent or structured. This was, in large part, due to me being miserable and pregnant.

So this year we were faced with the same dilemma. Anna-Lee is a smart kid. She has amazing potential. But I was feeling a lot of outward pressure to send her to public school. To give myself a break. To get her the speech therapy she needs. After all, I had both of the kindergarten teachers when I went to school, so wouldn't this be the best year to give public school a try?

I thought Kelton felt this way. Mostly because of his lack of opinion! He's the strong, silent type and it isn't always a good thing. Last night, after going through the motions of getting ready to enroll her, I asked Kelton if he felt as bad about the decision as I was feeling. To my utter surprise, he was!

So we are homeschooling! We have decided to not go with a formal curriculum. We have more of the add-on discs for her computer, and will be doing lots of activities on it with her. We also plan on utilizing our zoo's homeschool classes, going to the children's museum, etc. Our goals for the year are to get her writing upper and lowercase letters (and using them in the correct places), learning phonics and reading, and really work on numbers and counting. This is an area she has demonstrated a weakness. I don't think these goals are particularly lofty or unrealistic, nor are they so attainable as to leave her (or us!) bored and unchallenged.

I'll be posting more about our adventures in homeschooling as the year progresses. Right now I'm just excited a decision has been made and set into motion!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Breastfeeding Woes

I have been breastfeeding since Anna-Lee was born on June 28, 2005. Through two full term pregnancies. I tandem nursed for six months after Reese was born and for two months after Lucy was born. I've been through pump incompatibility resulting in recurrent plugged ducts, an 8 month battle with thrush (that caused a 1lb weight loss in Reese), and the normal pains of nursing while pregnant. None of these things ever made me think of stopping breastfeeding.

However, I'm in the midst of the most draining string of nursing troubles. Troubles that make me see why giving up is so tempting to so many moms. It started July 4th. I had mastitis. No big deal. It was on the left side, which is the side I rarely have problems with. But my immune system was weak, I'd had surgery 13 days before. I took garlic and felt better in a few days. A week and a half later, I had some gallbladder sttacks. They lasted a week. During that time I could hardly eat, which tanked my milk supply. So I was nursing a ton to get it back up. I got a plugged duct on the right side which caused another round of mastitis and a milk bleb. Which causes the duct behind it to keep plugging. It'll keep releasing then reforming. Even with taking lecithin, nursing on demand, heating packs, etc. We saw a breastfeeding doctor last week and the bleb had went away but returned last night.

I am getting so discouraged. I'm doing all the right things and none of it seems to be working. This is the first time I can see formula as tempting. Me, who has nursed two kids into toddlerhood. I won't go the formula route. But I'm considering giving up nursing on the right side. The pain is awful. Even worse is the relief I get when the bleb goes away, the duct unplugs, and all is well for a few days only to wake up with it starting all over again. I'm calling the doctor again tomorrow. And, if she thinks it will help, I will yet again make the 60 mile one way trip to see her. I am not giving up on breastfeeding. Not yet. I admit, if Lucy were older than 4 months, I would probably give it more consideration. Then again, breastfeeding hasn't been optional for our family since a few weeks after Anna-Lee was born. And my stubborn streak is a wide one. So if we were to give up, it would only be after one hell of a fight.

This battle does make me a lot more understanding of women who DO give up when faced with challenges. I'm lucky to be staying home right now and to have a supportive partner. If I were dealing with a demanding job, regular pumping, a husband who didn't share my strong opinions on breastfeeding importance, and a tribe of mamas who have helped make breastfeeding my norm, I probably wouldn't have nursed the older girls as long as I did or continue to fight through these blebs.