Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learning to Serve

I always want to incorporate service into our Christmas season--especially with my children. Both now and throughout the year we have lots of service opportunities that we hear about through our church. But the majority of the time, my children are too young to come.

This year my daughter's preschool had a food drive before Thanksgiving. I took her to the store with a list of items they were collecting and had her pick some stuff out and then we dropped it in the bin at the school. I'm glad we did it. But I don't think she ever quite got what we were doing. Thankfully, she can't imagine not having enough food to eat. So it confused her that we would give boring old cans of food to other people. (Giving away treats and baked goods she understands.)

A member of my church works at a nonprofit that had a huge toy drive for children in need throughout the area. I didn't hear about the donating toys part, but then they needed help wrapping the toys. I took my four year old with me last night to wrap presents.

She manned the tape dispenser while I wrapped. She gave me pieces of tape two or three times longer than I ever needed. She also got to eat cookies and chips. I don't think she quite got what we were doing at first.

The donations were so generous that all the kids on the list were getting two toys from the drive this year. When I told her we needed to wrap another toy for the same kid, she was impressed. I told her that she was very blessed because she was going to get more than two presents this year. She stood up and exclaimed for all to hear, "Yeah! I'm going to get tons of presents!"

As time went on, I think she understood that we were doing this for other people. She would run out to choose another pile of gifts to wrap (usually choosing the princess themed stuff, but also some Buzz Lightyear toys). And then she would ask about the child is was going to. Was it a boy or a girl? How old were they? Do you think they'd like the gift?

My friend commented that she was impressed that even though my daughter was excited by many of the toys she saw, she never asked for any of them.

On the drive home, we took some detours through the neighborhood to check out Christmas lights. I told her that what we had just done was service--doing something for other people without expecting anything in return. She did learn that doing service gives you a good feeling inside. And sometimes, there's cookies.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Naughty List

I've already talked about how I struggle with telling my girls the myth of Santa Claus. I mostly came to terms with it last year by making sure that the Veggie Tales St. Nicholas* story is watched often to keep the true story and the meaning of Santa at the forefront. My four year old is getting it a little. She told me the other day that Santa's real name is St. Nicholas.

But this is also the first year that she is exposed to peers at school talking about Santa Claus. And, as it turns out, her preschool teacher.

She loves her teacher. I like her teacher. Minus two incidents (one that has nothing to do with my child).

Yesterday she came home from school and told me that you have to 'have (short for behave) for Santa to bring you presents. My daughter does 'have so she expects to get presents. But Miss H--- said that K---- won't get presents if he doesn't 'have. (I'm not going to even get into the public shaming side of things, which I'm not a fan of.)

I really hadn't thought about the naughty/nice list side of Santa until then. It's not something my parents emphasized or held over our heads for good behavior (thank you, Mom and Dad). I cringed a little, and then told my daughter that I feel that Santa Claus is about selflessly giving to others and loving others. Everyone is good sometimes and bad sometimes, but everyone (particularly a four year old kid for Pete's sake) deserves a present from Santa. And this is all I'll say again and again as she brings up the naughty/nice issue.

On further contemplation, I realized there are two main reasons I don't like that side of Santa Claus. First of all, getting presents is not the right motivation for good behavior. (Neither is fear of punishment, I know that even though we use it sometimes, but we're working on that.) I want my children to want to do the right thing because it's the right thing. Not because they want to get more things.

Second, what about the kid whose personality makes it harder to behave, particularly in a classroom? It's honestly easy for my daughter to behave at school. She's quiet, gets along well with most people, likes pleasing adults, and enjoys learning. She's never had a single day when she didn't want to go to school (I've seen almost every one of her classmates reluctantly hanging onto their parent's leg, not wanting to go in, at one point or another). But the kid who has a lot of energy, who would really just prefer to pretend to be a dinosaur all day? Behaving, according to the confines of preschool, is a bit harder. That doesn't make him bad or less deserving of presents.

What do you think of the naughty/nice list side of Santa Claus? Or do you not overthink these things like I do?


* I love something new about this show this year. I hadn't noticed it before. At the end, the Veggies leave their church worship to go out and serve their neighbor in need. Yes, worshipping in church is important. But serving, doing exactly what Christ would have done, is more important.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Florida in December

At the risk of being hated by anyone living outside Florida, here's a screen shot of the temperatures throughout the country yesterday:



One of these states is not like the others. One of these states just doesn't belong.

While I'm certainly glad to not be experiencing subzero temperatures or facing ice and snow storms when I go outside, the weather feels off to me. I've always lived in the west and it's supposed to be cold and sometimes snowy in December. It doesn't feel much like Christmas when it's hot and sunny and we have to turn the AC on.

My observation of Floridians shows me they don't quite know what to do with hot weather in December either. When I go out shopping I will see two women together--one will be wearing jeans, a hoodie, and boots. The other wears a sundress and flipflops. Either seems to be acceptable on the same 85 degree day. I miss boots and jackets, but I just can't bring myself to wear them in this heat.

Even advertisers don't know what to make of it. Our Target ad shows winter boots and tank tops on the same page.

I've been stubbornly wearing jeans no matter how hot I am because I just don't want to have to shave more than once a week (for church) in December. If I lived anywhere else in the country, I wouldn't even be doing it that often. But...I have been more than happy to wear sandals every day.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The First Thanksgiving (As Retold by a Preschooler)



Today as we left preschool, my daughter was jumping up and down with excitement for Thanksgiving. I'm glad their activities at school has got her excited for it, because Christmas anticipation has already taken over. And though I'm excited to be spending Thanksgiving at home, I'm pretty sure my daughter is just going to eat rolls and whipped cream, so it might not be as thrilling of a day for her.

On the drive home she told me the story of the first Thanksgiving. It went something like this:

"There were some people and they were traveling really far and they didn't even have a GPS! And they were on a big boat and they didn't have a frigerator so they just had to eat dry food. And then they got somewhere and they met some people with different colored skin. And those people taught them to catch fish and plant some food. Then they ate dinner together."


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gratitude Now

Last night we had a lesson on gratitude for Family Home Evening. We printed out Count Your Many Blessings trees (which I found here via Pinterest) and some colored circles. After talking about what blessings are we each wrote some blessings down on the circles and glued them to our trees.

I added a few to my four year old's like family and preschool and friends. Here's what she came up with on her own:

- Ella (a cousin)
- squirrels
- M&Ms
- our plants
- painting pictures
- sending pictures to people
- elephants
- flowers

I asked my almost two year old what she loved and she said cars (the toy she was playing with yesterday). Her sister added the beach for her tree (she's been talking about the beach a lot lately). We also put her family, apples, and books. And she added lots of blank circles because gluing is fun.

My tree includes family, friends, technology that helps us keep in touch with family, having a second car, free preschool, my husband's job, personal revelation, and naptime.

My husband's tree includes family, his job, education, hope, the ability to progress, and coming home to hugs and kisses every day.

What are you grateful for today?




Friday, November 8, 2013

Gratitude


November is a time of gratitude. I have tons to be grateful for right now. In church on Sunday we had a lesson on gratitude. And they talked about having gratitude when times are tough. While I have certainly have challenges right now, compared to two years ago, it's easy to find things to be grateful for now. I'll be honest--I did not find much to be grateful for two years ago. I am not good at finding the good when times are tough. But better late than never, right?

Here's the challenge: we lived in the middle of nowhere. In a town of 90 people. And it was at least an hour drive to anywhere. I was a stay at home mom to one child with another on the way. But despite the challenges, there were some blessings.

- We had a huge house. With an awesome fireplace.
- We had a huge yard for our daughter to play in. And it came with raised garden beds, an apple tree, and a peach tree. Lots of room to run and play and fly a kite.
- We had an all-terrain wagon that made it through mud and gravel and snow. It was only half a mile to our downtown where we could walk to the post office every day. And on the way home we would stop at the market and get chocolate milk. And the town was small enough that the everyone at the market knew us.
- Our landlords were our neighbors. And they were the sweetest landlords in the world. In fact, everyone in the town was friendly.
- The bookmobile came to town every other week.
- We had to drive 1 1/2 hours to the doctor. But, my good friend from grad school lived in that town with her children who were born within a couple months of each of mine. So every time we went for a well child check up, we got to visit my friend.
- The fact that we lived so far from anything led us to do a home birth. Which I never would have considered. And turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.
- We lived three hours from the airport. Which also happened to be in the same city that my in-laws lived in so we got to visit them whenever we needed to go to the airport.
- We spent a lot of time together as a family--whether it was because we lived too far to go anywhere, or because we had lots of time to talk on our long drives to anywhere.
- Every challenge we faced there, has taught me to be grateful for things I used to take for granted. Like stopping to get gas on the way home from dropping my daughter off at school. Or asking my husband to stop and grab something from the store on the way home from work.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Picky Eaters

My oldest daughter and my nephew are one week apart. It's hard not to compare. When they were toddlers, I was comparing how he would eat anything (even chowing down on a black bean soup with lots of spices that I made) to the fact that my own daughter wouldn't eat anything but cheese and crackers.

As time has gone on, we've instituted the no thank you bite. Take one bite of everything offered at dinner. I don't think it's resulted in her eating lots of anything new yet, but her tastes have expanded a little beyond cheese and crackers finally.

So with child #2, I hoped for a better eater. And I got one. She didn't eat all her vegetables, but she would try anything and would eat almost everything. Until the other night. I sat her in front of a quesidilla with sour cream and a little bit of refried beans on the side. Without even trying it, she pushed her plate away and said all too distinctly, "I don't like it." Oh, boy.

I'm learning what my sister told me. That even the best eaters go through a picky stage. And this one is just beginning.

Crying

Most of the people we worked with throughout my daughter's cardiac catheterization were wonderful. The nurse who helped us through recovery was compassionate and personable and put us all at ease (as much as we could be in that situation). But the wonderful Beth had to go to a meeting and another nurse took over briefly.

This nurse was competent and not necessarily unkind, but one thing she said irked me. My daughter was coming out of the anesthesia more and more--which means she felt more of the pain and discomfort. She was attached to an IV, a heart monitor, and a large pressurized bandage. She wasn't allowed to sit up or move her leg. She was tired and didn't feel good and on top it all she had to pee. And the stupid nurse took forever bringing in the bed pan. When she did come in, my daughter was crying and I was comforting her.

The nurse walked in and said, "Well now, why are you crying?"

She's crying because she's four and she's scared and she just had surgery and she feels sick and wants to go home and she's trying to not pee the bed. Okay, I didn't actually say anything. But there is a world of difference that both I as her mother and a four year old can feel between a concern for why she was crying and what could be done to make her feel better, and a "there's nothing wrong with you, why are you crying?"

Just because our situation was perfectly routine for her, didn't mean it was any less scary and sad and a perfectly reasonable time to cry for my daughter.

Monday, October 21, 2013

When Mormons and Muslims Get Together

A few months ago a lovely couple moved in next door. They have been friendly from the beginning and the second time we saw them, they brought over gifts for our little girls to celebrate their holiday. They also gave us a huge TV and a BluRay player when they got new ones. We've only had short encounters with them until Saturday night when my husband realized that the dutch oven casserole he made could feed a small army. So he headed next door and asked them over for dinner. They initially declined because our food had pork in it, which is against halal, but they brought their own food and came over to eat with us.

We let our girls stay up way too late so that we could sit and talk with them. It was one of the most interesting conversations I've ever been in as Mormons and Muslims sat together and shared our respective religions' origin stories, our beliefs, and the why of what we do and how we live. I'm a fairly well-read person and 95% of the time I listen to NPR, so I wasn't completely ignorant about their customs and beliefs, but hearing why they do what they do from someone who lives it (she grew up Muslim, he converted after attending and learning about many other churches) was entirely different. Here's some of what I learned.

Islam refers to the religion, Muslim refers to the people. Just as our religion is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we refer to ourselves as a people as Saints. (This is one of the things I did know--go me.)

Halal means permissible and can apply to many things, but most often refers to what they eat. They don't eat any pork and any meat they do eat has to be slaughtered in a certain way. They can eat meat that is designated as either Halal or Kosher because they have the same requirements. But Halal seems much easier than what I know of strict Kosher eating. Meat is really the only thing, so at work potlucks, he just tells people that he eats vegetarian--something that people understand. So it wouldn't be all that hard for me to cook a dinner they could eat because I know how to cook for vegetarians.

Hijab is not just the head covering, it refers to the whole outfit that keeps them modest. Women only show their faces and hands to people outside their families (the women you see who only have eye slits showing is more a cultural thing from a certain area, not something that Islam requires). Men have a hijab requirement too, which sound similar to our Mormon modesty standards. Covering to the knees, no low necklines, covering the shoulders. Even though we understood each other's reasons for modesty, even in a blazing hot place like Florida, I can't imagine covering up as much as she does. Just as I realized later how odd it must seem to her that we adhere to modesty standards that are altered when we go to the beach or the pool because we wear swimsuits there.

They have five set prayers a day. They say them at certain times of day, say them facing Mecca, and have set words. All this is a sign of unity with all the Muslims of the world. And when you see them praying together in the mosques and they are so close together it makes me claustrophobic just to look at, it is to show they are all equal--rich and poor and all races stand together shoulder to shoulder as equals before God.  (They can also say what I would consider personal prayers at any time they want, so not all their prayers are scripted.)

They believe in many of the same prophets as we do--Abraham, Noah, Moses. And believe in Jesus as a prophet, but not as a Savior or son of God. They believe that the scriptures these prophets brought are true, but that they were for the people of that time, so they really don't study them. She knew that Jesus had brought some scripture, but didn't know what it was well enough to know what it corresponded to with the scriptures we know and study. They believe that Mohammed was the last prophet and the Koran is the word of God brought forth through him. Part of what we as Mormons, who believe in living prophets and continuing revelation, couldn't understand about their religion is that to be Muslim you must believe and declare that Mohammed is the last prophet.

There are obviously many differences between our two religions. But in a secular world, we have more in common that you might first think. Our religion is something we live every day, not just on Sunday (or Friday). We have modesty dressing standards. We don't drink alcohol and have other dietary standards that other people don't understand (theirs is meat, ours is coffee). In a world where religious beliefs and standards are often mocked and looked down upon, it was refreshing to sit down with people who live high standards. And fascinating to hear what they believe. And a mix of terror and hilarity and pride listening to my husband give the first discussion to some Muslims sitting at our kitchen table.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why It's Okay to Be Afraid

When I picked up my daughter from preschool today, her hair was all askew and she had loops of hair pulled out of her pigtails. I immediately knew that something had made her nervous or upset; pulling at her hair is one of the way she copes. Her teacher told me that they had read a book and some of the images had scared her. As soon as this was brought up, my daughter burst into tears and we had to go to a corner and calm down before we left.

I kind of hate Halloween. I like candy and I like cute costumes, but I hate the fear and gore and making light of horrible ways to die. I can't even take my little girls to get the mail right now because the house next to the mailboxes is decorated too scary. I guess if you're into that fear thing you can do it, but keep it to yourself please. I really hate it when people (often their own parents or family members) think it's funny to scare small children with masks or scary images at Halloween. And there's a weird sense of pride in not being scared of frightening things.

But one of the things I told my daughter when we came home is that it's okay to be scared--and when we are, we don't have to stay or keep looking at whatever is making us afraid. It's okay to be afraid: sometimes it's the spirit telling us that something is wrong, and we should never ignore that spirit. It's okay to be afraid: my daughter for one, is a sensitive soul and far from wanting to squelch that, I want to help her cultivate it. As she grows older, the things that scare her simply because she doesn't understand them will diminish. But I don't want her to lose the sensitivity that will help her be a compassionate human being. It's okay to be afraid: You don't have to pretend to like the gross or scary things that come around at Halloween just because a few people do and many people pretend to. I wish my teenage self had stood up for herself and refused to go to the haunted house that made her physically nauseous, but I'm glad that my young adult self finally had the sense to not care if everyone else was going and I was going to miss out on a good time. Because that's not my version of a good time.

Okay, rant over. Now for a sweet picture from last year of the fun part of Halloween. The cutest little Snoopy and Woodstock you've ever seen:


Monday, October 7, 2013

A Missing Piece

On Saturday I went to a workout class. A new friend teaches at a new Barre Workout place in town (combines ballet, yoga, and pilates) and had a free workout coupon for me.

It was hard. It worked muscles I'd never worked before. It felt awkward because it had moves I'd never done before. It was also hard and awkward because it was the first workout class I've been to since before I had children.

I actually work out fairly regularly. I average about 3 or 4 times per week. But that's on my own at home. And at home my own or my children's stamina for allowing me to workout ends long before one hour. So this workout was longer than I'm used to. But that wasn't the only difference.

As I lay in a relaxing pose at the end, I felt close to tears. Not because of pain or exhaustion (that was there too). It was a release of emotions and stress and tension. Something I haven't felt since I was last in a yoga class over five years ago.

I've been told it for years, but I'm finally learning it. You have to take time for yourself. My at home workouts are good and important. But they are often cut short. I am watching out so I don't step on or kick a small child running by. Even if I do it while they're sleeping, I'm still on mommy alert to them waking up or needing me.

Only by leaving them with their dad and going and doing something completely for me (even shopping involves getting stuff for them) did I get to focus on me and work on me. We all know that if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. But it's hard to remember when the needs of small children are so much louder and more persistent than your own.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Best Feeling


Weaning makes me a little sad. Less opportunity for snuggles with an active baby or toddler. But after weaning, and after a full month spent asking for milk, my toddler now buries her face in my neck and wraps her arms around me when she needs comfort. It's a safe place for her and a pretty awesome feeling for her mama. I'm trying to soak it up every time because this stage won't last forever either.

(Photo taken by my sister-in-law after a day on the beach.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fall Bucket List (and Leaf Garland)

So this week I decided to pick myself up out of my self-pity for not having Fall here. I used Pinterest as inspiration and not just jealousy, and made a simple leaf garland out of craft items I already had on hand. I found a leaf template online, cut out felt leaves in Autumn colors, and stitched them together with embroidery thread. I honestly can't even sew on a decent button, but if you can trace, cut, and push a needle in and out, you could do this. I decided to count the unevenness of the stitches and spacing as a rustic look. Originally I had thought to hang it along the stair banister, but with the amount of leaves I could get from the colors I liked, it simply wasn't long enough. But I like it hanging from this shelf too.




For the past couple of years, I've made a bucket list for various seasons or holidays so that our days aren't spent watching TV. I couldn't put apple picking or crunching through leaf piles (although I think my felt leaves are pretty, they are not crunchy), but I tried to put some Fall activities we could do here in Florida. And some that I might never think of doing in the Autumn months if we lived elsewhere.

Fall 2013 Bucket List 

Outdoors 
Go Camping
Family Bike Ride
UCF Arboretum
Visit a Pumpkin Patch 

Outings 
Mommy/Daughter Date
Daddy/Daughter Date
Orlando Science Center
Avalon Park Oktoberfest

Arts & Crafts 
Make a Thankful Tree
Apple Stamping
Carve a Pumpkin
Handprint Turkeys

Indoors 
Make Pumpkin Cookies
Drink Apple Cider
Make a Blanket Fort
Have a Read-a-Thon

Monday, September 9, 2013

Seasonal Sadness

We moved to Florida in May and jumped right into summer. It was summer a bit early, but close to my expected summertime nonetheless. I haven't loved the heat and humidity and the fact that it's too hot to play outside and when we try to it's five minutes tops before my little girls are pink cheeked and drenched in sweat. I have loved the summer afternoon thunderstorms which are common here.

And then the calendar switched to September. And other people who live in a land of seasons started posting about fall weather and trips up the canyon and changing leaves and pumpkin recipes. And I got sad. Really, really sad. Fall is my favorite season and it simply doesn't exist here. We will still have Halloween here, we can still make pumpkin recipes, and I think there are even pumpkin patches to visit. But there will be no sweaters and boots. No crunching leaves and crisp, cool mornings. No eating apples picked right off the tree or pressing cider in a 100 year old press. No jumping in leaf piles and tossing them in the air. All these pictures are from last year. They're frozen in time and the experience won't be repeated this year:




So forgive me if I post about camping and family walks and picnics while you're stuck inside in January. It's the trade off for me not getting to experience Fall this year. And I'm not so sure the trade off is worth it yet.

(I have considered decorating my house like Fall, but I don't decorate for anything but Christmas and don't really know how. Plus the whole money thing.)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reading Aloud to Young Children

When my first was one year old, I read her the entire Chronicles of Narnia out loud while she played on the floor. We lived with my in-laws at the time, so I had significantly more time to do something like that. Since then I had really only read my girls the picture books that they chose. Which is great too.

But I have memories of my mom reading books aloud to all six of her children. Once my dad even read the book (Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls). I know we read lots of different books, but the ones I remember most are the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Farmer Boy remains one of my mom's favorite books in the world.

One of my goals this summer was to read a chapter book out loud to my girls. I chose Little House in the Big Woods. Little House on the Prairie is the most well-known, but in Big Woods, Laura is about four years old, my daughter's age. Reading a chapter at a time, we didn't even finish its 13 chapters this summer. But then we started preschool and found a good rhythm for reading together and finished it quickly. After lunch my daughter changes into her uniform and brushes her teeth, then while we wait for it to be time to go, we read a chapter. Some days are too hectic, but more often than not we get to read together.


She loved reading this book because it did have a few drawings that she could look at as we read about something completely foreign to her (like harvesting or making cheese or going to a town for the first time in your life). Laura has a sister and a mom and a dad just like my daughter (both of them even have dads who have beards!).

Today we get to choose a new book to read. I significantly cleaned up my book collection before we moved here, but I still have a few of my favorites. I still have the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder collection because of the childhood memories they brought, so we could choose another one of those. A few other ideas I'll suggest to her:

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Matilda by Roald Dahl
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

I'm looking for something with stories that will entertain, but not be too difficult of topics. I've heard of a series of books called Ivy and Bean, which we may check out from the library. Any other suggestions of good read aloud books for young children?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Torn

I am so glad that I have two children. Sisters to love each other, play together, even fight with each other.

But there are times when I am torn because I am only one person. Sharing a lap is certainly a good thing. But I am torn about what to do on a day when my oldest will be having a minor surgery and spending a day in the hospital. How do I balance being there for her as much as she needs me and not giving my toddler, who has rarely been away from me at all, a traumatizing day of being left with people she barely knows? How on earth do parents with terminally ill children do it?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Underestimated


I'm always playing catch up to realizing what my children are capable of. I cut up their food long after they can do it themselves. They change so quickly that I don't notice when it happens--suddenly, they're just bigger and can do more.

My oldest was a clingy baby. She wanted no one but Mommy and sometimes Daddy. She was stubborn and would cry for hours if I left her with a babysitter. No giving up and falling asleep for that one. Her dependence and attachment continued long into the toddler years. Gradually I was able to leave her with favorite family members, but I never even considered a traditional sitter. Leaving her in a class for a couple of hours at church was a tremendous undertaking--once that was finally accomplished less than one year ago.

So the idea of preschool worried me. Would she be able to handle it? How long would it take her to adjust? Was it worth it? We signed her up anyway because it's free in Florida. But I told myself that I could always unenroll her if she really wasn't ready. I prepared myself to be cheerful and brief as I dropped her off in case she was uncertain or tearful.

But I completely underestimated her. The night before she claimed not to be nervous about school at all. It never even occurred to her. She marched into her classroom yesterday and sat down to color. I had to ask for a hug goodbye. She barely looked up as I left and was happy as could be the whole time she was there. I shouldn't have worried. And I shouldn't have underestimated her. She's stronger and more capable than I give her credit for.

Monday, August 12, 2013

End of Summer

My oldest starts preschool in one week. One week! This is the first time that a school calendar marked the end of our summer. We didn't get to everything on our summer bucket list, but we did a lot of fun stuff. It was a strange summer in a new place. A place where you actually spend the summer indoors and winter is more appropriate for outdoor activities.

We didn't make it to Downtown Disney or the zoo. But thanks to Grandma and Grandpa visiting us, we went to the Magic Kingdom and Sea World. I think that was a little cooler. We also went to Utah for a wedding, visited friends in Tallahassee, and went to Georgia for the first time (and my first grits and first fried green tomatoes).

We went to the beach a couple of times. We haven't yet made it to the Gulf Coast because it's about twice as far as the beaches on the East Coast for us, but we'll get there eventually. We found a farmer's market to go to (I've been sorely disappointed at how few there are in a place where you can grow stuff year round).

We had a picnic, played at the splash pad, rode bikes, and went to the pool more times this summer than my daughter has the rest of her life combined. We had homemade popsicles, roasted marshmallows over the grill, visited an ice cream shop, and got 7-11 slurpees. We saw our first 'gators--in the safety of the Orlando Science Center.

It's been a good and mostly fun-filled summer despite being a one car family. We are now blessed to be a two car family and I'm going to try to make this week fun with more outings before we're constrained by time and have to rush home to get lunch and get my daughter to school.


   



              


Friday, August 2, 2013

To E-Read or Not to E-Read



I used to be an English major--which means I went through a phase of being a snob about books and movies. Then I got over it, stopped being so critical, and started enjoying some books and movies simply for the fact that they're entertaining. When people ask what kind of books I read, I still find I have to say that I go for things that are literary. When I've said that I'll read almost anything, people automatically assume I read romance. And for me that doesn't even hold entertainment value. So...I'm still a bit of a snob.

I also have a master's in book publishing. So I took the classes about book selling and how crappy it is and how almost no one makes any money off it these days. And I sat among the people who would never "sell out" and own an e-reader or even buy a book from a big box store. All indie bookstores all the time for them. (I love independent bookstores. And if I ever have lots of money, I'll do all my book buying at one. The fact is, I spend very little of my money on books anymore. Something to do with having kids to feed and clothe.)

I love the smell of books, old and new. I love owning a pretty book. Reading a book is a more sensory experience than reading off a device. But my favorite part of a book is the words and the story it tells. Which comes through on an e-reader too. I got a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday this year and have been asked if I like it. So though I still read "real" books and will buy nice copies of my favorites, here's why I like my Kindle.

- I chose a Kindle and not a Nook because with Kindle you can download out of copyright classics for free. Whereas with a Nook, they'll sell you the B&N Classics version for a few bucks instead.

- My library has e-book lending. I can check out and return a book without leaving home. I have bought a couple of books on my Kindle. But the majority of my reading on it will be through library books, making it free to read many books after the cost of the device. And yes, I love browsing library shelves. But with two little girls, I don't have that freedom at the library. At the library I get to pick out kids books and chase kids running in different directions and loudly whisper "don't yell!" and "no running in the library!" over and over again. (Check to see if your library has e-book lending. Most bigger library systems do, but the last two places I lived had very small libraries and they didn't have it.)

- I can read at night without a light. My Paperwhite has a background light that I can turn way down if I'm reading in the dark--it doesn't hurt my eyes or wake up anyone else. The light is also made so you can read it in the bright sun at the beach, but my beach trips involve chasing children, not lounging and reading, so I haven't tried it out yet.

- On a trip I can take my Kindle and have lots of books available to read. Not that I often get to read on trips anymore, but it's nice to have the option.

I hesitate to buy e-books because I do like to feel like I actually own a physical book after spending money on it. But with my education background, I understand how much money is spent on developing, editing, and marketing a book, even without the cost of printing. But I'm happy with my Kindle and wish I'd made the plunge earlier.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bittersweet

I've finished weaning my 19 month old. Finished meaning I gave her one last feeding on Sunday night. She has spent the last two days asking for milk, especially at bedtime. I wonder how long it will take her to forget.

There is certainly relief. Until I made her cut back she was still waking up to feed at least a few times a night. I felt like I still had a small baby instead of a toddler. I was sleep deprived and worn out and tired of having to breastfeed her everywhere I went. Not that I was unwilling to in almost any circumstance when necessary, but she just thought it was necessary far more often than I did. Now I can also wear what I want without having to worry about whether or not it's breastfeeding friendly. And I can take medications without worrying about if it will harm my baby.

But there is also sadness. I cried the last time I breastfed her, my baby. Very likely my last baby. With the sadness is some gratitude in realizing how blessed I am that I was able to breastfeed her for so long and to have that relationship with my youngest girl.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane



"I'm going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they don't always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world." -The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I love Neil Gaiman but have hesitated to read his adult books because his books for children that I have read (Coraline and The Graveyard Book) terrified me. In a thrilling sort of way. But I love his works. He is such a great storyteller I couldn't help but check out his newest fairy tale for adults, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. (And seriously, what an awesome title.)

It was interesting because it is written for adults but from the point of view of a young boy. And it was terrifying and beautiful and heartbreaking and intriguing. I would recommend it to anyone, but I know that not everyone would like it. If you know any of Neil Gaiman's other works and know what you're getting into, you should definitely read this book. I think I might read it again before I have to return it to the library because I'm certain I missed something, or many things, the first time.

"I remember my own childhood vividly...I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them." - Maurice Sendak, in conversation with Art Spiegelman

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Breastfeeding in Public

With child #1, I went to great and stressful lengths to cover up while breastfeeding. It was hot and sweaty and awkward and I spent a lot of time breastfeeding in the car. With #2 I never once tried to use the nursing cover, rarely used a blanket, and though I did occasionally breastfeed her in the car, I also breastfed her while walking around the store just as often.

This was largely for convenience's sake, but in the back of my mind I also hoped that I might make a new mom more comfortable with breastfeeding whenever her baby needed it (and not when it was convenient for others) as mothers who breastfed more openly eventually helped me gain the confidence I have in breastfeeding in public.

I am slowly weaning my toddler (currently 19 months old). At this point I feel like I could breastfeed her longer if she were the occasional breastfeeder. But without me slowly cutting her off, she was still breastfeeding many times a day and often for long amounts of time. Some women can do that, I'm simply too tired to keep that up any longer.

I breastfed her at Disney World, both in public and in the mother's nursing room and had interesting experiences both times.

In public I had at least one person give me a few strange looks (I usually don't pay attention to people's reactions, but my husband noticed). I also had a woman walk by and lightly tap my knee and say, "High fives to you!" I've heard of people being praised for breastfeeding in public, but never experienced it myself. It felt pretty good. I don't know if I'd be as forward with a stranger, but I'll remember that and might consider giving some encouraging words to breastfeeding moms I see.

In the mother's room, I met another mother who was breastfeeding her 19 month old son who had no interest in weaning (much like my little peanut). And I met a first time mother who told me that she was so worried about how she was going to breastfeed her 10 month old during their day at Disney World. I mentioned that I had breastfed outside as well, but it was certainly nice to have a cool indoor room to go to. But I was a bit shocked (as she may have been by me). How do you decide to spend a day at Disney World with no plan for how to feed your baby?

This woman was Hispanic and was from a different culture (though I'm fairly certain she was American) and I had another opportunity to shock her when I stated that I was not likely to have any more children even though I had so far failed to give my husband a male heir. "No son! Really, no son?!" The black lady who was breastfeeding the 19 month old laughed at my joke about if my husband wanted more kids, he could do it himself. But the Hispanic lady was just appalled that I would have no sons and amazed that my husband could eventually come to terms with this.

***

I read a great article today about taking modesty out of the breastfeeding argument:
Breastfeeding and Modesty

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Four Year Old's Review of Magic Kingdom Rides


We went to the Magic Kingdom for the first time this week. Luckily, since we live in Orlando, we know that we will probably go again sometime so we can do things we didn't get to the first time. We also know what we might skip the second time around. Here's what my four year old thought.

Favorite rides:
- Dumbo
- Magic Carpet

Which are basically the same ride, just different modes of transportation.

What we'd do again with her:
- Prince Charming's Carousel
- Winnie the Pooh
- Under the Sea (with closing her eyes during the scary parts)
- It's a Small World (this was the 19 month old's favorite--meaning the only one she didn't protest)
- Meeting Disney Princesses (she was a little timid, but in talking about it later, she was all excitement)
- Take a break in the baby care center (i.e., get out of the sun and relax without all the overstimulation)

What We'll Probably Skip:
- Peter Pan (it wasn't bad, but they didn't love it--older kids might like it better)
- Jungle Cruise (it may have felt a little too real for her, she got pretty anxious and then lost her hat in the water on top of that)

What We'll Do When She's a Little Older:
- Meet Mickey & Friends (the princesses at least look like people)
- Take time to walk into Cinderella's castle. We probably could have done that without going to the restaurant or boutique, but thought of it when we were pretty far away from it.
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Be Our Guest Restaurant (this one's for me--you can have lunch in a room that looks like the Beast's library)
- Bigger rides as she gets older and less fearful

I'd also really love to go to Epcot sometime. I've been told you can meet princesses at their respective countries. I haven't really checked out what's at Hollywood Studios. But it seems that Magic Kingdom has the best stuff for small children. If I were going without kids, I'd do what my in-laws did and go to Universal Studios. In time, I'm sure.



Monday, July 15, 2013

What I've Been Reading, First Half of 2013

The first five months of this year, I finished four books. I was appalled when I realized that. I often stop reading for pleasure when I'm stressed, and this has certainly been a stressful year. Not reading is a sign that something is wrong and getting back into reading is part of the cure for me. In June and July, I have read 14 books. Here's some of what I've been reading lately.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
I read the LOTR trilogy in college to coincide with the movie releases. I thought that I had skipped reading The Hobbit. But as I read, I remembered what happened and I had notes and creases all the way to the end of the book. So apparently I did read it. But had forgotten it enough to read it like it was new again.

Jessica Day George
I read three different books by her that were connected. And I read them out of order. My 12 year old niece had recommended them to me. I still love a good fairytale, especially with a bit of a twist here and there. And George delivered on this for me. They were also light, fun read that helped me get back into reading.

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
Really interesting nonfiction.

Inferno by Dan Brown
I find Dan Brown to be good escapist fiction, but with some added culture and history. I enjoyed the ride with this one, but I felt something was lacking in his conclusion. There were some major repercussions to his ending that weren't addressed at all.

Finding Alaska by John Greene
John Greene came highly recommended to me. I enjoyed this one and was told some of his others are even better, so they're on my library hold list.

Some contemporary fiction, all good:
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
The Butterfly Effect by Barbara Kingsolver
The Round House by Louise Erdrich

After four general fiction books with pretty serious topics addressed, I think I need a bit of fantasy or humor in my reading. I have the newest David Sedaris on the shelf. But I'm currently working through Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie. One of the interesting things about reading a library book on my Kindle is that I have no idea how long the book is when I start it. Apparently this one is thick. I'm on my second check out and only half way through. I don't regret reading it though because of its importance in the history of writing, publishing, and free speech.

Read any good books lately?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summertime Activities

 It's barely more than a month before my oldest starts preschool for the first time. Our unscheduled days are numbered! I took a look at my list of fun things to do in the summer and realized that many of them are unfulfilled--even ones we can do at home on our own. It's also been so hot that I hate going outside, even to get the mail. But my girls love being outside even if they come in drenched in sweat 15 minutes later. So this week we did some ice cube painting.

I took the basic idea of sidewalk chalk paint (2 Tbsp. corn starch, 4 Tbsp. water, drops of food coloring) and froze it in cubes. Then we took them outside to let them melt all over some big pieces of paper. The moment we got everything set up, the clouds covered the sun. It was still hot enough to melt the ice cubes, but it took a little longer. I started them with spoons because I hate things staining my hands, but my youngest quickly abandoned hers for her hands. Which it's supposed to be a sensory experience, so she figured out the right way to do it despite her mother's phobias.

This activity could be done, and might be more fun, straight on the sidewalk. I used paper because we have a brick patio and it would be hard to slide the ice cubes around on it. The girls had fun, but again, it's potentially messy. I picked it because it sounded fun and I know I need to stretch myself to allow messy play to happen.




I also made Kool Aid playdough, which has been a huge hit. It smells better and the color was better than when I've used food coloring.

In a pot, combine:

1 c. flour
1 c. water
1/4 c. salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 Tbsp. baby oil (you can use vegetable oil, but baby oil makes it smoother and smells better)
1 packet Kool Aid

Stir constantly over medium heat until a ball forms. Remove from pot and let cool. Knead it a few times to get it smooth.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: Bloom



After reading the introduction found through Pinterest, I read Kelle Hampton's Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected.

Kelle Hampton didn't find out that her second daughter had Down syndrome until she was born. A difficult diagnosis and adjustment even if you know ahead of time--all the more of a shock when you don't. This book is the emotional journey Hampton took the first year of her daughter's life.

There is a lot of merit to this book, and I do recommend it for some reasons. So first, let me get the stuff that bugged me off my chest. Hampton is blessed to have good family and many, many friends. At a party where she invites her closest girlfriends to, there are 28 women. I have good friends too. But I simply couldn't relate to feeling that close to that many people. I also couldn't relate to Hampton's ability to frequently go out for a girl's night on the town when she had a toddler and a baby at home. As someone who has never had a sip of alcohol, I found it strange how often Hampton drank to party or escape reality--especially since she was a nursing mother. And there were a few words that she simply couldn't leave alone. Badass was used far to often to be funny. And, I'm sorry, does everyone you know really call you "babe"? Maybe that's simply a lack of finesse with writing dialogue. Or maybe it's just my problem with being emotionally guarded when she clearly is not.

Even with my complaints about some writing style choices, I could tell she is someone I would read as a blogger, which is how she started. Her writing wouldn't bother me in little bites. And though I found her partying, gregariousness, and effusiveness hard to relate to, I'm sure for many people, these things would just make her book and message more accessible.

Her book would be best for other mothers or family members who have children with Down syndrome or other extra challenges. But the beauty of her book would be good for any mother--her honesty in her emotions. We hate to admit to any lack of loving feeling for our children. I fear an unplanned pregnancy because I never want to feel, even for a moment, that I didn't want a child coming to me. Hampton is honest about her feelings of wishing to have a "normal" child. She's honest about the gut wrenching pain and tears of the first night of her daughter's life. There is less guilt as we as mothers admit to imperfect feelings and actions. And Hampton works her way through it, which should offer a glimmer of hope for anyone struggling with a child.

"It is a rite of passage not just for special needs, but for motherhood--to worry, to cry, to go to the awful place of 'what would I do IF?' We ache when they ache, and we write with distress at the thought that they will, at some point in life, be hurt. And they will."

Interesting that I read this now as only a couple of weeks ago I had a discussion with a friend about childrens' personalities and challenges. Are we given the children we can handle, or the children we need to learn and grow?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Acclimating



When we first landed in Florida, everything looked strange. Trees, flowers, and even the grass looks different. The birds flying around us are birds I've only seen in the zoo or in pictures. The weather is different. Even the air feels different.

We've been here about six weeks, and already I don't stop and stare at all the strangeness around me.

Have you heard that it's hot in Florida? It's hot. It's hot and humid and muggy and stifling and the sweat starts trickling down your back before you get to the car. But as long as the sun isn't out to burn our eyes with its glare, my four year old and says, "It feels pretty good out here."

I hear that the winters are lovely.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Boredom Jar

So we made it through a cold, icy Idaho winter stuck indoors most of the time. Just as it warmed up there, we moved to Florida--at the beginning of the time of year when it's too hot to play outside for long. It feels like another winter stuck indoors.

Today we went out to play before 8 a.m. We were instantly sweating and in under 20 minutes my girls were ready to go inside. So I brainstormed a list of things we could do when we're bored so we don't automatically turn on the TV when it's too hot to play outside.

Being a hands-on, get down on the floor, do crafts every day kind of mom doesn't come naturally to me. So this list helps me think of fun things to do with my kids even though I'm not naturally spontaneous.

Art:
Paint a Picture
Color
Draw
Playdough
Crafts
Make a Book
Make Bookmarks
Make Sock Puppets
Make Paper Airplanes

Indoors:
Bake Something
Read a Book
Write a Letter
Do a Puzzle
Dance Party
Watch Videos of the Girls
Look at Scrapbooks
Skype Someone
Read-a-Thon
Songs with Movements
Paint Toenails
Have a Bubble Bath
Exercise

Learning:
Learn Something New About Florida
Learn About an Animal
Learn Something About Nature
Play School
Learn a Letter
Learn a Number
Learn a Shape
Tell a Story about a Family Member
National Geographic Kids Online
PBS Kids.org

Outdoors:
Hopscotch
Hula Hoop
Jump Rope
Water Play Outside
Go on a Walk
Blow Bubbles
Sidewalk Chalk
Ride Bikes

Play:
Board Game
Card Game
Train Tracks
Instruments
Build with Legos
Dress Ups
Tea Party
Hide and Seek

Cleaning:
Wash Windows
Sweep & Mop
Vacuum
Dust

Outings:
Park
Splash Park
Zoo
Ice Cream
Hiking
Beach
Library

Visit a Friend

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer Fun

If I don't make a summer bucket list, I feel like the summer comes and goes with few fun memories. Although the weather here in Florida will seem to us like summer year round, with my oldest starting preschool in August, our schedule-free days are numbered. Here's our list for this year:

Foodie: 
Homemade Popsicles
Homemade Lemonade
Roast Marshmallows over the BBQ
Grill a Pizza 
Ice Cream from the Place Shaped Like an Ice Cream Cone
Family Breakfast at Davis Bakery 
Try Avalon Pockets

Indoors:
Cloud Dough (8 c. flour to 1 c. baby oil)
Kool Aid Play Dough
Read a Chapter Book to the Girls
Make a Blanket Fort
Family Movie Night
Scholastic Summer Reading Program (our library's summer reading is only for ages 6 and up--boo)
Make Pool Noodle Light Sabers
Solar Paper Art Projects

Outdoors:
Soda Bottle Sprinkler 
Make a Rain Gauge
Stay Up Late and Look at the Stars
Ice Cube Painting (with Juice Cubes)
Learn to Do Hula Hoops
Dance in the Rain
Color Scavenger Hunt
Picnic in the Park
Splash Pad
Movie in the Park

Out and About:
Go to the Beach
Go Swimming
Go on a Family Bike Ride
Go to the Zoo
Farmer’s Market
Go on a Hike
Downtown Disney
Visit Tallahassee Friends
Daddy/Daughter Date
Mommy/Daughter Date

Homemade popsicles: check.

Splash pad: check.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sand and Water

Child #1 could spend all day digging in the sand. Filling and dumping and refilling buckets. Making hills and mountains and castles of sand. But she doesn't care as much for the ocean. She got knocked over by a wave on our first visit, and I made her go back in for the second visit so she had some fun experience in the water and didn't think you could come to the ocean without at least dipping a toe in.


Child #2 loves the ocean. She would have run straight into it till she was carried away by a wave if we had let her. Born in water, she's been my water baby ever since. She was happiest waiting for the next wave to wash over her. She didn't like the sand much because she didn't want to get dirty. She kept trying to wipe off my toes buried in the sand. She eventually did dig in the sand. But before long she wanted to splash in the shallow waves of the ocean.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Our New Neighbors


These little guys scamper around our patio. I'm still getting used to them. They often startle me because something that size that moves that fast with a long tail makes me think it's a mouse. I've convinced my girls that the little lizards are cool and my toddler sticks her tongue in and out when she sees them. They're both scared if a sparrow lands in the path ten feet away, but they're fine with lizards. Go figure.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lost in Motherhood




A recent conversation made me remember my pre-children, even pre-marriage college days. Back when I was known as a femi-nazi (though you truly don’t have to be radical to be called that in a conservative religious town). When I got passionate about issues. When I dabbled in vegetarianism (aka, I didn’t like to cook meat). When I wrote poetry. When I didn’t wear a bra for about six years (pregnancy put a damper on that at the time and breastfeeding has put a damper on it forever). I was, in small ways, my generation’s version of a hippie.

For a moment, I wondered what had happened to my past self. Where did she go? Did she, as I had feared, get swallowed up in the role of wife and mother? My sister reassured me that I won’t feel it as much once my children are older and no longer need so much of my time. But I also realized that the hippie college student has simply morphed into the hippie momma.

I had a natural waterbirth at home. I’m breastfeeding my toddler. My baby wears an amber teething necklace that absorbs into the skin and aids in pain relief (it always sounds weird when I explain it out loud, but I swear it’s helped her). I use cloth diapers. I co-sleep and wear my baby in a sling. I made homemade baby food. Neither of my children ever took a bottle or a pacifier (I am lucky in that I have not had to leave them to work much since I had them). A fun family weekend activity involves going to the Farmer’s Market. I blog.

I did not lose myself. I transformed into myself as a mom (with a little bit of my mom thrown in—this morning I watched The Price is Right with my daughter and sealed the deal on that one). I wish I had more time and energy for me. I wish I could do Yoga without a child climbing on my head. I wish I still wrote creative works that could be rejected by every journal I sent it in to. Right now I feel lucky if I get to shower every day. But my life will not always be like this and when the time comes, maybe I can rediscover some of my old self. Just with less anger, less bad poetry, and a lot more cleavage support.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Oranges

Dear Florida,

Why do all your stores sell California oranges? Aren't you supposed to be known for your oranges?

Sincerely,
Baffled New Resident

Monday, April 22, 2013

What Would You Do?: Playgroup Edition

At a large playgroup your three year old comes and tells you that another child is hitting her. Do you tell her:

A) "Maybe he just wants to play with you. Go back and see if he wants to join you and your friends."
B) "You don't have to spend time with people who are being mean. Find someone else to play with."
C) "If he hits you again, hit him back."
D) Screw this--just go hit the kid yourself. He's already smacked your one year old in the face with a car and hits or pushes her every time he walks by.

Okay, so options C and D aren't really options. And much as it would be nice, the mom of said child was not doing anything. I didn't know her well, so I tried not to judge. Maybe she's really tired. Maybe she fights this fight with her kid all the time.

When my friend's daughter said that the kid was hitting her, she told her option A. Anyone who knows me will know right away that I told my daughter option B.

What would you do? I see the wisdom of option A. But maybe my own life experience has taught me, the hard way, to not spend time with people who aren't being kind and uplifting. A lesson I'm still learning as an adult. But I also don't want my daughter to learn that she should never play with someone who did hit her once--they are just kids after all and she does her share of pushing when cornered in a playgroup disagreement. The kid in question this time was hurting other kids as he walked by them for no apparent reason, so I definitely didn't see a need for her to interact with him. But I will remember option A in a potential future scenario where a child who is usually nice is having a bad day.

What would you do?

Friday, April 19, 2013

x2


Being a single parent for weeks at a time has highlighted something about having two children for me. While my love multiplied with having another child, everything else remained finite. I do not have any more time, only two hands, just enough room on my lap for both children (if they’re not pushing each other off), and I’m pretty sure I have a lot less patience. Actually one more thing has increased: my exhaustion.

 The only thing I’ve learned is to try to be conscious of giving time and attention to both. Especially to the less vocal of my children. It will never be equal, but I will always be trying.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Where You're Planted


Image from here.
I know there are plenty of people who can beat our record, but in under 8 years of marriage my husband and I have lived in seven different places--and we're headed to our eighth at the end of the month. (I'm not going to count living in a hotel for a week or two while we look for home #8.) This has included living in four, going on five different states. My oldest daughter will have lived in four states before she turns four. My baby will have lived in three states before she's 18 months.

I haven't loved every place we've lived. Our last place was in the middle of nowhere and I really struggled living there. The above quote often haunted me--as I never felt like I bloomed there and worried that the problem was with me and not with the place. Well, both were partially true. But I disliked it there so much that anywhere else sounded good (and that may be the best thing I learned there--gratitude for everywhere else I will ever live)--even Idaho.

I grew up in Utah and many people, usually people who had moved to Utah from California and other places, made fun of Utah. So we Utahns made fun of Idahoans. Maybe if you grow up in Idaho you are glad you don't live in Montana, and if you live in Montana you're relieved to not live in the Dakotas. And if you live in the Dakotas...maybe you're just happy to not be in Canada? Anyway, I never thought I'd want to live in Idaho.

But as I face another move--our biggest yet--I know I'm going to miss Idaho with its friendly people, its wide open spaces, its lack of traffic, and its big blue sky. And I've worried about moving to Orlando, Florida--a place I've never been. I worry about Jurassic-sized bugs, alligators, heat and humidity, the lack of mountains. But mostly I worry about my children's safety and the kind of environment I will be raising them in.

I found comfort this week in a quote from my church's General Conference:

"How we raise our children is more important than where we raise our children." - Elder Stanley G. Ellis

So I'm taking a deep breath as we take this giant leap of faith into the unknown. I'll keep my children close, my prayers for them frequent. And keep my eyes open for new things to love. A year ago I never would have guessed that I would be so sad to move away from Idaho of all places. Let's see what Florida has to offer.


Article found here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Choices in Childbirth

First Child: Hospital Birth
Second Child: Home Birth

“Those among us who deliver ‘naturally’ strut around like war horses.”

This is the line from Bringing Up Bebe that upset me. For one thing, the author was not living in the U.S. and  viewed American women who chose natural (drug-free) childbirth from across the ocean through magazines or other media. There was no indication that she knew anyone personally who had delivered naturally--let alone who strutted around the fact. Women like that might exist somewhere, but they are not the norm. It does not even come close to my own experience or what I've seen with other women who chose natural childbirth.

I rarely volunteer that I delivered naturally. I'm not ashamed, but it rarely is met with kindness or even neutrality. Sometimes people are merely curious, which I'm fine with. But most often people think you're crazy at best and a bad mother at worst.


Just a few days ago I walked into a conversation about another mom who had delivered naturally because she "likes pain." The person speaking then saw me and said, "Well, you know. You did it." I didn't really respond, but the idea that women who deliver naturally enjoy pain, or even have higher pain tolerance, is not true in most if not all cases. I normally have very low pain tolerance. And I complain a lot. If my toe hurts or I have a headache, you're going to hear about it. I didn't choose natural childbirth because I wanted pain. I chose it because the pain (and there was a lot of it, and I screamed bloody murder during the pushing phase) was worth the easier recovery to me.

My sister delivered both of her children drug free and she says that people don't trust her experience as much as they do mine. I delivered one with an epidural in a hospital and one completely naturally in my home. Experience number two was infinitely better, pain and all. For me. Doesn't mean it would be better for you. And I'm very careful that I don't tell anyone what they should choose with such a personal decision. (I have met someone who tells everyone that they need to deliver at home--funny enough it was a man telling a woman.)

Part of why I'm so careful about judging other people for their childbirth choices is because I've faced so much judgment with mine. Why would you endanger your child like that? Well, obviously I didn't feel I was endangering my child or I wouldn't have made that decision. A friend who chose natural childbirth with her first child after years of infertility was urged to not take a chance on her first child. As if those who get pregnant more easily are willing to risk a baby's life. Or as if she would love a second child less than her first.

So bring your curiosity, but try to keep your judgments to yourself. Because choosing a path different than the norm is difficult. And a choice of a different childbirth path is extremely personal and is often met with hostility even years after the choice was made.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Parenting Book Review: Bringing Up Bebe



Some parenting books I seek out, this one I saw on the shelf at the library and grabbed it on a whim. Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman is about an American journalist's experience as she raises her children in Paris. She notices some big differences between her children and the French children and seeks out why, often implementing what she learns. Though as her husband points out, she sometimes has to be careful to not be more French than the French.

Druckerman has a unique, if limited, point of view on parenting in the two countries. She often has a hard time pinpointing what makes French parenting different, and even the French parents she is close to often can't express what they do because it is so instinctual in their culture. Druckerman's own instincts have her parenting much like Americans do, but she is not in America and so her idea of what is going on here is also limited.

When she talked about American parenting, I could relate to much of it. However, she used the most extreme examples of what she read in magazines and what she saw on playgrounds in high end New York neighborhoods where the parenting she saw bordered on (and often crossed into) crazy. These extremes were illustrative, but sometimes I was annoyed that she felt she knew what was going on in American parenting when, 1) very few people are so extreme, and 2) there are obviously many different styles of parenting here even among the people I know personally, that I felt that the generalizations misrepresented us. There was one topic, and one line in particular in the book that actually offended me. But that requires a whole new posting.

There were some French ideas that I liked. French kids don't eat kid food--they eat food. They are expected to try everything (much like a "no thank you" bite that my in-laws and others I know have done here) and thus eventually acquire a taste for everything. French parents talk to their children like they are people (oh, wait--they are!) and can understand them from the very beginning, which I've always tried to do. Some ideas are too late for me (how they get their children to sleep through the night very young) and some are too far outside my culture (children as young four go away to camps for up to ten days).

The best idea I got from this book is the French idea that they are educating their children--teaching them rather than disciplining them:

“American parents like me often view imposing authority in terms of discipline and punishment. French parents don’t talk much about these things. Instead, they talk about the √©ducation of kids. As the word suggests, this is about gradually teaching children what’s acceptable and what’s not.

“This idea that you’re teaching, not policing, makes the tone a lot gentler in France. When Leo refuses to use his silverware at dinner, I try to imagine that I’m teaching him to use a fork, much like I’d teach him a letter of the alphabet. This makes it easier for me to be patient and calm. I no longer feel disrespected and angry when he doesn’t immediately comply. And with some of the stress off the situation, he’s more amiable about trying. I don’t yell, and dinner is more pleasant for everyone.”

The book was well written and engaging. It also gave me some things to think about. I'm going to try to think of parenting as teaching rather than disciplining. If nothing else, it might help me be more patient as Druckerman found.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Breastfeeding Beyond

My little shadow imitating me by breastfeeding her baby.

At my daughter's 15 month well-child check up, the nurse went through her list of questions.

Does she drink whole milk?
I offer her milk every day, but she refuses it.
Do you give her vitamins?
No.
She shoots me a slightly panicked sideways look.
But she is still breastfeeding.
A sigh of relief.

The interesting thing to me was that whether or not I still breastfed was not on her list of questions. At 12 months it was--and I was supposed to know how many times a day and for how long. Um, however much she needs to. Up to 12 months, we're supposed to give babies either breastmilk or formula. And then the cow's milk can replace those two things after that.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that they didn't ask. Here's a look at the breastfeeding numbers in America according to the CDC:

76.9% of mothers try to breastfeed
47.2% are still breastfeeding when the baby is six months
25.5% are still breastfeeding at one year

They don't even have a number for those who breastfeed beyond 12 months. Though the WHO recommends breastfeeding until age two, the American Academy of Pediatrics only recommends it till 12 months. And after that American moms are on their own to decide. No one asks if you do because they assume you don't. Until you breastfeed your toddler in a public place.

I did not plan on breastfeeding my daughter for so long. I weaned my first at just over one year old. And I've considered weaning my second. The real difference may have something to do with personality and definitely has something to do with the seasons. Number one turned one at the beginning of summer and was healthy for the couple of weeks I worked on weaning her. Number two turned one at the beginning of winter and has come down with an ear infection or cold or something every time I start to wean.

But since she refuses to drink cow's milk, my continued breastfeeding reassured her nurse and doctor. And her petite size might make it so fewer people look twice at a child that age breastfeeding (just at the fact that you're breastfeeding in public). Until she sits up and signs and says, "all done."

"We all know that our breastfeeding 'number' is a concrete way to compete with one another. A mother's score is reduced if she mixes in formula, relies too heavily on a breast-milk pump, or actually breast-feeds for too long (at which point she starts to seem like a crazed hippie)." - Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman