Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Preschool Idea: Places

This week my sister is visiting me with her three-year-old and one-year-old. So our house is full of chaos and fun with four kids cooped up inside most of the day. But my sister is awesome and had a great idea for an activity we could do to help fill the time. Each day we are learning about a different place and eating some food that represents that place.

Today we learned about Florida since my family will be moving there. I looked up some simple facts about the state and told the kids about it while showing them pictures. All I could find on Florida cuisine was all the tropical fruits, key lime pie (which I can't eat because of an egg allergy), and spiny lobster. So it might now have been authentic, but we ate delicious fresh fruit: mango, strawberry, kiwi, and bananas. Then we colored pictures of the state and the state bird and flower.

This week we will also learn about the Midwest and Minnesota (three cousins live there) and we will eat hot dogs (we didn't think the kids would go for brats) with pickles and cheese on the side. And then we will learn about Denmark because Daddy is going there next month. On that day we will eat aebleskivers (not an authentic recipe, but they will be made in an authentic pan) for breakfast and then have open faced sandwiches and chocolate milk for lunch. We'll probably also play with our Legos that day.

I love this premise and will probably repeat it with my daughter. We'll probably take time to learn something about all the states we have family in or have lived in ourselves.

Florida Facts

Nickname: The Sunshine State
Tree: Sabal Palm
Flower: Orange Blossom
Animal: Florida Panther
Marine Mammal: Manatee
Reptile: Alligator
Bird: Mockingbird
Beverage: Orange Juice

Highest Point: 365 Feet
166 Rivers
11,000 Miles of Rivers and Streams
663 Miles of Beaches
7,700 Lakes 10 Acres or Larger

Average Summer Temp: 82
Average Winter Temp: 68

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Birth Choices

“For all of mothering history, women have learned from their mothers, aunts, sisters, and close friends what labor and birth are like. It’s not all sunshine and roses. The goal is not to read about women who didn’t feel pain, or women who had superhuman strength. We women are all different; we have different pain tolerances, different worldviews, different way we handle challenges. But after giving birth, we are all the same: we are mothers.” - Mayim Bialik


A friend of mine recently gave birth at home. (Congratulations and great job!) Before she did, she wanted to talk to me about my experience with home birth to get some insight and encouragement. Especially because most of the people she talked to had been negative about her birthing choice.

When I made the choice to birth my second child at home, I got everything from enthusiastic support to people who were horrified that I would put my child at such risk. (Obviously I didn't feel that I was putting my child at risk by making that choice--otherwise I wouldn't have made it.)

I don't wish a home birth or a natural birth for everyone. But what every woman deserves is informed choice in her birthing options (not to mention actual access to different birthing options) and to not have people who are not the child's parent tell them that they are making the wrong choice. 

I have talked with many women whose ideas about birth conflict with my own. I am open with the fact that I gave birth at home and I will share my experience with anyone who asks. But I am careful not to force my opinions on anyone who doesn't want to hear them. And no matter how they gave birth--from a planned C-section to a home water birth using hypnosis--in the end each one is a mother who carried and delivered her baby and made the first of many difficult decisions that she hopes is right for her child.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


My family is going to be moving more than 2,500 miles from a small town in Idaho to Orlando, Florida. We moved from Washington to Idaho just last year. And from Oregon to Washington a year and a half before that. Every time we move, we get rid of stuff that we don't use often and really don't need anymore. And yet with every move there's more stuff accumulated or more stuff that we thought we still needed and moved the last time. How do we have so much stuff? Seven years of marriage and two kids does that to you.

There are a few factors that make this move different than our others.

1) It's a lot farther. Our farthest move previous to this one was from Utah to Oregon. It seemed far at the time, but this time we are literally moving across the country. If we really don't need it or use it, why schlep it that far just to throw it away or donate it in a new state?

2) We're going for a complete climate change. We've been living in the dry areas of UT/ID or the cool rainy areas of OR/WA. Now we'll be going to the year round sun, heat, and humidity of Florida. Winter coats and flannel sheets will never be needed.

3) We'll likely be living in a lot smaller space, at least at first. Rent is significantly more there, so we'll be moving to the smallest space we can manage in while we rent.

It honestly feels good to get rid of a lot of stuff we never use. VHS and our VCR? Gone. When was the last time we used them? Sad to see some movies go, but if we care enough, we'll replace them with a DVD or BluRay.

Clothes are an interesting thing. We're getting rid of winter stuff--but we have to get through this last bit of winter before we do it. I went through my girls' clothes. Even though I have no current plans to have more children, I couldn't quite bring myself to get rid of stuff that my baby grew out of. But with this move I did it. I allotted myself one small bin per child for baby outfits that I wanted to keep for the sake of the memory. Then everything too small for my baby and everything of any size that they're not currently wearing that is for winter got either donated to a thrift store, put in bags to take to my sister-in-law for her little girl, or put aside to see if a consignment store will take them to get us credit for all the summer clothes we'll need to buy. At the end of the cold weather here, we'll get rid of all the winter stuff they're wearing right now

Books are my passion and I have a large collection. I never quite made it to 1000 books and now I never will. I'm keeping almost all of the children's books we have, but even though I have more than 200 they all fit on one small bookshelf because they're so small themselves. All of my other books I am going through and only keeping if they fit two or more of these criteria: 1) all time favorite, 2) will definitely read again, 3) are a nice copy (even if I love the book, if it's a cheap mass market paperback, getting rid of it will encourage me to get a nicer copy if I still care later on--much like going from VHS to BluRay), or 4) have sentimental value.

It's a bittersweet process to part with books. The best ones that I'm getting rid of are going to be sold at a used bookstore. Others will either be sold at a yard sale if we're able to have one or donated to a school, library, or thrift store. My husband will be grateful to not have to move so many boxes of books to move from house to house. Though he bragged about how many books I owned more than I did. He's talked about getting me a Kindle on and off. And now he definitely has to get me one for my birthday this year to replace all the books I'm purging. But the best books still deserve a spot on my shelf as a real paper book.

I don't love moving. But I do love the excuse to clean and organize and dejunk our lives. To evaluate the things we really need and use and what is just taking up space.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Recommended Books of 2012

I read 30 books in 2012--far fewer than I had read in 2011, even though my goal was to read more in 2012 than the previous year. I was pregnant in 2011 and took care of a baby in 2011. I also moved to a new state. So those things might have a bearing on less reading time. I would make a goal to read more than last year, but this year looks even busier than last, so I'm just going to try to keep taking the time to read. This year is the year when my husband gets to buy me a Kindle, so I wonder how that will influence how much reading I do.

I looked over my list of books I read last year and these are the ones that stood out to me that I would recommend to others:

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
You read that right. I did not read the entire series until this past year. I had read the first few when they were first really big. My roommates would buy them, so I'd read them. But book 5 was just too long for me to take the time on when I was reading 15 books per English class per semester (oh, how I wish I'd kept lists of books I read back then!). But this year I read them all in close succession, starting with book one. Then I watched all the movies. Reading them this way helped me remember plot points and to appreciate Rowlings craft and storytelling skills.

Unpacking My Library by Leah Price
A photo book of authors' personal libraries. Cool for book nerds.

The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith
The best book on writing memoir I've ever read. And I've read a lot of them. I'm almost certain this is part of the new curriculum for my old memoir writing teacher's classes now.

How I Killed Pluto by Mike Brown
Interesting story about how Pluto got demoted. If every science writer was this good, I'd read science books all the time. I definitely want to look up and see if he's written anything else.

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
Compelling storytelling and fascinating story. Another author I might look up again in the future.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
Shannon Hale is my new author for light reads. This one fit the bill, plus it made me want to read Jane Austen. Which any good fan fiction should accomplish.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Beautiful story, beautiful pictures. The movie Hugo was good too. There were little differences, but it is one of the few times I'd recommend the book and the movie or both.

What did you read in 2012 that I should add to my list for 2013?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Domestic Executive

Last night we had some young men over for dinner. They're around twenty years old and my husband asked what their plans for life are. One was unsure and seemed distressed that he didn't know yet what he wanted to do "when he grew up." I said that I still didn't know what I wanted to do.

Both immediately responded with, "Stay at home mom." Then repeated other titles for the same idea: homemaker, domestic executive. My only response to them is that someday my children will be in school and I will have more time on my hands.

The majority of the time I really am at peace with being a stay at home mom. When I see other women having to leave their babies to go back to work, I'm incredibly grateful that I get to stay with mine (even if I desperately need a break from them, I only want a break of a couple of hours). But it surprised me and even made me a little sad that these young men thought that stay at home mom was not only my current status, but would be forever. It made me wonder what their mothers did, or what they thought their mothers would do, when all their children were grown and gone.

In five years my baby will be in school. I don't plan on immediately (or even ever) working full time. I know raising them won't be over, and a mother's job isn't even over when her children have left the home. I'm excited to be involved in their schooling. I want to volunteer in their classrooms and go on field trips with them. They'll still need mothering and raising for many years to come. But in a few short years, they will need significantly less of my time than they do now. And I hope that my house will be cleaner and I'll get to read more books, but eventually I'll want to do something more.

So no, I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Right now I'm a stay at home mom. But like many people, my career both in the home and out will evolve and change with time.

Friday, January 4, 2013

There's Always a Reason

I've made plenty of mistakes as a mom. And I hesitate to give advice because of those mistakes, and because I've received so much unwanted advice as a mother of young children (I first typed "young mother," but that brings to mind someone much younger than myself). But there is at least one thing I've learned about babies: there's always a reason.

If your normally happy baby is screaming, there's a reason (and it's not because she's trying to ruin your day or your sleep). You might not know that reason at the time, but I've almost always later discovered what was upsetting a baby or changing her schedule or any other unexpected and unexplained thing that babies do.

I do have to remind myself of this from time to time. Like when my one year old (who I was about to try to wean) suddenly starts waking up every hour or two to feed at night again. Or she is so needy and demanding  to breastfeed so often during the day that my corresponding soreness if reminiscent of the early days of breastfeeding (seriously, I thought I was done with that). Cutting a tooth? An earache? A growth spurt? Fighting a mild bug? Maybe even a combination. But there is a reason and she's too young to try to make me miserable on purpose.

So my reluctant advice to myself and anyone else struggling with unexplained neediness of their baby (or even child) is that there is a good reason. And they'll eventually get over it. Right?