Thursday, September 30, 2010

More live and let live

This is such an important topic, this where-do-we-draw-the-line-with-live-and-let-live! I'm appreciating all the comments from those who weighed in on the discussion. Some good points were made, and some questions were asked that merit thought.

You know, some of us are talkers. Some are more quiet. Some are straight shooters, and others are private about what they believe. I really think this comes into play here. Rachel, for instance, indicated that she used to offer her opinions regarding everything, until she learned that this isn't always the best approach. But she still will speak up quite clearly and easily if someone is behaving in a way that is directly inethical, in her opinion. Whereas myself, as an introvert, am more challenged by confrontation and thus err on the side of live and let live rather more often than perhaps I should. But I also don't like to waste words, so if I'm going to speak up, I want it to be effective. Well, I waste written words all the time, on here =), but I mean verbally.

I also think it's a matter of worldview. In my opinion, not very many of your average parental behaviors are *damaging* to children. I have this very deep belief in childrens' ability to grow in a variety of circumstances, which comes in part from watching Matthew persistently grow and thrive despite numerous changes in caregivers and geographical homes, and living with me in my least effective coping times as a parent. I also believe children are born with innate strengths that help them heal and grow and function as future adults. So perhaps a worldview that viewed children as more fragile or susceptable to environmental influences would believe that many of your average parental behaviors ARE damaging to children. Which would influence their desire to speak up as opposed to let live, because the stakes are so high. I generally tend to think of children as NON tabula rasas, but individuals whose growth is affected by their environment. I don't know if my distinction between tabula rasa and being 'affected' by an environment is clear, but I just mean it as a matter of degree. I mean, all kinds of really amazing people and world leaders and artists and contributers to society grew up with less than ideal circumstances and are more empathetic and caring and positive and strong people because of it. I know there were some aspects of my childhood that affect me even today, but I would not generally describe them in damaged terms. You know? I have some vestiges of challenges, but I don't know if those are damage.

Language use is so powerful.

I read an article a few years ago on economic theory, and it presented the counter culteral idea that we live in a world of plenty. Often we approach economic theory or resource use as though there is not enough of each to supply the billions of people who live on earth, but this article countered that there is, in fact, enough on earth to support ALL of us, and enough to feed ALL of us, and enough to supply ALL of our energy needs...but that it is not effectively or efficiently distributed. I'm not doing justice to this economic theory at all, I'm sure (maybe I should google it!), but it really appealed to me.

Similarly, I am attracted to ecological theories that focus on what we can DO, and how we are succeeding in caring for the earth, and how we can strengthen and build on those successes and actions to do better in the future.

Nutritionally, I like reading about what foods I can eat and feed my family to make us healthier, rather than focusing on the industry's failures and rising rates of XYZ [insert health problem here].

I find positive focus more motivating. So I think I try and shy away from the term *damage* when it comes to child rearing practices for similar reasons. I am heavily weighted down by all the many impossibly imperative and difficult choices I have with regards to my children, and struggle often with guilt. So any opportunity I have to try and look at parenting in a positive light and to trust that my kids will grow up healthy and whole, I cling to pretty tenaciously. Maybe I'm wrong. Or maybe it's just my style. But I just get tired of taking absolute responsibility for all the possible future psychological variations of stability that my kids might turn out to be! I really believe that if I can step back from the debilitizing guilt and agonizing over choices, that I can be a better parent overall because I'll stop second guessing myself. I'll have more energy to put into what I have experienced in my own life to be the basics of psychological stability, and personal joy: secure relationships. So, though I may send my kids to public school, and someone else may sleep train with cry-it-out, and someone else may bottle feed, and someone else may the end, a secure attachment in one's primary relationships are what makes the difference.

This may not be a sound example, but when I was a kid, my mom spanked me and my dad didn't. My mom believed in it, and my dad did NOT. Many adults I know express that the experience of being spanked was extremely negative for them, and I acknowledge that, and this isn't to debate the merits of spanking vs. non spanking. BUT I have always thought, even as a small child, that I would rather have had my father be emotionally attuned to me and spank me, than off in his own world and not spank me. It was far more hurtful to feel distant from my dad, than it ever was to be spanked (my dad's a great guy. Don't get me wrong!). It was difinitively not damaging to me to be spanked, and I was a pretty sensitive kid. I also believe in complete healing. Maybe the spanking was damaging to me, but each time, the relationship and attachment I had with my mom healed it completely, right away. In the same way, I believe that although Matthew had major changes in his early life, stability and security, and most of all, GOD can completely heal those for him. And has. He may become retraumatized in the future when he grows old enough to more fully understand what happened to him, but then I believe complete healing is possible for him again. It is possible to heal from a traumatic event, and to move on. My mother and I were well attuned, and thus her discipline choices seemed like minor characteristics. Like the difference between Canadian Tire brand spark plugs, and Honda brand. As long as you've got the spark plugs in your car, the difference is pretty minor. Fine tuning.

We SHOULD fine tune! It's what makes us stronger and healthier, and helps us to contribute positively to the next generation! Research which spark plugs have which characteristics, and choose based on what works for YOUR car! But buy the spark plugs.

To me, the spark plugs of parenting are a strong, emotionally attuned attachment.

So. If this is the case, and I see other parents who are not fostering emotionally attuned attachment with their children, what do I do?
ARGH! I don't know. Throw my hands in the air. Or something! Be a good example???

I remember once when Ayden and Matthew were small I was at a friend's house with a bunch of moms and I was totally overwhelmed with my toddlers. I was talking about how hard it was, and how bewildered I felt, and how I hated being cranky mom who was always saying "DON'T" but didn't know what to do, and my friend Jenna spoke up. She gave me some tips, including: "See how Ayden just shared with ____? Catch him doing something positive and praise him for it." I was so grateful that she spoke up! I actually put into action the few tips she gave me, and it pointed me back in the direction of positive, attachment parenting when I was really funked and overwhelmed. It made a huge difference in how I felt. So speaking up is really good, but it has to be with a gentle attitude, and the right context. I was open to feedback, because (a) I was so bewildered, and (b) I was talking openly about how frustrated I was. And because she was so non judgmental about it. It helped that I knew her well and really liked her kids and her parenting style. So she demonstrated a good example, and was willing to offer some advice when the time was right. Advice in small doses, too.

And, I think, an open mind will carry us very far. The more we can foster community, the more we will have the opportunity to demonstrate the applications of our beliefs in healthy ways, and the more we can support each other. The more we will also have the opportunity to learn about how others do it differently, but healthily, also. There are many variations of healthy and loving. For absolute sure.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Live and Let Live

After I wrote about homeschooling and parenting live and let live, my friend Tamie posted a very interesting, very good comment that inspired me to write a whole new post. A quick excerpt from her comment sums it up well:

I think it's tough because we can't *just* be open-minded. Like, live and let live by itself isn't such a great philosophy, because some people are living in really fucked-up ways. I think that we all have these lines we draw where we say, "Live and let live, except when it comes to X" and "X" is "abuse" or "neglect" or what-have-you. Right?

...It seems to me that this is the reason why so many people are so passionate about what they believe about parenting--because they truly do believe their way is best for children, and in many cases they believe other ways are actually *harmful* to children. You know? And that's a tough one, because there certainly are plenty of common practices that really ARE harmful to children.

It's so interesting in blogging because so often what we say is from a certain context: live and let live about schooling choices, keeping in mind the value of education itself, regardless of method. But Tamie is right. There is a bottom line for most of us regarding acceptable behavior. Is there a bottom line where we say "This far and no further?" Yes. I remember once when I worked for BC Ferries I witnessed a dad emotionally abusing his approximately ten year old son, mocking him and berating him in front of their travel companions, and his son was just so obviously trying overtly to please him. I felt guilty that I silently railed against this dad, and sat by while this boy was abused. It was awful. One of the main reasons I didn't speak up was because I felt it would make little to no overall difference in the dad's behavior. But later I thought, it might make a big difference to the child, to have someone stand up for him and point out the behavior isn't right. I also have wondered about the travel companions. Why didn't one of them say something, gently even, like, "Aw, ease up on him, man!" or something? It's more effective to have someone we know and trust point something out than to have a stranger do it, you know?

In that context live and let live doesn't seem so ethically sound anymore.
However, it's true, what I thought on the ferry: speaking up in an individual situation isn't that effective. It will likely accelerate the abusive or negative behavior towards the child, because it embarrasses the parent, whose coping mechanism is abusive behavior.

Becoming a parent often intensifies feelings of disbelief and horror regarding those who abuse or harm their vulnerable dependents. But parenting also scrapes the bottom of our coping barrels, making us better able to understand HOW someone could, for example, shake a baby in frustration. When you can't cope, you can't cope, dude. Now, we don't actually SHAKE the baby, but we see how someone could feel frustrated enough to feel the impulse. If those of us who grew up in loving families, who are educated and have access to resources to help us as new parents have moments of difficulty coping, how much more would it be so for someone who grew up in chaos or abuse, has minimal education, or doesn't know how to access resources to help them heal?

Also, working in my job, I have been called to several situations of babies being left unattended in hot vehicles, many instances of intoxicated or drug abusing individuals with children, moms in the midst of psychotic mental breakdowns, recipients of long term physical abuse (women, not children), and quite possibly a case of Munchausen's By Proxy involving a child. None of these things was easy to see. But for some reason, I have a lot of empathy for the parents in these situations. They are not stupid. In denial, often. But not stupid. They know that what they are doing is wrong, in most cases. But they cannot cope. They are deeply enslaved to addictions that distract them from things like: the baby shouldn't be left in the car while you go and buy drugs. They feel so much pain and bewilderment and GUILT, and they actually love just as deeply as you and I do. But love isn't enough. I don't condone what these people have done, but I feel deep grief for what they go through, and how FAR they would have to travel to return to a healthy path. How do you forgive yourself for choosing drugs over your daughter and having her apprehended, and then go on to get treatment and support and strive towards health, and then start again with your child after several years of her living in foster care or with relatives? That is not an easy path to walk. Most of them are deeply wounded by their own childhoods or life experiences. And society villifies them.

Will confronting them heal their lack of coping skills? Or addictions? Or childhood wounds? A stranger on a boat cannot fix these things.

But is it right to stand by? What can we do? And how about if we disagree? Family A practices X behavior. Family B thinks it unethical.

Say I were a member of Family A. A stranger or near stranger expressing that X is unethical would feel intrusive, painful, and inappropriate. A friend expressing the same thing might present something thought provoking, but ONLY if sent with kindness and grace and humility. A family member or best friend expressing the same thing likely would inspire deep contemplation on my part of X's ethical foundations. Whether I changed X or not would not be guaranteed, but the contemplation and reevaluation would be. So you can see how being a stranger is not a good place to confront X, whatever it is.

At the same time, I really believe in working towards love and acceptance and validation of individuals, and ALSO system changes. For example, I really believe that the high cesarean rate in our country is indicative of systemic violence towards women. It's unethical. It's unnecessary. And according to the World Health Organization, a cesarean rate higher than 15% indicates that more women and babies are being harmed by the surgery than are being helped by it. But when I meet individual women who have had cesareans, I don't make them feel like crap by criticizing their surgical birth, or making them question the validity of it, or asking them accusing questions like, "Did you move around during labour? Did you have an epidural? Did you hire a doula? Did you get induced?" because those would imply that the WOMAN did something wrong. It's not women who are wrong, for doing the best they can and the best for their own bodies and minds and selves, and for trusting their care providers. It's the SYSTEM that is BROKEN in small ways and big, that contributes to high cesarean rates. So I read lots, advocate for VBACs, write for Mothers of Change, support women as a doula (the presence of a doula reduces surgical birth rates by up to 30% simply by virtue of emotional support, not by being oppositional to medical personnel or flinging themselves in front of surgical knives or anything), and talk about my own experience with surgical birth and VBACs as often as I can to people in society. Though I'm pretty careful around other women who have had surgical births. Because live and let live. And who am I to determine what is best for her? Who am I to make her feel judged, or bad, or misunderstood? I certainly don't appreciate that when it's done to me.

I don't know where this line of thinking leads me. Do I speak up when I see people or children treated in a manner I consider ethically wrong? Or do I simply live and let live and work behind the scenes on systemic changes? My inclination is the latter. But is it the right way? I don't know. Is there a threshold to live and let live? I've certainly talked to patients before about their behavior. Things like, "You know we recommend not smoking when pregnant? I'm sure you've heard that before. But it can be really, really hard. Sometimes your doctor can help you find support groups or medications that can help? But pregnancy can be a stressful time, and a hard time to quit altogether. Most of all, reducing the number of cigarettes in a day as much as you can manage is beneficial." But only if I have a good rapport, and have an opportunity. And I really don't like it. But I'm in a position to make health recommendations because of my job title, you know? If I'm just another mom on the street, I'd be fully expecting to be told to piss off if I talked about smoking and pregnancy.

Some might argue that emotional or physical abuse is different from smoking during pregnancy. But others would consider smoking during pregnancy to BE physical abuse, so it's not a matter of what X unethical behavior may be, but rather how to consider our engagement with X, and with those who disagree about X.

What do you think?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tomato Soup That Will Make You Cry

I tried this recipe tonight, from a blog I found recently...being a tomato fiend whenever I'm pregnant, and lately especially a tomato SOUP fiend, this recipe fired me up. It made my toes curl, it was so good (just like she said it would). It was totally worth the blending and mixing and various dirty dishes!!! Of course, my kids rejected it by sight. But I made them Lipton's chicken noodle soup with carrots, celery, and frozen corn added to it for some nutritional value, and they chowed down the homemade croutons I made to go with the tomato soup. YUMMY!!! (I used home canned diced tomatoes, fresh tomato puree, and pumpernickel bread, as variations on her recipe). Deeeelish.

A Multitude of Options

Ever since participating in the Carnival of Natural Parenting, I've been growling in my head about some of the other entries. The topic of the carnival was: We Are All Homeschoolers, and we were asked to describe how we incorporate teaching our kids into our days, whether our kids are home schooled or otherwise schooled.
It was an interesting carnival, and included bloggers with babies, older children, toddlers, and bloggers who homeschool, unschool, send their kids to public or private schools, and all manner of styles of work at home, stay at home, work outside the home parents. I loved reading about other peoples' perspectives and philosophies; teaching our kids skills and life lessons is something many parents feel passionate about and contemplate a lot, so there was a lot of interesting reading published in the carnival. I took away some interesting ideas and tips, and mostly an appreciation for the variety of approaches and personalities there are out there.
But. There were a few homeschoolers who weren't shy about the fact that they feel homeschooling is the ONLY way to go. It's that same attitude that drives me nuts about many parenting situations, that there is one superior way to raise kids and those who deviate are doing it WRONG! There are definitely things I feel passionately about when it comes to parenting. I do think attachment parenting is better. I really do! It makes intuitive sense to me to care for my kids' hearts and respond frequently and as gently as I can when they have a need or cannot regulate their emotions, and touch them lots and carry them lots when they're small and just generally be responsive when they need something. I can't do this ALL THE TIME, because sometimes it's really taxing, but I do think the philosophy behind attachment theory and attachment parenting is true, and makes sense.
However, different things work for different families and I'm pretty open about living and letting live. It may not always appear so here on my blog, but in REAL LIFE, I'm actually really good at the live and let live. A blog is a self expression forum, somewhere were I say stuff I don't generally say unless with like minded people, because who am I to judge someone else's philosophies and opinions, and especially who am I to make them feel judged or bad about those philosophies and opinions? I just do what I do and let others do what they do, for the most part.

I breastfeed forever. Doesn't work for you? Great!
I use a variety of discipline techniques, including the occasional spanking. Doesn't work for you? Awesome!
I cosleep. Can't sleep with a kid in your bed? Okay! Don't cosleep!
We walk our kids to school. Too overwhelming or far for you? Drive!

So. Back to the carnival homeschoolers. I think I might call some of the militants. Homeschooling is a fantastic educational option, and it fits the attachment theory well. Children are designed to be born into and function within family units, and to learn their life skills and socialization within that context. The more family togetherness that we can foster, the healthier our children are, emotionally, and the more fully and completely they will be able to evolve into autonomous individuals, because they are not pushed to be independent before they are ready. They also need not contend with peer comparison or pressure, never feeling stupid because they are a late bloomer, never feeling superior for being a teacher's pet, and never, ever enduring playground taunts for peeing their pants when they are six. Homeschooling is awesome.
Public schools are ALSO a fantastic educational option, one which is our educational method of choice for now. You know that proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child"? School is our village. It works for us. It's not perfect, but I think our kids are very well cared for and well supported in their current learning environment. And Matthew does BETTER in a group of peers, as far as focus and skills acquisition, so school is a particularly positive environment for him at this stage in his life.
Some of the other parents who participated in the carnival were emphatic that homeschooling our kids is a God given calling and that public school is nothing but negative. What happened to variety is the spice of life? What happened to open mindedness? What the heck happened to valuing education itself? Aren't there kids in Northern Pakistan's tall mountains who DREAM of going to school? I think I read about them in Three Cups Of Tea. And aren't there UNICEF studies which show a grade 5 education can turn a region's upcoming generation around from living in perpetuating poverty, to healthier communities whose children are, in turn, educated and grow up healthier AND less poor? Isn't it education itself that makes the difference? Literacy, basic mathematic skills, critical thinking skills, an awareness of the larger world and its ideas, fostering imagination, learning art appreciation, self expression, etc? I just wanted to say that I celebrate access to education, in all its forms and styles and deliveries, at home or outsourced to schools. And I don't appreciate being overtly judged for the method of schooling we choose. (I'm sure homeschoolers don't appreciate judgement either! And I know they run into a ton of it in a culture steeped in the perceived normalcy of our current style of public schooling...which is maybe where the force behind these carnival writers' words comes from). Balance, people. All we need is balanced perspective. School is cool. Home is awesome. Education is the magic key.

Serious Funk.

Ack, today is getting on my nerves. Not one thing, just the fact that today even exists. The end of September generally brings on a serious funk for me: I remember when Ayden and Matthew were little I would go insane over the fact that our community pool shuts down every year for the month of September for maintenance. They drain the pool, scrub, repaint, clean all the pump and filter parts, and fill the pool back up again. And I would go nuts because I was desperate for activities to keep us busy and keep my mind off everything that feels overwhelming and boring and entrapping all at once. Every September. So I don't like Septembers. September itself is fine, but I don't like what it transforms me into, and looking ahead to a long season of teeth gritting and spiraling negative moods generally enhances how much September gets on my nerves.

Oh, Spring, where art thou?

I think the sudden weather turn (which I generally like, and welcome with open arms and enthusiasm when I'm pregnant and overheated) coupled with the lack of LIGHT depletes me of something essential physiologically. I guess I'll have to work on some stuff.

When I feel like this, it's hard for me to handle normal daily tasks. Cleaning the kitchen is suddenly overwhelming and makes me angry at Brent for making or contributing to the culinary messes and leaving it all behind for me. I've never really appreciated that about him, but I do it because I'm grateful I don't have to do all the cooking. Most of it, but not all of it. In September, I want to beat him senseless for it, and have screaming fights with him in my head while I clean it, or while I look at it and don't clean it.
Matthew's grade one teacher asked me for a newsletter form that was supposed to be returned today, and I started to cry because I had never seen it before in my life. It's somewhat difficult to be 100% on the ball with newsletters from school because:
(A) Fourteen thousand of the *F*ing things come to our house every week,
(B) Brent and I tag team, so if he reads or collects a newsletter and forgets to deal with it, I don't know it exists, and vice versa
(C) I have three and a half kids and a job and a house and a husband and a cat and dog and it can sometimes happen that papers get lost
(D) They're kids. They lose papers.
I have trouble with thinking my kids' teachers will think I'm terribly irresponsible or bad whenever a paper goes missing or a library book is late or my kids don't make it to school on time. I have no idea why I want the approval of their teachers so badly, but it's pretty deeply ingrained! I'll have to sit down and sort out that one. (I've tried, believe me! It still comes back to haunt me all the time).

Also, Riley spent most of the day whining and wanting to be picked up and bawling his eyes out and being scared of "MONTERS, mommy, MONTERS!!" No matter how often I tell him mommy won't let any monsters stay in our house. He's tired. And hungry, no doubt, but he won't eat anything I set before him today for some reason. The only things he's eaten so far today are cheerios. With no milk. How much actual energy can a toddler get from dry cheerios? He's getting on my nerves.

And AYDEN. Oh my GOSH. I want to throttle that kid's attitude and punt it into next week. Suddenly the past few days he has been horrifically obstinate and argumentative and disobedient. I don't need instant obedience. But I need some cooperative acknowledgment that we live in a family unit and thus need to participate in some give and take.

Matthew isn't on my nerves. But I am extremely worried about him all the time these past few weeks. The bladder clinic never calls me back. He's due for aural surgery soon but I haven't heard from his ENT surgeon yet. He's sick. His nose is runny. His stuttering is worse. He smells like pee all the time. Although he definitely is doing very well in school: his printing is amazing and he's taking much more care with all of his schoolwork, as is evidenced by the finished products he brings home. Often in kindergarten his papers would have a few scribbles of one colour and his name on them, hastily written. Now he is writing things like "Sept 20, Matthew" and using multiple colours and drawing carefully. I think grade one suits him, and he is ready for it. So for that I'm very thankful. We have parent teacher interviews with Matthew's teacher next week. Pray hard, if you think of it, that she won't compare Matthew with Ayden even slightly during this interview--it's something that really gets on my nerves, and is very unfair. Everyone has their own path. And every second sibling hates being compared to their first sibling in school.

It's cold and I'm cold and my kitchen's an overwhelming mess and my husband is working and we'll never sell this house and I want to move to California or Hawaii where September is much like June, and I can enjoy spring feelings all year round.

Thanks for listening to the pregnant lady complain for a bit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

6 Years Old!!!

Matthew is six years old today!! What an amazing milestone~I can hardly believe it's here! What an incredible, sparkly kid, packed full of personality, energy, and fun. Every day is a new opportunity to embrace life with arms wide open, exploring and learning and engaging with all things interesting. Matthew has a ready and mischievous laugh, a particular tone that indicates he's joking (which is employed a good 75% of his time), and an incredible ability to make noise for a 34 lb, 3 foot tall, thin-as-rails boy! Matthew knows intuitively how to live life to its fullest, with no opportunity wasted. Want to inspire or awaken your zest for life? Spend an afternoon with our little boy...

(Eating Paad Thai for birthday day supper)

-knock knock jokes
-Roald Dahl's The BFG
-television cartoons
-his hot wheels scooter
-getting dirty
-tactile learning
-exploring the world through touch
-bugs (except spiders)
-playing with water
-ice cream
-chocolate chips
-his family
-helping mommy cook
-anything FUN!

-red peppers
-sitting still
-cleaning up

Matthew is very happy-go-lucky, so he doesn't have a great many dislikes. Eating in general used to be a dislike, but he's actually settling into a more relaxed relationship with food now that we have changed our approach. He dislikes being teased when he's overtired, but who doesn't?

Developmentally, he's doing fantastic. His speech is incredibly intelligible and normal, with a very few current problems. A minor stutter, and difficulty accessing the vocabulary he possesses sometimes. He has come a very long way in two short years! He also knows all of his alphabet consistently even over the summer holidays and can sound out words with assistance (I think he just has to make the leap from *I can't read* to *I think I can sound out words, and maybe read!*--he's capable, but thinks he isn't). He counts to 47. He understands complex social relationships, has incredible manual dexterity, balance, apparatus manipulation, speed, and physical acuity. He is starting to internalize ethical behaviors, although he IS a second child and will bend ethics to suit his 'needs.' For example, today he lied and told me he didn't get a cupcake for his birthday in order to get me to bake him some more...I had sent 21 cupcakes to school with him, not realizing there were 22 students in his class. When I dropped him off, I told him he would have to serve himself last, and if there were none left, that we would bake some more at home for him. When I picked him up, the teacher said one child was sick, so there were enough cupcakes! Wonderful! And then I turned around and Matthew said, with a very convincing sad face, "Mommy, there weren't enough cupcakes, so I didn't get to eat one today."
I laughed and called him on it, and we made him more cupcakes anyways! Because you just can't have too many cupcakes on your birthday! But the big ethical stuff--don't hit people smaller than you, play fair, be kind to others, be gentle with creatures, don't steal--he gets.
He is warm and charismatic. I have had many, many friends pull me aside to tell me how sweet Matthew is, and I can see how good he is at making people feel singled out and special, no matter what their age. He is good at engaging people and sparking their interest in what he is doing (and he's always doing something, since his main goal in life is to have INTERESTING ADVENTUROUS FUN!). He is incredibly energetic. His disposition has always been resilient and positive. He is an optimist by nature and absorbs change, new information, and negative experiences in a way that I have rarely seen, putting a positive spin on almost every experience.
He's ready for school. He's ready to learn to read (he's RIGHT on the cusp! So fun to watch!), write (he is actually quite good at writing individual words), do arithmatic, and all those wonderful things we learn in school. He is impatiently waiting until he is old enough to learn to play the guitar. His goal is electric guitar and drums. I think we need an insulated garage in our next house!

What a gift he is to have around. Of his three mothers, I get to enjoy him the most, for the longest, and every day I savor that with gratitude. Go Matthew! We're proud of you!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I changed my blog name (I'm sure you noticed!)

I was getting pretty bored of "Melissa's Space" as my title/blog name. It wasn't very inspiring. I hope you don't mind!

I woke up this a.m. at 8:40. And got myself and three little piggies to church by 9:04. Since we moved churches I'm enjoying being 5 minutes down the road instead of half an hour, making mornings like this possible. Several times a year, my church does a month long "Ask Anything" series, where the congregation is asked to contribute questions they have about faith, Christianity, the Bible, or life and religion, and the most frequently asked or in depth questions are then used as sermon topics, as we engage with what the Bible has to say, how the church in general has felt/feels about a certain topic, and how OUR church fits into that. It's interesting, to say the least. And interesting to gauge my own reactions to sermons. For example, I personally *don't* think being gay is wrong...but when that topic was tackled by my church I was surprised to find myself uncomfortable with the idea of attending a church that doesn't believe homosexuality is wrong. SO ODD. I like being the fringe thinker, the one who challenges the outer ring of our beliefs (not that openly or vociferously because I hate alienating people), but I'm not ready to be immersed in a fully fringe thinking church. ??? Something to wrestle with. Because I was *also* not that comfortable listening to a sermon that tried really hard to be nice about it, but decidedly alienated anyone who is gay. Not that many people there on that Sunday were likely gay, but if they were, it would not have been nice for them to listen to. Not the worst they have likely encountered, but not good either.

Anyways, that was interesting for me to note about myself, considering my reaction to that particular sermon. That was last February.
Today's Ask Anything sermon was on the existence of hell. Of all things. And I had a LOT of trouble with this one!!! I didn't realize how I really felt about the afterlife until this morning, when I got to gauge my reaction to THIS sermon! I learned a few things, namely that Hades (often translated as 'hell' in the Old Testament) is, simply, 'the afterlife.' The intermediary, bodiless place where people's souls go to after death. In Hades, there is a separation between those who choose God and those who do not. Those who choose Him, live in the Paradise portion of Hades (also referred to as 'Abraham's breast' or 'Abraham's side'). Those who choose NOT Him, live in the Agony portion of Hades. The two are traditionally thought to be separated by a chasm, though there appears to be at least occasional communication between the two sides.
Jesus refers to the Day of Judgement as being a day when our earthly bodies are resurrected and the 'wheat is separated from the chaff,' and further separation into life with God for those who chose Him, and eternal separation from Him for those who choose not Him. (I don't like to say choose against Him, because for many it's not really an 'against,' in their minds. It's simply not choosing God).
Part of the question about the existence of hell was: is there really no chance after death to choose Christ?
The answer given this morning was NO, there really is no chance after death. But I couldn't see where in the Bible or common sense or God's character (as presented this morning), this was definitively true. I believe firmly in individual choice and the existence of love. If we cannot choose whether to love God or not, it is not truly love. Not every Christian in history has believed in Free Will, but I certainly do.
George MacDonald, a theologian and writer from the Victorian era, wrote numerous books about the afterlife, in which all of us are repeatedly culled for the chaff of evil, and eventually fully redeemed into Jesus' arms. See, I have a profound problem with this. If I can't choose NOT God, then my professed love isn't love at all, but a robotic foregone conclusion.
But I guess, based on my reaction to today's sermon, I also have a problem with the idea that our death means the end of all choices. I also don't think it'll be much of a Paradise if I can see all these loved ones on the other side of the Hades chasm. Is life some great mysterious guessing game as to which God to follow based on a Holy Book and explanatory narrative that differs wildly in beliefs from (yet shares many similarities in narrative to) other gods and holy books, and then after death we're all stunned to realize WHO'S IN and WHO'S OUT and don't get to change the choices we made in virtual darkness before? This seems colossally unfair for a God who professes to have Justice as a core characteristic of His being.
And besides, Catholicism has an intermediary Purgatory stage after death, though I'm not sure if that state includes an opportunity to re-choose God or not God...but this belief system wasn't even acknowledged in the sermon this morning. I wanted it to be.
Our entire lives seem to be a series of making decisions in the dark with little information, requiring leaps of faith. Marriage, children, careers, post secondary educational paths, parenting, religion, etc, etc. What is it about the leaping that God finds so imperative to the human existence? And what about it represents TRUE choice when it comes to God or not God?
Or, perhaps, my profound belief in choice and free will is not actually true? Or at least not as imperative as it is in my worldview.

Phew. All that in half an hour.

Then we walked several blocks to the river and watched 7 people be baptized. I love baptisms. To me they are like weddings. Lotsa love, lotsa celebration, lotsa joy. A public declaration of love. It was fun to have my kids watch and absorb such a foundational ceremony on a real beach beside a real river on a rainy September morning. I should have driven to the river instead of walked, though. Pregnant, carrying a two year old, herding two older kids, by myself? I was kind of irritated at our society's (a) lack of courtesy towards *others*--namely, moms with kids who are struggling and pregnant and obviously going it alone, since many, many people passed me trekking slowly along with nary an offer of help [disclaimer: on the way back to church after the baptism someone I know who has 2 small kiddos passed me with both his kids in a wagon and offered to also carry Riley in the wagon, so all is not lost in the courtesy department...but I KNOW him: what happened to courtesy towards people we don't know? Or those in different life stages than us? Tons of university aged men fully strong and capable enough of helping me passed me on the way to the river, as well as women who could have helped me herd my older kids], and (b) a profound undercurrent of disapproval and fear of 'strange men' interacting with kids that reveals a perverted lack of trust in men in general that I find supremely offensive, and is likely at the root of the above lack of courtesy.
Do you know what virtually ALL sexual abusers have in common? A history of abuse toward themselves as children. And an addiction to porn.
Is there any way we could, as a society, create more of an open dialogue, which leads to early recognition, and effective treatment or support for children who are abused so they DON'T grow up into abusers?
And also, is there any way we could, as a society, obliterate pornography as truly broken sexual expressions, and discriminatory towards both men AND women instead of embracing and normalizing it, making it a tool for some abuse survivors to become abusers? I don't mean make it illegal. I mean stand up and choose against pornography? Christians (largely) seem to acknowledge the unhealthy nature of pornography, but the rest of society doesn't.
Anyways, I think we tend to paint all men with the potential abuser brush in an attempt to protect our kids but we wind up twisting the very nature of what is GOOD and not actually avoiding any expression of abuse. Because alienating men from children they don't know is not actually addressing the root of the problem of sexual abuse.
I hate that my boys will have to grow up with a sense of caution around how their actions with children will be perceived, being painted with the abuser brush and isolating themselves as an essential part of raising children as a village instead of isolated nuclear pods, perpetuating this unhealthy myth and robbing children and men of the many joys and lessons of interacting with each other.

Not that sexual abuse isn't a hugely horrific problem. This NEEDS to be something we address, especially because it's actually conjectured to be so prevalent. I think 1 in 4 girls encounters some form of sexual abuse by the time she is an adult? And a great many boys do, too. But isolating children from all contact with men isn't healthy, and it doesn't address or reduce the problem.

I think I got off on several tangents, there. Oops!

I was also going to write about my reaction to some of the we're all homeschoolers carnival posts, but this is long enough already. So I think I'll just end there, with all my opinions and guts hanging all over the road for everyone to see.
What else is new? That's my style.

Itchy, itchy....

Every day it gets worse. Awesome! Your nausea's almost gone? Have some ITCHY! I'm not the most gracious pregnant woman, am I? You know how sometimes you hear about or see on t.v. these women for whom pregnancy is so wonderful, and they don't have any complaints?
I'm joking, I'm happy for them. But honestly! I think what kills me is that they look so smug. They should look humble and grateful, but they always seem to have an air of superiority. Like women who emphatically deny the existence of PMS, or baby brain. Just because you don't have it, sister, doesn't mean it's universal and the rest of us are wimps.
I will admit to being whiny, though.
Friday I overdid it a lot. Brent was working, I got out of bed and got everyone ready, but had to lie down on the kitchen floor numerous times while making breakfast because I felt so sick and thought I might faint, which I KNEW was a need to eat, but everything I put in my mouth made me gag. It's so nice forcing food down your throat DURING reverse peristalsis. I walked the older boys to school, walked to boot camp in the rain, worked out with a cranky toddler in my arms, walked home, did housework, walked back to the school to pick up the older boys, and then (in my infinite wisdom) made an enormous batch of perogies from scratch. That takes hours. About halfway through the perogies I thought, "I think boot camp and perogies on the same day was a little too ambitious." But I was committed by then. Nothing else started for dinner, and already 5 pm, and elbow deep in perogies! I fell asleep in front of the t.v. after the kids went to bed. (This is very unusual. I have insomnia, so falling asleep on the couch is unheard of).
Oh yes, and during boot camp I got stun by a bee on my finger. My dad is anaphylactic allergic to bees, and I don't have anaphylactic reactions but I think I inherited some sort of sensitivity because when I get stung, I swell up like crazy. Not my whole body, just the area where I was stung. So my finger is three times its normal size right now, and is kind of whitish looking from lack of circulation. GROSS. The knuckle is pretty bulbous. DOUBLE GROSS. But the worst part isn't that it's puffy and gross, but rather that it ITCHES LIKE HELL! Of course I can't take Benadryl because of the baby (though I would to save my life: just not to relieve an itchy hand).
Louise mentioned taking steroids for a severe pregnancy itch and I'd be totally down with that if it gets any worse and other treatments don't work--I'm not into martyrdom!! In the meantime I'm taking lots of Vitamin C, which is a natural anti inflammatory, and trying to stay moisturized. It seems to help keep things under control, though now my armpits are involved. And my butt. So ladylike.

To make up for Friday's overdo, today I stayed in my pyjamas all day. I read for about 6 hours today. For four hours of that, my kids watched cartoons and ate cereal from the box, and for the other 2 hours their dad fed them lunch and they played lego. I started my day at 4:30 when I mustered up the energy to make dinner! =) That was a very nice slow Saturday, and I don't even feel (overly) guilty about all that television rotting my kids' brains.

Speaking of television; anyone else watching SYTYCD Canada and want to puke? It's time for cheerleader chloe to go home. Canada has no bloody idea what it's doing voting those three couples into the bottom three, and Candace did NOT deserve to go home this week. And what is uuuup with BLAKE??? Every time he appears on the screen I roll my eyes and want to vomit. It drives me nuts that the other judges fawn all over him, but I know it's political. The man is a four year old in an adult body, with some pretty frickin' cheesy tattoos.

Speaking of tattoos--at work the other day a grateful patient gave me his card and said, "I'm a tattoo artist, if you ever want to be inked, call me up and I'll give you free ink as a thank you for taking such good care of me."
SWEET!! I'm saving that card! Awesome! (I have a tattoo planned, for when I'm done with all this pregnancy and lactation, and I'm super excited about it. Maybe don't tell my mom).
And that *almost* makes up for the man who called me a cunt and a whore who doesn't give a shit about him, earlier that same shift. While exposing my baby to second hand smoke. You win some, you lose some.

Thanks for all the sympathy with the itching ♥
you guys are awesome. I LOVE the site!!!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

16 weeks

I'm so glad I have this blog, because without it I don't know that I would ever take the time to look up what's going on with baby #4! I probably would, but I wouldn't remember any of it by the next day!!

At this point of your pregnancy, your baby is approximately 4.3 to 4.6 inches long and weighs 2.8 ounces. Not only is your baby growing, your uterus and placenta continue to grow to accommodate the growing baby inside of you! Just six weeks ago, your uterus weighed about 5 ounces. This week it now weighs 8.75 ounces! The amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby is increasing and there is about 7.5 ounces of fluid. You will easily be able to feel your uterus approximately three inches below your navel.
Your milk glands start production at this time and this causes some tenderness and swelling in early pregnancy. Your veins will become more visible because there is an increased amount of blood flowing to the breasts.
Five and a half inches tall and only six ounces in weight. The child can grasp with his hands, kick, or even somersault.

At this time, your baby is holding her head erect. Because her muscles are developing, she can make some faces now. Your baby is able to squint, frown and open its mouth. There is enough calcium in the bones that they will show up on an x-ray. Your baby's fingernails are well formed now and the legs are longer than the arms. Because your baby is moving well now, you may begin to feel his movements! Some women say that the early movements feel like gas bubbles or a slight flutter. If you have not yet felt the baby move, don't worry. Fetal movements are usually felt between the 16th and 20th week of pregnancy.

You may feel your heart beating 'louder'. This is because there is a lot more blood in your body than normal. (about 20-25% more).

I feel good, unless I'm short on sleep. Then I feel nauseous all day. I'm more tired than I remember in my previous pregnancies at this point, but I have three kids. And I'm still nursing one of them! I have gained 6 lbs. I have developed severely itchy skin on my abdomen and legs, which is driving me NUTS! If I use a heavy duty moisturizer every 2-4 hours, the itch is only a 4/10. Any longer than that, and it is a 8/10.
I googled it, and emailed my mom. I'm pretty sure it's PUPPP but will ask my midwife when I see her next week what she thinks, and if she has any treatments for it. If it is PUPPP, it's benign. My mom had a liver condition of pregnancy called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy which is more dangerous, and I was worried it was that! But I'm pretty sure it's not. I don't have itchy hands or feet, and it's relieved by the heavy duty moisturizer (somewhat). But it's driving me CRAZY!

It's a pain to roll over at night because I have to rearrange pillows. Fortunately Riley is now sleeping through the night fairly regularly, until about 6:30 or 7:00 most mornings. So although he's sometimes in the way in our bed, most of the time he's not. My back hurts sometimes, but nothing terribly overwhelming. I hardly even have heartburn! But I DO have painful Braxton Hicks contractions, frequently. I'm thinking I need to start taking some calcium supplements but I keep forgetting to buy them.

That's it! That's the update. Oh yes, and lately I've been really, really wanting a girl. I didn't care before, but now I do. I keep stressing over wanting to go have an ultrasound JUST so I can find out if its a boy or girl. WHY? So weird. I want a surprise! But suddenly I'm just wanting to know either way and get the suspense over with. Gah.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Schooling Three Little Piggies

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We're all home schoolers

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


My three boys aren't actually little piggies, when it comes to food. They love to roll around in the dirt and make noise, but they don't eat like pigs. In fact, my older two were particularly picky eaters for quite a few years and I was at a perpetual loss as to how to spark some interest in the joys of food.

And, although my children attend public school, I consider myself and their father to be their main teachers in life. Some of the values we want to instill in our kids include a sense of connectedness with the origins of food, an appreciation for preparing food, and the type of family connectedness that grows when we eat together.

I stumbled across a way to spark interest in and teach about food purely by accident. I had a conversation with another mom about how, in order to tame the chaos in her house while she prepares dinner, she involves her young children in preparing the meal. When I first heard this, I thought to myself, 'That sounds like something I would classify as a holy, bad idea..." By which I mean: the idea is so Supermomma it has divine holiness written all over it, but it sounds like torture. But at the time, I was just learning how to cook, and the thought of involving the kids was pretty overwhelming. One night when I was making a recipe I felt confident about and my boys were running around my legs like tasmanian devils at war, I decided to try it. Not only did they love helping me, stirring things and pouring things and setting the table, but Ayden actually put a small slice of red bell pepper inside his mouth during dinner, because he had helped slice it.
While we cook, natural questions evolve.

"Mommy, are peppers plants or animals?"
"Why do you like mushrooms?"
"Do you have to kill the cow to get its milk? How about to get its cheese?"
"Why do you make brown pasta, and gramma makes yellowish white pasta?"

The kids also learn how to wait patiently, take turns, avoid a hot stovetop, which are the hot and cold taps on the faucet, the importance of washing our hands, the existence of germs, the need for a variety of whole, healthy foods, how to use a paring knife safely (after a certain age), and how to clean up after cooking and eating. While we cook, we don't usually talk about the origins of food, but when we pick lettuce from our garden, go grocery shopping, or pick berries on a local farm, the kids make the connections between our dinner plates and the farms and factories our food comes from.
I have to admit, this isn't the most relaxing way to cook. If I am particularly tired or distracted or rushed, I shoo the little piggies out of the kitchen. I know I should invite them to help me cook more often, because they learn so much by doing an activity alongside me. But it's hard! There are spills and messes and dropped measuring cups, and squabbles and chatter and it takes a lot of talking on my part. But when I do it, I'm usually surprised by how much they enjoy it, and how I can teach tidbits of math--"See this line here? It tells you the measuring cup is one cup full. That is the same as 250 milliliters, see?" Or counting. "Riley, we need two eggs. Can you give me two eggs? One, two?" Or keeping our hands out of the way (that's Matthew!) "Don't touch please, use your words if you want to stir the pot." Or patience (that's me).

Trying to teach my three roll-in-the-mud, make-lots-of-noise boys about food with language alone is pretty futile. But letting them help me cook, teaches us all.

Riley helping me scrub jars for canning--I also had him wash tomatoes
and measure and pour lemon juice into each jar


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Double Ouch

[Riley had one more pee on the toilet this a.m.! That's not the double ouch part!!]

I have to confess that I really don't like being apart from my children overnight. It's funny but it is way worse being the one who is left behind, rather than the one who goes: when I work a night shift I just go and work, but when my kids sleep at grandma's for fun, I feel all bereft. Plus, work is only 14 hours (with commute), whereas sleepovers generally run longer. Evening, night, morning, or longer. Tonight my kids are at their grandparents' house to sleep, and then stay the day til 8 pm tomorrow. That is long! A full 24 hours. My insides actually feel all sick and achey, and I'm moping about. Part of it is that Riley is gone, too, and my nursing him makes our separations few and short. Part of it is that I only realized tonight at 7 p.m. that Brent and I are both working tomorrow and need the grandparents' help! So I didn't have much time to mentally prepare for letting them go for a day. Riley nursed this morning when we woke up, but not since then, and when I said goodbye there was WAY too much excitement going on for him to be remotely interested in milkies, so it will be 36 hours between nursings. We have gone that long ONCE before, and it was fine and there was still milk (more than usual, which makes sense, but usual these days isn't much!), and the next day he made up for lost time. But it's still a long time to go without those nursing snuggles. It's tough on me that he's growing up! It is great, and wonderful, and joyful, but sad too.

Also, a friend of mine is getting married in October. Which is WONDERFUL, seriously I'm SO happy for this friend, who after many years of wondering if she would EVER meet a decent guy, met her perfect complimentary match last winter and is very, very happy. But I'm doing a reading at the wedding, which is GREAT! But means I am also invited to the stagette activities after the rehearsal. And these activities include going DANCING (hello? I'm 32 and pregnant) and staying overnight in a hotel in Vancouver. My heart sank. I love my friend. I love that she's getting married, and celebrating that properly is very important to me. But I don't WANNA stay overnight at a hotel in Vancouver without my babies and adorable husband! [whine] It is SO hard for these friends to understand that this is logistically and emotionally hard for me. Well, I *imagine* it would be, since I haven't told them it is. I can see them thinking, "Jeepers, he's two already. It's just overnight!" But it makes me feel all discombobulated and jittery, like I'm purposefully sinning or something, to leave my family for that long, and that purpose. My nest is here, and I like it here, and I've built it just so. As long as the five of us go together, our nest goes along with us, and I'm happy and peaceful. But break it up, and I feel scattered.
Hopefully I learn to cope with this by the time my kids go off to College.
In the meantime, ouch.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One More Pee!

Riley peed on the toilet again today. Just once! But who's counting really? The look of pride on his face says it ALL. The cheering brothers help, too.


This week I've been posting less because I'm running around getting the kids started at school. I'm exhausted! It has been an AMAZING week so far--Ayden loves his class so much he jumps up and down when he talks about it, and comes bursting out of his class full of stories and sparkly eyes and enthusiasm. This year we chose to put him in a Montessori style multi-aged classroom that is offered for Grades 1 thru 3 at our elementary school, and it is a perfect fit for him! He LOVES it! The teacher is amazing, and Ayden really thrives under an individualized lesson plan, self directed learning, all encompassing style. He is happy enough in the normal system, but this really draws out his enthusiasm for learning. He wasn't challenged enough in the regular class in Grade 1 last year, for sure--but socially and emotionally he did very well in the regular class. SO! I'm very happy he has found such a perfect fit, at a perfect time in his 'school career.'

Matthew has an opposite style of learning: if the whole group is focused, he finds it much easier to focus and learn along with them. Self directed learning would translate into no learning for Matthew! But the traditional class suits him very well--he can be with a ton of people, in a social atmosphere with tons of structure and very clearly delineated expectations, and focus his bright mind within a context that suits him. Awesome! So far, he LOVES his teacher, LOVES school, LOVES his class, and....has not wet his pants.
The first day was hard for me, because I wanted to do what I usually do to help him transition to a new environment: take him in, show him the basics like here is where you hang your bag, here is where you sit, and (VERY important) here is where the bathroom is. I love you, here's a hug, listen to your teacher and your bladder, have a good day, I love you again. But I couldn't. The teacher opened the door, let the kids in, waved goodbye to us, and closed the door! I felt lost! What if he forgets where I put his lunch? What if he can't find the bathroom? What if he misses me (yeah, right)?
But when I picked him up, the first thing I did was twist my head so I could see...DRY PANTS! And then asked him how his day was and he said, "GOOD!! I LIKE SCHOOL I HAD FUN MY TEACHER USED TO HAVE A PET SNAKE AND IT DIED!!!" What a kid. Day two was today: dry pants and a declaration that there was a tornado at school and it made dust go in his eye.

I will say this: he comes home with his sandwich uneaten and the snacks eaten, since we're not there to make him eat his entire lunch! But both days the first thing he does when we get home from school is eat his sandwich. So really, no calories lost. AND he eats whatever snack I make for him, so he really works up an appetite at school!

I thought I'd have all this TIME to clean my house and tackle projects, but seriously, I am run off my feet. I don't sit down all day! And I STILL have tomatoes waiting to be canned!! Maybe when school settles down and I don't have a trillion appointments or things To Do....

I LIKE spinach!!!!!!

Here is an update on Matthew and food:
Tonight at supper we had Cheesy Chicken Whachamacallit (on my sidebar under 'labels' if anyone wants the recipe), which is so delish. This is the first time Matthew has been served this meal since our 'new' method of feeding him, and he was allowed to leave ONE vegetable behind. He chose to eat the spinach and leave the mushrooms, and this was his reaction:

"I LIKE spinach!!!! YUMMY!!!!"

I think I hear Jesus laughing behind the door to my kitchen. I KNOW I hear a hallelujah chorus from heaven! Success! CHA CHING!

And he is exhibiting far, FAR less resistance to eating now, and is eating WAY MORE food and WAY FASTER than ever, ever before in his life. He is discovering new tastes that he never knew were available, case in point: spinach! I had to work hard to keep my face nonchalant and just said, "Yes, I love spinach too. It has lots of flavour in it. And lots of iron!" He is also less tired, cries less, fights with Ayden less, never ever begs me for food, and has more energy. He actually rides his scooter further than he did before. Coincidence? Totally possible. But I can't deny he's not perpetually hungry anymore.

Another funny thing is that we never have to say "You must eat it or else_____." We just say "You have to eat it." There is no punishment, except being goaded or spoon fed. WHICH, after posting initially, disappeared! He doesn't need spoon feeding anymore! He will sometimes ASK to be fed, "Can you do it, mommy?" And sometimes I'll do it, to make him feel a sense of control over how the food gets in, and maybe make him feel good about the increased amount of focused attention and eye contact he gets from me, but if I can't or don't want to, he can eat it himself in a reasonable amount of time.
If I had only known.
Doesn't God have a sense of irony?! Holy toledo. I'm shaking my head.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2 Strikes!

Riley peed on the toilet TWICE yesterday!! Go Riley!!! First thing in the morning, and then last thing before bed. In between he peed on the floor twice, Ayden's bed once, and his kitchen stool once. The joys of little boys and pee. 2 strikes, though! YESSSS!!!! He was very proud of himself.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Muk, muk, muk (warning: lots of boob talk)

"Muk" is Riley's word for breastmilk. He calls cow's milk "daddy muk," and my milk either "mommy muk," or (most of the time), just "muk."
I'm very sad to say that the muk is almost gone. I felt my supply decreasing gradually during the first 12 weeks of my pregnancy, and then, suddenly, the day after Riley's second birthday, it was gone. No letdowns, no swallowing, just a soother on a boob. I have strong letdowns, so even at 2 years old and twice a day nursing, I could feel my letdown, and I suddenly felt none at all. And heard no swallowing. I suspected that SOMETHING had to be coming out, or Riley would have lost interest--which he hasn't--and while we were camping he nursed at the beach, in broad daylight, and it was easy for me to see that when he popped off there was milk on my nipple. So there is something coming out, but it's not much.
This makes me sad. It's a hurried along weaning for Riley, who still loves his "muk" above all else. Though maybe he will hang in there until there is actual milk again, and nurse to his personal 'full term.' But in the meantime he's got drastically reduced volume of nutrients and immune system boosters, so I feel bad.
I feel really fantastic about making it to my goal of 2 years, though! Yes! Mission accomplished. Beyond that I am hopeful that he will nurse as long as he needs to, and stop when he feels ready. I really hope the lack of milk volume won't hustle that process before he would have been ready anyways.
Oh well, life is what it is. The placenta releases several hormones that inhibit lactation so it makes sense and I knew it was possible.
Another bummer is the fact that I have REALLY sore breasts now. In my first two pregnancies one of the first symptoms that I was pregnant was VERY sore breasts. Like, they are on fire and if anyone touches them I want to throw up from the pain.
Sore breasts + 2 year old nursling=ouchies.
A super frustrating part for me is that I know the pain is from breast changes as the glandular tissue is stimulated to grow and go through the necessary changes towards making milk. Well, my body was ALREADY MAKING FREAKING MILK!!! This necessary pain wasn't so necessary, until #4's placenta started putting the brakes on my milk production! This time around I was happy when the same breast pain didn't happen. But now it has shown up in my second trimester. I was apprehensive about the pain returning this time around because I have a toddler who likes to manhandle the "muk" and roll his lower body around while nursing, and grab toys that are situated behind him, and pull the blankets UP over his body and then immediately kick them off...
The cuddle time is still awesome. But it does hurt quite a bit. Sometimes if he gets a perfect latch and is sleepy enough, it doesn't hurt. But most of the time it does. And it's uncomfortable enough that I can't sleep through it myself anymore, so nighttime feeds aren't the put-mommy-to-sleep wonder that they once were! Oh well. I really don't mind overly much, I'm just sad to feel that we're going through an unpleasant stage in our nursing relationship, and to know the milk volume is so low.
Sorry, baby.

He pretty much is a happy guy, so this hasn't fazed him much. Sometimes though, I will get tired of nursing him because of the discomfort or the fact that I can't sleep, and he cries when I say, sorry, the milkies are all gone. Would you like some water? You can have more milk later.

He can now speak in 3 and 4 word sentences regularly and very clearly enunciates words like lollipop, bubblegum, and 'do the bunny hop,' which is his favourite kid song. His least discernible word is 'water,' which he pronounces, "Lawr." Hooray! His speech is totally fine. He's just on his own timeline, that's all.

[speaking of which, Matthew hasn't pooped his pants in over 5 weeks, and hasn't peed more than a tiny dribble which is not detectable by scent or visually when he's wearing pants, in several weeks. SOMEBODY'S been PRAYING, because that's a scant few weeks before Grade One with those unforgiving peers I was worried about! I don't care about dribbles in the underwear. Those I can wash. Wounds to his heart from other six year olds don't wash out so easily, and were the main pounding worry for me with regards to his toileting issues. Hallelujah, and props to anyone who PRAYED: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU]

Did I tell you Riley thinks there is a baby in HIS tummy? If you ask him where the baby is, he lifts his shirt and points to his belly. So cute. Then he points to mine and says "Momma baby." He also loves to be naked. Probably so he can play with himself. What's with that? Seriously, after a few hours you would think it would get boring. But, no! When we were camping he wanted to put on his bathing suit to wade in the water, and take it off to play in the sand. So funny!

We've started toilet training him. He likes to sit on there, and tells me when he pees in his diaper, but we haven't managed to put 1+1 together yet and pee on the toilet. Pooping he flatly denies. "NO POOP!" You smell like rotten sewage, and you want me to believe there's no poop in that diaper? Nice try. "NO POOP! NONONONONO!!!" We'll get there. On our own timeline. Which is something I'm learning to allow for as I age in experience as a parent!!! I always firmly believed in allowing each child to develop according to their inherent readiness and personal timeline, but I stressed a lot about how to let that happen, how long was too long to wait, and when it was pathological. Yes, I should have intervened in Matthew's drastically disordered speech sooner, and it wasn't for lack of KNOWING there was a problem. But, speech problems aside everyone develops at their own pace, and I'm learning to not only allow it, but to not silently stew about it. Which is good.

I have been thinking a lot about the fact that I have received some pretty negative feedback about my relationship with or parenting of Matthew this summer. There was that lady at the water park who tore a strip off both sides of me for leaving him 50 feet away from me for about 5 minutes and accused me of being a neglectful 'foster parent,' and then there was someone who commented on this blog when I swore about Matthew pooping his pants, and then at Riley's birthday party a friend of ours said "Matthew's really sweet, you know," with a reprimand look on her face when I jokingly asked if she wanted to take an extra kid home with her because he was flailing around at my feet and driving me crazy. It was driving me nuts that I was getting this cluster of criticism. I told my best friend, "I want to have a t-shirt made for him that says, "My mommy loves me" on the front, and "I drive her crazy" on the back. And one for me that says "I LOVE MY KID" on the front, and "He has a difficult personality to parent" on the back." She laughed pretty hard and said that would pretty well sum it all up.
Matthew reminds me of Robin Williams. Really funny, charismatic, and ridiculously smart and talented. But can you imagine being Robin Williams' MOM? The ENERGY it takes to parent this type of personality is astronomical. So I think sometimes it's hard for people to see past the charisma to the energy expenditure part. It's also hard for people to hear me vent sometimes if they don't really know the energy expenditure part. Or how much time I spend agonizing over all the big and little aspects of parenting him in a way that responds to his personality the best, and conveys my love for him yet my expectations for his behavior, and encourages his talents and strengths the most. Or how MUCH I love him. It explodes all over me every day how much I love him, and I'm just so grateful because it was a hard-won process to fall in love and forgive myself that it wasn't instantaneous. A hard won love is cherished on a deeper level than an easily won one, I can attest to that. It also makes my heart pretty raw when it comes to my relationship with him, and any criticism. I'm my OWN worst critic, I berate myself daily for my shortcomings as a parent, and I drag around a tiger carcass of guilt for the first 18 months of our life together, so anyone on the outside who criticizes me in relation to Matthew rubs a wound that feels like a burn blister that has torn open. The carcass used to be a hippopotamus, so at least we're going in the right direction.
But after having that wound rubbed three times in quick succession, I'm beginning to wonder if this isn't really about the criticism, or the need for t-shirts, or a lack of expressing love for him in front of others (I was thinking, "Do I not show I love him to the world? Does it just look like I'm exhasperated all the time?" but I don't think that is the case). I think it's perhaps a message from God that the tiger carcass has been dragged around for long enough.
I've said this before, and I've largely tamed my guilt demons by treating my anxiety disorder. But I am realizing that because this rubbing is so PAINFUL, perhaps it is time to truly delve deep and take the rest of that f*ing carcass, and cremate it. Put it on a pyre and set it out to sea. In the midst of a hurricane so it can never come back.
See, God knew. He knew I would screw up the transition of Matthew into my life, and He forgave me before I even did it. AND, He entrusted Matthew to me anyways. There must be something in me that was worthwhile as a parent, or that God saw as potential in me, to make us walk that path KNOWING how hard it would be? If you meet Matthew, it is wildly evident that he is a happy child who knows he is loved. I have actually apologized to him for 'being so angry all the time' when he was small, and told him that if he wants to ask me questions about it or talk about it, he can anytime (and so can Ayden). You know what he said? "That's okay, mommy!" If he can forgive me, and if God can forgive me, who am I serving by dragging around this dead tiger all the time? I'm only serving myself and my own sense of pride. It makes me feel better, somehow, to feel bad about my mistakes. It feeds my ego because my self loves to be absorbed in itself, and when I feel guilty I get to think about myself. And flagellate myself. And burn myself. And reopen wounds when they try to heal.
I don't know how to stop dragging the tiger around. But I'm going to try. Today, I'm going to make a small mark on the wall and say HERE is where I put the damn guilt down, and I'm going to try and leave it there. Hopefully this will be the beginning of the total end of this journey, and I will be able to forgive myself. Until now, I have not felt that I deserved to forgive myself. I still don't, but I'm realizing that I lash out and cause pain when those friction points are touched by criticism, earned or not, fair or not, true or not, of my parenting of Matthew. So this ego feeding prideful self loathing section of my heart isn't actually as harmless as i thought. It hurts me, it redirects my focus from nurturing my family and growing with God and towards myself, and it hurts others when I scratch them back.
I mean, lady in the park doesn't know I drag this carcass around. My friend at the birthday party has no idea. A little more grace for each other as parents is warranted, but I'm thinking that the overall message of these events lumped together isn't "People need to show me grace!" but rather, God saying, "Drop the guilt. Enough is enough. You can't carry this burden and I'm sick of you trying. Who are you to criticize ME, when I've ordained that forgiveness is free?"

So here I am. Putting it down. (It climbs back up). And putting it down. (It's stuck in my hair). And putting it down. (I don't know how). If I say it enough, the action will follow. I forgive myself, I forgive, I forgive.