Monday, May 30, 2011


Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?  NO COMMENTS?!!  Except from my mom.  People.  Who can read a post with photos of bringing baby home and not comment?  Oh, I know.  Nobody saw this post yet, nor my blog changes.  INFANT HUMAN IN YELLOW DUCK SLEEPER, folks.


So I got a Kobo reader for Mother's Day, like I mentioned before.  And I just can't get over it, it's so awesome.  I'm reading Waiter Rant for book club and I really love it.  And the book cost me only $8!  GO KOBO!  Rock on!
Today was hilarious.  I stayed up too late reading Waiter Rant so I actually felt whoozy all day from lack of sleep.  Which is a weird aside; since Amarys was born I feel whoozy a lot.  Its like feeling dizzy but without the spinning.  And like orthostatic hypotension without the black.  It kind of freaks me out but seems like a hypochondriac symptom so I've been ignoring it.  You know how when you are tired enough it feels like you're running underwater all day?  It was like that.  We took the older kids to school and stayed for parent reading with Matthew.  Riley is getting to the age where he's opinionated enough to argue over which book Matthew chooses, which frequently causes problems.  But Matthew is getting slower and slower to settle into his classroom and choose a book, so today's conflict was mitigated by Matthew taking so long to hang up his backpack and put his lunch away that I was already finished Riley's pick.  Le sigh.  Matthew and school.
I took Riley to Strong Start again: awesome again!  This is an awesome answer to the toddler whiney clingy routine.  I almost fell asleep breastfeeding on the couch.  They have this quiet corner for nursing babies and the whoozy and the lack of sleep mixed with the oxytocin nursing rush nearly did me in.  Fortunately I didn't fall off the couch or suffocate my baby with my voluminous boobs, and I managed to run around during gym time and kick balls and play hockey with a sleeping baby in my ergo.  This is how we ROCK IT!
Riley loves Strong Start but it tires him out so from the minute we left the classroom he was a grouchy bear.  I lost Amarys' soother somewhere between the classroom and our home so she was a grouchy bear, too.  And then, and THEN, I used up the last DIAPER!  She pooped and pooped and pooped today; of COURSE it was pooping day when we were running out of diapers.  I fabricated a diaper out of a flannel receiving blanket and diaper cover, but we had to pick up the older boys before going to get more diapers.
Washing ones own means you just toss some in the washer when you run out.  Disposables means you drive to Wal Mart with four kids and a soggy baby!

Ayden wasn't cranky, he was uber goofy, which made me cranky.  Okay, crankier.

Dawdle, doodle, the kids were sooooo slooooow walking home and Riley was still a bear!  We loaded into the van and off to Wal Mart we went.
The cashier asked me

He's cute (points at Matthew).  Are you looking after him?

My infant is shooting poop out the gaps in her flannel blanket diaper, Matthew's stealing gum from the display and trying to get away with it, and Ayden is rocking the cart with Riley in it.  I can't think of anything politically correct to say that doesn't make my adopted kid feel like a third thumb.

Nope.  He's adopted.

Really?!  Good for you!  He's so cute.  My friend has three biological kids and then adopted fourteen kids after that.  You're wonderful.  You're just getting started!  He's awfully sweet, you are so lucky to have him.

Yes we are...

You make it look easy.  You're doing a wonderful job.

Thank you, you have no idea, thank you.

I was a sweaty mess with frizzy hair and baby poop on my shirt, but that lady made my day.

Oh, and I forgot to buy Amarys a replacement soother while we were in Wal Mart so she was freaky cranky until Brent came home and offered to go buy her another one.  Riley was wailing

Me want miiiiiiilk!!!

Matthew was scratching his name into his bedpost, and Ayden was practicing gymnastics in the bathroom.  Or something.  Something that turned a routine trip to the bathroom into an epic crash which resulted in an eight year old tangled up in the shower curtain, lying in the bathtub and the explination

I just tripped.

You tripped and fell INTO the bathtub?  This kid is a colossal klutz.

You know how lactivist I am, but I'm a big fan of the soother.  In fact, I'm soaking my breasts in vinegar water as I type this to fend off the painful yeast infection I'm battling and I KNOW that soothers and repeat yeast go hand in hand but I'm thanking heaven for the invention of the soother.

Although you know, Amarys is a whole new baby now.  She doesn't cry nearly as much, she smiles and laughs and gurgles at her brothers and us, and she is so much fun to have around.  I still can't eat broccoli, cabbage, onions, garlic, yogurt, milk, cheese, ice cream, or fish crackers but as long as I don't, and as long as she sleeps enough and nurses every three hours or so, she's content.  She just went through a growth spurt so now she has a tubby belly and extra chunky thighs, and she doesn't fit her 3 month clothes anymore.  She's awesome.
She's bald on one half of her head so she's sporting the baby combover.
She's gorgeous.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Coming Home

I had not actually had a chance to sit down and look at these photos until today, three months after they were taken!  I figured you would enjoy them nearly as much as I did....better late than never!

Six hours old

Tiny peanut


We're home!  First meeting for Riley (Ayden was the only one awake at 2:30
when the kids came into our room to meet her the night before)

First meeting for Matthew

Don't we make cute babies?
Welcome home, littlest one

Ayden (he has been wishing for a sister for quite a few years)


Riley~a little cautious, a lot excited (note that he won't actually 'touch' her)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Staying At Home

#1.  Yes.  Two posts in one day.  I'm sorry!  All I can say is, I guess I have some drivel to say, and you are totally welcome not to read if its too much.  I will never be offended.

#2.  I'm not sure why, but it seems like there are fewer comments than usual.  Although I got one today that was typed all in Russian, and it had a link in it, and it was about sex.  Fortunately I read Russian.  Or unfortunately, as it turns out, when it comes to spam.
I'm wondering if this is indicative of the obsoleteness of blogging.  *Everyone* facebooks now, which is also reportedly obsolete.  What is current?  Is it Twitter?  Some other thing I am hopeless at?  Phbbbbt.

#3. I have a thing for lemon in desserts.  Especially lemon merengue pie.  My mom made it on the weekend while we were there and OMG people, pie needs to be another food group.

#4. I hate breast yeast infections.  I've got sore boobs and two purple faced babies.

Its interesting, I've been trying to articulate in my mind exactly how I feel about this stay at home mom thing.  I've articulated it pretty clearly here, but I keep thinking about it, so.  It's like, I actually like having a job.  I like working.  I like balancing working and parenting, it's pretty rewarding to do both and to feel like B and I share the roles.  Childcare roles.  Breadwinning roles.  It's good.  But I gave it up because I couldn't balance it anymore.  There are other factors.  I don't love my job the way I used to, which I expected because most paramedics burn out within ten years [I will hit ten years this November].  I have a sensitive, artistic type soul, and the stuff I see at work really affects me.  I also have never made much money at this job, so it isn't really financially worth it for me to work if I'm only going once a week or less.  Once a week is too often for me to maintain balance, but too infrequent for me to contribute financially in any meaningful way.  Also anything less than twice a week and its hard to maintain paramedic skills to the level I prefer to maintain.
So it is time to move on, and it makes the most sense to move on home.  I like to work, but having four kids was a choice that meant I had to choose to stay home.  Some moms with four can work!  This isn't a universal creed, and I'm grateful that I have a partner who works [very hard] and supports us so that I even have this choice to make, but its what makes the most sense right now.

On the one hand, obviously I have ambiguous feelings about this.  I feel like a truant feminist.  I KNOW, I KNOW, feminism means the right to choose to stay home OR NOT TO, but it feels different when it is me.  I had some small pride wrapped up in being a working mom feminist.  I mean, I know I'm a stay at home feminist, but I am making it remarkably easy for other people to put me in a box.  I cook, I clean, I have four kids, I drive a van.  And now I don't work.  I work damn hard, but I don't work.  Even my hair sticks me in a box.  Maybe I need to pull a Rachel and get dreads.  Something, anything, that says hippie artistic type who makes her own choices instead of mennonite mom.  I gotta not care.  Most days I actually don't, but then some moments it dawns on me: I crochet things.
This article on PhD in parenting actually addresses this whole idea pretty articulately.  Pretty thoroughly. Its worth a read.

On the other hand, I am so relieved not to have to leave Amarys and go back to work when she is one.  I only really have one more year at home with Riley before he starts the gradual journey into school, so it is nice to think about being here for it, not missing any days.  It is definitely a relief to drop work off my plate, that large juggling act that I like, that I get a rush out of, the mayhem I run towards [kind of like being a paramedic, really: running towards chaos], part of what I like about having four kids...It is nice to drop one item.  Simplify life.

On the other other hand, I stress about how we will make it, financially.  Right now I'm still on maternity leave so I'm making some income, and with the new house money is tight.  Quite.  It's house poverty, so I can't elicit much sympathy because there is so much choice involved, but it still is pretty squeezy in the bank account as it is, so how will we do it with even less next year?  I'm not sure the crochet and the doula-ing will really make much.
Who knows where we will be next year anyways?  Another city, another province, another country.  We like the idea of our kids having an unconventional childhood.  Running around in the woods, or living on a farm, or moving overseas.... We are wide open, and happy to see our kids grow up outside the box.

I might look like I fit inside the box, but we all know I don't....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blogger: FAIL! School: Success!

Blogger is driving me batty.  Pages won't load properly, comments won't post, and half the time the top bar of my blog is blank so I can't even sign in.
POOP on you, free web system problems!!

On the other hand, Riley and I made it to our first Strong Start today!  I have been wanting to check out this program since September, but haven't gotten around to it til today.  Pregnancy really puts a cramp in my style.  And a black hole in my memory.
Riley's morning clingy whiney routine has been getting on my nerves lately, and I think he's bored.  Mornings after the older kids get dropped off at school are my only real opportunity to relax, and although I spend some of my time on the floor playing blocks and cars wiss a little someone, more than half an hour and I'm pretty bored.  The dishes are calling me.  My shower is calling me.  The computer is calling me.  SO.  Anyways, Riley gets bored and takes it out on me.  ENTER: Strong Start!  A government funded program for 0-5 aged kids, designed to support families and kids during the years that their brains develop the most (the first 6 years).  It is basically a preschool classroom geared for young kids, with lots of free play, educational equipment, circle time, library time, and gym.  Parents sign the kids in but participate fully and stay with the kids, so this is my kind of program.
Yesterday I told Riley tomorrow HE would get to go to school and he about hit the roof with excitement.  His eyes lit up and got really big, and his whole body wiggled.  He packed up his backpack with so much pride this morning, and off we went!  He loved it and I did, too.  The room was set up for toddlers, with the right size/amount/height of tables, chairs, toys, sandbox, sink, etc, so after we hung up his backpack he dashed off to play and didn't look back for me for at least forty five minutes.  It was awesome.  He was fully entertained, and participated excitedly in singing during circle time, although during the story he lost interest and asked if he could play with the cars.
Typical of my baleen whale baby, he was all over snacktime.  He was the last kid to leave the table.  Also typically, he chose a pink plate and a pink cup, because his favorite colour is pink.  He's hilarious.  I think it's so sweet and wonderful that he is still young enough to think pink is just as available to him as a favorite as all the other colours in the world.  And Amarys was dressed in a blue sleeper with ambulances and cars on it so everyone thought she was a boy.  Despite the pink soother.  What do I care?  Girls can be paramedics too.  What's with the hyped up gender clothing anyways?  You just try and buy a gender neutral pair of pants for a baby.  YOU CAN'T.  Same with sleepers.  Socks.  Hats.  Do you have a boy?  Only trucks and bears and sports equipment may don the front of his shirts.  Girl?  Kitty cats, flowers, and the odd watermelon.

This stuff has always been important to me.  Funny how I talk about it more now.

Also looking ahead to summer.  Anyone have any ideas on how to entertain three boys in such a way that they won't fight ALL SUMMER?  I'm thinking of going TV free this summer.  TV helps mitigate fighting, so the topics are related.
Any and all craft, activity, and fight-avoidance sticker chart suggestions welcome....


Riley is smashingly cute, a trait he shares in common with all two year olds, I reckon.  He's my laid back, easygoing baby.  I've got the thoughtful, high strung baby (Ayden), the Robin Williams hurricane baby (Matthew), the laid back, easygoing baby (Riley), and the suspicious baby (Amarys).  Not that we're placing anyone in boxes.  Children: feel free to venture outwards in all directions as you choose~these posts are descriptive, not prescriptive.

Riley is a remarkable mixture of sociable and playful, and imaginatively solitary.  He can play by himself for hours, talking to his baby doll, the grass, the wind, the trees, or just "mineself."  And he also loves to play with other people~
It time pick up AyenMahew?
Hou want play cars wiss me?
Hou want play blocks wiss me?
Hou want play blocks and cars wiss me?
Me call daddy at work?
And he can pretty well keep up with his brothers.  Sometimes, he will play beside them, but most often he will insert himself into the middle of the fray.  Which has mixed reviews.
He's smart.  He counts to fourteen, and sometimes all the way to seventeen, without mistakes, and sometimes tosses in some twenties;
tenty one
tenty hore
tenty heven
tenty eight
tenty one
Although correct order is not something that is of high priority.

Speaking of order, Riley is my master organizer.  I swear the kid was born knowing how to sort: I see a TLC reality show in his future!!  He loves to clean up.  He also loves to help me bake, watch stuff in the oven, sweep the floor, fetch Amarys' soother, and cry out at inopportune times
Me want hou lip me up!
It is pretty irresistible, but he generally wants you to Lip Him Up when you're holding a fussy baby, you are in the middle of a shower, or there is a pan with hot grease in your hand.  And refusals are The End Of The Universe.  *Abject despair*

The only thing Riley has never done well is travel.  How a kid so flexible and easy going turns into a bear when stuck in his carseat is beyond me.  He can do all kinds of things my other kids could never do: toilet learn without power struggles, transition between activities with little or no warning, fall alseep on his own (sometimes he asks me to leave!!  Though most days he prefers if I stay), eat anything and everything in large quantities (except lettuce: what's with my kids hating lettuce?  It's a leaf, not a spider), stay up late, go to bed early, make friends, play alone, etc, etc.  He's always ready to greet life with a smile and great enthusiasm.  He was a late talker, but he is zooming along now, with words in his vocabulary  that surprise us and are obviously picked up from his brothers.

Another trait he picked up from his brothers: battle play.  I've been shot dead by this kid so many times in the past year I'm the cat with ninety billion lives.  He will sling Spiderman webs out his wrists, toss Bakugan at you, let imaginary (or real) Bey Blades 'rip,' and slay you with his light sabre.  There's just no innocence there with older brothers and toy weaponry lying around the house.  (not that weaponry is encouraged or purchased by us, UNCLE CHAD).

He has this flirtatious way about him.  He tips his head to one side while he asks you something, and if it's something he's particularly curious about, he will close one eye and raise the other eyebrow: further accentuating the foot long eyelashes and deep dimples.  And then he will spread his hands palms up, as if to question the universe.  He is my affectionate one.  He will ALWAYS kiss me, spreads hugs like jam, and crawls into laps for cuddles like a cat.  He asked my dad for a cuddle the other day when we were at my parents' farm, and my dad just about melted into a puddle.  Who can resist a sticky toddler with sleepy eyes and foot long eyelashes who makes you his temporary favorite?  He's a real good snuggler.  He knows just the right way to round a shoulder to make his body fit yours the most comfortably.  I can't decide if he is introverted or extroverted because he's just so easygoing.  I think introverted, but really wouldn't be surprised if it turns out he's the other way.

His favorite colour is pink.  He's all boy, but he loves pink.  He has a pink zhu zhu pet (toy hamster with wheels that makes assorted noises) that he pronounces "Hoo hoo pet."  If that doesn't tickle your funny bone you don't know what Hoo hoo stands for.  He also calls our dog "Hymen."
Hymen the dog.  That's almost as funny as the guy Tamie knows who named his dog Jesus!

Riley is a profound night owl, like everyone else in our family save Matthew.  He can sleep in til forever, and stay up late far easier than get up early.  Though he does melt down pretty wildly every evening as I make dinner, and deteriorate until AT LAST his cries of
Me want milk!  Me tired!  Me want miiiiiiiiiiilk!
are heeded and I crawl into his bed and nurse him to sleep at 7:30 pm.
He's particular about his milk, too.  I had a galactoceal on one breast so for a few weeks he wouldn't nurse on that side because it was my "bumpy milk."  Then the other breast developed a galactoceal and the first one disappeared, so he was continually confused about which one was the bumpy milk and therefore rejected.  I would add to the confusion by switching it all the time when he asked me, because I'd rather have evenly drained breasts than cater to the whims of a two year old with an aversion to bumpy milk.  Which is ridiculous because the galactoceal was there for six weeks before he even noticed!  When I tell him the milks are mine and I just share them with him, he laughs at me.  He thinks I'm joking.
Since Amarys was born he wants to nurse every time she nurses and several times in between, especially after 4 pm.  So I made a new rule that he can only have milk at bedtime, meaning while falling asleep, if he wakes up in the night, and when we wake up in the morning.  To get around this rule he asks me continually if he can go to bed.  Ha ha, nice try.  I don't have anything against breastfeeding a toddler in public or during the day or as often as he wants, but I needed a good, consistent excuse to hold him off or I'd be attached to his face all day.  Yesterday he asked me
Me hab milk?
Whyyyyy nooooooooot?!?!
What time do we have milk?
Looks outside.
Mommy, it getting dark.  It time hab milk.
He just needs to settle down again and adjust to having a baby sister who has milk whenever she wants! On mommy's lap!  Cuddling!

Despite the milk struggles, he loves baby Amarys.  He has such a soft, compassionate spirit and often I find him beside her chair, rubbing her head and saying "It otay, Amiss.  It otay.  Me here, me here, it otay."  He runs to get her soother or a toy, and he often interprets her cries for me.
Her pooping, mommy.
Her not like driving in car, mommy.
Her hungee.
Her tired.
Her sad because her not watch Bob The Builder.

I'm so grateful to have this kid in my life.  He's sparkly and sunny and friendly and fun, and I love him to bits.
♥ ♥ ♥

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mostly Amarys


Mommy captures smiley baby

Cute tights
(I get to dress a baby of mine in tights!)

cute boots

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sunshine and Books

AT LAST!  THE SUN IS SHINING!  AND IT IS HOT!  (and also quite humid, from all the moisture in the soil responding to the heat beating down on it for the first time in eleventy billion months).  We are enjoying it to is fullest maximum potential.  We eat outside, we play outside, we walk to and from school outside, we're soaking it in people!  And it feels GOOD!  =)

Brent bought me a late Mother's Day gift with a gift card he won through our local radio station.  It's a Kobo!!!  An electronic book reader that can store a THOUSAND BOOKS!!!!!!!!  Any literature lover can see the drastic advantage of this.  And I love it!!!  I have wanted one of these since they were first invented.  Well really I wanted an Ipad, but only because it could store so many books on it; this is even better because it is specifically intended for reading literature and so it is cheaper than an Ipad and easier on the eyes because it reads just like a book.  I'm reading Anna Karenina.  100 classics were included on it for free (including the Communist Manifesto by Marx: that's next on my list.  No seriously!  Who is going to actually purchase that on a limited budget, but I've always wanted to read it.)  In fact there is a ton of Russian stuff on there: Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky mostly.  I like Tolstoy but Dost is this heavy dusty boring cyclical navelgazing conversation on the horrible depressing state of the world.....I'm always like OMG get on with it already and kill yourself or pick yourself up by the bootstraps.  I mean, JEEPERS.  How long to we have to extrapolate upon what it's like to live as a poor student or a prostitute with no brightness, hope, or prospect of a better future?  Gag me.  I'm not really all that into Russian literature or Russian style literature for similar reasons.
But I like Tolstoy.  He's willing to admit to some brightness and colour in life.

Also tonight I went to a 2 1/2 hour long meeting at the school regarding Matthew.  The kid confounds even his learning assistance teacher.  But his teacher for next year is really special, and he's going to go in the multi aged, montessori style class that Ayden is in.  So, next year they will be in the same classroom, and their teacher is not even slightly scared.  Mwahahahahaha!  No, we talked extensively about them being together and they are fully prepared.  They have other sibling groups too because it is a multi aged class and have worked out systems to make it work, and even make it beneficial overall because the siblings learn how to work together and it spills over into their lives at home.  Perhaps this will be the answer to all my prayers that they just damn well stop fighting already [I mean all my prayers that they learn to love each other and yeah]!  ANY ways.  I'm convinced this will be the answer.  Because my kid is special and unique and brilliant and difficult to unlock and difficult to teach and highly distractible and low initiative and low impulse control and NOTHING comes easily to him in life and I wonder, what on earth was God thinking?  So many challenges for one small kid?!  But it's Matthew's journey and I can't direct it.  I can only walk alongside him and equip him for the hike.  And I think this teacher may be smitten with him and also stimulated by the challenge of finding new ways to teach him. HOORAY!  Someone else who loves our kid and has the creativity and tenacity to work with his uniqueness and teach him what he needs to know.  ♥
GOD BLESS TEACHERS!!  I'm so glad we have them.  [and I'm so glad its not me]  I'm so glad they are passionate and hard working and just so special and talented.  Thank you, teachers.

Tomorrow I will put four small kids in the van and drive five hours to visit my mom and dad for the weekend.  Brent is working, so we are leaving him behind.  Yes, just me and some leeches on a road trip.  PRAY HARD!  =D  It should be a blast.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I'm reeling a bit, having shared so much in my post We're All Walking.  Y'all still think I'm okay, right?  Ah, vulnerability...

And there are some weird things going on on my blog: some comments are not posting, although they get emailed to me.  And the post about Ayden's birthday somehow deleted the photo I had uploaded to it!  Grrr.

Good Link!

On Labels And Boxes and Trusting Your Gut, over on Anktangle....

Monday, May 16, 2011

We're All Walking

Mother's Day this year was unexpectedly emotional for me.  Brent was working and it was Ayden's birthday, making it busy in a good way.  I wrestled three resistant boys into clean church clothes and herded them and the baby into the van.  Amarys comes into the sanctuary with me and we wound up in the front row.  Our church arranges the seating in a semi round seating plan, which means almost everyone in the room can see those sitting in the front.
For me, Mother's Day is a giant bag of emotional memories.  My own mom gave me so much growing up, and still does, supporting me as a parent, student, professional, and everything in between.  She's wonderfully funny, smart intense, and energetic.  Like us all, she has faults but honestly I feel so much gratitude and admiration for her, for who she is outside of me, for all she has lived through, and for all she is to me.  I miss her because she lives a five hour drive away from me.
Add to that the fact that Ayden's birthday is always near or on Mother's Day and I'm a blubbery mess every year.  I look back at myself eight years ago and I feel like five hundred years have passed.  Simultaneously I cannot believe I'm a parent, and I cannot conceive of what life was like with no Ayden in it.  When he was born I recognized quickly how significant being a parent really is, and how every action has meaning that passes beyond us and far into the future.  I felt successful.  I felt like I was good at mothering, and that I made good choices.  I breastfed, I carried my baby everywhere, I washed his diapers, I talked him through life transitions, I loved him deeply and expressed it well.
I made some mistakes.  I never felt good about sleep training him when he was six months old.  I didn't fight for his birth to be better or more natural.  I was too strict with him too young.  But overall I was proud of my parenting.  Ah, pride.  You know what they say about pride and falling...

When Matthew came along, I fell long and hard.
Nothing felt natural, or came easily, and Matthew often didn't respond well to parenting techniques I liked or believed were essential for a child's emotional health.  Nothing I learned with Ayden worked with Matthew, and I fell into a deep mire of anxiety, anger, guilt, self hatred, and terrible parenting.  I shouted, screamed, grabbed, hit, and cried.  I fed them, bathed them, took them for walks and playdates and baby gymnastics, and hated every minute of it.  I would put Raffi on the CD player and dance around with them and think, "Every other mother loves doing this.  I hate it.  What's wrong with me?"  I wished every day to escape my kids, and my life.  I took pictures to document their cute faces and antics, and felt like a hypocrite when I looked at them because I didn't feel what I was supposed to feel, and I'd sink deeper in the shouting and stomping and self hatred.  It was one long epic eighteen month parenting fail.
I know now that my anxiety disorder was unleashed in its fullest out of control fury, and my parenting failures were simply an outer reflection of an inner emotional and psychological misery I couldn't name.  I begged God for help constantly.

I need to stop!  I need to be patient!  I need to enjoy this!  I need to feel love!  Small hearts are at stake, I need help QUICKLY!!

The consequences of my parenting, good or bad, were so huge and important that God's famously slow timing seemed ludicrous.  I mentally gave up everything, everything, bargaining for Him just to heal me and help me get better for the sake of my sanity and my kids' well being.
I reached out at first.  Many of my friends simply couldn't relate.  I got a lot of stunned looks.  My mom was a solid rock of support and understanding, and never wavered in assuring me I was normal and that parenting is hard.  My cousin Sara was also reassuring and supportive, careful to build me up and ensure I didn't feel alone.  I had one friend in the exact same place as me, and honesty without her I may have come completely unhinged.  I respected and loved her and knew she was a good person.  If she could still be a good person, there had to be hope for me.  My best friend was my phone-in-a-panic, talk-me-down-from-self-hatred person.  And just my 'person.'
God healed me and my parenting in small, agonizing pieces.  I coped the best I could in the meantime.  A million times I wanted to simply leave.  Pack a suitcase, get on a plane, move away.  Or leave emotionally.  Shut down, lock the door, not look my kids in the eye, withdraw inside.  The hardest part of every hour was choosing to face the next hour.  The hardest part of every day was picking myself up off the floor, wiping away my tears, apologizing (or sometimes not), and continuing on, hoping that things would someday get better.  It took a lot of courage to get up off the floor.  It took a lot of courage to hope.

Eventually God put a book in my hands about building emotionally healthy families, and one chapter was about the inner monologue of a parent.  It was this that made me tune into my own inner monologue and realize that my thoughts about myself, my parenting, and Matthew were virtually all negative.  Destructive thoughts, like

I'm the worst parent I know.  If people knew how bad I was, everyone would hate me.
Matthew will grow up to be a rapist because of my parenting.
He hates me.  It's justified.  I'm a horrible person.

Multiply by approximately 30,000 thoughts per day, and you have a miserable mom.  That realization was enormous for me, and the key to me turning my epic failure back around again.  I replaced my negative thoughts with better ones.

I try hard.
I'm courageous for continuing to try.
I love fiercely.
No one is perfect.
My kids are joyful, authentic kids.  Look at their faces!  They are happy.  I must be doing something right!

And when I slipped backwards, God would help me step forward again, with more hope.  I was climbing a steep, treacherous mountain pass and it hurt and it was so hard, but God was climbing right behind me, taller and broader than I was and ready to steady me as I climbed.  God healed me, and redeemed me as a parent.
For a long time afterwards, though, I dragged around a heavy load of guilt.  Everyone knows those first years of a child's life are critical in forming who they are.  Everyone knows adopted kids are especially vulnerable to emotional upheaval.  Everyone knows eighteen months of poor parenting is enough to cause lasting effects on an adopted toddler.
I started to feel uncomfortable with these kinds of thoughts.  I really felt strongly that God spoke to me about them

Who are you, to condemn where I have forgiven?
I am enough to fill the void.
I am enough to fill up Matthew.
I am powerful to heal.
I can redeem even you.  And especially Matthew.

In church last sunday one of our musicians sang a song she wrote for her mother, and I started to cry.  It was beautiful and simple, about everyday things like protection and constancy, and how much she loved her mom.  I started to cry, remembering it all.

When I got pregnant with Riley, the worst was behind us, and I felt so much better.  When Riley was born, it dramatically changed my relationship with Matthew in a positive way.  I liked parenting again.  When Matthew met Riley, he looked from Riley's face to mine, and I knew he was checking to see if this changed my feelings for him.  Knowing Matthew, I didn't say anything~I simply stuck out my tongue at him and crossed my eyes.  He laughed and stuck out his tongue back, and his body relaxed into the knowledge that he was still loved.  And he ruffled Riley's sparse hair with affection.  For the first time, I felt the same deep love for him as I did for all my kids, and it helped me put down the heavy guilt I had carried for years.
Riley's birth also flung me deep into post partum anxiety in a way that finally helped me recognize my anxiety disorder and get treatment for it!  So because of Riley, I encountered healing from guilt, deeper love for my child, healing for my anxiety, deeper redemption of my ability to parent, and a second chance.  An opportunity to start again.  Enough milk for two.  A VBAC to help me believe in my body. And a new understanding that God is enough to redeem everything, everyONE, every day.

At the beginning of his sermon, our pastor had all the mothers in the room stand up and had everyone else call out characteristics they appreciate about moms.  A few people said the standard words.

multi tasker
good food
kisses owies

Then someone said

self sacrifice

and my face crumpled up so tightly it wasn't possible to hide my tears from the entire church, given that I was in the front row.  I buried my face in Amarys' hair and wept.  I cried with gratitude.  I cried with relief.  I cried because God took me from prideful, to broken, to healed and whole.  I'm so far from the failing, flailing, angry mother I was and it is every bit because of Jesus.  I'm so grateful.  Never, ever again will I feel proud.  Instead, always, I will feel gratitude and love.  Gratitude and love.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Nice Things Strangers Say To Me In Public (often in restaurants)

You have a really beautiful family.

Your kids are so well behaved!

You are doing a great job!

Good for you, you don't see so many big families these days!

Your kids are so cute.

Your children have such nice manners!

Your family is beautiful.

Awkward Things Strangers Say To Me In Public

Wow!  Four kids!  You really know what you're doing then!

Wow!  Four kids!  You're a busy mom!

Ho-ly, four?  Why?

Don't you know how it happens by now?

Were you just going til you got a girl?

You got your girl, then!

You look great for a mom with four kids!

So you don't work outside the home?

You must just stay home with your kids, then?

How do you do it?!

I don't know how you do it.

I can't stand the baby stage.

Just wait til they are all teenagers.

Are these all yours?!

I could never do it, I don't have the ________ (patience, stamina, ability to deal with sleep deprivation, etc)

Wow, you're crazy!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Yesterday was gorgeous!  Hurrah!  Not that it lasted long aTALL, since today was a return to friggin' rain. But I maximized it.  MAX.  I planted my garden.  I was getting anxious because I had the seeds and I had the plants for those veggies that need to be started indoors (no way are any sprouting seeds surviving my boys if they are indoors, I'm telling you--and my time is worth more than babysitting some PLANTS) but there was no good weather for planting!  Until yesterday.  I took photos and documented the whole thing so I'll bore y'all with that later.
I did a square foot garden, which is kind of all the rage these days.  My friend made his wife a square foot garden for Mother's Day!  Too fun.  Anyways, I did that yesterday.
And then I went to a dinner with my friend Asheya.  She presented at a birth conference called Turning The Tide [awesome name], which included obstetricians, perinatal nurses, midwives, doulas, and consumer representatives!  So cool.  Asheya's a research assistant for an OB who is currently studying epidurals.  Cool.
So Amarys and I showed up as Asheya's guests for the final dinner; very posh, catered, in this amAHAzing home downtown, on a quiet tree lined street filled with cherry blossoms.  Good food.  Amarys did pretty well, considering it was her bedtime.  She only screamed a bit.
I met this really interesting woman who was also a guest of someone attending the conference.  She's a filmmaker and feminist maybe in her 60s or so?  Fascinating, very smart, cool to talk to.  She hated the Babies documentary: who hates Babies?  Seriously.  A true filmmaker, that's who.  She was telling us about this publicly funded women's flimmakers guild that was started in "The Year of the Woman" [1974]  in Canada, and that it was truly unique in its ability to empower women filmmakers in Canada.  It lasted 25 years and in her opinion was disbanded ostensibly because women were now considered integrated into the filmmaking industry and didn't need their own association anymore, when in actual fact this is not true.  We also talked about hard hitting documentary films produced by women [The Business of Being Born, Orgasmic Birth, etc] and documentaries in general.  I LOVE documentaries.  Love them.  I watch them on my solo nights because Brent hates documentaries and gets me in trouble when I come home from Blockbuster with documentaries in my hand...

Today I was solo.  I hate being solo on weekends.  I've got three boys.  Trapped in my house with three screaming, fighting, wrestling, running, turn toys into weapons, turn household objects into weapons, climb the walls boys on a rainy Saturday?  Not my favourite.
The main reason I hate solo Saturdays is because everyone else has spouses at home on Saturdays so they never want to get together and do anything, instead they're all doing "family time" crap [eyeroll: you do know I'm being sarcastic, right?], and everything you might bring your kids to by yourself is insanely busy.  The pool?  Insane.  Go Bananas?  A zoo.  The park?  Overrun.
I dread solo Saturdays.  Anyways, today was one and I was happy to survive it very well despite gloomy weather.  Amarys slept in her own bed for the first night ever~she sleeps so miraculously that I figured she'd probably be okay in her bed while I enjoyed not being the peanut butter in a baby sandwich for one night.  She slept til 6, nursed, and slept again til 10.  My older kids got their own toast so I slept til 10 too.  AWESOME POSSUM!  Then we gathered the troops, dressed them all [a feat], and got in the van.  I drove to the Houston Trail and we hiked.  "Some" of us may have complained that mommy didn't bring snacks, but she was all non sympathetic with her "You MIGHT die before we get back to the van."  She's so sarcastic.
Anyways, we had fun.  I was adventurous and brought the dog.  I hiked, with four kids, by myself, AND brought the dog with no manners.
[I have to tell you about the Damn Dog and his possible relocation plans due to massively horrible behaviour, but I've been avoiding it....I will soon....]
I think I am happiest when I watch my boys run around in nature.  They run yelling through the trees and throw rocks and stomp in the creeks and mud and spongy moss, and pick me flowers, and scream at each other happily or scrappy or whatever and I feel like, this is childhood.  And they're not wrecking my furniture to do it.  =)
We came home and I fed them a late lunch, got them a board game organized which never actually got played, and then made dinner.  It was a good dinner too!  Yummy.
Solo Saturday success.  YES! *fist pump*
Fun times.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Want to know how well your country supports mothers?  Check out this link for a comprehensive list of rankings for maternal morbidity worldwide...Also, essays on women's health issues and etc.  Excellent reading.  Informative and accurate.  Some beautiful photos too!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fifth Baby Barometer Reading Today

Midmorning, 0%

Midafternoon, 0%

Late evening, 10%

[when my kids are sleeping, they're cute enough to change the barometric baby reading =) ]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The past few days have been drudgery.  I think its the rain.  Well, the rain mixed with some whacky hormones thanks to the return of fertility for me.  You know how when women breastfeed exclusively they are supposed to have a respite from their periods?  Yeah, those women aren't me.  I breastfeed exclusively and I got: 6, 9, and 10 weeks, respectively.  I had hoped for longer this time around, since I'm nursing TWO CHILDREN!!!  But I suspect that having an infant who sleeps 12 hours at night is partly to blame.  I calculated out the hours between nursing Amarys to sleep in the evening and nursing Riley for his early morning (read middle of the night) nursing, and I have about 6 to 8 hours between nursings at night.

It's okay, I'll take sleep over no periods, any day.

But PMS so shortly after giving birth plays havoc with my mood balance.  I'm double dosing on my fish oil supplements but its still tough going, and the freaking RAIN doesn't help!

Its a bit strange to have my cycles return knowing that we're not planning any more babies, you know?  Like a monthly reminder of no more babies.  So sad.  =(
But it feels right.  98.5% right today (daily fluctuations there).  I like the balance of four kids, I like that we all fit in a minivan instead of a 15 passenger van, I like the bookended two older, gap in age, two younger, I like three older boys and one baby girl, and I like the thought that I can focus on raising the ones we have instead of surviving them while I am pregnant and living with a newborn.  I mean, its great!  We all have a good time and the kids love anticipating and welcoming and falling in love with new babies.  But I'm TIRED!  Not always the stellar parenting around here some days.  If an accident happened we'd be totally happy, but we won't 'plan' for any more.  It feels good!  I've been giving away maternity clothes and packing up infant stuff Amarys outgrows.

A "fun" side effect of having my period is that my milk supply dips and rises along with my cycle.  Tonight by bedtime I had NO milk.  Riley complained when I put him to bed that "No milk inside dere!" and Amarys was SO tired but wailing because she was hungry.  So I pulled out a bag of frozen breastmilk I had in the freezer and gave it to her in a bottle.  She took a few ounces and then watched t.v. with us for awhile (she has a crush on Dr. Reed from Criminal Minds...oops, no that's ME), and then drifted blissfully off to sleep.  That was a first, giving a bottle to one of my infants!  My babies have been given (or offered: Riley was one of those abject bottle refusal kids) bottles of pumped milk by daddy and gramma and nana and auntie, but not by me.  Why would I ever need to do that?  But Little Miss Fussy Pants wails so much that sometimes I'll do whatever it takes.  I'm sure glad I had that milk in the freezer for just such an occasion of desperation (otherwise she would have gone hungry and we would have shaved a few years off the end of our lives from the screaming).  By tomorrow or the next day, my supply will be back up again (judging by my body's behavior through a collective total of 47 months of lactating, and counting).  I took a photo.  I'll post it if you promise not to use it against me.

She's so sweet.  She's been tossing out the smiles more often, she sucks on her fists like they are candy, she holds her head up all bright eyed and smart, and she has more alert hours in the day now.  She has also reduced the Fussy Pants and is a lot calmer now.  LMFP still lives in my house, she's just screaming less often.  Gosh, I love falling in love with a baby.  It sure is arresting whenever they smile, babble, kick their legs, look around, sleep, breathe, poop, fart, and grunt  =)
I love her, I love her, I love her.....
I bought her a bathing suit.  It is so cute.  She might look big in the photo (especially next to Mr Teensy, a.k.a. Bennett) but she seems pretty small to us.  When you routinely give birth to kids in the 4000-4500 gram range, your definition of small is a bit different than average!  Plus my boys gained weight like it was going out of style, but Amarys is more normal as far as following the growth curve.
She's sick.  It's so hard when babies are sick so young!  She has a runny nose and a cough.  No fever.
Speaking of which, I keep meaning to mention that I have been SO blessed this winter as far as illness is concerned; my kids were sick a few times while I was pregnant and I didn't get sick.  Then right before I went into labour I had a touch of a fever for ONE day, and felt better almost immediately.  Then Riley got a slight fever for a day or two.  Then Ayden was killer sick.  Then my mom.  Then Matthew. Then BRENT, who NEVER gets sick.  Fortunately I had lots of antibodies in my milk and Amarys escaped that one altogether.  Several times since then colds have run the cycle in my family and I've not gotten sick.  This NEVER HAPPENS!  And I'm so utterly grateful, since anything that laid me low would mean certain death to the chaotic vortex that is barely contained organization in my house.  You know what I'm talking about: mom's out of commission so the baby eats chocolate for breakfast and the dog helps himself to the contents of the diaper pail...
We have been eating pretty routinely at 7 pm around here, because there are just so many little needs that crop up after 4 o'clock.  "Me hab to go pee!"  "Can I have..."  "Mom, I need to read to you for my homework,"  "Can you help me find..."  "Waaaah!  Waaaaah!"  for diaper changes, nursing, feeling tired, and being lonely.  Plus I remember a load of wash that needs to go from the washer to the dryer, someone spills a glass of water on the floor, the dog scrabbles at the back door either to go out or come in, someone drops a bowl and it shatters on the floor, "Me hab to go poop!"  The dog is sniffing around the bag of flour on the floor so I surmise I better put it in the cupboard, and then I notice a rotten onion in the cupboard so I pick it up to put in the compost bucket, and then I notice the compost bucket is full so I take it out (or send it out with a small boy) to the backyard and dump it in the bin, then I wash my hands and realize the dishwasher needs emptying and filling to make space on the counter for chopping and prep work....
It's a miracle we eat at all.
Once I was a I don't have time to pee....and I spend all my days, all day long (and part of the wee hours of the morning) feeding people.  And gosh darn if I don't love it.  [and I'm still a feminist.  Just a feminist breeder...or in this case, a feminist feeder...]

Mother's Day 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Grandparents, Edna Scott and Merrill Reside, 1948

8 Years Old!

Ayden is EIGHT YEARS OLD today!!  Unbelievable.  How time flies!

8 years old
46 lbs
as tall as my shoulder
(very technical, I know)

Ayden is a remarkable kid.  He's funny and energetic and outgoing, full of enthusiasm and imagination.  He has a serious side too, interested in world events, the environment, social justice, and how the world works.  He has a deep sense of empathy.  He very naturally follows rules and guidelines, once he understands why they are in place.  He wants to be an entymologist when he grows up [which is a bug scientist], because he loves bugs and so that he can work in the Victoria Bug Zoo and be surrounded by exotic bugs all day, every day.
He also told me yesterday that when he gets married he will pay someone else to go to the wedding for him, because he'd 'probably rather do something else that's more interesting.'

writing stories
telling stories
telling jokes
riding his bike
cuddling his sister
admiring all babies
reading to Riley
wrestling with Matthew
watching movies
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
late night snacks
mommy's applesauce
all of his grandparents
all of his cousins
all of his aunts and uncles
bugs, bugs, bugs

being told what to do
getting up in the morning
getting dressed
going to the bathroom (chronic hopper, wiggler, or sit down to hold it in-er)
eating, especially food, and most especially lunch food, and most especially any food we send in his lunch at school

Birthing Day

In honor of Ayden's birthday and Mother's Day, I thought I would repost my birth story with Ayden.  You could also, if you are a sucker for repetition, read a slightly altered version of the story here, on Mothers of Change.

I became pregnant with Ayden on our honeymoon. We had planned on waiting two or three years before having children, so you can imagine our surprise when two very clear lines appeared on the pregnancy test!! My doctor laughed at our faces when she said, "So that pregnancy test is positive, eh?" Fortunately, nature gives us nine months to get accustomed to the idea of a baby before he pops out!
My job requires that I stop work and begin maternity leave six weeks before my due date. I fudged my due date to my employer to be able to work an extra two weeks, because I needed to work as much as possible to qualify for Maternity Benefits through EI (Canadian maternity leave is funded by the government), and because I felt very guilty for being three months pregnant when my boss hired me, and not disclosing this for fear of not being hired. Though illegal, it is difficult to prove. At any rate, I didn't tell him, and he about blew a gasket when he found out (two months later), so I felt responsible to stick around as long as possible. It seems dumb now that I even cared, but I did. My boss was a ridiculous jerk.
Two weeks before my last day of work, I was sitting leaning back in my chair at a paramedic course, when I felt like there was an enormous earthquake movement in my uterus, enough to make me slam my chair down and gasp (which of course made all my coworkers freak out--the pregnant lady just gasped!!). I had been enduring months of extremely active kicking and shoving from within, and this was the most violent movement yet.
On my very last shift in the distant town that I commuted to work in, in the morning as I got dressed to leave for my 2.5 hour drive home, I noticed some bleeding. It was four weeks before my due date, and I didn't know what on earth it could be from. I went over to the hospital to be checked out by the local doctor, who I of course knew quite well. He palpated my belly and did a full exam, kind and professional (always embarrassing having people you work with see your private parts). He reassured me that the small amount of bleeding I had was likely a minor irritation, nothing to worry about. But he did point out that I had more amniotic fluid than normal, and that my baby was in the breech position. All from palpation. The hospital was in a very small town with only very low tech stuff available.
I drove home, and the next day mentioned what he had found to my doctor in my regular prenatal appointment. She referred me for an ultrasound to confirm the baby's position at 38 weeks. At the time I wondered why she ordered the test so late, but I have since read that it is fairly standard to wait until 38 weeks before intervening with breech positioned babies, because attempts to turn them earlier can often result in a return to the breech position. In my case, 36 weeks would have been wiser, but we didn't know that at the time. At the ultrasound I watched the screen and thought I was astute enough to determine that the baby was a girl (despite not wanting to know one way or the other). Ha, ha. Once my doctor confirmed the baby was breech, she referred me to an obstetrician. I LOVED my obstetrician. She was very soft spoken and gentle mannered, intelligent and empathetic. She and another obstetrician, whom I didn't like nearly as much, attempted an external version in the hospital the following day. The baby was already measuring around 4000 grams (9lbs) and had a rather large head, and despite repeated attempts to get him to turn, he persisted. He was too big to turn. My uterus only put up with so much manhandling, and eventually they had to stop. I was surprised at how intensely such uterine manhandling affects a woman--I almost fainted later as we were driving home, and I felt nauseous and weak. I think I slept for a few hours after we got home (I remember that on the drive home from the attempted EV, Brent insisted on stopping at the mall to buy some object or other...I was frustrated that he didn't seem to GET how horrible I felt and how badly I wanted to go straight home!! I stayed in the car while he went into the mall). Since the EV failed, my obstetrician recommended a cesarean. I said, "Oh. Okay." And I remember being surprised when my OB looked visibly relieved and said, "Oh, good. Because a large research study published last year in Canada shows that it is safer to deliver breech babies by cesarean. It really is the safer choice." It was the first time I realized that I actually had a choice in the matter and didn't HAVE to follow my doctor's orders. Not that I disagreed with her, but that was the first time I realized that I could.
So, a cesarean was scheduled for a week later. I felt like a failure. I wouldn't even get to go into labour. But part of why I went along with the idea of a cesarean so calmly was that I knew that vaginal birth after cesareans are possible, so I figured that next time I could try again. At my post operative visit with my OB she indeed told me that "There is no reason why you can't have a vaginal birth next time." I'm glad she encouraged me, though I would have pursued a vaginal birth anyways. It was significant to me that normal birth was something she valued and encouraged me to have with my next pregnancy. It has also been determined more recently that the Term Breech Trial my obstetrician referred to had some major flaws, and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada is no longer recommending automatic cesareans for breech babies.  But we didn't know that in 2003.
On May 8th, 2003, I went to the hospital at 8 a.m., after fasting all night. I was scheduled for surgery at 11:00 a.m. We got a room on the maternity ward and settled in. We joked around and took pictures. My mom was there, and my cousin, and my friend Keli. I don't remember Brent's parents being there but I know they must have been, because they were there immediately afterwards. My general physician was running behind, so my surgery got repeatedly pushed back because she was assisting my OB for the operation. I got crankier and cranker, because I was STARVING, and because I was so, so afraid of the surgery itself. Eventually they wheeled me to a waiting area outside the O.R., and I remember feeling very helpless and small, watching the ceiling tiles go by above me and anticipating surgery. I was afraid they would forget to get Brent before they started the surgery. I was afraid of the spinal anaesthesia. I was afraid to become a parent.
But eventually my doctor rushed in, and they prepped me, and although I threw my arms around the scrub nurse with all my strength in anticipation, making her yelp in surprise, the spinal anaesthesia didn't hurt that much, and wasn't that bad after all. I laid down, they put a catheter in (which I felt, but numbly), and soon after they pinched me with tweezers on my belly. As they were doing this, Brent walked in. I was flooded with relief, because I knew that as long as he was there with me, I would be okay. "Can you feel this?" someone asked me. "Yes." I could feel pinching. "What does it feel like?" "It feels like someone is taking tweezers and pinching my skin, lifting it up, and twisting it." The anaesthesiologist tilted the table so my head was lower than my body, to encourage the medication to travel higher up my spinal cord and numb me properly. This happened fairly quickly, and they started the surgery. As they cut, I asked Brent to look at me in the eyes and tell me all the things we would do with the new baby, and how wonderful it would be. As long as he was looking me in the eyes and talking, I felt calm. As soon as he slowed down or looked away, I panicked. When they pulled him out it felt like an enormous animal was gutting me alive. My whole body rocked back and forth, and I could feel my insides being pulled out. It took my breath away. The doctor asked Brent if he wanted to see whether the baby was a girl or a boy, and he looked over the curtain. He didn't say anything, and he looked back at me. "SO?!?!" I said. "Uhhhh...." and he looked back over the curtain. "It's a boy!.....And what a boy!" This was intended to be a joke, which fell absolutely flat in the operating room in awkward silence. I was so irritated, but only for an instant. "A boy? Really?!" I was shocked, having convinced myself we were having a girl. I remember someone asked what his name was, and we told them it was Ayden. Then I heard a baby cry, and I remember thinking "Someone's baby is crying. That's weird, that I can hear it from in the operating room." And suddenly a few minutes later it dawned on me that it was MY baby that was crying! Brent left to go to the baby warmer and cut the remaining cord, which they had left long, take some pictures, and meet the baby. I remember he looked at me just before he left, to make sure I was okay, but I felt far less anxious, and I told him to go with the baby. A few minutes later they brought him to me and placed him on my chest, bundled in blankets. He was quiet, blinking his eyes and looking around, his face all squished up fat by the blankets. Well, his face was chubby anyways, but the blankets squashed them even more. I held him for what felt like a very long time, and stroked his cheek, and tried to shield his eyes from the bright lights. Then they took him and put him in an incubator and he and Brent left while my obstetrician finished my surgery.
I was wheeled to the recovery room and told I could go upstairs and see my baby after I could move my legs, which takes about an hour. At first I felt no urgency, just tired and relieved that the surgery was finished. But within about fifteen minutes I was DYING to see my baby. I felt a sense of loss and eagerness, and could hardly wait until I could see Ayden again. I tried every few minutes, and finally after 45 minutes in the recovery room, I could move my legs. I called the recovery room nurse over and showed her, so she called for a porter to take me back upstairs. No porter came, and no porter came, and finally she took pity on me and wheeled me up herself one hour post operative.
In the meantime, Ayden was in the nursery with Brent. My mom had encouraged me to ask that no one hold him before I came back from the operating room and had a chance to bond with him, so she and Brent's parents crowded around and took pictures, but no one except Brent held him until after I came back. The pediatrician talked about possibly giving him a bottle because he was so big and might need feeding before I returned, but fortunately he didn't make good on that. Brent says he would not have allowed that to happen because he knew how strongly I felt about wanting to only breastfeed.
When I returned, Ayden was placed on my chest, skin to skin. And I finally felt I could relax. I was surprised by the strength of my feelings, and by my desire to simply LOOK at Ayden, for hours and hours on end. A bustling nurse asked me if I had fed him yet, and I said, "I don't know how." She said, "What do you mean you don't know how? There's nothing to it! You just put the baby on your breast!" And she bustled over and helped me. She had a kind look in her eyes when she said that, so I didn't mind. Ayden was a hoover vacuum cleaner. SUCK, SUCK, SUCK!
My family flooded into the room, all excited and chattering, and I was proud to show Ayden off. I was still starving, since I hadn't eaten since the night before and it was now dinnertime! So I convinced someone to give me some of their subway sandwich and lemonade, despite not having shown signs of return of bowel function (translation: I hadn't farted yet). I didn't care, I was SO HUNGRY! And then I promptly threw up. All over myself, the bed, and the baby. Nice. Everyone cleared out, and the nurse changed me and my bed with me in it. Brent was mad at me for eating before I was supposed to :)
Later that night, as the anaesthetic wore off my face and chest were incredibly, maddeningly itchy. My mom got me a wet washcloth and rubbing it on my face was very very helpful. I held Ayden skin to skin on my chest for hours.
The next day I was able to get up and walk, the catheter was removed, and I got to have a shower. I was still weak and sore, but mobile. I spent most of the day in bed with Ayden, feeding him often. That night, I developed a headache that was incapacitating. It was the type of headache that feels heavy on your head, and whose pain is so loud it is difficult to think. Every time I would sit up to feed Ayden, it would crush me. When I laid down, it disappeared. I was diagnosed with a spinal headache, which is a complication of spinal anaesthesia. A small amount of spinal fluid leaks out the hole the catheter was threaded through to reach the spinal meninges, causing a change in pressure that causes a headache when upright. My surgeon kept recommending a spinal patch, where blood is taken from the veins and injected into the spinal fluid, compensating for the pressure change and curing the headache. She would visit separately from the anaesthesiologist, who kept visiting and recommending a hands off approach, since my headache seemed to be improving. In the end, no patch was done, and the headache lasted two weeks, and I had residual vertigo for four months afterwards.
My milk came in that night, two days after his birth. One day earlier than normal for a cesarean birth, which my mom attributed to the near constant skin to skin cuddling. I remember that Ayden was always hungry, hungry, hungry before my milk came in, and then that first feed with milk he seemed to relax, and acted drunk when he came off the breast. He spit up a tiny bit and the spit up was WHITE! And I felt like the most AMAZING MOM IN THE UNIVERSE! LOOK AT ME MAKE MILK AND FEED MY BABY!!! Breastfeeding empowered me. At last, I was successful at something in this whole birthing/mothering thing. Which of course is not entirely contingent upon breastfeeding, because some women are unsuccessful at this but still amazing moms. But breastfeeding was really what redeemed the experience of Ayden's birth for me and set me off away from the attitude which I had had during the entire pregnancy and birth, that this was something that was happening TO me, and towards the attitude of active responsibility for my baby. I persisted, despite the spinal headache that required me to learn to breastfeed lying down (reportedly the most difficult position to nurse in, though because I learned it so early it has always been one of my favourite positions. Also, the large breasts are unwieldy for tiny newborns, and the bed helps support the excess breast tissue.
We went home from the hospital on the Sunday after he was born. Three days after his birth, and on my very first Mother's Day as a mom. Brent got me a card and put a photo of Ayden in a little frame that says "Mommy's Little Angel," which still sits on my bedside table. I cried. It was amazing and overwhelming to watch myself fall rapidly in love with this hungry, cranky little creature with big blue eyes and no hair and the most peaceful sleeping face imaginable.
And that is the birth story of Ayden Leonard Smith Vose, born May 8th, 2003 by cesarean section at 4:39 in the afternoon.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


This picture is so characteristic of Matthew.  He moves so much and so fast and so continuously that photos are a blur.  He is so social and extroverted and intense that he is fairly constantly inside people's 'personal space,' and so kinetic that he is often touching them, patting their hair, fiddling with buckles or buttons, and exploring the texture of fabrics.  He is wide open to the world, fascinated, curious, no filter 100% genuine authentic Matthew.  No substitutes, no artificial sweeteners, no phony smiles.  He's magical.

His personality spills all over everyone he meets.  "HI!" to passing joggers, kids in the park, lifeguards, playground monitors, dogs, police officers, and grocery store clerks.  He charms them all.  He's funny and gregarious, and constantly scheming how to get people to give him something.  "Can I have a cookie?"  "Can I watch a movie?"  "If I eat all my peas can I have your chocolate bunny from easter?"  As his parents we actually have a nickname for him.  You know, one of those nicknames you call someone behind their back as an affectionate-exasperated mix?  We call him "The Can I Have" monster [he used to be the "Tan I Hab" monster but his language is clearer now].  If he were fighting a war his battle tactic would be carpet bombing.  Overwhelm your opponent with the sheer force and volume of your attack.  Many have succumbed to him.  Many more will, to come.  He's got a combination of charisma and persistence that is remarkable to encounter, and it sure gets things done [if getting things done means procuring treats and ideas for new activities like climbing the outside of playground structures and taping the kitchen chairs to the floor].  He doesn't walk through life, he explodes through it!  He's creative, not in the visual arts artistic sense because he doesn't like to draw, only likes painting because of the colossal mess one can make, and doesn't have the patience for crafts, but in the theatrical sense and in a particular, mathematical sense where he knows how things fit together and can craft elaborate systems of interconnected toys, rocks, sticks, dirt, water, and all manner of detritus.
He has a hard time with impulse control.  The force of his desire for things is just so immediate and strong.
I like to say that parenting Matthew is a bit like parenting Robin Williams would be.  Like, how funny and how entertaining and how LARGE a personality that is, and OH MY GOSH THE ENERGY it would require to be the mother of Robin Williams!!  That's what it is like.

Matthew does everything in his own style, at his own time.  And we delight in this, but worry about the world's reaction when he doesn't fit the mold.

Ayden and Matthew together are interesting foils.  God knew what He was up to when he put these two together, I tell you!  Ayden teaches Matthew that it sometimes serves a person well to toe the line, and Matthew teaches Ayden that life isn't all seriousness and toeing the line.  They drive each other absolutely insane, but in the midst of the insanity they learn so much.  What better way to learn compromise, accomodation, self control, and empathy in relationships than in dealing with a sibling?  Especially one so different from oneself as these two.

Matthew has always been remarkably physically adept.  At two, he would climb trees and playgrounds to their very outer top pinnacles and make other parents gasp in horror as he waved his arms around, holding on with just his feet, twenty feet in the air.  We never even blinked.  He never fell.  He would make a very good gymnast.  Strong, agile, flexible, fearless, and tiny.  He's as light as a bird, with tiny bones and not an ounce of fat and is still in a five point harness not because we're car seat enthusiasts but because he still only weighs 35 pounds.  Someone guessed his age as three just last week.  He was indignant: "I'M NOT THREE, I'M SIX!!!" But its true that many four year olds we meet are taller and heavier than he is.
He's a remarkable kid.  And the older he gets, the more I enjoy him.  He adds so much spice to life!  I can't wait to see where he will go...

Friday, May 6, 2011


Ayden is one of those kids who takes life very seriously. Last week when I sent him and his brother to the park solo, he came back on time with his brother in tow, and solemnly declared, "I figured that to get home by 16:30 we had to leave the park around 16:28, so at 16:22 I gave Matthew a warning and we left six minutes later." So cute.  So hilarious.
Ayden is outgoing and energetic, but he has a quiet side. He is equally capable of Tasmanian devil spinning, wrestling, climbing, and shrieking, and hours and hours of quiet reading. His favourite books these days include Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Geronimo Stilton, Harry Potter, and his Britannia Encyclopedia set. Yes, he reads encyclopedias for fun.  He also loves to write, colour, draw, sing, make up stories, play "I Spy" and "Would You Rather," and tell random goofy jokes with a particular affinity for potty humour.

He loves routine and structure. He takes rules very seriously, especially if he understands the reasons behind the rules. And if he doesn't understand, he will ask and ask and ask until he does understand. And if he understands but doesn't agree, he will argue and argue and argue until all the weaknesses of your reasons have been exhausted. He's like a lawyer that way; he will get your argument WAY off track three miles into some side issue and the next thing you know you're throwing your hands in the air and yelling, "Because I said so, that's why!"  Which reason he will categorically not accept as legitimate.

He also has a rather creative imagination. He loves art, storytelling, music, fantasy worlds like Harry Potter and Star Wars [I can't wait until he is old enough for Lord of the Rings, he's going to love it], and drawing cartoons. He gets nervous in social situations with kids who are older than him, which is part of why the Montessori style classroom is so good for him. His teachers report that he is quiet and studious, works very hard at school, and is generous and helpful with his peers. He keeps his emotions under his hat, at school. At home, he can let loose and we see evidence that he feels things very deeply. He has empathy for people around the world and from all walks of life [once he asked me about how Matthew's birth mother must miss him every day, and he had tears in his eyes].  He's sensitive.  He responds well to being given responsibility, like going to the park with instructions to return at a certain time, or a fistful of mail to drop in the mailbox a half block from our house, or being "boss for the day" at school.  He loves to teach other people things.  He wants to be an entymologist when he grows up; I think he would make an inspiring and thoughtful teacher.  And a really amazing dad.