Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Intestinal Dissection

Welcome to the "I'm a Natural Parent - BUT..." Carnival
This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. During this carnival our participants have focused on the many different forms and shapes Natural Parenting can take in our community.

I'm a Natural Parent BUT...

I like time outs.
My kids watch television.
I had a cesarean.

In fact I don't think "natural parent" is a very good descriptor for me at all.  How about: Tired Parent?  How about Managing To Get By Parent?  Or Lets Baby Eat Onion Skins Off Floor Because It's Just Easier Parent?  I think I'm more of an instinctual parent.  I like to follow my gut, although I like to think about the root cause of my gut instinct when it comes to my kids so I guess I'm a well examined gut parent, who has a passion for all things earthy.  Well maybe not all things.

I'm a natural minded gut parent BUT...

I think formula feeding parents are awesome.
I like soap.
My baby wears W*al Mart brand diapers at night.

I'm fairly pragmatic, in life, and don't put much stock in idealism.  We're not out to change the world, here, we're just raisin' babies, which has been done well and ill for thousands of years.  I'd like to do it well but I'm not sure I can do it perfectly.  Humans are adaptable creatures who flourish in environments from the North Pole to the rocky provinces of Afghanistan so I'm pretty sure kids are flourishing in homes that compost and homes that don't.  Families that give birth in water and those that give birth in operating rooms.  I LOVE my kids and want the best for them, but sometimes a less than perfect experience is all I can offer.  I believe this is good for them!  They learn empathy.  They learn that it's okay to make mistakes.  That people can strive to do better, and how to apologize.  They also learn how to adapt in an imperfect world.  They learn how to grapple with their own inevitable failures and weaknesses and odd bits of temperament that rub people the wrong way and remind themselves of me.  The whole OMG I've become my mother syndrome.

I'm a pragmatic ecoholic dissected guts parent BUT...

We take the kids to M*cDonald's sometimes.
I don't eat placenta.
We drive a van.

I'm addicted to my babies and I love them even more than tootsie roll lollipops and I believe each one of them is here to make the world a better place. 

I feed them with love.
I wash them often.
I playfight.
It is beautiful.
I'm enough.


I'm a Natural Parent — But … Blog CarnivalThis carnival was created by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. We recognize that "natural parenting" means different things to different families, and we are dedicated to providing a safe place for all families, regardless of where they are in their parenting journeys.

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

Friday, February 24, 2012

Random, yet Providential

I feel like I haven't written a real meaty post in forever.  I'm sorry.  I used to be funny, with posts about weird work stories and whacky neighbours and kid poonamis.  Now I feel like I just post too-happy monthly updates on my daughter, and odd scraps.  I'm trying to get back to my old style again but often I just feel like (a) my life is boring.  It's the same stuff day in and day out.  How funny can it be, really?  and (b) I'm tired.

Today bit me in the ass, though, so I thought I would share.  Even if it's brief, you might enjoy it in the same way we all want to hit "Like" when someone posts "I had a shitty day" on Facebook; we didn't "like" that you had a shitty day but we are glad you shared and want to pat you on the back so you know you're not alone!

It's funny because tons of stuff that were difficult three years ago I no longer find hard.  My mountain of laundry has been tamed.  Oh my gosh, it has finally (finally) been tamed.  It is never all done, but I've found a system that works.  It involves three loads per day and a focus on pre sorting, and folding/putting away.  So I can't bore you with my laundry woes anymore because they aren't woes anymore.

Oh no wait!  I can!  I have a kid who likes to hold his poop until it turtles out and pinches off in small bits, and then put underwear with pinched off log bits folded in it in the laundry, and then I wash it with everything else.  Ohhhhh, nothing yummier than a load of laundry that smells like shit after you wash it.
Or how about the mini sock in the front loading washer drain?  Oh my fuck is that ever a pain in the ass.  Do you know how many mini socks our family produces?  The sneaky buggers hide on me and despite my trying to stick them all in a lingerie bag to get washed, one always stays hidden and slides into the front loading washer drain and prevents all that pinched off log bit poo from going down the drain.  Or anything.  Or even rinsing.  That's so my favourite.
Even without the pinched off poo, the laundry can't clean and rinse properly with mini socks covering the effing drain.  Like what the hell.  Mini socks are my nemesis and may be utterly outlawed if this continues!!  I don't care if your feet are cold.  Rules are  rules, dammit!

Oh no wait!!  I have another laundry woe!  I have another kid with an immature/irritable bladder!  Who pees his pants multiple times a day!  So when I finish loading laundry into the front loader washer we paid too much damn money for because of the mini sock issue, my hands and arms smell like a cat box.  Oh the joyous rewards of being a mother.  Staying at home is so blissful and amazing (NOT). 

I also manage my crazy a bit better now.  It is funny to look back on my posts from 2008/09 and see how many of them had the title "Scary."  I actually started numbering them at one point.  How scary can one regular old life be?  Jeepers.  Granted it was scary that time I lost Ayden at White Rock beach.  We still talk about that one and Ayden is all I couldn't figure out why you forgot me and I'm all I want to cry just thinking about it.  Yuck.  Who doesn't lose a kid once or twice while raising them?  But seriously that one was awful.

These days I'm generally good.  HAHAHAHAHAAAAAA.... No I'm not.  But I'm medicated (with supplements) and cognitive therapied and surrounded by good peeps (Hi Brent, Hi Rowenna, Hi other good peeps) who put in hours of listening and talking me down.  Hence, mild crazy.  With occasional breakthroughs of mighty wild crazy to keep things interesting.

Like today when I realized it was 4:20 and we had forgotten for the second day in a row to go to the Notary for a signature on Amarys' name change form.  I yelled.  I may have panicked.  Brent may have talked me down.  (Shhh, don't tell anyone but I might have an anxiety disorder...)

Well, this morning started out fine and fair.  I got my hair cut yesterday so I had the fun task of trying to tame a new haircut the day after.  Our sweet '97 Toyota was totalled in the parking lot next to Brent's work office last month, and ICBC gave us $2000 to replace it rather than fork out the money to repair it at nearly the same price tag.  We shopped around and found a newer Toyota of the same model with fewer kilometers on it for cheaper (the engine is awesome but the interior smells like mold) so we totally scored.  We bought it in Vancouver though, which meant a long day with four kids in the cold van whose heater is still dead, following leads on cars from Craigslist.  When we got it home and went to transfer the insurance, our autoplan place said they couldn't because there was a signature missing on the seller's paperwork.  Goodbye, go solve your own problem, and you only have ten days to do it.

So yesterday we piled all four kids in the cold van (again) and drove to Vancouver for one signature.  [I'm married to a cop, that is why we have to drive forty kilometers for a signature that could easily be forged].  This morning I take the paperwork over to the autoplan place (again) and after standing there for fifteen minutes answering stupid questions and fending off offers of more expensive coverage (the car is only worth two grand dude), the insurance broker looks up at me cheerfully and says, "That will be $255, how would you like to pay?"  And I'm all what the whobie whatty?  I don't have $255.  Well, I do, but it is for gas, food, and a Visa bill.  You want the food out of my babies' mouths?  The gas that was going to drive us around for two weeks?  Why don't you just rob my bank and be done with it?  Fuck I hate insurance.

So I pay the $255, gather up my youngest kids, and drive to White Rock to visit a friend.  Brent had an appointment at 10:45 and he phoned me at 10:15 frantic for his keys.  I was already in White Rock at this point, and lo and behold here are the car keys in the console of the van.  He had to cancel his specialist appointment because even if I turned around and drove back and skipped out on my friend date, he wouldn't make it in time.
Meanwhile, Amarys is screaming huge screams in her carseat and huge slug trails of snot are dribbling down to her chin, and Riley is frantic because he has to pee RIGHTTHISMINUTE!  And Brent is making helpful suggestions about where I might look in the van for keys HE LEFT THERE.  And I have to phone and cancel my chiropractor appointment an hour before my appointment because I have no money to pay for the damn appointment because the auto insurance place wanted $255 just to transfer my insurance from one car to another (identical) car.  FOOK ME!  That's the call of shame: I'm sorry I can't come to my appointment in an hour because I just figured out I can't afford it.  SORRY!

I walked into my friend's house, she asked me how I was doing, and I just started to cry.

I told her the story and she said,
Damn, it isn't even ten thirty yet, Melissa!
I know.

A second friend of mine was there, too, and she said,
I'm going to Costco today.  What do you need?

Oh my gosh, no.  No no no no no.  Nobody can afford to feed our six person family, no no no no no.  But Melissa insisted.  What do you need?
Chicken.  Just some chicken.
Okay.  I will bring chicken this afternoon.

Oh, thank you thank you thank you.

My friend Katie, whose house it was, leapt up and said,
I still owe you $150 for the doula care you gave me when I had my daughter.  Here, I'll write you a cheque right now and if you don't cash it I will be REALLY MAD!

NO!  No no no no no, I didn't tell you this so you would give me stuff, guys!  And you can't afford that, Katie, you can't, no, don't give it to me, I can't.

Yes you can.  We have it.  It's yours anyways, thanks for being my doula.

Hello Jesus.  Thank you for friends.

Melissa came by later with chicken.  And pizza, shepherd's pie, frozen vegetables, cheese, milk, eggs, TWO huge packs of chicken, fruit cups for the kids' lunches, and holy shit this is friendship.  I cried after she left.  Otherwise how would we make it two weeks with no food?

What a day.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


So after my "poo on you" comment, which was a joke, Rachel noted that sometimes she misses posts in my new blog format.  I changed it so that six posts show at a time, which is hopefully better?  Let me know if you still don't find this format easy to read/comment/stay up to date with... I like having a big space for posts but still want somewhere for links, buttons, etc at the bottom.  Scrolling down forever for these is not optimal, but neither is not being able to read/stay up to date/comment!  I'm always open to feedback =)

On to today's post...

I often don't write much about my religious or spiritual life on here, mainly because it's a really personal topic that I don't generally want to open up for criticism from anyone (not that you guys are critical!  But someone might be, since the topic can be so intense), and also because I don't want to offend anyone.  Many of you have different belief systems, or different religious beliefs from me and it would really be hard on me if someone felt offended by my expressions of faith or spiritual journey.  It is so fundamentally important to me to build bridges and live peacefully that sometimes I avoid expressing myself.  Recently it occurred to me that if my kids were reading my blog after I died or something, they might not realize how religious I am, or how important my spiritual journey is to me, and if that were true, they wouldn't really know me.  That would be far more tragic to me than the potential for theological dissonance between me and this small community of readers (you guys, you wonderful people who care to read what I write).  So hopefully you can forgive me if more religion sneaks its way onto the blog in the next while.  Perhaps to stay.  I would hate for self censorship to result in not being fully known.

For several years I have felt very much that I want to deepen my spiritual connection with God.  I believe we are all interconnected with God already and that you can't journey 'away' from the divine any more than you can travel away from oxygen, but I do think you can be more or less mindful of Him.  The more finely tuned my relationship with Him is, the more support I can draw from Him, the more strength, and the more fully I can work to relinquish desire and live in peace with Fate/God's plan/Providence/the Universe/Life.  The more peace I have, the more energy and love I have to give to my family and beyond, so I feel that it is incredibly important to deepen my interconnectedness with God.  I can live more fully, and peacefully, and have more to give others.  In the end, I think God has this complex, flexible, ever changing, GOOD plan for the earth, and humanity, and that we further complicate and change it with our decisions and choices in life.  At any rate, I want to more finely tune my spiritual connectedness with God.

I've coasted spiritually for several years, mainly because of time.  Partially also because I think true relationship happens in the eating and sleeping and housework and problems of life rather than in a quiet 'devotional' full of halos and peaceful prayer.  I like to pray.  A lot.  But I don't have time to pray in chunks, you know?  So I just basically pray scraps here and there and although I think this is fine, I believe the scraps should be more of an ongoing conversation than they are currently.
In the Christian calendar there are built in opportunities for focusing on interconnectedness.  One of these extra-Biblical (not commanded in the Bible but exists as a long standing church tradition) opportunities is Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter.  Parallel to Advent, it is a season of anticipation.  Lent traditionally involves fasting, and this year I decided to participate.  Orthodox church tradition (I went to an Orthodox church while living in Russia as an exchange student, and then for four years while I went to University) has a long list of foods to fast from during Lent but as my Orthodox Father liked to say, the foods church founders fasted from don't always translate directly into our modern context.  Like, for example, mollusks and crustaceans are a fasting food in Orthodoxy, and Father William said this was to avoid spending a long time preparing food: fasting was supposed to be a rest from the regular work of catching and preparing food in order to focus on God and prayer.  It isn't really a lot of work to prepare canned clams as opposed to canned beans in modern Canada, for example, so this fasting food doesn't totally translate.  Orthodox followers fast it anyways out of respect for tradition.
Protestants are wishy washy about tradition.  The more ancient a church tradition, the more dispensable it is, it seems.  We don't particularly like conscripted worship, liturgical prayer, or group fasting.  Lent is optional.  Sometimes it involves exercise, Facebook, or chocolate.  There is good reason for this lukewarm attitude towards tradition: an emphasis on authenticity and individual connectedness with God are important Protestant values (although I'm rather biased towards liturgical or group exercises like prayers and fasting, as a prior Orthodox).  But I don't think fasting only chocolate really quite matches traditional Lent fasting. Like I need chocolate as much as I need God.  Not that the point is how holy can I be, or how much can I deprive myself in comparison to others, to which God says 
HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA.  You silly children.
Because we do look a little childlike, haggling over fasting choices while people go hungry and are lonely and consume large amounts of commodities we don't need and unequally distribute our resources...

ANYWAYS I'm getting off topic here.
For Lent I chose to participate this year, and I chose to give up meat.  I chose meat because it is a large enough item in my diet that I will notice it, miss it, and have to go out of my way to accommodate living without it.  I still prepare food for my family like normal, but make myself a vegetarian option or eat everything but the meat.  Sometimes I forget.  Monday I had a turkey sandwich and afterwards I slapped my hand over my mouth, remembering too late.  But I'm trying.  Each time I think about the fact that I am fasting from meat, I remember God.  I try to pray.  I try to keep up a conversation that is deeper than simple scraps of Help me or Thank you.  Which are the two truest prayers on earth, closely followed by Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy (a scrap of liturgy that shoots through Orthodox worship like gold thread).  I guess I just want to be more mindful of God, and to have better conversations with Him which largely involve deeper expressions of these three prayers.  I hope to more closely align my stubbornness with His gentleness, and come out more peaceful and pliable on the other end.

Lent, and small steps on a long journey.  Thanks for listening to me ramble about it.  ♥

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I thought my garbage post was really funny.  Thank you to Louise who commented on it, and poo on the rest of you who didn't.  POO!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Great Garbage Saga

Tonight Brent and I had a fight about garbage.  We don't fight about sex, we don't fight about money, we fight about garbage.  Ha.  The point of the fight was this: Brent does not want me to overfill the garbage.  But he does not remove the garbage when it is full.  Hence: door slamming, yelling, and tears.  OBVIOUSLY.

Some might say that I should then remove the garbage when it is full but I would just like to say SOME MIGHT BE WRONG!  I do a lot of housework.  A LOT.  Brent's job is garbage, and he is fully on board with this but then he does it wrong.


Anyways, the fight reminded me that I've been wanting to write about garbage for awhile now.  Which is hilarious and I won't blame any of you for not reading about it but you know what?  Garbage is interesting!  At least I think so.

A few years ago I made my first trip to the dump (as an adult.  I used to go with my dad when I was too little to protest).  We borrowed Brent's dad's truck (which actually is his mom's truck, let's be honest and non sexist here: who drives it to work every day despite the fact that it is fourteen times too big for her and she's scared to park it?  Yeah, it's his mom's) and tossed a load of our CRAP in the back and took it to the dump.  Which happens to be 15 blocks from our house, in a warehouse by the river.  First of all, I never knew a dump could be INSIDE.  I guess it is a transfer station and not technically a dump but inside the warehouse was effing garbage as high as the roof, so I'm not really thinking it is a station so much as a disgraceful reminder of all it is to be human participating in a consuming society overrun with stuff.  Or something not quite so armageddon.  (How does blogger not recognize the word armageddon?  Seriously?).
Second of all, the smell made me vomit in my mouth a tiny bit.  It was a wall of rotten food.  There were bulldozers and backhoes and all manner of large industrial vehicles pushing around the piles of garbage and there were men who worked there.  In that smell.  All. Day. Long.  Who has that job?  Oh my gosh, who has that job?!!
It was overwhelming in size and beyond what I could have imagined.  And I think it's a small transfer station and not that bad.  I mean, we live in a city with 130,000 people and we're gonna make garbage.  At least it's not going in the river.

But it was massive.

Around the same time I was trying to compost in our townhouse with a worm compost bin.  I tried three separate times and killed all my worms every time.  I just couldn't do it.  I put the compost bin (without emptying it) in our garage and ignored it for two years.  I pulled it out to toss the contents the spring before we moved and lo and behold, it was beautiful rich dirt!  Some worms survived, bred, and ate my forgotten garbage and pooped out fertilizer!  WOOT!  So I put it in my garden and grew pretty flowers.

When we moved to our own house (YES!!) we tossed the worm bin and got a real live urban backyard composter.  It is easier than the worm bin, actually, and pretty much unkillable.

Not my composter.  Image.
I would take a photo of my own composter but then you would have to wait about a year for me to get around to it.  Why bother?  Mine looks exactly like this one.

ALSO, last year our township started its own composting program!  They pick up our food scraps and compost it in town at a big site.  I'm not sure what they will do with it when it is nice dirt, but possibly sell it for gardens?  Or use it in township gardens?  Who knows.  When I first heard about this idea I thought OH DISGUSTING I'M GOING TO HATE THIS.  But lo and behold (I know!  I said that twice in one post), I love it.  Here is the deal: the 'Green Bin' program takes yard trimmings and food scraps in one pail/garbage can, marked with a township 'Green Can' sticker.  Food scraps means ALL FOOD.  Meat, bones, cheese, bread: you name it.  It also means biodegradables, like paper towel, kleenex, cardboard, paper bags, etc.  SO COOL.  In the summertime we put vegetable scraps in one pail for our backyard composter, and all other food in a second scraps pail for the green bin.  In the winter the worms are too sleepy to keep up with our vegetable scraps so we put everything in the green bin.

Not my bin.  Image.
 because why take photos when I can lazily google images?  He he.

The reason I thought I would hate it is because it seemed gross.  Garbage on my counter?  Stinky food garbage?  In a pail I have to clean?  NO THANK YOU.  In reality though I line my scraps bucket with a biodegradable paper bag and it gets emptied (OR NOT) by my lovely spouse, who is really quite nice.  And handsome.  And total blog fodder when he acts like an asshole he forgets to take out the garbage.  The scraps pail is small enough that we fill it every one to two days, so it doesn't usually have time to get smelly.  AND if it does, it has a LID!  Which closes!  Unlike my under the sink garbage, which always just got stinky when all the garbage went in it.  And because it sits on my counter, I scrub it every time it gets emptied so it is far cleaner than the old method.
Our under the sink garbage gets full WAY less often (it is actually the scraps bucket we fought over.  Not to say that we haven't fought over the under the sink garbage pail because OH YES WE HAVE.  Just not tonight) and sometimes even only needed emptying once a week.  I'm not sure if there was a lot of dead air space in the garbage before or what, but we are producing way less garbage.  The garbagy garbage gets shipped 302.6 Kilometers (according to Google) from our town to Cache Creek, which gets paid a premium for accepting garbage from the entire Lower Mainland.  Cache Creek makes so much income from this project that the residents pay no property taxes.  None.  Zero.  Show me that money, dude!!  Except not in summer.  Blech.

So now with most of our garbage going either into our backyard or into the community compost, far less of it makes it to the transfer station, into trucks, and up to Cache Creek to be filled into the land along with everyone else's plastic uselessnesses.  That is very, very good.  Plus my kitchen smells better, which is really the best part.  =)

Update on 11 Months Old Post

I forgot to add this detail to Amarys' 11 months post.  I added it to the post but figured you might miss it if you had already read it so here is what I added.  It's a funny detail.  =)

We call her 'the little goat,' because she bashes into things with her head all the time.  She will crawl into walls, doors, block towers, chairs, the cat, and people on purpose, battering them with her head as though she were one of those mischievous farm goats with the little horns and big attitudes.

This will slow down as she gives up on crawling, but she will often walk up to one of us and give us a head butt, or stand on our laps and come in quick with the hard part of her forehead.  She thinks it's hilarious, and I daresay it is effective in getting a reaction out of people.  And she giggles.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Mama Birth website posted my birth story from Amarys' birth last year!  Woot!  =)  Read it here!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Added a New Item to my Etsy Shop!!

I made this hat for my midwife, who is pregnant with her fourth baby.  I make them to order on Etsy! 
 ALSO: someone who is NOT my mother bought one of my toys!  *Dancing with joy*   I love that my mom bought my first toy last month, but it feels pretty good to have a stranger buy an item from my store.  YAY!  I'm so excited.  The next item I want to put in my etsy shop Wild Arbutus is knit baby legwarmers.  Wouldn't those be cute?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

11 Months Old!

She loves hamming it up for her brothers
Unbelievably, Amarys is eleven months old.  Crazy wild.  We have to plan her birthday party!  What the heck am I doing?  I should be doing that right now...
But instead I would love to tell you all about her.  First of all, she decided last week that crawling is passe, and has almost exclusively switched to walking;

She's walking!
Amarys is quite a character.  In some ways, she reminds me of Matthew; intense, spirited, full of almost frantic energy, high threshold for pain, inquisitive as hell, and gets extremely wound up when overtired.  Her emotional reactions to things are very amped up, also much like Matthew.  He's not as emotionally reactive now, but he was very much so as a baby.  He was more of a crier.  She is more of a screamer.  I can see now how the colicky early months were a manifestation of her personality, as she takes things to heart and is easily swept off kilter, emotionally.  She's lovely and magical and for now I don't mind sharing myself as her emotional regulator (except when I do).

We are so proud of her finding her feet!  She walks a bit like a zombie, arms out in front of her and kicking each foot out before putting it down, and SHE is so proud of herself!  So cute.  She's developed a 'scrunchy face' smile for when she is particularly pleased with something.  She often pulls it out when daddy comes home from work.

She is a busy baby.  I relish breastfeeding her because it is one of the few times she will actually curl into me for a cuddle.  When falling asleep she does laps around her bed, stomping on my breasts at every opportunity, biting my shoulders, and kicking me in the face.  During the day she wants to explore, climb, investigate, taste, poke, rip apart, smack, and toss stuff on the floor.
She's cranky.  Whoooeee, I've never met such a pessimist!  Little monkey.  Luckily I love her so much, so her screeching, kicking, flailing, and general malcontent seems amusing and cute.  I can tell a parenting approach that emphasizes autonomy will suit her well, as she already makes clear her choices.  We will also perhaps heavily emphasize the development of empathy...

We call her 'the little goat,' because she bashes into things with her head all the time.  She will crawl into walls, doors, block towers, chairs, the cat, and people on purpose, battering them with her head as though she were one of those mischievous farm goats with the little horns and big attitudes.

This will slow down as she gives up on crawling, but she will often walk up to one of us and give us a head butt, or stand on our laps and come in quick with the hard part of her forehead.  She thinks it's hilarious, and I daresay it is effective in getting a reaction out of people.  And she giggles.

Of course when we have guests or go out in public she makes me a liar and acts quiet and shy...

She's totally a sweetheart though and we all can't get enough of her.  I've always been a little partial to women who know their own minds!  She's strong.  Nobody's going to push her around, that's for certain.  And she loves to sit on the dishwasher door and chatter.  So funny.  She also loves food, still loves toys and rattly objects, loves to stand on the bathroom stool and look in the sink and talk to her reflection in the mirror.  She loves her family.  She loves the cat.  Grass.  Outdoors.  Mud. 

After nearly nine years of being a parent, I broke down last week and bought a baby hairbrush and comb for the first time ever.  For years I've considered it periodically, and then generally opted to cut the boys' hair instead.  Nine years as a parent, never owned a comb for my kids.  True story.
The comb is handy for making PONYTAILS on the top of her head which really fulfills a dream of mine since childhood, of having  a real baby girl with hair long enough for ponytails!  It's more of a fountain on the top of her head at this point, but we are taking what we are getting, here.  No photos of ponytails yet, but soon, I promise.  The brush is handy for taming the spiky dragon hair that appears after her bath, and she loves to hold the brush and brush her own hair.  Yesterday she brushed MY hair.  Oh, how long I waited to have a daughter who would brush MY hair!!!
She also loves socks, and will bring me her sock and stick out her foot for me to put it on.  She can also predict things, like the removal of socks or pant legs, and shift her weight or pull out her arms accordingly.  She is remarkably resilient and often falls without fanfare and rights herself to keep on trucking.

The photo below was of a day when Brent put this scarf on her and she loved it so much he wasn't allowed to take it off.  She thought she was the bees knees in it, and I daresay she was:

She's walking, she signs for "milk," "up," and sometimes for "all done," she says momma and dada in the right context, knocks on closed doors and waits for an answer, will look all over for family members if they leave the room, says "pssssss" if cued to pee (but doesn't pee anywhere but the floor and her diaper), growls indiscriminately, and loves peek-a-boo, this little piggy, round and round the garden, and twinkle twinkle little star.  Riley frequently sings Twinkle Twinkle when she's crying, to try and calm her down and it is SO sweet.  He's such a softy.
Lately the weather has been warm and sunny, so I have been leaving the back door open periodically.  She loves to cruise out onto the back deck to explore and can spend a good half hour entertained with dog hair, the view, and the railings.  I can't wait for spring and summer!

She's a very particular girl.  I'm particularly infatuated with her.  =)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love Comes In All Sizes

Welcome to the first Family Size Blog Carnival!
This post was written for inclusion in the Family Size Blog Carnival hosted by Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling and Patti at Jazzy Mama. Today our participants share their decisions on family size and whether or not to grow their families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

"How Can You Have Too Many Children? That's Like Saying You Have Too Many Flowers" ~ Mother Teresa

I have always loved babies and children.  My childhood was surrounded by aunts having babies, the births of my siblings, and hours of running around with scads of kids from my neighborhood.  I wanted lots of interesting things in life; to travel around the world, to learn new languages, to write a book, to work in an ambulance, and to have lots of children.  A life without kids would have felt odd.  Too quiet.  Bland, like toast-which is great!-without jam (which is greater!).  I definitely wanted lots of jam.

When we were dating, Brent and I discussed dreams for a family pretty early on.  I wanted to be certain we were on the same page when it came to having children, because it was so important to me.  I didn't just want to have a kid or two.  I wanted lots.  I wanted to be surrounded by story books and sticky limbs and lots of lovely personalities and big brown eyes.  Fortunately, we were on the same page.  Very fortunately, as it turns out, since about forty seven seconds after we got married, I got pregnant.  Oops.  And then two years after Ayden was born, and about forty seven seconds after we applied to adopt overseas (thinking it could take up to three years), we got matched with Matthew.  Yikes.  Very rapidly, we were parents of two small children, and it felt quiteoverwhelming.  All that jam suddenly seemed rather excessive.  And not always all that sweet.

Okay, maybe lotsa sweet

But even with all the chaos, all the noise and crap to clean up and poop on the wall, the times I locked myself in my closet just to hear myself THINK and have a break from all the need my kids had, I knew I wanted more children.  I was wrestling with a mental illness I didn't know I had, struggling to balance school and work and two smart, funny, noisy, energy sucking children, and it all felt so overwhelming.  I knew I wanted more, but I also knew I wasn't ready.  Matthew wasn't ready, either; he wrestled with allergies and chronic ear infections, speech and language problems, difficult behaviour, developmental delays, and wild amounts of energy.  Our relationship was still developing, and I knew that adding another child would be too much for our thin love, just yet.  So we waited.

When Matthew was four and Ayden was five, we were settled.  Matthew was in preschool, Ayden was in kindergarten, and we had more joy, more hysterical wrestling, more cuddles, than stress and struggle, so we knew we were ready.  And so we had Riley.

Matthew, Ayden, and Riley

For awhile, it was full in our house.  Our bed was full, our hands were full, our time was so full with the million tasks of taking care of three little boys, and we were not sure if we had room for another baby.  Riley was a remarkably easygoing baby.  He never cried.  He didn't feel it was necessary much of the time, and when he did, it was easy to fix.  Milk, diaper, sleep.  If those three didn't work, I would give him a bath and he would instantly settle.  I was so grateful for a peaceful baby, because it took awhile to settle into a rhythm with three children, because we were always outnumbered.  I was wrestling with post partum anxiety and I rarely slept.  We were ridiculously happy, and ridiculously busy, drowning in unfolded laundry piles and wading through an ankle deep mess of toys in our livingroom.  Three boys ate up every scrap of energy we had!

Two years later we started talking about another baby.  We had three healthy, growing, smart, funny boys; were we tempting fate by trying again?  Balance and rhythm in a large family are hard won, and adding another little person would threaten to shove us off kilter again.  Our plan had always been to have four children, but were we nutter?  Raising kids is hard work.  The assembly line of needs, the fact that someone is always hungry, the struggle to impart empathy, good character, and a strong sense of self in each child, it is impossibly hard work.  But oh, so joyful.  These little people in my life, peeing on my bed and spilling coke on the dog, are such bright lights that I have difficulty believing that war and hatred can coexist with them in the world.  And they smell delicious.  And so we had another.

Amarys, March 2011

Four sweethearts on a couch

Don't we have cute babies?

And we are done.  We have two and two, everyone has a buddy (including momma and daddy), we have boys and a girl, and (most days) a unique rhythm that is actually so much easier to keep steady than when we only had two.  Recently someone asked me if I find I don't pay much attention to my littlest baby, because she's my fourth, and I nearly snorted my drink out my nose.  She gets so much love and attention from the five other members of her family that she has never had a lonely minute in her entire life.   If she's not in my arms she's dancing with Matthew, or having a baby talk 'conversation' with Riley, or is backing her soft little butt onto Ayden's lap for a cuddle.  She's not lacking in anything.  Every day I'm so glad I know each of my kids.  They sparkle with magic, and I'm fortunate to have all of them in my life.  Poop, jam, laundry and all.


Visit City Kids Homeschooling and Jazzy Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Family Size Blog Carnival!

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

  • The Perfect Family The family at Living Peacefully With Children isn't perfect, but the size is just right for least for now.
  • Family Size Carnival Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses how she loves the extremes of being happily child-free for life to being a mom of several. And on knowing when her family is just the right size.
  • Is Adoption for Me? Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares why she would consider adoption as the socially responsible way to have a large family.
  • Getting Used to Having Kids Lauren at Hobo Mama went from "probably one, maybe two" to wanting a handful, but not without some major struggles and soul searching along the way.
  • Magic Number For a while, Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales has wondered what the magic number will be for their family, but now thinks she's finally settled on an answer.
  • How Did You Get That Size Jorje explains how she "chose" her family size and why they aren't planning to grow again on Momma
  • Family Size On A Per Kid Basis Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how plans change as families grow.
  • More Babies: How, When, Why Joella at Fine and Fair writes to her daughter about when, how, and why she might get a sibling.
  • Family Size Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares how she has no idea what size her family will end up being; though she used to be sure, a few factors have recently come up to change everything.
  • Thy Will Be Done CatholicMommy hasn't decided how many children she'll have. And she never will. Because, you know, she's Catholic.
  • Sanity and Health Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment talks about sanity and health considerations when deciding on her family's size.
  • Love Comes In All Sizes Melissa at White Noise and Mothers of Change shares her family's journey to becoming a family of six!
  • Family Size Liz at Homeschooling in Buffalo discusses how this carnival occurs less than two weeks after "closing up shop" by way of vasectomy.
  • Family Size Blog Carnival Billy, a single mother by choice, writes about the size of her family at My Pathway to Motherhood.
  • Creating Your Perfect Family Size Dr. Alan Singer shares insights from his new book, Creating Your Perfect Family Size.
  • Our Family Size You might not be surprised to learn that Patti at Jazzy Mama can't find any reasons NOT to have more babies.
  • Economics of Family Size Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling uses an economic cost-benefit analysis to determine her family's optimal size.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Free Dates

 I had coupons for several restaurants, and it was Riley's turn for a date!  He chose A&W.  Then we walked to the movie theater and watched "We Bought a Zoo" for absolutely free with coupons from a cereal box.  It was fun, and part of the movie Riley spent snuggled up on my lap and the other part he spent at the far end of our row, sitting on his own and giggling at the movie.  He also likes to talk full volume during movies so it was good we chose a matinee as there were only two other people in the entire theater.  It was super fun!  Love my super three year old guy!

Riley and I at A&W

Date fare

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Bonding

I'm a part of this email list on maternity care issues, because I work as a volunteer for Mothers of Change.  Asheya signed me up for the list so I could have access to conversations and research links on pregnancy and birth related topics, and it is fascinating and very overwhelming.  Ina May Gaskin is a list member, for example.  Sarah Buckley.  Big names in birth circles, people.
Anyways, there was a little explosion recently in some discussion regarding mode of birth and bonding.  I'm a list lurker so I'm not allowed to add my 2 cents, so I figured I would offer it here.  Since that's what my blog is for.  =)

The natural birth community emphasizes the natural bonding process that happens during and after a natural birth as being designed for survival of the species and involving a complex mixture of hormones Dr Michel Odent calls the"love cocktail."  It is felt that interference in the natural process with drugs to induce or augment labour, analgesia for pain, or even a great degree of disturbance during labour can interrupt the natural flow or cascade of hormones, and interfere with bonding.  "How do we live, without love?" asks Dr Odent in The Business of Being Born.  I think what he is doing, in asking this, is challenging the now normal medicalization of birth on a cultural level.  He is not challenging our ability to love our babies born by 'unnatural' means, as individual parents.  He's asking a valid question which challenges our culture's beliefs surrounding birth.  One of those beliefs is that birth is entirely physical.  The only thing that matters is the mechanics of birth and whether the baby comes out, and both the woman and baby are alive at the end of the day.  This is a medical view and is so pervasive that surgical birth is now the most common operation that is performed in Canada, and nobody bats an eye.
Does it matter how our babies come into the world?
Yes, and no.

The list discussion got heated because someone challenged the Dr Odent idea that a non natural birth is less than optimal for the bonding process.  It was stated that cesarean babies integrate wholly and rapidly into the heart of their families, and that adopted children bond fully and should not be disqualified from being "bonded" just because of the way they came into the family.

I have a unique perspective on this, don't I?  I have had a cesarean, an adoption, and two natural births (one with oxytocin immediately after birth, and the other with oxytocin about 30 minutes after birth: this is significant because oxytocin is considered one of the main "love" hormones and synthetic oxytocin blocks the body's production of natural oxytocin and does not have the same "love" effect on the emotions: this is considered more relevant during labour and delivery than afterwards, but I thought I should mention it.  Not, in fact, fully, 1000% natural, per se, to all people.  But natural according to ME).  I have the unique opportunity to compare the bonding process from three different perspectives.

There are complicating factors, but I think it could be said that my experience might be similar to many.  My first baby was unplanned, and difficult for me to wrap my mind around.  His birth was totally unnatural.  Not a single contraction.  Just check in to the hospital in the morning, get a spinal anasthesia in the afternoon, and ten minutes later get sliced open and voila!  You're a mom.  Very odd.  Surreal.  He cried and I thought it was someone else's baby.  The first time I held him I felt nothing.  No emotion.  Zero.  I didn't feel bad or unhappy, I just didn't feel anything.  It was taking awhile for my body and my mind to catch up with what had happened to my uterus (ie, the baby came OUT, so it was time to BOND).  In the recovery room afterwards, when I was separated from Ayden, I started to feel restless and anxious to see my baby and hold him, and by the end of my weekend hospital stay I really felt like a remarkable miracle had occurred and his name was Ayden.  I was surprised by the force of my desire to study him; watch his face while he slept and marvel at his random arm movements.
And yet, I didn't feel the love.  I felt love, and I felt bonded, and in particular when I breastfed Ayden I felt extremely powerful and amazing and loving.  But I didn't feel the way people describe as you know that love you feel for your kids, and how strong it is?  And how it is different from any other love?  Yeah, I didn't feel that.  I felt the same kind of love for Ayden that I did for my parents or my sister.  Familial, and strong, but the same.
I shrugged.  I figured maybe I loved my parents and siblings more than your average person?  Who knows.  But then when he was 5 1/2 months I read a book about a woman whose baby was taken from her at birth in captivity and kept in the next room until he died of starvation, in order to torture her.  I looked at Ayden in the middle of the night as I read that book and BOOM, I felt the love.  And I've felt it ever since.

Matthew also had complicating factors.  Namely: my brand of crazy.  My anxiety disorder totally interfered with our relationship and the normal development of love between an adopted child and his mother.  Also complicating was the factor of his intense personality and how difficult it was to feel anything except flat out running for the sake of survival.  It was all about feeding and bathing and keeping the kid alive, and I didn't have a spare nanosecond to relish him.  Study his sleeping facial expressions.  Marvel at random arm movements.  THERE WAS NO TIME.  THERE WAS TOO MUCH POOP TO CLEAN UP.  And just keeping that kid alive was a double shift, I tell you.  It still is.  Bonding with him was a slo-o-o-o-o-www process.  Each day was a day where we shifted closer, but it took three years to feel the love.  I think most adoptive parents feel it much faster than that, but I don't think many of them feel it instantly.  And yes, I've felt it ever since.  And yes, it is the same.  It feels the same as the love for biological children, although it took longer to grow and is generally more complicated with feelings of guilt, fear, worry over identity issues, and the need to reinvent the wheel so often as an adoptive parent when you stumble upon problems that simply don't exist for biological families.  Like a lack of access to medical history, for example.  We have no idea if ADD runs in his biological family, if he was exposed to alcohol as a fetus, or if he had medication during his birth.  We just have to wing it, sometimes.  There are a lot of emotions that surround this, and any issues that arise as they grow up are always complicated by fear that adoption caused it, contributed it, or may derail it in some way.  Worry can cloud positive emotions, like love.  It doesn't erase it, but you spend less time relishing it and more time dwelling and worrying.  The love that I do feel for this particular baby of mine is very dear to me, because it was so hard won.  Feeling the love for him is victory and triumph, every time.

I had Riley naturally, vaginally, no drugs, minimal disturbance, minimal interference, fully on my own steam and power.  And the bonding was seamless.  There was no before and after.  There was no love and love.  There was just always the love, from before he was earthside.  Some of this was the preparedness we felt for his pregnancy, and how much we planned for and wanted a baby at that point in our life, and some of it was the way he was born.

I had Amarys naturally, vaginally, no drugs, NO disturbance, no interference, no fear, no worry, all peace, and all of my own power.  It was seamless again.  I felt less interconnected with Amarys before she was born than I did with Riley, likely partially because I had more time and energy to focus on Riley while pregnant because I had no toddler to care for (just a four and five year old), and partially because we found out at the ultrasound that he was a boy, so I felt like I knew him a bit better in utero.  But despite this minor difference in my feelings of closeness with each pregnant belly, there was always just the love with Amarys, too.  The euphoria is remarkable, and emphasizes how one and yet two we are, when we give birth to a baby.

Some women feel ambiguity towards naturally birthed babies, and some women feel the love during a cesarean birth process; we are not lemmings and our DNA does not preclude a certain path for all of us.  But I would say that in my experience, the journey towards bonding is largely already traveled by the time  your baby is born with natural birth.  Whereas cesarean birth needs some patience, as several of the stepping stones in the path have been skipped over, and need a few extra minutes, hours, days (or months, in my case) to realign.  Because each stone must be traversed.  Not in order, but it must be traversed.  And adoption requires building your own path.  You don't traverse a predesigned, prefabricated path that nature has laid in your hormonal and biological makeup.  You make it yourself.  You cut the rock, carry it, lay it down in a foundation you poured yourself, and then you traverse it.  No biology to give you a leg up (but no biology to get in the way, either).  It is harder to build and incredibly valuable as a result.

And you know what?  Adopting a child is a lot like becoming a dad, really.  The biology is all heavily weighted for the woman, but dads get the love bug deep in their souls, too.  Rather than hormones, it's all about the cerebral cortex.  An incredible example of the flexibility and adaptability of the human animal.  Adaptability is one of our greatest assets, and part of why humans survive a vast array of environments, life experiences, diets, and social patterns.  And family.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Vegetarian Foodie Friday; Spanikopita

Tonight I made one of my favorites.  Years ago I meshed together an appetizer recipe and some trial and error, and came up with this original Melissa Vose recipe.  Which is pretty yummy.  I call it spanikopita but I'm sure it's nothing authentic.


several Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 (or more) cloves garlic, chopped
Bunch spinach, washed, stems trimmed
1/4 cup butter, melted
8-10 sheets phyllo pastry (found frozen with the pie shells at grocery store)
2 eggs
pinch nutmeg (I often leave this out because I don't like nutmeg)
1/4 cup soft goat cheese, or crumbled feta
1 Tbsp freshly grated parmesean (tonight I used some mozzerella and threw in some Kraft dried parm for taste: who has $$ for fresh grated parm?  Seriously)
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat oil in pan, add onion and garlic and cook 5 to 6 minutes on medium heat, until softened.

2. Add spinach leaves and cook, stirring, until the spinach has wilted and some of the liquid has evaporated.  Let cool.

3. Brush loaf pan with melted butter, line with phyllo pastry.  Layer phyllo sheets, brushing with butter between each layer.  Who doesn't love good old fashioned butter?  Michael Pollan says cows who graze in grass meadows produce butter with vitamin D in it.  I'm not saying Island Farms has vitamin D, but I'm not saying it doesn't...

Check on status of too quiet baby.  Take photo.  Oopsies, better watch her more closely...

4. Beat egg with nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in cheeses and spinach.  Add to pan, nestled in pastry.  Fold phyllo pastry over the top and brush with melted butter.

5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes.  Give me all the credit.

Nice with greek salad and rice (not pictured here)...

And oops, whose cute baby IS that anyways???

Bullet Post Update

Thank you for the love for my friends and their little girl.  ♥ She was a beautiful little soul and profoundly missed.  It's unspeakably sad.  This week is funeral week for us; our good friend's father passed away a few days before our friend's child.  How do you go to a child's funeral?

I walk around randomly crying.

Riley has ringworm and an ear infection.  Amarys still hasn't kicked her bronchiolitis from November.  I'm not sure if we are dealing with back to back or overlapping infections, or if she really just hasn't kicked the original bug.  Either way: WTF?

It is sunny here.  Thank heaven.  Frosty though, which is a bit of a pain when your van is heaterless.  I keep meaning to email Stephani, Louise's friend who offered her hubs to find us a heater at the wreckers.  Brent is having a hard time figuring out which part we actually need, hence the delay.  Don't give up on us!  We will take you up on your generosity, soon...

On Monday, I went snowboarding for the first time in fifteen years!  Mondays Mt Seymour offers "free" (by donation fundraiser for breast cancer) night skiing for women.  My bestie goes every week, and for the first time I joined her.  I used to snowboard every weekend, in high school, and  was pretty good.  I don't do tricks or run the pipe, but I love carving down the hill and sporting the odd jump.  ♥ It's small things in life that make so much difference, and moments of peaceful silence coupled with speed and movement make me profoundly happy.  Conditions were terrible: wet mushy snow on top of ice, wind, fog, sleet, and visibility of about 15 feet.  It was awesome and we're going again next Monday.

Our laptop is on the verge of collapse.  When plugged in, it rarely registers recharging, and the battery doesn't hold up for long.  This makes online communication and blogging incredibly frustrating, as most of what I'm doing currently involves my phone.  Our desktop computer is downstairs.  I think we might need to consider moving it, since we never use it when it is in the cold dark cave we call a spare room with no bed and tons of unpacked boxes from our move last year... I'm operating on rare battery power right now, and cannot guarantee very long online, although I'm desperately needing to do some work on Mothers of Change and our giveaway, and write about placentas and post partum mood disorders and pain in labour and breastfeeding...

I need a vacation, I think.  I just got my last maternity leave paycheque on Tuesday, and now am officially incomeless.

I hope this doesn't seem like a complaining post; I think saying goodbye to a child and a friend's father has made me rather morose in general.  I'm quite stable right now; just grieving.  I am relishing appreciation for the people and things I have, and feeling acutely the loss of the ones we no longer have in our community.  Peace and love.