Tuesday, December 29, 2009


We have had so, so many reasons to be joyful this season. Most of all, for the reminder of God's incredible love for us. Our family is doing well, and both grandparents are out of the hospital. Recovery always takes time, but we are grateful that things are going so well.

Christmas was fun, particularly because we kept it pretty low-key. We did minimal presents and preparation, but with the nausea, tiredness and a cold I picked up, that was just as well. I think we all enjoyed it much more than if we had been stressed-out.

Carlos and I talked more about a home birth, and agreed to have this baby at home. I can't even begin to describe my emotions on that. I felt such a crushing weight every time I considered a hospital birth. Right now, my cup of joy is overflowing! There is such a relief at being able to trust God, my body, my husband and my midwife, and not feel as if I have to battle a hospital and all of its policies. I will probably have an uphill struggle with our insurance, and I don't know what they will contribute, if anything. Even so, I slept much better after the decision than in the previous weeks!

I wish you and your families fullness of joy throughout this coming year, and hope that you find peace and hope in every new day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Matters of life and death

The last several days have had me thinking a lot about life and death.

The good news: my adorable nephew was born! His parents had been waiting over 10 years for a child, and we are all absolutely thrilled that he has joined our family. He was three weeks early because of pre-eclampsia, but he and his mami are doing very well and are at home. He is a small little guy, but the world can only hold so much cuteness. ;) I was thrilled that they were able to avoid a C-section. Being born a bit early has made for some extra work as far as breastfeeding goes, but they are doing beautifully.

I've been incredibly blessed to have three grandparents still living. Two of them have been having serious health issues lately. My grandpa (82) was hospitalized for severe hemorrahging. He had to have four units of blood, but was alert and talking, and is stable in ICU.

My grandmother (94) fell and broke her hip quite badly. Since then, she has had some other complications, and twice when they were trying to transfer her had to be rushed back to the hospital.

I hate that they are going through all of this. I ache for my parents, trying to make wise decisions for their care, and exhausted both physically and emotionally. I've also been thinking about quality of life issues. While selfishly we want to keep them alive as long as possible, I know that both of them would rather die peacefully than have an endless series of painful medical procedures that make their last days miserable and offer no true help. (I should clarify that at this point, it doesn't seem that death is imminent for either of them, although given their ages and overall health, any issue is serious).

I could try to tie up this post with a nice little bow of cliches, but I won't. I am grateful for my family, though. For the amazing spiritual legacy of my grandparents. Even though they are no more perfect than they rest of us, the good that they have accomplished far outweighs the bad. I have a rich heritage in the things that really matter. And I am full of joy for my sweet little nephew. I can't wait to see what God has in store for his life!

Friday, December 11, 2009

One step forward, one step back

I've been interested in home birth for quite awhile now. During the pregnancy with Elena while preparing for an unmedicated birth I learned a lot. The last week or two, I've been obsessed, er, extremely interested in it. I've also done a lot of praying and thinking.

I am one step forward from my previous post. I feel completely set on home birth now. There is a deep, peaceful, quiet inside me when I consider it. Intellectually, I've been doing my homework. Birth is not something that any mother should be uninformed about (and I shudder at how little I knew with my first two births!). But in all honesty, it isn't an intellectual decision for me. I feel so compelled to follow my heart in this that disregarding it would be unthinkable.

My Belovedest, however, is not there at all. Which makes things a little complicated. When he told me that he didn't see any advantage at all in a home birth and no disadvantages in a hospital birth I mentally shrieked, "Have you paid any attention at all to the things that I've shared with you or that we learned last time around?" I didn't scream aloud, because my sense of humor quickly reminded me of the hours that my dear husband has spent patiently educating me on the merits of certain electronic equipment or stuff about cars. Truthfully, I couldn't care less about the differences between a plasma TV and and LED? LCD? Anyway, whatever the other kind of screen is. As long as a car functions reliably, I remain in blissful ignorance of features like a cold-air intake system.

And, in his favor, we did succeed in a natural birth last time despite the hospital setting. I still don't want to go back. So, while we've got plenty of time off work the next few weeks, we'll both be praying and talking a lot. It is important to me that he be comfortable with the decision, too.

Our step back is that I will be calling my hospital-midwife soon and letting her know that we won't be continuing as her clients. I still get alarm bells screaming at me and I don't have clear reasons for why. I have nothing against her at all, but I have no doubt whatsoever that we need to go in a different direction, even if we were to wind up with a hospital birth.

The timing may be tricky, though. For one thing, we are changing insurance companies at the first of the year. For another, I want to be honest and not lead her on. At the same time, I don't want to have a big gap in prenatal care, either. So, we really need to make the decision by the end of this year. Which is easy for me to say, but I'm not sure about Carlos. Prayers are greatly appreciated, for both of us. I feel very confident right now, but if I'm wrong, I'd like to know. Have I mentioned how much I hate waffling? I want whatever we decide to be the best choice and for us to be in true unity and for it to happen quickly. Not too much to ask, is it? ;) At least it is the season for hope, peace and dreams coming true.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Contemplating homebirth

One of my favorite things about pregnancy is that the spiritual, intuitive side of me seems to become much stronger. I don't know if it is just a case of me listening more, or what, but especially after Elena's birth, I pay close attention to any impressions or feelings I get.

Lately, the feelings are an increasingly stronger pull towards homebirth. We have not yet made a firm decision, but it seems that each moment I feel more peaceful about giving birth at home and a tense, anxious feeling like alarm bells at the idea of giving birth in the hospital. So, of course, I will be processing a lot of those feelings here! Feedback is welcome, regardless of your views.

What appeals to me about a homebirth?

The safety. While mortality rates tend to be about the same in all of the major studies comparing hospital births with planned homebirths, the chances of injury/illness in the mother or baby are actually higher in hospitals. There are all the cascading interventions, hospital-acquired infections...the list is long and sobering.

The peaceful atmosphere. In both Ariana and Elena's births, I had people screaming unhelpfully and unnecessarily during the pushing phase. I know from experience that the calm, quiet voices of my husband and midwife are far, far more helpful.

Having birthed naturally, I know that my body knows what to do, and I don't want to have to fight people who would try to get me to be flat on my back and still when that is counter-productive to labor and delivery.

Then there are all the procedures after the birth that I don't want--eye drops, Hep B vax, scrubbing the baby. I can decline them (and would) but it is so nice to not have to argue with anyone at that time.

I hate leaving the kidlets for days with a hospital birth, and would feel much more relaxed knowing that they are nearby. Both Ariana and Joel have expressed interest in being present for the birth, and at home there is much more flexibility than at a hospital.

This will most likely be my last birth, and I would like for it to be a peaceful, gentle welcome into the world, and that is much more likely to happen at home.

There are more, but those are some of the reasons that have been resonating inside me.

The reasons for a hospital birth?


Carlos is more comfortable with that right now. And his feelings are important to me. On the other hand, my feelings are important to him, and if I am anxious and unhappy about a hospital birth, he isn't going to feel good, either.

Insurance. At the moment, our insurance covers hospital births really cheaply for us. However, I have an amazing midwife who has been incredibly generous. And really, if we wind up with interventions or a long hospital stay because of birthing in the hospital, would having insurance help be worth it?

Emergency situations. Sure, those can happen. I have total confidence in our midwife and her ability to recognize a rare situation in which we would need to transfer to a hospital. And, ironically, Elena's birth had a rare complication (prolapsed cord), and yet the outcome would have been exactly the same if she had been born at home. Had I had a different OB, chances are good that it would have been an emergency C-section, but she was out in about four pushes, despite me being flat on my back!

Er...does it seem that I am talking myself into a homebirth more and more?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Mommy Monster, Mexican food, and special PJs

Our holidays have been wonderful, and I hope that yours were, as well. I am still nauseated 24/7, and tired, but it was much worse in the previous pregnancy, so I'm trying to keep that in mind.

For about three weeks, Elena was waking every hour and screaming non-stop until she stopped from sheer exhaustion. We took her to the doc and found nothing physical causing it. I think it may have been a combination of several things, including teething and frustration at my diminishing milk supply. Whatever, it was, it was awful! My views on letting babies cry it out have been well-publicized here, but it was tempting. Ultimately, I couldn't get past the fact that God has never let me cry by myself. He is always with me and comforting me with His love. Carlos was amazingly patient and when I was exhausted would take her in to the living room and let her dance to Santana, the only thing that ever seemed to help. :)

The night before my birthday, she only woke once, and then went right back to sleep without crying. Talk about the perfect gift! Unfortunately, Joelito had a nightmare and was up most of the rest of the night. He kept calling for Carlos and asking if he had left for work yet. I didn't think much of it, because all of our kidlets are extremely attached to their dad. In the morning, he still seemed a little frightened by the dream, though.

I had to work, but I celebrated with the little ones by going out to Starbucks. Ariana said it was even better than cake! What can I say? She adores Starbuzz as much as her mami. On the way, Joel kept asking me to make scary faces. He had never requested that before, but I complied with lots of silly faces and the occasional angry face. He shrieked with mingled delight and fear like a kid on a roller-coaster and kept begging for more.

Carlos and I swapped cars as I went to work, and he called me a few minutes later asking if I knew details of Joel's nightmare. He hadn't shared them with me. Pobrecito--he had dreamed that bad guys turned me into a monster with red eyes that tried to eat him. Ay, ay, ay. Poor little guy. He had been afraid of me all morning, watching my eyes and waiting for me to transform!

We straightened things out there--good reminder for me about how blurry the line of reality is for little ones that age! Then, my Beloved and I went out *just us* for Mexican food! Now, lest that seem not-quite-earth-shattering, let me explain. I loooooooove Mexican food. It is a non-negotiable part of my theology that at the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven, there will be tons of Mexican food served. However, with kidlets who are allergic to corn, beans, rice, pork and possibly cilantro or chiles, going out to a Mexican restaurant as a family just doesn't happen. My kids understand that there are a lot of things that they cannot eat, and usually don't have a problem with others eating things they can't have in front of them. However, telling a three-year-old who adores chips and salsa that he can't have any is just cruel, in my opinion.

Anyway, it has been over a year and a half since Carlos and I had eaten Mexican food at a restaurant. Oh my! I don't have words in either language to express how good it was! I was practically moaning with pleasure at every bite. It was equally delightful having time with just my Beloved and being able to talk and enjoy the meal without a single interruption.

We did a little shopping on the way home, and Carlos bought me the plushest, softest and loveliest set of fleece jammies! They are soooooo comfy. Joel loves them, too. This morning he said, "Mami, just hold me in your arms. It is like a blanky over me, a shield keeping me warm and protected," with a blissful little sigh. My little poet! :D

(I wasn't going to confess this, but since I strive for transparency, I will share a total lazy-mommy-moment. The morning sickness was really bad this morning, and I found out that while we were gone, the stew meat that I had planned for today had gotten left out overnight. We haven't been grocery shopping in over a week, so there was nothing in the house. I loaded up the kids and went through a drive-thru *in my jammies!*. Yes, that is right. I didn't even get dressed. It is cold and drizzling, and nothing feels comfortable right now except my jammies. The guy in the drive through looked at me incredulously and asked if I was wearing a robe. I smiled proudly and said that they were the perfect outfit for this weather. He was just jealous that he didn't have nice jammies on.)

Regardless of the weather, I wish you a warm cozy day with great coffee and chocolate pastries, a good book and a special set of fleecy jammies!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Everything you ever wondered about breastfeeding during pregnancy, but didn't want to ask...

Today marks five years and ten months of breastfeeding for me. At this point, I have no shame or embarrassment whatsoever about anything related to lactation. However, our culture leaves many women caught between not actually seeing extended nursing/tandeming/etc. in the examples of women around them, yet feeling a little embarrassed about asking questions or commenting on another woman's choices for feeding her children.

So, I'm making it easy on you. I'm writing this post in a Q&A format based off of questions I've been asked on message boards and in private chats with my closest friends and family. I'm choosing to be completely candid. If there is a question that wasn't addressed, leave a comment, and I'll try to respond (unless you are some weirdo-pervert, in which case it will simply be deleted).

I heard that breastfeeding during pregnancy can cause a miscarriage. Is it safe?
Yes. There is solid research that shows that as long as orgasm is safe, so is breastfeeding. It is true that the hormones released during breastfeeding can cause contractions, but the same is true for sex. In some high-risk pregnancies, woman are advised to wean around 20 weeks, just as a precaution. However, in general, it is perfectly safe. My own OB was very happy to hear that I was nursing two during my last pregnancy, and my midwife for this pregnancy was totally fine with it, too. For more information, check out www.kellymom.com.

What about taking nutrients away from the fetus? What about the colostrum? And, do your kids eat regular food or do they just breastfeed? How often do they nurse, anyway? I'm getting this weird mental picture of a four-year-old who doesn't know how to eat real food...

I know, that was a bunch of questions tied in together. Consider the last few bonus questions ;) It is important for the mom to eat well and enough just so that she doesn't get her own nutritional stores depleted, but the baby and nursling will both be fine. Colostrum is produced just like in any other pregnancy, generally appearing in the last trimester and the first few days after birth. It can cause very loose, yellowish stools in the nursling (not diarrhea), but is full of antibodies. Your nursling will not drink it all up from the newborn. It is possible that the mature milk will come in a little faster than before.

Regarding the last few questions, even our youngest, who didn't begin solids until after a year, eats a normal amount of regular grown-up food. All of the kidlets have a good appetite and none are picky eaters. At this point, our 17-month old is nursing about four or five times during the day and a few times at night. She loves to drink water. If she follows the pattern of the other two, she'll night-wean herself by the third trimester as my supply diminishes, then go back to frequent nursing for a couple of months after the baby is born. She'll drop more and more sessions as she goes along. My three-year-old only nurses once or twice a day, and may choose to wean as the milk changes.

So, how does milk change during pregnancy?

It depends on the woman. My milk supply generally drops pretty drastically around the end of the first trimester. Then, it changes to colostrum sometime around the end of the second trimester. Ariana weaned during my last pregnancy because she hated the taste of colostrum.

Doesn't all that breastfeeding interfere with more romantic functions of breasts?

Nope. My mouth is used for lots of things, including talking and eating, and that has never gotten in the way of kissing. My body parts have many talents :)

Do you set limits on nursing?

Absolutely. This is a two-way relationship, and nursing manners are important to me. In the newborn stage, I offer anytime they seem interested. As they get older, they can wait a few minutes if I am busy. At their current ages when they eat plenty of solids, if I feel very uncomfortable I cut a nursing session short or skip it. They know that, and are very respectful of my body.

How does nursing them together affect sibling relationships, jealousy, etc?

It is hard to say for sure, but I believe it helps smooth the transition a great deal. For one thing, the birth brings a ton of milk. For my kidlets, this was like a waterfall after a drought. They were so delighted with the milk that the baby brought that it ensured very positive feelings from the beginning. It is reassuring for them to know that the baby doesn't take away from their own special closeness with nursing times. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics site states that tandem nursing may reduce jealousy and promote sibling bonding. Seeing the older child gently stroke the baby's hand or face as they share milk is one of my favorite memories of those early days.

How does it actually work? Do they both nurse at the same time? How do you get them positioned?

Different things work for different people. Having the two different sucking patterns felt weird to me, so I prefer to have them nurse separately most of the time. However, there are several ways to work out the logistics if you are comfortable with both nursing simultaneously. Hilary Flower's book Adventures in Tandem Nursing has tons of helpful, real-life advice.

How much did the kids want to nurse after the baby was born?

A lot. More than I would have imagined. At first, both Ariana and Joel nursed more than their newborn siblings. Ariana basically went back to exclusive nursing for over three months after Joelito was born, and she gained four pounds! Some moms limit it a lot. I chose to just ride it out, and after a few months they cut back considerably.

Does your body make enough milk? I'm afraid that the baby won't get enough...

Ha, ha and double ha. Sorry--I don't mean to be insensitive, it is just that I struggled with the opposite problem. It is all about supply and demand. Unless you schedule feedings or otherwise limit access to the breast, your body will generally make as much milk as your baby will drink. How did women with twins manage before formula? The first time around, I didn't know to reserve his-and-hers breasts. My body must have thought it was feeding quads! I had a horrible over-supply. I was constantly leaking, on the edge of engorgement, and had an over-active let-down that nearly drowned poor Joelito each time he latched on! The second time through, I made sure that we didn't alternate so much, and my supply adjusted much more quickly. While I realize that supply issues are real for some women, the vast majority of those I know who have tandem-nursed have found that over-supply is much more common.

Does it cause dental problems in the older nursling?

There is pretty conclusive research that breastfeeding does not cause cavities. It isn't a bottle and it isn't formula. It doesn't pool behind the teeth, and the composition is entirely different. In fact, statistically, the longer you breastfeed, the less likely your child is to have an overbite or need braces later on! As always, good dental hygiene is important, of course.

Is breastfeeding just about you? I mean, why on earth would you want to breastfeed for so long, anyway?

When I hear this, I laugh and laugh. I can usually stop before they edge away and start mentioning soothing drinks. The truth is, of all the women I know with older nurslings, most are eager for the day their children will wean. Sure, there are moments where there is the misty, Mother-Mary-halo and you enjoy the peace of a child cuddled up. When Joelito grins his most adorable smile and tells me that leche is better than ice-cream, or when Elena chortles with delight and chants "leche, leche" over and over as she giggles and grabs my shirt, it is so sweet that I am really glad to be nursing. Both younger ones are little tornadoes, and sitting down to nurse is one of the quietest, most peaceful moments of their day, and a much needed break for all of us.

The rest of the time? My breasts get tender and sore during pregnancy, and a vigorous suck or messy latch hurts. They learn very quickly to latch well every time and be gentle. Dry-nursing (if no milk is coming out) gives me the creepy-crawlies, as if a million ants were crawling all over me. It is one of the worst sensations imaginable and makes for very short, teeth-gritting, nursing-sessions. Finally, following all of the diet restrictions from their food allergies gets old really fast. In those moments, I look at it like diaper-changing: not always pleasant, but in the best interests of my child, and part of the way I choose to parent. In my post, http://dulcefamily.blogspot.com/2009/05/so-why-not-wean.html I included a list of some of the benefits of continuing to breast feed both for children and mothers.

Will you nurse three?

Who knows? Ariana weaned just a couple of months before Elena was born. Later, she asked to nurse again but had already forgotten how. I have no idea if Joel will also decide to wean during pregnancy or if he will continue. If he keeps it up, then I will be triandeming in July. :)

What is your cut-off age for nursing? College?

Definitely. Especially if they choose an out-of-state school. Honestly, I don't know. Each day so far they are only a few hours older than the last time they nursed. The most important thing I've learned as a parent is to trust God's design. They'll stop when they are ready.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stolen Meme on Getting to Know Me

I snitched this from Maria's blog. Check her out if you haven't already at A Piece of my Mind in my blog list :) I, uh, also borrowed some of her answers when appropriate to save typing.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I CRIED? A few minutes ago. I'm pregnant, so it has become frequent recently.
3. DO I LIKE MY HANDWRITING? Most of the time.
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? No deli meats for awhile.
5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Three here and one we haven't met yet.
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yep. The only thing I am missing is wisdom teeth :)
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Lately, chocolate mini wheats.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Anything egg/other allergens-free
14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Their smiles or lack thereof.
15. RED OR PINK? Red.
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? Changes according to the moment.
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? I can't handle separation from Carlos or the kidlets for very long.
18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE ELSE TO PUT THIS ON THEIR BLOG? Seems like it could be fun, so yes!
19. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? None. I love furry socks, though.
20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? A few bites of a barbeque cheeseburger. It was disappointing.
23. FAVORITE SMELL? My family.
25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? I stole it outright, and yes, I like her.
26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Gymnastics- hands down, but I also like figure-skating and diving.
27. Hair Color? At the moment, mostly light brown.
28. EYE COLOR? Hazel .
30. FAVORITE FOOD? Chocolate.
31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy Endings. If I want entertainment, I want happy entertainment. Reality has tragedy enough!
32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? I don't remember.
33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? An extra large men's undershirt. Nice and comfy.
34. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer...in Puebla...
35. HUGS OR KISSES? Both!.
36. FAVORITE DESSERT? Hmm... this is so complicated. Who can pick just one?
37. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? I don't know.
38. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? 99% of the people visiting this blog.
39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? The Curse of the Good Girl, and some old Tamora Pierce.
40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I don't use one.
42. FAVORITE SOUND? "Mami, I love you." is right on up there with Carlos saying he loves me. Other than that, I LOVE silence!
44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Um, Austria or Italy? I think that's the furthest, but I am not going to get a map out to check.
45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Talent? Um, I make milk! And I smile a lot.
46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Puebla, Mexico

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Even Murphy had better days...

Today has been one of those proverbial days where just about everything that could go wrong, has. In my experience, these days rarely come out of the blue when you are rested, healthy and well-able to cope with them. Instead, they cannily attack when you are already down. In our case, I haven't gotten more than three hours of sleep--none of them consecutive--any night this week. Add to that first-trimester-tiredness and I've been unspeakably exhausted.

The kidlets haven't gotten much more sleep than I, and were awake at 6:30 this morning despite being up most of the night. The toddler hasn't been feeling well at all, and has been screaming inconsolably every night. Her doc checked her out and couldn't find anything major. I'm guessing a combination of teething, minor virus and allergies. I have a hard time hearing her scream and not being able to comfort her, but it is terrible for my five year old, and she ultimately joins in because it hurts her so much to see her baby sister cry.

As my eldest and I were fixing breakfast, waves of nausea hit. Oh, no. Not good. Well, OK, I know that it actually *is* very good for the baby, but I was really hoping for another week or two before it hit. Guess not.

Aside from doing schoolwork with the eldest while simultaneously keeping an eye on my three year old and toddler, I had a bunch of tests that need to be graded before class this afternoon. Stomach rolling, I try to focus. I am overwhelmed as it is, and we're having another child?! I *know* that this baby is a gift from God, but today is making me wonder a bit about the timing.

Taking advantage of my preoccupation, my three year old started throwing some things that were not meant to be thrown. I placed the partially graded exams up out of reach and went to deal with him, and his older sister who was firmly on his side. A few seconds later, an ominous sound registers. Crinkling paper and the sound of pouring. I look up in a panic. It is worse than I imagined. Far worse.

During the split second when my attention was diverted, the toddler accomplished an amazing number of things. She climbed up and got ahold of the exams and threw them onto the floor so she could dance on them. OK, so they're a little rumpled; I can smooth them out...but. Wait. The pouring sound? Her diaper is off and she has peed on the exams!!! NO. No, no, no. How on earth do I explain this? Er, sorry. My daughter mistook your exam for kitty litter...

I dash over to try to rescue any unsoiled exams. The baby gives me her best crinkle-nosed grin and proudly announces, "Peepee, mami!" Why, yes, I see that. Maybe I'll look back on this in delight over her emerging potty-learning skills. Right now, I am horrified. Fortunately only one exam is wet. I'll tell the student it was simply misplaced. No need to specify that that misplacement involved body fluids...

I scoop up my toddler, make sure that she is securely diapered (yeah, a little late for that) then went to check on everybody else. All OK. Sigh of relief. Then the little one comes back up and I notice that her face is full of welts. Hives all over her face and neck. Oh, no. Not again. I remember our ER run from a previous reaction when neither Benedryl or prednisone helped with the hives. Trying not to panic, I grab the Benedryl, which she loathes, and try to gently force it down. Finally, I've got most of the dose in her mouth and only a small amount in her hair and clothes (how does she know to keep her mouth clamped shut from such an early age?).

She's whimpering and asking for leche, so I start to nurse her. Now, my decision to breastfeed throughout pregnancy is based on simple risk/benefit ratios. I think that it is much better for the kids, and I am too tired to wean, anyway. However, the breast tenderness from early pregnancy combined with her teething make it feel as if I'm being gnawed on by some type of sandpaper monster. Owwww! I know it gets better or I wouldn't stick it out--I'm no martyr--but this isn't making the day better right now.

Thank God, she falls asleep quickly. I watch her closely for signs of further allergic reaction, not daring to put her down lest she wake up or get into whatever it was that caused the reaction in the first place. While I am preoccupied (are you noticing a trend here?) the older two decide to go into the kitchen and cook.

After weighing the options, I decide I would rather them do that than get involved in something else. As I watch from a distance, flour, a scoop of salt, a hefty dash of baking powder and some cinnamon are poured into a bowl. "Let's taste it!" Horrified grimaces. "It needs vanilla, but I don't see it" That is because it is up on top of the refrigerator out of reach of junior chefs. "Ooooh, look! I found sprinkles!" Vigorous shaking. "Wow. It is purple now." "Let's add more!"

Two containers of sugar sprinkles later... Apparently, the sugar helped. Subsequent taste-tests are all smiles. My stomach is heaving from the mere thought, but at least there are no smells. All the dyes from the colored sprinkles can't be good for them, but I am reasonably sure that they aren't going to eat enough to be a big deal.

It isn't even noon yet. Dear God, please help. Once my husband arrives, I dash around madly to get ready for class (normally, I'm ready to walk out the door, but today...). Notice that the slacks that previously required a belt fit just right. Isn't it a little early to be gaining weight? Make to school with a few minutes to spare. As I walk towards the building, arms full of books and papers, I realize that I was mistaken about the fit of the pants. They are drooping perilously lower with each step. Of course, my parking spot isn't close at all, and my hands are too full to hitch up the pants. I grit my teeth and try to take giant steps (Mother, may I?) to keep from being indecent and pretend not to notice the bemused glances of the rest of the people walking into school.

Finally, I am able to set my things down and tug on the sagging pants. It could have been worse--my top was long enough to prevent any inadvertent plumber's crack. If I stay seated, maybe they won't droop any more... Except that today is their oral midterm, so I'll be walking around with each student while administering individual exams. Oh, joy.

Is it the weekend yet?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

His Banner Over Us is Love

Image by jans canon on Flickr
I originally wrote this a couple of weeks ago as a guest post for my wonderful friend Carrie's blog. I'm not sure if you were able to access it, so I am sharing it here, as well. Please check out her blog, Perfectly Imperfect, from my blog list if you haven't already!

Last night my one year old’s erupting teeth and my own recently extracted wisdom teeth combined to keep me awake most of the night. I won't lie--I was really grouchy about it. Eventually, though, I quieted my mental grumblings to listen. Usually I savor my night-wakings as my special, secret time with God. I tend to be pathetically distractable , and during the day so many things seem to conspire to keep me from just sitting at His feet.

Once I stopped mentally screaming and begging for more sleep, and after I watched the new episode of Top Chef on our DVR, I got a song stuck in my head. It was one I hadn’t heard since I was a little girl, and it was based off of the verse from the Song of Songs that says, "He brought me to his banquet table; his banner over me is love." It planted itself firmly in my mind with all the persistence of an obnoxious commercial, though with far more soothing effect.

I'm not sure that I ever fully went back to sleep, but throughout the day, that verse has reverberated in my heart. Now I know that believers debate how much of the Song of Songs has a spiritual interpretation and how much is just love poetry. I don't really care, although some of the more, um, unusual and creative similes remind me of the sense of humor of the Lover of our Souls who chose to heal a blind man by mixing spit and dirt and smearing it in the guy's eyes. Regardless, I know that He claims us as His bride, and I have no doubt that the verse applies to us. His banner over us is love.

I started looking through other Biblical references to banners. One of the first was mentioned in the account of the Israelites battling the Amalekites. When Moses lifted his hands, they would prevail; when he was too tired and put them down, they began to lose. So he got the support of friends who held his hands for him. After they won the battle, he built an altar and declared that the Lord was their banner.

Another passage is in one of my favorite Psalms: "We will shout for joy when you are victorious and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests." (20:5)

Isaiah 11:1-22 continues with a beautiful promise to draw all the nations of the earth to Himself, standing "as a banner for the peoples" and says that "the place of His rest will be glorious." He promises to gather together the outcasts and the people who don’t have a place where they belong.

Isaiah also spoke of banners in chapter 49. The servant of the Lord was discouraged and felt that all his work had been a waste of time. He was worn out and didn’t believe he was accomplishing anything. God gave him a radiant promise of the restoration of Israel, of captives finding freedom, abundance and fulfillment, and declares that those who hope in Him will not be disappointed. In chapter 59, He says that when the enemy comes in like a flood, He would raise up a banner.

As I read these words, a few things stood out to me. First, so many of these talked about weariness and discouragement. Whether we can see it now or not, our efforts have value and purpose, and ultimately, we will enjoy victory. Furthermore, this victory is the result of love--our acts of love for others, the love of people around us who hold our hands when we need extra strength, and the power of an open, accepting love that will draw all nations.

Most of all, though, it is about His love for us. His banner over us is love. The most persistent struggle in my walk with God has been trying to grasp what is the height, the depth and full measure of His love toward us. There is a stubborn, sneaky part of me that keeps wanting to make it about my worthiness or lack thereof, and reduce God's amazing passion into a resigned tolerance. Some duty that He has just because He is God and He “has to” love me.

But banners don’t convey that image at all. Banners are about public proclamations. About belonging. About confidence. They shout out our true identity to everyone present: We are His Beloved! He isn't ashamed of loving us! In fact, He is a joy-filled, delighted lover who is boldly announcing to the whole world that we belong to each other. I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine. His banner over me is love

I pray that despite any weariness that you may be feeling right now, and even if you are in the presence of your enemies, that you will enjoy the feast that He has prepared for you. You are the guest of honor at His banquet table. His banner over us is love.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Decadently Rich Pumpkin Fudge Cake (DF/EF/etc)

Joelito, our three-year-old pastry chef, came up with this version this morning. This moist cake is like melted Mexican chocolate, and allergy-friendly, too! I know that baking is supposed to be very precise, but as I've mentioned before, sometimes his enthusiasm gets the better of him.

1 C pumpkin
1 C apple cider
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
generous amount of pumpkin pie spice (Joel emptied the can, but it was almost gone anyway--maybe 2 tsp?)
several shakes of allspice
2 3/4 C flour (if gluten-free you can sub most GF mixes and the cake still comes out well, a rarity with egg-free cakes! We usually used 2 C rice flour and 2/3 C tapioca flour.)
1 C dairy-free chocolate chips
1/2 C canola oil
1 tsp salt
scant Tbsp baking powder

Mix well, pour into a greased and floured 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

While the cake is baking, we mixed sugar, cocoa and Smart Balance light and boiled it like you would for a fudge sauce. Remove from heat, add a Tbsp of coffee and good splash of vanilla and stir well. Pour over the warm cake when it comes out of the oven.

It is the perfect autumn chocolate and spice combination. Yum!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sore spots

Last weekend I had the joy of having wisdom teeth extracted. Allow me to say, in all seriousness, that I prefer childbirth without pain meds to pretty much any kind of dental work, with full anesthesia. I don't respond well to pain meds. They make me loopy and moody, and often don't even make much difference with the pain. These extractions were under general anesthesia because one tooth was sideways and messy and they had to take out a small portion of my jawbone along with it. Things went well, but I'm am feeling whiny still, in spite of copious amounts of ice cream.

Perhaps you have noticed this--if I had ever taken physics (shudder) I'd probably know the name of the law for it--there is a special force of attraction exerted by injured body parts that compels further injury by anyone in the vicinity, despite their own intent. I first noticed this in childhood when a toe nail came off. I was positive that every single time my mom passed it, she stepped on my foot.

Now, anyone acquainted with my mother would dispute that. She is one of the most tenderhearted people I've ever met, far more so than I, and the idea of her purposefully hurting anyone is ludicrous. Nor is she so clumsy as to keep doing this accidentally (maybe once or twice, but certainly not over and over).

A similar occurrence took place with my sore jaw last night. Joelito smacked me in the jaw, and Elena headbutted me three times. Lest you get the wrong idea, this happened right after turning out the light. It was dark and they didn't see me. They had no intention of hurting me whatsoever. Joel actually cried for several minutes afterward when he saw that it hurt. Just as in the case with my foot, I was so sensitive that I noticed any incidental contact that probably wouldn't have even registered if I were not already sore.

This isn't limited to physical issues. Once I saw a couple of guys teasing each other, and happened to glance at one's face in the split second before the pain left his eyes. Now, the other guy was his best friend, and a genuinely nice person. He would have been horrified if he had realized that his words wounded his friend.

We've all seen those cruel barbs that are passed off as "just kidding" when everyone listening knows that they are meant to dig. This wasn't like that. It wasn't vicious or truly meant to hurt. Just gentle ribbing. And, if the friend hadn't been already tender in that spot, it wouldn't have hurt at all. But he never spoke up and said that it hurt. He hid it so quickly that his friend didn't see it.

I've been thinking a lot lately on the admonition from Galatians to bear one another's burdens. There is a full blog post brewing on that, but I'm not there yet. Somehow, though, I think there is something in that verse that ties in to being sensitive to sore spots in the people around us.

The Bible also tells us that each should bear his own burden, and I believe that we are responsible for dealing with our own hurts and letting them heal. So I certainly don't want to guilt-trip anyone into blaming themselves for an innocuous comment or action that just happens to hit a nerve with someone else, anymore than I would want my children to feel bad for accidentally bumping me.

I know, though, that for me it is so easy to miss things and not see the pain that my words or actions can cause, especially when no harm is intended. Maybe, if we open our eyes and look closely, we could get to be part of the healing process for someone close to us. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to soothe and help heal damage that might otherwise go unacknowledged? After the accidental bonks on the jaw, Joel and Elena carefully cuddled close to me and showered me with love. Even though they hadn't meant to hurt, their sweetness helped bring healing. What if we could do that, too?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Help! My daughter is a Betazoid!

As we drove home from the Children's Museum today, I amused myself comparing our family to different characters from Star Trek. I have a lot in common with Kathryn Janeway, particularly her appreciation for coffee (the finest organic suspension ever devised), love of spontaneous exploration (stopping to look at every insignificant little nebula or gaseous anomaly out there...), and a rather inconvenient conscience that focuses somewhat obsessively on my ideals.

I see Carlos as Captain Picard: extremely intelligent, well-spoken, a natural leader, interested in ancient civilizations and cultures. He has a lot of Spock, particularly in his reliance on logic and dry wit. There is also a bit of Commander Chakotay in him, and a rather striking physical resemblance there, too.

Joelito is harder to tell. Maybe Captian Kirk? He definitely has the charm, love of adventure and confidence at risk-taking (not to mention the occasional rule-breaking...). Elena is too small to say much, although I am reasonably sure that she is part Klingon (just try to take away something she wants and you'll be grateful that she doesn't swing a bat'leth).

Ariana, however, is unquestionably an empath. (She loves chocolate just as much as Deanna Troi, too). She soaks up the emotions of the people around her like a sponge. Even as a baby and toddler, she was remarkably attuned to other people's feelings. There are times when I delight in her sensitivity. Other times, like today, my heart breaks for her.

She had been looking forward to our trip for days. She counted down the time left every night. At first, she was enjoying it tremendously. Her abuelitos joined us, and we were having a great time exploring. She went through the store, chose her produce and ice cream and checked it out. We played on the spider web and then the playground. She was all smiles.

Then, in the archeology section, a little girl got in trouble and was given a time out. I am unaware of the offense that prompted it, but at least the parents weren't hitting her or screaming or being overtly cruel. The little girl began to cry, though, and Ariana grew more and more distressed until she was crying, too. We comforted her and moved to a different section, but to no avail. She stopped crying quickly, but was downcast for the rest of our time there. Every few minutes she would look at me with pain-filled eyes and whisper, "I want to go home".

How do you respond to something like that? When asked what was wrong, she just told me that she felt so sad for the little girl. I told her that I thought that the little girl was probably happy now and having fun. She was too scared to go back to the area we had left. For the rest of our time at the museum, she was sad.

Part of me wants her to develop callouses. To protect her heart and emotions more and be less sensitive. Yes, we have tried to teach and model caring and compassion for others, but we need some balance here! I've noticed at home that she will give in to whatever her siblings want rather than risk them getting upset. Even when it isn't verbalized, she has an acute awareness of the emotional climate around her.

I really need some help here, because I don't know what to do. If you or others that you are close to have that kind of exceptional sensitivity, how do you develop healthy boundaries or release the burdens that you take on from others? Are there any books you would recommend? I have always been naturally self-centered enough to distance myself when necessary, but she doesn't seem to have any protective mechanisms yet. I know that she has an amazing gift in her tenderness towards others, but how do we help nurture her so that she isn't torn to shreds because of it?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Independence Day

I've ranted before about the absurd and unhealthy obsession in the US that attempts to force independence from infancy. However, it is exciting to see child-initiated steps toward competence and achievement.

Ariana has been saying since she was two or three that she wants to be a chef. Last night, she wanted to exercise her culinary abilities by herself. She went and got the cutting board and a knife, and diced an onion. She put it in the pan, turned it on and began to saute it. As any cook knows, seasoning is of utmost importance, so she had Joelito collaborate. They added salt and pepper, and Joel threw in a good amount of rosemary and some red sugar sprinkles for color. (It would not have occurred to me to add sugar sprinkles, but the color was very nice, and the sugar helped the onions caramelize).

At this point, she came to me for help. I could tell that she wanted to finish the project on her own, so I logged her in to me favorite message board and turned her loose. I had explained before that one of the safety precautions we take on the Internet is using a pretend name. She promptly suggested Caramel (she has been very involved in her own role-playing game based on Candyland, and that is her favorite alter-ego). I thought that Caramel was pretty cute for the daughter of Dulce de leche. :)

She wrote a post introducing herself and requesting help with recipes (her spelling was a little inconsistent--I think it usually came out as "recepes") for onions and rosemary. She was so excited to see the replies! She read them aloud to me and Ooohed and Ahhhed over each one. She also wrote love notes to the posters who responded and asked them to please be her freind (sic). I intercepted her in mid-post as she thanked her new friends and invited them to our house, complete with address (which prompted further discussion about anonymity online).

After thinking about which recipes would work with the ingredients on hand and our allergens, she decided to add butter, garlic and potatoes to the onion-rosemary mixture. Carlos had been a bit dubious about the concoction early on (or perhaps just skeptical of the sprinkles?), but he couldn't believe how delicious it was once she finished it. It was really, really good!

Best of all was seeing how confident and happy my little girl was with her new cooking prowess. Despite my crunchy tendencies, I'm not fully into the while Continuum Concept thing. I found it fascinating, and agree to a point, but I am still too uptight to give it free reign. I'm sure some people are raising their eyebrows at the idea of letting a five year old use a knife and stove--I will say that we are firm about it being under supervision. But who knows? Maybe a decade or two from know, she will be graduating from culinary school and look back at the delight, creativity, self-reliance and independence she felt last night.

Today she wants to help me with meal planning and grocery shopping so that we will have everything we need for her next meal. :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Truth and consequences

When I first began my journey into gentle discipline, I was familiar with the Goldilocks-model of discipline: Papa Bear discipline, which was too harsh; Mama Bear discipline which was too lenient; leaving Baby Bear discipline which, of course, was just right. Most approaches that I heard were all variations of that theme (naturally, each book claimed the Baby Bear version) and many linked gender that way, too.

We threw those models away, preferring a more unconditional parenting approach. We don't use punishment, at least by the way I define punishment: intentionally making my children miserable in retaliation for misbehavior. And I admit, I am wary of the term "consequences" because so often it is simply a euphemism for punishment.

I imagine that some of my blog readers, especially those who are not around us often in real life, assume that we just don't use spankings as punishment but still use time outs and other negative reinforcement, or that we simply let the kids run wild and shield them from any consequence whatsover to their actions. In reality, we do allow some natural consequences, when we feel like the children can actually learn from them.

I don't usually blog about it for several reasons, among them: I wouldn't necessarily appreciate my own mistakes being blog fodder, so it seems a bit unfair to focus on my children's; they generally behave pretty well, so major issues are pretty rare; and 99% of the time, dealing with my own attitude is the key.

Still, we had some growing times recently, including the Most Famous Discipline Example of All, and I thought I'd share about them. Our responses are not perfect, nor are they necessarily my advice to others on how to handle similar instances. This is just a window into how it happened here.

I was chuckling with a friend recently how in any GD forum, if a mom starts to talk about how she cannot handle her child, and her fears for his future, veteran posters know before the mom mentions age that the kid is probably three. Terrible Twos? Not so much, in my experience. Threes, however, are two with a year of practice. Intense for everyone involved. Add some lapses with food allergies, and my dear son has had a rough couple of weeks. This cycle expanded as my darling and uber-sensitive five year old saw our attention directed towards her siblings and little left over for her.

Scenario Number 1--Yesterday, I planned to take them to Borders to celebrate the 30% discount for educators. They've been extraordinarily cooperative and well-behaved on our outings the last few months. This time, however, they were dawdling and not particularly interested in going. I pushed it because I thought it would be fun. Once we got inside the store, they quickly began a noisy game of chase. I told them to stop and was not heeded. So we immediately left.

What I did do: leave the store after the first request was not obeyed. I told them clearly exactly why we were leaving. Was it punishment? Eh, in the eye of the beholder. Certainly, they were not pleased. Ariana informed me that I was "very, very boring". I agreed that when they were not respectful of other people and we had to leave it was very boring. What I did not do: add on any punishment beyond returning to the house, or attempt to shame them. It is a tricky line, in my opinion, between letting them know how their actions affect others and deliberately trying to convict them of their wrongdoing. I believe that the Holy Spirit has a role there that is not mine to usurp. At the same time, as a loving teacher, I want to be honest about the results of their choices.

Scenario Number 2--Today, we went to the playground for lunch. The morning had been great, the time at the playground was fun for all of us, and they cheerfully agreed to leave as soon as I asked. Then came the dreadful playing-in-the-street-example. As we left, I was carrying the baby and my three year old saw a flock of birds. He darted away before I could grab him. He was across the parking lot before I could catch him. I was terrified, furious and all of the other emotions that you would imagine in that case.

What I did: grab him and hold his hand until we got to the van. Remind myself that his impulse control is still in the early stages of development, and that to a three year old excited about chasing birds, there is no thought of safety. I also, in my haste to reach him, dropped his sister's stuffed dog. A lady passing by gave us one of those looks and said loudly, "That kid needs a good spanking!" Apparently, she also picked up the stuffed dog and took it with her. :( As soon as the kids were in the van, I turned back to pick up the dog and it had disappeared. Ariana was heartbroken and began to cry.

As I looked for the toy dog, I saw a bird that had been run over. I brought Joel and Ariana over and let them see it. I explained that it had been hit by a car, and why I was so scared when Joel ran in the parking lot. I told him that I loved him and wanted him to be safe and not get hurt.

What I did not do: follow the busybody-dog-napper's advice (maybe she thought that the dog was Joel's and that she was teaching him a lesson?). Seeing how sad Ariana was made a pretty deep impression on him. The squashed bird was also a powerful object lesson. I didn't berate him or harp on it over and over after the first discussion. I didn't punish him (or the rest of us!) by trying to add anything more.

What we did do: find a replacement doggy for Ariana (though "it isn't the same one"), hold hands everywhere we went afterwards, and have a lovely time at Borders.
I also listened to him and Ariana talk on the ride home about the whole thing. They seemed to have retained the lesson, but in the future, I will still hold onto his hand in parking lots. And you know what? Even if I had spanked or punished in other ways, that wouldn't change. I would still hold hands and not expect a three year old to be responsible for his own safety.

The rest of the day has been good, unmarred by unnecessary drama. We rode bikes outside for awhile, and we're going to make a quick batch of pumpkin cupcakes before bed. We've had repentance and forgiveness and grace. Sure, there is a place for consequences, but I am glad that God removes our sin as far as the East from the West and that His mercies are new every morning.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wrestling with angels (revamped)

I love words. I am not athletic, at all. That tends to come through in my interactions with my children. Today, though, one of my angels was finding words inadequate. He required wrestling instead. There were a lot of little things that had stressed our relationship and his self control lately, and I've found that when he needs to connect, it needs to be physical. So, we spent all morning playing together.

In Michael Gurian's books about boys, he explains a lot about the neurodevelopment of boys and the biological differences in the way that their brains work. Among other things, they are wired for action. I see that in my girls, too, so I don't know how much of it is a gender thing, but I think that most of us are aware that all children need active play and plenty of large muscle action. Sometimes it is harder to put that into the context of our relationship and connection with them, but I believe it is vital.

All children need rough-housing and physical play with us. Just watching them at the park isn't enough. Part of our expression of love for them and theirs for us is best expressed physically. It's a lot easier to just let go and not be bothered, to send them to their room or a time out or whatever. But like Jacob in the Bible, the key to this wrestling match is in holding fast to them and not letting go.

So today we played our favorite pushing game where he grabs my hands and tries to push me backward. We wrestled. We played catch with rolled up socks. We snuggled and cuddled. We roared like lions and stomped like elephants to show our feelings. We laughed and tickled. (Quick aside--he loves tickling. Ariana hates it. Our children's bodies belong to them, and we make it clear that tickling is by invitation only. If anyone wants to stop, that must be respected immediately. Check out this article.)

Frankly, I'm exhausted. I'm totally convinced that it was worth it, though. I see our connection getting back to where it was before. I have a pretty good idea that tomorrow will involve more of the same (let's hope for a good night of sleep tonight!), but if I'm going to work out, I think the rewards from this will be far greater than merely burning calories.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A day for demonic apoidea and tineoidea

I recently described a perfect, idyllic day at that park. It was one of those which childhood dreams are made of. Today, we tried to recreate it, at least in part. Oh, my, what a miserable failure that was!

The morning started off well. The kidlets and I made chocolate chip scones together, read from The Little House in the Big Woods, and got a lot of schoolwork done. I decided that it would be a perfect day to picnic in our special place at the park. Some dear friends were going to meet us, the weather was beautiful--what more could we ask for? Quite a lot, as it turns out, specifically those special suits that beekeepers wear.

We had a good snack and met our friends. However, our dryad spot looked terribly denuded. Apparently, over the weekend, several branches were trimmed. It was still fun, but much of the magic was gone. Even worse, within a few minutes we heard an ominous buzzing. Bees, bees were everywhere! At least seven or eight were swarming around us, and others circled nearby. Ack!

We moved to another part of the park. The bees followed us. It was like a B-movie from decades past--The Swarm! I pitched the rest of our picnic, thinking they might be attracted by the fruit, but it didn't help. The swarm persisted. Thankfully, none of our allergies are to bee stings, but it was still a bit frightening.

We wandered throughout the park, hoping to escape the bees. There were always a few hovering, but we encountered another peril. Bagworms. They were present in plague-like proportions. As the kids began to count them in amazement, I tried to move away, only to inadvertently squish several. Eeeewwwww! You couldn't walk without stepping on them! :shudder:

Now, I am typically a live and let live type when it comes to bugs and creepy-crawlies. I don't mind spiders (unless I am startled by one extremely close), I like worms and crickets and other harmless things. But the relentless pursuit by the hordes of bees and bagworms at the park reminded me of the demonized hogs careening down the hill. We gave up. Amazing how our lovely fairyland from a couple of days ago had transformed into a scene from a horror movie!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

To dream the impossible dream...

Ariana and Joel have been discussing plans for the future, and both are extremely ambitious. Ariana has decided that along with being a chef, she will also be a musketeer. She practices swordfighting every day and is requesting that we move to Paris. Joel's plan is even more audacious: he solemnly informed me that he is going to be a rhino when he grows up. I just smile and nod and agree that their future sounds full of adventures.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A day for dryads

I haven't been blogging too much lately, I know, but I've had a drive to be out of the house and doing things with the kidlets the last few weeks. What have we been doing, you ask? Well, we've found two favorite new stores: Dollar Tree and Books a Million. Both have been fantastic sources for school supplies, and are inexpensive, too! Dollar Tree items are only a dollar, and they carry Spiderman workbooks for numbers and letters that delight Joelito. He begs to do schoolwork like Ariana now. Books a Million boasts a fantastic train set to play with, the best iced mochas anywhere, and 20% off any item that we want to use for homeschooling! Today, however, was a day for dryads.

We met Carlos for lunch, which always makes the day special, then he went back to work and we went to the park. It was one of those sparkly, fresh fall days where the weather is perfect (we get a couple weeks like that each year, but the rest seem to be unbearably hot or too cold).

The kids went on an exploring mission: rocks, trees, pebbles and leaves all were minutely examined. Elena was fascinated by the pebbles, and stopped every few feet to pick them up and look at them intently. Unfortunately, a few were tasted, too.

Joel was enthralled by the caterpillars, which were everywhere. But Ariana found our new favorite spot. Among some juniper trees, there is a small opening, like a door to fairyland. Once you duck through, there is plenty of room to climb, to hide, to play, or just smell the spicy fragrance of the berries and dream. We were there for over an hour in our little dryad wonderland.

After that, there were hills to climb and roll down, grass and clovers to play with, and squirrels and ants to observe. Most of our trees are still summer-green, but a few have turned a bright gold. With each puff of breeze, a shower would shimmy and swirl down, looking like giant pixie dust.

Of course, we enjoyed the slides, swings and monkey bars, too, but the real playground was the living part. We were there for several hours, and only left when I realized that I had missed two calls from Carlos telling us that he was off work and ready to meet us.

We met him at the bookstore, where the kidlets quenched their thirst with peach Italian sodas. Yum! Since Ariana has been begging to learn cursive, we found a great practice book. She read books, Joel played with the trains and squishy dinosaurs, and Elena hugged a stuffed cow and sang countless renditions of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm".

From there, we went back to the university, which was having an employee picnic. I would have thought that the kids would have worked up an appetite, but they were too excited by the giant inflatables to want to eat. We all climbed and jumped (Elena loved it!), they rode ponies, saw friends...and finally ate.

We are home at last. The sweetlings are filthy and tired but utterly content. A day when you really need a bath at the end is a good day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Verbal superpowers

Honesty is such an important thing to teach our children. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that it is something that the lines between reality and fantasy blur quite easily when you are young. For small children, words are magic. They are a superpower to change things. I love Crystal Lutton's article on this topic and wanted to share it with you all. It is a great resource for teaching our little ones to tell the truth. http://aolff.com/grace-based-discipline/words-as-magicWords as magic

Monday, September 14, 2009

A mother's Psalm

Photo by YanivG
Psalm 134

Behold, bless the LORD, all servants of the LORD,
Who serve by night in the house of the LORD!
Lift up your hands to the sanctuary
And bless the LORD.
May the LORD bless you from Zion,
He who made heaven and earth.

There is something special about your service to Him and your family at night.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blue Christian's Blog

I am so excited to be able to share with you a new blog by a dedicated believer and Jesus-lover who is not a Republican. I think you will find his posts articulate and thought-provoking. Here is the addy: http://bluechristian.wordpress.com/Blue Christian's Blog

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When it rains...

After a drought in the blogging department, I've suddenly got several things to share. It has been raining literally, too, much to our delight. After our Psalms this morning, Ariana and I read more poetry, focusing on this one:

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

Langston Hughes

We listened to the watery music outside and cuddled and read good books, drank good coffee, and ate good banana bread.

We're seeing some exciting changes coming along with the turning of the seasons. It is always thrilling to me when God whispers the same thing to me and Carlos individually. Once we compare notes, the sense of anticipation and being close to Him and each other is amazing.

One potential change is a new position at work for Carlos. It will mean more hours, but also more money, more job security, more variety and challenge, more opportunities to use some of the unique gifts God has given him, and a far greater scope of ministry. It isn't 100% certain yet, but pretty close, and I can see God's hand dancing all over the direction for our family.

My BIL is finally starting a blog, and I am overjoyed. I've shared a couple of posts from him in the past, and I love seeing articulate, politically aware Christians share their views. So often we get drowned out by the crazies... ;) I'll be linking to his blog soon!

There were a couple of other things that I wanted to post, but I am forgetting already. Oh well. Maybe they'll come to me as I curl up with a good book, a mug of soup, and listen to the rain.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Better than expected

Don't you just love it when things turn out to be much better than you anticipated? I'm generally pretty optimistic, but when things are even better than I hoped, it spills sunshine all over my day.

We've had a few of those moments recently, so I thought I'd share:

Well-child-check-ups: The older two have a different doctor than the youngest. In fact, the reason that she isn't Elena's ped, too, is that she didn't feel comfortable with some of the choices we were making, like declining Hep B and eye ointment, even though there was absolutely no medical reason for either one. At the last visit, she suggested that I wean Joel. I love her thoroughness and aggressiveness when the kidlets are sick, but I was dreading the check-ups, thinking that she'd want me to vaccinate the kids and bring up weaning again.

Both kids passed the check-ups with flying colors, the doctor asked--instead of assuming--if I wanted to vax, and didn't even show disapproval with body language when I declined. Weaning wasn't mentioned. The only possible thing that any granola mom would have disliked was that she did retract Joel. However, since he is retractable, she was gentle, and he showed no discomfort, that wasn't a problem. It was just a helpful and pleasant visit. She also said that coming in the summer instead of during flu season was great. Yay! It made me very glad that we have stayed with her instead of switching peds.

Now, for some amazing product reviews: Xylitol and Turtle Mountain Dairy-free desserts. Joel always cried when I brushed his teeth, regardless of how gentle I was, because he said that the toothpaste burned his mouth. We have tried every flavor out there, including watermelon, bubble gum, berry and other "non-spicy" flavors. It didn't help. After reading about all the benefits of xylitol (Google if you haven't heard them yet), I found some locally. The kids are begging me to brush their teeth! They love it! And I do, too.

My dear friend, Dorm Mom, has reviewed Turtle Mountain's line of coconut milk products before, and I tried one and loved it. Afterwards, though, we had gone back to dairy and so I stopped. Since Joel has been having reactions to dairy again, I went looking for it, and found several new ones to try. Oh, my! If your dairy-free experience has been soy or rice, you have to try these! They are amazing! We had the yogurt last night, and an ice cream sandwich today. They are fabulous, and well-worth the price. Better than the dairy version, even.

I hope that today each of you find some special little (or big!) things that turn out better than you had anticipated that fill your day with smiles.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why so serious?

I love academics. Really. My husband and I are both teachers, I feel comfortable and happy in an academic environment, and always have. Yet, today while I was doing schoolwork with Ariana it hit me how differently we approach it, and it was humbling.

As soon as I suggested that she get started, she came bounding over, full of enthusiasm. I asked what she wanted to work on, and she wanted to practice writing with her phonics book. We went through several pages, and she kept asking for more. Her writing has improved tremendously, and she was making all the letters the correct size without being reminded and beginning at the top. She is decoding effortlessly most of the time, and knows which sounds are associated with the different letters.

I should have been as delighted as she was. Instead, I found myself increasingly frustrated as she happily doodled and added extra letters to the page. Rather than merely circling the letters that corresponded with the drawings, she began X-ing out the ones that didn't match the letter and drawing the correct letter underneath.

After working on the letter H, she started acting silly, giggling and scribbling and circling all over the page. I opened my mouth to reprimand her for messing up the page as she beamed and said, "Mom, this is hilarious! Get it? Hilarious goes with H!"

I stopped myself and looked and listened. I was getting upset because the page wasn't as nice and neat as I wanted it to be. What did I really want? A pristine page? For...what purpose? I wanted her to be serious. Why? Because learning isn't supposed to be fun, let alone hilarious? Ay, ay ay.

She was being far wiser than I in the moment. She was showing initiative, going beyond what was required, and incorporating even more skills than the exercise called for. Why was my instinct to shut it down as if that were a bad thing?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I love to fill quotas and put things into nice, neat little boxes and rows. I like the safety of following the letter of the law. But my five year old was following the spirit and delighting in it. We have barely begun the school year, and already I am learning new lessons. That is a good thing. I hope to capture the same joy that my daughter has in that.

Right after working on that, a friend linked me to this article, which, while on a slightly different topic, is still relevant, and very powerful. Check it out! http://happydays.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/let-the-children-play-some-more/

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To everything there is a season

I was chatting with a friend about the constant rotation of seasons in our lives, especially as mothers of little bitty ones. It is hard to know sometimes how to balance all the needs of our family members and ourselves, and no matter how hard we try, it often winds up being a triage situation where we have to assess who's needs are most urgent in the moment.

Obviously, when our babies are tiny, they get priority. They don't have the developmental capacity for understanding or waiting that more mature members do. We have the example of Jesus, of the greater serving the lesser, as we minister to the needs of our little ones. Even so, it is important to keep in mind that in the most trying moments, when we are exhausted from yet another wakeful night or ear infection, or when our toddler's need to assert independence makes everything take longer than we think it should, that this, too, shall pass.

The last several days, the kidlets and I have been venturing out nearly every day for shopping trips and other explorations. Nearly every afternoon we have been gone for three or four hours. It has been so much fun! They have been cooperative, even when the shopping involved multiple stores and a few hours. They have left the parks and bookstores without complaint or running away. It has been delightful!

The funny thing is, just a few months ago I wouldn't have dared to take all three by myself. Even with Carlos, a trip to Borders or Barnes and Noble was a stressful undertaking of heading off potential meltdowns, trying to contain a runner, and possibly (probably) involved "helping" someone to return to the car. Had you suggested that I take all three to Walmart, I would have laughed hysterically and then shuddered for several minutes as the horror sank in.

I am really enjoying this season, where the maturity and self-control are a bit stronger, where they can think ahead and adjust their attitudes and expectations. They are growing up! (I should probably add that I have had to also work a lot on maturity, self-control, attitude adjustment and expectations!).

Knowing how much growing room I have left, I am sure that there will be new challenges in the seasons to come. I have been told by some pretty reliable people that it continues to get better, and that by the time we enter the season of grandparenting it will be even more fun! Regardless of what the next season holds for us, I want to be thankful for each one as we are in it, and to remember that it will quickly change. Even as I look forward to sleeping through the night, I know that one day I'll miss our midnight snuggles.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I've been sipping iced coffee and listening to Carlos and Elena play their own little version of Marco Polo. He hides and says, "beep" and she immediately responds with "bop" and chases him. She is passionate about this game, and will play it at any time of day or night. Even if we are at an unfamiliar place and she doesn't see him arrive, as soon as she hears the "beep", she breaks into a huge grin and answers back. She takes off as fast as her chubby little legs will go (sadly, she can pretty much outpace me, but my exercise abilities belong to another post). When she catches him, she giggles hysterically and showers him with slobbery kisses and hugs (and occasionally pulls his hair, but we are working on that).

What is interesting about the whole exchange is that, despite the extremely limited vocabulary involved, a lot of communication takes place. She calls out, know that he is calling her and that the ultimate goal is for the two of them to connect. She knows that even when he seems to be hiding from her, he really wants to be found. He is just getting her to look for him, building the anticipation for the gigglefest once she gets close.

I think God plays this game a lot with us. Sometimes when He calls out to us, we expect it to be a complicated or profound, deeply spiritual message. Maybe we are missing the point. What if, sometimes, He just wants us to know He is there? What if He just wants us to chase Him, and then laugh with delight as we are caught by Him and wrapped in His arms? Maybe we need the playfulness of little children to remind us how to enjoy our Daddy in heaven.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Makes me want to go to Mongolia--a blog post on CLW and Crosscultural Perspectives on Breastfeeding

I was fascinated by this post!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bumps and Beasties

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Traditional Scottish Prayer

I have decried the use of cry-it-out sleep training in other posts, for many reasons (yes, sorry, the pun was intentional). I believe that God responds to my cries in the night, regardless of how trivial they may be. From a scientific standpoint, flooding their little systems with cortisol is not a healthy thing. And from a purely selfish point of view, cosleeping is much easier for us than listening to a crying baby. There is another reason. Regardless of what parenting strategies you employ, there are certain things that we simply cannot force in out children. Ultimately, you just can't force a baby to sleep. I'm an adult and I can't even make myself fall asleep when I want!

Last night, after both siblings were sound asleep, our youngest was still wide awake. She wasn't crying. She was just awake. I suspect she may be getting ready for a milestone breakthrough, and I know she has been working on molars. We lay there quietly for awhile, then she kicked her leg against the crib we have sidecarred and said in a very satisfied voice, "bump". There was no doubt she felt things were too quiet and boring, and so she took the initiative to provide us with some entertainment. Every few seconds, she would kick again and repeat, "bump" in a tone of delight.

Sadly, we were too tired to show any enthusiasm for her performance. She was quiet for a few moments, and I began to drift toward sleep. Suddenly, the darkness was rent by a ferocious growl. It nearly made me jump. She continued growling and hissing for several minutes. I discarded any "Exorcist" scenarios, but I was wondering what on Earth had prompted the switch from bumps in the night to what sounded like some rather terrifying beasties. Then Carlos and I saw it and laughed. She had found Joel's plastic dinosaur and was playing with it.

That was even more fun than bumping the bed! She entertained herself for a good two hours after our usual bedtime (yawn). It was pretty cute, but I would have found it much more endearing in the middle of the afternoon. After she finally fell asleep, she woke several times (probably the molars) and several other times said something in her sleep and then giggled (milestones coming up???). I am glad that she was happy through most of it, but I really hope that there are no more beasties or bumps tonight!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back to Basics

I haven't really disappeared. I've been busy, but in a good way the last week or two. School is starting this week. We're homeschooling and loving it. Ariana did over 15 pages of math today and kept begging for more. Normally, I'd like to mix it up and not just do worksheets, but how do you tell a child, "No, you have done too many pages of math exercises"? She also loved her reading comprehension book and amazed me at how easily she read the stories aloud and then answered all the questions. I am excited to see how much she loves learning, and really want to keep that alive.

I am finding that, unlike her, I have to keep going over and over and over basic things that I thought I had already learned.

Trust. God has never let me down. I know that He deserves my trust. I could recite all the Christianese platitudes. Yet, I still find myself being anxious. Last night, Ariana started telling us about some fears, and we reminded each other that God is a shield for us. We talked about David and others who had faced fears and how God defended them. Truthfully, I needed the reminder as much as she did.

We don't wrestle against other people, but against spiritual forces. I knew that the situation I alluded to in a previous post wasn't a case of human misunderstandings or even personality clash or anything else. It was simply an attack against us. Even so, I kept wanting to focus on the person who was doing it. I went through numerous arguments in my head where I expressed in precise detail the contempt, fury and intense dislike I had for this person. Not loving or Christlike, and not the right target.

I started doing the same thing with the kids, responding to a few misguided attempts at play and exploration that resulted in messes as if they were malicious, conniving attempts to strain my sanity. (We cleaned up and then refilled love cups with a bookstore-run that included the best frozen mochas we've ever had, some great stories and lots of cuddles).

I apologize that I still can't share details of the sticky situation here, but I will say that I believe God intervened today, and I hope that it has been resolved. Even if it hasn't been completely taken care of, I feel confident that it will be. I am very, very grateful for the prayers of my friends here. Thanks for caring and for your encouragement. I am so glad that God doesn't get disgusted with my need for review. He is always patient.

Sometimes, I think of things that my children or even husband "should" already know. It is easy to get impatient when it is something that we've already been over. I want to show the same generosity and patience that I have been shown. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to review the parable of the unmerciful servant while I'm at it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Misadventures in parking

This wasn't me.  Honest.  Photo credit: fuzzcat on Flickr
I used to be amused when people in church would ask for prayer for an unspoken request. I mean, I get that not everything is appropriate for sharing, but besides piquing people's curiosity, it is a little difficult to pray when you have no idea what you are praying for. One person I know simply offers up a moment of silence for any unspoken requests. :D

Anyway, aggravating as it may be, there is a situation stressing me out that I won't be blogging publicly about. However, if you have the inclination, any prayers for truth, righteousness and justice to triumph (in other words, me--lol) would be appreciated. Of course, it really isn't that simple, but anyway...

While waiting for things to be resolved on that end, it is comforting to me that even little details that have no lasting importance can come together and work out for good.

Yesterday, I took the kidlets to the aquarium and was running late to meet a friend. So I took the first available parking spot. The good news was that it was right in the front row. The bad news is that it was a tight squeeze and I was coming in from a bad angle. I am an excellent driver. Sadly, I am a terrible parker. I don't know if it is a problem with depth perception or what, but I am terrible at gauging the amount of space I have and parking in a beautifully straight line with equal distance between my van and the lines on each side.

I blame part of it on the size of our van, but really, the fault is mine, I know. As soon as I got in, I knew that I was waaaaay too close to the SUV on my right. I also knew that any attempt to back out and correct it would cause paint to scrape. At least we had the exact same color vehicle. As long as the other car just backed straight out, it would be fine. But if I tried, it would be certain doom. In case you think I am overstating the danger, allow me to add that I once ripped up the fender of Carlos' car by scraping it against his boss' house while backing out! I am still mortified, even though it was ten years ago. I acknowledge my limitations openly now.

I was hoping fervently that the owner of the SUV wouldn't happen to come out while I was there and give me an earful on the terrible parking job. Instead of an instant exit, it took a couple of minutes as I got shoes on Joel, ran a brush through Ariana's hair and then got all three kids out. I heard the unbelieving jeers and comments of a few people who passed by, but the owner didn't appear. Whew! I gathered the tattered shreds of my dignity and went inside.

While we were admiring the sharks and jellyfish, a part of me was hoping against hope that the owner of the SUV was finished and ready to leave. I weighed the possibility of getting the license plate number, having the person paged, throwing myself on their mercy and explaining my predicament. Humiliating, yes, but better than scraping paint as a last resort. But what if they left and someone else took their spot?

Eventually, even the sting rays lost the power to fascinate the kidlets and we started to leave. Though the parking lot was several yards from the door, I could see the SUV there, and my heart sank. I sent up a prayer begging for mercy. I also begged my friend to try getting the van out through the needle-eye margin. Being a truthful person, she laughed in my face and refused. Being my friend, she tried to comfort me afterward.

Then, as all hope was gone, to my utter amazement, a little old lady on a walker hobbled up to the door of the SUV, shook her head over my degenerate parking job, climbed in and flawlessly backed out. Perhaps she was thinking profane thoughts, but she looked like the sweet, grandmotherly type to just mutter 'Bless her heart," instead.

Full of relief, I walked the kids to the van and got them buckled in. As I checked the rearview mirror, I saw further evidence of the miraculous--the parking spaces behind me were empty, so I had plenty of room to maneuver. Don't laugh. The parking lot was cramped and narrow, which was part of the reason I wasn't able to straighten out when I parked originally. At this point, I was so grateful to not have to worry about misjudging distance and dinging another car.

Now, I know that many will insist that God has much better things to do than help me out of a literal tight spot. I agree. In the grand scheme of things, why should God answer a prayer for help that was admittedly frivolous when so many more important things are going on? Being infinite, He doesn't have to prioritize time and interest. He can take care of it all. Sure, it could have all been pure coincidence. Even so, I took it as a gentle reminder that nothing is too big or small for Him, that He cares, and that maybe, just maybe, He wants to encourage me to expand the scope of my prayers, for all people and situations.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Real life random bits

I've been neglectful of the blog lately, I know. Real life has been more busy than interesting, but to fill you in on what has been going on:

Allergy news--Elena gets hives if I eat eggs or pork, despite negative RAST and SPT for them. She had an SPT for some fruits that we hadn't previously tested and was positive for raspberries, which didn't surprise me since she has reacted when I've eaten them. I suspect blackberries, too, but we weren't able to test today. Although the reaction to the test was mild, she also broke out on her face, so I have a hunch that she may be more sensitive than the test suggested. At least we know. And, thank heavens, it isn't something like corn that is easily hidden in things that you would never guess. I love berries, but I can avoid them.

School news: I am getting excited about starting kindergarten with Ariana. Her reading skills are continuing to improve, and I want to make the school year fun and challenging for her. I have no doubts that it will be challenging for me! I am slightly overwhelmed with too many choices and not enough time for me to feel comfortable researching everything. Still, I am starting to get a plan in my head (and need to get more of it on the computer).

I am also trying to pep-talk myself into trusting her and me and the natural curiosity and enthusiasm that God has given us. And to remind myself that she is only five. In many countries, she wouldn't be doing formal schooling at all! And those same countries score higher than we do on many tests when the kids are a little older. Whenever I am unsure of myself, I try to compensate by controlling things even more, so I need reminders to take deep breaths and trust more.

Future posts: I really wanted to do several posts for World Breastfeeding Week. In particular, I wanted to talk about the role of fathers. I also wanted to discuss nursing in public. Well, we still have a few days of this week left, right?

I have lots of Disney pics that weren't posted here (if you are my friend on Facebook, you may have already seen them. Gotta upload them soon.

Kid stuff: They are so much fun! We've continued to spend lots of time at the splash pad. I am amazed at how much Elena loves it. Joel is still pretty cautious about getting wet, but she has a blast trying to catch each stream of water. Ariana made a new friend last night. I was excited to see her developing social skills. We spend little time with other kids her age, and while Hold on to Your Kids by Neufeld and Mate' has helped to shift my perspective (and alleviate some guilt!) about that, I want to be more balanced there.

To do list: Besides the boring and ever-present laundry, cleaning, etc., I need to find more info on classes for the kidlets this fall. I'm awaiting a reply on ice-skating lessons for Ariana, and gymnastics for Joel. I think it would be a great physical activity for them (climate controlled, too, which is a plus when our weather goes from unbearably hot to quite cold with only a week or two of autumn temps). It would also be a good way to work on the social balance I was speaking of earlier.

My own classes will start up soon. To be or not to be... Not sure yet what I will ultimately wind up teaching since so much depends on enrollment, but I'm happy with our textbook and looking forward to a new semester.

I haven't been as caught up on all my fellow bloggers as I would like, but I'm looking forward to reading your posts. I enjoy the window into your lives, and hope to share more of ours soon. Hugs to you!