Saturday, January 31, 2009


I haven't really disappeared. Last week, during Ariana's birthday party, Elena had an allergic reaction to something (I suspect citrus, but am not positive), and she and Joel were both sick and got sicker with some upper respiratory bug. We also got an ice storm, although not as impressive as the last one we had here. The good part of this week was spending extra time with my sister, who got iced in with us. :) I'll update soon with cute pics and better news.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Jesus wept

When I was little, I associated this verse with smart-alecky kids who liked it for its brevity. Now I have come to treasure it for its honesty. Sometimes as a Christian, it is very hard to find the line between being real and being what you are supposed to be. We want to have faith, and sometimes that means calling things that are not as though they were, and choosing to see a reality that goes far beyond this world. That is a powerful thing. At the same time, it can feel like pretense.

What used to be a simple part of the narrative of the story now fills me with awe. Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe, cried when His friend died. His emotions went every bit as deep as ours, and He wept at the loss of Lazarus. Wait a moment--how could He mourn? Was it a lack of faith? Was He just not spiritual enough to see things from an eternal perspective? Was He rebelling against God's plan? Absurdities, of course. Yet often we condemn ourselves and eye others with suspicion when we experience pain or grief. This should not be.

On the other hand, look at the rest of the story--Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead! He didn't just accept defeat. He didn't lose hope. But He did weep. He was honest about His feelings. I don't know what all was behind His tears. Usually when I cry, it is a mixture of tangled thoughts and feelings from several different directions. Maybe He was crying for Mary and Martha. Maybe for the people still under the slavery of sin. Maybe for all of us. Maybe for their lack of understanding. I don't know. To me, the important thing is that He unashamedly shared his emotions. He cried. He gave a voice to the pain and mourning inside of Him.

There is another verse that I cling to along the same lines, that promises that He will wipe away all tears from our eyes. When my children cry over something that I am tempted to dismiss as trivial, when my own feelings want to be released, when people close to me are wrestling with painful situations, I want to come back to these verses, to weep with them. I know that even if we cry during the night, joy will come in the morning.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Languages of love and punishment

My dearly loved sister in law loaned me her copy of the Five Love Languages for Children, and I am really enjoying it. I haven't finished it yet, but a few things have stood out for me. I imagine that most of you are familiar with the basic idea of the book, that there are five primary ways (languages) that we give and receive love: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and gifts While most of us are multilingual, there is usually one or two of those that cause us to feel loved, and we often use that to express our love to others.

So far, there are two points that got me thinking: that it is difficult to pinpoint a child's love language before the age of five and that misuse of the love language, particularly if it is used as a method of punishment, can be devastating. Ironically, the most popular methods of punishment all are correlated to the love languages.

*Physical touch--spanking, popping, hitting, smacking, slapping, whatever you want to call it. For a child who is extremely sensitive to touch and uses it to show love (hugging, kissing, always wanting to touch you) the hurt goes far beyond the physical sting.

*Quality time--time outs, "go to your room", ignoring, banishment/isolation. A child desperate for attention gets the ultimate rejection in a parent who clearly doesn't want to be with him/her.

*Words of affirmation--shaming, scolding, yelling, praise/manipulation. The damage from hurtful words can last far longer than physical blows. Likewise, using praise to manipulate kids behavior is hollow and deceitful, and they will know it.

*Acts of service--assigning chores as punishments, refusing to help as a "natural/logical consequence" (I don't think that children should be shielded from all the results of their behavior, but I have seen parents call it a "consequence" when it was really their own form of revenge).

*Gifts--taking away the child's belongings. It surprises me how easily parents will steal from their kids or trash their child's things as punishment. I guess to them, the child has no property rights. Another misuse would be manipulating behavior with rewards. If it isn't freely given, it isn't a gift.

To me, the obvious conclusion is that punishments of pretty much any sort can be more hurtful than healing, and some will be more harmful than others by striking a blow at our children's way of giving and receiving love. Since primary love languages change over time and it is difficult to discern the love language of a young child (when most parents rely on punishment), we risk damage to our love relationship with our child when we impose punishments.

So, what is left? Gentle guidance, grace, healthy boundaries. Discipline, in the form of teaching. Modeling the behavior and attitudes we want to see. Working together to find solutions. This is far from permissiveness. It is active work. But love covers a multitude of sins, right? I believe that the fruit from speaking love and choosing not to twist a child's love language into a weapon will bring health to all of us.

And the winners are...

It has taken a dreadfully long time for me to do this (partly because of being busy and partly because I am a novice who doesn't know how to do basic things on the computer, like save a pic from another person's post and then post it on my own, or place them the way I want,) but...finally! The winners of two blog awards:

This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

If you are not familiar with what the Lemonade Award is, the Lemonade Award is given by a previous winner to 10 people who have shown a great attitude or gratitude this week. It’s a great way to show these people that you appreciate them.
I am passing on the award to the following:

1. My dear friend Heather. She has been an amazing friend and mentor to me. I learn so much from her. She is constantly encouraging me and others.

2. My friend Prisca, whom I have been posting with for years. I hope she realizes how much she means to me and to the others who know her.

3. My almost cousin, Blessed Mama. She is mom to some of the cutest kids ever, and her posts are both entertaining and thought-provoking.

4. My other unofficial cousin, Busy Momma. Wonderful pics, great fashion sense, and good words.

5. Granny2Five, a lady who is full of grace and can smile at the future. Even in the midst of difficult times, her strength and humor never falter.

6. My friend Psyche. Not only does she always help me with food allergy issues, I admire her common sense and loving heart.

7. Rebecca, whose beautiful insight into God's Word has been an inspiration to me. I love seeing her family's adventures in God's creation. http://graceful

8. Chewymom, who doesn't know me, but whose posts I enjoy very much. I appreciate her perspective, and of course, her humor.

9. The incomparable Lady Maramalade. She is a gifted writer, fantastic mum, and wife of a minister, among other things, but dons every hat with grace.

10. Theresa, another friend from cyberspace. Her love for her children, even during the incredible stress of colic, shines so brightly.

11. Katie Kind, another one who has most likely never heard of me. She is another wise Christian mom whose writings have touched my heart.

(Yes, I know I did 11. Since I am combining two awards, I could technically make it 18, but if I am ever going to post this, I better do it now).

You won, now what?

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs, which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude! Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
3. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
4. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award .

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Milestones, in random order

It has been a busy weekend. My class was not canceled, so I spent most of Saturday teaching. I have some exceptionally dedicated students, which is always exciting. Six hours is a lot--I was pretty drained by the end of class, and some of the students appeared to be in that glazed-over-stupor that comes from cramming several weeks of learning into a single day (those of us who procrastinated before exams know it well). I am pleased with our new textbook. It actually had enough good exercises that I can use some for the chapter review! Our previous book suffered from a dearth of usable material, which provoked many profane thoughts on my part. The exams for this one are also much, much better. The new book is definitely worth the hassle of switching again, although it isn't quite as good as the one we had before all the switching started, in my opinion.

Joelito turned three years old--wow! Expect adorable pictures in subsequent posts. He is such a sweetie. It sounds far-fetched to think that a baby has a sense of humor, but even as an infant he had this way of crinkling up his eyes as if he was laughing at the absurdity around him. At three, he definitely loves to incite smiles and giggles. He looks at me sideways out of the corners of his eyes whenever he has done of said something worthy of note (alas, he classifies all mischief under the heading of "funny", as well). He is so physical--always running, jumping and hugging--but recently has gotten very involved in acting out pretend play with an assortment of toys. He especially adores superheroes and villans right now, and is intent on classifying all of them into good guys and bad guys. Last night we listened to a lengthy dialogue between Green Dinosaur (aka Fing Fang Foom) and Blue Dinosaur (whose alter ego I cannot recall). I wish I remembered it. It was hilarious.

For his birthday cake, we had a chocolate chocolate chip cake (this guy loves chocolate as much as I do. What can I say? He started young, and he is a wise young man). Not being able to use corn eliminated commercial frostings, and anything that calls for powdered sugar. I vaguely remember a recipe that uses cream of tartar and is boiled or something, but instead I just melted white chocolate, and painted it with food coloring and sugar. I am not an artist, but he was uncritical, and even recognized Captain America, Iron Man and Spidey. He loved having balloons and seeing everyone.

Poor Ariana came down with something Saturday night--swollen eyes, runny/stuffy nose, lots of coughing--but seems to be doing a little better today. She seems to be more prone to catching the bugs that go around than the rest of us. She is also the most vaccinated one, which may not be connected. I've shared in other posts, but for me, not vaxing isn't about autism, but about auto-immune issues.

Finally, what an amazing day today was. I watched the inauguration looking at Sasha and Malia and thinking of my own kids. I know there is a lot of racism, bigotry and hatred left, but I am so grateful for the progress that has been made. Ariana and I talked a little bit about it. When I told her that some people used to think that others weren't even really people because their skin color was different, she looked at me as if I were demented. What a stupid idea! How could they think that? She rolled her eyes and sighed as dramatically as any teenager. I am glad that it is so unfathomable to her. I am praying for our President and his family, and excited about the future of this country.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Web

It really is fascinating to see how interconnected we are as a family and how little things affect each person. For the last week or so, I've noticed several little things:

1. I've been edgy and grouchier than usual.

2. The kids have been more aggressive with each other (play fighting, but it occasionally veers into the real thing).

3. My proximity is suddenly of the utmost importance.

Despite (because of?) my prickliness, bedtime has become a fight of "next to mami" wails. This presents difficulties, because Elena has to be next to me, leaving only one other side open for Joel or Ariana. I've spent the last several nights flipping back and forth between whoever seems to need me the most. Both Ariana and Joel, who typically sleep fine through the night, are waking up and crying if I am not physically touching them. I feel like snapping at them, but honestly, when a child is crying to be near you, rejection seems awfully harsh. Argh! We took the kids to the movies to see Madagascar 2, and I was holding Elena while both Joel and Ariana begged to be on my lap. Awkward, to say the least. Their beloved Abuelita was with us and tried to help, only to be met with cold stares and the words, "I only want to be next to Mami." Ouch.

I finally realized that this all coincided to Carlos returning to classes after a month of being home everyday. Additionally, after missing church a couple of weeks from the puking plague, we had left them with some new workers. I was gearing up for my classes, too. No wonder they were getting clingy--they were already missing Carlos a lot, and probably worried that I was going to be leaving, too. And I am sure that some of my irritability was also from missing Carlos and adjusting back into our school-time routine. My grouchiness just added to their desperate need to reconnect with us.

I've come to learn that anytime I don't like the attitudes or behavior my children are expressing, it helps a lot to examine my own. The whole apple falling close to the tree thing turns out to be pretty accurate. It is also interesting to see how finding the root of the problem so often eliminates it, or at least makes it much less of a "problem". It is so much easier for me to move beyond my selfish irritation once I am aware of the motivation. It frees me to respond lovingly and creatively. I still get cranky, tired, and edgy some days, (OK, every day), but it helps to know that we are all in this together.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Little Miss Personality

I don't think I really have a favorite age yet. I love the newborn stage when they are so cuddly--nothing feels as good as snuggling a sleeping baby. I love the toddler stage (yes, really) when they are learning so much so quickly. Joel is almost three, and his humor and tender heart bring smiles to every day. At nearly five, Ariana is a joy to be with--I marvel at how she can instantly transform from babyish to mature (and back again in less than a second). She is growing up so fast, but still is a little girl.

In the last few weeks, Elena (six months) has made it clear that she can communicate. She isn't using words yet, although she is babbling quite a bit, and likes for us to play games where we mimic each other. Her expressions, though, are worth a thousand words, or at least several hundred. When we pick her up, or guess correctly at what she wants, the satisfaction oozes all over her face. If we are tardy in responding or guess the wrong thing (leche when she wants to play, a toy when she is sleepy, whatever), the look of indignant reproach is comical and heart-rending at the same time.

She is not as laid back as I remember the other two at this age. She isn't fussy, and will happily occupy herself (or let her siblings occupy her) for at least a few seconds. Still, she is quite particular about the position she is held in. She is also much more apt to fall asleep in bed, whereas her siblings would sleep anywhere and everywhere. I can definitely see when she gets overstimulated. She is sensitive to noise, light and people. Her smile has so much sweetness I can't help but kiss her. I love her determination to get a toy that is out of reach. She isn't crawling yet, but she rolls and wriggles until she gets where she wants. Our little tumbleweed. :) She is interested in everything, and loves to examine new objects in minute detail. Both of the others always had a hand down my shirt; she sticks her fingers in my mouth instead.

It is so much fun to see her personality develop. I can't wait until she can express herself verbally, but she is managing quite nicely even now to let us know what is on her mind.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How we got to His and Hers (breasts, not towels)

Since I was on the subject of breastfeeding, I thought some might be interested in the whole topic of tandem nursing. If you are really interested, check out Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower and Here is how it happened for us:

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I didn't expect to breastfeed Ariana past a year, maybe not even that long. Like a lot of other moms, I started getting the comments about "still" breastfeeding by the time she was 6 months. Once I realized that every medical organization out there encouraged moms to breastfeed for as long as they and the child wished, and that many set an absolute minimum of two years, I had the "official" backing to choose child-led weaning. By that point, though, our breastfeeding relationship was so special I didn't want to cut it short. It made my life so easy--perfect nutrition and comfort rolled into one. Tired? Cranky? Hungry? Hurt? Leche would make everything OK for her.

One quick digression. My husband deserves a huge amount of credit for our successful breastfeeding experiences. He has supported us fully and never pushed weaning. Even more remarkably, he has gone out of his way to do things like bringing the babies to me at work so that I could nurse between classes, etc, without a single complaint. If more guys were like him, breastfeeding rates would skyrocket.

Ariana was about 15 months old when I got pregnant with Joel, and still nursing about 8 times in 24 hours. I read everything I could find on nursing through pregnancy and found that unless it is already a high-risk pregnancy, it is perfectly safe. I was also very encouraged by all the moms on my message boards who had a lot of experience with this. My OB was pleased to find out the Ariana was still nursing, too, which was really nice. I had learned enough since Ariana was born to stop seeing medical professionals as minor deities, but it was nice to have to support. It was going great.

Then, around the end of my first trimester, we went to Europe. Odd hours and vacation time, plus wearing a slightly small bra from laundry issues resulted in our first issue since Ariana was born: mastitis. NOT FUN, especially on vacation. If you've ever had mastitis, you understand the misery, so I won't dwell on the details. I went to the hospital in Rome. I spoke Spanish and they answered in Italian, which was complicated. I kept explaining that I was pregnant, because I was concerned about any medical treatment that might affect the baby. I think they thought it was a weird communication issue or something, at first. They injected me with something without telling me what it was, and I freaked out, and finally got them to understand. They had stunned looks when they finally repeated it back to me. Frankly, I think they thought I was a whacko. Then they told me to wean cold-turkey because I needed medicine that would hurt Ariana, although it was safe for pregnncy. Ack.

Take a pregnant, still nauseated, exhausted, hormonal mom with mastitis, tell her to cold-turkey wean her daughter who is still very, very attached to nursing after scaring her by injecting her with an unknown substance because you didn't believe any mom would be breastfeeding while pregnant...yeah. I was a hysterical mess for a couple of hours. Fortunately, I had been able to follow the comments by the nurse, who had told them that I should keep nursing as much as possible. I was also able to get to a computer and do a little research on my own. The unknown injection turned out to be a muscle relaxer, which I didn't need at all, at least not before being treated. They prescription turned out to be antibiotics, which actually are safe while breastfeeding, but by the time I found out I was feeling better and didn't need them. Aside from temporary emotional turmoil, everything was fine.

My milk dried up by about 16 weeks along, but Ariana was undeterred and continued to nurse about six times a day. She did nightwean, apparently deciding that it wasn't worth getting up for. During the last trimester, my colostrum came in, which helped a lot. I hate dry nursing. It made my skin crawl. I preferred that to weaning, though, and kept telling myself it was temporary.

The first time Ariana nursed in the hospital after Joel was born was priceless. She was so happy. After we got home, she was so delighted with the baby brother who brought back an abundance of milk. And "abundance" is a feeble, even paltry description of the mighty fire-hose streams that poured forth. Ariana thought it was hilarious to aim them and squirt across the room--they had a better range than a water gun. I was switching sides each time they nursed, and pretty soon by body was convinced it needed to feed twin pre-schoolers, or something. Poor Joel--it took courage to latch on, and he was gulping for dear life in an attempt not to drown. Finally, we designated "his and hers" sides, and the flow gradually became manageable.

Ariana was so overjoyed that she stopped eating solids and for the next four months was almost exclusively breastfed. She gained four pounds. When Joel was about a month old, we went dairy-free because even trace amounts would have him screaming for hours. If they both really wanted it, I would nurse them simultaneously, but it was more uncomfortable, so I usually had them take turns.

Joel was over a year and a half, and Ariana was over three and a half when I became pregnant with Elena. I expected it to be much easier this time. In most ways, it was. Ariana was still nursing about four times a day and Joel was nursing around seven or eight times a day. We were eliminating wheat, eggs, etc. at that point. The morning/noon/night-sickness was worse this time around, though. I wound up losing about 14 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight. My OB was still delighted that the kidlets were still breastfeeding (a couple of nurses were shocked, though) and never suggested weaning. Ariana slowed down after turning four, and once the colostrum came in, she decided it was very yucky and only good for babies. She weaned in the last trimester. Joel dropped to about 4-5 times a day.

The only medical drama this time around was when everyone in the family got flu, pneumonia and ear infections all at once. The docs confirmed it on everyone else, and didn't do the same tests for me, but since I had all the same symptoms it was pretty obvious. It just lasted a few days, thank God.

Elena's birth story and subsequent updates are in previous posts, so I'll wrap up by saying that it helped a lot to tame my over-supply this time by assigning Joel and Elena each a breast. At times, they have been slightly lop-sided, to my amusement, but things seem to have evened out now. Joel usually nurses a few times a day, unless he is sick, when he nurses as much as Elena. She normally breastfeeds about every 2-3 hours during the day, with one four hour stretch at night, followed by another 3-4 hour stretch.

I still have mixed feelings about Ariana weaning. I fully expected to triandem nurse. It is a relief to not have to worry about her allergens. I feel a little sad that she has repeatedly indicated that she misses nursing and wants to breastfeed again. Logically, I know that she had more than four years of it, and that even though she might not have weaned without pregnancy, it wasn't a case of me refusing to nurse her. And most days, nursing two is plenty. It helps both of us a lot that I can pump for her--I did while she was sick with the puking plague, and it seemed to comfort her greatly.

I feel like overall, my breastfeeding experience has been extremely easy. I am very, very grateful to all the other moms who shared their experiences with me and to Carlos. Without them, I wouldn't have made it this far. Thanks, too, to my sweet kidlets, who have good nursing manners and have made it fun to breastfeed them, their toys, Carlos' chess pieces and an assortment of other objects. I love their closeness and the incredible sweetness of their relationship. I think this has taught them more about the joys of sharing than anything else we've done.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Half a decade

In the nursing moms' room this morning, another mom recognized me from when I was nursing Joel in there nearly three years ago. We both smiled at having a new crop of kidlets nursing now, and I wondered if she would be surprised or even appalled if she knew that Joel was still breastfeeding. I remember when I was pregnant with Ariana and read an article about a mom nursing a five year old. I was shocked and totally weirded out by it. Now it seems perfectly normal to me. In a couple of weeks I will have been breastfeeding every day for five years, and tandeming nursing on an elimination diet for nearly three of those years. I expect to continue for at least a few more.

For awhile, I was extremely passionate about breastfeeding, and shined my lactivist badge at every opportunity. I even participated in a nurse-in once. I still believe in it strongly, but emotionally it isn't such a hot-button topic for me. It is just what I do. I think it is full of trade-offs that, in my case, make it an easy decision. I'm way too lazy to wash and prepare bottles all the time. I like it that my milk is always available, ready to drink, and perfectly suited for my kids. Carlos likes the containers pretty well, too. I am waaaaaaaaay too cheap to buy formula, particularly the special allergen-free stuff. Since we are both teachers, I feel relieved that the kids get all my antibodies. I am grateful that my risk for developing breast cancer is dramatically reduced. There are a ton of health benefits for both kids and moms that are constantly in the news. I like not getting a period until the baby is over 14 months. I like the hormone-high that makes me feel more peaceful and loving towards the whole family. I even like the milky smell that Elena has.

I do get tired of it somedays. I get tired of eliminating foods. I dislike waking up to damp, milky clothes and sheets. I hate leaking. But the drawbacks are so minor compared to the benefits. I do not breastfeed because I am a better mom, but breastfeeding makes it much easier for me to be a good mom. So, why blog about it? Simply because I still hear moms who are pressured to wean their 6 month old, who are given erroneous information, or who never even considered child-led weaning because they were unaware of any reason to keep nursing. There are still many moms and dads who have been told that if they are old enough to ask for it, they are too old to breastfeed. I want to be as open as I can to help make breastfeeding normal for our culture.

I don't have time now, but expect future posts on breastfeeding in the Bible (Samuel is a good example--Eli wasn't babysitting an infant!), and more links.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Too good not to share

One of my very favorite things about blogging is that I have gotten in touch with people that I don't see in real life very often. I love the opportunity for us to share more easily through blogs. I would be lying, though, if I said that it never induced a slight feeling of constraint. I'm pretty much an open book and don't have any real secrets. However, I also tend to exaggerate and rant and rave about things if I get worked up, and frankly, it is a little embarrassing to know that some of the comments I make (or at least think of making, depending on how well I self-censor) could be recalled by friends and family.

So, I've been holding back on something. My favorite safe place, and general favorite site on the web. This is the place I go before Facebook or this blog most days, even if it is just to lurk for a couple of moments. It is a source of fabulous entertainment and knowledge. I've been posting with most of the people for well over four years now, and they have never let me down. They are smart, witty, and informed. Even when I disagree, I always learn something. Best of all, I have made some dear friends. What is this paragon among websites, you ask?

If you haven't been there yet, I encourage you to check it out. There are several forums (I am lazy, so I devote most of my time to Various Thoughts on Various Subjects, but there are many others) and I am positive that you will find something of interest. The admin and mods there are amazing--people whom I admire very much. So, now you have an official invitation to my happy place. :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The most amazing scones ever!

Normally, I like scones, but would never rave about them. Sadly, my previous encounters were generally with the heavy coffeehouse variety that were OK slathered in whipped cream, but then again, I might eat cardboard if the toppings were good enough. Joelito wanted to try out a new recipe this morning so we mixed these up, and oh, my! They are flaky, tender, surprisingly light, and scrumptious without even a speck of whipped cream. I adapted the recipe from the cookbook, and the original version was submitted by TunaQueen. I'm going to include our version of it:

2 C flour
2-3 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 C buttermilk
2 Tbsp apple sauce
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C butter
1/2 pkg mini chocolate chips
2/3 C dried mixed berries

Preheat oven to 375. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients (I just added the rest to the cup I measured the milk in). Crumble the butter into the dry ingredients (Joel prefers to grate it in with a large grater). Pour wet ingredients into the bowl and stir until JUST combined. Turn onto a floured surface and knead 10 times. Split dough in two and pat into circles. Cut each circle into 8 wedges. Brush lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 18 minutes until just turning golden. Remove and cool on rack.

They were fabulous!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Yeah, I know, I am a little late. We are still in our last week of holiday limbo, where we have several faculty meetings and so on, but not all classes have started. One of my classes has very low numbers and has a good chance of being canceled, which leaves a lot of stuff up in the air, too. I might lose it altogether, or I might be offered a different class. I have mixed feelings about it--not about the money, which I definitely want ;)--but for several reasons, it will be a challenge. For one, it is for 6 hours every Saturday, which means either my cups runneth over or the hassle of bringing Elena to class or pumping. Additionally, we have changed textbooks again (I will not comment freely on this, lest it jeopardize my career) and while I consider this textbook to be a vast improvement over the previous one, it means that students who used the previous textbook have substantial gaps in knowledge, and integrating all the new material will be difficult. Anyway, I claim this as my excuse for resolution tardiness.

Honestly, though, I tend to be ambivelent about resolutions to begin with. I certainly need to change in some areas, to become more organized, etc. In the past, though, I've displayed a tendency to be overly ambitious or overly regimented. Then, when I fail to live up to my own expectations, I get frustrated and discouraged and eventually give up. Also, the book-report principle comes into play. Things that are normally pleasant become tedious when they are obligatory. I have yet to find the balance I seek.

So what are the things I want to work on?

*More time focusing on God's presence

*More schoolwork with Ariana

*Speaking Spanish more consistently with the kids. We were really good about this for awhile, but have slipped into more English recently.

*Less screen time for the kids

There are certainly other areas with room for improvement (house cleaning comes to mind), but these are the things that are my highest priority right now (it is doubtful that mopping the floors will ever become one of my highest priorities).

Ah! I just thought of a resolution that has an excellent chance of success. I hereby resolve to eat chocolate every day. One that I should begin immediately...

Monday, January 5, 2009

First foods. Sometime. Maybe...

I'm a research junkie, I know, and so when an issue comes up in parenting, my first thought is to look at it extensively until I come to a decision that leaves me full of peace. There were some things (like vaccinations) that I didn't tackle with my first child because I was too overwhelmed or issues that I didn't even realize I needed to research (like car seats), but now that we are on our third it should be easier, right? I mean, surely we have gone over most of the biggies, right? Well, I feel comfortable on most issues--breastfeeding vs formula, sleep training vs cosleeping, vaccinating vs non-vax, intact vs circumcision, spanking/timeouts vs. gentle discipline, and so on. While I try to stay current on all of those topics, I've studied enough to feel at least reasonably informed about both sides.

So what parenting issue is causing me sleepless nights of vacillation (well, not quite--I value sleep enough that few things are allowed to disturb it)? When to introduce solids. Yeah, really. I know that styles have changed since the days when newborns were getting cereal in their bottles and started on mushy jarred goop before they could even roll over. Every reputable source now recommends a virgin gut for the first six months, particularly in atopic families. However, after that, the advice begins to radically diverge.

Elena's doctor suggests that she wait until she is a year old. There are several digestive enzymes that apparently aren't even present in the baby's gut until about that time. This makes sense to me. I know that nutritionally, breastmilk has all they need for at least a year, and likely beyond. Additionally, I am admittedly paranoid about food allergies, and although the studies are inconclusive there, anecdotal evidence from friends and our own experience with FAs shows that often the first foods that the baby is introduced to are the ones to which the baby develops an allergy. Joel had no solids until 9 months, but the ones he began with (black beans, corn) are among his current allergies. Ariana is allergic to green beans, among other things...

On the other hand, our culture is relentless when it comes to wanting to feed babies solids. Any meal where others are present, I hear comments about how much Elena must want some food. Logically, I know that she isn't going hungry, and her interest is probably built on the idea that if we keep putting it into our mouths, maybe it is a really cool chew-toy. It is still hard to resist (and this is coming from someone who has had plenty of practice in going against mainstream parenting trends!). Sigh. Aside from peer pressure, there are people who caution that the child will likely develop sensory/texture/aversion issues if we wait to introduce food. That concerns me far more than public opinion. I think that I need to focus my research there, perhaps.

At least I know that Elena is thriving on my milk, and her nutritional needs are covered there for many months to come.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Car safety PSA

I think that most of the people who read my blog are the kind who research and learn all the time, so most of you know this stuff. So many things have changed since I was a baby. Yes, I survived without a car seat (including a crash with a bull on a mountain road in Mexico that totaled our truck. My mom was breastfeeding me at the time, and her bra was full of glass, but I didn't even get a scratch! Pretty miraculous.). Even so, when you know better, you do better. I am not an expert on car safety, but a few reminders:

*Always read the manual. And as your child grows, go back and read it again. Know your child's weight and height and make sure that they are within the guidelines for the seat you are using and the way it is installed.

*Rear-facing is safest. Don't turn your child around before you have to do so. 1 year and 20 lbs is the minimum. Joel will be three in a couple of weeks and is still happily rear-facing.

*Straps should be below the shoulders for rear-facing, and above the shoulders for forward-facing.

*Don't use any accessories that didn't come with your seat.

*Make sure straps are snug and that the chest clip is positioned at the armpits.

*Make sure that the seat doesn't move more than half an inch when you pull on it.

*Check the expiration date on the seat--some parts might degrade and not function correctly. Also, be aware of any recalls, etc.

*Children should not wear thick or bulky clothes such as coats while in the seat.

*Once your children outgrow a standard 5 point harness, keep them in a belt positioning booster until they are old enough and big enough for a regular seat belt--4'9" and 80-100 lbs, usually between 8-12 years old.

For more information, or to have your seat and installation checked by a professional, go to

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Auld acquaintance

I am still endeavoring to distract myself somewhat from my beloved husband's unexpected treachery in allowing his mom to whack off several inches of Joel's hair (no, there will not be any photographic evidence--I am desperately hoping that the bangs will grow back out before birthday pictures in two weeks. I was exaggerating when I compared the front to someone stricken with mange, but on one side it is distressingly close to the scalp, and a bit too short even in the longest sections. The back isn't quite so bad, because the curls conceal some of the disparity in length, but I am less than pleased with it, too. Ah well, it is only hair and it will grow back, right?). Please understand that my mother in law is an excellent woman, and actually trimmed Carlos' hair and it looked fine. However, she isn't used to curly hair, and makes the unfortunate practice of wetting hair and stretching it down when trimming bangs. It is also possible that Joelito turned at an inauspicious moment--I'm not sure. The results, in any case, were a source of grief to me.

Anyway, the original post was going to be about getting in touch with some friends I hadn't seen in a decade or more. Have I mentioned previously how much I love Facebook? I got in touch with a few former coworkers, and even though they have scattered about, some of us got together during the holidays.

Roughly ten to twelve years ago, Carlos, his sister, several friends and I were all working in the International Language department of the same college. It was a fun place to be. Nearly all of the workers were from other countries and cultures, or had spent considerable time travelling. I'm no psychologist (though I occasionally play one), but I think all of the people there were drawn to new experiences. We were interested in other points of view. Other than that, we were a diverse group.

Our boss was Chinese, and had moved here as an adult. She was gracious, even when exasperate by our mentally unbalanced cowoker, L. L was a religious fanatic, the kind that years later looking back you go, "I wonder if she ever blew up any buildings..." On one memorable afternoon, our boss gently suggested that she check some tapes she claimed to have copied. That was standard procedure, and tactfully presented, but L took umbrage and began an incoherent rant at high volume throughout the lab. The gist of her remarks prophesied a judgement within three days. It was freaky. (If I were less experienced with churches, I would be very concerned about my dad being a member of L's church, or at least the church she attended at that time).

With the disturbing exception of L, most of our coworkers were extremely intelligent. S had finished pre-med studies and taught adjunct courses in Latin. Besides being one of the smartest people I've ever met, she was one of the most thoughtful and compassionate. I want to be like her when I grow up. She is now a pediatrician with three beautiful kids of her own.

G was an exchange student from Azerbaijan. She was fluent in many languages, but especially talented at making friends. There were always long stretches when few students were in the lab, so we had plenty of time to talk and get to know each other. It must have been hard to be so far from family and home, but G was such a fun and caring person that she would be welcomed anywhere. She is now traveling to exotic locations for business, but I am holding out hope that she will work in a trip to our less-than-exotic locale for a visit soon.

M was the child prodigy of our group. He, and later his buddy, C, joined us while they were still in high school. Even then, they were proficient in French, German and Spanish as well as English. M fascinated me because of his social skills. He could talk with anyone and make that person feel comfortable. I was painfully and awkwardly shy at times, but he never lost his aplomb. Well, maybe except for one time. He was reading a magazine in Spanish and didn't recognize one word, so he asked me to translate. It was the word for penis. It was the only time I remember him slightly flustered (I was amused).

Religious discussions within the group were always enlightening. Our boss and G had grown up as atheists, M and C were UU, and S I believe was Catholic, although I don't recall for sure. And L, I believe identified as Pentecostal or Charismatic Christian. My sister in law and I could also be identified as Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian, I suppose, although I think we would both prefer to just be known as Jesus-lovers and people-lovers. (I cringe a little at the association with fruit-loops like L, but I do believe strongly in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in the supernatural, in speaking in tongues, etc.).

Wow-this has been long and rambling. I'll wrap up by saying that M, C and of course SIL all came over for dinner during the holidays. It was wonderful to catch up with them and see how they have grown and the successes they have earned. I am glad that they were and are part of my life. There are some other thoughts, too, but ment for a future post.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dissension between chefs...

First, Happy New Year to all of you! I hope that 2009 is filled with love, joy and peace for all of you. We are all recovered and enjoying the last few days before classes start up again.

I will eventually post all the holiday stuff, but I wanted to share this little conversation before I forgot.

We made the Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings today. They are still in the oven, but smell great. Ariana tried out her new pastry cutter (a Christmas gift) since we weren't using the pre-cut dough. She prefers the curly-edge side to the straight one, because it is prettier and fancier.

This inspired her to look through her own cookbook (another Christmas gift) and plan out her birthday menu. She saw a popcorn cake that looked enticing, but I told her we could not do that one because of Joel's corn allergy. Both kids are used to food allergies and understand that although we often allow them each to eat things that the other can't, we sometimes choose things that the entire family can eat. The disappointment from this appeared to exceed my anticipation, however, because a few minutes later I heard them talking.

Ariana (sorrowfully): Joel, I'm sorry, but for my birthday I am having a cake that you are allergic to.

Joel (dismayed): But I want cake, Nana!

Ariana (sympathetically): I know you do, Joel, but if you eat this one, you would vomit and vomit and vomit (our recent tribulations are still fresh in her memory). It has wheat and eggs and pork.

Joel (disgusted): Ariana, you are supposed to make a yummy cake, not a yucky one!

Normally, I ascribe to the view that bacon makes everything better, but in this case, I must concur with Joel.