Saturday, May 30, 2009

Censoring Dr. Doolittle

One of the happy surprises from the last few months has been seeing my five year old teach herself to read. She is sounding out every sign she sees, playing Starfall, and grabbing books. As a voracious reader myself, it is fun to share some of my old favorites with her. Until I start overthinking it...

While some lament how much things have changed, the truth is that there is a lot of stuff, from violence to racism, in older books, cartoons, etc. I know some parents who would never think twice about sharing the classics with their kids. After all, they were exposed to it, and they turned out fine, right? Others don't allow it at all, and some allow it but are careful to talk about it afterward. I am not sure where I stand.

I let the kids watch things like Tom and Jerry, Spiderman and His Amazing Friends, and other stuff with fantasy violence. Part of that is because Carlos enjoys it with them, part of it is because it is so far removed from reality, and because it is easy to model and explain that we don't hit people over the head with hammers/web them/fight with light sabers, etc.

Racism is a different issue, though. I cringe each time Tom and Jerry shows an overweight African American woman in garish clothes screaming, the only way she is ever depicted. And, while I loved the imagination of Hugh Lofting's Dr. Doolittle books (never cared for any of the movies particularly, either the Rex Harrison or the more recent ones), I wonder about sharing them with Ariana right now.

I first read them when I was six, and I remember being confused at the depiction of the African prince, who was not only rather dimwitted, but also thought himself ugly because of his dark skin, eyes and hair. He wanted to be handsome, which meant that he should be blond and have light skin and eyes. I didn't understand why that would be better looking.

By the time I was nine or ten, I was aware that society in general seemed to agree that blondes had more fun. It wasn't just Barbie-beauty. Even though I have light skin and green eyes, my little sister and cousin, both lovely girls with gorgeous blonde hair, got frequent comments on how pretty their hair was. Nobody said much about my rather boring brown hair. Now lest this get into a wailing lament for poor little me, I can say no one ever tried to make me feel bad about my looks, and certainly not my race.

Yet, if I, being white, felt that way, what about girls who fit the Dr. Doolittle definition of ugly? Well-publicized research shows that girls of all ethnic backgrounds considered white dolls to be prettier than dolls with darker skin/hair colors. It isn't just concern about how my daughter will view others, but also about how she will view herself.

I believe that ultimately, my children will learn the values that our family holds and see every ethnicity as beautiful. I don't worry that they will tell racist jokes, use derogatory names for people of other backgrounds or engage in obvious racism. Still, I am aware that it is subtle and still ubiquitous in our society, despite all the positive changes since my own childhood.

Which brings me back to my dilemma. I love classic children's literature, but am uncomfortable with many depictions of minorities. Even my beloved Anne of Green Gables books are full of slams against French Canadians. Native Americans are also portrayed according to stereotypes in many older children's books. Probably most of the books I read growing up have some form of it, just because of the times in which they were written. Emilie Loring's books, while not precisely kids' lit, are full of racism and classism--earlier books even use the n-word.

I am confident that Ariana will be able to read and enjoy many of these books, and discard the racist messages in them. I just don't know when she would be ready to do that. So, should I censor her reading material? To what degree, and for how long? I still don't know, but I am interested in your thoughts and experiences.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

So, why not wean?

I'm sure some of you were wondering, but too polite to ask (or didn't want to get me started on this particular soap box yet again). In case it was the former, I'll share some of the research on the subject. For us, though, the bottom line is that it is a good thing for my kids and for me, and we are both happy with the current arrangement.

I have several links, but for some reason, they aren't always clickable here. If you cut and paste them, they should work.

First, many thanks to Ms. Cameron for permission to share this. She has a lovely post on this at:

Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy: Information for Clinicians

Barbara Maclay Cameron, M.A., M.S.W.

How long should a child breastfeed?

AAP (2005): Breastfeed for at least a year, and as long as mutually desired by mother and baby. There are no negative consequences known for nursing into the third
year and beyond.

AAFP (2004): Breastfeed for at l east a year. Physicians should support mothers who wish to nurse beyond infancy, nurse during pregnancy, and/or tandem nurse.

WHO (2002): Breastfeed for a minimum of two years.

Dettwyler (1995) Based on a comparison with other primates, the biological age of weaning in humans is between 2-1/2-7 years

What are the medical benefits of breastfeeding beyond the first year?

Human milk is a healthy food for toddlers:
• A significant source of protein, fats and most vitamins (Dewey 2001)
• The fat and calorie content of breastmilk increases as duration of lactation increases (Mandel et al. 2005).

Nursing Toddlers are Healthier:
• Nursing toddlers between 18-36 months of age have fewer and shorter illnesses than their non-nursing counterparts (Gulick 1986).
• Antibodies and immune factors in milk increase in the second year (Harnosh et al 1991; Goldman 1983).

Health benefits to the child have been shown to be dose-dependent, including:
• decreased risk of childhood leukemia (Tripathy et al. 2004; Guise at al. 2005)
• improved adult cardiovascular health for women nursed as babies (Williams et al. 2006).
• improved IQ scores and cognitive development (Slykerman et al. 2005; Angelsen et al. 2001)
• decreased risk of childhood and adult obesity (Singhal 2007;Harder et al. 2005; Arenz et al. 2004)
• reduced risk of childhood type 1 diabetes (Sadauskaite-Kuehene et al. 2004)
• reduced environmental allergies (Obihara et al. 2005).
• reduced rates of malocclusion (Labbok & Hendershot 1987)

Health benefits to the mother are also dose-dependent, including:
• Lowered risk for breast cancer (Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, 2002; Freund et al., 2005), particularly for carriers of the BRCA-1
mutation (Jernstrom et al., 2004)
• Lowered risk for ovarian cancer (Wiltemore, 1994; Gwinn et al., 1990).
• Lowered risk for rheumatiod arthritis (Karlson et al., 2004)
• Lowered risk for endrometrial cancer (Rosenblatt & Thomas, 1995).
• Increased maternal weight loss (Kac et al., 2004; Akkus et al., 2005).
• Lowered risk of future osteoporosis and hip fractures (Cumming & Klineberg, 1993; Huo et al., 2003).
• Reduced risk of Type II Diabetes (Steube et al., 2005).
• Reduced risk of metabolic syndrome in midlife (Ram et al., 2008)

What about breastfeeding toddlers who are falling on the growth charts?
There is no research that supports the clinical recommendation to discontinue breastfeeding due to slowed growth (e.g.Gonzalez 2005), particularly given the health
benefits for continued nursing (see above).
• The growth charts are not based on breastfeeding toddlers, and in fact we don’t really know what normal growth patterns are for these children (Huffman 1985).
• In matched cohort studies, breastfeeding toddlers are taller and healthier than their weaned counterparts (Prentice, 1994; Castillo et al., 1996; Marquis et al., 1997;
Onyango et al., 1999).
• When differences are seen between the growth of nursing and non-nursing toddlers, they disappear by the end of the second year (Habich, 2000).

Does extended breastfeeding cause dental decay?
• The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says maybe, and recommends limiting nursing at night and on demand once teeth emerge. However, not all research
supports this recommendation.
• Humans are the only mammals whose young suffer from dental decay, and prehistoric human skulls—before the introduction of a more processed diet—show no
incidence of dental caries (Palmer 2000).
• Studies that demonstrate a link between dental caries and extended breastfeeding often fail to control for confounding factors such as oral hygiene (e.g. Yonezu et al
• In populations with dental caries, exclusively breastfed children are rare (Hunter et al.,1997).
• The relationship between risk factors and caries development is complex, and multiple population based-studies do not support a relationship between extended
breastfeeding and early childhood caries (Hallonsten et al., 1995; Weeheijm, 1998; Slavkin, 1999: Valaitis et al., 2000; Hallett & O’Rourke, 2002;).
• The cariogenicity of human milk is somewhat open to debate (Erickson, 1999; Peres et al., 2002; Bowen & Lawrence, 2005), but researchers and clinicians agree
that good oral hygiene is important for all children.

Breastfeeding families need encouragement from their clinicians!
• As the age of their child increases, more mothers perceive a social stigma for breastfeeding: 44% at 12 months, 61% at 24 months (Kendall-Tackett and Sugarman,
• Women nursing past a year are in a minority: about 18% at 12 months, and only 5% at 18 months (Ryan et al, 2002; CDC, 2004). They may feel isolated.
• Many women nursing into toddlerhood may be facing pressure to wean from friends or family (Lawrence & Lawrence,1999).
• Positive attitudes and encouragement from health care providers have a strong influence on whether or not a woman continues to breastfeed (Losch et al., 1995).

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Bowen, WH Lawrence RA. (2005). Comparison of the cariogenicity of cola, honey, cow milk, human milk, and sucrose. Pediatrics 116(4):921-6.
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countries, including 50302 women with breast cancer and 96973 women without the disease. Lancet 360 (9328):187-95
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Erickson PR. 1999. Investigation of the role of human breast milk in caries development. Am Ac Pediatr Dent 221(2):86-90.
Ferguson DM.( 1987). Breastsfeeding and subsequent social adjustment in six- to eight- year old children. J Child Psychol Psychiatr Allie Discip 28:378-86.
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Goldman AS, Goldblum RM, Garza C. 1983. Immunologic components in human milk during the second year of lactation. Acta Paediatri Scand 72(3): 51-4.
Gonzalez CG. 2005. My child won’t eat: How to prevent and solve the problem. Schaumburg, IL: La Leche League International.
Guise JM. 2005. Review of case-control studies related to breastfeeding and reduced risk of childhood leukemia. Pediatrics 116 (5):e724-31.
Gulick EE. 1986. The effects of breastfeeding on toddler health. Pedatri Nurs 12(1):51-4
Gwinn ML, Lee NC, Rhodes PH, Layde PM, Rubin GL. 1990. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and oral contraceptive and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. J. Clin Epidemiol 43(6): 559-68.
Habich JP. 2000. The association between prolonged breastfeeding and poor growth--what are the implications. Adv Exp Med Biol. 478:193-200.
Hallet KB, O’Rourke PK. 2002. Early childhood caries and infant feeding practice. Community Dent Health 19(4):237-42.
Harder T, Bergmann R, Kallischnigg G, Plagemann A. 2005. Duration of breastfeeding and risk of overweight: a meta-analysis. Am J. Epidemiol 162 (5): 397-403.
Harnosh M, Dewey KG, Garza C. 1991. Nutrition During Lactation. Washington DC: Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press.
Hills-Concyzk SG, Tromiczak KR, Avery, MD, Potter S, Savik, K, and Duckett LJ. 1994. Women’s experiences with breastfeeding longer than 12 months. Birth 21(4):206-12.
Huffman SL. 1985. Breastfeeding of exclusively breastfed infants. Mothers Child. 5(1):5,7
Hunter ML, Hood CA, Hunter B, Kingdon A. 1997. Reported infant feeding, oral hygience and dental attendance patterns in children aged 5 years and under referred for extraction of teeth
under general anaethesia. Int J Paediatr Dent. 7(4):243-8.
Huo D, Lauderdale DS, Li L. 2003. Influence of reproductive factors on hip fracture risk in Chinese women. Osteoporos Int. 14(8):694-700.
Jernstrom H, Lubinski J, Lynch HT, Chadirian P, Neuhausen S, Isaacs C, Weber BL, Horsman D, Rosen B, Foulkes WD, Friedman E, Gershoni-Baruch R, Ainsworth P, Daly M, Garber J, Olsson
H, Sun P, Narod, SA. 2004. Breast-feeding and the risk of breast cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. J Natl Cancer Inst. 96(14):1094-8.
Kac G, Benicio MH, Velasquez-Melendez G, Valente JG, Struchiner CJ. 2004. Breastfeeding and postpartum weight retention in a cohort of Brazillian women. Am J Clin Nutr. 79(3):487-93.
Karlson EW, Mandl LA, Hankinson SE, Grodstein F. Do breast-feeding and other reproductive factors influence future risk of rheumatiod arthritis? Results from the Nurses’ Health Study.
Arthritis Rheum. 50(11):3458-67.
Kendall-Tackett, KA, and Sugarman M. 1995. The social consequences of long-term breastfeeding. J. Hum. Lact. 11(3): 179-83.
Labock, MH, Hendershot GE. 1987. Does breastfeeding protect against malocclusion? An analysis of the 1981 child health supplement to the national health interview survey. Amer J
Prevent Med 3(4):227-31.
Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM.1999. Breastfeeding: A guide for the medical professional, 5th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.
Losch, M., Dungy, CI, Russell, D, and Dusdieker, LB. 1995. Impact of attitudes on maternal decisions regarding infant feeding. J. Pediatr. 126(4)507-14.
Mandel, D, Lubetzky, R., Dollberg S, Barak S, Mimouni FB. 2005. Fat and energy contents of expressed human breast milk in prolonged lactation. Pediatrics 116(3): e432-5.
Marquis GS, Habicht JP, Lanata CF, Black RE, Rasmussen KM. 1997. Association of breastfeeding and stunting in Peruvian toddlers: an example of reverse causality. Int J. Epidemiol
Obihara CC, Marais BJ, Gie RP Potter P, Bateman ED, Lombard CJ, Beyers N, Kimpen Z. 2005. The association of prolonged breastfeeding and allergic disease in poor urban children. Eur
Respir J 25(6):970-7.
Onyango AW, Esrey SA, Kramer MS. 1999. Continued breastfeeding and child growth in the second year of life: a prospective cohort study in western Kenya. Lancet 354(9195):2041-5.
Palmer B. 2002. Breastfeeding and infant caries: No connection. ABLM News and Views 6(4):27-31.
Peres, RC, Coppi LC, Franco EM, Volpato MC, Groppo FC, Rosalen PL. 2002. Cariogenicity of different types of milk: an experimental study using animal model. Braz Dent J. 13(1):27-32.
Prentice, A. 1994. Extended breast-feeding and growth in rural China. Nutr Rev. 52(4)144-6.
Ram, KT, Bobby P, Hailpern SM, Lo JC, Schocken M, Skurnick J, Santoro N. 2008. Duration of lactation is associated with lower prevalance of the metabolic syndrome in midlife. Am J Obstet
Gyn 198(3), 268e1-268-e6.
Riberio NM, Riberio MA. 2004. [Breastfeeding and early childhood caries: a critical review]. J Pediatri (Rio J) 80(5 Suppl): S199-210.
Rosenblatt KA, Thomas DB. 1995. Prolonged lactation and endometrial cancer. WHO collaborative study of neoplasia and steriod contraceptives. Int J Epidemiol. 24(3):499-503.
Ryan, AS, Wenjun, Z, Acosta A. 2002. Breastfeeding continues to increase into the new millennium. Pediatrics 110: 1103-9.
Sadauskaite-Keuhne V, Ludvigsson J, Padaiga Z, Jasinskiene E, Samuelsson U. 2004. Longer breastfeeding is an independent protective factor against development of type 1 diabetes
mellitus in childhood. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 20(2):150-7.
Singhal A. 2007. Does breastfeeding protect from growth acceleration and later obesity? Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program 60:15-29.
Slavkin HC. 1999. Streptococcus mutans, early childhood caries,, and new opportunities. JADA 130:1787-92.
Steube AM, Rich-Edwards JW, Willett WC, Manson JE, Michels KB. 2005. Duration of lactation and incidence of type 2 diabetes. JAMA 294(20):2601-10.
Slykerman RF, Thompson JM, Becroft DM, Robinson E, Pryor JE, Clark PM, Wild CJ, Mitchell EA. 2005. Breastfeeding and the intelligence of preschool children. Acta Paediatr 94 (7):832-7.
Tripathy AK, Mishra L, Bakshi S, Arya LS. 2004. Breastfeeding and childhood hematological malignancy. Indian J. Pediatr 71(5):417-8.
Valaitis R, Hesch R, Passarelli C, Sheehan D, Sinton J. 2000. A systematic review of the relationship between breastfeeding and early childhood caries. Can J Public Health 91(6):411-7.
Weeheijm KL. 1998. Prolonged demand breastfeeding and nursing caries. Caries Res 32(1):46-50.
Williams MJ, Williams SM, Poulton R. 2006. Breastfeeding is related to C reactive protein concentration in adult women. J. Epidemiol. Community Health 60(2):146-8.
Wiltemore AS. 1994. Characteristics relating to ovarian cancer risk: implications fro prevention and detection. Gynelcol. Oncol. 55(3 pt. 2): 515-9.
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Yonezu T, Ushida N, Yakushiji M. 2006. Longitudinal study of prolonged breast- or bottle-feeding on dental caries in Japanese children. Bull Tokyo Dent Coll. 47(4):157-60.
 2008 Barbara Maclay Cameron Permission granted for reproduction for non-commercial uses that do not violate the WHO code for marketing of breastmilk substitutes

Also, here is a link with multiple points addressed, including nutrition, also with references:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My ped wants me to wean

Bless her heart, as we say here. The backstory is that about three weeks ago, Joel developed a startling decrease in appetite. He has never been a picky eater, and has always eaten a lot--regular meals and snacks during the day. For the last few weeks, he has been eating about a third of what he would eat before. One day he might eat a small handful of grape tomatoes, half a slice of toast, and a couple of small turkey sausages. Another day, it might be a small bowl of cereal and two slices of apple.

He is reacting to dairy again, and had a cold, but his appetite never bounced back. Since this has been going on for a few weeks, I went ahead and called, and they asked me to bring him in. The good news is that somehow, despite all this, he has gained weight in the last month and a half. The ped asked detailed questions about everything he would eat or drink during a day, and as soon as I mentioned that he was nursing twice a day still, she got an "aha!" look on her face.

Not too surprisingly, she asked me to wean. She compared it to formula, saying that we wouldn't be giving him a bottle at this age. Which is true--but breastmilk is very, very different from formula, and breastfeeding is very different from getting a bottle. There really is no comparison.

The thing is, the rest of her exam showed that he was perfectly healthy and growing exactly as he should. So why mess with that? He was nursing more when he was eating more foods, so it isn't that breastfeeding is taking away from that or preventing him from trying new foods, etc.

I pointed that out to her, and explained that breastfeeding is still very important to him. He still asks to nurse at least a few times a day. Of course, he sees Elena nursing all the time, so he isn't likely to forget about it. She agreed that he was doing great with what we were doing, and suggested that we just have him eat solid foods before nursing, which he does anyway.

So, overall, it wasn't bad. I would like to send her more info on the benefits of nursing past infancy. I know that most pediatricians have never studied it. Still, I felt like she respected our choices, and she also gave us some good tips on nutrition and portion sizes. So, I'll take the good info and not throw out the baby with the, bath water. Whatever. :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ms. Growly Gussie

That's been me for the last day or two. Joel's favorite show is Wow, Wow, Wubbzy, which features a monster called a Growly Gus. Now, in my opinion, the Growly Gus actually resembles one of the more benign Muppets, but for some reason that I can't quite fathom, my son who delights in supervillans and other things that I would prefer to shield him from, finds the Growly Gus scary indeed. When I turn into one, it feels a little scary, too.

I hate feeling edgy and unsettled, but I have pretty much non-stop for the last few days. I start up a super intense schedule next week, and that is definitely part of it. I'll be gone from the kids for about eight hours at a time, several days a week. Elena is still exclusively breastfed. I can pump while I'm gone,but it is a hassle (although definitely better than soaking my shirt in class) and am OK with giving her solids (although the allergy issue contributes to my edginess).

Joel has recently started having bad reactions to dairy, and his allergist said we need to go dairy-free again. He's also had some other stuff going on that seems mild, but hasn't improved in a few weeks, and I'm planning to call his doc tomorrow.

Elena's test results showed an allergy to beans, but nothing else. However, she is still breaking out with a rash, getting a runny nose and other symptoms. I think we've narrowed it down to chocolate and eggs, but I'm not positive.

Ironically, here when I am concerned about not being with the kids when I should, I am also more short-tempered and feel less like engaging with them.

The class itself is good, and I'm teaching with a wonderful friend. We've taught together the last three summers. He is also a pastor's kid, the youngest of ten or eleven kids, and an awesome instructor. After years of teaching the same classes together, we have a good rhythm and sense of how the other teaches and grades, so that part is really good.

There are some personal things that I won't share in the blog, but I know they are most likely the root of my discomfort. While I really dislike them, I can deal with it. At least, I should be able to. I can give myself all kinds of rational pep-talks about how the kids will be fine. Mentally, I agree completely. Elena will manage just fine. Joel will be OK--I can make sure that we have safe food. Spiritually, I've got all kinds of stuff about peace and trusting God and so on. I believe it, but at the moment, it isn't reaching me. And I can't even self-medicate with chocolate. Sigh.

Anyway, I would appreciate your prayers, both now and in the month to come. It's time for Ms. Growly Gussie to go home.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Seize the moment

One of the things that I love about Carlos is his spontaneity. Inside, I am a control freak. Parenting is helping to ameliorate that tendency, but I get really panicky if things are not planned out. Even if I don't come close to following the plans, having them there helps me feel safe. Today, though, was a wonderful and unscripted day.

First, we got up early while the older two slept in and had a very calm and quiet morning. Then, we had a girls' coffee date with my sister, mom and grandma. Ariana asked to please join us. I thought about saying no, because it has literally been weeks since I've been anywhere without at least one of the kidlets. I definitely like my alone time, and haven't had any this month. On the other hand, I could tell that she was needing some focused time, too. I also know from experience that taking breaks at certain times from the kids doesn't always recharge me--often I just wind up feeling disconnected and impatient when I get back. It is a weird balance. I decided to let her come, and was very glad. We both had a great time.

After we got back and I nursed Elena, I remembered that our library books were due on the holiday, so I decided to drop them off, and on the spur of the moment suggested that Joelito and Ariana tag along. They were both excited to join me--they love the library! We signed up for the summer reading program and chose several exciting new books. Amelia Bedelia is a definite favorite, as are books on sharks and anatomy, but this time we branched out into some Nancy Drew, and books on snakes, bees and cows. It was fun to watch the kids' enthusiasm for trying something new.

On the way back, we picked up a snack, and then noticed that the splash park was open and going full force. Of course, we didn't have swimsuits with us. I generally try to keep an extra change of clothes for each kid in the van, but had just cleaned it out and brought in most of the extras. When I weighed that against the fun we would have, it was found wanting, so we picnicked at the park and the kids played in the water for nearly an hour. It was beautifully sunny when we got there, but just as they got into hysterically mismatched dry clothes, it began to rain and lightning streaked the sky. The fragrance of the clover and rain was so strong and so lovely.

Our perfectly summery afternoon transformed into a cozy evening with a Bananas Foster cake, warm baths, snuggles and a good book. I tend to think that it went much better than any plan I had.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A different direction

So, after just commenting in a recent post about how thankful I have been with the career choices that we have been led into, suddenly I'm seriously contemplating a switch.

I started college as a nursing major, and completed all the prerequisites. I loved it. But in my sophomore year, opportunities to teach Spanish fell into my lap, and I loved doing that, too. So I switched majors and have been very happy with that choice. I've taught adjunct college classes for more than 10 years, and enjoy it. I could easily continue doing it, although to be 100% honest, it has become somewhat routine. I taught K-12 for 5 years, and while it had some wonderful moments, vehemently dislike the thought of doing it again.

I expected to, though, because Carlos and I agreed that once our youngest was in school, that I would go back to work full time. For several reasons, it is unlikely (although possible) that a fulltime college position would be available, but there is no doubt that I could get on at a K-12 school without any problems. Except that the hours and pay are not great, and I know how draining it is.

Today, we started talking about the possibility of me going back to nursing school. Carlos' university has one of the best programs in the state, and I would have tuition benefits, so most likely I'd just be paying for books and fees.

I am so excited! Compared to the weighed-down feeling I had about going back to K-12, the excitement and anticipation I feel are tremendous. I checked the degree plan, and it looks like about 15 courses, depending on whether or not I need to retake any of the previous classes (and I am rusty, so I probably should).

I had thought that someday I'd like to take more of that type of course anyway, just for personal enjoyment. This sounds like an even better idea. I feel like the combination of nursing and Spanish is a good move for future job security, and I can see it benefiting us in many ways.

We'll see what happens. We want to pray about it some more and look into things more carefully--this idea is still new to us. But I can feel my spirit soaring like a helium balloon right now at the potential future.

Open wide, switch feet

My husband is amazingly athletic. not. My most frequent form of exercise involves putting my foot in my mouth. I say things and later look back and cringe, or even just wonder, "What was I thinking? Was I thinking?" As often as I do it, it is a pity it doesn't burn real calories. I'd be svelte beyond my wildest dreams...

Anyway, I recently started a post that was an extremely loose conglomeration of all kinds of snippets floating around in my head. It was briefly posted a couple of times while I was working on it, and I imagine some of you saw it.

Now, I think I have a fairly realistic view of myself when it comes to writing. I enjoy it (when it isn't required--I loathed writing in school), but I consider other family members and friends to be far more gifted than I. They also follow consistent standards of punctuation and capitalization. (I claim that part of it is the influence of Spanish, which has different rules, but the truth is I am lazy). They also digress less often than I.

Anyhow, the aforementioned post was really bad, both content-wise and stylistically. It made no sense, and just meandered all over the place without saying much of value. Yes, this post is doing the same thing, but the other one wasn't nearly as interesting as this, which should tell you something.

So, for those of you who wondered what happened to that post, parts of it may eventually appear in the future (other parts definitely will not). I hope it will not be recognizable.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A bright, sunshiny day

After weeks of rain, we had a beautifully sunny day today. I adore thunderstorms, and generally like rain, but I must admit that the sunshine is gorgeous, too. Carlos rode his bike into work, but we picked him up in time for a picnic lunch at the park.

After our picnic, we went to the aquarium. The last several times we've been able to touch the baby sharks and sting rays, which our kidlets think is the coolest thing ever. We spent quite awhile there.

We had ice cream sundaes on the way home and then the kids got on their bikes. I know that in just a week or two, our days won't be nearly as carefree--I'll be teaching a couple of classes where you get 3 credit hours in 8 days. Lots of fun, and the pay is definitely good, but it is intense for everyone concerned. Carlos will also be teaching a little more.

I actually got an offer today for a full time teaching position this fall. I love the principal, the school is a really good one, and their Spanish program is one of the best in the area, but the kidlets are still so little. I am very, very grateful that I was able to turn it down, as well as for receiving the offer in the first place.

When I switched majors halfway through from Biology to Spanish, I wondered if I was really making the right choice. I prayed and prayed, and felt peace about it, but a part of me would really appreciate it if God would just inscribe explicit instructions on a tablet with a lightning bolt. I hate making mistakes. Thankfully, I feel sure that switching to teaching wasn't one of them. It has allowed so much flexibility for us.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Patience has ceased to be a virtue

...according to the estimable Mr. Harrison. Like him, I've never had much to begin with. Logically, I know that it often takes a week or two to get results back from the RAST. I've already called the allergist once, just in case. I'm really, really trying to contain the urge to pester them.

But I hate not knowing what is causing Elena's reactions. This week, instead of hives, she has had an extremely faint rash and runny nose in response to either eggs or potatoes, or both, I believe. So I did grocery shopping planning on not using any of either (eggs are easy to avoid, since I only get those if we eat out, because Ariana is allergic to them).

Aside from the allergy stuff, all three kidlets have a very nasty sounding cough. Joel rarely coughs, but Elena and Ariana can't sleep because it wakes them, and with Ariana the coughing spells seem to last forever. Pobrecita. No fever or other symptoms, though, and I'm hoping that it will just blow over quickly. I don't have a whole lot of patience on that, either. Seems to be a pattern with me...

ETA: LOL. A few minutes after posting this, our allergist called to let us know that they still hadn't received the results, but would contact me as soon as they did. I'm choosing not to get all paranoid and read into it anything more than courtesy. :D

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Good intentions

First, Happy Mother's Day! I hope that it is full of love, joy and peace for you--and a massage, a nap, and some good coffee and chocolate wouldn't come amiss, either.

I was thinking last night about the whole discipline issue, and I think that the biggest change is in the mindset of the parent. It is relatively easy to focus on things like spanking, because it is very concrete and measurable. You can make very clear boundaries and definitions. I think, though, that gentle discipline goes far beyond whether or not you spank. It is inextricably tied up with how we view ourselves and our children.

Photo by abbamouse on Flickr
My biggest gripe against Ezzo, Dobson et al isn't the horrific breastfeeding advice or even the blind insistence on corporal punishment. It is the mindset that parents and children are at war, that our kids are enemies that must be subdued, broken and defeated. Every action or non-action on the child's part then becomes reflected through the fun house mirror of perceived manipulation, defiance and evil intent. Yes, there are twisted people out there who are conniving, and will play with your emotions to get some sick satisfaction of controlling you. Your four-month-old is not one of them. And, just as importantly, allowing yourself to freely love your four-month-old and respond to her cries will not turn her into that kind of person.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was a quote in Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting: "Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts." Especially with little children, their motives are so often much better than we initially assume. Can you ever think of a time when you misjudged your child, or simply zeroed in on the negative and overlooked a far more important positive motive? One that readily comes to mind is when I was exasperated with a mess, only to find out that it was the result of making a beautiful painting for me.

I think every parent or caregiver should have a basic understanding of child development. If you are looking for resources, Penelope Leach has some excellent books, and the Ames and Ilg series is even more detailed. So often we disregard the drives and developmental stages that God has ordained for babies and children and then consider them the ones who are rebellious!

Little babies are programmed to eat and wake often. It helps them to survive. When your toddler gleefully says no, it is an important part of learning to recognize himself as an individual separate from you and to learn about the power of language. Knowing that the part of the brain that governs impulse control is still not fully developed in your two-year-old can make a big difference.

Consider the incredible quantity and variety of information that young children are expected to assimilate every day. Then imagine that you were beginning a job where you didn't speak the language fluently, where you were trying to master a bewildering amount of physical, mental and social skills, and your mentors greeted every not-quite-perfect attempt with punishment or impatience. Would you ask lots of questions? Would you sometimes come across as rude for expressing yourself too abruptly in the language you were still in the process of acquiring? Would you some days get so overwhelmed with the expectations--both of the people around you and yourself--that you'd have a meltdown? I would.

Even worse, I could imagine my frustration getting to the point where I'd decide I may as well fulfill their suspicions of me, if they were going to believe the worst anyway. On the other hand, I can clearly remember times when I made the right choice because I didn't want to lose trust that had been placed in me.

As parents, we don't want to be foolishly taken advantage of by our children, or blind to areas in their character that need work. I'm not suggesting we turn into fatuously doting, feeble-minded parents who ignore our calling to teach and guide our kids. But, the truth is, most of us operate under a default setting. We either presume innocence or guilt.

What if we decided that our children were innocent until proven guilty? What if we approached situations with the idea of teaching more appropriate ways to meet their needs rather than assuming maliciousness on their part? Believe it or not, this is a pretty radical concept. Once you try it, it can even begin to spill over into how you perceive your spouse!

Will you ever get burned? Probably. There will always be times when we don't have all the facts and are required to guess to the best of our ability. But if we expect the worst, we will be wrong just as often or more so, and the consequences to our relationship may be even more dire.

I Corinthians 13:7 says that love "always trusts, always hopes" (NIV), "always looks for the best" (The Message), "is ever ready to believe the best of every person" (Amplified), "is loyal, hopeful and trusting" (Contemporary English Version).

Does that sound reckless? Well, I Peter 1:22 instructs us to love each other fervently. Fervent love chooses to believe the best about the beloved. Most of the time, our children want to please us. Let's operate under that assumption, in the absence of evidence to the contrary. They really do have good intentions.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

M. Family Homeschool: Seriously, CNN? SERIOUSLY?

M. Family Homeschool: Seriously, CNN? SERIOUSLY?

I've posted with her for years, and enjoy her blog, but this made me laugh so hard I had to link it.

Sticks and stones

A quote attributed to Astrid Lindgren (author of Pippi Longstocking)

"Above all, I believe that there should never be any violence." In 1978, Astrid Lindgren received the German Book Trade Peace Prize for her literary contributions. In acceptance, she told the following story.

"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor's wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn't believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking - the first of his life. And she told him that he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, "Mama, I couldn't find a switch, but here's a rock that you can throw at me."

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child's point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery - one can raise children into violence."

Not only is this attributed to one of my favorite childhood authors, but even better, it is about a pastor's wife!

Friday, May 8, 2009

General update on us, in which I try not to whine too much (but I'm not trying very hard)

I've spent more time in doctors offices or hospitals than at home this week, I think. Anyway, yesterday Ariana got four crowns. She was a trooper, and cooperated beautifully, but cried for at least seven hours afterward. She does not want to go back at all, but will have to for the other side. My poor baby. There was another girl about a year older who screamed non stop through her work. It was awful. The poor little girl kept screaming that it hurt and begging them to stop. Her mom was in tears the whole time. I was very disturbed, and it wasn't even my child! It brought back horrible memories of times when the anesthesia didn't take and the dentist would try to tell me that it would kick in in a few minutes or that he was almost done. It also made me very concerned about what would happen if Ariana was hurting. I plan on talking with the dentist about that more before her appointment.

As if that wasn't enough, Ariana's ped called back and said that she and the doctor she had consulted both agree that there is most likely a hairline fracture on her elbow. She is still not able to move it fully, and it hurts excruciatingly if she bumps it or gets it into the wrong position. We're supposed to go back in next week to X ray it again.

Elena met with our allergist today and had six or seven vials of blood drawn. It seemed like so much from such a tiny little one! Although she is now 18 lbs and 4 oz, so she is growing well. The phlebotomist was excellent, and was able to get it all with one try, so at least she didn't have to get multiple sticks and wriggle it around. We won't get the results back till next week for that, either. Then it will be followed up with a skin test. I am already feeling impatient to get answers, but grateful that we got in so quickly. It could have been a lot longer.

Joelito has felt a bit ignored with all the attention on his sisters, so he and I did a just-the-two-of-us grocery run yesterday. He was so proud of being able to help me choose the items and put them in the cart. It was very cute.

I think I've totaled around 12 hours of sleep since Sunday, and I can tell that my mind and body are showing the effects. I always get headaches when I am too low on sleep, and the last two nights, every time I fall asleep I dream that I am having a migraine! Yeah, normal people have bad dreams about falling, being naked in public, or tragedies. Me, I waste my sleep time with pseudo-migraines. Fortunately, once I wake up, the headaches have just been the typical kind.

So, for Mother's Day, I can skip chocolates and flowers. I just want a nap. (In reality, we're expecting about 12 guests for lunch, but at least I don't have to cook.) On second though, maybe I'll take that chocolate, after all...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The week from Hades, with moments of heavenly help

My last post mentioned the weekend allergy woes. Monday, Elena broke out in hives three more times, despite the meds, but we didn't take her in. Monday night I woke suddenly knowing that she wasn't breathing normally. I listened closely for a minute, and sure enough, there was a catch each time she tried to inhale fully and she was whimpering a little. Even with the worst outbreak of hives, she had never had breathing difficulty, so I took her into the living room to turn on the light. Her color was great, no hives. Then, apparently from the jostling, she began to pass gas. A lot of gas. Like, every time she moved for the next several minutes. It was quite the symphony. :D I'm glad that even in a sleep deprived state I could notice little things like that, and even more glad that it was nothing but a bad case of gas!

Tuesday we celebrated the Cinco de mayo, my sister's birthday, and a day without hives, all wonderful reasons to rejoice! We met at a local coffee shop for the birthday, and Ariana and I had rose steamers. My 94 year old grandmother tried a sip and thought it the oddest thing she had tasted in a long time, but Ariana felt like a princess drinking a rose-petal drink. The lovely coffee drinks, with the elaborate heart and leaf shaped cream, also failed to impress Grandma. She prefers QuikTrip coffee. LOL. To each her own, right?

Last night, after we got home, Ariana climbed up on the arm of the couch. Just as I turned to tell her to get down, Joelito "assisted" her off. She landed with a thud and a scream. We made sure she could move her arm OK, and there was no visible swelling or problems, but I could tell she wasn't using it, either. She woke at midnight in extreme pain, and so we spent a second night at the ER this week. We didn't get home till nearly six in the morning. I'm too tired to give all the details, but let's say there was a reason why they did NOT invite us to fill out a comment card on our experience. The nurse practicioner noticed that Ariana couldn't extend her arm, but the X ray didn't indicate a fracture.

Carlos, Ariana and I slept about an hour, if that. I had to take Elena in for her follow up. We were there nearly three hours. It was frustrating to wait that long, but I did have a lovely conversation with the nurses and doctor there who are very relieved that we don't vaccinate. They actually gave me some great info on different studies about it and some other links, too. Best of all, they got us into our allergist THIS WEEK! Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles! We live in one of the worst cities in the nation for allergies, and it typically takes months to get in. Getting an appointment for Friday is absolutely amazing!

No rest for the weary, this afternoon we followed up with Ariana's ped. Despite an entirely different philosophy on vaxing, I love her. She did a much more thorough examination than we got in the ER, and found that her elbow is definitely hurt. There are several movements she can't make. X rays of the elbow (which were not taken last night) show a line that may or may not be a fracture. She's getting a second opinion on it, but at least we have a sling that fits and are watching for her.

Tomorrow, since she hasn't been through enough this week, Ariana goes in for four crowns. She can't have anything to eat or drink after midnight tonight, and it will be quite a session tomorrow. I'm hoping that it won't be a bad experience, though.

Friday is Elena's allergist appointment, Saturday we are celebrating SIL's graduation. Sunday is Mother's Day, Monday I go in for an examination to see if I can get my wisdom teeth, which are causing problems, extracted with local rather than general anesthetic. And Tuesday? I am looking forward to a day without any appointments of any kind. Maybe, just maybe, I'll even get to sleep (but I probably shouldn't count on it).

Monday, May 4, 2009

I'm too tired to title this one. Allergies again.

We had a wonderful anniversary, and continued the celebration on Saturday. The Saturday afternoon, Elena broke out with a few hives on her face and one of her cheeks was very red. I thought it might be a reaction to my new deodorant, so I gave her some Benedryl and bathed and changed. She was fine the rest of the evening.

Then, Sunday morning, she got the worst case of hives I've ever seen. They covered her face, arms and legs, and swelled up until they had merged into the size of my fist. She was one giant head to toe hive. I gave her Benedryl, prayed, got the epi pen ready and watched closely for breathing issues. Thank God, she was laughing and babbling the whole time, and responded quickly to the Benedryl.

We took her into Urgent Care and she was given prednisone and told to keep up the Benedryl every six hours for the next day or two. She was completely cleared up and I hoped that the meds would keep her from any more reactions while I racked my brain trying figure out what could be causing it. No changes in detergent or anything. She still isn't eating solids, although both days she managed to grab part of a chip. Could all of this really be from a fragment of a plain potato chip??? (Yes, it could, although I don't really think it is.) Wait! She had also gotten a hold of a chocolate wrapper that had had nuts in it and put it in her mouth...

Three hours after her second dose of Benedryl, she broke out again. It was only on her arm, not her whole body, but they continued to grow and swell until it was one huge hive covering most of her arm. The doc said that since it was too early for more Benedryl and the prednisone hadn't helped to head to the ER. We were there for several hours, and the hives didn't die down for more than four hours. Elena was incredibly good natured through it all, although she protested a few times that I didn't let her chew on her socks. :)

It was after 11:00 PM when we got home. Carlos had stayed with Ariana and Joel while my SIL and I went with Bittykins to the ER. After we dropped SIL off, Elena missed the company and started crying and screaming. You know my feelings on CIO under any circumstances, let alone when my poor baby has spent most of the day at the ER. At the same time, we were exhausted and I really wanted to get home before midnight.

I tried talking and singing and turning her light on. The screams just intensified. I stopped to comfort her, but as soon as I put her back in her seat she screamed again, and it sounded like she was going to throw up. We finally made it home, and of course, when I gave her her dose of meds she immediately vomited everything up. Knowing that vomiting can be an allergic reaction as well made me nervous, but I was 99% sure that it was just from the combination of crying and meds.

She hasn't slept great, although she is thankfully asleep right now. Ariana and Joel were very reproachful at being left behind when their beloved Super Baby was in trouble. They had a serious discussion on the possibilities of following us to the hospital in another car, but Ariana pointed out that it didn't have car seats. They deliberated and decided the best option was to walk to the hospital. Right now, Joelito is sleeping with his arm around Elena. They love their little sister!

I'm waiting for the doctor's office to open so that I can update him on everything and request a referral to our allergist for testing. I know of a lot of friends whose peds refused to refer babies under a year for testing, but given our family history and the severity of her reaction, I think I can talk ours into it. If I have to, I'd switch to Ariana and Joel's ped (if we can do that with the vax issues). Oy. Anyway, I'm hopeful that he'll agree to it without any problems.

So, another round of testing, probably elimination diets. Heh--I'm afraid to eat anything today for fear that it will trigger another reaction. I had been thinking that we were probably being pretty silly for delaying solids so long, but if the reaction was from something in my milk, can you imagine how much worse it might have been if she had ingested it directly? I don't want to (shudders). Let's hope that today does not include any reactions!

Friday, May 1, 2009

A decade

Today is our tenth anniversary. I was going to title this something sappy like 'A decade of delight' (you all know my weakness for alliteration). It sounds corny, I know, but it would be true. There is no question that it has been the best ten years of my life (even though the previous 20+ were overall happy ones, too). I can't put into words how grateful I am for my amazing, wonderful husband. Someone gave me the idea of listing the top ten memories. Of course, there are way too many to narrow it down, but in no particular order, these are among my favorites:

1. The look in his eyes during the wedding ceremony.

2. All the times we have shared a joke without any verbal communication at all.

3. His tenderness, patience and playfulness with the kids. I love listening to him make up superhero bedtime stories.

4. Listening to the sound of his voice reading the Bible while my head is on his shoulder.

5. Getting a letter from him. The anticipation was always fun, and they always went beyond my expectations. His words are lodged in my heart.

6. Worlds of fun. All of the trips we have taken, both near and far. He is a fantastic traveling companion.

7. Watching Star Trek and sci-fi movies together.

8. Playing the piano together. Listening to Keith Green, Marcos Witt, Marco Barrientos, Danilo Montero together.

9. Woodward Park. Our walks and talks there.

10. Sharing thunderstorms. He is one of the few people who delights in a good storm as much as I do.

11. The class I took with him. I know firsthand what a gifted teacher he is. The peace that fills the area around him.

12. Resting in him. He is my place to lay my head.

OK, I've exceeded 10 already, and obviously, some things will always be just between the two of us. I can truly say that he goes beyond my wildest, happiest dreams (and I've got a pretty good imagination). Each year of marriage has been wonderful and better than the last. I can't wait to see what the future holds, but I'm cherishing each moment right now.