Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Teaching

My cousin Sara had some insight into working conditions and lunch hour activities for teachers in BC, and I wanted to share her comment here for everyone to see.  I had hoped she would weigh in on this topic because she is a teacher and knows more than I do about working conditions for teachers.  She teaches high school and is a committed and passionate teacher.  Good at what she does.  This is what she had to say;

I am paid for 4.5 hours of work each day (I'm a high school teacher). Each day I spend 3 hours in direct teaching, 3 more hours prepping and marking, about 30 mins meeting with students to discuss, help, etc, another 30 mins meeting with other teachers, support workers and admin to ensure that no students are falling through the cracks (we are a no kid left behind school and we take it very seriously, so this actually takes a lot of time), and then I coach, which is about 6 additional hours per week, unpaid and honestly, unappreciated. So on an average day, I work 7-9 hours (almost twice what I am paid for). I know that there are teachers who do not put this kind of commitment in, but not many. My son's grade one teacher, uses her 40 minute lunch break to wolf down some food, talk to the support workers, answer emails or calls from parents and to get ready for the afternoon. Rarely, do teachers sit down, socialize and eat. The laws around lunch breaks is almost unchanged in BC from 30 years ago, outside time was longer then for kids.

Just so everyone knows

On Schooling, and On My Kid is a Bully

I did a post recently on Schooling, which sparked some cool discussion, and I wanted to continue it.  This discussion is also relevant to my post on Matthew bullying his peers, so I thought I'd tackle both in one shot.  Or try.

When I was home for Christmas, I talked to both my brother and my dad about my brother's experience with school.  I had some of the facts about my brother's homeschooling experience wrong~he was home for about half a year, my dad said, and although my dad (as a former teacher) was in charge of his 'education,' he said that they hardly did any schoolwork.  My dad said that Chad was so much more mature than his peers in many, many ways, but just didn't fit in the box of normal as far as reading is concerned.  What Chad needed more than schooling was a break from it all, so my dad kept him home and they worked around the farm and did a very minimal amount of schoolwork here and there.  And the following fall, my brother started a grade ahead of where he left off, skipping grade five altogether.  My brother essentially repeated grade one and skipped grade five.

My brother hardly remembered this period of time, but he had a lot to say about school.  He said that the experience of repeating a grade is really hard on a kid's self esteem, and that school is largely a waste of time.  He said it is good to learn to read and do math, and the basics of the three 'R's,' but that beyond that life experience adds more to a person's life and is more useful as an adult than formal education.  He speaks from experience, since he is a very successful entrepreneur who owns two businesses, a farm, a home, and has a healthy, growing family.  All markers of success and emotional health.
I said that from my perspective it seemed that elementary school offered a ton of support and extra learning assistance built around the way his brain was wired.  However, once he hit high school, he was largely left to his own devices.  He agreed, and said that, "In high school, I was on my own.  It was a complete waste of my time."  Based on his experience, he will send his kids to elementary school but it will be entirely their choice whether to continue on beyond that, and how; be it online, homeschooling, or conventional high school.  He likes the small, Mennonite school in his town and would prefer Birch and their other future kids to go there because he likes the Mennonite emphasis on community and good morals.  He likes their sense of discipline and hard work ethic.  But he is open to other elementary school options as long as the school itself is small.

I appreciate his perspective.  I lean more towards valuing continued education, and value diversity over small, tight knit community schools, but I totally value the fact that Chad's experience made him think outside the box, and become wide open as far as his children's educational choices.


I also appreciated the perspectives of everyone who commented on my last post.  Building community around and within a school environment is important to Louise, remaining open to re evaluating how conventional school is working year by year is important to Sara, schooling at home through play is important to Asheya, and Caryn points out the fact that sometimes it feels more pressing to make a choice when there ARE choices, as opposed to when there is simply one choice and everyone takes that path as a matter of course. 

I have to say, that for my high needs kid, I would be at a loss as to how to teach him at home.  I could easily 'teach' Ayden; creative ideas to spark his imagination, and then let him follow his mind where it goes.  But Matthew?  Harnessing that kid's attention long enough to get him to put on his shoes is a herculean feat.  Education?  Good luck.  I'm just not an expert in 'special needs,' as it were.  This is where I need the experts to help me out.  People who went to school for five years to learn how to be teachers, and then the support staff who have further education (or as in the case of the school psychologist, six years of education pertaining to psychology~and in her personal case, LOTS of personal experience with learning challenges within her own family so she *GETS IT*), and administrators who have experience...  Yeah, I need help with this one.  This kid is intense.  Lovely, amazing, gorgeous, wild, and intense. 

I'm so glad we got the ball rolling last fall to test Matthew for learning challenges.  If we had not, and this is a year earlier than most children get tested, Matthew's behavioural issues would feel incredibly overwhelming without much chance at resolution.  I feel like once we get a diagnosis we can research specific to his challenges and support him better than we are now, which is mainly fumbling in the dark, with parenting tools specific to 'normal' children (I tend to think of ADHD and SPD as 'normal' manifestations of variety within our species, and not 'pathological,' nor 'disabilities,' which is why I avoid the phrase 'learning disability(ies)' when talking about them.  We as adults need to bend the way we teach and parent around him and the way his brain is (quite beautifully) wired to operate.

I get some comments from some of the (few) people who know about this diagnostic process about how we need to avoid LABELS.  I have a few words to say about labels.  A diagnosis is power in one's hand.  Trust me, after years and YEARS of operating with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, the state of mind I had dubbed this wild kind of crazy that has no name, or alternately the something that is wrong with me, I can assure you that a diagnosis is power.  I am calm, today, despite myriad life circumstances whirling around me that would have thrown me wildly off balance in my previous existence, because I know what is wrong with me.  It has a name.  It has treatments that work.  It has supportive organizations and groups of people who either also live with it, or who work as experts in their field to help manage it (often both simultaneously).  I have power over my anxiety disorder because I know it's name.
Similarly, Matthew has something in his brain that operates differently, and when we know the name of that condition, it will give us power.  It will give his teachers and support staff power.  Most of all, it will give MATTHEW power to harness his full potential and unleash his circular shaped intelligence upon a world that draws almost exclusively in parallel lines.
The problem with labels is that adults who should know better use them.  They slap them on kids and see the diagnosis as descriptive of the entire person, and treat them unfairly.  They do things like ask a ten year old who is acting squirrely, "Did you take your medication today?!" in front of the entire class.  On a weekly, sometimes daily basis, in the most humiliating tone known to mankind.  True story: this happened to a boy named Paul who was in my grade five class.  I used to seethe inside at her when she humiliated him that way.  It never failed to shame him into submission, but she lost all my respect pretty early on in the year.  Take that, Mrs. Lortie.  Eat some crow, you shameless woman.

I fear that for my kid.  Of course I do.  That, or something similar.  But I'm pretty confident that I am in close enough communication with Matthew's teachers that I could detect a lack of respect for my kid and celebration of his strengths and recognition of him as a whole person pretty early on and request a change in teacher.  If it were not granted, I would have absolutely no qualms about changing schools.

The problem is not inherent in getting a diagnosis, the problem is the damn adults.  Upon whom I wish all manner of evil.

Having grown up with a brother with diagnosable learning challenges, who was mature and bright in so many ways that went unrecognized by school, and who was incredibly helped and supported by said diagnosis in elementary school, I'm fully on board with testing.  Testing early, and thoroughly, by high quality support staff.  Because knowledge is power.  And I need help, raising this kid; I need tools that work, I need support circles of other parents, I need teachers who know how to bend their curriculum goals around my child's wonderful brain so that he can learn and grow.  And I need something fast, so we can help him internalize a sense of self control so that he doesn't jeopardize any more friendships.

On the one hand, yes, I wish teachers were present for lunch time at school.  But this is law, in BC, that teachers must have their full lunch break and not be required to supervise during that time.  We don't have lunchrooms, for teachers to take turns or for parent volunteers to rotate supervising our kids; each class eats in their classroom, at their desks, and there are not enough administrators or parent volunteers for 18 divisions, every day.
When I was growing up, we ate lunch at our desks and our teacher supervised us.  She/he shooed us out after ten or fifteen minutes, and then the teacher went to the staffroom for lunch break.  I don't totally see what was wrong with this picture, but then again labour laws are in place to protect workers from burnout and unfair treatment.  All I can say is that paramedics do not have scheduled breaks (except for transfer fleet paramedics), and that in my 9 years of work I never once had a one hour lunch break.  PLENTY of times we sat around on our duffs for hours on end waiting for calls, but also plenty of times I worked 12 hours straight and the only time I sat down was while we were driving in the ambulance.  I've eaten many a sandwich or yogurt while driving Code 3 in traffic on the way to help out a dying someone.  I'm guessing the thinking is that you can't not respond to a life or death call because all the ambulances are out to lunch.  Rotating lunch breaks won't work because SO frequently all ambulances in one town are busy, that you would get pulled off your lunch break so often as to make it kind of ridiculous to even try and eat.  We usually ate between calls, or at the hospital while waiting for a non critical patient to get a bed.  A process we not so respectfully dubbed "babysitting a patient," or "sitting" them.  "I'm just sitting an SOB, you go grab a coffee and I'll watch your patient," was common.  Nobody ever complained, and I didn't really see anything wrong with this.  It's the nature of the job. [SOB=Shortness of Breath, not Son of a Bitch.  FYI].

The fact that teachers in practice work six hours in close proximity to students, and then another 2 to 3 hours (or less, for experienced teachers) on prep or marking after students have gone home kind of makes one think that a full hour in the staff room is perhaps not all that necessary.  But on the other hand, teachers are quite hassled in our province and don't have fantastic working conditions in other areas, so perhaps the full hour is a part of a necessary support system to ensure the longevity of our teachers' careers.

It's a moot point anyway, because the full lunch break for teachers is law in our province, for a unionized work force, so there is no changing it.  Less than optimal supervision it is, then.

But shouldn't a seven year old be able to control his behaviour enough to be unsupervised for ten to fifteen minutes while he eats his lunch?  Matthew is partially culpable here, too.  It is NOT too much to expect of him to be kind to others for ten unsupervised minutes.  Well, it might be, but you can see my point.  But I know that his profound lack of impulse control is at the root of his behaviour.  I also know that a small measure of the cause lies in power acquisition.  He is human, and thus he appreciates the merits of acquiring power.  Because he has so little impulse control and is so highly distractable, he has less autonomy and freedom of choice than most seven year olds.  We have to monitor him more closely and implement more rigid standards and routines and expectations than we would with a 'normal' child, and I know that affects him.  So he has 'less' power over his environment than is developmentally appropriate (and always has), plus the normal human drive/need for power, so I think that exercising some power over his peers is appealing.  Because his low impulse control is (largely; there is some choice involved on his part) responsible for the diminishing of autonomy in his life, it sucks that the very thing he needs is something his brain won't allow him to get.  We simply cannot give him the autonomy he craves because when we do, he goes wild.  He's relieved when we implement external controls for him, but at the same time he wrestles with them.  It's a tough thing.
I may even be wrong; this is simply my take on him and on our lives.  As his mom I'm a pretty good authority on what makes Matthew tick.

So what I'm praying for now, is the right diagnosis.  Teachers with tools and skills that work with my child.  A name for me to go forth and research treatments and support for.  Something I can take to my naturopath and say, "What do you recommend?"

Some days, Matthew's impulse control is so low and his behaviour so juvenile, frustrating, repetitive, distracted, hyper, or rude that I'm like "UNIVERSE, SHOW ME THE PILL AND I'LL USE IT, SHOW ME THE MAGICAL MEDICATION THAT WILL FIX THIS KID, SHOW ME THE MONEY."   Of course I know this is the wrong approach, but I want to express to you the extent of my frustration in trying to teach my child the most basic skills.  How can a person be expected to learn when the sound of a knife falling to the ground and the feeling of an itch on his or her knee feels just as loud and important and vies as strongly for his or her attention as the parent in front of them re explaining for the hundredth time why shoving people under the trampoline when there are people on it is dangerous?  And when that person lives in a family with six people, one dog, a cat, and a fairly loud family volume?  Show me the magic, man.  The magical key or keys that will help tone down the wild distracting chatter of his brain and help him.  Help him to focus.  Help him to pee in the toilet, one hundred percent of the time.  Help him to read by accessing his cache of memorized words, and sounding out the ones he doesn't have memorized.  Help him to think, "It's not mine and I want to respect others," right after "I want that."
I want him to do the right thing when it comes to kindness and respect for his friends because it is the right thing to do, and not because he wants to please me or his father or his teachers, and not because he is afraid of getting caught, or the consequences if he does.  But he's just not there yet.  He's nowhere near internalizing the right thing to do.  Most seven year olds don't have this down ALL the time, but most have it figured out SOME of the time.  Matthew has this figured out NONE of the time, and it will cost him in social relationships if we cannot help him.

And that is where we are at, with that.  Le sigh.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Guest Post on Mama Birth!!

I sent my birth story from Riley's birth to the Mama Birth website, and it got published!  Check it out!  =)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Kid, The Bully

I remember several school bullies from elementary school.  One was this boy who was about five grades ahead of me and would push smaller kids off the slide or down the sledding hill without provocation, and would tease people mercilessly.  He had a deformed arm, and I remember thinking he must feel pretty bad about that and take it out on others.  I don't think he had many friends.
And then (now this is a fantastic example), my sister had her front teeth knocked out by a kid named Robert Smazz who had an anger problem and was famous for punching kids with very little warning.  He teased my brother once in front of me and I chased him off and threatened to punch him in the face if he tried that again.  I was about ten.  Robert Smazz resurfaced about five years ago as impersonating a paramedic in various communities in our province, including the town I grew up in, and several cities in the Vancouver area.  He had flunked out of paramedic school but somehow got his hands on a uniform and would go to hospitals on the pretext of skills assessment (we sometimes did that for licensing purposes) and start IVs and administer medications to patients.  For kicks.  I guess.  I have no idea why he did that but there was a provincewide search going on for awhile and I called my sister and was like
MEGAN ROBERT SMAZZ IS IMPERSONATING A PARAMEDIC!!!!
She was all, OMG ARE YOU KIDDING ME???
I included his real name because he's a real life criminal.  Kidding.  I changed it.

I kind of figured that kids who are elementary school bullies have anger issues.  Their parents are divorced or they have a weird arm deformity or they struggle in school and it makes them angry and they take it out on other kids in the playground.  I totally figured the Robert Smazz's were on the fast track to fraud, so to speak.

Then, once I had kids and hung out with other moms and their kids, I started to see that every kid is good.  That whole bad seed thing is a myth.  Kids stumble around while they learn everything, and this includes appropriate social behaviour.  Some kids are biters and others are criers and others are tattle tales but they are all good kids.  When Matthew went to preschool there was another little boy there whom Matthew adored.  Matthew always really wanted to be included in whatever this boy was doing during free play time, and this other boy was having none of it.  He was mean to my kid, who was so open and beautiful in his adoration and generosity, and it was hard to watch.  But I felt very convicted that this other boy was just a little boy, stumbling around and learning as he goes, just like my children do. 
To be honest, in this instance I chalked it up to insecure attachment in the other kid and hoped his parents would connect with him before he became Robert Smazz.

Yeah, judge not lest you be judged.  PLANK IN THINE OWN EYE PLANK IN THINE OWN EYE.



My kid is a bully.  Before Christmas one of Matthew's friend's moms contacted me.  Matthew had been physically bullying her son on the playground, and stealing parts of his lunch.  We had long, protracted discussions with Matthew about appropriate touch, the nature of friendships, and appropriate social behaviour.  Matthew was contrite and eventually apologized and agreed not to do it again.  He was quite worried about the state of their friendship and didn't want to lose this friend of his.
And then the mom contacted me the following week because Matthew stole his friend's lunch again.  Ate it in front of him.  And laughed in his face.  The teacher was contacted, and she implemented a life lesson approach that actually is quite impactful, usually, for Matthew: before school the next day she took the entire contents of his desk and hid them, and proceeded to teach class as usual.  At lunchtime she gave the contents back, and had a long discussion about how it feels to have someone take something that belongs to you.  He seemed to understand.
And then the next day he stole his friend's lunch again.  This was getting ridiculous, and we were now speaking in massively redundant terms when discussing it with Matthew at home.  Meanwhile, both little boys are crying and afraid of losing their friendship, the friend's dad is mad and wants to tell the principal, we are beside ourselves with frustration.  We implemented the consequence of no Wii for a week (Santa brought our kids a Wii for Christmas and they can play for 30 minutes per day provided they are on pretty good behaviour), and if his brothers were playing, he had to go into a different room so that he wouldn't be tempted to watch, which is nearly as fun as playing yourself.

Brent put his foot down and told Matthew that he couldn't eat lunch with this friend anymore.  He couldn't talk to him, play with him, or eat with him, since he couldn't control his behaviour with regards to the friend's lunchbox.  I told Matthew that every day, his friend will go home and tell his mom whether Matthew bullied him, and his mother and I will make contact and discuss it.

No parent wants their kid to be bullied.  And I can tell you from experience that no parent wants to be the parent of a bully.  School pickup by now is a walk of shame.  The parents of this boy are very patient and gracious people, but they are wearing thin.  They just want to protect their kid, you know?  He shouldn't have to be afraid at school.  Or hungry.  The teacher is optimistic, and has had long discussions with Matthew, Matthew and his friend, and the class as a whole.  They have reviewed class rules, with deep emphasis on respect and kindness towards others.
When asked, Matthew says that his friend's lunch just looks so yummy, and I just want it really bad.  We are frustrated enough to chew our own necks.  Matthew knows the rules, but when the teacher is not in the class (all of this behaviour is happening during lunch hour, when older kids are brought in as lunch monitors and the teachers go to the staff room for their break), he pretty much takes what he wants and taunts his friend.  Operative word: FRIEND.  Like, my goodness. 

Matthew is not an angry kid.  He is gregarious and social, charismatic and funny, and exhibits all signs of being well attached and emotionally settled within the context of our family and his school community.  He doesn't fit my stereotype of a kid who is a bully.  He's no Robert Smazz. He's not even like the kid in preschool, though maybe on second thought that kid just didn't know how to cope with not wanting to play with someone.  Someone who looks different, talks funny, and stutters like nobody's business, no less.  Matthew's speech and language issues are largely resolved so he doesn't talk funny anymore, although he still maintains a mild stutter.  Which doesn't bother him in the slightest.
We are reasonably sure that Matthew's bullying stems from a strong lack of impulse control.  Since the day we adopted him, he has had difficulty with impulse control, short term memory problems, and high distractibility.  He struggles academically, although with an excellent teacher and a classroom based on individualized learning he has really come quite far this year.  He also has an immature and irritable bladder, so he pees his pants every single day.  Usually multiple times a day.  He wears a pullup at night, and it is full every morning.  He had chronic, frequent ear infections as a small child and had major speech pathologies as a result.  Three plus years of speech therapy and surgery to put tubes in his ears have helped HUGELY with his speech, language, and reading fluency.  All of this adds up to a child who is incredibly bright, positive, friendly, helpful, and fun, who is a late bloomer, AND who merits being tested by the school district psychologist for a learning disability.  The psychologist started testing in November and will be completed soon (it is taking longer than average because, her words "He is so highly distractible.")   I will not be surprised if he has ADD or ADHD, and/or some sort of Sensory Processing Disorder.
HENCE, we, his teacher, and his learning assistance support staff agree that impulse control is likely at the root of his bullying behaviour at school.  Particularly during unsupervised school time (because, lets face it, two eleven year olds are pretty much peers and not really authority figures at lunchtime).  He wants something, and his impulse control is largely external at this point, so if no adult is around, he just takes it.  He can't really deal with the immediate emotional fallout, so he taunts and teases. 

So not my stereotype.

SO not what other parents, peers, non teacher adults (Matthew's soccer coach yells at him all the time because he doesn't know how to deal with Matthew's personality), and other people see when they look at him.  They (often) see a bad seed.  A kid they deem 'disrespectful,' 'rude,' 'not listening,' or 'mean,' instead of just a kid stumbling around making mistakes while he grows up.  Plus his brain is wired differently so he has more to cope with than your average kid.

As you can imagine, being Matthew's mom is kind of like being handed a really sweet, feral cat.  Good luck harnessing that one.  Good luck staying sane.  Just, good luck.



Today the school Vice Principal called.  When I see the kids' school name on my call display I no longer think one of them is missing or hurt.  I generally groan inwardly, knowing Matthew has done SOMETHING.  Last year, he peed on a friend sort of by accident, and then laughed at him.  The year before, he bit someone.  And this year, food thief.
The VP is really nice, and sees Matthew for who he IS, not some bad seed.  Thank GOD.  But Matthew has now started a "Pack" in his classroom.  Essentially it's a gang.  They rove, steal toys, and threaten others with social ostracization if they oppose.  Within the class.  During lunch.  Oh my GAWD.  One of the other parents phoned the VP to complain (because talking to the teacher wouldn't somehow suffice, or talking to the parent of the child?!  Pull out the big guns first, man.  Totally). 


More talk.  More protracted discussion.  Probably a meeting with us, teachers, learning support staff, and administration.  Can I just say one thing?  Okay, two.

If you come across a kid who seems like a bully, LOVE HIM ANYWAYS.  If he's angry because life shit on him, or if he is simply wired differently and is stumbling around in the dark, LOVE HIM.  Love him in your heart and in your actions, and be extra, extra patient.

Second, not all kids misbehave because their parents are bad parents.  Misbehaviour is often just a symptom.  My kid isn't angry, belligerent, or cruel.  He's just so full of want.  He has no filter for his wants and desires.  So he takes.  We're working on it.  He's being tested, we're researching diet changes, supplements, alternative treatments, and educational tricks to help him build an internal filter.  A sense of self control.  And to calm the chatter that distracts him so viciously. 

Matthew, my feral cat.  Rawr.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vegetarian Foodie Friday

My friend Melodie from Breastfeeding Moms Unite! Used to host Vegetarian Foodie Fridays every week, when she was blogging regularly.  One of my biggest disappointments since I started blogging was the day she announced she was going to stop writing on her blog.  It still exists, and is a wonderful resource for anyone looking for a wealth of information on breastfeeding, even if Mel doesn't blog on a regular basis anymore.

I miss her Foodie Fridays.  She is a vegetarian and posted a wonderful array of vegetarian recipes and ideas, which inspired me many times.  We are not vegetarians in the Vose house, but it is healthy and ecological to eat less meat, so new vegetarian recipes are always welcome.  I own two vegetarian cookbooks; one by John Lennon of all people, and the other by someone named Linda Fraser.  I bought them when I was just starting to teach myself to cook, because cooking meat seemed very daunting.  And gross.  (I was a vegetarian from age 13 to age 23, so meat has not always been my friend per se).  And risky!  You could kill your whole family with one error!  I was a bit silly.  BUT the vegetarian cookbooks have come in very handy over the years, and I dip into them when I'm feeling veggie-ish.

Tonight was a veggie-ish night.  We had Tomato, Lentil and Onion soup, homemade foccacia bread, and artichoke dip.  Sometimes my combos are kind of funny: roast chicken with greek salad, or pizza and veggie sticks or something.  The artichoke dip was really one of those last minute things that you make because it looks good and you can't get it out of your head.  I needed to use up the artichokes anyways.

Without further ado~Tomato Lentil and Onion soup!  (by Linda Fraser)

2 tsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3/4 cup split red lentils
2 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (I used a jar of canned tomatoes)
3 3/4 cups (900mL) vegetable stock
2 tsp dried 'herbes de Provence'~I googled that and came up with dill, parsley, and other green dried herbs, and a dash of allspice.  The dill is a really nice compliment to the tomatoes.
salt and pepper
This is my actual pot.  YUMMY.
chopped parsley, to garnish (I used dried and it was fine)

1. Heat oil in a large pot.  Add onion and celery and cook for 5 minute, stirring occasionally.  Add the lentils and cook for 1 minute.
2. Stir in tomatoes, stock, dried herbs, salt and pepper.  Cover, bring to boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. When lentils are cooked and tender, set soup aside to cool slightly.
4. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth (I used my new, Christmas immersion blender and it was AWESOME!).  Season with salt and pepper, return to saucepan and reheat until piping hot.  Garnish with chopped parsley (we also garnish with croutons, because croutons are the new ketchup and my kids will eat any soup as long as it has croutons on it).



My foccacca bread recipe is to die for, and it's from allrecipes.com and is called Michael's Foccacia Bread.  Nobody has ever disliked this recipe, to my knowledge.  =)

1 Tbsp honey
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp dry yeast
1 Tbsp kosher salt (I'm no expert but I've been told kosher salt is less salty?  If you use regular salt, use less)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
5 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary (I grew rosemary in my garden last summer, dried some in my oven, and kept it in a jam jar.  LEST YOU THINK I'm a gardening diva; I did the same with parsley and wound up with a jam jar full of mold.  Bwahahahahahaha.... Anyways, the dried stuff works just fine.  Don't break the bank for fresh stuff)
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (this varies for me; I don't often have enough money for fresh parm, so I use what I have on hand.  Tonight it was a combo of Kraft grated dried parmesan and shredded mozzerella.  Tasted good!  Looked amazing!  We have the Costco sized dried parm in our fridge all the time because it is similar to croutons: the kids will eat anything if you disguise it under parmesan cheese.  Also, I use lots of Deceptively Delicious recipes and she uses dried parm in her recipes, too.  Breaded chicken strips?  Combine dried breadcrumbs with dried parm and you've got yourself an amazingly popular chicken strip.... True story!)
1 Tbsp kosher salt (see above on using less if non kosher salt)

  1. Dissolve honey in the warm water in a large bowl, then sprinkle yeast over the top. Let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast softens and begins to foam. Stir in 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, onions, and 5 cups of flour until the dough comes together. Knead on a well floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 415 degrees F (215 degrees C).
  3. Place dough onto oiled baking sheet, and flatten to cover the whole sheet evenly. Use the tips of your fingers to make indentations all over the dough spaced about 1 inch apart. Drizzle the focaccia with 3 tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle rosemary, Parmesan cheese, and remaining 1 tablespoon of kosher salt over the top. Let rise for 10 minutes
  4. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes until golden brown.

I cut and pasted that last bit.  I hope you will forgive me.  This is what the end product looks like, and it takes less than an hour:

I will be accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for this bread someday, I know it.

The dip was from a jar, where someone gifts you a jar of dried spices and you add sour cream, cheese, and artichokes and make the most amazing dip to dazzle all your friends with your culinary genius, you know?  So I don't really have the recipe, other than to say "Buy a jar of artichoke dip spices and follow the instructions on the label."  It was amazing, the kids wouldn't touch it, but it wasn't very photogenic so I'm not going to share a picture of it.  Sorry.

I hope you enjoyed this version of Vegetarian Foodie Friday!  We gobbled it up, croutons and all.  Oh, and our croutons are the big Costco sized bag of chock full of everything bad for you croutons.  I have made my own before but I have one word for you: FOUR KIDS. 
I guess that's two.

=)

Guest Post on Momma Jorje!

I have a guest post up on Momma Jorje's blog about breastfeeding Matthew!!  Enjoy...

Me and the Duggars

Mama Birth posted last fall about The Duggars~you know, the 19 Kids and Counting show I love so much?  Well Mama Birth hit the nail on the head with this one... I ditto everything she said...

4 Reasons I React When The Duggars Get Slammed

Me, too.

Review and Giveaway

I put up a new review and giveaway on Mothers of Change!  This giveaway is for an amazing book, Complimentary Feeding: Nutrition, Culture and Politics, by the same author who wrote The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business (Gabrielle Palmer, adviser to UNICEF and founder of the UK IBFAN, Infant Baby Food Action Network).  Check out our giveaway contest at Mothers of Change!

Riley, 8 months, eating french onion soup (visit Mothers of Change to see why this photo relates to this post!)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Update

I am so behind in blogging.  I apologize!  I've been super busy these days--with what, I can't imagine--and I always seem to be in I'll get to it soon mode with Mothers of Change OR ye olde blog.  I think a bullet post is in order...

-Brent started a new position at work.  He's quite happy there and its intellectually stimulating and a nice change for him after 4 years on the road.  I'm happy for him (very) but the juxtaposition with my life and the fact that I recently quit my job makes it difficult for me.  Not hugely, but somewhat.  I feel a bit like I'm watching him takeoff in his career just as mine halts for good.  I mean, professionally I wanted a change anyways and I'm certainly filling the small amount of extra time I have with artistic and advocacy pursuits, but my gut reaction to this change in Brent's life is to feel a bit small and unimportant.
Always awesome, he's quick to reassure me that our family is the main focus of BOTH of our lives, and that given the CHOICE, he wouldn't work, but since we need an income he may as well do a job he enjoys.  So that's amazing.  He's just so good, and knows the right thing to say all the time.  =)

-Our van heater died all the way.  A few weeks ago, when we got back from Vernon.  There's nothing like something not working at all to make you appreciate what you had, even when what you had was the burn and freeze.  No sooner did the van heater die, and a cold front arrived, complete with ice, frost, six inches of snow, blowing wind, and bone chilling cold.  It is remarkable how ironic this is.
I appreciate two things about this situation.  First, that the van heater held out in burn and freeze mode for the entirety of our trip through the mountains to my parents' place and back after Christmas.  Second, a friend of ours has volunteered her boyfriend to help scour the auto wreckers in our area for a new heater, which can cost the value of our commuter car when ordered new through the dealership.
At this point, the kids wear full snow gear to survive even five minute trips in the van, and I have a new appreciation for moms in colder climates, because it really does take an inordinate amount of time to gear up four kids and one mom for deep cold.  Like, twenty minutes.  Yes.  Seriously.  Normally I'm military about car seat and seat belt safety and nobody wears their coat under their belt.  But I tell you, there's no way around it at sub zero with no heat. 
If I could park the van in the garage it would really help because at least the seats and the air in the van would be warmer than outside temperatures but right now they are bone chilly.  Our van won't fit in our garage~not because of stuff in our garage, but because our garage was built in the 80s with two small sedans in mind.  There's a supporting beam smack in the middle that won't allow the van to advance far enough into the garage for the garage door to close.  It's probably not that helpful to park in there anyways, since the garage is almost as cold as the driveway.
And who knew a working van heater was so fundamental to quality of life anyways?  But it really does dictate my day.  I HATE getting in that van and will avoid it at ALL costs, even preferring to walk to the pool in a snowstorm yesterday with Amarys on my back and Riley in the stroller rather than get in that thing and drive.  It's the new way to be green.  Amarys hated me for that entire walk, I tell you.  If babies could swear she would have been all over that shit, yo.

-The kids are doing well.  Amarys is so close to her first birthday, it is scary.  Where did that year go?  Wow.  She's standing and walking quite a lot: she is on the verge of switching permanently from crawling to walking, but hasn't developed full confidence yet.  It is funny how different each child develops; Ayden took his first steps and within two weeks was walking exclusively.  He only crawled for two months because once he realized he could walk, that was it.  Riley took his first steps at two months older than Ayden was, and walked exclusively about three weeks later.  Maybe four.  Amarys took her first steps in November and still isn't confident in her ability to walk rather than crawl!  We're all different.
Riley is in full three year old mode.  REEEEdiculously cute, and violently annoying, simultaneously.  He just had a bad bout of some sort of Norwalk like virus.  Lasted 2 full days and ruined one of our cushions.  Poor kid.  (and poor me.  That was a lotta watery poop).  He is in love with snow, and his imagination is SO cool to watch in action.  He's hysterical.  He still loves pink and purple, diggers, Mighty Machines, My Little Ponies, and recently pointed to a drawing full of Disney characters and said, "THIS ONE is my favourite," indicating Snow White.  I love him.  He's his own man.
Matthew.  Well.  Matthew's getting his own post in the coming days.  Stay tuned.
Ayden is good also!  He joined the gifted kids program at school and seems to be enjoying it.  He still eats like a bird.  He loves gymnastics.  His life is calmer and more fun now that violin lessons have finished; he's such a serious soul that it is very good for him to be able to let loose and play, and I hadn't really realized how much the daily commitment to practicing was taking away his let loose time and enforcing that serious side of his personality.  Not that I'm happy to see music lessons put on hiatus for now, but since it was financially necessary I can see a good side to it, for now.

-Amarys also had this weird health thing.  She was born with this prominent lump on the back of her head, and in recent months it really was getting more noticeable.  When she was born my midwife examined it and declared it normal, especially because it was bilateral.  But it isn't bilateral anymore.  And it is huge.  So I took her to the doctor for an in depth look over, and didn't really sleep much in the days leading up to the appointment.  Our doc said it is simply a bony prominence in her skull and nothing to worry about, although we are to go back in six weeks for another look.  An x-ray or a CT scan would be the next investigative step, and she (and we) doesn't want to expose Amarys to unnecessary radiation if we can help it.  It doesn't really seem to bother Amarys, although if you poke it a lot she jerks her head away.  If you poke her anywhere she pulls away.  Most people do.

-Fly lady is awesome.  My house has undergone a revolution and a tidy kitchen is the new normal.  This has had the unexpected and pleasant result of all of us working harder to keep things clean.  I have areas of my house which I haven't fully tackled yet: the playroom and spare bedroom are the worst, and the kids' bedrooms are rarely clean.  Our bedroom is moderately messy, but we now make the bed on a regular basis so it looks better.  But the KITCHEN IS CLEAN.  Wow.  This is a first in my life.  I always cleaned it every day before, but in a different configuration.  Before, I would clean it before I made supper, and be too tired to clean it again after supper.  AND the key to a clean kitchen, I have found, is an empty dishwasher.  Who knew?  Same with laundry; the key is folded and put away loads.  Focus on the end, and the beginning will take care of itself.  Wow.  Who knew?

-Also, I have to find a new shipper for Wild Arbutus.  My first order was placed through Etsy last week, and I mailed the toy I charged $15 for and it cost me nearly $12 to ship it.  WOAH NELLY.  Canada Post sucks my ass.  There has to be a better way (AND they offer an admittedly slow shipping option to the United States which costs $5.75 so essentially you can mail a package to a different country and it costs less than half what it costs to ship a package in our own country.  This is ludicrous).  Oh, and I discovered that shipping costs for a company like mine include the cost of the packaging... Nearly $2 per envelope, if you buy it at the post office.  There's gotta be a better deal in bulk somewhere, I just need to find it.  This is called the learning curve.  BUT it was exciting to get an order!  Even if it was placed by my mom (thanks mom!).  =)  Don't forget my shop if you are thinking of a home crafted toy for any kidlets in your life... If you are local I can hand deliver rather than ship, so will save some cost.
Yay Wild Arbutus!

-I posted this on Twitter today and I wanted to share it here because it made me cry I laughed so hard: Is it *actually* bad parenting to say, "Stop acting like an asshole" to your 7 year old?  Because if the shoe fits....

I'm so funny.

-Also, I love the snow.  Yes, it is too cold in my van, but aside from that I LOVE the snow!  It reminds me of Russia in winter, which is hilarious because I grew up in a very wintery climate so you would think it would remind me of home.  But instead, it reminds me of Russia.  I think this is because as an exchange student I lived in an urban area, but I grew up very rural.  So the urbanish area I live in reminds me more of Nizhny Novgorod.  Actually our aforementioned trek to the pool in a snowstorm had less to do with avoiding the van and more to do with wanting to walk in the snowstorm.  I really, really love snow!




-I made home made sweet and sour pork last night.  Sweet and sour pork is one of my all time favourite dishes in the entire world, so it was AWESOME to find a good recipe to make it myself!  There is a lot of sugar in sweet and sour pork, I discovered.  But it was delish!

-if there was a way to make my three year old stop talking to me for just one second of my effing life, and still be nice to him, I would pay over a million dollars for it.  OMG.  I used to wait in gleeful anticipation for Ayden to learn to say "mommy" and now I hate that word.  Hate it.  HatehatehatehateHATE. Hate.  Hate.  Venom.  The number of times it is said in a demanding tone to me in one single day is herculean.  And apparently I needed to vent a little tiny bit about that.  (I may have some cabin fever.  Just a touch.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

34

Today is the anniversary of the first time my mom gave birth.  And it was to me.
Thirty four years ago.
This past year was a full one!  Here is me last year;


I've shrunk a bit since then.  And I can now eat ice cream again, although for the most part I'm supposed to follow a diabetic diet to avoid or put off developing Type II diabetes after two gestational diabetes pregnancies.  So about half the time these days I will turn down dessert (but likely not on my birthday).  And here is me yesterday:


It's been a heck of a year, and I reckon the best one yet.  We moved, had a baby, brought her home, snuggled in, welcomed spring and summer, went camping, welcomed my niece Birch, splashed around in the sun at the water park and at White Rock beach, welcomed fall, hosted thanksgiving and christmas turkey feasts, welcomed my nephew Myles, and I quit my job, and managed to avoid post partum depression or anxiety for the first time ever (WOOT!).  I'm grateful for everything I have.  Some days the sparkle feels like it gets a bit dull but it shines nevertheless.  Like Friday morning when I realized I'd spent most of the past 4 days in the same room, with the same people (the downside to the open concept living space), and I was sick of all of them.  Fortunately that evening snow began to fall and our neighbourhood transformed into a winter wonderland, muted sounds and bright winter days changing up my inner landscape just enough to relieve my cabin fever.

When Amarys was born, this verse brought me a sense of grounded calm, and the knowledge of God's grace; 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; 
not as the world gives, do I give to you.
Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
~John 14:27
My birth was full of peace, and this past year has been peaceful also.  Riley's birth brought me healing, and Amarys' brought me peace.  Ayden's birth brought me experiential knowledge, and Matthew's tested me with fire.  Life is a long journey and each season has its beauty and its dirt, so I know this peaceful bit will eventually be interrupted, but I feel like this peace is something more than a product of the events in my life, and is something I've learned, a character quality that I will in some measure be able to take with me for the rest of my life's journey. 

Hello, 34.


Breastfeeding in the Media


An Adbusters spoof Ad called "Brand Baby"



All brands of awesome...

Introducing Wild Arbutus

I have been attempting to open my own small business for several years now, selling my crochet items.  I've had several opportunities to snag tables at craft fairs but never seemed to be able to stockpile enough toys to actually enter.  It takes me several hours to make most of my favourite toys (the quicker, simpler ones are more boring to make) and anything less than an entire basket bursting full would be embarrassing and hard to make worth the cost of a table.  [I looked into a table at the local Cranberry Festival? $250.  Snort]

So instead, I opened an Etsy shop!  Check it out!!  Need toys for your kids, birthdays, baby showers, nieces and nephews, or for any reason, really?  I'm your man.  =)  Wild Arbutus on Etsy.  ♥


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Quitting

I am a raging feminist.
I don't really advertise this fact.  I shave my legs.  I have a feminine haircut.  But I rage.

This means I endorse (violently defend) women's right to choice.  [I'm not actually debating reproductive rights; good discussion on that one here on Rixa's site, however, if you're up for that].  I think women are awesome and intelligent and multi talented with God given gifts to develop for the building up of society, family, community, and self.  Hide that light under a bushel?  Oh no!  Want to work?  Get thine ass out there and get a job.  Want to stay home?  AWESOME!  Want to combine the two by working part time, working from home, or running your own daycare?  Rock on.  You all rock my world.  And I'm so glad to live in a country, in a time, in a society where choice is possible.

A few weeks ago, I quit my job.  Woah, nelly, that was hard for me to do, emotionally.  Partly because I come from a line of women who work(ed--many are retired).  My mom and her sisters worked.  My other aunts worked.  My grandmothers worked.  Part time, full time, time off til the youngest was in school: this looked different for everyone, but they all worked.  Some from necessity and others from choice, but I think all of them liked working.  It's empowering, contributing tangibly to something important outside your home, you know?  And bringing home money.  I just always assumed I would work, too.  Since I had Ayden I have opted mostly to work part time.  Sometimes I worked full time one week, none the following week, or full time for a few months here and there.  And for a short, six month period when Brent was at job training I worked sixty hour work weeks to put food on the table and pay for our house.  Because training cops and paying them at the same time is somehow ridiculous.  Anyways.  That period of time was very, very hard, but I liked being the breadwinner for a bit.  It was quite nice, caring for my family by providing for them.  Being the main (only) source of income and actually doing not a bad job of it.  I don't endorse sixty hour work weeks, especially when your poor kids are apart from their daddy and have the added weight of far less time with mommy as she frantically tries to pull in enough to survive on, but the breadwinning part was nice. 

[oh, and did I mention I was pregnant with Riley?  Oh, and did I mention that I worked in a very demanding job with a bunch of men who hated working with pregnant women?  Oh, yes.  And did I mention how very much I missed my husband when he was away?  The worst part was the loneliness.  But most of you know all that because you've been reading since those days!!!  Ah, fun times.]

Anyways, after Riley was born and we had three kids I went back to work very part time, one day a week.  But you know, even that was insane.  Nobody ever had clean underwear, school notices got lost, playdates got forgotten, and our house was a disaster.  We both felt like we were running a relay race, full out sprinting all the time; either we were working our rather demanding jobs, or we were running the home show alone while the other one was working (or at least, it felt like it, even though I only worked ONE day a week).  Our kids always had one parent or the other with them, but it was too rushed.  Too crazy.  Too wild for us, as the adults.  It wasn't the life I wanted, because you really only get ONE life, and you build it, you choose it, you live it, right?  So I wanted to build something a little different.  Something with a little more calm, a great deal more peace, and something that would enable me to have four kids and still sink my teeth into a solid relationship with each one of them.  Every time my life gets crazy I evaluate it and think, what can I do?  Sometimes I just readjust my thinking a little, or go to bed at a different time, or for awhile after we adopted Matthew I got a babysitter for two hours once a week so I could paint (wow, I wish we could afford that now).  And sometimes, I subtract something from my life, just to enhance the quality of the rest of my life.  Not wanting to subtract any people or anything, I decided to subtract my job.

This is scary.  I have to give up full control over income to my husband.  No more saving up my income and living on his when we had an extra bill or something.  No more working a few extra shifts just to save up for something we wanted.  I have to just relinquish control and allow my hubs to carry it all.  This feels so ultra non feminist (for ME).  I've always had some sort of an income, pittance or not.  And now I don't.  Well, I have CCTB and Universal Child Care benefits from the government (hello, I love Canada!!!), which, because I have so many kids, amounts to almost $500 per month.  But that's a pretty low income.  :S
SO.  I'm coming to terms with the relinquishing of control AND the fading of a professional persona and a professional dream I had.  I'm okay, I was ready to leave my job anyways and I feel like I'm morphing as far as professional dreams go.  I've changed my mind for now with regards to midwifery school and I'm going to just take what little, tiny bits of time I have and devote them to writing, art, and fiber crafting.  (Fancy word for crochet, but includes knitting and hopefully also learning felting).  I have always been an artist first, and a scientist second.  Being pragmatic I know that artists don't make a living very often, so I figured as an artist I needed a day job.  Hence, science.  Much more lucrative (though looking at my Ambulance Service wage, NOT ACTUALLY MUCH.  Ha ha.).  I didn't also figure in kids for that equation, and was finding I couldn't do justice to all three: art, science, and family, so science got the axe.  Too bad science was the one with the paycheque.

The actual living life without a job is (mostly) really nice.  My home is more organized.  My kids are always in clean underwear, unless they pee in them, and I have scraps of time to crochet and paint.  And more will come, soon, because every nanosecond these kids grow a foot and a half and accrue better vocabulary until I need a dictionary just to keep up with after school conversation (said dictionary needs to include all Wii terminology and Club Penguin characters, BTW), and pretty soon I will have four in school and more time for crafting and arting and all manner of work with no pay.  I like my life, it is manageable, it is good, it is full.  But the image of my life is harder for me to cope with.  What people think, or might think, when they ask me that inevitable, "So what do you do?"
Ah, um, uh... I'm a doula!  is what I usually come up with.  Or I'm an artist works, too.  I hate being put in a box.  And I hate even more the potential of being put in a drone box, ykwim?  That stereotype, that drone mom with all those kids and a  minivan and churchy ideas and conservative mennonite hair.  You know that mom.  I'm allergic to becoming that mom.

Funny enough I had this enlightening conversation with a mom friend of mine who has been my friend for over ten years.  She has three kids, and always worked one day a week.  I realized recently that although we worked the same number of days per week, she identifies as a stay at home mom, and I always identified as a working mom.  Isn't that funny?  She considers her job as this side thing she sort of does, but really she's a stay at home mom.  And I considered my job a vocation and a calling as well as claiming motherhood in all its glory and for most of my waking hours.  We worked the same amount.
And even now, I identify with some sort of vocation rather than my relational status.  I can't handle I stay home with my kids as a vocation, because I'm just so much more than what springs to mind when I apply that phrase to myself.  We all are, no matter what, but for me for some reason the title or vocation I give myself needs to be definitive, and it needs to be separate from my being a parent.

When I did quit my paramedic gig, it was because Human Resources called me to ask when I would be returning to work after my maternity leave finished?  Uh, never.  There was an official process and HR and my bosses were quite nice about it, and in the end they wanted to do an exit interview.  I was to drive out to Chilliwack which is forty minutes from my house, and do this interview and hand in my uniforms all at the same time.  I had to cancel my interview on the day of and I was so bummed.  I couldn't figure out why I was moping around with this huge sense of letdown until I figured out, I had been looking forward to one final important, official, jobby thing that required a commute and a uniform and an adult oriented meeting that had nothing to do with anyone stealing anyone else's lunch at school or anyone's behaviour at swimming lessons.  And then it was cancelled.  Boo.

So I'm jobless.  And incomeless.  And HAPPY about staying home and investing in a life I've crafted for myself to be a good balance of kids and home and art and love.  And a wee bit ambiguous about it all.

So.  Quitting.  It's a mixed bag.

Milk Donors, Wet Nurses, and Diseases: Is It Safe?

Excellent post on the safety of milksharing by Cinco De Mommy!! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Quote of the Day

Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.
I know that this message is right and good. But as 2011 closes, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.
I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that  most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers – “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” - those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.

From the Momastery via Anktangle

Alpine Heliport

12 hours of staking claims
in gnarled green wool
deep enough to hide a man
or a grizzly
anywhere

and now we huddle at 7000 feet
on the edge of this turquoise tarn
stinging chapped lips
with California oranges

the lake is an oiled slab of gemstone
where quartz clouds slide
like piebald ballet dancers
on silent skates

but these mountains are livid with flies
right to the Yukon horizon
where they fold into grey
convolutions of a brain

and each man searches deliberately
for a dragonfly
on the gathering sunset



-Al Smith

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Funny Story III

We went to visit my parents between Christmas and New Year's.  They live in a farmhouse in the Okanagan, and the room we were sleeping in has a broken, water damaged window and window frame which pretty much stops the wind from blowing into the room about as effectively as a bug screen.  So I taped two pillows to the window to slow down the wind, and we moved the bed to a different wall further away from the window.

This had a funny consequence.  That night, I put Amarys to sleep on the floor because she moves so much while she is sleeping that it is not safe for her to be on the bed alone, or on the bed on the outside of me.  She has to be between us so she will have natural bumpers while she does her nighttime snow angel routine.  I put her to bed long before we go to bed, so she was safest on the floor.
One night, before we realigned the bed, she woke up with her head stuck sideways under our bed frame and I had to get Brent to lift the bed UP to get her out, so it's not a foolproof dealio, putting snow angels to bed on the floor.

Anyways, on the night we realigned things, she stayed alseep when we went to bed so I left her on the floor.  Brent got up in the middle of the night and started trying to take the full length mirror off the wall in the bedroom.  Perplexed, I asked him what he was doing?

Going to the bathroom, he replied.

Are you sleepwalking?  I asked.

No I'm going to the bathroom!!

And he continued scrabbling around with the mirror.  I thought he must be confused because we moved the bed, because the bathroom door was about six feet to his right.  So I told him and he turned around and walked towards the bed, in a direct line to step on Amarys.


DON'T STEP ON THE BABY!!!  I yelled in the whisper-ma-yell of late night guests, who happen to be alarmed.

Okay, I'm just going to the bathroom, he says, and pulls Amarys' blanket off of her.

At this point I'm pretty certain he's off his rocker.

NO DON'T PICK HER UP PLEASE DON'T PICK HER UP SHE'S SLEEPING DON'T WAKE HER!!!

Okay, he said, and picked up the baby and handed her to me.  She was a little confused, having been deeply asleep until that moment.

And then he went to the bathroom.

He remembers nothing of this incident.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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

10 Months Old!


Helping with dinner.  Marinating a potato with saliva, then adding turmeric
I can not believe that ten months have passed already!  Remember when she looked like this?

2 weeks old
It is almost unfair how fast the first year goes, and how quickly they grow.  She's such a peanut.  ♥

So her latest things are that she popped her first tooth on December 30th!  She also has started signing "milk" which of course she does when she wants to breastfeed, but she will also do if she wants ME in general, or just really really really wants something and can't seem to get us to do it.  I think it is her only 'word' and if she gets frustrated she communicates with it, even though it isn't the right word for what she wants...
She will also sign "milk" while breastfeeding, which is so cool, and to me is the best thing about baby signing~they can communicate with you what they are thinking about at a really young age.  She's thinking, "milk!  I'm having milk!" and wants to 'talk' about it, so she signs to me.  When they get  a little older they can tell you they are looking for the 'bird' that was at your back window yesterday, by signing 'bird' even though they can't talk yet, or something similar.  It always surprises me what good memories babies have, and what they are thinking about when they start expanding their sign vocabulary!
She also took her first steps just before 9 months, as I told you, but hasn't gotten fully confident about walking just yet.  She will take three or four steps at once here and there, but for the most part she is lacking in confidence.  And she crawls really fast, so walking must seem rather tedious and inefficient.  =)

Last Sunday at church she fell and hit her mouth and bled everywhere; the piece of skin that connects the upper gums to the upper lip got cut all the way through~between that and cutting new teeth (there are two more right behind the first one) her mouth is pretty sore.  Poor baby.  And poor us; she's pretty cranky!

To fend off comments about how she's so happy all the time...
With all her new mobility (add climbing to the mix; you have seen all the basket and hearth pictures, but she also climbs anything she can manage to get onto, and will climb up staircases every chance she gets) she has thinned out already, not so rolly polly around the belly anymore!  I noticed it when I had to start fastening her diapers tighter around the legs and waist again~I love the adjustability of Fuzzibunz.  Awesome.

Her hair is getting longer and is as wild and spiky as ever, although with some water and slicking down repeatedly we can sometimes get it to stay down.  I think she looks more like a boy with it down flat.  Of course that doesn't bother me.  I like to dress her up all pretty but I also like to dress her neutral (today she looked like a boy for the first half of the day, and a girl for the second half after she explode-a-pooped on her boy outfit: best of both worlds), because some days it's nice to just be a person instead of who the world wants you to be, in so many ways...

Amarys' likes and dislikes haven't changed much in the last thirty days so I will hold off on the list for now.  But we took the kids swimming last week as a family and I think we can add waterbaby to her list of likes!  She loooooved the pool!  When I took the boys back again this week for swimming lessons she was determined to get in the water, too, and was pretty disappointed (a.k.a. screaming like a veloceraptor and clawing at my face) when I didn't take her in this time.
She talks in her sleep.
She eats everything and loves it all.
She loves to be carried.
I love to do laundry that has pink and purple in it that isn't mine.

Aaaaand cute.  She looks like my cousin Sara in this hat, for some reason :)

Don't mind the fact that I look like my head was replaced by a Canon in the above photo *eyeroll*~Amarys looked really cute so who cares that I look weird?  =)  I don't mind the camera in the photo but in this picture it has replaced my head completely...

I'm astonished by her energy.  I've had energetic kids since day #1, so that is nearly nine years, and this kid is the energizer bunny.  When she's falling asleep she literally does laps around her bed, talking, scratching the mesh bedrails, kicking the head board, screeching at the night light, and performing olympic style gymnastic routines while nursing, until eventually she crashes.  All day she's on the move.  When she's nursing, she's flailing a foot around and trying to catch it with one of her hands, while repeatedly bending her other knee in a semi headstand.  When she's playing, she is flinging toys around and squawking.  I knew this about her before she was born; she would kick me with persistent irritation all day long in the womb, warming up for marathons in the evening and finally dropping off to sleep at night.  Mommy's little monster!  I'm also astonished at my patience with her.  Although I still live with an anxiety disorder, it is well controlled and this post partum year has been the calmest and happiest of all four of my kids.  This carries me really far when I need to dig deep to get through another day with the teething velocoraptor velcro girl who will not be comforted.  Or simply the climbing machine on steroids, Little Miss Determination tackling the chairs in the dining room!

Smart and sassy, that sums her up.  And beloved.

Double Milk Love~On Breastfeeding Two (and then some)

Some women tandem nurse (breastfeed more than one child at once) for an extended period of time.  Go mommas!  Women are great.  I only tandem breastfed for 7.5 months, but I wanted to write a bit about my experience before it fades.  Tandem nursing was like one of those weird things you hear about but not many women you know actually do... Or maybe just not that many women you know actually do in front of you... Because older toddlers and preschool aged kids who breastfeed don't nurse that often, and sometimes mommas prefer to shy away from criticism and just avoid nursing them in public.
I didn't shy away from breastfeeding Riley in public, but I did censor it for some extended family members.  One day shortly after Amarys was born my sister in law came to visit and Riley collapsed in a heap of jumbled, new-sister-in-the-house emotions, and the kindest thing to do for him right then was to breastfeed him.  So I did.  My sister in law was kind enough to keep her eyeballs up off the floor but I know she had no idea I was still breastfeeding him until that moment.
Ah, life.  SO FUNNY!  She didn't say anything.

Anyways, some few things about tandem breastfeeding that I noted...

First, the best best best thing about breastfeeding two in the first week was that Riley could help me when my breasts were too full and Amarys wasn't hungry.  To combat my tendency towards breastmilk oversupply, I 'block fed' Amarys from day one.  Block feeding is when you feed a baby more than one time in a row on the same breast.  So for example I would feed her at one o'clock until she was full and happy and fell asleep, and then when she woke up at two o'clock to feed again, I would feed her on that same breast again until she was full and happy and fell asleep again.  Every woman is different but I find that my supply in the first six months after my baby is born is best controlled with two or three block feeds in a row before switching sides.  For most women, this will significantly decrease their milk supply so this technique is really only for women who are sure they have too much milk.  Well, it worked really well to do it from birth this time; my previous babies I didn't start block feeding until well into the first month or two and I had way too much milk, forceful letdown, vomity, gassy, unhappy babies, pain for me, and very rapid infant weight gain.  This time I managed to avoid much of that, but it meant my first week was miserable.  I have never felt the excruciating pain of engorgement quite like I did when block feeding that first week after Amarys was born.  It felt like broken glass was inside my breasts every time I moved them, cutting me up from the inside.  Ohhhh, the pain.  Riley was handy.  He would nurse and take the edge off my engorgement if I needed some relief.  Also, those first days when engorgement happens it is really difficult for a newborn to latch on; my boobs were enormous and hard, and the areola impossible to stuff deep into her mouth like it should be to create an effective latch.  Riley was happy to help me out there, too, and empty them out a bit so Amarys could latch better.  WOW was that awesome.

It was also really nice to be able to comfort Riley in a really tangible, skin to skin, cuddly, nurturing way as he adjusted to life as no-longer-the-youngest.  I really think he had little jealousy because I was still breastfeeding him.  I didn't limit him much those first weeks because he needed the extra cuddles.  The only thing I really didn't like doing was actually nursing them both at the exact same time, so that didn't happen in the early days.  It also takes a fair amount of work to get a newborn to latch and stay latched effectively for an entire feed, and they are floppy so they need more support.  My breasts are ginormosauruses so they need support in the early days, too.  Supporting a breast, a newborn, AND making room for a preschooler on my lap was a bit too tall an order for me.  I think I tried once or twice and wound up a sticky, sweaty, disheveled mess, with a two crying kids on my hands and no milk in anybody.  So, while I breastfed Riley largely on demand those first weeks, I didn't always say yes, because sometimes (often) I was breastfeeding his sister.  She obviously needed it more.  =)  But nursing him when he wanted allowed him to reconnect on a deep level and avoid jealousy for the most part.  And it was his reward for sticking it out with breastfeeding through pregnancy, to have scads of milk on tap again.  I'm so, so glad we made it all the way through my pregnancy without weaning.  I treasured that relationship and wanted to end on a positive note, and he really still seemed to still need it.

When Amarys was able to hold her head up for extended periods I got so that I *could* nurse them tandem, but I hated it.  The only time I resorted to true tandem breastfeeding was when Brent was working nights and I put all four kids to bed on my own.  Amarys would be tired and hungry and overstimulated and attack me like a leech and Riley would be wailing for milk to fall asleep to, so I would lie on his bed and nurse him lying down, and prop Amarys up across me 'standing up,' supporting her with my underneath arm and my breast with my top arm.  I may have needed a few chiropractic adjustments just from those nights alone!  Sweaty, disheveling, but not impossible.  Milk in two kids: mission accomplished.  Riley got stepped on, kicked, and puked on more than once.

I far preferred curling up with one or the other of them and nursing them alone.  This worked beautifully when Amarys slept ten to twelve hours at night without waking (remember that?  Me, too.  She doesn't really do that anymore).  But whenever she didn't (she went through phases), it was an all night snack bar in my bed.  Some nights when Amarys was around six months old, I got only two or three hours of sleep total.  Interrupted.  Up, down, and sideways.  So I night weaned Riley, who is freaking stubborn about only two or three things in life and I'm one of those things.  Although I night weaned him he was still up in my face eleven billion times a night, asking for milk or to hold my hand or for help going pee...
Gar.
Mainly, though, those weeks were fewer than the weeks of happy snuggling.  And eventually I worked out a system of sleeping and waking and feeding and not feeding that ensured sleep for me and milk in tummies at the right times.  It helped that I'm an experienced mom.  And experienced nurser.  I know that each phase passes so much quicker than it feels like it ever could when you are new to it, so even the most interminable nights didn't seem so awful.  And I had all kinds of tricks up my sleeve from having other babies and hearing other moms talk about their tricks, so I weathered it okay.  My amazing hubs helped tons, too.  Some days I just said, "I gotta go!" and walked out of the house for an hour and Brent would cheerily wave goodbye and look after all four kids and ask if I had enough of a break when I got back.  He's a weird sock matcher but he's got his good side.  =)   And never, never, NEVER once in all my years of breastfeeding did he ever suggest I do anything but exactly what I felt was best.  Breastfeed more, less, older, younger, in public, in private, in front of his family, at night, during the day, two at once, or none at all.  He supported me one hundred percent.  He's a miracle.  I didn't find him of my own merit; God dropped him in my lap and said,
ENOUGH ALREADY.  You're a terrible mate selector.  CHOOSE THIS.
Oh, so much wiser than I.
=)

I eventually asked Riley to stop breastfeeding.  We had been talking about it in an abstract way for several months, discussing how old he might be when he stopped having milkies, and how that might feel, and how much he loved it and had enjoyed milkies since the day he was born.  He was totally willing to talk about weaning; some days he would say he would probably breastfeed until he was four, and other days until he was eight (grossing Ayden out, being eight himself), but he wasn't really taking any leaps towards actually stopping the milkies.  I told him how much I liked cuddling with him when he had milk, but that his mouth and teeth were getting big and that his teeth often hurt me, which they did despite lots of work on his latch.  And I said sometime soon maybe we should stop.  He wasn't keen on the idea but I emphasized the positive things about growing up and being big (while choking back tears that he was actually old enough to have this conversation with; what happened to my 10 lb 2 oz chubby baby??!!).  Like going to Strong Start, watching Dora, riding his bike, playing at the park, and traveling to Victoria with his Nana.  He liked that.  And he tolerated it when one morning after a particularly painful morning nursing session with me grinding my teeth in frustration, I told him, I think that after today we won't have milkies anymore.  He asked for about a week, but I reminded him of the joys of being a big boy, and empathized with how nice it was to have milk and how he missed it, and he perked up.  We warmed him up some milk in a sippy cup for the first few nights, just so he had something similar to help him settle in, but after awhile he didn't want it anymore, and he stopped asking to nurse.

I miss it, but I don't.  I have another baby to breastfeed and it is nice to focus solely on her (I just recently stopped donating milk for Brayden as well, which I'm going to write about in another post, so it really is, finally, just her).  I felt very good about what I was able to accomplish with three plus years of breastfeeding Riley, and think we weaned at exactly the right time for us.  In a pretty gentle way.  ♥

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Linky

Man, I learn a lot just by being a birth junkie....  Who knew that, aside from blood, the umbilical cord contains a substance called Wharton's Jelly, which occludes the umbilical cord in the first minutes after birth?  All this clamping and cutting we're doing; NOT NECESSARY!  Totally cool.

And how cool is it that it's a tissue and it is called Wharton's Jelly?!!  Sounds like somebody's gramma's jam recipe.

I wrote a post about the wonders of Wharton's Jelly on Mothers of Change, if you'd like to read about what I learned!  Interesting stuff!  =)