Sunday, May 31, 2009

Familiar

I was driving down one of the main roads here in town a couple days ago when a funny thing happened. Something that tends to happen a lot to me. A car full of complete strangers waved frantically at me, trying to get my attention. Once I looked at them, I realized why they were waving. They know me. Or they think they do, anyway.

I've been told for years that I am familiar looking, that I just look like someone. Many, many people have told me that I just remind them of someone, or look like their friend. I just got used to it.

I guess I have gotten more used to it over the years, because I now play along. When that car full of complete strangers waved at me, fully thinking that I must have been someone else, I waved back. Yep, sure, it's me. ;)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Migration

I've often wondered why I bother cleaning, organizing, putting things away. The things never stay where they are supposed to be for long, and nothing in this house is ever clean for any measurable length of time. I suppose it keeps me busy, and makes me believe that I am in control. Supports the notion that, somehow, I can maintain order. It's a fallacy, I tell you.

The root of the problem is that I live with children. Messy children. Aidan is finally to the age where he has started caring about organization, at least in some ways. He's obsessive about his legos, and has learned the hard way that he has to keep them picked up and away from smaller hands. He's witnessed a few get sucked up the vacuum. Anything else, though, and he could care less.

Ashley might be better about it if it wasn't for the fact that she has to share a room with her sister. She understands that she needs to keep her room clean, or at least make a decent attempt. And she can clean up faster than any of the other kids. Most of the time, though, she doesn't bother. What's the point, living in the same room with Ally?

Ally is small, but mighty. She is the most constant source of destruction in the house. What she can do to a clean space in the matter of minutes is rivaled only by major natural disasters. It doesn't help that she is a bag lady, constantly carrying things around the house. The bags facilitate toy migration.

If you've never seen migration in action, just spend a few hours at my house. The littlest pet shop seem to migrate with the most frequency, which would make sense - they are animals, after all. They need to adjust to shifts in climate, changes in the weather, time of day, right?

We try pretty hard to keep the toys contained, in particular, we try to keep toys off the main floor of the house. The kids have a playroom upstairs, and the basement is all theirs. Often though, that isn't good enough. They want to play where we are - on the main floor. And they bring the toys along with them. They come downstairs from up, upstairs from down. The toys, they come. The migration continues. It's a neverending saga.

Again, we find ourselves with a family room that resembles a playroom. AJ is old enough now to play. And for the most part, his toys are here, where we are, and where he is. I need to be able to keep an eye on him all the time, and consequently, his toys need to be here too. We have years and years of migration yet to contend with.

Someday the toys will stay put away, someday they will find peace in their rightful place. But it's not a day that I am looking forward to. I've learned to embrace the chaos, because it means that my home is filled with children that still play. And having that is worth the mess that it brings.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Hands

I am a doula. I help women become mothers. With my heart and my hands and little else. Though it is something that I don't get the privilege of doing as often as I would like to, I still describe myself as one. It isn't just a job to me, it's a way of life. It means more to me than a set of tasks and responsibilities. Most people have no idea what that means, and I love explaining it. Even once I explain what it is, there are people that will look at me strange, unsure of what it is exactly that I do.

I never set out to be a doula. In fact, I didn't really know what they were until after Aidan was born. I had heard the word, but it didn't mean much to me. It wasn't until I met a few, mostly through the breastfeeding support group, that I started to learn about them. These were women that helped other women have babies. I was intrigued.

When Ashley was born, one of them, who had become a very good friend, attended her birth. Aidan's birth had been a bit dramatic, since it all happened so fast. We were scared, I got a totally unnecessary epidural, and Aidan had serious complications. It was not a perfect birth experience. Pretty far from it, actually. I was hoping for something better with Ashley.

Ashley's birth wasn't much better honestly, it was chaotic and she was also whisked off to the NICU. But with the help of my friend, I was able to do it all without pain medication. And from that day forward, I was determined to help other women have a better birth than I did.

When Ashley was only a few months old, I started working towards my certification. I had some books to read, then I took my training. My first client was also a good friend of mine, and I had a lot riding on her labor. I wanted so badly to help her. And I wanted to do a good job.

She wanted very much to labor without medication or other interventions. It ended up being a very long and drawn out labor, since the baby wasn't in the best position. I'm sure she was in pain the entire time, but I did as much as I could to help her. I used every single thing I had learned in my training that night. And finally, after almost 24 hours of labor, I was the first person ever to see her son as he entered the world. She had done it her way, and it was breathtaking to watch.

My latest client fought for her labor too. She was in a position like too many women these days, forced to be induced, forced to give up many of the things she wanted for her labor experience. Staring in the face of a c-section after hours and hours of pushing, she fought through it. And she did it. And I helped her.

I've helped women mourn the loss of their ideal births, and I've helped women mourn the loss of their babies. An unfortunate truth is that not every pregnancy ends happily. I helped a mom with a single birth that began as a twin pregnancy. And I was there with her, as she cried, celebrating one life while simultaneously longing for the other.

Being a doula is a gift. A privilege. It is the most amazing and energizing feeling to hold the hands of a woman becoming a mother. To help her bring life into the world. To sit in the silence with her, as the entire room hushes, waiting to hear the first cry.

I have witnessed some of my clients transform into helpers. Become doulas, become lactation consultants. My hands helped them, and they are paying it forward. Being a doula truly is a gift, I am so blessed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Adapt

There has been more than a little drama at the kid's school this year. There have been funding shortfalls, teachers let go, bond measures passed and new teacher hirings. There have been several teachers out for extended periods for personal and family reasons. There must be something in the water at school with how often the teachers are out for maternity leave.

All of these cause the same issue to arise. The kids have to deal with the fact that their teacher might be gone. Maybe for good, maybe for a little while. It might mean that they move to a new classroom. It might mean that they get extra kids in theirs. There are few classes this year that escaped some kind of staffing change.

The biggest moves of the year occurred because of lower enrollment than projected, which led to the release of one teacher and restructuring the classrooms. When the bonds were passed, the school regained funding for that position and the classes were put back the way they began the year. While these changes were less than ideal in my opinion, they were done in the best way possible.

The kids, for the most part, were fine. Aidan's class picked up 6 kids for half the year, then lost them. A few days of adjusting, shuffling desks a little, adding names to the cubbies. Kids adapt, it's just in their nature to do so.

The problem was with the parents. Some of the parents couldn't change. They fought tooth and nail against the move back to the original classrooms. They couldn't comprehend the benefit of smaller class sizes. They didn't understand that the administration needed to best serve the needs of all the children, not cater to the desires of a handful of parents.

As parents, I think that we need to teach our children important lessons. Lessons like life isn't fair. You can't always get what you want. Sometimes you have to take lemons and make lemonade. Change is inevitable. What kind of message are the parents who fought the change sending to their children?

Our society is unfortunately filled with people like this. The ones that truly believe that their needs are superior to the needs of others. That other people are supposed to change for them, and they need not change for others. By raising their children to be the same way, they are perpetuating this selfishness. Ensuring that their kids will grow up with a sense of entitlement. An inability to deal with the harsh realities of life.

I hope that my kids will someday understand why I don't always go to bat for them. Why I won't fight their battles all the time. Why sometimes they will just have to learn to deal with a difficult situation. It's important that kids learn to adapt. It's important that kids learn to handle change, because change is one of the constants in life. And it's important that we teach them to do so.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Circle of Life

We just recently made an addition to the family. Ally's preschool class has been raising water frogs this year. They got tadpoles a few months ago, and the kids have been able to watch them grow and change into frogs. It was a really great experience for the kids, and there were times that they would all stand there with their tiny magnifying glasses and just watch the tadpoles forever.

At some point in the process, their teacher realized that she wasn't going to be able to keep all the frogs and would have to work on finding new homes for them. For whatever reason, I agreed to take one.

I suffer often from the inability to decline such offers. People ask me if I can do something, pick something up, watch this kid, and I say yes. Every so often my brain censors my mouth in time and I manage to say no. But almost always, I am finding myself with more things to do, more people to take care of, more tasks to complete. You know what they say...if you need something done, ask a busy person. There really is some truth in that.

Last week, one day after school, I gathered up the kids and went in to pick up our newest family member. I knew I couldn't stay long, though, because I had already agreed to be home early in case the neighbor's kids got home before she did. (Remember that prior paragraph...)

The kids chose which frog we needed to take home. Of course, they had to sit and debate which was the best frog for a while, and finally settled on one. And they had to name it. The girls decided that the frog was a girl as well, and her name is Ariel. We got the frog in a container and covered, got some brief instructions and a little bag of food.

The frog can live in a fish tank indefinitely, so I've been told. As long as it has access to air, it will be fine. Part of the reason I agreed to take one of the frogs is that I didn't have to get anything else to be able to keep it. We already have a fish tank.

We've had the same fish tank for a few years now. And we've gone through quite a few animals. We had one goldfish for a very long time, much longer than I ever anticipated having a goldfish for. We had a plecostemus for a while to eat the algae, but that one died too. We got two snails to clean the tank about a year ago, and they are gone now too. The snails did us the favor of having babies before they died, and the tank is now covered with tons of teeny snails. When the big goldfish died, we got 4 new fish. I'm not sure what kind of fish they were, actually. Three of the four died within a few weeks, and one was left. We've had more than our fair share of funerals that ended with a flush.

For probably 8 or 9 months now, it's just been the one fish and a whole bunch of baby snails in the tank. Everyone seemed to get along fine. I was starting to think the fish might be on the way out, since it was spending a lot of idle time at the bottom of the tank. And then everything changed, the fish was back swimming all the time. We got a frog.

I didn't think that the frog would bother the fish honestly because the fish was bigger than the frog. But, within 48 hours of putting the frog in the tank, the fish was stuck to the filter, and no longer with us. Another funeral. Now I am really hoping that the frog leaves the snails alone - they keep the tank nice and clean.

I went to the store yesterday and stopped by the fish tanks. Saw the frogs there in a tank with some fish and asked which kinds of fish could coexist with the frogs. Lucky me, I asked someone who clearly didn't know anything about fish or frogs. I'm not getting another fish until I know if it has a chance.

The kids want to know what happened to the fish. They are used to the fact that fish die, since it tends to happen fairly often around here. But the fact that our last fish died so soon after getting the frog leads me to believe that there was some mischief in that tank. The kids are learning that animals can't always get along.

Welcome to the family, Ariel. Try not to eat anyone else while you're here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sheep

I am all for being passionate about your beliefs. And I am all in favor of teaching your children to stand up for what they believe in. What is not acceptable in my opinion, however, are people who choose to teach their children to be intolerant. People who decide that their kids need to be raised to dislike an entire segment of society. People who have no qualms with ignorance, stereotypes and indecency.

The fundamental problem with people like this is that they themselves are narrow minded and easily led. They are teaching their children to be just like them. They are, for lack of a more fitting term, sheep. People who don't do their own research or make up their own minds, but instead rely on others to do it for them. They listen, without question, to the judgment of whoever they deem the decision makers in their lives.

There aren't many things that can come out of the mouth of a child that can shock me. I've heard every major curse word, racial slurs and more come from the mouths of babes. But what I heard a few days ago set me back a bit. And that I heard it come out of the mouth of a child Aidan's age troubled me. A child who clearly did not learn such things on his own.

Tom tends towards being an antagonistic person, and he loves to talk politics with people. He has, on more than one occasion, had passionate discussions with people he should know better than to discuss such subjects with. They rarely end well.

This boy comes from a family that we had known to be conservative. His parents often made comments, usually under their breath, about Democrats in general and Obama in particular, during the election. Little did they know that the vast majority of families in this area lean to the left. Tom asked the boy, in a completely joking manner, what he thought about Obama's first 100 days. I don't think Tom actually thought he'd get a response. But he did. And it was one that floored me. We were all speechless.

The boy said that he doesn't like Democrats, because they kill babies.

My knee jerk reaction was anger. How could he say such a thing? Clearly it isn't the truth! But then reality kicked back in, and I remembered that this is an eight year old child. Why should an eight year old child even be aware of the subject of abortion? Who in their right mind would want a child to know about that? And what parent would teach it to their child?

There are people who feel that it is okay to teach children about horrible things like abortion in the name of their religious and political convictions. These are the same kind of people that forced their children to stand on corners holding Prop 8 signs in California - the ones that said things like "God Hates Gays".

I am completely and unabashedly in favor of having passionate debates about these subjects. I think that well-educated, intellectual people can see things differently and can discuss them without resorting to lies and name-calling. I truly believe that one of the most important things a parent can teach a child is to be civic minded. To care about our political system, our system of leadership. To speak out. To debate. But there is a distinction between teaching a child to be civic minded and ingraining them with hatred and untruths. There is a difference between encouraging intelligent debates and teaching your children that entire segments of society are bad. There is a difference between showing your children to speak their mind and regurgitating the biased views of others, spewing hatred through your own offspring.

Parents are supposed to try and protect their children from the harsh realities of living in a society like ours, not use them as sign holders for shock value. They are sheep, and they are teaching their children to become sheep. How can people, some of which are otherwise very intelligent, be so blindly led? It is a scary world we live in.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ed

I am lucky enough to have had the chance to know all four of my grandparents. I know many people who did not have that opportunity. And I was blessed to get a bonus grandparent, an extra. Ed was, for many years, my surrogate grandfather. My grandfathers had both passed when I was pretty young, and Ed came around a few years after my Pap died. He and my Grandma Doll met at a support group for widows and widowers. They had a connection, one that was often antagonistic and amusing. Every once in a while they would get in a good argument and stop talking to each other for a few days. She was stubborn, and he didn't hesitate to call her on it. Their forced distance never lasted long, they always ended up back together. But they loved each other, that was never in question. Ed was a part of my family. We were lucky to have him. He was a special man.

Never having kids of his own, and being alone for many years after his wife had died, I think he was glad to have us around too. We filled voids for each other. He was funny and sarcastic, but gentle and loving. He got to go to baseball games and birthday parties. We got advice from someone who had been around the block a few times. We shared holidays, and ribbed each other about football. You see, even though he had never attended college, he was a loyal Notre Dame fan. I used to give him the hardest time for that. What business did he have being a Notre Dame fan? He was Italian!

When I chose USC, it grated on his nerves. After months of anticipation and endless teasing, we all went to the Notre Dame/USC game my freshman year of college. The weather was horribly cold, almost freezing by the time the game was over. It was the last season that the NCAA would allow Division I teams to finish in a tie, and a tie was the only appropriate ending for the game that night. The teams had to call a truce, and so did we.

During the first week of my sophomore year of college, I got a phone call. It was my Dad, and he had some news. The kind of news that you are told to sit down for. It was Ed. Just nine months after that football game, he was gone. And I was, again, without a grandfather.

Since he did not have children, and the rest of his family was fairly emotionally distant, he had chosen my grandmother to inherit his house and all his belongings. Of course, some of his family miraculously appeared after they heard of his passing, mostly to collect anything of value from the house. We didn't stop them though, since they made the argument that he was *their* family and not ours. It didn't matter though. We weren't there for the things. I was sad for them. I was sorry that they didn't know him like we did. That they, his true relatives, had no idea what an amazing man he was.

Out of the things that they left, I did manage to keep a tea set, the one that I use with the kids for tea parties. I also kept a few dishes. I kept some Italian books because he made little notes in the margins. And I kept his Notre Dame stuff. He would have wanted it that way. Cleaning out his house was no small task, and we worked on it for a long time. Weekends and weekends of cleaning. Stripped wallpaper, painted the walls and tidied up the yard. It was hard to say goodbye. He had been such an important part of my life for so many years.

What I didn't realize was that he had made some prior arrangements with my grandmother. Arrangements about his car. He wanted me to have it, and there was to be no arguing about it. It was mine. I had a car. Well, I had a land yacht. I had a tank.

It was a 1981 Chrysler Imperial. It was a gigantic silver beast. With primer spots. The leather interior had been ruined years before by teenage vandals that threw some kind of acid in the car and it burned holes in the seats. The vinyl part of the roof was peeling. And the car had an electrical short that caused the battery to drain repeatedly. The only solution for that was to install a kill switch. The switch couldn't be put inside the car for fire hazard reasons, and had to go under the hood. The huge, wide and heavy hood.

It could guzzle an entire tank of gas on the way to work. I worked in downtown LA, about 10 miles from my apartment, and it could go through an entire tank. My friends got to be experts at lifting the massive hood. I got really, really good at parking. When I first started taking it to work, and first had to get it parked in the underground structure, I tried parking between two concrete pillars. I rammed right into one of them. Dented the pillar, but the car escaped unscathed. I can't tell you how many times I would sit and laugh in that car. I have a feeling Ed was laughing right along with me. We had some good times.

While it certainly wasn't the car of my dreams, it was my dream car. It was a car, and it was mine. And I will be eternally grateful to the man, the wonderful man, who gave me that gift. Thanks Ed. I miss you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Becoming

If you were to ask 10 different women about the day that they became a mother for the first time, I'm certain that you would get vastly different answers from each of them. At the same time, I'm fairly sure that most of them would describe the day that their oldest child was born as the day they became a mother. My journey with motherhood began before that day, though. I was a mother long before Aidan arrived.

By this point in my life, most people that have known me for any length of time probably know the rough details of the last 10 years. That Tom had cancer, and that our life as parents began a bit earlier than it appears now. That there was another baby. My first baby. I became a mother December 6, 1999.

On that day, one of the most memorable in my life, two life changing events took place. Tom finished his radiation treatments that afternoon. Earlier in the day, I found out that despite the enormous odds stacked against us, I was pregnant. Somehow, with the surgery, radiation, recent birth control pills and sperm banking efforts, we had managed to do the impossible. We were going to be parents.

In that moment, that highly unlikely moment, I was transformed. I was a mother. No longer was my primary concern Tom or me, it was this little tiny life. Purely as a defense mechanism, I had convinced myself that there was no way it could happen. I knew that the odds clearly were not in our favor, and did not want to get my hopes up. But it did happen.

I have never in my life felt such unbridled joy and complete terror simultaneously. Not having prepared for the possibility that our brief attempts at conception would work, I was in a bit of a state of shock. Glorious shock. The previous few months had been some of the hardest in my life, but none of that mattered anymore. Tom was healthy, and we had a future to worry about.

For a while, I was happy. I was glowing. It was as though there was a reason for everything that happened. There was hope.

That all came to an end sitting in an exam room. The baby was dead, the heartbeat was gone. And what we had wanted more than anything else in the world was stolen away from us forever. The joy. The innocence. The unwavering optimism. Gone. I lost so much that day. In addition to losing my child, I lost much more.

What I gained from that experience I would not trade for anything though. I have loved my children, all of them, from the moment I knew I was pregnant. I have treasured every single second of my pregnancies. I take nothing for granted. Until you have lost something so precious, you have no idea how much you loved it. How much you needed it.

I became a mother almost ten years ago for the first time. Though there is no way for me to ever really know, to this day I am convinced that she was a girl. Her name would have been Hannah. She is with me, every day. The constant wondering never ends. What she would be like now, who would she look like, what would she love? I miss her and I love her. And I hope that she is keeping an eye on her little brothers and sisters. Because of her, I became a mother. She is my angel.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

8 hours, 40 minutes

There are 8 hours and 40 minutes left until I get to go out. By myself. I get to go out to dinner and have a drink without the kids! Cleverly disguised as a thank-you dinner for the Daisy leaders, there is a small group of us moms headed out for the night. A break from our duties, a chance to unwind. A break that is long overdue.

The women that head up the Daisy Troop that Ashley is in are very similar to me in a lot of ways. The moms that step up and ask if they can help, that take on projects, that are always bringing in something to school or volunteering. The moms that often seem to live in the car, taking one kid here and another kid there. The moms that understand just how important it is to be there. How important it is to see what they are doing, to know their friends, to be involved and to really know what is going on at school.

These are the moms that don't have much time for themselves. The ones that long ago gave up on salon haircuts and pedicures. The moms that drive the dirty, beat up minivans in the parking lot. Who frequently sacrifice sleep for the sake of cupcakes, weekly folders, class projects and sleepover parties. The moms who will always, always volunteer to take something else on when no one else will. Given the choice between me doing it or it not getting done at all, I will do it. And so will they.

The moms that try desperately to squeeze in a little time for a hobby or craft that doesn't involve glitter glue. The moms who appreciate the wonder and necessity of coffee. The moms who love to read books without cartoon characters in them, but rarely have the chance. The moms with piles of laundry left sitting for days this week like I did. Too much else to do. Too many things more important. Too many opportunities to be there. Too many chances to be mom.

To my friends, my cohorts, my partners in crime, I say thank you. Thank you for being the fabulous teachers, leaders and women that you all are. Thank you for caring about my children, and thank you for sharing yours with me. Cheers!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Counter intuitive

I've never understood how people can read something in a book, something that goes against all normal reasoning, and believe it. How they can throw out their natural inclinations, their instincts, just because of something a book says.

New parents seem to be one of the most susceptible groups of people to this gullibility. More and more often, people are looking for advice in the form of a book instead of asking family or friends for help, or just trusting their instincts. I see it all the time as a doula. People relying on a book to solve their problems, answer their questions. Some expert said this, therefore it must be so, right?

Writing books for new parents is a multimillion dollar industry these days. You just have to conjure up some idea, then convince enough people that you are right. Do it well enough, and you'll earn not just money, but accolades and maybe even branding of your ideas.

The most poignant example of this that I can think of is Ferber. If you've had a baby in the last 20 years or so, chances are that you have heard the term. Read it in a book somewhere, heard it on a tv show or overheard other parents discussing it. Ferber is a pediatrician who wrote a book almost 25 years ago about the sleep patterns of infants.

What he suggested doing is training your child, in the 4-6 month range, to put themselves to sleep. His methods have become well-known to parents, most often as the loosely defined "cry it out" process. His basic idea is that parents should use that window of opportunity to train their baby to self-soothe. Great idea in general, but I take issue with the specifics.

We have always, from birth, tried to put the kids down awake for naps and at night. If they fell asleep nursing, so be it. If rocking them to sleep was the only thing that worked one night, I never minded. I won't be rocking them for long.

Ferber's method tells parents to put the baby down, fully awake and leave. Let them cry for a designated amount of time, then go in and rub their back. Don't pick them up though, because that would be interfering with the process. Then leave again and let them cry. Repeat until the baby goes to sleep, whether through exhaustion or self soothing. Repeat until the baby gives up, basically.

I've wondered what exactly this method is supposed to be teaching anyone. When your baby cries, your instinct tells you that there is something wrong. And that you should go figure out what the problem is. Instinct does not tell you to wait 5 minutes, then go rub their back, now does it? It goes against parental instincts.

What is it teaching the baby? Newborns need to know that their needs will be met. When they cry, they need to know that someone will be there to attend to them. They don't need to be left to scream. How sad is it to think that eventually the crying child will just realize that mommy isn't coming? And just give up. What is that teaching them?

We have been lucky with our kids. We haven't really ever had major issues at bedtime. As I said above, we have always tried to put them down awake. The only one of the kids that would fight bedtime with any regularity was Ashley. She had colic anyway, and it was often hard to tell why she was crying as a baby. We reluctantly tried to let her cry it out once. We didn't even last the first five minutes. It was heartbreaking, and totally unnecessary. It was torture for both of us. And just seemed cruel.

There are plenty of people out there who will swear by Ferber's methods. Who wholeheartedly believe that it works. I'm sure it does. I'm sure the babies will at some point just go to sleep. What I worry about is why it works. And why people would do something so counter intuitive just because a book told them to.

I do love to sleep, don't get me wrong. And I fully recognize that my children need to get an adequate amount of sleep. But I am not about to teach them that if they cry, I will not come. I don't care what some book says.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Weeds

I spent the better part of the morning pulling weeds yesterday. The weather here in Colorado is such that the year is split into two parts. The part of the year where you have yardwork to do, and the part of the year where you don't.

In the fall, the sprinklers get blown out, the bushes get cut back, and the grass gets aerated and cut for the last time. Throw on that last step of winterizer for the lawn, and that's it. The grass goes dormant, as do the plants. The trees lose their leaves and turn into sticks swaying in the wind. When it's all done, we can sit back and relax for about six months.

Spring brings with it a lot of work. And spring has to wait until tax season is over. While our neighbors might get their yards going weeks before the 15th, ours always waits. Sometimes is it painfully obvious that we are the last in the neighborhood. The last ones with yellow, thatchy grass. Especially when we live near people who have professionally landscaped yards, the people who are out there working on it all the time. The people who have green grass weeks before anyone else could dream of it.

Getting the yard back up and going is no small task. It's a good thing that we get all that time off, because we more than make up for it in the spring and summer. The grass again needs aerated, the sprinklers need turned on and adjusted. The lawn needs a few treatments of fertilizer, and the roses need to be fed. For years now, I have bummed used coffee grounds from the local Starbucks for the roses. I planted 6 bareroot rosebushes a few years ago, and all but one made it. By mid summer, we'll have beautiful roses again. Like me, they need their coffee to wake up.

At the peak times in the growing season, the grass could be cut twice a week. And the weeds really should be pulled as often. It's amazing how fast they grow here. I don't really mind doing it though. Getting out there, dirt under my fingernails. Conquering the entire yard, front and back can take hours. But it's worth it to see a weed-free yard. Even knowing that it will only last a few days. It's a good thing the weather is gorgeous here in the summer, because I'm going to be out there a lot.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Crunchy

I recently took a quiz on Facebook about my parenting style. After answering a few questions, this virtual game was prepared to diagnose my mothering methods. Always a little skeptical of Facebook quizzes, since they seem to mostly be authored by grammatically challenged teenagers, I was a little leery. Once the result was generated, however, I was surprised just how accurate it was. I was a Crunchy Mama.

I would have to say that compared to many moms I know, I am pretty crunchy. I'm not quite a total granola mom, not fully immersed in the wonder that is attachment parenting, and would never in a million years homeschool my kids unless I felt that there was truly no other good choice. But I am pretty crunchy.

I am a huge proponent of natural childbirth, but not for the reasons that many people might think. Yes, I am a doula, but that didn't come until after Ashley was born. I got an epidural with Aidan, at over 9cm by the way, mostly because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. Having never been through it before, I thought for sure it was going to hurt a lot more than it was. None of the nurses told me otherwise, even though I was walking and talking fine, clearly managing the pain well. By the time it started working, Aidan was already born. Weeks of back pain later, I realized it was a stupid, uneducated choice on my part, made out of fear. And that I wouldn't do that again.

I've seen what all the interventions and unnecessary procedures can do to interfere with labor. I've seen women so drugged and out of it that they seemed to miss out on the experience. I've seen women convinced by other people that their bodies would inevitably fail. Are there reasons for c-sections? Of course. And there is a wholly appropriate time and place for an epidural. But the vast majority of women don't need either, if they have the proper support in place. And if they believe that they can do it.

I didn't set out to be a doula, and I certainly didn't ever think I would be a nursing mom for as long as I have. No one in my family had ever nursed, and I didn't really have any strong opinions about it either way when I was pregnant with Aidan. Sure, it seemed like the better choice, but life gets in the way sometimes. Then Aidan was born, and everything changed. He was in the NICU, connected to all kinds of machines that breathed for him, fed him, hydrated him and monitored him. I was helpless as a mother, there was nothing that I could do. I made a decision to breastfeed sitting in that NICU. I knew that with him being premature and sick, really the only thing I could do to help him was to start pumping. And I did.

As Aidan started to grow, I joined a breastfeeding support group. Not only did that group bless me with friends that I still have today, it kept me nursing through colic, teething, nursing strikes and more. It is the perfect food for a baby, changes with them as they grow, is always available and gives them immunities that help keep them healthy. I set a goal to nurse Aidan until a year. We made it to almost 14 months before he self-weaned. With Ashley, my goal was 18 months, she made it 21. With Ally, I aimed for 2 years, and let's just say we overshot that one too. I figured out not too long ago that I have been nursing, pregnant or both for the last 8 1/2 years straight, minus about a month in 2007. I haven't been the only person in my body for a long time.

I wouldn't consider myself an attachment parent, even though I probably am. Considering I have been away from him for more than a couple hours only once in his life, to help another mama birth her baby, I guess I am. I don't wear AJ all the time in the sling, though I probably should since I am always carrying him. It would probably be easier on my back! We don't technically co-sleep, though for all intents and purposes we do. He starts the night out in his bed, but never wakes up there in the morning. Once he gets up to nurse, he just gets to stay. I've never understood the cry-it-out method. I couldn't do it. It seems cruel to me, and babies don't cry without a reason. He won't be in my bed forever, and I know that. All the other kids co-slept to some degree, and they all sleep in their own beds now.

Having had as much education as I have, some of it in the field of teaching, I have never once contemplated homeschooling. Having worked in the field myself, I know that one of the most important facets of school has nothing to do with learning. It is the social aspect, and it just cannot be duplicated in a homeschool setting. Kids need to develop their own relationships away from their parents, and school is a pretty good place to do it. If I ever felt like my children weren't being challenged enough at school, I'd supplement their education. But I wouldn't for one second think that I could do it better. That I could create a better experience for them. I can't. So, in that respect, I could be considered pretty mainstream.

I've tried using cloth diapers. I really wanted to do it, but Tom had to draw the line there. He just wasn't into it. And I couldn't do that by myself. Something like that has to be a team effort. I've also made some of my own baby food. But I buy it too. I try to get as much organic food as I can, but sometimes I am priced out of it. We try to squeeze as much life as possible out of clothes and shoes, happily accepting hand-me-downs and passing what we can down to others. But most of the clothes and shoes the kids wear are new. We borrow from the library rather than buy new books all the time.

Before I had kids, I never could have imagined being labeled as a crunchy mom. I didn't have strong opinions about labor and nursing. I swore never to co-sleep and I thought slings were for hippie moms. Then I had kids, and I changed. If I have to be labeled as a type of mom now, I guess crunchy is a pretty accurate description.

I always did like granola anyway.

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