Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Month of Thanks-giving

These are all my "thankful" status updates from Facebook over the month of November. Some have been edited slightly. And they are in descending chronological order, because it was easier that way...

Day 30: Thankful for a healthy, fully-functioning body and mind (though sometimes I wonder about the latter, haha)

Day 29: Thankful for TOYS. I love toys. I had to have children just so I could justify filling my house with toys :D

Day 28: Thankful for SLEEP...when I manage to get it. 

Day 27: Thankful for my free agency, to choose my own actions and believe the way I choose to believe.

 
Day 26: Thankful to Eve for choosing to partake of the Fruit so that I could experience life on Earth.
 
Day 25: Thankful for Charity, for those who have been charitable to me and for opportunities to be charitable to others.
 
Day 24: Thankful for the Priesthood power in my life, especially to be married to a man who holds that power worthily and who treasures it and keeps it sacred.
 
Day 23: Thankful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, and for a loving Father in Heaven who gave His Son for me.
 
Day 22: Thankful for my brothers and sisters, and for the wonderful time I had with them all this past week! It's especially nice now that they're all married and I'm not the only one ;p

Day 21: thankful for my children. For G and his enthusiasm and love of learning; Z and his observant nature and internal strength; C and his infectious smile and laid-back attitude. I love my boys :)

Day 20: thankful for my husband. Going on eight years! He is still my best friend and soulmate, a loving and supportive spouse and excellent father to my children.

Day 19: thankful for my amazing in-laws! Not only did they manage to raise an exceptional man to be my husband, but they are so helpful to me as well and are truly like second parents to me. I'm grateful to be living in the same city with them as I am so far away from my first family.
Day 18: thankful for my amazing parents. Too much to expound on here...but the older I get the more I realize just how amazing those two people are :)

Day 17: thankful for a creative mind, and the ability to make my mental creations reality...

Day 16: thankful for a reliable vehicle.

Day 15: thankful for photography; even if it does steal my soul... ;)

Day 14: Thankful for my ability to see in color ;) Actually, to be able to see at all. But especially in color; it makes life a whole lot more interesting :)

Day 13: Thankful for math. Even though I'm not stellar with math, nor do I particularly enjoy it, I am thankful for it and all its practical applications. Just don't laugh at me when I break out the calculator to multiply 12x7 :\

Day 12: Thankful for the quiet moments...

Day 11: thankful for our inspired Founding Forefathers and all those who, throughout the years, have risked their lives in defense of my "inalienable rights."

Day 10: I am thankful for food. Not just because my body needs it, but because I thoroughly enjoy eating it :) And thankful to live in a day and place where I have access to a wide variety of tasty, nutritious foods to eat every single day of the year.

Day 9: Very very thankful for indoor plumbing and clean water. Very.

Day 8: Thankful for my musical abilities and a good singing voice :) Thankful that my parents put me through six years of piano lessons (and other music lessons besides). I will sacrifice what I have to to do the same for my kids.

Day 7: Thankful for vinegar! The versatile and all-natural household cleaner! And I love that my son can use it to clean the bathroom and I don't have to worry about him being exposed to harmful chemicals.

Day 6: thankful for Women's Suffrage

Day 5: Thankful for the wealth of information and resources on the Internet. I have learned so much on so many different topics that I otherwise would not have had the option to learn without going to school or buying a lot of books (so it's saved me a lot of money, too!). Of course, anything on the Internet has to be studied with wisdom and a little bit of healthy skepticism to figure out what's true and what's bogus, but I still know more than I would have otherwise. And it's also made my job as a mother easier, with all the educational resources and fun ideas to cheaply entertain my kids.

Day 4: Thankful for the gift of literacy.

Day 3: Thankful for my amazingly comfortable bed; I miss it terribly whenever I travel.

Day 2: I am thankful for my automatic clothes washer and dryer.

Day 1: thankful for a phone with Netflix on days when the baby is being extra clingy and wanting to be held or nursed alot. Or when I have lots of dishes to do...

Nine months! Wow...

Amazing. C is nine months old today.

This past month, he has started crawling on his hands and knees, and pulling himself up and standing up to furniture-- sometimes even with just one hand!

Something tells me he could be taking his first steps by the end of the year...sooo not ready for that...

We had to buy an artificial Christmas tree this year instead of our usual live tree. I was just too worried about C trying to eat the pine needles on the floor and me not being able to keep up with keeping the carpet pine-needle-free. We also have the tree up on the boys' folding toddler table so C can't reach the branches.

Oh, C has also figured out how to climb up stairs and delights in trying to climb up to the podium at church.

He traveled really well a couple weeks ago when we traveled for Thanksgiving; only had a hard time two or three times when he was sleepy and wanted to be held but we had to keep driving so eventually he would stop crying and fall asleep in his carseat.

I've noticed, with this one, that he doesn't get nearly as hysterical as either of his older brothers when he has to cry it out; he's figured out the self-soothing much better and much earlier than my other boys. I still typically will hold him at night until he falls asleep; but there have been several nights where we'll just lay him between us in the bed and he'll just make soothing noises to himself and drift off to sleep.

The only time he gets really mad at bedtime is when he thinks he wants to stay up and play even though I can tell he's sleepy; but I will hug him to my chest and pin his arms down and he'll carry on for up to five minutes but eventually relax, make noises, and finally sleep. He stays asleep much better this way than if I let him nurse to sleep; if he nurses to sleep, he's awake and fussing again within the hour and then I will hold him to my chest until he falls sleep again.

He is still the happiest baby I know. I call him my "little ray of sunshine." I think even his brothers are cheered up by his smiles and laughter whenever they're having a bad day. Definitely glad we decided to go for Baby #3 sooner rather than later, since we got so lucky :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tasty Ears


One night C was fascinated with Nick's ears and kept trying to "eat" them. He was at it for several minutes; I got only a small portion of it on video.

Trash to Treasure Creation #4: plastic bag handbag

 
Some of you may recall the earlier plastic bag shoulder bag I made and posted a while ago. I still use that bag quite often. I've received several compliments about it. It's a lot sturdier than I expected it to be. Yesterday, I decided to try making another bag with some solid-colored plastic bags I've collected. It's smaller, more of a "handbag," and just big enough to carry my wallet, coin purse, cell phone, keys, and a pen.
 

While the first bag spoke more to my practical side, this bag is definitely a more fun-loving, stand-out piece that I think I will enjoy carrying around with me.

I need to collect more colored bags now so I can make these for friends :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Critical thinking of a 3-year-old


This morning, I was out in the kitchen and heard one of my windchimes ringing in the living room as something hit them. I knew from experience that Z must have thrown something at them, and coming out into the living room I noticed right away the plastic hanger which must have been the culprit (he’d been playing with this hanger on-and-off all morning). I scolded him, but then I decided to try reasoning with him, helping him to think critically about what had happened.

Our conversation went like this:

Me: What just happened that was wrong?
 
Z: (pointing to the chimes) Those things just rang.

Me: Yes, but that’s not wrong. What happened that was wrong to make the chimes ring?

Z: I threw the hanger.
 
Me: Do you think it was a good choice to throw the hanger?

Z: No.

Me: What might be a better choice next time instead of throwing a hanger?

Z: (thinks for a moment) Throwing something soft at them. (meaning the chimes)

Me: …well, yes, that would be a little better…

Nick and both laughed at this point.

Z is always throwing things and rather than discourage all throwing (because I realize sometimes he just can’t help himself), I try to dedirect him to find something soft to throw. So, it makes sense that he would come to the conclusion he did, though it was not quite the conclusion I had been hoping for…

Monday, November 5, 2012

Eight Months (plus a day)

C turned eight months yesterday! He has really taken off this last month...

He is crawling now! He actually has been since shortly after my 7-month post. Just the "army crawl," not up on his hands and knees yet. Also just this past week he figured out how to get himself into a sitting position all my himself. He is all over the place now, and he is FAST! Watch out, World...

We've had some pretty rough nights as he continues to teethe. Plus the last week we've all had colds/sore throats and C hasn't escaped it, either. For the last few nights he's been waking up several times in the middle of the night needing to nurse to ease his sore throat. Then of course I've been having to change his diaper in the middle of the night because the increased nursing means he wets himself more often. Hopefully the sore throat will be gone soon and we can all get more restful sleep.

I bought a Toy Story Alien costume for him for Halloween that said "18 months- 2 years" on the label, so I figured it would fit him fine. Then, the day before Halloween I found a Tigger costume in one of the Halloween boxes and decided to try that on him instead (it looked warmer than the alien costume). It barely fit him (the legs and arms were a little too short). But it's a good thing we had it, because later in the evening on Halloween I decided to try the alien costume on him just for a change, and we couldn't even get the second arm in. It was long enough, but just made for a much skinnier baby, I guess.

It's been nice the last month or so, as C's finally able to be placed in the child seat in a shopping cart. Makes shopping in general much easier; though I still try to grocery shop when Nick is home to watch the boys because it's just easier and quicker that way.

We've continued to slowly give him solid foods, and he's started making the connection between Nick and food now whereas before he knew only I could feed him. When the rest of us are getting settled for dinner, he'll look squarely at Nick and say "Na!" which is his way of asking to be fed. It's pretty cute.

He really likes his daddy in general. The other day, the boys were all playing together on the living room floor when Nick got home from work. C whipped around and saw his daddy and immediately started crawling right to him.

It was already a rule in our house before C became mobile, but once in a while I still have to crack down on the boys to keep their Legos and other smaller toys out of the living room. We've even started putting the gate up sometimes to keep C out of the boys' bedroom so they can still play with their toys. For the most part things have gone pretty well, but once in a while we still catch C with a book or a toy in his mouth that shouldn't be there; or leaves, which get tracked in on shoes or on the stroller wheels. We've been vacuuming the floor at least once a week, sometimes twice. Oh, the joys of having a mobile baby...

He likes to grab peoples' hair; I just got mine cut really short to help prevent him pulling my hair so much. Z keeps getting his head too close to the baby and then starts screaming when C grabs a chunk of his hair and won't let go. I'd have more sympathy if I weren't already always having to remind Z to keep his head away from the baby (he still tries to head-butt him a lot).

Still no more teeth. He's tried to bite me a few times while nursing, though. Ouch.

That's all. I think...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Seven Months (plus three days)

With each baby, these months seem to go by exponentially faster! C is seven months old already! A few times people have asked us how old C is now and Nick has said "six months" and I've had to remind him that no, it's seven months now. Crazy...

He has figured out how to roll in both directions now and rolls all over the floor. Sometimes I'll sit him down somewhere, leave the room for a few minutes, and when I come back he's halfway across the room!

At his six-month well-baby, I asked the doc. for copies of G's and Z's baby growth charts to compare them to C's chart. While C's weight gain pattern is more similar to G's than Z's (Z was waaay off the charts for a few months before he became mobile), he is significantly longer than either of them. Which I knew already, but it's fun to see it confirmed on an official record.

He still is such a happy baby, we all just adore him and the boys especially love to make him smile and laugh (though Z is still trying to convince me that C "likes it" when he sits on the baby or otherwise afflicts the poor kid because he gets this little nervous half-smile on his face whenever Z starts in on him).

We've been introducing solids pretty slowly-- a. because if he already has one food sensitivity he's more likely to have more so I want to isolate any problem foods and b. because I'm really just lazy and it is soooo much easier to fit nursing into our busy schedule than everything that goes along with feeding solids. So he gets solids maybe once a day right now-- usually at dinner. The last couple days we've fed him carrots, which he has loved. They are going to stain his diapers, though ;)

A few weeks ago, we were looking in his mouth and discovered his first two teeth had broken through. We could hardly believe what we saw, though, because his first two teeth are his top canines! Which are usually some of the last teeth to grow in. One of them has since recessed, but the other is still poking out. No other teeth yet, though.

Oh, one other thing he started doing shortly after he turned six months: clapping his hands! He seems to do it especially when he wants a little attention, and it works! It sure is cute. I tried to catch it on film, but he stopped as soon as he saw my camera-- of course.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Testimony of God's Love for Women


My heart is burning and bursting right now. It is 3 AM on a Sunday morning and just last evening (Saturday) I attended the worldwide General Relief Society meeting broadcast for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was an evening full of Sisterhood, peace, love, and spiritual enlightenment as church and Relief Society leaders spoke and shared the messages which the Holy Spirit had impressed upon them to share. I am grateful for their messages, for their testimonies, and for their boldness.


Now it is my turn to be bold, to share my own testimony that Jesus Christ lives; that He is my Savior, and that He loves me.


I cannot count the number of times in my life I have heard church leaders try to impress upon us exactly how much Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love women. I’ve heard them say it many times, but never with so much force and conviction have I truly seen and felt that love for myself.


A couple weeks ago, I was having a really rough time. As the mother of three small boys ages five and under, I felt—as I often do—utterly overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for and nurturing my family with the love, patience, energy, and understanding which I felt I should be doing but at which I feared I was failing miserably. After a long day, I was expressing some of my frustration to my husband, who had my six-month-old baby on his lap, facing me. At one point I looked at my baby and he looked back and smiled a winning smile which melted my heart as it usually does. But it was the words my husband spoke next which really arrested that particular moment in my memory.


He said, “Look, dear. Look at your baby. That is the look of true love right there.”


And right then I felt the beginning of a swelling in my soul, which has been growing ever since, and the ever-growing realization that it is true. That my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ really do love me.


Do I deserve that love? Probably not. But they love me nonetheless, because I need that love.


And this morning I want to pronounce to my Sisters everywhere, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love women. Sure, they love all their Children. But they love Women especially, with a special love, with an extra measure of love that is ours and ours alone.


Why? Because we are the caregivers. We are the mothers. We are the wives. We are the daughters. We are the sisters. And in all these roles, it is women that the children of the Lord turn to when they need to be succored, to be nurtured, to be loved. And were it not for that extra measure of love bestowed upon us by our Creator, we would not have enough love to give to others who need it.

 
Oftentimes people in the world who wish to challenge the Church and question the role of women within the organization like to point out the fact that our church does not allow women to hold the Priesthood nor perform Priesthood ordinances. Instead, the Priesthood is reserved only for the faithful men in the Church. The world looks upon this fact and believes that women are somehow being cheated, that we are being oppressed. This is false.


In fact, I have come to believe that we as women have been given our own parallel “priesthood” within the Church and—by extension—in the world. It is different from, but no less equal to, that Priesthood Power granted to the Lord’s faithful male follwers. It is that same love of which I wrote before. Just as Christ laid his hands upon His Apostles’ heads in ancient times to confer upon them the Preisthood and Power of God on Earth—which was restored to Joseph Smith in the Latter-Days and passed down by the laying on of hands to this day—so has Christ placed His hands upon the hearts of the women of the Church and conferred upon us the Love of Christ. In other words, Charity is our priesthood. And we ought to be fulfilling our duties in this area with the same resolve and dilligence which we expect from the Brethren in fulfilling their Priesthood duties.


Within a home, a man may be the head, but the woman is the heart. Men are the heads of the Church under the authority and direction of the Savior. But without women—without the Sisters—His Love could not be poured out so abundantly as it is. It is through the women of the Church that Charity prevails. It is the Love of Christ which inspires and empowers us to serve and bless the rest of the world with that Love. It is our calling. It is our sacred trust.


I humbly and fervently pray, in the name of my Savior and Brother Jesus Christ, that I may fulfill that Calling throughout the rest of my life with the same resolve which I feel right now.


Amen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Know Your Food: Comparing Natural Sources of Saturated Fats

Yep. Another post on saturated fats. And more particularly, comparing natural sources of saturated fat. I wrote last time about my thoughts on using bacon grease as I did away with butter in my house due to my baby's dairy sensitivity. I was curious to look at other alternatives as well, however.

I want to be clear, that I do not entirely oppose the use of vegetable oil spreads (but read your labels carefully!), though I was a little...unkind...to the BENECOL brand (simply because that was the comparison I came across and was surprised by my discovery as previously discussed).

I am on the hunt for good, all-natural spreads and oils with less saturated fat and more of the "good fats." It's a challenge for me, because olive oil-- which is supposed to be the healthiest oil-- does not agree with my system very well (I suspect at least a minor intolerance). But I will discuss liquid oils further in a future post.

Back to the solid stuff.

Any moderately experienced baker will tell you that liquid fats just don't perform the same as solid (saturated) fats when baking. That's why trans fats became so popular in the first place, as everyone thought it was going to be a healthier alternative to saturated fats. Of course we now know they were wrong. But if you're not going to use trans fats when you bake, you have to use a saturated fat.

If you want a natural fat to use when you bake, butter and bacon grease are not the only options. You could also use another type of grease from another meat (though none, so I hear, are as good-tasting as bacon), or another option-- particularly attractive to vegetarians and those seeking to limit their intake of animal proteins-- is coconut oil. I have not yet personally tried baking with either bacon grease or coconut oil, but I intend to soon (I'll let you all know how it goes).

Now some notable comparisons of butter vs. bacon grease vs. coconut oil:^

*Butter contains the highest amount of saturated fats by a wide margin; bacon grease contains the least.
*Butter also contains the highest amounts of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats; coconut oil contains the least of both of these.
Going strictly by percentages, coconut oil contains the highest percentage of saturated fat and the lowest percentages of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Bacon grease contains the lowest percentage of saturated fat and the highest of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
*Coconut oil and butter both contain a significant amount of lauric acid, believed to raise HDL cholesterol; bacon grease contains only a negigible amount of this beneficial saturated fat.
*Remember the arachidic acid discussed in my previous post? The one that causes irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system? It's in butter, but not in bacon grease or coconut oil.

So which is the healthiest option for baking? You be your own judge.

^Source: skipthepie.org

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Latest Indulgence

Coconut M&M's Candy: 18.6-Ounce Bag
Yesterday while out windowshopping at various stores, I came across these beauties...COCONUT M&Ms! I can't believe I didn't come across these before (tells you how often I get out).

*M&Ms in my absoulte favorite flavor-- COCONUT.
*In my three favorite colors combined!

It's like they know me...scary...

I absoutely had to try them. So I forked over the $.89 or however much they cost (can't remember) and snacked on them as I sat down to nurse the baby.

Now I want to buy a whole big box full.

Only I can't bring them home, because if Nick sees the picture of the "Lady M&M" on the front of the bag, striking her flirtatious pose, he'll probably end up saying something like "you're hotter than that," followed by getting all mushy with me and then I will feel obligated to share my new acquisition.

I guess that's what I get for having a husband... ;)




Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Know Your Food: Saturated Fats Are Not Created Equal

For several years now I've believed in being aware of the ingredients in the foods I'm eating and making informed food choices. But I'm starting to realize more recently just how much there is to learn before I can be truly informed in every aspect. As I embark on this quest, I thought I might as well share my findings here. So here is part one, regarding saturated fats.

Enjoy.

Pretty much everyone should know about saturated fats, so I'm not going to insult anyone's intelligence here. But what you may not know, and what I just found out, is, there are many different chemical types of saturated fats, and they are not all created equal.

Thanks to my baby's apparent milk intolerance (or possible allergy), I have eliminated most milk from my diet and continue to seek alternatives to the dairy I am still consuming. Having already eliminated milk, ice cream, and yogurt (though I do sneak a little in here and there), I figure the next thing to go is butter.

I've been using real butter for over a year now. I like the idea of "keeping it natural," versus using margarine or some other margarine-like spread. But of course, butter is dairy. So I need a replacement.

This morning I started thinking about using bacon grease. It seemed a little odd (gross?) at first, but then I started rooting around online and found out that it's actually quite common to use bacon grease in place of butter or even shortening.

Now you're probably thinking, "bacon grease?! Seriously?! Do you have a death wish, woman?"

Actually, as it turns out, switching to bacon grease makes a good deal of sense for me and my family. It may not be the right choice for everyone (if your body is threatening to shut down due to high choloesterol or heart disease, by all means keep away from the bacon grease!), but in moderation in an otherwise healthy individual it can't be any worse than butter.

Granted, we have probably been consuming too much butter in this house anyway; but the way I see it, switching to bacon grease should actually be better, since it takes a lot more effort to render the grease and we won't have as much of it, and so will use less of it in order to make it stretch more.

But on to my discussion of saturated fats not being equal.

At one point during my search this morning, I encountered a website entitled SkipThePie.org, a very handy search engine designed to give you the "skinny" on pretty much any food; it will break the food down for you, not only revealing all nutritional facts you might find on a food label, but also breaking the food down into its individual chemical components-- fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and so on.

So here I was on this website, looking at a comparison of bacon grease versus a "heart-healthy" margarine spread known as BENECOL Light. And I eventually scrolled down to the section outlining the fats and fatty acids content. I was impressed at the number of different chemical compounds represented in this list. You can look it all up for yourself if you're curious.

But to make a long story short, BENECOL Light contained two saturated fats which were not present in the bacon grease, and which-- after more research on a site called Chemical Book-- I found out can actually be hazardous to human health: arachidic acid and behenic acid, both of which turn out to be potentially harmful irritants to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system.

Bacon grease contains none of these hazardous fats; but the BENECOL contains .021g or arachidic acid and .01932g of behenic acid per 1 Tbsp. serving. It doesn't seem like a lot, but then who sticks to just 1 Tbsp. a day?

Granted, the bacon grease has a whole lot more saturated fat in all than the BENECOL, so for some people the BENECOL will still be the healthier option (though if you're using the BENECOL 5-6 times more often than you're using the bacon grease, it's really a toss-up). But be informed that you may experience some slight irritation to the eyes, skin (including the throat I presume), and respiratory system as a trade-off for improving your cholesterol.

It's all about being informed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ingenious response to the question, "Is Santa Clause real?"

A year or so ago, G (4 years old at the time) asked us for the first time if Santa Clause was real. We had not been expecting that question at such a young age. But, honesty won out and we did our best to explain to him the legend of St. Nick and the development of the Santa Clause we now know. We talked about stories and pretending, and how "it's fun to pretend." But we must not have done a very good job explaining, or maybe we equivocated a bit too much. In any case, six(ish) months later, G asked again if Santa Clause was real, and this time I simply said, "What do you think?" He said, "I think he's real." And I just left it at that.

After pondering this question several times in the last year, a lightbulb went off just today. So, this is how I plan on explaining Santa the next time one of my kids asks:

"You know how you like to play pretend that you're a super hero and we all play along and pretend with you? It's a really fun game to play, isn't it? Well, Santa Clause is like a game. A long, long time ago a real person named St. Nick started going around to children's houses on Christmas Eve and leaving presents for them while they were sleeping. He only did it in his own village; but eventually, people in other villages saw what he was doing and they started doing it in their own villages, too. It was so much fun, eventually all the parents started leaving presents for their children on Christmas Eve. But because it was more fun to pretend, and because the parents wanted to remember the original St. Nicholas who first started the game, they would tell their children that "St. Nick" left the presents. Eventually, the name "St. Nick" changed to "Santa Clause," and people started inventing many other stories about him, like how he rides on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, and lives in the North Pole. It's all pretend, but everyone loves the game so much that we all play it together, and we continue to pretend it's real even when we know that it's really not. Dad and I both like the game, so we decided to play it with you and your brothers. What do you think? Do you like the game? Do you want to play, too?"

And there you have it. No need to thank me for saving your bacon when your children ask the same ;)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A gift and a trial

I have to write about something that's been eating at me for a while. I hope I can do so succinctly and clearly; I suspect I will probably fail, however. It's a difficult subject for me to write about, being very emotionally charged, and it will probably cause some strong emotions in some of my readers as well. I apologize for any adverse effect my words may have, but I cannot apologize for the feelings behind them, because if I did I would also have to apologize for being human and that would be condemning Someone who-- of all beings-- is and always will be above reproach.

I have three boys-- three beautiful, intelligent, amazing children. They are the joy of my life, as well as-- so it feels at times-- the bane of my existence. But I love my children. I am glad I had them. I would not trade them for anything.

Whenever I think of having any more, however, I can hardly stand the thought. It stresses me out. I've reached my limit, my maximum capacity, and doggone it can I just be done already? Pretty please?

I'm done. Sooooo done. I've had my babies. Now, I'd just like to be able to enjoy raising them and watching them grow up. The idea of being a "new mother" over and over and over again does not appeal to me. At all.

Mother Nature begs to differ with me. Because I-- apparently-- have been blessed with the perfect body for conceiving, bearing, and nurturing babies. Conceiving when I wanted to conceive has never been an issue for me. My pregnancies, while far from pleasant, have also been a relative breeze compared to those experienced by other women of my acquaintance. When breastfeeding, I have always had an abundant supply and strong, eager nurselings. I delivered three big babies vaginally-- two drug-free-- and one weighing over eleven pounds.

Any woman who has struggled with infertility, difficult pregnancies, complicated labor, or a myriad of breastfeeding challenges, would no doubt tell me that I have been blessed with an incredible gift.

So why would I want to throw that gift away?

To be honest, I don't. I just wish there were some way I could share it when I wanted to, with other women who-- quite frankly-- would probably do a better job raising their children than I do but who through no fault of their own have been unable to have children of their own to raise. Why, if I feel unequal to the task myself, can it not be acceptable for me to have babies for someone else instead? I'd do it, too, if only I weren't so worried about the accompanying feelings of guilt and trying to explain to such a baby why I kept three babies and decided to give him (or her) away, even if by doing so he would be given every conceivable advantage versus staying to be raised by me. And while I realize the craziness of ever acting on the thought (especially considering I am not an unwed or teen mom but rather in a committed monogamous relationship with a loving and supportive parental companion) , the fact that I'd even consider it maybe tells you how desperate I am for some relief from constantly bearing and-- more specifically-- caring for one baby after another.

If anyone had asked me, as a youth, to try and guess what my biggest trials might be as an adult, I never ever would have thought to say "having too many children." On the contrary, I thought I wanted at least half a dozen. I had no idea...

As I stated before, when I think about adding more children to our family, I feel so stressed and overwhelmed and utterly incapable. On the flipside, whenever I tell myself it's okay to be done if I need to be, I feel a sense of peace and contentment that is difficult to ignore.

At other times, however, I think about quitting and I just feel so sad and guilty. Mostly because I start thinking about all those women out there-- several of whom I know personally and love deeply-- who would practically die to be in my shoes and would probably be shocked if they heard that I harbored so much angst over having more children when they had struggled or were still struggling to have just one child to call their own. Who might even feel anger at the confession that there have been days where I would seriously consider trading places with them (moving forward, of course; because I would never want to give away the children I already have).

And this is where I begin to question myself. And the biggest question is, WHY? Why do I feel so strongly that I want to be done?

After baby #2, the answer would have been easy. Baby #2 was so hard on me, psychologically speaking. I believe I suffered from post-partum depression and anxiety, which led-- for a time-- to feelings of doubt in my ability as a mother to more than one child, as well as feelings of detachment and resentment towards my second son which-- happily-- eventually went away, but the lingering effects of that psychologically imbalanced period continue to haunt me at times even three years later.

All through my pregnancy with #3, I worried that the same thing might happen again. I did everything I could to prepare myself psychologically for the new addition to our family, and all the new challenges he might bring with him. Well apparently I did a pretty good job (or just got lucky), because at six months post-partum I feel pretty darn good (most of the time). And of all my babies, so far I have enjoyed #3 the most.

As a matter of fact, I have thoroughly enjoyed each of my boys, strictly one-on-one. But it's been the combination of all three that I find to be so difficult. At least this time around I feel more up to the challenge, and I can see a possible "light at the end of the tunnel" which was completely hidden to me before after baby #2. It's not so bad, most of the time. I can handle it, but only thanks to an amazing support system consisting mainly of my husband, my in-laws, and the occasional friend or church member (which are often one-and-the-same). I'm glad my boys will be able to grow up together, close enough in age to be able to relate to each other and enjoy doing things together.

But it has been hard. Hard to be patient. Hard to stay calm. Hard to be loving and nurturing. Hard to be cheerful. Hard to be everywhere at once, attending to more than one need at a time, finding that balance. Many days, amazingly, I do fairly well. But other days are living nightmares and I get to the end of the day (or even just halfway) feeling like a complete and utter failure to my children.

I just never want to go through this again. And if I ever have another baby-- if I get my way-- it will be at least five-seven years from now, and it will be just one (preferably a girl). And if I have another one after that, it will be another five or so years beyond that. You get the idea.

But then, what if God has other plans? And that is why I figure I really have this trial in my life to begin with. Because I still have not fully learned to trust in Him. That He knows what I need most in my life and when I need it. And I am having a very hard time relinquishing what little control I feel I have over the course of my life.

If I finally came to embrace His plan for me, do you think He might let me be done? ;)



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Six months! (plus a day)

C is half a year old! Already! Hard to believe...

He is now somewhere between 12-month clothing and 18-month; which means 12 month barely fits and 18 month is just a wee bit big, but he will grow into it quickly. It's crazy, though, because the clothes that C is just now growing into were clothes that G was wearing as a 1-year-old--and I thought he was a big baby!

He's not nearly as chunky as Z was as a baby, but he must be really long for his age. And I just realized I need to make an appointment for his 6-month well-baby visit still...oops...

He is a pretty happy, sociable little boy and loves to smile and laugh. He even tolerates a certain amount of "abuse" from his big brother Z, though I do my best to prevent any real physical harm. The other day, though, Z jumped over the baby as he was laying on the floor and before I could stop him, his shoe scraped across the right side of C's face, near his eye. Ouch. I put C in the playpen quite often to keep him more protected, except Z has almost figured out how to climb in with his baby brother. *sigh*

About halfway through this last month, C started rolling from his tummy to his back. I first noticed it one day when he woke from his nap and started fussing, but I couldn't get to him right away. After a brief time, I realized he wasn't fussing anymore, and I looked in and he had rolled onto his back (he sleeps on his tummy) and was cooing happily at the ceiling. Since then, he's rolled into his back many times. He has yet to figure out how to reverse the process, however.

I've tried a couple times to introduce a little solid food, but he's still thrusting his tongue out when I try, so I'm not pushing it. The first time I tried was a couple weeks ago when he was being trated with an antibiotic and I decided to try mixing a little probiotic powder with applesauce to give to him (ended up having to more-or-less force it down, though, since he kept spitting it back out). Then I tried giving him a little mashed-up banana this morning, but he pushed that out, too.

We've been giving him lots of practice sitting with support the last few weeks. He likes his "bumbo"-type seat, and we also have sometimes propped him up on the couch (with close supervision). But finally today at the library storytime with the boys, I tried sitting C up on the floor, and he sat for a good 2-4 minutes with no support! Yay! Hopefully I will be able to get pictures soon.

He seems much more orally fixated than either of his brothers were. Everything goes straight to the mouth. We've even caught him sucking his thumb several times.




I apologise for the date being wrong on a couple of the above pictures.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Get an intrathecal, not an epidural

This past Sunday I was visiting with a friend at church who is a midwife. We got talking about natural childbirth, which we are both pretty passionate about. Among other things, I mentioned my recent experience delivering an 11 lb. baby naturally, and how I'd heard that having an epidural actually makes it impossible to deliver big babies vaginally. She confirmed this. I then talked about how I'd requested an intrathecal (instead of an epidural) during my first labor, and now looking back I realize that if I had had an epidural, I would almost definitely have ended up with a C-section (baby was almost 9 lbs.); and I wondered why more doctors don't push intrathecals over epidurals.

Well for one, as this friend told me, epidurals are more expensive and so anesthesiologists get paid more for administering epidurals over intrathecals. According to her, intrathecals are considered "outmoded" by many doctors, and so are not even presented as an option anymore. The only way I personally came across this pain management option was that during my first pregnancy my midwives presented me with a book titled "While Waiting." Even in that book, all it really says about risks of intrathecal over epidural is that "Current research suggests that the incidence of need for forceps or vacuum extraction or Caesarean delivery is about the same for women receiving intrathecal anesthesia compared to those receiving a regular epidural."

So what's the difference? What initially attracted me to the intrathecal over the epidural (though I was planning on a natural delivery, I wanted to have an acceptable pain relief option available should I need it), was that the intrathecal is more likely to allow the woman to move around and aid in pushing. An intrathecal numbs the pain without affecting the muscles. The drawback? An intrathecal typically only lasts for 2-3 hours. For the woman who wants total pain relief during labor, obviously the intrathecal is not going to do it for her. But for the woman who is willing to labor naturally for as long as possible but wants to keep the option open for temporary pain relief through the most difficult part of labor (being transition and pushing), the intrathecal makes a whole lot more sense.

One drawback that epidurals are notable for is that they hinder the laboring woman's ability to feel and listen to her own body's cues to push. I knew this, and I wanted to avoid being tied to my bed during labor. I wanted to be an active participant in the birth of my child.

So why is the epidural, then, the "drug of choice" for pain management during labor? Even if women are aware of the choice to have an intrathecal, they might be dissuaded by their doctor by the fact that an intrathecal begins to wear off after a couple of hours. This fact is viewed as a bad thing by many laboring women, who have been conditioned to believe that all pain is bad and traumatic and should be avoided. I don't like pain; even mild discomfort tends to make me irritable. But I also have come to believe that all pain is not created equal. And in the case of childbirth, the pain which accompanies contracitons and pushing is good pain, productive pain. And with all three of my deliveries, I have strived to use my pain, to embrace it, to make it work for me. And I have been rewarded with three vaginal deliveries, two of which were completely medication free (aside from receiving antibiotics in early labor for Group B Strep). I won't say it was easy, as it was quite the opposite; but the reward-- for me-- was the avoidance of unnccessary C-secitons due to the inability to push out my big babies.

So where did the intrathecal come into play? During my first pregnancy, my baby was overdue. I requested to be induced. To make a long story short, being on-and-off the pitocin for 30+ hours and getting very little sleep in all that time, by the time I got to the transition stage of labor I was exhausted. Up to this point, I'd been managing my labor pain pretty well; but I can tell you after experiencing both, the pain of a natural contraciton versus the pain of an induced contraction are so very different. Chemically, I believe that when contracitons are induced, the body does not have the same embracive response as it would to natural labor contractions. Also, induced contractions follow a different "rhythm" than natural contractions, often occurring one on top of the other rather than being spaced out with natural rest periods in between.

So, I got to the point where I knew I needed to rest before I had to push my baby out. I got out of the tub and into the bed, and before long the anesthesiologist arrived to administer my medication. I shudder to think what might have transpired had I gone into labor with no birth plan and having done none of my own research on my pain management options. As it was, I had written into my birth plan to get the intrathecal, so that was what he was prepared to give me.

The relief was almost immediate. I slept for two blissful hours. I might have slept even longer, but I was suddenly awakened by my pain beginning to return, and I realized that I had an irresistible urge to start pushing. I pushed the call button and alerted the nurse, who in turn alerted my midwife. The nurse helped me through the first few pushes before the midwife got there. I pushed my baby out in about eleven minutes, which is-- statistically speaking-- quite fast for a first-time delivery.

My baby weighed in at 8 lbs. 15 ounces. A weight which-- if most doctors knew I was going to deliver such a big baby before the fact-- would have recommended me for an automatic C-section merely judging by my petite size (5 ft. 2"). It seems really silly to me now that this would be the case, considering I have managed to vaginally deliver a baby weighing over 11 lbs. 9 lbs in comparison seems absolutely tiny.

So what led to this erroneous wide-spread belief that big babies cannot be delivered vaginally? You can come to your own conclusions, but personally, I'll blame it on the epidural.

And what's the take-home message of the whole post? To sum it up: If you're going to use pain management to get through labor, please please please have a heart-to-heart with your doctor or midwife about trying the intrathecal. And refer them to this blog post. Because doctors and women need to become more educated on the subject of appropriate and effective pain management while still facillitating vaginal deliveries and decreasing the number of unneccessary C-sections.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!

Okay, I can't sleep. I have managed to thoroughly freak myself out.

A couple weeks ago, I began planning for Z's birthday party this coming weekend. Traditionally, we have had an outdoor party involving water. This year, I also decided to serve roasted hot dogs and homemade snow cones (using my blender to shave the ice).

I am also attempting to make a red velvet cake from scratch, because when I asked Z what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he said "red." Red is his favorite color.

Originally we'd planned to just have a few families over to our place; we'd all just hang out on the big lawn in front of our apartment, throw a few water balloons... But then, I thought why not make it more than just a birthday party; here was an opportunity to entertain a number of friends whom we've been intending to have over all summer and here's our last chance! We could put out a slip-n-slide, maybe get a large-ish wading pool, a few squirt guns, and of course the water balloons (because G decided two years ago that it should be a tradition to have water balloons at all of Z's birthday parties).

So I called up my mother-in-law and asked if we could have the party at their place, to which she graciously agreed (she's a generous soul herself).

At this point, I confess I got carried away (and Nick didn't stop me like he usually does-- he got a little carried away, too, though he probably won't admit it). I thought about the few families at church who have invited us to parties at their homes. And there were a couple of new families we wanted to get to know better. And then I tried to think of who the boys were good friends with and wanted to invite them. And then of course there's local family members who must be included. I had people I wanted to invite, and Nick had people he wanted to invite (and there were a few families on both our lists).

I made the invitations this morning and Nick and I handed them out at church today. We had twelve invites; nine were delivered (a few families were not there, and maybe it's just as well).

So, tally the potential guests (including us and familiy):

A=Adult; C=Child; B=Baby (under 2)

AA
AACCB
AACCB
ACB
ACC
AACB
AACB
AACCB
AACCCCB
AA
A
AACCCCB
AACCCCCCB

That's 23 adults, 25 children, and 9 babies. 57 total.

WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

It's the larger families that are doing us in...

Of course, as I told Nick, it's likely not everyone will actually come, and I'm estimating the actual number of guests to be more like 30 (which is still a lot). But then Nick pointed out that it's also possible that everyone will come.

So now I don't know which to fear more: the thought that no one will come and that all my effort will be wasted; or that everyone will come, chaos will ensue, my cake will come out disastrous, some kid will light his clothes on fire, and the motor on my blender will die halfway through blending the ice for the snow cones leaving some very sad children snow-cone-less (heaven forbid).

Also, when I told my mother-in-law over the phone how many people we'd invited, I think I might have given her a near-heart-attack. I really should not be doing this to her (and I wouldn't blame her if she never let me throw a party at her house again).

Perhaps this whole thing was not too well thought through...

But, the ball's rolling now, so better roll with it!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Five months

C is five months today (we'll see if I actually get this posted on the same day I start to write it).

He's pretty close to rolling over, but hasn't quite worked it out yet. He's getting to be quite "talkative," and his smiles are contagious. He likes to play with and suck on his hands, his shirt, his feet, the burp rag, or anything else he can get into his mouth. He seems to be much more orally stimulated than either of my other boys.

He spends a lot of time in the pack-n-play when he's awake, because it's too dangerous to leave him on the floor alone with Z around. Z is constantly trying to "wrestle" with him, and has even laid on him a few times *gasp* But he has somehow survived, despite my apprehensions.

He loves to be outside. He's pretty content to let just about anyone hold him right now, though I expect that will change at some point in the next few months.

I've eliminated most dairy from my diet now (yes, I miss it), and it really seems to be helping. C hasn't had a bad rash in almost a month, and he no longer screams in pain when he has a poopy diaper (a blessing and a curse, since it's not so easy to tell anymore when he needs a diaper change). He also is spitting up less than he was before, and is generally easier to get settled in at night (when the teething isn't bothering him too much). Makes me wish I had thought to try eliminating dairy when I was nursing Z; maybe he wouldn't have been so fussy and colicy all the time if I had (maybe he'd even be happier now).

So, a word of advice to any of you mothers out there dealing with colicy breastfed babies: try cutting the dairy. It might just save your sanity-- and your little one a lot of unneccessary pain. (wish I could go back in time to when I was a baby and tell this to my mom, haha)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Good Ol' Macaroni and Cheese

Most times growing up (once we were old enough to be left alone), whenever my parents went out together at dinner time, my mom would leave a couple boxes macaroni and cheese on the kitchen counter for an easy meal that I or one of my siblings (she usually called on one of us before she left) could fix for the rest of the bunch. I took my share of turns at this task.

Macaroni and cheese should be foolproof, right? And for the most part it was; but my siblings will probably remember as well as I, there were a couple times I got it wrong-- really wrong.

Once, I forgot to drain the water before adding the cheese powder. I'll leave the rest of that story up to your imagination.

Another most memorable time was when I decided to add salt to the pot, per the box's suggestion ("1 tsp. salt optional"). Only I somehow read "1 Tbsp." instead. So, since I was fixing a double recipe, I added 2 Tablespoons salt and happily stirred away.

At the table, I dished out my siblings' plates first (as a good big sister should) and one of my brothers took the first bite and immediately complained that it was too salty. "Oh come on," I said (perhaps not verbatim, this was a long long time ago). "I just added a little salt, it's not that bad." Eventually, I settled in to eat myself and took a bite. "Okay," I confessed. "You're right. Guess I'll have to heat up some cans of chilli for dinner instead."

As I've grown into adulthood, first going to college and then settling into married life and raising my children, macaroni and cheese is still my go-to quick and easy meal at the end of a stressful, busy day. I know, it's really not that good for me, or for my family. But I figure, as I generally feed my family healthy foods, I can afford to "splurge" once in a while. Someday, too, I'll try my hand at mac-n-cheese from scratch; but the boxed stuff is so much cheaper and we keep buying it in bulk at caselot sales, so I feel obliged to keep making it the easy way.

But I don't just fix the same-old recipe over and over again. I like to experiment when I cook, and the macaroni and cheese dinner has not escaped my efforts to continually "shake it up" and make it new and more interesting again (though I have never again tried adding salt after that first failed experiment).

I've added hot dogs (learned that one from my mother). I've added tuna. I've added mushrooms. Peas. Carrots. Ground beef. Just this afternoon, I threw in a can of diced tomatoes. I've made it without milk. I've made it without butter. I've baked it in a casserole dish with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

And it's probably one of the first things my kids will learn to cook on their own, for those times when Nick and I leave them for the evening to fend for themselves.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The irony of the housing market

Guess you could call this "Small Spaces Part 2." Though it's more like just a thought tangent that is related, but I didn't want it to clutter up the other post.

I find it ironic, that typically when a young couple (like Nick and I) just starting out in life buy a home, we tend to go for something small at first. This type of home is often referred to as a "starter home," and (at least before the housing market crash changed things for some of us) isn't intended as a home that the couple will stay in long term as their family grows in number and size.

But small children seem to take up a lot of space; and the younger the child, the more disproportionate is the space he or she requires. But, the family somehow struggles through the first few years as their small home threatens their sanity at every turn, causing them to exclaim in exasperation, "We need more space!"

But then, by the time the couple can afford to "upsize," often the oldest children have started school, then the younger children follow; the family spends less and less time at home, and the growing children-- while not perhaps requiring less space than when they were small-- are more capable of sharing space, keeping that space tidy, and picking up on the concept of organization and space efficiency, making the small space finally begin to feel more livable.

Most families, though, will still choose (if they can) to move into a larger space. But then, after several more years, the children start to leave the home. Suddenly all that space that once seemed so necessary instead just starts to feel empty. And, in the end, you're often left with an elderly couple living alone together in a house that (except for when the kids and grandkids come to visit) is simply overkill on a day-to-day basis.

Anyhow, the irony is: when we really need the space, we can't afford it; and when we can finally afford it, we don't really need it anymore.

Small Spaces

When Nick and I were first married, I spent a good deal of time drawing up numerous "dream homes." I didn't think much about conserving space, but rather drew houses with a variety of different rooms for different desired functions: such as a craft room, a home gym and such, in addition to the typical bedroom, kitchen, living room, and so forth. They had basements, they had third stories. Point being, they were BIG houses. Hey, if you're going to dream, why not dream big, right?

With time, though, tempered by experience and a very limited budget, lately my "house plans" have become smaller and smaller. Now, it is an exciting challenge for me to try to design the smallest possible home which would still be safe and up to code, and efficient for our family-- and which we could also actually afford. And far from feeling deprived of my initial big "dream homes," I have absolutely fallen in love with the idea of "living small."

If someone came up to me tomorrow and offered me an affordable (for us) 1500-2000 square foot home, I'd turn it down immediately. What would I do with that much space? I'd just fill it up with junk, and I'd have to work harder to keep it clean, and don't even get me started on maintenance of the structure.

Currently, my family and I are living in a condo with 700-720 square feet of living space. And with three small children, yes, it does feel small at times. Less so in the summer, moreso in the winter. But the secret of living in a small space is to take advantage of the vertical space, and that is something we have only been able to partially do so far. But, we're making slow progress.

When we first bought this place (shortly before the market crash), we figured we'd live in it for a few years, then sell it and use the equity to qualify for a loan on an actual house. As it's turned out, we have now been here for over four years, and the end is still not it sight. And while I used to often say, "I can't wait to get out of this place," now I'm beginning to ask myself, "Why leave?"

Pros of living where we live:

*cheaper electric/heating bill
*We are responsible for no external maintenance (except to keep the area in front of our unit looking presentable) or yard maintenance as it is covered by Association Dues
*We are within walking distance of 2-3 parks, a mall, the library, farmers' markets, a mini market, our chiropractor, a gym, G's elementary school, and many downtown shops including second-hand stores, not to mention other places yet to be discovered as the kids grow older
*It's a solid structure, safe, and sanitary
*We like (most of) our neighbors
*G and Z love having playmates right next door in the same building
*There is a large lawn right in front of our unit for the boys to play on, and I can see most of it out my kitchen window
*I love being downtown, participating in all this city has to offer; while at the same time the peace and tranquility of nature is only a short drive away
*A monthly mortgage payment lower than most stand-alone houses, and cheaper than rent

Cons:

*Less privacy than if we lived in a separate house
*There is not a fenced-in yard for the kids to play in (though we're possibly fixing that in the next little while)
*Occasionally noisy neighbors; and occasionally nosy neighbors
*Lack of sufficient outdoor storage space for stuff like strollers and bicycles
*The washer and dryer are in the kitchen, which I personally find a little annoying (not to mention potentially unsanitary)

Umm, that's about it. I don't even consider "small living space" to be a con anymore. Rather, it's simply a challenge that-- with a little ingenuity and funding-- can be easily conquered.

In trying to research the codes/laws for living space per person in the US, I've gathered that each person (if I've found the right information) is required at least 100 square feet of living space. That means Nick and I could add one more person (child) to our family and still be meeting safety codes. As for what the condo association would say, that's another matter, and certainly needs more looking into before we get ourselves into trouble there.

Just a few days ago, I finished drawing up a house plan for a family of 5-6, with around 900 square feet of living space. This was an enjoyable exercise for me, and I still like the finished product. But then, I started thinking about ways to fix up the place we already have to accommodate our family and it is amazingly doable, and by far the most economical option in every way.

And we are all about economy...

Friday, July 20, 2012

It's in the pants

We have a few foam puzzles with foam letters and other foam shapes. This evening as I was changing C's diaper, G was supposed to be picking up the foam puzzles.

From my bedroom, I heard Nick half-laughing and half-scolding G because he had put some of the foam letters down the front of his pants. He appealed to me: "Dear! Help, I need you!" (heeheehahaaaa)

Me: "What?"
Nick: "G's putting foam pieces down his pants." (gigglesnort)
Me: (Come on, Nick...) "And what do you want me to do about it?"
Nick: "I don't know! Come tell him he's not supposed to put toys in his pants!"

Nick continued to laugh uncontrollably, and then I got it: He wanted me to be the serious one and discipline our kid because he was too busy laughing at our son's antics to do it himself.

So, naturally, I laughed, too. I assume G eventually cleaned out his pants on his own.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some baby/brother pictures

Almost two weeks old:

Brothers:

He fell asleep like this on my sister's lap:

Z just loves his baby...

...even when sitting on the potty...


Gotta love those faces:

Kinda nice to have someone else available now to read out loud...

Monday, July 16, 2012

White

Someday, I'm going to have a big blank wall in my house. I will paint it white, then invite my children to paint/color/draw on the wall to their heart's content. Every once in a while, when it starts to get too full, I will take pictures and then paint over the whole thing with a fresh coat (or two) of new white paint.

White-- while technically not a color-- is a beautiful "color" nonetheless. It's attractive, appealing, and somehow even interesting. Some, looking at a white wall, or a white canvas, or a white sheet of paper, may look at it and see nothing. It's boring. It's dull. I look at all that white, and I see potential. I am not an artist in the main sense of the word, but if I were, I would never be able to leave any white surface blank for long. Or if I did, I would not be able to look at that white surface and not see something beautiful and exciting and amazing in my mind, telling myself that someday, that white surface would be transformed.

Instead, though, for me, my "white surface" is usually more figurative. It manifests itself in the newly-cleared and cleaned countertop just begging for a fresh batch of cookies to be baked. Or a cleared-off table after dinner asking for a card game to be played upon it. Or an empty bookshelf inviting new books or knick-knacks to be placed upon it, to add their own "spirit" to the room.

Not surprising, then, my house is rarely found with an empty surface anywhere. When this happens, I may be found going into a frenzy, desperate for a single clean surface anywhere. When my life gets so utterly cluttered and disorganized, it gets difficult for me to be creative at all. Even fixing a simple dinner becomes an unbearable and overwhelming chore. So I clean (which, in a way, is also a creative process and the only enjoyable way for me to look at it). And as soon as a surface, or closet, or room, is clean and tidy once more, I find I can finally breathe easy again. I can relax again. I can think again. I can be creative again. But, herein lies the irony; because no surface/area/room remains clean for long, thanks to the overwhelming urge to look at the potential of that "boring" space and do something new and exciting with it.


But in between the active cleaning and creating, it's nice to step back and look at all that "white" for a moment and admire its purity, its dignity, and-- most of all-- its latent potential.




Beautiful, isn't it?









Thursday, July 5, 2012

Four Months

I'm only one day late this month!

C weighed in at 17 lbs. 13 oz. at the WIC office today. He also measured at 27 inches, though I don't trust the accuracy of length measurements so much. I could still believe it, though-- he really is a long baby, and now wearing 12 month sleepers and onesies.

He loves to smile and laugh, and enjoys all the attention he can get, especially from his big brothers.

I have to say, I was worried before C was born, that Z would be jealous of the baby; but he absolutely dotes on his little brother and calls him "my baby." I actually have to fight Z sometimes to let me change the baby's diaper or nurse; we've had many a gentle "tug-of-war" over the poor kid already.

Now that it's warm outside I've been having C out as much as possible. He is always so happy to be outside, and objects whenever I try to bring him in. He's taken a few "catnaps" out front in his stroller, though I don't let him nap in the stroller often as those naps never last very long.

Some nights he sleeps several hours, but most nights he wakes more frequently. He still falls asleep around 7 or 8, and then wakes up between 9 and 10 and won't go back to sleep until 11 or even midnight. A bit exhausting at times; but at least he takes a good long sleep in the morning to make up for it; sometimes even the boys sleep in, so I get a more-or-less peaceful morning before the chaos begins...

He really enjoyed watching the fireworks on the 4th of July. I was worried he'd get upset at all the loud sounds, but he just sat on my lap and watched the pretty flashing lights; and when we got home that night, he went right down and slept for eight whole hours!

Teething is full-blown now. He drenches his onesies with drool; or if he's resting on our shoulders we have burp rags to protect out clothes and he drenches those, too. He gets fussy sometimes, but he's also taken to sucking on his hands/fingers to soothe himself (I used to put socks on his hands to keep him from scratching himself and others; but I've given up on that because he just kept drenching the socks). I have a box of teething tablets I bought a few weeks ago, but I keep forgetting to use them :/

He really is a good, happy baby, and so well loved by all of us :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

A story, as dictated by my five-year-old


Super Mario and His Missing Glove and His Missing Tooth



One day, well, I don’t know. Luigi had baby Mario as Micro Mario in his crib. And whenever Mario went to go fight Bowser, Princess Daisy went to her desk at school. And I don’t know what to keep about this story but this is a very long story if I should ask you.



Well, on with the story!



So, Mario went to Luigi Mansion and had a race with a million Mario racers. And then, as they were racing, Mario’s first tooth fell out of his mouth and into his pocket. And then we are convincing Bowser, well, punch one of the stories or books in his Mario book.



And then, well, I can’t tell you, well, I really can tell you. I was just trying to lie because Bowser told me to. Well, I had two hundred and a billion babies in my house and I couldn’t keep track of all of them. And I couldn’t tell all their names. They just crowded me and they even played video games like crazy. They even treated my house like a jungle gym. Well, they certainly didn’t brush their teeth. Except Tilly. She was the prettiest girl that I had in my family. Except for one billion. If I treat them like a monster, well, just mark that spot.



Well, whenever you have days like Mario, you can just call everybody you know and keep doing that.



The End.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Three months (plus one week)

Oops. This post is a bit late...

C is now three months old...plus one week.

He is still growing like...well, like a healthy breastfed baby! I don't know his exact weight, but I'm guessing it must be around 18 pounds. He almost needs 12-month onesies and sleepers now.

My mom got him a really cute outfit-- shirt, pants, and tie-- which is size 3-6 months. I dressed him up in it yesterday to wear to church, but then he ended up spitting up all over it and so we had to change him. The shirt and tie fit perfectly, but the pants are already almost too tight. I really want it to still fit when we have our family portraint done (trying to schedule it for sometime this month), but we'll have to see. I'm thinking if I take a disposable diaper along and put him in that right before we take pictures, the pants will probably fit better than they do when he's in cloth.

He's been really fussy lately, which I chalk up to teething. He's been awfully drooly. We've had some pretty rough days and nights. I always say, it's a mercy babies have such short-term memories, because it must be so traumatic to be a baby!

He smiles and giggles a lot, in between his fussy times. Whenever I'm feeling down, all I have to do is look at my baby and give him a big smile and he smiles right back and perks me up every time :)

I used the baby money from my grandparents to buy a new umbrella stroller, and a couple of plastic drawer sets for C's clothes. Now we can finally use the pack-n-play for what it was designed for. Except now whenever I lay C in it, Z comes over and wants to climb in with him and I have to keep a close eye on him to make sure he stays on the outside.

Can't think of much else to report on regarding our (third) handsome little man. He's sleeping on my lap as I type this; my behind is starting to go numb, though, so I'm going to have to lay him down soon.

I want a toy box!

When I was pregnant with G (or maybe before, or maybe after-- don't bother me with details, okay?!), someone once gave the advice to never get a toybox for my kids. If I have all the toys in a toybox, they reasoned, my kids will have no choice but to empty the entire box every time they want a particular toy because-- count on it-- the toy they want will always be buried under at least a dozen other toys that they don't want. Instead, I should have large toys on shelves and smaller toys divided into smaller boxes which also fit on shelves.

I thought it was pretty sound advice.

Another piece of sound advice I received was this: Teach my children to always pick up a toy (or toy set) before getting out a new one.

I confess, I have not been good at all about following piece of advice #2. Which maybe explains why piece of advice #1 has turned out to be pretty useless, too. I've done my best (under a limited budget) to have "a place for every toy and every toy in its place," but-- well, scratch out the second half of that statement because, like I said, I'm terrible at keeping up with that and teaching my kids to do the same. Honestly, I just have other priorities.

Even when I do try, it's always a losing battle and entirely unfair, because while it might take me an hour or two to get all the toys reorganized, it only takes my boys minutes to recreate "toymaggeddon" all over again. I think they must have a secret fantasy of living in the ruins of Hurricane Gargantua.

Which brings me back to piece of advice #1 and why I've begun to come to the conclusion that, while it might have worked out great for the parent who originally gave the advice, it just doesn't work for us.

I want a method for picking up my kids' toys that actually takes the same amount of time as it takes for them to get the toys out again. Which is why I have decided to get...dun dun dun...a toybox. Also, I want this toybox to fit into the closet, so at least once in a while I can put the toys away and actually have them stay that way for a while.

Nick and I used to be able to accomplish this-- sort of-- by putting the smaller toys in boxes and putting them up on a high shelf. Just the other day, the boys got out a shoebox full of various kids' card games and proceeded to take every single card out of its respective box and covering the entire bedroom floor with them. They reveled for hours in the mess. But when Nick came home, he decided he had to resort all the cards before putting them away. I tried to explain to him that it was a lost cause, but he was determined. He sat on the bedroom floor and sorted and boxed, amidst the boys continuing to throw around the cards that were still left. Eventually, he had all the cards back in their shoebox (he missed a few under the bed and behind the shelves, but it didn't matter) and placed the shoebox high up on top of the boys' wardrobe.

Well, the next day, it didn't take long for G to figure out that he could take a stool into the bedroom and reach that box of cards all the same. When Nick came home, he sighed, and all I could say was, "I told you so."


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trash to Treasure Creation #3: RC Robot

About a week ago, the topper on one of the boys' RC trucks came off. While still awaiting Mr. Fixit to do his job, I came up with the idea to do this:


I knew all those old plastic containers would come in handy someday...

I finished it off with aluminum foil and metallic tape (the kind you'd use to tape up a dryer vent tube) to make it look shiny. It's fastened to the wheels with a couple of extra-large twist-ties poked into the plastic, then wrapped around the bottom. G provided the face:

G says his name is "Robot six-oh-seven." I personally think we should employ him as our Butler. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My take on Attachment Parenting

As I've said before, I've never been big on reading parenting books, or following the advice of "experts" to the letter. I believe in being flexible, responding to the unique needs and personalities of my children, and I improvise A LOT. I've read bits and parts of different parenting "methods" along the way, talked with other mothers, taken the ideas I thought I could use, shelved some for possible use down the road, and completely discarded others.

While I didn't start down the road of parenting with Attachment Parenting in mind (never even came across the term until G was almost a year old), of all the various methods out there, it does seem to come closest to my naturally-preferred "method."

I want my children to know that they can count on me. I want them to trust me. I want them to consider me and their dad as their "home base," where they will always feel welcome, safe, and confident. Of course I want them to be independent, too. And they are, as far as is developmentally appropriate for their age. The tools of AP, when used correctly, are intended to help a child become more independent, not less. But it's also an appropriate independence, a healthy independence. "Independence" and "Attachment" are not mutually exclusive ideas.

I also like to call the concept of attachemnt parenting "responsive parenting," as this is more the way I see it. My goal is not to raise my kids so we'll be attached at the hip forever; that's not healthy for anyone (least of all my future daughters-in-law). My goal is to be responsive to my children's needs now, so that down the road they will know how-- and be willing-- to respond to the needs of others. It certainly seems to be working in my oldest child.

I want to nurture a feeling of mutual trust in my children, and that begins when they are still babies. The "tools" of attachment parenting as designed to aid parents towards this end.
According to Dr. Sears-- the main author (along with his wife) of the AP method, there are "7 B's" to APing a baby, which are:

1. Birth bonding
2. Breastfeeding
3. Babywearing
4. Bedding close to baby
5. Belief in the value of your baby's cries
6. Beware of "baby trainers"
7. Balance

The most important of these I believe to be #7, as it ties into all the others. I believe the above tools need to be adapted to each individual family and circumstance. No one parenting method is going to be a perfect fit for everyone; but AP in general is a pretty adaptable method. Also, I don't believe it is necessary to utilize all seven tools throughout in order to achieve desired results; they just help.

1. Birth bonding is of course important. However, I believe it is wrong to think that a baby is doomed if he does not get to "bond" with his parents immediately. There are all sorts of situations where babies are not able to bond/be held immediately after birth, and they still have a good chance of forming perfectly healthy bonds with their parents later. My third baby was in the NICU for a whole week after he was born; I barely got to hold him for the first 2-3 days of his life. And yet, somehow, I feel even more bonded to this baby than I did with either of my other two even though they both got to be held extensively from the very start. There are many things which factor in to the parent/child attachment, and birth bonding is only one of them. Even adopted babies are capable of bonding very strongly with their adoptive parents. I believe babies are born ready to bond, and that readiness does not diminish within a matter of days, or weeks, or even months. Babies who are bonded with right after birth have a head start, that's all.

2. Breastfeeding. I was fortunate to be able to breastfeed all my babies without a single drop of formula. Some breastfeeding advocates will try to say that all mothers are capable of successful breastfeeding; I'm not so sure. We really just don't know how many babies in the past-- before the development of formula-- might have died from malnutrition because their mothers did not produce enough milk despite their best efforts; or how many mothers struggled with breastfeeding their babies until they finally gave up and handed them over to wet-nurses. Milk production is hormonally driven, and we know how unstable hormones can be. Since wet-nurses don't seem to be socially acceptable any more, a mother who struggles to breastfeed her child may in fact be left in the end with no other choice but to give her child infant formula. This does not mean she does not love her child, and giving a child formula does not doom him for the rest of his life. It is possible for a breastfeeding pair to feel detached from each other (I actually experienced this for a while with Z during my bout of post-partum depression); and it is possible for a bottle-fed baby to be very attached to his parents. I believe the attitude a parent takes towards feeding (and otherwise nurturing) her child-- moreso than what the child is being fed-- is more important to the development of healthy attachment.

That said, I have also come to believe that the most successful breastfeeding occurs when a mother nurses her child on demand, not according to a schedule. And yes, as an experienced breastfeeding mother, I can attest that it is exhausting sometimes. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

3. Babywearing can be a useful tool, but not as necessary as the others. That is, if you have a busy schedule, need to be on your feet a lot, have older siblings to care for, babywearing can be invaluable. But, simply holding your baby often when he needs to be held can be good enough.

I did not babywear at all with my first baby (we had a cheap carrier, but I only tried it out a couple of times nad I never really liked it, and G grew out of it pretty quickly). I didn't need  to babywear my first, since we lived with Nick's parents at the time and there was almost always some adult around (me, Nick, my in-laws, even my sister for a couple of months while she was here visiting) willing to hold him when he was fussy. I ended up wearing Z fairly often in the first months of his life-- it helped with his reflux; but he was such a chunky baby that I did not wear him very often once he was sitting independently. With this third baby, my back is in such bad shape and my baby is so heavy that, when I do babywear, I can't do it for very long. Babywearing, then, is not a tool that I use religiously. Referring to #7 on the list-- Balance-- In seeking a balance between meeting the needs of my baby and meeting my own, babywearing is something I only resort to in special circumstances (and when my back is not already killing me). However, I do try to hold him as much as I am able when he needs it, or else make sure there is some other adult around willing to hold him when I need a break. There are also times, though, when I have had to put him down (fussy or not) in order to take care of the needs of one of my other boys (try wiping a poopy bum with a baby in one arm-- it's not easy!), and that's just the way it is; I do my best to make up for it later.

4. Bedding close to baby. This does not necessarily mean sleeping in the same bed, but that's how it's primarily worked out for us. We have a king bed, so it's been easy to co-sleep safely and comfortably. We did not start out co-sleeping with our first, however. G slept in a bassinet quite happily for the first 4-5 months of his life; when he woke in the middle of the night to nurse or in need of a diaper change, Nick would get up, change the diaper, and then I would sit and nurse him until he was ready to be put back down. Sometime around 5 months, he grew out of his bassinet; we transitioned him to a crib and he hated it. It was so hard to get him to go down in it; if we tried leaving him to cry, he just got more and more hysterical and I, for one, came to the conclusion that the struggle wasn't worth it. We started co-sleeping, and it was beautiful. G even stopped needing to nurse in the middle of the night, since if he did start getting a little fussy I was right there to notice and I would just pop a binky into his mouth and he would usually (growth spurt periods excepted) go right back to sleep before he even became fully awake. We all got a better night's sleep, and we were all much happier as a result. When G was just over a year old, we were able to successfully transition him to a toddler bed without ever having to resort to cry-it-out methods.

When Z came along, I figured we'd do something similar with him. He also started out in a bassinet, and since he slept 6-7 hours a night from the start, it worked pretty well. He'd sleep most of the night in his bassinet, and then when he woke up in the early morning, I would lay down and nurse him and we'd both go back to sleep this way. He grew out of the bassinet very quickly, though, and since we had gotten rid of our crib (which G hardly used), the only other option for a while was to have him full-time co-sleeping with us. When we purchased bunk beds (and accompanying mattresses) for the boys, we were finally able to transition him to a twim mattress on the floor, where one of us could lay with him as he fell asleep, and in this way we got our own bed back-- at least partially. But Z turned out to be a much more needy baby and toddler than his older brother, and it took a very long time to get him sleeping all night every night in his own bed. Weaning him at last at 22 months helped a lot, but even now there is the occasional night where he ends up climbing into bed with Daddy in the middle of the night, when he wakes up after a nightmare or because he's sick and needs extra comfort.

We've been co-sleeping (at night, not during naps) with C since the first day we brought him home. It's working out pretty well so far, but we'll see how things go as he gets older. The only challenge with C is that he will usually go down between seven and nine, sleep for a couple hours, and then want to be up until eleven or midnight. It's exhausting at times, but it's not something I'm willing to fight at the moment. He's only three months old, and I figure as he gets older he will become more naturally regulated; and if it doesn't happen naturally, there are things I can do with him to help him along without having to result to strict crying-out. But, that brings me to tool #5.

5. Belief in the value of your baby's cries.

Crying is a baby's first language. I don't believe that my baby ever cries without some reason, even when I can't figure out what that reason is. After three babies, I've become pretty skilled at reading certain "cries" to understand what my baby needs: to nurse, to poop, to pass gas. Babies cry when they have sour stomachs, when they're teething, when they're too cold, or too warm...

I even believe there are some things that babies cry about that I as a parent can't possibly understand: imagine, for instance, having a severe itch on your left pinky toe and not being able to adequately communicate with someone to have them take care of it-- of course you're going to cry! And then you'll wonder why no one's fixing it, and you'll cry even more! It must be so aggravating!

When I've taken care of everything I think my baby needs and he continues to cry for something that I can't figure out-- when there's absolutely nothing else I can do for him-- the least I can do is hold him.

My baby cannot be spoiled. An older child can be, yes. And it's a difficult thing, figuring out where the fine line is between babyhood and childhood, between the "unspoilable age" and the "spoilable." But by becoming well-tuned to my baby's needs when he is young, I will be better able to distinguish between these true needs and pure wants as he grows older. But right now, at the age he's at, I believe there really is no line between need and want. If he wants his mommy, he needs his mommy. And I intend to be there for him as often as is humanly possible. As I said before, especially with two other children, there are times when I have to put him down and let him cry for a few minutes while I take care of a more pressing need elsewhere. But I will always come back to him, because I want him to learn that he can depend on me, that he can trust me.

6. Beware of "baby trainers." This is a touchy subject, and I'm not so certain it really belongs as a "tool." It's more of a warning than a tool, semantically speaking. But I understand the general idea behind it, and that is to beware of those on the opposite end of AP trying to discourage the efforts of the AP parent. There will always be extremists who advocate strict scheduling in every aspect of a baby's life. And this, I believe, does indeed do more harm than good. But there is a place for a certain degree of scheduling in certain circumstances, if it's what's in the best interest of a particular family unit. If a parent is doing her best to understand her baby's needs and to be responsive to those needs, guiding that child towards a more structured lifestyle based around the child's own natural "rhythms" can be a good thing. I have to admit I have not been very good at this myself, and things often get...chaotic in this household as a result. But my kids won't be this young forever, and eventually everything will even out. I've tried scheduling my kid's lives more in the past, and it's always been more stress for me than it's worth. Like I said, I like being flexible, and if a little bit of chaos is the price I pay for staying true to my own personality, I'm willing to pay that price. It's better for my sanity in the long run, and it's not going to hurt my kids.

7. Balance. As I said before, Balance is key to successful APing. I would drive myself crazy if I believed that I had to be 100% attached to my kids every moment of the day in order for them to be happy. All of the above tools are just that-- tools. Not rules. And even if I were to adopt just two or three of them, I would already be well on my way to achieving the ultimate goal of attachment parenting, which is a happy, healthy, secure, and confident childhood for each of my children.