Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Day 7: War Eagle

It wouldn't be Christmas without Bowl Season. I'll be eating, drinking, and sleeping football for the next several days. And eating my black-eyed peas tomorrow. War Eagle!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Day 6: First Sunday in Christmas

John 1:9 There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Day 5: Christmas Clothes

I was ambitious with my Christmas sewing this year. Peter's church outfit is a Nelona batiste shirt with a hand-embroidered spoked collar, paired with velvet pants. (I'll pair the shirt with other pants after Christmas.) For his play outfit, I smocked Magi.



Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Day 4: The Christmas Pageant

The Christmas pageant is a sentimental cliche because that is what our culture has made of Christmas. Popular Christmas stories commonly present an implied theology consisting of "redemption by babyhood," or, even more frequently, "redemption by giving." The simple presence of a wondrous infant, or a single act of kindness by a previously sour and alienated character, are seen as being sufficient to transform the world. And of course there is much emotional truth in such stories, or they would not have the appeal that they do. But they are not the gospel. They are not the Christmas story... They do little to challenge children to wonder why this birth is so long awaited and so joyfully hailed.

Gretchen Wolff Pritchard, Offering the Gospel to Children, p. 81

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Day 3: How to Tell a Co-Sleeper

I asked him to put Jesus in his bed. So he did. Then he put Mary in the bed, followed by Joseph.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Day 2: Tillich Immersion

"Santa is dead," my 3-year-old niece sadly said.

"No," her mother explained, "he just doesn't exist."

They've never done Santa, lest it interfere with faith in Christ. I once thought likewise. If I tell my child all about Santa, then later say it was all imaginary, will they then think all I told them about Jesus might be imaginary too?

These days, though, I think that the Great Santa Pessimism might just as easily teach Paul Tillich's closed universe: One man couldn't possibly visit every chimney in the world-- least of all know the names of every single boy and girl! He certainly couldn't be at Macy's and Belk's at the same time. And reindeer do not fly. Put your silly thoughts of hooves on the roof behind you, however much you want to believe.

As for me and my household? We're gonna stick with Santa. Learning how to believe is good practice for Christ.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day 1: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!

Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.
Risen with healing in his wings, light and life to all he brings,
hail, the Sun of Righteousness! hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

P.S. And to think these words are sung in the finale of the Rockettes Christmas show!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Now THIS is Birth Control

I'm not talking about contraception. I'm talking about control: control over when my hoped-for next child is to be born.

If I got pregnant tomorrow, I'd be overjoyed. Conception is a miracle, and children are a blessing. Yet I'd also be panicked. Why? Well, if I got pregnant tomorrow, the baby would be due when Peter is 31 months old. It would be two months after we move to a new town. It would be due at a time when Peter might be thinking of potty training or perhaps even night weaning.

I take that back. Peter would never think of night weaning. But with a new baby on the way, I sure as heck would be. Would it be cruel to nightwean so soon after a major life-change like a move? Would we potty train so close to the birth of a baby, since everyone says that would make him revert?

I've just finished making a spreadsheet in which I charted the months to nightwean or potty train depending on various due dates. I can't decide whether it's better to just go ahead and make a bunch of huge life changes at once, getting it over in one blow, or dragging them out over a year.

Woman plans, God laughs. I know that I will laugh at myself in the morning. But I will still probably reference my spreadsheet.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Things I've Learned in the Past 3 Weeks

1) Ear infections turn your child into a sociopath.

2) Steroids make you hungry enough to finish off a plate of cheese grits, eggs, toast, and cereal before your husband can finish buttering his bread. I'm not kidding.

3) It's better to let your child chew on his father's toothbrush in the living room, out to the car, and into Wal-Mart rather than hear one more tantrum.

4) If I put in stainless steel appliances, I wouldn't do much more than break even. That's according to my realtor.

5) Because I'm a stay-at-home mom, repainting the bedroom shouldn't be hard. That's according to my realtor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Time to Turn Off HGTV

I'm all in a dither trying to get our condo market-ready. My latest frustration? Stainless steel appliances. I've been watching way too much HGTV, and now I feel like my kitchen is hopelessly outmoded and will never sell unless we splurge $3000 or so replacing perfectly good appliances with that brushed metal that sets buyers' hearts a-flutter.

Learning that another condo for sale in my complex has all-new stainless steel appliances has me practically in panic mode.

Do you know what really ticks me off about it all? It's not the money. It's knowing that my current set-up is the superior design. In a small galley kitchen, it's best to match cabinets and appliances (in our case, all cream) to create the illusion of space. Chopping up the field with silver blocks will break that trick of the eye. Not only will the kitchen seem smaller, but it will be a little more "busy" and a little less streamlined.

Will the average Jane care how small the kitchen seems, or will she just be thrilled to see Stainless Steel Appliances? I'm really not sure what I'll do.

Meanwhile, I wonder how long this modern metallic look will be "in." Thirty years ago, people were covering their hardwood floors with wall-to-wall carpet and tiling their bathrooms in green.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My First Annual Christmas-Decorations-Gone-Up Rant

I saw it today: the first Christmas decorations going up in the village near my home. Can't we even have Thanksgiving?

It's not the shameless commercialism that bothers me. It's knowing that this is just a small representation of a large problem: our inability to wait.

Once upon a time, before shopping malls dictated our holy day celebrations, Christmas began on... Christmas... and lasted 12 days (you know, like the song). Good Episcopalian that I am, I will wait until Christmas Eve to decorate my tree. And I simply will not bring a tree into my home before the 4th Sunday of Advent.

Yes, Advent, that season of waiting which was lost about fifty years ago. Waiting for the coming of Christ-- retrospectively for his birth, expectantly for his earthly return. That season throughout December in which we don't sing Christmas hymns but rather songs of longing: O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

It's a lost art, this waiting thing. We can't wait for our possessions, so we buy on credit. We can't wait for marriage, so we satisfy our physical and emotional desires with mate of the moment. We can't wait for dinner, so we break into the potato chips.

(These days, I can't wait for my toddler to walk from the front door to the car without feeling like I'm going to blow. Why does he have to stand still every time he sees something, tell me what it is, stand there another full minute, then take three steps and repeat the whole thing with a new object? Why? Tell me, why?)

When I see garland with a red velvet bow in mid-November, all I see is the restlessness of a culture that no longer appreciates the joy of anticipation.

If we cannot wait for Christmas, how are we to wait for Christ?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Breakfast BC

Cleaning out a kitchen drawer yesterday, I found several expired coupons and one of my handwritten menus from our newlywed days B.C. (before children). I used to plan each meal of the day, writing it down for my trip to the grocery store.

I'd forgotten how I once loved to cook breakfast, even if it meant getting up at 4:00 a.m. to see my husband off to work before 5:00. What did we used to eat? According to my newfound artifact, in the span of a week we had peanut butter pancakes, vegetable omelets, berry waffles, and cinnamon hot cereal.

Boy, do I hate me. The old me. Now I'm just a lazy mom, sleeping in with her kid until (gasp) 6:00 a.m. Will I ever recover the breakfast-cooking mojo?

I'd like to think so. What better way to start the day than with the whole family gathered around a steaming hot meal?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Things Not Worth Fighting About #287

At least he likes his broccoli. Who am I to complain?

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Plank in my Eye

While I jokingly complain about raising a tyke in a one-bedroom condo, the truth is that we've been pretty happy here. I take much pride in what I've done with the 800 square feet. I take even more pride in the lessons learned from living in such intimate quarters. And even as I have watched friend after friend move into their first homes and dream homes, I have never, ever, considered Tom and I to be roughing it. (A summer spent in a Mexican slum, where literally hundreds of families lived in shacks they built from salvaged trash, forever changed what I consider "poor".)

Yet the closer we get to the end of Tom's training (nine post-college years, most of which we've spent together), and the closer we get to moving into an actual house, the more I find myself daydreaming of what's to come: A porch. A fenced-in backyard. Two bathrooms. A pantry. A room for Nana and Papa to stay when they come to visit.

Meanwhile, Tom daydreams of sleeping, free time, and weekends spent at home.

What will we be doing this time next year? How different will our day-to-day life be? Today, as my thoughts had me in the clouds, reality tapped me on the shoulder. I remembered what my best friend told me after her boob job, a comment which, in my self-righteousness, I considered comical at the time. Though she was quite serious! She said to me, with a depressing sort of shock: "You know, these boobs haven't really changed my life. I'm still the same person." Well, duh, I thought at the time. But now... Why do I look at the speck of sawdust in my sister's eye, and pay no attention to the plank in my own eye?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Finally, the Language Explosion

Talking babies rock. What a difference a month makes. Peter has gone from learning a couple new words a month to a couple of new words a day. 'Raffe (giraffe), 'poon (spoon), 'side (outside), 'rass (grass)... He's even begun to sing along with songs, when the words are ones he knows.

And what a helper he's turned into! This morning, he proudly carried our Chico grocery bags to the car for a trip to Publix. When we got home, he unloaded every single item from those bags, handing them to me to put away. Then he helped unload the dishwasher. He grinned through every "task."

Where did my baby go? But, oh, I love this new stage!

Friday, August 31, 2007

I Go Stupid in the Fall

It's football season. Last night I dusted off that big black box in the living room and remembered why we pay for cable. My Saturdays are spoken for, for the next four months.

Will this be my excuse for not blogging? I'm taking a hiatus. Oh, I'm sure I'll post from time to time, when I just can't keep my mouth shut. For the most part, though, I've got to direct my energy elsewhere.

No, it's not really because of college football. But I'm feeling called to a time of silence.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I am pleasantly surprised to see such a mainstream magazine as The Economist showing concern for a falling population. In the July 28th-August 3rd, 2007 issue, page 11, it describes how the world's population almost quadrupled in the twentieth century, then goes on to say:

"Numbers are still growing; but recently-- it is impossible to know exactly when-- an inflection point seems to have been reached. The rate of population increase began to slow... Women started having fewer children than the number required to keep the population stable. Four out of nine people already live in countries in which the fertility rate has dropped below replacement rate. Last year the United Nations said it thought the world's average fertility would fall below replacement by 2025."

It's not the collapse of Social Security that concerns me, since I'm not gambling on the government for my retirement. I just want a large enough workforce to fill the gap and support an aging population when my generation is too old, feeble or sick to work.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Radio Gaga

I am spending my son's naptime watching Filipino prisoners dance on youtube. Sister Act isn't bad, but Thriller's the best.

Monday, August 13, 2007

My Husband, (Not) the Lactivist

On the road last Saturday, we stopped at a Chik-fil-A. This was a strategic plan. We'd spent 2 hours driving, and we were about to spend another two hours in the car with a realtor. I chose a place where we could eat, play, and have somewhere to nurse since we'd missed the usual before/after naptime feedings.

Sweating from the outdoor playground, we came back inside to a booth in the back of the restaurant. "Um, Martha?" Tom asks. "Do you just want to do this in the front seat of the car?"

It's August. In Alabama. In a heat wave, at the hottest part of the day. It's 103 degrees outside, and my husband asks in all sincerity if I would like to nurse our toddler outside in the car.

"Um, Tom, do you just want to bite me?"

In his defense, he didn't argue. He sat with me, and we talked of other things. A year ago, he would have continued to suggest alternatives while anxiously looking over his shoulder. We've actually come a long way.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Princess of Power

Nine days ago, I pulled a muscle in my back. The pain was so excruciating, I could hardly move for ten minutes. I hurt for the next 48 hours, even after taking painkillers.

So how did I do it? Blow drying my hair. You read that right: blow drying my hair.

When bathroom mishaps lead to pulled muscles, you know you're out of shape. Truly, I've not exerted myself since the last week of my pregnancy, when I swam. I've never liked "working out," and the calories I burn breastfeeding has been a great excuse to put it off. When you have signs of muscle atrophy, though, it's time to do something.

But what? I used to dance. Loved it. Still, I've got to much pride to put on a leotard, and I just don't think that my knees belong anywhere near my nose anymore. Then there's horseback riding, which I've dabbled in here and there, but equestrian pursuits are now well beyond my wallet.

What about swimming? I've always been a water bug. I enjoyed it while I was pregnant. It's certainly appetizing in this August heat wave. And it's one of the only forms of exercise that you can do without sweating! There you have it. As soon as my back let me, I joined the Jewish Community Center. (No, I'm not Jewish, but the JCC is practically in my backyard, and it's a pretty happening place.)

It's been seven days, and I've gone to exercise almost every day. Peter is a-okay in the nursery, and I've realized something: When exercising means an hour's break from your very active toddler, it is no longer a chore. I've even ventured from the pool to the treadmill and even to the weights. Next thing you know, I'm gonna look like She-Ra.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

That's a Wrap.

In Peter's sixth month, he had something similar to a nursing strike. I could barely get him to latch on, and even when I did, he'd pull off in under two minutes. I knew that he was too young to self-wean, and finally I discovered the problem: distractions. My days of novel-reading while nursing were over (for a time), since the only way I could get Peter to nurse was lying down in a dark room.

Gone was our schedule. Gone was my pumping. I was glad for any time Peter was willing to nurse. For the first time in months, his breastfeeding gave me a sense of relief, much as it had when I brought him home from his newborn surgery. I decided that I would no longer place impediments in our nursing relationship.

So did Peter. He weaned himself off the pacifier within a month. When I tried to introduce solids, he refused. In fact, he would have nothing to do with solids until he could feed himself at nine months.

Since then... What is our story from nine to 18 months? Oh, so much to say! That's the heart of our story, really. All this other stuff I've been writing is a prelude.
The older Peter gets, the richer (and the funnier) it all gets. But Breastfeeding Week is over, so the rest of the story will have to wait. I'm sure I'll get the mad impulse to share more sometime in the next few months...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

'Cause They Gotta Have a Bottle Sometimes, Right?.... right?

In my nurse-in-public paralysis, a pumped bottle of breastmilk might have come in handy. Since I was already trying to pump once a day for a "daddy's bottle," though, that was enough for me.

Uh, let me clarify: by "daddy's bottle", I mean a bottle that Tom could feed to Peter. It was to serve three purposes. Well, it was supposed to, anyway. Here's how it worked out:

1) Bonding. No way I was going to be a selfish mother hoarding all of our son's feeding to myself! Didn't my husband deserve the opportunity to gaze into the eyes of his suckling son? If they didn't have this opportunity to bond, surely we'd be sowing the seeds of an emotionally distant family.

So to prevent that whole Cat's in the Cradle thing, I'd hand Tom the baby, burp cloth and bottle when he got home from work. Father and son would fumble along on the couch, Tom awkwardly holding Peter as he sputtered and fussed and spit up more than his usual share. It was painful to watch, really, but I reminded myself that they were bonding.

Until one day I passed the bottle to Tom, who sighed and asked, "Do I have to?"

Next go round, I think we'll reserve daddy-bonding time to baths, tummy raspberries, and a little bit of babywearing.

2) A Break. The books said that having daddy give a bottle would be a nice little break for me. So each day, in anticipation of this break, I would find twenty minutes to pump. Then I would rinse and sometimes boil the pump parts. When Tom got home, I'd warm the bottle then coach him through the feeding session. Finally, I'd clean the bottle.

Gotta love those breaks.

3) Babysitters. If my infant couldn't take a bottle, I couldn't leave him with a sitter, right? It was imperative, I decided, that my son take bottles several times a week so that he wouldn't forget how. The first time we left Peter, he was five months old. I was helping to host a party, which meant I was gone for five solid hours. That's a long time. Thank goodness my son could take a bottle (well, sort of), right?

Soon after I left, the sitter offered the bottle. Peter took less than an ounce, then slept peacefully for the remainder of the time we were gone...

Monday, August 6, 2007

My Venture into Cultural Breastfeeding

For the first two months of Peter's life, I read several books a week. I'd tuck away with a novel each time he nursed, encouraging his frequent and long-duration suckling. It was a time in my life that I knew I'd never see again: only one child needing my attention and a cleared calendar to boot. I was going to make the most of it.

I joked with friends that books were "how I got out of the house." Except that it wasn't a joke. Books were the only way I got out of the house. Eventually cabin fever set in, and I rejoined society.

This produced a dilemma. I was petrified to nurse in public. Oh, I could nurse in public in theory, I could nurse at a La Leche League meeting, but what about playgroup? What about restaurants? I decided that Peter needed a feeding schedule, to spare me the mortification of being "that mother who is always feeding her baby."

For two months, I pushed Peter to spread his feedings at least three hours. I avoided comfort feeding. And boy did we use that pacifier! I look at our pictures from those months, and he's plugged up in every one.

While this allowed me to visit the zoo without whipping out my boob, it also meant that of every three hours, I'd spend at least one of them bouncing, rocking, and otherwise consoling a cranky baby. It never occurred to me that he might be thirsty and want that thin foremilk, or that my boobs might lack the capacity to store 3 hours worth of milk. Other babies went three hours between feedings-- and, by, golly, Peter was too.

Here we were-- doesn't this look fun?
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Friday, August 3, 2007


Our house was filled with friends. It was Tom's 30th birthday. Peter, at two months, was a crankypants. Finally, I took him to the bedroom to wind down.

A few minutes into that nursing session, Peter made eye contact with me and smiled. His first "milk grin."

Much as I adore those milk grins, I think Tom likes them even more. He loves to get Peter laughing in the middle of a feeding, watching that little tongue dart like a reptile's as he laughs open-mouthed without ever releasing his latch.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Safe Place

I finally had milk. My son's great latch was back. Things were looking up. Then, our first day alone together, Peter began projectile vomitting. At ten days old, he was admitted to Children's Hospital, with surgery to follow the next day.

The doctors ordered me to quit feeding him, and I knew they were right. His pyloric stenosis (a hardening of the valve leading to the intestines) was closing, and the more I fed him, the more he threw up. Plus, I didn't want to place him at risk for aspiration in his surgery. A pacifier and constant cuddling were his comforts, and an IV was his nutrition. Meanwhile, I pumped.

While I pumped, I read some literature which Children's gives to all nursing mothers. Included was a section on how crucial the first two weeks of a baby's life are to building milk supply. It described in terms I no longer remember how getting it wrong at this stage could lead to a supply problem for the rest of the breastfeeding relationship.

Yikes! In the midst of our emergency room arrival and admission, I let seven hours pass without nursing or pumping. Could that have a permament effect? I wondered. And the pacifier-- and Peter's not being able to latch on to me for the next few days-- will Peter forget how to breastfeed? Adding to my fears, my milk supply dwindled each time I pumped. I blame stress and sleep deprivation.

Through those few days, my constant thought was, "If I could just nurse him... If I could just hold him to my breast and nurse him... I just want to go home and nurse him, and we will never want for anything again."

After the surgery, before checking out of the hospital, the doctors wanted me to re-introduce milk in small measured increments. By this point, my third day pumping, I could barely pump an ounce. I followed "doctor's orders" for the most part but at one point put Peter on my breast. I felt like my entire milk supply was at stake. (And, yes, he did throw up.)

We went home with orders to continue pumping and bottle feeding until we knew that Peter could hold down "X" ounces in one feeding. I don't remember what that magic number was. I forgot it by time I pulled out of the parking lot, because I knew I was done with pumping. I'd measure Peter's feeding in minutes, and gradually increase the minutes he nursed each session. He did not throw up again.

I well remember the comfort of coming home: plopping in the chair, holding Peter to my breast, his vigorous suckling a sign of our mutual relief. It was the first time that I experienced the relief of nursing, though I'm sure Peter knew it well. No wonder he wanted to be in my arms all the time. What a safe place, us being together.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

We've Only Just Begun

In a morphine haze and darkened room, I struggle to hold open my eyes as the nurse and my husband put Peter's cheek to my breast for the first time. His eyes are wide. So is his mouth. He eagerly finds the nipple and latches. My husband and the nurse, both still holding the baby as I lay there helpless, laud his technique.

Having only slept one hour of the past 48, I doze, then fight to awaken. When would this kid be through? Couldn't they just let me sleep?

That whole first week of breastfeeding, it was as if someone had shot me with a tranquilizer every time Peter suckled. It would have been nice to nurse lying down, but I didn't know how. Besides, I was in too much pain to move.

Ah, the first week of motherhood. Gotta love it.

Peter did not want to leave my breast. This was confusing to visitors. My mother, who fed me formula back in the era when that's just what a God-fearing Southern lady did, expected him to eat every four hours. My friend A, who breastfed twins, was used to newborns who wanted to sleep more than eat. My friend D, who did breastfeed on demand, had the rare baby who only demanded it every three hours. "Didn't you just feed him?" became a common refrain in the room.

And so I would think, "Didn't I just feed him? Why does he cry every time I lay him down?"

The lactation consultant and in-house pediatrician assured me that my colostrum was sufficient, that my milk would be there by time he needed it, and to feed him frequently-- "every hour if he wants it."

On day four, when I still had no milk, when my son hadn't produced a wet diaper in over 24 hours, when his lips were peeling and he had lost over a pound, the pediatrician told me to give him some purified water through a syringe, followed by some formula through a syringe, until we saw a wet diaper. "I just want to be sure his kidneys are working well," she said.

I felt demoralized feeding my son like an orphaned baby bird and pictured cans of formula on my kitchen shelves, but I couldn't watch him gnaw his fist. And maybe now he'd sleep! As far as I knew, I had the first newborn on the planet who didn't sleep, and surely this would solve our problems.

When Peter wasn't sleeping by midnight, Tom and I called a nurse for more formula. Tired of the syringe, we bottlefed. When that didn't put him to sleep, we called a nurse for a pacifier. When that didn't work, we called the nursery, where he went to sleep in a heated bed. In a span of 24 hours, I had done every thing I said I'd never do.

The next morning, the pediatrician's eyes visibly widened when she walked through our door. It looked as if Similac had planted a bomb, scattering silicon nipples, bottles, and wrappers across the room. "No more supplementing," she ordered. "He had a wet diaper, and we know his system is working. Your milk will come, and your colostrum will increase until it does."

I spent the rest of that day re-training an angry infant, who'd grown accustomed to the bottle literally overnight, back to my breast.

When we left the hospital, my milk had still not arrived. "Stick with it," begged several nurses as we left. "We see this all the time with the c-section moms, and a lot of them give up even before they leave the hospital. But you can do this."

Well, as my nursing 18-month-old proves, I could and I would and I did.

If I have another c-section, I can do it again. But one of the reasons I'd really love a VBAC is this:

Click to see a minutes-old infant crawl to his mother's breast and eat.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Tale of Two...

If I finish that title with what I'm thinking, I'll draw some undesirable readers. Let me just say, "It was the breast of times, it was the worst of times."

You wonder what I'm talking about? Wait-- here's another one: "Meet Peter, my breast friend." Now you wonder what I'm smoking.

Okay, folks, here's the deal: Breastfeeding Awareness Week (Aug 1-7) begins tomorrow. I've been thinking of ideas to celebrate on the old blog, but most of my ideas just don't feel right. Record facts and statistics? Bo-ring. Provide helpful hints? I've been preachy enough lately as it is. More borderline-inappropriate puns? I'll spare you.

I think that what I'd really like to do is tell a story. Mine. Peter's. The story of our nursing relationship-- and a story which, I hope, is sufficiently universal with regard to maternal feelings that mothers of all feeding persuasions (i.e., breast or bottle) might in some small way relate.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Sticky Situation

If a bottle of syrup falls in the refrigerator, and there's no one there to hear it, does it still make a spill?

And if you pretend that it didn't happen, will it eventually clean itself up? Apparently not. Even if you wait two months, at which point it goes from being just gooey to being rock solid on top and gooey on the bottom. I wonder how long I might have let this go on, if I hadn't brought home milk with a crack in the jug?

The only thing funner than cleaning spilled syrup is adding spilled milk and a toddler who is pulling everything out of the refrigerator door as you work.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

On the Other Side

... of separation anxiety. I didn't think this day would ever come. But it did, a little over a month ago.

I had left Peter in the church nursery, as usual, and stood in the hallway waiting for my pager to go off, as usual, signifying that my son's earsplitting screams had finally convinced the most determined of nursery workers that, alas, this kid just needs his mama. When fifteen minutes passed, I wondered what on earth was going on, so Tom went to check. "He's doing fine. He's eating a snack." No way! Thirty minutes later, he was still fine. A fluke, surely. What would happen the next week?

Trucks, push toys, new friends and coloring-- but no tears. Actually, they said he did start to cry at one point, but that he quickly got over it. What! My son soothe himself?

Today was our fourth successful Sunday. Things didn't look good at first. Suffering from a baby hangover (i.e., mama and daddy kept him out way too late last night), Peter walked into the nursery and began a tantrum which probably made a small jump in the Richter scale. I passed him to a worker, waited in the hallway, and peeked back five minutes later to see him grinning in the face of younger baby.

Meanwhile, father and son are enjoying their first extended spells together. I actually went to a studio to work on some of my freelance projects and spent five hours away from home. Five hours. Do you know what a woman can accomplish in five hours, without her conjoined son?

What I didn't realize, though, was that while my son may outgrow separation anxiety, I never will. I'm not ready for five-hour breaks from him. But three hours... Heck, yeah!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

We Tried Co-Sleeping, but It Didn't Work for

... me.
... my husband.
... my baby.

You fill in the blank. Maybe it really, really didn't work and will never work under any conditions. Can I make a couple suggestions, though?

1) Get a white noise machine. This will keep light sleepers from waking at every little sound. We use one.
2) Get a bigger bed. Co-sleeping isn't fun when there's no room to roll over.
3) Give it time. Funny how we will expect a baby to adapt to solitary sleep, even if it takes two weeks, yet we ourselves often don't want to adapt our sleeping habits to include a baby. The first few nights of co-sleeping might feel really strange. You're not used to a baby being there. You might not sleep as well. Even a few nights into it, you might not sleep as well. Or perhaps it'll be your spouse wanting to throw in the towel. Give it a few weeks though, and then see how you feel.

Am I trying to convince you to co-sleep? Not if your baby is older than six months and what you're already doing works! I want to share this, though, as one of the few ways that a mother can get a good night's sleep while tending to the needs of her baby.

After all, when your baby wakes in her crib, she cries until you come and pick her up and tend to her then put her down-- and both of you have lost some sleep. When your baby wakes in your bed, she whimpers and you roll over and offer a breast as the two of you drift back into sleep without ever fully waking up. I still nurse my son in the night, but I can never tell in the morning when or how often or anything. I'm just vaguely aware that it occurred.

Thus, the issue of my child "sleeping through the night" is the least of my concerns. We have spells when it happens, but that's neither here nor there for me. When someone asks if he sleeps through the night, I say "yes." I don't think he's much aware of those night feeds any more than I am, with the both of us dozing through them!

Though the first time I answered another mother that "Yes, Peter sleeps through the night", I felt like a pile of slop when she said, "Oh, you are so lucky! My son is six months, and he still wakes up several times." At which point I stammered that Peter doesn't really sleep through the night, that he still nurses, he just doesn't fully wake up...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

How to Cosleep Safely

Can you answer yes to all of these questions?

1) I have a firm mattress.
2) I have a flat bedspread, and I'm willing to keep it at waist level.
3) I have a guardrail for my side of the bed.
4) I have read
this article, written by a pediatrician, on safe co-sleeping.

If so, here's your permission slip to co-sleep. You won't find this permission in the mainstream press, as long as the JPMA is the cash cow for SIDS studies, but you'll be in step with most of the past and present mothers in the world.

I'm not saying that crib sleeping is wrong. Some babies adapt quite easily to it. Though, along with the AAP, I would urge you to at least keep that baby in the same room with you for the first six months when, like it or not, wakings are a good thing, lessening the risk of SIDS.

For many babies, though, crib sleeping creates more problems than it's worth. It can lead mothers to push long-duration sleeping on their infants at a time when they are most at risk for SIDS. It can lead them to push cereal on their baby
before those intestines are ready, in hopes that their baby will sleep longer. It can even lead to some of the sleep training methods I tried myself, escalating in our case to borderline cruelty. Even for those mothers who don't do sleep training, who wants to get out of bed to tend to a baby at 3:00 a.m.? No wonder Babywise and similar books have such mass appeal!

What if mothers knew it's okay to eschew the crib and keep their babies close, as
biologically designed? What if they knew that co-sleeping is not going to destroy their marriage? What if they knew it might resolve most of their child's sleep "problems"?

If crib-sleeping worked best for most babies and toddlers, you wouldn't see a "Your Child's Sleep Problem Solved!" title on the cover of every mainstream parenting magazine in the US. You wouldn't see book after book after book on children's sleep issues lining the shelves at Barnes and Noble.

Mothers from most parts of the globe would be perplexed by the sleep questions we ask.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Whether or Not You Sleep with Your Baby...

Read this. Why? Because a tired mom can fall asleep during a feeding, whether she plans to co-sleep or not! I didn't plan to co-sleep, but when it's 2:00 a.m. with a hungry baby and sleep-deprived mama, sometimes you find yourself breaking your own rules. We could have had some serious disasters, since I didn't learn these tips until Peter was almost 6 months old:

1) If you're going to feed your baby in bed, ever (even for a daytime nap), get rid of your fluffy comforter. You wouldn't have one in the crib, would you?

2) If you're going to feed your baby in bed, ever, don't let anyone else sleep next to the baby. One stray hand from your husband or another child is all it takes to block an infant's airway. As Dr. Sears points out in Nighttime Parenting, there is no evidence of mothers suffocating their infants (unless they're under chemical influence), but other people don't have that sharp maternal instinct.

3) Do not let a baby in your bed if you have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs. "Well, duh," you say, "I wouldn't take drugs, anyway." But how about cold medicine? That's a no-no-no-no-no if you ever feed your baby in bed.

4) Unless your bed is just a mattress on the floor (which is a great idea, by the way), get a guardrail for your side of the bed. Pull it up any time your baby comes into bed. Yes, even if your baby is a crib sleeper, if you ever feed the baby in bed, get this! Isn't $20 worth some piece of mind?

5) Don't bring the baby into a bed that's not firm. Are waterbeds still around? I don't know, but the new rage is pillow-top mattresses. Not a good idea, folks.

6) Don't share covers with the baby. It's too easy for these to slip over his head. Keep your baby swaddled or in a sleep sac on top of your own covers. And keep those covers around your waist! (Not fun in the winter months. I had to sleep in long sleeves.)

Am I being overly cautious? You'll see these tips in other places. All of them are based on really horrific things that have happened to many babies whose mothers had good intentions.

I wish that I had known these rules before my son was born. I didn't read up on safe co-sleeping, since I planned for my kid to sleep on his own. All I ever heard was that the safest place for the baby was a crib, based on studies which I have sinced learned were funded by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (the JPMA, the group to which 95% of crib makers in the US belong).

Under the right conditions, sleeping with your baby can be safer than having him sleep in a crib. I plan to do it with my future children. But, again, under the right conditions. Learn them. Follow them.

Reasons #214 and #315 Why I Won't Win "Mother of the Year"

Okay, if you think I'm going to talk about co-sleeping as an option for mom and baby to both get what they want, you're right. But first, I want to share two stories.

Scene 1, sometime around Peter's 3rd month:

My eyes pop open. It's 3 a.m., and I've fallen asleep nursing. So has Peter, who is nestled between Tom and me. Well, this isn't what I want. What I want is a baby sleeping safely in his "crib"-- which would be the infant bucket sitting in a cradle next to my bed. So in the darkened room, I pick up Peter under his arms and place him in the car seat.

But he's not laying right. Still holding him under the arms, I try again. And again. Why won't he lay right? Frustrated, I try to hold him a different way, at which point I realize I have been trying to put him in his carseat face down.

Scene 2, sometime around Peter's 4th month:

I've fallen asleep nursing again. How do I awaken this time? To Peter's cries, because he has just rolled off my side of the bed. Dreadful, dreadful.

Why I am telling on myself?

Well, for starters, if you're going to co-sleep, learn how to do it safely. I broke so many rules in the above stories, we're fortunate that nothing worse happened. I'll talk more about that tomorrow. But the other thing is this, even if you're never going to co-sleep-- but you think you might occasionally bring the baby to bed for a feeding-- learn how to do it safely. Because nursing can knock you out. Again, see my tips tomorrow.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sleep Well, Little Baby

Last week I followed Ezzo Week 2007 on Tulip Girl. I had little to contribute, since I haven't glanced at a Babywise book since skimming through one while pregnant. One thing I do remember are the promises to have a baby sleeping through the night from an early age.

Boy, that issue really dogged me when I was pregnant. The very thought of getting out of bed to feed a baby in the middle of the night, perhaps even pacing the floor with him screaming, had me fatigued. I decided, though, that since Weissbluth (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) says some babies still need night feedings up until 9 months old, I wouldn't force any sleep training before then. Still, I hoped that my child might start sleeping through the night on his own by, I don't know, three months? Oh, how I hoped!

What has happened since then? Sister, you don't even want to know! I'll share our sleep story some other time. But I'll tell you one thing I learned, as I read book after book after book on sleep: When a baby younger than six months sleeps through the night, it's not necessarily a good thing. Oh, we might think that a baby who sleeps for a long time is "sleeping better"-- but at this age, you have to question what "better" is. In some cases, prolonged sleep can actually be detrimental. Here's how:

1) SIDS. Babies younger than six months are at the greatest risk for SIDS. This risk peaks between 2-4 months, the period in which infants sleep the deepest. The longer a baby sleeps, the deeper he sleeps, and the more difficult it is for him to rouse himself if he encounters a breathing problem. This is why the AAP recommends co-sleeping for a baby's first six months. Babies sleep less deeply when mom is in the room and that, my friends, is sleeping better. Crazy, I know.

2) Let-Down. For a breastfeeding mother, her let-down is strongest at night. If God designed it that way, then I figure we ought to roll with it rather than wishing it away. This night nursing keeps up a mother's milk supply (crucial, since the AAP now recommends exclusive breastfeeding for a minimum of six months) while ensuring adequate weight gain for the child.

3) Child Spacing. A baby who wakes in the night is good for birth control. Because this leaves you too fatigued to, uh, procreate? No. Because the frequency of a baby's suckling is one of the single greatest factors as to when your fertility returns. Many women I know experienced their first postpartum menses as soon as their baby began sleeping through the night.

Of course, if I had read all this two years ago, I would have said, "But a mother needs her sleep! How can she take care of a baby when she's been up all night feeding her?" Well, yes, a mother needs her sleep. No question about that. I've since learned, though, how easily she can feed a baby without losing a Z. More on that this week.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Confessions of a Southern Mother

I don't want my son to potty train. Not that we're anywhere close (he's not even 18 months), but already I'm grieving the possibility.

Why? It will mean giving up jon-jons. These one-piece, button-crotch outfits are immensely practical for a diapered baby, but I have to face facts: one day my little man is going to need some real pants. Even the thought of weaning him doesn't bring tears to my eyes as much as the thought of seeing Peter in big boy clothes.

They say boys train later, so I'm hoping he'll be closer to three. If he shows signs of readiness before then, I may have to just close my eyes. "What's that? You want to pee pee in the potty? Why would you want to do that? Silly monkey!"

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Monday, July 16, 2007

I'm either really deep or really flaky

... because after a solid week of processing thoughts on contraception, I'm no closer to a decision. If anything, I've only raised more questions. Well, here's my plan:

Step 1: Learn why the Roman Church banned it in the first place
Step 2: Learn why the Protestant Church eventually accepted it
Step 3: Answer these questions by Josh McDowell, sent to me by Sarah:

1) Will it violate my conscience, or my understanding of the Lordship of Christ?
2) Will it help others by its example?
3) Will it be spiritually profitable?
4) Does it have the potential to dominate/control me?
5) Am I exercising this freedom to cover my sin?
6) Would Jesus do this?
7) Will it have evangelistic purposes?

This is going to take some time, so I'm going to publically drop this struggle while I deal with it in private.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

And the Top 3 Reasons...

to actively plan my family (and for me, this would be through barrier or fertility awareness methods):

1) Since I'm not ecologically breastfeeding, I should protect my body from more pregnancies than it was meant to handle in a short amount of time. God designed our bodies to do one thing, but most of us veer from this design for cultural reasons.

2) My baby is still a baby. Many pediatricians and psychologists recommend a 3-year spacing between children as the ideal for having the closest possible sibling relationship with the least amount of sibling rivalry. My mother will attest to this: one of my brothers was three when I was born, and he was overjoyed to welcome me home. My other brother was sixteen months, and my arrival was traumatic for him.

Yet is the formula that simple? If the average baby is ready for a sibling by age three, that means some babies fall below or above that average. When a mother is ecologically breastfeeding, the frequency of her child's suckling tells her body how intense her child's need for her is. Her body responds accordingly, with her fertility hormones either rising or continuing to be suppressed.

Since I am not ecologically breastfeeding, shouldn't I err on the side of caution?

3) I'm not convinced that birth control is sinful. I'd like to research more about the church's position on this over the years-- how it originated, how it's changed-- but until then, do I want to play baby roulette (ugh-- what a crass term I just used)? Shouldn't I put more prayer and study into this before I make such a major decision?

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Top 3 Reasons...

why I'm questioning birth control:

1) The longer I'm a mother, the more I appreciate God's design for my body. I've realized that every time I interfere with this design, I'm taking a risk. "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial."

Let's take breastfeeding as an example. In countries where women not only have more children, but also breastfeed them for longer than we typically do, their breast cancer rate is less than half of that in the US.

Or how about endometriosis? This afflicts one in ten women in the US, thousands of whom will have a hysterectomy because of it. Yet pregnancy and breastfeeding keep it in remission. If, as in times past, women had babies sooner rather than later and then spent the bulk of their fertile years nursing and birthing more children, would this disease be as common as it is?

God didn't design a woman to have 450 periods in her lifetime. Each period she has increases her risks for breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. This argument, incidentally, has become popular among makers of the Pill. But of course, hormonal birth control has risks of its own.

2) I've become wary of attitudes which consider children a burden rather than a blessing. In Scripture, procreation is celebrated, lauded-- treated with reverence and joy! The Hebrews hung out in ancient Egypt, but they didn't bring back their birth control practices. You don't see Boaz saying, "Let me get that raise, Ruth, and then we can add a nursery to the house." Blek. No, you hear, "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them" (Psalm 127).

Even Protestants eschewed birth control until the early twentieth century. Whereas I used to wonder why the Catholic Church was so opposed, I've now decided that the greater question is not why birth control should be prohibited-- but, rather, why it would be permitted.

3) My eggs have seen better days. Forty may be the new thirty, but no one's told my ovaries. If I were to put off conception through artificial means only to be unable to conceive when it's more convenient, I'd regret it.

So those three reasons are one side of the coin, but what about the other? What's stopping me from just going the Duggar way? This weekend, I'll explain.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Some Barely Coherent Babbling

I tried earlier in the week to process my chaotic thoughts with Tom. We're ordinarily good communicators, but this time our wires weren't crossing.

"So you want to make a baby?" he kept asking.

"No, actually," I said several times. "I very strongly don't want to make another baby right now."

"Then let's keep with the plan to start trying when Peter is two. February."

"That's when I'd like to get pregnant, but I'm wondering if we should be more open to letting nature take it's course. I don't really even think I'm fertile anyway."

"Yeah, but if you did get pregnant right now," Tom would say, "we'd be moving a year from now with a two-year-old and an infant. Peter is enough to keep up with as it is. Can you imagine trying to sell the condo, buy a new house, and make the move if you're in the middle of having a baby?"

I'd reply, "I know. I don't want to do that. That's why I wouldn't want to get pregnant until February."

"Okay, so let's stick with February."

"But I'm not sure that's the right thing," I'd say. "In fact, if you gave me the choice between having a baby sooner than planned or later than planned, I'd pick sooner every time."

"So you want to make a baby?" he'd ask, and we'd go through this same circular conversation again. I think we recited this dialogue four or five times.

I don't blame Tom for his confusion. How do you carry on a conversation with someone who keeps changing her position? What I didn't do was explain to him why I'm questioning birth control (of any sort) in the first place.

I'm not even sure myself.

I'm certainly not well-read on the issue. Oh, I know there's controversy over how the Pill works, but I haven't pursued it since I never found a type that didn't make me fat, moody, or nauseas. Plus, I've grown wary of messing with my body through artificial means. So that's out. Why not just use a barrier method? Or natural family planning? Possibly.

But how did my questioning even begin? I'll save that for tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

But 11 Pregnancies in 20 Years?

Aye, there's the rub.

Much as I admire my grandmother, her devotion to childrearing, and her willingness to sacrifice materially for what she believed, I don't believe that a woman's body was designed to have as many pregnancies and full-term births as she had in a relatively short period of time. Her kids were primarily bottlefed, and her fertility quickly returned between children.

Had she been "ecologically breastfeeding," she'd have had five or six kids, not nine. That's a pretty big difference.

This is the heart of my dilemma. While I appreciate the quiverfull philosophy which reminds us that children are a blessing from God, not a burden, and that the abundance of children is a particular blessing, I also believe that God did not design women to have a baby every year, or even every other year.* A 2-4 year spacing between children is optimal for both mother and child. This allows a woman's body to heal and restore itself between births. It allows each baby to receive as much of the mother's physical nurturing as he needs, from frequent breastfeeding to help getting to sleep, for as long as he needs it.

Quiverfull appeals to me, but as the mother of a high needs toddler, I sympathize with parents who feel overwhelmed at the thought of another child. And as someone who is almost, but not quite, ecologically breastfeeding, I sympathize with those parents who aren't eager to change their parenting practices. (If I were taking that afternoon nap with my son, I wouldn't be typing this right now.)

*I should note that most quiverfull proponents stress breastfeeding, but I know few who completely practice all seven tenets of ecological breastfeeding.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My Catholic Grandmother

My grandmother converted to Catholicism when my dad was two-years-old. A solid convert, she had a total of 11 pregnancies and 9 healthy births. She stayed home with her children, born across a span of twenty years, while my grandfather provided.

Had they limited their number of kids, they would have lived a comfortable, middle class life. Actually, I happen to believe that they did live a comfortable, middle class life-- just not by today's standards. The kids usually received one big Christmas present. As in, one present for all of the kids, not one per child. They shared bedrooms. They passed down clothes. They were expected to help with dinner and share the care of the little ones.

They also had food enough for all, a roof over their heads, and all nine children attended college.

My husband thinks I romanticize all of this. (Maybe I do, a little bit. Especially when I picture big, loud, messy dinners with a slew of children from teenage to toddler!) Really, though, I bring up my dad's story to contrast it with the sense of entitlement so common in childrearing today:

  • My child is entitled to his own bedroom by a certain age.

  • My child is entitled to music lessons.

  • My child is entitled to attend camp.

  • My child is entitled to ride in a car manufactured in the last six years.

  • My child is entitled to a pair of heelys.

  • My child is entitled to a dinner that she did not help prepare.

  • My child is entitled to help buying his first car.

  • My child is entitled to a college education paid by me.

What does this entitlement have to do with birth control? Well, most folks I know openly admit to planning their family according to what they "can afford." Yet, ironically, the greater the income, the lower the birth rate.

Some people would say that this is because the wealthier you are, the better educated you are, and therefore you have more knowledge regarding birth control and more concern for "overpopulation" (a theory, by the way, not a fact-- but I'll save that debate for another day). I don't buy it, though. I think the lower birth rate has more to do with ensuring Sally's riding lessons.

When I think about birth control in this light, I'll take my grandmother's conviction over today's materialism hands down.

But there's more to this story...

Monday, July 9, 2007

Nature's Way

In cultures where breastfeeding is the primary mode of nourishment during a child’s first 3 to 4 years, conception takes place every 20 to 30 months. Children suckle on demand, suckle for comfort, suckle throughout the night, and spend their days in close proximity to their mother. Mothers work, but they tie their babies to their back or, at the very least, allow them to play feet away.

What these women practice is called ecological breastfeeding, the seven tenets of which are the following:

1) exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months
2) allow baby to suckle for comfort as well as nourishment
3) no bottles or pacifiers
4) sleep with baby for night feedings
5) take a nap with baby
6) nurse frequently and avoid feeding schedules
7) avoid any practice that separates mom and baby

When women follow all of the tenets, not just the ones they happen to like, they hold ovulation at bay. Two to four years pass between the births of their children. Oh, there’s the odd exception. (As my friend Kristen says, “We live in a fallen world, and our fertility is fallen too. There are women who want babies who can’t have them, and women who can’t stop having babies no matter what they do.”) But, the vast majority of the time, if you follow all seven of the rules, you won’t be having a baby every year.

Here in the US, most women’s fertility returns within six months postpartum. Even among breastfeeding mothers, fertility has usually returned by the end of a baby’s first year. Why? Sometimes because we schedule our nursing sessions, or fill our kids with solids, or expect our kids to sleep in their own beds, or nudge our babies to independence from the moment we lay them in the hospital isolette or pop in that pacifier.

Am I saying that these things are necessarily wrong? That breaking any of the seven tenets of ecological breastfeeding makes one a bad mother? If so, I’m guilty. In his early months, my son liked a pacifier now and then. I don’t regret giving it. And lately Peter’s decided that the church nursery is tolerable. I’m enjoying it. As for my taking an afternoon nap with him, you can forget it. I like having that mid-day “break” to get stuff done.

But I will say this: when ecological breastfeeding is not practiced in all its fullness, I can’t expect lactational amenorrhea. This leaves me three choices:

1) Practice some sort of birth control (from the barrier methods to hormonal ones to fertility awareness).
2) Change my mothering practices so that I do fulfill the seven tenets.
3) Accept the possibility of children close in age, letting nature take its course.

What's it gonna be?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Family Planning-- or Not.

I'd like to put off my thoughts on birth control just a little bit longer. But I can't. I'm getting some serious signs that my fertility is increasing, and I've got to rip my head from the sand and deal with it.

So I’m going to make myself process my conflicting thoughts on ye ole’ blog this week, even if I find myself disagreeing on Wednesday with what I said on Monday.

Friday, July 6, 2007


God spoke to Tom and I two days ago. He came in a cloud of smoke. From my car.

As we stood on the side of the highway in the heat of an Alabama drought with a crying toddler, my husband said, "So we'll look at cars this weekend." And I said, "Yeah."

With an old cell phone no longer in service, but charged up for such an emergency as this, we called 911 for assistance. Fortunately we were still in town, and Peter and I got a ride home with the sheriff while Daddy got to wait on a tow truck.

Since then, my car has been repaired. It wasn't expensive, but we're not looking back. The only question left is how to replace it.

I'm not 100% at peace with the idea of borrowing money. It's abhorrent to me. Yet I'm done with my car. Done. And I'm not willing to wipe out not only our savings but also our emergency fund. While I won't sleep well on a car loan, I won't sleep well on the other options either.

So financing we shall do. My only comfort is Tom's moonlighting. I'm hopeful, quite hopeful, that with the right discipline we can make this loan history by Christmas.

As for "Georgia," my college graduation present with whom I have spent my twenties, the car which saw me through dating, divinity school, my first job, marriage, my first house, and my first baby... May she rest in peace.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I Shot the Sheriff

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Well, no, but Peter went for a ride in his car.

Did he push one too many kids on the playground? Disturb the public with a tantrum? Run away from home?

I'll tell you tomorrow. And then maybe I'll get back to my thoughts on birth control!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Birth Control

It's on my mind.

I visited the OB/GYN yesterday, since I hadn't had an "annual" in over two years (I don't know that I really needed one, but it helps on the wellness forms for insurance rebates, so I went). When my doctor asked if we were using any sort of birth control, I said "not a whole lot" since I am still breastfeeding and hadn't had a period since before Peter was born. He high-fived me and said his wife went 15 months postpartum before her menses returned after the firstborn.

Good Catholics that they are, I wonder if they did the whole Kippley thing. I've been reading Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies and realize that I've been practicing, for the most part, "ecological breastfeeding." My chance of getting pregnant before my first postpartum period is less than 6%, which makes it easy to ditch standard forms of birth control.

Yet there are times, even knowing that I probably won't get pregnant, that I insist we use some sort of protection. It's usually after one of those "ten tantrum" days when I'm thinking that a five-year spacing between kids might be even better than three.

And I'm beginning to question that. More later.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Progress Report

My "No-Nagging Project" gets a B+.

I did great until Sunday morning, when my son ran into the living room with forks in his hands. As flirtatiously as I could ('cause it's not really nagging if you're smiling, right?), I said to Tom, "Hmm... How did Peter get those forks? Someone must have left the silver chest open."

By Monday night, I was downright pushy. I'd spent the past 24 hours clearing out the living room for painters to come (no not furniture-- but all the stuff like lamps and pictures and blasted knick-knacks), then entertaining a toddler away from home all day while they worked. That evening, as I worked to get the room back in order, Tom lay on the couch with the remote control. "Uh, could I get a little help here?" I said. He looked a little irritated and asked, "What do you want me to do?" And I told him.

All things considered, though, I think I did a good job. I didn't even tell Tom what I was doing (or not doing, I should say), since that would have made it more... I don't know... feel more like a chore and less like an exciting experiment?

I'm going to try again this week.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Look Out, Trading Spaces!

After 5 years of red walls, which I dearly loved until recently, I have gone to the other extreme.

What does it mean? That my twenties are long gone? That I've mellowed out? Or, simply, that brown and blue is "in" and toile is "out"?

I'm going to go with this: the red walls were fun to come home to when I worked outside the home. But now that I stay home all day with a toddler, I have about all the excitement I can handle. Time to tone down the walls.


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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Corner of the Roof

It is difficult to live with someone who is always right. My husband would know. He's married to a woman who knows what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and when it needs to be done. Uh, now.

This occurred to me last Tuesday night as I nursed Peter to sleep (my great revelations will end when that child weans). Along with my realization came the Proverb: "Better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a quarrelsome woman in a big house" (21:9).

So with deep conviction I made a vow: no nagging for the next week. Does he want to leave his backpack on the corner of the dining room floor? Okay. Does he want to leave his drinking glasses spread throughout the house, where he then forgets about them? Okay. Does he want to lie down on the couch for a rest while I go on my tenth day of caring for Peter without a break? Okay. But no matter what, no nagging.

I've made it so far. Three days to go. Deep down, I hope that my lack of nagging will produce in him some newfound sense of order that will compel him to put his toothbrush back in the cabinet and keep the pantry door closed.

Even deeper down, I hope it will prevent him from resenting his wife.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mommy Wasteland

When Peter still had a morning nap, I studied my Bible like an eager young postulant. Since he quit taking it, I've struggled to find the time.

It's not as if he doesn't still sleep. There's the afternoon and evening. But since I had gotten used to using these times for doing anything that needs doing on the computer, spending time with my husband, doing chores that can't be done with a toddler at my feet (like ironing), I'm loathe to change. When I do have time "to myself," I want to do mindless things like smock in front of the television. I don't even like tv.

My reading? Fiction. Magazines. Nothing that requires thought! Even when I do read the Bible, I've found myself memorizing rather than studying, because my brain feels like mush.

The thought of Bible study now feels like work, like one more demand on my time. Ouch. I can't believe I admitted that. Yet there's power in confession, so I'm putting this out there.

Meanwhile, I struggle to keep up with my toddler, operating on low resources because I feel detached from my greatest source of strength.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday Brunch: The Perfect Parent

Sincere obedience is the fruit of relationship. Of that, I have no doubt. Peter's knowledge of my love will determine his willingness to please me.

So I often think that if I provide just the right amount of tenderness, eye contact, boundaries, space, hugs, and teaching--all of which are manifestations of my love-- then Peter will respond graciously to my every demand. I want to believe that if I am the perfect parent, he will be the perfect child.

How quickly I forget what is written into his DNA. I've been reading a study about God's relationship with humanity before "The Fall," seeing how he delighted in the individuals he made. He yearned for their company, and spoke to them with affection and authority. If there were a perfect Father, you can't beat Yahweh, you know?

Yet we know how that story ended. The perfect parent did not have perfect children. I am a beloved child of God, and yet my propensity to rebel still overwhelms me. As will Peter's.

As does Peter's.

Who am I to fool myself into thinking I can create a child without sin?

Friday, June 8, 2007


I just got off the phone with one of my best friends. This is the person I would call back in the days when I was still trying to get Peter to sleep through "crying-it-out." Halfway across the country, she would listen to me sob out loud as I listened to my son sob out loud. She held my hand through it, so to speak, and I am grateful to this day.

Why did I call this particular friend, aside from the fact that she's generally a supportive, non-judgmental person? Because I knew that she had "cried-it-out" with her own son.

Well, our latest phone conversation centered on the sleep of her new daughter. "She's crying for a full fifteen minutes, but she's not asleep by the end of it," my friend said.

"Yeah, well, Peter never fell asleep at the end of fifteen minutes."

"Really?" my friend asked. "The most my son ever cried was twenty minutes. And after a week of that, he generally didn't cry at all."

"You're kidding!" I exclaimed.

"No. How long did Peter cry?"

"He would cry for over two hours, and still not fall asleep," I said. "Don't you remember me calling you in tears?"

In those tearful conversations, somehow I didn't convey how long and unfruitful my child's crying was. Somehow my friend didn't convey that crying-it-out with her son was a relatively short affair.

Yet another illustration that most make-my-infant-sleep books don't acknowledge what a difference temperament makes!
Some day I'll share more about my decision to throw out the solitary-sleep training and just nurse the little boob tick.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My Little Man

My photographer friend Kristen took these incredible shots of my son. My heart melts. I will rue the day he is too old for button-on shorts.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sunday Brunch: All the World's a Stage

I watched Apocalypto last night. Or should I say, Jaguar Paw's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It was gory, predictable, captivating,

And controversial.

In the popular modern view, European conquerors of the Americas were evil brutes who demolished the beautiful, advanced, complex civilizations of the Natives. Mel Gibson, on the other hand, would have you believe that the Natives were a violent, self-destructive lot-- pagans who needed the God of the "white man."

Who is right? At the risk of sounding flaky (or worse: postmodern), I'm going to say both. There's no denying the atrocities and arrogance of the colonists. There's no denying the sadistic practices, from torture to slavery, of those people they vanquished. Nor can you deny that each of the groups had some amount of grace, humor, and valor! But at the end of the day, "There is no one righteous, no not one." The Age of Exploration was just another act in the tragic drama of the human condition.

And so the play continues: new actors, new scenes, same story. Oh, it's easy to get nostalgic and think that certain periods were Golden Ages of joy and justice. In fact, I'd like to believe that the world was a better place when I was a kid roller-skating around my middle-class neighborhood with block parties and grape soda and spin-the-bottle, but let's not kid ourselves.

Is there any hope? I believe there is. As David Wilcox puts it, "Within some scene set in shadow, like the night is here to stay, there is evil cast around us, but it's love that wrote this play."

Thursday, May 31, 2007

How to Accomplish Nothing

9:00 a.m. Take your child outside, because it's a lot more pleasant than letting him whine at the door. You won't be able to fold laundry, but maybe you can catch up on all that during his nap.
Noon. Your child is napping. You have time to yourself. Do you really want to spend it doing chores? Fold those clothes when he wakes up.
3:00 p.m. So you've been with the kiddo all day, all by yourself. Must. Go. See. Another. Adult. Go visit a friend. The laundry can wait.
5:00 p.m. No time for laundry when you've got to get dinner on the table.
7:30 p.m. Your child is tucked in bed. You're pooped. You're eager for uninterrupted adult conversation with your spouse. You want to lay on the couch and do nothing.
10:00 p.m. Okay, now you're going to fold those clothes. For real. You turn on the dryer to let the heat shake out the wrinkles. You brush your teeth while it runs. You put on pajamas. You get a drink of water... Then you get into bed, completely forgetting that you really were going to fold those clothes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Passat of my Dreams...

will remain in my dreams, for the time being. My car was repaired for under $200, and her problem was due to mistakes by my oil-change mechanic. Oh, well.

Tom starts moonlighting next month, so maybe we'll be able to pay cash for something in the not-too-distant future. Then I can get all self-righteous on you. Except that I'm determined to at least start test driving some cars (even though we all know it's going to end up a Passat), which is a pretty dangerous thing for a penniless, drooling mama in a beat-up Mazda to do.

And his first job interview? Looks good. I liked "Mayberry" and want Tom to sign on the dotted line. He was equally impressed but wants to think and pray and interview at a few other places over the next several months before making a decision. Yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.

Meanwhile, I'm engaged in a project that has torn me away from the blogosphere. I'll be back, but maybe not as often these next few weeks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


In The Continuum Concept, Jean Liedloff lauds the parenting practices of a Stone Tribe in South America. In this tribe where she spent several years, the kids were compliant, respectful, and generally pleasant. It's a fascinating book, a little "out there", but I've got to say this: If Peter lived in the jungle, he'd be pretty easygoing himself. The kid loves the outdoors. When we go outside, our battles largely end.

So we spend much of our time chasing birds and squirrels, searching for the neighbor's cat, and pulling the leaves off of bushes. When he hears an airplane, Peter stops what he's doing to look until he finds it.

Today, Peter stopped for the wind. He stood at attention, quiet and alert, as a strong gust swept through our cul de sac. I didn't even notice the sound of the wind in the trees, until he imitated with, "ssssshhhhhhhh." Is my kid brilliant or what?

Note: We're on our way out of town for my husband's first job interview, and I won't be back to the blogosphere until Monday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

On the Menu Today...

My own words. I am constantly eating them. Let's look back to a few of my favorites:

1) "They are starving their children." When attending a La Leche League meeting while pregnant, I heard mothers talk about postponing solids until 8 months or even-- gasp!-- one year. Determined that my child would have more than "just breastmilk" once he hit six months, I dutifully tried to feed him. I was so determined, in fact, that I tried to feed him every day for two and a half months. Unsuccessfully. The few times I managed to get the spoon in his mouth, Peter spewed it all out within seconds.

He ate when he was ready, at close to nine months. Rosemary garlic potatoes. The funny thing is that the more solids he gets, the thinner he gets. At his one-year appointment, he was on the charts for his weight (as opposed to skyrocketing above them) for the first time since he was born, though his height still soars.

2) "He lacks in vocabulary, at least compared to your girls, and I think it's because he's not at the best of daycares." That's how I explained why a fifteen-month-old boy I knew spoke almost no words, while babies I knew of the same age had been speaking for months.

Here we are, on the cusp of 16 months, and Peter only knows three words: Mama, Ma (for Tom, gotta love it!), and 'nana (banana, which he learned just last week). Though he can tell you what the tiger says (grr) and the snake (ssss) and the car (bshbshbsh)!

3) "I will never finance a car." Well, I haven't done it yet, but I'm considering it. My 12-year-old mazda visits the shop more than I do the grocery store. The cost to keep it running has become pyrrhic.

Dave would tell me to drive a clunker until I'd saved up enough cash for a replacement car. That's been the plan, and neither Tom (who drives an eleven-year-old car) nor I are particularly showy about our cars anyway. All we want is something dependable and paid for. Technically, we could pay for a car right now, it just would deplete our savings and the emergency fund.

And depleting the cash reserves isn't an option. So what do we do?

My dad, a financial planner by profession, a man who saves the shards of his bath soap in a dish beside his sink and who refuses to drive a beamer as a matter of principle, thinks we need to get over ourselves and replace my car now. This normally frugal man knows that in one year, Tom's income will increase exponentially, and we could pay off the loan in a month. Even Dave makes concessions to callers who are in medical training, cutting them more slack than those whose incomes won't be changing.

But isn't that a slippery slope? One minute, we're financing a car-- the next, we're... I don't know, throwing away our soap shards?

Well, we'll see what the mechanic says today. Maybe the current schreeching and smell of burning rubber is something that can be repaired for under $200.