Confessions Of A Green Mama

confessions of green mama

Last night I was on the phone with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We were talking about being moms, having kids and all the crazy cool things that go down in our days. It came up that her husband (who is nice enough to follow this blog) wondered how it is that I managed to spend time with my son, cook all our food, work, be a wife, keep our home, garden and do all the other things that go into being an involved green mama.

As a blogger, I share a lot of information about myself and my family with you. Really, that’s most of how I know what I know…experience. I also shared with you in my About Me section, if there is something I’m working on or want to change about myself, I’m the first to share that. This is evident in my New Year’s Resolution to shed 100 pounds.

My conversation last night, however, made me realize that for all the sharing I do it’s really easy to come off as near perfect in my execution of being a green mama. Let me assure you, I am nowhere near as green as I wish I were or as I think some other bloggers appear to be.

Let me share with you some of the trials, errors and little secrets that I experience and am still working on. I’m not sharing these with you to make myself feel better (because I don’t really feel that guilty) but to assure you that we’re all in this together, warts and all!

I Confess

I’m all for composting, an advocate even. In my post about worm composting I was very excited to share my worm bin with you. Sadly, about a month ago I overfed my red wigglers. The temperature in my bin shot to 110*. That’s no bueno. I tried to reverse the heat wave, but there was no saving them. My worms died and that made me really sad. I had to explain to my son what happened and am starting over. PS- If your worm bin gets too hot, don’t try to reverse it, just take out the hot compost and save the worms.

We drive 2 cars. Even though we only use about a tank a month, one of them is an SUV.

Plane travel is the worst offender when it comes to green house emmissions. We fly (as a family of 3) round trip to somewhere 4-6 times a year.

In a perfect world we would eat only locally and seasonally. I don’t like squash that much and bananas are too good for us to give up (sorry Luke).

There is a clothes line in my backyard, but more often than not I choose to machine dry my clothes.

The house we live in is old and has drafty windows and poor insulation. There’s a gap in my front door, but I haven’t done anything about it all winter. Energy savings fail.

This is a big one: I have a house cleaner come and clean my whole house every other week. I LOVE her, and I’m never going back. It has taken a weight off my shoulders, it makes me happy, and I feel healthier knowing my house is clean.

If the dishwasher doesn’t get emptied first thing in the morning (this happens <50% of the time) there are piles of dishes, pots and pans on my counter and in my sink at the end of the day. Thanks to my husband for cleaning them and not sighing too heavily when he walks into the kitchen every night.

Folding laundry is the bain of my existence. I often leave it in a pile and wait for my house cleaner to fold it. For which she volunteered by the way.

Addiction in two words: Amazon Prime.

Even though I was gang busters to use cloth diapers, I was so seriously overwhelmed by motherhood that we use disposable.

Sauerkraut (and all it’s fermented goodness) has yet to thrill me.

Two summers ago we installed a lawn in our backyard (low water Xerilawn) and I don’t regret it one little bit.

Evidently I’ve bought into the Apple revolution as I own THREE different devices – iPhone, iPad and a Macbook.

In the beginning I was sure attachment parenting was for us. Turns out sleep training (and some cry it out) was one of the best parenting decissons we’ve ever made.

My son is vaccinated, using the Dr. Sear’s alternative schedule.

In the five steps to a Zero Waste Home, I’m terrible at step one: refusing.

My son watches some television almost everyday, and so do I.

Can you say caffe breve? I drink one a day and we use our Nespresso machine, which only has dissposible pods in which I have no say as to what kind of coffee is used. Although I’ve been searching desparately to find good reusable ones, to no avail.

We aren’t members of a CSA (see squash reference above).

My cats used to get a homemade raw food diet, but when the baby came they got reverted back to dry (grainless) cat food.

I’m sure if I thought about it I could come up with 100 more things to add to this list, but I’ll stop here for now. Remember, we’re all human and we’re all works in progress. Do what you can do and take small steps. Continue to be optimistic that whatever goals you have for being a parent, being green or maybe just starting to cook dinners at home – you’ll get there, slow and steady wins the race. Celebrate small successes and make choices you can stand behind. And last but not least, be well!

 

This post featured on: Party Wave Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Small Footprint Friday, Fight Back Friday, Sunday School, Thank Goodness It’s Monday

Travel With Kids: Flying

travel with kids flyingWe were pretty certain that after we had a kid our travelling would dwindle to the occasional trip to visit family. Thankfully, that’s not happened and we’ve gotten to experience truly wonderful sights and cultures with our child in tow.

P has been charming flight attendants since he was 2 months old, he’s now 2 years old. He’s been to Hawaii 4 times, Maine, Spain, and California many times to visit our family there. We’ve flown non-stop and we’ve had to make connections. Big airports, small airports, customs, baggage, international, trams…we’ve done them all. Our upcoming trips include Boston, Alaska, and California a couple more times for good measure.

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Be kind with flight attendants and they’ll be kind with you.

P’s always been an easy travelling companion and, with the exception of that one time he had a head cold, he’s never been THAT kid. Here’s my biggest thought on whether a baby/child will be a good traveller. If they eat out at restaurants well, I think it’s a good indication that your child can handle being cooped up in a flying can, with a bunch of strangers, for many hours on end.

Will it be easy? No, not like when you didn’t have kids. And certainly not like when they’re older and can plug into movies or books for hours on end, but it’s very possible and definitely worth it.

Through our travels there are a few things we’ve learned that I think you might also find helpful, or at least worth considering:

  • Travel Business/First class if you can afford it
  • If you can bring the grandparents, DO IT!
  • Give yourself at least 30 minutes longer than you used to (pre-baby) at the airport
  • Get a chiropractic adjustment for yourself and baby a couple of days before you go
  • Be patient with yourself, others and especially your baby
  • Avoid the red-eye if you can
  • Make lists and check them

As a side note, if you’re pregnant and planning to fly you should read what WebMD has to say about the subject, talk with your care provider, and then make an educated decision. Here’s the link to the TSA website for travelling with children, where they lay out what your child can expect when trying to get through security.

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The more the merrier!

It can be stressful at times, but after you’ve arrived at your destination it will all have been worth it. Just think how good you’ll feel having accomplished such a task as flying with a baby and all the memories you’re about to make on your trip. I’ll break the rest down by age, since that does indeed make a difference.

Infant – 6 Months

Assuming you had a normal pregnancy and vaginal birth doctors seem to agree that it’s safe for mother and child to fly as soon as 2 weeks after birth (source 1, 2). Why anyone would voluntarily do this at 2 weeks post-partum is beyond me. Barring any big life moves I recommend staying put for a month or two and developing some semblance of sanity routine before venturing into the world of TSA, cabin pressure and time zone changes.

What To Bring

  • Your baby’s passport (required for international travel) or a COPY of their birth certificate. Don’t forget this. Ticketing agents don’t always check them, but when they do you’ll be glad to have it.
  • A change of clothes for baby and mom. Let me stress that MOM does indeed want a change of clothes. I’ve experienced the worst possible blowout, EVER, on an airplane and paid for it for the rest of the flight. Not pretty folks, not pretty at all.
  • If your breastfeeding you can bring one of those cover/sheet do-dads, but it gets really hot on an airplane. Like Bikram yoga hot. I found that wearing a very large, comfortable, maternity shirt that I could stretch over the baby worked much better. Then you don’t have to fumble around with a giant piece of fabric while confined to a tiny seat either. After a year, I just started whipping out the boob, stare if you want, I don’t give a darn.
  • If you’re bottle feeding, bring formula. TSA will let you bring liquids through too, but they will test for the gun powder and flammable liquids that you’re really trying to smuggle in and then they’ll pull you aside for a little one-on-one time. Just you, a TSA agent of the corresponding gender, and some sanitary gloves. Mmm-hmmm.
  • A pillow. For the first bunch of flights I brought my Boppie. It was cumbersome, but it made feeding and holding a sleeping baby for hours manageable. It’s worth it to bring some sort of cushion.
  • For a wee babe you can carry them in your arms or bring your baby carrier/sling to spare your back and free up a hand for dragging luggage/diaper bag. You should know that even though it seems like a dandy idea to have your baby strapped to you during flight, you will be required to TAKE BABY OUT of said carrier during take off and landing. If you’re flying in Europe with a lap infant they have a special baby seat belt, that connects to your belt, which is required to be around your baby.
  • If your baby is sitting up, or able to ride in an umbrella stroller, bring one of those. It’s great for loading up with a baby, or other baby items, that you’re going to trudge around with you for the duration of your trip. It will have to go through security, will be checked at the gate, and (unless the airport staff hates you and sends it to baggage claim) it will be brought to the door of the plane when you exit. Do everyone a favor and leave your jumbo multi-child stroller at home, or at least check it with your baggage.
  • Technically, kids under the age of 2 fly free if they sit on your lap. That’s how we’ve always done it. Airlines do this so families won’t stop flying because paying for a baby ticket is outlandishly expensive. If you’re a safety first type then you can bring your car seat on the plane, but you will have to purchase a full price ticket for your baby.
  • Bonus while travelling with a child under two is that you will often get to skip to the front of the security line, you don’t have to go through those obnoxious full body scans, and people are generally helpful and friendly.
  • You can bring your car seat with you wherever you travel and check it for free with your luggage (unless you get a mean ticketing agent who hates you).
  • And in case you’re getting overwhelmed, don’t forget to bring more diapers than you think you’ll need, the appropriate amount of wipes, and your little changing mat. They don’t typically sell these at airports.

I don’t know what it is about flying, but the air pressure seems to squeeze every last bit of bodily function out of your tiny baby while inflight and you’ll have to master the art of changing diapers in a lavatory. It’s very possible that this will be the most traumatic event of your baby’s life and he will scream bloody murder the entire time you’re in the lavatory. Or not. Either way, deep calming breathes become enormously helpful during these times.

Honestly, if it’s just a wet diaper I’ll change it right at our seat. Shhh, don’t tell. It is required that the dirty diapers be thrown away in the lavatory or off the plane. A flight attendant will refuse it in their regular trash pickups.

On The Plane

porter and grandparents fly
Business class is good, grandparents are better.

If it’s your first time flying you may have an overwhelming sense of guilt for what you may be exposing your inflight neighbors to. And yes, it may be loud and involve screams and glares and all sorts of bad stuff. But more often than not, your baby will be fine either eating (during take off and landing to keep their little ears clear) or sleeping. People are generally kind, and if they’re not than I say %$&! ’em.

When your baby is very little they don’t need toys or books, just loving arms and some food. I think travelling with really young babies is actually much easier than older ones, albeit a little boring.

If you’re travelling alone, make sure to get anything out you might need and stick it in the seat pocket, so you won’t be fumbling around too much. Hopefully you’re travelling with your partner, in which case you’re $$$ honey. Two sets of arms, someone to buffer you from the rest of the plane, and a person to feed and water YOU is always nice to have.

6 Months – 18 Months

When your child is older they will obviously be more active and interested in the world around them. This becomes extra fun when you’re flying coach and the person in front of you has big hair that a baby would love to tug on. It also means that when they coo and gaze at strangers they’re often going to get a smile in return, which is nice for everyone.

porter reads emergency cardThe previous list holds true here, and if your baby is into toys/books you should bring a couple. Bring a bottle for your baby to sip on (if they’re not still nursing) for take off and landing. If your baby is eating solids, bring them. Again, liquids are okay, but they will be scanned by TSA at security and there’s a good chance you’ll get a rub pat down too. But mostly, just be ready to be the most interactive parent you’ve ever been in your life. Now, dance monkey!

18 Months – 23 Months

In doing some research I found out that if your baby celebrates their second birthday while in the air, you will indeed have to buy them a ticket. So don’t travel on your baby’s birthday at midnight.

When P was about 18 months he got too big to have a pillow and sit on my lap. I still wore the same huge maternity shirt in case he wanted to nurse (he often didn’t), we brought along a couple of toys/books, and I even loaded movies and apps onto the iPad for the brief time that they would hold his attention.

Honestly, this is the most uncomfortable time to travel with a child. They’re getting bigger, they need to move more and are ready to throw down a tantrum at a moments notice. This is when Business/First class is super nice if you can afford it. More dancing, more monkey, go!

2+ Years

On our most recent trip Porter got his own seats. It was great. Despite his obsession for putting the tray table up and down, we both had space. His interest in airplanes and airports was very inspiring. I brought a pillow (tied up with a shoe lace) in hopes that he would nap, but he didn’t, shoot.

I didn’t bring the umbrella stroller (we checked it with luggage) and instead opted for a Trunki. A lovely carry-on which contained his toys/books/diapers, which is conveniently capable of pulling your child on. You should seriously check it out. Porter rode through the airport some of the way, pulled it some of the way, and when he was over it I just slung it over my shoulder.

porter plane 1Before getting on the plane, talk with your child about what to expect. Get a book (like one of these) that explains the airport/flying process, and certainly remind them that they’ll have to wear a seat belt. Show them the signs on the plane and the different parts. Don’t be afraid to enlist a friendly flight attendant to talk with your child. Sometimes a perfect stranger has a positive effect on your child’s desire to stay seated.

During take off and landing P and I practiced opening our mouths very big. We then licked pretend ice cream cones and swallowed the pretend ice cream. Imagination, works like a charm!

At this point you’ve made it! Now your child is really expensive and considered a full human being – at least to the airlines. Gone are the days of cutting in front of the security lines. On the upside, we’ve mastered art of standing up while changing a diaper in the lavatory. If you have the distinct pleasure of potty training while travelling, more power to you! The success you’ll feel after your baby uses the onboard lavatory for the first time is oddly empowering and definitely a momentous occasion worthy of turbulence and exaltation. Now, go enjoy your trip!

Anything I left out? Add your ideas in the comments.

This post featured on: Party Wave Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Small Footprint Friday

Knowing Birth Series: Tara H (5)

knowing birth

WHAT IS KNOWING BIRTH?

Here is the link to the original Knowing Birth post.

There are so many books and studies claiming to know the truth about birth, but what I’ve found in my conversations with mothers and birth professionals are so many unique experiences surrounding each birth. A book or study can’t possibly take into account the actual voices of individuals. So what better way to find out than to simply ask.

That led me to what I call Knowing Birth interviews. I have come up with a handful of questions that, moms, dads and care providers will answer. I’ll then take their answers and put them directly on this blog.

The only requirement is honesty and openness, and maybe a few pictures too. If you would like to share your experience and answers to the following questions, please email me at doulamegan@gmail.com and I will get the questionnaire to you directly. Anyone can participate and there’s no judgment from me about your answers. I promise to keep a close eye on the comments and keep ‘em clean.

THIS WEEKS INTERVIEW IS THANKS TO…

Tara and her beautiful family. The photos Tara sent me are so amazing and a tribute to the  beauty of birth. All photos were taken by their doula Kyndal May.

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Where did you choose to have your birth and why? What are your feelings about that choice now?

I chose to give birth to both of my children at The Baby Place (now New Beginnings) Birth Center. I honestly feel that it was one of the very best choices I have ever made in my entire life.

How did you prepare for your birth?

While pregnant with my first baby, I did A LOT of research comparing hospital birth versus out-of-hospital birth, and natural birth versus medicated birth. My husband and I also planned to meet the midwives and tour the center then do the same at a hospital with a doctor. However, once we met our midwives, asked several questions, and toured the birth center, we both had an overwhelming feeling that this was where we wanted our baby to be born. The midwives offered exactly what I wanted for my labor/birth experience; they were extremely knowledgeable and made me feel very comfortable asking any and all questions we had.  We also took Kyndal May’s Confident Childbirth class and hired her as our doula (for both births actually). I highly recommend every parent to take her class and hire a doula! I just can’t say enough at how the positive view (one that says childbirth is a natural process and not a problem that needs fixed), was the most encouraging way to birth my babies.

Who was invited and present at your birth?

For my son’s birth (my first) we had a bit of an audience. Other than my midwives, doula and husband, we had my mom, his mom and his sister. I was happy to have them present towards the end of my labor and while pushing. They were all very encouraging to me and it’s so fun to talk about the moments during that time.

For my daughter’s birth (my second), we had planned to have the same family present, however, she came very fast and was born about ten minutes after arriving to the birth center. It ended up just being my midwife, doula and husband and everyone else arrived just seconds after she was born.

Looking back, I know it was intended to be that way. It is so cool to have each kind of experience; one with family and one with just us and our birth team.

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If it was not your first birth, please compare/contrast your experiences.

Although both babies were born at the same birth center, even in the same room (not even by choice as my daughter was so fast that we stopped where we landed), my experiences were slightly different. My midwives were different; however, they were equally wonderful, compassionate, and trustworthy. My labors were also very different, and it was so fulfilling to have a doula and husband that knew how to comfort me during my hard moments of each labor.

What qualifications do you look for in a midwife/OB/primary care provider?

My biggest qualifications are knowledge and trust. I need someone who has knowledge about every aspect of pregnancy/labor/birth and is able to educate and encourage me along the way. I need somebody who trusts the process and who I can trust to handle the process. It is mine and my babies’ lives on the line! I feel blessed that I found these qualifications in all of my midwives.

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What is your ideal relationship with a birth attendant?

My ideal relationship with my midwives is one that is comfortable and caring. I was never treated as a “patient” and I always felt comfortable asking even the silly question I had along the way. They were professional while also making me feel like a friend and they never rushed my appointments. They really made me feel important like mine and my baby’s needs were at the top of their list.

If you have received maternity care from both the medical and midwifery models of care, what are the biggest differences? Pros/cons of each?

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Did you feel adequately informed of your options?

I felt very informed about my options. I knew exactly what I wanted or didn’t want in a care provider as well as my birth. My midwives were always very up front with their statistics as well as their plan if transfer if I needed it. I felt completely safe in their care and knew they always had me and my baby’s best interest in mind. I wish all care providers, doctors to be exact, had to provide their statistics, as well.

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Describe your ideal birth environment at this point in time.

The birth center is my ideal birth environment. It is so peaceful and calm and provides all of the comfort measures I could desire.

How do you feel about the safety of birth in a hospital vs outside of a hospital?

I know for a fact that I received the safest and most personal care available for my family. I find it funny when people question out of hospital birth for safety reasons. I think many people have a very medical mindset when it comes to the natural/normal process. The interventions that occur at a hospital (some that uneducated women wouldn’t even think of as an intervention) change the whole process of labor and significantly increase the risk of needing more interventions and a lot of the time, cesarean sections.

When labor is able to take its natural path, no hospital or medical intervention is needed. I feel that a midwife is a better candidate to trust the process and let your body do what it knows to do instead of intervening and viewing it as a medical problem that need “fixed”.

However, I know my midwives are also highly trained to know when labor is becoming a medical emergency and will get you to a hospital if you need to be there. I think most people would be surprised at how often they don’t need medical help to do something their body was made to do. I feel that if more people completely educated themselves with unbiased information, more people would choose out of hospital birth. Women, who fully understand and trust the process, don’t fear birth.

Is there anything you would change about public policy relating to birth/maternity care? Why/how?

Yes. I think insurance companies should provide coverage for birth center and home births. We paid out of pocket for both of our births, and I would do it again in a heartbeat as they are worth EVERY penny (and then some), but I do think it’s ridiculous for insurance companies to not accept them as caregivers. Un-medicated, out of hospital births are much more cost effective and would save SO much money. With this being said, I don’t think women should only choose out of hospital births just because of money either, so we should also be encouraging and educating about midwifery and the natural process of birth.

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What do you feel were the most influential factors surrounding your birth? Why?

I honestly had no clue what I wanted in a birth until I became pregnant. I had a friend who had her babies at the birth center as well as many of her family members. They all talked so highly of their experiences that I knew I needed to check it out. Between doing that and spending hours reading birth stories, researching, and taking childbirth classes, I knew the birth center was the best place to give birth. I also knew that even if I opted for a natural birth at a hospital, it wouldn’t be joyous and peaceful because I would refusing things and fighting for what I wanted and didn’t want instead of being praised and encouraged through the wonderful, amazing process.

Who owns birth?

Mothers and babies own birth. Moms deserve to have the experience they want to have while doing the most important, most rewarding thing they will ever do. They should be respected, encouraged and honored. They should be able to birth where and how they choose and be supported in doing so. Babies own birth because this is their big day and they come when they are ready to. They should be given the time to make their grand arrival without being forced to.

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HOW TO JOIN THE KNOWING BIRTH SERIES

Email me at doulamegan@gmail.com and I’ll send you the questionnaire directly. There are no requirements, only that you have a voice about birth and want to share it openly and honestly.

THANKS FOR FOLLOWING AND BE WELL!

 

The Teacher Turned Mom Dilemma

clown mumu 1Homeschooling was off my radar until I read this book by Quinn Cummings and started reading blogs by other moms who believe in a lot of the same principles I believe in; like traditional food, midwifery, green living, breastfeeding and, you know, trying to be the best moms ever and still maintain some semblance of sanity. Turns out that many more parents than I ever knew plan on homeschooling their kids. This all led me to seriously consider homeschooling my son too. In fact, I was certain for a couple weeks that home schooling was the route for us. This was new for me, especially since I was a kindergarten teacher in a very traditional private school for years before Porter was born. I love teaching, and while I’m not sure I’ll do it again, I’m not sure that I won’t either.

If Anyone Can Do It, It’s Me

One train of thought is that since I’m so good at teaching other people’s kids, I should be able to teach my own kid. I mean really, so many people do this. Then I had this epiphany today. When I would give a parent positive feedback about their child, like “she’s so helpful” or “stays on task well”, they would often respond with, “My child? No, certainly not my child.” To which I would respond that yes it’s true, their kid is fabulous.

The other side of this coin is when this fabulous child has their parent in the classroom at some point during the day. This focused and happy child often turned into a whiny, dependent toddler who seemed to have forgotten how to hang their jacket on a hook, let alone complete multiple classroom tasks unassisted.

It wasn’t until today, with my 2-year-old, that I realized that many kids really do act differently when they’re around their parents, in their comfort zone. That’s not to say that I expect my child to be whiny and dependent, but the grace he shows, already, while working with other adults and peers is astounding. I have taught him countless skills and will continue to do so. Utilizing homeschooling websites is an invaluable asset to me already. As a family we will continue to give him a diverse array of experiences, but I feel like he would be missing out on a personal growth experience by not getting to go to school. I’m not talking about socializing either, because I don’t think that’s as big an issue as other non-homeschooling people might.

He’s Got The RIght Personality

My son is a trusting fellow, and that’s how I hoped he would be. My husband and I have worked really hard to make our home comfortable and safe for each other. To always be there when Porter needs solace, a hug or reassurance. In the simplest of terms, I’ve got an extroverted kid. He gains energy when other people are around, he’s not afraid to talk with people and enjoys getting attention from just about any smiling person we may come across.

For my child, and many others I suspect, it’s almost easier to learn from someone other than their own parents. A teacher is someone who is at a comfortable and objective distance from Porter. Certainly not someone who’s cold, but someone like me. Who genuinely loves teaching, relates to children easily, dedicates their life to making sure generations of kids learn to read and write and become whole individuals.

Saying Goodbye Is Hard

Teachers will understand definitely understand this next part. When I told a parent of a crying child that their son or daughter would be just fine only moments after they left, I wasn’t trying to placate them. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and I knew in my core that their, normally, happy and vibrant child always returns to being themselves almost immediately once the parent has left. I also know that leaving your child, crying or not, can be heartbreaking in and of itself. Shoot, the first time I left Porter at the gym daycare for and hour he didn’t cry, but I sure did.

And Then There’s Me

I mentioned earlier that my son is 2, and I don’t care what anyone says or how they try to sugar coat it, he’s a handful. Certainly, I’ve made changes that have helped my energy level and patience (like cutting out sugar most TV), but I have interests that I really want to pursue. Being a stay at home mom is not what I thought it would be.

Something in me believed that because I enjoy cooking and teaching children, that I could learn to like cleaning and folding laundry, and (gasp) spending my entire self devoted to my child. Life would be one big playground after another and we would frolic and float on the bliss of childhood wonderment. And we do, just not all day everyday. There’s that whole issue of reality to contend with too.

Reality, It’s No TV Show

It turns out that I still don’t like cleaning, so much so that I hire someone to come to my house bi-weekly to do the bulk of it. Laundry? Don’t even get me started on how big my pile of clean clothes can get before I force my husband into the servitude that is folding and putting it all away. As for the cooking, I’m doing more of it than ever and that’s okay. But I’m no Donna Reed having dinner done, or even started, before Luke gets home from work. I call it a good day as a stay at home mom if a majority of the toys are off the floor, Luke gets a proper greeting and Porter is in a good mood.

Back Where We Started

All this leads me back to the whole school thing. I want Porter to go to school for many reasons, and my own selfish needs are one of them. That’s right, I’m being selfish so that I have something to give. So I can reserve a piece of me that is genuinely excited to explore and pursue new interests and goals.

In the last few months, considering homeschooling vs schooling, I have gained quite a bit of respect for parents who choose to home school. I often reference their websites and blogs for ideas that I can use at home. But in the same way that I knew I would breastfeed my son, when the time came for him to sleep in his own bed, and the same part that doesn’t force him to eat dinner if he’s not hungry…I know he’ll be attending preschool taught by a genuine teacher. A person who loves what they do and does it well. Who wants my child to be successful and who I’m sure will assure me that during the day, when I’m not there, that everything continues to be peachy for my sweet boy, and knows in their core that it’s true. I know I can trust in that.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling vs traditional schooling? Leave them in the comments below.

This post featured on Party Wave Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Small Footprint Friday

Tall As A Tree, Small As A Bug – Gymnastics!

We are in the throes of winter here in Boise. It hasn’t been above freezing for at least the last 2 weeks, and going outside to “play” is not as fun as it should be. Right now I’m thanking our lucky stars for Wings Gymnastics. Thanks to Porter’s Tutu we’ve been going to child/parent gymnastics for about 7 months. In that time I have learned more about my son’s behavior, physicality, and attitude. To watch how he is influenced by other children and how he confronts new tasks has been truly enlightening. According to the Wings website, gymnastics for little ones provides these tools:

  • Patience and Cooperation
  • Improved listening skills
  • Enhanced neural pathways
  • Improved balance, strength, and coordination
  • Learn valuable social skills
  • Gain self-esteem, confidence, and a “can-do” attitude

I’m pretty certain that at the ripe age of 2 Porter would be developing these skills on his own, but I’m also quite confident that they have been improved upon by his experiences in the gym. Miss. Brenda has been an invaluable teacher and Porter lives for her acknowledgment and praise.

This week we had some make up classes to do and got to go to gymnastics 3 times. AWESOME! Just this week Porter made huge strides. He started walking across the beam unassisted, gained confidence swinging from two uneven bars to one, and FINALLY attempted both forward and backward rolls.

Somersaults were the bain of his usually pleasant gym experiences. I don’t know what clicked, but today he got straight into rolling and ended with a triumphant “ta-daa!” We’ve been working on this since the beginning and I nearly cried when he completed the rolls with a smile. I’m so thankful for these experiences and that we get to enjoy them together.

"Watching eyes, listening ears, quiet mouths. Wiggle your fingers, clap clap clap, put them quietly in your lap." ~Miss.Brenda
“Watching eyes, listening ears, quiet mouths. Wiggle your fingers, clap clap clap, put them quietly in your lap.” ~Miss.Brenda
Climbing a rope ladder to slide down the other side.
Climbing a rope ladder to slide down the other side.

Bye bye song, "Bye bye gymnastics!"
Bye bye song, “Bye bye gymnastics!”

Practicing at home on the bed.

This post featured on: Thank Your Body

5 Reasons To Ditch Your Prenatal Care Provider

38 Weeks

If you’ve been following my writing for any period of time, you know that I’m a doula and an advocate for out of hospital birth attended by midwives. While I was a doula for families that chose to give birth in hospitals I encountered a similar situation time and again. Let me paint a picture for you.

While talking with your friend about how excited you are to be pregnant she asks you who your doctor is. Oh, you reply, I found a great doctor. He (I’m going with male since that has been my overwhelming experience) is really friendly, has a family of his own and I feel really comfortable at my prenatal visits (which last 15 minutes, maybe 30 for your initial meeting).

All through your pregnancy you go to your doctor and everything goes smoothly. It’s finally time to have this baby and you go to the hospital chipper, ok maybe not chipper but indeed ready to have this baby, and you get checked into your suite by the nice nurse. She hooks you up to an IV, straps two monitors on you, and asks if there is anything you need. She assures you that you’ll have this baby soon enough and then leaves to perform other job duties.Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’re in a small hospital and there’s no one else having a baby and the nurse gets to give all her attention to you. Maybe not. Hopefully you have a doula.

On and on it goes, this labor thing. Maybe you have pitocin and/or epidural, maybe not. Oh look, shift change! It’s time for your nurse to go home to her family and for the next nice nurse to take over. Hopefully you jive with this new person.

Keep in mind, if you’ve seen your doctor at all it was for a brief moment where he looked at the monitors and issuing tapes, he then taps your shoulder looks at your partner and says everything’s swell. See you when it’s time to push the baby out.  Finally, it’s time to push. The doctor that you’ve spent the last 6 months getting to know and lending all your confidence to will pretty much only be there when your baby is descending down the birth canal and out into the world.

You are instructed to push, have people counting at you, and are instructed to “get this baby out”. Whoosh! Baby’s born and, hopefully, placed on your belly where the cord is clamped and you bond. If not then baby is taken to a warming table where pediatric doctors, respiratory therapists and nurses do whatever they need to do to help your baby get this life started right.

Doctor delivers your placenta and checks out your lady parts. Maybe you need a couple stitches, maybe not. Doctor congratulates you and your partner and heads out the door to deliver another baby. Yay!

On the other hand, if you have a doctor that isn’t on call for your birth maybe you just get whoever is actually on call. A complete stranger, who may or may not have the same vision of birth as the doctor you’ve been trusting and getting to know. You would be shocked at how many times I’ve seen this last part play out.

Guess what? I know how to guarantee that you get the best prenatal, birth and post natal care. What…you already know what I’m going to say? You’ve been paying attention, 20 points for you! That’s right, take your time, money and health to a MIDWIFE. She will be at your birth, and that’s a promise. If you see a group of midwives, you’ll get to know them all (they tend to be small practices) and the trust you have in that small team will be rewarded with:

  • prenatal meetings that last as long as you need them to
  • honesty and education about the choices you get to make about your body, baby and birth
  • post natal care for you and your baby for the next 6-8 weeks
  • RESPECT for your choices, body and birth

I called my midwives countless times in the week after Porter was born. They were always kind and didn’t even sound like they were rolling their eyes when I asked the most redundant new mom questions.

Following is my top 5 reasons to switch care providers. Whether it be doctors or midwives. You have a choice. Just because you’re 35 weeks pregnant and have been seeing the same doctor since before baby was conceived, you can change providers. It’s ok.

If someone wasn’t giving you good customer service at a store, you wouldn’t continue to shop there. If your vet didn’t treat your pet right, you would find another. If your hair dresser gives you many bad haircuts in a row…you get the picture. If you’re interested in having a birth that your provider isn’t interested in providing go interview other’s. Shh, you don’t even have to tell your current doctor. Keep in mind, I’m not a care provider of any sort. Just an educated consumer, with a few opinions. Back to the list!

Top 5 Reasons You Should Change Doctors/Midwives

1. Talk of your baby being too big or your pelvis being too small. From my personal experience, I had an 11 pound baby who was 23.5″ long. That’s a big baby. I’m 5’6″. He came out perfectly and with no damage to his or my parts.

2. Talk about hard and fast deadlines or protocols. If you won’t be allowed to go past 40 weeks, eat food during labor or leave your bed/monitors…go, now. Porter pushed even the limits of Idaho law, waiting until 42.5 weeks to be born. 43 weeks and I would have had to go to the hospital or have my husband deliver at home. Yeah, we considered that.

3. They won’t tell you their cesarean rate, or don’t know it. 

4. You aren’t encouraged to educate yourself and/or are placated with words like “don’t worry about it” when you ask questions. You should be able to have a real adult conversation about any of the procedures being done to you and/or your baby. Your care provider should treat you as an equal and give you every bit of knowledge that they feel is pertinent to your decision making. In return, you are expected to DO YOUR RESEARCH and TAKE RESPONSiBILITY. Find out facts on your own and share them with your provider. Ask them questions and get answers that make sense to you. Yes, they’ve delivered more babies than you, and maybe they were there for your first babies, but they have never delivered THIS baby before.

5. Your intuition tells you that you’re not comfortable with this care provider. Don’t ignore that nagging feeling. If you feel trapped or uncomfortable with your care, go find someone else who you feel comfortable with. If you don’t know where to start, ask your doula (or any doula) for referrals. Or look for midwives online. Then interview them and continue to listen to your intuition. It’s good practice for parenthood too.

This post has been shared on Thank Your Body Thursday.

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And in totally unrelated new, here’s a cute video of my son practicing his large motor skill, jumping. He’s been working on it for months.

This post featured on Party Wave Wednesday

Parenting A Newborn, Whoa

It's impossible to spoil newborns with enough cuddles.
It’s impossible to spoil newborns with enough cuddles.

So no one actually said being a parent is a walk in the park. In fact, most people have told me it’s the hardest job in the world. But nothing can prepare you for having a child. Nothing. I recently got an email from an old friend (thank you very much Facebook) who had a baby less than two months ago. She wrote to ask me advice and I thought I’d share her letter. Names have been changed.

Although I am loving being a mom it’s a lot more different than I thought. I thought I’d throw baby over my shoulder and hit the roads…b-boping around town. Boy, was I wrong! I am lucky if I can brush my teeth, eat and shower by 3pm. I don’t know if its me not being efficient or if the baby is really eating all my time.
Baby is 7 weeks now and has been a good baby until about 2 weeks ago where baby now cries/screams uncontrollably. I guess this is colic. It’s bad and stressful for myself, husband and baby. Do you have any insight on this? Is it baby is in pain, or just a crying baby for no reason?

Sigh…new motherhood. Let me say, first, that I’m actually really glad that I’ll never be first time mom again. At least to a newborn. I remember waking up at every mew and sound Porter made, just to check his breathing. I’m still attached to the freakin’ baby monitor when he sleeps, and he’ll be two next week. While I’m not a doctor or therapist, I wanted to answer my friend’s questions openly as another parent and to offer my own suggestions. Surely, if you’re a parent too, you might have some helpful ideas for my friend. Please feel free  leave them in the comments below.

In terms of time management. With a newborn,  I think you’re doing great if you get teeth, shower AND food in by 3pm. It’s not a proud moment for me to admit, but there were days when I wasn’t sure when I had last washed my hair. And for the first two months I LIVED on the lactation cookies that my friend Chelsea baked me. Luke even took up baking in those early days. Newborns are definitely pro’s at making the most simple task infinitely harder. This passes in time as your baby gets older and more manageable. Eventually they can even be helpful. But for now, do your best and don’t feel bad if it takes awhile before there’s any b-bopping going on. Other than the b-bopping to put baby to sleep that is.

To address the colic. I obviously can’t say if your baby has colic or not, but I can say that it was perfectly normal for my baby to go through attitude changes (he still does). For a small baby, less than 4 months I would highly recommend The Happiest Baby On The Block, book or DVD. It is geared mostly for sleeping and worked like a charm for us. When Porter was awake, and didn’t want to be on his tummy or on the blanket (which looked a lot like crying and screaming uncontrollably) I would put him in a carrier. I preferred a sling or the Moby wrap (see image above). Sometimes he would hang in there for a long time, and other times he only wanted to be cuddled briefly. If that didn’t work then I tried feeding him. I breastfed him so it was really easy to whip out the food. I don’t know how it is with formula and overfeeding (ask your nurse/doctor, don’t be afraid to call and ask for help, it’s why they exist), but in my worst case scenario there was spit up. Then again, spit up was also my best case scenario.

There are two more pieces of advice that I have for new parents. The first was a serious lifesaver for me. First, find a Baby and Me group in your area. I did a post on it here that you can read about. They are often offered through hospitals and birth centers and are specifically for brand new parents. There’s always La Leche League too. Don’t be embarrassed. At the group I attended the only requirement was that you show up before it was over. It’s okay to be late, wearing pajamas, without makeup and in tears. Find a group and just make it there, it will sooth your tired soul.

The second bit is advice that I got from going to Baby and Me, and that is for the first 3-4 months all you have to do is survive. There were days where I watched a lot of television while holding Porter in my arms, trying to get to a relaxed place. Then I would think about the first week we were home alone with him and realize that in a month we’ve already come so far. Just make it through this time and I promise life will become easier. Baby will start to hold their head up, smiling and laughing become regular, night-time sleeping starts lasting longer, the newness of it all wears off. Just do what you have to do to make it through. Rely on your partner (and family/friends if they’re around) in this time. Hopefully you made some sort of commitment to get through the hard times together, and for most, a new baby constitutes a hard time. If you can just make it through I promise you will be moving onto new milestones and parental worries. Just survive, and try to laugh a little too.

Eventually, quite quickly actually, they grow far beyond the newborn stage and turn into toddlers, with minds of their own. Or at least so they think. My toddler and I had a lovely day playing outside in the absolutely freezing temperatures and then took a trip to the library. He did say “No” to every suggestion I made, but eventually enjoyed all of it. It was then a big fat “No” when it was time to end said activities. I was told tonight by some close friends with an older child that this is indeed the hardest part and it will pass. So I guess the moral of this story is that eventually it will all pass, and then you’re left with the memories. So the best we can do as any parents is to try and make those memories good.

This was the failed attempt at a snowman. More like snow-sand.
This was the failed attempt at a snowman. More like snow-sand.
Yes, he's playing with an empty garbage can. He was grunting and heaving like a strong man to get it up. Too funny.
Yes, he’s playing with an empty garbage can. He was grunting and heaving like a strong man to get it up. Too funny.
Taking the can for a stroll.
Taking the can for a stroll.
Then we had to literally take it for a walk down the street.
Then we had to literally take it for a walk down the street.
He OWNS the library, and he loved this train book. Wouldn't put it down.
He OWNS the library, and he loved this train book. Wouldn’t put it down.

This post featured on HolisticSquid.com Party Wave Wedndesday

Self Soother

baby sleep 1


Welcome to the February 2013 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Addressing Sleep Challenges.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about how they address sleep challenges in their homes.

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If you’re a parent and have read any sleep books in the last few years you know that if your baby is a self soother, they will put themselves to sleep at night. Both at bedtime and anytime they may wake in the middle of the night. It sounds good doesn’t it, self soother. Especially when you’re talking about your child. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want their child to be a self soother? It sounds like self control, ease, and for a new mom with nerves frazzled by lack of sleep something soothing sounds idyllic. I have, however, come to abhor the term self soother. I felt judged since my baby wasn’t self soothing. Who were these book writers (who I chose to read) to tell me what kind of baby I had? Plus, secretly, I wanted my baby to be a self soother so I could sleep at night, but I didn’t have the cajones to deal with it somehow. I didn’t want to admit that I needed to be selfish in this area of my life.Since I am a new mom I have read my fair share of baby sleep books, 6 of them actually, and there are many many more out there. The one’s I’ve read have varying methods of how to get your child to sleep through the night, and each one of them stresses that if your child doesn’t get the required amount of sleep, you’re probably going to raise a psychopath or at least some lesser form of human being. Needless to say, there is a HUGE pressure for parents to get their baby to sleep regularly. When you’re a tired mom you’d give anything for your baby to sleep for an entire night (not just the requisite 5 hours that constitutes sleeping through the night either) you really want your baby to be a self soother.

The Past Is The Past

When I was a wee babe, I co-slept with my parents for years. It worked for my parent’s little family and as a baby it certainly worked for me. Nestled next to my mother was exactly where I wanted to be, without a doubt. That is, until it ended in a few angsty nights between my 2 year old self and my dad, who was ready to reclaim his bed, rightfully so. It was because of this experience (which I only remember through stories I’ve heard) that I thought as a new mother I would also enjoy co-sleeping with my little family. To an extent I did.

This Is The Present

For the first few months, through the dead of winter, I couldn’t imagine my new tiny baby sleeping on his own. The only place I felt he could be kept warm enough was next to me. And who wants to get out of bed in the middle of a cold winter night to feed a baby that needs to eat every three hours? We were content. Then my baby grew. He got stronger and started to move, a lot, with kicking and punching movements directed mostly at me. I found it increasingly difficult to sleep, and by 5 months my husband gently asked if maybe it was time to move the baby to his own bed? But how? He was still so little and neither of us were ready to let him out of our room yet. We decided over the next month to get a bigger bed, surely that would be the solution, and it was. Only, Porter ended up sleeping in his own room on the old queen mattress while I leap frogged every night between the two beds.

This arrangement worked for awhile, but as Porter got older (we’re talking weeks here) he inevitably got more mobile. I found myself sleeping with him all night long because of my overwhelming fear that he would crawl over my barricade of pillows and land head first on the floor. Which he did incidentally, during the day, while I was a foot away. He was fine, I felt pretty crappy, but I was once again reminded that this wasn’t a safe place for him to sleep alone. It was still difficult for me to sleep through the night, constantly nursing this active baby boy and contorting my body in an effort to get comfortable. My chiropractor noticed my nightly circus act too. It felt like I had a newborn again, nursing every three hours, and I got increasingly less and less sleep. Then there’s the relationship with my husband to consider. Let’s just say he’s a better and more considerate bed partner than my son.

A truth that I have learned since having a baby kept ringing in my head, “I am not my mother and this is not her baby.” This is a lesson I’ve been learning over and over since Porter was born and here it was again. I couldn’t co-sleep with my baby for the next two years and feed him on demand all night long, it’s just not healthy for me. Then it happened, mind and body wasted on baby love and lack of sleep, I hit bottom.

Disclaimer

There is always a disclaimer when you read the sleep books and talk with any wise older parent or doctor, and it sounds like this: Only do what is right for your family. This is true for any parenting job, not just sleep. It’s another one of those comments, like self soother, that sounds so nice. Sure, of course! I’ll do what right for my family, duh! Now what exactly is right for us again? Not as easy to answer once your faced with difficult decisions, like how to get sleep in this case.

Anyway, I hit bottom. Porter got off the very loose schedule that he had been keeping in the first place, and mama didn’t get any sleep for 2 days, not at night or napping during the day. Hell broke loose on Monday and I had a tired mom breakdown. It involved crying sobbing at my 8 month old to please, please, PLEASE go to sleep. He thought I was hilarious and laughed right in my face. Then I did it, like a hurt 4 year old I sobbed back, “Don’t laugh at me, it’s not funny!” I felt like an idiot child crying uncle to an older brother. I had had enough, mama needed a mental health day. I called my husband Luke when I calmed down (ha! still crying!) and like a modern day white knight, he rearranged his afternoon at the office and came home to watch the baby so I could sleep. My hero! It was then and there that I realized I could not be the kind of mother that my baby deserves on the sleep schedule we were keeping, and we can’t afford for Luke to start working part time either. It was time for sleep training, ugh.

This Is Really Happening

I decided to use the Ferber method (see bottom of post for update) called “The Progressive Waiting Approach” that is very popular among different groups of mothers I know. It involves letting your baby cry. Something I, like most mothers, cringe at the thought of. Then a parent goes to the baby at progressively longer intervals and reassures yourself and baby that everything is alright. The goal is that your baby will fall asleep on his own and then sleep through the night. This is not the warm cuddly mothering approach that I had anticipated for myself and my baby, sometimes reality sucks.

Let me tell you, this has been the hardest bridge I’ve had to cross so far as a mother. I essentially had to tell my baby no. No sleeping nestled next to your mother’s warm breast (sorry dude!), no midnight snacking, no overnight cuddles (my heart is breaking just writing the words) and then I had watch and listen to him throw tantrums until he fell asleep. It was as bad as I imagined and I couldn’t have done it without Luke to go in and reassure Porter. I certainly couldn’t have let him cry if I was in the room. The first night it took 30 minutes at bed time and another 40 in the middle of the night. The second night it took 10 minutes at bedtime and he put himself (dare I say self soothed) back to sleep in the middle of the night. For the last 4 night’s he’s gone down with 2-3 minutes of protest and slept for a solid 10+ hours. It’s true and quite surprisingly has worked consistently. Porter wakes up happy and is the same smiling, boisterous baby he’s always been. Oh happy day he doesn’t hate me!

Every night we stick to the same bedtime routine and bedtime. Hopefully it sticks indefinitely. Who woulda’ thought? Now I understand all my friends with children who practically run out of gatherings when bedtime rolls around, consistency works, for my family. Would I have done it sooner? Nope. For my family 8.5 months was the right time, not 5 months or 2 years.

We All Tell Ourselves What We Need To Make It Through

The justification in my mind goes like this. I pictured my son at 35 in a therapists office, under hypnosis. He says,”I was abandoned as a baby by my parents.” The therapist responds, “Okay, where are you and what’s happening?” Porter, “My parents bathed me in a warm bath, rubbed me with oil, dressed me in pajamas, read me a book, my mom nursed me and held me and then she left me alone in my bed to fall asleep, ALL BY MYSELF! While I got my dad as a consolation prize every 5 minutes until I fell asleep.” This is a scenario I’m willing to accept, I’ll even pay for the therapy if that time comes. It’s better than going to therapy because his mother had to be committed for going crazy because of lack of sleep and couldn’t actually be a good mother, right?

I knew it was the right time because I had reached a critical point in mothering where my hand was forced and it was time to make the hard decision for me and my family. Before I had a baby it was those parents who made the difficult, but correct, choices that I admired. For the crying and pain that I forced upon my child for a couple of nights, that he may only remember subconsciously, the benefits were marginally better than the cons, but overwhelmingly important. No one can be a care giver without taking care of themselves. To be human, to be a mother, is to be selfish in this way. This mothering job gets easier and harder simultaneously. Sheesh, we’ve only just begun! Here’s a video of Porter from today, just to show you what a lovely baby he still is, only more rested.

Update 4/24/2012: When I wrote this post, Porter was 8.5 months old and he’s now 15.5 months old. I’m happy to say that he consistently sleeps through the night (10.5-12 hours) in his own bed. The exception is when we go on vacation. He doesn’t sleep as well on vacation in new surroundings and when we return home we have to go through the whole sleep training process again. Thankfully, it usually takes less time then the first and I found Jodi Mendell’s book Sleeping Through The Night, it is similar to the Ferber method, with the initial bedtime routine except instead of letting your baby cry in the middle of the night, you put them back to sleep any way you know how. For Porter, that’s nursing. It takes a little longer to get back to sleeping through the night, but I prefer less crying in general. I will also say that since Porter has gotten older, and I’m getting more sleep myself, the whole process seems a lot less daunting and less stressful. Nothing like experience, time, and decent sleep to put it all in perspective.

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Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed: