a new light, a new perspective, questions and answers, ideas and misgivings. it's all here. this isn't your average blog on motherhood. this is a new mama dedicated to the world of family life and all it entails: breastfeeding, child-rearing, food preparation, schedules, priorities, marriage and more. this is a woman determined to figure out how to raise an intentional, deliberate generation, one child at a time.
Over the last few weeks [yes I am aware of my uncanny ability to abandon my blog for weeks at a time...] we've been greening up our home with new produce from the garden, farmer's market goods, green cleaners and new projects.
Let's start with the garden. Charlie and I spent a good two hours out there this afternoon weeding and watering that pathetic little patch. Although I had planned a luscious, delicious and inviting garden, the whole thing hit a little roadbump called reality...oh well, there's always next year to get a good one in the ground. Gardening is something I hope my little family remains steadfast in doing for the rest of our lives; as pathetic as my little weed patch may be, those tomatoes and basil leaves and peppers are all things I don't have to buy at the store this summer, and they were grown organically. One of my biggest goals in parenting is helping Lydia become aware of where her food comes from, and having a productive, exciting garden is one way to accomplish that.
My houseplants are also still alive! I have some herbs growing outside, mint, rosemary and chives, and all kinds of houseplants that I have yet to kill. This is a big deal, since watering and routine plant maintenance wasn't really my thing. But they beautify my house, add oxygen to our air, and generally make the place feel more home-y.
We've been enjoying a regular Thursday morning routine of heading to the farmer's market across the street. This week held a particularly yummy, and large, bounty of fresh produce (and I bought a peach pie). For ten bucks I got this:
green beans, chard, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, beets and lettuce
I've also tackled trying out some green cleaning ideas, and so far so good. We found out a couple of weeks ago that Lydia tested positive for a high enough concentration of lead to warrant another diagnostic test (venous, ugh) before she turns a year old. I've been cleaning nonstop ever since, using vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and lots of Mrs. Meyer's products--especially the ones with the basil scent.
Stay tuned for more posts dedicated to a new life-long journey of health for our little family! I have a breastfeeding post that's about half-written that I'll be sharing soon as well. :)
I'd seen this saying on signs for years, "Children Learn What They Live", but hadn't really taken the time to think about its meaning until recently.
Lately we've been talking about parenting at our house. Babies are easy to parent: meet their social, physical, emotional and mental needs and they're good to go. "Parenting" starts becoming a little more intimidating when topics such as oh I don't know, discipline, school, chores, expectations of children and the other parent, appropriate behavior, feeding and sleep schedules and more come to the surface. Charlie and I are very much on the same page when it comes to parenting (thank God), but we are VERY lucky in that I feel like we should have had these conversations before we even became pregnant.
I mean, what if Charlie firmly believed in the adage, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."? I couldn't disagree more, you can't possibly make me believe that intentional, deliberate spankings do ANYTHING for disciplinary action except make the parent feel better. I don't believe that intentionally hitting (except for the occasional swat on the rump to get attention or make a direct point) children is a necessary means of discipline. Some parents use them constantly, others as a last resort and as something with which to threaten the child in case she or he acts up. Not in my house. But that's my opinion, and how other parents discipline their children is none of my business. Same with bedtime and sleep training. Charlie and I agreed that a mostly baby-led schedule would work for our family. Some families would disagree entirely with me, one of which includes our loving and wonderful doula! And I would wager that the La Leche League, one of my go-to resources for all things breastfeeding and parenting, would probably shudder at the fact that we started Lydia on solids fairly early and that my world doesn't revolve around nursing her anymore.
We really did hit the ground running with parenting Lydia. The first few weeks I was pregnant were spent stewing and fretting over her being alright after two holidays (Christmas and New Year's) worth of alcohol in my system. And for the following four months after we found out I was teaching kindergarten and finishing coursework for my graduate degree in Alaska. When I returned home, Charlie and I were busy moving in together and finishing our home--unpacking, painting, reorganizing, installing home appliances, fixing windows, etc.--and he was working on average 12 hours a day. Until she was born, we didn't have time to talk about the important stuff, not that we knew what the "important stuff" was. Her growing up always seemed so far away in the first few months. The "important stuff" back then was breastfeeding, sleeping, and diaper changes.
Now we're out of our league here. Lydia is an active, big healthy girl with an agenda and the will of a hungry T-Rex...when it comes to getting what she wants, if there's a will, there's a way. I read parenting blog after parenting blog, reading to see what other granola-liberal-treehugger mamas are doing out there. I talk to the public health nurse about Lydia's diet. Charlie and I try to put her in the crib before she's asleep to "let her figure out the whole self-soothing thing" but it always ends up with one of us rocking her back down. Hey, at least she's not demanding I nurse her to sleep anymore! :) I talk to other moms constantly, trying to get a read on their methodology for how to properly parent a nine-month old. The saga is endless.
I have a feeling this will always be the case, even when Lydia's 25.
So. "Children Learn What They Live."
How does Lydia live?
Well, for starters, she lives in love. From sun-up to sun down, she is fully aware that there are many, many people in her world that love her without reservation, truly and deeply. She knows that her mommy and daddy love her with every fiber of their beings.
Next, she lives without fear. This is a tricky one, because I feel like there's good fear and bad fear. Or maybe there's good and bad judgment when it comes to potentially dangerous situations. She knows the people familiar to her, and she is a better judge of people than me. Lydia knows that Charlie and I won't hurt her, that she can openly trust us without hesitation or worry that we won't deliver on meeting any of her needs. But the "no fear" thing extends to her needing physical boundaries so that she won't hurt herself by exploring places she shouldn't, or crawling right off the bed, etc.
She lives in a house with a granola-crunchy-liberal-treehugging-babywearing-breastfeeding lactivist-feminist mother, and a truck driving-redneck-gunslinging-manlyman-bullshitting-twohotdogswrappedinbreadslicesisasupper father. We're going to clash on things, it happens quite frequently. But do we fight in front of her, or put her in the middle of an argument? Never. Do our fights get ridiculous away from her? Yeah, it's called being in a committed relationship and hashing out differences. All Lydia sees, though, is healthy banter and that her parents love each other very much. For as many raised eyebrows and grimaces there are, there are twice as many hugs and kisses. We never make her feel uneasy with our relationship.
She eats real food. She visited the local farmer's market when she was barely a week old, and she has an incredible grandmother who happens to be a Master Gardener and shares in the rich bounty of garden-fresh produce as often as possible. We cook and eat as many meals together as we can; Lydia sits in her high chair or plays with pots and pans while food simmers away on the stove. She's tried everything from catfish to curried lentils. Charlie hunts and brings home game--venison and pheasant--and we go fishing together too. Bottom line: She'll grow up knowing where her food comes from. And, with any luck, she'll learn how to cook as well as her mother :P
Lydia is learning balance. She can have a taste of ice cream, but not at every meal. We try to buy produce and other products organic as much as possible, but she'll learn that sometimes we buy conventional to either save money or because it's just not that necessary. She is learning that Mommy and Daddy need time for each other and themselves, and that while we love her with all our hearts, our world doesn't revolve around her. It revolves around keeping our whole family happy. And she's learning that there are things that we don't compromise on, and things that we do.
All in all, parenting is tough. But it's the best kind of tough, that tough that keeps you on your toes, keeps you learning, keeps you amazed everyday that you manage to pull off another day raising children. Children learn what they live...as parents we need to take the best from what we learned growing up, and apply new knowledge to go one step beyond :)
Usually things work like this at our house: I put Lydia down for a nap, and for that duration clean house like a madwoman--straightening, cleaning, laundry, dishes, bathroom, kitchen, etcetcetc.
But not today.
Today is my baby's nine-month birthday. Nine months ago, at this time, I was probably attempting to get her to latch by myself, counting her eyelashes, marveling over her soft skin and sweetsweet baby smell. Kissing Charlie as I reclined against him in that hospital bed built for one, so proud of the new life we created together. Sharing tears of joy with my parents, the nurses, everyone who came to see Lydia the day she was born.
She was entirely too perfect, from those long fingers of hers to the tip of her swollen little nose, bruised from the force of my contractions. I remember staring into her eyelids, begging her to please, please baby open your eyes. And then she would, and give a little sigh, and snuggle in closer...she knew she was home!
So today we napped together, snuggled together the way we were the day she was born. I nursed her down, reclined in our big bed, and I laid there with her in my arms for two hours breathing her in. What a luxury and beautiful two hours that was. She smiled and cooed in her sleep, twisted and tried to sleep on her side like she loves to. Nine months ago she was so petite, so seemingly fragile, squishy and relaxed. Now she's a fireball even while dreaming. But today I held her close, and breathed with her, absorbing every little ounce of sweetness she has. Happy nine-month birthday, Lydia. We love you so much.
Hopefully, I won't let this much time between posts lapse again. I've been wanting to get online to write, but alas, too much do, not enough think.
A few things of interest, and then down to business:
We just got back from a fantastic vacation up north on Portage Lake with Charlie's family. Caught fish, loved on our nephews and watched as the babies had fun playing together, roasted marshmallows, took boat rides, purchased Lydia a life jacket and fun bath toy...you know. Good old cabin-up-north type of stuff.
I just recovered from having a Bartholin abscess. Google it, it's too painful to go into any details. I will say this: it isn't something I would wish on anyone except Michelle Bachmann (oops, I always said I wouldn't make this blog political...:P) It was worse than my 2nd degree tear after Lydia was born in terms of mobility and general feelings of well-being.
Charlie and I have been well, albeit busy. Both of us have made significant career moves; he quit Sturdevant's and is now on a welding/finishing crew for Hadley Steel, and I am the new Director of Environmental Education out at Shetek Lutheran Ministries this summer. Schwing! The best part is that I can bring Lydia with me to work. She rides either in our LL Bean backpack or on front in my Snuggli while I'm busy yelling game instructions and teaching kids about macroinvertebrates and the water cycle. She comes home bushed, and loves going to camp to see everyone and breathe the outdoors in. I've been having a neighbor girl watch her in the mornings so I can get a few things done, but it's so nice having her at work with me (what a luxury to be able to nurse whenever and keep track of her out there!
Lately I've been doing more reading about nursing older (i.e. 8+months) babies, from now until toddlerhood. It's always been my goal to nurse Lydia as much as, and as long as, I can. Whether she leads the weaning part of our nursing relationship or I do, I want it to be on the best of terms...I'm not a cold turkey person! A few of the questions I've had seemed like they were simple enough to answer, but after reading from source after source, I'm almost more confused than when I started researching. So far she seems content and super healthy, so I'm not especially worried that my experimentation with time between nursings and monitoring ounces as best I can will affect her negatively in some way. Rather, I'm being extra vigilant because I don't want her to miss out on one drop of nutritional and emotional benefit from my continued breastfeeding.
The World Health Organization strongly suggests that women breastfeed for over two years. This is more than normal in many nations. The United States has one of the lowest breastfeeding retention rates in the world; by six months old, only 14% of infants in the US are being exclusively breastfed, showing a sharp decrease after the child turns one. With all evidence showing that breastfeeding is ideal for optimal growth in babies physically, mentally, and emotionally for up to a year, this is a staggering statistic to me. The American Academy of Pediatrics also acknowledges the benefits of and encourages extended breastfeeding, and recommends that mothers nurse their babies for more than a year.
"Hot" as it is in terms of being known for controversial means of education, the La Leche League serves as an excellent research and education organization; their book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding has been my saving grace ever since Lydia was born. I've since passed on my copy to another mother, and now give it as a gift along with a boobie care basket at baby showers (provided the mama-to-be has already talked to me about wanting to breastfeed, otherwise that'd be a little presumptuous on my part). One of their many sections is dedicated to educating mothers and breastfeeding supporters alike on the topics of nursing older babies and toddlers. My opinion is that women sustaining a long breastfeeding relationship is ideal; however, the process is wholly unsupported by the general US society today. As soon as babies are born we begin wondering about weaning them. We're forced to start thinking about solids, cereal, bottles...it gets to be too much, and mothers are left wondering if they're depriving their child of vitamins and minerals because they made the decision to exclusively nurse till their baby's six months old. Research shows that exclusively breastfeeding for six months is the best way to guarantee the maximum amount of benefits for the child. After six months, babies are usually more than ready to start solids, and can begin to learn about food. Lydia never made it six months. At three months she ate gravy (:P) and we started her on solids around 5 months old, maybe a tad younger. She was avidly interested in food by that time.
But nursing has never left my top priorities with her...she still wants to nurse for both comfort and food, something I am more than happy to oblige. Weaning gradually, and with love, will ensure that both of us receive the best from the experience. There are MANY reasons mothers are told they MUST quit nursing (societal pressures, medication use and medical issues, child development myths, returning to work, etc), but we as mothers and concerned lactivists must be ready and willing to support mothers in their rights to breastfeed as long as they and their children desire.
Between starting my job out at Shetek, having a Bartholin abscess (good times, I'll describe later) and trying to juggle healing and homemaking, my blog took a backseat. Keeee-rist, I haven't even been able to read my favorite blogs for two weeks...I'm falling behind in life! :p
So. Stay tuned, I've got some pretty good material for the days to come. Thanks for being patient!
It's been a while, sweetheart. I need to actually start writing you these letters in your @$*##*$(%* baby book, you know, the one I haven't touched for months. Actually, that's not true. I did record your first tooth in there in March.
And now, you have three of the little buggers. And an accompanying crabby disposition, runny nose and god-awful diapers to boot.
Yesterday and today you hit some major milestones. First of all, you have gotten a booty-crawl down pat. You scooted five feet yesterday, ten today. Who knows how far you'll go tomorrow? For some reason crawling isn't where it's at for you. You drag one leg under you instead of bringing it up like the other one. Don't get me wrong, we're not worried one bit. I'm actually a little relieved that I can set you down to play and know that you'll stay within a ten-foot radius for as long as it takes to do whatever little task that required putting you down in the first place. Nowadays I can't get away with setting you aside while I do dishes or laundry, though...there are cupboards full of pots and pans to explore at my feet, and knobs to turn on the washer and dryer.
And you're talking more! You've always been much quieter than I ever, ever expected a daughter of mine (and your father's) to be. Here I thought we would surely have a chatterbox, babbling incessantly. Not so much. You ponder, observe, and study the world seriously and throughly; nothing misses your gaze. You can be brought to a chuckle by being tickled in the right spot (armpits) or by being chased around the house, but for the most part you've been a soulful, silentish little girl. Until recently, that is. Now you've mastered "Huh?!" and repeating noises back and forth with us, usually short "Ah!"'s to get our attention.
You're home with Daddy much more. The two of you are starting to understand each other; Daddy does an incredible job of taking care of you while I'm at work, which makes me happy. I have no doubt that your father loves you with every fiber of his being, but (and I'm being selfish/judgmental/etc. here, bear with me love) I was scared to begin working more because your father simply isn't me. After months of my being there for you day after day, second after second, knowing your language and anticipating your needs, how could you possibly switch over to your father's way of doing things so fast?
Well, you have. I come home at night and you're smiling away, playing with Daddy and loving every minute the two of you have together. It warms and breaks my heart at the same time. Now that we're slowing down with nursing, and losing that special connection that only you and I had (damn it, getting weepy!), I watch you become more independent by the minute and wonder if my little girl isn't going to need me anymore. I guess I'm scared for you to grow up, to shed my protective arms and reach for the world on your own.
Not that you shouldn't. My darling little sweet pea, I want you to embrace the world the way you were born to with your inquisitive, restless spirit and awareness that knows no bounds. I promise that I won't hold you back just for my personal benefit of keeping you my baby for longer than I should.
Easier said than done, I assume.
So Lydia, beautiful daughter of mine, keep hitting those milestones. Reach for the coffee table tops that hold your shaky legs up; I'll always rescue you if you can't see your way down again. Keep trying new things every day...butt scooting, clapping, different foods. We'll be there to guide you and hold your hands every step of the way. Just remind me when I'm interrupting your learning.
I haven't invested enough time and money in cloth diapering yet, which is somewhat disappointing. Once we have enough cash set aside to purchase enough for a steady rotation, I'll get a few more Mud Butts and FuzziBunz. In the meantime, however, I switched us over to cloth wipes, and we've saved maybe $10 so far with it.
The wipes are 5" squares of pretty flannel, serged on the edges by our local seamstress. The wipe solution that we use with them was super easy and cheap to concoct. I mixed it in a Mason jar, poured some into a little spritz bottle, and every time Lydia's got a diaper change I spray a little on her tushy and wipe it with a cloth wipe:
1 tbsp sweet almond oil (you can use baby oil, apricot kernel oil, etc.) 3 cups filtered water 2 drops lavender oil 1 tbsp lavender-scented baby soap