Wednesday, June 29, 2011

they learn what they live

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 parents we need to take the best from what we learned growing up, and apply new knowledge to go one step beyond :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nap time=Speed Cleaning time!

hello sweetness

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.

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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

about time!

Oh my.

It has been...well, too long.

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 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, 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.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

heinous hiatus


I know I've been on quite the hiatus.

And I apologize!

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!