03 December 2012

UN Knows Best...or not

I have a guest post today at Free-Range Kids, explaining why parents should be concerned about the UN Treaty currently up for ratification by the Senate, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Head over there to read why parents should be opposing this, and call your senators!! 

Thanks, Lenore, for giving me the opportunity to share this concern with the Free-Range Kids community!

Anyone interesting in reading about why parents, specifically, should be concerned about this treaty can find more information at www.parentalrights.orgHere is the page where they discuss this treaty, specifically.

Update:  Comments over at Free-Range Kids seem to be trending toward labeling me a right-wing anti-UN nut.  For the record, I would like to state that I never said anything about being anti-UN.  What I am vehemently opposed to is rather a treaty that accomplishes nothing whatsoever for disabled Americans that is not already provided by our own laws, but that would explicitly usurp the right of parents to determine what is in the best interests of their child and give it to the government.  I am rather shocked to find so few in the free-range parenting community who see the inherent danger in that.

29 November 2012

On an explore

Sitting at the breakfast bar in my parents' dining room, with an astonishing few quiet minutes to myself.  The older three monkeys are downstairs watching Peter Pan (which has narrowly edged out Star Wars Episode IV as the movie of choice, only because they've watched Star Wars about five times this week, and Peter Pan only once).  Iain has just rolled down the single step at the base of the stairs, and is happily kicking the dog crate and playing with his fingers.  In a minute he'll get tired of being on his back, but it's possible that if  flip him over he'll play a while longer without getting upset.  Because at nearly 8 months old (merciful heaven, where did this year go?!) he's old enough for that...just barely.

True confession:  I have a journal which states on the outside that it is for mothers.  I started writing in it when Brynning was born.  I stopped after Audrey was born, and haven't written in it since because I wanted to record my memories of my pregnancy with Benjamin before I wrote anything else and, well, I just haven't gotten to it. It's a good thing I keep a blog.  Someday, my children will have a variety of my memories to look back at.  If they can manage to gather them up from all the random places I scatter my memories at any given time.

Today it is absolutely beautiful out, more like what I think the end of September should be, rather than two days before December.  So I decided to hike my children back into the woods to share some of my childhood memories.  We took my mother's poodle with us.

I got everyone into coats and shoes, popped Iain in the Ergo, and off we went on an Explore.  We were searching, not for the North Pole, but for a long straight stick that Brynning could use as a spear, to go with his new helmet.  Did you know that Greek hoplites carried spears over twice as long as the average man is tall?  Me neither.  But he can't be a Greek soldier without a proper spear, and then what will Greece do when the Persians invade?  I just hope he reenacts Marathon, rather than Thermopylae.

We hiked past Picnic Rock, took a left at the un-named pair of rocks that I vaguely remembered needing to find to get where I was going, and made it to Big Fun Rock.  (I was clearly somewhat challenged in the naming department as a child.)  Jesse (the dog) was concerned, not being sure how he was going to herd us all back to the house, since he's never been out that far before.  Clearly, I am not an Alpha person in his life, because just as the children were scrambling through the gorge to find a place low enough to climb up onto the rock, he decided he'd had enough.  He wanted nothing to do with that dark, narrow, rocky, scary place.  He couldn't rescue all of us from THAT, so he announced in no uncertain terms that he, at least, was heading home.  Whatever the rest of us might decide was our responsibility. 

The monkeys were all so excited about this enormous rock that was so perfect for climbing on.  Brynning pulled a thick pad of moss off a rock to determine that it was, in fact, growing there, and was fascinated when I told him that if he patted it back down it would regrow into the same space.  Audrey and Benjamin scrambled up the side of the gorge at a low point, and then Benjamin (wait...guess!) found the highest part of the rock, at which he was essentially standing on a cliff ten feet up in the air, to wave down to me, standing on the rocks below. 

I wanted to show them my old fort, and the spot where I used to set up a picnic lunch.  I had so much fun playing and exploring on and around that rock as a child.  There's really nothing like it near us in Indiana, and I wanted to share that experience with them.  Unfortunately, I was quite certain that my mother would not accept "He took himself home, and got lost on the way" as a reason for why her poodle disappeared, so the outing was cut short.  Jesse was clearly relieved.

27 November 2012

quote of the day

We're at my parents' for the holidays, and I am never going to promise a blog post ever again, unless it's actually written.  At some point maybe I will get around to posting actual pictures...but probably not.  It's Christmas, and Christmas Keepers such as myself are very busy.

But here!  Quote of the day from Audrey (who is loving new toys at Bestemors' house, and was very indignant when Benjamin suggested some of the Pretty Ponies might be boys):  "No!  They can't be boys, because boy Pretty Ponies would be Handsome Ponies, not Pretty Ponies!  :-D

04 July 2012

A slight misunderstanding

Yesterday was quite a day.  It started out with Benjamin refusing to get dressed, and went downhill from there.  Everything was a battle, and when he's mad (as at most other times, come to think of it) Benjamin is REALLY LOUD.  He pitched a fit about going to the veterinarian's office, so I wouldn't let him stay in the car with everyone else when we got there.  (I know better than to think that an angry Benjamin in a car full of siblings is anything less than a recipe for complete disaster.)  So he came in with me, and then pitched a fit because I wouldn't buy him a treat.  (I curse those candy machines that take quarters on a regular basis, and I can't be the only mother who feels this way.  Why do store managers think those things are a good idea??  Society sets parents up for failure, I'm convinced, but that's another post for another time.)

Where was I?  Oh yes, the vet's office.  So I hauled my furious son outside and told him to sit at the picnic table and wait for me.  (I was still not going to leave him in the car.  No way.)  He shouted at me all the way home. 

We had a few more blow-ups over the course of the afternoon, and then he was completely infuriated when I made him march out to the car so we could pick David up from work.  This was worth it to me, because it meant my reinforcements would be home a half-hour sooner than otherwise, but the upshot was that David walked out of his building to discover his wife giving his middle son a spanking in the van.  Apparently the window tinting didn't hide it, because he went directly to the driver side and climbed in there.  I was going to sit up front but, oddly enough, Benjamin insisted on my sitting next to him for the drive home.

We arrived home and he finally seemed to have gotten all the nasties out of his system.  We were talking in the kitchen a bit later when I squatted down to give him a hug.  He perched on my knee while I told him "Do you know I love you very much?"

He knew.  I asked "Do you want to know a secret?"  He did.  I whispered "I know that you love me, too."  He looked at me solemnly and replied "Mama, I think you and I might have a little misunderstanding."

25 May 2012

Overheard

I have lots of pictures of a fat baby to put up at some point, but this morning I overheard an interaction that was simply too funny not to share.  Background is thus:  Benjamin loves our cat, Thorvald, and spends a decent amount of time tearing about after him trying to interact.  He has to chase the cat because Thorvald tends to flee in terror when he sees Benjamin coming.  Apparently this morning Benjamin approached him in a calm-enough manner that Thorvald's fleeing instinct wasn't triggered, and a few minutes later we heard this coming from the Living Room:

Benjamin:  Hey!  This is my alone time with Thorvald!

Brynning:   (Said with all seriousness and sincerity.) Sorry!  I didn't mean to interrupt!

08 March 2012

How much does a baby cost?

Wow.  According to Yahoo! I should be in a total panic, because I absolutely cannot afford to have children.  No way.  I had no idea that children are actually a luxury item for the wealthy, but according to this article a baby costs $10,000 in the first year of its life alone. 

That covers maternity care, formula, diapers, child care...you know, just the basics.  Now, I realize those things aren't optional for some people.  Some people cannot nurse, for example, so formula becomes a necessary expense.  But I really have to wonder about an article that presents that more as a minimum figure than an absolute worst-case scenario.  Especially when a key piece of advice for dealing with the financial burden is "Don't forget to throw a big big baby shower!" 

Yeah.  Give your family and friends your shopping list, and let THEM pay for your foolishness!  Great advice.  That's so tacky I don't even want to think about it.

Not to mention that probably 95% percent of the stuff they're saying you MUST HAVE for your child is actually completely superfluous.  In case you're wondering, here is my list of essentials for having a baby:

A good midwife and a healthy diet.  This will save you tons of money on maternity care.  There are rare exceptions, of course, but I do wonder a lot why insurance companies don't encourage this more.  My prenatal care, delivery, and post-partum care (and the care was excellent!) for my first child cost me $1800.  Read that again, it's not a typo.

A way to feed the baby.  If you simply cannot nurse then you'll have to buy formula.  And that is fine.  But if you're on a budget and your breasts are in good working order, get a membership to La Leche League or find a good Lactation Consultant.  "Natural" doesn't equal "Intuitive", but with a bit of help, most women do just fine.  And it's nowhere near the cost of formula and baby food.

A good supply of basic cloth diapers.  I've seen the cost break-downs, and water for washing doesn't cost anywhere near what you'll pay for disposables.  You can go all high-end with cloth diapers, just like anything else, but decent prefolds (Please don't buy the birds-eye ones from Wal-Mart.  They're terrible and they don't work.) and basic covers will only set you back a few hundred dollars.  Bonus?  You can use them for the next baby, too.  Mine are heading for baby #4 now, and still working just fine.  (The covers did give out after Benjamin, but even if I couldn't make my own, I could get half a dozen for a hundred dollars, and be good to go.)

Somewhere for the baby to sleep.  This doesn't have to be a $1000 crib!  I use a bassinet I bought at the thrift store for the first few months, and a pack and play once the baby starts to get more mobile.  No point, in my opinion, in having a pack and play and crib both, and the pack and play is much more multi-function.

A car seat.  This is a big expense, but even here, you can save a lot by going basic.  AAA has car seats that don't cost an arm and a leg, and they'll even help you get it installed correctly.

A sling or other type of infant carrier.  Others may disagree, and I suppose this isn't actually a necessity, but it makes my life so much easier I would never EVER want to have a baby without one.  I use a ring sling until the baby hits about 10 pounds (for Benjamin, that was when he was two weeks old), and then switch to my Ergo.  (Whew!  They've gotten fancy in the years since I bought mine!)  I love my Ergo with a passion and devotion completely incomprehensible to those who have never tried to sooth a small child and make dinner at the same time.  I used my Ergo with Audrey every. single. day. Until my belly got so big (with Benjamin) that I couldn't buckle the thing anymore.  If you can't afford to buy something like that, find a strip of fabric about six yards long and use it as a wrap sling.  It isn't quite as simple, but it works just as well.  There are plenty of great videos on Youtube for how to tie the things.  Just make sure you also look up safety precautions.  These carriers are great, when used correctly, but like anything else you need to know what you're doing.

Some type of clothing for the baby, appropriate to your climate and the time of year. This, also, can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it. And if someone does decide to give a shower in your honor, you'll probably be all set.

Ummm...I'm pretty sure that's it!  Of course there's a few extra things, but the key here is differentiating between necessities and "things that are nice to have".  I love a lambskin for my babies, but it's not a necessity.  A bouncy seat is nice, because really, eventually you do want to put the baby down even if only to wash your hair, but again, it's not a necessity.  (You could use the car seat, if you bought a removable carrier type, or lay them on a blanket.)  A changing table is great to have for saving your back.  (I use an old dresser with a folded towel on top.) But you can also just change them on the floor.  Diaper pail?  Five gallon plastic bucket I got from the bakery in my grocery store.  It was free.

So you see why I have a hard time buying the "You can't afford to have a baby!!" mantra.  It's mostly spread by those who want to sell you lots of junk you don't need, or those who firmly believe no one should be having babies anyway.  For most people, it simply isn't true.

04 March 2012

Blather

Miss Manners defines blather as those things people say when they're looking for words, but not wanting to use conventional phrases, that usually are totally inappropriate. ( Hint:  We have conventional phrases for a reason.  They keep feet out of mouths.)
Prime example of blather:  (to a woman you don't know, or don't know well)  "Oh!  When are you due?!"  Your foot goes into your mouth when she replies, frostily, "I'm not." or "The baby was born last month."  See how much trouble being creative can cause?  Pro tip:  If you're close enough to her to know about an immanent baby, she'll have already told you.  Don't ask.

I have been experiencing a LOT of blather recently, so as a public service I am offering this list of Things That Should Never Be Said To a Pregnant Woman.  If they confuse you, refer to the translation of What She Actually Heard.  Or just take my word for it.

1)  "Oh! You must be due any day now!"  (What She Heard:  "You're enormous!")  Your foot goes in your mouth when she replies "No, actually, not for another two months."  I started getting this comment at least two months before my actual due date.  If you don't know when the baby is due, do everyone a favour and don't try to guess.

2) "Wow, are you having twins?"  (What She Heard: "Really, you're ENORMOUS!")  This is especially bad as a follow-up to the previous question, after you've discovered that she isn't due for weeks.  A restaurant server said this to me just last week, after trying #1 first.  Fortunately, one of us knows how to behave in public, or it could have gotten really ugly.

3)  "You're huge!"  There is no way to rectify this.  You may as well just go about with a bag over your head from then on.   You're simply doomed to social failure, unless it is obviously a cultural misunderstanding.  Even then, you're on shaky ground.  (Want to know why pregnant women don't like being told they're huge?  They already know this, it isn't flattering, and they're tired of hearing about it.)

4) "You look really uncomfortable."  You think you're being so empathetic, but What She Heard was "You look enormous, and miserable to boot." 

To summarize:  If what you're about to say gives any indication that you have noticed a woman's belly is a bit larger than normal, shut your mouth quickly.  When you've recovered from your glance into The Pit of Doom, open your mouth again and state, in your most sincere voice "You look lovely today."  (If there's no way that would be believable, just keep your mouth closed.)  It's so much easier than trying to be original, and it will taste lots better than your feet would.

02 March 2012

Naming

You may have noticed the posting in these parts has been pretty sparse...I was going to say "of late", but let's call it like it is:  It's been a while.  With all the miscarriages it was hard to find things to sound peppy and upbeat about.  Maybe it would have helped if I had tried a little harder, but that's not where I was at.  I didn't want to inflict my issues on all of you, so I just didn't post at all.

Then I found out we were expecting again, and I didn't want to talk about it.  It was too hard to have to say, again, "Nevermind, no baby this time either."  So I didn't post for a while about that, either.

Since we passed the end of the first trimester, and it appears that this baby will, in fact, be joining us, I've thought periodically about posting again.  I'm running into a roadblock there too, which is this:  Names. 

Names are pretty powerful things.  When you name something, you give it an identity, almost create a new piece of its being.  Or identify one that already exists, and bring it out into the open.  It's no trivial matter, calling a name and hanging it on something, out there for the world to see.  We see that in the Bible, where names are so frequently explained, where God makes Himself known to us, a bit more each time, with a new name.  When Jacob changes his youngest son's name, from Ben-Oni, Son of my Sorrow, to Benjamin, Son of my Right Hand - Son of my Joy.  Names are serious business.

I have never shared my children's names on this blog because I worried about the wrong people finding them and using them for harm.  I know lots of bloggers that talk about their children, some who use names, some who don't.  That's where my comfort level was at the time, so I called them by nickname, all my Monkeys, and number in order from birth.

Which brings us to my difficulty:  What do I call this newest little one on the way?  I couldn't call it Monkey4; that felt like a denial of the three I lost, as though somehow in not being born, they had never actually existed.  But calling this baby Monkey7 felt... a bit too raw.  Too personal.  Too much information to throw at someone who stopped by to find out how I blend a smoothie up, or organize my days.  So I've decided it's time to use names.


This is my oldest, Monkey1.  His name is Brynning.  It comes from Norwegian, an old family name, and means Protector, Defender, something that protects the most vulnerable.  He is my constantly curious explorer, artist, and scientist.  His current hero is Leonardo Da Vinci, and I'd say he has a fair shot at replicating, if not Da Vinci's multiple talents, at least his constant and broad curiousity.  He has a way of looking at life with just a bit of a twist, that constantly makes me smile.

This is my sweet girl, Monkey2, whose name is Audrey.  Her name means Noble Strength, a quality that I hope and pray will grow in her day-by-day.  She loves helping me and loves playing with her brothers, loves her daddy.  She has a generous, gentle heart...and a temper that can raise your hair.  As she continues to learn how to combine and direct all her compassion, caring, and passion, I expect to see great things from her.

My sweet Monkey3, who keeps me on my toes every minute.  Passionate, impetuous, and into everything, with the sweetest nature you can imagine, he is full-steam ahead every moment of every day.  He is truly the Son of my Joy - my Benjamin.  If we both survive 'til he reaches manhood, I will know it was the grace of God.

My own Mad Scientist, David my Beloved.  I can't imagine this journey without him and I'm grateful for him each and every day.

Those are the people who fill up my hours, my home, and my heart.  Pretty soon we'll add another little one to the mix.  I can't wait.

14 February 2012

Thanks for your concern

Two weeks ago, I stopped by the bank to make a withdrawal.  This bank has large plate glass windows across the entire front, and the parking space where I left my car was about 20 feet from the door.

I left my children in the car.

They were all buckled in and clearly within my view, and frankly I felt that they were perfectly safe.  However, a gentleman (to use the term loosely) took strong exception to my obvious complete lack of parenting skills, and berated me quite thoroughly for my idiocy in supposing that my children could possibly be alright in the car without me.

Now that I've received some legal council, I'm feeling confident enough in my parenting abilities to post about it here, where the rest of world can agree with him if they like.

As it turns out, this particular state does not have a law that specifically deals with leaving children unattended in a vehicle.  According to my lawyer that would fall under general neglect of a minor child, and she felt that as long as the vehicle was within sight or sound, and especially given that my oldest is seven and all three were buckled in, I had clearly not acted in a negligent manner.

(Full Disclosure: "My lawyer" is actually a woman I know from Knit Night, but she is a real lawyer who really specializes in laws dealing with children and child safety...whatever that particular legal branch is.)

Pertinent to the topic at hand, I have added a new blog to my blog-roll.  Free-Range Kids was started by a columnist who ended up doing the talk-show circuit labeled "America's Worst Mom?" after writing a column in which she shared how she had allowed her nine-year-old son, after careful coaching, to ride the New York Subway by himself.  I thought this post in particular was very interesting, since abduction is probably one of the main fears of parents these days.  Thank-you, media.  It turns out, a person is three times more likely to be hit by lightning than abducted by a stranger.  Knowing that made me feel so much better.  Because, really?  How much time does the average parent spend preparing their child for an inevitable lightning-strike, and losing sleep over when it will happen?

Next time some creepy guy at the bank decides to tell me off for not parenting the way he thinks I should, I'll just say "Thanks for your concern, but my children are just fine."

07 February 2012

You have HOW many children??

Apparently, the Mad Scientist and I have reached that point.  The point where people decide there is clearly something wrong with you, because no normal person would actually choose to have that many children.  I'm not certain why four is considered to be so outrageous (and I'm certain the comments will get worse if we have more), but it is more than 2.6, and maybe that is the problem.

The other day the Mad Scientist was talking with a friend who expressed some shock upon learning we are expecting again.  He paused, then said "Just make sure you don't do what my grandfather did.  He had 13!"  And the Mad Scientist responded (because he's like this) "Wow.  That's something to shoot for!"

Oh, how I love that man!  :-D  (He doesn't actually want 13 children.  It was his crazy wife who suggested a dozen.) 

A friend shared this video with me, which I provide as a succinct compilation of all the things mothers of more than 2.6 children have heard before, so you don't need to say.  It's a lot funnier when they're all blended into one conversation.  It helps you realize how ridiculous they sound, moreso than when they stand alone. 



Speaking of crazy things people say, I was in the grocery store Sunday night doing my weekly shopping, which this week happened to include cat litter.  The man behind me eyed my (really quite prominent) belly, eyed the cat litter, and then said "Be sure you keep those cats away from that baby!"  Thinking he was going to caution me about early allergy triggers, I replied with a perky "Oh, I know!" and smiled.  He finished his thought with " 'Cause they'll definitely kill him!"

Uh huh.  You know, I've heard of this old wives' tale that cats will "suck the breath" from a newborn.  I've never met anyone before that actually believed it.  Interesting.  Children solicit the oddest "advice".

07 January 2012

Haircuts for the New Year

While the rest of blogdom is treating us all to deeply insightful posts about new beginnings, etc., I have pictures of Monkeys needing haircuts.  Well, I have pictures of ONE Monkey who needs a haircut.  And a story about another one.

Monkey1 is the story:  He was shaggy.  Really shaggy.  And every time I asked, he insisted he liked it that way.  Finally the other night he suddenly, for no apparent reason (maybe the moon was full??) announced that a haircut would be a good idea.  And when The Mad Scientist heard that he said "Good!  Cut it now! Before he changes his mind."  So, I pulled out my scissors, trimmed the ends to a nice length, and proceeded to taper and layer until Monkey1 cried in a panic "Stop tapering!!  I'm going to be bald!!"  He wasn't anywhere near bald, which just goes to show how long his hair was to begin with.  It's still a good two or three inches long, at least.  But now it looks neat, so we're all happy.

Monkey3 is the picture:

Before:  Also very shaggy
 We were in Wal-Mart several weeks ago when I noticed a sign in the hairdresser's window, "Buzz Cuts, $10 - Shampoo, $1 extra"  Why one needs a shampoo if they've just been buzzed I really don't know, but Monkey3 was intrigued.  He's been asking for a buzz cut ever since.  So today I finally went out and bought a new pair of clippers (mine were quite dull, which explains why all the men in the house are so shaggy - no one wanted a cut because the clippers kept pulling, and it hurt.)  For the cost of 2.5 buzz cuts, I have taken care of our hair-styling needs for at least a year, hopefully more.  And the immediate result is this:
After:  Not Shaggy
The Mad Scientist told him he looked like a villain, and was immediately sorry, since this definitely captured Monkey3's imagination.  He's been going around all evening explaining "I wook wike a VIWAIN!" and if you ask him why he'll explain "Because my haiw is weawy sort, and I have a CAR acwoss my head!"

Thankfully he missed the part where The Mad Scientist described the really short hair as "a prison haircut."  The scar is a remnant of early trauma (to his parents; he doesn't remember it), and he looks quite ferocious.  I will say this for the cut, however:  When he's not making ferocious faces that scrunch his eyes up, those big brown eyes he got from his daddy are pretty hard to miss, now that they're not hidden by all that hair!