Monday, June 6, 2016

Magical Childhood

Today was a special day.  My son had his first grade celebration.  The first celebration of him leaving Kindergarten and entering the first grade.  I say the first because everything Waldorf touches seems to turn to beauty and magic and there are many symbolic ceremonies.  It is one of the main reasons my son attends a Waldorf school and why I am a Waldorf trained teacher.
In Waldorf, leaving Kindergarten and entering first grade is a major milestone because it is the start of academics, sitting in a desk, and longer school days.  You are not advanced to first grade until you are close to seven years old and have completed many other developmental tasks.  Elijah is so very ready!

I am going to walk you through this short 45 minute celebration primarily so I never forget it!

It began with the children who are leaving the Kindergarten being called into their classroom to sit in a circle and hear a story from their Kindergarten teacher.  If you know anything about stories in Waldorf, the start of a story itself can make you cry.  The story was about the oldest children in the class going off into the forest on an adventure where they found many treasures including letters, numbers, colors.  The children put these things in their basket and headed off until they came to a beautiful rainbow bridge.  On the other side of the bridge was someone they recognized.  It was their first grade teacher Brooke waiting to escort them into a new land.

After that, the children, were each read their own special poem and got up to the words, "off you go", where their Kindergarten teacher sent them to follow their first grade teacher off.  She shook each of their hands and then led them to their new classroom.  When they arrived, each of their desks had pictures of themselves on them, a book from their teacher, and their poem.
Upon entering the world of desks and blackboards in first grade
Elijah with his gifts
His beautiful Kindergarten classroom that we will miss so much!

Seeing the excitement on the faces of these children, I cried and cried tears of joy in watching my beautiful son, his classmates and his teacher grow and embark on a new journey through the next eight years together.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Seeing the other side

So I got on a plane to come home today with my family.  A woman behind me on the plane was on the phone and as I settled myself and my family into their seats, I heard her say, "I hope the parents who don't vaccinate their children will also get to deal with a whole bunch of developmental delays in addition to the problems from not vaccinating.  You know, not just the stuff from not getting the shots."

Yes, I'm serious.

Now maybe it is because I had little to no sleep the night before, maybe because we had gotten on a plane a little before 6am that morning and this was our third flight of the day and 12th hour of traveling, maybe it was because I had a little boy who had been sick for two days and had just thrown up on the tarmac on our previous flight, or maybe it had more to do with a family member using social media to bash us on the same issue just a week beforehand, but it really hurt.  there I was, taking care of my sick little boy, my active toddler who wanted to run, and thankful for each minute of it truly because it means I am their mom and I was hit with those words.

I did not feel I could just ignore it.  I often feel that way though if you know me.  that being said, I value her point of view, at least the part about vaccinating being important.  So I sat there for the first part of the flight wondering what to do while she slept and I fed my children, handed them probiotics, and let them sleep on my leg until I could no longer feel the blood flow.

then I asked the flight attendant for paper and a pen and this is what I wrote:

Dear well meaning stranger,
First, I want to say thank you for reading this.  Secondly, I overheard your conversation, I wish I had not, but I did.
I want to encourage you to talk to someone who has decided not to vaccinate their children.  Maybe you can hear from them how they struggle with that decision each day, how it continues to be the hardest decision they make in parenting, how they feel it is the best decision given their circumstances.
I understand your point of view on vaccinations, I really do, but to say that parents who make that decision should be given children with developmental delays as well can really strike a person right at the core of their heart.
to seeing others points of view.
One mama who adores her babies

In baggage claim I handed it to her politely.  I wasn't sure I was going to, but I did.  She read it and she walked away.

For the record, our choice regarding vaccinations has nothing to do with Jenny McCarthy, I do not worry about my children getting autism from them, and I do believe they can be beneficial.  So if you want to know why we made the decision we did, one just has to ask. 

(and please forgive the grammar errors on this post, I am typing on a computer without the capital t working thanks to me forgetting to keep it out of the reach of my little bear)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mr. Poopy Butthead

Oh the joys of working with young children as a parent and teacher.  Right around the fourth and fifth year of  life, the fascination with certain words begins.  Poop, fart, butt... these words are hilarious when you are four and even more hilarious for some reason if you are a boy!  Children are beginning to understand themselves, how their bodies work, and how language and feelings work.  They know these words get a reaction and they want to see what that reaction is.  It happened every single year around this time in my nursery school.  Someone would get called, "Poophead!" and that child would come to me.  My response was always, "Let me look!  Nope, there is no poop on your head."  That would always create a laugh and off the two children went.  Rarely did this word or the name calling stick around for long.

And NOW I am a parent and my son has begun his fascination with the word poop as he approaches four years old. Oh being a parent is so different than a teacher.  Watching your son call someone poop or having him scream that word in response to a kind gesture of "hello Elijah" can be quite embarrassing and upsetting for me.  It stirs up emotions I never quite had as a teacher.  Still, I understand that this is developmentally appropriate for him, I know that it makes him feel powerful (one of the important conditions for human growth), that making a big deal out of it will only increase his use of it thereby creating a power struggle between us.  And really, it is just a silly word.  To be quite honest, it is an important word, one we use everyday (at least we should).

Does this mean that when he calls someone poop, I simply ignore it.  I of course do not and I remind him that this person's name is "Mike" since tonight he called the head of our boarding school that (oy vey).  I use the ever powerful tool of humor to guide him telling him that when Mike was born, his parents didn't think Poop was a good name for him.  I ask him not to use it when I am eating or in our dining hall because frankly, it makes me feel ill and other people's needs are important too.  I will also explain the context and a little bit of child development to people along the way.  It is important for others to know that to Elijah, poop is a wonderful thing and not derogatory most of the time...they might even consider it a compliment.  Ok, maybe we won't go that far.

Common practice among early childhood programs I have seen in the past and definitely among parents is to stop the use of those words and quickly.  I assume they feel what I have felt as a parent and in some way deem the word inappropriate.  I often hear children told that they are only to use that word in the bathroom, that it is a potty word, etc...

I do not take that approach.  I think the more limits we put on it, the more some children (yes, mine) will push that limit and the longer the developmental stage will last.  I think it conveys that there is something wrong or gross about our bodily function which I do not believe, and it is simply not a battle I choose to fight with my child.

My husband and I instead play what Elijah has termed "poop games" with him now.  He says poop and we say pee or something even more "gross".  The belly laugh that this elicits out of our son is truly monumental.  Being able to enter into his world and share this humor with him truly brings us closer together because lets face it, I am a girl and I really dont get this whole "poop is funny" thing.  I think my husband understands the humor even more so and who knows, it may actually still be funny to him.  It is so important for me to remember that I am not male when parenting my son.  It was a huge wake up call as a teacher who grew up as one of three girls and no father in the home.  Understanding the differences and needs of the male species was and still can be a difficult road for me.

At Elijah's forest school, his teacher tells stories of Mr. Poopy Butthead (yes, one of the many things I love about Wild Roots) when the children enter this developmental stage.  Today, his teacher asked  him if he could help her find a stick strong enough for hammering and his response of course was an emphatic, "POOP!"  His teacher responded, "No, I don't think poop would work for this, I need a stick."

And that people is how you support children as they navigate this world we live in....
funny words and all.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The problem with doctorly advice...

He was so excited
So recently E had his very first dental appointment.  We have been brushing twice a day since before that child had teeth so it was no surprise that his teeth were perfect, just beautiful.  His cleaning went well and we got the common praises from both hygentist and dentist.  And then came the advice...

"So he is a thumb sucker I see..."


He then proceeded to tell me about how his teeth are being pushed out of normal bite range and how that will affect his grown up teeth.  I asked some questions and got some answers.

The he turned to E and said, "you should really try not to suck your thumb if you can".

I was fine with all of his advice as that is his job to give it and to focus on his teeth, and to tell us what to expect, but then he went on...

"and Mom, you need to make sure he has stopped by the time he is five."

I responded with, "we will have to see how things go" trying to divert this conversation so I did not loose my cool.

He continued to explain how if he doesn't stop by age five his teeth will be permanently affected.  Yada Yada Yada.

That is when I used a statement I so often said to parents who came into my preschool distraught because their dentist had given them a hard time about their thumb or pacifier sucking child,
"Orthodontics is a whole lot cheaper than therapy."

The hygentist and dentist did not laugh, but they did get quiet.
On the way home, E told me he didnt want to stop sucking his thumb.  I assured him that it was his choice and that mama was not going to make him stop (as if I could).

But that session has stuck with me.  It was the first time I was the parent in a situation like this.  I was so thankful for my years in early childhood and my knowledge of child development because his stern warnings did not phase me like it had so many parents I has worked with.

I have always disliked it when doctors of dentists gave advice like that to parents.  I know we pay them for there advice, but when it comes across as there is no other choice, parents feel like they are doing something wrong in the best case and parents do something horrible to their child like this contraption in the worst case.   Of course, the dentist is only thinking of his teeth and it is a parents job to think of their entire child and way the pros and cons.  However, I strongly believe that doctors and dentists opinions carry a lot of weight with parents and should be careful how they use that weight to get across their point.

This kind of situation, I believe, is the reason most parents would rather use a pacifier and do whatever they can to keep their child from sucking their thumb.
I often hear, "because a pacifier you can take away" at even a few weeks old.  The pressure to force even that situation on a young child just because the adults in their world have decided they are too old for that comfort is just ridiculous.  Yet, we are thinking of these things while the little ones are still in the womb.

If you ask me, no one ever died from being a thumb sucker.  Some people had to have braces because of it, some had to have braces (like me) even though they never had a pacifier or thumb as comfort, and some have sucked their thumb for a decade or more and have perfectly straight teeth.  So braces happen, big deal.

And doctors and dentists have their specialty, but it is not child development, even pediatricians do not focus on much more than a child's physical development, so I hope we all keep this in mind when hearing what they have to say and then make up your own mind as the guardian of this special person.

My top priority as a parent is to listen to my child and to focus on his needs as a whole.  He gains a great deal of comfort from his thumb and his psyche will always take precedence over his teeth.

He got a toy afterwards, so glad they didn't tell him it was for being "good" or this blog post might have taken a whole different path. 
Until he decides to stop, I will tell the dentist we heard him and ask him respectively to drop it.
I may even start sucking my thumb as a sign of support ;)

Monday, March 18, 2013

On having two...

So since J is over 8 months old as I begin to write this and it is the first post since he was born, you can probably guess the theme of this one: life is crazy!  Crazy and joyful, but none the less crazy!

So how is life with two children you ask?  The best way I can describe it is to tell you about the last 30 minutes I just had.

So, E had woken up and was saying, "Mama" in a sad/scared voice that gets me to jump and run whenever I hear it.  I ran into our bedroom and E was speaking nonsense and gibberish as he often does when waking from a deep sleep.  It usually means he has to pee.  I asked him if he did and he said No and began to lie down.  I got into bed next to him and realized the reason he no longer had to pee.  He and the bed were soaked.
I told him I was gonna go get him some clothes and he said "OK" sleepily, but as soon as I left the room, he sat up and started crying loudly which of course woke J.  So now J is fussing and wanting help going back to sleep and I begin to change E.  As soon as I get E's pants off, he says he has to pee more, so he gets down out of the bed and I put J's pacifier in his mouth hoping it will last long enough for me to help E in the bathroom.
I turn around and E is standing on our bedroom carpet peeing.  I said, "No wait sweetie, lets go to the bathroom."  He stops and I get him to the toilet.
Meanwhile, J is crying and I can tell he has gotten up and is crawling towards the bed rail so I place E in front of the toilet and aim him just so as I run back into the bedroom and pick up my crying baby.
I help E finish up in the bathroom (with one hand) and come back to the bedroom with both boys.  I lie J down on the bed and he starts crying (loudly) again.  I quickly lie a towel down on the bed, pick up E, put on his dry clothing, cover him, and then lie down in the position.  The position is one in between the two boys where I can simultaneously nurse J in one direction while holding E's hand in the other direction.
Both boys scoot as close as humanly possible to me and drift back to sleep.

As I watch them sleep I have such mixed and intense emotions.
I hope that E knows how much I love him with all my heart even though my parenting has sank to an all time low and how I want to just scoop him up and savor each moment with him as I watch him continue to grow at an alarming rate.  How every time he goes through something new I worry and research and worry and research some more.  How I want to give him the very best of everything money cannot buy.
I see J cozy up in my arms (he has awoken and wants to be held), nursing, and so peacefully sleeping and think how little time he gets to just lie in his mamas arms like this and how sad I feel about that.  I spend all my day time hours making sure Elijah is loved, fed, getting his activity, loved, fed, not beating on J, loved, fed, not breaking things, etc...  I start to feel like the only time I have for J is to stop him from sucking on the toilet and electrical cords (although I am sure E thinks it is much more).  I know my little baby cries for me way more than I would like him too.

The hard truth is that my parenting has really taken a dive.  I hear myself say things I never would have said before like calling J a "handful" right in front of him or telling E at the end of the day to "stop touching me".  These moments keep me awake at night.

My house always has some sort of disorganization, the bathroom always smells like pee between a little boy with questionable aim and cloth diaper aroma, someone always needs me immediately, and I feel like I can never quite catch up.  They never nap at the same time, or for very long, and E hardly naps at all anymore, both boys want to nurse what feels like all day and all night.  I went from having a 90 min break in the middle of the day and several hours at night, to having an hour here and there at night maybe.

All that being said...
J laughs at every little move E makes and watches him ever so intently.
The look on J's face and the little laugh he utters whenever he makes it all the way to the toilet or tears off yet another leaf from our houseplants.
The way both boys want to touch me all day long and play with me.
The way they hold hands when they are sleeping.
Those rare moments when E and I can finally sit and talk or read without the baby needing mama or trying to grab the book.
The way E tells us he loves us at least twenty times a day.
The way they look at me when I enter a room.

and the moments when both boys are in my arms and I can smell each of them, feel there little arms and I know it is one of those moments I want to remember when I am old.
So besides maybe just a little less pee, I wouldn't change a thing.

My friend recently said, "these are the good old days".  I completely agree.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I refuse to cover up....

Well it finally happened, after 3 plus years breastfeeding two infants, a toddler, and now a preschooler with a renewed love of nursing; I have been officially been told today that I am offending people and have been asked to cover up. 

Of course, I know California State Law, my rights, and my position on the issue.  I even carry copies of the law in my wallet so I never have to even get into a discussion with another about it, but would simply hand them the law and continue feeding my baby.  I thought I was prepared for this situation, I thought I would not be surprised and would simply stand up for my rights and go on with my daily routine.  What I did not consider is how this would make me feel.  I always thought I would of course be angry and frustrated with our country's strange obsession with breasts.  I knew I would want to shout from the roof tops, "I refuse to cover up!".  What I did not expect was the feelings of hurt that I am now experiencing.  I feel berated.  I feel sad.  I have a slight feeling of uncomfortableness now when I think of feeding my baby in that place again.
Because I feel so strongly about this issue, I know these feelings will soon pass, anger might remain for a while, but ultimately pride will be what endures.
I will feel pride in myself for being able to give my children the best possible nutrition and comfort that exists.
I will feel pride in what I have taught about our bodies to the younger girls around me and for that matter, the boys as well.
I will feel pride in continuing to nurse my baby in a situation where others know that I was asked to cover up and refused to do so simply out of embarrassment or shame.
I will feel pride in my husband for telling me that by doing what I do, I have made the world slightly more tolerant of breastfeeding mothers and in a small way made it a better place.
I will feel pride in myself for that as well.

No woman should ever be made to feel that doing something so natural is shameful.  No woman should ever have to feel like she has to cover up because covering up implies that what I am doing is in some way shameful or inappropriate and NOTHING could be further from the truth.
I usually would not post pictures like this just to make a statement, but today I am.  My husband took this picture just a few days ago because I wanted to have it for my remembering when I am 82.  I know you all have seen more breast in the Victoria Secret catalog.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jonah's Birth

This will be a hard one to write because this is likely my last baby and there are many emotions that come with that.  But, here it goes....
So after 41 weeks, the baby was doing great on all tests, but my midwives were starting to feel the pressure of keeping me as a patient if I went much longer.  I hate that this is the society we live in, but it is and if I wanted to stay with them for much longer, I was gonna need to encourage my baby to come.  I did acupuncture, homeopathy, pineapple, spicy food, sex, exercise, pumping, and finally castor oil (which I swore I would never do again after Elijah).  None of that coaxed either of my beautiful boys out of the womb which when you really think about it, why would they want to leave???
So at sixteen days past my due date (42 weeks, 2 days), I agreed to let my midwife break my water.  It worked like a charm with Elijah and I had waited as long as I could to ensure its chances of working.  At 11am, at my midwives home, she broke my water.  There was a ton of clear water that came out.  And then we all headed home to wait, relax, and pump some more.
At 3pm, they started coming and I was a little surprised because with Elijah it took eleven hours to work.  They were very irregular and about 45 min. apart, but by 6pm, they were 15 min. apart and by 7pm, about a minute and half apart.  They started to even out and around 8pm, I was in a very regular cycle of every 3 minutes or so.  My doula, Genevieve arrived, my midwives, Laurel and Alice came, and there were some laughs in between contractions.  Bob Marley was put on in the background because as Laurel said, "babies love Bob Marley."  Early labor was pretty fun and I was thrilled that it was finally time to meet my baby.
The contractions, as they tend to do, got stronger and more intense and at some point I stopped cracking jokes in between.  The baby was pushing very hard in between contractions as well which made it very difficult to rest or catch my breath for the next one, but I had found my voice, my position, and I think I was handling it pretty well.  I labored on the ball, in the birth tub which was awesome, hanging on my amazing husband, etc....
My husband is amazing!

At about 2am, I was ready to start pushing I told my midwife, but it was not a physical feeling, just more of an, I'm done with all this, lets get going feeling.  She checked me and said it was not time yet. I later found out I was at 6-7cm then.  I labored a few more hours and at some point we all discovered that the baby was on my pelvic bone and posterior and while he was trying with all his might (trust me on this one) to push his way down, it was unlikely I would dialate more until the pressure of his little head came down.   So I was in that same dilation and labor pattern for about 8 hours.  At that point, the contractions felt like they were coming very quickly.  I kept telling Josh that I was not sure I could do this.
Laurel hugging me when it was rough, I remember melting into that hug!

About 7am, my midwives had me on my side, on the floor trying to help the baby move off my pelvic bone.  This was extremely hard for me and my contractions were not coming as often as they needed to be even though it felt like they were with the baby pushing so hard in between.  So the midwives used the pump a little bit.  It was just awful there on the floor and at some point I asked for a break.  Josh and I went outside and did some lunges in the backyard per Laurel's recommendation.  My midwives had told me that the baby and I were handling this beautifully and that all it was gonna take was more time, but I was convinced they were holding something back so outside I kept crying and asking Josh to tell me what I needed to do differently.  There is a very frustrating feeling when you know you are making zero progress for hours on end, you are tired, and just want it all to be over.  Josh told me the same thing, that I just needed to be patient and it would turn around. 
Well then we came inside, I overheard my midwives say something about giving me another hour or two and I was convinced (as convinced as a determined exhausted woman who cannot clarify anything her midwives are saying can be).  I was convinced that they did not think this baby would come and I knew the hospital was 45 min away.  I was not gonna lie on that ground for another two hours and THEN take a 45 min car ride.  So..... I gave up.  I said to myself, "I am gonna regret this."
But then I told my midwives to take me to the hospital for an epidural so I could relax a bit.  Interestingly enough, even though the midwives tried to talk me out of it, when they finally agreed, my contractions were coming back to back and I was handling them on my own because my doula was lying in bed with Elijah, and everyone else was scrambling to get ready to transfer.
Around 8am we left, and that car ride was excruciating.  I kept telling myself not to faint, the baby was pushing so hard during and in between, and I was in the most awkward of positions.  45 minutes later, we arrived at the hospital.  I did not have the energy to cry anymore.  I just kept asking for meds, actually begging.  But they had to ask me intake questions before they could call the anesthesiologist.  I do not think I answered one.  At one point I was in my gown, in the bed and a big contraction was coming.  I made a moaning sound that made everyone in the room including my midwife whip their heads around and say. "wait a second, that sounded like a push."  They checked me and what do you know.... the baby turned anterior, came off my pelvic bone, I was completely dilated and the baby was coming.  I was so tired, even this news did not derail me from continuing to ask for pain meds.  But then, it happened.  What I needed to happen, but did not know I needed.  My midwife got in my face so to speak.  She told me absolutely not (it was too late anyway) was I going to get an epidural when the whole reason we came to the hospital was now gone, I was gonna push this baby out right now.  I think I whimpered knowing this was gonna be work.  And it took everything in me.  BUT, he was moving, I could feel him.  I felt his body coming lower and lower and this was such a relief.  I felt him crown, the ring of fire, and his head pop out.  Everyone in the room was commenting on what a tight squeeze and big baby this was.  The doctor on call did not pull him, but let me do the work, so he slowly emerged.   When his body was half way out, they suctioned him, I pushed him the rest of the way out and he came right to my chest.  He stayed there for two hours before I let Josh hold him. 
It was another beautiful baby boy... I love boys.  Jonah Cameron Roberts was 9lbs, 3oz and I pushed him out in about 20-30 minutes and I was on my back.  I love to stand during labor so this fact still mystifies me.  I always thought I would push my babies out standing up.
When I think of the decision I made to go to the hospital I am frustrated and disappointed in myself.  I should have trusted my midwives, I took away an opportunity for Josh to catch his son as he wanted, I took away an opportunity for Elijah to see his brother be born, and I took away from myself forever the right to say I birthed my baby at home.  I know what everyone will say to these complaints. I know some people will think they are silly.  I am of course so grateful that I have been able to conceive, have two beautiful incredibly healthy little boys, and that we are all well.  But I find myself mourning the end result of each birth none the less.  Jonah's birth was ten time more difficult than Elijah's and I have always known that one reason for me to choose midwifery care was to avoid the temptation for pain meds.  I know myself well and I did not want them to be an option.  I did not really even think about them with Elijah so I was surprised at how much harder this was.  My midwives have been so incredible helping me along this postpartum path.  They call me all the time, visit me at home, and give the kind of care that makes me feel like I am their only patient.
Alice and baby Jonah, one week old

And to me that is the moral of both of my births.  If I had not chosen midwifery care and to labor outside the hospital for all but 45 minutes of each of my sons, I am convinced without a doubt, that both of my boys would have been cesareans.  Elijah was breech at 36 weeks (the midwife turned him), I was diagnosed with a muscle disease, and his heart rate dropped a bit too much during labor (which is why we transferred in his birth).   Jonah was stuck for a long time on my pelvic bone despite handling it very well.  These situations are not ones hospitals will let you stick with for long.  My midwives trusted my body to do its job while keeping us safe at the same time.  Because of this, I had two unmedicated vaginal births.  I am so thankful for that because I believe we are all healthier for it.  This is what I try to remember when the sadness hits.
And now I am off to figure out how to be the best mama I can be to two little ones who both seem to need me constantly.  This may be tougher than transition. :)
And now for our new life...