Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mothering 101

I had a lovely visit from a sweet young mother-to-be yesterday. She wanted and needed more information on breastfeeding, and I have MORE INFORMATION! She also got (as a free bonus!) information on labor, childrearing and mothering, since those are my passions. I really feel our society has lost a lot of traditional wisdom on how to be a truly good mother. Some of it is how you interact with the child, but that is only one portion, actually.

So, that being said, here is the first of my "lists of wisdom":

Wisdom for having a baby:

1. Your body was designed for this. RELAX and let it do it's job without interfering too much.

2. You can stop worrying about whether you can/will provide enough milk for your baby. You are a mammal. So is your baby. WOW--SIMPLE! That means, your body is designed to make the 1 PERFECT food for YOUR baby. Since it would be unwise to feed tiger milk to baby dolphins or gorilla milk to baby kangaroos (as those species are completely different, and have totally different growth needs), what baby humans need is human milk, perfectly customized for their own needs, by their own mommy.

3.The baby will automatically set it's breathing, heartbeat and temperature to match the person who is holding it, so bare chest to bare chest contact is VERY important to help your baby stabilize (and a great thing for daddy to do for baby while they clean mom up). It is important to continue skin to skin contact for the first several weeks.

4. The baby does recognize the voices of the people it heard in utero, and will prefer those people.

5. Babies need a lot LESS stuff than the stores would have you believe. Millions of babies have turned out fine without a crib, nursery or diaper genie. Babies prefer to sleep with their parents (or very nearby if you have to). After spending the last nine months listening to the sound of their parents breathing, heartbeat and talking why would they want to be locked away in a dark room by themself? They need to spend more time OUT of the car seat than IN it--a baby on a clean blanket on the floor is learning about spacial relationships and preparing to crawl (and it won't need a helmet to reshape it's soft little skull that has flattened from too much time in it's car seat!)

6. A baby sling or (even better a baby wrap) will help you have a happier, calmer baby, and a happier, more productive mom.

7. Babies can (and do) smile very soon after birth. Studies have shown that if the parents respond the baby will continue to smile, but if smiles are ignored, the baby will stop smiling until they are about 3 months old. (and honestly, when was the last time gas bubbles made you smile? Honestly, Gas Bubbles?)

8. All 5 senses are firmly in place by 17 weeks in utero. That means, when the baby is still the size of a billiard ball, it can feel pain and tickling, prefers sweet tastes to salty or bitter, and can hear the sounds of it's world--parents voices, mom's heartbeat and digestive system (which is a LOT louder than you would think!) and other sounds.

9. No cute little brightly colored or black and white toys are as exciting for your baby as your face. The more you play with and interact with your baby, the better you will get at understanding them, and the smarter your baby will be. Talk about a win-win situation!

10. You are wiser than you think. It will only take a few days for you to become the world's leading expert on your baby. Trust your heart. But find a wise mother (whose children you like, and are turning out well!) as a mentor.

The best book on raising a wise, happy child is "The Mothers Almanac" by Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons. There is a great companion book, also, "The Fathers Almanac" by S. Adams Sullivan. Your personal library should have both--and you should read them.

The next best book is "The One-Minute Mother" by Spencer Johnson.

And your "go-to" book should be by William and Martha Sears (they have GREAT books on attachment parenting, breastfeeding, discipline and more!) He is a doctor, and together they have 8 children (which makes him much wiser than the doctor part!)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Just Life

BigGirl has gone to stay with her BFF--a cheesy term, but it does fit these two, who have been Best Friends since Kindergarten, with no "breakups". They have, besides all of the other things they share in common, very kind hearts and a firm belief in a Loving God and the importance of modesty. They are the only two girls from their 5th grade class who weren't "going" with a boy.

However, BFF SweetGirl's family moved from just across town (which, in a town this size is maybe 1 mile), to a neighboring state. So, the moms met in the middle and BigGirl is off for an ecstatic time with her SweetGirl. LargeCousin has gone to be an "auntie" with the little cousins in another neighboring state (I do love these little Eastern states, where in 2 hours you are in another state--not just another county!) So, poor lonely LargeBoy has had to go for a sleep-over at HIS BFF's house. So it is just SmallDaughter, the WonderDog, and Me.

The house smells lovely because I am boiling up some chicken stock (no, not anyone we knew!--just some I had thawed that needed using). It is Monday, so it is Taco Night. Monday always is. Tacos are MFG's favorite, and that means one less menu to THINK of, so that is the way it is. I am doing many small, thankless jobs today--phone calls, paying bills, laundry, that keep the home running. I am grateful for the ease I have to do them--I do love modern conveniences (mostly!). I love having my washer-slave down in the basement, slaving away to make the nasty dirty clothes all fresh and clean with minimal effort on my part!

Also, the BIG NEWS! Tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday, Aunt A is taking THE BAR EXAM! Once again, she thinks she will bomb, and we all know she will kick butt. It is seriously like being friends with Hermione Granger.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Easy come...

We have now passed the beginning of the end (chicken-wise). The plan has always been to raise chickens for eggs and meat. If we had a rooster in our flock his destiny was always the stew pot. Once I finally accepted that the one with the unusually large comb and tail feathers was actually a rooster, we all knew where he (Pepto Bismo--no that isn't a typo, that is his name)was headed. However, that did not prepare me for the eventuality of having him injure his leg and the need to find a butcher quick!

The upside of living in the middle of Amish country is that you can find people with diverse "back to the land/self sufficient" skills. The problem is that they don't advertise. So, I spent 30 or 40 minutes driving around to various farmhouses--"do you butcher chickens?" "No, but I think if you go to the house by the railroad tracks, they do...or they will know who does."

I did finally track down the people who do, and they were very nice. The rooster is now in the freezer. The kids were much more philosophical about it than I was. Even LargeGirl, the softest hearted animal lover you could ever know, took it much better than I thought possible.

On the other side, the "girls" are getting very big, and we just got our new waterers, which I am really excited about! Cleaning out the waterers is just a gross job--since chickens are notoriously unfussy about where they perch and/or poop. The new waterers work rather like a hamster waterer, where they peck the "nipple" and it gives up a drink of cool CLEAN water. Yay!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Perfect Rain

The promised rain not only arrived, but arrived perfectly. We have gotten quite a bit over the last 24 hours, but it has come down softly and gently, with plenty of time to be absorbed into the thirsty earth. Not torrents that come and go quickly without leaving anything useful behind. I could think deep philosophical thoughts about people in our lives and the useful analogy of the rain--but I have to go wash my sheets and sort out my pantry (which has achieved a state of such advanced higgledy-piggledy that the word entropy comes to mind. again. sigh.)

We did have a bit of excitement here this morning. MFG went to open up the window in LargeBoy's room, and found that it had a pretty messy bird's nest built in it. Since it appeared empty he went ahead and opened the window. Which caused the little sparrow in the nest to come flying into the house. Where we couldn't find it. It was finally located (after much searching) hiding on the floor in the corner by SmallDaughters dresser. It was gently relocated to the nest, where it flew outside. The nest will be relocated to the crabapple tree out the window.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


It smells like summer rain this morning. That is good--the garden could really use it, and so could the lawn*. The chickens are surprisingly silky and soft, quite lovely to stroke--although our chickens are where the term "chicken" got it's negative connotation. They freak out and panic every time you get near ("AAAGGGHH! It's the food! Panic! PANIC!!!!"). Which I don't mind much--especially since the opposite of that behavior is mean attack chickens. I have been around MAC's before, and this is WAY better.

I got the second planting of my garden in (finally!). I am now at the stage where I mostly just ignore it, and let it grow. I am harvesting cucumbers fairly regularly, and I think my first crop onions are "done". I have pumpkins and watermelons setting, and the first (early) tomatoes are nice little green cuties. I can't wait until the big ones are ready to be turned into fried green tomatoes. Three of the surprises of being a grownup have been being introduced to (and falling in love with!) 1) Fried Green Tomatoes 2) Steamed Lemon Squash 3) Fried Cabbage. They each have a knack to them, and they are all UNSPEAKABLY DELICIOUS. I still don't care for lots of veggies, but I am getting better.

Our poor hammock finally gave up the ghost, so we are reduced to sitting around in chairs outside to read. Not a good substitute for laying in the hammock with a good book. Nothing really is. We have found some REALLY good books this summer, too. I will post more about them soon.

I am trying to figure out a way to get a tree house built this summer. The kids are the PERFECT age, and it is just something they NEED. I can't do heights (yeah, stupid, I know--I can't even do "small heights" like 3 steps up a ladder! It is ridiculous! ---But then, most of my phobias are!), so I must find someone else whom I can beg or whine or guilt into it. Hmm, I must think.

*I think lawns are fairly immoral--especially in dry areas. Precious resources like water have much better uses. If I lived someplace where there wasn't enough rain to keep it green naturally, I would have to rip it out and replace it with something native that didn't require so much water! I won't even go into the lecture on how much gas we use to cut our grass--super wasteful! (I am looking at goats for next year, maybe). You REALLY don't want to hear me go off about golf courses in Las Vegas and California!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My life is pretty close to perfect

Recently I had the chance to stay at the home of a friend-of-a-friend. Her home was beautiful. It was a fairly new house--built in the last 5 or 10 years, I would say. It had a lovely stone fireplace, tasteful wall decor, immaculate carpets (think beige--LOTS of beige) lovely furniture suites upstairs and down. It was also sparklingly clean. Like, even with 4 children who are alternately there (due to custody issues) and 4 dogs it was sparkling.

It would be almost impossible not to contrast it with my house.

My house was built over 100 years ago. It is a comfortable late Victorian (which means it doesn't have any gingerbread trim, but it does have a great porch and many funky roof angles and walls that stick out in funny places). It is in DIRE need of a new coat of paint on the outside (but first we have to fix all the places where the racoons or the wisteria ripped off bits of the siding).

It is not in a suburban neighborhood full of it's clone. We have one neighbor whose house is our home's "sister", but all of the other houses are in MANY random styles. There is not a lot of "taupe" or "beige" in our neighborhood. There are a lot of mature trees and amazing flower gardens.

Our furniture is that classic style "early thrift store". Not one piece matches another. EVERY single wall (and every other surface for that matter) has been written on by SmallDaughter. I refuse to repaint while she is still in the active picasso phase. I also refuse to get new carpet while she still dumps stuff. So our whole house has strange 1950's era avacado green and algae colored wool carpet--that ALWAYS comes clean, no matter what she has dumped on it (bubble bath, hershey's syrup, yellow mustard...)

It is not imaculate. Even when I clean and clean, I still can't get it to "immaculate". It is not filthy, but it is definitely lived in, and the fact that I personally can overlook something in the middle of the floor and step over it for MONTHS does nothing to help that.

With all that said, our house is full of life and laughter. Spills and messes are not crises, just something to clean up. Everyone is free to try creative endeavors, because we are not thwarted by the fear of messing up the perfection. All of the neighbor kids cook in my kitchen. My yard gets played in daily. My porch is never boring!

My funny looking raised gardens out back are thriving. The chickens behind the barn are fat, healthy and contented. I like them a lot more than I ever imagined that I would. My children are kind, funny, creative and polite. What more could I want?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Busy Summer

I have been very busy--which means I have been alternately chauffering all of my short people to all of the many and varied places they have to go (I would like to mention here, that even SmallDaughter has a more exciting social life than I do--Physical Therapy--[which has a POOL!], Occupational Therapy, and Theraputic Riding) and reading A LOT.

The big kids just went to the area level (22 counties) for their
4-H "Health & Safety Speaking Contest" Skit. They were very good, and I am really proud of them. They did a funny skit on Car Safety--so we have had a lot (more than usual) of backseat driving!

MFG has been working out of town, which always throws my groove off. I have remembered to feed everybody (mostly), but the food gets WAY more casual. Also, I can't go to bed when he isn't home--a big problem for the chronic insomniac!

I have thought of a lot of blog entries, but always when I am driving, and far away from my computer. When I get near the computer I have forgotten them, and I am too tired. I have been sleeping even worse than usual lately. Sigh.

LargeBoy is SO happy his best-friend-in-the world has finally come back from Texas. The yard is full of sticks again (battles have been renewed) and yesterday they got in trouble for making a zip-line off of the TV antenna tower to the crabapple tree (they assured me they always dropped off before they face planted into the tree.) I still stopped them.

My garden is flourishing. The tomatoes are as tall as I am. The cucumber is producing about 3 a day--perfect. The chickens are big and busy sounding. I will post pictures of their new run soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Busy Girl!

I wanted to say thanks to the people who worried about me because of my last blog. It is now daytime, I have had some sleep, and I am feeling much better, thanks! I am currently as busy as a marshmallow vendor while Rome was burning, but things are looking up, emotional-ness-wise.