Wednesday, May 06, 2009

La Leche League of Georgia's Area Conference!

Greetings from Unicoi State Park in the NE Georgia mountains!  Okay, I am not still there, although that would be nice ;)

We have held the Area Conference here for three years now, and what a wonderful environment it is.  There is a lodge with a conference center building and then three seperate lodging buildings in the complex.  Families can also camp, bring an RV, or rent a cabin.  All the conference sessions were held in the conference center building of the lodge.  We had a fantastic set of speakers this year, including one of LLL's co-founders, Marian Tompson, and Dr. Bob Sears.  I learned a lot in the sessions and enjoyed connecting with other leders and their families.

Thursday evening, we had a Hoedown.  We had the same live band that we have had for three years, and the kids had such a great time dancing and running around.  Caroline found some friends to dance with, and Cecilia had the time of her life running in circles.  She wore herslef out!!

Several tables were set up with crafts for the kids to do as they pleased.  Caroline strung dried pasta onto a piece of yarn to make a necklace and enjoyed coloring wih markers.

Cecilia had this same look on her face the entire time we were in the Hoedown!  I think she must have done 50 laps around Daddy!

She also found a dance partner and tolerated being danced with for about 60 seconds.

The best thing about a LLL conference is being around so many other like-minded parents.  I love seeing all the happy babies in slings and the parents who are gently guiding their toddlers and preschoolers... such a breath of fresh air when my day-to-day life includes hearing parents scream at their children in the Wal-Mart parking lot and carrying crying babies around in bucket seats, seemingly oblivious to the crying.

Being at a conference reminds me how blessed I have been to find this path in parenting.  Creating a close bond with our children from infancy is so beautiful, and so rewarding for both parent and child, and seeing it on a large scale is amazing.  

Cecilia sports her "cage free baby" shirt - our LLL group sold these in the bookstore

When away from a gathering such as this, many of us get looks and comments for things like breastfeeding our babies in public or sleeping with our babies, hearing comments about spoiling them or not being able to show them "who's the boss."  Here, it is okay that our babies don't sleep through the night and that they are still nursing as toddlers.  I laughed to myself as I thought about how this was probably a weekend where Unicoi had more children staying in the lodge rooms than ever before, yet they probably had a very low request for cribs comparatively!

One of the highlights for me was hering a session by Dr. Sears on the science behind attachment parenting.  It is not only about mothering our children naturally at the breast and going with our instincts as parents, but there is scientific backing for responding to our babies' cries!  Dr. Sears went into the scientific evidence such as how babies' brains develop in the early years and how a loving response from a parent helps to form those brain connections in the healthiest way possible.

We got a laugh out of his sense of humor at the end of his talk, too... he had prepared a slide in his PowerPoint presentation that listed resources, many of which were authored by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears, his parents, and some that he co-authored with his parents and brothers, who are also doctors.  He had written that The Discipline Book was "written by my parents about my brothers," and that The Successful Child was "written by my parents about me."  It was probably funnier in person... that old line that we used to use in middle school, "you just had to be there."

This stair-step grassy area is the courtyard between all the lodge buildings.  It used to have big swings in it (the kind that old people would sit on, not fun kid swings, lol), but those had been replaced with benches this year.  The kids still enjoyed having a place to climb and explore.  Cecilia is very into climbing in the last week. She climbs onto the fireplace, the couch (not always successfully), Caroline's saucer chair, low tables... so it was nice to have a place where she could climb unhindered.

There is a room set up as a bookstore at the conference each year.  It has parenting and breastfeeding books for sale, a huge silent auction with all kinds of donated items, and individual group boutique sales tables.  Our group made several things to sell: tie-dyed baby and toddler shirts with pro-breastfeeding slogans on them, hand-dyed playsilks, baby doll slings, and a few other little items.This was our first year doing the silks, and they were a big seller, along with the doll slings.  Our shirts didn't do as well as in years past, but it is nice that we have plenty of them left for next year!  My co-leader, a group mom, and I worked hard to get them all done, so it will be nice to have a supply for the next couple years and not have to replenish it again in a year.

Of course, Chris could not get out of work for long... his technology expertise was called upon on Friday afternoon when Dr. Sears's computer would not work... Chris ended up setting him up with another laptop which belonged to our conference supervisor.  Then, in the closing session, my laptop was borrowed and then would not ply a DVD, so Chris went to work on it as well!

Caroline and I made a huge batch of play-dough for the Family Fun Night. Crafts were put out on the tables again, and we had a DJ playing 80's songs such as Thriller, Material Girl, and... YMCA?  Okay, so it wasn't purely 80's music...

Cecilia had another fun evening full of running in circles, dancing, and smiles.

Caroline made snowmen out of the play-dough.  Alexander is sitting to her left... he spent most of the evening at the play-dough table!  I was really happy with the recipe we used to make it... it turned out nice and soft and moldable.

Cecilia and I danced togther a bit too... I spent some of both evenings running around hanging up signs for the next day's sessions.  

Another good shot of Cecilia doing YMCA - Chris showed her how to do it, I guess, and seeing everyone else doing it probably helped.  So, the rest of the night, Cecilia ran around randomly sticking her hands up in the air in the "Y" position... during Thriller, she was still stuck on YMCA!

Cecilia and I posed with Marian Tompson, one of LLL's seven original founders.  She has been coming to our Area Conference for several years now and it is always a delight to hear her speak, and so neat to realize you are talking to one of the seven people who, 50 years ago, began an organization that would help so many mothers and babies in such a profound way! Cecilia had just woken up a few minutes earlier from a nap in this picture, hence the dazed look and sweaty, messy hair.  You've heard of hat-hair?  At an LLL conference, you see babies with sling-hair!

There was a ceremony honoring all the leaders and welcoming new leaders on Saturday evening.  Unfortunately, we missed nearly the whole thing.  We went to Mass in Cleveland, almost 20 minutes away, and then had to eat dinner, so we didn't make it back in time.  But, we did make it to see the pretty "centerpiece" (for lack of a better word... is it a centerpiece if it is on the ground??).  The last names Froelich and Wagner are on the side - these are two of the original seven founders who both died within the past year.  We paid tribute to them as we welcomed the leaders of the future... who would have known over fifty years ago the ripple effect these seven ladies would have on breastfeeding and mothering?

Believe it or not, this was the better of two pictures... Caroline was clearly tired, twisting her hair.  Sofie, my co-leader Theresa's baby, seems to be more interested in Marian than in the camera.  Cecilia isn't screaming to get down in this picture.  All three of us ladies look fabulous though, I think ;)  Cecilia has no pants because apparently now Target disposables officially join the list of diapers that don't work.  Or maybe I should just up-size.  Cecilia pooped all over me after dinner, rode back to Unicoi without her soiled pants, and happily ran around the courtyard in her diaper.  If I'd taken off the diaper, she'd have *really* been a cage free baby!

And, a wonderful end to a great weekend - our family walked around the neat town of Helen just outside of Unicoi State Park.  And then, peace and quiet...

... HA!  For about a half hour!  Cecilia suddenly sleeps poorly in the van again.  We had to stop so I could nurse her by hanging over the seat to get her to sleep instead of scream... and darn those railroad tracks in the Marble Hill/Tate area!!!

I feel like I could gush on and on about the wonderful feeling of attending an LL conference... Chris says he wishes they were held quarterly!!!  But I will close here so I can finally post this and then GO TO BED!!!


Kelly said...

Wow - that sounds like an amazing conference! And what a wonderful opportunity to meet and hear Marian Tompson!

I LOVE the cage free baby shirt! Can I order one of those from you guys? How cute!


Erin said...

What size do you want, Kelly? We have 2 or 3 of them with the cage free message... I think they are 6, 9, or 12 month sizes... We made the shirts with various messages, like "got breastmilk?" and "I get my milk straight from the tap." We're selling them for $6 each.

Wendy said...

Erin, are you sure you don't want to plan the conference for 2010? I loved the pics you took, the stories behind the pics, and the feeling I got while reading about the conference. It was an amazing time for everyone involved. Thanks for being a part of it and helping with he signs.

Erin said...

Wendy, I would love to plan the conference or at least be the assistant once my children are much older - I think it would be great fun. I don't multi-task well though, as in I can't even hold a coherent conversation or listen to one while I am cooking! Once my children are mostly grown and gone, I would love to be much more involved. I would be glad to continue to make the signs indefinitely, and if there are other tasks here and there that need to be done, don't hesitate to ask! I can make some phone calls and proofread stuff, help find speakers... I think it'd be awesome to have Nils Bergman (Kangaroo Care) or Jack Newman to speak, and I'd be glad to harass them (I mean ask politely and persistently!) about being featured speakers!

Anonymous said...

Wow, the conference sounded awesome. I so wish we could have went. I am getting so tired of people asking me when I'm going to stop nursing Gracie, and of the comment, "You're still nursing???". Gracie is 14 months old. It would have been really nice to have been around a group of supportive people!