Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallow's Eve, 2009!

We had a fun Halloween here! We had two little pumpkins in our house! We like the fun of dressing up and carving a pumpkin, trick-or-treating... while trying to limit the amount of candy! Some interesting reading on how Hallowe'en (which is the shortened form of All Hallow's Eve, All Hallows meaning All Saints, which is the solemnity celebrated on November 1st) - and how it is not just a secular holiday full of gore and commercialism but actually has Christian roots - can be found here.

Caroline and Cecilia carried some old McDonald's Happy Meal plastic pumpkins from 1998... I had bought them in college, reminiscent of the ones they had in the 80s which my mom wouldn't take us to get... and I saved them.

On Friday, Caroline's class at her Mothers' Morning Out trick-or-treated around the school. The girls seemed to be over their colds for the most part, so I took Caroline just for this part. Here she is doing a pumpkin song with the group in which they sing about buying pumpkins at a patch - they traded their teacher a coin for a little toy pumpkin as they went around the circle.

Caroline's whole class posing together in a hallway while they were going trick-or-treating to each room.

Cecilia didn't know what to make of it...

Caroline wanted the jack-o-lantern to have circle eyes (with eyelashes but no pupils), a triangle nose, and a smile with two teeth on top and two on the bottom. I sketched it onto the pumpkin and Daddy carved it out.

Cecilia enjoyed looking inside to see the candle. She loved wearing her costume on Friday, Saturday, and last week at my mom's preschool. She got irritated when we had to take it off!

Caroline's costume was mine in 1984, when I was five years old. It used to have a jack-o-lantern mask that went with it, but that has gotten misplaced. I was going to put Cecilia in the other old jack-o-lantern costume that my little brothers wore... but we couldn't find it. My mom made both of those costumes. But I did find this jack-o-lantern costume for Cecilia at a consignment sale. The girls wanted to match, as they so often like to do!

Our friends down the street invited us to come to their cul-de-sac for a hot dog roast dinner on Halloween! It had been raining all day, so we gathered in the home one of the neighbors. Caroline poses with her friend Brianna, who was a ladybug.

Caroline got to try roasting a hot dog over the fire pit... it was too hot for her and she only lasted a few minutes. Cecilia looks like she is roasting her pumpkin bucket in the background...

Look at all the food - YUM!! We had the hotdogs, veggies and dip, a taco-type dip with chips, cheese and crackers, strawberries, turtle-type candies (square pretzels with a Rolo candy melted on top and a pecan pressed into the top!!), and homemade donuts!!! That street knows how to party! ;)

Cecilia eating some dinner with Daddy

The Johnston and Lewis kids (minus 3 month old Alex), ready to trick-or-treat after the party. We had a ladybug, two pumpkins, Little Red Riding Hood, a clown, and Spiderman. I have a clown costume that Cecilia could have worn, but Caroline wanted them to match and I thought it'd be cute... but it also would have been cute if both of the one year olds had been clowns! I think if you click on this picture, you can see it larger.

And now on to November!

Happy Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day to everyone!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Food Tips Friday

Today's food tip: pureed spinach!

I mentioned the last time how I stir a bit of pureed spinach into boxed mac n cheese to make it a little healthier. But there are many other uses for pureed spinach! I steam it until wilted, put it in the food processor, and then freeze it in ice cube trays. Sometimes I will freeze a fourth to a half cup in a baggie as well.

Our favorite use for pureed spinach is in scrambled eggs. I thaw a cube or two and whisk it in while beating the eggs... a little grated cheese is very good in the scrambled eggs, too. The spinach is very obvious and not disguised at all, but for reluctant children, maybe it could be seen as "green eggs" like the Dr. Seuss book... I have also stirred it into egg casseroles and souffles.

I also like to stir some pureed spinach into spaghetti sauce (along with grated or pureed carrot sometimes). It becomes disguised this way unless you use a whole lot! I use the sauce for lasagne as well (look for lasagne in a future Food Tips Friday post).

I also like to make personal pita pizzas... take a small can of tomato sauce (I only use about half of it for four or so pitas and then freeze the rest) and stir in some pureed spinach. Then spread it on pita bread and cover with shredded mozerella and whatever toppings you would like. Bake it at 400 for just a few minutes. Yum!! This is a relatively quick hot lunch idea, especially if the cheese is already grated. Putting the pizzas on a foil-lined baking sheet is not a bad idea here... easier cleanup.

I have heard also that some people throw a little spinach into smoothies. I have not tried this myself, but it is not supposed to change the taste or color...

Anyone else have a use for spinach (pureed or not) that you'd like to share?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Random Bits...

Today we made pumpkin cutout cookies. I think I have mentioned my favorite rollout cookie recipe before... I make it any time I need rollout cookies, but it is obviously best suited for fall, having pumpkin in it! We have been eating lots of good fall foods lately... pumpkin pancakes and cookies, pumpkin-pear soup, butternut squash soup, roasted veggie stew (I tried rutabagas yesterday for the first time!), grilled cheese and tomato soup...

Caroline (after much hand-washing) helped to roll, cut, and decorate the cookies. We used pumpkin, cat, and ghost cookie cutters. Then she put mini chocolate chips and raisins on for their faces.

Oh, and we tried pomegranate seeds for the eyes on one cat and one ghost. Pretty evil-looking...
If we are well for our hot dog roast on Halloween night, we'll bring these for dessert! I love that they are slightly sweet... only a half cup of sugar (I use Sucanat) in the recipe. Yay for relatively healthy desserts! Hmm, I should make a pear crisp for dessert one night soon, too!

Caroline shows off her work - a full tin of cookies (with the evil cat on the top).

So, other random things from our life recently...

I was reading The New Baby to Caroline and Cecilia (who calls it "Nude Baby" - that is how she says "new"). It is a Little Golden Book from the 70s - which the illustrations show very clearly. The dad's suit, the wallpaper, the mother's maternity clothes... what a hoot! I enjoyed this book myself as a child, which is why we have it now for my children. The funniest thing is that there is a room in the story which has a window seat... and I swear, it looks exactly like our room with the window seat before we painted it - complete with the same teal blue paint on it and the doorway trim and everything. So, in this book, the deliveryman brings a big box to the house, and it says that he "put it by the window." Now, this meant inside the house because the mother had let him in when he knocked, but Caroline thought it meant that he left the package on the porch next to a window. "But if he leaves it there, people will think they are putting it on Freecycle!"she exclaims.

Caroline held a chicken for the first time yesterday. She pulls them up close to her chest and kind of hugs them, not caring about their poopy feet getting too close to her like I am when I hold them! The chickens have still not laid any eggs... scared eggless, maybe? They do seem to have recovered emotionally... back to their normal selves. No PTSD for them, I guess... must be tougher (or just dumber?) than my parents' cat, Mason, who seemed to have suffered from PTSD for a few years after the other cat died and a new one was brought home in its place. Poor Mason, she had just recently returned to "normal" (it didn't seem normal any more after several years of her extra-aloof skitterishness!), and then disaster struck: she was stranded on a shelf in my parents' basement when it flooded. Welcome back, Mason's PTSD. She's back to her other "normal" now, at least when I visit, anyway...

Speaking of traumatic... Cecilia has developed a deep fear of...

...MUSHROOMS! Wild mushrooms, that is. We have had them in our yard for months now, what with all the rain... but not quite as many as we had yesterday. And these were different - little red-topped ones. Cecilia was walking along, when suddenly she stopped dead in her tracks and looked horrified. It was like she was frozen - couldn't go on, couldn't go back. She'd spread her legs apart a bit and was looking down, crying, about the mushrooms. She refuses to walk near them if she notices them ahead of time. She even stood next to the house at one point yesterday while I was helping Caroline find hot dog roasting sticks, saying firmly, "Go 'WAY, mushrooms!" I seriously do not know what has brought this on... it's her first real fear that we have noticed! If the mushrooms have her "trapped," she will just fuss until I come to rescue her. She cannot just walk around them or run back to me, for some reason...

Hmm, what else? Cecilia continues to try to get out of diaper changes by insisting, "No, DRY!!!" whenever we ask her if her diaper is wet. She is into big-kid games: "Play playdoh!" "Play Brown Bear!" Other-saur is still somewhat important to her, but seems to be fading a bit in popularity, just like "Shick-il-ay Cow" did. Speaking of, the real Chick-fil-A cow came to my mom's preschool last week when we were there... Cecilia was so excited when she saw him walk by in the hall and ran out of my mom's office, with Caroline aka Little Mommy running after her and dragging her back to me, as I was trying to wolf down my last few bites of lunch and clear up the kids' empty yogurt containers and such off my mom's desk... So, when we actually went up to "Shick-il-ay Cow" outside the building (he was standing there to greet people in the carpool line to advertise the school's Chick-fil-A night, in which portions of the sales go to the preschool)... the cow reached out to shake Cecilia's hand, and she immediately did a 180! She put her head to my shoulder and her eyes got huge, and she let out a cry... that cry of hers that says, "You hurt my feelings so completely and totally, how could you???" I guess the cow is really just HUGE in person compared to her little cow from the kids' meal! She regained her composure when she saw that i was shaking his hand and that Caroline wasn't in any danger... and she even touched his hand ever-so-slightly, and joyously waved and yelled to him as we left. There is a photo, but it is on my mom's camera... [Edited to add: Today, in listening to Cecilia talk about her little cow, she was saying "Click-lay Cow." Caroline insists that's how she has said it all along, but I really thought she was making more of a "sh" sound last week...]

Caroline unloaded all the dry clothes from two drying racks for me today! I like to take laundry outside to fold while they play (that is, when I am not summoned to defeat the evil mushrooms), and honestly, some days it takes an act of Congress to get out the door! Is dinner in the oven? Does everyone have shoes? Water bottles? Go to the bathroom? Oh, another nasty poop diaper? Okay then, we'll be headed outside in a few minutes... Do we need jackets? Do we need to change into short sleeves and remove our socks and find our sandals? So, having the laundry tossed into a basket for me while I dealt with the diaper was so helpful! Ever notice how it takes much longer to hang, unhang, or fold a load of little kid clothes? Same amount of fabric, so many more articles of clothes!

Observation: The hand towel in my main bathroom is never dry. Never. Well, maybe first thing in the morning. I guess that's what happens when it gets used by somebody every hour all day.

Cecilia got new potty from IKEA. It cost $3.99!! And it is RED! She likes to try to stand in it. It requires a great deal of adjustment for her to decide she's on it comfortably... she stands up and asks me to "Scoot better" until she is satisfied with its positioning. Other notes in Cecilia's speech: her favorite word for about a month now has been "also." She uses it correctly and often. She can sing much of "Five Little Pumpkins" on her own. She acts like she gets the inside joke regarding how I said "da-bahn man" instead of "gingerbread man" when I was little as she giggles and says, "Gwampa... no, Daddy... da-bahn MAN!" Two other popular phrases are "Want Mommy!" - often pronounced as "Muhnt Mommy!" lately, and "Do self!" or "Cici turn!" And it is always funny to us when Cecilia hands us her plate of food and asks us to blow on it if it is too hot, and then, if she is not satisfied, she asks us to "blow loud." I think it is interesting that she has lost her use of possessives for the most part... she was adding s to the end of many words to show ownership when she began to talk at about 14 months! She is also getting tooth number 17. Only three more to go!!!

Oh, and Cecilia ate dirt today. Or at least smeared it around her mouth.

Finally, more of Cecilia's drawings. Caroline did the writing on the envelope, but the rest is Cecilia's doing. my mom watched her draw last week and said, "Do you know that she is holding the crayon correctly... and in both hands??" I hadn't noticed, but she was right. She also pointed out that most young children put their elbow up in the air as they hold the crayon - Cecilia does not. She rests her hand and arm on the paper as she works. Weird. Guess I'd better force her to begin handwriting at age 2, ha!


They don't really look like it, huh? No, we don't have swine flu... the girls and I have been battling colds since the weekend. Chris, who went on an airplane, hasn't gotten sick at all - not ironic though, because he was taking Airborne! So he's probably been able to fend off the cold bugs better because of that!

We have been having a slow week due to the cold. I was down on Monday - bad back as well as the cold - and it was pretty bad, so Chris stayed home from work that day. Cecilia started with the cold the next day, and Caroline after her. They are both at the last stages, I think (the keep yourself- and everyone else- awake coughing stage). So we have been laying low... and we had a very enjoyable day on Wednesday, even though both girls were snotty and coughy.

That is tea in Cecilia's cup - raspberry herbal tea with honey. I was hoping the honey especially would feel soothing on their throats. Caroline, surprisingly, drank all the tea and has been asking for more twice a day!! She has never liked tea, hot chocolate, or much of anything else besides water in a cup. Cecilia drank it up when I first gave her some, but since then she has asked for it and then not drunk any. We are washing hands a lot, drinking hot tea, the girls are taking their cod liver oil and I am taking extra vitamin C... and I just ordered some dried elderberries to make elderberry syrup (for future use). Hoping we'll be well enough for Halloween!

It was a dreary day in addition to us being sick... rainy and blah. When are we going to see some real autumn days, the kinds with crisp blue skies and bright sun with highs in the 60s? Oh well, if we are going to be stuck inside and with colds, then we can still enjoy the fact that it is fall. I bought some pumpkin butter at Trader Joe's - yum!! Rice cakes with cream cheese and pumpkin butter with a cup of hot tea, cuddled up reading books on the couch (well, after the rice cakes were consumed, that is)... then watching a bit of Little Bear with Caroline... we had a relaxing and fun fall day, even if it wasn't filled with raking leaves and carving pumpkins!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Daybook for October 25, 2009

Outside my window... it was a beautiful, perfect fall day today. Too bad I couldn't really enjoy it... I have a sore throat and a cold along with all that fun stuff that goes along with it: difficulty breathing through the nose, sinus pressure and headache. Thankfully it is just a cold - no fever, no flu symptoms!

I am thinking... about the great time we had in Atlanta... Caroline and Cecilia got to play at Gramma's preschool on the playground and at the costume parade Thursday evening. I had fun helping out and running my typical Atlanta errands to the stores that I don't have near my home.

I am wondering... how Halloween got to be the second largest commercial holiday in recent years... it's crazy! There are entire Halloween superstores now... and why do they sell such utterly disgusting and/or trashy costumes lately? And why do adults dress up for Halloween nowadays? I am not talking about parents who dress up with their kids, but single adult people who dress up each year. Even for somebody who dressed up to trick-or-treat through her senior year in high school, it is weird.

I am thankful... that Caroline and Chris don't seem to be sick... just CC and me.

Learning at home... we weren't really at home much at all last week. We did extended family learning. And shopping learning. Caroline is very good at controlling the kid shopping carts at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. And for those familiar with TJ's, Caroline found *two* Joeys in the same trip this time!

From the kitchen... some easy stuff since I am sick. I want to make an autumn stew w/ roasted veggies one day. Oh, and Chris made a spiced apple bread (mix from Trader Joe's) to take to the neighbors who found one of our lost chickens - ALIVE!! We think that it is Eat. Guessing that More was eaten by the dog. She took the hit for the other three hens.

Eat, home again!

I am reading... the latest New Beginnings magazine from La Leche League.

To live the liturgy... I would love to attend an All Saints party one year in the near future. For now, I am not sure what we'll do for All Saints day... go to Mass, of course.

I am creating... this blog post. That's about as good as I can do right now. I helped make baked beans for the costume parade Thursday...

Around the house... some laundry, cleaning sinks and toilets that didn't get cleaned last week. And my favorite: unpacking.

I am hearing... Bud Dickman's Weekly Top Ten from April 2001 (on Chris's computer in the sunroom). Which is making me realize that eight years ago, I was working in a daycare center as my last summer job.

One of my favorite things... Cecilia's laugh!

A few plans for the rest of the week... Friday, there is a costume party at Caroline's MMO, but I don't know yet if we will go. Saturday is Halloween, and we will trick-or-treat as well as attend a bonfire/cookout in our neighbors' cul-de-sac, which should be lots of fun!

A picture thought I am sharing... more TJs pics and CC with Gramma:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why do I...

...take my children with me to Mass? Why don't I leave them in the church nursery? After all, if I cannot focus totally on what is being said, read, and sung, aren't I missing the whole point of being there anyway? If I can't concentrate totally, why do I go at all?

I have been posting a bunch lately, but there will probably be a lull over the next four days while I am in Atlanta visiting my family while hubby takes a business trip...

Anyway, back to the initial question... which has many answers. There are lots of reasons why I bring my children to Mass with me from the time they are tiny babies, and lots of reasons why I do not leave them in the nursery. I am going to begin with why I don't leave them in the nursery because that relates more to the attachment parenting perspective.

First, I would be interested to hear - in case people from different regions want to chime in on this - how common are church nurseries in your area? I have been told that among Catholics, it is a southern thing and that many Catholic churches in the North do not have nurseries. I am not sure if this regional difference is the same with most Protestant denominations...

One of the key pieces of parenting, to me, is the attachment process with my babies. In order to best facilitate this, many mother who practice AP keep their babies with them at all times. So, leaving the baby in the nursery - even if only for an hour - is a disruption to the concept of mother-baby togetherness. A nursing baby of course needs access to the breast frequently, and so unless the mother is also in the nursery, then the baby cannot nurse on-demand (another thing most AP mothers do is nurse on-demand rather than on a set schedule). So for the most basic reason, as an AP parent I don't leave my children in the nursery because I believe in keeping them with me - and I am in the church!

Other reasons for avoiding the nursery are numerous and probably some knit-picky... and this is in no way meant to bash church nurseries. I am sure many have competent, loving caregivers and are clean, safe environments. Not having used the one at my own church, I have no idea. But I have worked in day care enough though to have some concerns regarding the environment of child care facilities. So many of these reasons also go along with things that make me leery of any child care facilities for babies and toddlers!
So, some other reasons:
* Is it really clean in the church nursery? How often do they sweep, vacuum, sanitize tables and changing tables, clean the toys that other babies put into their mouths?
* Especially during cold and flu season, do I want to expose my children to the germs there? Again, if the cleaning is not adequate and hand washing is not done enough, then illnesses are likely to spread. Some parents don't keep their kids home if they are sick, and many church nurseries don't have (or don't enforce) a policy about children with fevers, snotty noses, coughs, etc. A friend recently shared her concerns that some of the kids in the nursery may go to day care during the week, increasing the amount of germs they are exposed to and then bring into the nursery environment.
* Do I know the caregivers? Many people do, I am sure. My concerns about caregivers are how attentive they would be if my baby was crying and how they would handle discipline. I have seen caregivers put 20 month old children in time-out for crying because they missed their mothers! To me, that is not acceptable, nor is yelling at one and two year olds from across the room rather than going and physically helping them carry out your requests.
* What about food? Some church nurseries will provide a snack - is it something I want my child to eat each week? For a toddler who may not eat much anyway, I would want to make every calorie count, and if they are eating sugary snacks, white flour, HFCS, artificial colors, etc., then they would be even less likely to eat something more nutritious at lunchtime. Also, what about children with allergies? Do they take precautions so that those children are not exposed to allergens? Do the caregivers share the children's food around with other kids? I have seen that happen - the food brought by one child is given to another because the first child wasn't eating it. Then mom and dad think kid ate the food when in reality, some other kid (whose parent may not have wanted them to eat the colored Goldfish crackers!) ate it.
* What are their beliefs regarding babies? Will they leave them in the bouncy seat, the exersaucer, the swing as much as possible and only pick them up to feed or change them? Do they feel that babies should be content to be sitting alone the whole time and yell out, "Oh, you're okay!" to a crying 9 month old?
* Babies and toddlers are not "social" in that they need to interact with other kids their age. Developmentally, this is just not true. A 20 month old does not have to be around other one and two year olds to "have friends" and learn how to "get along with others." This will come with maturity. Much better is for children to be around loving adults and mixed ages of children. The older ones pave the way for the younger ones, helping to teach them new things and how the routines of life go by their example.

So maybe I am a bit paranoid here, but I have seen lots of things in daycare settings, mother's morning outs, and church nurseries that I wouldn't want happening to or around my baby or young toddler. If a teacher hands out a few potato chips to my three year old, it's not such a big deal, but if they are feeding them to my 14 month old while she is walking around the room... a much bigger problem in my opinion.

So, on to the most important thing: why do I take my children to Mass? It is not just so I can avoid leaving them in the nursery!

I believe in going to church as a family. Mass is a weekly event - maybe one day we'll work in some daily Masses as well ;) - and for Catholics, this is obligatory. We don't skip Mass unless there is a serious reason such as illness. We attend Mass when we travel, even if it is inconvenient. Therefore, it is not an option to just not go to Mass. So even if I end up in the vestibule (fancy word for an entrance or lobby-type area, in case anyone is unfamiliar with the term) because my toddler is fussy or squirmy or loud, then I still am obligated to go. For Catholics, the meaning of Mass is the Eucharist. We go because we are supposed to go and worship Jesus and receive Him in Holy Communion. It does not matter if I miss the readings or cannot sing the hymns... it is not about me, and it is certainly not about how Mass makes me feel or what I get out of it. It is about worshipping Jesus, not about meeting my needs to feel spiritually fulfilled. Of course, it is nice to feel spiritually fulfilled, and all people go through times where they feel less fulfilled than other times in their lives. Perhaps being occupied with small children is one of those times... and perhaps it can become more spiritually fulfilling if embraced with an attitude of, "I am working to raise souls for Christ, and I am trying to be compassionate to my children as He would be to them. he would want us to teach them about Him, to bring them to Him, even if they cannot behave in a quiet, "church-like" manner." Offering up your sacrifices of not being able to follow the whole homily )or missing part of the Mass due to a temper tantrum or a fussy baby, or whatever) is a way of worshipping God. We turn our hardships over to Him and unite our suffering with His, remembering that He suffered far more than we are due to not being able to hear the Gospel reading! We can always go back at a quieter moment (or do this ahead!) and read the Mass readings ourselves if we feel we need more spiritual nourishment and understanding.

So, Mass is a family event for us. We feel that as parents, we are the primary educators of our children as God has assigned us to be, and we take that role seriously with regard to religious instruction from infancy! And since doing is one of the best ways of learning, we do Mass with our children. They learn that it is so important for us to be there - and that it is important to us that they are there! Some churches have a "children's liturgy," which I have somewhat mixed feelings on (okay, only slight mixed feelings - I am mostly not in favor of it!). I do think it is good that they are trying to provide religious instruction on a level that perhaps is better understood by the children, but again, they leave their parents to do so (unless parents come with them, thus leaving Mass for the readings and homily), and I like that the children return for the most important part of the Mass. However, often the children's liturgy is done in contradiction to the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) , which states that an ordained priest or deacon be the only one who presents the Gospel during the Liturgy of the Mass. There are often not enough of them to go around, and the instruction of the children's liturgy often falls on a lay volunteer. Also, I am sure that some offer a reverent atmosphere and present good information for the children, but I am also sure that some are merely controlled chaos. I also don't care for the idea of taking the children out of the Mass - it sends an unintentional message that Mass is only for older children and adults, and that little kids need something "fun" and "special" to make Mass worth their while (I have posted about the child-centered stuff before! ;).

By keeping the children in Mass with us from infancy on, they grow up learning the appropriate ways to behave in Mass. I know that some people keep their children in church even if they are wailing nonstop, and all the parents do is ignore or make empty threats about "if you don't stop, we're going to x..." and then not following through on that. I am sure we have all seen this, and so I want to state that I am not condoning keeping the children within the church when they are interfering with other parishioners' worship. I think little baby noises are fine, hearing a child's voice here and there, or things like loud and a bit too late "Amens" (my four year old) or the repeating of a response a few times (my 20 month old's "Shall be healed! Shall be healed!"). But if the talking goes on and on, the child is just too loud and doesn't understand the concept of whispering or cannot apply it very well (we lucked out so bad on that one with Caroline! Cecilia doesn't get whispering yet...), or if there is crying or otherwise disgruntled baby/toddler noise, then they need to be taken out of the church. I am glad that our church now has closed-circuit TVs in the vestibule. Most churches at least have the sound piped into the vestibule via speakers, which hopefully encourages people to be reverent in the vestibule as well (although it can be really tough if you have to work against a rowdy crew in the vestibule!). Going to the vestibule because of fussing or yelling or whatever is, to me, just a natural reaction, not a punishment. If my four year old was hitting the people in front of us with the songbooks, then I guess it'd be a punishment... but I am talking about taking a crying child out. Mass can be a long experience for a toddler or young preschooler! They might just need the change of scenery. But going into the vestibule is not a "reward" for us, either. Cecilia does not get down to run around and play when we go there. It is hard if other kids are running back and forth across the room when you get to the vestibule - fortunately this rarely happens anymore, at least not at the Mass we attend. She must stay in my arms or on my lap - so in the sling is a good place for her. Nursing is also something we might do in the vestibule if she's upset, although we'll nurse in Mass as well if she is not making a loud disruption... nothing quieter than a nursing toddler in Mass (except for maybe a sleeping one!) - and not only is she being still and relatively quiet, which is appropriate Mass behavior, but I get to stay in the church and hear some of the readings too! Nursing in Mass is win-win, in my opinion.

So, what can be done so that the entire Mass is not spent taking children in and out? This in itself can be disruptive to some parishioners, although if done a few times at appropriate times in the Mass, I think it can be done respectfully. Some of the things I have done in Mass to try to keep the toddlers content (it is usually not the babies, who are content to sleep in the sling or nurse or just be held):
* Point out important parts of the Mass, important people. "Here comes the cross down the aisle! the priest is following behind. There he goes up to the altar." Name the priest and deacon and point them out. This is all done in whispers and subtle gestures, of course.
* Point out the sacramentals within the church... the prayer candles, the tabernacle and red candle ("That means Jesus is here with us!"), the stained-glass windows, the statues of saints, the crucifix... some churches have these along the sides and in the back, where you can walk a bit with the restless child in your arms and look at these things yet not disturb anyone else. I know this is not an option in some other Christian denominations that may not have many candles or statues, etc... I love that we have these "teaching tools" available for our children (and ourselves!) to learn through our senses of sight and touch and smell!
* Sing the hymns and say the responses. These happen throughout the Mass, so they offer variety along with the sit, stand, kneel variety... there are different things going on frequently during the Mass!
* Try to sit close to the front (but on the aisle in case of need for quick escape!). When they can see the altar more clearly, there is more to keep them interested. This might not work well until the child is two or three years old, though... some toddlers might not care at all. Caroline got to the point where she knew Father Jim would genuflect behind the altar, and she would say, "Peekaboo!" quietly when he stood back up and was visible again.
* Try not to bring in many toys, food, and other items intended to distract. The reasons we don't do this are because we don't want to set the expectation that we bring toys in Mass - once they are older, the toys will have to be taken away! I also don't want the toys to become scattered around and annoying to people nearby. That said, sometimes rummaging through Mom's purse for a moment can be a relief to her if she has a busy toddler. A plastic rosary, a couple holy cards, or a small children's Bible can be used as well. Cecilia liked to pick up a "Pray for Vocations" card with the Pope on it from the vestibule. I have seen parents handle toys in church very well and not so well... bringing just a few quiet items, maybe books or a few pencils and paper... while we really don't bring anything "extra" to Mass, I don't think it is a bad thing unless parents overdo it. Many parents are very mindful when their children's items are about to cause a distraction. Some are not - and you end up with markers being used on the church furniture and strewn across the vestibule floor where people need to walk. My concern is that if more and more/bigger and better toys are needed each week to keep a child satified, then what will that turn into? I have seen older kids (five, seven, ten) playing Gameboys (or whatever handheld video game systems are called nowadays!) in Mass - some with headphones on, some with the volume turned up where people around them can hear it! I even saw a kid who was playing his video game during the consecration (for non-Catholics, this is the point in the Mass where the priest is holding up the bread and wine which are becoming the Body and Blood of Christ - the most important and reverent part of the Mass!) and he apparently was having trouble getting past a certain point in the game - so he handed the video game to his mom, who willingly obliged and got him past the difficult spot right there while the priest was doing the consecration! Even if our own children are being disruptive during Mass, we can teach them by example and model the appropriate way to behave in church - and not playing video games, or even allowing them in the church building, can be a way to model this! I like to remember that even if my children are behaving inappropriately, my own reaction is more important than what other people think about them being obnoxious or about me "not disciplining them" right or not putting them in the nursery in the first place... what is important is that I show my child how to behave, that I remove him if he is getting to actually be disruptive - which communicates to him that we don't stay in church if we are loud, rowdy, whatever - and that I give him ample opportunities to be in church so he will gradually learn how to behave there.

For us, we always start Mass inside the actual church and move out to the vestibule if needed. Caroline can remain in Mass the whole time, rarely needing to be taken out at this point. So one of us (almost always Daddy) stays with her (while I take the toddler out). I can see that if we had two or three younger ones that it may be more difficult - if both parents are occupied with squirmy/fussy babies and/or toddlers, then it may be a better option to start in the vestibule or in the back of the church right near an exit until the youngest ones are a bit older, and then they can gradually try to sit in the church... baby steps. Even if you have to be in the vestibule the entire time, the point is that you are going and your children know that Mass on Sundays is something that the family does. You are not staying home because the children cannot handle it - you are going and working on it and making the best of it, all while teaching them through example that Mass is important!

I know there is more I could say on this (but it is late!)... Mass is very important to Catholics, and including the children helps them to learn that it is a way of life for us. My children end up learning the responses and prayers and many hymns just be being there at church. They learn the Stations of the Cross and terminology like Pascal candle, bapismal font, and tabernacle. They learn to genuflect and to make the Sign of the Cross. They learn about what it means to be Catholic.

And a bit more...

A little more to add to the NFP topic following the video I embedded in the last post... this is very important in understanding why homosexual unions should not be defined as being the same as marriage between a man and a woman.

The Difference is the Difference is the name of the article... h/t to That Married Couple for the post which linked me to this article.

The article is not a long read at all, and for those who feel strongly about defending traditional marriage, it is a must-read. But it also concerns me... without the fullness of the understanding of the differences between man and woman, without the truth about human sexuality as presented by Catholicism, what is to stop gay marriage from becoming legally the same as traditional marriage? I have thought a lot about this, and I cannot defend it properly without coming back to the birth control issue. If anyone else can argue against gay "marriage" effectively without including the heterosexual couples being open to life, then I would sure like to hear it! Once you take away the major difference between homosexual acts and heterosexual acts - procreation - then there is not much of a difference any more. Sex becomes only for pleasure in both cases, whether new life cannot be transmitted because of biological impossibilities (as with homosexual acts), or when the sexual act is rendered sterile purposely by heterosexual couples.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More relating to NFP...

A video here that discusses some reasons for not using contraception... and there is much much more written on the subject of how birth control becoming widely accepted began the breakdown of the family and the obsession with sex in our culture over the past century.

Eat and More are No More; Presumed Eaten

Here are the survivors, Chicken and Sally (the barred rocks). We recovered them late Friday afternoon. Chris got home a bit earlier than normal and came inside asking, "What happened to our chickens?!??" I had been about to take the girls outside myself... Chris reported that the chicken wire on one side of the coop had been pulled back and that one of the chickens was laying in the yard, but the rest were nowhere to be seen!

The one laying in the yard - Chicken - was apparently just sunning herself, although from the way Chris described it, I thought maybe she'd been in shock until he found her and picked her up. Chris followed the trail of feathers to the next door neighbor's yard. Thank goodness they hadn't thrown out their pile of old campaign signs - Sally had been able to take shelter there from whatever had attacked them! Chris pulled her out, and then we went searching for the Australorps. Chris walked through backyards while the girls and I circled the block, looking for any signs of the two missing chickens.

The scene of the crime - this photo was taken after we'd moved the chicken tractor for the day. Lots of feathers...

...spilled food, too. The feeder had been knocked down completely. We could not figure out what animal would be strong enough to pull the staple-gunned chicken wire off the wood! The only predator we'd seen so far was a hawk which landed on the swingset and freaked out the chickens about two weeks ago. While it is unlikely that a hawk could have pulled off the wire - have you seen how BIG those birds are up close?? I wasn't going to put anything past one...

Another thought was raccoons, since they can actually grab things, so maybe they could have pulled the wire off. But this happened in broad daylight - right under our noses! The girls and I were in the house when it happened. Raccoons are generally nocturnal...

Back to the Australorp search: we found their feathers in the same neighbor's yard where Sally had been hiding. Then they went back to the steep slope that leads to another neighbor's house behind ours. The trail split once in the front of the house, and one set of black feathers went into one yard while the other went into the next yard... and then both stopped. No sign of the birds anywhere - not in any bushes, nothing. At this point I printed up "Lost Chickens" signs for Chris to put up around the neighborhood!

The girls collected some of the feathers today - so now we have a keepsake of the 'Lorpie-Lorpies, as Caroline and I liked to refer to them. Too bad following the evidence left behind did not lead us to them! They were such pretty birds... if they don't show up in the next few days (which I am not holding my breath about), we will get some more. The seller we got all four hens from doesn't have any more Australorps - we bought his last two. He has more rocks, but I'd really like to have the variety. Australorps are supposed to be better layers. they are slightly bigger birds and prettier, in my opinion, but also more aloof. The rocks are more social, coming to investigate whenever we go out to see them, pecking at things we hold through the cage... and hey, they are the breed that survived this attack, right? The fact that Chicken was just laying there in our yard speaks to her humorous character... I wonder where she went to escape, or if she just stayed put while the other birds were chased?

So today, there was a new revelation in the chicken tragedy...

I found this new hole in the chicken wire after chasing off a dog. A medium-sized yet very sturdy-looking dog was running back and forth outside the chicken tractor, and the rocks were going nuts over it. So outside I ran, freshly-awoken toddler in one arm, screaming at the dog to get out of here, go home, get away... even when I picked up a stick and a board and chased him, he didn't care. He looked at me in a friendly way, even though I was screaming like a lunatic at him. Finally, he did leave the yard... I tried to catch him by his collar when he would lay down, but he was too quick. I noticed the damage he'd done to the wire after he ran across the street to pester the neighbor's dogs.

Here's a second hole I found. These were both big enough for me to put my hand through... and it didn't take long for him to make them, because I'd been out to check on the chickens just a while before noticing the dog being out there.

Chris had nailed boards over the edge of the chicken wire after Friday's attack... so that whatever had done it couldn't pull the wire off again. We hadn't counted on this animal coming back and biting through the chicken wire... and breaking off the boards with its teeth!!!

Here are the teeth marks in the broken off piece of a board.

Chicken: "Thanks for running off that dog before he broke all the way into our home. Now will you please fix our roost so I don't have to perch on it all crooked like this???"

I called Animal Control since the dog wouldn't leave the area (the neighbor's dogs were still quite irritated by this dog standing on the other side of their fence, taunting them!). They said they'd send somebody out. In the meantime, the kid across the street had come outside to see what all the barking was about - his house is next to the neighbors who have the dogs that were in their fenced yard. He seemed to be trying to coax the stray dog away, because he had a bowl of something in his hand. I called out to him and asked if he knew who owned the dog. He told me it belonged to his friend, and that it was "wild" and had gotten off its chain before.

Then Animal Control called back. The officer said they'd received a call about the same dog earlier, had come out to look, and couldn't find it anywhere in the neighborhood. He said they couldn't come back today but would come by sometime tomorrow. He also asked if I could find out where the dog lived (uhh, well, he's in my yard... so no, I can't really tell where he lives because he's not there!!). The kid across the street was out again, so i asked him if he knew the address - he said no, but he told me the street. So, I told the Animal Control guy this, but he said they'd come back if they knew which house so they could speak to the owners. Really helpful, huh? Anyway, in driving around the neighborhood, I remembered a dog being chained in a fenceless yard about the same size as this dog... that may very well be the house. I will have to ask the neighbor kid if that's the house. Not sure if we should talk to the owners or just tell Animal Control where the dog lives... the neighbor kid may well tell them I called Animal Control, because I told him that's who I was talking to, hoping that if we knew where the dog lived, they could catch him and take him home and then tell his owners he needed a fence or something.

So, if there's no way to ensure this dog won't get back in our yard again, we had to take precautions. Chris stopped at Lowe's and bought a stronger wire - hardware cloth, it is called. It is a finer weave and is thicker gauge wire, and it costs much more than the chicken wire did... we will watch closely to make sure the dog can't bite holes in this! If he does, I am going to be scared of him! ;)

So, Chicken and Sally have fewer feathers and are therefore easier to handle - less feathers to flap when trying to get out of our hands. I am hoping they are warm enough with the colder weather we've been having now. They don't have any bald spots, and they are acting pretty normal overall now. At first they wouldn't come out of the enclosed part of their home and weren't eating much, but they are doing better now, so I am hopeful that they will both survive. They only had a couple minor scratches and the missing feathers. It is hard to tell if they are eating as much as they should since we were seeing four birds eating before, and now the feeder is being filled less frequently. They are a bit smaller so probably eat less, but it is hard to gauge, so we're just keeping an eye on them...

If we end up getting a few more, I will post photos!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why do I...

...nurse my children past age 12 months? Or even past six months? Why do I let them wean themselves? Isn't it weird to breastfeed a one, two, three year old child?

The short answer: Because it is easier.

Mothers do talk about weaning at a specific age as being difficult - because it was cutting something off relatively quickly, and the child protested it. Child-led weaning happens gradually, so there is no deprival.

But starting at the beginning... why breastfeed at all? There are so many reasons, some of which I am sure most of you know. I bet each person reading this knows that breastmilk is healthier for the baby. It lowers the incidence of a number of childhood illnesses and ailments, and even is a factor in preventing diseases later in life. Some of you probably also know that a mother who breastfeeds reduces her risks of certain diseases as well. By doing what is biologically indicated, we achieve more normal health - that is, lower incidence of many cancers and other problems.

Then there are the benefits that are not so measurable... the parts that are not merely scientific, but become a way of life. The bonding, the closeness, the mother as the baby's natural habitat, the ability to provide comfort as well as nutrition at all times... the emotional aspects of it. Babies need frequent touching and holding, and they have a suck need that cannot always be fully met through a bottle (or they'd overeat! They can't control the flow with a bottle the way they do at the breast). Breastfeeding is the most natural way to meet these biological needs... it is the way our bodies were intended to function.

So, as for breastfeeding a toddler... Do toddlers still need nutrition? Of course. Comforting? Closeness? You bet!

Many people think that breastmilk loses its nutritional value or immunological benefits after a certain time - most commonly, people believe that there is "no value" in mother's milk past either age six months or age 12 months. In fact, breastmilk still is nature's perfect food for the older baby - it is intended to be the primary source of a baby's nutrition up to age 12 months. All solid foods up to that point should be for experimentation and learning about tastes and textures rather than actually trying to fill the baby up on the solids. He should have room for the most important food - breastmilk! At age 12 months, a baby can gradually shift toward more solid foods, although many babies still get most of their calories through breastmilk for many more months. Older babies/young toddlers are typically known for their decreased appetites, and breastmilk fills in any gaps in their nutrition when they go through phases of eating very little, or not eating certain nutrients in solid food form. Personally, my first child didn't eat hardly any solids until about 13 months old - she just wasn't ready. She grew and thrived on breastmilk alone, and once she began solids, she had a healthy appetite for them. It is a myth that breastfeeding a toddler instead of them eating lots of solids will make them picky - by 18 months, Caroline had eased into eating a variety of solids, and she remains a healthy eater today. When nursing a toddler, what a relief to have the assurance that your child is still getting B vitamins, healthy fats, vitamin A and C, etc! This is why the formula companies have been marketing "follow-up formulas" to parents in order to ensure that their toddler is getting essential nutrients. I would guess that for many weaned toddlers, as much as half - potentially more - of their daily calories come from either these follow-up formulas or from cow's milk. Something that God designed to be the perfect food for babies would surely provide more perfect nutrition than something that was designed to feed baby cows, right? Not that formulas and cow's milk don't contain nutrition... but they cannot replicate the nutrition in breastmilk.

Nor can they replicate the immunological benefits. Breastfed babies typically get sick less often and recover more easily from illnesses. This continues as long as the child is breastfed. When the mother is exposed to an illness, her body makes antibodies which the child then gets through the milk - regardless of his age. Caroline recovered from minor colds very quickly as a toddler, and she got through her first puking bug when she was a little over age 2 because she was breastfeeding, She couldn't even keep down water and saltines, but she kept down enough breastmilk that she wasn't dehydrated. Breastmilk is so rapidly digested... a lot gets absorbed before it even hits the stomach. So, the toddler gets immunities to his illness while also receiving nutrition. A sick toddler is also in much need of comfort, and nursing is a favorite comfort!

So, babies still get those well-known benefits of breastmilk into their toddler years. What about the bonding aspect?

A baby who has been mothered through breastfeeding and has been nursed on demand without being heavily persuaded to take a lot of solids (or bottles or sippy cups or pacis) will not just naturally want to wean at age 12 months. It is rare for a baby to self-wean before age 18-24 months. Did you know the worldwide age of weaning is somewhere between two and four years old? And that is with the US's very low rates averaged in there as well! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed "for the first 12 months and as long after that as is mutually desired." Many people seem to look at this as meaning that it is time to wean after 12 months. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding at least two years and then as long beyond that as is desired.

Many people may say that a toddler who nurses is just doing it for comfort, just "using the mother as a pacifier,"etc. To an extent, that may be true. The milk, while still providing benefits, is probably not the main reason for many toddlers' continuation of nursing. they like the closeness. It is a time of quiet and peace in their otherwise busy days. It is a chance to reconnect with mom here and there throughout the day. It can be quite comforting while teething (my oldest got all 20 of her teeth as a toddler and none as an infant!). It can get a busy little body settled down enough to fall asleep for a much-needed nap. It can soothe tantrums and other frustrations that happen to little people as they learn how to navigate a big world. It can distract a child from something as well... I know that the reason I can make it through part of Mass each week before going out into the vestibule is because Cecilia can be occupied with nursing while I listen to the readings and homily! Breastfeeding makes travel easier, because the child's favorite comfort and food are right there with you - nothing extra to pack or bring along with you if visiting a bunch of different places with a toddler who may be shy about new environments.

But won't they never wean unless you make them wean? Well, there are no reports of adults who still nurse, so it would seem that every child will wean eventually. Some may self-wean at 2, others may nurse until age 7. In our culture, seven seems so, so old... but there are cultures where this is extremely beneficial, such as very cold arctic areas where there is not much of a food supply. I bet the bodily warmth helps out in those areas as well! ;) Children get more teeth at age six. Other mammals typically won't wean until they have all their teeth in. So, biologically, it is not so weird for a child to nurse to age seven.

For those who have not been around older babies and children who still nurse, be aware that it is different from nursing a little baby. An older child can often go much longer without nursing, or may only nurse when hurt or tired or cranky. Also, they nurse for shorter sessions. They may just nurse a couple minutes at a time as a three year old. Also, as they get older, children become more accepting of certain limits a mother may place on nursing. While it is easy to nurse a baby in a sling while grocery shopping, it is a bit more awkward and tedious to push a shopping cart while trying to nurse a two year old! Often toddlers can accept limits such as, "We'll nurse when we get to the car," or "We'll nurse at home." Cecilia is 20 months old, and she will typically be able to wait at least until I can find a place to sit down if we are out and about. She can also wait until we get to our destination if we are about to leave somewhere. She doesn't think she can wait yet during Mass! But that is okay - I am typically sitting half the time, so it works out still.

We have been taught - indirectly, usually - that nursing a child past 12 months is wrong, perverted, abusive, etc. It is not, of course, but it is easy to see why people can sometimes perceive this. We really don't see people breastfeeding very often around us - and especially not a toddler! I don't think i have ever seen anyone else nurse a toddler outside of La Leche League. And I have only seen two babies nursed in public in the town where I live - in a ten year period! Yet we see babies with bottles every time we go to Wal-Mart. So the cultural message, while unspoken, is clear: that babies drink from bottles and that breastfeeding should be hidden or not done at all. This causes lower breastfeeding rates overall - most people who feel like they cannot or should not nurse in public won't last long with breastfeeding. So they never even get to the toddler years... and then we see no toddlers nursing around us, either. While I make an effort to be discreet (meaning not "whipping it out," as many ignorant comments seem to suggest happens frequently when a woman nurses in public), I will not hide. I understand that some people feel uncomfortable nursing their babies in public and would rather find a secluded spot - and that is fine - whatever it takes for them to breastfeed successfully! But I really believe that to change the cultural perceptions about breastfeeding, it needs to be seen more often as a part of life, and as something that is normal! If anyone has questions on nursing in public, feel free to comment - I could probably do a whole "Why Do I Nurse in Public?" post - it seems to be a topic which is frequently met with objections, and each objection has a logical answer, often a biological one.

Children younger than school age are really still so little - just babies still! I still call children under age two "babies." They still wear diapers, cannot talk in complete sentences usually... they are babies. They will wean eventually if left completely alone, just like they will potty train eventually if left completely alone. And like they will sleep solid stretches if left completely alone... there's a trend to this attachment parenting stuff, huh? ;) Of course, they need to have guidance and examples. But not much has to be forced on a toddler - they bloom in their own time and outgrow "babyish" behavior as they grow into being children. We see toddlers as old as three and four with pacifiers all the time, and some who still use bottles - and usually we don't even think twice about the child with a pacifier, yet we think differently of the three year old who is nursing. The only difference is that the child is gradually outgrowing sucking needs in differnet ways. And with breastfeeding, he is still getting attachment needs met as well!

I feel like there is more to say on this topic... but it is 11:30 and I should go to bed! If there are any concerns or questions regarding extended breastfeeding that I didn't cover, ask away! Goodnight, all!

Daybook for October 18, 2009

Outside my window... a cold day! Well, cold for October... it was in the 50s much of the time. But it was actually a clear, crisp, blue sky kind of fall day... we haven't had many of those so far!

I am thinking... about doing Why Do I posts on extended breastfeeding and taking children to Mass.

I am wondering... if, now that my husband has hung wires and ropes from the roof to trees all across our backyard and drilled a hole in our sunroom wall, I will be allowed to hang up my license plate collection as a border around the sunroom. I have about 50 old license plates, from Maine to California.

I am thankful... that we still have two chickens. More details in a later post, maybe tomorrow.

Learning at home... Cecilia is counting randomly ("three, four, five, six, two!"), sings Five Little Pumpkins sitting on a Gate ("woooo wind, out light, five punkuns wool sight!"), and is learning the words to "Never Gonna Give You Up." Caroline is writing (like a welcome sign for her grandparents that said "WLCOCOM" on it), visualizing addition and subtraction mentally ("five squirrels live there... two are the parents, so they have three kids"), and her drawings become more and more realistic all the time. My husband is learning how to string copper wire in trees in order to talk to people in Arizona and how to hold chickens under one arm.

From the kitchen... hoping to make a pumpkin recipe or two this week... pumpkin brownies, perhaps, and maybe pumpkin muffins or cookies (with chocolate chips, of course!). Not much else - I want to make some hummus sometime. We'll be out of town from Wednesday through Saturday, so I'll be hanging out in Mom's kitchen!

I am reading... Attached at the Heart - slowly but surely, still.

To live the liturgy... I have made saint magnets for several days now - almost through November. Caroline has been putting them on the calendar on the appropriate days.

I am creating... La Leche League meeting plans. Okay, I created those last week, but we need to decide if they need to be tweaked before Tuesday's meeting.

Around the house... laundry needs to be done tomorrow and Tuesday so I can pack. Didn't change the sheets this weekend... will do on Wednesday so we come home to fresh sheets next weekend!

I am hearing... I should just remove this one from the list. All I ever say is that I hear the baby monitor, Chris on the ham radio, and computer noises...

One of my favorite things... spending time with extended family!

A few plans for the rest of the week... Busy, busy. I volunteer at Caroline's Mothers' Morning Out tomorrow, then Tuesday is our LLL meeting, more Mothers' Morning Out on Wednesday (Caroline's regular day), then heading to Atlanta that afternoon... where we have a costume parade and dinner at my mom's preschool along with my traditional trips to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Target... and possibly IKEA this time as well!

A picture thought I am sharing...

Caroline at the pumpkin patch story/song time at her mothers' morning out program

Cecilia loving her Gran goodbye

Hope everybody has a nice week!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Parenting is Hard!!

We had a very tough day here. We have actually had several tough days lately. Parenting is hard, no matter what style you practice. This is not specifically a "Why Do I" post, but it will discuss Attachment Parenting, just as an FYI.

Parenting is hard in America, emotionally and mentally, no matter what - if you care about your kids, that is just a reality, it seems. Being concerned for their well-being and how you are raising them is going to make you emotionally and mentally drained at times. It can also be physically exhausting, and even more so for an AP parent who may not sleep through the night for a few years per child! For a breastfeeding AP mom, handing the baby off with a bottle to somebody else isn't usually in the game plan. Leaving the baby alone all night (regardless of whether he's sleeping or screaming) once he reaches a certain age isn't usually in the agenda either. Ignoring the child while she talks on the phone, putting the child in daycare as soon as possible, and over-using baby entertainment devices (swings, bouncies, Baby Einstein videos...) isn't something the AP mom typically includes in her parenting practices. The AP mother is giving of herself- of her physical body - just about 24/7. Her constant availability can be physically exhausting!

Before I go on, I will say - it is still worth it! I don't want to make it sound like it is not. I know there are a few future moms who read here who are interested in AP, and I do not want to scare you, but I do want to share the reality... it is a lot of work. But all parenting is hard work, and at the end of the day, no matter how tired, I am glad I didn't leave my baby crying alone (not talking about walking away for a composure-regaining break - I mean leaving them indefinitely or as a plan to control their sleep or dependence), I am glad I didn't throw in the towel and send my husband to the store for bottles and formula when breastfeeding was tough, I am glad I attempted to control myself and didn't spank my preschooler, etc. I parent this way not because it is easier, but because I believe in it. I believe in the gentle example and how it can affect my children when they see gentleness and sensitivity to their needs, which are so many in their early, most dependent years.

Parenting is really hard for Americans because we go it alone in many ways. Families who live next door to the grandparents are smart, not lazy, immature, or any other negative thing! The community help and support, day to day, would be such a positive thing! It doesn't happen as much now and in our culture... my best friend in high school grew up living next door to her grandmother. How cool would that be, to be able to go play over there any time, to help her out with tasks around her home as an older child, to have her over helping out with meal preparation and other work in the home?

It seems like the main ways parents are supported in their parenting today are 1. by "schools" (I put this in quotation marks because it is not school for a baby or one or two year old! It is daycare!) and 2. other forms of child care and help with children. This would include anything from babysitting to the people who want to just come over and hold the new baby for the mom (rather than bringing them a meal). It also includes the modern-day phenomenon of grandparents raising their grandchildren rather than the above example, being a part of their daily lives alongside the actual parents. This doesn't offer much help for attachment parents who want to minimize separations with their babies! I assume it is helpful to parents who need to work, of course. So, if parenting is so hard, and if the help of a community would be helpful, yet today's community of outside child care is not what the parents feel is best, then what would be helpful to them?

Help within the home! Rather than offers of, "Why don't I keep the baby so you can get away for a couple days?" how about, "Why don't I come over and help you prepare a few meals for the next few days/for the freezer?" This is how it used to be: the community was made up of people who live together and work together - the kids all played together while the adults worked together, and the kids would help out here and there and gradually learn about all the day-to-day tasks just by being immersed in the community life... not by being sent off for other-care. When there are many children of varying ages around, and many moms all having cooking and cleaning to be done, then what an ideal situation! We get cabin fever because we live alone, and we complete our household tasks alone, and our children play alone, or with a few siblings. We crave variety because we don't have the contact with a larger group of people regularly. So we send our children to numerous activities of their own and try to find our own separate activities as adults, abandoning the home, the heart of family life. Our children grow up without a large group of other children around them, living with them daily, and instead we end up with children who cannot share a TV, a bedroom, a bathroom, a backseat in the family minivan... all this larger living space with fewer people to fill it up, fewer chances to learn how to compromise and just live together with other people. And we wonder why the rates of divorce are so high - people don't know how to live with each other! (Not saying this is the only reason, of course)

So, the old phrase of "it takes a village" with its old meaning of a literal village, a community of people living and working together, has taken on the Hilary Clinton meaning - the global "village," the institutions, the schools, the government. Not exactly a tight-knit group made up of your nearest and dearest friends and extended family members, huh? ;)

So, I have a hypothesis that AP parents do need help - but since they don't need the "typical" parenting help, they appear as if they don't need help at all. "Well, they turned down our offer to babysit, so they must be doing okay." This would apply to homeschooling families especially - I know I have read some blogs of homeschooling moms and thought, "Wow! They are really doing it all, they have it all together - they don't need any help, how do they do it?" Truthfully, I am sure they could also use some help! They just don't blog about the fact that they have 10 loads of laundry waiting to be folded and another six to be washed, that their children were horribly grumpy and uncooperative with their schoolwork and that's why there were those beautiful photos of them playing outside, etc. They like to blog about the happy things in their lives - just like I used to scrapbook. I didn't take photos of my kids throwing tantrums or my overflowing closets or my dirty kitchen... and so I usually don't blog about those things either. Doesn't mean they don't happen! ;) I think the tendency is for people to think that if somebody homeschools, then they don't need help because surely they must have decided that they had plenty of time to homeschool and that's why they chose to do it. I think people choose to practice AP and/or homeschool because they feel that it is right for their family, for their children, and not because they feel so well-equipped to do it all! It is a sacrifice, and it is something that presents difficulties in doing alone. We don't do it because we think we're going to be so awesome at it - we do it while praying for God to provide the grace and the strength and the resolve we will need!

I am also sure that many parents might actually come across as not wanting help - regardless of parenting style. It is typical of us to try to be independent because we think we are supposed to. But especially an AP parent, to somebody who is questioning of AP- they might look at it as the parent being "holier than thou" and not wanting help. The truth is that while they don't generally want help with the baby - as in childcare - they do usually welcome help of other types, like helping with the children alongside the parents, and help with meals and housework. The children in communities where the adults work together in the homes daily usually bond with these other adults more easily too, since they are always around them... also easing the work of the parents.

How do we recreate this old-fashioned idea and gain this community if we want to do so? What if we don't live near extended family and they aren't able to come help us out? What if everyone on our street is working all day, and their kids are all grown up and gone? It is hard!

This article that I read awhile back inspired me to try to do something to capture just a bit of this community atmosphere. It is a very good article - read it if you have the chance! I got to thinking about it, and I am hoping to start this up with a few friends here in my town. The plan is to hopefully get together once a week, rotating to a different house each time. It is not so we can have a "playgroup" - it is so our kids can play and learn together while we moms help each other out! Maybe one week we will clean out the fridge in one house, help prepare dinner in another house the next week, and perhaps clean a bathroom in the third house the following week, and then back to the first house for a new task again the week after that. Our multi-aged children can play together and grow together, and the moms can enjoy the company of other adults who share similar values and styles while helping each other accomplish tasks around the house!

I am excited to see how this all will take shape... my kids are coughing this week, so we're not going to get together with other kids most likely and next week we're out of town... but at some point, we will try to put it into action! I am ready to jump in and get my hands dirty amidst good conversation and children's background noise! I also have realistic expectations that some weeks we'll get more done than others... we might have squabbles to referee, fussy babies and toddlers to soothe, and the like. But we will be able to do it together, showing our children how adults do meaningful work while at the same time meeting their needs. They are still dependent - and really, so can we be, as adults. Being dependent - interdependent, rather - is not a bad thing in this way! We don't have to be so independent all the time - and that is a hard thing for us to admit, being taught how important independence is from an early age! I don't think the key is global interdependence so much as it is community interdependence... along the lines of GK Chesterton's idea of distributism.

To wrap it up... even though parenting is tough, and some days just go poorly all around, there is still the hope that we are raising our children to know they are loved, to be able to love others, and by giving them examples daily of what it is to live life (because they need to see things about a kajillion times sometimes before things sink in on how to live in such a way as to be a reasonable adult human being one day!). Today, Caroline had her baby doll in Sam's and was asked twice about it - and she willingly told the wondering employees her baby's name, Ensa. She has, after much time, learned the acceptable response rather than being "too shy" to answer. And she proudly wore Ensa in her sling while one employee commented that it looks like she was learning to be a good mommy one day. I do hope that I am teaching her that in some little way.

There are those moments when things become clear, and we see that dependence is developing slowly but surely, that rational thought and actions and self-control are developing slowly but surely... and we realize that part of why it is so tough with attachment parenting is because we don't see instant results. We see a child unfold slowly over time. But what a beautiful result we see many years down the road! I say this from knowing some other children who are grown - obviously we haven't made it down the entire rocky road yet. Patience, patience... they won't be little forever!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Circle Time - October

Better late than never, huh? Here's what we have been doing at Circle Time this month:

Circle Time Plans ~ October

Gathering Song(s): Mr. Sun

  • Angel of God my Guardian Dear

Finger Plays:

  • Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate (using small pumpkins as props)
  • Where is Thumbkin?/Mr. Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin, Pumpkin
  • Four Little Leaves
  • Leaves are Floating Down

Mr. Pumpkin
(Tune: Where is Thumbkin)

Mr. Pumpkin,
Mr. Pumpkin,
Round and fat,
Round and fat.
Harvest time is coming,
Harvest time is coming.
Yum, yum, yum.
That is that!

Pumpkin, Pumpkin

Pumpkin, Pumpkin,
Sitting on the wall.
Pumpkin, Pumpkin,
Tip and fall.
Pumpkin, Pumpkin,
Rolling down the street.
Pumpkin, Pumpkin,
Good to eat!

Leaves Are Floating Down

Leaves are floating softly down (Flutter fingers)

They make a carpet on the ground (Spread hands apart)

Then swish! The wind comes whirling by (Bring hands around fast)

And sends them dancing in the sky (Flutter fingers upwards)


  • Calendar work - Saint of the Day magnet, date magnet
  • Vestments on priest
  • Days of the Week/Months of the Year song

Seasonal Hymn:

The hymn of St. Francis

Puppet or Felt Board Story:

The Anxious Leaf

Books in the October book basket: