Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Well we had one of them ultrasound things...

...they took a lot of measurements (baby's head, baby's abdomen, baby's femur, etc) and concluded that I was right with the due date I'd estimated. Um, folks, my husband was out of town for two weeks, then home for 5 days, then out of town for another two weeks...I was pretty darn sure that I was right about my dates!!

AlternaTickers - Cool, free Web tickers

Yep, unless we are having a girl with some odd cyst or tumor on her lower abdomen, this baby will bring the score to Boys: 3 Girls: 0
I guess I should stock up on camo fabric.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Because God Cares

Every once in a while one gets a slap-in-the-face reminder of the fact that yes, God is paying attention, and yes, He does care.
We may be without a job (although a few more interviews have felt promising), and unable to sell our house (although we did find some new renters who will move in August 1--giving us enough time to do a little work on the place)...but yes, God is paying attention.

Some time ago, when we learned that we'd be coming to Utah for the summer, Hubby had approached Wolf about taking a special father-son camping trip for a few days. Wolf asked could they please go to Grand Canyon. We spent the last week camping near Bryce Canyon at a reunion with my dad's side of the family, and as plans came together we realized that the smart thing to do would be for Wolf and daddy to depart for their trip directly from the reunion, and for me and Bear to catch a ride back north with my folks (who agreed to drop us off at my in-laws home where we're staying this summer).
So far so good.
Friday morning Wolf and Hubby loaded up and headed out. My in-laws had lent us their tent trailer for the trip (taking pity on the pregnant woman I guess!) and my parents hitched it to their van to haul back up and drop off along with Bear and me. We drove for over 4 hours with a packed-full extended-length van, pulling a tent trailer, with 2 dogs and 8 people (including the pregnant lady and toddler) through the center of Utah. We were not on the interstate because we knew we'd have to drive slow anyway and figured the old state road was fewer miles. We passed cars occasionally (or, I should say, they passed us!) but there were very few people out there. The trip was completely uneventful. As we backed the trailer into my in-laws driveway some red fluid started gushing out from under the van, and it died and refused to restart. We enlisted some help and pulled the trailer into place by hand, and had to call a tow truck for the van. It will probably not be ready until Tuesday (Monday if they are lucky). My parents and siblings had planned to drive on up to grandma's house in Idaho today, but instead they are stuck here through the weekend...
...but what a blessing to be stuck here, in a large home with hospitable people (not in an expensive and/or grungy motel, and/or the middle of nowhere). There is room for everyone to sleep here (yeah, we did put a couple of them in the tent trailer, but there are spare beds too). There are showers and a kitchen and generous hosts who simply smiled and said "you're family, and this is what family is for."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

20 Weeks - fundal measurements and other belly fun

Lilypie Expecting a baby Ticker
This week you're carrying about 10.5 inches and 10.5 ounces of solid baby-miracle-goodness! Their little delicate bones continue to ossify and toughen while their itsy bitsy finger and toe pads are finishing up. Your little monkey now has teeth buds, although they’re hidden beneath the gum line. And finally! Their limbs have reached their relative proportions—no more alien baby! Their cute pink lips are more defined, and might be helping out in a bit of prenatal thumb-sucking. If you have a little boy, then their tiny testes are descending, though they have not yet passed the abdominal wall. What’s more, eyelashes and eyebrows are also visible. At this point, your little one really looks like a miniature baby—and we do mean miniature as your little swimmer currently weighs a mere eighth of their final birth weight. With half the pregnancy behind you, the most significant gains are yet to come!

pregnancy week by week

Of course, yours truly measured a little ahead at my prenatal appointment two weeks ago (in the latter parts of pregnancy it is common to measure fundal height, which is from the pubic bone to the top of the fundus/uterus. The centimeters of the measurement supposedly should stay about equal with the weeks of gestation, and if there is a consistent major difference between them it could mean a mistake about gestational dates or that there is more than one baby. Thus mothers of twins may make comments such as "I measured 46 weeks along when I delivered" even though they delivered at 38 weeks.) At my 18wk appointment, I measured 21cm, or "21 weeks." I measured exactly "on schedule" at every appointment with Bear, but I theorize that now that my belly has been out there once, it's obligingly stretching a little faster this time (which is common for subsequent pregnancies). I'm not the least bit worried about it, but do find it an interesting observation.
And then there are stretch marks...but I posted about those last week!

Oh, and since we're talking about bellies, yes, here's mine (sorry I never got one in at the 17ish week post...this photo is from 19 wks)
(every mama needs a leopard print maternity shirt, don't you think?!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Fathers

This post is taken from a talk that I gave in church on Father's Day a few years ago. Actually I gave it twice--once in college, and then a modified version 4 years later after I was married...what I share here today is most of that latter version. It is somewhat lengthy (it was supposed to be 15 minutes long!) but I hope you'll take a little time to read it. I felt that I was very inspired with the angle when I wrote the original, and I worked hard on it both times.

I want to talk for just a minute to the primary kids. Can you all look up here? I promise this will be quick! Today I’m going to talk about daddies, and about how having a daddy here on Earth can help us understand about our Daddy in Heaven. Did you know you have a Daddy in Heaven? Usually we call him Heavenly Father, or sometimes we call him God, but did you know that what he likes best is to be called “Father”? And that is just another name for “Daddy.” God is the most powerful being in the entire universe, but of all the things He can do or make, the one thing that He thinks is the most important is that He is a daddy. Isn’t that neat? Today when you go home, I want you to think about your daddies, and how special they are, and how they can help you learn about your Heavenly Daddy too.

As a child, I had a lovely mental picture of Heavenly Father. He was huge, and He sat on a big white throne nestled in puffy clouds. There were birds and flowers and angels and books all around him. He knew everything, and he could DO anything. Actually, He was a little bit like Zeus, only without the toga. He knew who I was about the way that I knew who George Washington was—because he knew ABOUT me.
Later I learned that Heavenly Father knows me in a much more personal way. He may sit on that big white throne nestled in puffy clouds, but he’s more like Santa than like Zeus—He has children in His lap and He tells them stories and sings them songs. He knows them, their names, their wants, their needs, their desires, and their deepest secrets. He wants to hear about their day and their accomplishments and their trials—even when He was there and saw it all. He does this because they are HIS children. And He is their Daddy.
I like to use the title of “Daddy” in referring to my fathers—the earthly one and the Heavenly One. I realize it is not quite as formal, but that makes it more personal. Our Father in Heaven wants us to have a personal relationship with Him, just as He has one with us, and thinking of Him this way really helps me to do that. I was always something of a daddy’s girl, and I don’t see any reason why that type of relationship should be limited to earthly daddies. Today I have chosen to talk about how my relationship with my father (and father figures) has helped me to better understand my Father in Heaven, and I will do so with a series of stories.

First of all, I am a snuggler. Some of my earliest memories are of cuddling in daddy’s lap while he read stories to me…then later as I read stories to him. I even have memories of just sitting next to each other on the same couch, each reading to ourselves. . . . Now if you think about it, it’s pretty easy to see how this relates to Heavenly Father. He isn’t here physically for us to snuggle with, but His spirit is always available to us when we need comfort. I love 2 Nephi 1:15 where it says “The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell;…and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” Encircled eternally—that sounds like my kind of daddy!

Now I’d like to take a minute to talk about flowers. My dad has done landscaping and raised flowers since he was a teenager. Growing up, we always called his flowers his ‘other set of kids.’ Some days we’ve felt that WE were the other set and the flowers were first. He lives on about 1/3 acre in western Washington, and there are literally over 300 KINDS of flowers (I have no idea how many actual plants that adds up to!). When I was away at college it was common to call mom and have her say something like “well, dad took the tiller to the side lawn yesterday and now we have another flower bed.” Obviously, all these flowers don’t grow and flourish on their own—not even in the gentle climate they have there--they take work. Lots of work. And, knowing that hard work is good for kids, my dad taught us to do much of what needed to be done. I can’t even count the number of hours I spent in the rain pulling weeds, trimming roses, deadheading iris, and even watering under the eves (it’s a cruel irony that certain places must be watered even when it’s pouring rain!). Daddy always gave us instructions for exactly how to do everything. It wasn’t always simple or easy, and sometimes it was outright painful, but every year, from February when the crocus come out until October when the last of the roses finally go, there is a yard absolutely FULL of beauty. . . . We are Heavenly Father’s children, and our lives are His garden of flowers. He has planted seeds of great potential and beauty inside each of us, but we have to work hard if we want to see them bloom. He gives us gardening instructions in the form of commandments. He gives us nourishing rain in the form of trials. So, the next time the cold rain of life is running down your neck, inside your shirt, and making you shiver, remember that if you stick it out and put in the effort now, there is going to be a lot of beauty later on.

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii. My dad was traveling there on business for 4 days, and was able to bring someone along—my mom couldn’t go, so he invited me. My flight and luxury hotel were covered, all I had to come up with was my own spending money. I had never been to Hawaii, and looked forward to the trip for months. The trip was wonderful, and worth every effort and little sacrifice I made to go. . . . Heavenly Father wants to take each of us on a trip too—to a wonderful beautiful place that we haven’t been to yet: it’s called the Celestial Kingdom. Christ’s blood has already paid for the ticket and accommodations. All that’s left for us to do is put in a little effort to earn our ‘play money’ as it were. If it seems hard to do that little bit, just remember that He already covered the big bills, and He only left us a couple of the little ones.

Next, I want to take a minute to share something about another of my fathers—my father in law. He is a wise and thoughtful man. I remember talking with my husband one evening on the way home from my in-laws house. We had not been married for very long, and that evening my father in law had offered some advice to us. I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember thinking that it was very good advice, so I was surprised when my husband said “sorry my dad made you listen to his little lecture.” I mentioned that I’d thought the advice was very good, and my husband responded, “yes, I guess he does give good advice, but he tends to give the same advice again and again, and I guess I get kindof tired of listening to it.” . . . The comparison here is probably easy to see. Our Heavenly Father has given us instructions for life—they are simple and few, and through His prophets He repeats them often. The advice was good the first time it was given, and it is still good today—but are we still listening? Just because you’ve heard the prophet speak before, or just because you’ve heard speakers talk about testimonies or faith or repentance numerous times in the past, does that mean that you don’t need to hear it again?! I think Heavenly Father repeats Himself because even though the messages are simple, they are important. They are still good advice

Now I’m going to go into something that is a little more personal. I was homeschooled all my life, and my parents were (and are) some of the leaders of the homeschooling movement in Washington. The year that I, their eldest, started college, my dad was asked to speak at the State Homeschool convention about “life after homeschooling.” My father is a storyteller, and so he told them a little story, part of which I am going to read to you here:
One summer morning a baby girl was born
Her mommy blubbered and said “oh, it’s a baby” and held her close
Her daddy blubbered and said “so it is” and held her out on the end of his arm, facing the world
So mommy nurtured the little girl and dried her tears and read her stories and calmed her fears
And daddy challenged her and dried her tears and told her stretched stories and gave her fears—by taking her rappelling
Mommy taught her to read and do sums and write
Daddy taught her to read classics, measure rooms, and write things others would want to read…
Mommy taught her responsibility and useful life skills like preparing a gourmet meal and changing a baby’s diaper
Daddy taught her independence and useful life skills like driving a car and giving him backrubs
Mommy drew her into the family circle
Daddy pushed her out the door
Mommy’s love teaches competence, creates a heart, gives a foundation and an anchor
Daddy’s love prepares the not-so-little girl to sally into the world and make her own mark
When she left mommy cried, openly, great big crocodile tears
When she left daddy smiled, said ‘go for it’ waved heartily, and then hid out in the workshop to cry great big crocodile tears.
Thus the dilemma, I am of two minds
Is there life after homeschooling? For whom?
For the not-so-little girl, yes—the richest life imaginable
All doors are open to her. She is capable of everything and anything.
Is Daddy pleased? Does it rain in Seattle? But Jenni lives her own life now, and daddy is oh so lonely since college, music, work, and life swallowed up his little girl.
My daddy has always encouraged me to be independent, but I know that somewhere inside—whether it’s in his workshop or just in his heart—he still cries those great big crocodile tears from time to time, because he misses the not-so-little girl who has long since moved out and married and started a family of her own. . . . Heavenly Father is much the same way. He has given us the independence of a mortal life with the agency to do as we please. He is happy to see us grow and learn and take on new adventures. He is thrilled with our accomplishments. But when we choose to wander away from Him, I think He too is crying. He would like us to live close enough that we can visit more than just at Christmas and Easter. He would like us to ‘call home’ with prayer each day, and, above all, He doesn’t want us to forget him.

I am a talker. Those who know me in person (and perhaps even those who only read here) can vouch for the fact that yes, I am a chatterbox. When I have troubles, I like to talk through them. When I’m upset or sad or lonely, I want someone to talk with. I remember one summer in college: I was 19. I had just moved to a new apartment with a new roommate whom I scarcely knew; and two days later I had started a new job. That night, I got a call from an old friend back home telling me that a mutual friend had just died, unexpectedly, the age of 23. It was a rough day, to say the least! The next day at work I just went through things mechanically and tried to keep my mind off my friend, but by that night I desperately needed a shoulder to cry on, and I called my daddy. We talked for about an hour, which at that time was not common for us—we usually ran out of things to say pretty quickly. I sat in my bedroom, on the floor, crying and sniffling into the phone, and I knew he completely understood because he told me the names of the four people he had known in high school who had died before graduation. (He has never had a memory for names, so the fact that he remembered theirs, 25 years after the fact, made it clear how much of an impact that had had on him.) . . . So what, you may think. Heavenly Father isn’t on the phone—He can’t talk with me like that…can He? Well, I think He can. In 1 Nephi 3:1, Nephi says that he “returned from speaking WITH the Lord.” That phrase has often caused me to stop and think—do I speak to the Lord? Or with Him? Four years after that college experience, I was married and expecting a baby. We had just gone in for an ultrasound, and had not been able to see the baby’s heartbeat. I had miscarried twice in the previous 15 months, and was very unsettled by the ultrasound. The baby had measured at the correct size, but since there was no heartbeat, the doctor said it looked clear to him, and offered to do a D&C that night if I wanted to. I was very upset, and not at all sure what I wanted to do, I only I knew that I DIDN’T want to lose another baby. I sat in my bedroom, on the floor, crying and sniffling up to the sky, and begging Heavenly Father to tell me what to do. Very strongly I heard the words “Be still, and know that I am God.” Over and over and over I heard the same words—even when I tried to think about other things, or move those words aside so that I could hear other messages, I just heard those same words “Be Still.” So I was still. We didn’t do anything at that time. In case you’re wondering, yes, I did go on to miscarry—3 weeks later—but it was not the emotional torture that my prior miscarriage had been. Also, because we delayed in taking action—because we were still—I had the opportunity to meet a doctor who specialized in recurrent miscarriage, who was able to do some testing for us.

Our Father knows us. He knows where we are in life, and knows what we need. He lived a mortal life once, and He knows how to relate to each thing that we go through. He can help us through all these things, but we have to listen. We must trust that Our loving Father, our Daddy in Heaven, is, in fact, God. He is the most perfect Father we have. Our fathers and father figures here can help us to understand Him, but it is not until we develop that personal relationship with Him that we can truly be happy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Compliance vs Cooperation

"It's not control or compliance that you are looking for;
it's calm and cooperation."

~Barbara Coloroso in "Kids are Worth It"

Every time I see a parenting book talk about 'compliance' I remember something I read in some other parenting book (I honestly don't remember which one):
Think about the person that you hope your child will be when he grows up. Do you want him to be a 'yes man' who only knows how to follow orders and who never questions authority? Or do you want him to be a thinking person who knows how to look at the situation and see the options, find solutions, make compromises, and (when appropriate) question authority?

I am hoping for the latter. For this reason, I do not believe that it is appropriate to force my children to bend to my will.
Scripture teaches that "He that is commanded in all things is a slothful and not a wise servant." This is not the future I hope for for my children!

All of this is not to suggest that I never tell my children what to do. I am here in a position of authority, and it is my job to teach them and raise them. There are some things they don't know yet, and some things which they know but don't practice very well yet. I absolutely believe that obedience is vital, and if I tell my child to do something I absolutely expect them to obey me. BUT, before telling my child to do something, I try consider just why I am telling him this. Is it an issue which threatens a body, mind, or soul? If not, then how much does it really matter? For example, I may find it terribly annoying that Wolf prefers to sleep with his feet by the headboard and his head at the other end of his bed. I may also find it very strange that as often as not he'd rather sleep on the floor. But is this really a problem? Or does it just annoy me? and if it's only an annoyance, only a preference, then are my preferences more important than his preferences? (if you answered 'yes' to that last question, I urge you to really reconsider how you view your children, and whether you genuinely respect them.) If it is not something with threatens body, mind, soul (or property), then I try to stay out of the way.
OK you say, but sleeping upside down or on the floor isn't a big deal. Yes, you're right, it's not. But I have seen parents get terribly upset over things that small. Let me try to think of some more examples:
  • Hitting a sibling or playmate--bodily harm (I will intervene)
  • Refusing to eat a particular food--only an annoyance. (I don't like mushrooms, and I am willing to accept that Wolf doesn't like tomatoes. So long as he has tried them, he has a right to have that opinion.)
  • Throwing things--it depends where he is...rocks in the lake? go for it. rocks at a sibling? Absolutely not. rocks in the back yard? well, it depends a great deal on the size and layout of the backyard!
  • Climbing trees that look too big to me--oo, danger to body! Make him get down, right?! (well, is he really in danger? Possibly...but I have concluded that I will never help my kid into a tree...if they can get up themselves, then I figure that wherever they climb is within their range of skill)
  • Eating candy before dinner--potentially this could harm his body, so we certainly don't allow it regularly...on the other hand, I'm of the opinion that a child who doesn't get apple pie or chocolate cake for breakfast from time to time may be in danger of mental or spiritual harm, so sometimes the balance is more important than having a rule with no exceptions.
And there is that ugly phrase, "exception to the rule..." ahh, yes, consistency, the mark of a great parent.
Or not.
That's going to be another post.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"The Explosive Child" by Ross W Greene

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W Greene, Ph.D.

I must begin this review by stating that I think that the book has a somewhat unfortunate title. At least to me, it sounds terribly negative, and that's something I try to avoid in parenting books. (I will never forget the day I picked up Dr James Dobson's "The Strong-Willed Child" wherein he said that some kids are just stubborn and we must basically beat it out of them otherwise they will end up sending themselves to hell. Really, that's what he said! It was terrible!) In any case, TEC is not like that at all. It's actually a very positive and proactive sort of book.

One point he does make right at the beginning is that some children explode (yelling, tantruming, hurting others, etc) while others implode (shutting down, ignoring, walking away from the situation, etc). Children with different temperaments will of course react to things differently, but according to Dr Greene, the causes are essentially the same, so can be treated with the same method.

Dr Greene's basic premise is that children do well if they can (rather than the more commonly taught children do well if they want to). In other words, if the child knows the rules, and has motivation to follow them, but is consistently misbehaving anyway, then it is because he has "a developmental delay--a learning disability of sorts--in the skills of flexibility and frustration tolerance" (p 15). In other words, they don't misbehave because they want to, they misbehave because they literally don't have the skills to process situations and behave in a more appropriate or adaptive manner. These kids don't need more incentives, punishments, or consequences--they need to be taught the skills that they are lacking.
Greene explains that "An explosive outburst--like other maladaptive behavior--occurs when the cognitive demands being placed upon a person outstrip that person's capacity to respond adaptively" (p 17). I know that's a lot of big words and technical terms all strung together, but take a minute to go back and read it again, because it's really critical as it underpins the whole philosophy of the book.

Having established that these children are misbehaving (and exploding/imploding) because they lack the skills to do otherwise, Greene then lays out the skills which are commonly lacking (different children will lack different skills of course, and many lack more than one):
  • Executive Skills (shifting from one activity to another, organization/planning, putting ideas into action, and separating emotional response from the thinking necessary to solve the problem)
  • Language Processing Skills (categorizing & expressing emotion, identifying & articulating his own needs, and solving problems)
  • Emotion Regulation Skills (when they become tired, irritated, scared, or otherwise upset their emotion gets in the way of their thinking, so they become irrational, inflexible, frustrated, and explosive)
  • Cognitive Flexibility Skills ("black-and-white thinkers stuck in a grey world" who struggle with adapting to changes in plans or changes in routine/schedule)
  • Social Skills (picking up social cues, interpreting those cues correctly, figuring out appropriate responses in social situations, and realizing how his behavior affects others)
Dr Greene is quick to clarify that these should be used as explanations, not excuses. In other words, this process of identifying lagging skills is just to help us understand what we need to consider as we begin to teach the child how to gain those skills--it is not an excuse for his maladaptive behavior.
The second part of identifying the problem is to consider triggers--that is, the situations or events that tend to set the child off. Many children are triggered by being tired, hungry, frustrated, or overstimulated. Sometimes just the presence of a certain person (or type of person) can be a trigger. Other triggers include things like being corrected, having an unexpected change in plans, or having to switch from one activity to another. Hopefully most parents already know that reducing triggers can reduce explosions, but sometimes triggering situations cannot be avoided, and that is where Plan B comes in.

Dr Greene discusses 3 plans: Plans A, B, and C.
Plan A is where the Adult forces his will on the child (it's what most of us were probably raised with--a "because I said so" sort of mentality, and when applied to a child who lacks the skills to measure up to the adult's expectations, it is a recipe for disaster...not to mention that it's not very respectful of the child!).
Plan C is where the adult capitulates and just lets the Child do what he pleases (which is not respectful of the adult, so is also problematic).
Plan B is to utilize what Dr Greene calls "collaborative problem solving" (CPS) to find solutions that will solve the concerns of Both adult and child. So of course Plan B is the ideal.
There is a time for Plan A--when the kid is running into the road of course you should grab him and stop him in spite of his protests. There is also a time for Plan C--when you realize that the issue at hand is not that big a deal or that your expectation was unrealistic. For the rest of the time, CPS can be a great tool to help parent and child work out solutions to deal with the immediate problems...and over time, as the parent guides them through the thinking processes of CPS, the child should be able to develop the skills he's been lacking.

Collaborative Problem Solving (in it's simplest form) consists of 3 steps:
1--empathize with the child (get their concern on the table, and let them see that you care about them and their concern)
2--define the problem (get your concern on the table too)
3--invite the child to propose solutions (you can make propositions of your own as well, but most children will have a higher investment in something they thought of, so if it seems like a decent solution, by all means try their idea! Remember that "Plan B is not 'tricky' Plan A!" (p 108).)
An acceptable solution is one that is realistic, doable, and mutually satisfactory. If it fails to meet any of those criteria, then keep proposing solutions until you find something that meets all three.

I highly recommend this book, particularly for any parent who has a child who consistently misbehaves even though he knows the rules and has been repeatedly punished for breaking them. It had never occurred to me that my academically advanced son might be struggling with certain mental skills, but as I read this book I repeatedly had the thought "that sounds a lot like my kid." I am just beginning to try CPS with him (Hubby hasn't read the book yet), and the first couple of attempts floundered a bit...I think he's used to us pushing our agenda (Plan A) and is struggling to identify what his own needs/wants actually are, because (unfortunately) they have often been ignored in the past as we tried to force him to do things our way. But the second try went better than the first, and I look forward to increased peace for all of us as we get the hang of this.
By the way, I did explain the basics here, but if you think these ideas would be helpful for you or your family, please don't rely on my version, please do get the book and read it for yourself. Dr Greene gives much more thorough explanations than I did, including sample conversations of how to apply CPS, common mistakes that parents make when trying to utilize CPS, and ideas for how to work with kids who don't want to work with you.

For those with school aged children, Dr Greene has also written Lost at School which teaches the same philosophy with school applications.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tiger Stripes

This is the part of pregnancy where women start to get stressed (if they weren't already) about stretch marks.
They buy lotions and creams and rub them on their bellies religiously, in the hope that somehow their postpartum belly will look just the same as their pre-pregnancy tummy did. However the simple truth is that stretch marks are genetic and there's not much of anything you can do to affect whether you get them. Some women will not get any, and some women will get a million. Keeping yourself well-hydrated is your best bet, because it will help your skin be more elastic, BUT if you have stretch marks anywhere else (hips, breasts, etc) then you are almost certain to get them on your belly when pregnant. Period. And that's ok!
I didn't get any stretch marks until I was about 32 weeks along with Bear (I had nearly concluded that I might not get any at all!) then I got a little row right along the very bottom of my belly... Two weeks later I noticed another little row developing just above the original ones. In the final few weeks of my pregnancy my belly filled in with stripes all the way up to (and a few past) my belly button. I didn't get particularly large in my pregnancy--I was at a healthy weight before it and gained a very healthy 27lbs. But I got well-striped.

This picture is from about a year after Bear was born (a year before I became pregnant with this kiddo), and you can see both my not-so-flat belly and my beautiful stripes.

Yep, I just said beautiful stripes. It's not the belly I was born with, and it's not a belly that's going to make the cover of any magazines I suppose, but it's beautiful, because those marks are the indication of a belly that has fulfilled its calling in life: it has grown a baby (or several), and just as the weather-worn farmer shows the beauty of a productive life, so a baby-striped belly is beautiful too.
They were a little hard to accept at first--I had never been one to show my midriff so it wasn't that it affected my wardrobe at all--but I felt that I'd lost something of my youthfulness, and was sure that my husband would find me less attractive because of it. Over time I adjusted to the new me, and I've had a few thoughts about stripey tummies. First of all, most mothers have them. Seriously, some have more stripes than others, but most women are going to get at least a few stretch marks. Of course the magazine-cover models (even the ones who've had children) are airbrushed, so even if they have marks (and I bet at least some of them do) their marks don't make the final print...but we all know that those kinds of photos aren't realistic anyway, right? Yeah, I know, they are in our faces all the time, but they're inaccurate and it's much healthier to focus on what real women look like. That's why I would like to recommend the website The Shape of a Mother. The goal of SOAM is to share photos of what real women look like, and I know many mothers who have found it comforting to realize that they are not alone in their new shapes and stripes. I will warn that most of the photos are unclothed to some degree (most show bellies, many show breasts, some are fully bare, and some angles are more discreet than others), so use your own judgment and comfort level in determining whether to visit the site or how much to peruse.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The big deal about circumcision

Recently a friend shared this link with me, and I want to share it with all of you:

I here quote the very beginning (it is a lengthy post, but well-referenced, and I HIGHLY recommend it).
I am posting this as a mom who is first, Jewish, and second, who has two sons who are circumcised. Since my pregnancy with my third son, however, I have researched the issue of circumcision and have left my third son intact, as will be this fourth son due in October. Below are a few of the reasons I made this decision. For anyone planning on giving birth in the future, this information is critical to protect your unborn sons. I am certainly in no position to judge anyone who has circumcised sons, as I have no stones to throw. However, I would like to share what I have learned and hope that it does some good to protect future little boys...
Please, if you are in your childbearing years, take the time to read through the research before making this choice. It's not a little thing to make a decision about your child's genital integrity, whether they are female or male. (I confess that, with what I know now, it truly boggles me that so many people can be staunchly opposed to female circumcision, yet think that male circumcision is ok...it is really the same thing, even if the details look different.)
I grew up thinking that circumcision was normal and a good idea...no one had ever taught me otherwise, and I figured it wouldn't be so common if it wasn't good. A few years ago though someone said something to me that made me start wondering...so (as I tend to do) I started researching. As most of my readers probably know, I try to avoid resources that are anecdotal or emotionally-charged, and just stick with hard scientific facts inasmuch as it is possible to do so. The medical evidence on circumcision is quite one-sided--circumcision is unnecessary, painful, and probably damaging (some things are difficult to test or prove, and at least one study on this subject had to be stopped early because they concluded that the baby boys involved were being too traumatized to ethically continue the study...but there are indications that circumcision can do real and lasting harm).
As I said, visit the link I posted above. She has LOTS of links to references and resources that are well worth your time to visit.

About two years ago, when Bear was a fairly new baby, I posted about intactivism (or activism in favor of intactness--non-circumcision). I don't really have anything new to say, or any better ways to say it, but I do think the topic bears repeating, so today I am just going to re-post what I wrote before.

"I did then what I knew how to do. When you know better, you do better." ~ Maya Angelou

I've been a little hesitant to post anything on this topic, because I know members of my extended family read here, and I think that many of them disagree with me on this topic. But I was recently part of a conversation that made me realize that I should talk about this, and most especially to the people I care about.
My baby son is intact. That means that his body is precisely as God made it--we did not cut off part of his penis. Circumcision may be common, but so was the black plague and smallpox. Just because something is common doesn't mean it's good or right. I don't like to make any kind of major decision without doing the research--so I did it. I studied from sources like the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and so on. Sure, there are a lot of emotionally-charged hotheads out there preaching against circumcision, but there is a lot of careful, logical information as well. And it all says the same thing--there is no good reason to circumcise unless your God requires it. The only faiths I'm aware of that call for circumcision are Islam and Judaism. My own faith has scriptures which are blatantly against circumcision (Moroni 8:8 Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.) SO, there is no good reason for me to cut my son.

There are many arguments in favor of routine circumcision, but none of them hold water. I'll just run over the ones I hear the most:
1) Looking like Dad--so, if my baby's nose doesn't look like mine, shall I get him a nose job? Shall I get him color contacts if his eyes are a different shade than mine? Really, this must be the strangest reason ever for a cosmetic surgery on a baby
2) Looking like other boys--well, circumcision rates in this country are on the decline...somewhere around 50% at present, with various areas ranging from 35% to a high of about 65%. Most of the rest of the world (with the middle east as the exception) has MUCH lower rates.
3) Risk of penile cancer--penile cancer is very rare. Even among high risk groups, studies indicate that the difference in penile cancer rates between circumcised and intact men is something like 0.03%. Not statistically significant. In other words, it's too small to be considered evidence or 'proof' of anything...
4) Hygiene--underneath the foreskin is something called smegma. It is a lubricant-not unlike the fluids which women have in their genital regions. It not only lubricates, but also works much like snot--it catches anything that may get in there and flushes it out. So, actually, the intact penis is MORE hygienic than the circumcised one.
5) Risk of infections--see #4
6) More likely to give wife infections--see #4
7) Harder to wash--um, have you ever washed a little girl? Furthermore, during childhood an intact penis is about as complicated to wash as a finger. Anybody want to cut off their fingers in an effort to make handwashing simpler? I didn't think so! And in adulthood, well, an extra two seconds in the shower to rinse in and out, and voila, cleanliness is still easy.
8) Lower risk of STDs and AIDS--well, the studies that have suggested this have not taken into account things like socio-economical status or sexual habits...they have just said oh, this man is intact or this man is circumcised, and let's see who has STDs. The studies are biased. Frankly, a little education and monogamy would solve a whole lot more than cutting off some skin.

And, in case you have heard the rumors or believed them, let me set you straight: circumcision HURTS LIKE CRAZY. Grown men get general anesthesia if they choose to have it done. Babies are lucky to get a local. And then, while they have a raw, fresh wound, they are put into snug diapers which not only rub the wound, but also expose it to urine and feces on a regular basis. Mmmmm, just what you want on a wound in the most sensitive part of your body, isn't it.

As I pointed out to my friend--I spent 9 months of pregnancy doing everything I could to protect my baby. That isn't going to change just because he's now living outside of me rather than inside. I will still protect him.

I want to make a comment for those who noticed that I use the word 'intact' rather than 'uncircumcised.' The prefix 'un-' suggests that something was incomplete. The penis was meant to be the way it is; it is not an incomplete circumcision, it is intact. I realize that there are circumcised men out there who may feel hurt at the thought that they are not the way they were meant to be. Unfortunately, that is exactly true. Generations of the blind following the blind (or the circumcised following the circumcised) have injured countless boys and men. I cry thinking of it. I wish I could restore to you what was taken without your permission...but unfortunately I cannot. All I can do is try to spread the information in the hopes of protecting future little boys. "...when you know better, you do better."

Every day when I change his diapers or bathe him, I see my son's healthy, intact body. It is just as we made him. It is just as God designed him. It is how he was born, and it is how he is meant to be. Who am I to take away his choice to be intact? Every day when I see his intactness, I remember that I chose to respect my son. It reminds me to respect everyone. I think this world could use a little more respect.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Musings on Online Dating

Disclaimer: I am not writing this to anyone, so if you are one of my single friends, please don't take this as my trying to be all annoying and matchmakery...this is just something I have been thinking about recently...

I've been thinking lately about my many unmarried friends who are around my age (late 20s). They have each expressed a desire to settle down and start a family. These are attractive, intelligent, educated, good people who would all make good spouses for someone...so why are they still single?

Several have expressed the feeling that it is difficult to meet people, or, at least, that it is difficult to meet the sort of people that could be considered marriage material. Once upon a time, when people lived their entire lives in the same little town, they grew up with their future spouses. A boy could look around at the girls his age and see that these were his options, and when he got ready to marry he'd pick one of them...when the choices are fewer the process is certainly simplified. Of course modern culture has convinced us that we need to worry about things like falling in love, but I would venture to suggest that if two people with common values and goals are willing to commit to each other, then love and attraction will fall into place. (And really, what's the stronger basis for a relationship anyway?) So are clubs, parties, dances, movies, or dates an ideal way to meet potential spouses? I would submit that they are not. Sitting in the dark, with little more than small talk or some dancing, is not much of a way to get to know someone.

As most of my readers know by this point, I met my Hubby online, and frankly, I think that route makes a lot of sense. We no longer live in the same tiny town our entire lives. As people move farther apart and live more independent lifestyles, it becomes harder to find people who share our values and goals, and therefore harder to find people to marry. Modern dating methods (the movies and dances I mentioned before) do not facilitate getting to know each other well enough to know what we truly have in common...instead they promote superficial things like physical attraction or similar taste in foods. Even in the settings where supposedly all the attendees are "marriage material" (such as at a church function), I find that strength of convictions and perspectives on life still vary...and if the goal is to find someone with shared goals and values, well, even a church-sponsored activity (or a church-owned school!) is not necessarily sufficient. The simple fact is that, with our diverging and busy modern lifestyles, it is harder to meet like-minded people through routine activities...and this is why I think that online dating makes so much sense.

There is also a second reason why I support online dating.
I remember the day I told my mother that someone was going to come visit for the weekend (he lived in another state), that I had met him online, and that I had a feeling that this was someone important. (I actually already knew that I was going to marry him, but since we hadn't met in person yet, I wasn't ready to tell anyone that fact!) My mom just smiled and said "I know...and I think that seems like a very healthy way to get to know someone--focusing on the conversation and really getting to know each other instead of just going on some dates."

I agree with her. There is some safety in taking the online approach to getting to know people. I'm reminded of the puritan style of courtship, where the young man A 19th century Courting Benchwould come visit the girl in her home (with her siblings and parents in the room) and the would sit on either side of the fireplace and talk to each other through a "courtship tube." They were able to get to know each other on intellectual, spiritual, and social levels, without the distraction of physical intimacy (of whatever degree). I strongly believe that once the hormones come into play, the brain ends up on the bench. Hormones are fine, but when you're choosing a spouse, it's a good idea to make sure your brain is fully functional. As the saying goes, "keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half-shut afterward."
Later generations utilized a "courtship bench" (as pictured) which allowed the young people to talk in a slightly more cozy manner, while still keeping enough of a barrier to assure the proper decorum. I think that the internet (used intelligently of course) can be the modern version of these chaste courtships.

Now obviously, without face-to-face meetings, it is possible for someone to misrepresent themselves. There are a few common sense things that one can do to protect themselves from the creeps who are out there, and one of those is to stick with dating sites which have built-in protections. The site I used did not allow us to post our email address, phone number, or exact location, and it had an internal instant messaging program, so that we did not have to share even that contact information until we felt comfortable withs someone. I do not have experience with many sites, but I do think that sites such as e-harmony are pretty good (the registration process is quite lengthy, and I don't think the average punk looking for an easy lay is going to bother with it). There are also sites that are religion-specific--LDSsingles worked for me. ☺

Friday, June 12, 2009

On Homeschooling (from a Homeschooler)

Today I am guest posting over at SortaCrunchy (remember how I mentioned that they had asked me to write about my experiences as a homeschooled student?). Thank you for submitting your questions--they were very helpful in giving me a direction to go with my post. Here is the very beginning of my post, but of course you'll have to go over there to read the rest!!

When people hear that I was homeschooled, one of the first things that always comes up is socialization: did I feel left out? did I have friends? was I shy? how was it when I entered 'the real world'?
I always have to begin my response by asking this: how many of your friends have birthdays within 1 year of yours? Do you really think that the school form of 'socialization' is representative of real life? Because I have friends of many ages--I always have--and I think that my homeschooled experience gave me more 'real life' socialization than any public school... [click here to see the rest of the post]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Most Beautiful Sound in the World

There are lots of beautiful sounds in the world: laughter, spring rain, a crackling campfire, Andrea Bocelli singing...

But there is one that is more beautiful than all the others:

Lub-dub lub-dub lub-dub

It's the sound of your unborn baby's heartbeat (especially the first time you hear it). I've been feeling the little one move for over a month--little flutters at first, and in the last couple of weeks some good thumps too (the kind that can't be mistaken for intestinal bubbles!), so I know that baby is alive and well...but there is still nothing quite like that quick little lub-dub lub-dub on the doppler.
So my first prenatal appointment was today. Given the choice, I would have liked to do it a month or so ago, but this was how the logistics worked out, so 18wks gestation it is. Being the small world that it is, the midwife I saw (whom I'd never met before) lived in Alaska for several years--including 4 years in one of the areas we're considering moving to. She told me her recommendations concerning the providers there, and when I mentioned the provider I'd heard recommended (a GP who does obstetrics), she said oh yes he's wonderful, and by the way he's also LDS...and on the school board...she said he's the kind of guy that if we call him and say hi from her and then tell him our situation, he'll probably go out of his way to pull strings and try to help Hubby find a job there. So I'm inclined to call him. ☺

In a couple of weeks I'll have an ultrasound and at that point we hope to be able to see whether this wild thing is made with pink babydust or blue; but until then I am more than content to hear the soft little patter of lub-dub lub-dub lub-dub.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Perfect Mother

"There is no one perfect way to be a good mother.
Each situation is unique.
Each mother has different challenges,
different skills and abilities,
and certainly different children.
The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family...
What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply
and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband,
prioritizes them above all else."

~M. Russell Ballard (LDS Apostle)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

17 Weeks

AlternaTickers - Cool, free Web tickers

(did you notice that I've started using different tickers each time? It's kinda fun finding new tickers! This particular site has a whole bunch of cool icons--babywearing, carseats, finger signs, zodiac...oh yeah, and did you notice the brilliant use of leopard print?! ☺ )

Don't be too shocked but... your baby is EVEN bigger than it was last week, not to mention getting cuter, and smarter every day! As you’ve come to expect, there’s no shortage of growth and development this week: your fantastic little bean stalk has added yet another half inch to their overall height-- making them nearly half a foot long! Their little limbs have reached (or are within one week of) their relative proportions, and will continue to grow evenly with the rest of the body after this week. Reactive listening has begun for your baby, even though their ears are not yet structurally complete or fully functional. Meanwhile, different parts of their astonishingly complex brain are developing to process your little one’s hearing and other senses, (you know, sight, smell, taste and touch). Mind boggling factoid of the week: if you’re having going to have a little girl, her ovaries have already produced millions of primordial egg cells, which, within a few weeks, will develop into actual eggs!

I can't post a picture this time because we're still on the road, BUT I will try to get one soon, along with updating you on all the other fun stuff that's going on!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Concerning the Rampant Overuse of "No"

How many parents do you know who use the word "no" like some new punctuation mark, liberally dabbing it throughout each sentence they utter--at least if that sentence is directed toward their child? Do you feel badly for those kids (oh please say yes!). Sure, it's important to intervene with kids sometimes, and "no" is an important and useful word for a child to understand at an early age, but if they hear it all the time then how likely is it that they consider it worth responding to? I believe that the overuse of "no" leads it to become just another filler word, like "an" or "the," and even though they use them (in imitation), I don't know a single toddler who actually knows what either of those words means.

If you are yelling "No!" at your child every 5 seconds, or even every 5 minutes, he will begin to tune it out, and in the moment when it really matters (eg: as he's running into the street) he will neither hear nor respond to you. (Yes, I watched an over-no'ed neighbor child do just that. He was a darn lucky kid that the truck was not going very fast and was able to stop in time.)

So, it is without hesitation that I seek to avoid telling my children "no." Does this mean that I let them just do whatever they like? No! But it means that I try to save that sharp "NO!" for when it is really important.

What do I say instead? Lots of things!

"Yes!" (because, let's face it, the occasional surprise "yes" is a great thing for morale)

"Yes, when _____" [yes, you can play the video game, when you've finished your homework]

"Yes, if ___" [yes, you can go fishing on the dock if you wear your life jacket and stay in the marked area]

"Let me think about it for a minute" (this gives me a chance to think about it for a minute...this is a nice option if I'm really not sure how I want to respond to the request)

"Why should you get to?" (in other words, talk me into it--this is particularly fun with elementary schoolers, as they come up with some fascinating reasons why they should be allowed to do the things they want to...but I think it is a great tool for teens as well--let them learn to make their case!)

If you are a thoughtful reader, as hopefully you are, you may have noticed that my alternatives all tend to be responses to questions, as in, when my son asks if he can have chocolate cake for breakfast... I have not really talked about applications for reducing the use of "no" in non-conversational situations, such as while watching kids play on the playground, or when they are getting into the kitchen cupboards at home. I have two thoughts about these 'observational' situations: the first is to try to avoid problems--keep hazardous things stored out of reach, lock cupboards, put plugs in the electrical outlets, and take your children to parks which have age-appropriate playgrounds... The second alternative then becomes more obvious: just say nothing.

Children do not need us to micromanage their lives, not even when they are 2. They are exploring the world and learning about the laws of physics (like gravity!). Falling down, getting dirty and yes, a certain amount of getting hurt is a normal part of childhood. Eating a little dirt or the occasional bug will earn a "eww, yukky!" from me, and getting filthy will get a "wow, we'd better get you straight into the tub/shower" (or sometimes a "we'd better hose you off before you come inside!"), but no trill of screamed "nonononononooooooooooo!!!"

Obviously I will intervene if a child is in serious danger...but the little spills and mud pies? Naw. Let kids be kids.

(Can you think of other alternatives to "no"? I would love to hear them!)

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