Monday, June 30, 2008

Taken to Task

I'm a tad embroiled, though I shouldn't be. It's none of my business, of course, and I'm having a heckuva time figuring out why I feel so strongly about it.

You've heard of this "Twitter" thing, right? Well, I am on Twitter. I tweet. I'm a twit. Whatever. Over the weekend, I was on Twitter and a "very popular blogger" whose tweets I follow said something unkind about another blogger whose blog I also read. (Can I get the word 'blog' in there one more time? Doubt it.) And then Twitter blew up. The end.

Not really. Some people felt it necessary to fly to the insulted blogger's aid, and complain bitterly about the Very Popular Blogger. Others felt the need to pile even more commentary on the insulted blogger. Unkind words. Judgement. And not how we want citizens in a community to act.

I'm guilty. I left a comment on the Very Popular Blogger's post about the subject, in which she explains that she will always share her opinion, even when it is unpopular or outside the norm. I did not defend or condemn, but did speak to my concern about the way in which it was done-- publicly and with name calling. We're supposed to be above all that. I received an email regarding my comment, but as yet my comment has NOT been posted. Mysterious.

Anywho. This blog is not about blogging. It is about families. And mommies.

But stay with me-- there's a connection.

Have you ever sat with a group of your girlfriends and passed commentary on another woman's parenting? Or dished with your husband about another couple's marriage? Or clucked about how "out of control" you've seen a certain child behave, and commented about how that child's parents were ruining her? Dude. I so totally have. So I am not judging you now.

The problem with this, however, is that it does the opposite of help. It is the opposite of helping, and it does nothing for our shared humanity. That kind of behavior is not designed to help others. It is designed to help us feel superior. Ask yourself why you need to feel that way? For me, it comes from my own misgivings about how I am parenting, or how I am seen by others. And dishing with my girlfriends gives us all a common ground. We bolster each other-- but we bolster each other by putting others down. It's the kind of behavior we should have gotten over after high school, but we haven't. It's a strong pull-- the desire to kvetch. I feel hypocritical even posting about it, because sisters, I have SO been there. But I want to do better.

I want to be a better person. I want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. When I have a problem with someone, I'm going to take it to them. I am going to try to remember that other people's choices are not my business 99% of the time. And when I feel the urge to judge, well.. I will try my darnedest to keep it to myself. Unless it's funny. And then I am so blogging that. Just sayin'.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nursing... Without Nurses

When my first child, my daughter M, was born she didn’t nurse like my other two children have. This refusal to nurse, I strongly believe, was no fault of hers, but more the result of a nurse who didn’t take the time to explain what needed to be done to a (in retrospect) na├»ve new mother. Instead this nurse took my boob in one hand and my baby’s head in the other and repeatedly tried to shove the two together over the course of more than one hour. The result of this marathon, just hours after my daughter’s somewhat traumatic birth via emergent c-section due to fetal distress, was that my infant would scream like a banshee any time I attempted to nurse her.

I stuck with the effort for only about a week before I succumbed to what I viewed as a failure of my first test of motherhood. Whether out of guilt for that fact or just plain craziness, I pumped my milk for my baby every 2 to 3 hours daily for 6 months. This resulted in my never being able to leave my pump for more than an hour or two at a time, and created twice the work to feed my baby. It was not exactly a recipe for happiness, but I was determined that my child would get my milk for the first six months of her life, just as it was recommended at the time (now it is recommended that babies are breast fed for one year).

In addition to wanting to follow the recommendation for what was best for my baby, I perceived that the bias in my social circle bent toward frowning upon bottle-feeding. While I was, essentially, bottle-feeding, I felt compelled to let everyone know that I was pumping and feeding my own milk. I’m sure that the perception that everyone was judging me for using a bottle was faulty, but I was more than a little neurotic about being unable to nurse my baby like other mothers could nurse theirs.

My obsession with wanting to nurse my child continued long after M was no longer using bottles for any type of milk or formula so when K was growing in my belly I was determined to do all I could to ensure nursing success the second time around. I signed my husband, Craig, and I up for a breast-feeding class. It was a one-evening class that taught the parents all about the benefits of breast feeding and taught a few different holds and techniques. It was nothing I didn’t already know.

When K was born, however, I knew one essential thing that I hadn’t the first time around. I could refuse the nurses’ help. So, when I was wheeled to recovery and asked if I wanted help with getting him to nurse the first time I said no. They left me alone and K and I figured it out together. He nursed for a little more than thirteen months.

M has not suffered one bit for not nursing. In fact, she’s had only 2 ear infections in her nearly six years on the planet, compared to K’s multitude of infections that resulted in ear tube surgery before he was one year old. I knew in my head that this would be the case; that she would be fine, but that didn’t stop me from worrying about these things when I was a first-time mother.

When my third child was born just 5 weeks ago, there were still a few nurses who tried to tell me how to nurse my child…my third child. I politely, but firmly, told them to leave me alone. D and I were learning together, and we’d be just fine. And we are.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Ocean and The Lake

The summers of my youth were spent on the shores of Florida and, later, North Carolina.  On more days than I could count, I fell into bed exhausted, skin slightly pink, salt residue recently rinsed off, the smell of Coppertone never far away.  Some days, I would dive again and again into the waves, body surfing back to shore.  Others, I wandered along the sand, gazing at the horizon and dreaming of the world beyond.  When I moved north for college, my New England friends introduced me to the Vineyard and Nantucket, whose beautiful shores confirmed what I’d always known:  there is nothing quite like the ocean.  I’ve been in love with it for as long as I can remember. 

When my husband and I were contemplating a move to Michigan, his boss-to-be took us around town for a day, and then insisted we end our trip with a visit to Lake Michigan.  “Wait until you see the dunes,” said this Wisconsin native, and I think my eyes may have accidentally rolled back in my head.  When you grow up with the ocean at your back door, a lake is unlikely to impress.

And it didn’t.  Well, it’s big, okay, I’ll give him that.  And the sand was awfully nice; soft and white.  But the waves were small and what’s a day at the beach without the salt?

Time ticked on and our short stay in Michigan turned into eight years.  During that time, I discovered many beaches along the shores of the “big lake” and I loved to take the kids for an afternoon.  A lake, I found, is a bit less stressful with small children, given the significantly smaller waves.  And a salt-free lake, I found, is a bit easier to clean off of wiggly boys before they run through the house.  A lake, I decided, is better, much better than nothing.  And so we bought a cottage near a lake, the big one, and I savor every moment we spent there.

Okay, fine.  Not every moment.  Today, for example, I quite enjoyed our trip to the beach.  But “savored,” well, no.  Today—with an air temperature of about 64 degrees—the boys ran to the ice-cold lake and jumped and yelped and giggled their heads off.  These boys of mine, who don’t know about the warm, wonderfully warm, beach water of my childhood, think this is great fun.  Watching them laugh made me laugh.  Still, I was almost shivering, sitting there with my towel wrapped around me like a blanket and I couldn’t help, for just a moment, wishing for the ocean of the south.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

the simple life

There is a part of me that has always longed for a big family, and a simple life. But as I have grown older, I realized that neither are as "simple" as they might seem. Large families require more work than I ever imagined, and my family is not even that big. Living simply is also a big adjustment, and one that I would like to continue learning more about.

Some of the best times that my family has shared (thus far) are our long weekends spent camping. Now I know that living this way for a weekend does not even compare to always living this way, but it really is wonderful. It is great to have no distractions. There is no tv, no computers *GASP*, no phones... just our family being together. Playing, exploring, cooking, swimming, and hiking together. Walking to the nearest bathroom, showering when we feel that it is a necessity (LOL), and sleeping in our tent. Yes, you read that right, tent. I've slept in a tent while pregnant, while nursing an infant (who screamed all night, I am sure waking half the campers...) and now with our four young kids. It may not be the best sleeping I have ever had, but it is fun none the less. We all sit by the campfire before bed, and all go to sleep together, talking about the best parts of our day and the one to follow. Ahhhh...I can not wait for our trip in July!

I have wonderful memories of going camping when I was a child, and I hope that my kids will one day say the same. I hope they will take thier kids camping, if only to see the joy in the simplicity of it all.

*this picture was taken on a camping trip back in 1982, I am the little blonde on the far left :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

To Cook or Not to Cook the Jam

Now that berry season is finally here, my plan is to fill the freezer with packs of jam. Friends and relatives rave about the no-cook strawberry jam recipe. However, you must still boil the "no-cook" strawberry jam recipe for at least one minute. But what do you really gain? The recipe requires the addition of fruit pectin to thicken the jam, and more sugar. Once, I ran out of fruit pectin, and was forced to make jam the old-fashioned way -- by cooking the jam. I learned some surprising things along the way:

  • Cooked jam requires much less sugar. The no-cook recipe ratio is 8 cups of strawberries to 16 cups of sugar. In the cook method, the ratio is 8 cups of strawberries to four cups of sugar.
  • Your pan is already dirty, and the cook method only requires that you continue to cook the jam just a few minutes longer until it reaches 220 degrees. Really, no biggie.
  • With the fruit pectin no longer needed, and a dramatic reduction in sugar, this is a much more economical way to make jam.
Here's another benefit. The absence of the extra sugar and pectin leaves you with more strawberries per serving. As a result, your jam is a beautiful, deep crimson red. No pink frilly wimpy jam. From now on, I'm cooking my jam.

Here's the recipe for the cook method of strawberry jam.

(Can easily be reduced.)
  • cups fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  1. In a wide bowl, crush strawberries in batches until you have 4 cups of mashed berry.
  2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.
  3. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil.
  4. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Waves of Worry

We're accompanying Hubs to a conference this week, for a family vacation. But it's hardly a vacation for me.

I am the mommy.

I do loads and loads of laundry, so everyone can have what they want on the trip. I clean the house, so we can some back to a clean space. I pack all of the suitcases. I make Walmart runs to make sure we have shoes for the beach. Sunscreen. Coloring books. I chase down boarding passes and car seat rentals. I scout out Museums and contact local relatives. I check and double check our hotel reservations.

Flying with a four year old and a two year old is its own post.

Once we arrive, I will arrange and organize and set rules and worry. We will go to the beach, where I will be too nervous to have any fun. We will hit the pool, where anxiety will make my heart beat out of my chest. There are too many sad stories out there. They are never far from my mind.

I will make Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for the beach, and they will be sandy and gross. Fruit will dutifully pressed upon my children. Sunscreen applied, Floaties inflated over and over. Tantrums quelled. Naps forced. Grandparents visited. Hugs and kisses exchanged. I will cry, because every time I see them I wonder if it is the last time. This time, it probably will be. I have been saying that for years. But someday, I will be right.

In the evenings, we'll eat in restaraunts where my kids will behave (mostly) and we'll see Daddy for the first time of the day. He'll be eager to see it all again, do it all again, and we'll head back to the beach in suits sticky and clammy wet from earlier in the day. They might watch the sun go down. I will watch for high waves and bugs and even shark fins. As if paranoia will keep them safe.

We will do this for days, adding in a random Museum visit here and there. Each night, my kids will curl up together; content, pink and exhausted from their day. I will breathe for the first time of the day, elated that another day has passed in which I have kept them safe.

My fear is not enough to keep me from living my life. But I have not learned how to banish it.

On one hand, it is necessary. A mother bear looking after her cubs.

On the other hand, it is excessive and useless. Many of the stories of other families' tragedies are scenarios that no one in a million years could have seen happening.

But we will trudge out to the ocean, to the pool, to life each day. Because my kids will only remember the sand between their toes, the crashing sound of the waves, the days spent in the company of each other, and the good times they had. Maybe I can't stop worrying. But I want to be sure that it's my problem-- not theirs.

I hope that they will never know my worry until their own children play in the waves.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

But When Mom?

If your kids are anything like mine, you get asked approximately 4382 times before an event when exactly said event is going to take place. Kids, bless their little hearts, have little to no concept of time. It makes me a bit jealous to be completely truthful. How great would it be to not care what day of the week it was or even what time it was?

When my oldest child was three, she was (and still is) a social creature. She wanted to be on the go constantly. She was seldom content to sit around the house. If I needed to do errands, I would ask her if she wanted to go shopping though, because on the days that she didn't feel like going out it was surely a disaster if I tried to force the issue.

When she was three, her little brother was just one year old and fairly portable still. When she was a baby, she balked at sitting in the 'baby' seat of the cart. My son, now nearly four, still asks occasionally to sit in the seat that he has been too big to sit in for about 2 years.

Most days, however, my daughter wanted to go out, do something, see the world and let the world see her. Even as young as 15 months, she'd grab her coat and bring it to me indicating it was time to get our butts out of the house because she was bored being with just mommy.

So, it goes without saying probably, that when there was a big outing planned for sometime in the future, that day would never arrive soon enough for Miss M. As I was trying to navigate life with two active young children I found it extremely tiresome to field my daughter's repeated questioning about when she had preschool and when she didn't or when, exactly, we would be going to her cousin's birthday party. She never asked just once, got the answer and let it go. Because she didn't understand the concept of time, telling her that the party was in three days really meant nothing to her.

One day I had a light bulb moment (as Oprah likes to say...does she still say that all the time? I haven't seen that show in ages) and decided to make M's event calendar. The calendar ended up doing double duty for us.

I marked events on the calendar by drawing representative pictures that my daughter learned to recognize stood for certain events. For example, a book meant that she had school that day, and a party hat meant that it was a birthday party day.

About that same time, we were having trouble getting Miss M into bed without a major meltdown, so, when I introduced the event calendar, I explained that each night she went to bed like a big girl (i.e. no meltdowns) she would earn a sticker on her calendar to mark the day off. If bedtime did not go well, we'd just mark the day off with a boring X.

It was a simple solution that worked remarkably well for us. She had few meltdowns because she wanted that sticker. If she asked me when we were doing something, I'd tell her to look on her calendar and she'd count the number of sleeps before the big day.

Now we have 2 calendars gracing our fridge. We don't need the stickers anymore, and most often forget to put them on at all, but it still helps the kids know what events are coming up. M rarely even asks me when we're doing things anymore. She automatically goes to the fridge to check her calendar.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Having a Field Day!

If we go back far enough, most of us can pull up a memory of Field Day. For the athletic kids, it's heaven. You remember racing and tugging and, mostly, winning. For carefree kids, the memories are pleasant. A day out of the classroom, playing with friends, no stress. Others, no doubt, remember it as the day they wished, prayed, hoped to stay home. Running, ugh. Competition, double ugh.

Field Day in our area has morphed into a day of fun, sans the "official" competition, although if kids can turn any game into winning and losing, they will. But what I saw over the past two days (two kids, two schools), was pure fun: games and snacks and lots of laughter.

Get it in the bottle!

Up the hill!



And there’s my kid, the one who's never met a competition game he didn't like.

Happy Field Day to moms and kids everywhere. Hope yours are full of fun, too!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

10 Days

For more Wordless Wednesday posts visit here.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I have always enjoyed looking through old pictures, and I feel that alot of my childhood memories are tied to those pictures. My Mom (though I love her like crazy) was not the best at taking pictures, or organizing the ones we had. There was a large drawer in one of her antique chests, and that was where the pictures were. I could sit for hours going through them, and I still do, although I have looked through them all a million time already.

I have had those pictures here with me for about 5 years with plans to organize them for my Mom, for me, and for my kids. I'd love for them to be able to sit down with an album and just see the progression of me growing up, and see what a wonderful childhood I had. Organizing them takes time though, and that seems to be one thing I just do not have alot of *sigh*

The way my Mom had our pictures "organized" must have bothered me, because when I had my first child, the pictures were in a album before I left the hospital, seriously. I had been given a small album that matched my baby book (I know you all know how planning for a first baby is, LOL) and someone had taken my roll of film to Walmart for one hour developing. I kept this up for about 3-4 years, and two children. Each roll of film was developed and placed in an album accordingly. I even went as far as sticking little number labels on the ends (a trick I learned from my very organized MIL) so that you would know which album to look through first.

I am laughing at myself as I type.

Enter digital cameras. I take so many pictures now with my digital camera, I would go broke trying to print them all. Since Zander arrived (summer 2004) I've had prints made a few times from online. He has part of an album full of pictures of me before he arrived, and some from the hospital in it. Ava does not have any albums, yet. I do have the pictures on CD and I wonder what the future will be like. Will the kids just pop in a CD to see their childhood pictures?

Each of my children do have pregnancy journals, and VERY FULL baby books, both of which I have put pictures in. I also scrapbook if/when I get time, so there are some things for them to look back on. I keep nearly everything from school, but have started to slow down on that now that they are getting older, and because I have four kids. Eventually my house would be over run with school papers :)

My point is, I always thought I would do a better job at keeping our memories together and organized. Turns out, I'm not. There are things all over my house, and if I were gone tomorrow, I'm not sure anyone could put all of the pieces together. I am wondering if there is an easier way, a better way. Am I trying too hard? Was my Mom's drawer the perfect answer? Have digital cameras ruined my chances of ever keeping things printed and together?

What do YOU do with your kids pictures/memories?