August 28, 2003

Why we parent the way we do... Serona and I parent in the way that we find most natural and the way we feel is best for our family. Many of our decisions can be classified under "Attachment Parenting" or "Natural Parenting" or some combination of the two. Dr. Sears has found a place in our home as we own much of his parenting library and as many of you know I am a LLL leader and our decision to breastfeed each of our children until they are ready to stop themselves (child led weaning) has also informed many of our parenting decisions. It is moments like this that remind me why I love parenting our kids the way we do.

For those of you who don't know us and are unfamiliar with the concepts of "Attachment Parenting" some of the decisions we have made include: extended breastfeeding (past the age of one or two), tandem nursing (nursing siblings who are not the same age - which includes nursing through a pregnancy), baby-wearing (most often in a sling), high-touch parenting (we are in physical contact with our kids especially when newborn and infants nearly all the time), co-sleeping, never letting our kids "cry it out", and staying with our kids until they fall asleep. As I type this I am nursing our newborn and sitting in the older kids room as they drift off into sleep.

Many people disagree with many of our choices, or atleast don't understand them. That is fine, parenting is very individualized and everyone makes the decisions that are best for their family. In our family these decisions have led to happy well adjusted kids. They have a desire to please us as parents and others around them, they are self-confident and feel very loved and supported. There is very little sibling rivalry or jealousy between them. They are compassionate, caring and kind kids who are very sensitive to other people's needs and have a desire to help people feel better. My older two are very different children in many ways and yet they share these charachterisitics and much of it I believe is from the environment in which they are raised. Despite having children very close in age we have kept an intensive way of parenting for each of them and they do not feel replaced or left out and my older kids are the first to tell me the baby needs to nurse or just be held. When someone is hurt they are right there to help in whatever way they can (prayer, hug, kiss, getting them mom's help,etc) and it is wonderful to watch.

Some people wonder how I can manage this and how I am not exhuated all the time. Well the truth is, I can mange because Serona is wonderful and supportive and very involved himself. But more importantly we feel we are following the way God would have us parent and he gives us what we need each day. In reality there are times we are both exhausted but for the most part I just think we have more realistic expectations. I don't expect to sleep for more than a few hours at a time or a night for that matter. I don't expect a newborn to follow my schedule (our two year old is better), and I plan on holding my kids alot (almost all the time in the beginning) and I recognize they need alot of attention and support these early years. So I adjust my desires, expectations and thoughts on what life should look like.

These years will pass by quickly but I am enjoying each moment and I have not felt like - the time flew by or dragged on.
I feel like it has gone just right (though I do wish the newborn days lasted longer) I have been pregnant and/or nursing for nearly 5 years now continously - I don't really remember what "sleeping through the night" is like, I average 4-6 hours a night, and I can certainly relate to the "touched out" feeling as I am almost always being touched by someone. But I gaze into my newborns eyes or cuddle with my two year old or watch my 4 year old comfort her sister and I know it is all worth it and I wouldn't change a thing!

You may think these decisions lead us to do nothing but spend time with our kids. Well we do spend quite a bit of time just with our family and that is some of our most special and meaningful times, but we both have many other interests and hobbies we find time for (though perhaps not as much as we would desire - would i ever stop reading?) and some are individual, some are couple and many become family interests as we pass them on to our kids. Now I grant you we have made other choices that free up our time to balance family/work and personal interests (NAMELY - NO TV!!!) but that is part of the beauty of our choices and we enjoy the things we do so much more than the things we don't and our quality of life is very good.

Serona manages to find time to act in two major performances a year (some recent ones include: Honk! The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (he was Aslan), Love Rides the Rails, and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat) in addition he is working on writing a fantasy novel (he would like more time for this), blogs regularly at CyberEcology, reads avidly, occasionaly gets involved with local or national politics especially around campaign time, and co-teaches a bible study with me on Apologetics and Postmodernism.

As for me I am very involved with breastfeeding support through both LLL and some other community and national work I do. I help run a food buying club, a cooperative preschool, and homeschool our kids. I enjoy water aerobics, yoga and pilates (when I'm not pregnant) and am an avid reader as well. I am trying to get better about blogging, keep family journals for each of my kids and think about writing several different books. And of course research, which is a natural passion of mine (parenting, health, medicine, breastfeeding, current events, bible study, politics, homeschooling and vegetarianism to name a few). So I think we find a balance of the personal and the family.

Part of that balance comes from the way we do things, around our family. Oftentimes our kids (especially when it was just one) would go to watch dad's rehearsals, or listen to him as he practiced guitar. They have been read to from adult books since they were in uetero as we read aloud to them from whatever we were reading at the time )this is especially true during the early months of life). The kids watch us research and read and include them in most everything we do. When we got involved in local politics we did things as a family, sign waving, attending rallies and so on. Our kids have seen President Bush, First lady Laura Bush, Ralph Nader, Governor Pawlenty and Senator Coleman at rallies and speeches we brought them to. Our daughter could identify president bush by picture at age 3 and knew that Ralph Nader was an activist and presidential candidate. Our kids love to read and are very interested in the computer to gather information (note I did not say just to play games) and know it is a tool I use to get "school materials" for them. They have a desire to learn and to read and to do things just like Serona and I and I believe it is because that is what they see us doing and in many ways they want to be just like us.

To be sure they ask to watch videos like any normal kid does, they play computer games occasionaly and I think they are pretty normal kids in many ways. Yet they don't know who many "charachters" from children's tv shows are, have very little marketing influence from advertisers and know the star wars universe better than many adults I know. So it is just different, but it is a good fit for us. Anyway not sure what my point was when i started but now you know a bit more about our family and how we do things here.

Peace,
Tenn
Bonding in the Early Days...I LOVE the newborn days! So many people may complain about these days and sleepless nights but in many ways they are my favorite part of parenting and some of my favorite days in my lifetime so far. The special bond that is created during this time is irreplaceable and these moments are fleeting and pass all too quickly.

This time, my third time around, I was concerned that I wouldn't have as much time for the baby and that I would be rushed through these days. However, thanks to the amazing generosity of Serona and our wise family decision to keep these early days just our immediate nuclear family with no long term guests or visitors for more than a half hour or so at a time, it has been the best early period yet. I find myself having more not less time to bond with my new daughter and to have a solid recovery time just focused on healing my body and nursing and cuddling with her.

Dad has had more time with the older kids and they are really enjoying that time. It is also helping them deal with the loss of my attention and time during these few days and weeks. Serona has been truly incredible, taking care of the kids, the household, the meals, and anything else that needs to be done. He also decided to repaint our kitchen cabinets and continue working on the kids bookshelves during this time. And as I type he is downstairs watching "The two towers" dvd and cuddling with the baby as I put the older two to sleep. He still has another week off of work next week and I am so thankful that he took all this time together and we have really been able to just be a family and I have had the stress relieved from me. Thanks Serona, you are the best!

Peace,
tenn

August 21, 2003

A Birth Story... Well this has been an exciting week in our household, and we are now a community of five! Our newest daughter joined us on Tuesday night at 2:30 in the morning and weighed just over 8lbs - a nice change of pace from my other nine pounders! Her labor was very quick, well a quick four hours plus the three weeks of prodromal labor!

Okay so I admit it, I drank castor oil, and I would do it again if the circumstances were similar. Under the recommendation of my midwife we decided to try to gently encourage things along. I had heard how miserable it was and really I did not find it miserable at all, perhaps my perception is clouded by the misery of the three weeks that preceded it. But honestly I drank it so fast, two ounces of castor oil mixed with two ounces of orange juice and a chaser of just plain juice. I didn't stop to breathe until I was halfway through the chaser so I never tasted the castor oil or it's consistency. Then it was 8 hours before anything else happened, I was beginning to get disillusioned again. Then a half hour of unpleasant runs to the bathroom, that were not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. Then the contractions began, within an hour we knew we were headed to the hospital. It was a rainy night and the drive took us about an hour. We walked into the maternity ward and I was clearly on my way.

Into the room for the dreaded "20 minute tape" that the hospital requires where they hooked me up to the machine to monitor the baby's heart rate and the strength of my contractions, which were quite strong as i had begun transition in the car I believe. I rolled around on a birth ball on the bed and couldn't believe how long it took to get into the tub, those twenty minutes seemed so much longer. Into the tub, I was dilated to an 8. My midwife went to check on another patient who was in labor and to call in help since she had two patients. After three amazing contractions in the tub I was telling Serona he needed to get someone NOW because I was feeling pushy. At first he didn't believe me, but soon headed out the door for the nurses station. The midwife came in, I had only been in the tub 10-15 minutes and she measured me and said "Okay, let's just have this baby right now, out of the tub!"

The hospital we were at does not allow under water births, so i complied. Onto the bed, first push my water broke and the head crowned, two or three pushes later and our daughter joined this world, three and a half hours after the first contraction of the night. It was so quick I did not really believe it was done. The birth was so beautiful and our recovery is going very well.

For obvious reasons things will be quiet here for a little while. Hope all is well with you and your families.

Peace,
Tenn

August 15, 2003

Still Pregnant...While technically not due until Monday, I feel VERY overdue as this prodromal labor has been carrying on now for three full weeks! Tonight seems especially hard as the baby has taken complete control over my body and is rolling and jumping and lots of other movements that make it impossible for me to sleep or relax! I've already taken my nightly sleeping pill (a doctor requirement for me - so I atleast get 4 hours of sleep a night) and it seems not to be working tonight. I am really uncomfortable, I feel like the 9 month train wreck has hit and I am not recovering.

Of course I know this is normal, and this is the end of the pregnancy and bottom line is she has to come out sometime, but is it wrong to want that time to come soon? I have been patient now for quite a while. Well it doesn't seem to matter much what I think, feel and want, she is simply not ready to come out yet and will not be persuaded to change her mind. Suppose I shouldn't be surprised to have a right minded and stubborn child huh?

So here I sit after an hour playing Tetris on Serona's handheld IPAC I gave up laying down and came to take my perch upon my big "birth ball" one of those rubber balls you use for yoga or exercise. You see for the past few days I have had to completely change my sitting/laying and movement methods as the midwives believe that the baby is posterior and that may be contributing to my prodromal labor and the contractions that are not having any cervial change effects. So I spend my days and evenings rolling around the house on this ball or crawling around on my hands and knees. Well noone will tell me I am not doing my part!

But tonight I have tried a variety of things and nothing seems to make either herself or me comfortable enough to get some sleep or even relax and lay peacefully in bed. Perhaps that will be good, perhaps she will feel cramped enough to want to come out! Here is to hope atleast.

Well thanks for listening to my tirade, I promise this will get better once everything settles down with the baby.

Peace,
Tenn

August 8, 2003

Rounding out the day...A trip to the park for a little while, greeting new neighbors on the walk there - welcoming them to the neighborhood. Playing on slides, climbing and pretending in the rocks and their favorite activity there today walking on the edge practicing their balance. I sat on a bench and cut out and glued colored file folder games while watching them play. We headed home a little early as there was a desperate need for the bathroom!

They came home and played nicely together in their bedroom with lego's for nearly a half hour! Then the battle over cleanup began, they could not come out until the lego's were cleaned up. Suddenly leaving there room didn't seem so appealing to them and they continued to play and find other things to keep themselves occupied in there. I continued finishing the file folder games and started cooking dinner, stir-fry with tempeh and rice. Now our son is playing with a police car and fire truck on the floor and our daughter in sitting quietly at the kitchen table sad that she can't play with my cell phone. Think this will be the last blog tonight, hope all is well with you.

Peace,
Tenn
Left to their own devices... I decided to get some laundry folded and pick up the house for a few minutes while they were stencling. Soon my son grew bored and headed off to the room to help me, again switching gears he started playing and rolling around on my big exercise ball, he was having a blast and getting a good workout and keeping me entertained as I folded laundry. Our daughter eventually grew bored of stenciling and headed to the kitchen for magnet play. We have a bunch of transportation wooden magnets, trucks, cars, air balloons, boats on our fridge and she made up games and played with them. At one point she said she was playing Stuart Little, perhaps with the boat or the airplane? Anyway it kept her happy. Then our son headed into their room and took out some board games, he played with Goodnight Moon, a basic matching game by himself for awhile and then took out Ravensburgers 4 first games, which he really likes the pieces for but cannot play by himself, and he scattered the pieces all around the room! Meanwhile it was our daughters turn on the big ball, where she proceeded to put on a show for me while my son cuddled and rested with me in my bed for a few minutes. Cleanup time and now we are headed to the playground to burn off energy and for me to perhaps finish the last of my file folder games.

Peace,
Tenn
Following Their Rhythms... Today is a lesson of following my kids patterns. I really wanted to take them to a county fair with a carnival, petting zoo and animal show - I never told them (in case I got too tired) but every time we have tried to get out the door something else has distracted and involved them, it is now after 3pm and it seems too late to go. Right now they are set up at the kitchen table using colored pencils to stencil. I was getting my youngest ready to go and the other one sat down and got her "art notebook" out and started free drawing, then she asked for some stencils and colored pencils, and of course he wanted to join in. It seems silly to me to force them to do something else when they are enjoying such an activity as stenciling! So we will follow their pattern and maybe just head up to the local playground when they get bored!

Peace,
Tenn
Consumer Activism and Social Justice...McDonald's just announced a campaign to end use of chemicals in their meat and stop the poor treatment of animals. I just blogged about it over at CyberEcology, tune in over there and read about consumer activism and true industry transformation.

Peace,
Tenn
Counting and sounds with the ark...Our son has a beautiful wooden Noah's Ark set that he enjoys playing with. As I sit here and type he asked for it and began taking out the pieces and counting them and saying what each animal is and what sounds they make. As a very active 2 year old he rarely wants to count or do things in a formal way. So it is very exciting when he just starts doing it by himself, I have to watch how much I get involved as he actually does better on his own, it is as if as soon as I get involved his perspective changes from a fun game to "work" of some sort. Even when I just try to play along, it is hard to get used to but works best is if I stay doing what I am and occasionally ask him a question or two or offer a suggestion for what he can do with them to try to lightly guide him, but he can't stand feeling directed i think. Sometimes he will let his sister sit down and play with him and she can help him figure things out. I just enjoy watching it and being a part from a distance, though at times I wish he would let me be more involved, it seems sad to me sometimes that he is so independent at 2!

Peace,
Tenn
Our little princess... Our daughter has taken to wearing a princess crown all the time and talking about her wedding when she will be a queen. Today we went to a bagel shop and I let her continue to wear it, some people gave odd looks but most just smiled. I love letting her live out her dreams and play with her imagination in the ways she wants to, and it makes for a more peaceful day. So what if she doesn't match - I still think she is cute and she is having a good time moving through her world this way!
In search of curriculum... Well we have spent a considerable amount of time considering this issue and have decided against one for the upcoming year. I looked into a variety including waldorf, montessori, charlotte mason, and classical and just feel that at this time it would be better to kind of make up my own as we go with the kids in mind. I think I will take a more structured approach to phonics and early reading skills, but beyond that take it as it comes. We are considering Phonics Pathways and Teach Your Child to read in 100 easy lessons for phonics. I was almost conviced by Calvert because it would be so nice to have an east to follow guided plan for each day of the year for my kids so I don't need to think with the baby and all, but we are going to just go ahead and try it with more of an unschooling approach.

Peace,
Tenn

August 7, 2003

For the backyard astronomer We will soon be granted the best view of Mars in 60,000 years. According to CNN Mars will makes "Its closest pass will come on August 27 at 5:51 a.m. EDT (0951 GMT), when Mars will be less than 34.65 million miles (55.76 million km) away. "

Apparently it won't seem that much larger to the naked eye only brighter. But it still should be exciting for those backyard explorers. Be sure to get out that night, and take your kids too!

Peace,
Tenn

August 6, 2003

Some inspiration for me... Today while taking a break I spent some time surfing other homeschool blogs and was truly impressed. There really are quite a few good ones out there and I feel quite novice! But that is okay, I am just starting out and keeping the log for my family, I am sure over time it will grow. But some of these sites really gave me inspiration and some things to shoot for myself. Check out Alma Mater and Linda's Homeschool Weblog as well as The Homeschooling Revolution.

Peace,
Tenn

August 5, 2003

Learning Math in a Parking Lot...Today we were running some errands and our 4 year old really wanted to do some math. So we counted the sidewalk squares for addition and then picked up rocks as counters to work on our subtraction. We only did this for a few minutes, but it really made her happy and took so little of our time. Just helped me remember how easy it is to learn along the walk of our daily lives. Thought I would share.

Peace,
Tenn
Puttering along...Well I am still puttering along, I am exhausted, drained and on an emotional roller coaster. Needless to say our days are mostly down to survival mode for the time being. The kids are hanging in there and being good sports. I have had friends come to my side to help give the kids playdates and me some much needed rest. Serona is our hero, as he is picking up all the slack and managing all our raging emotions.

I am averaging 5 hours of sleep a night (with the sleeping pill - none without) and trying to catch cat naps during the day. The contractions are still regular and consistent and driving me a little crazy. I continually wonder - is this it? Then they putter away after a few hours and a contemplation of will they be strong enough to head to the hospital?

I recognize I am only 38 weeks and this could continue for a few more weeks, but I am hopeful it will end soon - for everyone's sake. Needless to say things will be quiet here for a little while, though I am sure everyone can understand.

Off for storytime and hopefully naptime!

Peace,
Tenn

August 2, 2003

Family Date Night    Tonight was a great night for us all. We decided that, in spite of Tenn's prodromal labor, we would go out for dinner and a movie as a family. So we headed off to Panera Bread Co. for vegan soup in a bread bowl, yummy salads, and cheese and veggie sandwiches. These were all a hit. The dinner conversation was good and the meal was a treat. Then it was off to the movies.

On a recommendation we went to see Finding Nemo. It was a bit scary for our 2 and 4 year old but overall, they liked it. Our son was especially upset when Nemo got caught in a fish tank filter (not the shark chase, not the imminent death by eating scenes, but a mildly funny "I'm Stuck" scene - go figure). The tension was always relieved quickly and the story was charming (a "little mermaid" or "Aladdin" it was not).

Then it was back home for a late bedtime. But we still managed to read a chapter in Prince Caspian the third installment of the Narnia series we are reading to the kids.

well, it's really late and I need to sleep (in number 2 childs bed as Tenns prodromal labor demands full rest for her).

Your thoughts and especially prayers are appreciated in this time.