Poverty and God

One of the things I love about Grateful Moms of Many (GMOMs) is our diversity and the welcoming spirit of our blog to everyone.  That being said I am a Christian and know that many of our readers are as well, so when the topic of poverty and God would not leave my mind recently I felt that there would be many among you that would be interested in the subject too.  This post is in no way intended to disenfranchise any of our readers.  This post is intended only to shine a light on a problem I see within the Christian community that I simply could not remain silent about any longer.  ~Sasha

“I am so frustrated.  My family obeys God, we help the hungry and the homeless, we give to the church in time and money.  We constantly search to do God’s will but still we are poor.  I don’t understand why so many have so much and yet God sees fit to keep us in this financial crises.”

I have seen and heard the above statements so many times, worded one way or another, by my fellow Christians. Over and over again, even by my own mouth at one point, we cry out “Why God?  Why, am I, your faithful servant, condemned to struggle when I have been faithful and my neighbor prospers and yet does no perceivable good?”  Then in the same measure I watch as their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ tell them to have more faith, to pray more, to work harder and waste less.  They tell them how if they obey God then they will be rewarded and that if they are not then something in their lives must be displeasing God.  Why else would they be poor?  Occasionally one might remind them that only God knows the true condition of the heart and we should not do good works on earth expecting treasures that are instead waiting in heaven.  But never do I see or hear what needs to be said.

It is not a sin or a punishment to be poor.

Let me say that again just in case it wasn’t clear the first time.

It is not a sin or a punishment to be poor.

Some how, in ways I can not even begin to fathom, it has become popular opinion in the Christian faith that while God loves the poor he is just waiting for them to shape up so that he can heap piles of cash on their heads.  Too often I have seen entire congregations pass judgment on anyone below the poverty line.  It is simple in their minds.  To be rich is to be in God’s favor and receiving his blessings and to be poor must mean you are out of favor and undeserving of his blessings.  Thing is… that just isn’t biblical.  So what does God have to say about the poor and the wealthy?

In James chapter 2 versus 1-7 (NIV) we are told that to judge a man and treat him poorly because of his lack of wealth and “filthy clothing” is to “become judges with evil thoughts”.  Further more it says that the rich are the very ones that have been exploiting them and that God has chosen those that are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him.

How about Christ himself, what was his opinion?  We have all heard the story of the young wealthy man who came to Jesus and asked what it was he need do to get eternal life and then after being told to follow the commandments the man tells Jesus that he has already done that.  Then what does Jesus tell him to do?  “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me. ” Matthew 19 verse 21 (NIV)  And what is the young man’s reaction to this news? In verse 22 it tells us  “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”  Then Jesus lays on us perhaps the most famous biblical words on wealth of all time.  “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19: 24-25

Over and over again you read stories of how very hard it is for the rich to follow God and what of the poor?  Help them, feed them, do not despise them, give to them, do not neglect them.  You see time and again stories of faithful followers of God that are very poor, despite finding great favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Luke Chapter 12 (NIV)

15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Also of course is the story Christ told in the presence of the pharisees in Luke chapter 16 of the rich man and Lazarus… we don’t even get the rich man’s name.  What we do get though is a story of a man being very wealthy and out of God’s favor and a man being very poor and being in God’s favor.

So am I trying to say that God hates rich people?  No, clearly not.  But what I am trying to say is that neither does he hate the poor.  I want to see a change for the better in the Christian community.  Too often I have come into a church to see all of the wealthy seated proudly in the front while the poor are patted on the head and sent out of sight.  Too often have I seen the cold judgmental eyes as the offering plate is passed around or a young woman tries to hide how little she is able to put in the offering.  Why do we do this?  It isn’t biblical, so why do we allow it to continue?  This is my challenge to you my fellow Christians, stop judging the poor, your savior didn’t.  Just stop.  It really can, and should be, that simple.

*In addition to the above thoughts I would like to add something that happened to me while I was studying these things.  I went to the store and while I was selecting my groceries I overheard one delivery worker speaking to another about this very topic!  I heard the end of the conversation as I passed by and had to ask him for the scripture reference he was quoting.  It truly summarized what my husband and I have prayed for many years and now I try to meditate on the words and include it in my prayers as often as it comes to mind.  I will share it here in the hopes that it will be bring clarity to others as well.

Proverbs 30

8b give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

A Tale of Two Educations: The Motivated Learner

Yesterday I told you about my oldest daughter Mazzy and her educational story.  Today I would like to talk about my second daughter Lydia.  When Lydia was three years old her brother Tristram was a newborn. Remembering how much Mazzy had loved her play based headstart and preschool we decided it would be nice to send her to the same school giving me a break during the middle of the day.  I was crushed when at orientation I discovered that they had lost much of their private funding and had to fall back on public funding to keep the school open.  Now that the school was financed by government funds they had to restructure their program to fit into the No Child Left Behind standards and the differences were jarring.  We quickly decided that we would keep her home instead, not wanting academics pushed on her too early.  This reasoning would prove ironic with what would later happen.

Lydia, at 3 years old.

At this time I was still working hard at teaching Mazzy how to read and had bought the book Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  Lydia showed interest in me working with her sister and so I decided to give her a try with it and see how she did.  I knew in the back of my mind that too much focus on academics at an early age was not good for children but didn’t see any harm in it as long as she was interested and I wasn’t forcing it.  I was amazed at how quickly she picked up on the lessons and the next thing I knew she was reading.  I bought some more materials, booklets aimed at kindergarteners, and she flew through them in just a few short weeks.  I had been so frustrated with the difficulty in teaching Mazzy that I grasped on to Lydia’s success like a drowning man grabs a life-preserver.  Everything I attempted to teach her she would instantly learn and apply to the world around her.  Complex scientific terms for middle schoolers, got it.  Math several grades ahead of her age, no problem.  She was reading at college level by the time she was eight years old and doing highschool level history and science.  Sounds great, right?  Sounds like a homeschool mom’s dream.  There was a problem though, Lydia didn’t know how to play and what was worse she started showing signs of deep depression.

It was the summer she was nine years old when our cat Elinor had kittens that I first truly started realizing that maybe I had done something wrong.  While the other children cuddled with them and rubbed their soft fur against their cheek Lydia sat in front of them with a clipboard and pen.  She had decided she wanted to chart their growth and behavior in association with time spent with their mom and original birth weight.  There was a part of me that was very proud of my little budding scientist, but there was this other part of me that whispered that I needed to watch her closer.   The more I observed the more concerned I became.  She no longer laughed and rarely played, there was never any real joy in her eyes and she avoided conversation.  Slowly she began to open up to me and finally she confessed to me she had thought of suicide.  My world stopped and my heart broke for her.   I immediately made her an appointment with a child psychologist.

The appointment was severely disappointing as the woman clearly had no idea what to make of my precocious child that asked questions like “But how do we know we are really here? Rene Descartes’s philosophy “I think therefore I am” seems weak to me.”  The only advice the psychologist offered was that we should put her in public school, not only that but in the grade deemed by her age so that she could be around “normal” kids.   When I asked her if she felt like it would be even harder on her there with the differences and boredom with the material all she did in response was shrug.

After this I turned to the internet for help.  I found our states Association for Gifted Children website and started asking questions and looking for help for our daughter.  Through this I was able to get in contact with a doctor that is frequently used by association members for evaluation and psychological counseling.  Unable to make it upstate for a direct visit we had a lengthy phone consultation where he explained that depression is a common problem with children like my daughter and he gave me some ideas on how to help her.  That with some other data I researched led me to a plan on how to get the spark back in our little girl.  We stopped all studies for a year with her and focused on learning to play and have fun.  We planted a flower garden, we read fairy tales, we played with dolls and spent nights under the stars making up new  constellations with funny names, rolled down hills and got dirty in mud puddles.  Slowly she began to laugh again, she began to heal.

Now several years later she has complete control over her education and delights in it.  Some things she kept on with, she still loves classic literature.  Some things she cast to the side, turns out she hated Latin.  Most important she is happy and enjoys life.  It was a hard lesson for me, but one well learned, that education is so much more than just how much knowledge you can acquire.  It is just as important, no, more important to have your child stop and smell the flowers than to teach them how to diagram one.

This girl of mine. Smart, beautiful, strong and most importantly happy.

A Tale of Two Educations: The Reluctant Learner

My oldest daughter, Mazzy, went to headstart and preschool at this really wonderful independent school in our community.   The focus was on social skills and learning through play and we loved the teachers and volunteers.  Every day Mazzy was so excited to get on that little bus and head off to play with her friends.  I was still working at the time and so was relieved that she loved her school so much.

The following year when she started kindergarten we saw a dramatic change in her behavior.  Our once happy daughter quickly became sullen and prone to tantrums.  It was around this time that we started receiving letters from her school telling us that they had issue with our daughter about… well about everything.  She was too dependent on adult interaction, she wasn’t consistent with her letters, she talked during class, didn’t listen during instruction time.  What was worse she was having problems with the other children teasing her.  She was much larger than the rest of the kids standing a good foot taller than most and because of this several of the kids decided she must have been held back and took to calling her names for this as well as her larger size in general.   Rather than try to fit her into their program (which we found incredibly restrictive) or continue subjecting her to childish cruelty we chose instead to withdraw her from school and begin home instruction.

Mazzy age 5

Not being very familiar with homeschooling I made the mistake of trying to imitate school, at home.  Over the course of the next couple of years we spent several thousand dollars on reading programs alone.  I would work and work with her and we made no progress.  We made puppets, sang songs, watched videos and tried program after program and though she knew the individual letter sounds could not blend them together to do any actual reading.  It was during this frustrating time that I started researching the works of Raymond and Dorothy Moore as well as other styles of home learning.  Once I understood that the ability to blend was a developmental milestone that you can not force I laid off on the instruction and focused on lots and lots of reading aloud and fun lessons in science and history that including lots of dressing up, messy projects and just good ol’ fashioned learning through play.  From time to time I would feel discouraged and wondering if I was making some great mistake and then finally when she was nine years old she found some books at the library that she liked, a manga series, and wonder of wonders she read.  At first it was still slow and I worried that maybe I needed to do something more with her but thankfully I held my peace and let her continue at her own pace now knowing my daughter better and understanding that if she was to master a new skill it would have to be under conditions of her own choosing.

Her love of manga led her to anime.  It didn’t take long before she discovered that the story lines were often different, and the plot more interesting, in the original language and so took to watching anime in the original Japanese with English subtitles.   If you have never watched a subtitled Japanese anime let me tell you those words fly by fast!  Before I knew it Mazzy could speed read with the best of them.  She has now moved on, at her own choice, to learning Japanese (thank you Rosetta Stone) so that she can watch the movies/shows without any complications with the language barrier.

The next great concern was with Mazzy’s spelling.  Not knowing any other way I had started her instruction the same way I had been taught.  Here is a list, study it, in a week we will have a test.  Also like me she did not do well with this type of instruction and often her inability to spell well was a cause of massive mama guilt and embarrassment.   It was during this time that her older cousin introduced her to on-line gaming.  It didn’t take long for her to realize that in order to be able to effectively communicate with her group she would have to dramatically improve her spelling and learn to type.  At this point you can probably guess what happened, she learned both of those skills.  At her own pace and through her own force of will she greatly improved her spelling and can type as fast as me and I worked in data entry.

Recently I was curious how she stood compared to her peers, which I think is a common concern/worry for all homeschoolers from time to time.  I asked her how she felt about it and she agreed that she too would like to know so I ordered her a test preparation booklet for admission into private catholic highschool and was not sorry to have done so. For the most part she found the majority of the material easy and flew through it.  She was a little behind in math, but not terribly so.  Interesting thing that math, she recently has taken an interest in it as she would like someday to run a homeless shelter and recognized that she would need to know how to do her own accounting.  I have no doubt, now that the fire has been ignited, that in no time she will be soaring through her math studies as well.

Every now and again I wonder how things might have turned out had I not pulled Mazzy out of school.  There is of course no way for me to know for sure, but I truly believe we made one of the best decisions of our lives by homeschooling.  I think of the confidence my daughter has.  I ponder her impeccable moral character and her genuine love for the people around her and those that she will some day meet.  I reflect on her creativity and the way she has been able to practice self-expression through her appearance over the years.  Then I realize that all of that could have been squashed and replaced by a broken being, not just by the school but also by my own insistence to fit her into a mold that she was too grand and complex to fit into.

This is Mazzy now, I don’t remember knowing anyone this calm, focused and well rounded at 15 years old.

Tomorrow I will talk about my second daughter Lydia and the very different path we went down with her, the mistakes and the triumphs.  There was still so much I needed to learn about not trying to fit education, or people, into the boxes we create for them.

The Lost Art of Chill

You know that part in the movie The Alamo when Davey Crockett, as played by Billy  Bob Thornton, looks at the screen and says he is a screamer?  Well, I have a confession, I am a screamer too.  Honestly I am just a loud person in general. If I am happy I squeal with delight.  I laugh with my mouth wide open and my head thrown back.  I don’t cry, I sob.  So it would make sense that my loudness would carry over to when I am angry or upset.  Thankfully I am rarely genuinely upset and am very slow to anger, but once you get me going…

There was never rage or violence in my voice, just lots and lots of volume and frustration.  Due to that I had never really thought about the effect this had on the people around me until I started seeing myself reflected back to me through my children.  I would watch them scream a fit when they would get angry and to my embarrassment it took several years before I finally stopped asking the question “Where do they get this from?” and started taking responsibility for what I had inadvertently taught my children to do.

Once I realized that we had a problem I started a personal self improvement program that would help me police my response to anger. Below I will share with you all some of the steps I have taken and found effective.  Along the way I will share some songs that I find particularly helpful in my journey of learning the lost art of chill.

Xavier Rudd – Messages
1. Record yourself.  Ask your husband, your older children, your best friend, whoever you are around a lot and you feel free to be yourself around, to quietly record you on their phone or other handy device the next time you go on a big giant rip over something stupid.  Play back this tape to yourself until you can accept that yes that really is what you sound like.  This will probably be the single most effective step you take.
Zee Avi – Just You & Me
2. It’s true what they say old habits die hard.  So give your loved ones the tools to help you.  Explain to your children what you are trying to do and let them know that there are going to be days when you just forget.  If they are old enough now would be a great time to explain to them what a habit is.  Ask for their help in helping you remember that screaming when you are upset is not ok for them and so it is not ok for you either.
Now let’s be honest here, kids looove an opportunity to tell parents what to do and if given a chance they can and will go overboard.  In comes the code word.  Pick a word or words for your family that will be an immediate trigger in your brain that you are slipping into melt down mode and that you need to chill.  For our family it is “I’m Watching” feel free to use it but honestly it does work best if it is something personal to your family and situation.  Oh and please do caution your loved ones that over use of the code word will ruin its effectiveness.
Ingrid Michaelson – You and I
3.  Find ways for you to chill when you’re getting to your boiling point.  A few things that worked well for me was to first learn to become more aware of when you are merely a little hot under the collar vs. steaming mad.  This will take practice and time.  Once that is identified fall back on your list of chill.  Don’t have one of those?  Well of course not, at least not yet. But number 4 is going to help you with that.
 
Awolnation – All I Need
4. Make your personal list of chill and keep it on you at all times.  If you think it will help print off copies and place them in strategic places in your environment.  The dashboard of your car.  The inside of your kids closet for when you are searching for that missing shoe. Next to the computer.  Wherever you feel you are going to need it most.  Remember yours is going to be different from mine, it needs to be the things that calm YOU down. Below is my list to be used as a point of reference.
  • Look at your child and remember they are the one and only them and you only get one shot at raising them.  In life there are no re-do’s!
  • Listen to your chill album.
  • Change the environment.  Go outside, different room, stand on your head.
  • Ask yourself why you are angry.  Are you being selfish or lazy?  Is this a real problem or just annoying?
  • Remember that you do not get to pick your child’s memories.  At any moment you may be making a permanent lasting impression.
  • If you have already screamed remember it is ok to apologize and then explain why you are angry.
  • Is there a way to take a break from this situation?  Then do it.
  • You have permission to be angry or upset, you do not have permission to blow your top.
  • If it is not a real problem then LET IT GO and go do something fun with them instead.
Yael Naim – New Soul
5. What is a chill album?  So glad you asked.  For me music can have a very soothing effect.  If the same is true for you then make a play list of songs that can almost instantly put you in a good mood.  Your list should change around as often as your current favorites change.  I have a few tried and trues that stick around but for the most part there are usually at least one or two new songs that get switched out with older ones monthly.  The songs I have been sharing in this post are from my current chill album play list.
 
Middle Class Rut – New Low
(Video not appropriate for young children)
Need more?
  • Try forming a new habit, this time a good one, of daily meditation or prayer.
  • Are you a stay at home mom? Get outside, yes, every day.  Even if it is only to check the mail, just take a moment to notice the clouds or the scent of freshly mown grass.  Anything to connect you to a larger world than just the one inside your own four walls.
  • Find a hobby that relaxes you, practice it as often as possible.
  • Give yourself permission to get a babysitter and go out for a few hours.  I personally have a very short list of people willing to watch my 7 children for me, I think the sheer numbers scare them.  Even so it can be done if you are determined.  I usually average about 2 times a month sans kids, which is arguably not much but certainly better than never.
  • Print out photos of yourself during happy moments with your loved ones, real moments during your life not from a photo shoot.  Frame them around your house with little reminders stenciled on the glass or frame.  Remember this moment.  Happiness is a choice.  Make your days worth remembering.  Don’t have any of those type of photos?  Then take them as soon as possible.  Your children deserve to have a lasting physical memory of you with them during their childhood.

My three-year old daughter, Elizabeth. She is also a screamer by nature.

Michael Franti & Spearhead – The Sound of Sunshine
In closing I would like to address something very important.  Failing to have ever learned proper anger management is a very common problem and nothing to be ashamed of.  Something else that is very common and nothing to be ashamed of is a mental health condition.  I have dear loved ones and very close friends that have various mental illnesses.  That does not make them a bad person, or me a better person.  It does not make them weak, nor does it mean they love their children any less than I do mine.  If you suspect that your anger may be something beyond your control please seek help.  I have watched lovely human beings crumble to near collapse only to rise like a phoenix with proper medication and therapy.  You have a right to be happy and your children have a right to see you that way.
One of my sisters is schizophrenic and I love her very much.  I wish every day that we would have known to get her help sooner before her life was nearly destroyed.  Please, if you need help reach out and get it.
You do not have to suffer needlessly.
1-800-950-NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill helpline)
*This post was originally posted by Sasha on her private blog One Rich Mother as part of a Mindful Mama Blog Carnival hosted by the every peaceful and inspiring Zoie that writes the blog TouchstoneZ.

Because Sometimes It Is Someones Fault.

Ryan and Susan Gatti’s baby girl  Rebecca will never live a normal life and it is Dr. William J. Erwin’s fault.

Teresa Bailey’s baby boy died and not only was it Sharp Mary Birch Hospital’s fault but they also tried to blatantly lie about it.

Dr. Leonard Bienkowski is responsible for the death of Sandra and John Ketterman’s baby boy Benjamin.

If your baby died or was injured due to negligence what would you do to make sure that the parties responsible were held accountable?

What would you do if someones incompetence was the direct cause for the death of your baby?

How far would you go to see justice served and to make sure no other mothers and babies were put in harm’s way by those responsible?

What lengths would you go to make sure that yours was the last baby to die under their watch?

What if the person in question was a well-respected and trusted health care professional in your area and  many of the women you know have had babies with them and LOVED the treatment they received?

Now take all of those questions and apply them to a homebirth setting with a C.P.M.

What would you do?

For many reading my blog, I just made you uncomfortable.

I know that I just made you uncomfortable because when I first had to ask myself that question I felt the same way.  It is sort of an unwritten rule in the AP community “Thou shall not complain about thine Midwife.” and you are absolutely not supposed to take said midwife up against a review board to try to get their licence revoked.  It may be an unpopular belief in the natural birth and AP community but sometimes a birth does need intervention.  Sometimes a peaceful loving atmosphere and a confident relaxed mother is not enough.  And when those “sometimes” situations happen you need to know that the person that has your back knows what to do.  And when that person fails you and your baby through incompetence you need to be able to have action taken against them so that they can not hurt anyone else.  After all shouldn’t the true test of someones competency be when something goes wrong and not when everything goes right?

The answer to all of this should be easy, but for many of us it is not.  This subject is wrapped up in so much baggage that our combined checked bag fees could pay off the national debt.  The conflict comes because women are sick and tired of being told how to birth.  We are tired of the doctors and nurses that have grown complacent and lazy in the medical field looking at us like we are a product on an assembly line.  We are fed up with hospitals telling us we have to lay down with our feet in stirrups to push our babies out, sick to our stomach with being told we are not going to “win a medal” for having natural childbirth and for us to shut up get the epidural and go along with the program.  We want to scream in frustration at the doctors who really do believe that 39 weeks gestation is “close enough”.

For many of us we can no longer tolerate even one more birth were we are told to be quiet, lay down, take this, gown up, zone out and let them do all the “work”.

What I am afraid has happened is that in our zeal to improve care and empower women during birth in the U.S. that we have overlooked some things that are wrong with our alternatives.  The medicalized birthing world has a way to report negligent doctors, nurses and hospitals. Many easy to understand and to find tutorials can be found online outlining how to seek justice when mistakes are made in the medical community.  For the most part you will receive an overflow of compassion and genuine concern from those around you when you take your ob/gyn to court for malpractice that resulted in the death of your baby.  So what can we do if we need to report a health care professional in the homebirth community?  How will your friends and loved ones, that fight for and support homebirth, react when you put your homebirth midwife up for review?

I have reason to believe that it may get pretty ugly if you do.  Why do I believe this?  Because of my dear friend Liz and her and her family’s painful story of baby Aquila‘s birth and death and everything that has come after.  You would think that after what happened there would have been an outcry, from at least her local homebirth community, to have her midwife go under review and receive fitting disciplinary measures.  Sadly that is not what has happened.  She has been shunned, black listed and even booed at the hearing concerning her own child’s death.  What is more even the homebirth community at large has criticized her for being too outspoken and of being unfair to her midwife by sharing her story.

For those interested in the status of this case the previous minutes can be found on the Texas Midwifery Board website.  Liz’s case was heard in June (item 7) and again in September.

So why do I care enough about all of this to stick my own neck out for criticism by writing this?  I, after all, did not lose a child.  I don’t live anywhere near where her midwife practices. I didn’t have a homebirth go wrong, shoot I have never even had a homebirth at all.  I am, however, an advocate for natural childbirth and medical practices that treat birth as a beautiful natural act.  Basically the question is how is it any of mine or your business?

It is our business because it is important to support those who are being ridiculed and defamed unjustly.  It is important to not be so caught up in a cause, such as natural childbirth, that we lose sight of our goals.  Because if we turn against each other when one of us are at our weakest and most vulnerable it does not show our strength it shows a glaring weakness.  If the natural birth community will not demand that we hold the people that we trust with our and our babies lives accountable then how serious can we really expect to be taken?  Let us, please, hold homebirth professionals to at least the same level of accountability as we do our ob/gyn’s and other health care providers.  Let’s support each other, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Liz and Gabriel Paparella’s baby girl Aquila will never share this world with us and the Texas Midwifery Complain Board needs to hold her midwife accountable.

Breastfeeding Saved My Son’s Life

Or at least I believe so, let me explain.

Our second son was born on a gorgeous June day in 2006 weighing 8 pounds 7 ounces and was 21 inches long.  He was quiet at birth but even without the strong “Hello World It’s Me!” cry that you often hear our baby seemed perfectly healthy and took to nursing like a champ from the first opportunity.  So it took everyone by surprise that by the time he was 6 months old he had not grown as expected.  He was a somewhat chubby little guy, but he had hardly grown in length at all.

Our son, Aiden, at 6 months old

(sorry about the photo quality we had a really bad camera at the time)

Our pediatrician ran some tests and our son was given that dreaded label no parent wants to hear “Failure To Thrive“.  That night as we were preparing for bed we got a call for us to go to the children’s hospital.  Our son’s blood work had come back and his sodium was dangerously low (118), our pediatrician sounded so worried over the phone.  I asked if we could wait until tomorrow.  Her response?  “No, you don’t understand how serious this is, you have to leave now, tonight.  I have called ahead and they are expecting you.”  We were terrified.

Once at the children hospital we were entered into a whole new world of doctors and specialist and something always in the background going beep.  We have still never figured out what caused his low sodium levels but now after the birth of the twins I suspect he also had Pseudohypoaldosteronism, just a less sever case.

The doctors at the children’s hospital were also concerned about our baby’s lack of growth and that is when the real roller-coaster started.  We tested for one disease after another and still it remained a mystery.  Finally they suspected a brain tumor and we were told he would need a MRI.

As you probably already know you have to lay completely still to have a MRI done so for a little guy, like our son was, you have to sedate them so they will not move during the test.  This would be the first test that either my husband or I would not be able to hold him through and it was breaking our hearts.  We went to the little waiting room they have down the hall from the machine and held him until the medication did its work and he was “under”.  Handing him off to the nurse that came to get him for the MRI was one of the hardest things I had ever done up to that point in my life.

We sat nervously in the room holding hands.  My husband suggested cards, I said no, my heart wouldn’t let me do anything but crave my little boy back in my arms.  Finally after an agonizingly long wait the door to the room was flung open by a frazzled nurse who quickly barked a rather unexpected question “You still breastfeed right?”  Confused I answered her yes and she grabbed me by the arm and started rushing me down the hall.  In tears I walked into a room to see my little boy motionless on the table with a team of doctors and nurses surrounding him and alarms going off everywhere.  The nurse told me to nurse my baby “You can’t pick him up but lean over him and let him nuzzle you.”  Crying, almost hysteric, I did as she told me.  For just a moment he made no response but then his head turned to me and he made a soft little grunting noise as I put my nipple into his mouth.  He was too weak to suckle but he began to breathe softly and then, like magic, the alarms stopped and everything calmed down.  I became aware that the room of doctors and nurses slowly started thinning out with several of them shaking their heads in amazement “I can’t believe that worked, she was right.”  The nurse just grinned as she double checked machines and straightened things back up and with a wink said “Of course I was.”

Yes, she was right and I thank God for that angel of mercy and whoever it was that taught her to be so wise about the breastfeeding relationship.  Breastfeeding is more than just a way to give your baby food, it is an unimaginable bond between mother and child.  Something so powerful that even the feel of my breast and the smell of me, his mother, was enough to, I believe, save my son’s life.

 

*Our son did not have a tumor.  Almost a month later it was discovered my sons failure to grow as expected was due to him having Growth Hormone Deficiency, also known as Pituitary Dwarfism.  Recently his endroconologist has been exploring the possibility that it may have instead/also been from unmanaged PHA (Pseudohypoaldosteronism).

** This post was originally written by me for my private blog One Rich Mother in March of 2011.

I Remember: Their First Song

Our twins were in the NICU for three long weeks and 6 days. During that time they heard not a single sound other than that of the machines and the general chatter of hospital life. Our voices, my husband’s and mine, were frequently punctuated into their lives but never did they hear music.

Don’t let that smile fool you, I was terrified.

On the day they were released from the hospital we carried them down to the front lobby and I waited there with my tiny little new men waiting for my husband to bring the car around. Both boys began to cry while I waited and a mild panic started to set in. I was already so frightened about bringing these beautiful and fragile new humans home after such a long time of uncertainty. I was filled with so many contrasting emotions and their crying was about to break me. All the while strangers walked by staring awkwardly at me and my boys as I struggled to hold back my own tears.

Then around the corner came the most unusual sight. It was a rather large group of young men and women dressed in black pants and white shirts and in each ones arms they held an instrument. As one they all took their places mere feet from us and began to play Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. Instantly the twins stopped crying their eyes wide with the oddest expressions on their faces. I have never before seen such a look of awe from eyes so young. I clung to that moment over the next few weeks. That singular moment in time ,when thanks to the kindness of strangers, I felt for the first time that everything was going to be alright.  I have no idea why they were there or who they were but I will always be grateful to them for making that music, that glorious, magical, amazing music my sons’ very first song.

How about you, what was your little ones first song? Is there a song you wish could have been their first? Or one that you plan on being your next child’s?

A+ Marriage By Remembering the Three C’s.



After all these years and children my husband and I are still in love, deeply so.  Over the years I have had more than one friend ask us what it is that has kept us not only together but happily so.  I had one such conversation recently during which he insisted that my marriage doesn’t count because it seems so unrealistic.  I couldn’t help but feel great sadness as we talked about how unhappy so many couples are and I began trying to figure out exactly what was so different in my relationship.  After some time I arrived at the conclusion that too many marriages forget the three C’s.

Conversation

 I am constantly amazed by how little most couples actually talk with each other.  I’m not just talking about “Hi honey, how was your day?” sort of conversations, though those are important as well, but real conversations.  The type most of us make time for with our friends but for some reason not our spouse. The type you had when you were still dating and didn’t care what he was talking about you just loved to hear his voice.  Some days are just so full it is easy to forget that you both still have very real thoughts and opinions on things outside the house.  My favorite time in the world has always been at night as we are going to bed.  We lay there in the darkness whispering to each other about all those dreams and ideas that have been kicking around in our heads all day.  Things so deep and personal that we would not dare speak about them to anyone else.  If we go too long without this time we quickly start to lose touch with each other.  I have no desire to live with a stranger and we have always worked hard to make sure we have regular conversation.   

Companionship

 When was the last time you hung out with your spouse?  It can not all be about taking care of the house and kids.  Marriage is supposed to be fun, not just someone to help get all the work done.  After a stressful week it can be a great relief to just sit back and do something entertaining.  Regular play time has helped build our marriage just about more than anything else.  Sometimes it is cards with friends, sometimes we play video games together and occasionally we have been known to take turns reading aloud to each other.  We have visited parks and swung on the equipment under the moonlight.  We have taken long walks on hot summer days to pick up an ice cream only to have it melt down our hands on the way home.  The activity does not count, it is the togetherness that matters.  One day our children will be grown and it will just be the two of us bopping around this house together.  It is now that we need to build on our mutual interest not after the children are gone and we would find we no longer had anything in common.

Copulation

You had to see this one coming, right?  We can go back and forth on it as much as needed but in the end sex does matter.  I’m not talking about some strange arrangement like so many women of days gone by had where they did their weekly “duty” to keep their man.  I’m talking about the profound connection two individuals feel once their bodies are as entwined as completely as their hearts.  That is why I put this one last, without the first two this one would be no different than something you could get from anyone.  Married sex does not have to be boring.  There is something rather wonderful that happens after two people have earned each others complete trust and know each others bodies as they know their own.  To me this is the ultimate expression of everything I spoke of above.  I suppose when it comes down to it my opinion is that any marriage can be great, we just have to remind ourselves, why we loved each other in the first place.

Friends, companions and lovers for life. 

Yummy Monday: Freedom Through Basics

We all have to eat.  For many people it can be a challenge when first starting down the road of culinary delights to really settle on what are the things that they truly need to devote their time to learning.  As time goes on we learn short cuts and figure out which things are more trouble than they are worth.  We also learn how to “cheat” on a recipe and what substitutions are acceptable and which will only bring a disaster to our plates.  When I first started cooking I was all over the place.  I bought way too many cookbooks and developed a habit of making too many menus that were overly complicated and hard to keep up with.  In short, I ended up seeing cooking as a dreaded chore instead of the adventure it had first seemed to me.  After a while though I arrived at a wonderful place of compromise where I had standard dishes that were relatively simple and easy to fall back on and could be made with either pantry basics or were such that I could improvise with whatever we had on hand any given day.  Occasionally I still make those every so delicate pastries and spend a few hours whipping up a masterpiece but I now feel far more free to experiment and take it easy only doing the more time intensive meals when inspiration and motivation strikes.   Today I would like to share with you the top 5 things I believe every home cook should take the time to learn and in the end make cooking easier and more enjoyable.

Spice and Herb Blends


This is one of those things that I think many of us are afraid to try when we first start cooking.  Particularly if you were not raised in a home where the person cooking trusted their own judgment and not that of a nice tidy foil package in flavoring their foods.  This is also one of the single biggest, and easiest, things you can do to improve the flavor of your foods.  There are countless websites and cook books that will walk you through the process step by step and that is a wonderful place to start getting the hang of it.  After a while though you will start to discover that no blend will fit every family exactly right.  We all have such varying preferences when it comes to food, not to mention allergies.  This is where the fun part comes in, no, really!  After you start learning how different spices and herbs affect your favorite meals you can start adapting the recipes to suit your own personal preferences.  For instance many mixes will call for either flour or corn starch to help thicken the food (taco seasoning comes to mind) but I found that I much prefer to use arrow-root powder, also my husband has developed a much more sensitive stomach over the years and I have found that by reducing ingredients like cayenne pepper I can make some of his old favorites without it tearing his stomach up.  Once I arrive at a combination that we all like I quadruple the ingredients mix them up and put them in an airtight container.  When it is time to make my dish it makes it simple to just spoon out the required amount and move on.  Trust me once you start making your own spice and herb blends you will never go back to the store-bought ones.

Casseroles

Let’s face it, casseroles are hard to get a good picture of.  They are often ugly and spilling over the sides but wow are they easy and so tasty!  The “Oh no, what can I cook tonight?” champion in my book.  The casserole magical formula is take your leftovers (meat or veggies) or a cooked pasta and add a binding agent along with some seasoning.  Cream soups and stuffings work great for this but I have used a few eggs beaten together with some milk in a pinch before.  Bake at 350 degrees until it gets all bubbly and then let set on the counter until it cools down to a temperature less than that of a volcano.  Dig in, and don’t be afraid to add cheese, it can make just about anything taste good.

Soup

Soups are another one of those wonderful “Let’s see what we got to throw in” sort of wonderfulness that I love so much.   It, like the ever so forgiving casserole, is very forgiving and can be made with just about anything you happen to have on hand.  It also has a magical formula.  Take a base liquid preferably stock (chicken, beef, tomato, vegetable, water if you are desperate… you get the idea) and then just add what you have.  You might make some stinkers along the way but I promise you will eventually learn what works together and what does not.  One of my favorites that I made this way was my chicken stew.  I started with a chicken stock that I swirled in a can of tomato paste and added cubed potatoes with the skin still on, sliced carrots, left over chicken that I pulled into bite size pieces and sliced fresh mushrooms.  Then I seasoned it with dried minced onion, thyme, garlic powder, minced garlic, onion powder and sea salt.  One of our favorite meals, hands down.  

Salad

Is there anything more forgiving and easily adaptable than a salad?   Growing up salad was some iceberg lettuce with some torn pieces of american cheese mixed in pushed somewhere off on the side of your plate.  It makes me a little sad to think of all the years I missed out on the beauty that is a good salad.  Throw some greens in a bowl add protein and anything else that sounds good and dinner is served.  Does it get any easier?  One of our favorites is to get several types of lettuce and add chicken, bacon, tomatoes and cheese.  Simple and filling.

Bread

So I will admit that this one took about a year of trial and error to get just right.  The mood would strike and I would try my hand at it again, reworking an old recipe or trying a new one.  Now bread might not be easy and it certainly is not very forgiving when you get your measurements wrong but it is so worth it!  You have not tasted garlic bread until you have had your own homemade fresh from the oven loaf.  Top it will some marinated veggies or meat and you have yourself an amazing lunch.  Before you know it you will be making not only your own bread but also crackers, croutons, and rolls all the while wondering why you tolerated the store-bought version for so long.

*Photos purchased from depositphotos.

When a Headache Is Not Just a Headache

Sometimes you fail your children.  Sometimes you fail your children so completely that your not really sure you will ever forgive yourself or that you should be forgiven.  My oldest had been complaining about headaches when she would read or play video games for a long time.  She would tell me that her vision would suddenly blur for no real reason and that a scorching headache would follow. So I took her to our local optometrist for an eye exam.  During the examination I was told that she had seen some swelling in her optical nerves and that although it could just be a variation of normal we should take her to an ophthalmologist just to be sure and she made an apointment for her.

This is where I failed my daughter, we didn’t go.  I did not take my daughter.  I just blew it off.

Several months later I took her back because she had lost her glasses and we needed a new pair.  During the examination the optometrist once again commented about the swollen optical nerves and asked what the ophthalmologist had said about it.  “ummm, we didn’t go…”  She then asked if I would like for her to make another appointment for us.  “Well do you really think it is important?  You said it could just be the way her optical nerves are made.  We really have a lot going on…”  She told us that yes, she would really advise we go, that yes more than likely it was nothing but just to be on the safe side we should go and then she made another appointment.  When the time rolled around the babysitter  for the other children had something come up and couldn’t come so I called and rescheduled her appointment.  The next available appointment was in 3 months.

I took the much later appointment and never once worried about it.

On the day of the appointment  I shuffled some things around and on the way to the appointment thought of the 100 other things I would do after getting home from this “totally unnecessary”  consultation.  I told the sitter we would be back in an hour or two and complained about how doctors are always wanting to run all these expensive tests and that was what was wrong with our medical care in this country.  Waiting in the office my daughter and I sat and flipped through magazines and joked about all those little unimportant things that run through your mind when you have no idea that a real danger is just on the other side of the door.  Or lurking inside, unseen to your mother and beyond her imagination when you tell her you have a headache. 

After all the testing was said and done the news was not good.  Mazzy’s optical nerves are not just a little larger than normal, they are severely and alarmingly swollen.  All around the nice round space that would be a normal image of an optical nerve is the bright white blur with streaks running to the outer corners that is the evidence, undeniable evidence, of excess spinal fluid.                                                                   

It is thought that Mazzy has something called pseudotumor cerebri a condition that mimics a brain tumor and causes intracranial pressure for no obvious reason.  The result, if not gotten under control, is blindness.  Permanent, forever blindness.  That is what I had been playing around with, that is what I risked for my daughter for the sake of convenience and an absurd belief that somehow there could not be anything wrong with her.  Just headaches from not wearing her glasses.  Just a belly ache from eating too fast, or the wrong foods.  Just occasional vision blurs from eye strain after reading too much in poor light.  Just fine, nothing bad going to happen here, move along.  Only this time I had been wrong, so very wrong, and it cost my daughter.

We are scheduled for an appointment with a neurologist for the 4th of May but her medical team is working to try and get her in sooner.  I carry the phone around the house with me everywhere I go and every time it rings my heart leaps, maybe they are calling to say that they have worked her in.  Maybe, in the end, it will not be too late after all.  We have talked about the fact that a lumbar puncture will be a possibility to rid her of some of the excess fluid.  We have talked about how in most cases this can be treated with medication.  We don’t talk about what happens if medication alone doesn’t work.  We don’t talk about how much more seriously I should have taken her headaches…

Over the next few weeks I ask that you please keep my daughter in your thoughts and prayers as she goes through her treatments and travels the path of recovery.  Also I hope that you share this information with anyone that has a teen daughter that has been complaining of headaches, especially if she is overweight, as statistically that is the group that this condition most often compromises.  Usually a headache is just a headache, but sometimes, sometimes it is not.