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.

Five Times and Back Again: A Journal of a Sixth Pregnancy (Vol. 7)

I was trying to think of something to write about today… I was a bit lost. I thought, Oh I could write a blurb about how the idea of a brand new, squishy newb is worming it’s way into my heart… I’m actually looking forward to it. Or that recently I had that thought of, Oh my goodness!! The baby has to come out of where again!?! I’m sure as I get closer to due time those things will be even more on my mind… Today I took a few belly pictures and realized just how pronounced my diastasis recti is already. I think it’s par for the course with moms who have had a few.

If you don’t know what diastasis recti is, let me educate you for a moment! Diastasis recti is the separation of the abdominal muscles into right and left halves. It’s more common in women who have multiple pregnancies, big babies, or already weak abdominal muscles. I’m not sure I would consider it a ‘complication’ but it can definitely cause discomfort and set the stage for an umbilical hernia after birth. I have an umbilical hernia (a weak spot just above my belly button) and I’ve had big babies… I’m not sure my abdominal muscles were originally weak but I think having such big babies with such a small frame definitely weakened them and by the time I had my fourth baby there wasn’t much left to hold things together anymore.

After my fourth was born I felt like my insides were floating around in there, it was very disconcerting. I’m sure I’d probably felt that sensation in my previous pregnancies but it went away relatively quickly. This time it stuck around and I found myself wanting to tie my belly up with something to keep everything stationary. I didn’t know then about postpartum belly binding. (I wish I had!!) By the time I had my fifth I had done LOTS of research about diastasis recti and come up with a plan. Prior to pregnancy I cut out all forms of exercise than split the abdominal muscles that much more… that included sit ups/crunches (which are coincidentally the MOST recommended exercise postpartum… big NO!) and anything that placed stress there. When I found out I was having another I bought a very cheap and basic abdominal surgical binder. My separation wasn’t quite as bad after her but still pretty pronounced so the binder definitely came in handy. After trying to wear it a few times and finding it rather uncomfortable I decided to cut it in half and piece it together in the way that was most comfortable and beneficial for me. I noticed results almost instantly. I only wore it in 30 minute increments but what I noticed was that it helped show me HOW to hold my abdominal muscles properly and that the sensation of having my core engage lasted well beyond the time that I wore it. I actually had a waist again!

I’ll most likely wear a binder again after this little peanut is born, I definitely see the pluses to them and I think ALL women could benefit from ‘relearning’ how to engage your core muscles effectively. It IS most beneficial immediately following birth up to 3 or 4 mos postpartum but I know I reaped some benefits beyond that time frame. There’s lots of info on the web about postpartum binding and the benefits, even though it’s a relatively new thing in Western societies many other cultures have been doing it forever… I definitely think they are on to something especially considering they have lower incidences of pelvic organ prolapse and other common issues caused by weakened abdominal muscles.

So here’s my belly pics for the week, I’m 27 weeks 4 days here and as you can see from my side profile shot my belly is rather ‘pendulous’, my belly button lower than average and that’s how I can tell I’m still suffering from some of the issues caused by diastasis recti, I’m not too worried just yet. 🙂 Perhaps as a postpartum post I’ll compose something that shows the progression of my postpartum belly and binding.

ImageImage

Yummy Monday! Fajitas!

I love when I can make a meal that my whole family enjoys, you can imagine with so many different people that’s probably quite hard, lol. Fajitas, though, go over quite well. The only complicated part is I have to make two different kinds of fajitas, 1 mid and 1 spicy for all the taste buds in my family.

9 bell peppers

12 jalapenos

Onions… different varieties of onions, if you like. I used a half of a white onion and 3 red onions this time around.

1 habanero

a generous amount of meat (my hubby picks it out, lol, this time we used sirloin tip steak)

3 fajita seasoning packets (hi, my name is Nic and I’m lazy… you are welcome to create your own {read: healthier} seasoning blends)

flour tortillas

toppings, whatever floats your boat… my family loves sour cream and cheese. Some of them like hot sauce. 🙂

 

It took me an hour and a half (a true labor of love!) to chop up all the veggies and meat nicely. In the red bowl is the ‘spicy’ peppers and in the green bowl is the mild peppers.

 

After I chopped up the peppers I added some chopped onions 🙂 Does anybody else realize that red onions make your cry more than other onions?? I chopped up a half a white onion for the mild bowl and 3 red onions for the spicy bowl.

 

Here’s where I took a break to capture a moment of preciousness that was helping me… don’t you love her face?? Truly it’s a miracle there were any peppers or onions left with all the ‘help’ I was receiving…

Then came the meat! Everybody has their own way of cutting up the meat, I just try to stick to bite size pieces of steak… I placed it in our big frying pan and seared it with some olive oil and garlic! (Lots… and lots of garlic!)

Once the meat is fully browned and seared you put it aside and start sauteeing the veggies. My Sage really loved the vibrant colors in the spicy pepper pan. 🙂

Once you get your veggies to a reasonably cooked texture (some people like their veggies cooked a little less and some more… I like mine to really cook in the juices and to be soft instead of crispy) you add your seasoning packet (or your specially made seasoning blend!) and let it simmer for awhile. Heat your tortillas, add your toppings and enjoy! We sure did!!!!

 

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.

April Fools Day Followup and Giveaway Winner!

Welcome back!  If you missed last Sunday’s launch post, you can find it here (it explains how GMoMs© came to be :)).  Today we will start off with Nic sharing her most memorable April Fools Day, when Mother Nature decided to play a little prank of her own…

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My family isn’t real big on playing pranks for April 1st at all… but 4 years ago we were totally punked by the Universe. About a week or two before the 1st of April, I noticed our furnace was out; it seemed we often had issues because of the location of our furnace in the crawlspace. Little did I know what a HUGE mess would be waiting for me down there… apparently our sump pump had died and as the Spring Thaw was happening, a pipe burst in our driveway (we were unaware of this at first).  This flooded out our crawlspace knocking out the furnace. I called my HVAC guy to come fix the problem before I discovered all of the water. I’ll spare everybody from my potty mouth when I discovered we had flooded and our insurance didn’t cover it. I really was at a loss as to what to do. My husband came home from work with a new sump pump and we pumped out all the water, replaced the pump, and fixed the furnace. We thought all was well…

March 31st we had a whopper of a storm in the middle of the night while we were sleeping. When we woke up in the morning, I realized it was rather chilly in the house and noticed that AGAIN our furnace was out.  Upon checking the crawlspace, I noted it was full of water AGAIN, so that was going to be another small fortune to repair the furnace. I got the sump pump going to clear out the water, and called my dad to come check out the furnace. I thought if he could fix the problem we would at the very least save a little money. That was also the day the city decided to inform us that we had 30 days to fix the pipe that had apparently burst in our driveway. It was on our side of the buffalo box, so our responsibility. I called around to numerous places to get estimates. The cheapest I was finding was around 5,000 dollars. I called my homeowner’s insurance and was told that the only thing they would help us repair was the shed that was crushed by a tree in the storm. The furnace was damaged by a malfunctioning sump pump and my insurance didn’t cover that… the pipe was OUTside the house so they didn’t cover that. I was definitely frustrated because you think when you have insurance it is going to cover those things.

Eventually it all worked out. I found a local plumbing company to repair the pipe and work out a payment arrangement with us. My dad came and fixed the furnace and cut down the tree that hit our shed. I essentially said screw the damage to the shed because it was the LEAST of my worries with everything else. As fun as April Fools can be, that sure was the worst in my memory! I got ‘pranked’ by the Universe…..

~ Nic

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Thank you to all who entered for our giveaway!  We feel so blessed to already have such an enthusiastic group of fans!  Please be sure you share your favorite articles with your friends; we want to reach as many people as possible!

So, without further ado… congratulations to Heather B.!  You are the proud new owner of the Grateful Moms of Many© Mom of Many Survival Kit!  We would tell you what’s in it, but we don’t want to spoil the surprise. *snickering*… (“Like” us on Facebook so you can see a picture of the Kit after our winner receives it.)

In honor of our winner, we are sharing her giveaway entry prank submission:

About the only time I really get to play a prank is when I find out we’re expecting another baby. LOL So I’ll share the three things I’ve done to surprise my husband (#1 was a shock to us both so there were no pranks involved – just a very dark line on a test on our 2nd anniversary!).

With baby number 2, I took a test at 9dpo and got a faint positive. DH’s dad and his dad’s wife were in town, which made things tricky. It was just after Christmas and just before my birthday. I took several more tests (of course!) to confirm, and then took advantage of the IL’s decision to go out one evening. I made a card on the computer that said, on the outside, “Happy birthday to me!” On the inside it said, “You’re a daddy-to-be!” I took him aside and gave that to him. He was shocked and asked if I was sure, at which point I handed him 6 positive tests and assured him I was. 😉

With the third, I had the internet cheapie tests. I was also in business selling card-making supplies, and ran classes where I taught people how to make various designs. So I made a new design, including stamped images with the months of the year (I circled October) and days of the month (I circled 3). The card said, “Congratulations!” on the outside, as well. I adhered the tiny strip test inside, with an arrow to the second line, and signed the card. When the kids were finally settled in for a nap (at the same time!!), I told DH I wanted him to look at my new card (which I often did). He looked at it, said it was nice, and was done. I told him he should actually OPEN it – it was a new fold with a special closure that I was trying. He unwound the closure, opened the card, and after a moment said, “Is that yours?” LOL “No, dear, I taped someone *else’s* pee strip in there!” 😉

For number four, I was entirely shocked to find a test I’d taken two days earlier was pretty clearly positive when I came home from the hospital with my middle son (he had appendicitis and an appendectomy). I took another test that confirmed that “evap line” I’d seen wasn’t an evap line, at all. Even an expired digital test confirmed it! So within an hour of my husband coming home from a business trip and the family being reunited after a week at the hospital, I had this huge news and no creativity or patience. We needed to get pain meds for our son and I wasn’t sure who was going to go. I also knew DH had taken off his shorts, leaving his phone and keys and such in his pockets, and had been looking for his phone. He happened to have left them in the bathroom in which now sat several positive pregnancy tests. I decided to take the digital test (just the answer end) and put it in his pocket. “Oh, I found your shorts,” I told him as I dropped them next to him on the floor. He was equally exhausted and was lying on the floor. He reached into his pocket to find his phone, made a strange face as he came across something he didn’t recognize, and then kept looking until he found the phone. Almost worked, but not quite! So I told him I really needed for him to go get the prescription, after I called the pharmacy about compounding it. He begrudgingly agreed and got dressed. As he went digging in his pockets for his keys and such, that strange look crossed his face, again. This time, he pulled out the digital test, which read, “Pregnant,” and the look changed to shock. “What’s this?!” he asked. And I, as shocked as he, could only shrug and tell him, “I have no idea!” LOL For being the least planned, it still got a pretty great response. 😉

Thanks to all who participated, and keep an eye out for future giveaways!

Happy Monday,

Sasha, Nic, & Michelle 🙂

To see all the prank submissions from our launch post, click here.

Five Times and Back Again: A Journal of a Sixth Pregnancy (Vol. 1)

They say that up to 49% of all pregnancies in U.S. are unplanned… I could probably embrace that as truth, though I don’t care for the connotations that follow the term ‘unplanned’. I spent the first 2 weeks of my 6th pregnancy in complete denial. There was absolutely NO way I could possibly be pregnant again. We had been so careful and the previous month had been extremely hectic as we had lost our home and moved in with family. Apparently this meant that any solid and consistent fertile signs I possibly had would be impossible to accurately decipher. We were trying to avoid conceiving because the idea of another baby at this time in our lives was not in my plans. It seems that I have a knack for conceiving at all the ‘wrong’ (though so very right) moments in life, lol.

Shortly after my youngest daughter’s first birthday, I realized I was late. I thought the move and all the disruptions to our ‘normal’ lives had just caused a delay in ovulation and that I’d get my period any moment. I honestly didn’t FEEL pregnant, and you’d think having done this 5 times already that I most certainly would. Typically, before I get pregnant (planned or unplanned), I have a dream and I tend to feel that I’m going to have another. I was happily, merrily, blissfully ignorant to ANY signs that another life was making its way to me…. until I had one of my dreams. In these dreams, somehow my body communicates better with my brain, and I start dreaming about positive pregnancy tests, funny enough. So here I am, 10 days late, and I have this dream. In the dream, I take a test and it’s ‘inconclusive’; I could clearly see a positive line, but for some reason, it wasn’t very clear (or it wasn’t an accurate test) in my dream. That’s when I decided to bite it and buy a test. Well… I bought 2 tests, and thank goodness I did! The first test…apparently in my trepidation, I over-saturated it. In 17 years of having babies I have NEVER over-saturated a test before. Never. I actually wound up dripping pee from the first test into the second test, and the positive test line came up almost instantaneously. Heh. I truly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry — not even a week before, I had given away a ton of baby clothes and ALL of my maternity gear. Seriously?!

I showed my husband the positive test as soon as I could. He had the audacity to laugh (LAUGH!!!) and say “I told you not to get rid of everything!” Probably not the right thing to say to a distraught and freaked-out pregnant mama, lol. Then he said something that melted my heart into chocolatey goo. He said, “We are so blessed. We have so much love, and now we’re going to have a little bit more.” Our reactions were reversed, usually I am the one fapping on about how wonderful it’s going to be and how blessed we are and he’s the one groaning and wondering how we’re possibly going to pull this off, lol. Three years ago we had something similar happen. 3 years ago I found out I was pregnant, and 3 years ago I miscarried around 9 weeks. It was a little difficult to bond with or embrace this pregnancy because I’m actually due around the same time. I felt quite strongly that I didn’t want to share with any of our family until we were out of the first trimester, just in case. I really had a difficult time weeding through my very ambivalent emotions about another pregnancy and baby — I really didn’t need any other negativity complicating things.

I frequently had evening sickness the entire first trimester (whoever came up with the term ‘morning sickness’ is a joke!). I had lost so much weight leading up to conception that I was able to wear most of my regular clothes up until around the 18 week mark — it was almost like I went to bed one day in regular clothes and woke up the next in desperate need of comfy maternity pants, lol. Such a difference for me; usually I have to break out the maternity pants around 9 weeks! I think those early weeks were hard because I had to keep it a secret; even from my children. I’ve never hidden a pregnancy from them. I wanted nothing more than to share the news with them, and share their joy. My oldest was the first to know, and he guessed it; he took it kind of hard and that hurt a little, but he’s embracing the idea now. He thought he was the only one that didn’t know. The second to know was my 4 year old daughter and she was ecstatic with joy; she exclaimed “Another baby!! You’re going to have another baby! In your belly!!” She promptly spilled the beans the very next morning to anybody who would listen, lol.

18 weeks

Around 16 weeks, I started to feel little flutters of movement, and it made this pregnancy a little more real to me. At 20 weeks, I went in for an elective ultrasound. We found out that we are adding another baby sister; I’m loving the symmetry that my family has going on. Three boys first, and then three little girls. ♥  To be able to see Baby’s face and watch her move (LOTS of movement!) and connect with her — was amazing. I’m so glad I made the decision to have the ultrasound. It’s taken me a bit to get past some residual trauma from my last birth, which has hindered my abilities to decide on what sort of health care provider I wanted to go with. But I’ve finally decided to interview a midwife, and I’m hoping to deliver a new baby girl at home, peacefully, come August.

~ Nic

Hello, World!

Welcome to Grateful Moms of Many!  We are so excited to be finally launching our blog!  We thought we’d begin by sharing a little bit about how this blog was born . . .

During the early months of 2010, something rare and wonderful happened in an online Due Date Club. Several women managed to make a real, tangible connection that would come to last. I think if you had asked any of us before that we would have been skeptical of the idea that any real friendships could be formed from a group of women that had never even met before. But there it was, and there was no denying it. We encouraged each other, laughed together, cried together, and formed a lasting bond that did not go away after the birth of our babies.

~ Sasha ~
Connor Ambrose & Seamus Antioch
October 13th, 2010 (35 weeks)
5 lbs 5 oz & 3 lbs 9 oz

~ Michelle ~
Brigit Annabelle
November 10th, 2010 (39 weeks)
7 lbs 8 oz

~ Nic ~
Marah Jade
November 14th, 2010 (41 weeks)
9 lbs 5 oz

We have spoken almost daily with each other over the last couple of years through Facebook and phone, realizing that we had an element to our story that made us particularly sympathetic to each other. We are M.O.M.s, moms of many, that practice attachment parenting with a realistic acceptance that none of us are perfect and that no parenting “technique” should ever be followed as a religion. Common sense mixed with compassion was, and is, our friend when making parenting decisions. From that bond we started a small invitation-by-word-of-mouth group of AP MoMs on a forum with an accompanying Facebook group. Then one day we decided that the support we could give each other really needed to be shared. How long had we looked and then had to turn away disappointed when we tried to find other moms like us? That was when the idea for GMoMs was born. We would form a blog together that highlighted all of the best things we loved and knew about parenting but not be afraid to go to those dark places, those troubled times, the parenting decisions and struggles that we all face but never want to talk about. We could also communicate with a larger group our love of cooking and crafting, our passion for sewing and homeschool. We thought of our 19+ combined years of breastfeeding experience, our 17 children ranging from infants to teens, multiples, and even little ones with special needs; our unity in the face of some pretty major differences in our personal faiths and beliefs, and we could not help but have a belief that we could reach out and help others. As the idea blossomed, we realized how much the blog and the community it would build would help us as well — real moms all coming together to lend that extra support and encouragement that we all need.

So, here we are now. GMoMs up and running and being read by you, our truly valued reader. We are so grateful that, out of all the wonderful and interesting things on the internet, you have decided to take time out of your busy day and spend some time with us. Keep an eye out for future posts and see what speaks to you; what encourages you. We may end up posting on a topic you were wanting to know more about. Take your time, and please leave a comment or drop us a line at gratefulmomsofmany@gmail.com. After all, a community is only as strong as its people, and without all of you, GMoMs simply would not exist. You see, the GMoMs are not just the three of us that manage this blog, it is every last one of you that wake up each morning and strive to bring to the world complete human beings raised by your faithful hands and loving hearts. Some days we may fail, some days we may triumph, but in the end it is the trying that brings us all together.

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So, now that you know how we got here, in honor of today being April Fools Day, we wanted to share with you all a few pranks we have done in the past, and some we have heard of that we think are clever…or stupid.  😉

~ Michelle~

When I was a little girl, I thought it would be funny to try and convince my mom that the dog had peed and pooped on the Persian rug in the foyer.  I cut a puddle shape out of yellow construction paper for the pee, and crumpled up some strips of brown construction paper for the poop (or “mookie sticks” if you’re a South Park fan :D).  Now, if you can imagine for a minute what that would look like, you will realize that this in no way looked like real pee and poo.  But for some reason, I thought it would work, so I put on my best horrified face and reported to my mother that the dog had peed and pooped on the Persian rug.  Mom said “WHAT?!”, ran to look, and then laughed.  Of course.  *sigh*  Looking back, I am embarrassed that I thought it would look real, but now, as a mother, I think that would have been absolutely delightful to see!  Creative imagination for the win!

Two years ago on April Fools Day, I posted a generic picture of a positive digital pregnancy test on my Facebook wall, with a caption that read “April Fools?”  It was fun to see the responses of curiosity, which I fielded with vague, enigmatic responses.  The next day, my status read “Well, you can just call me Fertile Myrtle,” which, of course, confirmed it for everyone!  I thought that was a clever, somewhat passive way to announce a pregnancy, using April Fools Day as a tool, considering how nervous I was about making known the impending arrival of YET ANOTHER baby (it was baby #5, and we had already taken a lot of flack for baby #4!  Of course, that was before we reevaluated who we associate with to include ONLY those who will a) be respectful of whatever choices WE make about OUR family, or b) at least keep their mouths shut if they are not supportive (see: “respectful” above), because [c)?] it’s really not their damn business!  Can I get a “Hell yeah!”???).  Whew.  Anyway.  (Tell us how you REALLY feel, Michelle!)  I will address toxic relationships some other time . . .

~ Sasha ~

The first year my husband I were dating was also the year the original Tony Hawk game for PlayStation came out.  Yes, I am comfortable with admitting how old that makes me… ahem…  I had a subscription to PlayStation Magazine, and back in the day, the magazine came with a disc each month that contained all the new demos and trailers.  My husband played the demo for Tony Hawk over and over.  We would have friends over and we would sit around and compete against each other on the one level for hours.  Needless to say, his Christmas present for that year was easy to pick out.  I bought it, wrapped it up and put it under my tree looking forward to Christmas, when I could give him something I knew he would love.  One day, just a few days before Christmas, I walk into the living room and what do I see?  My future husband sitting with a half-opened present and the guiltiest look I have ever seen.  He had been peeking!  I took it from him and told him that all the fun had been ruined and so I was going to return it and get him something else instead.  When I returned, I had never seen such a pouty face in all my life.  Christmas day arrived and when it was time for our present exchange, I handed him a large package with a giant ribbon it.  You can imagine his surprise when inside was the very same Tony Hawk game he had been peeking at several days ago.  Instead of going to the store, I had instead spent that time at a diner with my friend re-wrapping his present into a larger box filled with packing peanuts.  The look of surprise on his face Christmas morning was worth all the sneaking around and is still one of our favorite Christmas memories.

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In next week’s follow-up post, Nic will describe her most memorable April Fools Day, when Mother Nature decided to play a prank of her own!  Stay tuned…

And now, to commemorate our April Fool’s Day launch, we are giving away a “Mom of Many Survival Kit.”  To enter to win, we invite you to share your favorite prank in the comments section below.  A winner will be randomly selected, and announced next Sunday (4/8).  We will also be sharing our favorite reader-submitted pranks, so be sure to check back!  Thank you so much for sharing this special day with us, The GMoMs, as we begin to make our blog dreams come true!

May peace find you in your homes today,

Sasha, Nic, & Michelle