Thursday, December 31, 2009

The call to simplify...

A friend sent this piece by Ann Patchett as inspiration for taking oneself seriously as a writer. I love it and did find inspiration in it, but I also found it rather divorced from the world of being an at-home mother.

Additionally, I am someone who seriously needs to spend a good bit of time on meal preparation -- and on exercise and/or yoga, and at least one bodywork appointment per month, if not more -- or everything else falls apart. I know that I need a lot of components to be running on all cylinders. If I ignore one thing -- sleep, or healthy food, or exercise, or acupuncture/chiropractic/craniosacral work -- for a month, I spend the next 6 weeks or more playing some kind of catch up.

My feeling is often that there just isn't enough time -- not to do all the things I "have" to do, but to do all the things I want and feel like I need to do to feel alive and with both feet on the ground and my hands pressed together reaching for a star. It's like there's a Top 40 of needs in my world, not just one or three things that can demand my laser focus.

I know there are ways I can cut down on some things. Blogging for instance. But the work (to upgrade/combine/streamline) seems so much more daunting than just plodding along (which has some personal rewards, or I wouldn't do it). Shifting toward a new momentum is where I need some motivation, a coach, the decision to make something a priority. But I don't think working on writing presence/business development is going to help me fit more writing hours in the day anytime soon (as the article discusses). So the goals seem to be at odds. Would that I'd quit teaching and started freelancing before I became a mother!

The multiple strands in multiple directions are not doing wonders for my sleep or centeredness, especially as long as I keep acting like I rue them.

I am resolving nothing for the new year other than to try to be kind to myself and to be in the moment in whatever I'm doing -- even if I've got multiple things going, I'd like to stop making that wrong and just play with the complexity, which is, I recently realized, something I do truly value for its own sake.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yummy food for the holidays

We had a lovely holiday today. After a very busy Thanksgiving hosting four adults and two teenagers, I enjoyed not having to do a whole bunch today while at my in-laws'. But I did make the pumpkin pies, and they turned out delicious!

Check out this (newly updated) recipe for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie on my food and health blog, Inexact Science: Raising Healthy Families.

It's great to make something I enjoy when other people around me are having foods that are no-nos for my body. But it's really great to hear that other people enjoy my creation, too. Glad I made two pies!

Happy holidays, and happy, healthy eating!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A week home sick

I'm still climbing out from the mounds of things that piled up this past week when my son missed all three days of preschool. Monday I thought was just a precaution, that going would tire him out. The cough wasn't that bad.

But apparently it was too much to take him to the Vitamin Shoppe for a homeopathic remedy, to a crowded post office where we left without sending a package because the line was ridiculous and the self-print label machine was broken, and then to Trader Joe's to get some onions so I could make soup. That night he came down with a fever, and it was lethargy city around here on Tuesday. The rest of the week was just coughing and whining, but enough that we couldn't do anything or be around anyone.

I'm glad for the Ergo that let me carry all 35+ pounds of him on my back and for the remedies, which I think helped while not fighting his body's natural work.

He was better enough today to shovel snow (his idea!). Let's hope that wasn't too much and that we're all in decent enough health to get to family for the holidays.

For more on holistic health, see "Let the Fever Go" on my Washington Times Communities column, "Reading Ingredients: Tales from a Health-Conscious Mom."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Waldorf School Advent Garden

I just wrote this post at my column on the Washington Times Communities. The main idea is that I found this simple ceremony of children lighting candles and walking through a spiral of fresh evergreens to be profoundly moving.

It's late, and I don't know why the photo of the apple candle wasn't loading to the longer article, but here it is. No photos of the actual event, beautiful as it was and as much as I'd like a postcard; that, of course, would take you out of the moment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Putting my son on the table: craniosacral therapy

I don't claim to understand exactly what craniosacral therapy (CST) does, but I believe in it. I've read some books by Dr. John Upledger, and I've talked a whole lot with my practitioners about my body and my son's body.

And I've seen its results firsthand.

I've been getting CST for six years, since I first started pursuing alternative therapies, which ended up including diagnoses of celiac disease and autoimmune thyroid disorder en route to dealing with infertility.

I learned about the therapy through my sister and her work with her son, who is on the autism spectrum. CST has been immensely powerful for me, helping me to let go of a whole lot of energy I'd been holding onto, which caused physical and emotional problems. (For more, see my article in the Winter 2008/2009 issue of the Journal of Attachment Parenting).

I had my craniosacral therapist there at my son's birth, which was supposed to be all-natural in a birth center but instead was a c-section due to my baby's breech position and extremely short umbilical cord (see my poem about that in Exhale magazine). So instead, the therapist videotaped the birth, which gave her great insight into how to treat my son hours later. "There's a lot of unwinding in his hips," she said; I later learned breech babies sometimes need to wear harnesses because of their in-utero position (hip dysplaysia).

My son is now 3.5 years old. I schedule CST for him every few months, when it seems like he's just kind of off or working on something I don't know how to address. I'm so grateful that she's been seeing him since he was an infant -- really since even before he was born.

A few months ago I asked the therapist what might have been different if he hadn't been seeing her. I trust her with my life. She does tell some people they don't need to come back. She's never said that to me. "It's hard to tell. Maybe speech or other development issues. Maybe ADD or sensory integration problems."

I've had several different practitioners work on him, and they all say the same things about tight parietal bones and jaw intensity. Lately, E has been chewing on his shirt in a way that disturbs me. A lot of kids have oral fixations, but this one is causing my son's skin to be chapped, and, well, it just looks like an anxious reaction. So I made an appointment.

Usually she just plays with him on the floor with toys while they work in a gentle way. The appointment lasts a full hour. Today, after a while, she invited him up to the table, where she tucked him in. It was the first time I'd ever seen him laid down like a patient. It was a little freaky, but he looked so nurtured and cared for in the soft glow of the massage center room.

She said her recent sensory disorder training recommends letting kids follow their interest/obsession while they are getting treatment. So she did. He chewed on a toy and then, when she felt a big release, he was done with the mouthing and just sort of flopped into relaxation.

After seeing him so manic and wound up recently, it was a real gift to see him so calm under her hands. She explained some other physical things and gave me more ideas for ways to work with his particular needs, including broad and heavy strokes on his body and heavy weight on his legs in front of him, and offering him straws and other mouthing options. Her questions about other behaviors -- "does he seem to need to run full boar into things?" -- seemed so spot on. He's never gotten any kind of diagnosis, and I don't understand all the ins and outs of sensory integration issues and proprioception. But I do feel very good that I have this therapist on my team.

She said that it felt like a phase but like there was also an emotional component that was not yet resolved. His neck and chest were pouring off heat, she said.

I left a little poorer but more resolved to model and live the grounding, solidifying presence he and I both shun but deeply crave.

For more information on CST and children, see "Craniosacral Therapy and Scientific Research, Part II" by John Upledger, DO, OMM. The website for the Upledger Institute is pan style="font-weight:bold;"> Find practitioners at

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scarborough fair on my deck - and in my turkey

I didn't get a real garden going this summer, since we were in the middle of a move. That's a bummer.

But, I do still -- in November -- have fresh rosemary, sage and thyme growing in pots on my porch. I loved that I went from plant to pot in a few steps. They were great on the turkey the other day and tonight when I whipped up some leftovers. Deck gardening at night!

This morning, I picked parsley to put in my fresh juice with beet, carrot, celery, a little lettuce, lemon, ginger and garlic. It was awesome, and my brother-in-law enjoyed it, too.

Now if only I'd remembered to pick some oregano when I was cooking the eggs.

Food is good if it's good and fresh. Thank you, earth and sun!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Yummy Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful for a delicious turkey from Polyface Farms (and a husband and in-laws members who cooked it), fabulous pastured eggs from our local farmer, and nobody pushing my son to eat foods that aren't good for him.

I'm also thankful for health, a home large enough to stuff a bunch of people into, the resources to buy healthy food, family, friends, my healthcare practitioners, and Holistic Moms Network.

And no one complaining that our dishes don't match.

I'm also grateful for my husband and in-laws for taking my son to the park (and later again out to the madness that is consumerist Friday) so that I can have a few moments alone.


See a longer post about gluten-free holidays in my column at the Washington Times Communities: "Reading Ingredients: Tales from a Health-Conscious Mom."

Also check out my posts (with recipes!) on GFCF pumpkin pie and GFCF hazelnut flour rolls at my other blog, Inexact Science: Raising Healthy Families

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review of new PBS show on "healthy" living

Watch out parents: there’s a new show in town trying to convince your kids that it knows something about healthy eating. Before I share my concerns about PBS’s new show, “Fizzy’s Lunch Lab,” I’d like to describe the kind of show about healthy eating I would actually consider allowing my son to watch.

There would be lovely images of farms, farmers markets, orchards, produce aisles, and, of course, gardens of all types – backyard, patio, windowsill, balcony, community/shared. Featured foods would be fresh and whole – as close to the source as possible. A connection to nature would be everywhere with innovative ways to bring nature to the city and to pack in a lot of growing like the national non-profit organization, Growing Power, Inc.

I’m a mom who makes nutrition a top priority, and, after looking closely at this show, I think PBS has really missed the mark in its attempt to encourage healthy eating with “Fizzy’s Lunch Lab.”

Read the rest of this review -- about the lack of green on the show, the lack of understanding about healthy fats, and the overselling of grains -- on my guest blog post at Kimberly Hartke's blog, Thanks, Kimberly!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yes, we do hug trees

When my son was just a baby three years ago, I wore him all over the Green Festival and bought him and a friend copies of the children's book My Mom Hugs Trees by Robyn Ringgold. I think I might have even met the author and had her sign our copy (the book is upstairs, and the boy is asleep; if I don't write this now, I never will).

It's taken a while for the lovely book to make it into circulation because it's not exactly for babies. It was fun when I rediscovered it, and now my son really likes it. He referenced it the other day upon snuggling our magnolia. I had to smile. So the next time we had a free morning, we did a photo shoot.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Toy's the Season

So what do you do when a near-elderly neighbor gives your kid a Toys R Us catalog (along with a few other Sunday inserts) as though it's a gift?

After my husband accepted this offer, I ought to have put the stuff in the recycling bin immediately. But they went onto the floor of the car, and before I knew it, three-year-old eyes had latched onto them. "I want that Elmo magazine!"

(Don't go thinking we have any fuzzy red bug-eyed animals around these parts. But he knows the character from friends & neighbors.)

So now he's practically memorized the 80-page leaflet. At first, I was sick to my stomach with the comments about what he wants for Christmas. Yikes! Crunchy don't play that! I just hosted a screening of Consuming Kids, for crying out loud!

Now he's gotten more involved, requesting I whip up a whole family: "They are doing hair cutting. I want that to play with my brothers and my sister."

Uh, he doesn't have any siblings, and if he gets one, there are not going to be any S's at the end, if I have anything to say about it.

Today, we were cleaning out the car in the driveway when said materialist neighbor drove up. "We've got that funny magazine," Boy Wonder announced. "The toy catalog," I translated for some inexplicable reason.

She must have been thrilled and went on to ask, "Did you see some things you want for Christmas? But you know you have to be a good boy, don't you." The kid has never heard the word "good" from us Alfie Kohn disciples.

I just chuckled and hoped she would go away. Eventually, she did. Now I'm wondering if I can disappear the toy catalog without my son finding it in the recycling bin and having a fit over how cruelly I threw away his prized possession.

I might just have to burn it and bury the ashes in the woods.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Looking for bright sides

Today I could tell I wasn't going to get the uninterrupted writing time I needed to work on some freelance work. We had to do some family errands, and I decided to put on my "om" necklace that carries a place for a little cotton disc on which you drop a little bit of an essential oil (okay, I don't know where the disc are, so I used the paper towel that was still in the necklace from last time). I chose Young Living's Joy oil. It's a blend that is supposed to create "magnetic energy and bring joy to the heart."

I don't know if it was added benefits of the recent run of bodywork I've gotten to heal from running into a glass door or the Emotional Freedom Technique work I've been doing or if it was, in fact, the Joy oil, but I am happy to say that I was much cheerier today than a typical rainy November day usually finds me.

Smiley face!

Here are the ingredients of the Joy blend: Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), ylang ylang (Cananga odorata), geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora), lemon (Citrus limon), mandarin (Citrus reticulata), jasmine (Jasminum officinale), Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii), and rose (Rosa damascena).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Halloween costume-making

Just a quick post to show that even someone without a lot of sewing skill can make a frog costume!
And check out these other Green Halloween tips from my Holistic Moms Chapter.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Traditional, GFCF, and Low-Carb Eating 101

I just attended a local hospital's women's health expo and spoke to a diabetes nutrition educator who was horrified that I would pursue a low carb diet. "Why would you do that?" she asked. I dropped a lot of names, none of which she was familiar with. I just wrote her an email and decided to post it here for my own (and anyone else's) future reference.

Dear health practitioner,

Different people find health and wellness through different means, but it is through a gluten-free, casein-free, low-carb, low-grain “traditional” diet that I personally was able to reverse autoimmune hyperthyroidism, regain my fertility and address chronic depression.

A powerful book about the wisdom of limiting or avoiding grains is on the site of author Melissa Diane Smith. She wrote a book called Going Against the Grain that explains connections between grain intolerance and other health issues and explains why grains give so many people problems.

I recently saw two speakers talk about avoiding grains at a Gluten Intolerance Group gathering in Richmond, VA.
Dr. Stephen Wangen
, author of The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Solution, has written a new book called Healthier Without Wheat. Information is available at
Dr. Rodney Ford makes the case that gluten has neurological impacts on people who do not have celiac disease. Information is available at
These men both gave fascinating presentations.

In terms of traditional eating, the group I referenced is the Weston A. Price Foundation
Some quick information from the WAPF on healthy vs. unhealthy fats is at
An article on proper preparation of grains is at
and in Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions

A growing number of people are finding better health through increasing their intake of vegetables and decreasing their carbohydrates. Some people even point to a theory of food combining that claims putting carbohydrates with animal proteins inhibits proper digestion of food and leads to an acid/alkaline imbalance, which contributes to inflammatory conditions and to an overgrowth of Candida (yeast).

Some of this information can be found at The Body Ecology Diet - and in the BED book by Donna Gates.
Some general resources on the benefits of limiting carbohydrates can also be found at
The Gut and Psychology Syndrome -
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet -

A great read on why follow the wisdom of our ancestors is Nina Planck’s book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why. A farmers' daughter and a proponent of farmers markets, Nina also has a new book out for fertility, mom and baby. See her website at

I hope you’ll get a chance to look into some of these resources and share this information with your patients.

In health,
Crunchy-Chewy Mama

Friday, November 6, 2009

More evidence about gluten's potential harm

It took me three hours to get out of 20 miles worth of DC traffic and the rest of the 70 miles to Richmond, but I am so glad I made it to see the West End Gluten Intolerance Group’s evening presentation with two doctors and important researchers on the effect of gluten on the body. I saw the tail end of the first presentation by Dr. Stephen Wangen, author of Healthier Without Wheat. There was a nice buffet of donated GF treats and snacks, and then I got to hear the presentation by Dr. Rodney Ford from New Zealand who is known as “Dr. Gluten” for his research that shows gluten can have a neurological impact on people who do not have celiac disease. His story was powerful, and I'm so glad I got off gluten five years ago and have kept my son off of it.

I am grateful to Going Against the Grain author Melissa Diane Smith for telling me about this fabulous event!

Look for more of a report in the next few days at my column for the new Washington Times Communities, “Reading Ingredients: Tales from a Health-Conscious Mom.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Boy Wants Feedback

I have an alter-ego. Her name is Ms. Moo. She is our son’s bathtime towel, a black and white hooded number I got at Target going on two years ago.

The other day, when my son knew he was being annoying, he asked, “What’s Ms. Moo saying?” It was like he wanted to give me permission to stop him from his negative spiral.

Then he’d ask it if he’d been super cooperative, to nudge me to comment on how pleasant it was that we ate a meal together in peace.

This lasted for only a few days, maybe because we don’t take baths around here all that often. But she came out again last night. I’ll be interested to know if he starts to turn again to her and invite the sort of super-ego commentary he’s not capable of and that part of him doesn’t want to hear from me. I don’t usually want to judge or make pronouncements. But it's like he's trying to take positions and reflect on his behavior such that he craves this input from a higher power. With udders

Now let's not talk about how he's also regressed to wanting to put his hand up my shirt again.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Guns & Halloween

I couldn't believe my eyes, but there was one of my neighbors, a 7-year-old boy, dressed in khaki like a solider stationed in Iraq. And slung over his should was a machine gun. That he pointed at people.

I understand that gun play is a normal part of childhood, but can we at least require some imagination if we're going to allow it? Why do we have to go to the nth degree to be realistic? Light sabers, swords, wands I can handle; their power is something we have to think up (well, not so much with swords, but how often do you see those?) Machine guns are real and frightening images a lot of kids have to deal with daily in war-torn areas. But this is not one of them. So why bring it in? I suppose that children of service members might see this as normal and honorable. But it still gives me the willies.

I said nothing during the big community gathering and had almost forgotten about it until he came to my door. And then I muttered something like, "Wow, that gun makes me uncomfortable. Please point it down." Later, an older kid with a leather jacket outfit had a big gun, too, and he got something more like, "I have a little kid and I don't like him to see guns. Maybe you can rethink that next year" before I added a cheerily contradictory, "But have a good night!"

I couldn't let these images go, but I know my comments probably didn't do any good and maybe just made me seem like a grump. So be it. I just wonder what the parents are thinking by letting this go so public. It's one thing to let kids glorify violence in your own home or to just plain let them pick up sticks and do whatever with them. Fine. Kids need to act out the whole range of human emotions and impulses. That's healthy.

But bringing a fake machine gun to the community playground after a parade where there are babies and toddlers? Can't we wait until after dark? Why is this okay?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

TV-Free Month

After a summer of moving and letting the light box run for way too long so I could make food or unpack something or wait on hold on my cellphone trying to get our phone and internet connected, I was really hoping to cut the cord to the TV once school started. For crying out loud, the kid is at a Waldorf school where media is strongly discouraged, the idea being that it as stifles rather than inspires kids' imaginations. I was not looking forward to being outed by my son singing "Bob the Builder!" in the school sandbox when he's supposed to be decorating mud pies with leaves.

But more importantly, I just like him better when he's not been a couch potato. And I think he likes himself better, too. If he's going to be gone 8:30-3:00 for three days in a row, can't I fill the rest of the time with wholesome activities?

Indeed, I could, and I did. After a calming afternoon in the small aftercare program, my little boy has mostly been a dream in the afternoon. At first I planned things for the afternoon to keep us away from the living room. Now I know it will go okay, and I don't fear lacking the willpower to keep the TV off. I've usually had a good bit of productivity and can wait until he's in bed to do anything besides cook (which I often start before he gets home anyway).

Some days, when I'm behind on dinner or it's raining and we decide to bake, we just hang out in the kitchen. He finds all sorts of stuff to play with on his own and enjoys helping me for real, too.

Other days we do an errand or go meet a friend or just walk down to the park. As long as I get food on the table by 5:30 (not always easier, but I'm improving), my son generally stays happy doing whatever and is asleep by 7:15. So I'm trying to just be present most of those four hours together.

As for the mornings, he wanted to watch TV before breakfast the first few days of the school routine, but I managed to weasel out of that, and now it just doesn't come up. We also had the luck -- and the misfortune -- to lose a library DVD. When we returned that last yellow "Bob," we fessed up to the missing "Cuentos Y Mas" bilingual librarian program and were told, "It's a max $10 fine if you return it and $20 if you lose it. Why don't you just keep looking?" We have, to no avail, but now I have my reason for not getting any more library DVDs. And if he remembered a week or two that we actually turned on the television and watched PBS, he's since forgotten that was an option.

I am not a purist, though. The TV is still in the house, and it has football on over the weekends. And last week, I really needed to edit a piece of writing, so he watched an episode of "Martha Speaks" on the computer, on my lap. Keep the connection, I thought. Don't let him zone out of the human world. A few days later we put on Yoga Kids (an old favorite) so that I could get a practice in. He did a few poses but mostly watched me and the screen from the couch. And the other day, when I had a slew of emails to read, he watched part of a that dry British "Kipper" that a friend had lent to us.

So I'm hoping that something like moderation does exist. I'm thrilled we made it a full month with no kid programming (outside of seeing Steve Songs at the National Book Festival, which is live and fun, and the guy is super nice). I really think my boy is a more grounded kid without the media. We still have our episodes of whining, but they are all about irrational things that seem life-shattering to a three-year-old, like there being no more grapefruit. That's just how it is for him at this stage, I think; life has to feel like it sucks one minute and is peachy the next.

The rollercoaster of emotions is annoying, but I can handle that better than I can tolerate whining about watching more of something when the boy ought to be experiencing real life.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fabulous birth symposium!

I was blown away at this week's symposium at George Mason University: "Perinatal: A Symposium on Birth Practices and Reproductive Rights" organized by MFA candidate and mother of two, Jessica Clements. There were so many great panels and talks, I hardly know where to begin. In fact, I may leave summary to a print writing venue but for now feel compelled to share a link to the story of Joy Szabo from The Unnecesarean. Szabo is a woman who has already had a VBAC and has been told by her Page Hospital in Arizona that if she refuses a c-section for her current pregnancy, the hospital will pursue a court order to force her to have a surgical delivery.

Henci Goer reported on this issue in her fabulous talk, "Cruelty in the Maternity Wards: Fifty Years Later." She had just added the info about Szabo to her talk, which detailed other incidents of abuse and an overall culture of abuse in mainstream maternity care. The news about Szabo broke October 1, and the The Unnecesarean has updates about conversations with the hospital, but I don't see that Szabo has had the baby yet. I've followed the discussion onto Facebook and am going to see if I can learn more that way. (Too many different logins so I can't do it now. Must streamline!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Staying healthy

My head is swimming with all the info it has to process from the NVIC conference. It was great to see Dr. Joseph Mercola live and in person. The title of his talk was the same as his recent book: "Take Control of Your Health." I wrote the other day about Gardasil on DC Metro Moms, and, contrary to what some folks might think about people who speak at NVIC -- that they are there to scare people with stories of vaccine injury and take advantage of the human weakness to respond to anecdote -- the speakers generally want people to be in charge of their own health. It shouldn't be government mandates or doctors pushing drugs who tell us what to do, but our own bodies. It's just that it takes time on our part to learn and pay attention.

Mercola has a ton of info on his website,, but I want to run down a few of his most important points.

The CDC allocated $20 million for vaccine safety, but of that (if I understood correctly), $12 is going to media promotion of vaccines, including the use of Elmo to tell kids they should get their shots. The alternative to vaccines, Mercola explained, is to build your health and natural immunity. I know a lot of folks think anyone who questions vaccines is a kook. I wonder how many of those folks feed their kids refined sugar and flour and artificial colorings and flavorings regularly? What could possibly be good about those things? Why serve them if they compromise your kid's health? What about having days go by when kids don't eat any fresh (not to mention local or organic) vegetables?

According to Mercola, 90% of the food Americans purchase is processed. That's what I call kooky!

Mercola's biggest suggestions:

1) No sugar or artificial sweeteners
2) Adequate Vitamin D
  • Everyone should have their levels tested, and most folks need 5,000 IUs a day of D3 (not D2). An infant can get 1,000 IUs/day
  • Vitamin D is rare in food
  • Sunlight is not enough, especially in fall/winter, unless you're out 11am-1pm daily with lots of skin exposure.
  • High doses (up to 50,000 IUs/day for three days) can treat acute infections, including swine flu.
Dr. Mercola talked in general about nutrition, as well, including omega-3s. He prefers krill oil to fish oil because, he says, fish oil is not sustainable ecologically.

Dr. Mercola also stated that the primary influence on disease is emotional wounding as a child that has not been resolved. He referenced Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or the broader term Meridian Tapping Techniques (MTT), which I've found to be really powerful.

When moderator and Mothering magazine editor Peggy O'Mara asked about sleep, Dr. Mercola said that you can do all of the above (and exercise), but if you're not getting good sleep, forget it. He said most people actually need 6-8 hours and that getting too much can actually have a negative impact. It was getting late, and he didn't say anything about why/how or about the best time for sleep, but I've heard that sleep before midnight is much more restorative than sleep after because the body really needs to be relaxed when the gall bladder and liver do their flushing around 2-4 a.m.

Dr. Mercola had also started out his lecture talking about how little sugar there really is in the blood and how important blood sugar regulation is. When I get inadequate sleep, it seems like my body compensates by needing a ton of calories. I don't know how I got by as a breastfeeding-all-night mom for two years never getting more than five hours of sleep at a time, but I sure do know I ate a lot of nut butter!

It's inspiring to be around people who talk about health and well-being and how to achieve it. Since I'm already doing a whole lot of this -- at no small expense of time or money -- it's nice to be reminded that the effort really is worth it. I know that because I feel good and am not dealing with depression or gut problems like I did all my life before changing my diet, but it's still nice to get validation.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Watching out for mom & baby - a Japanese approach

Today I had the privilege of attending the National Vaccine Information Center's Fourth International Public Conference on Vaccination. Peter Doshi presented an informative look into the way the Japanese deal with mother and child health. From the time a pregnancy is confirmed, a woman is issued a Mother-Child Health Handbook in which to record information about her and the baby's health and development.

Into this boshi techo also go recordings of vaccinations. In fact, doctors will not give shots without the booklet in which to record them and to check on recent illnesses that might be contraindicated with getting a vaccine. The handbooks (and other information issued from the government) detail cautions about vaccines. They tell parents to reschedule vaccinations if the child has been ill (even in the last month) or has a fever, to plan for no strenuous activity that day, to pay attention the child all day the day of a vaccine and to make sure that someone who knows the child well is the one to take him or her to the doctor. The suggestion to take a child's fever before coming to the doctor in Japan contrasts sharply with information from the Centers for Disease Control's Parents Guide to Children's Immunizations that says that fever is "not usually a reason" to delay a vaccination.

Doshi, a doctoral candidate at MIT and visiting researcher (faculty of medicine) at the University of Tokyo, explained that since 1994, the Japanese have had a completely volunteer vaccination program in which recommendations have children getting about half the doses of vaccinations by age one that children in the U.S. typically receive. And, he explained, vaccines are always given only one at a time.

There is no school waiver or enforcement, and yet there is a high rate of vaccination. With a high expectation for product safety, the Japanese value vaccines and trust authority figures, but they seem to just have the whole different approach, Doshi's research showed. It seems that the Japanese embrace the idea of "first do no harm" and also of parents being expected to take an active role in paying attention not just to getting doses on time but to the whole context of health.

Yay for looking at the whole picture! Can we get some of that?

Chores make the memories

As we drove through the neighborhood this evening, my son looked at all the trash cans ready to go out tomorrow and asked if it was going to be Friday, which is trash day around here. Then he asked, "Why did they take away the branches?"

He is so into the trash pick-up, it threw him off that he wasn't here last week for the truck drivers to wave to him or honk their horn, or to see the "leaf truck" come haul away all the brush he helped to clear. One weekend we had our first time working in the yard in our new house, and less than a week later we took our first family trip to the beach. And what he remembers is the branches that disappeared while he wasn't looking.

By some miracle, the world didn't melt into a puddle of "why?!"-laden tears when I explained the impossibility of being in two places at once:

"I guess we must have been at the beach."


That's what I call a good day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Overdue travel: ripping off the band-aid

We have never gone to the beach. Except for in Maine. But not once in 9 years of living in the DC Metro area have we been to the ocean as a couple or as a family. Last year I took my son to visit my sister and her kids in the Outer Banks. But the three of us in our nuclear unit have never gone to the beach together or even been on any vacation that didn't involve going to visit family or friends.

We finally changed that. It seemed unwise to go through with our first kid-free vacation to leave our traumatized-by-the-beginning-of-school boy with his grandma overnight for the first time. So instead we all headed down to Chincoteague and Assateague Island for a short getaway.

I do mean short. We arrived at the hotel at 10:30 p.m. on a Thursday and headed for home the next day just after 2 p.m. It was cold and windy and a little rainy. But our little boy had a fabulous time playing in the waves just the same. We were out there for about a hour and a half, including two changes of clothing for me (pants to shorts and donning an extra jacket) and three for the little guy (into bathing suit from shorts, then to extra long-sleeved bathing suit on top).

Then we visited the nature center where some folks were going to set free Monarch butterflies they had raised and tagged. We learned about terrapin turtles and got to touch a horseshoe crab (I'd come to believe there never really was an animal -- only an empty shell). My husband stayed shivering in the car predicting nightmares about the swarms of mosquitoes closer to the woods while I jogged with my boy on my hip to give him at least a glance at some wild ponies. We ate lunch in town and then spent a while keeping our kid's fingers off fragile items in a gallery before buying a piece of art for the first time in years.

I told my husband that this trip was like ripping off a band-aid. We just needed to do it in order to move on. Now that we've done something, I'm hoping we can make it out to Shenandoah for some hikes and eventually back to Assateague for camping, which I've heard lovely.

And then the next band-aid will be to finally get away for a night without our little one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Through little eyes

I just thought I was involving -- and amusing -- my son while we made dinner. Joel Salatin wrote in a recent issue of Flavor magazine that we need to keep our kids in the kitchen if we want to have any hope for the future of agriculture, for future farmers who will seriously care about food and the land it comes from instead of retreating to video game alternate realities where it doesn't matter what you blow up or who gets killed.

So if I made a sweet potato and squash bus with carrot headlights (a la the Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers Fast Food books), I thought, my son might get stick around to try to "help" me and feel more invested in dinner.

Without skipping a beat, he said, "Lobster!"

Going to Maine helps appreciate food, too, I guess.

I was going for a standard vehicle, but I love that my son sees things I miss. He notices representations where I don't, and, on the flip side, he notices new details it never occurred to me he'd see, like the new 2010 county sticker on my dashboard within seconds of the first time we got in the car after I'd removed the old one.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I stand corrected

So, we did have a nice beginning to the school year as described last week. But then, on Tuesday, I got The Call. My son's teacher had to let me know that he'd bitten his friend's arm.

I freaked out. I cried. I felt horrible. Why is he feeling so much tension? Why can't I model for him how to just roll with the punches?

I sobbed and told him we needed to be nice to our friends or then maybe we wouldn't be able to play with them. I didn't yell or belittle, but apparently I did shame him, because the teacher told me the next day that he stuck close to her for a while and told her at lunch, "Don't call my mommy again because she cried because I was bad." I never use judgment words with him, and I really hope he didn't seriously use that word. But regardless, he took on my pain. That is not what I want. That's the last thing I want.

So it was an upsetting week, even if we did avoid the TV the whole week and he happily enjoyed playing in the kitchen while I made dinner instead of whining about something else he wanted to do or begging me to play with him. We coexisted peacefully a lot of the time

Except, that is, when things set him off. He was crushed that he didn't get to put the soap in the dishwasher, even though he was chatting with me while I did it. The world had come to an end. And he tried to hit me, as though mocking the fact that I was about to go off and lead a Holistic Moms meeting with a speaker on Craniosacral Therapy.

I sure was glad that I'd made an appointment for acupuncture weeks earlier when he'd had his first-in-a-long-time biting episode. As I wrote on my other blog, I think the acupuncture really helped -- both of us. It was a great weekend with few frustrations and lots of lovely weather. I hope he and I can both remember to breathe and enjoy what we're given.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The school year begins!

After a week or two about worrying that my overtired, non-napping son would freak out in a class (even though a Waldorf class) of 12 boys and 2 girls, or that he'd melt during the transition to the afternoon program where there would be none of the aforementioned 13 other young children (and only a handful of older ones), I have to say I'm breathing easier after the first day of school.

I guess I got to feeling better after talking with his teacher on Saturday and after deciding that my angst was only going to negatively affect my son.

It's after 10 now, so I'm breaking my own new rule of reading in bed by 9:30 and lights out by 10 or 10:30 at the latest. But I am happy about a lot of parts of today that I had control over (as opposed to the fabulous weather, which was simply a gift).
- I snuggled my son in bed (he came in around 5:30) and gave him a mini massage, including effleurage. (I used to give him infant massage every morning! Let us retreat to those connected days!)
- I got out our yoga mats and had us do a few poses together, holding firm that it would not be accompanied by watching Yoga Kids
-(related happy point -- no video media today except me taping him on the camera. And the CD in the car was soporific "Duerme, Pequenitos" to which he sounds ridiculous trying to sing along)
- I ate with him instead of after. He ate a huge breakfast and I knew went off with a happy belly
- His lunch was all packed last night (in these new LunchBots containers that I love)
- He got through the transition from the morning class to the afternoon program well and did rest quietly, even if he didn't nap.
-I agreed to his suggestion to go to a particular park after school, and he had a good time (in fabulous weather) even playing with bigger kids who had just gotten out of school there and left without a serenade of "why" or "but I want to stay..."
-Dinner was leftovers as planned but we also managed to make some extra veggies and "sushi." I couldn't find the sushi rice but found 3 bags of millet and decided that was probably better anyway. We toasted the grains for a few minutes and then cooked them with new bone broth/homemade stock for millet sushi (a new invention) and also cooked butternut squash and green beans in stock, which he loved with the sushi (and ate the whole messy not-holding-together role). So later I made more (better) for tomorrow's lunch.
-During all this dinner prep, he happily hung in the kitchen, trying to do random stuff like grind nuts in a flour sifter and singing "The Noble Duke of York" and "Deedle Deedle Dumpling My Son John" from class. No real bursts of whining, no asking for TV. No asking me to play but instead just playing alongside me
-He was in bed at 6:57, though it took close to 20 min for him to fall asleep. I'm not so psyched that the last thing he was muttering was "Clifford is a big red dog." But what can you do?
-The kitchen was cleaned and the next day's lunch made by 8:45 p.m.

Apparently I can remain relatively happy and not upset as long as I have a big chunk of time alone. It would be nice if my husband could get home to put the boy to bed, as was our usual routine before work got so busy, but everything seems so much more doable when I haven't been with the little dude for 13 hours straight.

And this is why I say yay to Waldorf preschool!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sleep + run - child = better mood

My poor kid. He can't do anything right these days as far as I'm concerned. I have been working with a very short wick, even though I'm sure it's completely developmentally appropriate that he whine all the time, fall into tears when the mango isn't ready and rush to assure me "I'm not tired anymore" when I suggest rest to his whine of "I'm tired!" (Just in case it's a bigger issue, I got him a craniosacral session yesterday.)

I just can't put up with all this 3.5-year stuff very well because I just cannot get a break from him. Days that start at 6:30 and end at 7:30 with no nap or other help are just too much for this partially-introverted and wanna-be working-at-home mama.

Waldorf school starts next week. I'm counting the minutes. That sounds terrible, but with each passing day I feel more and more secure that I could never handle it as a homeschooler. I really hope it all goes well and that he transitions without incident from the big morning program to the small afternoon program where, I hope, he might actually learn to rest and recharge, which he has clearly not learned from me.

Thankfully, today I have him with a sitter so I can address some Holistic Moms work and so many other things I haven't been able to get to unless I use the dreaded TV (which I think is awful for his brain, but clearly is not the reason he stopped napping a year ago because he didn't even know TV existed back then. I cannot believe it has been a year since I could not count on naps. No wonder I'm fried).

Last night, my husband had to work late again, so I was on bedtime duty, which is normally a daddy thing. I had a flashback to earlier days: I fell asleep while putting my son to bed. I woke up at 7:40 in a pretty grumpy mood, not at all geared up for the chat my husband and I had actually (amazingly!) scheduled to talk about marriage stuff. So I called my husband, who was still 15 min. away and told him I was going to bed. Before 8:00.

I didn't drift off immediately, but close enough. I slept through the night, and you'd think I'd have popped up at 5 a.m. But instead I was still wanting to doze when little E crawled into our bed and started trying to feel me up. Without my post-bed checking in on work and friends the previous night, I felt like in fact I'd had no break from my son.

But the sleep did do me a lot of good, and it worked out that my husband could drive the boy to the babysitter for my one day of help (watch the minutes tick by while I write!). With the extra time, I felt like I could really go running. On a cool fall morning. It was fabulous. Then I came home and juiced and meditated. What a day before 10 a.m.

Now it's time to head back to other pressing matters on the computer, but I feel a lot better and hope that after a day with other kids (and quiet time, if we're lucky) my son will be happy and refreshed ... and that after a day without him, I'll be able to handle it even if he's not.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Who's Buying Now? Welcome to Consumer Parenting, Daddy!

My husband was always the one complaining about "stuff" -- toys I got even for free were too much, and every time a package came even from Nova Naturals or A Toy Garden, I was contributing to an evil culture of consumerism. I agree that we don't "need" a lot of what we have, but I also feel pretty okay about most of it. And I was pretty sure that, although I thought my son would enjoy the opportunity to play with trains at home, we didn't need set with a name brand or a hefty price tag. So together we went to IKEA to get a simple, nondescript (and inexpensive) train set.

But the next weekend, I went away on my first-ever (and the world's shortest) overnight away from my boys. And what did they do? Go to Kinderhaus Toys and spend an hour at the Thomas table. All week, my son kept asking to back to the toy store near Whole Foods where he went with Daddy. Maybe it had even been my suggestion once upon a time, but now I long for the days when he was blissfully ignorant of such a fantasy land.

Oh, and did I mention they came home with a train set? And that my husband is beaming proud of it, as though he just peed his own name -- and our son's name -- in the snow.

Sure, the set is nice, and the kid is spending a lot more time with the trains now (though we're still fighting the TV battle that is of my own making). But I really didn't think we were going to buy that packaged stuff.

And I cannot believe that my husband agreed to buy the Musical Caboose, which they got the following weekend at the grand reopening of Doodlehopper, another toy store, while I was at a time management (!) workshop. The activity itself was okay -- I might have even recommended it so that he get the (chemical-free) drycleaning nearby and so that he could pick up a gift for a friend's child (he forgot).

But it's what they brought home that has me shaking my head. LJ has always turned his nose and musical toys unless the person holding the toy is the one who makes the sound, and I agree. But now we have our little boy "singing" along to a toy he loves to put up to his ear. He pushes the button over and over. At least there are no annoying kid voices or words. But still, the Waldorf school teacher is coming over next week for a home visit! And I'm pretty sure she's not hoping to see character-driven or noisy toys. Hide, everybody!

LJ wonders about the price tag for the Waldorf school, but it's always seemed like he easily fell in line with a lot of the school's practices and beliefs. I used to think that if I were working and LJ was a stay-at-home dad, we'd have a very sparse home with only sticks and twigs and a few balls for toys. Now I'm not so sure!

Monday, August 3, 2009

A playspace of one's own

It's a miracle. My son is playing on his own with his wooden kitchen and fake food. And for a while before that he was playing with a ping pong ball. Before that he was vacuuming our new family room cork floor. I'm in heaven. How joyous the sound of miniature pots and pans!

Since we moved three weeks ago, E has been really tough to be around, which has resulted in me giving in to his desire to watch TV. Now that we finally got all the ripped up carpet out of the family room (used Craigslist "free stuff" to successfully give it away, to someone who left us home grown veggies, no less!) and laid down our lovely cork floor (also found on Craigslist), little E has been much more imaginative and self-entertaining.

Not sure how long it will last, but this is what I'd hoped for. This is part of why we moved.

Now if I can just find some furniture for my office so I can actually unpack all my books and files and do my own kind of play (and work)...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Yoga in the trees

So it's been 8 days since we moved and probably 8 weeks since I really paid much attention to my body, exercise-wise. All week I've been trying to unpack around a roving three-year-old and struggling with various frustrations (check out my complaint about my phone service at "Life without internet" on DC Metro Moms today).

This morning, the heat and humidity had broken. While breakfast cooked under the eye of my husband and my son nibbled on fruit and listened to a CD, I did yoga out on our back deck looking out the new sun peeking through the tall, thickly leaved trees in the woods behind our house.

Talk about ahhh.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Moving pains

We are all a bunch of giant mood swings around here. Remember that neighbor's great big tire swing you always wished was in your yard? Imagine it's in your hands. Now yank it, fling it, and watch it hit someone else in the head.

Yes, it's ouchy. Yes, life has to go on.

We will be moved in less than 72 hours. I hope eventually the swing just snaps and we can toss it into the woods and all just sit together under the tree.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My poor little dude

My son is having such a rough time. Even before this weekend, he was already chewing on his hands and having a tough time with all the transitions going on, what with all the stress of the impending move. I've been sitting him with pillows all around when we read books, and I do think this helps him feel safe and secure.

But it's not enough to weather the tornado swirling around him. After our travel to Michigan this past weekend, resulting in a big sleep deficit, he got thrown further off kilter by the weird schedule in general and in particular by some chocolate and a little gluten at the grandparents' 50th anniversary party. He whined and cried during Sunday night's flight home, he was really tough to be around on Monday, and on Tuesday, he apparently pushed all the kids in Spanish class. The teacher said she didn't recognize him; he's usually so gentle and loving.

I took him today to a previously scheduled craniosacral therapy appointment. In the midst of our crazy move (contractors here this week, we move this weekend ourselves and next week with a company doing the furniture), I wanted to scrap the appt., which was a 30-minute drive away (this time an hour on the Beltway in rush hour to get home). But clearly it was needed. The dr. (Ron) said that E's sagittal suture was pretty stuck and that that connected to closedness in his back. Ron worked on that section last time, but he also said this time that cabin pressure from the flight might have caused a problem.

After 25-30 min. Ron felt fine letting E play (which he did happily) and then working on me. He worked a lot on my gut and then on my head just a bit, but enough to totally erase the headache I walked in with.

Let's hope we all wake up in a decent mood tomorrow. Oops. It's already tomorrow. And I still don't know what color paint to tell the contractor to get. If I have to drag that kid back to the paint store one more time, I don't know what he'll try to get me to buy. I think this calls for Shopping While the Kid is in Childcare. Assuming I don't get a call to come pick up my little brute.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Procrastination runs in the family

So now I know where I get my inclination to stay up until all hours. My parents just had a 50th wedding anniversary, and the night before, we were all up until 2:00 a.m., matting photos, coming up with a table seating chart, sewing part of the party outfit... It was as if it were the middle of a workday. You can bet I scoffed when my husband woke up from his 8 hrs no more spritely than I after my <5.

My poor son. He is so damn tired. He got to bed one of the nights miraculously around 7 p.m., but the other nights -- with the northern and western extra 60-80 minutes of light (Michigan vs. our home in the DC Metro suburbs) and all the excitement -- he got such little sleep. The night we arrived, he went down at almost 10:00 (no nap, no real down time all day). Another night was almost 10:00 after a nap 3:30-5:00. The night of the party he was so overtired but couldn't even fall by 11:00 (he'd had a little chocolate at the party and a hard-won 2.5-hr nap earlier that day, thanks to a low of fossil fuels). The night we flew home (last night), it was almost 10:00 p.m. by the time we got him down; he'd had zero nap and not even 8 hrs of sleep the night before.

Today he was exhausted and could not figure out how to go to bed ... wanted me, but then wanted more food, cried and cried with his dad (the usual to-bed-putter and his sleep-mate for the past several nights at my parents' house).

Maybe part of the problem was that this morning, I had an appointment with a designer to discuss wall color and the organization of my new office... for the house we are moving into this week. (And that we got possession of today, but there was no electricity because I never called the company.) He was so confused trying to play in an empty house, wanting whatever was different than his current reality: "I want to go home and rest in my bed" (which he never does.) Then, "I don't want to go home. I want to stay here." Also: "I don't want to take the wagon. I want to ride my tricycle." Then later, when we have only the trike to take home: "I want the wagon!"

After this weekend seeing the way my whole family operates, I have no illusions that I will change my temperament, but I really do hope we can make some strides toward less last-minute and more thoughtful ways to approach life once we're settled in our new space (whenever that will be). But as long as he's three, is everything I try going to be thwarted anyway?

I've got to hope that sleep will help. Speaking off, I'm a little undercooked in that department, myself.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

All or nothing

When it comes to food, I'm into extremes. I spent the whole week juicing and detoxing and eating only super healthy foods that made me feel great (and get down to 101 lbs., just about right for a flat-chested, shoulder-less, small-boned but with hips 5'0").

I've been happily off of sugar for over a month and haven't even had the slightest desire for even a decaf or anything else on a no-no list. I was even vegetarian again for four days (well, except for homemade chicken stock, but that's like a magic elixir food).

The point is, I was clean and pure. And that was good. It wasn't even hard.

Then I missed out on my mommy vacation and had to confront the fact that we're moving in two weeks and seriously have a ton of decisions to make. So today dipped into a jar of chocolate sauce and must have slathered about a quart of it at least six egg-rich coconut flour mini-muffins. And the decaf that washed it down has me revved up late after a few weeks of decent bedtimes.

So I can be half-assed about backing up my computer and accidentally allow it to be reformatted before copying all my files. But when it comes to how I treat my body, it's one side or the other, either like a saint or a sinner.

Well, at least I'm still sober.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First babysitter to-bed

It wasn't even intentional, but the babysitter made my son fall asleep. At 5:30 p.m. On a sunny summer evening. And then he slept until 5:50 a.m.

They were reading books on the couch while I was on my way home from an appt. I was a little annoyed -- both at her for letting him fall asleep so late and at myself for not being consistently home and quiet 1-2 p.m. so he would get used to resting then, even if the regular nap has been over for about 9 months now (since he was 2 1/2).

It freaked me out a little not to talk to him before bed. What if the girl had drugged him or something? I mean, I assumed he would wake up and have dinner and then go to bed super late, which is what happened the other day when we drove through busy traffic to pick up his dad and look at environmentally-friendly flooring at Amicus Green Building Center. (That night, he fell asleep 3 minutes before we arrived, slept in the stroller while we closed the place down and then slept almost all the way home. Then he was wired and we didn't even try to put him to bed until we went up around 10:30.)

But last night, he stayed tanked out on the couch with the sun shining on his face and while we talked in regular voices. My husband tried to no avail to wake him up and so eventually carried the kid upstairs where he transferred to his bed without a hitch. I was worried he'd wake at some ungodly hour or wet the bed, but he stayed dry and asleep all night until 5:50, when he toddled down the hall and said, "I just looked out the window and saw that it was morning time." I told him to go pee in the potty.

And then I was glad I left out a snack and water. He took them in his room, turned on his IKEA moon light and snacked and read books, which bought me an extra 10-15 minutes of horizontal time before we came downstairs.

Unless I finally get my act together to go to bed early and wake up before the little one, I think leaving out some nuts (& this had rice crackers) might be wise.

After that snack, he had a full breakfast -- first strawberries, then more strawberries with coconut milk and homemade nut butter, then his leftover rice tortilla from yesterday with chicken, goat cheese, lettuce and carrot, then an egg with zucchini and peas plus some ham. Then "chocolate" greens powder in goat milk. Then some of my fresh beet, lemon and greens juice.

And since I'm doing a pseudo juice fast and since we got up so damn early, we had time to read stories. I missed him last night!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Who are you, kid?

No sooner do I finish writing a post on how electronic media is ruining my child (not exactly) but he totally proves my point. He whines, "Please, Mommy, please can I watch Curious George while you make dinner?" And then to my no he melts. Not creamy and smooth like butter but gross and chunky like one of those soy-based milkshakes from a fast-food restaurant -- gloppy and disgusting. A puddle of tears, red face, limp or mad body.

At least he's not hitting or biting or anything, but he is chewing on his hands a lot and also on his shirt... I don't know if he's processing something from last week's craniosacral session -- he was already doing the mouth thing; that's part of why I took him in. Maybe it's going to get worse before it gets better as he moves through some funky energy. Did the new sitter somehow scar him? They seemed to be doing fine while I was in the basement. Maybe it's a reaction to some kind of food -- delayed from small amounts of trial gluten a while back, or from the additional goat, or the millet toast. Cashews? It's not like he's eating McDonald's or even pizza or anything.

The guilt is kicking in that if I could just nurse him, he'd be okay. And those LLL books about weaning say chewing on hands is a sign that a child weaned too soon. Plus when he came into our bed this morning at 5:40 (which is ouch early for us for him to be ready to be awake), he wanted to "warm" his hands in my shirt but then said he just wanted to see/touch my breastes. And twice today he stroked my nipples, once in front of another person. No more little camis for me.

I was solo tonight and could NOT get the kid to sleep. Too bright outside, neighbor kids making noise... I'd jogged us to the post office and was planning to shower after he went to bed, but we needed something to kill time and kick him over into ready to sleep. So I showered and he probably ate way too much Weleda kids (baby?) tooth gel. I can't trust him with anything. I'll have to write a whole separate post about what he dumped out on his bed today.

Anyway, I told him to leave the blinds down as I was getting out of the shower. After I lowered them, he raised them again and I got really mad and stern. I was worried that I was so upset I'd freak him out. But he reacted like he did earlier today when I started crying: he copped this Mr. Maturity persona complete with reassuring foice. He patted my belly and said, "You're a good mama." Earlier he told me, "Don't worry, Mommy. It's okay. You don't have to worry." All with very controlled, calm wording.

He also got super upset when he bit his tongue. I said I knew that hurt; it had happened me, too. Then he asked me to show him how I did it, and, eyes still moist, he reflected. "I just did it and it hurt so I cried. I got sad."

Out of control at some moments but frighteningly self-aware and practically serving as my therapist at others. Who is this kid?

When I first met my friend Lisa who had a baby about 48 hours after I had E, she said, "Oh, he's Mercury Retrograde." I was clueless but she said this is not a time people choose for big events. "Maybe he'll be calm when there's chaos around him," she offered. I don't know, but I'm freaked out by my three-year-old and don't know what he needs right now.

TV Blues

Last month PBS Kids hosted a lovely event for us DC Metro Mom bloggers. I ought to have posted something about it, but it was kind of culture shock for me, and I didn't want to write and sound ungrateful. Before the event, I didn't know anything about Super Why or any shows for preschoolers. I came away with a great respect for the creators and all the research they put into these shows. I'm certain that if the students I taught in high school had watched the shows that scaffold literacy skills, many of them would have had an easier time reading. I'm glad these shows exist for populations that are going to be in front of a TV anyway.

But I still don't think I want my son staring at a lightbox of whirling pictures. Especially not shows with fast-paced images that, as an educator, I think are a recipe for generalized ADD. And yet, after the event, I started using some You Tube (mostly PBS) and the Steve Songs DVD we got in our swag bag to keep my son occupied so we could keep the house clean for showing/selling.

Now TV/computer just feels like that yucky place I didn't want to get to -- where he wants this thing that gives me some time to clean, cook, etc., but I still don't think it's at all good for him. He's passive, and those glassy eyes just say heroin addict to me. He's whiny about wanting to watch something and mad when he has to stop. He's not sleeping as well (not necessarily related, but it's possible).

And watching is not doing anything for his spirit, his soul, or his imagination. Those are the pieces not represented on the PBS whole child chart and those are what Waldorf education values. Another mom at the event openly made fun of Waldorf (she brought it up; I just listened). I don't care what you call it, but I really think all this pushing kids to develop skills early -- even if the learning is "fun" -- is cheating them out of what ought to be magical time of their own making. TV may keep my son out of my way, but I think it keeps him out of his way, too. That is to say: disconnected from his body.

I don't know that I'll try to go fully TV-free. Most days are, but some days, a little saves me a lot of headache. I think I'd feel better, though, if I actually did some looking into programs I might feel good about for slow pace, real people/places/animals and/or maybe language exposure (Spanish or French) instead of whatever Curious George episode -- or hip-hop parody! -- pops up for him to click on. Yikes! A little word stuff or science stuff or get-along advice is fine, but I'm not going to seek it out. I'd rather he make up his own ideas about things and take his cues from us (but only on our good days!)

See also: The Unplugged Project

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fun again with food! Finally!

After weeks of letting my son subsist almost entirely off of rice tortilla and goat cheese; apples; and a snack trap of rice crackers, pecans and raisins, I was so excited to finally get my kitchen back (once we signed a contract on our house) and get to the farmer's market for some fresh produce. What a joy to actually find joy again in making meals -- and eating meals, too! For me, stress around mealtime is almost as bad for my body as eating forbidden foods (gluten, dairy, soy, corn, sugar).

I had fun making a veggie face. In retrospect, the simpler one looks cuter, but I decided to add some a mustache and goatee of baba ganoush (one of my son's favorite words these days), some (raw/live) sauerkraut, goat cheese teeth and ham earrings. E ate this whole guy and a second guy, and then some.

If you've never seen the funny things done with vegetables and fruit in Fast Food and other books by Saxton Freyman and Joost Elffers, those images really are a hoot. I hate to think of the food that was wasted in making them, but they do give a lot of ideas for fun things to do with food. My son has often happily eaten veggies, but it's fun to be creative, and it's great to see him making up his own stories about what bites of food are to him. "Do you see, Mommy? This is a ...." Thanks for the hint, kid!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

We used to nurse

Last week things finally started to settle a bit once we had a buyer for our house. This piece was started several days ago but never finished, so I guess they didn't settle down all that much! I'll let the rest flow as it was written (verb tense inconsistencies and all) and just finish the story where it stood last week.
Maybe now that my son sees that I'm not totally frantic all the time, he's able to stop being as whiny and just plain drop down to show he needs a close connection. And I think I've been more in touch with my own feelings than I'd been able to, living with half my life stuffed into closets or in my car or in storage and having to scrap dinner plans to get take-out or eat cold (organic) hot dogs and sauerkraut for dinner because some realtor wanted to bring over a client. We hope those days are behind us, and though there's still a lot to do, we are breathing easier...

So, for the first time in the two months since my son weaned on his third birthday, I've had the desire to nurse him and sense he wishes he could. He's been touching me in a way that says "we used to have a special way to comfort me, and now that's gone." He's also been putting his hands in his mouth a whole lot, and he was whiny and tired for the sitter the other day. So I made an appt with the craniosacral therapist who will split his time -- work on E for 30 min, and then work on me for the rest of the session. It's not ideal, but at least we both get something.

R said that E was pretty restricted in his head and compressed in his thoracic area. He said his fall a month or so ago was something he was indeed working around, and he recommended probiotics. Of course, now that he's not getting nutrition from me, I've got to be more vigilant about the probiotics and cod liver oil. I can't just assume he'll get a share from me. He's all on his own now.

And I have to find ways to meaningfully connect with him even if things are still a little nutty and rhythms & rituals are not so established. He fell asleep after the appt (at 6:15) and then woke at 10:45 p.m. a little hungry. I was still out at a MNO dinner, so my husband fed him and then I returned, quietly changed clothes and planned to snuggle him down to sleep since he'd been asking for me when he woke. Part of me thought I should just let him come into our bed and be a big family, but I knew that none of us would sleep as well as we would if he were in his room. I walked into his room to get his jammies, and he followed me, clearly content to go back in his bed.

I snuggled him and remembered why I loved for so long cosleeping in a family bed. It really is beautiful to share sleep, to share closeness. And it's great to be able to do that now that he doesn't need it all the time and feel like it's a homecoming. I am glad he has his own space, and he says with high eyebrows and a gleeful sense of pride, "I slept all night in my bed!" when he does (typically first waking us with the sound of pouring his IKEA mini-potty pee into the big toilet).

I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with me for not feeling nostalgic about nursing -- for just feeling such a clear-cut break after being so connected to nursing as part of my mothering identity for three years. It kind of felt humanizing to get the sense that we both felt something of a longing, even as we understood that chapter was over.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"I'm growing up!"

Yesterday we went to Frying Pan Farm Park where just a few months ago we saw newborn piggies and lambs, and, while watching the piglets nurse, my son announced to my video camera and his buddy, G: "I'm going to stop nursing when it's my birthday!" We'd had one or two conversations about that possibility, and he really seemed to embrace it that day at the farm.

We returned yesterday for G's bday party, and it felt a little like a mini-graduation to me to see the then-tiny pigs and lambs so much bigger. "Our" black and pink pigs were actually inside, where it was harder to take photos, but you get the idea with this big pink papa piggy and his little ones.

Now that we are almost two months beyond weaning, it really feels like such a long time ago. It was so clear that E was ready to be done, as was I. This last 6 weeks trying to sell the house has been so stressful. I think nursing would have driven me crazy, and I think it would have just felt confusing to him since it wasn't really helping him cope anymore.

Within a week or two of weaning, E started to say, "Look at me! Look what I can do!" Recently, E has been telling us, "I'm growing up. I'm getting so big." No doubt he's heard this from us in our attempts to get him to let go of some behavior we're ready to be done with. It's funny but also comforting to hear him brag about his maturity, like is comfortable moving on and growing into his next self.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Raising a Traditional Foods Snob

"Here, Mommy," my son said as he handed me a bowl of wooden fruit and eggs he "made" for me in his play kitchen. There was half an orange, cucumber, banana, carrot and mushroom. He's been making me a lot of "food" lately and enjoying watching me pretend eat. And then he takes a turn, chomping the air loudly and happily. But now baby's adding in the food sensitivity piece.

"It's soyfree!" he noted with glee, then adding with questioning eyebrows, "Do you eat soyfree?"

Damn, I didn't know I even talked that much about soy. I bet it's that label reading in the grocery store to avoid getting some crap we don't need. He's been whining, "Why does it have gluten?" for a while now, but to hand me an orange and assure me it's "soyfree..." Egads.