I recently read one article about modesty and another about sex-positive parenting. I feel like there's validity to both, but at the same time the seem to be contradictory. I'll share my thoughts with you, and maybe you can share some with me (assuming we can all do so respectfully.)
“We must speak, we must take sides. For neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
These are the words of Holocaust survivor and renowned activist Elie Wiesel, who has died aged 87.
Seeing all the posts about the recent violence, a post with this quote by Elie Wiesel struck me the most. So I did not want to be silent, but didn't know what to say. (In an effort not to be looking at a screen instead of my children, I had only seen headlines until later tonight, so I didn't even really know what was going on.)
Regardless of the specifics of each case, it is clear that we have a racism problem. And I want to be part of the solution. But I no longer have faith in our government at all. I don't trust them any farther than I can throw them. So I don't believe I can do much to change things through official channels. So,what can I do at home to make a difference?...
I'm really enjoying reading Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting, by L.R. Knost.
I wish I had more time to post on here, but motherhood is keeping me plenty busy. Here is the message I'll be sharing in church this morning for Mother's Day.
"While I feel it is beneficial to recognize the importance of our role with young children, I am the first to admit shortcomings in my attitudes and actions in bringing up my own children and in being with young children in many given moments. However, we not only try to do the best we can, but we can also strive to do better, or the most important work of the parent with young children is inner work on oneself. The young child accepts us as perfect and good; once he becomes older and sees our imperfections, the most important thing is that the child sees we are striving to do better. Our desire for inner growth (or our complacency) is perceived by the child and has a very deep effect on him." From Your Are Your Child's First Teacher p.332
Have I posted on here yet that I decided to get my Montessori Teacher training for infants and toddlers? Most of you probably know that by now though. I did most of my academics this spring and summer. Right now I'm taking Acorn to a parent child class on Thursdays and Fridays. It's quite a hike, but as a practicum student I'm assisting instead of paying the class fee, so it's totally worth the drive. Plus I get to continue learning from the amazing instructors. I still need to find a regular practicum site where I would work in a classroom with children anywhere from 0 - 3 years old without their parents, for a minimum of 15 hours a week, spread over three days, for nine months. (Run-on sentence anyone? Sorry.) I also have my advanced seminar coming up in November and there will be another one in the Spring. I have to journal about every parent-child class or practicum day. I have tons of assignments to get done in the next 2 1/2 years.
And why am I doing all this? "the most important work of the parent with young children is inner work on oneself." Looking back at old posts, I see that I did post a little about this...When I was pregnant I was looking for a parent-child class and the closest one I found was about an hour away. Now I want to bring something like this closer to home. Unfortunately, Montessori is often kind of an elitist thing because it costs so much! I understand, we go through a lot of training, and pay good money for that training, so teachers should be paid well. I wish it was that way for all teachers. But since it's not, I want to share my good fortune with others. I want to start a low- or no-cost parent-child class in my area. I want to help as many families as I can do the best they can with what they have.
Other ways I'm doing inner work on myself? I've been attending bible study before church. (More about that in the next post...) I also want to read The Spiritual Hunger of the Modern Child: “ten lectures by notable speakers representing a variety of religious perspectives including Judaism, Christianity, Subud, and Buddhism...All of the writers agree that who you are and what you do around young children are more important than religious dogmas or indoctination. Reviewer Rene Knight-Weiler summarized the book's common theme as: 'Religion must be caught, not taught, and indeed it cannot be caught from someone who doesn't truly have it...'...In one of the essays...'That is really the fundamental thing to satisfy the spiritual hunger of the child - that the grown-up does not stop working upon himself, that no day does he stop working on himself.'" (330)
Another quote from You Are Your Child's First Teacher: "enrichment programs not only become the social norm, but then they also become required by law. When Georgia Governor Zell Miller first proposed the idea of publicly funding pre-K in 1992, his plan was denied as 'state-sponsored babysitting.' Now Georgia's universal pre-K serves 61,000 children - and Miller now advocates mandatory enrollment...Unfortunately, no one is supporting, let alone funding, at-home mothering." (p. 287)
"through her research on brain development, Jane Healy...concludes: 'Even babies can be conditioned to associate two stimuli that are presented repeatedly, but this learning lacks real meaning for the child and may use inappropriate parts of the cortex instead of those best suited for the job. In fact, forced learning of any type may result in the use of lower systems since the higher ones which should do the work have not yet developed. The "habit" of using inferior brain areas for higher-level tasks (such as reading) and receiving instruction rather than creating patterns of meaning causes big trouble later on...brain power - and possibly neural connections - are stolen from the foundation of real intelligence. Reading becomes a low-level skill, and there is a danger that it will remain at the level where it was learned and practiced.'
Healy points out that truly gifted early readers are insatiable in their desire to learn to read. They don't have to be taught, and they make instinctive connections with thought and language." (285 - 286) From You Are Your Child's First Teacher.
I read this awhile ago and just never posted it. This book was o.k. I guess some might like it better than others. It had a lot of things in it I was already familiar with, and some of the suggestions of what to do with your child seemed obvious. But I guess that is only because I had such stellar parents. Thanks Mom & Dad!
And on a more recent note, Acorn has started to count. Well, not really, but he's learning the sequence. When Dad counts slowly Acorn will often say what comes next.
I'm not a fan of absolutes, and I don't actually believe the above statement. But I'm looking for a sounding board right now. Most of you know I sell Tastefully Simple products to help raise money for my church. I've been struggling lately with the decision of continuing to do this or not. I often don't meet the quarterly minimum with customer purchases and have to pay for product out of pocket to stay active. I can then sell this product, but I'm constantly playing catch-up. As I'm trying to organize this post in my head, I'm going through all the pros and cons, and the cons are out-weighing the pros.
I've sort of been looking at the direct sales as similar to any other job that a person would have that they don't like. The things that I'm passionate about about wouldn't make money for a very long time. Direct sales is a way I can make money right now. But if I truly pursued it, I don't think it would allow me the time I need to devote to my current priorities and/or my big dreams. It is a priority to me to stay home and raise our son. People often say they got into direct-sales so they could make money while staying home with their kids. But I'm having a hard time even balancing that.
This fall I started going to a parent/child Montessori class with our little Acorn. I've been reading a lot of books on the Montessori philosophy, and started reading some of Maria Montessori's personal work. As I was reading one such book, and how important she stressed the first years of life are, I started (for the second time) considering getting my Montessori training to teach. I am very passionate about this approach, not just to education in the traditional sense, but to life in general. Before I had a child, I always thought people would take offense when I compared their child-rearing experiences to my animal training experiences. But since having a child, I have not ceased to see the parallels. When you work with animals, you are always training them whether intentionally or not. They do something, you provide them with a result (even a non-response is a result), and they adjust their behavior. It is a constant cycle. Like wise, kids are constantly learning, whether you are intending to teach them a lesson or not. Maria Montessori referred to the first six years of a child's life as the period of the "absorbent mind," in which children are like sponges, taking in everything around them. This is why I feel so pressured right now to focus on parenting and providing a good environment. (I'm really falling down on the job right now as the condition of the house continues to deteriorate, and I sit in front of the computer.) But I'm also still thinking about what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, I lately I've been considering teaching a lot.
Partly this is because I want to home-school our kids. But this is not set in stone. I've also considered sending them to a Montessori school, but that can be very expensive. Also, they are not very prevalent. We happen to have 2-3 Montessori schools in our area, but this is very unusual. However, none of them have a parent/child program. (We have to drive an hour to our program.) And I believe only one of them continues past the age of 6, and even then, only goes to 8th grade. I'm also not intimately familiar with all of their programs. They may all be wonderful. I visited the school that teaches ages 3 - 6, and it was great. But often a school will use the Montessori label to because it's become popular, and not actually follow the philosophy very closely. Often when I see a need for something, I personally want to fill it. So I'm trying to be very careful here and decide if this is really something that I personally want to do. (For example, I've experienced a need for a local, independent, large animal veterinarian. If I hadn't already been involved with my husband, I probably would have applied to vet school, regardless of an extreme needle phobia!)
So lately I've been trying to play this out in my head. If I got my Montessori training, what would I do with it? How could I put it to use for more than just my own kids, and still stay home with them when they're not yet old enough to go to school themselves? Not having any idea how many children we want to have complicates these questions a little. But a plan is starting to form. Shortly after I had Acorn, someone posted on a message board looking for a local home day-care that used the Montessori approach. I didn't see any responses. I recently learned the school that Acorn and I go to started as a home day-care. I also recently read an article about unique schools and how they were started. One such school was started by a group of parents when the school their children attended announced it would be shutting down. I don't know the first thing about starting a school, but neither did these parents. Also, the woman that introduced me to Montessori through her blog FeedingTheSoil, is working on starting a "network of public Montessori charter schools in diverse communities across the United States called Montessori For All." (excerpt from her book, Kids In the Kitchen, by Sara E. Cotner and Kylie D'Alton, which I just received in the mail today, and highly recommend!) Perhaps I'll contact her for some advice. She's also written about having big dreams and making them happen. She's obviously very ambitious, and a huge inspiration.
I don't usually share my plans so publicly in the brain-storming process, but I'm starting to think I should. I usually don't share them because I'm afraid of somebody saying, "What happened to that thing you said you were going to do? Don't you follow through with anything?" But perhaps if I invite more people to help me with the brain-storming process, it will help me think things through more before I get too involved.
Another thing holding me back from getting my Montessori training is my dream of training horses one day. I would like to spend more time with my horses. Some day we would like to have our own farm, and I would like to train horses in some capacity. The details of this plan have changed more than once, and I'm sure they will again. Until then, I should be spending more time with the horses we have now. Both to give them the exercise and attention, and to give myself the practice. I think I can still have both dreams, if I scale back the horse idea a little. After seeing other people in horse businesses get stuck with other peoples' horse, or people not paying bills, or not doing anything with their horses, it makes me a little leery of getting into the business. So maybe I'll just keep it as a personal hobby. I'd like to work with my own horse on trail and ranch work. I'd like to work with my husbands horse on the same, so he can go riding with me; and he'd like to be able to use the old horse-drawn farm equipment. And I've thought about training young mustangs to make them more adoptable, or something along those lines.
I've also been trying to decide what I'm doing with my massage license. It expires at the end of this year. I already have my CE's, so it's just figuring out if I get a non-practicing license or not, and what level of professional membership to get. I have to decide this mostly because I don't want to get sued if I do massage. I don't think family would do that, but I might like to trade with someone sometime, and legally you have to be insured to do massage. Although, now that I think about it, you only have to be insured to get paid to do massage. I guess I could still trade and be o.k. But I think I still want to keep up with my CE's and license because if you don't, and you decide you want to do it again later, you have to catch up on all the CE's you missed since your license lapsed and the fees. After all the work I went through to get that, it's not something I want to slip away. I really enjoyed doing massage and would love doing it again if I didn't have other things on my plate. But again, as I'm looking down the road, it seems like it could be a long time before I do this again. Do I spend all that money on CE's and a license in the mean time? I would probably enjoy the CE's. But it's not cheap.
Well, I know this has been a long rambling post. Selling food, teaching, training horses, massage... As I said before, there are many things other than this blog post that are demanding my time right now; but this was a much needed mental health break. So now I welcome your comments. Hopefully you can organize your thoughts better than I did.
and you might too after reading this post. But I think the topic is long overdue for sharing.
I was returning a book called Beyond the Sling, by Mayim Bialik. (Aside: She's the woman that played Blossom as a child, and now plays the dorky girl on The Big Bang Theory. In between those two roles she got a PhD in neuroscience. She learned how neuroscience and anthropology actually support a lot of parenting practices that she previously thought were crazy. This book talks about her family's experience with attachment parenting. I loved it.) The librarian hadn't read the book, but she had seen an interview with the author, and asked if I did all the things she did. Attachment parenting is a pretty broad topic, and not all parents that claim to parent that way do the same things, so I wasn't sure what she was referring to. But I did agree with a lot of the things in the book. The librarian said, still in shock, "She lets her kids run around without diapers on!" Ah yes, elimination communication (EC), or the less popular term I preferred, natural infant hygiene.
If you haven't heard of it before, the easiest way I usually explain it to people is that I take my baby to the potty. We started doing it at three weeks old. A lot of people claim they don't believe this is possible. They don't think babies realize they need to go before they go. Yet it's often these same people that will later make comments to or about a child making a mess in their diaper before it actually happens. Even at three weeks old, once Acorn realized he didn't have to defecate in his diaper, he would get really mad if he asked to go the potty and I didn't take him right away.
So how do we do it. Well, that's an ever evolving answer. Here's a little bit about our EC journey thus far:
I first heard about EC when I was pregnant. I thought it sounded interesting, but also crazy. After all, my sociology/psychology teacher in high school said you can't potty train kids that can't walk, because the muscles that control the bladder are the same that develop when they learn to walk. (By the way, he was wrong; babies can control their bladder from birth.) But I was sitting around nursing our little nut a lot, so I decided to read more on the topic. I checked out three books from the library to learn the pros and cons of different potty training techniques. I had heard some sources say that EC can help a baby with colic, and some sources that said it could cause constipation and UTIs. So I read The everything guide to potty training by Kim Bookout and Karen Williams by Jill M. Lekovic, The Diaper-Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh, and Diaper Free by Ingrid Bauer. The "Everything Guide..." was really helpful to compare and contrast different techniques. They didn't exactly know what EC was all about, but it gave you a good general idea. Diaper Free was my favorite book on EC. She was very knowledgeable on the subject and explains how to implement the practice without a lot of pressure.
So while reading diaper free, I jumped right in. I figured, I had to change his diaper anyway, I might as well hold him over the toilet while I'm in there. At first I mostly used some common timing suggested in the book, such as upon waking and before and after eating. Wouldn't you know, pretty soon I was catching almost all of his eliminations. Now we have very few bowel movements in diapers. If I put a stay-dry diaper on him, he urinates in it. But if I keep him in one that allows him to feel the wetness, he stops doing that too and lets me know when he needs to urinate.
When a lot of people first hear about this, they think it sounds like a lot of work, but I think it's a lot less work. Flushing a toilet is a lot easier than cleaning feces off a baby. I usually don't have to take him to the potty any more often than I would change his diaper. Keeping diapers dry means less laundry when you cloth diaper.
Upon hearing that I potty my baby, a lot of people ask me to help them with their older children. Well, I can try, but the longer you wait to start, the harder it is. When we ignore the signs of a baby that needs to potty, or even wait for them to finish eliminating in their diaper before changing them, we are teaching them that that's how they're supposed to do it. What's harder than teaching a new trick, is un-teaching an old trick. And when we put super absorbent, stay-dry diapers on babies, they can't feel they are wet and pretty soon stop recognizing the feeling of a full bladder and lose bladder control. That means the signs that they used to give for needing to urinate disappear. So before you can learn their signs, they have to relearn their own bodily functions so they can start giving you signs again. Most people have heard someone comment on a child defecating in their diaper, so obviously that's easier than just staying dry. I have found the same to be true of EC'ed babies too. (Oh yeah, we use the abbreviation like a verb or noun, just like the word potty.)
If you have heard of EC, you may have seen articles about how bad it is for your baby. These articles are usually written by someone that doesn't understand what EC is, or rather what it's not. It's not infant potty training. I don't praise my son for his elimination of bodily waste. I just respond to his need as I would respond to my own, because he can't take himself to the potty yet. I'm very grateful for every bowel movement we catch in the potty, because we cloth diaper and it makes laundry easier. But I really try not to show him this. (Thinking of yourself as an impartial sports caster rather than a cheerleader really helps in this area.) I want him to use the potty for himself because it feels better to stay dry and clean, not because it makes Mommy proud.
So yes, for a few hours a day, I usually let Acorn run around the main floor of the house without a diaper on. We don't have carpet on that level, so it's easy to wipe up when I miss a urination cue. We let him go diaper free for a couple reasons. 1 - Airing things out helps eliminate any redness from wearing a wet diaper. I've heard horrible stories of diaper rash, and I'm not even sure what that looks like. 2 - Observing a child right before they urinate helps you learn their cues. As children go through developmental milestones, their cues change. During some developmental stages like teething and learning to walk, they stop cuing for urination all together. This seems to be where Acorn is right now. The exception is if I keep him in a diaper that allows him to feel wet, or if he's being held. Generally if he's in a sling and really fighting to get out, it means he needs to eliminate, or already has. Even when I'm holding him without a diaper on, he lets me know, and I haven't been urinated on (yet).
When we first started this, I was really hesitant to tell anyone. I pretty much shared it with people that caught me taking him to the toilet. I already thought it was crazy; I didn't need someone else to tell me it was crazy. I was really surprised on days that I was able to put the same dry diaper back on Acorn three or four times. I really started to think I wasn't crazy when my husband saw it was working and also started to hold Acorn on the potty. Once I realized how well it was working and making life easier, I wanted to share it with everyone. So people still look at me like I'm crazy, but that's nothing new. I don't blame you at all if you are skeptical. I'm still shocked on the days that one diaper lasts me twelve hours. But if you have a baby and you're on the fence, try holding him or her over the toilet when you change their diaper. It just might change your life. But count yourself warned - even if you want to give it up, they might not want to.
I had a rough morning. I woke up to the sound of Clyde (my big dog) killing a raccoon under our bedroom window. Of course I didn't know that's what it was at first. I had Acorn cradled in my arms and went to the door to tell the dogs to come in, which of course woke up Acorn. (What was I thinking? It was 5 am; I wasn't.) After getting Sara & Lucy in, and putting Acorn down in his room, I went back and called Clyde off of whatever it was he had, and saw the poor raccoon squirming and chittering away. Then I was worried I had a 'coon I needed to kill in the backyard so it wouldn't suffer, and I would get in trouble for discharging a firearm in town. Or what if it didn't die and ran off, I wouldn't know what diseases it had potentially given my dog. I also didn't want to go outside without a weapon, because I didn't want to get attacked by a rabid 'coon.
Anyway, it had been 7 days since my child had a bowel movement, so I took him to the potty and he filled it! (This is the highlight of my morning. What a glamorous life I lead.) While waiting for him to finish (10 minutes), I called Animal Control. They, of course, weren't in yet, but the message said to check their website for FAQ. I took Acorn to the kitchen, gave him the bucket of cookie cutters, and went to the computer to look up animal control info. It wasn't long before I heard a loud crash followed by screaming and crying. Acorn had pulled the cactus off the shelf in the kitchen. He wasn't obviously hurt; I think it just scared him. So away we went to his room to nurse and feel better. Then back to the kitchen to clean up the mess. Luckily the pot didn't break, and I had some extra cactus potting soil to re-pot it with. I had been meaning to get around to that any way, because it had been looking kind of sad.
After feeding myself and the dogs, I needed to walk all the dogs individually because I did not want to let them into the backyard to play with the dead 'coon. (At some point I shined a light out the bedroom window and found I have at least half of a dead raccoon in the backyard.) This took quite some time as both Clyde and Lucy needed work on polite walking. I can't tolerate impolite walking when I have Acorn with me. So we took our time with lessons. Although it was pretty much a free-for-all with Sara, because she's so small I just don't care if she pulls.
The only thing on our schedule was to go to the baby-led-solids class. I needed to do diaper laundry first. I was upstairs putting the diapers in the bathroom and heard Acorn looking for me downstairs. I peeked my head out the door, called his name, and he found me - me upstairs, him downstairs. I looked away for less than a minute, and when I peeked back out, he was already up one step. He had crawled up one step a couple nights before, but wasn't able to pull himself to standing on that step to get to the next one. Now he was standing on the first step. So I went down and sat next to him as a spotter, and he climbed all the stairs by himself! After the first two he seemed to have mastered it. He only had trouble with the last two because the gate at the top of the stairs and the absence of more stairs made those two unique. But I just waited patiently next to him, making sure he didn't fall backwards when he decided swinging from the gate was fun, and he eventually figured it out. He was so excited, and crawled away giggling to find something to play with upstairs.
Later in the day we had lots of fun getting messy in the baby-led-solids class. I had decided pretty early on in the day, that the best cure for a bad morning was to count my blessings. I can't believe how well it worked. Yes I was tired. Yes it was a lot of work. My dog smelled (still does). But I am so lucky. Here's just a few I started with.
Counting My Blessings:
1 - I have 3 dogs. (That is a blessing, right?)
2 - The dogs all have their vaccinations.
3 - We have a fenced in backyard.
4 - We have a house.
5 - I have a son.
6 - My son is pretty easy going. He didn't cry when I yelled at the dogs and woke him, nor when I left him in his room alone.
7 - I can stay home with my son.
8 - Thanks to EC, I very rarely have to clean out poopy diapers.
9 - I have a cactus.
10 - The pot didn't break.
11 - I have a stroller.
12 - We have great neighbors. (Stopped and chatted while walking Clyde.)
13 - Clyde is well-trained enough that he left a live play thing when I told him to.
14 - I can walk.
As I said, these are just a few. Once you start counting, one leads to another and another. If you think you're having a bad day, counting your blessings will really turn it around. I had a wonderful day. I also got to hang out with my friend, Heather. My husband came home early and buried the dead raccoon. We picked the first peaches of the year off the tree. So much was packed into it, it seems like it was a couple days ago. Hopefully this trick will stick with me.
Blogs I follow (Does it count as following if I have 50 unread posts sitting in my RSS feed?) when I have time:
A Montessori Home
Ali's Art Adventures
At Home with Montessori
Feeding the Soil
How We Montessori
Jordan Bagwill Eusebio
Our Best Bites
Simply Natural Mom
Three Chord Me
Under the Sycamore