Monthly Archives: February 2011

Busy Beavers

Today the girls watched an episode of “The Cat in the Hat Knows A lot About That”, it was about beavers , or more specifically how beavers use sticks to build dams.

The girls already know a bit about beavers from books as well as “Build it Beaver” from the “Wild Kratts” television show.

I wanted to take things a step farther so I asked if the girls wanted to build a beaver dam today. They seemed interested, but Ella choose to continue watching shows. Agatha came upstairs to help me get everything ready. She gathered the sticks (shish kebab skewers) and helped me break them to fit our dish. Then we created the ‘river’ and ‘pond’.

When Ella came upstairs we talked about beavers and what kind of creature they are. She told me they’re mammals and why they’re mammals (then she went off on a tangent about the platypus – also featured in “Wild Kratts”). We talked about their teeth and why they build dams. Agatha told me what we needed to build the dam: sticks and mud.

So we made our mud (cornstarch and water) and prepared to make our dam.

After we made the dam, and the girls were satisfied, we tested it.

It was not what you’d call water tight. It leaked. The girls loved it! They eagerly used more sticks to fill the holes. They added mud and more sticks. And retested. Our dam never did work the way it’s supposed to, but the girls still had fun.

Ella hypothesized that beavers enjoy building dams, so would continue working to plug holes and if new holes formed they’d just go right on working. Though she also clarified that they wouldn’t work all day, they’d have to stop to eat and sleep otherwise they wouldn’t have the energy they need to continue working. : ) I suggested that beavers swim under the water to see where the holes were, and can plug the holes at the very bottom.

Ella tried several other methods of dam building. She created one of lots of mud and few sticks, another of lots of sticks but very little mud. She created one on the table (not in the ‘pond’ dish we’d been using). She also created one made solely of our ‘mud’. The one made only of mud held the best; only small trickles got through.

Ella hypothesized that if we waited long enough our mud would just wash away, we needed the sticks to hold it in place, just as we needed the mud to hold the sticks.We didn’t test her theory because she wasn’t interested in KNOWing the answer.

As we cleaned up we talked about the special properties of our mud. Ella enjoyed how she could plop it on the table (or floor) and it spread out like a liquid, but when you tried to pick it up, it was hard like a solid. I asked her a few questions to see if she understood the different phases (gas was a bit tricky, but otherwise she’s got it). Then I asked her what our mud was. She thought and decided it was a liquidy solid. Sounds good to me : )


Leave a comment

Filed under unschooling

Smile, Hon, Look at the Camera

Today we took our precious little bundle for her first set of professional pictures, courtesy of Lisa Lacroix. It was quite the adventure. First we dressed three girls, brushed hair, braided hair, and got everyone into the van on time! That in and of itself was a miracle.

Once there, Cordelia behaved beautifully. Of course by beautifully, I mean she did everything a baby should do. She ate. And ate, and ate. She peed, and pooped, all over Lisa’s blankets. She even spit down the front of Lisa’s shirt (sorry). But Lisa took it all in stride and laughed.

Ella and Agatha ran around looking for Lisa’s son, and were very upset when he wasn’t around. But they managed to contain their disappointment long enough to get a couple quick photos taken. I can hardly wait to see them! My girls all looked so beautiful today.

But we were slightly surprised to discover that the outfit Cordelia came home in, the one we brought for her photo shoot. The same sleeper that was loose on her 9 days ago, is snug. I had to stretch to get it on her.

I don’t have any pictures from today, but here is one we took a few days ago.


Filed under Parenting

Family Day Fun

I hate crafts! Absolutely despise them! Though I love craft time, or more appropriately creating time.

What’s the difference?

A craft, to me, is something that must be done a certain way, with a certain outcome in order to be correct. Even the concept of correct or incorrect makes me cringe. Art is supposed to be a form of self expression, but adults tell children how to do it? That doesn’t seem right.

For Valentines day I set up a craft. I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted the finished project to look like. There were only certain tools available for use, only certain medium for expression. I told them what they were creating. Ella told me I was wrong and she wasn’t creating a mailbox, but a letter – a valentine. The finished project looked great, however nobody spent a lot of time on the craft. Well, nobody but me. And the time I spent was setting it up, not actually making it.

And that’s the other reason I dislike crafts so much. They always seem to take more effort setting up and cleaning up, than they do actually creating. I really don’t like cleaning.

Creating, on the other hand is so much fun. The entire family can create, everybody can do something different, and everybody will do it right. No disagreement need ensue.

Today we pulled out a pile of craft supplies: The shotgun, milk jugs, plastic honey jar, popsicle sticks, dried insulation foam, paint, glitter, paper streamers, pom-poms, googly eyes, plus several other items nobody used.

Ryan created alien terrain for Warhammer, the girls decided to make aliens, I made a rocket ship.

Alien Terrain

Agatha practiced pouring, which to her was more important than creating anything elaborate.


Ella worked carefully, without burning herself. She experimented gluing different materials together, as well as the best way to get glitter onto a project.

Admiring Her Creation

I enjoyed creating something the girls could have fun playing with.I’m particularly proud of the flames coming out of the rocket booster in the back. : )

Rocket Ship

We sat at the table as a family, creating, for roughly two hours. During this time each person did as they chose, but could ask for help or feedback as needed. I think it was a wonderful way to spend Family Day. At home, together, enjoying each others company.

Leave a comment

Filed under unschooling

Eat Your Own Food

A few days ago I ‘overheard’ on Facebook one friend lamenting that her son always steals her food at dinner. Several other parents chimed in with similar stories. They hashed out ways they could ‘deal’ with the little thieves. They discussed punishments for stealing and rewards for not stealing. I was appalled.

I think a common experience many parents have is that their children ‘steal’ their food. It’s the same every night. Supper is made, dishes served. Small portions neatly placed on little break resistant plates and everyone sits down to eat.

Mom or dad says eat your vegetables. Someone else says eat some meat. And what does little Johnny do? He reaches over and takes Dad’s beans, Mom’s chicken, maybe even the baby’s mush. It doesn’t seem to matter what the food is, whether there’s any on your child’s plate or not. It seems as though all children in the toddler through preschooler age range prefer to eat someone else’s food.

This looks better than my filet mignon

That in and of itself isn’t remarkable to me. What is remarkable are the responses the parent’s give to this phenomenon. It seems many parents take offense at their children taking food from them. Whether the child asks first or not, the typical response seems to be “Eat your own food.”

I wonder why. I also wonder what message this sends to children.

A parent sits through a meal begging, pleading, scolding, and threatening their children into eating certain foods or certain amounts. The children don’t seem interested in eating their own food and either play with it, or ignore it. However, they happily reach for their parent’s food, pop it into their mouths and fill their tummies with a balanced diet.

So if parents shared their food, their children would likely eat more food, have a more balanced diet, and be willing to try new foods. Yet many parents won’t share.

Daddy's Coffee is So Yummy

Why not? Are parent’s so concerned they won’t get enough food if their child eats off their plate? Or maybe the parents want to teach manners? Maybe the parents put different food on their plate than their child’s plate? Maybe they don’t want to share?

If parents are concerned they won’t get enough food, they could put extra food on their plate in the first place knowing their child will eat a portion of it. Or they could eat the food left on their child’s plate. Either way the same amount of food is on the table, no matter which plate the child eats from.

If a parent wants to ‘teach’ or enforce manners, I have to first question which is more important – that a child eat or that they learn manners? If manners are truly higher on the list, then I believe that parent should look at why they parent in the first place. Manners will come with time. As parents, if we model good manners to each other and to our children, then our children will pick up and use those manners. If we don’t model those manners to our children, then they can’t learn them – no matter how much we bribe them.

"No! You can't share my yogurt!"

If a child sees different food on their parent’s plate than their own , I think it’s natural for them to want to try it. Especially if the parent says ‘No’. The ‘No’ places higher value on that particular item, thus the child wants to try it even more.

But what of the parent who just doesn’t want to share? I think everyone can relate to the thought at one point in time or another. But does the parent that refuses to share with a child require the child to share – all things, at all times, no matter what? What message does that send? That nothing they own/have is sacred, they must cling to it at all costs? Once they’re bigger they won’t need to share anymore? That if you want something from mom and dad you’d better sneak it, because mom and dad don’t share?

Maybe mom and dad only have a hang up with food? They share anything, except food. That places a great value on food. However it won’t make little Johnny eat more of something he doesn’t want or like. Instead he’ll fill up on the things he wants, and leave everything else. The reason is that the parents aren’t placing value on food in general, instead only on the foods they feel are important. Their child will follow suit.

If parents want to place value on food in general, sharing is the easiest and fastest way to do that. If it is more important that food is eaten, than wasted; that food is shared around the table so everyone gets some and none is wasted, then the value of all food increases.

No matter your approach, the phase won’t (likely) last forever, however your approach will have a lasting effect. What outcome do you want?


Filed under Parenting

Mythical? Pain-free Labour (Birth Story)

I’ve read many birth stories of women who have wonderful pain-free births. I have to say I was a bit skeptical, and a bit jealous. I’d had two fast labours with easy to manage levels of pain, but there was still pain.

But this time was different.


photography by Ella

I’d have to say I actually went into labour at about 10PM on February 13th. Not active, but as in first contraction. These contractions were well spaced, much farther than the braxton hicks I tended to get. But they made me take notice. I couldn’t sleep through them, but I could sleep between them. So I did.

When Ryan got up with the girls I told him to make some muffins, and guacamole for the girls. Pack snacks for them, and get everything ready to go. I tried to get some more sleep. But I was too excited. I was probably, possibly, maybe? in labour. I got out of bed. The contractions pretty much stopped. Ryan and I still continued to get everything ready to go, but I took my time.

I got down on my hands and knees to sweep the floor under the table. I had a contraction. We talked again about comfort levels of being at home vs hospital. We talked about what would happen if we showed up at the hospital and I wasn’t in labour, or  in ‘enough’ labour. We decided we’d go to the hospital anyway.

I had 3 more contractions while in the van on the hour long drive. Though they weren’t very strong. I felt silly for packing everybody up to go to the hospital, especially since our basement flooded the day before and we had a lot of work to do.

We debated whether to go to the mall to walk, or to go to the hospital.

In the end we decided on the hospital. I figured we could just walk around there and wait to see if I really was in labour or not. I thought I’d have the opportunity to leave if the contractions didn’t pick up.  I was still only have a few contractions. They were about twenty minutes apart, but not regular, and they weren’t painful.

When we arrived at the hospital we discovered that unless I actually registered I couldn’t get past the ER waiting room. So no turning back, I registered and we were off to the obstetrical assessment unit.  No walking after all.

When we arrived, 1120, the unit was overflowing. The nurses asked if I was there for a Non-Stress test. I said, no I’m here to have a baby. An induction? Nope, I think I’m in labour. The nurse rolled her eyes, but they have to check everyone. We had to wait in the hall for a few minutes. I burst into tears. No pain, no contractions. Just tears.

We were brought to a chair a few minutes later and the assessment started. I was hooked up to monitors and I sipped my Red Raspberry Leaf tea. The woman beside us kept screaming out in pain. The nurses told her she wasn’t in labour yet and she’d have to go home. I looked at my strip, the one contraction I had didn’t register.

I was moved to a bed so I could be checked. The nurse asked about me previous deliveries. I told her I was fast.

She looked at my strip and asked if I knew I’d had a couple contractions. I said sure I had a couple small ones. She smiled and checked me. She suddenly looked worried. She couldn’t find both sides of my cervix. She guessed I was about a 5. She called to get me a room upstairs.

When we arrived at the next unit, the room we’d be checked into was being cleaned. So we went to the family lounge. A couple families sat waiting for their loved ones to give birth. We waited for Ryan’s sister to arrive to help with the girls. I walked up and down the hallway, and Ryan turned on a movie for the girls.

While I walked I had a couple contractions. Enough that I noticed them. Enough that I sometimes stopped walking, but I still wasn’t sure I was in labour. Part of me was afraid they’d still try to send me home, or induce me.

The room was finally ready so we went in and the nurse went over a few things with us. Around 1PM Ryan’s sister arrived. Once the girls were comfortable with her and the nurse was finished giving orientation and asking about birth plans, Ryan and I walked. Up and down the hallway.

Fresh from the shower, 8 cm and smiling

I suddenly realized I was in labour. I felt the pressure. I knew I wasn’t ready to push, but I didn’t think it would be long. My Dr. came to the room to check me. Sometime around 2 I was about a 9.

I couldn’t stand to be in the room. I’d tried a shower earlier, but it annoyed me. I went back out into the hall. The nurse insisted I at least bring a wheelchair with me. She didn’t leave my side.  I walked passed the charge nurse. Apparently it isn’t very common for a woman in transition to be walking so much, and certainly not common to be laughing and talking so much. I was ‘encouraged’ to stay in front of my room.

A few moments later I needed to pee so I went back to the room, unfortunately just as I attempted to sit our little darling decided it was time to arrive. I was stuck. I needed a fair amount of help to get out of the bathroom. Our nurse asked what position I wanted to push in. She did mention that a mother earlier that day squatted at the side of the bed. I opted for side-lying. I was too nervous to try squatting. In hindsight I think I might have preferred it though.

My Dr arrived and gowned up before checking me. When she did check, she told the surprised nurse that babies head was ‘right there’. With roughly 10 min of pushing, Cordelia Rose joined us.

The only part of my entire labour that I would consider painful was the pushing. And I do believe that wouldn’t have been painful if I’d trusted myself, stayed upright, and had less ‘help’ from the Dr. and nurse.


Filed under pregnancy

We’re Hear To Help You…Fail?

In Alberta, when a woman has a baby, a healthy beginnings nurse visits within twenty-four hours of the woman coming home. The nurse checks to be sure mom is healing and baby is feeding well and eliminating appropriately. In the first week of life a nurse calls and follows-up to be sure everything is going okay. That mom has no signs of infection and that baby is still feeding well, has no signs of illness or infection. At two to three weeks of age a nurse will again call to be sure everything is going well. For the first two months of life there is a dedicated hotline available for new parents to call with questions or concerns about mom or baby.

When the nurses visit they answer any question the family has about caring for a new baby or helping mom heal. Some parents may need help learning to diaper, how to bathe, or other questions about the physical care of a baby. Some moms may need help learning to breastfeed. Some parents may have questions about sleep or even about how often to pick up a baby.

For many parents these nurses are the first people to tell them how to parent.

Unfortunately for some parents, these nurses also set them up for failure. Failure to successfully breastfeed and failure to confidently parent.

Over the course of three babies I’ve had my fair share of these nurses and so far I’ve only met one that didn’t outright tell me I couldn’t breastfeed, or that what I was doing as a parent was wrong. For the purpose of this post I’m only going to mention my experience with the nurses this week.

When our new bundle, Cordelia Rose, was roughly eighteen hours old the nurse called and made the appointment to come to our house that afternoon. The nurse came, did her assessment, asked if I had questions and left. She didn’t indicate that I couldn’t breastfed, she also never said anything about how we parent.

Two days later I had a concern so I called the hotline number and spoke with a nurse. She asked many questions including how much Cordelia weighed, 8lbs 7oz. She then went on to tell me I needed to figure out what I was going to do, because a big baby like that would have a big appetite and by three months I wouldn’t be able to produce enough to keep up with her.

Obviously she doesn’t realize that a mom’s supply meets her baby’s demand and unless there is an underlying concern a mother capable of feeding an 8lbs newborn will be capable of feeding the same baby at three months even if the baby weights 20+lbs. I’ve successfully breastfeed two babies. I know I don’t need to worry. I also know how the body works so I know that my body will continue to meet the demands of my baby whether she’s 8lbs, 20lbs, or 35lbs.

Many new parents don’t know how the body works, they also don’t know they can successfully breastfeed. If a new mom were told she needed a backup plan because her body wouldn’t be able to keep up, then she’d likely stop breastfeeding at one of the first growth spurts. To her it might seem like her baby wasn’t getting enough, when in fact the more frequent nursing is the baby’s way of increasing the milk supply and doesn’t indicate a concern.

The next day a different nurse called for the one week follow-up. She asked a few questions regarding eating, elimination, cord care and sleep. I explained that Cordelia  nursed roughly every hour and a half, but since my milk had come in and she’d had a good feed she was actually taking her first 2.5 hour nap. The nurse then told me that it wasn’t healthy to let a baby sleep that long and we had to wake her and feed her. I was told all newborns needed to nurse every 2-3 hours around the clock.

In essence this information is correct. However, I already told her how often Cordelia nursed all night and during the morning. A longer nap wasn’t a concern. She had more than enough wet diapers for the day, she was pooping, and she was actively sucking while at the breast. The nurse could have used the moment to reinforce the importance of adequate intake by explaining overall how much a baby should feed in a twenty-four hour period. She could have mentioned that sometimes a sleepy baby doesn’t mean a full baby and then explain how to tell the difference. Instead she told a new mother that what I was doing wasn’t good and I had to change what I was doing, or my baby would suffer. I have enough knowledge and enough experience to know that what my baby was doing was okay. I also know that I don’t have a sleepy baby. I have an alert baby, who until that point only took cat naps.

However, many new moms don’t know how to tell the difference between a normal longer nap and a long period of sleep that would be a concern. If I were one of those moms, that nurse would have missed an important teaching moment. Instead of giving information that could be used to help the mother judge if a new situation was okay, the nurse took the power away from the mother by giving a rule that did not allow variance.

A full baby either won’t nurse, or will spit out the milk. But a sleepy baby won’t nurse, even if hungry. A sick baby might not nurse. A sick baby might spit. The full and proper information would allow a mother to know if her baby were full and sleeping, or sleepy but needing to awaken, or if baby were sick.

These nurses provide a valuable service, however for one reason or another many of them either provide inadequate information, or make uninformed comments that inhibit, rather than reinforce, breastfeeding and other positive parenting practices. It bothers me to think of all the things I’ve been told by these healthy beginnings nurses that do not foster a healthy beginning at all.


Filed under Parenting


Cordelia Rose arrived valentine’s day at 3:07PM weighing in at 8lbs 7oz she’s a whole two lbs bigger than her sisters were at birth. She was 19inches long, our shortest baby. And she has the most gorgeous hair ever. Of course I am biased : )

Cordelia Rose

We’re both doing well. She’s nursing like a pro, and keeping us all on our toes. She must realize she has two bigger sisters who require so much attention, because she lets us know – very loudly – the second she has a need.

Her big sisters are so proud and love to help out. Ella is her protector, keeping her safe. Agatha is her friend and mentor, teaching her all there is about the world.


Filed under pregnancy