Monthly Archives: July 2011

I Won’t Settle For Mud

Someone stirs. Light blinds me as my eyes crack open. Time doesn’t matter – it’s too early. Anytime is too early. One child or another woke up multiple times over the night. I need more sleep, or want it. Somedays I’m not sure. In the moment before my eyes open for the day, I crave it. But there’s nothing to be done, the girls are hungry. I already feel guilty that I say ‘wait’ more often than I care to admit. Just so I can climb out of bed slower.

I pick the baby up and walk down the hall toward the stairs. I envision myself tripping over… something. I switch her to my left hip. Farther from the railing. One. Two. Three. Down the stairs. I’m careful to step to the left side of the curve, I don’t want to fall. We survive the walk down the stairs and I place the baby on the floor. Double check to be sure there are no small bits in a three foot radius around her, I give her a toy, check to be sure here are no loose bits or broken pieces. I walk to the kitchen. I can’t quite see her hands, so I go back and re-adjust. I need to see her hands and face. I Don’t want her to inadvertantly grab something she shouldn’t have.

I wash the table and wish there were no bugs in the house. But the girls love them so I cringe and wash the table, and counters, again. A crumb drops on the floor, I sweep it up, but the broom was sticky and now the floor is likely sticky. Ella asks for breakfast. I tell her ‘just a minute’ I grab the cloth and wipe the floor. Rinse the cloth, ring, and hang it. Just so. Nothing should touch the counter, or risk getting the cloth wet. Bacteria will grow. I wash my hands and grab clean bowls from the dish washer. Pour the cereal and let the girls pour their own milk. Nothing spills. We’re all good.

I wash my hands.

I take my pills. While the girls eat, I clean. I can see where the bacteria grows. I can smell it. Our compost bin’s in dire need of washing. It’s been two days since I last washed it. With biodegradable soap. The girls ask for more food.

I wash my hands. We’ve been awake for roughly fifteen minutes.

I wash the fruit, cut the fruit, place it on clean plates. Then before bringing it to the table, I wash the table. Rinse the cloth, wring it, hang it. Just so. Wash my hands. The cloth wasn’t clean enough for me to handle food after touching t. The fruit is placed on the table.I take the dish cloths to the dirty clothes. Wash my hands. Get clean cloths.

The girls run off to play, food drops from their laps leaving a trail of crumbs behind them as they dash away from me. I clean. I want to bake some muffins. But I know the girls will want to help. I can’t handle raw egg, salmonella, on their hands today. I don’t want them to mix. Flour could get on the counter. There’d be a lot of cleaning. I’d get stressed, and grumpy. I can’t do it. Not today.I wash my hands. They’re probably dirty.

I cut up cheese, fruit, and veggies, and place some crackers on a plate. There’s plenty of food they can have, without stressing about germs or diseases.

I load the dishwasher. Just so. The water needs to cycle around the machine, get the dishes – just right, or they won’t be clean enough.

The girls bring  toys down to the livingroom. I cringe and try not to tell them to take them back upstairs. They just want to play, and be close to Mommy. They drop the toys and lay down on the floor next to Cordelia. They kiss her and cuddle her. They pull her arms this way and that. She smiles and coos. She loves them. But then something happens. Agatha grabs her and hugs her extra hard, then lets her head flop to the floor. She cries.

I dash over and pick her up. Agatha tries to comfort her, but her hugs only make things worse. The look on her face lets me know she’s upset and didn’t mean to hurt Cordelia. But I can’t bite back my words. “You hurt her, step away.” I turn away from her while I cuddle Cordelia. Agatha cries heartbreaking tears. I get angry. I’m angry at her, I’m angry at myself. I’m tired and I can’t stop myself. But I should be able to stop it. I shouldn’t snap. I should foster the love the girls have for each other, instead I push them apart.

I feed Cordelia and the girls ask for shows. I turn the T.V. on and am thankful for the break. It’s 8 O’clock in the morning and I’m already thankful for a break. Luckily we aren’t going anywhere, otherwise I’d also need to get everyone dressed, and snacks packed, but then there’d be no T.V. otherwise we’d never get out the door.

The phone rings, I get up, Cordelia bites me. I wince as I hurry to grab the phone before it completely wakes her up. I step on a wooden block. I scream at the girls to pick them up or there’ll be no more shows.Ella says, “Soprry Mommy.” as she dashes to comply.

The day continues much like that, until Ryan gets home or wakes up. If he’s on nights the evening is a bit smoother, but once the girls are asleep all kinds of thoughts enter my head. I need to double, triple check the doors and windows. The alarm needs to be on. Upstairs Ella’s window and the playroom windows need to be closed. In case someone with a large ladder decided to break into our home and climb in from the garage roof. As I lay in bed willing myself to sleep I think of what I’d do if the house caught fire. How I’d get all three girls out – in less than three minutes. I figure out what I’d do if someone broke in. A baseball bat can do a decent amount of damage, so can a knife, but then so could that metal framed baby chair. Hmm which would give us enough time to get out of there? What if one of those hares that hop around outside tuned out to be a killer bunnie. What if it decided to eat us? Okay, I might not really think about that one, but now that it’s in my head – who knows.

Not everyday is like this. In fact right now I’m doing pretty good. Since becoming aware of these thought patterns, I’m better able to stop and calm down before I let them get the better of me. I still wash my hands.

For me, I have to let go of the clean home. If I begin cleaning, I contine cleaning. If I’m cleaning, they can’t pull out more toys. We fight. They cry and I feel horrible.

Somedays it takes a lot of effort. Other days those toys come down the stairs, I leave the room. I take a few minutes in an orderly space and talk myself through the mess. Tell myself what it means to them. Remind myself that toys on the floor are okay, smiles on little faces are more important. Most days I succeed and we move on without the girls knowing what went through my mind. Other days, when my blood work is off (thyroid) or I’m excessively sleepy, it takes a lot more effort to stay in control of myself. On those days I can only handle so much before I snap. On those days I try to arrange our day to allow me as much time as possible to adjust my thoughts. If we’re out, I take lots of time getting places, and getting home. I wait until they’re ready to go before herding them to the van – if they’re not fighting, I’m not fighting and vice versa. When home I try to set them up with an activity that’ll keep them occupied without infringing on my warped space.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out what most of my triggers are, to allow myself the freedom to have  a messy house. To know that htose thoughts aren’t ‘me’ and to get passed them. I know things are heading in the right direction when everyone in our home smiles more than they frow, and laughs more than they cry.

Some days I parent like this. Somedays I can’t stop myself, but those aren’t my ideal. Those aren’t even the most common. But they happen, and I try to learn from them. But mostly I try to survive them. I know they won’t last forever, I know my girls will recover. It’s important to me that Ryan points out when I’m out of line. It’s even more important that both Ella and Agatha tell me. Most recently they’ve began telling me to stand on my head when I’m grumpy. It works. By the time I’m on my head I’m over being grumpy. It also provides an opportunity to reconnect with them, despite harsh words. But they shouldn’t need to regulate me, they shouldn’t feel responsible for my moods. They should be free to love, laugh, play, make messes. One day they will be. For now I shelter them, and myself, from others who see nothing wrong with the things I say or do when I’m upset. It’s hard enough to parent without others telling me to settle for less than I aim for.

Sure, if I aim for the stars, I may not get them, but I certainly won’t settle for mud.

 

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I Can Eat A Rainbow – Can You?

Everywhere we turn we’re bombarded with information about healthy eating. Some of it good, others not so much. Some sources say cut this or that, some say low fat,  low cal, but all the processed junk food is okay because it meets the basic requirements of being low fat and low cal.

When we’re bombarded with all of this information, it can make it really difficult to know just which information to pass onto our children. as parents, we can become stressed that our child isn’t eating, or is eating too much, or the wrong food. We often loose sight of the most important point – a balanced diet. A balanced lifestyle.

For those who know the Canadian food guide or food pyramid, you know there are a certain number of foods a person should eat every day – even children. I don’t want to go against the established authority here, but I don’t agree with those guides. At least not completely. The guides say children ages 1-5 should be eating basically the same, and that doesn’t cut it for me. Just as adults need to adjust their intake for their body needs, so to should children.

An active slim five year old does not need to eat the same as a plump, not quite walking one year old. Therefore I’m telling you to throw out the guide, and trust. Trust your child to eat what his or her body needs. But, and this is very important, it’s up to you, the parent, to provide a healthy varied diet. It is not up to you to force your child to eat something. In fact if you do, you’re more likely to cause a more long lasting aversion, whether to that particular food or to certain textured foods, or just new foods in general.

For younger children, just starting to eat solids, allow them to pick at the food, play with it, taste it, spit it out. Assume more will end up on the floor, them, the table, the floor, the dog, than in their stomach.

After they master the pincher grasp, as they toddle around the house, periodically stop them and offer, where they stand, a healthy food. Also have available for them to graze a healthy variety of finger foods. Fruits, vegetables, crackers, cheese etc.

As they get bigger and have clear preferences, allow them to choose what they want to eat, allow them to help with the shopping, make the list, find the items, allow them to cook. Even a two year old can help in the kitchen, even if it’s just washing the lettuce, or stirring the batter.

The older they get, the more freedom you provide. Give your child the information they need to learn to make healthy choices. When you’re shopping and they ask for the cookies and you say ‘no’, tell them why. Is it because of the budget, or for health reasons. For us we often say ‘no’ to store bought, but will offer to make something similar, but healthier at home. We also tell the girls why an item isn’t healthy, we show them the label. As people with celiac’s disease we read a lot of labels, and that’s good for our children in a number of ways.Most importantly it gets them looking. One day they’ll decide for themselves what to eat, it’s our job to give them the information they need to make balanced choices.

When our children ask us for a certain food we talk about why it’s a fun food or a healthy food. Sometimes we’ll talk about other foods they’ve chosen to eat that day, and give them information about balancing their diet with healthy and fun foods. If they choose to eat marshmallows for breakfast,t hen they probably won’t feel very good, they could have upset stomachs, they might not have the energy they need to play. If they choose to eat a tomato, mushroom, and cheese omelet, they’re more likely to feel good, and have energy to play.

If you have a picky eater and you’re worried about the over all health of your child? First, don’t panic. Second, it’s mostly harmless.

One way to encourage healthy eating in children is to give them power. The more power they have over the experience the more likely they’ll eat. Let them shop, let them make the food, let them choose when and how to eat. It’s easy to say we eat when we wake up, then again at noon, and again at six, with a snack in between, but children don’t work that way. Many children need more food earlier, and less food later, but when we pressure them to eat out of synch with their body, they eat less than they would if they followed their body.

Making Sushi Rolls

Make the food fun. I invited a friend over and she said she’d bring fresh fruit. I expected a store bought platter, or a dish with cut up fruit. Nope. She brought a party. A long wooden skewer through the center of the regular old fruit made it so much more fun, and when they were done eating they had swords! Okay not all children turn everything into swords, they could’ve been magic wands.

Cut the cheese, bread, anything into fun shapes. Have healthy food available at all times of the day, pre-prepared and ready to snack. Have your children help prepare the food. And whatever you do, don’t stop your child from eating because ‘it’s almost time for dinner.’ If you’re having trouble getting your child to eat, then don’t stop them from eating, ever. Let them figure it out. Sure you may not have the family meal, but there are other ways to make up family time. Play a game at the table instead.

You can encourage your child to figure out what they don’t like about certain foods. We always tell the girls, you don’t have to eat it, but I want you to taste it. We don’t force, and they can spit it right back out. The point is to try new foods, not worry about manners. We’ve discovered Ella loves octopus, sushi, and countless other foods. There are several she won’t touch, but as she explores she’s willing to try new foods, and old ones she didn’t like before become better. Not always edible, but better.

We also don’t lie about foods. We won’t tell the girls, just taste it, then insist they taste a certain amount. Licking it is good enough. If we wanted a certain amount eaten, we’d say that from the beginning. We also don’t hide foods from them. If we offer them a piece of chicken covered in cheese, we don’t hide a vegetable in order to get them to eat it (though grating cheese over vegetables is something my girls love). If they don’t like it, that’s okay. They can pick apart their meals and eat what they choose. There have been times when Ella’s had eggs, peanut butter sandwiches, or some other  quick, low flavour food for supper every night for a week. Everyone else has dinner and she makes her meal, or waits until someone else is ready to make it for her.

Children rely on us to get them food and drink, they’re not able to choose to eat watermelon or pizza on a whim. Someone needs to get it for them. As adults we’re able to run to the store and buy something we suddenly want. Remembering that allows me more patience with my children, when they don’t want what I’ve made. And that is the final point to remember, patience. Realize this too shall pass, and one day you’ll look back and laugh about how your child only ate, or never ate such and such. We can lead a horse to water, but not make him drink. The same is true with children. Let your children know why their bodies need a mixture of foods, why a certain food is a healthy choice, give them the information, and allow them to decide what to do with it. You are, after all the one doing the shopping and can veto some choices if you feel the need.

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A Picture in her Head

We read Ella a West African folk tale today, “The Hunter’s Five Sons”. She had several questions, but the most pressing for her was, “How did the hunter die?” The story said he was dead, but no mention of how, only that his sons found his bones in the jungle. We talked about possibilities for a while, then she paused and told us she had a picture in her head of how it happened.

This is her story of the pictures as close as I could manage to what she told me. She talks fast, and wanders while she thinks. I find it difficult to write and walk at the same time, but more difficult to hear what she’s saying when she leaves the room.

The wildebeest charged the hunter, while the hunter shot at the wildebeest with his bow and arrow. The wildebeest smashed him into a flutter of bones. There were some trees in the back. The four brothers were behind the trees.

Page 2 (she’s telling the story based on the picture in her head, each portion needs a new picture and a new page)

You can’t see the four sons anymore. But a nice, big robot comes over to look, and a nice, big hyena comes and flutters the bones farther in the jungle until they’re all over the jungle.

Page 3

Then the four sons appear walking close to him (hyena). They saw a bone the hyena left in his throat. Each bone had a story laying beside it, telling how to bring the hunter back to life.

Page 4

They found a comb beside the other two bones. They pick them up slowly. They find a bookmark, and pick it up slowly. Then they found the wildebeest by following it’s tracks.

Page 5

The book was called, “How to Kill a Wildebeest”. They used the book and then scattered his bones.

Page 6

A little toy robot said all the bad animals will follow their tracks trying to flutter their bones. The sons lookaed and saw something special coming close.

Page 7

Next to the next bone, a leg bone, was a treasure chest. THey opened the treasure chest and found a huge diamond inside.  They also found a book that told them how to make the diamond small enough to go in their pockets.

Page 8

Then Cordelia comes over (the real Cordelia, from our world) and finds the wildebeests bones and follows their footprints until she catches up.

She asks them, “Where are you going?”

“We’re going to find the rest of our fathers bones, want to come with us?”

“Sure.”

Page 9

They found the next bone, it’s the other leg. They also found a flower, a treasure chest and two very golden flowers. They were told that whoever sneeked them will have something really horrible happen, but they made them small and put them in their pockets.

Page 10

Then there was a spy glass. There were Ella and Agatha (the real Ella and Agatha from our world)too. They found their baby and joined her so she wouldn’t be lost. Corelia told them where they were going.

Page 11

Then there was an owl and a bear, they followed their footprints as well. They also found flowers, but didn’t pick them. A ferocious lion startled them and jumped in front of them. They ran and saw another bone in a tree. Cordelia climbed up and got it. Then she read the book and said, “Omni ola omia boya guog put these bones together and make them flesh.”

Page 12

Then a reindeer (It’s a real reindeer from our world) followed their footprints and a little mouse (the mouse wasn’t from our world) was walking and followed their footprints.

 

And that is where I had to stop writing because Agatha was running wild and Cordelia was crying. I personally love how my children are, apparently, capable of traveling between worlds. I also loved how she had the books give information to the characters. They had to find the books in order to use them, they had to quest for all the bones. She had magic words that needed to be spoken. I am absolutely amazed at her crafting ability. I hope one day to be as good of a story teller as she is now. I hope you enjoyed her story as much as I did.

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A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

A few days ago a friends on facebook posted lyrics to the  Thankfulness Song – of course the song instantly stuck in my head and next thing you know I’m humming it, singing it, and really wishing it would leave. : ) But a person can’t help but think about what they have when those words stream through the internal speakers of the mind.

So despite what I may say sometimes I’m going to tell you now some of the things I’m thankful for. Hopefully if I’m more open with my thankfulness, then my children will be as well.

I am incredibly thankful for my husband. He has an amazing level of patience and understanding. He’s also kind, caring, considerate and funny. You can even tell him I said so.

I’m thankful for three healthy wonderful little girls who light up my life and show me each day how narrow my view is and how wonderful the world can be.

I’m thankful we live in a place where women and girls are treated respectfully.

I’m thankful for the amazing opportunities we’re able to give our children, fun classes, safe places to play, a chance to grow our own food, see wildlife, and live in freedom.

I’m thankful for the wonderful neighbours we have. We’ve moved into a new home and it’s wonderful to see a smiling face every time our paths cross.

I’m thankful for the many styles of parenting out there. I learn something from every single person/family I encounter and nothing is more valuable.

I’m thankful for the group of Mommies/families we’ve began spending time with recently. Their knowledge is invaluable and even as it’s nice to meet people of differing views it’s empowering and refreshing to meet others whos basic views are the same.

I’m thankful for the free time I have to write.

I’m thankful to live in a world where books are so readily available, I know not everyone has access to a library and many don’t even own books, yet I can read about any topic I choose.

I’m thankful for the abundance we have that allows me to stay home while my children are small. Sacrifices are made, but what our family receives in return are worth much more than we could possibly give up.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to homeschool our children.

I’m thankful for friends with animals, especially dogs. I will be even more thankful when we start visiting those friends (and said dogs) more often.

I’m thankful we have little girls who accept our refusal to get a dog (for now).

I want you to know I’m thankful. I hope to show that more often in my day to day life. It’s a work in progress, but I’m trying.

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Parenting Sacrifices

Every family sacrifices. Some more so than others. But the fact remains that in some way sacrifices are made. Though in our family, and I hope in yours too, the sacrifices we make don’t feel like sacrifices for the simple reason that the things we give up aren’t important to us.

In a previous post I mentioned that if I cleaned my house, my children would be neglected. I’m willing to have the messy (not dirty, just messy) house in order to have time for all the other things. For me, in order to have a clean house I’d need to give up something else. Time sitting with Ryan, reading, soaking in the tub, sewing, baking, surfing the net, writing posts, or any other number of things that I do regularly. I’ve given it up, and I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t be okay if I had to give up something else in order to have the clean house.

I don’t necessarily believe that parents with clean homes don’t spend time with their children, but I do believe they give something else up. For one person I know she spends huge chunks of time with her child – more so than I spend with mine (but I’ll talk about that some other time) – however she rarely makes her own meals. It would be a lot easier for me to keep up with the rest of the house if I didn’t spend so much time in the kitchen. Just ask Ryan, when I cook, I make a mess. I use every available counter space, and every pot or pan we own (and that’s just for scrambled eggs :p). That’s not far from the truth.

The sacrifices people make might not be in relation to the cleanliness of their home, or time spent with children, but something else. Maybe someone who used to read for pleasure no longer does, but has time with the family and a clean home. Maybe there’s something else.

It doesn’t matter what a family chooses to give up. After all, like snowflakes, no two people are alike and therefore no two families are alike. What does matter is that the decision was easy to make and your particular family doesn’t feel like it’s missing out.

Of course I’m not talking about sacrifices that are beyond our control due to life or financial situation. A family with a new baby sacrifices sleep, a family without a large sum of disposable income will sacrifice the live-in housekeeper and chef. There are certain things we can’t change, but others we can.

When our first baby was born we were told, “You won’t be traveling anymore.” Before her first birthday she’d been to three different countries (including home). When our second baby was born, we were told, “You really won’t be traveling now.” She took her first steps in England. Strangely enough no one’s told us we won’t be traveling now that baby number three has arrived. We like to travel and as such we do give up other things in order to do that. Others may not travel as much as we do, but use their money and vacations in different ways.

Life is full of sacrifices, decisions made, determining what is most important to us as individuals and families. We don’t miss having ATVs or a boat, or a pool, or three TVs or cable or a dozen other things, because other things are more important to us.

I believe that in day to day life the sacrifices should be so subtle as to be barely noticed. If you find yourself constantly wishing you had time for X,Y, or Z, maybe look at what you do spend time doing and see if your time has been spent on things that shouldn’t be placed so high on the priority list.

Some people might think we’ve got our priorities wrong, but that’s okay, they’re our priorities for a reason. Do you realize what you give up day after day? Are you even aware that a sacrifice has been made, or was it so natural that you can say “I don’t give anything up”?

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Direction

I’m still discovering just what this blog will be. Some of it seems to be parenting advice, or at least a reminder to myself how I wish to parent. Some of it’s admission of guilt, for myself, for my family, and for those out there who may think they can’t do it because on that one day (or week/month etc) they yelled or parented in some other manner that was less than respectful or gentle. There’s also the unschooling aspect. Where I show what it looks like in our home, and what we want it to look like. This blog is also a keeper of records. A diary for me, and a school journal for the girls.

If I write things down, I’ll be able to keep track of where they’re at compared to where they’ve been. It’ll also help me see where they’re going. I’m still unsure if one aspect of this blog will win out, or if it will continue being a hodge-podge.

Feel free to weigh in as to what you’d prefer to read, I’ll take your thoughts into consideration.

A month ago, even a week ago, if Ella played with play-dough all she did was mash it together into a great big ball. Then a couple days ago something changed. She pulled out the play-dough and began rolling balls, logs, spheres, cylinders, and sticking them together. It doesn’t matter what the above sculpture is supposed to be, what matters is that a body, legs, tail, and face were clearly recognizable. Whether using paper and crayons, pipe cleaners, or play dough she’s beginning to create recognizable figures, she wants to. And she’s sensitive about comments made prior to completion. She doesn’t want us to look at her work until she’s finished.

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Green Hour

We recently bought some flowers from our local greenhouse, unfortunately once we got them home they only looked pretty for a few days before hundreds of little aphids emerged. So today we went on a backyard adventure amongst the dirt and weeds. We found Daddy Long-legs, wolf spiders, a couple other bugs I’m unsure of, and ladybugs. Our prize!

The girls were very excited – Ella had to check out what their insides looked like (I cringed, and hope this urge doesn’t continue long), Agatha decided they were her new pets and started carrying them around the house. We started with six. I can’t find any now. Though it won’t be long before we have new ladybugs. as soon as the one lady hit our aphid infested plant, she laid her eggs. In 4-10 days we’ll have the larvae eating their eggs, then they’ll begin eating our aphids over the next month before beginning metamorphosis.

Ladybug Eggs

 

While we were outside we also noticed the different ways the weeds spread their seeds. Foxtails cling to fuzzy stuff like sweaters – or animal fur. Dandelions spread far and wide as the wind blows – or little girls and boys make wishes. as the girls ate their cherries we talked about ways fruits and berries spread their seeds – it took a while, but after pulling apart some rabbit poop, they figured it out. Yes, they washed their hands before eating or touching their faces.

The girls had fun discovering the many ways nature works, and all it took was an hour of my time. What could you do outside with an hour?

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