Monday, October 29, 2012

Perception

Let's play a little game. I'm going to share some things about myself and I want you to consider what image pops into your head when you read each one.

I'm a Christian. I believe in a personal relationship with Jesus and read the Bible.

My husband is the breadwinner in our family and handles 99% of the finances. I stay home with our three children, and haven't earned a paycheck since 2007.

We homeschool without a strict curriculum and have few arbitrary "rules" at our house.

As a mother I identify most with attachment parenting. We have co-slept with all three children (only the youngest currently), and I've breastfed all three into toddlerhood.

All three Agents are vaccinated on schedule without fear because of, you know, science.

Our family reads a lot. My oldest reads about two grade levels above average. 

The Agents play outside a few hours every day (weather permitting).  The television is also on at our house several hours a day.

Agent E's latest tooth loss
On any given playground trip, I will probably tell my children to be careful a dozen times, utter multiple "good job" proclamations, and break out the hand sanitizer at least once.

I consider myself a very liberal Democrat on pretty much any issue (social or otherwise) you could think of.

I've had a planned induction (some medical concerns, but mostly elective) and an epidural early in labor. And I would do it again.

I have turned down social invitations because I don't want to leave my children at night, especially when they are very young.

We don't have fancy cars, phones, or gadgets. We live in a comfortable house in a pleasant, safe neighborhood. We can afford to take nice vacations.

At what point did you have me figured out? If you only read one of these things, would you believe you had a pretty good picture of who I am? What about after reading all of them? 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Babysitting Will Be Provided

This past weekend a small miracle occurred: The entire family made it out of the house early enough on Sunday morning for the Senior Agents to attend Sunday school and all of us to attend the church service that followed. We even arrived in time to be social with pastries and coffee, because, well, that's what good Lutherans do.

Anyway, "church school" (as Agent E calls it) lasts about an hour, but is only for pre-K and up. So, that posed the dilemma: What to do with Agent A for that hour?

All dressed up and ready to go
A woman we were introduced to about five minutes prior offered to take Agent A to the nursery for us if we wanted to attend the adult Bible study class going on at the same time. We declined. Instead, all four of us (me, Hubby, Agent A, and Seemingly Nice Church Woman We Just Met) hung out in the nursery together for the hour. 

We chatted about life in Florida, our travels, the Agents, her (now grown) kids, the church. I only had to bite my tongue once, when she asked if A was getting a case of the "terrible twos" as he approached his birthday. (I just said "no" and changed the subject.) All the while Agent A perused the toys and books and entertained us with his toddler charm.

It would never have crossed my mind to actually leave him alone with this total stranger just so I could attend a class for an hour.

The truth is, I don't feel comfortable leaving the Agents (especially Agent A) in childcare situations like this. Yet I encounter groups and meetings all the time where "babysitting available" is a huge draw. I've passed on military spouses groups, MOPS, women's Bible studies, and other similar venues that offer such free childcare because I just can't get on board with leaving my children in a room with a random person to have an hour to participate in some activity. I especially feel this way while they are infants/toddlers, but I'm iffy on the Senior Agents, too.

I remember when we first moved to Italy and I begrudgingly agreed to put Agent E (almost 4) and Agent J (almost 2) into (free) temporary care at the Child Development Center on base so Hubby and I could attend a few days of area orientation. (Terms like "required" and "mandatory" were thrown around, and I totally fell for it.) They both hated it, I felt very uneasy with the whole set-up, and it was pretty much an all-around disaster. Months later, Agent E would point out "that building" when we would drive or walk past it. 

Now, you may be thinking what's the big deal? It's only a few hours and you'll all survive. But the truth is, it is a big deal, because it illustrates how we handle both long and short separations in the context of a securely attached relationship. It is important because it shows how we view trust in our everyday lives. It matters because my children know I would not force them into an uncomfortable situation just to have time to myself. I would not expect them to just "get used to it." I consider all our needs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those women who claim they never need a break from their children. (Newsflash: They are lying.) I sometimes count down the hours until the end of the day  anticipate bedtime or the early morning hours as my chance to relax and recharge. Every once in a while I escape to Starbucks or Panera without them for a few hours, but only if Hubby is with them. (Notice I didn't say Hubby is "watching them" or worse—cringe—"babysitting them." Don't get me started.) I simply don't feel the need to regularly leave my children with other people for the sake of getting out. 

And then again . . . clearly I do feel okay with some temporary childcare situations.

On this same Sunday morning I wrote about in the intro to this post, I dropped off the Senior Agents in a classroom with two unknown teachers (one I met about 90 seconds before and one I never saw until after the fact) and walked away. Does it not bother me as much because they are older? 

We go to the YMCA a few times a week, and all three Agents go into the childcare room while I exercise. However, we've been going for months and so it is very familiar to all of them (including A) now. I knew this would be a long-term situation and they would get to know the caregivers over time. When we first joined, I would only leave for 20 minutes or so to help them (Agent A mostly) adjust as necessary. Now they "direct" me to stay at least an hour and complain if I come back "too soon" because they are having so much fun. 

Agent A and Ferb on a recent visit
We are also going on a cruise later this year, and yes, we will utilize the kids' areas, even for Agent A (although he will not spend nearly as much time there as I imagine his sisters will). This one pretty much violates all my "rules" . . . short-term, sitters we don't know personally, Agent A participating. Yet, I feel pretty comfortable with that because (a) it's Disney, and our experience with Disney is very positive, always top-notch and going above and beyond expectations; and (b) as a homeschooler I'm seeing all the educational opportunities, and considering it more of a "camp" type experience for the Agents.

So, the more I think about it, I'm not really sure how my Momma Radar decides these things. Maybe I just need more time to ease into childcare situations than these one-time "babysitting available" situations can provide? Maybe it's really just the infant/toddler stage that concerns me? Maybe I just feel wishy-washy about these gatherings in general and this provides a good "out"?

Of course there will always be someone who points out that if only I weren't a stay-at-home mom I'd feel differently. Or that I'm too attached to my children and should put my own needs first. 

Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or working outside the home, how do you feel about temporary, short-term childcare arrangements such as these?

Friday, October 19, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (40)

Happy Friday! Welcome, friends. As usual, this post is linked up at Conversion Diary. Jen's blog is one of my favorites. Stop by and check it out. You won't be disappointed.

1. I get to see my husband today! (I may be the wee-est bit excited about this.) It's only been about 3.5-4 weeks, but for some reason it seems way longer. The Agents handle the separations amazingly well. Momma does okay, but eats way too much comfort chocolate.

2. What's the weather like where you are? I am kinda missing the cool fall temperatures, as we don't have that in our neck of the woods. Yesterday's high was 84 F (29 C). Yeah. Not exactly dreaming of hot chocolate and bonfires here.

This is Bear
3. Does your child have a lovey? Agent E has a pink bear (which is actually mine) that she creatively named, Bear. Agent J has baby Pluto, confiscated from Agent A Christmas 2010. (He was only 7 weeks old. He didn't have a chance.) Agent A's chosen object of affection appears to be a stuffed pink lamb he calls Lambie. Sometimes he calls it "cuddle cuddle" . . . Doc McStuffins, anyone?

4. You know what is super sweet? When your toddler comes into the bathroom to offer you half of his tortilla chip. While you're still on the toilet. "You hungry, mum mum. Here you go, mum mum." Now that is love.

5. In other Agent A-isms, he now says "I wuv Va Va" (I love Eva) and "I wuv Ju Ju" (I love Julia). Dying of cute here.

6. I think I'm going to be all wild and crazy and purchase a Kindle Paperwhite. I considered the sexier Kindle Fire as well, but decided I really have no need for all the extra bells and whistles. 

7. And, um, oh yeah. I turn 40 today.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Plans

Today is the last day of my thirties. How did I get here so fast? Wasn't I just trying to figure out the roller coaster of a 17-year-old life yesterday?

(Now I understand how my parents feel. My mom will tell she just got back from her honeymoon and now her fifth child, her baby, is forty. It's not possible. I have no doubt someday I will feel exactly the same about the Agents.)

I'm certain my life so far is not what I imagined, but . . .

Does anyone really end up where they expect? (And if we did, how uninspiring would that be?)

I never dreamed I'd be capable of leading the stay-on-your-toes life of a military spouse (because, frankly, I'm kind of neurotic) and yet here I am.

I have been pregnant, breastfeeding, or both for over seven years now. My last baby will turn two in a few weeks. In the not-to-distant future there will be no more nursing, no more co-sleeping, no more diapers. As a family, we will enter a new season.

(Sometimes I can't even wrap my own brain around the fact that I'm forty and I have a two-year-old. Does that make me an "older mom"? Would other people see me that way?)

When I studied developmental and social psychology as a college student, I intended to have a career researching it, teaching it, writing about it. Instead, I'm living it.

When I first started working, I couldn't fathom being a stay-at-home-mom of three kids. Breastfeeding toddlers? Homeschooling?

None of that was on the agenda. 

And you know what?

I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. Are you?

This post was also shared at Connected Mom.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Random Homeschooling Tidbits

Linking up with Many Little Blessings for Top Ten {Tuesday}.

Today I'm sharing a list of homeschooling-related thoughts, including what are days are looking like right now and what we'd like to work on in the future. (Plus some minor griping. Ahem.)

1. We do a lot of art time. Coloring, painting, cutting, gluing, drawing, crafts . . . the Agents are all about the art. (Favorite description ever about children's artwork—and unfortunately I don't know the source—"if you can do it wrong, it's not art.")

2. Gym time is all the time. The Agents exercise . . . a lot. They run. They play outside. They dance. They do jumping jacks in the living room. (Agent J calls them jumping Julias.) 

Art time, about to get messy
3. I don't worry too much about retention. If we are studying ocean life, we might have 3-5 books on different sea creatures out of the library at any given time. Some we might read once, others half a dozen times. I don't go back and quiz Agent E on what she remembers about manta rays. I find that she naturally can recall quite a bit of what she reads, though, and will often volunteer that information later on. More importantly: She thinks learning about new things is fun.

4. I am still quasi-seriously considering a Little Einsteins semester.

5. I will likely suggest we study the human body as one of our main topics starting in January. Agent E has already indicated that she'd like to study space next. We'll probably do both.

6. We are turning into those hippie crunchy everything is learning homeschoolers I used to mock. Sigh.

7. We are all grateful for the ability to move at our own pace when our usual routine doesn't go as planned. (Agent J has an ear infection this week, and Agent A decided it would be a great time to start seeing 6:00 a.m. again.)

8. We don't spend nearly as much time on "school" in the traditional sense as we would if E attended the elementary school down the road. Their official "school hours" are 8:30 to 3:00. If she rode the bus, she'd be catching it in the morning at 7:40 and stepping off it in the afternoon around 3:25. That's almost an eight-hour day. And that doesn't even count the fact that she'd be awake 45 minutes to an hour before she had to leave each day and likely doing homework after school each day for . . . another 30 minutes? Another hour? That's also not accounting for any other activities (see #10). She is six. I am the only one who finds this insane?

9. I see a post about my overall frustration with the education system in the United States coming soon.

10. I'm in no hurry to push them into organized "social" activities so we can check the S word off our list. As of right now, we don't do any, which I think makes us kind of an anomaly. This will probably change soon . . . maybe after Christmas. Likely just one thing the girls can do together, perhaps a beginning gymnastics class. But I'm not in rush and neither are they.

Friday, October 12, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (39)

Welcome Quick Takes friends. Be sure to pop over to our host Jennifer's blog and check out her post and some of the others linked there. Happy Friday!

1. Why do posts I write in 20 minutes and barely edit end up with more page views than posts I obsess over? (Just a random rhetorical question there.)

2. Eva's quote of the week: "Julia is not very good at being quiet." You said it, sister.

3. This week I started rereading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I first read it over twenty years ago as a college student. (Wait . . . was I seriously in college twenty years ago?) Anyway, reading it as a parent gives me a whole different perspective on this text.

4. Agent J is eating us out of house and home. She's four-and-a-half and very tall but a skinny little thing . . . who eats like a linebacker. Actually, Agents E and A have been putting away ridiculous amounts of food recently, too. Not sure if this is some sort of Conspiracy Growth Spurt or just our new normal. Time will tell.

Agent A modeling his new jammies
5. Last week I made the mistake of running errands on a Saturday late morning/early afternoon. Never again. As I told my husband, I would rather eat nothing but cereal crumbs off the living room carpet than brave the grocery store on a Saturday again.

6. We actually survived an entire church service last Sunday morning for the first time in forever, and so we're going back. Assuming we can get out of the house way earlier than our usual two Sundays in a row. Senior Agents are excited to start Sunday school. 

7. I'm quasi-seriously considering a semester of homeschooling based on the Little Einsteins. Bear with me; I'm not crazy. Think about it: They visit countries all over the world, major cities and world landmarks, many of which we've also been to. So that would include geography, languages, and historic sites. It would also cover music (composers, instruments, classical music) and art (paintings, sculptures, museums). Not to mention the science we'd use to illustrate the complete lack of plausibility of Rocket's travels. (Ahem.) Okay; maybe I am a little crazy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Worst Parenting Advice Ever

Linking this up at Many Little Blessings for Top Ten {Tuesday}.

Reminiscent of my post Parenting Myths I Wish Would Go Away, this is my slightly-snarky-but-very-true list of parenting "wisdom" I simply could never understand.

1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. I don't know about you, but I can't fall asleep instantly at random times during the day. Also, this is a moot point once you have more than one kid.

2. Bottle feed at night so dad can help and mom can rest. Terrible idea if you actually want breastfeeding to work out. And believe it or not, other ways exist for dad to bond besides feeding.

Secret sibling meeting
3. Be consistent. If something's not working, change it. That's not wishy-washy. That's common sense.

4. Develop a consistent bedtime routine. See #3. Also, children's sleep needs change. A lot. Flexibility is your friend.

5. Enforce quiet time every day. Usually suggested to moms of non-napping children as a way to pretend they still nap. My take: Your kids don't nap anymore. Get over it.

6. Schedule date nights away from the baby. This might be a good idea for parents of older children. However, as far leaving my tiny, breastfed, newborn baby just to "get out" . . . I would rather gnaw off my own arm.

7. Perfect child spacing is [insert random age difference here]. No matter when siblings arrive, it always works out. And you couldn't imagine it any other way.

Always a fashion statement
8. Do [insert random activity here] before you have kids. One example is see a lot is traveling. Says the mom of three whose kids have been to ten countries on four continents.

9. Don't let the baby sleep in your bed, you'll never get them out. Um, do we need to go over this again?

10. Make sure he/she knows who's the boss from the very beginning. So many things wrong with this one, I'm not sure where to start. 

What would you add to this list?

Friday, October 5, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (38)

Hello, all and welcome to another 7 Quick Takes Friday. Please be sure to stop by our host Jen's blog as well.

1. I mentioned in last week's Quick Takes about our dilemma with looking for a church. I've come to the conclusion that when it comes to denominations, my heart belongs to the ELCA. There are only two such congregations within 30 minutes of our house. One is small and reminds me of the church where Dear Hubby and I were married. The other is a bit bigger with more bells and whistles and a particular amenity that may prove useful: a cry room. Both have a Sunday school program the girls could attend, although the smaller church would put them in the same class and the larger church would separate them. Neither offers an option for Agent A during that time, so I would pretty much be hanging out in the nursery with him. (Each church has a room set up as a nursery during the services, but no one is available for the Sunday school hour. But, it would be a place we could go to keep him occupied instead of trying to keep him from eating brochures in the narthex.) 

2. Current read: What Your First Grader Needs To Know (Hirsch). I'm still on a quest to read at least a book a week. So far all of them have been related to homeschooling/education or blogging/writing. I'm also trying to get back on track with daily Bible reading but kind of failing miserably there.

We like books
3. And speaking of books, our magic number of library books out at any given time seems to be 28. Even when we decide to return only part of our stash, and renew others, then make a trip to the library and end up walking to the checkout desk without even counting our new pile . . . somehow when we get home we realize we are back at exactly 28 books.

4. In the category of Things I Say Every Day would be some variation of the following: Why are you naked? What happened to your clothes? Where are your pants? Why are you not wearing underwear? Does this happen at your house, too? Or am I raising a small brood of future nudist colony residents?

5. Agent J is on a quest to learn how to spell everything in the universe. I recall this stage with Agent E occurring a little earlier, but it's pretty much a repeat of what I saw with her. How do you spell . . . is her new favorite phrase. I'm not sure how much she is actually retaining. I do know, however, that shortly after this obsession ended with Agent E, she started recognizing tons of words in print and then basic reading was right around the corner. Bob Books, anyone? 

6. Dinner time conversation . . . E: West Virginia is kind of shaped like a dolphin. Me: Um, what? E: You know, if you turn it sideways. Me: I . . . don't . . . think so. E, J, and A: (crazy, maniacal laughing for the next ten minutes). Really, you can't make this stuff up.

7. U.S. friends, enjoy the Columbus day weekend. I almost forgot, as all the days pretty much mush together around here. And Canadian friends, Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Attachment Parenting: More Than Breasts, Beds, and Baby Slings

Babies needs haven’t changed much over the past thousands of years, 
but cultural practices of meeting those needs change every generation.
—Judy Arnall

I'm growing weary of the number of articles and blog posts flowing through my newsfeed that completely misrepresent what attachment parenting is and what it is not

It's not just news magazines. Or other supposedly serious publications. Or the French.

Somehow it has become almost trendy in the parenting blogging world to mock any semblance of attachment (attentive, intentional, involved) parenting and instead glorify so-called "detachment" parenting as the cooler, hands-off option.

Want examples? You'll have to Google them yourself. I refuse to link to this rubbish.

Sadly, for the most part these writers have about as much knowledge of attachment parenting as I do of say, open heart surgery.

I find myself especially annoyed when these anti-AP rants come from a parent blessed with one compliant child who hasn't even reached preschool age yet. But I digress.

Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience;
you are raising a human being.
—Kittie Frantz

The thing is, the power of conventional wisdom is so strong, we've convinced ourselves that our current cultural view of raising children is the only one there is. Babies have bottles. Sleep in cribs. Need to learn to self-soothe. Should sleep through the night by [insert random age]. Need to eat pureed foods. (Because, as we all know, immediately following the invention of the wheel, Cuisinart was founded.) Must learn independence as early as possible. Need to learn they aren't the center of the universe. Shouldn't be coddled.

Shall I go on? Folks do realize we're talking about babies here? (Although, it's not just about babies.)

Want to know what attachment parenting really looks like? 

It looks like developing a relationship that is respectful, sensitive, and positive. It's about principles: guidelines, ideals perhaps, but not rules. (You can read about each of the eight principles in more detail here.) It's about the connection you have with your child. It looks like parents and children on the same team instead of us versus them. It looks like teaching your children through example, not fear of consequences.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
—Dalai Lama

You might notice that nowhere in the eight principles does it mention cloth diapering, circumcision, vaccinations, homeschooling, homeopathy, or any other topic that for some reason people love to "add on" to the concept of attachment parenting. Granted, a lot of AP-ers likely have strong feelings about these issues, but the issues themselves are not AP.

One of the best ways I've seen attachment parenting described is as a frame of mind. It's not a competition to see who can apply the most principles in the best way. 

Personally, while I love breastfeeding and co-sleeping I couldn't get on board with babywearing at all. We strive to always use positive discipline but that doesn't mean we live in a zen world where everything is kitty cats and daisy petals and I never get angry at my kids. And that whole balance thing? Let's just say it's a work in progress.

Do you consider yourself to be "AP"? Why or why not?

This post was also shared at Connected Mom.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Spanking Myths and Truths

Linking this up with Top Ten {Tuesday}, hosted each week by Angie at Many Little Blessings.

Few things get parents on opposite ends of the discipline spectrum riled up like spanking. If you've followed this blog for more than five minutes, you probably know how I feel about the issue. Today I'm sharing ten resources that address some of the common misconceptions about spanking.

First, a few questions:
And now, some food for thought from a few of my favorite gentle parenting advocates: