Saturday, July 30, 2011

First Sunday Surf

Sundays, as I've mentioned, are a day of rest for me. I don't even write blog posts. Saturday evening is fair game, though! I've been bookmarking quite a few good articles recently, so I decided to share. I hope you enjoy some of these!

Green Living
* Eating less meat is a great way to reduce our carbon footprint and often save some money on groceries as well. However, planning vegetarian meals can seem overwhelming. Here are 14 great recipes that even I can make!
* While we're talking about frugal, healthy eating, check out Amanda's pantry list at Let's Take the Metro.
* If you're looking for more ways to go green, consider a compost pile (I Didn't Know That Was Compostable!) or reducing the amount of plastic you purchase (Plastic-Free Living Guide).

Toys and Play
* Little ones make messes. Did you ever think of encouraging them to do just that? Acacia has a great list of items to include in a sensory bin and a link to the importance of messy play.
* Parents want good toys for their kids. Here are a couple good posts suggesting quality natural toys and how to keep the toy collection from getting out of control.

Catholic Parenting
* Like many parents, I struggle to maintain an active prayer life. But without God, how can I live out my vocation? Check out this review of A Plan of Life at Quicksilver to Gold. It is packed with great suggestions for busy parents!
* Have you been looking for a Catholic perspective on breastfeeding in public? Here it is! Very well-written with lots of encouragement for breastfeeding moms.
* Alright, this one isn't actually a parenting website. But it is geared for Catholic young adults, has regularly updated content, and is managed by a good friend of mine. Go visit!

Exploring the Rain

We had some pretty heavy rain here yesterday morning. Peter was whiny and just wanted to go outside, so after checking the temperature and listening for thunder, I let him. Here is his saga.

Wet and happy. The end.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Labeling Children (and making it work)

Autism. Learning disability. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. In my days as a school psychologist, it was my job to categorize children according to their disabilities. Now it's not my job, but I still think labels are useful. Labeling a child helps others know how to respond to challenging behavior.

The problem with labels is people get lazy. A label should be one way to describe a child, not the only way. When children's disabilities are labeled, though, many people assume they know everything about the child. They don't take time to learn a child's personality or preferences. They assume, for example, that Hayley (who has AD/HD) cannot pay attention and never try to include her in soccer drills that require concentration. They never learn that she loves to play goalie and wants to learn more about the game. They assume Mike (who has autism) hates loud noises and prefers to be left alone. They never learn that he loves competition and is a role model of sportsmanship.

Can you tell who has a disability? She's not the one staring into space. J

If you work with children, you will eventually work with a child who has a disability. Here are some tips to improve the experience for you and the child.

* Learn about common symptoms. The child won't necessarily display any of these during his time with you, but if they appear, you'll know which are related to his disability.

* Ask about useful accommodations. Older kids can self-advocate, for younger kids, ask their parents. A child may need time away from a group, regular snacks, directions simplified, or other accommodations. If these can be easily incorporated into your setting, do it! Being fair doesn't mean everyone gets the same thing. Being fair means everyone gets what he needs.

* Remember a disability is an explanation, not an excuse. Hayley used to frequently interrupt while I was giving directions. I would put a hand on her shoulder or verbally remind her to pay attention and continue talking. I didn't allow her behavior to go unchecked and frustrate other kids, but I didn't scold her either. A child should not be punished for behavior stemming from her disability, but she should be held accountable.

* Have fun. This is a child! He has favorite foods and books and hobbies. Sometimes he's in a good mood, sometimes not. He likes to test limits now and then, like other kids. Not everything is related to his disability.

* Use gentle discipline. Sarcasm, yelling, ridicule, gossip, and teasing do not belong in discipline. Period.

* Remember the following: 
  • Patience is a virtue.
  • You are the adult; don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into anger.
  • Children want to be loved and praised.
  • Relationship building is the best way to manage behavior.
  • This child is going home soon. J

Thursday, July 28, 2011

One Rule to a Happier Home

When my twin cousins were two, they went through a phase during which they were constantly making trouble. I babysat them two full days a week and was at a loss for how to curb their explorations. They weren't intentionally misbehaving, so correction wasn't the right answer. They were just coming up with new situations each day that I had never thought to tell them to avoid.

* Dropping pennies into the humidifier because it made a funny noise hitting the fan.
* Pulling all the beads off the curtain trim because they wanted to roll beads on the floor.
* Taking trash back out of the bag to pretend their dog had misbehaved.
* Gathering all the spoons and ladles into a pile on the table... for no apparent reason.

After a week or two, inspiration struck and a new rule was put in place: If it's not a toy, don't touch it without asking. We had a couple more incidents, but when I asked if the object was a toy, they said no and spontaneously apologized. They weren't trying to misbehave, they just didn't know any better.

Besides, they were way too cute to scold!

I love this rule. I've used it with small children and variations of it with older kids I've coached (i.e. If it's not your soccer ball, don't touch it). It's simple. It works. It doesn't prevent deliberate disobedience, but it makes life work more smoothly for everyone.

I'm starting to teach it to Peter. When he opens a kitchen cabinet or starts to pull our books off the shelves, I say, "Not a toy. Here are Peter's toys!" and cheerfully redirect him. He's too young to apply the rule himself, but he is starting to categorize his world into "toys" and "not-toys." Every little bit helps.

What rules have made your home happier?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beginning the Floor Bed Transition

Earlier this week, my husband finished baby-proofing Peter's room (for his current ability, at least) by anchoring his shelves to the wall. Today, I disassembled his crib and put away the plastic bags and other hazards I'd been storing in there to keep them out of his reach.

This afternoon, he had his first nap on his floor bed.

His floor bed is just the crib mattress on the floor.

It went well. I sang his lullabies and nursed him to sleep, then eased myself away. And he stayed there, sound asleep. He slept for a couple hours then woke up and played by himself for about five minutes before calling me. Our little guy is getting bigger.

Tonight, we'll see how he does sleeping in there all night. Details to follow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

bumGenius Diaper Sprayer Review

I suspect no diapering accessory is as widely debated as a diaper sprayer. For the uninitiated, let me explain what this is. A diaper sprayer (made by companies such as Fuzzi Bunz, Knickernappies and bumGenius) is a mini hand-held shower head that attaches to your toilet. It is used to spray poopy diapers rather than dunking them to remove solids. We bought the bumGenius sprayer from our local cloth diaper shop when Peter was about a month old and have been using it ever since.

  • The bumGenius model has a lever to adjust the pressure, which reduces water spraying off the diaper in all directions.
  • It was easy to mount and required no trips to the hardware store! A plumbing first for this family.
  • The sprayer has been able to remove even the stickiest poop.
  • Much more time efficient than dunking.
  • Takes up very little room.
As with many things, I appreciate it so much more when we are somewhere without it!

Besides, the chrome goes so nicely with our 70s-style mint green bathroom! Sigh.

  • As mentioned above, it reduces back-spray. If the poop is particularly stubborn, there will be back-spray. Yes, you keep the nozzle pointed down and the diaper below the rim of the toilet, but it still happens.
  • The hose is not permanently connected to the nozzle. Every few uses, we need to push the hose back up to keep a tight seal, or it leaks.
  • It's a bit pricey, running $40 to $50 from most retailers.
  • (added 11/1/12) Not long-lasting. The interior of the nozzle rusted through after about two years. It's still usable, but not nearly as convenient.
Those are really my only complaints. I'm not sure if being leaky is specific to the bumGenius model, but I am certain you will get some back-spray no matter what type you own. If the water hits a wrinkle at the wrong angle, you may need to clean the bathroom floor.

Bottom line: A good investment. If you're diapering on a budget, I don't consider this a "must-have," but if you've got the money it is a great help.

(Some reviews I've read suggest that it can double as a bidet, but spraying myself with cold water is not my idea of enjoyable hygiene!)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Joy of Surrender (or why we don't use birth control)

Pregnancy and birth control have come up frequently in conversation over the past few weeks, although I haven't initiated it. With Peter being a year old, people are starting to ask if we'll have any more or when we plan to have the next one. I usually respond, "We're letting God make the decisions. If He sends another child for us, we'll accept." Most people aren't sure where to take the conversation from here.

"Well, right, I mean you can't make yourself get pregnant, but...(trail off awkwardly)"
"So you're trying for the second one now?"
"But when do you think that will be?"

I'm comfortable talking about surrender, but people don't want to hear it. I say, "We don't use birth control. We want God to be in control." They look at me like I just shared graphic details from my sex life. "Really?!" Tones of shock and dismay and morbid curiosity. The conversation usually ends abruptly when I'm asked, "So you could be pregnant now?" and respond, "Yes, but probably not. Since I'm still regularly nursing Peter, my period hasn't come back yet, so it seems unlikely."

"How about this weather?"

To be honest, I think their discomfort is funny, which I realize is unkind. But when you ask questions about conception and I respond truthfully, you get what you have coming to you.

Just look what happened last time we let God call the shots!

One of my friends had her little one less than a week after Peter was born. She recently shared that they are expecting their second in February. Upon hearing her news, my second thought (after, 'how exciting!') was that I am not ready for another child. Peter is still so small and needy. Then I took a deep breath and relaxed, because we're not using contraception. Yes, you read that correctly. The fact that I could get pregnant at any time is a source of comfort.

The reason we're not using contraception is because we trust God. He will send more children in His time, if at all. It's not up to me to decide when Peter is old enough, or if we have the right amount of money to pay for college for second child, or anything else. I trust God. When He sent Peter, He also sent a work-from-home position for my husband and a new health insurance plan that we could afford. If He sends another child, He will give me enough grace to be a good mommy to two little blessings.

This openness to children is part of Catholic marriage vows. This isn't a wild crazy lifestyle my husband and I chose in order to foster a counter-cultural image. It's part of the covenant we made with each other and with God. (There are extenuating circumstances in which it is moral for a couple to use natural family planning to avoid children, but those are few and far between.) We want to surrender to God, trusting that His plans are better than our plans. "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Mt. 11:29-30).

No contraception. Freedom. Joy. It's good to serve the King.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Birthday Celebration

We had Peter's first birthday party today. Aside from running the air conditioner, I think it was a fairly eco-friendly party. We had it in the afternoon, so just supplied dessert (cupcakes) and drinks (lemonade, water, and iced tea). We made ice cubes in our freezer. We had about 20 people attending and used cloth napkins and real plates and glasses. Yes, this meant I had more dishes to do, but very little trash! Also, having a "small" party meant a reasonable number of gifts, mostly books and clothing. I'm very pleased that this didn't become a celebration of STUFF rather than of Peter. Many thanks to family and friends who helped make today great!

Peter had chocolate cake with frosting. He flatly refused to eat any frosting after tasting it and had about one cubic centimeter of cake. He had a lot of fun rubbing it on his high chair tray, though. I think it's probably a good thing that he doesn't like super-sweet food!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer's Best Two Weeks

Today was the last day of camp. We don't do craft on the last day, so I was available to fill in as a work crew director. Even with the breaks I took to feed and cuddle Peter, and the 1.5 hours I watched him sleep in the office, this was easily the most exhausting day.

Taking his morning nap on the office floor.

Highs were in the mid-90s, which would be a welcome relief for my cousins in Texas but is near record-breaking heat here in upstate New York. Thankfully, we had an air-conditioned room in the church as our base, which made our spurts of physical activity more bearable.

I did most of my work with one hand, as the other was carrying Peter around on my hip. I do have a Moby wrap, but it was too hot to even consider wearing that. We managed together; I think he enjoyed being in perpetual motion with lots of people to see.

After camp, I went out to dinner with my husband and friends from camp, then went to my brother's house. He has a pool, which was a great way to relax. Finally, we all had ice cream. Well, you know, except for Peter. All in all, a wonderful, challenging, exhausting day. That's what camp is all about.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


In 2003, I worked at Summer's Best Two Weeks, a Christian sports camp in Sharon, PA. I coached the oldest girls' division and on my team was a young lady named Francis. She hated camp. She didn't like to be outside, didn't like sports, and had no friends among the other girls. She was dating a junior counselor, but rarely got to see him at camp, since most activities are not co-ed. She dreaded swimming, an activity with which she'd had no previous experience. To top it off, she covered her discomfort with the attitude of a cactus.

But I liked Franics.

I tried to balance encouragement with tough love, challenging her to go a bit beyond her comfort zone. In swimming, I worked with her one-on-one so she could avoid the embarrassment of being placed with the youngest girls. By the end of the two weeks, she could tread water and swim the width of the pool. The smile on her face when she realized she could swim was so precious.

Working with Francis, I got the feeling that things had never come easily in her life. She was desperately seeking to be loved while at the same time pushing away anyone who might get too close. She was bitterly unhappy for a girl just in middle school. But she wasn't jaded, not quite. She still had some joy, a shred of innocence, and a little desire to please. She still had potential.

When camp ended, I began corresponding with some of my campers, Francis included. She had given me her address and asked me to write. I sent letters every couple of months, but never got a reply. The next summer, I found out she had run away from home. People thought she had come back to town, but no one was quite sure where she was. I wrote one more letter, explaining that I had heard she had moved and would love to get her new address. I never heard back from Francis and after 2004, I stopped working at that camp.

This past week, I was talking with another of my former campers from Sharon. We were looking at old pictures and squad lists and I asked if she knew what ever happened to Francis. Yes, she knew.

At a 2008 Christmas party, Francis and her boyfriend stole a credit card. A few weeks later, on January 13, 2009, they got married. January 15, they were charged with theft. January 16, she died of a drug overdose. It was ruled accidental.

A beautiful girl, so much to offer the world. But it seems the world didn't offer quite enough in return.

I don't know if there is anything I could have done differently. If I had told church leadership about my concern for her, I don't know if they could have changed anything in her life. But now no one can. And I can't shake the feeling that we (camp staff) failed her. We had two weeks to try to connect, to throw her a lifeline. Were we too impatient with her attitude? Did we just prove to her that no one, even Christians, actually cared what happened to her? Or did we make a difference and it just wasn't good enough?

I know there is no value in berating myself for the past. Francis is gone and all I can do for her is beg God for mercy on her soul. But there are other kids. Two former campers spring to mind as I write this, girls who are struggling to decide what they believe and who they want to be. I want to learn something from the tragedy of Francis's death, but I don't know what the lesson is. Is there something I can do for these girls that I didn't do for her?

I love these kids. I want to help. I care about them, but I'm not sure they believe that. And even if they do, I'm not sure it will be enough. God, please be enough.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Attention-Starved Boy

Poor Peter. We didn't go to camp today, Daddy was in the office, and no one came over to play. Peter was cranky, collapsing into tears at the slightest provocation. He loves to be around people and thrives on being busy, so being home with just Mommy is a bummer.

Tonight, though, was his first baseball game. We got free tickets through Jeremy's employer and my Dad joined us at the game, so Peter was once again surrounded by adults who think he is just adorable. Also, tonight was "mascot night," providing something interesting to watch. I'm fairly certain he noticed nothing about the actual game, but at least he was happy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

First Ice Cream, I Guess

We took Peter to our local ice cream shop tonight for his first cone. They offer free baby cones, which is nice, especially since he wasn't particularly excited about his little vanilla cone. Or Mommy's chocolate cone. Or any ice cream at all. He was willing to try it, but after the initial shock, refused to eat any. His friend L, whose birthday is coming up this weekend, had no such qualms!

More please, Mommy! (L can also sign)

OK Mommy, I will try this, but only because you seem to like it.

Noooo! Not good! Take it away!

Mommy, when I finish mine, can I eat Peter's?

We did at least get some quality play time together. Sadly, the pictures of them exchanging hugs and kisses didn't turn out, but trust me, they were adorable. It's so much fun to see them together as they figure out that the other is a person and not just a large toy.

This window is just our size!

Finally, it was time to go home. L had a present in her daddy's car for Peter. He was SUPER excited to have a new swing! We hope to hang it from our front tree in the near future. Thank you!

Yay! Present for me!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Building the Body of Christ

Busy weekend here: my husband's and Peter's birthdays, our 2 year 11 monthaversary, and a reunion with some friends from college. So, no post yesterday and today's is just a reprint of something we received at church last weekend.

I will protect the unity of my church:
 - by acting in love toward other members
 - by refusing to gossip
 - by following the teaching of the church and its leaders

I will share the responsibility of my church:
 - by praying for its growth
 - by inviting the unchurched to attend
 - by warmly welcoming those who visit

I will serve the ministry of my church:
 - by discovering my gifts and talents
 - by being equipped to serve in a ministry
 - by developing a servant's heart

I will support the testimony of my church:
 - by attending faithfully
 - by living a godly life
 - by giving regularly

All of the above requirements for membership are not derived from human opinion, but are reflected in the Scriptures as what God asks of His family. These are the Scripture passages. Take a few minutes and read them:

Romans 14:19                            1 Peter 1:22
Ephesians 4:29                           Hebrews 13:17
1 Thessalonians 1:1-2                 Luke 14:23
Romans 15:7                              1 Peter 4:10
Ephesians 4:11-12                      Philippians 2:3-7
Hebrews 10:25                          Philippians 1:27
1 Corinthians 16:2                      Leviticus 27:30

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Feeding Problems

I've been a concession vendor all day. In my own home. "Do you want banana? Try some yogurt! Mmm, apples, you love apples. Mommy has a bean for you. Here, eat some bread."

Peter has decided recently that he is not particularly interested in food anymore. It started with him rejecting food he had previously enjoyed and filling up on breast milk. Now he'll eat about one teaspoon of something, then signs "all done" and wants to get down and play. And he's not nursing for very long either, except at bedtime and when he wakes up at night.

This is not my ideal situation.

We plan to move him down the hall into his room by the end of the month. He had started eating lots of healthy solids and was nursing only to fall asleep and when he was upset. It seemed reasonable that he was on his way to night-weaning himself. Once he even slept through one of his usual three nightly nursing sessions! Not anymore.

By the time we got to dinner time, he had only eaten 1/3 of a banana, 1 tsp of yogurt, and about 1 tbsp of an apple. He had also been fussy all day, which made me think perhaps he was teething. I even offered him a frozen fruit bar, but he was unimpressed. I was simultaneously frustrated and concerned. He's rather small, only 2%ile in weight (after being born ~50%ile); I just wanted him to eat something and reassure me.

For dinner, we had one of Peter's favorite foods: salmon. And my tiny little boy ate 3oz of salmon, 1/2 a pear, 1/2 slice of bread, and even tried the rice (then decided it was more fun to smear it around his tray). Phew! He was happy the rest of the night and fell to sleep with no tears. Silly Mommy...

Why so worried, Mommy? I always eat!

More, more!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Garden Variety

Something ate the bottoms of two vines. :-(

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Makes a Happy Baby

"He's so happy! Is he always this happy?"

I hear that a lot. Peter has been at summer camp for 8+ hours/day with me for the past two days and taken only a short mid-day nap. Even in this, though, he stays happy and friendly. I have three theories as to why:

1. I pray for him. My ongoing prayer for this baby of mine is that he be holy, happy, and healthy. Thank You, Father.

2. I nurse him. When he has reached the end of his rope and collapses into a whiny pile on the floor, he is restored in less than a minute by nursing. He's then ready to face the world again.

3. He wears cloth diapers. OK, this one isn't my theory, it's from my friend's younger brother. We gave him a ride home today and he was impressed with Peter's diaper. "That's a serious diaper. What kind is it?" "Cloth. And it's adjustable, so it should fit him until he's toilet trained." "Wow. Looks cool. And it's probably more comfortable, too. Maybe that's why he's so happy!"

Hey, you never know.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Origami and Buttons

My best friend directs a Christian sports camp (Summer's Best Two Weeks) and asked me to run crafts this year. Today was my first day. It was great! Even though I started with the oldest boys squad (entering 8th grade), they were attentive and completed the craft. For each activity, campers can earn Small, Big, or Super achievements. The Small achievement for craft was to sketch three button designs, color one, and mount it in the reusable buttons. Here are the ones I made for Peter and me.

As non-coaching staff, I am not part of the Roman or Galatian team.
But Peter has a definite allegiance to his mom's former team.

When this group returns for the second session of craft, we will be doing origami. I found Everything Origami on an excellent sale at Borders and have been practicing a variety of designs. I have decided that to earn a Big achievement, they need to complete a simple design (cup, 'talker', swan, etc.) and can ask for help. To earn a Super achievement, they need to complete a more complex design with no assistance. Some of these are shown below.

Tato, or paper purse
This is the most difficult one I folded.

If you think the lid is too small for the box, you're correct.
I was just trying to see if I could do them, regardless of scale.

A lunch bag! Just the right size for ten raisins!

This has been a lot of fun for me. When I decided to do origami as the craft, I had never done anything other than a newspaper hat. I have learned a lot doing this and hope the kids are challenged as well. I like that this is an inexpensive craft, has a variety of difficulties, and if they don't want to keep it, can easily be recycled! :-)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cultural Support of Breastfeeding

I'm pretty sure none of my husband's friends would consider themselves to be lactivists. In fact, I suspect they haven't heard the word and would be somewhat embarrassed if I explained what it meant. And yet, I have found these guys to be part of the culture that supports breastfeeding.

Happy nursing boy

Let me give you some sweeping generalizations about these guys. They're college grads, some pursuing Masters degrees. They play video games and board games and talk about computer specs for fun. They are aware of current events and debate politics for hours. This isn't the football crowd, but neither would they be familiar with terms like attachment parenting, intactivism, or gentle discipline. In fact, most of them probably don't know nursing bras exist.


When I nurse him, no one bats an eye. They continue to talk with me, neither staring nor awkwardly avoiding all eye contact. He is almost a year old and no one has suggested that he is getting too old. Granted, this may be because they don't know that culture frowns upon nursing toddlers, but I'm OK with that. These guys react as if nursing is the same as giving a bottle, totally normal. (As an aside, I think it's interesting that a group of young men, many of them single, react appropriately to a nursing mother, but multiple women have expressed disapproval that I'm "still" nursing Peter.)

I am so grateful for this unquestioning acceptance of how I feed my son. And they'll probably never know. Because if I said thank you, they would feel awkward. :-)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kindred Spirit

My friend Karra is awesome. It is so wonderful to spend time with her, knowing we have similar opinions on child-rearing, faith, and country music. :-) I wouldn't want all my friendships to be with like-minded people, as I think debate and discussion is important for growth, but it is comforting to have a friend like Karra. Unfortunately, she lives a couple hours away. Today, though, we were able to take our little ones to the park and enjoy a few hours together. Her son is a few months younger than Peter, while her daughter at three years old enjoys being the big kid. I think all involved had a great time.

Peter and his friend, who is just playing it cool

Hooray for swings!

The boys and their organic apples :-)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Baby's First Camping Trip

We went camping with my family over the holiday weekend and had a great time. Peter loves being outside, so tent camping may be his favorite way to spend vacation. He slept well and was rarely cranky. Of course, he also had eight adults and two kids catering to his every need, so I'm sure that helped!

Whetstone Gulf State Park

We brought cloth diapers and set up a changing station in our car by folding down one of the seats. This kept him clean and contained while we changed him and made sure that no animals would get into the dirties. We left a water bottle there, too, to moisten the washcloths we use as wipes. The only challenge was rinsing off solids that didn't shake off. This campground is also equipped for trailers, so at one point my husband decided to just use the hose provided for cleaning trailer sewage tanks. It worked quite well.

Drink your water, Peter!

The weather was beautiful (minus the thunderstorm one night), which meant an increased risk of dehydration. Aside from nursing whenever Peter showed interest and offering his sippy cup of water at regular intervals, I also brought along canned pear halves. He enjoyed the sweetness and got some needed fluids. Next time we camp, I think I will make some applesauce ahead of time for the same reason.

Hiker extraordinaire 

The park includes a gorge, which features a 5 mile trail around the top. I was exhausted when we finished, but definitely enjoyed the hike. My brother (whom my aunt calls Sherpa) carried Peter in our backpack carrier the entire way, including climbing over trees that blocked the trail. Thank you, Keith!

Uncle Keith (who also provided these photos)

All in all, it was a great trip. Maybe we'll do another one in the fall!