Saturday, February 11, 2017

Talking the Bird and the Bees with Babes

Gideon has caught me off guard with his inquisitiveness about where babies come from!

I had envisioned talking about the birds and the bees with pre-teens, but it turns out that three is the new pre-teen. Gideon has surprised me with his inquisitiveness.

To date, we have had four conversations about the birds and the bees. First and second were about male and female anatomy.

Here's what the most recent two were like:

[A week ago] "Mom, how did the baby get inside you?"

"Daddy planted a seed in mommy, and it grew into a baby."

Then a few days ago, it became clear that Gideon had been thinking about our previous tete-et-tete.

"Did it hurt when daddy planted the seed in you?"


"Where did he get the seed?"

"At the pet store." Just kidding. I really said, "He made it inside his body."

These conversations have ramped-up my thinking about how to approach this important topic.  I want to facilitate a relationship and a comfort level such that my children always feel like they can come to me with their questions, concerns, or the inevitable first viewing of pornography. I have also always wanted to teach my children to be chaste but not prudish. That sex is wonderful and special enough that only married couples should share it.

There is a fine line to walk here.  While I want very much to have my children abstain before marriage as I did, too often within my faith--and perhaps within other strains of conservative faiths-- in an effort to keep youth chaste, sex is taught as an evil. Young women taught within this rubric especially can enter marriage unprepared to contribute and cherish the wonder of intimacy with their husbands.

On the other hand, obsession and licentiousness with the powers of procreation and love can lead to destruction of the soul and spirit.

As I have pondered this quandary, I believe that the emphasis should be on whys rather than just obedience to commandments.  If one understand the whys of chastity before marriage, one can also understand the wonder of intimacy within marriage. As one leader of my faith has called it, intimacy within marriage could be considered a sacrament, where we partake with God in the powers of creation - both of new humans but also of love and harmony within the marital companionship.

Now with the apparent coming of age of my three year old (ahem!), I need to not only sort out teaching the why of premarital abstinence, but also what to share when. In the interest of creating an open and honest ongoing conversation, I have decided to adopt an approach where I answer the question in full but limit it to age-appropriate information.

As I develop my strategy, I'd love to know what you do to instill a healthy and chaste attitude towards sex in your children? What have you found that works?

Thanks so much in advance!

Small Wonders:

* Our new, wonderful au pair (pictured below) hails from Columbia.  We like to have her speak in Spanish to the kids.  Gideon calls it "Spanishing." In church last Sunday, a native African got up to bear testimony in English.  Gideon noticed that something in how the man spoke was different and noted it by saying for all to hear, "He-he-he's Spanishing!" Lance witnessed the explication in slow-motion horror from a few feet down the pew (mom was out with the baby) before he could extricate G from the chapel.
* Our friend slipped on the ice this week en route to our home.  G found out and, concerned, said, "Can we help her?  Can we get a bandage for her face? Can we get a sticker for her and put it on her belly button?"
* G has mastered the art of eye-rolling
* Daddy took the kids out for lunch and had to remove them, particularly G for being rude.  Later, when asked what his favorite part of the meal was, G replied, "Being rude."
* G will often tell us when we have a small chore for him, "No, I'm busy now.  I have work to do." When asked what all that entails, he will say "I need to watch a tractor show, and a car show, and a train show in Daddy's office."
* Overheard from G: "I was like, Oh my gosh!" "The monster trucks (snow plows) go the the bathroom on the road and that's why it's dirty."
* I returned one of two barn cats to the animal shelter.  On the way there, the cat in a Havahart trap, G asked, "Is the cat being brave? Does it get a sticker?"
* To G "Let me think" "Are you done thinking?"
* Overheard by E: "Good job me!" "The bird is silly." "The snow is cool!" "Careful on the road!" "Bumpy road!" all said in the cutest baby voice.
* Ingy's "schedule" is coming along nicely.  At eight weeks, she will wake somewhere between 4-6 a.m. for her first feed of the day.  The next feed will begin somewhere between 7:00-8:30, then again at 10:00.  I then try to get her down for an hour before feeding her at 11:30 and keep her up for a "double feed" at 12:30 or 1:00 p.m. right before her long afternoon nap (that is geared to overlap with G &E's naps as I have been working a little during this nap). I will often need to wake her at 4:30 to eat, and then help her sleep for that last fitful nap in my arms before she wakes for the evening routine.  She now eats at 6:30, then it's bath time, a little bit of baby massage and a last bottle feed before going down at 8:00 p.m.  I then don't usually see or hear from her till the early morning feed at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m.  So grateful for the input and advice (explained in more depth in the How-tos section) of my sister of 9, Anjenette, in being able to get so much sleep!

8 weeks tomorrow!

attempting to breastfeed

our new au pair, Valeria. She's absolutely wonderful

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Preparing for Church

Sunday pic from last Spring
"Saturday day is a special day -  
It's the day we get ready for Sunday..."

These words from a primary song learned in my youth echo through my mind as I prepare - all week - for the one hour on Sunday when my two toddlers and now newborn must be quiet at the same time for a whole 70 minutes.

Although Esther likes to narrate life as it passes before her and generally only has one decibel level - near-shouting -we nailed the reverence thing today.  Finally.

So that I can capture and replicate what we did that worked today, here's a run-down of the preparation and real-time management for that 70 minutes:

* purchasing church-appropriate (for the non-Mormons out there, think of attire appropriate for a casual wedding) clothes for three little people and an ever-morphous mama (Lance was asked what size I was, and he said that it depends - true! - three kids in four years means my body shape is constantly changing, making clothing myself in anything but lounge wear a little tricky)
* washing and ironing clothes
* having said clothes ready to wear Sunday morning, usually pulling them out the night before - I actually slept Ingy in her church outfit so she would be ready in time
* purchasing ingredients for a pancake breakfast, including ordering good gluten-free flour online earlier in the week, so that breakfast on Sunday is quick (our health/food issues mean that breakfast foods for us are generally hot and must be cooked that morning) and my kids will eat enough breakfast to avoid any hypoglycemia issues during the 70 minutes
* having the church bag stocked with appropriate church books and activities to hold the attention of two toddlers for 70 minutes
* purchasing quick and healthy snacks and lunch food while grocery shopping - pouches with protein in them, gluten-free peanut butter cracker sandwiches, nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, and rice cakes - so I don't have to make lunches or snacks in the morning and am less frazzled during church
* separating diaper equipment from food and snacks and books so that the person changing diapers doesn't hijack the other
* getting the kids eating by 7:00 a.m. so that I can
* wake and feed Ingy at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. so that she is sleeping during the 70 minutes and I can then feed her during the second hour of church, or 10:30 a.m., rather than during the 70 minutes
* have the kids take turns on my lap, and sit physically close to them
* sit on the front pew on the right so the kids are close enough to see and hear the speakers, I am close to an exit, and there are no visual distractions immediately in front of them
* tell G the words of the hymn before we get to that phrase so he can sing along
* narrate in whispered tones the passing of the bread and water to Esther so that she can participate in the way she understands
* pattern for Esther how to whisper each time she yells her ever-constant narration of life ("they are sharing the water?" "They are coming back?" "We get water now?" "We sing a song?" "All done!")
* bribe both toddlers with treats immediately following church as a reward for reverence; explain to Gideon what kind of reverent behavior I expect during church - sitting with his bum on the pew, not talking loudly, listening or reading books or drawing what the speaker is saying, singing the song; praise them for their reverence throughout the 70 minutes

Just writing it all out makes me tired - I now need a nap!

Question: What do you do that helps your church experience be more reverent?  Would LOVE to know!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Toy Curation: Three Reasons to Buy Vintage or Handmade Toys

Vintage toy tea set purchased for Christmas

I'm moving in slow motion these days, or at least my to-do list is. 

We are starting to get into a routine or rhythm, but other than breastfeeding and child management, very little on my to-dos is getting done.  The former is made more complicated by Ingy's quadruple frenectomy (lip, tongue, and two cheek ties) two weeks ago, but she is finally, finally starting to sort out her new mouth.

In any event, all of this means that we have finally sorted through all of the toys and belongings acquired at Christmas and settled them into our home. Our haul this year was rather massive given that it seems no one thought me capable of doing Christmas with a one-week-old (little did they know that I had finished by mid-October...) and lovingly showered us in a deluge of toys and gifts. 

The size of our home and its storage spaces + my OCD-ness for cleanliness (thanks mom!) meant having to get rid of some old toys to make way for new, re-arranging, and contemplating again just what we want to fill this small little home with.  

When we moved into this 1765 home from our London flat just over a year ago, we essentially had to build our belongings from scratch. We determined that we wouldn't bring anything into this home unless it "sparked joy" (see The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up) for one or more of us.  What sparks joy for me are things that are unique - usually antique, vintage, second hand, or handmade items.  

This applies - especially so - to our toy collection. Here are three reasons I carefully curate our toys:

1) Their stories. Second hand, vintage/antique, and handmade toys tell stories - by the hands of other children or in the hands of its creator.  A toy has had a life before being played with by your child, and if they have survived long enough to have a second life, they are likely well-made and can be passed down from one child to the next and possibly even to another generation.  

the vintage candy dispenser acquired at the dump, wooden blocks at John Lewis in London ; antique wooden train set at a local flea market 

Airplane lamp stand found at Savers in Manchester. Rewired and fitted with a new shade.

2) It's good for the planet. Here in the sticks of New England, we are more connected to our trash and have a good sense of how much our homes operate as large garbage processors because we must clean, sort, and transport our trash and recyclables to the dump rather than having it magically disappear in large plastic receptacles. By buying vintage/antique and handmade toys that will last for a while longer, I know I am saving toys from becoming trash (sometimes literally in their last hopes at the dump) and preventing a future contribution to the large pile of plastic toys residing at our dump or a landfill somewhere. 

In London, rather than buying a new London bus for 50 pounds sterling or Noah's ark, I bought them both second hand - one on eBay, the other at my favorite antiques market, Kempton
This doll is one of my new favorite acquisitions - it belonged to my niece and is one of the rare non-scary dolls I have come across, and came complete with a wardrobe! Thanks, Aunt G!
possibly my favorite vintage toys in our collection are these die-cast metal tractor-trailers from Grandpa Toler - we know whose hands played with these 65 years ago!

other Kempton purchases - the Abicus and child's chair.  Desk purchased at an epicycle store here in Concord. I made the bunting out of an old ottoman cover. Vintage apple crates from an antique dealer at Camden Market in London.

3) Tidyness. I have to look at the toys - all the time.  They clutter the house on a consistent basis.  Since I know this, I try to find toys that double as decor and blend in with furniture and adult fixtures.  Much more pleasant on the eye, and helps the house to feel clean even if the toys are everywhere.

The toys below are always left out and in our family/keeping room; I love looking at them.  

And these hand-made toys are kept out on display in the nursery. 

There is a place for plastic toys in our house - the bath or as outside toys. I have big stuff - swings and a basketball hoop as well as a rollercoaster(!) - in the barn playspace, all acquired second hand; big trucks belong on the back porch, mostly acquired from loved ones. New toys given the children have a special grace period before they find their place in one of these three spots.  There are a few exceptions - the vintage dump truck I got at a garage sale, classics like Mr. Potato head (though it resides out of sight), the ever-popular magna-tiles from Grandma Updike, and Gideon's set of five mini construction vehicles he got from a neighbor. 

If we must acquire a toy or play thing and a vintage or handmade version just won't do, I will get non-plasterboard wooden, metal, or cloth toys. The metal and wood gardening set pictured above next to the vintage walker is case in point. Or some die-cast metal cars Gideon loves (don't get me started on matchbox or monster trucks - they somehow proliferate and are the bane of my existence). Or the Schleich animals are pretty enough to make the cut. Melissa and Doug make a few nice wooden things - like the beautiful train set G's grandparents got him last year, some of their educational shape and letter sets, and the kids (and I) are currently in love with their wooden foodstuff - but other, smaller manufacturers consistently make higher quality, more beautiful wooden toys (like Grimm's - especially their building blocks!).  

I have a feeling fighting the good (toy) fight will continue for quite a while. Here's hoping it is a battle I can win!

Small Wonders 

* G, pensive: "I was thinking we could get my tractor." 
* "Stop teasing Esther." "I wasn't teasing her, I was teasing you." "I don't want to be teased." "I'm just going to tease myself, then."
* Ingy was crying in Lance's arms, and G told him "She wants to eat your booby."
* G asked our new au pair: "Does your mom have bones?"
* "G, go back upstairs and lie down for your nap - it's not over." "We need to talk about that."
* After reading a particularly inspired passage of scripture, I asked Gideon, "Bud, do you feel anything" (thinking he had felt the Spirit) "Yes - green trees and buses."
* listening to our au pair speak to her family, G said, "She's Spanish-ing"
* G is telling stories - long and involved.  They often are connected with "So then what happened is..." He will require you to sit and listen to him. He is also becoming adept in the art of persuasion, and will litter his arguments with things like "The problem is" and "we can't do that," "I dream about [whatever it is]" and his most creative/disturbing line, "I prayed about [ ], and Heavenly Father said [ ]"!
* E has given our au pair, Valeria, a new name, "Ami" - the latter thankfully likes it!
* E comforting Ingy while crying, "Sh-sh-sh." [Patting her] "I'm here." E holding Ingy or coming up to her while not crying will invariably find her feet, tickle her, and say "Tickle tickle!"
* E will indicate she needs individualized attention while I'm feeding or caring for Ingy by saying "Me-me-me!", come hold my hand, or say in her baby voice, "I need some privacy with you!"
* E put a spoon on her nipple during dinnertime and said, "this is my booby pump."
* Ingy is nearly six weeks and started smiling at two, caught on video. She smiles and coos and interacts on a regular basis, and makes it hard to keep her or anyone else on schedule.  She is sleeping 6-8 hours at night and is basically on a schedule. She is certainly our best behaved child at the moment! 

Playing "Zootrain" while getting her hair done has become a morning staple for this little girl.

Helping Esther over the ice from the play ground

Can't believe she's over a month old now!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Finally Getting Our Ingrid Elisabeth

Our Ingrid Elisabeth Toler joined us on December 18 at 9:20 p.m., weighing in at 7 lbs. 12 oz. and measuring 22 inches long. 

Her name is a special one, deriving from her paternal grandmother and deceased maternal aunt. It is one that her parents knew long before they conceived the first time, and have tried to give it to both of her older siblings before they found out Gideon was a boy and Esther was—well, Esther. We are thrilled she is finally here!  Her birth story is recorded below.  [Warning: men, this may not be your best read...]

Like her older sister, Ingrid Elisabeth was born at home with midwives attending. I had a fairly long pre/early labor that lasted seven days (!), with a couple of false alarms. Do not feel sorry for me - it was all fairly mild but for those false alarms.  I think my pride was hurt for crying wolf more than anything else!  (You would have thought I knew what I was doing with it being my third...)  Every day was the same thing: really benign contractions beginning mid-morning and building up till bedtime when they would inexplicably stop.  I presume at this point our little Ingy just got tired and gave up the fight so she and I could both get a good night's sleep!

Finally, on day five I learned from my older sister that her body did the same thing with her younger children.  That helped me relax about everything, but I still was nervous about venturing too far from home, thinking that having done as much work as it had, my body could kick things into high gear at any moment and I wouldn't have a chance to birth the way I wanted.

However, next time (heaven willing), I'll know better.  My body just takes a lo-o-ong time to get labor going.  With the kids gone for the weekend, and having completed the last of the very last projects on my back-up to-do list, by Sunday morning on the 18th I had relaxed enough that little Ingy decided to make her appearance.  

Contractions started at 1:30 a.m., and were strong enough to sort of wake me up, but I was able to sleep in-between. They gently continued throughout the morning while I quasi-slept, then Lance and I watched funny DVDs and just relaxed, I took a bath, I played the piano and sang a bit, then the doula showed up around 4:00 p.m. and Lance got a break.  At that point I finally needed to hold someone's hand through each contraction, and did a few hypnobirthing exercises with the doula.  Around 5:00 p.m. the midwife showed up and began assembling the birth pool.  I paced the floor with Lance and sang Primary songs in-between contractions for a couple of hours till I felt the contractions were quite strong and I needed to get into the birth pool.  I did and labored hard for two hours with Lance providing physical comfort and breathing through the contractions with me and my mom on the phone verbally walking me through each one.  I was able to zone out, or down, at this point and finally get in a good hypnobirthing zone - something I've wanted for the previous two labors but was unable to achieve. Throughout, though I wasn't able to verbalize much, I felt really grateful that I had the exact amount of support I needed to labor at that advanced stage calmly and peacefully. 

At 9:25 p.m. or so, I had dilated to a 6-7, then had three fairly strong transition contractions. I had stood up when the last contraction came, and it was at once transition, crowning, and there was a baby all within a few seconds.  It caught all of us by surprise, and the midwife didn't realize what was happening until she heard me panting (the kind of breathing one is suppose to do to prevent tearing) - I was so deep into hypnobirthing, that I didn't utter the normal laboring mother cry to which she had become accustomed - and had to run and dive to catch the baby!  I sort of caught the baby, too, with one hand, the other still holding the phone with my mom on it so it didn't fall into the water!  Ingrid came out, like Esther, in the sack, my water having never broken.

We were lucky I had stood up before that last contraction, as the umbilical cord was extremely short.  Had I not, the midwives could have snapped the cord pulling her out of the water or I would have had to stand up, delaying her exit from the water (all fine considering she was passing from water to water). 

In all, despite its very slow beginning, it was about as perfect a labor as I could have hoped for.  I was able to alternate between active laboring tactics and hypnobirthing, and was able to go deeply into hypnobirthing when it really mattered.  I was so very grateful for the support I had - husband, mom, midwife (plus a lovely student), and doula, especially Lance and my mom.  They knew exactly what I needed.  That and our sweet baby, who politely allowed me to labor throughout the day rather than night and then slept all night so I could recover!   

These two are so cute with their baby sister. They want to hold her or interact first thing on waking or coming home. Their exuberance far outweighs their need for extra attention. I'm much relieved!

And because you can never have too many pictures of your newborn...

Two days old.

Christmas Day

Getting the jaundice out with sun baths.

Small Wonders:
- "My conversation is driving me crazy.  Logan and Truman are like, 'What are you doing?' and I was like 'You are driving me crazy!'
-  When I told G to stop annoying Esther, he plaintively asked, "Can I annoy you?"
-  Me: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good..." [pause waiting to see if G had paid attention to the children's version of A Christmas Carol] G: "future!"
- G started Primary at church with the big kids.  I asked him how it was and what songs he learned, and he said "I don't want to talk about it."
- "I'm doing the pooping dance." Then danced his way to the potty.
* Esther-isms
- "I like your outfit"
- "That's scary"

We had a full (mini) cast! for the Christmas Eve Luke 2 reading...

Don't know how Santa fit her down the chimney without waking her...

Grateful E has her own baby doll.  She'll often mimic doing whatever I am with her dolly. 

While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads...