I feel like life is both speeding up and slowing down at the same time. This week I will be 36 weeks pregnant, and I can feel myself moving into a sort of dream-like liminal space as my baby’s birth approaches. At the same time, life is so busy that the days fly by, and I don’t feel ready to walk through the doorway into the life where I’m a mom of five and waking up every few hours to feed a baby. But walking through that doorway isn’t really optional, so here I go. In other news… here are six things that have been on my mind these days…
I don’t doubt that the Internet is full of posts like this. I haven’t checked. But apparently humankind is in need of more reminders, so I’m going to put another post out there.
Everywhere I go, people seem to feel compelled to say things. I’m not necessarily surprised, but it is still somewhat mind-boggling to me what people feel comfortable saying to pregnant women. Some of my favorite courses in college were linguistics-based, and I’m pretty sure I remember learning that dogs, babies, and pregnant women change the boundaries of human interaction. There was a fancy linguistics term for this phenomenon, but it escapes me at the moment. (If you happen to know what I’m talking about, I would adore it if you could remind me of this fancy linguistic term.) Basically, if you happen to be pregnant, with a baby, or with a dog, people will be more likely than normal to speak to you (or touch you/your baby/dog). People let down their guard more when they’re around pregnant women, dogs, and babies. I’ve especially noticed this while wearing my babies.
Sometimes these pregnancy interactions are pleasant. Older women often tell me about their daughters who are due to deliver or recently delivered. Men often offer to help me carry things. I don’t mind these kinds of interactions at all. But some of my day-to-day interactions leave me feeling, well… HUGE… or even more huge than I already feel.
Dearest Humans, I love you. You aren’t trying to be insensitive. I get that. But let me just offer a few suggestions that will make all the pregnant women you encounter so very appreciative.
Back in September, before we had even pulled our kids out of school, I started perusing homeschool stuff on Pinterest. I think that’s where I first heard about Tinker Crate. After we officially started homeschooling, I spent even more time on Pinterest adding things to my “Homeschooling” board. Truly I don’t know how anyone did homeschool before Pinterest. There are so many amazing and free resources out there. Thank you, interwebs! I love that we can all have access to and benefit from the ingenious ideas of people all over the world. I knew that I wanted our homeschool experience to include lots of hands-on learning, so I knew Tinker Crate was something I wanted to “pin” for future reference.
Basically, Tinker Crate offers a monthly subscription for hands-on learning projects for kids. The company creating these projects has crates for several age groups: Koala Crate (for ages 3-4) and Kiwi Crate (for ages 5-8). Tinker Crate (science, technology, and engineering projects) and Doodle Crate (arts and crafts projects) are for ages 9-16+. These kits are great for anyone, not just homeschoolers. (p.s. They didn’t ask me to do this review. One of my FB friends did.)
I have children ranging in age from 4 to 12, but I wanted the projects to be challenging for the older kids, and I felt like my building-all-the-time 6-year-old was beyond what the Kiwi Crate offered. So, after finding a Pinterest coupon code for 30% off my first order, I went ahead and took the Tinker Crate plunge. Since then we have received two Tinker Crate projects in the mail.
So I had a total meltdown this afternoon. Lately I seem to crumble into tears at least once every week or two. I know this is common for many pregnant women, but I’m not generally a weepy pregnant woman. Usually it happens more when I’m sleep-deprived, but I’ve actually been getting plenty of sleep lately thanks to our lax homeschooling schedule. Today it was triggered by a midwife appointment.
It’s kind of a long story, but I’ll just summarize by saying that my glucose levels have become a bit of a concern. So I’ll be doing the 3-hour glucose test on Wednesday morning. At my appointment, my levels (tested via finger-prick and diabetic test strips) were nerve-racking. My midwife is recommending that I reduce my carb intake even if my 3-hour results come back OK, just to work on eating healthier in general for myself and my baby. She also recommended taking more walks since exercise is one good way to reduce high blood-sugar levels.
I was so relieved that my husband’s car was in the driveway when I arrived home. I was feeling panicky, and I knew having him there would help. Almost as soon as I walked in the door, tears were welling-up in my eyes. I spent the next hour or so texting my sister with tears streaming down my face almost the whole time, and intermittently crying on my husband’s shoulder.
I don’t have a lot of tasks in my morning routine. Get up. Use the bathroom. Drink water. Go into the backyard. Sit in the sunlight. The rest of the morning varies from day to day, but these first five items happen almost without fail.
Some time in the last few weeks, as I basked in the mercifully-cooler-November morning AZ sunshine, with my shirt pulled up above my belly as usual to maximize the skin exposure for vitamin d, I started thinking about how easily light travels through the skin. This is a fact most children given a flashlight are delighted to discover. Earlier today, one of my kids shouted, “Look, Mom, my finger is red,” holding a light behind her fingertip. I’ve noticed that the baby in my womb, if she hadn’t been “awake” yet, usually wakes up and starts wiggling and kicking once I’m outside with my belly in the sun. So I’ve been wondering… what, if any, effect does my daily sun routine have on my baby?
Only you know the truth about your own history, because it is kept within the cellular memory in your body. -Peter Bourquin
February will mark five years since my youngest daughter’s birth. It will also mark five years since I learned that my daughter was very likely sharing my womb with a twin for a brief time. We don’t hear much about the vanishing twin phenomenon, but it’s actually fairly common. It is likely that one out of every ten people is actually a womb twin survivor. And 21-30% of pregnancies that begin with multiple fetuses result in a vanished twin. I didn’t know about my daughter’s twin until a few days after her birth, and until a few days ago my daughter was not consciously aware of him.
It started with a homeschool discussion about how babies are born. We watched some cool YouTube computer animation videos of the conception, pregnancy, and birth process. We looked at some books. I answered the many questions my kids had. One of the diagrams we looked at showed a picture of a placenta. My son wanted to know more about it. This led to pulling out pictures I had taken of his and his younger sister’s placentas. And then pulling the frozen placentas out of the freezer (where they still await a meaningful commemorative tree-planting or something). Then things got a little intense.
About three weeks ago I wrote my first “Five Things for Friday” post. Time for another quintuplet of randomness, I think.
I learned a fun fact about kissing and breastfeeding this past week. Many of you probably saw this on facebook, but I want to share it again here just in case. It’s rare that the word awesome is applied to something that is truly awe-inspiring, but this really is:
Kissing your baby changes your breast milk. Did you know that the undeniable urge to cover your baby in kisses serves a biological purpose? When a mother kisses her baby, she samples the pathogens on baby’s face, which then travel to mom’s lymphatic system. Mom’s body then creates antibodies to fight those pathogens, which baby receives through breast milk. What?! Amazing, right? (quoted from 10 Things You Might Not Know About Breastfeeding)
I learned something similar related to nipples and “baby backwash” a couple of months ago. Katie Hinde, a biologist, associate professor, and blogger at Mammals Suck… Milk! shared these fascinating details with Angela Garbes for her breastmilk post on The Stranger:
According to Hinde, when a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. . . . If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother’s body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby’s body, where they target the infection (Source).
Over the past few weeks, I have devoured Peter Gray’s Free to Learn, a book recommended by one of my readers. Gray is a psychology research professor at Boston College, author, blogger, and a parent. I added that last title because parenthood has a huge impact on how people view children and education. This point was made almost humorous in The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn who cited example after example of teachers who revised their homework policies after their own children began bringing homework home. This particular passage is underlined and surrounded by stars in my copy of Kohn’s book:
“Now that I’m a parent myself,” one fourth grade teacher in North Carolina said, “I realize they have lives at home” (The Homework Myth, p. 23).
Ha ha! I realize they have lives at home. Cracks me up every time. So it was important to me that Free to Learn‘s author Peter Gray was a father himself in addition to being an “expert.” In fact, the first words of his book come straight out of one of his most painful challenges as a father—the day his nine-year-old son told him to “Go to hell” as they sat in the school principal’s office. Gray explained:
We were there to present a united front, to tell Scott in no uncertain terms that he must attend school and must do there whatever he was told by his teachers to do. We each sternly said our piece, and then Scott, looking squarely at us all, said the words that stopped me in my tracks (p. ix).
Both Gray and his wife immediately began to cry, and in that moment they both knew what they had to do. They pulled him out of the school, and “not just from that school but from anything that was anything like that school” (p. x). Free to Learn presents educational history and research through the lens of Gray’s own experience as a father striving to provide his son with a learning environment suited to his needs.
My friend Heather used to write a “Five Things for Friday” post on her blog every week. I always loved those posts. Anyway… I felt like writing one of my own this week since I have lots of stuff I want to tell you beautiful people but not enough time to devote a whole blogpost to each subject. I don’t know that I will do this every week like Heather did, but maybe every few weeks or so? Here goes…
You remember the dad and his Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding?
That’s me and magnesium.
Something hurting? Magnesium! Can’t sleep? Magnesium! Constipated? Magnesium! Morning sickness? Magnesium! Kid stuck a marble up her nose? Magnesium! Ha. I jest. But really in my mind there are few things that can’t be helped with some extra magnesium.
If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you’re well aware of my magnesium obsession. No shortage of posts about its many uses and virtues around here:
Last Sunday I was talking with a new friend who had her first baby just seven weeks ago. As my kids gathered around, we admired the sweet bundle asleep on her chest. Addressing my oldest daughter, I pouted and said, “I remember when you were that tiny! And I was like I don’t know what I’m doing!” Turning to my new friend, I added, pointing to my oldest daughter, “And look! They still turn out OK!” Seeing my friend starting her path as a mother brought back so many memories. One day you’re just a girl with a belly full of baby, and then BAM… a brand new person is in your arms, and you begin a crash course in motherhood. Tomorrow will mark the twelfth anniversary of my initiation into Mom-life. My first baby is turning twelve. Wha..?!
Here are some pics from my daughter’s first year (from the fat and elaborate scrapbook I somehow had time to make for her but not for any of my other kids… you know, back when people were still scrapbooking with actual printed photos and actual paper… and the photos were taken without a digital camera, and half the roll of film was always out of focus or just bad shots…ha).
When I was living with my mom between the ages of eight and eleven, I had one primary complaint about going with her to the grocery store. It took for-ev-er. My mom moves at a slow pace in general, but what made these trips exceptionally long was that she looked at the label on ev-ry-thing. At the time I was impatient and annoyed, but now (as we often do) I’ve become that mom myself. The more health-conscious I’ve become, the more I care about just what the manufacturers put in that “sour cream.” Thank you, Daisy brand, for limiting the ingredient(s) to just one.
I know I’m not alone in this. I’d wager that if you’re reading my blog you probably have similar concerns about what’s in your food. Last year I took those concerns to a crazy-intense obsessive-compulsive level, so I have had to make an effort to consciously avoid looking at every label for the past year. But as much as I try not to be obsessive about it, I do still care about what’s in our food.
I like to buy organic, but it’s not always available or affordable for us. So the next best thing, in my mind, is to find the products with the least number of ingredients… preferably all things I can pronounce and recognize as “safe.” For years I bought Breyers “natural” vanilla ice cream for this reason. Among the varieties available at our local grocer it had the fewest and least suspect components. Then I tried Haagen-dazs vanilla. So not cheap, but oh my gosh it tasted light-years better than Breyers and had even fewer ingredients (cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract). It’s really creamy and delicious, but I always kind of feel a little guilty supporting a Nestle product. My dad swears Tillamook “old-fashioned” vanilla is the absolute best vanilla on the planet, but I can’t get past the label. At least they’re working on transitioning to a recipe without Carageenan, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Mono and Diglycerides, and Polysorbate 80 early next year.
My 6-year-old gave me a heart attack this morning. I went into his room, as usual, to wake him up for school, but he was gone. At first I thought, “Cool, he’s already up! I don’t have to drag him out of bed.” But when I couldn’t find him anywhere in the house, I had a mild freak out. Logically, I should have known he was somewhere in the house. All the doors were locked. But I still went into a panic, frantically calling his name as I searched, convinced someone had somehow entered our home and stolen our son. I enlisted the help of my older daughters and dialed my husband’s cell number. But my 9-year-old knew just where to look.
Under the bed. There he was. Hiding. The first words out of his mouth:
“I don’t want to go!”
Even as he dressed himself and finally came out for breakfast, he repeated, “I don’t like school!” His sister promptly told him, “No one likes school!” As we sat in traffic, driving to the dreaded locale (since we missed the bus… again), he said, “Mom, I feel sick.” I knew he wasn’t physically ill. I dropped him off, and all the way home I started composing this blogpost in my head.
Kids are at school 7 or 8 hours a day. That’s a full working day, and why should they have to take work home? -Etta Kralovec, an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Arizona South
So we moved over the summer. Not because we wanted to, but circumstances required it. Despite our sadness at leaving a house and neighborhood we loved, we do really like our new living situation. Here’s the view from our kitchen table…
Unfortunately, we don’t really like our new schooling situation. We were really pleased with our former school. The kids were doing really well, their teachers were great, the principal was great, they had plenty of time after school to relax and play and do chores. Now they are attending a new school, and it has become a significant source of stress in my life. <—That’s a diplomatic way of saying they are seriously pissing me off.
The purest thing in the world is the heart of the mother. . . . It can move God. It can move the Universe. It can cause an effect beyond limitation. The heart of the mother is the greatest power of Infinity ever given to any finite being. -Yogi Bhajan, Women’s Camp 1977
Imagine you have an invisible shield surrounding your body, protecting you. And imagine that your newborn baby doesn’t have a shield of her own. Your shield is, in fact, your baby’s shield. Imagine that being within your “bubble of peace” can regulate your baby’s heart rate, temperature, breathing, and keep her immune system functioning optimally. Imagine that you have that kind of power… because you do.
Last March I shared something “new” I learned at my first yoga teacher training class. I put new in quotation marks because the truth is that I already knew it on some level. I felt compelled to keep my babies very close to me for the first years of their lives, and now I’m more grateful than ever that I did. Here’s the “news” I’m referring to: