Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Weather Outside is Frightful....

Ice dams on the roof. Twenty feet of snow everywhere. Plowing at 2am. Driving 4 kids across town every morning. Missing fun things because of bad weather. Days and days of below-zero weather. Fender-benders. This is our life in a Minnesota winter right now.... I'm sure most of you can commiserate!
Grace voluntarily went out and shoveled a path to the garage and the compost bin! What a girl.

Richard's job with the city means he has a plow route and so far this winter he has had days and days and days of plowing, many times starting between 2 and 4 am. Yuck. And when he's done working, he comes home and shovels or clears off the roof.

Richard's Plow

I told him I'd take care of the shoveling while he's out plowing.

I got half of the driveway shoveled and he went and bought a snow blower.

Smart man.

I miss grilling on the deck and sipping wine in the evenings watching the stars... 
I feel like complaining. A lot. So I'll just end it here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy

Almost 12 years ago, I was a single 20-year-old mother living with family friends and figuring out how to take care of a little baby. I was working full time. I was not breastfeeding. There are a lot of other things I could say about that time, but that's a different post. What I want to bring up about that time is that the wonderful, generous, loving family who was letting me live in their basement with my 3-month old baby for free had some parenting practices that I thought a little weird.
They had a Family Bed. The mom nursed her children until they were 3 years old. The youngest of their three children was about 3 years old when I lived with them and she was the most articulate and loquacious toddler I had ever met. To me there was something very disconcerting about hearing her talk in complex and complete sentences, using words like "invalid", "governess", and "disagreeable" (true!!) one minute, and then having "Milk and Cuddles" the next. It just seemed "wrong" to me, though I couldn't make an argument as to WHY it was wrong (can anyone say cultural programming?) and I remember confidently (and arrogantly) pronouncing, "If they're old enough to ask for it they're too old to nurse!" To my mind, nothing could be worse than growing up and being able to remember nursing. Eeeew!
Fast forward 6 years. Moses is born, and I have something of a "natural parenting" mindset, but it has yet to flesh out. We're using cloth diapers, I carry him in a sling, he sleeps in bed with us and I know I'll nurse him for a year. Then he turns one. He's no where near being ready to wean. In fact, he still seems like - he still is -  a baby in most ways and I see no reason to put him through the misery that weaning would entail, any more than I would suddenly insist that he start using the toilet instead of going in his diapers. He's just not ready!

We decide to "play it by ear." At 20 months old his little brother is born. Instead of being pushed off Mama's lap, he gets to nurse with this new little sibling. They share Mama. Moses holds his brother's hand and rubs his head as they tandem nurse. The jealous older sibling rages I've been dreading never happen. They love each other! (Until Judah becomes a toddler, then we have a whole other ball of wax to deal with....)

Now Moses is two. He's still nursing for naps, bedtime, anytime he gets hurt, anytime he's scared, anytime he goes through something emotionally difficult, anytime he needs connection. He's not ready to wean and I see no reason to insist that he does, any more than I would insist that he put himself to bed at night.

Finally it's a couple months before Moses turns three. I've been tandem nursing for over a year. I'm pregnant again. I cannot handle the thought of tandem nursing through a whole pregnancy. Moses is still nursing at bedtime and naptime and various other times during the day, as is Judah. I decide IT'S TIME. HE'S READY! The kid is not going to wean himself, but he's emotionally ready to handle the change. He's ready to move on to forms of comfort and connection that do not involve nursing. 

I introduce the concept of "nums are for night-night." This means we only nurse at bedtime. With only a little fuss, he accepts that boundary. So far so good. Several weeks go by during which I'm preparing him for the change. "Soon you will be done with nums! You're a big boy and we're going to give the nums to Judah and the new baby. Mama will still cuddle you and read you stories." Does he understand what's coming? I'm not sure, but one night I tell him he's all done with nums. He's sad. He cries. I cuddle him and read him a story. It's not as good as nums, but he does go to sleep. For about a week he is sad when I tell him no nums. A few times he gets hurt and I let him have some nums, but mostly I spend a lot of time cuddling and connecting with him. Then it's over! He's weaned! He stops being sad at night and stops asking for nums. Once or twice he asks and I tell him sure and he says, "I guess no." There were no tantrums, no acting out, no sobbing hysterically. He cried a little here and there, but he pretty much accepted it and moved on with no hard feelings. 

All in all, Moses and I had a beautiful and satisfying nursing relationship. Besides giving him perfect nutrition and great immune defense (he's always been super healthy - much more so than Grace ever was!), nursing gave Moses a sense of comfort when life got scary, it calmed him down when his feelings got too intense, it lulled him to sleep, and it gave him the connection he always needed after he'd been out exploring the world. Nursing kept me physically available to Moses. I wonder how much less touch and physical connection we would have had in those 3 years if I hadn't nursed him. I see it now, how nursing Judah and Clementine forces me to touch and hold and connect with them - forces in a good way, in a I-can't-get-too-busy-and-just-forget-to-cuddle-my-kids way. And now that Moses isn't nursing, I do

So here I am, a mom who nurses her kids to 3 years old. Is it gross? No. Is it "wrong"? No. Was I uninformed and naive and arrogantly passing judgment on something based solely on unexamined cultural biases? Yep, pretty much. And although I'm not hugely outspoken about my extended breastfeeding, neither am I ashamed of it, at all. So just in case you think breastfeeding past a year is weird or gross, or maybe you don't want to wean your 1-year-old but don't know anyone who's nursed that long, I'm sharing my story and some really good resources. And you know what? I hope my kids do remember nursing, and how incredibly special it was. I'm proud to have given 3 of my children such a precious gift.

P.S. - Judah turns three in February and we're in the weaning process. He's handling it differently than Moses did (they are SUCH different kids...), but he also is accepting it without tantrums or despair or sobbing. He's ready too.


References, links, common concerns and tips on parenting a nursing toddler: Kellymom Nursing After the First Year

The best book under the sun for anyone who nurses past a year:
Mothering Your Nursing Toddler. This book has saved my sanity and changed how I view mothering. I would love to loan it out, but it's really, really worth owning.

"My first-born, Emma, was 14 months old. I had enrolled in a course, and, with the feeling of my life opening up again, had begun to wean. It was at that time that I read a book called Mothering Your Nursing Toddler. Starting with the assumption that extended breastfeeding is satisfying for both mother and child, the author, Norma Jane Bumgarner writes of the security, confidence and self-esteem that we give our children when we allow them to nurse, and wean, according to their own schedule. She certainly convinced me, and Emma and I went on to nurse happily for three more years.
Re-reading the book six years later, her message seems less radical. My three keen nurslings have, to me, well proven the benefits of an extended breastfeeding relationship, with a physical resilience and emotional independence that comes, I believe, from the access to loving arms and the secure base that breastfeeding provides. Over the years I have also learned about the more tangible advantages of extended nursing..."
The Pleasure of Extended Breastfeeding by Sarah J. Buckley

A super cool video on extended breastfeeding. I big puffy heart love this video:

This is a goldmine, a serious goldmine: LLLI Nursing Past One Year Articles

For those who might feel isolated, you're not alone: Breastfeeding Until Age 3, 4 or 5: More common than you think?

Oh the things I've heard about breastfeeding past a year. It helps to know: Dr. Sears - Handling the Criticism

Other moms talk about nursing past a year: Health Happy Roundup: Extended Breastfeeding

Every one of these is worth reading start to finish: Breastfeeding Past Infancy Articles

One of the first articles I read about extended breastfeeding:
Breastfeed a Toddler? Why on Earth?
Think there's no point in nursing past a year? You couldn't be more wrong: Extended Breastfeeding's Benefits

This article broke my heart and renewed my confidence all at the same time. It's not a list of the research and benefits, but to my mind it's even more convincing: A Nursing Triad

Friday, December 24, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual.  Photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Seven Years of Pure, Unadulterated Bliss!!

 Our Wedding, 12.19.03

Seven years later....

I realized we have very few pictures of the two of us together...not sure why, probably because we're so busy taking pictures of this brood of children that has sprung up around us!
Also it's hard to take pictures of yourself. 
But now we have this awesome new iMac with PhotoBooth, so here's our 7 year anniversary pictures!
Finally some picture of just the two of us....mostly.....

So Happy 7th Anniversary to my Dear and Loving Husband.
I love you!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Preschool

Okay, so I'm waaaay behind in blogging, but if you don't mind I don't mind. Here's some pics from our Thanksgiving preschool co-op. These kids are so much fun!!

We focused on being thankful (there's lots of turkey and pilgrim crafts out there but it seemed to me thankfulness was a better emphasis). I used the verse from Psalm 100 (which we've memorized in Circle Time) that says, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His name" as our "theme" and had the kids draw some pictures of what they were thankful for. 

Even though Judah's not officially preschool age yet, he and little Theia enjoy participating here and there. 

The first thing Moses wrote was "BIBLE". I was so proud!! Then he wrote MOVIES (he asked me how to spell it of course) and then TOYS. Okay, well one out of three ain't bad.

Judah just scribbled on his, but Olivia and David had fun with princesses, Hercules the family dog, and monster trucks. All important things to be thankful for!

Mr. Mo Man surveying his work

I made each of the kids a little linen napkin. Since I procrastinate horribly in preparing for this co-op, I was not able to follow these instructions for hemming the edges and making mitered corners as I initially planned. Instead I just sewed a 1/2 inch around the edge of the napkins, threw them in the wash and dryer, and cleaned up the frayed edges a little for a more "rustic" (read "lazy sewer") look.

Then we traced each child's hand on the napkin with fabric markers (thanks to Mrs. P!) and let the kids decorate with their own drawings. This was pretty fun and something that I'm sure both moms will want to hang on to for a long time.  =]

Mr. David working on his linen napkin.

Hard at work

 We read some books about Thanksgiving that I had gotten from the library, and Moses and David especially were very interested in the story of the Pilgrims. Sailing on the boat, making friends with the Indians, and planting a fish with each corn seed were all details they remembered well. 
Unfortunately I found it somewhat difficult to find good books about Thanksgiving! Having not previewed all the books before co-op started (refer to above comment about my procrastination), I eagerly began reading several books to the kids only to find them to be full of CRAZY stuff and then having to discard them. One book talked about the "tradition" of Thanksgiving coming from many different cultures, starting with the Greeks and Romans, and from African and Native American spiritualism... really?? I mean, I know other cultures have ways to show and celebrate thankfulness, but THANKSGIVING is a holiday directly and soley coming from the Christian Pilgrims of North America!! (And I believe Squanto and Samoset were Christians too, were they not?)

Anyway, I was disappointed (but not terribly surprised) to find several books that just talked about Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful in a very general and unspecific way and didn't really mention the role of the Christian faith in the story of the First Thanksgiving.

But there are a couple gems out there! We super duper love this book:
Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness

This book is the true story of three siblings- Mary, Remember and Bartholomew Allerton- who actually made the journey on the Mayflower with their parents, and the story is told from their perspective. It is chock-full of information about the Mayflower and all the people who sailed to the New World on her. This makes it very interesting for older kids, but the story is simple enough to engage small children too. There certainly are some sad parts (the children's mother and infant sibling die), but that is a true part of the Pilgrims' story! And the faith these amazing people had in God is clearly portrayed. All around awesome book. We own this one.

This was a cool book as well because it uses photos of a real replica of the Mayflower and people dressed in accurate costumes. Although we didn't read every word on every page, the kids really loved the pictures.

A good one for older kids:
The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh

And two fun ones for young ones:

The Very First Thanksgiving Day by Rhonda Gowler Greene

Friday, December 3, 2010

"T" for Turtle

This made me laugh:

Moses came to me with a piece of paper he had cut out in a sort of tombstone shape, with little squares drawn all over it and asked me to guess what it was.

A cookie?
A phone?
A remote control?
I give up!

"I'll give you a hint, Mom." Moses said. "I'll tell you what letter it starts with."


"Um, hmmm.....what letter does "turtle" start with?"


"Okay, it starts with 't'."

Is it a turtle?

"Yes!!! Mom, how did you guess?!"

Friday, November 19, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual.  Photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


With Grace in school this year for the first time EVER, I am back to the basics of homeschooling. Moses is almost 4 1/2 years old and we're doing a very informal preschool together this year.

I started our homeschooling adventure with Grace in Kindergarten in 2004 when she was 5 years old. Although I loved homeschooling and being with Grace, looking back I know I was too rigid and uptight about it all. As a result, we were both burned out at the end of our first year. Neither of us enjoyed school and we were both glad to be done with it each day. I just didn't have to right ideas and attitudes about school at home. We didn't have an atmosphere of learning and I didn't foster the joy of discovery in Grace, but instead focused too much on "getting it right" and "finishing this page" so it would look like I was a good teacher and so I would "have something to show" for our homeschooling efforts.

Hopefully I've learned enough by now to avoid that with Moses. I want Moses to love learning. I want him to learn without knowing that he's "doing school." I want to follow his lead a little bit and let him "take off" with the things that really grip his imagination. And I hope my goal isn't to have a workbook full of perfectly finished pages, but a little boy who is eager each day to discover more of what the world has in store for him.

The world is so full of a number of things, 

I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

We're also doing a relaxed and informal preschool co-op with my dear friend Debby. She has a Kindergartener and a preschooler, as well as a toddler and new baby, so it's both very fun and a little chaotic. We take turns teaching and hosting and have two co-ops a month. We have a "theme book", a letter and sometimes a holiday/season theme. Moses totally loves it.

So here's some of the things we've been doing, and at the bottom of this post are some resources that I rely on heavily for inspiration and encouragement. Judah, of course, also joins in on many things Moses and I are doing. After all, that's what homeschooling is about, right?!

My first co-op was "T" for tree. The kids glued sticks, bark, pinecones and these little fabric leaves I got from the dollar store onto a letter 'T' printed on cardstock. 
Didn't they do a great job?

(This is Judah's)  =]

 These are the tops of trees waiting to be stuck onto their trunks. 
(Project found here)

A trip to the apple orchard is full of fun and learning opportunities!

We've had lots of other fun learning experiences, but unfortunately Mama hasn't gotten pictures of much. Moses is totally into snakes, basic electrical wiring (I'm very serious), learning how to write all his letters, and drawing elaborate scenes and creatures. Judah is learning so much just by being around Moses, which is nice! I didn't have the experience with Grace, obviously, of a younger child just picking up stuff from the older ones.

Hopefully I'll be able to post more about our preschooling adventures this year! Here's some great resources:


Simply Charlotte Mason: 

Elizabeth Foss - 


World Book Preschool Course of Study  (Good for reference but not as a rigid "to-do list")


The Big Book of Home Learning : Preschool and Elementary