Thursday, December 29, 2011

Terrible Horrible Miserable Me

Today I'm having a bad day. A rotten, miserable, horrible day. This is day 5 of my family being sick. I'm overtired, not feeling well myself and I'm stressed. I'm stressed about my baby who is not just sick with bronchitis- which would be bad enough- but she also has a genetic disease (PKU) which makes everything oh so much more complicated.

I like having control over my environment- I live a very routine based life. I like having and following rules. I don't like surprises.

But I'm like a helpless babe when it comes to my dealing with my daughter. This is her third illness in the last 9 weeks. I feel humbled and it is an uncomfortable feeling.

I could explain the legitimate reasons to be stressed about her illness. I could ask for pity for the little sleep i've gotten and the stress i've had in the last week- family stress, battling a religious understanding that I don't really want to accept, my oldest turning 6, having to put our dog down.

I spent this morning telling myself how miserable this week has been. And then when the hospital called with the latest blood work results I dissolved into tears and filled with anger.

I feel so alone. I feel so responsible for everything. I feel so angry. I wonder what it feels like to really lose it, I wonder when you know you've hit the breaking point. Standing in the middle of my living room bawling- trying to gain perspective. It could be worse. I'm not in the middle of war. I'm not watching my children starve to death. I have a family. I am so blessed.

So what do you do when you feel like you cannot take it anymore- you pray. And you pray. And you pray. And when you still cannot get up you keep praying until you can. And you know that there is a lesson here.

And know that it might get worse-that it *will* get worse- but that life isn't about today or this week.

So i'll go sweep the floor, make lunch - snuggle my little and not little babies and pray that tomorrow is better. I will find comfort in the routines of my life until I find peace.

I won't continue my little pity party today (although i 'm still pretty crabby)- but won't promise not to have another one tomorrow. But I have faith. I will have faith. There is a plan and a reason and lesson here.

Parenting is hard.

Living is hard.

Loving is hard.

Life is hard.

But it is all so worth it.

tell me what's awesome in your life right now- what makes everything else worth it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What you NEED to know about Toys for children under 10

When my first child was born I was a part of a mom and baby group. We went to each other's house once a week and let our babies play and agonized over how little we slept, how little they ate and what exactly we were supposed to be D-O-I-N-G with our babies all day long.

Such is the joy of being a first time mom. It is great to get baby snuggles- but by about 3 months old you look around and say- I've been slacking- I need to catch up. My baby hasn't learned anything in the last three months except how to latch. I'll get her some toys.

And so it begins.

Toys- Toys- Toys- Toys.

There is nothing as wonderful as seeing your child's eyes light up when they get a new toy- and nothing as wonderful as the feeling you get when watch them playing with the toy and loving it! It is almost addictive- such an easy way to get a smile and at least 20 mins of facebook time- a dollarstore trinket or a new toy to their set. Seems harmless enough.

And every different toy seems to come in sets- so you feel that it is somehow incomplete if you have the little people farm and no extra animals, and then you get a few more people with the animals and you realize you need a house for them, and school bus for the kids to go to school and a playground and the next thing you realize is that you have an awful lot of plastic. And year after year, child after child- birthdays and holidays = presents and you end up with more and more and more. And it all looks in new condition- so you cannot justify throwing it away. And you hesitate to break up the set you've spent the last 3 years collecting.....

What are you to do?

I know of some parents who keep the toys in large plastic totes, sometimes by set- one little pony tote, one littlest pets shop tote - or sometimes by color - all the red toys, all the blue toys, etc- and sometimes by skill types - gross motor skill toys grouped together, complex cognitive toys grouped together. And yet in time-and with enough children- the system falls apart and you are left with a heap of colorful pieces that no one uses for their once intended purpose.

I muse on this today as i have been cleaning toys for two hours this morning and am not finished yet. The puzzles were mixed up, the boxes overturned and now i'm left to pick up the pieces- literally. And i'm really struggling not to just toss them all away.

Alone they look meaningless and worthless. They are in a heap in my stairwell as I sort between what belongs in the toyroom downstairs and what belongs in the girl's bedrooms. It is now i am tempted to toss them. But I know that once they are in their place my resolve will have weakened. Afterall when the My Little Pony sits amidst all of her matching pony's I can fantasize about how all three children will come downstairs on a rainy afternoon and spend hours creating pony land and playing and growing and laughing. When the My Little Pony sits with the others there is safely in numbers. I know there is no reason for my 3 girls to have 26 ponies. In fact I feel ashamed of this fact. Yet, when they are all together I just cannot bear to start getting rid of some of them- how could I chose?

I've bought into the idea that our children need these toys. Each different kind of toy- figurines, blocks, balls, puzzles, animals, doctor sets, dress up clothing, sorting toys, pattern toys, fine motor skill toys, gross motor skill toys, and of course musical toys.

I'm wrong.

They don't need these toys- and in fact these toys are preventing me from being a good parent. I'm almost in tears admitting this- but for the last two hours and for at least a couple of hours EVERY SINGLE WEEK- when I could have been enjoying time with my children I've been cleaning their toys up, rotating toys, reorganizing toys.

My mother says clutter is whatever keeps you from living the life you want to live.

I want to spend more time one on one with my girls- i want to talk to them, create stories and let my pointer finger be Mr. Spider and go on an adventure around the house. Right now I couldn't crawl around the house b/c I would injure myself on the lego and itty bitty polly pocket pets which seem to find their way under my feet and knees.

What you ( and I ) need to know about toys is that they are supposed to be the accessories. We as parents are the outfit and they are just the accessories. Somehow along the way we've forgotten that. We've spent more money than we can afford on things that promise smarter kids and happier homes- but in the end we've created more clutter, more cleaning and more stress.

Why should our children have fewer toys?
1. When children have too many toys they are unable to form as strong attachments to their toys.
2. When our children have too many toys they are often unable to keep them tidy and they often end up not valuing each toy as much. While this may not seem like a problem to the mother who has forgotten to pack the treasured dinky car or polly pocket on a vacation- it does present itself as a problem when our children do not value or take care of what they have. What kind of adults will they become?
3. Ever wonder why today's children seem to lack long attention spans? A quick look around most bedrooms and playrooms might give a good answer. When children have too much "stuff" they are easily distracted and cannot focus on one activity with one toy.
4. Children with fewer toys are happier (?) It is a balance issue- a child who only has one barbie is not by her lack of toys going to be happier than the one who has a roomful. But let's not for a moment believe that toys make children happy- they don't.
5. Last but certainly not least- your children need fewer things if the things are taking away from their experiences as children, distracting them from being imaginative, creative and social! And if those things are negatively impacting the relationship you have with them- because you are too busy cleaning up the toys to play with them or because the toys act as a replacement parent.

So this week I have decided that my children do not need collections of Little People, Polly Pockets, Barbies, My Little Ponies and Littlest Pet Shops. They do not need multiple doll houses for each different kind of doll. They do not need multiple flashing lights activity toys. They do not need 5 different kinds of blocks. I will finish sorting the toys and then I will do my kids a favor and take away the "clutter" that is preventing me from being the best mom I can be.

Stay updated to see what i've purged this week!


Friday, June 3, 2011

Splish Splash- Let's Talk About The Bath!

When we were in our first prental class the teacher suggested that the dad have one child task that the mother never did- that way he could become the expert. We chose bathing. Now 5 years later my husband still does most of the bath nights- I help by getting towels and jammies. However last night daddy was working late- the baby C had mushed food in her hair- there was no avoiding it. I was going to have to bath the three girls. It starts off so well when they realize it is bath night........

The girls squeal in delight and run upstairs super excited- i clean the bathtub and fill it up with water- they clamber in. Then S. is "a mermaid" and baby C won't sit down and starts screaming when i try to get her to sit. Then S screams when i suggest we wash her hair. As if they didn't know that was what we were doing in the tub in the first place. Baby C screams b/c her sister is screaming. Tears start flowing, snot is flying. I have to haul Baby C out of the tub dripping wet and into her crib b/c she's hysterical and i cannot get S's hair done otherwise. S *almost* lays down and gets about 1% of her hair wet. I put my hand under her head and gently lower it- whispering soft soothing words. She screams at the top of her lungs. She starts lashing out like a cat. I put on the shampoo and let her lather it up. Then we have to rinse. She decides she needs to lay down on a pillow- our only bath pillow is too high and her hair won't get wet. We try to negotiate. Finally I just rinse her hair. She flails everywhere and gets water in her face. She screams and I think she's going to bite me so I cover her mouth. I finish rinsing her hair - i'm not going to stop now then have to deal with it all over again. Then I dry her face. She smiles- " i'm' so good mom I didn't even cry" kiddo you didn't just screamed bloody murder. Then I get Baby C from her crib- she looks like a drowned rat and we've not even started. I bring her to the tub and she clings to me like a monkey and I have to pry her off and try to bring her to the tub. She looks very suspicious. I tell her it will be ok- i just need to get her hair washed then they can play - and i slowly lower her head to the water and she opens her mouth and screams and then flips over- face first into the water. If she wasn't mad before now she's spitting mad and a bit scared too. I try to move fast- by the end she's furious with me. I'm so glad N can manage it on her own now. This is the first year she is not screaming too. When i'm done i'm just d-o-n-e.

I've tried to use water to pour on their heads, i've tried to use water from the tap, i've tried the shower. The girls just scream and claw and climb up onto my head (in the case of the shower). Any suggestions- how do you bathe your children?

If my kids stink- pity me don't judge me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Perspectives on Parenting

Today I brought my 5 year old daughter to the hospital to see one of her friends.It was a hard visit. A short visit where most of it was spent in tears. We went to visit a little 4 year old epileptic girl who had a terrible 2 1/2 hour long seizure just over a week ago. She seizured for so long that they needed to induce her into a coma, then when they tried to bring her back out she kept having more seizures. She has now woken up but has suffered severe brain damage and we don't know what her future holds.

That's how fast it happens isn't it. One moment you are worrying about whether or not your child is chewing with their mouth open, whether or not you should put them in full or half day kindergarten, or agonize for months over whether or not to homeschool. One moment you panic because your child is not crawling or talking or walking as fast as the neighbors. And the next moment you enter the hospital and see an entire community of parents who know what real issues are.

In a moment your perspective changes and you hug your kids a little tighter and let them stay up a little longer and realize what a blessing it is to be able to say " I SAID you had to eat your cauliflower " and to say " stop fighting with your sister" . Because in every city in this country there is a hospital with parents who would give anything to be able to say that to their children.

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself - I think foolish things like why does my child have to have a metabolic disease, why do i have a child who struggles with stuttering and why don't I have family close by when I need a babysitter on short notice. And then I get a dose of perspective.

I debated whether or not I should bring my daughter. I wanted to support the mom who i'm also friends with, but finally I decided I would. It would give her a bit of perspective too. And maybe understand why I wouldn't feel sorry for her when she learned we don't have dessert for supper tonight. We talked a lot about what she would see before we were there- but it was still harder on both of us than I imagined it would be. Over the next few days as she processes it and we continue to talk we'll learn if it was a good idea or not.

Isn't that how all parenting goes- you do the best you can and then you realize too late if it was a good idea afterall.

I'm hurting for this family and wish I could do something- raise money or give them something that would make their life a little bit easier- but what? Any suggestions? How do you give them hope? what do you say? I simply don't know.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hardest Nursing Moment

I had the rare opportunity to talk about my nursing experience last week. Really divulge into the ins and outs of how my experiences were different with each child. And so now that all of these memories have been stirred up I've been reflecting on them. Thinking about what was the hardest nursing moment, the most rewarding, the proudest and the one i'll never forget.

I can clearly remember one night - less than one week as a new first time mamma sitting cross-legged on the bed (yep it hurt but i figured i looked more like the diagrams in the nursing info sheet i had sitting on the bed in front of me. It was about 2 am. My firstborn liked to wake up at 2:09am like clockwork so i'm guessing it was about then. My awesome husband had gotten up and taken her from the bassinet by our bed, changed her and then handed her to me to nurse. And i brought her to my breast. My mantra was "hold it like a hamburger not like a cigarette" and I had an info sheet with 4-5 different positions i kept by the bed. She cried, rooted, latched on, pulled her head back, latched off and on again. And again. then she seemed to find the latch that suited her. But it didn't look right so i pulled her off again and tried. She was practically gagging . I started to cry. She cried. She wailed. She just wanted to eat. I couldn't line up my areola. I was a failure. It took about 20 mins and she finally did latch on again and start nursing. I didn't think the latch was quite right but at this point i didn't care. It was the hardest nursing moment i'd had to date and it felt like it represented my entire career of motherhood- i had the info but still couldn't seem to put it into practice.

My most rewarding nursing moment is not so easy to pinpoint. It wasn't just one moment but a collection of them- there is nothing like a milk drunk baby and my babies would drink and drink and drink until they would roll their eyes back and drift to that far away place. And i would think-" that must be true bliss. "

My proudest nursing moment came with my second born. The scenario was eerily similar to the one described as my hardest nursing moment. She was only a couple of days old. My milk had just come in and she was struggling. She would latch and unlatch. It was coming in too strong and she couldn't seem to figure it out. Middle of the night feed (although i have to say my awesome husband didn't still get up and change her and bring her into bed anymore- he was now on firstborn duty and slept through most feedings) - 2 am. I brought her into bed to nurse and she latched on, pulled off and cried out. She did this again and again. I tried the other side but she seemed to have the same problem. She arched her back. She rooted. She wanted to eat and was getting more frustrated by the moment. It wasn't working. I didn't realize that my husband was awake until he asked me why i wasn't upset. Why wasn't i stressed about this. She obviously couldn't eat and we even have any formula in the house (after the firstborn I refused to keep the "FREE" can of formula in the house as i found it too tempting). He was getting stressed. And I laughed- I said she'll figure it out. My job is to hold her and she and my breasts need to come to an agreement. I wasn't stressed. I wasn't the least bit phased. I was now a 2nd time mamma!

And the moment i'll never forget- wasn't a nursing moment at all. My youngest was 7 days old in the hospital, she'd been diagnosed earlier that day with a genetic metabolic disease of PKU and had to go on 6 bottles of specialized formula per day. The dietitian came to our room (we were hospitalized to stabilize her since we didn't know from birth but only from the newborn heel prick test) and taught me how to make these special bottles. And she sat there while i fed my baby a bottle. I even tear up writing this. Silent tears streamed down my face. And the dietitian thought I was upset because of my daughter's diagnosis and the issues that would come along the way- and while I would spend the rest of my life concerned for her health- i was crying because I was feeding my baby a bottle and it represented the loss of the breastfeeding relationship i so very badly desired.

I'm happy to report that I was wrong. I had the opportunity to nurse her a little bit each day (and we're actually still nursing a little bit each day!) and while it was a different nursing relationship it was still a wonderful one. And I realized that I *could* bond with my baby while feeding a bottle once I let go of the guilt and the disappointment.

But what i want to know is what about you? What was your hardest nursing moment? your most memorable? most rewarding?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Should I Bother? Exercise and Breast-feeding

Let's get to the point- should I exercise? Really? Should I bother? I've been debating this for a while now. I'm a mamma of 3 and feel a responsibility to start being more active- I don't mean becoming a crazy workout queen- but just getting 20 mins a day of blood flowing, moving and grooving.

If I look at the pros and cons maybe that will help?
Pros- list of health benefits too many to mention for my physical and emotional health
- provides a little bit of quiet time for me to reflect
- even if it is hard to start with it and intermittently- overall it will feel good
- it can cost practically nothing unlike the alternative (being unhealthy and unfit )

Cons- it takes time
- it takes effort
- there is a learning curve
- sometimes you do all of this and you still get sick

You know my mom didn't always exercise, lots of my friends don't exercise, they are all ok. It kinda bugs me how those people keep saying it is so natural- gravity is natural- i roll off of the bed and i hit the floor. That is natural. Having to exercise is not really that "natural" is it if it makes me sweat!

But I *know* in my heart of hearts i really should exercise- make a commitment to really do it. It doesn't make sense not to. Not really. Even if i didn't get excited by the thought. This is what is best- for me, for my family, for my healthcare system and for my community at large because i'd be setting a good example and helping to normalize something healthy. And i'm going to encourage you to do it as well!

I hope i didn't offend anyone by this post- I hope there are no injured people out there- or people who cannot physically exercise who think that by me proclaiming the well known beneifts of exercise that I am judging you. I have a feeling that there are not.

Ironically if I did this same post about breastfeeding there would be lots of ruffled feathers. Lets see what it would look like ;

Let's get to the point- should I breastfeed? Really? Should I bother? I've been debating this for a while now. I'm a mamma of 3 and feel a responsibility to comment on the breast vs bottle debate- I don't mean becoming a crazy lactation nutcase- but just helping to inform new moms who are sitting making this decision.

If I look at the pros and cons maybe that will help?
Pros- list of health benefits too many to mention for my physical and emotional health
-and the health of my baby (for the duration of their lifetime!)
- provides a little bit of quiet time for me to reflect
- even if it is hard to start with it and intermittently- overall it will feel good
- it can cost practically nothing unlike the alternative (formula )

Cons- it takes time
- it takes effort
- there is a learning curve
- sometimes you do all of this and you or your baby could still get sick

You know my mom didn't breastfeed me, lots of my friends don't breastfeed, they are all ok. It kinda bugs me how those people keep saying it is so natural- gravity is natural- i roll off of the bed and i hit the floor. That is natural. Having to breastfeed takes effort doesn't it.

But I *know* in my heart of hearts i really should breastfeed- make a commitment to really do it. It doesn't make sense not to. Not really. Even if i didn't get excited by the thought. This is what is best- for me, for my family, for my healthcare system and for my community at large because i'd be setting a good example and helping to normalize something healthy. And i'm going to encourage you to do it as well!

Of course the difference is that everyone would tell you that exercise is good for you and therefore you should do it. When it comes to nursing everyone seems to imply that while it is good for you it really is a personal decision you should make carefully after weighing the pros and cons. If we really looked at the social, economical, environmental issues as stake we would all be forced to admit that the "cons" pale in comparison. But most don't want to go there- they don't want to offend anyone or take away the mother's choice.

Bottom line? Breast is best is a foolish campaign. Our bodies grow babies in our womb and we don't start second guessing and wonder if maybe we should surgically try to grow them somewhere else. That is the way we were designed. For those who cannot naturally get pregnant then there are all sorts of neato options to consider AT THAT TIME- but everyone will agree if you can get pregnant the good old fashioned way that make the most sense. Same with breastfeeding. This shouldn't be a debate. We shouldn't make pro and con lists.

There shouldn't be mothers up in arms feeling all offended.

Your breasts make milk for the baby your body just made. This is not rocket science. Feed baby with that milk. IF you cannot....then there are lots of scientific medical advancements that can help you- including formula. So if you need to use formula use it- without the guilt or judgments of others. Imagine a world where when you pull out a bottle everyone assumes that you are doing the best you can for your child rather than suggest you might have made a bad CHOICE ? I think we need to stop the DEBATE about breastfeeding and just let it be normalized. There is no CHOICE- not really- not if we are all being honest with ourselves. For those who can- breastfeed- for those who cannot- bottle feed. Parenting is fraught with all sorts of debates and stresses- this shouldn't be one of them! (and don't forget if you are looking to donate or for donor milk the facebook group human milk 4 human babies is a great place to start)

But to sit and decide should what should I do? should I bother? Is like asking if you should bother cleaning your teeth or washing your hair or getting your butt off the couch for 20 mins per day of course you should. It is not always easy (read my entry from last month
Nursing ) but it is worth it!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Great Education Debate - Part 2 - What Do I Want My Children To Learn?

I went out for a great dinner with a few friends last month and asked them "what are three traits/characteristics would you like your children to have as adults. " Their answers differed from what mine were. In fact, the more people I spoke with the more varied the answers.

If I only had to pick the top three traits for my kids I'd say I want my children to be; honest, empathetic and have self control. I want a lot more for my children too (including for them to be really good at making suppers LOL!) but those are my top three. What are yours?

There is a lot of talk in my world these days about goals and the importance of articulating a measurable goal. So I started brainstorming about what exactly my goals were as a parent. Afterall if I don't have goals then where exactly am I heading? Somedays I 'll admit i'm just surviving until bedtime, but for the most part I feel like I need a direction. I need a plan. Especially now when they are young and I rarely get constructive feedback about how I am doing. There are no quarterly reviews, no bonuses and certainly no raises and so I feel more comfortable if I can at least have a rough map of where we might be heading- short term and long term.

I'm not very creative so I often piece together what others have already outlined as their goals and try to fit them into my philosophical and religious belief systems. It was through this that I accidently stumbled on a list of things kids should know before they leave home.

It was an interesting list that included everything from how to plan meals and shop on a budget, balance your checkbook, change a tire, and how to write a formal letter. It also included a list of academic objectives that the parents had outlined as being relevant to them (I'd post the list itself but i'm not sure who to give credit to) . I was surprised because some of these things I didn't even know how to do.

And yet if I thought about it- I figure they might be helpful and relevant.

Which brought me to the question- what do I want for my children ?

I want them to have a solid understanding of the Bible- not just to be able to memorize texts but to learn it as a life guide and also a lesson in the history of the human condition.

I want my children to have strong social skills, to be able to navigate through different kinds of situations and be able to read people, communicate well, be empathetic and be able to see the good in people and understand that there is also bad influences too.

I want my children to be content and at peace in their family life, their financial life and their work life. I want them to feel gratitude and humility.

I want my children to participate as part of a family and larger community and therefore give and learn to be self sacrificing and believe that it really does take a village to raise a child and to be happy in general but still recognize their individual value and self worth.

I want my children to be educated- which to me includes the ability to be able to solve problems and seek help when they need it. But I want them to be hard workers who don't just find others to solve their problems.

I want my children to be self confident and technically I want them to read, write, play an instrument and read music, speak two or three languages, have a decent understanding of history, geography, math and sciences. I want them to be able to play a good game of soccer and dance a waltz. I want them to be able to have a conversation with anyone. I want them to be able to amuse themselves and to self reflect.

I also want my child to be able to love and to feel loved - always.

At the end of every day could I look at what we did and say that we did things that contributed to these goals (and I'm sorry to say it but I don't think watching Dora counts for learning a second language even though my 2 year old sometimes spontaneously speaks some Spanish words!)

To be honest, some days I 'm not sure how many of those objectives i've hit for each child. Especially on days when my oldest goes to school and the day seems to be a whirlwind of getting her and the other ones ready and dropping her off at school. Then when I pick her up she is exhausted and often falls asleep in the car. Snacktime, downtime, violin practice (or lessons depending on the day) and then supper needs to be made and then too soon it is bedtime. I'm struggling to spend the TIME with my oldest now that she is in school.

A few months ago all of my children came down with the chicken pox one after the other. We had an interesting time between being in quarantine and having pox parties. But I didn't dare send my oldest to school for two weeks then was christmas break for two weeks.

By the end of that month being at home I loved the fact I had *my* child back. She was the happy, helpful non sassy child I'd dropped off at school in September that had somehow been slowly drifting away. I hadn't even realized it until we spend that extra time together.

I had been expecting her to squabble more with her sisters, but they squabbled less. I had expected we'd all go stir crazy - but we had a lot of fun.

And yet I still didn't think that I would ever pull her out permanently and home school her. That homeschool thing was for crunchy granola mammas of 8 kids in denim jumpers wasn't it?

Yet the more I thought about the actual physical TIME i had with her each week and how much less time i'd have with her once she started dance lessons and soccer lessons and swimming lessons.....I started to be afraid that one day when she was 14 she might turn around and say " oh mom - you don't even KNOW me" and she'd be right.

I love my children more than I ever thought possible- and I've learned (through a lot of trial and error) that if I can "like" my children and enjoy their company then all of us have better days. But now I'm wondering what taking my child out of the home for 7+ hours a day will do to that relationship, and how it might hinder my parenting to/for my child. Sigh.

The Great Education Debate - Part 1- What Do Schools Do?

Wow huh? Pretty interesting perspective. Of course it makes sense. Now before you feel an overwhelming sense of doom dear Canadian parents there has been some good news (although being Canadian we tend not to gloat about it so you might not have realized it was good news. )’s-education-system/

So I have a question (or a few I suppose ); what does the school system do exactly? Why do we have schools? How have they evolved? Are they still relevant for our society?

Lets start with the easiest one- why do we have schools and how have they evolved? The public school system as we might know it

(sung in the style of Dora the Explorer) Where do we go when we don't know the answer? Wikipedia....Wikipedia....WIKIPEDIA!!

History and development of schools
Plato's academy, mosaic from Pompeii.

The concept of grouping students together in a centralized location for learning has existed since Classical antiquity. Formal schools have existed at least since ancient Greece (see Academy), ancient Rome (see Education in Ancient Rome) ancient India (see Gurukul), and ancient China (see History of education in China). The Byzantine Empire had an established schooling system beginning at the primary level. According to Traditions and Encounters, the founding of the primary education system began in 425 A.D. and "... military personnel usually had at least a primary education ...". The sometimes efficient and often large government of the Empire meant that educated citizens were a must. Although Byzantium lost much of the grandeur of Roman culture and extravagance in the process of surviving, the Empire emphasized efficiency in its war manuals. The Byzantine education system continued until the empire's collapse in 1453 AD.[1]

Islam was another culture that developed a school system in the modern sense of the word. Emphasis was put on knowledge, which required a systematic way of teaching and spreading knowledge, and purpose-built structures. At first, mosques combined both religious performance and learning activities, but by the ninth century, the Madrassa was introduced, a proper school that was built independently from the mosque. They were also the first to make theMadrassa system a public domain under the control of the Caliph. The Nizamiyya madrasa is considered by consensus of scholars to be the earliest surviving school, built towards 1066 CE by Emir Nizam Al-Mulk.[citation needed]

Under the Ottomans, the towns of Bursa and Edirne became the main centers of learning. The Ottoman system of Kulliye, a building complex containing a mosque, a hospital, madrassa, and public kitchen and dining areas, revolutionized the education system, making learning accessible to a wider public through its free meals, health care and sometimes free accommodation.

One-room school in 1935, Alabama

The nineteenth century historian, Scott holds that a remarkable correspondence exists between the procedure established by those institutions and the methods of the present day. They had their collegiate courses, their prizes for proficiency in scholarship, their oratorical and poetical contests, their commencements and their degrees. In the department of medicine, a severe and prolonged examination, conducted by the most eminent physicians of the capital, was exacted of all candidates desirous of practicing their profession, and such as were unable to stand the test were formally pronounced incompetent.[citation needed]

In Europe during the Middle Ages and much of the Early Modern period, the main purpose of schools (as opposed to universities) was to teach the Latin language. This led to the term grammar school, which in the United States informally refers to a primary school, but in the United Kingdom means a school that selects entrants based on ability or aptitude. Following this, the school curriculum has gradually broadened to include literacy in the vernacular language as well as technical, artistic, scientific and practical subjects.

Mental Calculations. In the school of S.Rachinsky by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky. Russia,1895.

Many of the earlier public schools in the United States were one-room schools where a single teacher taught seven grades of boys and girls in the same classroom. Beginning in the 1920s, one-room schools were consolidated into multiple classroom facilities with transportation increasingly provided by kid hacks and school buses.

Millions of people can't be wrong - or can they? I would like to rest comfortably in the knowledge that where an organized school system was not- there was one created since it was the most practical solution of education our children. I have a difficult time conceiving how it could not be the best possible solution today as well- until of course I take a close look at the school system!!

What does our school system do? In Canada the school system is a provincial mandate meaning that the execution of education varies from province to province although we spend about 7% of the GDP on education. What do we get for our $$?

You may have heard that we as Canadians are among the best educated in the world, however the University of BC released a report with disturbing findings. This article addresses skims over this.

"Canadians are more educated than ever, but a report suggests children are no better prepared developmentally, socially or emotionally now than they were 14 years ago.

Social and emotional competencies scores -- based on categories such as bullying and self-esteem -- among 12-and 13-year-olds declined from 1996 to 2006."

Read more:"

I'm finding this disturbing. I would like to confidently send my children off to school without worrying that the school system is eroding their family values , stifling creativity and educating them only on the specific questions that will be tested in order to acquire more funding. In American there are a growing number of people who are spending more time in school. However the question becomes does more time in school = better education?

This article seems to think so!

So even with the ambush of negative publicity technically it appears that in North American school is making our children more "educated" and the time they spend in the pursuit of this education correlates with the results on the standardized testing.

But what about if you don't have faith in what the standardized testing looks at? What if you see the rate of test directed teaching increasing and worry that instead of tests being an objective sampling of the children's education they are just being used by teachers at the expense of our children's True education? How do you as a parent encourage more learning? Is that the answer? I think that is a good first step- to be involved and an active participant in educating them. Afterall, there is no such thing as a free lunch- and our governments are spending money educating our children to serve their self interests and if you as a parent believe that there is - or could be- other aspects to education that might benefit your child I think you have a responsibility to teach these to them.

This is just the tip of the iceburg but i'll end here because it segways well into the next topic I'd like to look at - what do I want my child to know as an adult/by the time they leave home?

The Great Education Debate Intro

Have you seen this? I don't know if I am allowed to link this here but it is amazing!

My family is pretty mainstream and traditional. Dad works 9-5 (ish) job and I stay at home with our three children. We are hopefully getting a dog soon (see previous post ). Our life is pretty average. We try to eat well, do good things, be successful and try to find the elusive "balance" .

However, a few months ago we had a few interesting and unique situations and influences that have started to push into the the great HOMESCHOOL debate. It was never a place I expected to be in- I've got "I support public education" stickers I used to display all over when I studied education at university (I never finished the education degree as I quickly moved into the Arts but still fundamentally believed in our school system).

Yet one thing after the other seems to be stacking the deck towards reorganizing our life, pulling our oldest daughter out of the school system and not putting our other two in.

Over the next few postings I'd like to share some of the raw information with you that i've acquired. I do not believe homeschooling is for everyone, however I do think that homeschooling is often disregarded as a non option - when really it can be a successful (most successful?) option for all sorts of families /children.

Regardless of the method of education- having to define what you do (and do not) want your children to learn has been an interesting exercise. You are the parent. You do not "own" them but you do have a right and a responsibility to figure out how to educate them. They are in your folds for only a short time, but it is a critical time of their development.

I'm going to break this down into a few parts.

1) What does the public school system do ?
2) What do I want my child to know as an adult
3) How do children learn?
4) What is the recipe for success?

It is a dialoging process- please comment and share your research, your beliefs and your experiences. Collaboration = success!

Now- why did I include this clip? Well, for a few reasons - it is not only uber cool but it addresses the issue of 1) what does the school system do? " the purpose of schooling is to take present orientated little beasts and make them more future orientated and in some cultures make them more past orientated". It reminds us that our understanding of what we need to know, how we live, what we value, etc is all tangled up in our perception and socially constructed environment.

Does that mean there are no absolutes- of course not- but I think that before we can try to figure out how to educate our children as parents, teachers, or mentors (or before we can try to educate ourselves) we have to accept the fact that our attitudes and motivations and drives are going to limit us (at least to some extend) to success within our specific social context. More simply, what could create success in one situation might be detrimental in another. This is sobering when we think about the fact that our world is becoming more connected and interconnected all the time. So if we as parents are not open minded to the possibilities that are out there could we inadvertently be doing a great disservice to our children?

That is the question!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sicky Baby Guilt!!!

I'm whispering because I have a sleeping one year old in bed with me.

I don't regularly share my bed - but tonight she's sick. She has a cold and is all congested and snotty. For some reason she sleeps better in mammas bed so that is where she will stay!

Today she couldn't nap well in her crib so i brought her downstairs and snuggled her on the reclining chair for 45 min while i was able to do some staring, snuggling,baby head sniffing and some reading too.

There is nothing worse than a sick baby- but nothing better than a snuggly baby with a small cold. What a bad mamma I am for even thinking that!!

When you are not too worried about her overall health and well being- I think i'm always at least a little worried.

When a sicky baby is the perfect excuse to cuddle and when they get older- watch movies and eat Jell-O (I feel as a self respecting woman I can only enjoy Jell-O when made "for the kids" or made as alcoholic shooters!) . A sicky baby (as opposed to an actually sick baby) is the perfect excuse not to do domestic chores, go into work and not to make supper and just spend the day snuggling, reading and falling in love with them all over again!

Why does it take an illness to make us stop and just enjoy the little things in life?

I'm torn sometimes- between trying to be productive and to just enjoy being.

I know that if I behaved the same on a normal day as I did when my kids are sick then we'd eventually be buried alive in the laundry and never eat anything with vegetables. No chores would get done. Violin wouldn't get practiced. Things would quite simply go to pot. But for today and likely for tomorrow based on how tonight is going- I'm determined to enjoy it!

What is your favorite part of having a snuggly sicky child?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nursing Hurts first (and intermittently)

Dearest nursing mamma,

Congratulations! Welcome to the club of motherhood. Being a mamma is the most amazing and awesome experience. You've just gone through pregnancy and labour (or an adoption process) and while it might have been crazy at times now you now have your little bundle of joy and it is all worth it!!

Nursing a baby is a blessing. Physically, emotionally and spiritually uplifting, inspiring and draining and taxing. Nursing my children has been unlike anything I've ever experienced and nothing like I'd read about. Please let me share my experiences with you as knowledge *IS* power. I hope that you can have a long and wonderful nursing relationship with your baby- and can successfully overcome the challenges you'll face.

Some people say that I'm being pessimistic- focusing on the negative aspects of nursing.I feel it is a disservice to new mother's not to have real information about what nursing is *really* like so they can prepare for it.

Have you ever ran a marathon? Probably not. Neither have I. Every year many people do. And in order to be successful they study up on it, talk to other runners about the challenges they'll face and they condition themselves mentally and physically- loading up on carbs and mentally rehearsing what they will do when they "hit the wall" and how they'll pace themselves. Then they can succeed. Do you know what happens when you don't do those things? When you don't prepare for it?


Yep, Phidippides the first marathon runner who ran to deliver a message 26 miles without stopping (as the story goes) collapsed and died upon arrival.

Does that mean you shouldn't do it? Of course not! It is worth it- just don't underestimate the work involved to be successful!

Such is nursing!! It is the first of many true acts of self sacrifice you will make as a mother (and you thought not drinking for 9 months was!). But don't be fooled -nursing is hard (at first!) And it hurts. EVEN IF YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT.

I've heard "it is not supposed to hurt". Sounds like the same fools who were trying to convince you that labour was just some "cramps" or a bit of "pressure. They are once again- dead wrong. (Buncha liars!) It is hard because it hurts. It is hard because your baby and your breasts seem to have developed their own relationship and have left you out of it. The success of nursing requires patience and a tolerance for pain and discomfort on your part but otherwise they (the breasts and the baby) will figure it out.

When I my first was born the nurse gave her to me and said " hold the breast like a hamburger not a cigarette" and then left me at it. My firstborn nursed for 3 hours straight- one side then the other. When someone finally stopped me I was so raw I thought my nipples might just fall off. It didn't get any better over the next few days. My darling was like a little hoover and wanted to be on the breast all day - every day- and all night. I didn't give her a soother as I feared it would impact my supply. Day 3 arrived with so much pain and hours of tears and my husband quickly rushed me to the lactation specialist who said my daughter's latch was perfect. She regained her birth weight in less than a week. She was a nursing pro. But I felt like a failure. I would sit and hold her and cry because she would cry and couldn't seem to nurse like I thought she was supposed to. She would frantically look for the nipple, latch, unlatch, latch, unlatch, cry and again and again we'd go. She would nurse for at least 45 mins each session with just over an hour between sessions- day and night. I was exhausted and in pain. Then just when i thought we'd figured it out my breasts started to grow- they grew three times in size and then my firstborn struggled to latch again. I was so engorged. I pumped and nursed and timed everything.

It took probably close to 3 weeks before it settled out. Before I learned to nurse side lying and before I stopped stressing about whether or not baby was getting any milk. 3 weeks of feeling like a failure. If someone could have told me that it was just going to be a few weeks I would have just persevered. I wouldn't have been tempted by the can of formula in the cupboard downstairs (which is a ploy by Nestle and such companies who know how hard it is and don't tell you so you fail as a nursing mother and spend a small fortune on fake food for baby). My firstborn was my only child to ever have any normal formula (my third is on pku formula for the rest of her life) . And I felt guilty about it- but at the time I didn't know what else to do. It seemed that my experience was nothing like I'd ever heard about.

Then, I was able to get a "nursing buddy" through our local health unit. A mamma who I never met , but who called once every few days at first and then once a week until baby reached 6 months. Who talked to me about her real experiences and her struggles and inspired and encouraged me. She laughed when I talked about milk shooting across the room and me naming my breasts different names because they had different personalities (mustang sally and plain jane!). When I had a question she couldn't answer she looked it up for me. The resources are out there ( is the BEST online nursing resource site - even though it is not very easy to navigate it has an answer to virtually every question!)

My overall nursing experience was successful and has been 46 months so far. Please let me tell you what I never expected;

Plugged Ducts
Mastitis 2x
Thrush 8x
Nipple Blanching
Milk Blisters
Breast Pump Wound! ( I used the Medella Freestyle pump with soft cups and I boiled the soft cups as indicated in the instructions for 10 mins before use. They warped and I didn't realize it and when I tried to pump it ripped a piece of skin off my areola the size of a bean and the scab broke everytime I tried to pump. I called them and they said I wasn't the first with this issue and they now instruct only to boil them for 2 mins. )

Some of this is probably inevitable but some of it you can help prevent or overcome quickly- what can you do? Start with nipple cream- apply after every nursing session. Try to stay well rested, well hydrated and eat as little sugar as possible- I KNOW- but it does help with the thrush. Take care of yourself and treat nursing- especially in the first few weeks like the hard job it is- don't worry if baby takes a long time to nurse- emptying the breast will decrease risk of clogged ducts. When you do have clogged ducts- nurse. nurse. nurse. pump! nurse! Mastitis occurs from an infection that often proceeds plugged ducts. And watch your latch- baby will get into bad habits quickly! But most importantly- if you need help- seek it out! In today's society we don't seem to have the network of woman to support us in nursing as many of our mother's fed us formula! These challenges are just that- small challenges that you *can* overcome!

But yet it was all worth it. After the first three weeks or so (with each of the girls not just the firstborn) the pain was gone and I was able to indulge in the benefits of nursing (and they go well beyond the rapid weight loss most mammas have while nursing)

The milk drunk baby.
The peaceful sleepy night time nursing sessions.
The convenience of having the best nutrition for baby always ready at the right temperature.
Little hands caressing your skin, loving you and thanking you with their sighs of pleasure.
The knowledge that this is the best thing you can do for your baby and for yourself.
Nursing tickling sessions
Baby milkbreath

Nursing is the most beautiful natural thing in the world. Our bodies are designed to do this. Your breasts fill with white gold that is custom made to your little darling increasing health, IQ, and overall bonding. I'm excited to for you to enjoy this experience. There really is nothing like it - it is simply amazing. And once your breasts are conditioned the pain *does* go away. It gets easier and easier and it even feels relaxing. It is worth it- just like pregnancy and labour was worth it- so is nursing because it creates a whole new relationship between you and babes and once you succeed in nursing- you can do anything! So while nursing hurts at first (and intermittently) it doesn't hurt forever.


All nursing mammas- please share- what did you wish you would have known about nursing before you started? What are your best nursing memories?