Wednesday, February 24, 2010

That itch

It is not that the winter seems to be in no hurry to move on, I'm actually at peace with our freezing temperatures. But I cannot seem to shake the longing to move. Funny thing is, every time I want to move, Jeremy does not. Maybe it all works out for the best in the end.
From the time I was born until we bought this house, I had lived in sixteen different houses/apartments/college dorms (and that is not counting the four-times-a-year room changes throughout high school). I think I got that number right. I am never sure how to count the moves where I went to one place but my parents went to another where I would go on holidays. I was a girl on the move. So is that why I keep getting an urge to start packing up and searching for houses?
When I was asked to speak at church on behalf of the stewardship committee a few years back I realized that we had been members of FVPC for longer than I had ever belonged to anything in my life! (family aside) So it was no surprise to me today as I drove home from shipping Grandma and Grandpa Felde's Girl Scout Cookies to Indy that I caught sight of one of our dear friends from church. She was headed in to work carrying some flowers for someone, just that kind of sweet person. And my thoughts turned to all the things I love about this place being home. All the wonderful neighbors, the teachers we adore, the park district classes that I'd be adrift without, the parks and bike paths the kids know by heart, Grandma and Grandpa, two Great Grandma's, and a handful of other relatives nearby. I have never felt so connected to a place.
And yet.
And yet there still lingers this need to explore and challenge myself to something new. Oregon has been one place that I keep thinking about. I think the idea of a place similar to this but with more moisture in the air would be like a middle ground of all my worlds. If that is possible! I dream about a place where the kids could have a woods or a creek in our own backyard to play in every day. Somewhere where Jeremy's work would not be so far away as to make our days apart seem endless. Somewhere a little more tranquil, no teenagers dealing drugs in the parking lot next to our house.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Have kids, will travel

I had been on numerous airplanes and helicopters in the first three years of my life. Around the whole world once. Carried up and down aisles by flight attendants. I had my first passport picture taken when I was a few days old. My Dad had to tickle my foot (or slap it?) to get me to open my eyes. So it never occurred to me to leave my own kids behind when traveling.
I remember bouncing on a trampoline in Hong Kong when I was three years old. I love seeing the pictures of myself, only a few months old being carried in a snuggly through Norway. Sure I don't remember that trip but it is nonetheless a part of my life experience and who I am. I can say I have been there.
I understand the need to get away as a couple at times, but for us it is enough to have our time when the kids go to Grandma and Grandpa's for an overnight. If I am going someplace exciting and new, I want my kids by my side (or on my back) to experience it with me.
When Hannah was three and showing signs of being a bright kid, I asked our family doctor what things he recommended. He gave two answers - pick her friends carefully and travel.
So we took the kids to England. Some people thought we were nutty. The kids loved every minute of it and talk about it frequently. Eli was only three then and he recalls his favorite moments from that trip without help. They each made a book about the trip, thanks to Grandma and we keep them on the sofa table so they can look through them.
We just got back from Washington DC. Before going we watched a movie with the kids about the monuments and memorials. Eli had picked the FDR as his favorite to visit and although the weather ended up getting in the way of getting to that one, he knows we can go back someday in the spring or summer to see it. They loved all the museums and got excited every time we took the metro - their favorite part was having their own ticket and putting it into the turnstiles.
Sure it was exhausting touring the city with three kids in tow while Jer was in conferences and lectures, but at the end of the day it was a shared experience that we will talk about for years to come.
I would not trade that for the world!

Birth with a doula

Two weeks ago I attended a birth as a doula for one of my students. It is probably the biggest rush in life to be present at the birth of an amazing and wonderfully created new little person. It is the second birth I have attended and as hard as it is to go through labor with the Mom, seeing the tears in the new Mommy and Daddy's eyes as they gaze at their precious new babe is simply beautiful. Nothing like it in the whole word!
I served as their doula for free as I am still a student in the doula world. I am not sure if I will ever get to the process of becoming fully certified by the leading doula organization (DONA). Perhaps one day down the road. Being trained as a Bradley instructor, the Academy of Husband Coached Childbirth tells us we are qualified to work as doulas so I have offered the free service to my students in order to gain more experience.
Studies have shown that the continual presence of another woman while you are in labor can significantly improve the outcomes for both Mom and baby. After witnessing two births I can honestly say that while some may be skeptical of this claim I believe it is very true. As much as we might try to prepare a father for what his wife will experience in labor, he can not ever be truly ready to see his wife in that state and simultaneously handle his own feeling of helplessness and respond appropriately to her needs. A second-time Dad will be better equipped for this, but then a second-time Mom is also more prepared for the experience. Some women may be so in tune with their bodies that managing labor and birth on their own is quite easy for them, especially if they are already very committed to a natural birth. But my hunch is that the majority of women need the support and guidance of someone who has been there and done that.
Here is the scene - I walk into the room and Mom is sitting in the hospital bed, Dad sits beside her in the armchair trying to catch some Zs after being up all night. Mom is a little discouraged after laboring all night to only reach 3 centimeters dilation. She is already tired and is in need of reassurance that she can do this. I encourage her to get up and move around which almost instantly brings on stronger contractions. As she leans on the back of the chair, she starts to take the shallow chest-breaths of one in a state of panic. I remind her to take deep breaths and make low noises. She calms down and finishes the contraction. Her husband knows how she likes her back rubbed and holds her arm as they walk around the room. A little while later I let Dad lay down in the chair to take a quick nap while I help Mom through a few more contractions. He may have only had five minutes rest before her contractions really picked up and required the two of us helping her through them. At some point Mom looks at me and needs to know if what she is experiencing is normal. I reassure her that it is very normal and she is doing fine.
This experience is very similar to the first birth I witnessed. Both Moms wanted me to tell them at some point that this was normal. In our culture today we do not grow up with any sense of what normal birth is like. All we know is from the movies where women are always screaming and out of control and the baby seems to fly out a few minutes after labor starts. No wonder most women get to the hospital too soon!
Both Moms also needed reminders with each contraction in hard labor to take deep abdominal breaths and make low noises instead of high pitched screams. The low noises move the diaphragm against the uterus creating a soothing sensation against the powerful contractions. It is amazing that that one thing can get a woman through every contraction until the minute the baby is born!
There came a point when the doctor felt Mom was not progressing quickly enough (and to think this Mom did a ton of research and picked this hospital in a rural area because she was under the impression that interventions would be less). They were telling her she needed antibiotics and pitocin and they needed her decision soon. At that point, 18 hours into labor, Mom was not in a frame of mind to make the decision on her own and Dad was feeling helpless. I talked them through the pros and cons and let them come to a decision. The blessing of being in that rural hospital was that they actually did give us time alone to talk it over. As we talked, I also talked with Mom about what might be holding her back. It is very common for Moms to 'bottle up' due to fears about the physical act of giving birth or emotional fears about becoming a Mom. The mind is so connected to the body that this can slow down a birth (or stop it altogether). As I talked her through letting go of whatever fear she may be harboring, something amazing happened and she hit transition.
Transition, as we tell our students, is the hardest part if you are in the one third of women who experience it but it is also the fastest part. So she had contractions that seemed to never end, one on top of another and as they were hooking up the IV for the antibiotics and pitocin, she reached full dilation.
By the time she could push she was so tired that she could not hold her own legs back, so her husband held one and I held the other and we cheered her on.
After about a half hour of pushing, the head was starting to emerge and the doctor said that she could have the baby in just one or two more contractions. On the next one, she gave it her all and the head slowly emerged quickly followed by the body. The doctor lifted baby up to her Mommy's tummy. She opened her mouth and for a split second the whole room was silent, waiting for the first cry. And it came, a tiny little wail of life. Pure and beautiful and simply amazing.
I helped Mom lift baby to her breast and start nuzzling. As I turned, I caught the tear escaping Dad's eye as he rubbed his wife's head in awe.
They thanked me as I left, but for me it was an incredible honor to be invited in to the most intimate event of becoming a family.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Most of you know that we do not have a TV in our house anymore. It just worked out that way. We never had cable and did not watch much so when the digital converter box did not work, we just got rid of the whole thing.
We still watch shows online or on our awesome apple cinema display screen, so we did not move back to the dark ages.
Some of you know that I did my internship in college at the National Institute on Media and the Family. It was definitely the coolest job I have had (other than being a Mom of course!). While there, I learned so much about all the awful video games that are out there as well as the extreme power of advertising. I read and was involved in studies on the effects of media on children. So when I read articles now about how careful we parents need to be about our children's media consumption I am not surprised.
I set out planning on limiting my kids' exposure but I always had a lingering feeling that if it was completely withheld (as in any other circumstance) it would become more desirable. So while we had tv, the only thing the kids were allowed to watch was PBS. It was the advertisements on other channels that really worried me. They were fine with that. They still get super excited when we allow them to watch a movie since it is only allowed on weekends and the rare rainy afternoon when we don't have something else going on. It is not so much that I want to shelter them form a big bad world so much as I do not want them to be the innocent targets of advertising. I see it at work whenever I set foot in a large retail or grocery store with them. We can do a whole shopping trip at Trader Joes with no problem, but we walk into Jewel or Dominicks and the begging and whining begins instantly. They want the fruit snacks with their favorite characters on them or the Doritos. (yes, I avoid big grocery stores unless in complete desperation)
While Eli and Evie and I were waiting for the car to be done at Jiffy Lube, I tried to distract them from the tv by playing rock paper scissors. They were happy to play and only rarely glanced up at the tv. I tried to keep an eye on it to make sure that I dragged them out of there if something inappropriate came on. Then it came on - a brink home security ad. A young woman says goodbye to her date and when she returns to her kitchen you hear a banging and see her terrified face as the camera pans to the intruder who is smashing in her back door. What in the WORLD???!!! I could not believe this and it happened so fast I do not even know if Eli saw it. An R rated ad for sure, that was so scary! And on tv in the middle of the day. how many little kids out there have seen this? And are they so desensitized already that it does not phase them like it did me? What does that say about our culture?
I am so glad that we do not have a tv in our house.

Oh, and yes, I know the Saints won the SuperBowl. I also spent the afternoon and evening planning our trip for next week, making dinner and reading with the kids.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


So last night I ran to the garage and realized I needed to move the van, ran back to the house to get the keys, realized they were in my pocket, ran back to move the van, back to the house to give Jer the keys and then back to the garage to pull open (that's right, pull - no electronic lift in our crooked garage) the garage door and back out in the station wagon to go to class at AU. If I did not hurry, I might not find a parking spot in time. I had to pick up my carpooling friend a few blocks away and as I sat in her driveway looking at her darkened house wondering if she was home (she was and we made it) I felt the anxiety merging with the dinner too-quickly-eaten in my gut. I wondered if maybe this is all too much for my family.
Mondays are the worst. Closely followed by Tuesdays. Every day we watch a friend's kid after school, so all of our afternoon activities are delayed until after 4pm. Honestly, we could not make it anywhere before then anyway! They get home, wash hands and sit down for a snack. Then it is homework time. Hannah has one spelling/writing worksheet to do every day plus a reading assignment or two and then the extra stuff like the poster for the hundredth day of school that she has to cover with 100 cut out words that she can read and the valentine's cards that have to be made. Eli has a spelling/writing assignment every day. I help him and he is usually done pretty fast. Then I help Hannah with hers and by the time we are done, it is time to leave for our afternoon's activities.
On Monday that is swimming. So first the kids have to change into their suits. Then we rush out the door and thankfully they are both in class at the same time, in the fall I was driving there twice a week! Class is from 4:30-5pm. They get out shivering and I toss them their clothes and send them to change in their respective changing rooms. We usually make it home by about 5:40. I have left dinner directions on our chalkboard wall for Jeremy who usually gets home by 5pm and has it on the table for us to eat quickly because Hannah has ballet at 6:15pm. Of course this was the only class at her level that 'worked' with our schedule. So she and I scarf our food and I yank her wet, chlorine-smelling hair into a bun and we charge back out to the car.
While Hannah dances, I read for my class which is on Tuesday night.
Tuesdays are not all that different. Hannah has guitar at 4pm, so we rush a little more to get there and then I entertain Eli and Evie for an hour in the hall of the rec center. We get home at about 5:20 and hopefully Jeremy has started on dinner again because I have to leave by 5:45pm to get to my class at AU.
Wednesday is not as bad, choir is not until 4:30 and in just a few weeks the Lenten dinners will start up, so I will not have to worry about making dinner!
Thursday both Evie and Eli have tumbling class, Evie in the morning and Eli after dinner so that is manageable.
Fridays I teach in the evening so I spend most of the day cleaning the house and preparing for class.
I started out with every intention of not overbooking my kids. I wanted to limit activities and allow for lots of free playing time. This new study just came out saying that American kids are using media for about 8 hours of the day. I do not understand how this is possible. We do not even have a tv in our house and the kids are allowed to watch movies on Friday evenings and maybe on the weekend, but there is no way there is time in their day for any quantifiable time spent with entertaining media. Poor Hannah was crying last week because it was Wednesday and we were running out the door to choir and she pointed out that she had not had time to play with the boys after school all week. It broke my heart to realize that here she is, only 7 and already there is no time in her day for playing.
I do not think they go to bed too early either, it is 7:30 by the time they are out and it is still hard to wake them in the morning at 6:30.
How can I fix this? Or is it even possible, does it just come with the territory of three kids? I want them to try new things in order to find the things they are passionate about so quitting classes altogether is not going to work. I suppose we will take a break from swimming although they are both getting so good at it, it seems a shame. Hannah has said that she does not want to sign up for guitar again so in a few weeks that will be done. But I do not want her to give up on it altogether so there will be something in it's place eventually.
And then what about when Evie wants to be in tumbling and swimming and a music class?
What is a Mom to do???
Oh, and as I am writing this, thinking that I will be in bed soon, the phone rang and it is one of my students who is likely in labor and will probably be calling back shortly to ask me to meet them at the hospital. So much for sleep!