Thursday, September 25, 2008

I wasn't sad

I always thought depression was about feeling hopeless and sad. It was about crying at the drop of the hat for no apparent reason. Depression was a deep black hole with no visible exit sign. I was not depressed. I loved my life. I loved my children. I loved my husband. I could see a rosy future in front of all of us.

I also could barely stand to bathe my 2 month old baby by myself. It was so easy to see all the calamities that could befall us. I could slip in water he splashed on the floor. Then I might hit my head. I could be knocked unconscious. My baby, despite my best efforts, could die because of some freak accident. Some car might cartwheel through our yard hitting the bathroom. We could all be crushed when the walls collapsed. Oh my goodness, we won't even go into the scenarios where random acts of violence could be perpetrated against my poor, small, innocent children. But I wasn't sad. I was just a little bit anxious.

I watched other mothers, some with way more children than I had, do a tremendous amount of work in a day. I worked hard all day and yet there were still piles of laundry to fold, dishes to wash, carpets to vacuum, and meals to cook. It seemed like no matter what I did I just was not good at being a housewife. Working with 2 kids in tow felt like trying to run in chest deep mud. My body was slow and heavy. I was lazy, and apparently a poor housekeeper. But I wasn't sad.

When Sam was 9 weeks old my grandmother had cataract surgery. She needed someone to come stay with her the first couple of nights. Since we're all comfortable at Grandma's house I volunteered to bring my little family to visit until she could see well enough to get around. Dave came home early that night and stopped by Grandma's (where I was with the kids). He still needed to go home and pack a bag and I needed to go buy some milk and salad ingredients. Chris was almost 3 and he wanted to stay with Grandma. Since my mom lives just up the road from Grandma and she was on her way home, I called and she offered to stop by and stay with Grandma and Chris. I took Sam, since he was nursing every hour and a half or so, and Dave and took Dave home to pack a bag.

It made sense that while Dave was packing I'd go do the small amount of grocery shopping we needed. Usually when Dave was home I'd leave the kids with him when I went to the store. That day he was in a hurry and didn't want to deal with Sam too. We had a conversation about it and I said I'd take Sam grocery shopping with me. Sometime between our house and the store I forgot that Sam was with me. You hear about mothers "forgetting" their kids in the car and I always assumed that they must have some horrible character fault that enabled them to absentmindedly forget a child.

That's not at all what happened. I walked across that parking lot and into the grocery store thinking about my family, thinking about my baby. I hurried because I didn't want Dave to feed Sam a bottle (I HATE pumping!!).

I saw babies in the store and thought about how Sam compared with their size and weight. It wasn't until I returned to my car that I had even an inkling that Sam was still there. It was as if all the thoughts in my brain were on separate pieces of paper and somehow the page that knew Sam was with me was stuck behind the sheet that had me planning to leave Sam with his dad while I went shopping. I was forgetful, and apparently a horrid mother, but I wasn't sad.

Thinking about it later, I realized that there were several occasions I left the house and forgot where I was going by the time I got to the stop sign on the corner. Usually I just went to the grocery store at that point because I was guaranteed to find something we needed. I also had a hard time reading and getting into the story before I was needed elsewhere. I would rather give up breathing than not read, but I certainly wasn't reading at the rate I did before the baby was born. Before I had Sam I had a photographic memory and as for focus and concentration... well, let's just say I earned the money for my first car working as a labratory technician. I definately didn't have trouble with memory or concentration. After Sam it was different, but I was just distracted and overwhelmed by my inability to be a good housekeeper as well as a mother. I wasn't sad.

I went to see my doctor after THE INCIDENT. From the time Sam was born until after that doctor's visit I had one huge, long, horrible migraine. I assumed that the hormones were to blame (and they were) and so I didn't seek medical attention. After all, it takes a while for everything to get back to normal after you have a baby. After finally seeking help and telling my doctor about THE INCIDENT he prescribed beta blockers to stop vascular spasm (since they're safe while nursing but migraine meds aren't). The migraine stopped 3 days later. I still felt like I was working in deep mud, but at least the pain in my head had stopped.

Dr. Martin also told me not to beat myself up over THE INCIDENT. He told me that the only difference between me and every other mother is that I had a more dramatic occurance when my memory failed. I didn't really believe him, after all I FORGOT MY BABY IN THE CAR!!! How could that be a common occurance? How do you forgot you have a child with you? Dr. Martin suggested that I was suffering from post-partum depression and I didn't believe him. I was worried and sure that my children would have been better off being raised by wolves, but I wasn't sad.

I did a lot of research about sleep deprivation and that did offer me some comfort and explanation for how the memory lapse could occur. It didn't help me sleep better at night or become a better housekeeper, but it did offer some great solutions to make sure nothing similiar ever happened again (now I never put my purse anywhere other than between the smallest child and the door of the car, then I can't get my purse without seeing my child).

I was incredibly tired, my mind obviously wasn't functioning at it's normal capacity. Although I loved my children I kept wondering if they wouldn't be better off in daycare because at least then I'd be bringing money into the family. My skills as a wife, mother, and home maker were not on par with the skills of those around me. Never in my life had I experienced the feeling that I couldn't be the absolute best at anything I chose to do. But I wasn't sad.

One morning I woke up and realized that the laundry was caught up, the dishes were washed, the floors were vacuumed, my children were fed, and we were all playing and laughing together just like all those other families I saw. It seemed to have happened almost overnight. That day I realized that even though I wasn't sad I had been depressed.

About 8 weeks later I commented to my best friend that I'd only had one period since Sam was born. I knew that nursing makes such things irregular but still, I wondered if I should be concerned. Amy suggested (while laughing really hard) that perhaps I should buy a pregnancy test. Of course, she was right and I was pregnant. In fact, I was 8 weeks pregnant. My whole life changed when Jake implanted and the hormones shifted. The depression was gone. I'm positive that Jake was a gift from God, sent just when he was most needed. If Jake hadn't surprised us I would never have chosen to give birth again because I just wasn't as good a mother as others I saw. If I couldn't hold everything together with two children how much worse would it be with three? Thank GOD for Jake.

Jake's 15 1/2 months younger than Sam. My house isn't always spotless. Okay, it's rarely spotless. The laundry isn't always folded, but it is clean. We eat nutritious home-cooked meals and we play together as a family. I go through life towing 3 small children behind me and it doesn't feel like I'm moving in deep mud, it feels like I'm walking with my family.

Before Jake I might not have said this, but I believed it none the less. Depression affects people with weak minds. If you just try a little harder, work a little more, it will go away. It's not true. I have a good mind. At times I even believe I have a great mind. The lesson I learned is that it's not infallible. I was so ashamed of most every aspect of my life that was touched by the depression that I would never talk about it. It's still hard to share my story, but it's made easier because now I realize that even though I wasn't sad I was depressed. If anyone who reads my story sees even a few things that sound like what they're living with now... know that you're not alone. It's hard to talk about depression and so most of us who've experienced it are silent. Every woman should know, depression is not what you think it is. Sometimes it's forgetfulness, sometimes it's a rage that's so tangible you can almost feel it moving underneath your skin seeking a target to aim for, sometimes it's the inability to move without feeling like you're carrying a 100 pound weight with you. Help is out there. Even nursing moms can take some of the depression medications. Life does get better.

A Trip to the Dentist... a semi-fictional account of our first visit

“I scheduled an appointment for you guys to go to the dentist,” said Mom.

“Why do we have to go?” asked Chris.

“Dentists are doctors?” asked Jake.

“Will there be new toothbrushes?” asked Sam.

“It’s important to have the dentist check your teeth to make sure they’re healthy. The hygienist will use a special tool to clean your teeth while you’re there too.” Mom stated.

“Will it hurt?” asked Chris. “Can I take Leslie with me to hold onto in case I get scared and need her?”

“I’ve never been to a dentist before,” Sam said. “What should I wear to see the dentist? Do I need my backpack?”

“Dentist!!! I want to go!!!!” Jake exclaimed. Jake was only two and didn’t really understand what a trip to the dentist was all about. He just knew that his brothers were going and he wanted in on the action. No one was going to leave him at home while his brothers were out having fun!

Finally the day of their dentist appointments arrived. Chris and Sam weren’t sure that this sounded like a good idea but they were willing to trust Mom if she said it was important that they go. Jake was still excited about the prospect of going somewhere new.

Chris was the first one to get his teeth cleaned. He sat down in the big chair and held onto Leslie (in case he got scared). The lady who cleaned his teeth was very nice and showed him all of her tools and talked about how they worked. She told Chris what she was going to do. It didn’t sound very scary and Chris relaxed as she adjusted the chair back.

“Open your mouth wide so I can count all your teeth,” the lady said. Then she used her little pointy tool and counted all of Chris’s teeth. “Boy, you must do a good job brushing your teeth,” she told Chris. Your teeth look very clean.

Then she used her funny moving cleaning tool to clean Chris’s teeth. “Mmmm, bubble gum toothpaste,” said Chris. He liked the stuff she was using to clean his teeth. It didn’t take very long for her to finish cleaning his teeth. Then she went to get the Dentist.

Chris was a little bit worried but relaxed once the dentist came into the room. The dentist was a very tall man with a big smile. He made Chris feel comfortable and joked around with him a little bit before he looked at Chris’s mouth.

“These teeth look really good,” the dentist told Chris. “Keep on brushing and flossing every day. Pretty soon some of your teeth will get loose and fall out. Then new adult teeth will grow in.” Chris thought that having adult teeth sounded very grown up.

Once the dentist was finished Chris got to choose a toy from a big drawer full of toys. He picked out a squeaky green frog. “It a mutant alien frog from outer space!” Chris exclaimed.

Sam’s turn was next. He really didn’t like the way the chair tilted. He thought it was scary and uncomfortable. He did like the lady who cleaned his teeth. She was very nice and even let him sit up a little in the chair since having it lean all the way back scared him. She used a chain with some funny clips on the end to hold a great big napkin under his chin. She showed Sam all of her tools. “Look, this one shoots water,” she said, as she sprayed a stream of water across the room, “and this one catches the water and sucks it up,” she showed Sam the way the little tube caught and sucked up the water just like a little vacuum. Sam likes tools. He thought it was neat she shared her tools with him.
Sam was not impressed with the bubble gum flavored paste she used to clean his teeth. It didn’t hurt so Sam wasn’t scared anymore, but he did still feel a little bit uncomfortable.

Jake watched the whole process. He was only two so he wouldn’t get his teeth cleaned until after his third birthday. He was excited. Sam and Chris got new toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss in a little bag with the toys the dentist gave them. It didn’t seem fair that Jake didn’t get to have his teeth cleaned and he didn’t get any goodies. Being a remarkably polite and patient child he exclaimed, “Where’s my toothbrush? I want a toothbrush too!!!” The very nice dental hygienist let Jake pick out a new toothbrush too.

Once everyone got home all the boys ran into the bathroom and brushed their teeth using their new toothbrushes. They are excited to go see the Dentist next time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Random thought at election time

I've been reading other people's blogs again. It gets to be kind of a dangerous habit because most of the blogs I've been reading are those of people who hold vastly different political views than I do. Reading about all these other views made me stop and question why I hold the views I do. It didn't make me question my opinions, just the process that leads me to form those opinions.

My hot button issues are public lands use, private property rights, and gun rights. There are lots of other important issues out there that I'm willing to compromise on but these three are the ones that I use to decide who I'm voting for. Why those issues? Well, there were a couple of things that happened back in the 90's that stand out in my mind. The first was when the subject of wolf introduction in Idaho was debated by the environmentalists and politicians in Washington, D.C.

Every elected official in the state of Idaho told the other elected officials from other states that Idaho didn't want wolves introduced here. Wolves may have been here at one time, but our ecosystem was balanced and it isn't wise to introduce more predators at a time when the jackrabbits aren't multiplying at a rate that requires human intervention (that did happen back in the 70's). In a political move that plainly ignored any sort of state's rights wolves were introduced here anyway.

This might seem like a small event. After all wolves are magnificent. They're smart and beautiful. They raise families and play in the snow. How can Idahoans be so ignorant about how beautiful these animals are? It's not like they're going to come after your kids or anything... Is it?

If you're not from Idaho, and even if you are from Idaho but spend most of your time near the larger communities, you don't truly understand why this was upsetting to us. You'd have to travel in the backcountry to really grasp what it feels like to realize that you are foolish (let's not be negative and say stupid) to go out without carrying a gun. We don't worry so much about the human element as a threat. We worry about the predators. Humans may be the top of the food chain, but we're not invincible and our children certainly ARE small enough to count as prey.

It's not just the wolves that are a threat. Certainly I'm not advocating shooting all predators on sight. But it's just ridiculous to think that more predators are a good thing when the prey isn't multiplying in overabundance. In Moscow, where I went to college, the evening news had a 3 day sequence for wildlife programming education. The first day dealt with what to do if you encounter a moose (goofy looking, but can be deadly). The second day dealt with what to do if you encounter a bear. The third day educated you about what to do to scare away mountain lions and how to never leave your children undefended. Every night during hunting season they also ran a segment on hunter safety... you know... don't shoot at movement unless you have a clear view of your target, wear bright colors so other hunters can see you, always leave someone at home who knows where you went and when you should be back, etc. These programming segments would repeat in rotation all year.

Why do you suppose the news stations felt it was important to run these same segments over and over during the course of the year? Could it be because moose, bears, and mountain lions are an ongoing threat to human safety when humans are near their habitat? I still remember the time a mountain lion grabbed a 6 six year old boy by the head and dragged him off (not through personal experience but news coverage of the event). My first roommate recieved a call one afternoon from one of her friends asking if she should leave for class while a moose grazed in her front yard (NO!!!). The animals aren't walled off in some nice park, they're here, living among us. What makes it ok for someone who doesn't live here to tell us we need more predators among us?

There's also the infamous plan to manage the whole area known as the Columbia Basin as one ecosystem. When you look at a map it makes sense. Try traveling through the Columbia Basin and then tell me your opinion. The Columbia Basin encompasses everything from alpine forest, to meadow, to deserts. One proposal in the sage grouse recovery plan stated that the minimal stubble height allowance for grazing would be 9 inches. The majority of the bunch grasses in the Owyhee Desert only grow 6-8 inches tall. This proposal would have ended all cattle and sheep grazing in the Owyhees even though it's the grazing that keeps fire danger minimized and promotes plant diversity and growth there. A 9 inch stubble height on the Camas Prairie makes sense, grass there grows 24 inches or so. Nine inch stubble height requirements in the desert make no sense at all. It's an unattainable goal.

When you live in a city in the east it's easy to make assumptions about how we should manage public lands in the west. It's easy in the same way that it's easy to know all about parenting when you have no children. Amazing how different your solutions become when you actually know something about the issue you're pontificating about.

Quite a few folks are totally opposed to livestock grazing because they think it's hurting the environment. These same folks must have missed the days in class where we learned about the great herds of bison that used to roam here. If you have a view on grazing and have never actually raised an animal on range land I have an experiment for you to try. Section out a parcel of grass in your lawn. Rope it off, fence it, do whatever it takes to separate it from the rest of your grass so that you don't mow it accidentally. Now, let that grass grow for a season without doing anything to it other than watering. I predict that at the end of the season if you mow that section you will find that there are many fewer plants there. The tall grass will shade out the smaller plants. The soil will be packed harder and it will be more difficult for new seeds to take root. Once you finally mow the section you've "conserved" will look considerably sicker than the rest of your lawn. Not only that, if you didn't mow it and the grass died off in the fall (as grass tends to do) you would have a fire hazard. If you leave that old dead grass and let next years grass grow through it, the plants will be even fewer the following season. The build up of old grass will increase each season until it either prevents most new grass growth or the whole thing goes up in flames.

We're used to the flames out here. Every year thousands of acres burn. Usually the burns take root in areas with dead wood (trees that died but are left standing) or in range land that has an overabundance of dead grass. Because of the fires we now live with emissions testing here in the valley. The emissions testing doesn't do a darn thing to improve our air quality (since the majority of bad air quality days are due to forest and range fires around us). Federal regulators believe if we just control the human element the air will miraculously improve. I don't think the federal regulators realize that even if all the humans died and our cars composted the lightning would still rain down, the winds would still blow, and the range lands would still burn. Grazing is the only effective tool we have to slow or prevent wildfires.

For this reason alone I can never support a person running for office that wants federal officials to control Idaho lands instead of Idahoans. We live here. We want the environment to be healthy and productive. It's not in our best interests to abuse our resources. WE LIVE HERE.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What I've been doing instead of blogging

This is the quilt I made for my mother-in-law. It should have been a simple project that took about a week to complete (with kids and dogs and husband around). I had a few problems with my new sewing machine and it took a wee bit longer than that. My SIL Pam and Chris helped with the tying. It's not a total work of art or anything, but I made do with what I had instead of buying new material and I am pleased with it (although I would have chosen aqua instead of yellow if I'd had the option to buy new). I was told a long time ago that the motto of quilting is, "Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without." Depression era quilters would certainly have been amazed that quilters now have the option of buying jelly rolls and layer cakes of fabric that's already cut to speed up the quilt making process.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My beef with the public school system

More than 100 years ago Maria Montessori got it right. She believed that children learned through spontaneous self-development. If the right environment was provided for children to experience different challenges and learn new skills they would excell in ways that traditional education can't compete with. She also believed that grouping children by major growth periods was better than grouping them by 1 year intervals. In other words she instituted a multi-age, child directed classroom. A study in the Journal of Science in Sept. of 2006 upheld the belief that Montessori educated children do better academically and socially than their peers educated in traditional public schools.

I was a Montessori educated child. I taught myself to read when I was 4. My mother went back to school. She didn't have enough time to spend hours reading to me during the week. It made me mad. So... I showed her! I taught myself to read. Looking back, I'm sure that the hours I spent in school taught me many of the skills I needed to put it all together and really read. The teachers also took turns during the week choosing our language of the day. One teacher spoke Spanish with us, another spoke German, and yet another spoke English. We didn't just learn a few words or phrases of each language; we spent most of the day speaking to our teachers and our friends in whichever language was chosen for that day. Our teachers fostered mental flexibility and taught us to seek challenges rather than boredom.

And therein lies my beef with the public school system. Conformity seems to be the word of the day. If you're different there are all sorts of interventions the school's willing to help you with in order to make you more normal. If a student is falling behind the class there is help available to assist them with catching up. It's all very nice and seems to be in the students best interest but what I see is that the final result is to make everybody the same.

We are not all the same and it is damaging to believe we should be. I was an advanced student. That should be a good thing, right? In reality it was horrible. Being advanced meant that I got to do the same kind of homework for weeks while the rest of the class caught up. Hours worth of busy work, no challenge except to keep from turning my homework into paper airplanes and sailing them out the classroom door. In the beginning I loved school. By the time I graduated I was skipping more days than I attended. Of course, I was advanced so I manipulated the system so that most of the skipped days were school excused, but the reality is that I attended only 80 days of my senior year. Imagine how much better a student, and how much better a work ethic, would have been developed in an environment that rewarded individuality and provided constant challenge and opportunity for growth.

The school system (at least around here) is broken. It's not the fault of the teachers. They do an amazing job within the guidelines they're given. I believe that each and every person I've encountered in the Nampa School District truly cares about my child and wants to help him. I also believe that if they do get to help him become "more like his typical peers" they'll break him. There's an underlying belief that if we can just get everybody to the same level of (insert something here) the world will be a shiny, happy place and we'll all live happily ever after.

My son is different. He thinks at a different rate of speed, in different directions, and about different subjects than his "typical peers." Different isn't bad. It isn't even less than optimal. It's just different. He isn't broken, we don't need to fix him. We just need to help him learn. Amazingly, spontaneous self-development occurs when you allow a child to pursue his own interests in an environment that's supportive and rich in stimuli. Who would've thought it?

My grandfather, mother, and I are all scientists by education. By trade I'm a mother and dog person. By trade my mother is a microbiologist and my grandfather was a leader in the field of micology and forest pathology. I keep hearing that America is falling behind the pack when it comes to science and math. I'm not sure what education looks like in the countries with the best outcomes in these fields (ooh! research project!!) but I bet it doesn't look like American education today.

Successful scientists question. They don't follow the pack. They are amazing problem solvers. Clear linear thinking is required to insure that the scientific process is followed (and your results are solid). Abstract leaps of logic are required to tackle problems that no one has ever solved before. Einstein was not a normal student. Luckily he found good mentors who helped him in his education while he was still very young. It wasn't the school system that developed Albert's mind and love and learning. It was that amazing ideal espoused by Maria Montessori, spontaneous self-development. What if Einstein were "helped" to fit in better with his peers? Would he have followed the incredible road that led to his many discoveries in the realm of physics? Or would he have worked harder to learn basketball, to dress, and act, and talk like the other kids in his class? Would he have accepted that his classmates were his peers? Or would he have continued his quest for information and understanding that allowed him to meet his true peers?

Conformity makes it easier for those in charge to stay in control. In a school system that lacks parental involvement (even though the school welcomes parents, most don't visit regularly) the teachers either need a new method for teaching or they need the majority of the students to be somewhat similiar in learning styles and needs. Heaven forbid we shake the system up enough to try something like Maria Montessori's education model. A world without grades, the sky would fall!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Prayer Requests

What a week. My mother-in-law had surgery on Wednesday. She seems to be recovering well although she's still in pain and not feeling like her usual self.

Our neighbor went hunting for a couple of weeks and had a cousin stay and house sit at her place. Sometime last Tuesday her cat disappeared. Laurie loves her animals like I love my children and she just wants to know what happened to her cat. If he died she'd like to find out and if he's alive she'd like to get him back and care for him.

One of my friends called last night to tell me she was in labor and is staying in the hospital for awhile. Her baby's at 27 weeks gestation. Although we'd all like to meet her they're hoping she waits a couple more months before entering the world. There just isn't much that's scarier than not knowing if your child's going to be healthy.

It is a brisk and rainy morning here in Nampa and we did not go to church. I am trying to finish Pat's quilt and vacuum dog hair off our bright red carpet. At 9:30 this morning I put the makings of vegetable beef soup in the crock-pot and later I'll make some rolls to take with the soup for Jennifer's family.

Relief Society is one of the wonders of the modern world (in my opinion). It is at times like this that I wish all communities had a Relief Society (not just Mormons). Today I need to begin calling moms in our 4-H club and trying to line up help for Jennifer's family for as long as her family needs help (I'm thinking it's going to be about 2 months). There is way too much to be done for the entire burden to rest on one person. Her husband is amazing about caring for all 3 of their existing children, but by Tuesday he needs to be back to work. Tomorrow he's working from home, but with three children that's an awfully difficult way to complete your work. I'll help all I can, but my primary duty is to my own family... so here I am, back at the idea of Relief Society. We're Lutheran and while Lutherans are wonderful people they don't have an organization whose main purpose is caring for families in times of need. The infrastructure isn't the same and it's a bit more difficult to get the ball rolling and arrange for many people to share the burden of caring for a family. I'm sure it can be done. In fact, I'm sure it will be done. I'm just not sure how and when it will be done.

So, my wish for today is that anyone reading this post include my mother-in-law Pat, my neighbor Laurie, and my friend Jennifer in your prayers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Unschooling... what the heck?!?

When I decided to homeschool I did a lot of research. I talked with other parents. I talked with teachers. I looked at tons of different curriculum. I planned and I organized and I bought books, workbooks, paper, manipulatives, art supplies, and chairs for the classroom. Yes, I was ready for the school year to begin.

During my time researching I came across a disturbing trend called "unschooling." Unschoolers believe that by immersing their children in a rich and diverse environment they will magically absorb everything they need to know... because children are curious. What the heck? What sort of education is that? Don't these people understand that we need more structure than that?

So we officially started school on Sept. 2nd. It's been great. Really. We're enjoying the freedom of staying home or going out. Chris is excelling because he can work at his own pace. The housework gets a bit behind but then every so often we take a day off and clean house. That's a lesson too, right?

Want to know a secret? The only curriculum we're following anymore is for math. We do math first thing in the morning and then spend the rest of the day doing whatever strikes our fancy. Really. Today we researched ship building. Chris finished his math during breakfast. The manipulatives for math were great to build pretend ships with. He and Sam built ships for about an hour. Then we looked up ships online. Now I think they're in the kitchen drawing ships. I think we're going to learn more about the time period when the great naval explorers like Columbus and Magellan lived. None of that was in my carefully planned lessons at the beginning of the year. None of it.

I think we may be unschoolers. How did this happen? What do I do? Do I admit it, or do I continue wondering about the sanity of these unschooling parents? Hmmm... perhaps I can just say my child has Aspergers and this is his current fascination. I don't have to admit it doesn't fit into the first grade curriculum do I? There we go... we aren't unschoolers. It's simply that my son's unique abilities and challenges force us in this direction. Or maybe... just maybe... there's something to that belief that a child's curiousity will cause them to learn everything they need if you just give them a little direction and support.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The things I put up with

This morning Jake (he's almost 3) came and sat on my lap. He kept opening his mouth and trying to show me something. I couldn't see anything of note going on so I asked him what I could do to help him. He kept mumbling something with his mouth wide open. I finally got him to look at me and quit showing me his mouth. What was he saying? "There's hiccups in my mouf!!!" He thought I could get the hiccups out. I have grown shorter in the eyes of my child. I cannot get the hiccups out of his mouth.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Lately I've spent some time thinking about my best friend. This isn't all that unusual since we speak several times a week, but it's been a long time since I've thought about why we are friends. I live in Idaho. I was born in Idaho. I attended Idaho schools. I like Idaho. Unlike a lot of Idahoans I did live in New Mexico and Washington for years at a time. I liked the other states too.

Amy lives in Nevada. She was born in Minnesota. She spent years living in Virginia and Idaho. She liked Virginia. I'm not sure she liked Idaho, but she did attend high school and college in Idaho schools.

We met in 9th grade reading (actually we met briefly in 8th grade when I hit her in the head with my locker door). It turns out we both like to read trashy romance novels (I mean we read nothing of value most of the time). Neither of us had spent our entire lives in the town of Nampa... so we weren't welcomed with open arms by the community of Nampa. We also were not Mormon or Nazarene. For a long time the interests we shared were more about the things that made us different from our classmates than the similarities we shared in other areas.

I have to laugh when I think back to what we were like when we first met. Amy never wore jeans. I think she owned one pair, but I never did see her wear them. She was always dressed in skirts or slacks and a few people thought maybe she went to private school because she was always so well dressed. She is also what you could call diminutive in stature (a few of us would say short). The other day she reminded me that she still doesn't reach the 5' mark. Quiet, Amy is quiet. She is so quiet and well behaved that many people think she may be kind of dull, passive, or slow... she is none of those things. It's easy to underestimate her because she looks so innocent; those of us who know her realize she is a person to beware of if you are on opposite sides of the fence.

While I tend to be outspoken and have a lamentable lack of tact, Amy is reserved and always seems to consider what she's saying before voicing an opinion. When she does voice her opinion it's always well considered and she can annhialate an opponent in just a few sentences. In college she got her ethics professor fired. They didn't see quite eye to eye when it came to interpreting philosophy. Well... he wasn't very bright, she got tired of being marked down on tests when her answers were just as correct as his answers. Here's a hint for any professors who may read this: When a student protests a test score and brings assigned literature for the course to prove her answers- you should double check your scoring and answer key.

Amy is a liberal (yes, probably even a bleeding heart liberal). I like her anyway. We probably wouldn't enjoy each other as much if we saw eye to eye on everything. It's no fun debating with someone who shares your viewpoint. The thrill is in debating with someone who makes you stretch and learn. It's also no fun debating with someone who takes it personally if you have a different viewpoint. I'm sure we both laugh about the other person's politics but we do it to each other's faces. Once in a while the opposing side does say something that's worth thinking over. If you only ever debate politics with like minded people you won't learn nearly as much.

When we were in high school I used to drive Amy home after school. A little more than 15 years later it still makes me smile to remember making her ride in my old blue 3/4 ton Ford pickup. It was always full of bits of hay and smelled faintly of sheep and horses. There frequently were remnants of manure on the floor. That old truck had an 8-track tape player. I had a whole box of old Chris LeDoux 8-tracks. I'd play them loud just for Amy to enjoy (of course she was more into George Winston's piano solos, or Barbara Striesand, or Manheim Steamroller). It was so much fun teasing her.

I never did reach one of my goals. Amy was so prim and proper, I always wanted to get a picture of her wearing irrigation boots. She was good though and always managed to kick them off before I could get the camera ready. There is no evidence to show our children that she ever did wear those boots. But I know she did. We definately were very different from each other 15 years ago.

Now we are 33 years old (Amy's almost 34!!!). Our interests are much more similiar now than they were back when we first became friends. Today we both cook and craft. We have children around the same age. Amy sometimes wears jeans, I sometimes wear skirts, and both of us shop at Land's End.

Some things are still the same. She's still a liberal. I am perhaps even more conservative now than I was then. Our families still make us laugh (or cry). And we still read nothing with intellectual merit.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Do We Hope For World Peace?

Every beauty pageant contestant wishes for it. Every political candidate endorses it. Most people in the world pray for it. But it doesn't happen. What, you ask, is it that we all desire? World peace. But is peace possible? If so, how to we obtain it? If not, why not? Well boys and girls, I have an opinion on the issue (startling, I know). I think men (and women) talk about peace but live for war.

The natural state of man is to be at war. We are made for war. Our brains are wired for war. Well, maybe not war, but we are wired to face extreme physical and mental challenges. Our bodies and minds are designed to fight for survival. In this time of plenty (at least here in the US) how do we provide that challenge which is as essential to our souls as love is? We go to war.

If we're not at war with another country we are at war among ourselves within this country. It's interesting that our society is much less militant when faced with famine and drought. Do you suppose we're too weak to want to fight? Or could it possibly be that we sink our energy into surviving the most immediate threat to our existence and not into badgering our neighbors.

There is an old Eastern proverb that states, "When food is plentiful there are many problems. When food is scarce there is only one problem." With modern farming methods we produce more food on less land than any generation before us ever did. Most of our population has moved away from rural areas. With urbanization physical activity becomes a choice you make, rather than a way of life. Somehow it becomes "uncool" to work physically to make a living.

No matter how miniscule the microcosm of society you examine is you will find that people need conflict. We need it. We don't profess to want to fight; but judging from the amount of fighting we do I believe there is a biological imperative directing men toward conflict. Look at the most innocent of societies and you will find this every bit as true as when you examine national governments. Is your local PTA, 4-H club, or church group any more peaceful than the governments of the world's nations? If you've been involved with any of those groups for long enough I'm sure you will agree... they love conflict. Even when people profess to want smooth waters there is always someone stirring the pot.

We like war. We don't like death and destruction, but we like war. We like to win. We like the endorphin rush that comes with a good fight. We love the energy it brings. We thrive on the race to be the best, to prove we're the best, to make others acknowledge us as the best. We like war. But only if we're winning.

I think I finally get it

Today, for the first time, I think I finally get it. When you're dealing with highly distractible children incorporate movement into everything you teach. I'd heard it, but I didn't get it. Until today. How do you incorporate movement into a language arts lesson? Math, sure... build with your little blocks, move the blocks from one pile to another, there's lots of movement in math. Language arts... not so much. Or so I thought until this morning.

Chris knows the alphabet upside down and backwards (really). He knows all the sounds the letters make. He has not had good success decoding words by sounding them out. It is much more likely he will guess what the word is based on it's initial letter and the overall shape of the word. For months we have struggled with this. I get so annoyed because the whole time I want him to look at the word he fidgets. He plays with his pencil. He taps his fingers on the arm of his chair. He crumples paper with his feet. He stands on books. If there aren't books on the floor, he puts books on the floor. It makes me so mad I could just scream.

Today we found my old Boggle game in the top of his closet. He really wanted to play, even though he didn't have a clue what Boggle is. Hmmm, I thought to myself. There's a box full of little blocks with letters on 6 sides. Gee, whatever could we do with letter blocks? Hmmm.... I think we could.... wait, wait, it's coming to me...... Gasp! We could build words!!!! It was exciting. It was new. It involved movement.

And yet... he still messed around with stuff with his feet. There had to be more we could do to make this work and keep me from strangling him for fidgeting. We buzzed right along through the words Ted, bed, Fred and shed.... and then.... we got to the word red. It should be simple. But it wasn't. Even after reading all the other "ed" words, red wasn't making sense to Chris. And he kept crumpling papers with his feet (where do these papers come from, I wonder? I'm sure the floor was clean when we started). Why can't this child read the simple word "red"? How hard can this be? I mean he's guessing all over the place and half his guesses don't even end in "ed".

The fidgeting was driving me mad (literally)! I had to stop it! Carol Barnier's voice (look up if you're not familiar with Carol) suddenly spoke inside my head. I very clearly heard her beginning to say, "If you don't give a highly distractible child something to do with their body they will choose something on their own, and I can pretty much guarantee... it will drive you nuts." Soooooo...... I made him hop. Left foot... "rrrr"..... right foot....."ed"...left food "r" ... right foot... "ed" left foot... "r" right foot... "ed", and so on until he'd done the whole word 10 times. At the end we jumped with both feet and when we landed we shouted, "RED!" It worked so well we did the whole rest of the lesson the same way. At the end I would give him the word to spell and he would choose the blocks and build the word. Then I built the words and he read them. And he got it. And so did I.

I think that chairs will no longer have a place in our language arts lessons. Only time will tell if he retains what he's learning, but he surely understood more at the end of our lesson today than he ever has before. He even spelled some words on his own. It was our first really difficult "ah ha!" moment. I am so proud of us for trying something new and succeeding with it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Leslie and the Fair, a fictional story for Chris

“Is today the day? Is this the day the fair starts?” asked Leslie

“Yes,” said Chris, “Today we’re going to the fair.”

“Do you have everything ready?” the rabbit asked. “Is my food dish in the car? Did you pack my water bottle? What about my hay cubes? Are you sure you didn’t forget anything?”

“I made a list,” said Chris. “On the list I wrote:

List of stuff I need for fair

1. Carry cage (to take Leslie in)
2. Water Bottle
3. Food Dish
4. Sign for Leslie’s Cage
5. 4-H record books
6. Rabbit food
7. Snacks for me (and juice boxes)
8. Leslie

“I have everything in the car except the cage and you,” said Chris.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” asked Leslie. “I don’t know if I’ll like sleeping in a cage away from our house. What if the other rabbits are mean? What if they laugh at me?”

“They won’t laugh at you,” Chris replied. “They will think you are wonderful. I think you are wonderful and I am excited to take you to the show.”

Chris was looking very handsome wearing his long sleeved white shirt and black slacks. He had a fresh haircut and had even used some hair gel that morning. Looking good was important to Chris and today he wanted everything to be just right. Show day was finally here!

After reassuring Leslie that today would be a fun day, Chris picked his rabbit up and gently placed her in her travel cage. The travel cage was small, just a little bit larger than Leslie. It wasn’t meant to live in, just to transport rabbits from home to the show. Leslie liked her travel cage. Its small size helped her feel safe. She wouldn’t slip around in there when the car drove over bumps in the road.

The show started at 8:00 in the morning. Chris left home at 6:30 in order to get his cage area cleaned up. It was important to have everything looking just right before the fair opened to the public later in the morning. After he cleaned his cage and placed Leslie inside with her food dish full of pellets, Chris filled her water bottle with fresh, clean water and used a wire to attach it to her cage in the fair’s rabbit barn.

Leslie didn’t like the cage the fair had assigned to her, “It’s too rusty,” she said. “I don’t like the floor, it is bumpy and it smells funny,” the rabbit complained. “This is not like my cage at home!”

“It’s ok Leslie,” said Chris. “You won’t notice the smell after a while and although the floor is bumpy it’s not so bumpy it hurts your feet,” he explained. “You are lucky to be a rabbit in the rabbit barn. This barn has air conditioning. If you were a pig you would be outside under the canopy and you would be very hot. I saw kids spraying their pigs with water to keep them cool.”

The superintendent (she was the lady in charge of the rabbit show) called out that it was time to get ready for the show, “I need everyone to come to the arena in 10 minutes,” she said. “Please have your show clothes on and be ready to go.”

Chris was already wearing his show clothes so he made his way over to the bleachers at the side of the arena and waited for the rest of the kids to get there. Once everyone had checked in the superintendent introduced the judge and asked if anyone had any questions. No one did so the judge told the kids what he was looking for in showmanship (where the kids are judged on how they handle their animals) and then the superintendent called the first class.

The youngest kids showed first and Chris, at age 6, was in the first group to show. He was very nervous. What if Leslie got scared and tried to run away from the table? What if she got mad and bit somebody? What if that somebody was Chris?!? “Oh no, what if I look silly?” he asked.

It was time to take Leslie to the show table. Chris tucked his carpet square (for Leslie to sit on) under one arm and then very carefully picked Leslie up. He tucked her head in between his elbow and chest and cradled her hindquarters in his hand. The opposite hand rested across Leslie's back, making sure she was secure and wouldn't be able to get away or get hurt.

Chris placed Leslie's carpet square on the table and then set her down and posed her facing to his right. The judge asked everybody to move their animals in certain ways and check them for different health conditions or disqualifications. Then he asked all the kids some questions about their rabbits. Some of the questions were hard and Chris didn't know the answers, but others were easy for him to answer correctly.

At the end of the class the judge awarded ribbons to everyone. They were rainbow colored and had the word "Cloverbud" printed on them, along with the fair's name and 2008.

“Leslie didn’t hop away and she didn’t bite anyone,” Chris was pleased with how good his rabbit had been during the show.

“I am glad we came to the fair,” Leslie said. “It has been fun and now I am looking forward to returning to my cage and watching all the people who come to see the fair. You will have to hang my ribbon on the name sign above my cage. I want everybody to know what a good job we did today!”

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Women everywhere should rejoice!

This evening I watched Sarah Palin accept the Vice Presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention. For several days now I have been reserving judgement about whether she is a good choice as McCain's running mate. Tonight I am certain... I like Sarah Palin. It doesn't matter what goes on in her personal life. This is one tough lady. She stands for reform. Not only does she stand for reform she has a track record that shows she can accomplish it. We live in a country rich in natural resources. She is for using them. What a concept. Her oldest child ships off to war on September 11th. She's for winning that war. Sarah Palin is not part of the old guard political machine- and that works in her favor.

In an earlier post I questioned how she would be recieved by other conservative women. Browsing blogs on the internet I've found that many think her place is at home with her family. I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom. I believe God called me to stay home and he gifted me with some special children who really need me here. I don't think God gives every woman the same calling. I don't think God gives the same calling to every mother. There are women out there who serve an even greater good. There are women like Sarah Palin.

Today I spent some time reading up on Darfur. The plight of the Sudanese people really moved me. We are so lucky to live here. In the United States we are incredibly safe compared to some other regions of the world. The day to day struggles we face are not usually struggles to simply survive. We take that for granted.

A mother in Darfur would most likely be willing to do anything to make her home safer. I celebrate that we have the opportunity to voice differing opinions on a wide variety of subjects in my country. How lucky am I that I can choose to stay home and educate my children in the manner I believe is best for them? How lucky am I that many people fought and died in order to give me the freedom to criticize my government? Not only can I criticize my government I can change my government. Yes, that's right; I have that power. And so do you.

Sarah Palin is one tough lady. Her campaign platform, while running for Governor in Alaska, was to reform corrupt government and give the power back to the people. And she did it. Motherhood doesn't make us weak and put us at the mercy of others, without our own voice. It makes us strong. Motherhood clarifys our purpose in life. It makes us question what we need to do in order to ensure survival and safety for our children. Sometimes it gives us reason to stand for something, and risk everything, because it's in the best interests of our children. I cannot criticize this woman for not staying home and postponing her career. She has a message, and an imperative to move forward in political office. She is a driving force for change, for honesty, and for common sense. She is working not just to raise her children, but to improve the world they live in, on a very grand scale.

Naked Children

Have you ever had company over and then looked at your own house and family with new eyes and been astonished at what you see? It amazes me how many truly odd things we take for granted around here. My children (the 2 youngest) are always naked. Why does that not seem odd in the normal couse of events? Almost always anyway. Last night we had company over for dinner. Before we were finished eating our dinners... there was a full moon out. It was Jake. He just can't possibly use the toilet and leave his clothes on. And once they're off why would he think to put them back on? It's not like it's cold here or anything.

There are two microscopes in our living room. They've been there for as long as I can remember. I even use them sometimes while identifying fungi or making sure the animals or kids don't have parasites (because I'm really creeped out by parasites). One wall of the room is floor to ceiling bookcases (20' long by 8' tall). The opposite wall houses the entertainment center which is also full of books. There are books on and under every table in the room. There are even baskets of books on the fireplace hearth. In an earthquake it's the books that would kill us.

Even the walls in the living room aren't exempt; we have pictures of naked ladies painted by my grandfather (badly) as well as a lovely aerial photograph of the house and land taken before the area became so built up. There are photographs of my children as well as pictures taken of my grandparents and mother when they were all young. The Playboy calendar has moved to the shop sometime within the past seven years.

Of course there are also toys everywhere. I noticed a Transformer in the midst of the figurine shelf. There is was between the Three Graces, David, and Venus (minus her arms). Modern art meets classical I guess.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Christmas Puppies

I hate Christmas puppies. And Eater bunnies. And any type of cute young animal advertised for sale around a major holiday. Why do I dislike them? After all, I am a rabbit breeder and occasionally a dog breeder. Does this make me a hypocrite? How do I justify breeding and selling young animals all other times during the year?

Bringing home a new animal is not a decision to be made lightly. I believe in forever homes (or the ability to eat whichever animal you're tired of). It seems that many people buying animals over the holidays get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle and are simply trying to check gifts off their lists. Puppies are not like a shiny new toy that can be put away when you're bored with them. They can't be left in the garage until the weather warms up next spring and then taken out and played with only in good weather.

Pets are a huge responsibility (especially when they have jaws that can destroy a table leg). I love our Labs. They're part of our family (and even live with us in the house). We take them everywhere with us when the weather's cool enough to leave them in the car for a few minutes if we go someplace dogs aren't welcome. Some days I would like to trade my children for the dogs because the dogs are easier to live with and train. If only we could pen the kids in the kennel out back...

Now for my dilemma. I bred Zowie to the Yellow Lab next door. It was the middle of August when she came into heat. Really, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Both Roscoe and Zowie are very mellow, very quiet, well behaved, mad for retrieving Labs. They both have good conformation, good color, and good bloodlines. However, I am an idiot. I did not count ahead to figure out when her puppies would be ready to find their own homes. You guessed it... mid December.

So, in an attempt to avoid the dreaded "Christmas Puppies" I am already searching for homes in need of Labrador Retriever puppies this winter. Good news! If you reserve now I will hold your puppy for you until after the holidays! Or if you wish you may take them any time after they are 8 weeks old, but if they're going to be a present for someone.... please, please reserve a puppy before November rolls around. And please, please don't let me ever hear you refer to your dog as a "Christmas Puppy." Although it could be an "End of Hunting Season" companion for your older, retiring retriever.

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room