Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Thought About Babies and Cleanliness

"I wasn't going to make a mess, Mom. Promise!"

Pardon the cellphone quality picture...

My post for today is just a simple thought:

I love cleanliness. I love my baby. But on most occasions that little fella does not = cleanliness. So what is a mother to do?

I was having a conversation with my older sister, Jennifer, when I thought to ask her, how does one keep their house/apartment clean with a little guy who is very efficient at pulling things out of boxes, drawers, and cupboards? Very quickly the answer came to my mind, you don't. Just get down there and play with him.

I take time to clean up, but I'll be honest, I'm usually behind in one way or another. It's all a part of the grand adventure that is parenthood. I so appreciated Ariel's post about getting out. If I spent my child's entire life cleaning, what would I have really taught him? There are certainly grand lessons in cleaning and doing chores, but if that is all that is focused on, so many things will be missed.

Thank Heaven for those illuminating moments!


Monday, March 26, 2012

A Dynamic Duo (and a Deal!)

It all started with a magazine article my Mom saw at a local farmer’s market in Salt Lake City. The cover picture immediately caught my attention, depicting a happy family, a chicken, a smashed TV, and the banner “Rage Against Conformity” hanging behind their smiling faces. My mom shared the article with me at the right time. I was trying to live more conscientiously and sustainably. Over the course of the following month I became an ardent fan of Amy Thompson, aka Progressive Pioneer. I sent her an email thanking her for sharing her example of a life I aspired to.

We began communicating and eventually Andrew wrote a story about her work for the Mormon Times. The evening of the interview we found that Andrew and I had a lot in common with Amy and Clay (her husband). Soon we found ourselves enjoying time together up at the cabin, in a preschool co-op, taking birthing classes, and having dinners together. With the exception of my Mom, Amy has done more to shape my philosophy on health, parenting, and creating than anyone else. She and Clay are people who live the ODL mission, doing little things every day that affect the big picture for the betterment of the earth, their children, and themselves.

While Amy blogs, Clay is busy with artwork and running Ivory Bill where he works as a carpenter. Among other things, he draws individual and family portraits—art with a unique, personable feel. His pieces have amazing detail, enhanced with a memorable quirk--like watching a colorful film with witty dialogue. They have a new great deal where you can get these terrific two-toned individual portraits for $100, and you can get an additional ten percent off if you mention this post!
Check out Clay's illustration page on Facebook!
You can also order one of these amazing family portraits.  See here for pricing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Version Homemade Gatorade

A few weeks ago I read this recipe for homemade all natural gatorade, which really is just a sugary drink with electrolytes in it. (Electrolytes are minerals, such as sodium, which help our body maintain the proper fluid balance. They actually aide our body in water absorption.) Then last week my poor little family went through the worst stomach flu I've ever experienced. Poor little Geo had it first, then I started about an hour after him... *sigh* Watching your child be sick is quite possibly the hardest part of parenting at this stage.

Nursing, being pregnant, and being sick, I was so parched! So I ventured some water... which didn't really go over well. Luckily I remembered the most important parts of the recipe for the gatorade, and had Joe help me make some sometime around 4:30am. You may not believe it, but it was like a magical cure! I really can't tell you how immediately refreshing it was. And the best part: it didn't even try to come back up! It felt like a miracle.

The recipe as I made it:
4 cups of water
3 lemons juiced
1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt (don't try this with regular table salt, they aren't synonymous. Their differences would make and excellent blog topic...)

Mix and sip.

And that's all I did. I remembered that the original recipe called for honey, but I'm not really a honey and lemon person. My husband thought I was going to be able to taste the salt, but with the lemon, I couldn't taste it at all actually.

So if you or your family are ever sick, remember relief isn't all that difficult.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Bead Game

Terrible Twos? Or Threes?
I never thought the twos were terrible. Part of me actually mourned Sammy's third birthday because I thought two was so awesome.

When I told people this, a few responded, "Just wait 'til he's three." I figured they might be wrong, just as the perpetrators of the "terrible twos" myth had been wrong. I was pleased to find that I've enjoyed three very much. It's a treat watching the expansion of Sammy's eagerness to learn, understand, and make connections. It's really been fun.

Right around 3 1/2, however, some distressing changes started developing: ignoring instructions, becoming stubborn and demanding, and expressing frustration LOUDer than ever. We guessed this was what people were talking about, and it was new to our boy, who has always been surprisingly compliant and responsive. We did not want these sneaky new habits to stick, but were not quite sure what to do!

He thought getting on the green row was very cool.
Let the Game Begin!
One day on a whim I pulled out my abacus and told Sammy we were going to play the The Bead Game*. I explained that every time he followed an instruction, he earned a bead. If he did not follow the instruction, the bead was mine. To get started, we practiced some easy, fun instructions so he could earn some quick beads. He was excited about it.

For the last three weeks, we've had the abacus on the piano where Sammy can keep his eye on his beads. Keenan and I get a bead only every once in a while, not as often as I thought we might. In fact, he's much more excited about earning beads himself than worrying whether we get one (though if we hint that the bead might be ours, it becomes big motivation). At the end of the day, we write his total number of beads on our calendar on the wall. If he sets a new record, we draw a big star next to it. He's always asking what his current record is, and looks forward to breaking it. ("When do you think I will break my record?") Right now the record is 32. Average is maybe 26 or 27.

How a Bead is Earned
Through this process, instruction has became a key word. If at first he hesitates to do as we ask, and we remind him that it's an instruction, he flies into action. Since we began, he's actually earned beads for much more than just following instructions, for example:
  • Taking initiative to do something helpful (without being asked)
  • Saying or doing something kind
  • Interacting happily with his little brother
  • Greeting someone with confidence
  • Playing independently
  • Doing something brave or hard
  • Asking politely
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Being quick to apologize, even when he didn't mean to hurt or offend
  • Accepting no for an answer
  • Controlling his emotions
  • Remembering rules on his own
  • Etc.

Really, there are no real rules and there are no limits. I love this because he never quite knows when he'll get a bead. We try to be free with them. If he does something really impressive, he might even earn a double. 

Words Go with Beads
As we award a bead, we'll say something like:
  • "Sammy, you brushed your teeth without a reminder!"
  • "I noticed you found Daniel's shoe for him. I'm giving you a bead."
  • "You greeted my students so clearly when they came today."
  • "You're staying at the table. You get a bead for remembering the rule!"
  • "I peeked in the door during Primary, and saw you sitting reverently and listening."

Sometimes he does things with a bead in mind ("I get a bead for that..."), but more often than not, he's just pleased when something he does results in a bead. As with adults, children feed off positive attention and want to continue doing what we like. But we have to be very vigilant in noticing and commenting on what we like in more detail than "nice job" or "good boy." I think all parenting experts agree on that.

The Outcome
Keenan and I had already developed the habit of verbally praising Sammy, but having something concrete like the bead game has yielded enhanced results. He is besting some of the hairy little impulses that have started nipping at him, and it has been very positive motivation for Sammy to change his behavior on his own accord. In general, our house has been more positive and peaceful since we started. We are more patient and our relationships are better.

Eventually, I expect that The Bead Game will fade away, but that many of these habits will stick. The other day we asked him if he likes The Bead Game. He said with a smile, "Yes. Every instruction you give me, I follow."


*A twist on an idea (from a great friend!) that I use teaching young violinists -- the kind who can't follow instructions consistently. My students get a stricter and more direct version.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Marshall Family Vision, Mission and Values

I was talking to a friend today about our family Mission, Vision and Values statement.  I said I would send it to her, and I thought it might be helpful as a sort of a template for other families interested in doing the same thing but aren't sure where to start.  Sorry, some of you have seen this before.

Marshall Family Vision
We, the Marshall family, envision ourselves in the presence of Heavenly Father and the Savior with clean hands and pure hearts, able to enter His presence worthily along with our extended family and others we love.
Photo Credit: Hannah Galli
Marshall Family Mission
We will reach our lofty vision by embracing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, loving Him and our neighbor, preaching the Restoration, linking generations through temple work, helping the poor, and making and honoring temple covenants. 

We will act as good stewards over our children, those who we are called to serve, our time, our resources, our bodies, and the earth. 

We will seek to recognize the power of the Atonement and remember Him in all of our thoughts, words, and actions.

Marshall Family Values
The Marshall Family Values will serve as the inner drive for the execution of the activities delineated in the mission statement.
Further Light and Knowledge

Above all we know that only through the grace of Christ can we achieve our vision.

Operating Plan (this is something we review in conjunction with our weekly planning sessions and goal-setting)
The Marshall’s will have a house of order (scheduling, finances, rules, cleanliness)
The Marshall’s will have a life of refinement (culture, entertainment, literature, theater, music, education, art, knowledge)
The Marshall’s will have a healthy lifestyle (bedtime, awake time, play time, exercise time, healthy food time)
The Marshall’s will have a spiritual foundation (scriptures, temple, prayer, church service, missionary work)
The Marshall’s will have a life of service (to neighbors, ward members, friends, family, world) 

Every week we review long and short term goals we make that specify how to carry out our operating plan.  I love having a vision, mission and values statement.  It is something we can rely on in our family, and it's a measuring stick for the physical objects we want to bring into our home, the media we consume, and the activities we participate in.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Helps for a Happy Home Birth

This is Peter.  I met him two and a half weeks ago under the most extraordinary circumstances!  Sort of like magic, really.  Cameron and I entered our house, just the two of us, and the next time we emerged together, there was Peter with us!  We went for a walk, and after getting acquainted, we decided we'd keep him.

Wouldn't you?

I won't indulge right now by retelling the birth story.  But I did want to share a list of my favorite labor tricks and comforts that aided me during our natural home birth.  I would love to hear from readers about what (and who) helped you through labor!

Nothing is more important than trusting one's instincts during labor, submitting to your more primitive self who knows (like all other mammals) how to give birth.  But I tell you!  I was helped so much by reading a great number of birth stories, articles and books (my favorite pictured above), by attending a birth class, by talking to other mothers, by "practicing labor" with Cameron at our house, and by meeting often with our wonderful midwife, Richelle Jolley.  I did indeed refer mentally to many of the things I had learned as I progressed through labor.  But most importantly, they taught me what to expect and drove all fear out of me prior to the birth.  Fear is to pain as oxygen is to fire.

I especially encourage any expectant mother to read the birth stories (especially natural birth stories) of as many other women as she can.  She will learn what she wants her own labor to be, and learn to believe in her body.

The Rope
This was my favorite during active labor!  We got the idea from Ina May's research on a few traditional cultures in which ropes are used during labor.  Cameron and I bought a strong smooth rope from Ace Hardware, and he rigged it to the top of our stairs, so it was hanging down to the side of the staircase.  He hung it like the picture on the bottom left, hammock-like, but he also tied evenly-spaced knots in it.  He also hung it higher, so that rather than sitting on it I could loop it under my arms.  Oh, I loved this.  I loved it in so many different positions... hanging from the different knots, sinking my weight into it with it looped under my arms, or leaning forward into it.  Cam or Nonie often provided support from behind, or applied pressure/heat to my lower back.

The Ball
I didn't use this as much as I thought, but found I did like it in between contractions when they were getting closer together.  It was relieving to bounce up and down on it.  I did not like to sit on it during contractions, but Nonie says she loved that in her second labor.  So try it!  It also was great when I was using my rope and I wanted something to brace my knee against (I pinched the ball against the wall with my leg). My midwife said most women like to kneel next to it and slump over it as they rotate their hips around.

The Tub
I wish I had gotten in the tub sooner (which was actually a horse trough lent to us by our midwife).  But I rushed so quickly through active labor and transition I hardly had time to get myself into the tub before pushing.  (I hadn't planned on a water birth, but it ended up that way because I could not get out again once I was in stage two).  I believe it would have been more of a comfort had I gotten in earlier, because it felt just heavenly after the baby was born and they added some hot water.

Note: earlier in the day we folded a quilt into quarters and put it on the bottom of the tub, then lined the sides with pillows.  We then covered all of this in a huge sheet of plastic, and taped the plastic around the outside edge of the trough.  This made the trough much softer and more comfortable for me than it would have been --- and none of the bedding even got wet!

Descending Chromatic Scales
This was the best pain relief of the day!  Early on in labor I found a deep low hum that really helped ease my pain.  When I focused on the notes, their depth and their vibrations, I was able to forget about the pain of contractions.  Here is an excerpt from my birth story about what happened in active labor: "My humming had turned to singing, deep long low pitches.  The lower I kept my voice, the less I felt the pain, and the more pain I felt the louder I had to sing.  Soon I was singing long descending chromatic scales, to keep my voice moving lower through each wave rather than higher.  If my voice rose to higher pitches it meant I was giving into the pain and feeling it much more intensely.  Keeping my voice low and strong helped me feel that I had everything under control, that I was stronger than the pain.  I could feel it also helped me open up and relax, especially if I let a little vibrato in."

My labor lasted 31 hours, but until it was over I never reached a point of real fatigue.  One reason is that I made every effort (and Cam did too) to sleep when it was night, and catch naps in the day.  Granted, I could only sleep between contractions, but those minutes added up!

Eating and Drinking
I ate throughout labor, another huge reason I believe I avoided fatigue.  Pasta with a heavy beef/liver tomato sauce; fried eggs and toast; cheese and crackers; Nonie's homemade granola in raw milk... all good energy food.  And plenty of water!  Just remember to use the bathroom frequently as a full bladder does not aid labor.

I also took my vitamins, and a not-so-tasty shock tea (apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, etc.) to help limit bleeding.

Moving Around
Until I was in really active labor, I hardly ever took two consecutive contractions in the same position.  I leaned over furniture, arched over my hands and knees, swayed from Cameron's shoulders, leaned against a wall, sat on the edge of a chair, or squatted.  These upright positions not only help labor progress, the variety really helped the time pass!

Getting Outside
Nonie was responsible for getting me to put on my coat and boots and go outside (in my 27th hour of labor).  We climbed around on some huge metal pipes stacked near our property, walked the perimeter of the yard a couple times, and leaned against trees, etc. during contractions.  It was a really nice change of scenery, especially the crisp fresh air.  But most importantly, this is when labor really picked up!  It was a race to the finish from there.

I had planned on making two long playlists --- one more peaceful and relaxing, the other energizing --- to match whatever moods I might find myself in during labor.  I never got around to that!  Now I'm glad, because all I really wanted was simple Bach cello suites and some Thomas Tallis choral pieces.  These ran over and over throughout my labor, and I never tired of them.  I needed their simplicity.

I was really fine on my own through most of early labor, and took the contractions leaning against furniture or on my hands and knees.  But it was nice having Cameron for conversation and encouragement, and eventually Nonie as well.  By the time I was in active labor, I really needed them.  I needed to be touched (firmly) and talked to calmly.  I needed to be able to hang from Cameron's shoulders or have him supporting me from behind.  Feeling the presence of one who loved me made a great deal of difference in how I took the pain.

Heat and Counter-pressure
Let's just say the heated rice bags were heaven, especially when applied to my lower back.  And counter-pressure above my sacrum or against my knees was incredibly relieving... it cut the pain in half.  Probably part of that pain relief was due simply to the physical contact with a loving person, but the pressure really helped.

A Compassionate Birth Team
Richelle Jolley (left) and her attendants
My midwife and her two apprentices were efficient, practical, methodical... but above all they were humane, gentle, and compassionate.  They trusted me and respected me; they trusted and respected the natural process of birth; they were guided equally by their expertise and by their instincts and spiritual impressions.  My midwife asked permission anytime she needed to do something mildly invasive --- which was rare.  Above all, when they spoke to me they were kind and encouraging.  They were still smiling, even when they left the house at 5:00 am.

Why does this matter?  A woman who is uncomfortable with her surroundings --- particularly with any individual present --- cannot relax and open up as needed.  Her adrenaline is sparked and her labor is slowed; she is in defense mode.  The complete comfort I felt with these wonderful women, whom I knew very well by the time of our labor thanks to our many long appointments, allowed me to focus calmly on my body without worrying what anyone else in the room might be doing or saying.

Gratitude and Positivity
Nothing is more crucial than an accepting and loving attitude.  I was blessed to have a greater measure of love, acceptance, and gratitude during my labor than I ever do in the course of a normal day.  I wish there were some scientific way to measure and prove what I swear by my own experience: love and gratitude counteract pain.  Even during the toughest parts of labor, I felt a certain positivity and acceptance that kept me from frustration or fear, and greatly lessened my sensitivity to the pain.  I am so thankful for the prayers of everyone who thought of me during my labor, because I am sure it was their faith that lent me such grace.  One day I want to return to that place, where my heart felt so pure and my love so complete, because it brought me joy even in the midst of real travail.  But I still and will always intensely love the people who supported me, prayed for me, and believed in me. 

And I will always be grateful for Peter...