Friday, October 22, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Don't count on this as a regular thing.  I don't even blog enough as a regular thing.

Wordless (or not so wordless but less wordy) Wednesday brought to you by Park School and the Tulgey Wood Gang with all but the last taken with the Hipstamatic App on my iPhone.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On to lighter topics... The Rebel Bakes

My recent view at the computer.

I made pretzels last week.

Lately I've been wondering what makes me an "everyday rebel" particularly when I'm posting pics of knitting and sewing like I'm some kind of Martha Stewart. Which, I'm not. Actually, I think Martha Stewart is an evil minion of Satan sent to earth to make everyone else feel inadequate in all things domestic. I don't let it get to me though, I'm the queen of the dirty house dinner party. In fact, it is possible that if you end up at my house for a dinner party, you'll find yourself cooking. Or maybe folding laundry so you have some place to sit. Or clearing the table so we can eat on it. But just when I was thinking I was at least trying to become Mrs. Steward, I go and make that last post.

Right. I remember now. One second I'm making pretzels and the next I'm writing about controversial birth topics. And you didn't even hear what I was talking about while I was making the bread. Ah yes, that's right, I do have rebel moments.

I'm working on being content. Not just with stuff but with circumstances. And with who I am. I've long held the belief that if you kind of don't like your circumstances you should learn to be content. If you really don't like them then get off your butt and change them. Reality has served me up a double portion of "It-ain't-always-so-simple" and had me reevaluating. Meaning: If you really don't like your circumstances sometimes you just have to suck it up. Or the nicer way of saying it: develop more contentment. So I've decided I'm discontent with my level of contentment. I'm working on that.

Homemaker is a difficult term for me. It sends shivers down my spine and I feel as though someone has died. I avoid it. I also avoid baking. Not because of shivers up or down my spine but because I'm terrible at it. Did you know that baking is really more science than anything? Chemistry to be exact. This fact explains everything. It's really not the science as much as the directions but science, particularly the chemistry variety, likes directions. I read ingredient lists as suggestions and measurements and directions as a road map: this is one way to get there but there is this other way here and another way here... and maybe we don't really want to go there anyway. But science isn't really about suggestions, not if you don't want to blow things up. Did I mention I was terrible at baking? Jeremy is good at baking. Like, talented, even more so if it involves chocolate. It's kind of disgusting. Disgustingly yummy and his time in the "lab" is making me fat. But I digress.

This last week, I didn't avoid baking. Nope, I rushed in and embraced it head on tackling baked goods that were even lacking in chocolate and, in an atypical but noteworthy event, required following directions! *gasp*

Also noteworthy: they didn't come out of a box.

You have no idea how hard this is for me, the following directions part that is. The box part too for that matter. But I did it and started with a recipe a friend on Facebook shared for soft pretzels. I am never paying $3 for a pretzel at the mall again. I can't believe I'm going to say this but not only were they edible, they were delicious! And yes, I realize I'm bragging but I don't care. I made something yummy that was baked. You bet I'm going to get braggy about it. Oh yeah, and Evangeline helped.

I'm really hoping the whole "you're going to get worms if you eat raw flour" thing I used to hear as a kid isn't true because seriously, Evangeline ate cups of the stuff.

This past week we made multiple French country boule loves, two baguettes which were better than any we've found in stores here, dinner rolls, whole wheat sandwich buns, walnut sticky buns, whole wheat country loaf, savory kolaches, flatbreads, homemade pizza and the soft pretzels. They were all delicious, actually. I couldn't believe it this morning when I looked at my plate for breakfast with an omlet and whole wheat toast and thought "wow, I made all that." The ingredients may have come from the store or farmer's market but the actual cooking and baking was all mine. MINE! Even the bread.

And here's the kicker: it tastes delicious and I have enjoyed the experience.

Move over Martha Stewart! My bread is awesome and piles of laundry is the new shabby chic!

I will continue making bread. The secret? I found out making bread doesn't have to be difficult! Thanks to the recipe I'm following I can see myself making fresh dough to bake into various breads every other day. Courtesy of my neighbor, I'm exploring the recipes in Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day and getting inspiration from their wonderful website and blog. This book has quickly moved to the top of my wish list, I'm going to have to return it to my neighbor eventually and I am so going to need my own. Every time I make a batch I am surprised at how easy it is and how fast I'm done.

School snacks ready to be packed up.

I felt all kinds of Little House on The Prairie sending the girls off to their little homeschool classes last week with a snack of homemade bread or pretzels wrapped in red gingham sandwich wraps, fresh canteloupe in Mason Jars, their steel water bottles and a sweet little cloth napkin tucked inside. Holy crap, I need to write something controversial again quick!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Birth Rape or a Negative Birth Experience?

I've been planning blog posts all week but I've been so busy living life I haven't had the time to write about it. Too bad too because there is some great stuff too. We've been baking, schooling, playing, crafting, sewing, knitting, cooking, dancing, meeting and of course, drinking coffee. I have even made bread. There will be a post about that, there HAS to be a post about that.

But instead of a post on golden crust and French style homemade bread I find myself with much heavier topics on my mind.

I haven't written about birth much and haven't actually attended one since last December and I was the birthing woman. This feels strange but also right at this time. Still a birth junkie though, I've been reading as usual and today I read this article on the Parenting blog. Melanie, the author, addresses the use of the fairly new term "birth rape" when discussing bad birth experiences. She shares with her readers some of the details of her first birth, a negative experience in a hospital and then why she feels that, though it was a negative experience that led to her choosing a home birth the next go-round, the term "birth rape" is not an appropriate label. The crux of her argument is that the doctor and hospital staff at her birth were not set out to intentionally harm her.

I want to agree with her, really I do. Maybe it is true most of the time that a bad birth experience is just that, a bad birth experience. But there are times when I feel "rape" is an appropriate term. And I say that as a rape survivor.

Merriam-Webster defines rape as:
1 a (archaic): to seize and take away by force b : despoil

2: to commit rape on

1: an act or instance of robbing or despoiling or carrying away a person by force

2: unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent — compare sexual assault, statutory rape

3: an outrageous violation

To seize and take away by force
I feel I experienced birth rape once and have witnessed it twice. I was told "if you had just gotten the epidural and delivered your placenta better then I wouldn't have to do this to you" when my OB was manually performing a DNC without any pain relief to remove the retained placenta fragments after she pulled on the cord because (and these were her words) "she was so tired and ready to be done with this already." I had been told more than once that it was the end of her shift. She entered my body 3 times that I remember, telling me to be still and I would thank her later. The way she spoke to me as she forced her arm up to her elbow inside me through my freshly torn vagina and bruised cervix while she scraped the inside of my uterus and searched for the fragments and how she had my legs restrained by nurses triggered flashbacks of my rape that haunted me for 2 years. I passed out from the pain and when I came to later I was told it was my fault, that I wanted a natural birth and "well, was it worth it?" When I became more educated years later and read through my own chart I understood what happened and I know the risk of a retained placenta and immediate postparum hemorrhage but I also know that the attitude with which it was done and the blame being placed on me was all too similar to what my sexual abuser did as well. Perhaps her intent wasn't to harm me but, like a sexual predator, her actions demonstrated that she was primarily thinking about getting what she wanted.

Despoiling, to commit rape on
The 2 times I saw what I feel was birth rape included a home birth transfer and I heard the on-call doctor tell the mother "everyone would be so much nicer if you had come here in the first place. This is what you get for being stupid enough to try a home birth" and then he cut her a 4th degree episiotomy that was completely unnecessary for the 3rd time mom birthing a 6 pounder.

Unlawful sexual activity... carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female
I have several Labor and Delivery nurse friends that tell stories. There is a OB in town that has a horrible reputation among the nurses at the hospital where he does deliveries because of his poor treatment of patients. Poor doesn't even begin to describe it. One story my friend tells is of a young woman, a teen mom having her first baby. She was afraid and refused a second vaginal exam (smart girl, in my book) because of the pain from the first one. This doctor sat there between her legs and bellowed at her that he was in charge and she was just a little slut that needed to open her legs and let him do what he needed to do. She whimpered and obeyed. He hurt her again in that exam and told her she was no good at birth and he'd probably have to cut her open to get her baby out. Yes, those are the words my friend says he used. The nurses finally stood up to him and threatened to report him if he didn't change his treatment of this patient.

An outrageous violation
The other birth rape experience I witnessed was by a midwife in a birth center and was even more traumatic than the first with the midwife saying "you really want me to do this, you'll be thanking me later so stop being such a whimp" as she repeatedly tried to manually dilate a posterior, slow progressing, hard cervix despite the laboring woman begging her to stop and to get out of her. All my interventions to protect my client were ignored and her actions didn't stop until the 3rd time when I told the husband that he needed to tell the midwife to remove her hands from his wife and explain what she was doing. When she did I physically put myself between my client and the midwife until we had her word that she would not do another cervical exam without the express and clear permission from the mother. That birth was one of the most horrible I have ever seen and even included a light smack on the rear of the birthing mother on hands and knees when she tried to move away from the pain the midwife was causing her. In any other situation there would be no question that language of assault would be appropriate in describing the events that took place, just because it is birth and these people are supposed to be helping does not give them license to exert dominating control over a woman's body against her will. When I left the home of that couple after getting them settled back home several hours later I sat in my car and bawled. What I had witnessed wasn't just a series of unfortunate events or even unnecessary interventions but a vile form of abuse under the guise of assisting someone in the midst of an extremely and intensely vulnerable time. I won't even go into the desperate feelings of guilt and failure as a doula that hounded me in seeing my client abused and me feeling powerless to stop it.

I understand the writers point. Not every case of an undesired intervention equal birth rape. However, there are some where the attitude is clearly not just "this is what we do to get a healthy baby" but rather one of punitive power masquerading as care. Birth rape is a strong and unsettling term and rightly it should be. It should not be used lightly but it should not be ignored. If we tell women that they cannot describe their experience with language that points to assault we put more barriers in the way of their healing and for those suffering from PTSD as a result of their birth experiences we make it even more challenging for them to find the help they need. We need to be careful that we do not dismiss these traumatic experiences and that we encourage women to use the terminology they need to accurately express what happened to them. I don't want an us vs. them attitude between doctors and women or doctors and the natural birth community but not all health care birth professionals are as benevolent as we would like to believe. There are many wonderful and talented doctors, nurses and midwives I have been privileged to work with and know. Far more truly caring ones than not and most of them love what they do and recognize the honor they have in attending birthing women. I am grateful for this. The small handful that have made me sit in my car and sob are greatly outnumbered. But they are there and they are hurting women and families, traumatizing them by looking out for themselves, their needs and wants over those of the very people they are serving. That is how rape happens, when a position of power is abused to control someone to proceed in an action by violating their body through force against their will.

Melanie may not feel that her personal negative birth experience wasn't birth rape and it sounds as though she has found healing through her second birth and that's wonderful. For me and some other women "negative birth experience" just isn't the right terminology for what we went through. Birth rape feels closer. It may make us uncomfortable but that's exactly what it should do.

What do you think? Is Birth Rape too strong of language for birth related abuse? What would be some other terms we could use instead? Do you feel it is fitting?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer, parting is such sweet sorrow

Exploring some math concepts together with The Piano Man from my perspective at the sewing machine.

"School" has started. Our relaxed version of schooling that includes freedom, structure, cultivating individual interests and curiosity, self-pacing, exploration, and exposure to ideas and subjects is under-way as the seasons shift. Not that it ever stopped, we just explored other subjects with a different level of freedom and self-guidance. We are once again participating in 2 different local university style classical education programs for homeschoolers. The classes the girls are taking this year are once again exciting and of their own choosing. Earth Baby is taking Greek 3, Latin 2, Jr. High Spanish, Writing and Literature 7/8 (it's actually high school level, and she loves it!), high school drama, advanced drawing, and another art class. The Storyteller is enjoying a writing class, Spanish, drama, zoology- swimming creatures, art, Latin 1, and Ancient Roman and Greek architecture. Lolie is taking a math games class and she wanted to take a reading class I think mostly to have fun discovering new books. She is also taking drama and Spanish as well as an etiquette lunch to learn how to eat a meal with polite manners. Good thing I guess, she won't get that here! All of them love the 2 days a week managing their own schedules and visiting with friends. Squiggle Bug and I love our time together to do things like make playdough, scones, dance to whatever music we want, build elaborate castles of blocks or whatever strikes our fancy, play with baby dolls, go for long walks and swinging. We like to pretend it is fall and made up a song this week about the leaves crunching under our shoes as we walked and the vibrant colors of the season. We can dream, right?

Squiggle Bug enjoys a hot walk in September doing our new favorite family activity- geocaching!

My sewing machine is whirring, the knitting needles are clicking, books and patterns being marked for ideas, yarn being fingered, etsy and craigslist being perused for more ideas and maybe a few deals, dress-up themes being discussed for October 31st, whispered conversations abruptly halted when another family member walks into the room, secret measuring and knowing giggles with side-ways glances echo off the walls of our home. But the ultimate tell-tale sign of the seasons shifting has been the Christmas music books making their way to the piano as we select what we want to work on this year. I am constantly humming the favorites I want to arrange for us to sing this year and will set about determining keys and parts soon so we have ample time to learn them comfortably.

I refuse to think about the fact that if we are turning our attention forward to Halloween and then Christmas it means that Smunchie is closing in on her first birthday as well. Nope, impossible, she's still a newborn, right?

Though the weather has cooled off a touch with a hurricane that made landfall only 150 miles away, we don't actually expect real change to the weather until well into November at the earliest. A fact we take into consideration when planning our Halloween costumes. Still, it feels as though we have begun to bid summer adieu and from this point out and shorts and t-shirt days will be mere stragglers of an Indian Summer. We pretend that you can't actually wear shorts and t-shirts all year here. I sit here and right this in a tank top and summer skirt. Same outfit I'll probably be wearing at some point in December.

For years we have been listening to the 3 big girls beg to visit a waterpark but the hot temperatures, fair skin, and high cost made us balk at the idea. Thanks to some friends passing along some free-tickets, we were able to have one last horrah this summer by enjoying a day along a chlorinated lazy river, 3-story swirling tube slides, jumping fountains, fabricated showers, artificial wave pool, water obstacle courses and more. The weather had cooled off nicely with only a high around 91 degrees and even for our not-so-summer-fun-loving selves we had a good time. Sunburns were avoided, dehydration kept at bay and we enjoyed our buddy system for the day. Smunchie still hates water so she was less than thrilled but was mostly content to ride along in the lazy river as long as she wasn't getting wet and was able to breastfeed at the same time. It worked. As long as I didn't think about the SouthPark episode with Pi Pi's New York Splash Waterpark too much. *shudder*

I wasn't able to get too many photos, I was far too busy enjoying the waterpark experience but snapped a few of Smunchie staying dry on the beach.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saving dishes

I'm not a fan of dishes. Well, that's not true, I like dishes and all different types too, stoneware, glass, ceramics, china, and whatever else there is. What I should say is I don't like washing dishes. I suppose a dishwasher is supposed to make that chore easier but I'm not sure ours really does that. With the exception of most liquids in a cup or glass, we pretty much have to wash each dish before putting it in the dishwasher because it's not like the machine actually gets food off anything. Which makes me wonder, what's the point? I imagine we could use the cabinet space more than the appliance.

But since I also don't like waste and I have some crunchy tendencies, not to mention the prohibitive cost comparisons, we don't use disposable dishes either. Shoot, we don't even use disposable paper towels or napkins. So I wash dishes. Thankfully, I have helpers.

The Storyteller joyfully does the dishes. Can't you tell? That's joy all over her face.

These helpers help a lot, they know how to load and unload the dishwasher, scrape the plates, wipe down the counters, and put away the silver ware. And they have a magic talent. They know how to make the dishes, specifically glasses, multiply. Hot from playing outside, get a clean glass and a cold drink of water! Enjoying a captivating read? Keep a fresh glass of water close by. Can't sleep? Grab another glass and fill 'er up! Even more sweaty? Yep, more water! Can't find your glass from 5 minutes ago? That's ok, grab another one and drink up! And if you had something other than water in your glass you certainly don't want to rinse it out and re-use the glass that would be gross! So, GET ANOTHER GLASS! Yay!

Not yay.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love that the girls can chug some water and stay well hydrated, really, I do. I'm thrilled that I generally don't have to worry about their fluid intake on any given day. But I can't say that I appreciate being able to count how many glasses of water they'd had before noon just by the number of glasses cluttering up the counter. Particularly the ones that were full with only a few sips of water missing. Though I watered plenty of plants by pouring the contents of abandoned glasses into their pots, I was in desperate need of a solution. And I really didn't like having to wash all those glasses so many times in an effort to have glasses on the shelf.

We tried tape on the counter tops with names so you could get a drink and put your glass back right in front of your name. I attempted to enforce that for 2 weeks but failed miserably. Then it was designated spots, The Piano Man always keeps a glass by the sink so he can fill it up with water and just knows to set it there when he's done so it is ready for the next time. Important fact to keep in mind as to why this works for him and not for his children: He's 20-something years older than the oldest child in the family. That and I'm their mom, my DNA is in the mix too and I have a hard time remembering where I put my purse. The next effort in having the girls use the same glass all day was to label the glasses but the labels got lost, wet, removed, whatever, the point is that didn't work either.

Our glasses and the glass markers.

Finally I decided to try personalized glasses but I wasn't about to order glasses with their names etched on them. Instead, I pulled out the plain glasses we had from IKEA and picked up a set of glass paint markers. For a few days we talked about the idea of creating a custom glass, each of us designing and decorating a glass in our own unique style and the girls got excited. Thinking it was going to be quite the time consuming production, I procrastinated a few days until Lolie couldn't stand the anticipation of creating her very own glass and pestered me to no end. However much work it would be it was worth doing to get her to stop. I shouldn't have worried. The glass paint markers were simple and easy to use once we got the paint flowing into the tip of each marker. I helped the girls get going with theirs and figuring out some of the tricky maneuvering required for some of their designs. The Piano Man joined us and it wasn't long before we had 10 distinctly different glasses full of color, whimsy, energy, individuality and character. Setting all the glasses on a tray to put in the oven to bake the paint I was delighted with our mis-matched matching family glasses.

9 of our set of 10.

We have rainbows, flowers, butterflies, birds, stripes, swirls and polka-dots, hearts, a colorful henna-tattoo inspired glass, our family initials, and people jumping from mountain top to mountain top (I admit, I scratched my head at that one) decorating our glasses and "set" is proudly displayed on a shelf between the kitchen and dinning room. The light shines through them in a colorful display creating our own small stained glass collection. The most amazing thing though is that they are usually at least a few on the shelf at all times with the exception of those that are in use at any given moment.

It was really simple, wash the glasses, prep the surface by wiping them down with vinegar, shaking the paint down to the tips of the markers and getting creative. After they were painted they had to sit for 24 hours to dry and then bake for 40 minutes at 325 degrees. Each of us enjoyed seeing not only our own glasses come to life with color but what everyone else was doing as well. My original plan was to have us each create a cup for ourselves and one for guests and everyone in the family would use their personalized glass. However, we all enjoy the other glasses so much that every morning we pick a new glass. Today I have the purple people jumping on green mountains. A fun family project that has miraculously cut down on the amount of dishes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

No More the Training Pants! It's time for big girl panties?

Squiggle Bug learned to use the potty a few months ago and she's pretty much a pro now. It's great, sudden hollering of "my poopoo coming! I go potty!" echo through out our little house on a regular basis followed shortly by "I did it!" and "Bye bye my poopoo! Bye bye my peepee!"

So with regular success of bye-bye peepee and bye-bye poopoo, it was time to get Squiggle Bug some new undergarments. Panties. Deciding to couple the Target shopping expedition with family time, we first went to see Toy Story 3. I've waited a long time for this movie and was more excited than the girls. Cute flick, we all enjoyed it including 2 year old Squiggle Bug. After crying through Toy Story 3, we headed with a grumpy, napless Squiggle Bug and the rest of the crew to go buy the new panties. Buying new panties is an exciting time. No more the training pants and stretched out undies from big sisters, it's time to pick out your very own panties! The general rule regarding trademarked characters on clothing in our home is lifted and any panties with any character are permitted. Even if they have no idea who Dora is.

I fully expected princesses or fairies. She doesn't know who the characters are really but she knows a princesses is anyone in a pretty outfit. She really likes princesses. We found our way to the baby section with toddler panties and found the smallest size. In a regrettable move I picked out some Tinker Bell and Friends panties and showed Squiggle Bug. One look and she was screaming no and hitting the package in my hands. Shocked but a little bit pleased I hung the offending package of panties back up. Not having learned our lesson, The Piano Man presented her with a set of the Micky Mouse Princesses and received the same reaction. Over and over she stomped around saying "I want MY panties!" Bewildered, we attempted to show her other potential selections, each received with a similar reaction.

I was determined to throw something in the cart, anything. Plain white panties weren't easy to find but I wasn't going home empty handed. Between the 5 of us there that had any hope of understanding what it was she wanted, none of us actually knew. Loitering in the toddler underwear aisle for a while was starting to feel awkward when I spotted a set of Toy Story undies. Thinking she would calm down upon recognizing the characters we just saw in the movie I showed Squiggles. It worked. She calmed down. Well, actually, she did an immediate 180, squealing and jumping up and down. Snatching the package out of my hands she squeaked "my Buzz! My Woody! My Panties!"

I looked at The Piano Man over our now enthusiastic 2 year old and tried to ignore the giggles and shocked whispers of her big sisters. He shrugged. "Boy underwear!" The Storyteller giggled uncontrollably.

And so it came to be that I bought my first package of little boy underwear. Reluctant to hand her package of undies over to the check out girl, Squiggles had to be comforted for the few seconds while it was scanned before gripping it tightly to her chest for the rest of the way to the van. As soon as we got home she wanted them on. Her favorite pair are the lime green ones with both Woody and Buzz on the butt. Modeling them for me, she got concerned when she couldn't find her new friends until twisting to look at her rear-end and then beamed up at me "There's my Woody! There's my Buzz!"

At 2 Squiggle Bug has figured out the secret I only learned a few years ago: boy undies are way more comfortable than girl panties. Screw the princesses, cowboys and spacemen rock for girls too.