Saturday, December 29, 2012
I know a lot of people don't like doing resolutions. Something about living in the moment, January 1 not being any different than any other day, and the fact that a person can make a change at any time of the year. I see that angle. But I DO live in the moment. And I choose to seize the moment on January 1, at the beginning of the year, to make a fresh new awesome start for the year. Can I improve myself at any time during the year? Of course- and I do. But I also love taking the opportunity at the turn of the year to look back on everything I've accomplished in the past year, and set goals for the things I want to accomplish in the next year.
This January, I had a whole list of resolutions. I had goals, I had things I wanted to accomplish, and I had a plan to make them happen. Looking back now at the end of the year, I'm proud of how well I did. I am not the same person I was at this time last year. I've grown and improved in many ways. Isn't that what it's all about- not perfection, but moving forward?
This time last year, I hadn't even had the lightbulb moment that I should go ahead and start studying to be a doula while I was waiting for our circumstances to open up and allow me to purse that dream. Next month, or perhaps early in February, I'll be supporting a laboring momma for the first time as her birth doula. I have another prospective client due in June, and if that works out, I'll have the two births I need to get certified through CBI. There's a good chance I could be a certified birth doula by this time next year! So exciting!
To do the GAPS diet was a big goal of mine last January. Even after a year of being gluten free, my health was still not where I wanted it to be, and I knew my gut was pretty damaged. The GAPS diet looked really daunting, but with some good support and a little determination, I was able to start on GAPS early last year. I've seen so many improvements in my health, and my gut has healed enough now to allow me to VERY slowly transition off of GAPS. After an entire year chocolate free, I'm excited to try a little dark chocolate next year and see if I can tolerate it! I never thought I'd make it an entire year without chocolate, but I did!
Exercising more regularly was also one of my goals for this year- isn't it for everyone? I'm proud to report that I'm about 10 lbs lighter than I was last year, and since I've been doing Crossfit regularly at a local gym, I now have actual visible arm muscles! I'm so proud of them.
I had a couple of other goals that are too personal to share, but I've seen growth there too. My relationships are better, I'm more content, more confident, and I feel like I have a better handle on life in general now than I did last year. It feels good.
So after all that, I have one simple goal for next year. This goes against much of my personality(although I'm going to try to do this in a way that also honors my personality, or I'll go crazy) to only have one goal/resolution. I'd love to have a neat, bullet pointed list like last year. But after the bullet pointed list of last year, after working so hard to improve myself from so many different angles, I'm exhausted. I'm bordering on burnout. It's not all the list's fault. Last year's list was really good for me, but we also live really busy lives, and my personality can also tend towards perfectionism.
So for this year, my resolution is simple: to relax. To chill out a little bit and not take myself so seriously. Now, of course, I'm not going to stop improving myself in other ways. I couldn't stop doing that if I tried(and why would I want to?). But I'm not going to focus on it. I'm not going to allow myself to make a list. My list last year was great, it was needed, and it was a valuable tool for me. But if I don't take time this year to learn to not take myself too seriously, I think I could very easily fall out of balance and start bordering on obsession. I don't want to do that.
So. Relax. Chill out. Calm down.
This is going to be hard for me, but so, so good for me at the same time.
I'm getting off to a good start though. Next week, Thad and I are taking our first vacation as a couple in 6 years. The last time we went on a trip by ourselves was for our 1 year anniversary, 6.5 years ago. Needless to say, this is WAY overdue, and I'm so excited. Thad will come back to a big renovation to be done at our church's new building(yay!), and I'll come back to a baby due, a new study I'm leading for our women's group, and spring cleaning, but for 4.5 days we'll have nothing to do but relax and enjoy each other. I CAN'T WAIT!
I might need help when I get back though. What are some of your favorite ways to relax and not take life so seriously? I'm trying to chill out a little, but I just might need to make a list of how to accomplish that!
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Twenty two years ago, I was a four year old little girl who had just become a big sister. I came super close to being in the room when she was born, but I chickened out at the last minute and decided to spend my time in the waiting room, coloring and playing with my brand new Lite Brite- the one that I had picked out during a rushed pit stop at Toys-R-Us before we headed to the hospital. Yep- the same mom that chose to have an unassisted homebirth with me chose to birth my sister at the hospital- and said afterwards that she much preferred the homebirth. Go figure. After my sister came home, I loved to pretend I was a little mommy. I even nursed my baby dolls.
Eighteen years ago, I was an eight year old little girl that was totally fascinated with pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and infant care. I'd spend hours reading the books that my mother had collected during her pregnancy with my sister. There was While Waiting, with the fascinating diagrams in the front showing the position of the baby and the growth of the uterus through the months of pregnancy. Then there was the baby book that shall remain unnamed- because it was used so much that it broke into 4 different pieces and the cover went missing. I learned how to bathe a newborn, breastfeeding basics, how to sterilize bottles, and basic developmental milestones.
Five years ago, I was newly pregnant with my first and starting to look into birth options. Little did I know the world that I would soon become completely immersed in. I thought I was just researching my options for my upcoming birth, but what I was really doing was uncovering a passion. I soaked up as much information as I could, and I continue to do that until this day.
Three years ago, I was on a family vacation in Oregon and pregnant with my second, when I had a divine dream. I was trying to survive my way through life, knowing that my husband was called to ministry within the church, and thinking that that's what I was supposed to do as well. As much as I loved birth, I didn't think that birth work could be a calling- and didn't I want to serve God with my life? (ha!) Then as we were on this trip, I had a dream that I believe was truly from God. I was helping a friend of mine through labor. I was praying over her, supporting her, encouraging her. I was the only one there that knew how to help her, and I confidently stepped in like I knew exactly what I was doing(and I did!). I was still just barely starting to figure out who I was at that point in my life, so to have a dream where I was so totally confident and comfortable in who I was and what I was doing was incredibly inspiring. The revelation that birth work could be a calling, a gifting, a ministry? Wow. From that moment on I began to explore the idea that maybe this was what I was supposed to do. All the pieces had been there, I just needed to put them together.
Two and a half years ago, I gave birth to my son in my own bed, in my own home, with the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the three huge windows in my bedroom. That experience changed me forever. It was the start of something amazing. It empowered me, and I knew I had to help other women have a chance at that same experience.
Eleven and a half months ago, I decided to stop just waiting around until circumstances allowed me to start doing birth work, and actually DO something with the time while I was waiting. I saved up for a couple of months, and then enrolled in the Childbirth International birth doula course. I started scouring Half Price Books and the library bookstore for childbirth and breastfeeding books, and built a pretty decent start to a lending library.
Seven months ago, I had the incredible honor of attending Jessica The Leaky B@@b's homebirth of her precious Arden. Oh wow. If there was any doubt how I felt about birth, about feeling called to this, about absolutely loving birth and everything to do with it, that was all wiped away in one night. It was incredible, simply incredible.
Two months ago, I offered to chat with a mom who was expecting for the first time, just mom-to-mom from someone with a little experience to someone doing this for the first time. I answered questions, validated concerns, and let her borrow some of my books. A couple of weeks later she called back and asked me if I wanted to be her doula. Did I?!?! Of course!!!
Just two days ago, the expectant momma and her husband sat in my living room for my first prenatal visit ever, and we talked about birth plans and options and what she wanted. Then she paid me. Two days ago, I made actual money doing this. It wasn't a lot, and it's a super small start, but it's still a milestone for me. For the first time, I've made money doing what I've dreamed about doing for so long. And next month, I'll have the incredible honor of being with this family as they welcome a brand new human being into their family. I can't imagine loving any job more.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I've found a solution that's worked really well for our family, so well that I can't believe that I don't hear more people talking about it! It's a super easy, transition free way to help your kids slowly start sleeping in their own beds as they get older.
When my babies were brand new, I felt most comfortable with them right in bed with me the entire time. I'm pretty paranoid about leaving newborns to sleep(or do anything, really) alone for any length of time, so I'd always keep them close to me and bring them to bed with me as soon as I was ready to go to sleep, even if they were still sleeping.
Here's the key though. At 3, 4, 6 months- whenever you start to feel more comfortable with your baby sleeping unattended for a little while- have them start out the night in their own bed. That's it! That's my whole tip! Isn't that easy? Seriously though, have them start out the night in their own bed. Then, the first time they wake up to nurse, just bring them back in bed with you, and you can co-sleep and nurse to your mutual hearts' content for the rest of the night.
This is a great idea for so many reasons. The first is that it gets the child used to their own bed. Of course, as an AP momma I never expected my babies to sleep all night in their own beds(and I still don't). But I think the idea of getting them used to another bed at an early age, in a non-scary, non-threatening way can only be a good thing. If they've only ever slept in one bed for the first several years of their life, that could be a big transition when it's time, but if they're comfortable in a couple of beds from 6 months on, it makes for an easier transition. Also, since I was bringing them back to your bed to co-sleep and nurse for the rest of the night, I found that my babies didn't get scared when they woke up in the middle of the night. I came to them, every time, and they learned that when they woke up momma was going to be right there and get them for nurses and snuggles. I was NOT wiling to try to get them back to sleep in the other room, and get in and out of my bed several times a night, but I could handle getting up once and falling right back to sleep. I enjoyed the snuggles too, of course.
Here's the real kicker though. Typically(and your baby might be different, of course), as babies turn into toddlers and then preschoolers, they start to sleep for longer stretches without waking. If they start out the night in their room, that means that as they start to sleep for longer stretches, they'll be sleeping longer in their room. When I first started doing this with Tristan, he'd sleep until maybe 11PM or midnight. As he started getting older, he'd sleep until around 1AM, then until about 2 or 3 AM. Now? Most nights, he sleeps the entire night in his own bed, in his own room, and comes into my bed to nurse around 6 or even 7 AM. It's wonderful!
There was no transition period. There were no sleepless nights of putting him back in his bed multiple times. There was no nervousness for him about a new bed or about sleeping without mommy. He simply went to sleep in his bed like he'd been doing since he was about 6 months, except now he sleeps all night! He's totally confident in the fact that if he needs me I'll be there, and that he's welcome in my bed if he needs to snuggle, and occasionally he does need those middle of the night snuggles. But most nights, he doesn't need to anymore. My 2.5 year old, attachment parented, still nursing, never-left-to-cry-it-out toddler sleeps most nights in his own room, of his own will.
Did I mention that there was NO transition period, at all???
For the life of me, I can't figure out why more moms are not talking about this! I realize every baby is different, but this was SO easy for us and worked SO well that I can't imagine it not working well for at least some other families!
Now, if you want to take this tip to the next level, here's my other suggestion. Skip the crib. Really. I moved both of my babies into a twin bed by the time they were 13 months old, but if I ever have another, I'm planning to skip the crib altogether and just have them sleep on a twin or double mattress put right on the floor. Why? Like a lot of breastfeeding moms, I like to nurse my babies to sleep. And like just about any mom can testify to, it's SOOO difficult to nurse/rock/cuddle your baby to sleep, and then do the dreaded transfer to the crib. Just typing that makes me feel anxious! Not. Fun.
Are you catching how awesome this idea is? Laying next to your baby to nurse them to sleep, no crib transfer required, and then as they get older, no transition period required to get them to sleep in their own room!!! They just sleep all night on their own whenever they're ready! SO. EASY.
Am I living under a rock? Are there moms everywhere doing this and talking about it? If you've done this or something similar, I'd love to hear about it! I understand that this idea probably won't work for everyone, but it worked so well for us that I can't believe that there aren't moms everywhere shouting this idea from the rooftops!
Sunday, November 18, 2012
I guess grief comes in waves, or at least it does for me. I'll go for months without thinking about him much, and then I'll have a month where everything reminds me of him. November's been like that for me. The first chilly day always makes me think of him- how much he loved the cold weather and breathing in the fresh northern air. Then, unexpectedly, the grocery store parking lot will be full of migrating birds, and I remember how we used to sit and watch them all sitting in the trees, the electric wires, the cars- and how he'd clap loudly and watch them all scatter. Thad told one of his jokes in a sermon last week- it went over well, just like his jokes always did. Of course that brings me to thinking about how proud I think he would be of us, for stepping out and planting a church, for the amazing pastor that Thad has become, for the strong a loving community that we're building. I have to believe that he'd be proud of me too- proud of how I've matured, how I've grown, how I've come to take a stand for what I believe in. I think he'd be proud that I've learned to think for myself, how I found myself, and even though I lost balance and love in the process, I found them again- and I think he'd be so incredibly proud of that.
Of course, November brings Thanksgiving- that was always our holiday. Our family didn't celebrate Christmas, so we made Thanksgiving just as big of a deal, gifts and all. Every year dad would wake up before dawn to get the turkey started in the oven, and every year I looked forward to helping him cook. We always made a feast that could have fed fifteen or twenty people, even if it was just the four of us. Even though it looks a little different now without gluten, I still love keeping that tradition alive and cooking Thanksgiving just like he used to. He died exactly a week before Thanksgiving.
Just a couple of weeks before he passed, my sister and I took a trip to Dallas for a dance conference. Before we left my dad took me aside and with all seriousness told me to, "Take care of your sister." I laughed, and he told me again, "I'm serious- you need to take care of your sister." How I've wondered if somehow he knew what was to come in just a few short weeks, and oh the heartbroken tears shed over my inability to keep my promise that I would, in fact, make sure nothing happened to my sister.
But there is redemption. My sister and I have been able to reconnect over the past several months, and I know dad would be so happy about that. Just last week I was making the drive and hour north to visit with her and her two kids. My introverted self was loving the so rare uninterrupted time to ponder- and my fun, music loving self was enjoying turning the radio up loud and introducing my children to classic rock and fine country music. Then it dawned on me- this is why my dad loved driving so much. When we were kids, he'd pile us into the old red bronco and we'd literally drive for hours- him listening to classic rock and us reading books in the back seat. I always thought it was a strange thing to like, a strange way to pass time. I never expected to enjoy long drives like he did, but now I get it. I feel just the same way.
My dad is buried close to where my sister lives, so on our way home I decided to take the kids to see his grave for the first time. Hayden and I had already been talking a lot lately about my dad and how he died. She knows that he got very very sick and died. She knows that his body stopped working, but that his spirit went up to heaven to live with Jesus. She still had some questions when we got there, and I explained to her that since my dad's body stopped working, they put it into a special box and buried it in the ground. He doesn't need it in heaven anyway. I was afraid it would be weird for them to be there with me, but it wasn't. It was very peaceful, and I think Hayden understood pretty well what I was explaining to her. I only wish they had actually gotten to spend time with him. My dad was so good with kids and I know he would have been just crazy about them.
Rest in peace, Dad. We're still here, doing well, and still remembering you. <3
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
*WARNING* If you're reading this and you know you're getting a present from me this year, you might want to stop reading if you want to be surprised.
The awesome thing about starting your Christmas planning in October is that you can do extra fun things like making your own hand and foot print wrapping paper with the kids(without stressing!). We had so much fun doing this last month, and now that I've got most of the gifts finished and wrapped up, I can go ahead and share.
Monday, November 5, 2012
The topic was potty training. The mom who had the controversial opinion is a pretty experienced mom- she has two adult children, two tweens, and a one year old. She tried to change the subject when it came up and said that we all probably didn't want to hear her opinion, but the other moms encouraged her to share anyway.
Her basic opinion was that most parents are way too relaxed about potty training. She said that back in the day, people didn't have three and four year olds walking around in diapers, and that back when everyone used cloth diapers people were a lot more motivated to teach their kids how to use the toilet. She said that she thinks the diaper companies are getting rich off of parents that keep waiting longer and longer to potty train, and that they keep coming out with bigger and bigger diapers and more products so that people will think it's all normal and keep buying.
At some point in there I said, "So you probably don't think Tristan should still be in diapers, do you?" She hesitantly said no and shook her head. Uh oh!!! Did she just tell me I should be doing something differently? Did she just call me a bad mom??? Nope. I didn't freak out. I didn't get my feelings hurt. You know what I did? I owned my decisions. I owned my reaction. I acknowledged that the choices I've made probably weren't ideal, but that they were what was working for us right now.
I said, " I don't disagree with what you've said, and I have similar views about a lot of other things. I used to cloth diaper, but as Tristan started getting older and especially when I started the (very labor intensive) GAPS diet, the laundry got to be too much for me to keep up with and I switched to disposables. " I admitted that a big part of the reason that Tristan is still in diapers is because I've been too lazy/ busy to start the potty training process with him. Actually, he started learning to go potty on Saturday, and then I got sick and wasnt up to continuing. I'm sure we'll pick it up again soon.
The mom at the lunch didn't mention this, but I'm also aware of the fact that there are tons of chemicals in disposable diapers, and that they don't biodegrade. I'm not proud of the fact that I'm putting toxins on my toddlers skin and that I'm contributing to the landfills. But you know what? I know my limits. I know that I can't do everything, and I'm okay with that! For now I've made the choice to prioritize what goes into my child's body(aka what they eat) over what goes on my child's body. I've also made the choice to prioritize my mental health by not adding extra laundry to my list of duties. Are these decisions ideal? No, but they're what's working for my family right now, and I've made them intentionally. I'm confident in my decisions and my actions, even though they're less than ideal.
We didn't have an argument. I didn't get defensive and my feelings didn't get hurt. My friend didn't bash me or say that I was a horrible mother. She simply shared her opinion on what she would have done differently, and because I was confident in my decision, even though it was different than hers, I didn't get offended.
Can we all try to do this a little more? My point here is not to say that I'm perfect or that I react this way all the time- this story is just an example. I've definitely overreacted over things in the past. But for the most part, I'm confident in my decisions because I've put a lot of thought into them and have deliberately chosen what's best for our family. Notice I didn't say what's absolutely best- best for my family is going to look different than best for your family. Can we be okay with that? Can we discuss our differences without getting our feelings hurt? Can we acknowledge facts, even when they're not in favor of the decisions we've made?
Just because someone has a different opinion doesn't necessarily mean they're doing this to you.
I'm not saying that we should go around sharing our controversial opinions at the drop of a hat, or that we shouldn't use tact when discussing controversial topics, especially with those that have a different opinion. I'm just frustrated with this trend that I see all the time, when people get offended over someone simply having a different opinion than them, or simply sharing facts. Could we all commit to taking ownership of our decisions? If you don't feel confident about something you're doing, take the time to figure out why. Do you need to change what you're doing, or does your perspective need changing instead? I think if we could all come to a place of feeling humbly confident about our decisions, it could open up the lines of communication a lot more, even between those that have very different opinions and ways of doing things.
What about you? Do you feel confident in the parenting choices you've made? Are you able to talk with people that have different opinions without getting upset? Where's the line between simply having a different opinion and being judgemental- and does that line seem to move depending on how confident you are in your decision? What do you think contributes to the hostility that sometimes arises when we discuss controversial issues with people that have different opinions?
Monday, October 29, 2012
Last Christmas we got both kids balance bikes. Best money we've probably ever spent on something for the kids. They absolutely loved them! Hayden was 3.5 when she got hers and learned quickly how to ride it. At first she was upset because it didn't have pedals like her tricycle did, but thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to show her some YouTube videos of kids riding on balance bikes, and she figured it out pretty easily. She was riding within the day, and after a couple of months she had learned how to go really fast and could lift her feet up and coast for long distances.
The whole point of a balance bike is that it teaches kids the hard skill, balancing, first in an easy and safe way. Once a kid can balance on a bike, it's easy for them to learn how to pedal, and thus be able to ride a regular bike. (There are many, many other benefits to balance bikes, but I'll leave it at that for now.)
So this weekend on the way home from ballet class, I stopped by a couple of garage sales, and picked up a little pedal bike for just $10. Hayden was sooooo excited. We took it home and tried it out right away. I couldn't believe how quickly she picked it up! I held onto her back to help her balance and get started, but then she pedaled away from me and rode all on her own! It only took a couple of tries for her to be able to get started on her own too, and then she was riding an actual pedal bike(with no training wheels!) completely independently!
We had only made it halfway down our street when she said, "Mom, we can go ahead and find someone else that needs my other bike(meaning her tricycle)". Needless to say, she's pretty thrilled about her new bike- and I'm so proud! I couldn't believe how quickly she picked it up, or that a four year old could ride a pedal bike with no training wheels! As if I wasn't already a big believer in balance bikes, this totally sealed the deal for me. (I keep telling Thad that I won't be surprised at all if tricycles are obsolete in 20 or 30 years- balance bikes are just that much more awesome!)
I as going to add a video, but apparently I either can't or don't know how, so you're going to have to use your imagination.
I know I'm not the only one with a super proud mommy moment- what have your kids been doing lately that makes you burst with pride?
Friday, October 19, 2012
The package arrived on Saturday(all the way from Estonia!), and as soon as I opened it I was in love. The necklaces look pretty and fun on the website, but totally don't do justice to how nice they look in person! The necklace really is gorgeous- and I picked a boring black! You should check out all the other options in the Kangaroo Care story- Varja, the momma behind Kangaroo Care, is definitely not afraid of color, and there are some really fun color combos to choose from. I picked black because I needed a new black necklace, but I think next time I'm going to get one of the rainbow necklaces or another colorful one.
The necklaces are made to be worn while breastfeeding or babywearing(side note- I love the gorgeous nursing photos in her store!), and while I couldn't really put the necklace to the test for those purposes, I can definitely see how it would be helpful for both. The necklaces, particularly the colorful ones, would easily catch a baby's eye, and the contrasting textures between the smooth wooden beads and the knitted beads could provide sensory stimulation for a baby, whether they were touching it or chewing on it. Heck- I'm an adult and I can barely stop touching it when I'm wearing it- it just feels so cool! Both of my kids have noticed it and wanted to touch and smell it.
I was concerned that I wasn't going to like the fact that the necklace was on a string type foundation, or that you have to tie it in the back to wear it(I can be sensitive and picky with those kinds of things), but neither one of those things have bothered me at all. The necklace is actually really lightweight to wear, but not in a "this is really cheaply made" kind of way. I can barely feel that I'm wearing it when I have it on, which is always nice. I've only had it for a week, so I can't speak to durability, but the necklace seems like it's very well made and should hold up for quite a long time.
I was so, so pleasantly surprised to discover that the necklace has a wonderful scent! (I should totally have read the description a little closer, because it tells you about the scent right on the item description.) The wooden beads are made out of juniper wood, which I had never smelled before, but the scent reminds me of cedar- it's like a light cedar-y scent. It's very refreshing, and I love getting little whiffs of it throughout the day.
As you can tell, I totally love this necklace. I've had it for 7 days now, and I think I've worn it 5 out of those 7 days! It's so comfortable and goes with so many things in my closet. I've gotten several compliments on it too. My only complaint, and it's not even a complaint about the necklace, is that there are no earrings to match! I like to wear earrings to complete my look, and I would love to have a pair of super simple earrings to match my necklace. I can picture a small dangle earring with one of the smaller wooden balls and a knit ball below it, or even just a simple stud earring with one of the knit balls would look really nice and really help to complement the necklace. Although I suppose if baby's used to being able to grab at and pull on the necklace, you wouldn't want something encouraging them to pull on your ears! Maybe earrings would only be realistic for us mommas with older kiddos.
Go check out Varja's shop, and make sure you like her page on Facebook too. She's got amazing products, and is very pleasant and friendly to work with! Thanks Varja!
Disclosure: Everything shared in this post is my honest opinion of the product. I was not paid to do this review, but I did receive the necklace for free.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Instead of talking about all that, today I just want to talk about one tiny little point that was mentioned in the book- something that totally grabbed me and inspired me. Today I want to talk about the elusive "Proverbs 31 woman". You know, the famed "Virtuous Woman". Virtuous woman- what does that even mean?
Dictionary.com says that virtuous means "conforming to moral and ethical principles; morally excellent; upright". I asked the "likers" on the blog's Facebook page what the word "virtuous" made them think of. They came up with words like, honorable, integrity, noble, kind, just, and principled. Two people said that it made them think of someone that has strong convictions and lives up to them. One person said that the word virtuous made her think of the Proverbs 31 woman. Not surprising, considering that most of us know Proverbs 31:10 to say this:
"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."
That's something we all want to be, right? All of those words listed above are definitely things that I want to be true of my life. But what if I told you that the Proverbs 31 woman wasn't actually a "virtuous woman"? What if I told you that when you look at the actual Hebrew words, and not the translator's interpretation of the Hebrew words, this scripture means something totally different?
The Hebrew word for the word virtuous in Proverbs 31:10 is the word chayil. While virtue is a very good thing, something that we all want to have, and surely even a word that could have been used to describe the Proverbs 31 woman, it's not the word that was used to describe the Proverbs 31 woman. Chayil means something totally different.
According to my Blue Letter Bible concordance, the word chayil means strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army, ability, and force. Wow- that's a bit different from the picture I get when I think "virtuous". Chayil is a battle word, used most often to describe the strength of an army in battle. It's most often translated as "army", and is also translated as the words man of valor, host, forces, valiant, strength, riches, wealth, power, and so on.
That's quite a different meaning than the meaning of "virtuous", wouldn't you say? I also asked the readers on my Facebook page what things the word valiant brought to their minds, and while some of the answers were similar to what they said for virtuous, they also said things like courageous and fearless. One person said that they thought that a valiant person wouldn't be afraid to be a voice for those that can't advocate for themselves. Another person said the word brought to mind an animated film about a pigeon in a war(fitting, since Biblically this is a battle word), and another told an inspiring story about how her grandmother overcame many hardships in her life. Cool stuff! Dictionary.com says that valiant means "boldly courageous; brave; stout-hearted; marked by or showing bravery or valor; heroic".
Maybe you're wondering if chayil can't mean both things- maybe it could mean virtuous and valiant/strong/powerful? Not only does chayil's definition not have anything to do with the word virtuous, but get this- chayil is only translated as virtuous when it's being used to describe women. Now I'm no Hebrew expert, but even I know that's awful translating- and it also shows the male bias of the people doing the translating. You don't get to change the meaning of a Hebrew word just because it's being used to describe a woman and not a man. If the original author of this passage, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had wanted to describe the Proverbs 31 woman as virtuous, he could have used a word that meant virtuous. But he didn't! He used a word that means strong, valiant, powerful like an army, and he used it to describe not only a woman, but one of the most esteemed women in the entire Bible.
So lets read that scripture again, but this time with the proper understanding of the word chayil. I'll try it a couple of different ways, and you can see how these hit you.
"Who can find a valiant woman? for her value is far above rubies."
"Who can find a woman as strong as an army? for her value is above rubies."
"Who can find a mighty woman? for her value is above rubies."
Wow! That's such a different picture! This is definitely the kind of woman that I want to be. This translation brings to mind the famous saying, "Well behaved women seldom make history." It takes a valiant, strong, courageous woman to make history- and those women are to be celebrated!
The sad thing, of course, is that people, especially church people, tend to be afraid of powerful women. But God says that a valiant, powerful woman is someone to be praised! What if we stopped being afraid of powerful women, and actually started embracing the good that they can bring to the world and the church? What if Godly Christian men accepted, encouraged, supported, and learned from their strong Christian sisters instead of being intimidated by them? What if we raised our daughters with these qualities in mind for their future? What if we stopped telling half the church that they're just supposed to be virtuous, and not also valiant? How much more could be done for the kingdom?
Women have so much to offer the world and the church. I think it's high time for the church to stop telling women that their only callings and giftings lie in the home and with their children. We're not called to only be virtuous, gentle women- we're also called to be valiant in battle.
"God is shaking his daughters awake and summoning us to engage. His vision for us is affirming and raises the bar for all of us. We cannot settle for less. We have work to do. There's a kingdom to build, and what we do truly matters. Our compass is fixed on Jesus. We can no longer listen to those who call on us to love him with less than all our heart and soul and strength and mind."
~ Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church, p192.
Monday, October 1, 2012
When you were born, I had already been married for 4 years and 8 months. I had already been a mother for 21 months. Yet somehow, I had not learned how to love. You were the one that taught me that.
Your birth was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was one of the most real experiences of my life. I had said that I wanted to be truly present for your birth, truly in the moment, and I was. I can't even explain how incredible your birth was for me- to go through the pain, the struggle, the agony, while fully experiencing all of it, knowing that you were waiting for me at the end. When that pain finally ended, and then you were there- all 8 pounds, 11 ounces, 15 inch head of you- and I had done it! I had never felt so joyful, so accomplished, so empowered. Your birth was the beginning of something wonderful, and not just because you had entered the world, but also because your presence in it would change me forever.
Just 6 hours after you were born, we had to take you in to the hospital. Your lungs didn't assimilate the small amount of fluid like they should have, and you were having trouble breathing. They stuck you with a needle several times, put an iv in your head, and put you in a bassinet in the NICU. I was scared. I was disappointed. But I was also numb. I didn't feel bonded to you yet. I would have done anything to protect you, but not because of the bond that we have now, more because I knew in my head that you were my baby and I'd someday fall in love. The bonding that we should have had right after birth was cut short. When they told me that we had to leave you in the NICU, that we weren't allowed in the room with you from 7-8AM, that everyone had to leave, I didn't fight to stay with you. You weren't even 24 hours old yet, and I left you. I regret that, and I'm forever thankful that nothing happened to you while I was gone.
When we got to take you home 2 days later, you and I made up for lost time. My midwife told me to climb into bed with you and stay skin to skin for the next week or two, and we did. Those were beautiful days. Oh, the cuddles. I couldn't stop examining you all over. I couldn't stop taking pictures of you. And we bonded.
When you were 6 months old, you taught me that not only was this Attachment Parenting stuff healthy for you, but that they were right about babies being people too. You were playing in the playroom, and I wanted you in the living room where I could keep an eye on you. I picked you up to carry you into the living room, and you started to cry! I froze- surely you couldn't be crying because I was taking you out of the playroom? Sure enough- as soon as I put you back, you stopped crying. I was amazed! You were a little person, and even though you couldn't talk or move around much yet, you had your own opinions and desires. From that day, I started to think about what things were like from your perspective, and how I could show you that your perspective was valuable to me too.
When you were about 18 months old you taught me even more about that, about respecting your needs and communicating with you. You still couldn't talk much, but you could understand almost everything I said, and I was learning that very quickly. I learned that I could get you to easily go along with things that were unpleasant for you, but necessary, if I would just explain them to you beforehand and coach you through them. It seems so simple to me now, to just treat you with the same consideration that I would anyone else, but at the time that was a very novel concept to me. Your nearly instant positive responses were an excellent teacher.
All of these things helped us to form an amazing bond. I knew what made you tick, and like any baby, you were crazy about your momma. But what I never expected was for that bond to grow even deeper as you made your way through your second year. I had chosen to nurse you, of course, just like I had nursed your sister. She and I had a wonderful 15 months of nursing, and the first 15 months of nursing you were much the same. I never expected a surprise to come along after all the experience I already had. I knew from the beginning I wanted to nurse you for longer, to let you self wean when you were ready, but it totally caught me off guard that it was so very much different than what I had already experienced, both with you and your sister.
With Hayden, and at first with you, nursing was a bonding experience, but it was also a functional one. You were hungry; I fed you. Simple as that. Yes, it was wonderful, and of course I treasured it, but at the core it was still an act of necessity. Not so as you got older. You tried food for the first time at 9 months old, but by the time you were 18 months you were crazy about it. You were eating everything you could get your hands on! Even so, your favorite thing in the world was still your num nums, and like I had planned, I continued to nurse you. It was so different for me now though. You weren't a baby anymore- you were growing into a boy! You were walking, talking, playing, interacting! You were eating food, and not just bites here and there, but a regular diet! I knew you didn't need to nurse for sustainment anymore. Our nursing relationship was no longer a mainly functional one, but had become an emotional one.
It was both strange and exciting for me at first. I had never experienced anything like it before. Not only did I love you as part of my family, as my child, but I was willingly sharing my body with you- not because you needed it to survive, but just because I loved you. That realization, that sharing of such a deeply tangible part of me with another human being began to open my heart in a way that it never had before. I had never shared myself so freely, so deeply before. It was revolutionary for me!
And then, as things started to fall apart, you taught me once again how to love. You see, as I was growing closer to you, your sister and I were pulling farther and farther apart. We became enemies. I didn't enjoy being around her. I didn't know how to handle her. I didn't know what to do with the angry feelings inside of me when she did something I didn't approve of. They scared me. I started to hate motherhood. That really scared me. I knew something was really, really wrong. I was starting to suspect that it had to do with the discipline method and mindset that I had. Your sister was getting lots of spankings back then.
One day I was looking at you and thought about how someday you would get bigger, and I'd have to spank you just like I spanked your sister. I had barely finished the thought when I felt my heart breaking into a million pieces- just at the thought of doing that to you, of violating your trust in me like that! I knew I could never strike you. Then the sobering, life changing truth dropped into my heart- How could I feel that way about you, while at the same time hitting your sister just about every day, sometimes multiple times a day? What had I done?
That thought led me on a journey- to grace, to love, to relearning what I knew about parenting, about grace, and about myself. It ultimately led me to gentle discipline, to learning to disciple the two of you, instead of punishing. I began to change the way I interacted with your sister, and the way that I thought about her. I stopped spanking, and started connecting. I learned how to set boundaries without punishing. I learned to start letting go of my fears and my need for control. Just how I had learned to open my heart with you, I began learning how to open it to others too. The bond that I had lost with your sister is being restored. The bond between your dad and me is more real than ever before.
Amazingly, as my heart began to open to love, I began to feel God's love more deeply, and in a more real way than I ever had before. For the first time, and after 26 years of following Him, I truly began to understand just how much He truly loves me. I began to truly follow Him, to long for Him, to love Him and allow Him to love me too. Then I understood that this was His plan all along- that He sent you to me to teach me how to love, to teach me how to draw closer to Him. You were just a baby- of course you didn't know what you were doing, how deeply you were changing me. But He knew, and He used you. Because of Him, and because of you, I'm learning how to truly love, and I feel more alive, more real than I ever have before.
I don't know if you'll ever understand this impact that you've had on my life, but I'll always be thankful. Thankful for you, the boy that taught me how to love.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.~ C.S. Lewis
Saturday, September 29, 2012
I woke up this morning to this post by Best For Babes. The first part of the post includes an apology letter from the CEO and Chairman of DineEquity, Inc (I assume Applebee's is a part of that corporation). Julia Stewart said:
I am truly sorry that we haven’t connected. As soon as I learned about your experience, I wanted to reach out directly – not just as the CEO of our restaurants, but as a mom that nursed my own kids. I have my share of unfortunate memories from nursing in public and understand how you feel. I want to apologize personally for what happened. I also want to assure you the regrettable situation you encountered as our guest is unacceptable and completely contrary to how nursing moms are accommodated at thousands of Applebee’s on virtually any given day. We checked with your lawyer last week and she okayed my calling you. I tried you a couple of times and left messages with my number, so please feel free to call. While I know it doesn’t change what you encountered, I also wanted to let you know that the franchisee of the restaurant you visited took action to correct the manager’s mistake and she now knows better. We also took the opportunity to use this incident as a teachable moment and notified all Applebee’s restaurants about the proper policies and procedures for welcoming nursing moms to our restaurants – just to be doubly sure. While of course I can’t take back what happened, I can make sure we work even harder than usual to try and avoid anyone else having the same problem at any of our restaurants. Again, as a mom and the CEO, you have my promise that we and our franchisees will be even more vigilant on this issue.
Julia Stewart, Chairman & CEO, DineEquity, Inc.
I thought that was an awesome apology. This is obviously not a form letter thoughtlessly sent out from a big corporation, but a thought felt, personal apology from the company's CEO- who just happens to be a former nursing mom who apparently had some negative nursing in public incidents herself. That's a pretty big deal, and I applaud Julia for taking the time to reach out to Dawn in this way.
Best for Babes went on to say that even though this great apology has been issued, that a nurse-in is still called for. Danielle and Bettina write:
"The reason is, because day in and day out, mothers continue to be harassed, humiliated and discriminated against for choosing to breastfeed. Not just at Applebee’s, which had a major harassment incident 5 years ago, and not just at Target, where the harassment and lack of a proper response precipitated what was perhaps the largest nurse-in in history. The truth is that “Target mom” and Best for Babes Volunteer Director of Activism Michelle Hickman is getting a call almost every other day from a distressed mother who was harassed on the bus, at the airport, at a fitness club, at school. That’s a lot of mothers, and it’s not right that they should suffer maltreatment. What if we only hear from the moms who are upset, and not from the ones who fear public disapproval, and decide breastfeeding is just too hard, giving up before they can reap the benefits, or before they reached their personal goals?"
I can see that point of view. Women really do get harassed for nursing in public every day, and I could go on and on about how completely unacceptable that is, and how damaging those attitudes are to women, babies, and society in general. Sit-ins and nurse-ins have been effective vehicles for change in the past. I'm 100% in favor of women being free to nurse whenever, wherever without the fear of harassment.
However, I do have to admit that I have some mixed feelings here. Yes, even after that zealous post that I wrote on Monday. Apologies have been issued- and not just formalities, but genuine, heartfelt apologies. Honestly, I don't feel 100% comfortable with the idea of standing outside of an Applebee's location with a protest sign(especially one where the incident didn't even occur), when Applebee's has sincerely apologized. Again, there are mixed feelings here, because while I feel that one one side, the other side of me says, "How could you NOT do something to speak out- this nursing mother had the COPS called on her for goodness sake!" Even with those mixed feelings, the issue of holding a protest sign quickly became a non-issue, because it's been raining all morning, and it would likely have been impossible to hold a protest sign outside of the store anyway.
I'm not anti-nurse in. I went to the Pure Fitness nurse in last year. I went to the actual location where the incident occurred, and where no apology had been issued. In fact they were so against nursing in public that some of the gym members actually held a counter-protest while we were protesting! I went to the Target nurse-in in December. Again, I was at the actual location where the incident occurred, but I still would have gone if I lived somewhere else. Target didn't issue an apology, and while there was an element of protest to the nurse-in event, the attitude was more one of normalizing nursing, not coming down on Target.
I think that's what most of the moms that are going to Applebee's today are planning to do as well. They're probably going to sit down, order some food, and nurse their babies- just like they would on any normal day, even without a nurse-in scheduled. I'm all for that- but that's also another big reason why I didn't go today. I'm allergic to gluten, so I can't eat anything on the Applebee's menu. My nursling is 2.5 years old, and we don't nurse in public anymore. He just doesn't need to. So if I did take my kids with me and go, we'd sit down at a table, not order any food, not nurse, and do what exactly? I dunno, even knowing that I'd leave a good tip for the waitress for her time, I'd still feel awkward doing that- just sitting there with my 2 kids and not eating anything, to make a point about nursing in public, which I wouldn't even be doing. So, taking into account my mixed feelings about the whole thing, and the fact that I wouldn't even actually be doing anything there, I decided to stay home.
This is the part about blogging that sucks. Because at some point, you're either going to have to be dishonest, or show some of your flaws. Guess what- I have flaws! I don't have everything figured out. I change my mind sometimes. I get confused sometimes. I say one thing and do another. It's never on purpose, but it happens. But the one thing that I do always try to do is to stay honest and true to myself- to what I'm feeling, thinking, and needing, and to what I believe. And today, all things considered, that means not showing up at the nurse in this afternoon, and being honest about the reasons why.
I'm not against those that went. I totally understand Best for Babes' point about why the nurse-in is still necessary, and there's a big part of me that agrees. But even though it makes me feel like a crummy "lactivist", it just wasn't the right fit for me to go up there today. I do extend well wishes to those that are going, and I hope that they're able to represent the cause well and do much to normalize nursing.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
I also noticed that the baby was perched high on top of the shopping cart inside of her car seat. I felt my heart tighten up a little bit. I know how dangerous that is. I know that babies have been hospitalized after falling off of car seats perched atop a shopping cart like this girl was. I know that some babies have even died because of a fall like that. The thought of something happening to that precious, new little baby- I could barely bear to even think about it. If I felt that way about a baby that I barely knew, how much more must her parents feel protective of her? I'm almost positive that they didn't know just how dangerous it was for their little one to be sitting on top of the shopping cart like that.
I so badly wanted to say something to them. Our paths through the grocery store crossed several times, and I thought about how I would approach them and what I would say. Maybe something about how I had no idea when my first was little, and that I'm glad someone told me? I could start by apologizing for inerrupting them, and then say something about how I'd hate to see something bad happen to the beautiful little girl they had with them. Would that come across right? I ran through all the things I wanted to say each time I saw them, but I didn't. I kept my mouth shut.
I know that people don't like criticism. Most people have a hard time hearing they're doing something wrong, no matter how nicely it's presented, especially coming from a stranger! I didn't want anything to happen to the baby, but I also didn't want to offend a couple of complete strangers, especially ones that were brand new parents. Parents, especially new ones, need encouragement, right? I was so torn- and when you factor in my nervousness with talking to people I don't know, it ended in me keeping my mouth shut and not saying anything to them.
Then last night I was scrolling through Facebook, and came across this link. It's an open letter that a mom wrote to a stranger that helped her in the Safeway parking lot- a stranger that helped her stay calm after her shopping cart hit the side of a speed bump in the parking lot, sending her baby's car seat crashing to the concrete. Thankfully, the baby was okay, but what a scary moment(including an ambulance ride to be checked out at the hospital) for both the baby and the mother!!!
Reading that had me doubting myself even more. What if the same thing had happened to the family I saw on their way out to their car? What if that little girl had been hurt, and I could have said something to save her, and didn't? But was it my business to say something? Could I even say something without being offensive? My "thanks for NIP" cards have gone over well- what if I made a card that explained the dangers of perching a car seat on top of a shopping cart to hand to parents that I came across? But wouldn't that just make the interaction even more awkward?
I'm still struggling with these questions, and I'm still not sure what I'll do next time I see a baby baanced precariously on top of a shopping cart. Is it even my business to care?
What would you do? Do you say something when you see other parents doing something dangerous, or do you stay quiet so as not to offend? Is there a way to share important information with a complete stranger without offending? What would you do?
Monday, September 24, 2012
As of yesterday, Applebee's issued a new statement, one that looks a little more like an actual apology!
First of all, they only posted this new statement on the "Applebee's | COVINGTON" page, which has a whopping 160 likes. There's absolutely no mention of the incident or how sorry they are for the way Dawn was treated on their main Facebook page, which has nearly 3.5 million likes. I also haven't seen this apology in any of the news articles or other coverage of the incident. If Applebee's really wanted Dawn and everyone else to know how sorry they are, wouldn't they be making this statement a little more public?
And what of the fact that Applebee's claims to have attempted to contact Dawn personally, apparently with no response on her end? We asked Dawn about that, and this is what she said:
So let me get this straight- Applebee's didn't make any contact with Dawn, or attempt to apologize to her until after they found out that she had retained a lawyer? Call me a cynic, but that doesn't exactly make the apology seem genuine to me, especially with the other details taken into account. But I'm just one momma- take from it what you will.
*** END UPDATE ***
It's happening all over again, y'all. Yet another breastfeeding mom has been harassed for nursing in public, but this time the story is even more shocking.
On September 15th, Dawn Holland was in a booth in the back of an Applebee's restaurant in Georgia, nursing her 20 month old son. The restaurant manager came up to Dawn and told her that what she was doing was inappropriate, and that she'd either need to stop or take her son into the bathroom to nurse him. Dawn refused to do either, and asked the manager to look up the Georgia law on breastfeeding, which clearly states that women are free to nurse their children anywhere they are legally allowed to be.
I'm sure most of my readers have already seen this story and know what happened next. But if you haven't, just take half a second and guess. Manager asks mom to nurse in the bathroom, mom refuses and asks manager to look up the state law. Logically, a couple of scenarios could have played out. The manager could have walked back to her office, done a quick google, and realized that Dawn did, in fact, have the right to nurse in the restaurant! Aside from the initial harassement and lack of understanding of basic human biology, that sounds somewhat reasonable conclusion to the incident. Or maybe the manager refused to budge, and Dawn and her children left, frustrated and offended. That's been the outcome of several similar nursing in public harassment incidents.
But neither of those scenarios are what actually happened. Not only did the manager not go look up the Georgia law, not only did she continue to insist that Dawn stop nursing or go to the bathroom, she proceeded to CALL THE POLICE. Yep, you read that right. When faced with a peaceful, nursing mother in her restaurant, this manager decided the right course of action was to call the police.
I'm really trying not to be rude. But I honestly don't understand what in the world would posess someone to call the actual police because a mother is nursing her child! Don't the police have actual crimes to stop? What kind of person would think that the act of a mother feeding her child is not only offensive, but a crime worth calling the police over? Consider my mind blown.
Of course, the police didn't give Dawn a citation of any sort, because they said that it was a civil issue. (How about the fact that Dawn was fully protected under Georgia law?) Dawn is still waiting for an apology, by the way, just like Michelle Hickman is still waiting for one from Target where she was harassed for nursing last December. (Side note- wanna see me on the news? Click that link and watch the video.) Applebee's has issued a public statement, but it falls far short of being an actual apology. They said (my comments in orange):
"We're in the business of welcoming guests to our restaurants and our top priority is always to provide a friendly and comfortable environment for everyone, including nursing mothers who have the right to nurse in public.(Look at that- Applebee's can regurgitate Georgia law! Now can they take it a step further and actually apologize to Dawn?) This was an unfortunate misunderstanding(A what? A misunderstanding? What exactly was it that was misunderstood? The fact that nursing is the biologically normal way to feed a child, not a crime worth calling the police over? Yeah, there was definitely a misunderstanding there. Maybe the fact that Dawn was harassed and humiliated when she had done absolutely nothing wrong, and deserves an apology? Yes, you've obviously misunderstood that too, Applebee's, given the fact that you haven't even had the decency to apologize to her!) and we hope the guest will give us another chance to demonstrate that to her personally. (Really? You harass this woman, call the police on her for absolutely no reason, weasel your way out of an actual apology by calling the whole thing a "unfortunate misunderstanding", and then you expect her to actually darken your doorstep and give you another chance? I'm betting that's not going to happen.)"
Yeah, really good job there, Applebee's.
The other thing that really frustrates me about this entire incident is that the manager that called the police on Dawn was a woman! I shouldn't still be surprised by this, but I am. Silly me for expecting women to stick up for each other, and understand the basic concepts of motherhood and female biology! We've seen this before, of course, most notably(for this blog, anyway) during the Pure Fitness incident when Penny Schlanser was harassed for nursing in a women only gym. The women that were offended by Penny nursing even came out and held their own counter protest during our nurse in.
As usual when a nursing mom is harassed, especially in such a blatant manner as Dawn was, the nursing community has organized a nurse-in, which is to be held on Saturday, September 29th from 1-3PM at Applebee's locations all across the country. I plan to be there with a sign saying something like "Breastfeeding isn't a Crime" or "Nursing is Normal" or "End Discrimination against Nursing Mothers". This has got to stop, y'all. For every nursing mom who gets harassed and makes the news for it, there are at least dozens more that we don't ever hear about. It's completely unacceptable that women are still being harassed for taking care of their children in the most basic way possible.
Here are some links if you want to dig a little deeper:
News coverage of the incident, including a news segment and an interview with Dawn.
Dawn is also scheduled to be on Katie Couric's new show on Wednesday. Lets hope Katie is more supportive of breastfeeding on the air than she is on her website, where she posted this gem. She asks, "Should women breastfeed in public?" Gosh, I dunno, Katie. Should women bottle feed in public? Should mothers feed Cheerios to their todders in public? Should adults eat sandwiches in public? Are we really still asking this question? I sincerely hope Katie educates herself on both this issue and the law before her interview with Dawn on Wednesday.
If you want to take part in the nurse-in as well, I encourage you to visit the Facebook group where it's being organized. There's a list of local nurse-in's by state, many with their own Facebook group for more localized organizing.
If this will be your first nurse-in, I encourage you to check out this information from Best for Babes about nurse-ins. It explains what to expect, what the point of a nurse in is, and what to do and not do during the nurse-in.
Let's do this! We'll continue to stand for nursing mothers and babies until breastfeeding becomes so normal that no one bats an eye at it- and especially until nursing mothers don't have to fear having the police called on them.