Friday, March 25, 2011

My little man wears his heart on his sleeve

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"Dear God, Sank you for my big sister, I love her so much. Sank you for my Mommy, I love her so much. Sank you for my Daddy, too, I love him so much. Sank you for Jamie.... Amen."

*hugs and kisses for Mommy and Sofi*

"Wait, Mommy, I need to pray for one more sing. Dear God sank you SO MUCH for cutecute Jamie
*giggle*, I love him SO MUCH, *giggle,jumpupanddown* he's so cute and bedorable and cutecutecute... *gigglegigglegiggle*"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mommy's Secret Weapon

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I am not a yell-er. I have many other faults as a mother and a human being, but I don't yell at my kids. Or, I should say, I don't raise the decibel level of my voice when I'm upset with them. I actually tend to get quieter and more deliberate the angrier I am. I can be snippy and sarcastic (which might actually be worse than yelling), and as I've confessed before, I whine at them, but I really don't yell.


I have this Voice I use occasionally. My Vader Mommy Voice.

I've been on the stage since the age of four and I'm a trained vocalist. I know how to... err... project. Matter of fact, whatever else you may say about my voice, no one who's ever heard me sing would deny that I can be loud. Really loud. When I want to. And because of the stage training, I can be loud without yelling. So my Vader Mommy Voice is this deep, loud, earth-shattering, ear-drum rattling, disobedient-bottom-tingling trumpet burst of sound. It's a very controlled, calm voice and I am not expressing outrage or anger-- just getting the point across. Loudly.

I deliberately reserve it for moments when, 1) I need to get the immediate attention of a child who is straying into danger,


or, 2) I want to put the fear of God into a disobedient child who's crossed a line from which there is no return, such as punching a sister or waking a sleeping baby,


I'm kind of giving away that there's one member of the family more prone to invoking the Vadar Mommy Voice than the others....

Today Judah and Sofi were bickering while I was nursing James and putting him to bed. The bickering turned to fighting and the fighting to tears, yells, hollering and screams of outrage. I covered one of Jamie's ears with my free hand,


*instantaneous silence*


( I can't send them to their rooms to separate them, they share a room, so they have to actually get into their beds.)

*feet scrambling into beds*

And then I looked down at James, his face a mask of awe and fear, milk dripping from his trembling bottom lip. He turned his head away and would nurse no more.

I'm sorry, honey. That's Mommy's Vader Voice. I hope I never need to use it on you.

I wouldn't lay any money on that, though.

For Gordon and Sarah

Since I'm FB free for Lent, would y'all click on over and comment here, instead of leaving your comments on the auto-post on Facebook? Pretty please?

Judah talks about conkers-- information he learned at the feet paws of Kipper the Dog.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

More on Babywise.

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I want to start off by thanking all of you for commenting on my last post about Babywise. It did my heart good to see a bunch of women, who may or may not all have the same opinion of this highly controversial book, all voicing those opinions with grace, composure and politeness. I'll tell you what, there's not enough of that on the internet today, that's for sure.

Secondly, I want to point out that I know the children of a majority of the women who are commenting and all of them, while sinners like all of us, are for the most part agreeable, pleasant, obedient, intelligent and well-adjusted. They are not whiny, clingy, needy and over-sensitive; nor are they cold, joyless and insecure. Therefore, I have to conclude that the issue that we're all discussing is What Worked For Me, and not What Is Right, in any moral sense. I strongly disagree with Mr Ezzo's claim that a particular feeding pattern produces more sinful children in any way.

So, having said that, I have to say also, Babywise is not working for us. I tell you, I was definitely at the point of trying anything to get James sleeping through the night. He was nursing about every two hours during the day-- except when we were out and about, when he'd easily wait up to four hours without falling apart. His nap schedule at the time consisted of three fairly predictable naps-- one or two hours each-- for which he went into bed happily, awake and freshly fed, and fell asleep with no crying at all. Same at bedtime. He would then sleep solidly from 7:00 or 7:30 till after midnight. Between midnight and 7:00 am he'd wake three or four times. Maybe only two, but usually more. This got to be a drag. Literally, a drag. As in, drag my hiney around the house all day with my eyelids propped up on toothpicks.

So with all the strong recommendations, I decided to give Babywise the ol' college try. The main difference between Ezzo'z plan and what we were already doing was the eat-play-nap thing and a four-hour nursing schedule. So I made it my goal to work on those two things.

As an aside, one thing I dislike about the book (which has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the method) is that Mr Ezzo virtually guarantees that if you follow his method, your child WILL sleep through the night. No ifs, ands or buts. This claim seems a little disingenuous to me.

We jumped in and began to make some changes. I put him down for naps without nursing, I offered the breast when he woke each time. And all hell broke loose. Well, I mean that in a metaphorical sense. What has actually happened is that over the course of our experiment, Jamie has gradually quit nursing during the day pretty much altogether. At the worst (which was about two days ago) he only had ONE feeding in the entire day that lasted longer than a minute. He was just too interested in things going on around him, and since we weren't even trying to nurse when he was calm and sleepy (right before bed), he just wasn't interested in nursing at all.

Now, James is a twenty-pound chunk-of-a-monkey, so you might imagine what happened to counter-balance this hunger strike. Why yes! How did you guess? He simply ate at night. His early night-time five or six hour chunk of sleep is now broken up into two more feedings, which brings the night's grand total to FIVE. Yes. He goes to sleep at 7 or 7:30 and now wakes to nurse FIVE or SIX times before morning. He didn't nurse this much at night as a newborn.

Lauren, I thought of you. Didn't Chloe do this to you for a while?

Yesterday, in tears over another half day of no nursing, I threw in the towel. I began offering the breast before and after naps. Today went a little better. He got three or four good feeds in. He's in bed now, going on two hours and my fingers are crossed...

So. While I have no doubt that manymany women implement the strategies in Babywise and have great success, it was a consummate failure for us.

I do still plan to address some of the other things about the book itself (not the method) that rubbed me the wrong way... maybe in a day or two.

Update: James just woke up- two hours to the minute since going down, but I was able to replace the binky, pat him a little and he went back to sleep.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Things I love today

The lingering presence of my husband in a faint smell of tobacco, a pipe, and ash on the porch table beside a green glass whiskey tumbler and a worn copy of the Life and Work of Dante Alighieri.

A week off for Spring Break.

Kids, shivering in the pool, determined that "It's not cold, M-m-m-mom-mm-mmy!"

Eighty-degree days in March

Answered prayers, and the Lord's provisions

Azalea blossoms

Friends who don't mind packing into our tiny dining room, or balancing their plates on their knees while wedged, three-deep, on the two-seater couch.

My sleepy baby boy, pudgy fingers clamped tight to chubby cheek, nursing lazily, eyes rolling in contented satisfaction.

My big boy, charging from couch to floor, bouncing off the walls (literally) and shifting from superhero to knight to warrior and back again, in constant energetic motion.

My talltall girl. Long-legged, grey-eyed, stormy-cloudy-- then suddenly sunny again. From the height's to the depths and back again in nanoseconds.

An almost-decade of loving this man.

On Reading Babywise

All right. I finally did it. I read Babywise. So many of y'all recommended it this week as I was struggling with Jamie's sleepless night, that I decided to give it another shot. I'd read bits and pieces of it over the years, larger chunks and maybe even most of the book when Sofi was a baby. I never really liked it much and it didn't seem to fit for us.

As I re-visited it this time around, my view of the book congealed a little more and I think I can share my thoughts fairly articulately now. At least, as articulately as you can expect on five hours of sleep.

First of all, the pros. I really appreciate his take on the effect of a healthy marriage on a child's well-being and his advocacy of family-centered parenting, as opposed to child centered parenting. I heartily agree with most of what he says in that chapter and have found it to be very effective and an important concept I need reminding of again and again. Good chapter.

His concept of watching your child and interpreting his/her cries, looking for hunger cues and in general tuning in and establishing some sort of schedule based on your child's needs and cycles is great. It sounds pretty much like what we've practiced with all three kids, with increasing degrees of skill and success. Scheduling, of the mild, and baby-needs-initiated variety that we practice and Ezzo seems to advocate, can be a life-saver.

I actually found, as I read, that our own parenting practices mirror Ezzo's advice very closely, with one primary difference being the timing of nursing. I still nurse James both on waking and at naptime-- a two or three hour schedule, instead of the recommended four hour schedule for his age. Ezzo states that this extended feeding schedule ensures that the infant will receive adequate hindmilk at each feeding, since a "snacking" pattern (shorter, more frequent feedings) would give him/her only the thinner foremilk. I found this a little irritating-- it's bad science. The fact is, a woman's body will adjust to fit the demands her infant puts on it, whether that is for larger quantities of milk at long intervals, or smaller quantities at shorter intervals. There's not a set, inflexible level of foremillk that must be disposed of before the hindmilk is accessed. It's flexible. It changes. Your body will adapt to your baby's feeding habits.

The only time you might have a problem with not accessing the hindmilk would be while still establishing those breastfeeding habits in early infancy. This can be easily addressed by simply offering your "snacker" the same breast each time over, say, an hour or two, until it appears to be empty. Then switch to the other side. As a healthy breastfeeding relationship is established, your body and your baby will get into sync with one another.

(Some articles discussing milk composition and production. One states that an extended, or elongated nursing schedule may actually contribute to HIGHER levels of foremilk in a baby's diet...)

The next point on which our custom differs from Ezzo's recommendations is the eat-play-nap sequence. Although I am always sure to put Jamie into the crib awake, rather than let him fall asleep at the breast (something I learned from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, a book quoted in Babywise), I do nurse him both before and after every nap. Or at least, I offer the breast. He rarely is interested in nursing when he first wakes-- he's been asleep for two hours and he's got other things on his agenda than snuggling quietly and nursing. He's got things to do and places to go!

Ezzo doesn't say specifically WHY (that I could find) he recommends the eat-play-nap sequence, other than to simply state that it's better than play-eat-nap. He actually goes so far as to say that this ensures an early establishment of nighttime sleep, but I can't fathom why. Since James has never really had consistent day-time sleep problems, I'm willing to give Ezzo's ideas a try, but I'm not sold on the idea. It doesn't make sense to me to work against the natural relaxing effects of milk and the action of nursing. I mean, if God puts stuff in the milk to make 'em sleepy, it stands to reason you'd want to take advantage of that, no?

I have to state for the record that all the crazy, rabid, "the man's a Baby Killer!!" stuff I've read about Babywise on various blogs and whatnot is totally uncalled for. I mean, really. The worst thing I could see happening is over-tired moms getting frustrated with babies who don't want to nurse the way they're "supposed" to and quitting. He's not what I would consider a rabid supporter of breast-is-best and the book treats bottle-feeding as an almost-equivalent to breast. He seems to advocate the feeding schedule above the actual feeding method.

BUT. Anyone who reads this book and then starves their kid to death in order to Observe The Schedule To Keep It Holy ought to get their head checked. Seriously. It's the same kind of thing that people like the Pearls ("To Train Up a Child") get reamed for-- for NO REASON. People do stupid, even criminally stupid, stuff all the time and there's no point in starting a witch hunt for the author they were currently reading at the time they did what they did.

OK. So that's the (mostly) positive stuff. I'm really not sure if I want to get into the stuff I dislike about this book. I have a post already written, but I have to wait and let it gel a bit first. I know I have quite a few friends and readers who really love this book and I'm not sure I want to go there. Speak up in the comments if you care and/or want to hear :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

More Coupon Questions

So you coupon-ing queens out there... Here's my grocery list for this week, and it's pretty typical. What types of things do you see that y'all could find coupons for? If this is generally how my list looks from week to week, does it seem like it would be worth my time to research coupon-ing more? Or am I right that the way we eat just doesn't fit well into the whole coupon-ing thing?

baby carrots
cherry tomatoes
spring greens


Dry Goods:
english muffins
white flour
olive oil

Chicken breast

We rarely eat cereals, pasta or crackers. What types of things do you find are good to coupon for? And what stores have the best options for those "cash-buck" type deals?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Meals Under A Dollar

Our M.U.D. for this week is on the menu for Monday night:

Red Beans: (<$2.50, we won't eat the whole thing, it should cover lunch the next day, too, call it $1.75)

2 cans Red Beans (2X $0.50)
2 fresh tomatoes ($0.75)
1/2 lb Sausage ($1.25)
1/2 Onion ($0.25, it was bogo for onions last week at Albertson's)

Rice: ($0.50, my best guess, since a one-lb bag is about $1)

Fried Cabbage: ($1.00)

1 head Green Cabbage ($0.50, on sale this week)
1/2 Onion ($0.25)

Salad: ($1.20)

Total Cost: $4.45 to feed four people

I'm finding it a leeetle tricky to be accurate with pricing, since most of the time we have left-overs that go for lunch the next day. So I'm not going to stress too much about going $0.45 over my $4 goal :)

Red Beans, Fried Cabbage

Here's the basic recipe I started with for my Red Beans and Rice. I stick fairly closely with it, but we don't eat celery, so I'm not going to buy a whole bunch just to chop one stalk for one recipe, so, nix the celery. Kielbasa was on sale this week, so we subbed that in for the smoked turkey sausage. I'll probably skip the green pepper, unless I just happen to have some leftover-- the kids pick it out of their dishes (one of the few things we don't make them eat), so again, not worth putting in to start with. I'll do a little research on Cajun seasonings and pull together what I have in my spice cabinet to approximate that taste the best I can.

I think this is my mom's fried cabbage recipe, but I'm not actually sure where I learned it...

Fried Cabbage:

1 head Cabbage, sliced thin (not chopped, just sliced)
onion to taste (I use 1/2 a med sweet onion)
celery seed
dill seed

Heat the butter till sizzling, but not brown. Add onions, cook through. Add cabbage all at once, add seasonings to taste. Stir frequently, cook until tender crisp. DO NOT OVER COOK. The key to good fried cabbage is to still have some crunch to the cabbage when you serve it. Keep in mind, it'll keep cooking inside right up till you're eating it, so... Under-done is better than over-done.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Screwtape letters again.

So this week we were discussing Love and Marriage (strains of Frank Sinatra....). Lewis takes on the whole modern idea of Being In Love in a way that I find gratifying and highly satisfactory. For someone who has such a Hollywood-esque love story myself, I'm quite pragmatic about the whole concept of Falling and/or Being In Love (which reminds me that I never did finish the story of Us).

I won't go into Lewis' thoughts too much, because this is my blog and he's already written a book about it... But suffice to say, he's against the notion that some romantic and highly unlikely combination of weak knees, fluttery tummies and pink clouds is any kind of solid basis for a decision about who to commit the rest of your life to. In particular I like and want to share with you this quote, in which the older demon, Screwtape, recommends that his young nephew, Wormtongue attack "the patient's" chastity by postponing or eliminating his chance for a happy marriage thusly,

"... the humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly colored and distorted version of something The Enemy really promises as its result."

So, a young man is, by his personal demon, to be kept from the natural fulfillment of God-given desires by the search for a mystical Something that is a pre-requisite to marital bliss and without which any marital commitment would be considered almost dishonest and self-serving.

Whereas God's actual design for marriage is that two people who enter into covenant with one another and vow to serve one another and seek each other's good above their own all the rest of their days, and THAT is what will produce all the blissful, emotionally fulfulling pink clouds you could wish for. And what's more, it will last for years, through think and thin. And it will only go on getting better and better with time and tribulation and testing, because it's based on a commitment to an Ideal, that of Christ's relationship to the Church, and it's built through self-sacrifice, not self-fulfillment.

Somehow I want to convince my children, before they get to the teenage years and begin to succumb to the Hollywood ideal of Romance, that, in order of importance, it's Marriage and then Love. The feeling of intimacy that we all long for, the knowing and being known, the Marriage of Two Minds and all that wonderful stuff... That's the RESULT, not the prerequisite. And it takes hard work, commitment and sacrifice to get there.

But oooooh, is it worth it! Every minute.

I have more thoughts on this topic, but it's reeeeally late and I need some sleep! So maybe I'll get back to it another day...

PS. Since I"m FB free for Lent, would y'all click on over and comments here, instead of leaving your comments on the auto-post on Facebook? Pretty please?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Laying it out a little

I've given up Facebook for Lent. Mostly because I've found that, since we moved here, FB has taken a greater and greater chunk out of my daily "free time". That is, time when kids aren't immediately in need of me. And I've become far too dependent on it as a crutch to get me through a rough day, when what I should be doing on those days is 1) a better job of loving my (albeit, cranky) kids, and 2) praying for wisdom and patience. Since James' sleeping habits (or NON-sleeping habits) are not changing for the better, those rough days are becoming more and more frequent and I just found myself fleeing to the sympathetic ears of my FB friends more and more.

So. Forty days ought to break that habit. I hope. If not.... *sigh*

I would like to take this opportunity to quickly mention something that's been plaguing me (and keeping me from blogging regularly) for some time. Sometime shortly after Christmas, someone (who shall remain nameless) mentioned to me that someone ELSE (whom they did not name to me, so... also nameless) mentioned to them (this is definitely how rumors get started) that I whine a lot on this blog.

*letting that settle*

Well. That took the wind out of my sails, let me tell you. Not that it's news to me. I mean, I've flat out stated it here on this very blog that whining is one of my besetting sins and something I've passed on to my kids and struggle with daily. But it hurt my feelings that, 1) someone noticed it here on this blog, and 2) it made enough of an impression on them that they'd mention it to someone else as a feature of this blog.

So I've spent the last two months second-guessing and editing and waffling about everything I post. Which means most times I just don't post at all. I have at least a week's worth of posts languishing in my "unpublished" folder, waiting for me to decide if they're worth posting.

But as I've done all that thinking and second-guessing and waffling, I've come to a conclusion. This blog is an expression of myself, with all my faults, honest and unpretentious, with no claim to superiority, or greater wisdom and virtue. I am not writing here because I consider that I have something vital to say every day. I don't write to instruct my readers, or to admonish them from a position of authority.

I am writing because that's what I do. I am writing for the love of words. I write so I will remember-- good things and bad. I write so that the people who love me and my family and who are far away, will feel that they are still, in a way, part of our daily lives. I write because the words buzz around in my head and only form into coherent, peaceful thoughts when my fingers hit the keyboard. I write so I can think clearly. I write hoping that people who read might get a little something out of it.

And so, if you are reading, I hope you are reading, not to learn anything profound, or to see "how it's done". I hope you aren't expecting to hear the daily musings of the perfect Proverbs 31 Woman. I hope you don't come looking for a daily lesson of some sort, or always expecting to be uplifted by the contents.

Rather, if you come and read and leave laughing, or feeling a little better about the day you're having, or if you read something that helps you cope a little better with the DAILYNESS of mommy-life, sometimes even if you cry a little and definitely if you go hug your babies a little tighter, then that's everything I could ever ask from a little blog like this.

So, I've got no great resolutions about improving the content, but I've come around full circle to feel comfortable again in my own, often-whiny bloggy skin. Here's to four more years of Herb of Grace, the blog!

PS. Since I"m FB free for Lent, would y'all click on over and comments here, instead of leaving your comments on the auto-post on Facebook? Pretty please?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why I don't Coupon

A friend of mine recently posted on FB about beginning her coupon-ing journey, and once again, as I always do when someone posts about how they bought $200 worth of groceries and only paid a dime for it, I got sucked into the allure of the ultimate bargain shopping. So last night I went through the fliers of the grocery stores I normally shopped, made out my list and hit the Google to find coupons....

I found some awesome ones! For example, Campbell's Soups were on sale at A.'s for $0.88 and I found a coupon for $0.40 off two-- that makes.... $0.68 per can! Good deal! Also, Tropicana o.j. for $1.99 a half-gallon! And on and on and on...

The problem is: I get to the store aaand, of course, the store brand of soup is on sale for $0.50 a can. I foud this out AFTER I had loaded up my cart with Campbell's brand. And then when I got home I found that I had neglected to trade out two of the Campbell's brand for store brand, which, since I hadn't used the coupon after all (because I bought the cheaper store brand) cost me $1.50 each. AND I DON'T EVEN BUY CANNED SOUP.

Net savings: - $4.00

Also, it took me ten minutes of searching to find the exact right size bag of chips, which at $0.99 a bag was a steal, but the 12 oz bags were in a random cart, down the other aisle, behind a display of not-on-sale chips.

This is why I do not coupon.

Friday, March 4, 2011

This morning began, in typical fashion, with cleaning Judah's breakfast up off the already atrociously stained dining room carpet.

"But. Mamaaaa, it was a accididn't!"

"Yes, I know. You are just an accident walking around on two legs, aren't you?"

*contemplative pause*

"Well... sometimes... sometimes," holding up his arms, with hands tucked into too long sweatshirt sleeves, "...sometimes I walks around on my robot arms instead."


I think he's "Frog Man" in this picture....