Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

(Almost) WW: Lulu Belle 2007 and 2008

Last year...

And this year...

Suzi has grown and I've shrunk (well, a little).

Next year she won't need me to ride with her at all :-(

Monday, October 27, 2008

*Updated w/ winner* Baby sling giveaway!

We had 88 entries total (one by email because she couldn't comment, and the last comment was a few minutes late--sorry!) And the winner is...

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2008-11-02 13:19:44 UTC

Mrs. Sara! Gosh, a (different) Sara won my last giveaway! Weird. Sara, I will be emailing you in a minute. I'll need you to measure yourself and also send me fabric choice and an address. If Sara doesn't email me within four days I'll pick another winner.

If you didn't win, don't be sad. You can probably learn to make these slings yourself! I love these directions, and also Jan Andrea's for making reversible slings. Here is my post on making them. If you can thread a sewing machine you can probably make one, and it only takes an hour or two. If you've never used a pouch sling before, it would be best to start by watching an instructional video on how they work in general. Having an understanding of the sling's purpose makes the project much easier.

I will be having a November contest, but I'm not sure what it'll be, so check back soon!


It's that time again... The Bloggy Giveaways Carnival is here!

I'm giving away one sling which I will make myself. I haven't made it yet because I'm going to let the winner email me measurements and fabric choice. (So it may take a week or so longer than usual to ship, but I'll do my best.) Above is an example of one sling I've made. I am also working on a batch of slings to send over to No Mother Left Behind! It's an organization that hooks families up with slings when they can't buy or make one for themselves. I encourage you to visit their site and consider donating.

Here are the different fabrics I can use to make the sling:

Please note: #3 is a sort of faux suede, and #4 is flannel (the same one I'm wearing above).

I can make a Daddy sling too. Probably the navy or khaki option would be best for a dad.

To win:
1) Please leave a comment telling me your favorite brand or style of carrier. If you don't know yet because you're still pregnant and/or don't have any carriers, tell me that too!
2) If you want you can also tell me the fabric you'd like for your sling, but it isn't required. We can do that later when a winner is chosen.
3) It makes me a bit nervous, but I'm going to go ahead and say I'll ship this sling anywhere :-)
4) You don't have to be a blogger to win, but please leave an email address! You may want to type it as somebody (at) somewhere .com to foil the spambots.
5) The contest will end at 11:59 pm Saturday, November 1st and I will select the winner randomly. I'll email the winner (and post here) and if she has not responded with shipping information within four days I will pick someone else.
6) I have plenty of fabric in most of the choices, but depending upon the winner's measurements one or more of the selections may be precluded. I will request a first and second fabric choice from the winner.

Good luck to everyone, and may we all win something!

More giveaways at the Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Walhalla Oktoberfest

This is long overdue; we did this last weekend, but I didn't want to overlook it! We decided to take Suzi to Oktoberfest in Walhalla, about 45 minutes away. Actually, we intended to go Friday because Jordan and I both had the day off, but it didn't start until 6 pm and we didn't realize that until we were already in Walhalla. We shopped a little instead (Walhalla has some great local businesses) and decided to go home and come back Sunday. I will post later about the lovely soap shop that's on my new list of favorites.

Jordan carried Suzi in the ring sling because my shoulder got tired. He didn't want to, but I told him it matched his Clemson pullover--a very valid point, I think. That made him feel better.

To tell the truth, I really wanted to see the Little German Band and Dancers. They were cool. They sang too and called for a lot of audience participation, but I'm sure they got a better response on Saturday when there was beer in the tent. We missed out on the beer :-( I didn't get to take many pictures because our camera died unexpectedly, but there are a bunch of good ones of the band and dancers here.

What a cool Daddy!

Suzi went home with a little cowbell. We wanted a CD but only had a few dollars in cash, and cash was all they were taking.

I know I'll end up going back to Walhalla soon. Thistle Ridge Soap alone is worth the trip!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Suzi screams for ikeam

Suzi: IKEAM!

Me: What do you say?

Suzi: Cold!

Me: Yes, it is cold, but what do you say?


Me: What do you say?

Suzi: (Buries her face in my lap)

Me: What's the magic word?

Suzi: MINE!

Me: It starts with a P.

Suzi: PEE-PEE!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WW: Nesting dolls

Monday, October 20, 2008

Raising Itty-Bitty Bookworms

I was recently happy to find out I'd won two beautiful hardcover books from The Itty Bitty Bookworm. Their website and online store, created by four experienced educators, specializes in literature-based preschool curriculum. They also feature pages of free resources such as print-outs and activity ideas! Their blog is full of ideas and fun contests.

I won a copy of "Fire! Fire!" said Mrs. McGuire and The Busy Little Squirrel. I was a little worried Suzi wouldn't sit still for them, but when I opened the books I realized they were perfect for her: Colorful illustrations, not too many words, repetition and rhyming. Suzi went from mid-tantrum to happy when I sat down and read to her. (For her to sit and listen to me read, as seen in the picture above, is a refreshing change.) We definitely have a couple of new favorites!

I am bookmarking the Itty Bitty Bookworm curriculum for future consideration. I had wanted to get Before Five in a Row, but it doesn't begin until two years old and the Itty Bitty Bookworm Bailey Curriculum starts at 18 months! Suzi is already a little sponge, and I don't want to wait until she's two.

Thanks Itty Bitty Bookworm!

P.S. The contest is over, winner contacted, and prize on its way. My next contest will begin one week from today on October 27th! It's Bloggy Giveaways Carnival time!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Breastfeeding and getting a biopsy?

I meant to blog about this some time ago and am just now getting to it! There's an exciting research study underway right now that I wanted to tell you all about. I found out about it at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog.

Ever had a lump in your breast? I have. I was in college and it was right after my mom had been diagnosed and treated for her breast cancer. It scared me to death! Luckily a mammogram/ultrasound confirmed it was nothing to worry about, and I don't even think the lump is there anymore. I am so thankful it happened then and not now, when I am in the middle of breastfeeding my daughter. Because you know what? Most doctors don't like to do mammograms on breastfeeding women. They want them to wean first. That's a heck of a choice, isn't it? Should I prematurely wean my child, or allow something that has even the remotest chance of being malignant to spread? No woman should have to make this decision.

That's where Dr. Kathleen Arcaro comes in. Most of you probably don't realize that when our milk comes out, it takes some cells from our milk ducts with it. These exfoliated epithelial cells can be found in our milk. Dr. Arcaro has proposed that these cells may be able to serve as early indicators of breast cancer, or even determine one's risk for it. Instead of having one's breast squished agonizingly flat between two plates, or having a part of it painfully cut out in a biopsy, we could just pump a little breastmilk and take it to a lab! Exciting, right?

Well, what Dr. Arcaro needs are some subjects for her study. It would involve mailing some of your pumped milk to her lab. If you are breastfeeding and are scheduled for a biopsy, PLEASE email Tanya at motherwearblog(at)gmail(dot)com, or go to her original post (I link to it above) to find Dr. Arcaro's contact info. If you know anyone who may be scheduled for a biopsy, please pass this info along.

And on a completely unrelated note...

There are only a few more hours left to enter to win an Earthlust Bottle!

And to find out how I feel about bottled water, go to my other blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Breastfeeding and Poverty: An Ounce of Prevention

When I saw the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog’s October Carnival topic was breastfeeding and poverty, I knew I had to interview my friend Kim Paschal. She is the breastfeeding coordinator at our local health department and has helped countless low-income moms and their babies build successful breastfeeding relationships. Our entire interview is posted at the end of my article, because I know you’d like to read it. I went into it with an opinion (of course) and came out with a different one. Be sure to read the posts at the other participating blogs, which are listed at the bottom of this post.

Breastfeeding and Poverty: An Ounce of Prevention

The topic of breastfeeding and poverty reminds me of a new mother my coworker saw some time ago. (I work in a mom-baby boutique where we rent hospital-grade Medela pumps and also sell a selection of single-user ones.) It was a Saturday. The mom was breastfeeding but didn’t think the baby was getting enough milk. She wanted to pump to see how much milk was coming out, so my coworker started going over prices with her. $70.00 to rent a Symphony for a month? No way. It was only $15.00 to rent a Lactina for a week, but it cost $45.00 for the kit to go with it. Even the manual Harmony pump cost $30.00, and this mom did not have it. The lactation consultant at the hospital was off for the weekend and we had no baby scale, so doing a before-and-after weighing was not an option. She could probably have gotten a pump from the health department for free, but it was the weekend and, as is generally the case, she needed the pump yesterday. It’s heartbreaking to turn moms like this one away. Most of them are probably producing a fine amount, but many end up switching to formula because they can’t prove it to themselves. If this had happened to me—and we are by no means rich—I would have snapped up whichever pump I thought I needed to feed my baby and taken the money out of savings to pay for it.

My knee-jerk reaction to this dilemma was that the government should spend more money to buy pumps for all low-income breastfeeding mothers. After all, they finance the formula. From a financial standpoint, buying a pump instead makes more sense because formula-fed babies are sick more frequently, and hospital stays paid by Medicaid cost the government a fortune!

Before I spoke with Kim I didn’t realize how supportive South Carolina actually is when it comes to funding breastfeeding. They do provide hospital-grade rental pumps for mothers who need them, although often the demand exceeds the supply and some mothers get waitlisted. First priority is given to mothers of preemies, multiples, and other special needs babies. They even give electric single-user pumps, such as the Medela Pump-in-Style, to mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding and returning to work. According to Kim, these improvements were made after studies showed what a positive impact they had on breastfeeding rates in other states. A breastfeeding mom also gets extra food vouchers through the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program to bolster her milk supply. What more could we ask?

Well, I’ll tell you. Kim confirmed my opinion that the greatest obstacle for low-income women who want to breastfeed is lack of support from their doctors, family, and friends. Actually, that’s putting it nicely; one might even call it sabotage. Kim explained a common scenario:

For instance, a mother is not making enough milk and the physician tells her she needs to supplement, but when you talk to the mother she was only nursing a newborn 4-5 times a day and she needs to be nursing more often. She’s in a dilemma: do I trust my doctor or this lady? There are some doctors who tell a mother her milk isn’t good enough because her baby is nursing every two hours. In reality, many babies need to nurse that often. We tell the mother it’s normal, but her doctor has said her milk isn’t sufficient and it’d be best if she would quit.

A friend even told me of a physician’s assistant who presumed to tell her it was useless to breastfeed her then seven-month-old baby. She hadn’t asked his opinion, and was actually in need of medical advice for a completely unrelated issue. The PA asked “doesn’t he have teeth?” and proceeded to explain to her that breastfeeding was only beneficial for the first three months. You would think with all that education under his belt he’d have learned better!

Unfortunately, doctors remember who schmoozed them during a free lunch, gifted them hundreds of dollars of free formula for work and home, and provided goody bags for their patients. To make matters worse, doctors and nurses are frequently not up-to-date on their knowledge of breastfeeding. Unless a doctor has had a positive personal experience with breastfeeding, it is unlikely her patients will receive up-to-date information and support.

While pumps and benefits for moms are unquestionably helpful in certain situations for preserving breastfeeding relationships, I think it would help even more to educate doctors, nurses, and hospital administration. Unfortunately, it is expensive and unfeasible to change the way an entire culture of health professionals view breastfeeding. Because there is little money to be made in lactation support and a fortune to be made in the artificial baby milk industry, lactivists don’t have a snowball’s chance of wooing hospitals away from the formula companies. Most hospitals are not about to refuse the freebies formula companies offer, even though studies have shown that freebies given to new mothers hurt patient breastfeeding rates. Even if hospital administration decided to ban formula bags, it would not change the antiquated opinions so deeply ingrained in the minds of some health professionals. These opinions took years to form and they are not going to change in a day.

Instead of focusing time and money on changing the healthcare industry, I propose it would be better to work on changing the way the next generation views breastfeeding. It would kill two birds with one stone: for the short term, prospective new moms would get education and support; for the long-term, future doctors, nurses and healthcare providers could get a head start learning the latest breastfeeding information.

Among mothers who want to breastfeed, a lack of education frequently leads to mistakes such as deciding to unnecessarily bottle-feed pumped breastmilk. Many mothers have a hard time believing that the best way to feed their babies is to simply nurse. Sometimes the latch is problematic and rather than fix it the mother decides to pump exclusively, and other times the mother is convinced that the feeling of the baby sucking on her breast will have too sexual a connotation. I met one couple who wanted to breastfeed and had enough milk, but decided to exclusively pump. They didn’t technically need a pump, and since the health department was running low they had to pay out-of-pocket to rent one. After a month or two this became too expensive, so they switched to formula. They had decided to pump because it was “easier at night.” This is something I cannot fathom, having nursed my daughter in bed while I was half asleep for the past 16 months. If only someone had taught that mom the side-lying position for breastfeeding!

Even when a family receives a free pump from the health department, pumping exclusively is not an attractive setup for the long haul. I look at it as triple-duty. You first have to sterilize your bottles and equipment, then you pump, and then you feed the baby the bottle, whereas women who nurse their babies only have one step: put the baby to the breast. In most cases, the chore of exclusive pumping takes its toll on the well-being of a mother (particularly if she must pump during the night), which is why most of these moms come nowhere close to giving breastmilk for the recommended first year. This happens to far too many low-income moms, and it is due to a lack of confidence and education.

Kim gave some insight into why mothers might not even want to try breastfeeding. She frequently hears sentiments such as “I don’t think I’ll be able to do it because I don’t think I’ll make enough milk.” Self-confidence is so important for a breastfeeding mom. If she doesn’t believe she can produce enough milk, she is likely to attribute every little difficulty her baby has to breastfeeding. If the baby is slow to gain, for instance, it must be because her milk isn’t “good enough,” when in reality it could be a bad latch or that the baby isn’t breastfeeding as frequently as necessary. Kim explains it this way:

They just do not believe in themselves. They have a self-esteem problem. They don’t know it, but they do. They can be so adamant and seem so confident about using formula, but when you question them about it, they are really concerned about not being adequate enough for their babies.

I think it’s likely that many of these moms, especially the younger and less-educated ones, have had lifelong issues with low self-esteem. Some of them may have even become pregnant at too young an age partly because of these issues. Kim pointed out that married women and women in college are more likely to breastfeed. Women who go to college and get married before having babies have years to mull things over and build philosophies of how they’d like to parent, even if they never have any education on breastfeeding in particular. Breastfeeding was never discussed at length in any of my college classes. However, I did take several sociology and psychology classes which cultivated my ideal of how a family should function—and that came to include breastfeeding. By contrast, women who are thrust into motherhood at a young age want to be good mothers, but may not be sure what that entails. Therefore, they take the advice of their doctors, families, and in some cases peers. If these people are not committed to supporting and promoting breastfeeding, the mother may be too unsure of herself to try it. As Kim pointed out, she does her best to keep moms encouraged, but it is usually not enough when a mom’s doctor and most of her family is working against her. A mom with low self-esteem is likely to submit when the doctor suggests weaning for the good of the child; a confident mother might act on her maternal instincts, shrugging off bad advice or seeking a second opinion.

At this point, at least in South Carolina, I think more money should be spent on early breastfeeding education rather than offering more pumps and other benefits for nursing moms or attempting to win over the healthcare industry. Actually, better education could render pumps completely unnecessary for many moms. For example, if every mom knew to refrain from giving her baby a pacifier or supplemental bottle, it would prevent nipple confusion in many babies—a common reason why moms decide to pump and bottle-feed.

I think high school would be the perfect time to introduce in-depth breastfeeding education, with mentions and general exposure sprinkled throughout elementary and middle school. While girls would not retain every detail (although the ones who become pregnant at a young age might), it would lay a foundation on which they could build for years until they became mothers. Besides, most low-income women do not attend college. If women do not learn about breastfeeding in high school and do not go to college, when, exactly, are they expected to learn about it? Ideally, I’d like to see a volunteer lactation educator invited each semester to spend at least one class period speaking to the students. I say this because many health teachers are men, and even those who are women probably have a meager understanding, at best, of this subject. A lactation professional would be able to speak in-depth about the latest information and answer questions confidently. She would also be well-networked and would know where to direct young women for various types of support. This would be inexpensive to implement and would only require a policy change.

Low-income women who breastfeed in South Carolina are, in fact, encouraged and rewarded. Most of the problem is a lack of education, or even exposure, which would be cheaper to apply than some of the steps previously taken and would, I feel, have an even greater impact. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Many doctors have already made their minds up about breastfeeding, and most hospitals are not willing to sacrifice freebies from formula companies to increase their breastfeeding rates. However, if teenagers were routinely educated in the basics of breastfeeding, it may lay the foundation for the rest of their lives. The next generation of mothers would probably be more apt to try breastfeeding and the next generation of health professionals would be more likely to promote it.


Interview with Kim Paschal, Breastfeeding Coordinator
at our local Health Department

What are your responsibilities as breastfeeding coordinator? I assist mothers in getting babies latched to the breast, answer questions about increasing milk supply--anything breastfeeding related. There is another lady for Oconee County, but I see all Anderson County clients. I also teach classes through WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

How did you come to specialize in lactation support? It wasn’t what I thought I would be doing. I started out as a WIC clerk. I nursed my two boys and at the time the job came open, my oldest was 9 and my youngest was 5. I had worked in WIC for 9 years and I didn’t even know I was qualified. A co-worker was going to do interviews for the breastfeeding coordinator position and I commented that I wished I could do something like that. I had always encouraged women who came through the WIC office to continue to breastfeed. She said “Oh, Kim, you could, because you have a bachelor’s degree.” At that time, a bachelor’s degree was all that was required, and I had one in music. Now you have to have a bachelor’s degree in some type of science. I applied and got the job. I was the only interviewee who had children and experience breastfeeding, so they figured I would be best suited. I went through a three-day peer counselor training and we also do updates, conferences, etc. I keep up with the latest info. I’m not IBCLC and probably won’t be. What I have learned from my experience and my position is good enough for right now and there are lots of resources I can pull from. I call someone if I need expertise beyond my own. I enjoy it for the most part.

What resources are available to nursing moms and pregnant moms who plan to nurse? A class is held for all pregnant women. They are given general info (especially why breastfeeding is best and how WIC can help) at that class. If a mom is interested, an optional second class is offered in which I counsel her one-on-one.

What is required for a mom to receive a free rental pump? We can issue a pump whether the mom is giving formula or not, but first priority is for moms who deliver prematurely or have twins. It is free because they are on WIC. They don’t pay for the kit either; usually they will have received a kit in the hospital, but if not we provide it. If a mom wants to increase her milk supply but has to use formula, we issue a hospital grade pump if one is available. Sometimes there is a situation where a mom needs a pump but it isn’t available, so they must be put on a waiting list. Medela pedal pumps are also available, but we don’t offer them unless we have to. Moms generally don’t want a pump they have to operate with their feet, but they are sometimes used in desperate situations.

Are follow-up visits required? On the contract, a date is listed for the pump’s return and it’s up to us to check up on the patient and possibly offer an extension.

How long does it take to get a free pump? If someone is available to do the paperwork and a pump is available, it can be received that day.

Are women ever given a single-user purchase pump? Yes. Mothers returning to work and planning to nurse for a significant amount of time can get these. The moms are screened, and if they qualify, they get the pump. If they are giving formula, they do not qualify. The baby should be about four weeks old so that the mom will have two weeks to prepare with the pump before she returns to work at six weeks postpartum. These are expensive pumps, so we are careful about giving them out. We give the Medela Swing pump and the Pump in Style.

Is there any other incentive offered to encourage women to choose breast over bottle? Through WIC, an exclusively breastfeeding mom gets more food. Specifically, she gets peanut butter and beans every month rather than every other month. Come May, if not sooner, mothers exclusively breastfeeding will receive $8 worth of vouchers for fresh fruits and veggies.

What benefits are given to moms who bottlefeed? Formula, but not all the formula they need. It’s supplemental, and ends up being about 75% of what the baby needs. In the beginning it is probably enough, but in the end they will probably have to buy some. A mom is on WIC six months if she’s not breastfeeding, but she gets much less food than a breastfeeding mom. She doesn’t get beans and peanut butter like the breastfeeding mom and gets less milk and less juice. She also won’t get fruit and veggie vouchers, or won’t get as much. The aim of WIC was originally to provide supplemental food for babies. Since parents were diluting the formula or offering solids too soon, they changed the program (to offer more) so they wouldn’t do that. It helped with the diluting, but parents were still offering solids too early. Then education came into play and finally they began to educate and encourage the breastfeeding mother. They have nutrition classes for moms who are under or overweight or for babies with failure to thrive.

Do you notice that moms of a certain age seem more likely to choose breastfeeding? Yes. There’s been an increase in teens who will at least try, and also the older moms. Women who are in college are also more likely to breastfeed; education plays an important role.

How do you think South Carolina compares to other states in supporting low-income nursing moms? Not so good. We seem to have a breakdown at the top. In some other states they are allowed to speak more negatively about artificial baby milk, and in South Carolina we’re not. We also need more peer counselor support. Studies show that the more help is available, the more successful the breastfeeding program is. As far as a pumping program, ours may be better. We changed our pump policies because of a study in Illinois in which they found giving out pumps increased the rate of breastfeeding. Before, women couldn’t get free pumps at all except for manual ones.

What do you consider the most important part of your job when it comes to helping women decide to breastfeed and continue for as long as possible? Being available to encourage.

What do you think is the greatest obstacle facing low-income women who want to breastfeed? Lack of support, especially from family and peers. I had a class today, and surprisingly, the women knew breastfeeding was best for the baby, but they chose formula. One was scared, and the other two didn’t feel like they could do it. There’s no encouragement there within the family. Nobody’s doing it that they’re exposed to except us “professionals.”

What is the most frustrating thing about your job? Trying to keep moms encouraged, especially when the doctor is giving information that is contrary to what I am saying. For instance, a mother is not making enough milk and the physician tells her she needs to supplement, but when you talk to the mother she was only nursing a newborn 4-5 times a day and she needs to be nursing more often. She’s in a dilemma: do I trust my doctor or this lady? There are some doctors who tell a mother her milk isn’t good enough because her baby is nursing every two hours. In reality, many babies need to nurse that often. We tell the mother it’s normal, but her doctor has said her milk isn’t sufficient and it’d be best if she would quit. That happens a LOT. It’s an uphill battle sometimes. If we can get them educated prior to delivery, the more educated they are the more successful they will be. Mostly, they need to know what’s to be expected from a baby who breastfeeds because breastfed babies are different from those who bottlefeed.

What do you like best about your job? Meeting the different moms and babies.

What breastfeeding misconception do you run into most often? “I don’t think I’ll be able to do it, because I don’t think I’ll make enough milk.” They just do not believe in themselves. They have a self-esteem problem. They don’t know it, but they do. They can be so adamant and seem so confident about using formula, but when you question them about it, they are really concerned about not being adequate enough for their babies.

Do you see a difference in breastfeeding rates between married and unwed mothers? The ones that are married do tend to do it more, or are more likely to try, because of the support that’s there.

Assuming they are already determined to breastfeed, what can low-income women do to preserve their nursing relationships? They need to ask questions and not give up as soon as a problem occurs. They need to ask for the help that’s available to them. The ones that ask the most questions and bug me the most usually stick with it the longest. Believe it or not, there aren’t that many. Most women are shy, or embarrassed. The mother needs determination.

Why would someone want to avoid the latch (and exclusively pump)? Because of the association of the breast with sex. Some mothers think they’ll feel funny.

Be sure to read the other articles about breastfeeding and poverty at these blogs:

Motherwear's Breastfeeding Blog
Breastfeeding Mums
Breastfeeding 1-2-3
Mama Knows Breast

Sunday, October 12, 2008

One-Word Meme

I was just tagged for a meme and got this sweet button from Cheryl at Twinfatuation. I love a meme. It's like a virtual getting-to-know-you game. Here are the questions, which I will have to answer with only one word (and that is not like me):

1. Where is your cell phone? Around

2. Where is your significant other? Napping

3. Your hair color? Brown

4. Your mother? Teacher

5. Your father? Sciency

6. Your favorite thing? Family

7. Your dream last night? Didn't

8. Your dream/goal? Helping

9. The room you're in? Living

10. Your hobby? Writing

11. Your fear? Dark

12. Where do you want to be in six years? Here

13. Where were you last night? Bed

14. What you’re not? Navigator

15. One of your wish list items? Mini-kilt

16. Where you grew up? Clemson

17. The last thing you did? Dinner

18. What are you wearing? Bravado

19. Your TV? Phantom

20. Your pet? Shorty

21. Your computer? Glowing

22. Your mood? Hungry

23. Missing someone? Maybe

24. Your car? Minivan

25. Something you’re not wearing? Shoes

26. Favorite store? Thrift

27. Your summer? Greatest

28. Love someone? Jordan

29. Your favorite color? Lavender

30. When is the last time you laughed? Recently

31. Last time you cried? Forgot

Hmm. I think some of these are only going to make sense to me! I am tagging Melissa, Jenn, and Hannah.

Don't forget your button!


Six years ago yesterday, only three and a half months after we first met, Jordan and I kissed for the first time. I knew I wanted to kiss him ever since I saw the way he treated my dog, Shorty. As you can see, Shorty loved him, and that confirmed for me that he was a great guy. We would've kissed sooner, but it seems we were both unsure the other one wanted to do it. He was living in the Calhoun Courts Apartments at Clemson, and all his roommates were gone somewhere for the weekend. On October 11th, he invited me over and we watched The Good Son on the couch together. At some point during the movie, I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, and he kissed me on the lips. We celebrate this as the day we started officially dating. I would've blogged this yesterday, but I was more interested in cuddling on the couch with Jordy and reliving our first kiss.

What was your first kiss like?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

ADHD: Drugging kids out of a fog

I recently read a post about ADHD on Jenn's Journey and it brought back memories of my childhood. My response to her post was so long I decided to blog about my experience with ADD.

I was never very good at paying attention. The first time this came up was probably in four-year-old kindergarten. I went to a little Christian school where we learned to read and write some simple words. I remember tracing over the letters of the word "cat." The simple tasks the teacher set before me would somehow get garbled in my brain and I'd end up forgetting to do something or being confused as to how she wanted it done. I wasn't trying to be difficult; I genuinely wanted to do it right. Most of the other kids blazed right through the tasks. She would lean over my desk and sigh, and then I'd sigh, and she'd re-explain and correct and try to help me. She was one of my best teachers.

My inability to focus continued into kindergarten and affected me during class. My mom also enrolled me in dance class and I fell short there as well. The southern belle teacher pulled her aside one day to ask "Honey, can she hare?" My mom explained that yes, I could hear, but I had trouble paying attention.

First grade was horrible. We had worksheet after worksheet of math problems to do that year, and I frequently had to stay in at recess to finish mine while the other kids were out playing. (I wasn't the only one and I think this practice was wrong.) When papers were graded and sent home, my parents noticed something strange. On many of my worksheets, a row of problems would be inexplicably left blank. My mom sat me down to ask "WHY? Why would you do that?" And I didn't know. I thought I had written answers for all of them.

Sometime during the beginning of second grade, my parents decided to take me to a doctor to find out if I had ADD. (At that time, it was widely known as attention deficit disorder; now, if memory serves, it is listed in the DSM as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder without hyperactivity. I will refer to my diagnosis as "ADD" to save time.) We filled out a questionnaire with anecdotes and details about the difficulties I was having, and then went to see the doctor. He handed me a piece of paper and a pencil and asked me to "draw a picture of myself and write down my name and address." I drew the picture and put my pencil down. "There," he said. "See? She did the big thing but forgot to do the other." So it was settled; I was ADD and needed medicine to fix it.

From then on, I had to take Ritalin in the morning and, worse, at school. This involved parading to the front office every day around lunchtime and everyone knew what I was doing. The problem was, I didn't think the medicine was helping. I still couldn't focus. I took Ritalin all through third grade and it was my worst year ever! I asked my mom to let me stop taking it, but she insisted she could tell a big difference. My work in elementary school was mediocre, and I took Ritalin for most of those years, if not all of them.

One night in elementary school I came home with such a giant pile of homework that I had no hope of finishing it by bedtime even if I worked straight through dinner. I eventually became overwhelmed and started crying, and my mom became angry with the teachers for requiring us to do so many repetitive problems. Math was the main culprit; that year I had the same teacher who had tangled with my older brother when he was in fifth grade (and he is 17 years older than me). So my mom met with my teachers to discuss a 504 plan. Under this plan, I could get extra time on tests, do less homework, and have other helpful accommodations. Being a teacher herself, my mom knew all about 504 plans, and she really deserves a gold medal for this one. It even helped me through high school.

I struggled to stay a B student in middle school. Ninth grade was a turning point, because my geography teacher was a complete witch. (For details on her ridiculous methods, please see my post on why I want to homeschool. She's under #5b.) My mom gave that woman a piece of her mind, too. I realized at that point that I had to find some way to pay attention and get things done the way everyone else could.

That's when I went to our family doctor and got a prescription for Dexedrine. If you are determined to give your child meds, don't make it this one--at least not as a first choice. It's one of the strongest things you can get. Some kids sell or trade these types of pills and this one is a prime candidate for that. I took a pill one afternoon and finished a difficult homework assignment in a snap. I got an A on it and I felt great! I felt so great that I wanted to take another pill the next day and was incensed when my mom told me she had hidden them because she thought I acted weird when I was on it. (I think mostly I was excited to finally have a little focus. This is a common reaction to a first dose; one person says it felt as though "someone pulled the fog away," giving him the best day of his life.) When she refused to divulge the location of my pills, I started yelling and called both my parents a**holes. While this was out of character, it was not just the Dexedrine talking. They had started me off on meds at age seven against my wishes and without the benefit of counseling, so I didn't know how to cope without the drugs. Then they wanted to pull my meds when it seemed they were finally working. My mom said she thought I was "dependent" on them, but that made no sense because I hadn't taken the drug long enough to build a dependency. I was understandably angry. They took me back to the doctor to get a different prescription.

This time it was Concerta, an extended release med that I would only take in the morning. It worked like a charm. I was focused all day long and finished my homework easily in the afternoon. When I took it in tenth grade, I got straight A's and barely had to try. The drawbacks? My family and friends sometimes remarked that it was hard to spend time with me because I was so intensely focused that I didn't feel right unless I was working on something. I was also underweight. People were wondering if I was anorexic, but I wasn't; I was just too busy to eat a lot of junk food, and the calories I did get were burned off in a heartbeat by my sky-high metabolism.

The beginning of my junior year went well, as I was still taking Concerta. But then, sometime during that year, I discovered that the military would not accept anyone taking a mood-altering drug. I was in Junior ROTC and my dream was to become an officer in the Air Force, so I was crushed. After asking the ROTC instructor for advice, I was relieved to learn that if I stopped taking them in high school I could still go in with no problem. When I stopped, as I predicted, my grades took a little dive and plateaued around a B- average. I gained a few pounds and was actually pleased with my new look! My senior year wasn't my best. I ended up with a C in Physics at least one semester and I know I could've done better if I'd been taking Concerta.

I was accepted at the only university to which I applied (Clemson). I enrolled in Air Force ROTC, but quickly realized that the real-world military wasn't going to be anything like what I remembered from high school. I dropped out of ROTC after one semester. Since I wasn't going to be in the military and I was having a little trouble keeping up in my math and science classes, I decided to resume taking meds to help me along. My doctor prescribed me some generic amphetamine pills. They were cheap and effective and I took them as needed for most of my four years of college. I ended up with only three B's in four years of A's and graduated summa cum laude in the honors college.

During one of my last doctor's appointments, long before I had any plans to become a mother, I asked the doctor if pregnant women could take the type of meds I was on. When he said no, I knew it was time to adjust to life without them. Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard. After college, I no longer needed the intense focus required to, say, write an honors thesis. I didn't miraculously lose my ADD when I graduated, though. Even now I frequently think, for instance, I'm going to the kitchen to get some water, and by the time I get there I've forgotten why I went. There are lots of times when I'll forget a meeting or a change of schedule. I also have trouble paying attention when people are talking, but as an adult I've learned to minimize these things.

I know some people think ADHD is "fake," but I disagree. It is fake for some people--people who are misdiagnosed with it when the real problem is their environment or some other issue. It was real for me. "ADHD" is nothing more than a label someone placed on a problem. The DSM is full of labels, but the problems under them were always there and when you are experiencing them it's pretty hard to deny they exist. If a person says "I have chicken pox," people tend to believe him because the evidence is right there on his face; if someone says "I have ADD," people sometimes think he is just flaky or lazy, because there's no proof to be seen. That makes it feel even worse.

The reason I think medicating is a bad idea, except in the most extreme cases, is because it sends the message that the child's best effort is not good enough. Many children with ADHD experience symptoms that interfere with interpersonal relationships, and when medication is given for these symptoms it can damage a child's self-esteem. Some children might wonder if their company is only tolerable when they are drugged, which is a sad and pathetic thought. There are also teachers who see a misbehaving (or distracted) child and want the parents to get a diagnosis and meds prescribed. It certainly makes things easier for everyone to have a quiet, cooperative kid rather than a flighty unpredictable one. I think we're in a culture of busy in which parents dole out the pills and figure, why do we need hours of counseling if the pills are working so splendidly? I think these kids need counseling because the pills are working so splendidly. It's important to take the time to listen to a child's feelings about being medicated.

It is so, so important to note that the drug companies themselves recommend using the meds in conjunction with other therapy, and even as a final resort. In GlaxoSmithKline's prescribing information for Dexedrine, they state:

DEXEDRINE is indicated as an integral part of a total treatment program for ADHD that may include other measures (psychological, educational, social) for patients with this syndrome. Drug treatment may not be indicated for all patients with this syndrome... Appropriate educational placement is essential and psychosocial intervention is often helpful. When remedial measures alone are insufficient, the decision to prescribe stimulant medication will depend upon the physician’s assessment of the chronicity and severity of the patient’s symptoms.

Does this sound like the thought process of most doctors? No. They scribble out an Rx and ask questions later. Drugging a kid for ADHD and not engaging in any other kind of therapy makes about as much sense as taking a diet pill and then lounging on the couch all day eating potato chips and cupcakes.

For years I resented being medicated, but recently I thought back and asked myself why. The medicine didn't make me sick, and it didn't seem to make my symptoms worse either. I think the reason I hated it was because it made me feel like there must be something terribly wrong with me. If I was being medicated it meant nothing I tried was good enough to fix the problem. It also sent the message that all the problems I'd experienced--some of which were hurtful interpersonal issues--were only as big as that little yellow pill. I thought, you mean to tell me this little pill is going to help me make friends? (FYI, it didn't.) I know this is not what my parents intended, but it's hard to frame it any other way. I also sometimes wonder if the good things I accomplished while on the meds was my own work or if, like an athlete who takes steroids, I was cheating. I wish I could have adapted without pills, and I wonder if this would've been possible with counseling or changing my school environment. A pill lasts for a day, but the skills to adapt last a lifetime. I think I'd be better off now if I'd never taken any meds.

While my ADD has been a challenge, I don't believe it's an illness which should be beaten down with pills. I know some people argue that vaccines or diet or environment cause ADD, but I doubt that any of those are true for me. As far as I know, this is just the way God made me, and I don't think there's any pill for that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

WW: Baby's first spoon-licking experience

(It was rice krispy treats)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October's to-do list, a little late

I was perhaps a little too ambitious last month, so I'm going to tone it down. Some of these things are last month's leftovers. Important things not on my list will inevitably pop up, and I don't want to be discouraged from squeezing them in. So here it is:

1) Sew mommy pads and winged pads from patterns
2) Write post about making pads
3) Make Suzi's play kitchen
4) Finish sanding Suzi's block set
5) Make tutus
6) Take Suzi's picture wearing tutu and BabyLegs
7) Do a post on tutus and BabyLegs
8) Go for a long walk with Suzi at least six times over the month
9) Break in my running shoes (by walking, I mean!)
10) Make baby slings, at least four or five of them
11) Catch up on laundry
12) Finish making Suzi's Halloween costume(s)
13) Write several good posts to keep in reserve

I may add to this later. Or maybe I'll make 13 my standard number of things to do.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Just Say No (to 'Poo)

Today, because my vinegar and baking soda was under the sink and I was too lazy to get it out, I got the bright idea of using shampoo just once to save time.


I knew I shouldn't, but the minty-fresh smell of my Whole Foods shampoo taunted me until I gave in. I'd been wanting to use it for days. It felt nice as I lathered up and scrubbed, but then it came time to rinse, and that's when I began to regret.

My hair felt slightly gummy and unclean. Then when I went to brush it, there were tangles. Now I've brushed it five or six times and it still looks the same: frizzly, frumpy and big. And this is natural shampoo! Can you imagine what regular drug store shampoo would do to me? I think I'd forgotten what my hair used to be like on shampoo.

Yuck. Never again.