Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A second opinion

Today we took Suzi to a different dentist. It's not nearly as bad as we thought! I sent Suzi back into the waiting room with Grandma after the dentist was done looking at her teeth so I could ask a bunch of questions. All this dentist recommended was fillings, and he said it could possibly be done in just two visits. He was very nice, and I trust this dentist, having been to him before myself years ago. We made an appointment for almost two months from now, and will be getting another much better x-ray done that day. We will know at that point if all our efforts have worked to halt or even reverse the decay. But, long story short, we have time and there is no reason to panic.

The dentist recommended getting a xylitol gum, but after looking in three different stores I was unable to find one that did not also contain a little aspartame. I did eventually buy one because I needed gum now, but I won't be buying it again. Instead, I went on Amazon and bought some Epic Dental gum, which contains more xylitol than most other brands and is sugar-free and aspartame-free! And while I was ordering that I went ahead and got a copy of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

We picked up our order from CAFE today. It's awesome to have all these gorgeous eggs in our fridge, and the milk. The milk is lovely too. Jordan made pizza with swiss chard tonight, and decided to call it "chard-treuse" pizza. My cute, silly geek. It was really good. At least Suzi ate a little of the greens. It was the first time I'd ever had swiss chard and I liked it a lot. I think we are going to love being CAFE members.

While Jordan was making pizza, I realized we had all the ingredients to make this remineralizing toothpaste from Everyday Paleo. It contains xylitol and calcium. I quickly threw that together (had to crush up some calcium pills first; good opportunity to use my mortar and pestle) and the girls used it before they went to bed. No complaints! I added orange oil, so it was citrus-flavored and Suzi-approved. She is so sensitive that peppermint toothpaste feels uncomfortably hot to her. I'm going to use it tonight, and am hoping my teeth will become less sensitive. The author said hers felt better within a few weeks!

I just got a couple of chapters into Cure Tooth Decay tonight, and am hoping to read more soon. And I am tired. Time to go spend a little time with Jordan and go to bed!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Changing what we eat: Going local and natural

It's been a great weekend! Friday evening we joined CAFE, a local food exchange. I am so excited! It costs $20/year to join, but they give you two trial orders before you are asked to pay that. The food is more expensive than the conventional items you find at the grocery store, but that is to be expected. Many co-ops give out a box of produce from local farms, and everyone gets the same. The trouble is I didn't want to pay for such a box when I knew I'd probably find myself standing over it holding some obscure vegetable wondering what is this thing and how do I prepare it? With CAFE, you order online over the weekend, the volunteers put your order together and then you pick it up at the closest of several locations on Tuesday evening. It just happens to be an extremely convenient time and location for us and I am thrilled. We placed our first order Friday night. Want to know what we are getting?

1) All-natural free-range eggs
2) Fair-trade coffee
3) Raw Jersey milk
4) Goat milk yogurt
5) Grass-fed ground beef
6) Swiss chard
7) Fromage blanc with raspberries from our local goat farm

All without having to walk through aisles of confusing, expensive choices at "Whole Paycheck" with three grumpy children in tow. YAY! I can't wait to pick it up.

Then yesterday while in Greenville we visited the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery for the first time. Loved it. They had the local bean-to-bar chocolate I'd been wanting to try for months, and we got raw milk and a few other things like cheese to tide us over until Tuesday when we get our CAFE order. If you're wondering what's available in your area, check here or for dairy products, here. Or just Google. There may be more available than you think.

Most of what we are doing is what people normally did a generation or two ago, especially rural folks. We've been told that my father-in-law used to bang his cup on the fridge when he was a little boy, saying "I want more 'presh' milk!" They lived on a farm. The milk was unpasteurized and the cow had probably just been milked that morning. It was the same for my mom. She still has the butter churn she used to make raw butter with her grandmother.

My mom churns butter in her heirloom churn. We made some from raw cream New Year's Eve.

I just now watched my two-year-old gulp down some presh milk we bought yesterday from a local farm. She sucked it down like she'd never seen milk before. Then, aaah. That's good stuff. Yeah, there is a difference.

I've been turning over in my head the reasons I think these foods are better. You know how when you're nursing, it's a good idea to eat a decently balanced diet because you are making your baby's sole source of nutrition? You want the milk to contain what your baby needs (while also maintaining your own health), so you incorporate those things into your diet. But what about the milk you buy for your older children and yourself at the store? What were the cows who made it fed? The milk we bought from CAFE was produced by pastured, mainly grass-fed cows whose diet is handled carefully--and if I had a question I could call the farmer! The eggs we ordered are free-range. Have you ever noticed the difference in the shells of free-range eggs and the regular cheap ones you buy at the store? The times we've gotten the free-range eggs locally, I've been surprised at how thick and hard the shells are. The cheap ones at the grocery store are thin and brittle, much easier to crack. Interesting, right? What does it say about the health of the chicken and the nutritional value of the egg when the shell (made mostly of calcium) is paper-thin? Calcium is vital for my daughter's teeth, obviously! And this is just one small example.

Even though we have embarked on this journey of nutritional changes mostly because of Suzi's visit to the dentist, I am certain it will affect our health in numerous positive ways. Even if we end up deciding we need to get some dental work done--and we may--these changes are not for nothing. If you'd like to learn more, the reading I would recommend at this point is Cure Tooth Decay (the Kindle edition is only $10) and also Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. I have not yet gotten the Price one, but I want to. It goes into much more depth, and the first one, which I am using as a starting point, is largely based on Price's research. We are taking baby steps towards following the recommendations in Cure Tooth Decay, including the dietary changes I've already mentioned as well as ordering a high-vitamin butter oil/fermented cod liver oil combo. I am not at all sure we'll be able to get that into Suzi, but Jordan and I will take it at least, and if needed we'll order her the somewhat less effective but more palatable butter oil-only supplement.

We're committed to navigating this calmly and firmly, considering all options available, and making the best choice for Suzi. It may be that we choose a combination of natural and conventional approaches. I'm feeling much better about it now, especially after talking to a wise earth mama friend who did end up needing to seek dental work for her young child. Meanwhile, I am unfolding more and more into this...

And you know what? I'm proud of it.

Our butter near the end of its journey, ready for the molds.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Baby teeth. I had no idea they could be so complicated.

I'm taking a little NAK (nursing at keyboard) blogging break. Robert is asleep and I don't want to wake him up. I also want to write a little about our day yesterday.

It was the girls' first trip to the dentist. Suzi is 4, Ivey is 2. Yeah, I know you are supposed to have them seen by the first birthday. We didn't get around to it until now for various reasons. One is that I have serious trust issues with dentists I don't know--and I don't think I am wrong there.

But before I get into all that--something good happened before we left for our appointment. Robert's first tooth popped through! It's one of the bottom front ones. I had been wondering when it would finally happen and am excited for him. I'll try to get a picture later. We thought good things were happening for us tooth-wise yesterday and headed off to the dentist trying not to get too stressed.

We had picked (we thought) the very best pediatric dentist in our area and drove way out of our way to get to him because we wanted to be certain that our kids' first dentist experience was awesome. And their experience was. This guy has indoor play equipment in his waiting room that's better than the one at Chick-Fil-A. TVs all over the place. Expensive toys. More importantly, all the people working there seemed to be very good with little children and made the girls feel at ease as much as possible during the visit. I went back with Ivey and Jordan went back with Suzi. Ivey did great. She sat in my lap and had her teeth cleaned, and they said they didn't see any problems, just to be sure to floss a couple times a week and brush carefully along the gumline.

But Suzi. Well, she had x-rays. They aren't even very clear x-rays because she had a hard time biting down on the bite-wings and moved some while they were taken. But there were cavities. Extensive work was recommended. The dentist didn't really talk it over with us--the hygienist did, in sort of a hurry. We were floored because she has had zero problems with her teeth. No pain, no chipping, no obvious discoloration. We went to lunch, talked it over a bit, and decided to get a second opinion. We went back to the office to retrieve her x-rays and are taking them to a local dentist Tuesday.

It's hard to describe how awful this feels on about five different levels. I am really, really not into the idea of putting Suzi through a bunch of dental work she doesn't absolutely need. It would be a different story if she were having pain or something, but these are perfectly functional teeth! I've read a little about what they are proposing, and complications sometimes arise. And I know Suzi. It would scare her. The last thing I want is for her to be scared to go back to the dentist when she is older, but that is exactly what has happened to many of the adults in my family, including myself at times. While we wait for things to become a little clearer, we are changing our diet and starting supplements (as a family) that will hopefully halt the decay if not reverse it. Many people believe this to be possible and have experienced success, and I have to try. Suzi is a pretty picky eater, and I'm not at all surprised to find that her diet is deficient in certain areas. Luckily she loves butter, milk, and cheese, and these are several foods which are highly recommended when made from nutrient-rich milk of grass-fed animals.

There are several good places to shop for raw dairy products in our area. Our chiropractor carries raw milk, and there is a wonderful goat farm not too far from here. My mother, who of course wants to help, has agreed to spend a day with us every week or two driving around and picking up products at all the spread-out places we will now have to do our grocery shopping. I am not a good cook but I'm going to have to learn.

This issue is so much deeper than tooth enamel. Suzi is my first. I had her in the hospital. It makes me sad every time she asks to hear that story, which is beautiful because it ends in me holding a perfectly wonderful baby girl, but also contains hurt and regret for me. I allowed things during that birth that may have hurt my daughter and our bond. I did not want to ruffle feathers, so I did not push back or question hard enough. I should not let this ridiculous compulsion to people-please keep me from advocating fully for my daughter. She is mine and Jordan's to take care of. When she is an adult, Jordan and I will be the ones looking at her quirks, problems, and hang-ups and asking ourselves if we could have maybe handled certain things better. Not some (undoubtedly filthy rich) dentist. Not some OB or pediatrician.

I need to be a Mama Bear sometimes. Not everyone has to like me or agree with me. I need to remember these things and be the strongest possible advocate for Suzi.

I'll probably write an update on this soon. If you have had similar dental issues and wouldn't mind sharing how you handled them, please do. I would love to hear your experiences!

Friday, February 17, 2012

How to (maybe) get baby down for a nap in 14 easy steps

I love them so very much


When only the baby is home, and he takes a nap, it is exciting.

1) Wait until your parents call and offer to take the toddler and preschooler to their house for a fun visit. Yay! Don't get too excited yet though.

2) Play with the baby, nurse him, change his diaper, and change his outfit. This is all getting done multiple times a day, of course, but it must be done all at once right before a nap attempt, if you want a nap of any decent length.

3) Try to nurse the baby to sleep. He will probably see right through this plan and refuse to close his eyes. It's worth a try though, and if it fails will at least serve to have him topped off and full.

4) Let him play for a little while in the floor until he starts to eat fuzz and crumbs that would have been swept up except you have not had time because, for one, the baby has not taken a nap.

5) Nurse him again. He is still not falling for that, I bet.

6) Place baby in the Jumperoo to play for a few minutes while you work on getting the house clean for the weekend.

7) Look over and see that your baby has fallen asleep standing up! What luck!

8) Carefully lift baby out of the Jumperoo. When his foot gets caught and he whimpers, cuddle him and walk around until he falls back asleep.

9) You could play it safe and just sit down, but there is a lot to do around the house. While still cradling the baby in one arm, use the other arm to prepare a nap spot on the love seat. Slyly place baby on this spot, on his side with his back against the back of the love seat. Maybe he won't even notice you aren't holding him anymore.

10) Well, crap. He starts to wake up and is giving you that look--"Mama! Did I nod off again? What's going on?! Noooo, pick me back up!" Don't pick him back up. You can still salvage this nap with a boob. Contort yourself so that you can nurse the baby without having to move him out of the nap position.

11) It will take a few minutes to get him back to sleep. In your twisted position, your arm will be asleep before he is--but it'll be worth it! Don't screw this up! First, let his eyes close. While still nursing, tuck baby in with a blanket. Now, wait until he's no longer nursing. Give it an extra minute or two just to be sure. You may now safely remove your booboo, but do not move. Yet.

12) If he doesn't start crying or trying to figure out in his sleep where the milkies went, you may back away slooooowly. If at any point the baby stirs, go back to #10. If not, sit up slooooowly.
13) Stand up and tiptoe away to do your silent happy dance. Well done, Mama! Now go enjoy some solo housecleaning and ice cream-eating. Don't forget to keep an eye on baby, though. He could wake up and try to roll, and you'll need to be right there to pick him up.

14) After 45 minutes or so of sweet naptime victory, you will be feeling awesome and recharged, and baby will be about ready to wake up. It is entirely possible, though, to pick him up promptly and nurse him for a little extra sleepytime. You can't get any work done during this time, but you can blog!

If you're really lucky, baby will sleep all the way until Daddy comes home. Happy Weekend!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When you're feeling discouraged, declutter

Yesterday started out to be a bad day. The girls were whiny and uncooperative, Robert was sick with a cold and possibly teething, and Jordan and I were discouraged. Ever feel like all the cleaning you do is pointless because the kids are just going to mess it all up again within minutes?

So we decided to do the only form of cleaning we've found to be semi-permanent: decluttering. Pack the crap off to Goodwill and you'll never have to sort it again! We took six garbage bags of stuffed animals, toys, and clothes, plus at least five large items out of the girls' room. And that is not a large room. You would think the girls might have been sad about it, but we involved them in our decision-making and they were fine. It feels so good to be able to walk into that room without sidestepping and twisting around. The girls might be able to play together in there now without getting into each other's space and fighting. And the best part may be that it is now totally possible to rearrange and fit a toddler bed in there for Robert. Yep--we could have all three of our kids in one room. It would allow us to put off remodeling our house or moving for an extra couple of years.

I'll probably put up pictures of the girls' decluttered room once we get it looking nice. We had to get rid of a chalkboard/whiteboard easel that didn't fit and was blocking access to the bed, and Jordan had the idea to paint a space on their wall with chalkboard paint instead. There are a couple of other little improvements we could make as well. Meanwhile, I want to take six bags of stuff out of every room in our house! I felt a little panicked yesterday dropping it all off, but I love the results and doubt we will miss anything. I think we will go through my sweater stash (for crafting) next. I am a bit of a sweater hoarder, I'm afraid!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Facebook break, because the real world is calling

Last night I realized I want to take a break from Facebook. I was spending a lot of time on it in the name of "keeping up with friends," but most of what I was reading consisted of inconsequential, superficial status updates from people I never really talk to. My days can be very stressful and lonely--especially weeks like this in which I am stuck at home with cranky kids who have a cold. I can't seem to get time or space to do things I need to do, and at the same time there is no one to have an adult conversation with. It's tempting to get on Facebook to feel connected, but when you're mostly just reading about other people's work days and the awesome stuff everyone is up to in a one-sided fashion, sometimes it just makes it worse. Last night I was feeling vaguely angry about the whole thing, so I deactivated my account. I'm not sure when I'll get back on there, but when I do I'd like it to take up a significantly smaller amount of my time.

Like others have said before, I'd like to spend more time in the real world, especially with my kids. I've been working with Suzi on her numbers. She hasn't taken to numbers quite the way she has to letters and words, so they've become the focus of our extremely short homeschool lessons. Honestly, sometimes I think it's good that I only have time to do short lessons. If I had enough time, I'd probably overdo it and bore Suzi to tears. This morning I had set up some counting bears in groups for her to count and given her some small pieces of paper so she could write the number and place it next to the corresponding group of bears. As I finished setting up and tried to sit down, I almost sat on Ivey, who had sneaked up behind me into my chair. Then we had to hurry because Robert was growing bored with his cheerios and wanted me to hold him. Suzi does well with counting and matching a set to a written number, but is still working on writing some of the numbers correctly, namely 2 and 3. I had her practice those a couple of times and when I could tell she was done, we were done. No sense in frustrating her; she'll get it in her own time.

Suzi enjoys playing with the bears when the counting is done. There is just something about a bunch of little multicolored plastic bears! One of our best thrifting finds ever.

I love reading books to all the kids, especially Ivey right now because she loves to hear stories but isn't ready to do "school." Before Robert was born, I found that a few good books could reset a day that was going bad. Nowadays, though, we can't get through a five-minute book without six or seven interruptions. Drives me nuts!

An idea I'd like to try to buy us some homeschool time once it gets a little warmer is to take the kids to the park, put Robert on my back in the Ergo, and let Ivey play while Suzi and I spend a few minutes at a time working. This could also work in our backyard once we get it cleaned up.

Oh, and we've abandoned our Oak Meadow curriculum for now. I'm not sure I've mentioned that before, but Suzi was in a hurry to learn more of the letters, so we've been mostly letting her lead the way. Also, right now it's not possible, short of me hiring a nanny, to clear our time and space for some of the suggested activities. They involve the monumental task of taking all three kids somewhere by myself, or are something that only Suzi and I should be working on and require a ton of distraction for the other two kids that probably won't even work. Sometimes I would do all the necessary preparation successfully and then find that Suzi wasn't really even interested! Instead, right now I am looking at kindergarten standards lists and seeing which ones Suzi has met or is close to meeting and which ones we need to think about working on in the near future. That is, the ones that aren't ridiculous. The public school system is pushing little five-year-olds so hard these days. Anyway, we will probably use our OM curriculum for all its activities besides the letters Suzi has already mastered, and we won't worry about staying on schedule, because that was a large part of why we didn't stick with it more this year. We'll jump around in the book, do what works for our family, and I am sure Suzi will be not only fine, but great.

I'm already feeling better, having blogged instead of lounging around Facebook during this time. It's almost lunchtime and the kids and I are enjoying one of my favorite movies, The Music Man. Jordan ordered it for me and it just arrived today.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mother of three frustration, and why I haven't been blogging more

I really do miss having time to write here. Right now it's almost noon, I've fed the girls and Robert lunch and they are all playing sort of nicely for the moment, and I'm taking a minute to write. I'll probably never get to finish, but I'll start.

Projects I have going on right now:

I am reading Organized Simplicity and (interruption #1! Robert found Ivey's peanut butter and banana sandwich she left in the floor and is eating it. I take it away, he cries.) thinking of how I'd like our house set up. Right now we have more sweaters than I could possibly ever need. I want to have a sweater destash party and invite my friends over to make all kinds of stuff. Hopefully later this month. I also feel like we have too many clothes and toys.

We are going to be reorganizing our living room a bit in a week or so. When we get our tax return we're buying a new, much bigger TV that mounts on the wall! Yay! We recently got rid of our pretty but large entertainment center and have had our TV on that table ever since. When we no longer need it to hold our TV, I plan to use that table as Suzi's craft/school area. I'll set it up in the corner where it'll take up the smallest amount of space (interruption #2! Save Robert from choking on sister's grape stems.). Then I'll set up her markers, colored pencils, scissors and other items on top of it out of Ivey's reach, and put a barstool under it. I just had this genius idea of installing some type of gutter around the edge to catch Suzi's paper clippings. She loves to cut things out of paper, but when the bits fall in the floor Robert tries to eat them. She isn't yet capable of doing a decent job cleaning that type of mess, because it requires (interruption #3! Put Sleeping Beauty's dress back on right now or we will nag you mercilessly, Mom!) fairly meticulous sweeping. And I don't want to squash her creative flow by telling her not to cut. I'll have to figure this clippings-gutter thing out.

Homeschooling Suzi. I am starting a separate blog for this. Maybe it's a stupid idea, given my current level of blog dedication. However, I am going to have to keep records starting in fall 2012 and I might as well keep them in a blog. This way I can refer back to them easily and quickly, it will be in a safe place and easy to keep up with, and friends and family can see how Suzi is doing too! I've already started working on it. I'll have to do a separate post on this later, as there is much more to say. (Interruption #4! Rescue a crying Bobber who needs to nurse!)

The kids are driving me crazyyyy. Right now Robert is nursing and the girls are fighting over our counting bears that I let them play with after a quick math lesson, against my better judgment. My mom and others keep saying that it'd be such a nice break for me if I could get them to take a nap, but the thing is, they don't nap. I frequently try and every time am reminded why it's a bad idea. Suzi plays quietly in her room, but if I let Ivey "nap" alone there is no telling what she might do. Things could end up being destroyed. One time she chopped all the hair off a toy horse and stuffed it into her pillowcase. I wasn't aware she had scissors and was thoroughly confused at where all that hair could have come from, until I finally saw the poor bald horse. Good thing I bought it for a buck at a yard sale. If I keep Ivey downstairs and try to make her nap on the couch we end up in an ugly power struggle. The fact is, you can't make somebody nap. So I just let them stay up. They are tired and yeah, they could really use a nap, but it's not worth it to try to force them into one. Robert does nap but usually will not be put down for one, so it's not like I can use his naptime to get anything done. (Interruption #5! Ivey needs help in the bathroom, Robert spits up in the floor, Suzi needs help drawing a 3, and Robert needs to be picked up because he is trying to put his face all over Ivey's potty.)

I've had this strange guilt since having three kids. Even when I'm reading books to them and doing nothing that I personally want to do, like paint my nails or pee alone or sit down to eat a meal? What did I do before I had kids again? Anyway, even though I'm doing good things, things that need to be done, I'm feeling guilty because the baby is starting to cry, and shouldn't I be holding him? Is my floor really clean enough for him to be playing in it? Why wasn't I able to get that done? (Interruption #6! Ivey needs paper and I fuss at her to leave me alone a little while because I am nursing the baby while I type and really can't come right now. But on the plus side, high-five Suzi for figuring out how to draw the number 3! It clicked, hooray!) With three kids so little and unable to take care of themselves, at any given time there are about ten things I (interruption #7! Put Robert down, he is done nursing) should be doing. So I get guilt no matter what I do, even when, like last night, I clean with Jordan until 9 pm in preparation for a day with the kids that I hope might not be a total bear.

The other thing that sucks even more than the weirdo guilt is how I just don't do anything sometimes because the things I need to do, like a homeschool lesson with Suzi, a craft project, or a decluttering session, are going to take a few minutes of concentration and both my hands and I'm afraid I'll get halfway in and then have to stop. Sometimes it's better not to start at all. (Interruption #8! Go get Robert out of the bathroom YET AGAIN and shut the door.) Sometimes when you start said homeschooling lesson and then have to see the look in your poor disappointed little four-year-old's eyes when you have to snap the book shut and go clean the poop out of her sister's pants or fish the God-knows-what out of her baby brother's mouth, you wish you hadn't started at all. Sometimes it just hurts when the authors of your curriculum say to "clear your physical and mental space" and make sure there are no interruptions as you work with your child. Because it's freaking impossible. (Interruption #9! Keep Robert from chewing on my shoe, see what Ivey is getting into, and get her that paper she wanted.)

But people do homeschool large families, and their kids do turn out fine, and we'll get it done. I just pray it ends up getting easier soon. (Interruption #10! Respond to an ominous rustling sound to find Suzi cleaning up her own mess. Thank God. Maybe it is starting to get easier already. Just maybe.) I am not giving up completely on what I believe in just because it is hard right now. (Interruption #11. Suzi needs help after all. Bring Robert back into the living room.) I am so looking forward to feeling, once more, what it's like to be productive and not just breaking up fights and cleaning one mess after another after another all day.

Just being honest, though. Sometimes it's wonderful. Every day, many parts of it are wonderful. But this is hard.

And what do you know? I did finish this post after all.