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Reason Three: Play Happens

Here, in the long and drawn out, slowly revealed, reasons we home school is reason number three. I keep these percolating in the back of my mind as each busy day evolves. It just takes a while, with three homeschooled kids, other posts I want to write, a ballet recital coming up… to actually put words into form. 

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”

(O. Fred Donaldson)

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Reason Three: Play Happens (and I like to watch it happen)

It was school time. Such as it is in our house; time to gather for our morning circle and discuss what we hoped to do with our day. It wasn’t a very busy day, no errands until the late afternoon and everyone’s teeth were brushed. I was about to call the kids to the table when I realized I didn’t want to interrupt school time.

What?

They had set up an elaborately organized “book store” on and around our piano. There was even a jewelry section for Sister-Bug to buy or sell her jewelry. They were recommending books to each other and selling back and forth. I scrapped our circle time and handed them a stack of play money.

In the time we would have had “school”, they taught each other more math than I ever would have in a day. Brother-Bug carefully helped his Sister figure out which number was which. They were adding and making change and having a ball. I have no worksheet to point at what they learned. I won’t be testing them on this. It was just fun.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” (Fred Rogers)

Homeschooling allows us to see the rich possibilities in each moment because we aren’t bound by test requirements or the schedules and needs of 30 kids. Our play enriches our days and allows us to watch our kids develop skills that we can then expand in more in-depth (and possibly structured) ways.

Lately Toddler-Bug has been doing his best to be involved, so now they are all learning how to include a range of ages and talents in their games. Kids learn almost everything they really need to know – like working with that range of ages – while they play. The process everything. The explore concepts of all kinds and we may or may not know what they are working on.

We have been studying “real life superheroes” recently. People like Nelson Mandela or Clara Lemlich (I included a link there because you probably aren’t familiar with the indomitable Ms. Lemlich) who have used super powers like determination, compassion, and courage to change the world. Sister-Bug has been delighted by Clara Lemlich. She likes playing “factory bosses” with Papa-Bug. He plays the cruel factory boss opressing the workers at a garment factory. Sister-Bug is Clara and runs around screaming “STRIKE” and walking out until Papa-Bug caves and gives her better working conditions. In a unique twist, the two older kids raced into the living room mid-game. There was StarWars shooting sound effects coming from Brother-Bug. Sister-Bug jumps on the couch and declares: “You can’t get me with your Podracer! I am Clara Lemlich and I AM UN-CRUSHABLE!!!” It was…perfect. And totally weird. I can’t make this stuff up and I am so glad that I get to be the audience for their creativity.

Perhaps most importantly, childhood is such a fleeting moment of our lives. In the all-to-near future they will have jobs and college commitments and bills to pay and other responsibilities that structure their days. It happens. Right now, they have much of the time they need just to be. To play. To live fully in that world of amazing imagination where anything is possible. Our homeschooling honors that.

Want more reasons?

Reason One – A Hot Cup of Tea

Reason Two – School Scheduled Around Life

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P.S. If you want a great picture book about Clara Lemlich, check out Brave Girl by Michelle Markel.

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Reason Five: Different Levels and Styles

There are so many reasons we choose to homeschool. Here we are on the fifth one. I was thinking about this today as I hunted around on the internet for a worksheet for Brother-Bug. I was thinking about this yesterday as I worked with Sister-Bug as she read a BOB Book.

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Reason Five: Different Levels and Styles

Brother-Bug was a precocious reader. He came to me at 3 1/2 and said “Mama, I’m not really reading my books.” I asked him what he meant. “Well, I am only looking at the pictures. Not reading the words.” I asked him if he wanted to read the words. He said no. Two months later he was back. “Mama, I am ready to read the words now.” And he did. We got some easy readers, we played on Starfall. I expected him to lose interest in a couple of days. But everyday the first thing out of his mouth was “When is my reading time today?” He drove the project and read Hop On Pop independently before he turned four. By his fifth birthday he was reading things like Magic Treehouse to himself. Sister-Bug is almost five. She wants to be a reader, but it’s not her main priority. So we play sight word games and read some BOB books and use our felt alphabet to spell easy words. She has some reading games on the iPad and also enjoys Starfall. But it’s not easy for her like it was for Brother-Bug. She needs me to keep it fresh and engaging and fun. Brother-Bug needed me to reach the easy readers off the shelf.

As I write this, Toddler-Bug is sitting on my lap. He’s singing Mamma-Mia (ABBA…yes, I know…). He’s very musical and has crazy fine-motor skills. Eventually he is also going to learn to read and he will also learn in a different way. And that’s part of why we are here, homeschooling. Sister-Bug loves working systematically thorough a math workbook. Brother-Bug needs more challenge – he get’s math concepts very quickly and needs those concepts to change and grow and diversify. He gets so bored with a linear book.
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Because these are my kids, because I have watched them grow and learn and change from babies, I can make that distinction. Because they are the only 3 kids in my “class”, I can teach each one a different way and follow their lead on what they need and how they learn. And because of this, I believe they are learning deeply and well. They are not struggling to learn in a format that is unnatural for them, which would make that subject doubly challenging.

Additionally, we are not locked into a single grade level. Brother-Bug does 2-3rd grade math, but reads like a 4-5th grader. His writing is around 1st grade (that’s his hardest thing). Sister-Bug is just about on track for K-1st, but she’s still mostly playing in her school work and we don’t pay too much attention to her grade levels. No one is bored in an too easy class or frustrated in a too hard subject because I can adjust our lessons and experiences to fit in that niche of just challenging enough. I can pull us down a level if we are getting so frustrated we can’t learn or add complexity if we are feeling bored. I can add tactile elements for my SPD kid, or do all StarWars writing all the time to engage my StarWars obsessed child. It’s my choice, and their education, and I am so glad that we have the time and flexibility to reach each child in their time, and on their level.

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Want to see our other reasons to homeschool?

Reason One: A Hot Cup of Tea

Reason Two: School Scheduled Around Life

Reason Three: Play Happens

Reason Four: Getting Out or Staying In

Reason Four – Getting Out or Staying In

Returning to the “reasons we homeschool”… another installment in my sporadic series about why we choose homeschooling. Today, I have a moment and one is right in front of me. It’s an early fall rainy day, the first really rainy day and still a little warm, so I sent the kids outside to play in the rain. I left their math work for another day. And that brings us to our fourth reason to homeschool:

Reason Four: Getting Out or Staying In

If it is the first sunny day in a while, an especially rainy day, we had a late night, we will be having a late night, it is a birthday or other event, it snowed, if the chanterelles are ripe, if we end to can peaches, if someone is sick… We change our day and it isn’t an issue. No absences. Rarely do we need emergency child care. No gazing out the window at the playground, wistful on that first spring-ish day.

A could of winters past, we had assorted illnesses for eight weeks. It was exhausting, but school didn’t really suffer. We didn’t take “sick days” often. When we were too sick to do our schoolwork, I found related movies and audible books for the sick kids and we cuddled and learned that way. We changed our school plan and learned about the immune system. We learned a lot about what herbs we could use to help ourselves heal. We didn’t go out often and I think the extended days of mellow time gave us the strength we needed to get to ballet or science group when we could.

Had we been in school, Brother-Bug would have used up all his “sick days” and been in elementary peril for too many absences. If I were employed, that eight week stretch would have emptied both parental sick day savings, and we could have been in employment peril. We might have had to shell out dollars for baby sitters, if we could have found people to stay with our plaguey children.

So we stay in when we need to. Or, even better, we drop our books and head to the woods and fields just because we want to. We ditch writing practice for an adventure to the science museum. We ignore math work for the magic (and math) of turning apples to sauce for the next year. We get out in all weathers. Or we stay in because we just need to stay in. One memorable day, when Brother-Bug was a preschooler, neither of us was feeling up to facing the day. We stayed in bed all day together, escaping for lunch, and we read Where The Sidewalk Ends from cover to cover. Of course that was when there was only one kid…

But the reasoning remains the same. We have plenty of non-negotiable in our days. There are more and more as we grow older. Now is the moment for these kids of mine. Now they can still drop everything just to watch clouds change or pick strawberries or catch snowflakes or finish a whole book in a day (and start another). Much like our second reason – School Scheduled Around Life – we want to get as much as we can out of our life with these magical kids, and we want them to learn how to do that too.

Here it is, almost Mushroom Season. Learning happens everywhere, all the time. Structure is important. Learning the essentials is, well, essential. But more than math or reading or writing, I want them to learn to live fully and to know when to stop and stay in if you can…or drop everything because the ripe chanterelles are calling.

Reason One: A Hot Cup of Tea

Reason Two: School Scheduled Around Life

Reason Three: Play Happens

Chanterelle School

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Yesterday we skipped “school”. Papa-Bug had the day off so we teamed up with my mom and her sweetheart and headed for the woods in quest of the Golden Chanterelle. This is one of the reasons we homeschool; so that we can take advantage of days off, opportunities, weather, and family adventures without worrying about bring absent or missing something important.

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Papa-Bug & Brother-Bug hunting through the underbrush.

Because this is something more important than spelling or arithmetic. It's an annual family tradition. It's all kinds of skill building. It's free time out in the gorgeous Oregon woods. I'd have pulled the kids out of school for mushroom hunting anyway.

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Like I said, this is an annual (at least once a year…hopefully a couple times each year) event. They've been going since babyhood. This was Baby-Bug's first mushroom hunt and he had a good time eating dirt and playing with sticks.

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He loved catching up with his siblings and playing peek-a-boo through the woods. He's kind of a drag on my ability to go crawling through the underbrush and searching for golden treasure. But having my kids out in the woods from babyhood is too cool to regret any lost abilities. Papa-Bug and I take turns hunting and baby-watching.

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Grandmommie and Little-Bugs crouch over a good patch.

My mom loves helping the Little-Bugs feel comfortable and confident in the woods. It's been wonderful to watch their mushroom hunting skills evolve over the years – from a baby on my back, to an enthusiastic toddler or preschooler, to Brother-Bug now able to identify and harvest some of his own mushrooms. Soon all three kids will be able to hunt with help…or even independently!

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Sister-Bug was only interested in The Hunt part of the time, so she and I took some time and built a fairy house – one of her current favorite activities.

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Our searching was successful. Quite successful, especially for the time of year. We took home several pounds for eating now and saving for later. I'm not sure if I will dry or can the ones we don't eat immediately.

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There's one more thing we gather. The area we usually hunt is used by target shooters, mountain bikers, and random people drinking cheap canned beer. The kids and I fill a bag with litter, cleaning up these precious woods that contribute to our family pantry. I hope the kids take this lesson – caring and tidying our world – with them as they carry the trash bag out of the woods.

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The funny thing is she doesn't like eating mushrooms. Which is okay…more for me!

So…yeah. I can't point to a math worksheet from yesterday, but we had chanterelles on toast for dinner. And no matter what they learn (and I know it's a lot) or take with them into the future, it's just darn fun to hunt mushrooms as a family.

 

 

Baby Pictures & Compassion

Look at this picture. What delightful little people!

This is not a special picture. I snapped it early one morning and managed to catch that face on Sister-Bug.

Almost everyone has baby pictures. Precious moments that managed to find their way to camera. Photos of birthday parties, lost teeth, first football uniforms… That's something that I think of. I always come back to baby pictures.

I haven't read much about the rape and judicial process and conviction in Steubenville. I try to keep that kind of thing on my periphery because it just eats away at me. But it's there, in my twitter feed and it's breaking my heart.

If you've been reading my blog for the past year or so, you know that I wrote this piece about the Aurora shootings. I always have felt compassion for the perpetrators. It comes back to baby pictures in my mind. Pictures like the ones in this post.

So I tweeted my thoughts and got a predictable response.

Me: Does anyone else look at the two young men from Steubenville & see hurt little boys? Not excusing it, feeling their mama's hearts.

Response: are you serious? what about the girl who was raped? She's someone's little girl too and she actually was hurt.

Me: I am serious. I have 2 sons, 1 daughter. Can't imagine how it must feel to have a child in either situation. Terrible.

Response: I hope you would feel like a terrible parent if your kids grew up to be rapists. Their parents should be ashamed.

This responder deserves a more thoughtful response than I could elucidate in 140 characters, so here goes.

The girl was hurt; physically violated and humiliated and the worst of the worst. Yes. She's someone's daughter. Yes. And as a mother of a daughter, I live in fear that she might unknowingly walk into such a situation. It chills me to my very core. I'm watching her right now, playing in her new birthday dress. She is sweet and perfect and safe. The young woman in Steubenville once played dress-up while her mom and dad watched with delight. We want to keep our baby girls safe and we are doing our best. I read about the dangers do the world; remember my own (relatively benign) experiences from adolescence, and I want to keep my daughter in my line of sight…forever.

But those boys were hurt too. They were hurt when no one taught them not to rape. They were hurt when this whole damn culture taught them that women are essentially for selling beer while wearing bikinis. They were hurt when their community tried to protect them by covering it up. And you had better believe they will be hurt – emotionally, mentally, physically – in their juvenile detention time. Brother-Bug just passed by, dropping a kiss on his baby brother's head. I'm doing my best here to teach my boys to love and respect all living things. I'm doing my best to teach these little someday-men in my care not to rape. The very idea that its even possible is even more chilling than my fears for their sister. And there are no guarantees. I can do my best and pray that culture, peer-pressure, and brain chemistry don't destroy these loving boys of mine.

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The responder hopes that a parent who raises a rapist feels ashamed. If only it were so simple. I would bet that shame is only one of a miasma of feelings these parents are feeling right now; shame, guilt, anger, denial, self-doubt, hate, grief… Heartbreak. Once upon a time there were three sweet babies and their parents didn't imagine that this would be their path. The parents of the boys didn't set out to have sons who “grew upto be rapists”. Do they feel like terrible parents? Of course they do. We feel like terrible parents whe our kids scream in the store or push another kid on the playground. We, as parents, frequently feel that we are failing our children.

But we love our kids no matter what and dammit, we are doing our best.

We can do better.

We can teach our sons to always, always, always listen for enthusiastic consent. We can show them loving men, and help them learn about feelings and appropriate behavior. We can help our daughters feel strong and sure of themselves. We should look at the media around us and raise our voices when the ugly culture of rape takes over our ads and other media. We must stop and correct anyone who tells any rape joke for any reason. We can stop demonizing the people – victims and perpetrators – and start demonizing the actions and choices that perpetuate violence against women (or anyone, really).

That last sentence is controversial, and I'm not going to change it. I don't think these young men are monsters or evildoers. I think what they did was monstrous. I think that everyone – youth and adult – who acted to support, perpetuate, or obfuscate the Stubenville rape made an evil choice; a horrible, monstrous choice. And a bad choice doesn't make anyone a bad person.

There should be consequences. In no way do I think that anyone should ever get away with any level of abuse, molestation, harassment, or rape.

I also believe that people who are so hurt that they grab a gun or rape a girl are deserving of our prayers and our compassion. We need to remember that at some time, before the rape, before the shooting, that person had baby pictures. At some point in their history someone loved them, was proud of them, had high hopes for them. There was a moment when a mother and her child smiled at each other in perfectly pure love.

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Neither one imagined this future.

There's a lot we need to do to change the culture and I don't think there are any easy answers. I pray, moment to moment, that my sweet babies grow up safe, loving, and respectful of others. I hope that I can show them that we treat people with compassion and dignity.

Please – do this mom, and every heartbroken mom out there, a favor. Remember that we teach respect when we show respect. Remember that a person is not comprised of their bad decisions. Remember that it doesnt always happen to someone else and talk about people the way you would want to be twlked about.

Remember that no matter how bad the decisions made, everyone once had a beautiful baby picture.

 

 

 

 

Our Election Day

If you've been reading for the last couple of months, you know that Elections matter in our house. We get really interested in them. Papa-Bug is a former Political Science major and at some point his interest and enthusiasm for political things rubbed off on me. Now we are rubbing that passion into our kids.

Brother-Bug looking over a ballot during breakfast.

Election day dawns. We live in a Vote By Mail state, but our family fills out our ballots on Election Day. We drive to the County Election Office and the kids put the ballots in the ballot box.

Dropping our ballots - Sister-Bug is still in her Halloween costume...

 

At 9 days old, this was Baby-Bug's first trip into the outside world. He wore an Obama button on his tiny hat and slept through the whole thing.

After we vote we go out for brunch. Papa-Bug wears a stars-and-stripes tie. We listen to John Philip Sousa. We talk with the kids about how lucky we are to live in a time and place where voting is a right and privilege. We talk about how this was not always the case for everyone.

In our homeschooling, Election Day has had lots of different projects. We've learned vocabulary, geography, and lots of math. Brother-Bug adores the Electoral Map apps on the iPad and will sit up if he can't sleep, making predictions, reading op-ed pieces, and contemplating past electoral maps. He figured out point spread himself and talked rationally about if Hurricane Sandy would effect the election and did we think it might give Obama “a little bump”. Truly. The child's brain seems to be built for this.

So we made him an election. I solicited participants from my Facebook friends. Each “voter” was to send in a ballot (self-written) voting for their favorite of three candies – Halloween bringing candy to the forefront of our consciousness recently. Ballots were mailed in. We collected them in a ballot box we made. Yesterday, while Papa-Bug and I waited tensely for polls to close, we opened our candy ballots and counted them.

Counting ballots and tallying votes.

We counted each stack and made a simple bar graph to chart our progress.We gave Brother-Bug colored tiles in three colors and he made a stack for each kind of candy. We were voting between Skittles, Candy Corn, and M&Ms, each voter casting one ballot for their favorite.

Making the bar graph.

 

It was a tight race. We almost had to recount, but in the end, M&Ms pulled out a narrow one vote victory.

It was a really fun project (and nicely diverting for tense parents). I think that it got the idea of voting and how that works in an effective way. A few ballots are still in the mail, so the lesson will go on as we talk about what happens if you don't vote on time!

But that was a prelude to Election Night. We ordered pizza and got root beer (a rare treat for our kids). We watched PBS, the live maps on Politico, Facebook, and Twitter. Brother-Bug had his own US map to color as states were called for each candidate. At first, as the certain and easy-to-count states were called and the middle of his map turned red, my little Democrat's ire began to rise. But we showed him the swing states and gave him a list of those to track which made him feel better. He celebrated hugely with each new blue state and enthusiastically swigged his root beer.

Oklahoma goes red. Not surprising, but still a little disappointing to Brother-Bug.

Sister-Bug and I dozed off earlier than Papa- & Brother-Bug. I raised my lids for Obama's acceptance speech, but Brother-Bug was awake for the whole thing. He used his blue marker to write VOTE up and down his arm. When President Obama thanked the volunteers and anyone else who helped in the campaign, Brother-Bug glowed with pride because of the $9 he donated.

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I am deeply glad for many reasons this morning; there are more women in Congress than ever before; we have a President I believe will do the best job possible; local elections went well for my wishes. And most importantly Marriage Equality passed in three states and Minnesota defeated a definition of marriage measure,

And I am so glad that my little guy had such an empowering experience. Our system of democracy may have deep fissures and flaws, but it is by participation that we can make a difference. And people who feel good, who feel empowered, are more likely to raise their voice, or fill out a ballot, and make the changes happen. I'm deeply happy that Brother-Bug is joining the ranks of empowered citizens.

 

The End In Sight

The estimated due date is in view on our large wall calendar, and I have good reason to believe that somewhere near that date is an actual birthday of this baby. The end is near.

I’m realizing that lots of “ends” are near, or within sight. I plan on this being my last pregnancy. Three kids are plenty for our family, and pregnancy is progressively harder on my body and mind. So these are my last weeks of housing someone else inside my body. The last time I will feel kicks and rolls and hiccups in that funny internal way.

I can give away my maternity clothes and the newborn clothes when we are done with them – no more saving for the next go around. Someday (a day that will come sooner than I can imagine) we will be done with rubber tipped spoons, diapers, changing tables…all the accoutrements of babies.

This is terribly exciting and a little bit heartbreaking. It is bittersweet to the core.

For more than six years now we have been deeply immersed in the world of babies and toddlers; one of the most intense places I have ever found myself. But this will be my last newborn, fat infant, chubby toddler… I marvel at my other two kids; at their independence and increasingly lanky bodies. I wonder that they ever could have lived inside of my body. These reflections make me savor my moments with them a little more. I resolve, daily, to try to notice and honor these small moments that are passing by so quickly.

I’m looking forward to the day, some years hence, that we can take the baby locks off the cupboard. I’m looking forward to the day in the near future that my body is comfortably mobile again; when I can bend and reach and roll over in bed. I’m looking forward to that fuzzy newborn head with its special smell…and I’m sure I will cry the day that I realize my baby smells…like…baby instead of newborn. This is the last newborn head that is all mine to smell.

These are moments that pass so quickly and soon fade in the fuzziness of sleepless nights and the overwhelming balancing act of parenting a baby with everything else we do. I wish I could cherish every single moment, each precious cuddle, with all my children. I wish that so many moments did not slip though my memory or get lost in the shuffle of the day.

I am trying to be more conscious of cherishing the now. This moment. Here. Baby waving at us from its cosy spot while its brother and sister blow raspberries on my belly and sing it little songs. This moment, when a kiss and a cuddle really can still make my little folks’ whole world right again. Brother -Bug is entering the land of the full-fledged kid. There is no more baby fat on his gorgeous self. He asserts his independence in a new way every day.

I can see that the end of babyhood in our house is in sight, and I can look ahead to days of three kids; big kids who all do big kid things. I can’t imagine it, but I can see it coming. Every trite cliché you’ve ever heard about parenting and time is true. I guess that is why they are clichés.

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While writing this article I was remind about this lovely post. Time is so much more than we can comprehend. If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it.

Why No Ultrasounds?

I have never had an ultrasound during a pregnancy. Happily, my babes have so far grown perfectly without any need to check and make sure that they are okay. I have nothing against someone else having an ultrasound for whatever reasons they deem fit, but they just aren’t for me.

I would have an ultrasound if the health and well-being of me or the baby were in question and I wouldn’t hesitate. I am fully in support of using the magic of technology and modern medicine to prevent problems and save lives. In this writing I am considering only the routine ultrasounds done throughout a pregnancy.

There are a number of questions surrounding routine ultrasound, and you can read about them in Mothering’s article here, if you are interested. I’m writing about why I don’t ultrasound my pregnancies.

My superficial hesitation – those ultrasound images are kind of creepy and alien. The images of the standard ultrasound are odd enough, but the newer 3-D images look to me like someone has tried to sculpt Winston Churchill out of pudding and failed…I don’t really want that to be a “first” visual of my baby.

Sister-Bug has a cuddle, hoping to be kicked in the head. 


I’ve been surprised at every pregnancy the amount of judgement extended to a family who chooses not to find out the baby’s gender. You, random stranger in the grocery store, need to know the gender of my baby for what reason? We should know the gender so we…know what to buy? Additional judgement is extended when it’s revealed that we don’t have any ultrasounds, with or without gender. It’s as though I am intentionally endangering my baby because of sheer pig-headedness, as though I’m a bad parent for not counting the baby’s fingers and toes before it joins my reality.
I marvel as my belly grows each time. I wonder if it’s a boy or girl…but even more I wonder what idiosyncrasies, what personality quirks and traits have manifested as this baby grows inside me. I wonder if it will have a secret dimple like it’s sister, or the funny ribs that Brother-Bug inherited from me. These things won’t be revealed by an ultrasound, and I wouldn’t want them to be.

We do use an ultrasound doppler with our midwife to hear the baby’s heartbeat, and without fail all three babies have, as soon as they were big enough, moved away from it’s waves, deeper into my cavities. They don’t like it (how I can tell they don’t like it is a topic for another post). The doppler is a very low-level wave, much lower than the wave needed to see the outlines of a baby. If my babies don’t like this little wave, if we can tell that they are distressed by it, how much more might they be distressed by the larger sonics of a visual ultrasound?

But ultimately what it comes down to is this: My body has made this dark and protected cave in which my baby takes its first movements, begins its heartbeats, and turns to the gentle stimuli that come through the layers of my skin and muscle. It is the quintessence of private and intimate. The idea of ultrasound penetrating this privacy just doesn’t work for me; it violates something sacred.

There are lots of people in the world for whom ultrasound is an important part of their journey through pregnancy, and I applaud their decision and ability to choose what is right for their body and baby. But it’s not a route I plan on taking – for a third time around.

A Co-Sleeping Family

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Clearly these two beauties were made for snuggling.

Honestly, we never meant to co-sleep with our kids. Our babies, definitely. But I envisioned toddler years when we would lovingly move our child into a toddler bed, reclaiming our bedroom for our adult lives. I envisioned a preschooler joining us in bed in the mornings, cuddling down between us for a quick connection before we got up.

And when I was pregnant with Sister-Bug we made all attempts to move Brother-Bug into his own bed. It lasted about… 3 months and then he was right back in with us, limbs wrapped around the nearest parent. Now, at 5 1/2, he has no more notion of sleeping in his own bed than he did as an infant.

This works for our family.

Co-sleeping might not work for all families. I am blessed with a co-sleeping history (me, 2 parents, 3 siblings, one bed…cuddles which lasted into my early teens) and value the physical comfort I still have with my siblings, a comfort that I attribute partially to co-sleeping. Papa-Bug and I both love to snuggle, and neither kid is given to overmuch kicking and flailing. We have a big bed.

This picture might not work for your family, and the idea of sleeping with your child (or even teenager!) makes a lot of people uncomfortable. That’s okay. I don’t need anyone to be comfortable with our sleeping arrangements except for us in this bed.

There are drawbacks, but they are few and far-between. My co-sleeping toddler still wants and needs me when she goes to sleep – nap or otherwise – and so I find myself laying down in bed when I might be doing other things. It forces my sweetheart and I to get creative about intimacy – and this is something that worries lots of people. But hey – it’s my romance and not your business. We will leave it there. But the drawbacks are far outweighed by the benefits…

There are lots of reasons we love co-sleeping, and I thought I would share some of the reasons I didn’t fully think about when we started our snuggling adventure.

Tired Papa and his Little Fairy

*Its easy with a newborn. Tiny babies are notorious for keeping their parents going around the clock. But if I am curled up in bed with my baby in the crook of my arm, I can doze while they nurse, contemplate the heavens, or whatever else it is they do in the night. I firmly believe that my newborn is safer next to me than in a crib. I can feel and respond to sleep changes at a moments notice. Baby can hear my heartbeat and my breathing, and continue to learn these things from me if reminders are needed. I am aware of this person, even in my deepest sleep.

But what about rolling onto the baby? someone always asks. Well, I did that. We were visiting my Dad with 9-week old Brother-Bug. The bed was on a slight angle toward the baby’s side. I was exhausted and on a three hour jet-lag, which changed how deeply I was asleep. Gravity pulled me over onto the baby. As it turns out, even a sleeping baby doesn’t like to be squished! It turns out that I wake up when I roll into a squirming 9 pound bump in the bed. No harm done. Lesson learned.

(Of course, if you or someone in your bed is under a sedative influence – alcohol, sleep medication, etcetera, this is a different equation and the baby should not be near that person. The other side of the non-influenced parent or it’s own bed near the adult bed is safe.)

After a few months of Brother-Bug sleeping and nursing through the nights I stopped fully waking to nurse him. We would switch sides, adjust, comfortably latch, and fall back asleep. Same deal with changing diapers, and later helping Sister-Bug pee in the potty during the night – all things I did in a state of semi-slumber, hardly breaking my sleep cycle.


*Babies sleep through the night sooner I believe, because they aren’t getting woken up and removed from their bed to eat at various intervals. While they are learning their circadian rhythm, they don’t know that it’s time to sleep when it is dark. So once you get them out of bed they are ready to play. If they stir, and go right back to nursing, they learn quickly to sleep when it is dark.

*It’s easier and safer when a baby or child is sick. If I sleep skin-to-skin with a feverish baby, I can

Me and the fat Sister-Bug – newborn napping.

monitor their fever while I doze (I never sleep fully if my baby or kid is sick). I can keep them comfortable. They don’t choke on their vomit because I am right there to help them with Mt. Vesuvius. I’ve been known to get a toddler pointing off the bed to barf on the floor when both of us were asleep at first gurgle – so honed are my Mama-reflexes from sleeping with my babies. If my kids were in their own beds we would be up and down all night while we checked on them. I wouldn’t always be there to catch the vomit and reassure a scared and uncomfortable little person immediately. I wouldn’t know if a fever suddenly spiked. And I wouldn’t get nearly as much rest, which keeps me healthy and makes me less likely to get sick.


*Likewise, we are there for immediate nightmare relief. No wailing child in the night – we are able to gently guide them back to reality and settle them safe in our arms where all is cozy.

*We have less night-time potty accidents because we can respond to the movements our kids make when they need to pee. They learn from our awareness and they quickly get to a point of meeting that need for themselves (often with a parent to go with) in the night.

And the most important thing.

*They are little, ours to snuggle close, for such a precious and short time. We watch them sleep, we hold them safe and close, we listen to their dreams, and marvel at how long their limbs have grown. I spend about a third of the hours in a day cuddled with my children in our big bed. We rest out bodies and brains and re-connect our spirits. We reach out for one another in our sleep, trusting that Love is right there.

Someday I will revel in a bed of just me and my husband, or even (!) just me. But right now I am laying down nursing my daughter, looking forward to a warm little boy who will snuggle me up while I read the next chapter of The Wind In The Willows to us. And I can’t imagine anywhere else I would rather be.

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Read my recent Cowbird Story about the Magical Giggle – the story that inspired this post.

And there he will cuddle all night.

The Edible Color Wheel

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Mixing play-doh last night with the Brother-Bug reminded me of an awesome project he and I did last fall. We made an edible color wheel.

Brother-Bug surveys the results.

Supplies:
*Books about color
*Sugar cookie dough
*White frosting
*Food coloring
*spoons, spatula…
*Paper
*Markers (Primary and secondary colors)

What we did…

We talked a lot about color, read art books, found colors in nature and everywhere else, identified hot colors and cool colors and got really immersed in the world of color.

With the sugar cookie dough we made a big round cookie – we made the dough from scratch, but there is no reason you couldn’t use a pre-made dough. We rolled it out into an approximate circle, and cut another circle out of the middle to make a wheel. We baked it.

While it was baking and we waited for it to cool, we drew a color wheel with our markers. We looked at how orange is between red and yellow, how red is the compliment to green because it is directly across the wheel, and so on.

Once the cookie was cool, we got our white frosting – we used pre-made white frosting, but you could make your own if you want to. We divided the frosting into three piles and we used regular food coloring to dye each pile a primary color – red, yellow, and blue.

We took half of each pile and applied it to our cookie, taking care to leave space for the secondary colors. Now we had a primary color wheel.

You can guess where we went next – we used our remaining primary frostings to mix the secondary colors and added them to the wheel. All the while we are, of course, talking about color, asking questions, finding answers, and making observations.

When we were done… Voila! A beautiful desert with information to share with the Papa-Bug when he got home from work. We all got to pick which color we wanted a piece of.

Pretty! And Tasty!