Thursday, May 17, 2012

THAT picture

I recognize that I am SO late on this, but since "everyone" was talking about it last week (and I didn't have time for anything last week), I thought I'd share my reaction to this pic:
As some of you know, I support extended breastfeeding completely (and yes, I  love Dr. Sears, too.) And honestly, I think breastfeeding needs to be in the public eye so it becomes the "norm", as I believe the ideal "norm" is that a child nurse until mom or baby are ready to stop. 

Eventhough I so strongly support a mother-baby or mother-toddler dyad's right to nurse for as long as they wish, this pic doesn't spark the "ahhh mommy and baby" reaction in me. I was surprise, but when I examined the picture further, I discovered it was the picture, and not the act, that turned me off.
I think the picture is purposely sexualized and defiant. I mean, do kids really nurse like that? on a chair? Also, she is in skin tight clothes and sassy. There's nothing wrong with a sexy, sassy mom, but it plays into the photographer's purposeful sexualization of the act. It is a picture that you could easily "sub" an adult male in and it would be overtly sexual, and not because of her boob, but because of the way she is standing, etc. The little boy is also dressed in adult-ish clothing, thereby increasing the probability that the whole situation will be seen as sexual.

The way she is standing also looks like she is making him do it, which is something I've read alot: that its the mom's own sick-o thing.

Then, the wording next to the picture "going to extremes". It may not be the norm, but I wouldn't call nursing a toddler "extreme"- the window for natural weaning has been calculated on the basis of other mammals' behavior (weight gain, molars, etc.) as being somewhere between 2.5 and 7!  Now, please, I am not saying that everyone should nurse unil 7 or even until 2.5. I am just saying that if that is the range nature has set up for us, falling into that range is not "extreme". Again, the pic is playing into the stereotypes.

So, that is my problem with the picture. Where's the soft couch, a sick child, a child looking up and smiling, rubbing mom's hair? A chid that fell and needs comfort?.... none of that is in this picture. I find it rather annoying that Time was almost certainly out to sexualize, or atleast, villify extended breastfeeding- not an honest debate about the pros and cons.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our Casita

Everyone has their complaints about their home, right? Mine had horrible floors (until that handy husband o’ mine did some serious cleaning with some serious machinery and left them look spankin’ new!) My cabinets and countertops leave much to be desired. And this little casita?  It’s on the “wrong” side of town and perhaps for many, the “wrong” side of the earth.

But, you know what? These four walls, six if we count the laundry room, are special to me. I didn’t realize just how special until late April, when there were reports of various cases of leukemia in our neighborhood. It was all very Erin Brokovich-y, really. We were looking at water samples, environmental radiation, meeting and corresponding with specialists and doctors, researching every possible aspect.

We were doing all of this while simultaneously looking at houses. I'd done a less thorough search last year, when we were looking at schooling options. After months of searching for something close to our favorite schools, but also close enough to R’s job that our family time wouldn’t be severely impacted, we’d determined this was the best spot for us.

Resuming the search, just in case we HAD to go, was a complicated/emotional process.  It wasn't as simple as choosing another four walls. We had to re-visit the school issue; examine our values and re-work fundamental choices about the way we plan to raise Ely; re-map our life plan (a couple different times); re-evaluate my decision to stay home with Ely and my independent employment options; discuss what we were (and weren’t) willing to sacrifice in (and for) a house. There were lots of tears, debate, silence, worry…

It felt like my house was breaking up with us….and I was still in love. You see, this is where R and I learned to be married, where we’ve fought, cried and laughed together. It’s where Chile became home for me and where I became a full-fledged grown up (although I am not sure when THAT happened!). It’s where we painted the walls colors my mother would never have allowed in her house (and have slowly changed them to mom-approved (shall we call them “mature”?) colors!). It’s where we brought Ely home for the first time and where we grew into our roles as parents. The prospect of having to leave had me anxious, to say the least.

On Saturday, we met with a pediatric oncologist who specializes in leukemia. She happened to be at a national leukemia conference when the news was aired. She participated in the discussions on the issue there and at the Ministry of Health. In both venues, it was determined that our neighborhood presents no increased risk. She pointed out other factors and possible explanations for the situation. Most importantly, she said that if it were her family, she would have no hesitations about staying…

This week, I find myself delighting in my house, bad cabinets and counters and all! Now that the fear, confusion and resentment have passed, I feel like we’ve given our relationship a fresh start. I even weeded the front flowerbeds today! This whole ordeal reminded me of all the reasons I love this casita on the "wrong" side of town- and that the best thing about our house is who I am fortunate enough to share it with. Because that little girl and that always-there-for-me-husband-o’-mine? They are “home”.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What I wish people had told me…

When I was expecting Ely, I often asked other moms “What do you wish you knew before you had the baby?” I gleaned a lot of useful information that way.

But, you know what I wish someone had said to me? I wish someone had told me, “If you pay attention, they’ll teach you how to do it. Relax.”

They teach you to forget about everything else and hold them.

They teach you to feed them when they are hungry.

They teach you to love through the tears, exhaustion and stress.

I don't know if that will be true for the rest of our child rearing years, but up until 2 years, 3 months and 25 days, it is absolutely true.

She is currently teaching us to potty train her- which was something I really worried about the "hows" and "whens" of. Once again, she is teaching us the biggest lesson she's taught us so far: if we pay attention, she will teach us.

Who knows whether we are doing it right? But up until this point, I can tell you we're doing this parenting thing in a way that seems to bring great happiness to all three of us, which, at this point, is enough- more than enough, really.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sweet Prayers

When I was talking about baptizing Ely with the Pastor at Santiago Community Church, he asked some questions, among them "Why do you want to baptize her?" My response was something along the lines of "It is our public acknowledgment that she belongs to God. He created her. He blessed us with her. We have her for the relatively short-term, but she belongs to Him forever." I suppose this was my interpretation of Jeremiah 1:5 "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb..."

Some of you will read that and roll your eyes and possibly think I am a complete fool. Some will like the answer.already stopped reading. .@sittersngs to Gos.r at Santiago Community Church, he asked a perfectly reasonable question. Some may have already stopped reading. No matter what, the answer came from my heart. (Side note: Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I am far from a model of holiness, let's put that out there right now ...)

Despite ALL my flaws, I have been given a tremendous gift called “Faith”. I don’t know if my parents, society or God himself gave it to me, but I certainly didn't earn it. It has been my calm in so many of the storms of life and I am very grateful for it. There have been times when I've really questioned the whole God thing. But, I no matter what, I always seem to come back to the "God-shaped hole" in my heart that only He can fill.

I think it follows naturally that I should share this faith with a certain small child in my life. I don't really think of it as teaching her about God, because, I often think she knows much more about Him than I do. Matthew 19:14 “But Jesus said, “Let the little ones come to me, and do not keep them away: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Recently, as she has started to use “thank you” appropriately and without prodding, we have been praying together. I pray things like “Thank you God for our family, friends, home and countries. Amen.” At first, she didn’t say much, then, after a few days, she prayed “Thank you 'Malia. Thank you Seba." (Her two best buds). Slowly, she started including other people: Ruth (our cleaning lady who is truly a blessing to our house), 'Buela, 'Buelo, Pop Pop, Gramma. Sometimes, when I am really lucky, she includes me on the list of people she is thankful for.

Her prayers really warm my heart. I love the way she looks at me as if to ask "Is that right?" and, perhaps even more, I love reassuring her that "God is yours as much as mine. You can say whatever you want to Him." And the best part: the smile on her face as she feels accepted and approved of by her mommy and her God.

Her prayers are also enlightening. At an age when Ely can be so darn stubborn, praying seems to be the most natural of acts for her. Her prayers are simple. Her prayers are about people. She has yet to say, "Thank you for my new toy." I am sure she will, but it impresses and humbles me how, each night, she remembers the people that she loves instead of the things she has- and, I feel challenged to do the same, not only in prayer, but in all aspects of life.

I suppose this is another reminder that “While we try to teach our children about life, they teach us what life is all about.” ~Angela Schwindt

Saturday, September 10, 2011

On Battles and Wars

Ely is two-years-and-almost-two-months old. So, while I try to keep battles to a minimum, it goes without saying that we have our fair share. I do my very best to focus on the "war", even if it means losing some battles. Let me share a couple receent issues with you.

The other day I dressed Elisa in khakis and a purple fleece pull over, but she thought the outfit was lacking a little flare. So, she went into her dress-up drawer and pulled out a pink “bailaelisa” (which means “dance Elisa” in Spanish, but it’s really Ely-ese for any tutu, skirt or dress).

Our plans for the day included YuKids. So, Ely took her nap and we were on our way- bailaelisa and all. I asked her to take the "bailaelisa" off twice, once before we left the house and once as we were getting out of the car. Both times, she answered with a very solid “no”. So, I didn’t push too hard. Ely pranced around the mall with her “bailaelisa" and an extra big grin.

I tell you this to prove that I DO pick my battles. Now, I’ll tell you about a battle I chose to fight: Ely’s bangs!

They were cute and wispy, until she got one of those helmet cuts. Right there, in the hair salon, I decided that the bangs were history and started putting barrettes in her hair (a million times a day).

Well, 25,000 lost barrettes later, I was about to give up. Until, I asked a friend how she got her toddler to wear a barrette. The reply was so beautifully simple and obvious: "I just don't cut her bangs". Um, duh!! If I followed this mom’s advice, I was guaranteed a win! Option one: Her bangs bother her enough that she agrees to the barrette. Option two: I deal with the shag until the bangs grow out.

And so the silent war began. I offered barrettes regularly and she refused. Her bangs are in eyes. She has to tilt her head up to see anything. It isn’t the cutest look I've ever seen, but I am holding out. Perseverance was the name of the game. She doesn't know I can take care of the problem, therefore, there is no strife.

I was relaying my technique to my uncle and he said, “you are not going to win”. When I assured him I would he just repeated himself. Now, I don’t know whether or not he was talking about Ely's hair, but I started thinking about his comment on a level that had little to do with hairstyle...

I think of successful parenting as raising well-adjusted citizen(s) who (gasp!) don't need their parents anymore. Now, hopefully, if parents play their cards right, kids recognize their efforts and sacrifices and enjoy their parents’ company enough to want them around.

If I am being honest, the thought of Ely not needing me anymore breaks my heart just a little bit. I assume/hope that it will get easier as she gets older and pushes away slowly. (Please, do it slowly baby.) But, no matter what, parenting doesn't sound so win-win to me.

Actually, it sounds like I get to pour my heart and soul into someone else's well-being with the best possible result being pride in a job well done- and maybe a grandbaby to cuddle. And the worst possible outcome: well, let's not go there... So, maybe it is true. Maybe I can’t win. But, I hear that “it’s not if you win or lose. It’s how you play the game.” And to these games (bang eradication and motherhood) are worth the fight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mommy-leaving Day

It’s been a long time. Besides the fact that avoiding meltdowns and proactive behavior management is a little more time consuming with a two-year-old (yes, 2!!!) than it was when I first starting writing, I have also taken on free-lance translating. I am finding it to be the challenge and non-baby-related mental stimulation that keeps me feeling like an active part of society. In addition, we've had some awesome time with family and friends. So, those are my excuses and I present them to you in hopes that my long break does not mean that my blathering license has been revoked. 'Cause tonight, I need it...

My mom left today after a visit of a little more than three weeks. We didn't do much exciting. At all. But, it was just wonderful having her here. I've been living in Chile since 2004 and I have dropped my mom (and when I am lucky, my dad too) off at the airport at least once a year since then- and sometimes more than that. You would think that it gets easier… it does not.

Each time since Ely was born, my mom has given me some words of mothering encouragement when she leaves. At the beginning, when Ely was 4 weeks old, she said “You can do this.” After that, it has been some version of “You’re doing a good job.” I think it goes without saying that it feels good to get such a compliment from my mom (even though I recognize that there is some bias J). First of all, as a stay-with-my-kid mom, it isn't often that I get feedback on my "job performance”. Of course there are the kisses, hugs and tantrums, but they seem to be allocated randomly and not necessarily a reflection on that day’s parenting.

I never have it together enough to say much more than “thank you” through the tears. I think it goes without saying, though, that the vast majority of how I parent is a reflection of how I was parented. I sure hope she knows that I recognize that (and after reading this, she surely will!). But what I really want to say is that if I ever let Ely out of my sight (joking!), I would hope that she feels the way I feel when I have to leave my mom (or dad). I would take that as a tremendous testament to my success as a mom.

Now onto real life, in which I take Ely for walks by myself, eat considerably healthier food and no longer have my favorite "laundry tramp"... I hope this “real” life will include some time to write a little more.

Here's an unrelated tidbit of cuteness for you:

Mommy: "Ely, how do you say "cookie" in Spanish?"

Ely: "Baby's cookie."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Give it back!

About two weeks ago, Ely was sick and wanted ‘num’ (her code name for nursing) While I was glad to be able to provide nourishment and comfort while she was sick, by the end of it, I was ready for her to! I love her dearly, as you know, but I needed space. I went out with friends one night and came back a new woman.

A week later, she had a REALLY bad night. Once I made sure she wasn’t sick or teething, instead of feeling the normal compassion, I was just frustrated and again feeling like I needed SPACE! I thought about it for a day or so and made a big decision… it was time for night weaning.

Ely is 18 ½ months old and we are on night four of night weaning. Some nights are better than others, but she understands when I tell her that “I don’t want to do num right now” and offer her ‘juice’, which is really water. (You’ll keep my secret, right?)

Sometimes she cries and I hold her and reassure her. I tell her that growing up IS very hard, but mommy needs to sleep, too. Sometimes, she rolls over and goes back to sleep.

I’m glad to be doing this at an age when she understands what I’m saying to her. I’m glad that I waited until now because I’m so very confident that she knows I love her beyond words. I’m also glad that I was able to wait until it felt right for me, not because someone else was pushing me to do it. All those things together make me really confident in the decision.

Of course, I’m getting less sleep than when I just nursed her at night and if this continues for much longer, I totally reserve the right to change my mind… That said, let me tell you a funny, if gross, little ditty from night 2.

We were spending some “awake time” together around 3am, much to my dismay. She was reaching her hands out and playing with them. I thought she wanted to hold my hand, as she often does. So, I relished the moment and played with her little fingers…and she SCREAMED!

I’m not talking about a little cry. It was heads and shoulders above her, ‘I’m upset. I want ‘num’’ cry. This was an all out scream. I tucked her under my arm and rocked her. It continued and I was confused... until I felt it…

She had apparently been picking her nose and had a ‘treasure’ on her hand. When I lovingly played with her fingers, I’d unknowingly removed the treasure. The blood curdling screams were all because…she wanted her booger back! She hadn’t been reaching for me. She was playing with it- and I’d stolen it!

Oh, the joys of motherhood!

The happy ending: I did not give it back and she went back to sleep without ‘num’- that time.