After four kids, ten moves and nearly two decades, we are still blissfully in love (most of the time) and I found myself back in the state I was born and raised in. It has definitely been a journey. In fact, on our 18th anniversary we pulled the last of our stuff up over the pass and into Montana, leaving our surprise love, Idaho, behind. But Montana is a great place. The last best place according to some. And we fully intend to explore as much of it as we can! Join us on our continued adventure through life, love and other stuff that comes with it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Girls and kittens

Grace likes to read to hers.

She changed its name to Daisies. And Daisies likes to listen to Green Eggs and Ham.

Calla figured out that if she just sits still and pets her kitty, it goes to sleep. Calla almost goes to sleep, too.

Violet just likes to be outside. Kitty or no kitty.

Summer is such a great season!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Some more conference thoughts, and such

When I was putting the museum display together I learned more than I dreamed I would. One thing, and I blogged about it earlier, is the universal need for the practice of babywearing and how we as a culture have lost that. The other thing I learned, or rather learned again, is that we as a culture pretty much throw our young mothers out there with little to no information and then sit back and wonder why they are having trouble breastfeeding and why they are suffering from post-partum depression and why they feel isolated and such.

A while back I blogged about the problem with women. And then I realized I had more to say, so I blogged about it again.

The whole idea behind those two posts was basically that we are not raising our children to raise children. We are raising them to go to college and follow their dreams. Because that is what is important in our society--every individual must reach their potential. And parents are the driving force behind this.

But then there are girls in China who are raising silk worms, harvesting silk, spinning thread from that silk and designing gorgeous baby carriers for babies who aren't even conceived yet.

In fact, these girls aren't even married and they might even wear these baby carriers to market to attract a potential husband.

And in Thailand there are girls (and boys) at a very young age who are carrying their younger siblings in beautiful carriers and taking care of them while their parents are working close by. It's their job as older siblings and it is part of their training--informal or not.

Both these societies, as well as I'm sure many other societies around the world, are training their children up to be parents. And as a society, we have forgotten how to do that. Now we have all these parents out there blindly feeling their way through parenthood as islands. And many times, islands are very lonely and very sad. (And somehow marriage got caught up in this cycle, too, since we aren't training them to be good spouses, either. But that's another subject for another day.)

I was that island. When I was pregnant with Grace seven years ago, we made the decision (we had actually made it before we were even married) that I would quit my job and stay home with our children. And beyond that, I had no idea what I was going to do.

My mom played a big part in the decisions that I made after that. She was a pioneer of sorts in the 1970s and nursed all her children. She even wore my two youngest brothers in a Snugli. And she really encouraged me to nurse my children. That put me on one path I don't regret going down. I went out and found support before Grace was even born. That was key to my success.

But after she was born, I was still an island. We lived out of town and all my friends were associated with the job I no longer went to. And I needed to find new friends. It took me a good year to find friends that I felt were "real" friends, not just people I considered acquaintances. And I didn't know what else to do other than troll for friends. I took baby and me classes. I went to the mall with my giant travel system. I struck up conversations with folks at church and other random people who made promising eye contact.

Since then, I have encountered innumerable mothers who are in the exact same situation. They had a baby. They quit their job. And now they are trolling for friends and information.

I don't have all the answers. And what answers I do have aren't based on a formal training of any sort. The answers I do have are based on my experiences over the last seven years. And really, I'm a little angry with society for making moms islands.

For example:

Breast is best! (But if you run into trouble, we don't have the time or resources to help you figure out what the problem is and we'll just tell you to give the baby formula because that's just easier for us.)

We don't SEE moms in public nursing their babies or wearing their babies or even being friendly to one another. We see moms with giant travel systems and bottles eyeing one anothers' storllers with envey and disgust. And we hear about moms getting kicked out of restaurants and off of airplanes because they were nursing their baby.

We don't have friends who have children. And if we do, we aren't really friends with them because we've been so different for so long that we feel silly asking them for advice.

We read parenting books and parenting magazines. But the truth is they are so contradictory and we don't know really if any of them actually KNOW what they are talking about. Are they parents? Are their kids happy, healthy and well adjusted? We have no idea!

Do I really need a travel system, a swing, a bouncey seat, a play mat and a handful of other plastic devices taking up 3/4 of my house? Really?

We buy stuff for the baby assuming it's safe and our baby will be safe using it. But then we learn that it's recalled for some reason or another and we need to either throw it out or we need to take it back.

And the rules keep changing. Yes, you should give your child a fever-reducer to bring the fever down. No, you shouldn't give a fever-reducer because it's the fever that kills the bug that is causing the problem in the first place. Oh, wait . . . is that right? I don't remember.

All the while we are feeling inadequate and depressed because we are looking at other parents who seem to have it together and such and wondering what we are missing and what we are doing wrong. She always looks so nice with her styled hair and her make-up all done and her car is clean and her house is spotless. And her children are dressed to the nines. Does she sleep?? Ever?

Then we wonder what all those people in other parts of the world do to raise children. And the answer is simple:

They were trained up in the raising of children. And their instincts are turned on and working full speed ahead. They have places to go when they have questions that need answers. They have help and support because their community and society knows that being an island parent is not something that is healthy or beneficial to anyone in their community.

Where does babywearing fit into this picture? For me, after my mother, the babywearing community is what started it all. They've supported me through this journey into parenthood. And they've helped me learn to listen to my instincts and parent my children in ways that make more sense to me than a bunch of plastic containters and contradictory advice. No, I'm not perfect. But some days I look at my beautiful, dirty, happy, well-nourished, mostly polite children and want to burst with pride.

Experiencing the conference once again solidified all that for me. And more. My children and my family are better off because of babywearing and all the people who are out there helping moms like me figure out how to raise children and not screw them up too badly. And yes, I will continue to shout it from the mountain tops. Because it's that amazing and that important to our families, our mothers and fathers, our children, and our society.

Thoughts on a conference. A babywearing conference

Over the last year I've literally stopped in my tracks more than a dozen times and wondered how on earth I got to be on the planning committee for an International conference. And the answer is basically that I moved to Idaho. And even that sounds completely ridiculous. But it's the truth. I guess when one hooks up with Kimber, it all just slides to the weird and unbelievable side of things. But, oh what a ride! I'd totally do it all over again.

My mother is a saint. She really is. The week before the conference I was on the phone with her and she said, "Do I just need to take those kids for the whole week?" And in that statement, I kind of think she single-handedly saved the conference. Really. I spent that week doing everything I'd been trying to get done in the last month. And it took me nearly 1/100th of the time because I didn't have to stop every five minutes or less to be a mom for 20 minutes. I just hunkered down and got it done. And when she arrived with my three beautiful offspring in tow, the house was even clean and the laundry was even done. That was definitely a first--at least since I had kids.

One of the main items on my list was the museum display. I had this crazy idea that the conference should have a display of vintage, traditional and modern carriers for people to come look at and such. We were having a traditional babywearing class and the lady who taught it has an AMAZING collection of traditional carriers from around the world. I also had contacted another lady from Canada who is known for her collection of vintage carriers and such from North America. And a collector in California who has over 5,000 traditional Chinese carriers. Between those three and about a half dozen other submissions, the display came together so well.

I obviously didn't know much about all the carriers, so I asked each person to write a brief something about each carrier. Didn't need to be long, but it should contain some interesting or important information. All this I compiled into one document and ended up with over 40 pages of information, the vast majority of them with pictures of the carrier in use. And one thing that struck me was how universal the need to carry babies is.

Some of the carriers are things we as Americans would probably be horrified to use. For example, a cradle board or a bilum bag. The bilum bag is hanging on the wall.

From Papa New Guinea, the Bilum is tied and hung from ones head. The baby is placed in the bag. Jen Wadleigh, who taught the traditional babywearing class, said that in traditional cultures, babies are many times carried in much the same way that culture carries everything else. The Bilum is a perfect example of this. And, it also made me wonder if that's why our culture leans towards the now-recalled bag slings that resemble duffle bags.

On the Idaho Babywearers blog I wrote:

After her (Keynote speaker Kelley Mason from Kozy Carrier) story of getting firewood from the wood pile to the house to keep the house warm while her baby sat screaming in the carseat on the porch and how she knew there had to be a better way, she said something about how discovering babywearing suddenly enabled her to meet her needs and the needs of her children. That is such a universal statement.

I've been putting together the museum display and have been struck at how even though every culture does it somewhat differently, all parents universally need to meet the needs of their babies while still meeting their own needs as well as the needs of their families. Native Americans used cradle boards and propped their children up against trees, or even hung them from trees to keep them safe and happy. The traditional Chinese culture coaches young girls into motherhood through the process of making baby carriers even before they are married. These young girls even raise their own silk worms and spin their own silk to do the embroidery on the carriers that they eventually wore to market to attract potential suiters. Sadly, many of these traditions are being lost.

Our western culture seems to have lost most if not all ties to the traditional ways of doing things. But then people like Kelley find that they have a need and they need to meet the needs of others and they can't do it with the tools they have. So they go out and create a tool. And then others who have the same need look at that tool and see it for what it is and want it. And a business is born. It happened to Kelley when she created the Kozy mei tai. It happened to Erika Hoffman, a mother of twins and the founder of Didymos, after she decided out of desperation to try the South American carrying cloth she had in her drawer. It happened to textile engineer Guenter Schwartzer, founder of Storchenwiege, after his search for a solution to help his daughter who was a new mom. It happened to Robyn of Babyhawk after she made a carrier that met her need for function as well as her need for style.

The host of the 2012 conference also blogged the museum display and the traditional babywearing class.

Kelly also talked about instinct. For a long time now I've suspected that instinct is something that is undervalued in this culture, even to the point that it is seen as just something that crazy moms claim to have. But, the farther I get into this mom thing and the more other moms I talk to, the more I believe that instinct is not something to brush off. I have seen enough moms and dads put their baby in a carrier for the first time and get that look. It's not something that one can describe, but one mom I remember took a deep breath and exclaimed, “This is the feeling I’ve been waiting for for 2 1/2 weeks! You just want them here close to you.” It was like her instinct just turned on at that moment. I’ve seen that so many times, most recently this dad.

He and his wife came to the conference every day. And they walked away with something invaluable--a happier baby and a daddy who suddenly felt like he could be a daddy after nearly 4 months of feeling like a failure.

This mom came every day, too. And she walked away with a new-found confidence and I could see the joy in her face. This was her first back carry.

The next day I saw her again and this time she had her baby wrapped on her back in a beautiful back carry. I actually went up and asked her if that was in fact her first back carry the day before. She said it was. She had driven all the way from Canada to come and learn. And she walked out of there with more information than I think she even thought she could hold. She was nearly in tears when she left because the ladies from ERGObaby loved her so much they felt she needed an Ergo and gifted her one. I may have been nearly as overwhelmed as she was.

The second day I sat in on the medical panel. And I was struck by several things. First, the correlation between not babywearing and post-partum depression. Babywearing gives moms the power to continue with their lives, meeting the needs of those around them as well as their own needs without a baby crying the whole time. Lindsay from Babes' in Arms blogged something interesting she learned in one of her sessions.

"Arie informed us that because of the skin-to-skin contact and the pheromone and hormone exchange involved, Kangaroo Care often corrects even complicated breastfeeding issues. She also discussed postpartum depression and its causes – poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of support and a feeling of not having control over one’s life – and outlined how babywearing helps with all these causes, thereby reducing or preventing postpartum depression. When a mom wears her baby she is more able to get out and find support, her hands are free to grab a decent meal, and she can be active, get outside and maybe even have a shower! All of these factors help with the depression."

The second thing I was struck by was the answer to the question about brain development and babywearing. Babywearing allows for normal potential for brain development to be reached. This point was underscored by M’Liss Stelzer the next day at the last all-conference session. M’Liss has done quite a bit of research into babywearing safety and oxygenation levels of babies in slings. Her presentation was incredible and underscored the importance of good positioning in not only baby carriers, but also in car seats, bouncers, swings and other baby devices. Basically, a baby’s airway is tiny and when they get all slouched over, the airway can be blocked in as many as three different places. Normal oxygenation levels in a baby’s blood stream are between 97-99%. According to oxygenation studies of babies in car seats, oxygenation levels can get as low as 83.7%. Any level below 90% is considered dangerous. It’s called hypoxia and can cause many problems, including brain damage, ADHD symptoms and delayed motor development amount other things. A great summary of the presentation and links to the studies can be found here. All this information she presented in defense of babywearing. Yes, carseats are important. But the longer a baby stays in a device like that, the lower their oxygenation levels will sink.

Another point M'Liss made was that a baby in a carrier should be in the same position as a baby would be in arms. So if your baby is in a carrier, a simple test is to take the baby in your arms and if there is a change in position, you need to adjust your carrier. That made it all simple for me.

All this I got out of one class and the three all-conference sessions. I felt like even with those four experiences, I was able to connect quite a few dots that I knew connected, but didn't know how. I knew babies were born to be nurtured. I've seen that look on the faces of mommies just discovering babywearing. I've seen the difference babywearing makes to families, both parents and children. And yes, it is something that I will be passing on to my children.

Huge thank you to everyone who made it happen, including my mother. For me, it was an experience of a lifetime that changed the way I think about things. And it solidified many of the things I already do and know. Yes, I shall continue to follow my instincts as much as I can.

Happy babywearing everyone! (And just so you know, this post could be at least 3 times as long. But I'll spare you today.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Another trio

This time they are all black and about 6 weeks old.

Meet Angel:


And the poor kitten that I can't quite figure out what its name is and it's usually being packed around by its neck:

Yes, there are three of them.

Violet is laughing here. It's a bit maniacal. But she's laughing. And it was a mere 3 seconds before she let go of the kitten and it was hanging off of her sweatshirt.

And first thing this morning, guess what!?

See that little black spot WAAAYYYY up in the top of the lilac bush??

That's Calla's kitty. Go figure. But the good news is it made it down safe and sound and this pregnant mama didn't have to go up a ladder.

And the kids have been outside ALLL day. 'Tis a glorious day around here!

Monday, June 14, 2010

You know that joke . . .

You know the joke about what happens if you play a country song backwards? Well, I feel like I'm living that joke, but in a happy way. We've had chickens now since just after Easter. But . . . .

Look who is back!!

I think we are all thrilled. The girls especially.

Brent took the older two on a good long ride yesterday.

I cried when he came out of the trailer. Thank you to my parents for keeping him while we settled in here. I think he's happy to be home. And FYI, these pictures were taken as we were preparing to get all the knots out of his mane and tail. He's beautiful again, too.