31 July 2008

Jenna's birth story (maybe sensitive)

This is something that is still hard to talk about nearly four years later but finally I've managed to write a version I am happy with. For a long time after Jenna was born I was in denial that the birth could have had any effect on me, and heavily bought into the "live baby = all that matters" thinking that still makes this a story I can't tell in many circles. The most important thing was always, and still is, that Jenna is here with me safe and well. But something else important was taken from us, even was given up willingly by me in my ignorance.

A few months on I began to look back and feel angry about Jenna's birth. What I was let down by wasn't a person or a hospital, just by the world as it is, and there was nobody to blame. I've tried to keep out my later feelings about it as far as possible and stick to memories (I understand that some of you will still feel I'm sensationalising having heard the bare bones story before, but remember that back then I was dishonest with even myself about feeling that, essentially, I hadn't given birth to my own baby).

* * * * *

I had Jenna in hospital - I didn't know as a first time mum that I had the option of homebirth anyway (possibly because I had moved house and had so many different midwives in the course of my pregnancy). I was full of positivity about what birth could be like and would be like for me - much like my attitude to breastfeeding, I was just going to do it and it was all going to be fine.

At five o'clock in the morning I had given up trying to sleep because I knew I was in labour and I was just so excited, I'd been having strong contractions for hours and they were only a few minutes apart but they weren't lasting too long and I was just feeling on a high. I was going to meet my baby!

My mum brought some chocolate croissants for breakfast, our celebration food since I was small, and we sat in the living room of my rented house with Martin trying so hard not to fuss over me every time I put a hand to my stomach to rub away stretching pains. On the ride to the hospital I felt myself getting into a rhythm and knowing when the next contraction was coming. It was peaceful and my heart was rising with each fresh reminder - I was having a baby, it would be soon.

The hospital was quiet but the staff were rushed and businesslike. I felt like a nuisance. I tried to remember what questions to ask, confused by the process and a bit intimidated - but it looked like we were going home anyhow because so far I was barely dialated. I felt defeated, as if somehow I had failed to perform, and had no idea that first babies are often long labours! So up I got from the bed, and my waters broke with a pop and flooded all over the floor. Faint black staining, meconium, and back on the bed I went and a midwife entered the room to tut over what a disaster that was and how it meant my baby wasn't coping and would probably need emergancy help.

The remainder of my feelings of confidence and capability evaporated. I wanted someone to tell me what to do; I wanted to go home; I wanted to see my baby and just know that it was OK. Then we were left alone for a couple of hours before being wheeled to a side room and again left alone. More than anything else I was impatient! Why was this taking so long? And if it was an emergancy why wasn't anyone doing anything to save my baby?

I got up and walked around a bit, still feeling I was coping really well with the contractions and repeatedly telling Martin in shock and amazement, "This isn't as bad as I expected, I can do this!" interspersed with, "What if the baby doesn't make it? I just want to know it's OK..." Someone came in and put a monitor round my belly and someone else came with the birth ball I'd asked for and tried to show me how to sit on it. It seemed wierd and unfamiliar and I wished that we'd been able to book in for some birth classes. I really couldn't get over how long everything was taking and how serious the situation seemed to be, coupled with being left totally alone and nobody directly telling us anything more.

A different midwife and some more tutting - had I done something wrong? The heart-rate thingy wouldn't stay put because I was pacing around so much and could I please sit up on the bed? I resisted but was confronted with the idea that I was putting my baby in danger, so I did as I was told. I couldn't tell if the contractions were more frequent and stronger or not but I was definately starting to think that perhaps I was not very good at labour.

Through the next few hours there was a lot of being left alone and not knowing what to do or say, and every now and again people coming in and fussing over the monitor and not answering my questions. It felt interminable, but when I complained about it I was offered pain relief which I refused, confused as to why I'd want pain relief to stop me feeling tired and sick of people coming in and out. This was nothing like I'd expected, and challenging in totally different ways to what I'd been led to believe - I wasn't helplessly screaming in agony but I wasn't in control, I wasn't "coping" like I thought I should be, I was bored and tired and couldn't stop myself from worrying.

Next came a doctor and another midwife, trying to explain to me why they thought we were in danger and looking at the monitor readout again. I wasn't keeping still enough for the monitor to stay put, and my leaning right forward to rest on my knees with the harder contractions was knocking it loose. I needed an internal monitor which would clip to the baby's head. I still wouldn't be able to move around so much, but now when I rolled around in the bed they would still be able to monitor the heartrate from the nursing station outside. Sorry baby, sorry, I'm doing my best.

From then on I was stuck. I asked a few times if I could lower the bed so I could lie on my side and was told that would slow labour down so I would have to stay on my back propped up. I was offered an epidural and again said that I wasn't struggling so much with the pain, just with exhaustion. Could I please please be allowed to sleep for a while? No, I needed to stay awake. If I had an epidural I could rest, but wouldn't be allowed to go to sleep.

I was asked at one point if I would give permission for them to do scratch tests on the baby's head to see if it was in distress. I said no but they kept asking and telling me what a risk I was taking with my child's life until I told them to do the test. I regretted it immediately as I felt the baby pull away from the instrument.

The panic flooded me, with absolute certainty that what had just happened had violated my baby. "I'm so sorry, I'm so so sorry baby, we just need to know you're OK, I'm so sorry...." It took five minutes for the kicking to settle down again afterwards. I was crying and frightened by that and even though the test came back ok they did another three tests in the course of labour (each time causing red bleeding scratches on that little soft head, as I saw after the birth). The last two times I wasn’t even asked – and when I asked them to stop I was told that it would “only take a second”.

When the doctor was walking out of the room the second to last time, I asked if someone would come to talk to me about pain relief. The man who came told me that I ought to have an epidural and get some rest, and that it was what his wife had chosen for both of her babies, and that he hated to see anyone in pain. I said I just wanted the whole thing over with, and anything that would just mean I could stop feeling tired and fed up would be fine. I'd been in labour for about twelve hours, which seemed forever to my inexperience! Enotox was brought in and made me feel sick and dizzy while the epidural was being put in, so I decided to stop using it.

The contractions stopped.

Something in a drip and the contractions were persuaded to start again. I wasn't told what it was and I didn't ask, I just didn't care any more as long as I got my baby out OK. It seemed like it might never happen after the day we'd had. The epidural wasn't really working very well and basically contributing pins and needles to the, now very strong, contractions. I asked for Martin to bring my mum in, tell her it was almost time. In the end she stayed, unable to get out again! Having the two of them there was immensely comforting.

The room literally filled up with people so that Martin, holding my hand very carefully around the needle in it, was pressed up against the side of the bed. Permission was being asked and someone was talking to me about what was happening - was it OK if this student stayed? If a student doctor comes in as well? The consultant is going to come to see you now. And the midwives are changing shift but the one you've seen before (once in the last four hours) is going to stay too so that you have a familiar face. You're ready to push now. Let's get this baby out. Etc.

Pushing lasted a few minutes, before someone said that it needed to be hurried along. The venteuse cup was brought in and my feet went in stirrups. I was told that an episiotomy would be necessary and I said I didn't want one but it seemed that nobody heard, and I got one anyway. Another two pushes, with the heart rate blips on the monitor speeding up a little each time to great critical aclaim; "The baby is really not doing very well now, Sarah, if you can't push it out in the next few minutes we will have to take you to theatre." I gritted my teeth a little, that was NOT going to happen to me. I pushed for one last time, hopelessly trying to keep up with their demands, harder, harder, PUSH, push NOW!

After the baby was born I was shown, and told what I'd had. A girl! We looked down at her and I told her that her name was Jenna and she was ours. Not for nearly long enough though - she was whisked away from me to be put under lights. I was on the enotox again because the pain from the stitches was worse than the labour pains.

Then came the confusion, asking for my baby back and trying to make the doctor doing the stitching understand that the pain was really bad. No-one could understand me. I told Martin afterwards that it was like being under water, or trying to make someone hear you from a great distance away. He at least had understood some of the cause of my distress, and followed our newborn to the table to try to shield her tiny eyes from the glare. Even now I feel cheated that I missed that time, and proud that he knew just what to do and stayed close by her.

It was another half hour, though, before he dared to pluck up the courage to ask if he was allowed to pick her up (his own baby)! He brought her over to me and stood there by the bed, and finally everyone seemed to drift off satisfied that it was a happy outcome. The lights were turned off and we sat there in the dark together, me holding our baby now and singing softly to her in perfect peace. When I look back at Jenna's birth, that's what I see first - the three of us alone in the dark, while I hugged my baby tight and nursed her, singing my heart out while the storm raged outside the window.

30 July 2008

Busy Busy Busy!

We have guests this week and have been having a total whale of a time with the extra pre-schooler around. The visitors been out quite a bit meeting friends too though, and so the girls and I have been crafting in preparation for Jenna's birthday party and, well, just generally on principle.

Morgan and Priya with the coloured geometric blocks, and a few minutes later Morgan and Jenna with the same blocks (and also some lacing beads!). They use these mostly for making big buildings and towers to knock down, but occasionally for more imaginative role play too. We have four sets of blocks in total - these bright small geometric ones, some larger more quirkily coloured geometric ones in a trolley, some tiny natural wooden ones with letters carved in (a gift to our newly literate 3yo) and the Tree Blocks. Which are my favorites. :D

Here are the tree blocks in action! Jenna made a farm (and rebuilt it very patiently every time Morgan walked through it). She had the animals all escape and scatter the food everywhere and live wild in the countryside. ;) Thought that might make some of you veggies laugh!

We made chocolate cookies yesterday and they are goood. Not great for the children's sugar consumption, but hey they won't actually eat more than a third of one because they are so rich and contain two entire bars of dark chocolate. Maybe I'll add the recipe later! Oh, but it's not vegan friendly (sorry folks).

Today we did some colouring to make stuffed fish as found on The Artful Parent. And made blow painting seaweed which we love! We're going to do some more colours later on maybe, and use them to make our party invites. :)

28 July 2008

Sunny day pictures, sunny weather nursing

In this hot weather, Morgan is nursing like a newborn again, I just can't seem to fill the child up. She has been drinking water and fruit juice too, some high-juice squash, cordial, and non-mummy milk... Yet still she's so THIRSTY!

I did a babywearing class this afternoon for a lovely lady who contacted me via my sling education stuff. She is a local homeschooler with mostly slightly older children but a boy about Jenna's age and a baby too. What a joy to see Jenna playing contentedly with other children, knowing that here was somewhere she wasn't the odd one out. And they were *exceptional* children, I was totally impressed with their behaviour and how thoughful of my two they were - the younger lad took Morgan under his wing and sat in a tent with her doing some colouring in until I was ready to go.

I hope we have more contact with them in future, it was a totally relaxed way to spend an afternoon - chatting about *everything* and practicing with slings while our children taught themselves and learnt from each other. I'm all fired up about unschooling again now and about all of the lovely, passionate and interesting families we're going to meet.

Anyhow, I got these pictures of Jenna and Morgan yesterday in little sundresses. Normally I hate seeing little bare shoulders, it often makes them look too adult-y and I'd rather they covered up a bit, but it is HOT!

Pregnancy and loss, our story

The first time we miscarried it was very early (just two days after our positive pregnancy test). I just started my period as if nothing had happened, and if I hadn't had a strongly positive pregnancy test I never would have known I was pregnant in the first place. Nobody knew outside a very close circle, and it was so hard to know how to talk about it, IF to talk about it. I felt like I wanted to scream at people that I'd just lost my baby, resenting the world for just carrying on as if nothing had happened.

Very shortly after our first early loss, we miscarried again at nearly 12 weeks. I had had blood tests that confirmed everything was going really well, and was only a day off having my first scan. I couldn't believe it for the longest time, and just decided in my heart that we would never have a second child. Morgan was born just over a year later, and in spite of everything I didn't even question that everything was going to go OK this time - miraculously perhaps, it did.

When she was one year old, I fell pregnant again. I was delighted! Until, one day, the bleeding started - and the next day I went into labour and gave birth, at just under 14 weeks. Of course even if we had been playing it safe with telling people everyone would have known this time and we still would have had to face talking about the loss. It has really made me think that although the chances of m/c fall after 12 weeks, that terrible grief can come at any time. Better by far for me to bond early, love a lot if not wisely, and have something to cling to afterwards - that the baby was real and loved and is now gone, and that there are people who care and are here for us.

It took a long time, with the health crisis that followed the loss, to tell everyone that I was no longer pregnant. I had people coming up to me for weeks afterwards congratulating me that I was finally showing only to be told we'd had the baby already, stillborn. I've found, though, that I really need people to know, that I can tell people more easily that we miscarried again than avoid questions about why I'm so ill, so tired, bursting into tears all the time. I also need, I don't know, something concrete. Especially where we've miscarried very early, I need to mark the place where this baby was.

We have always bought things early, and told people as soon as we knew, and will this time. I have baby boxes for all three missing little ones, small things that I bought just for them and photographs of me when I knew I was pregnant even if not showing, congratulations cards, art I did, a burnt down candle stub, a pressed flower. That's how I cope, finding the hard centre of the pain and bringing it out into the light - taking a long hard look at it and making it real for myself so that when I can let go I can really let go. It's something that many other people I know who have lost children think of as impossibly strong or just plain strange.

I don't even know how I am able to move on and be ready to go through the whole thing all over again. There is no way to make it OK. No way to make it easy. You just have to find a way that gets you the support you need, and lets you grieve in the way that suits you. I did a lot of shouting at God, and a lot of just weeping in his presence. I probably have more of that to do still.

One huge thing I have to encourage you to do, wherever in your life you are and however risky it may be to get attached... Celebrate life. Embrace the chance that you may lose it all, and cling all the more tightly to the good and the real and the true. Don't let pain and doubt rule you, because no matter what happens the worst can't be made better by living in anticipation and fear of it. Neither can the good be lessened by acknowledging that it is not entirely ours, not under our control, and as such is to be loved with all we have for as long as we are blessed with it.

I've had cramps almost constantly since we found out I was expecting again. But this morning, unable to resist that last pregnancy test sitting in my cabinet, I tested again. I have felt unable to for the last couple of days, sure that if I admit how pessimistic I was feeling about the baby surviving then it would all be over. I was so convinced that the test would be negative, but the line is darker and brighter today.

The whole world looks darker and brighter, more real, more of everything. Maybe, just maybe, it all really is going to be OK after all.

26 July 2008

Some more showing off!

One of the cute little people Jenna draws - now with added body! This one has lots and lots of blonde hair, and is apparently of "Me, being a Princess."

And three little flower fairies made this morning for the season table - and for on the dining table when we decorate for birthdays. Jenna wanted them, and she has her wish - she turns four in just a couple of weeks!

25 July 2008

Holding lightly to my blessings


Il aura trop tenu
(Dans le fond de sa paume
En face de la mer)

Du sable que le vent
Y prenait grain par grain -

Celui que tient la peur
De devenir nuage.

-- Guillevic

This poem roughly translates as, "He probably held on too tightly (in the palm of his hand, facing the sea) to the sand the wind was taking grain by grain - he who was gripped by the fear of becoming mist." I found it once when I was a teenager and never forgot it, and it has never seemed so fitting as right now. What I grasp slips through my fingers. I am afraid to let go, most afraid of all that nothing I do matters. So I fight.

But right now, I'm letting go. What will be will be, and will be used for the good. My defiance, my fight, is in releasing my control and admitting that I trust that God has not finished blessing us and that His Love cannot turn into a curse.

This life, this baby, is not mine. Somehow, somehow, there is a plan. And it is not mine to stress about. No promises not to whine about it again tomorrow though. ;)

Yesterday in the garden, and other recent happenings

The girls in the garden, in their little space by the painted wall.

Morgan following the chickens around - you can see Gloria's feather loss from the run-in with the fox, and Annabelle is the darker one. Gloria is now the bigger of the two, she seems to have put on a bit of weight!

Morgan stroking Annabelle, who is very tollerant of being loved and pestered. She's the more noisy and feisty one, but very much more docile and friendly when held and petted. Gloria is staid and robustly unflappable, but does NOT like to be picked up.

I'm still feeling very shakey today about being pregnant. I'm trying to let go and just wait and see, but it's hard to hold that love and that fear together in my heart. I feel like I might overflow with either or both. I don't want to lose another baby, but I have to face that now more of my pregnancies have ended in death than in life, and there's not a thing I can do about it (apart from taking folic acid, which I've been doing for nearly ten months now)!

Jenna is delighted by the idea of having another baby, though she keeps telling me that she is worried that this baby might die too. I know, little one, I know - me too. But then she suddenly grins and says, "I'm praying that the baby is big and strong, mummy." That seems to settle it for her, she's praying and that's all she can do so why fret?

Three days ago she brought a picture she had drawn of our family, and held it up critically. "It's all wrong!" She said, "There's no room for bodies, my people have all got only heads. I need to put a body in here before the legs." I didn't say anything, but the next day she showed me some more pictures, and all of her people are now "correct". No more potato people! Time flies...

24 July 2008

Best response so far...

As ever, the award goes to my beloved Maternal Grandmother, who said, "Oh no, not AGAIN, Sarah!"

*rolls eyes knowing that of course it was meant in all love and support etc*

I am exhausted, have had a very long day and hardly anything to eat (needed to be in ten different places and had no money for food on the run). Maybe I'll elaborate some time, but it was quite a good day and nothing is actually wrong (I just seriously overdid it). *sigh*

I'm still feeling very unsure about the baby. Trying to take it one day at a time and let myself love this tiny insecure dot, in spite of everything I know about living in the present moment. I KNOW that not letting myself feel anything for it will not shield me at all should anything go wrong. It's still hard to let go of the part of me that feels this new love is dangerous.

This will all look better in the morning (or maybe at least in a few months).

23 July 2008

So much for too early to test...

I gave in (typical of me, I just couldn't resist because I knew there was a test in the bathroom cupboard)!

I'm pregnant.

We have another baby, tiny and perfect, growing inside of me. I am totally in shock, even though I wouldn't have tested if I hadn't had a fair idea. I don't know what to say. I've spent the last few weeks being sure that this was NOT the month.

And then that little pink line showed up just a few minutes ago.

Just for good measure, a picture of the whole family at Kelly and Tom's wedding the other day. :)

Still feeling bereft about the loss of a much-loved activity!

Yesterday was our last ever soft play session at a local church. They are moving to a new building, only the whole move means that soft play won't open in the new location for another whole year. The new building is totally inaccessible to us anyway where we live (it will go from one bus at a cost of £3 return to two busses at a cost of nearly £6 return!) but even worse emotionally speaking is that when it reopens Jenna will be five.

One year, and she won't be a pre-schooler any more. One whole year left of not fully fitting in with all of the home-educator activities (aimed at school-age children). The thing is, I've been protected a little bit from having Jenna lose all her friends to school - several of them are younger than her - but this year they all go to school too, and the only people left to do anything with us during the day will be the tiny tots Morgan's age.

It suddenly feels very lonely, very much like taking a turning somewhere on the path and finding ourselves totally isolated. Which makes me panic - I knew we wouldn't always be surrounded by people, so if this upsets me so much maybe I'm not cut out for home-ed?

I know myself, I know how I work best - I need to be able to get out of the house a couple of times a week to do OTHER things and be a bit more planned. I need people to bounce ideas off, to whinge at when I've had a tough day, to encourage me to see the best in my wonderful busy funny serious little children. I don't want to be lonely! :(

We're going to have to give the home-ed activities a go again, even though I feel really worried about only having tinies.

PS - I think I might be pregnant. It's too early to test, but I just have a feeling - and so far my feelings on things like this have been pretty reliable. I'm terrified in case I'm right and lose the baby - or can't cope. And I'm terrified in case I'm wrong because I am not ready to give up on having more children yet.

22 July 2008

And what we did after church on Sunday...

We cleared the living room and moved the furniture around. I have to post pictures because otherwise when Kim arrives in a couple of weeks she won't believe how clean and tidy it was (will you hun?).

My bookcase, the TV area, Jenna's table and doll house (in new position).

The newly re-organised toy storage, and the comfort corner (behind the sofa).

Scary huh? Very organised for us (and much more space for children to run around in). I have to admit that it actually doesn't look much like the pictures at this PRECISE moment, because Jenna has a couple of dressing up things out and is colouring in with crayons all over the place. And Morgan is putting stones in the till and taking them out again, with a bowl of raisins overturned next to her!

21 July 2008

Weekend wedding

Some pictures from the wedding day of some friends of ours, Kelly and Tom. It was a lovely day, Kelly looked radiant, I cried at least once remembering my own wedding day, and the children did brilliantly with waiting around and everyone doing grown up stuff.

I was very impressed with how child-friendly they had managed to make everything, especially since there were only three children there! It was good not to have to fuss over them, relax, and enjoy being a family and celebrating with our friends.

The girls had a place setting each, which delighted them, and were served the same food as us. Jenna shocked the waitresses by eating three (raw) salmon canapes and asking for more (very politely). And as you can see, Morgan decided that eating the bread roll would be so much better hands-free.

19 July 2008

Season table changing again

This is what the season table looks like now, slowly moving to late summer. All of the craft we've been doing and the seasonal walks have produced enough stuff that it's time for a bit of a change around.

The bees were really simple - just alder cones collected on the park the other day, with yellow string wound around them to make stripes. The wings were cut in a boomerang shape (out of the biodegradable plastic bags we got some spinach in from our vegetable box scheme), laid on the body facing backwards (yup, their wings do face backwards, something else I learnt reading All Year Round) and tied with a long string that is also handy for hanging them by. Not a project for very young children, but fun for me!

We're so busy with lots of new fun projects, and I'm finding so much time to write randomness, I keep wanting to post two or more fresh pages of entries every day. Yesterday, for example, we had friends over and walked on the park (where we found the alder cones) and today we are going to a wedding. I'm going to try to write a bit less for a couple of days and just post up some pictures...

18 July 2008

Free Play and Freedom to Play

Some pictures of Jenna and Morgan on our corner park with a friend. I'm changing the dates on these posts so that you can see the pictures of our weekend in order, just in case anyone is confused that I didn't post anything to the blog for three days and now it looks like I did after all!

Running up the hill - they were rolling down it but no pictures of that because we discovered that my TYPICAL preschooler was wearing no pants (rather undignified I have to say).

Jenna and friend in the bushes, holding handfulls of bindweed.

And digging holes with sticks in the dirt...

And lastly, making nests with cut grass - I used to do this on the top field at school when I was little!

How many of these activities are normally banned as dirty or unsafe? Where did the freedom to run around and get dirty go? We need to do more of this kind of play. :)

Crafty couple of days (lots of pictures)!

Yesterday with the house quiet I started looking for craft projects - it's a character flaw, freedom to do jobs just makes me want to find other things to do instead! SO I did some sewing inspired by friends on IVillage, made some lovely crafty baby gifts which I can't tell you anything about because the person I made them for might be reading ;) and then (oops) went on the Green Parent forum and found yet more ideas. These are the projects that I will admit to - a dress for Morgan, almost finished now just needs a zip putting in at the back, and a drawstring canvas bag for building blocks!

So today, we have done magic painting - drawing a picture with felt tips and then colouring in with water.

And made some clay votive candle holders (I wanted to make some jar ones with glass paints, but alas I'm out of glass paints!) so this was what we did instead.

Morgan is even wearing one of our earlier projects - a t-shirt that Jenna painted for her. I drew around some cookie cutters with fabric pens (thanks for those Sam!) and Jenna painted them bright dylon colours using different fabric paints (and some extra special silver fabric paint). :)

17 July 2008

Validating, a validation

I have just witnessed the incredible power of validating words on a little boy beyond furious and lashing out in tremendous pain. I can't share details, but I am blown away by what can happen when you make someone feel truly heard.

It didn't take away the reasons for his anger and pain. Those are beyond my abilities, and I suspect beyond the control of those whose job it is to parent him. It didn't fix how he felt, because his feelings were real (so real) to him and no clever reasoning can take that away. It didn't fix his behaviour, because it will take a lot more listening from more important people than me to connect with this hurting soul again and make him want to change.

My heart is breaking for that family and all the problems they still have to face. But I'll never be in doubt again as to the rightness of listening to other people and trying to let them know that someone sees their hurts and anxieties. That little boy has never articulated his feelings to anyone, never had anyone who wasn't afraid of his feelings and had the time to let him let them out safely. But today, he did. I am touched to the core that I was able to give him that gift.

There are a bunch of greedy juvenile blackbirds destroying the seed cakes Jenna made and put out for them - the mother nested in our hedge and we waited until they fledged to give it a spring trim. I can't believe how noisy they are! I feel like laughing and crying at the same time. For the good and the bad, the pain and the joy, the connection and the solitude.

16 July 2008

Morgan and the Other Side

So I'm having a bit of a trying time with nursing Morgan right now - or more accurately on and off for the past few weeks. Disclaimer: I'm really glad to still be nursing her, it is non-optional on my list of things I want for my toddler and although I'm not someone who really enjoys breastfeeding (nice lovey hormonal feelings sometimes, but normally, nah) I don't actually want to wean her.

I just don't have the first idea how to have basic boundaries with someone as persistant as this child!! By this age Jenna was practically weaning herself, and although I'm happy that Morgan is still feeding a couple of times a day, sometimes it isn't just a couple of times a day. She's driving me crazy; I sit down, and here she is, wanting to nurse, trying to help herself, and best of all, refusing the side I offer in favour of "EEE unk" (the OTHER milk). Why??

Then a couple of days ago I found this comic in Hathor's archives, and smiled.

Toddler nursing is wonderful, funny, frustrating, crazy, unpredictable, touching, important, fabulous, connecting, grounding, and sometimes really irritating. Anyone want to tell me how to persuade her to take the side she's given and not want to camp out the second I give my attention to the computer?

Off to help the girls sort out their dispute, before Morgan thumps Jenna (who is trying to put a pair of pants on her against her wishes).

15 July 2008

Today there is peace!

So isn't it about time I actually did an update instead of a meander? Not that I don't enjoy the meanderings too, but I think sometimes the normal everyday and simple gets left behind a little while I get carried away theorising.

We didn't get to soft play today, yet another day when we're totally out of money for anything - though it's entirely my fault. I ordered a new feeder for the chickens because theirs has a huge hole in the top and the food gets soggy. I got a new board game (how could I resist) - it's called Carcassone and Jenna can just manage it although it's meant for the 10+ age range. I love it! And as we worked out quite quickly it isn't at all hard to play co-operatively, whilst when the children are in bed the grownups can fall out over who captured which city and how unfair it is since it was built with the other person's tiles. ;)

So instead another day in the garden; bewailing the loss of almost all of the purple sprouting broccoli but delighted to see the tomatoes flowering. And we have watched Wallace and Gromit (the recent one) for about the tenth time this month, and admired the giant pumpins and marrows in the vegetable show, which we fear we will never match in a million years!

More building, with the tree blocks, on the carpet. Some writing (mostly me, and Jenna a little bit) and all in all a lot of a little, all of it good. In part I can't take the credit for the calm, because Jenna is sleepy after a late night trip to the cinema with Martin and my Dad (another reason why the money has run out at this stage in the week!) which was a total surprise for her and a major "just because" treat. :)

Here's me and Morgan messing about with the old stretchy wrap yesterday evening - and nope, it isn't comfy any more since she got so big *sigh*. I love love love this sling...

Limitations of Non-Violent Communication

So, some more thoughts about Non Violent Communication. Firstly, I'm still finding it helpful to get me to stop of think about what I'm about to say (which was basically the purpose of Naomi Aldort's SALVE formula, see this blog entry) but with the bonus of having a more practical format to think about and some guidance on what my wording is really saying that I don't mean and don't want!

However, there is a real issue I've noticed. NVC isn't parenting (good or otherwise) it's just language. There still has to be a decision about what needs to be done, and a decision about what boundaries are stated as law and which as personal feeling. And what happens next when the values we have decided are important to our family are not lived up to.

Let me explain it this way. You start with the talk about observation and feelings. "I can hear shouting, I'm feeling stressed." Then what needs to happen to sort out that problem. "I need talking voices only, I want to understand what you are saying to me." Now what if the child says, "No, I don't want to talk, I feel MAD!" And keeps on shouting. I haven't actually parented, I've just expressed what I want. Not that expressing what I want without screaming "SHUT UP!!" isn't good, it's very good, but it isn't the end of the picture.

Try this one on for size. Observation and feelings again. "I see your shoes still on the floor, and I'm feeling impatient and cross." Needs and request. "I want to leave the house soon, so you need to put your shoes on."

(I know, I know, the book would have me saying, "I need for us to leave on time. Will you please put your shoes on?" But apart from that being pretty contrary to my view that there are things that just have to happen however everyone feels about them... I'm not going to pretend that the shoes are going on to make me happy, they're going on becuase as much as playing with the doll is distracting her right now she will be gutted if we miss swimming! I could teach her a lesson by just letting her mess about and miss her activity, but in my eyes that would be a punishment - because I could easily prevent it by just insisting about time-keeping.)

Pretend I've said it either way, if it makes you happy. Now the shoes don't go on and she's still singing to the doll. I've stated my feeling and nothing happens. So either I can be TCS and carry her to swimming with her doll and without shoes. I can do the "natural consequences" thing and make her miss swimming by refusing to parent her. I can insist that the shoes go on now, without using pretty words or making myself the reason for doing it. Or I can put her shoes on for her. (The answer around here is the last two points in that order and probably in quick succession.)

Another thought that has just occured to me is that if I follow to the letter the way NVC suggests requesting what we want, it is another parenting tool that makes compliance about how the parent feels. I don't want her to obey because something makes me happy or sad, but because it is right. I also have a sneaky feeling that talking about my feelings all the time is manipulative and coercive even whilst I'm supposedly not forcing her to do what I want. So... NVC = helpful, but don't neglect what comes after the calm reasoned words.

Say, remind, make it happen!

14 July 2008

How Not to Talk to Children (courtesy of Sunday morning)

Sunday School Leader (SSL for short) is running our family service at Church this week. Family Service is really great most of the time, but sometimes seems a bit like a lovely opportunity to herd all the tinies up to the front and make them tell everyone what they've been learning about (with loud prompting and an adult repeating everything they say "to translate"). Clarification: this isn't a jibe at my Church, just at the way one or two of the grown-ups seem to think about the youngest members. There are that sort of adult everywhere, believe me.

SSL: What kinds of animals went on the Ark? (Clue, no she didn't mean "clean and unclean," she wanted the answer, "pets, farm animals, and wild animals".)
Kids: Elephants! Tigers! Dogs! Snakes!
SSL: No, what TYPES?
(answer is eventually gotten out of them by a combination of sharp correction of their "wrong" answers, wild guesses from the kids, and adult prompting of the, "F FFfff? Fffar Far..?" type)
Jenna (loudly): And horses!!
SSL: And what type of animal is a horse?
Jenna: A big round one? (ripple of laughter from adults, despairing look from SSL)
SSL: No, it's a farm animal. What other kinds of farm animals do we know?
Jenna: (giving up) A zebra?
SSL: NO, like sheep. And cows. Look, here's a picture of a cow. Don't touch the picture, it's going to fall over.

Anyhow, this was followed by another reminder of the huge vote of No Confidence we place in our little ones by following them around all the time, treating their fears and feelings as stupid, and generally not letting them own their own bodies. A little girl was helping to hand out some little strips of paper with promises from the Bible on them, when her mum appeared looking annoyed. She saw her child dithering about whether to approach us or not, scary looking strangers smiling at her, and said: "What are you doing? You're meant to GIVE them OUT, can't you even do a simple job like that? Come here, I'll do it."

What's worse is that I use these examples from my weekend knowing well that I say things like that ALL THE TIME and I really have to stop!

Anyway, we decided to walk home because the sun was shining and I hate hassling people for a lift even though it's well over an hour's walk. Along the way tried not to hurry, and it made a huge difference. We said that Jenna couldn't go to see the ducks before realising that we were slipping into anti-child gear again and took the route past the river anyway. Watching her run around all over the river gardens turned into the highlight of our weekend. Finally we helped her to float a fallen pink blossom down the river under the bridge, watching until it went out of sight (with her shouting, "goodbye flower, I'll miss you!").

Feelings about myself and all the bad stuff

I have started to feel a bit better about myself, my body, and my fertility or lack therof. OK so I got a bit sick of people telling me after I lost Lael that "at least I have two healthy children," because it still bloody hurts to mourn a child.

But it's true. I do have two healthy children, both of whom I have carried and given birth to, and nourished with my own milk and my unconditional love. I'm still nursing that little 18 month old, and that's something to feel good about, that my body is still able to do this thing for her.

On to one of the things that has helped get me through a little bit of the I-hate-my-body wobble. The Shape of a Mother site. Honestly, feeling post-partum without the baby to hold and make it feel like I have something to show for it, something out of it, that has been one of the hardest things about Lael's death. Silly perhaps, even selfish, but true.

To some degree I am just ready to accept that bad things happening to me don't mean I'm a bad person. And they don't mean that good things aren't yet to come. It's just what happened. I doubt that's any comfort to anyone else going through the same thing, but I've certainly learnt that comfort is not as easy to give as I used to think...

12 July 2008

Slipping through my fingers....

I watched Mama Mia last night with a friend, and although we agreed it's really not the best film we've ever seen (and poor poor Pierce Brosnan, bless him) I have to say I really enjoyed it. Ridiculous, yes. Embarrasing, yes. But also very touching.

One particular scene struck me (the kind of "struck me" where you can't look at the screen because you know you'll embarrass yourself by crying like the soppy hormonal woman you are)? Hmm, OK male readers, but I defy you to be totally immune - especially if you have children.

Donna is helping her grown-up daughter prepare for her wedding day, and begins to sing (yes, it's that kind of film).

"Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that Im losing her forever
And without really entering her world
Im glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see whats in her mind
Each time I think Im close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake, I let precious time go by
Then when shes gone theres that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I cant deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
(slipping through my fingers all the time)
Well, some of that we did but most we didnt
And why I just dont know

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see whats in her mind
Each time I think Im close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers...

Slipping through my fingers all the time

Schoolbag in hand she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile..."

Barely awake, I let precious time go by - neglecting the great adventures we always planned to have together and WHY? What a wake-up call to all parents. Plan an adventure today, because every second with them is so precious and we have such a short time to enter their worlds. Such a short time.

11 July 2008

Non-Violent Communication

Another book review, people! I have finally finished and digested Non-Violent Communication, after a couple of years of starting it and then procrastinating because anyone who promises to solve the problems of the entire world for them in four easy steps is probably due some extra caution and even outright increduality.

I say this with tongue in cheek, because I am in fact a total idiot for dismissing something out of hand for being too ambitious and too simple. In fact that wasn't only why I dismissed it. I had decided out of hand without reading it properly that it was new-agey. Didn't I have a nappy-free baby? Didn't I read (and get something from) books that actually WERE new-agey. I'm admitting all of this, of course, because it is a really helpful book and I want to recommend it.

Short summary, it deals with how we use language, and how to express something that you want or need and explain how you feel, without being unclear or coercing the other person. I'll be the first to say that my parenting is not coercion-free (I am not TCS by a long way) but whatever your comfort level with the idea, the format suggesting for expressing needs has become really REALLY helpful for us almost overnight.

I was already using some forms of these words, but often giving out blame that I didn't intend or want to and often not at all making my needs clear (and so often not getting what I was asking for). Basically the idea is to describe what you see

"I can see/hear..."

then state how you feel about it whilst owning that it is YOUR feeling and YOUR reaction not something the other person DID to you, and express your need or value that is causing that emotion.

"I feel [emotion or sensation not prefixed with "that" or "it" etc].... because I need/value..."

Finally, ask for what you need if necessary.

Example: Jenna has just walked in and pulled something off Morgan who is howling. Me: "I see that Morgan is really upset. It looks like she was hurt just now. I feel very unhappy that she is crying because I value gentleness and kindness to each other. Will you think about how you can help her to feel better?" Then, without any further prompt, me getting cross (as would often happen) or her getting cross and screaming (which would ALWAYS happen and usually result in me getting cross or crosser), Jenna piped up with, "I'm sorry Morgan, I just wanted the toy and I forgot that you might be sad, you can play with it first and then it will be my turn. Do you want some of my drink?" :O

The other thing is Jenna's recent inability to actually ask for what she needs. "I'm HUNGRYYYY!!!" Well it has been making me truly see red, and I've been quite childish back from time to time. Well I've found some new words that don't make her feel I'm picking on her. "When I hear shouting I feel upset and worried because I value respectful words. I need you to try again." It works!
Hmm, perhaps more thoughts another time, if there is room in my head for all of them at once.

More projects, and thoughts on why AP grows up as we do

I think I may have to admit to getting a bit carried away. Um, again. While the children were out yesterday afternoon, I rushed home from befriending to try out some of the more ambitious papier mache prokects. There is now a mermaid, half finished, drying over the back of a kitchen chair.

Jenna finished her bigger bowl this morning and is going to paint it later when it's dry, so although I have no idea when I'm going to be able to finish the mermaid, we have plenty more projects. I can't believe how calm this last week has been and how much easier it has been not to shout (the return to hormonal normality perhaps - I dare not speculate). And it isn't like we're not really really busy either, this morning apart from the obvious project mentioned we've also baked banana cake and harvested berries and fed the chickens and planted up some cauliflower seedlings and made stew for the freezer and drawn pictures of aliens (don't ask me!).

Anyway, those thoughts about why AP isn't just for the tiniest folks. If you think you may have already read some of this, you may be right lol I copied and pasted some from replies on IVillage. For those of you who just went onto IVillage to check, why are you stalking me?

The conversation I had lately that made me really think about this was with a couple of very experienced APers who said that they feel it can be "taken too far" and is only relevant to small babies. Anyhow, I think I understood what they meant (they were talking about parents deliberately curtailing freedoms and treating children as babies into their late childhood). I don't know if that really happens in a healthy family or if it's just an unhealthy situation occasionally trying to justify itself using AP terms to do so...

It was an interesting thought, so I persued it by having waffley long thoughts myself, and posting a poll. ;)

I think AP gives an inordanant amount of freedom, and supports children growing up, because it respects the wishes and abilities of the individual and looks at where the child is really at and not at a model of what should be that they have to fit. I believe that an important aspect of attached parenting is letting go as the child indicates readiness - so overprotective behaviour in those terms is perhaps as un-AP as blindness to any other need.

Because children do need to be allowed to grow up. They need a realistic parental view of safety, giving them freedom to try things out and explore, sometimes away from a parent. I have to say it's a part of play I feel really strongly about. I want the children to be able to keep secrets from me, have their own private hidey-holes and spaces. Play that is planned by an adult has its place, but the way children work is to simply mess about!

Love isn't absorbing someone into yourself, it's being individuals and yet together. That's why the family unit is such a precious thing, because it fulfills the need of human beings to be separate and yet also one.
When does attachment become unhealthy? Goodness I didn't prepare an answer for *everything*. Give me some more time on that one lol!

I think that using AP as an excuse to overprotect is something we perhaps have to guard against but, in short, it certainly doesn't devalue the attitude itself. For more on why I believe that AP is primarily an attitude towards human relationships, one of respect and trust, see previous entries...

9 July 2008

Rescue efforts, strawberries, and penguins

I managed to rescue the papier mache creation, lol. I figured, hey, it's paper pulp - right? So what if it doesn't look quite the same, at least I won't have been responsible for wasting work she was really proud of... I soaked it in a bowl of water for a few minutes and carefully tore down one side with a knife before peeling it off in sections and gluing them back together with a few more bits of tissue paper added - it's a bit wonky but hey, she's delighted with it anyway (and doesn't know that I nearly had to throw it away).

Currently they have a bowl of strawberries from the garden and are sharing them out. There hasn't been a peep out of them since I handed over the bowl! The only problem seems to be that in the time it has taken to tell you about the strawberries, they've eaten them all. Morgan was happily sharing hers with her "baby". I think I've probably mentioned him before. She has fixed on this large grey stuffed-toy penguin and decided in her wisdom that it is her baby.

She rocks it, nurses it, shushes and pats it, and best of all insists that it has the first turn at everything. If we're on the park, the penguin has to go in the swing first. If she's coming for milk, the penguin has to be offered the breast first. And if she's eating strawberries? Yup, you guessed it, the penguin gets COVERED and then she gets really stressed and asks me to clean him up.

Martin and I had a long talk last night about how we've been reacting to some discipline stuff. We're reading through Non-violent Communication and going back to How to Talk so Kids will Listen as well (has anyone else cursed such a long title when trying to tell people about this book??), and we have both decided that the main thing we have to do right now is let go of the control freak in us and live with a bit more chaos.

There are times when it's right to forgive yourself for yelling, accept that sometimes it's understandable and probably not all that damaging, and move on - and times when it's really just time to get a grip and try to do something about it... This is one of the latter.

8 July 2008

On the wisdom of suitable preparation :(

Well I've just learnt an important lesson. No matter how well prepared you are for life with children, some gap in your understanding inevitably lets you down somewhere along the way.

Take papier mache. Bowls and other forms, I have discovered this evening, "need to have a release agent applied first to stop the papier mache sticking to them". Oops. So the beautiful pink bowl with added sparkly bits, that Jenna has just spent the best part of two days working on, will not come off the glass jug we used to help it keep its shape. And it's all my fault!

For those who wish to know, and really have learnt my lesson to make sure you are remembering correctly all those things that you did in your own childhood, a little assistance!

The Papier Mache Resource Centre

Benefits of playful parenting

Getting dressed can be, some mornings, one of those things where I want to scream at Jenna. This morning it was looking like one of those days already because she would NOT put down the small wooden dolls to put her things on herself. I went for the ask, remind, make it happen pattern but when I got as far as "remind" I could see that it wasn't going to happen. Struck by a fit of madness I decided it was the time to become Playful Parent again, and grabbed her pants from the sofa.

"Are these for on my head?" I asked. She turned around, gave me a very old look and said, "No." Totally deadpan. It isn't working.

"Are they for on Morgan's arms?" She looked at me again, giggled a little like sunshine breaking over the horizon, "No, don't be silly mummy! They're pants!" Warmer.

"Are they not for mummy or Morgan?" More giggles, and finally, "No, they won't fit you. They're for my BOTTOM!" (Lots of peals of giggles at yelling "bottom".) And she put them on. Then took her trousers and put them on her own head for a little silly dance around the living room before putting on the rest of her clothes with plenty of smiles and chatter.

Score, one all. She kept her dignity and I didn't have to wrestle her to get the clothes on. She had a fun morning even though the dolls were put down, and I connected with her in a way I couldn't have by taking the dolls away. It's 9am now and she's back playing with the dolls again by the way, sometimes everyone wins.

We've had La Leche League today and then soft play, and Jenna has been wonderful. I was most impressed of all when she was feeling really cross with me (for not buying her a sandwich on our way home, only two hours after she didn't eat her lunch) and managed not to throw a total fit. I stayed calm, validated, and then offered her the ideas of a stompy dance ("NO!" says Jenna) or using words ("NO!!" says Jenna, "I'm just busy being a bit sad so leave me alone, please!"). And that was about it for that particular averted disaster.

Morgan seems a little more challenging though, to make up for it, and has been getting really cross with me when I offer her the "wrong" side at nursing sessions. How irritating this is to me is indescribable, and my reactions are often *sigh* less than graceful.

I've just remembered that I promised to offer some thoughts about why Attachment Parenting isn't just for babies, and haven't talked about all of the reasons why I'm loving LLL meetings! Another day maybe, so much to say so little time. ;)

7 July 2008

Hard way, easy way

Yesterday we did so much clearing and tidying the house looks like a different place. I even took down the bedside cot (which hasn't even been used in six months and before that was hardly worth the effort of putting up) and our bedroom looks twice as big without it. When we have another baby I don't think we'll use it at all. Seems like first baby we bought everything, second baby we didn't use anything, third baby we'll get rid of it all.

My house may be feeling very tidy and clean and, well, like a home that is taken care of, but I'm feeling under the weather still. A bit down about my cycle and about not being pregnant, a bit blah about doing things with the children, a bit more prone to control and yell when we're doing projects or just doing anything together.

Right now Jenna is *not* napping upstairs, although once again *she* said she was tired and suggested a nap. I've just been up there getting cross with her because our usually-stuck living room door has been replaced today and now Morgan can get upstairs - so when she escaped while I was making a cup of tea Jenna came out of her room and tied Morgan up in some dirty washing. I told Jen that she is NOT allowed downstairs and she screamed, so I shut her in her bedroom again and shut myself in the bathroom to cry.

It's really wearing me down all of the little disobediences even though it's small stuff and I know the problem is with me issuing too many instructions and not doing anything when she ignores me. Sometimes I just really want her to DO as she's TOLD - the fact that it's little stuff makes it worse! It would be such a little thing for her to HELP me! Just put your shoes on if you want to go out. Just be gentle to Morgan. Just leave the TV off and find something else to do. Just come here so I can do up the button you're complaining about. Small stuff!!

I don't know what my next move is, what I can do to get my self-control back, what I can do to help this situation. Gentle discipline is tiring and hard work and I want an easy answer. The problem I can see with that is that I want the result of the tiring hard work, and not the result of the easy answers. The result of the easy way isn't the best for Jenna and it isn't the best for me. :(

The Season Table

I've been inspired (thanks Gina) to talk about our season table and how we use it, because frankly I'm just loving the Summer incarnation of it with the hot pink playsilk and all kinds of pretty projects.

We started a season table over a year ago and to start with we just had a little coffee table in the kitchen with bits that Jenna had collected and occasional seasonal crafts that she had done. Then we got some ideas from Waldorf schools and other homeschoolers, and started putting a cloth on the table first in a colour to best create the mood of that time of year, and of course we started being able to do more detailed projects as Jenna got older.

The playsilks I bought cheaply from a haberdashery supplier online, http://www.rainbowsilks.co.uk I think, just as plain headscarves that they were selling for batik. Some cold water dyes and a bucket, and the girls had several bright playsilks in their Christmas box and I had four for my season table. Green for Spring, pink for Summer, orange for Autumn and blue for Winter.

At the Spring solstice this year we added a wooden sun (from Myriad toys) and we'll put it away again at the Autumn solstice. We often have a twig hung with leaves or flowers or easter eggs etc - and sometimes we have a red metal "tree" instead (or as well) which was a £1 find in Ikea last year. At the moment there are some feathers, some dried poppies and buttercups that Jenna picked from the garden and dried out on the fireplace before I could put them in a vase.

One of the magic water lilies found its way on, a playdoh plaque spent most of the spring time there depicting "rain" - I think it's behind the sun at the moment though! The elephant is one of our fairtrade clips from Oxfam that hold up playsilk tents. Jenna put it there after some tent-building one day and it hasn't been used since. Morgan added a nectarine stone. There was a seedling there a few weeks ago but now that has been planted outside and is doing really well - there should be a sunflower flowering out there soon!

The sunflowers were a gift from my mum two days before the summer solstice, and the day she bought them I read that they are traditionally brought inside for midsummer's day. Always learning... Anyway, on the season table the last one went.

It doesn't need to be a big space, as I prove with my tiny offering. Nor does it have to be really elaborate or take up much time. I help myself by not being too obsessive about the children adding things to it, removing things from it, and generally playing with it - though I ask them to put things back after they're done lol. Morgan doesn't really understand and likes to put maybe a comb on there or an empty packet or something, so I tactfully move that kind of addition to a little basket of Morgan's "treasures" underneath the table. Again, another adapted Gina idea.

6 July 2008

General updates and random thoughts

I just saw an advert for Sharpies (indelible markers) and it reminded me that I'm not the only mother whose children have the mischeif gene. One mum I know was packing to move house when she found that one of the mattresses stacked up to go had been drawn on with one of the markers which she'd been labelling boxes with. In one corner was a little arrow to the pictures with writing saying, "I did not do this, it was [sibling]!" :D

Anyhow, just quick little snippets of not a lot today. The last picture on the slideshow (yesterday's entry) is of the girls that afternoon, making magic water lilies which is an activity I meant to give instructions for in case you want to try it (you should!). It came from the All Year Round book of festivals and celebrations, which we've been working our way through this year and really enjoying.

Magic water lilies:
You need white paper and green paper. From the green paper make leaves with cut out bits on them. From the white paper you need one large star shape for each leaf. Colour in the star on one side (felt tip will run together very nicely) and fold all the "petals" inwards. Stick the flower over the central hole on the leaf, and leave to dry before floating on a bowl of water. The flower petals will very slowly open out. :)

Morgan seems to be having that language explosion common to children of her age, and is saying so many new words every day. Her little stomps have been getting better because of it, obviously she has less frustration now she can tell me more exactly what she wants.

Jenna had a real issue last night with coming back when I called her on the park and I got really upset about it. I kept my voice calm but I'm not sure whether I should be doing something better to solve this sudden impulsive can't-listen period or at least my reaction to it. It's really important for her safety that I can trust her to come to me, but at the same time I understand why she doesn't want to leave the park! More thoughts another time perhaps.

We're getting lots of eggs, and I have some potatoes, carrots, broccoli and peas doing well in the garden right now. And, well, generally everything is going well.

I wish I knew whether my body was getting back to normal or not, but I'm taking folic acid (STILL) and B6/B12 complex just in case either are going to do any good. I suppose I'm feeling really flat about it, like my mind just can't go there and face yet more disappointment.

4 July 2008

Tough days and wonderful memories

Gloria is still fine and there have been no bullying problems without them even having been separated again. The fox came back last night and couldn't get in to the newly fortified run and house, but the chickens were both still getting a bit stressed so we shut them away earlier than normal and the fox only hung around for a minute or two after that.

I think Gloria must seriously be the toughest chicken that ever lived because in the late afternoon, early evening, I took a hot-to-the-touch egg from under her. I can't believe she laid after her brush with foxy death!

Morgan is a sucky little nursing gymnast today and Jenna is trying to distract her and make her get down because she wants a snack and I can't get one whilst I have an 18mo hanging off me. It isn't working. Although she isn't waking at night at all any more the heat does have Morgan nursing a lot at the moment in general - but she doesn't seem at all happy today I have to say. Maybe she's coming down with something?

I've been sorting out lots of old photographs and I've put together a few I want to share. It's a sort of journey through our last year as a family and shows mostly the seasonal things we have done and our more major events. I hope you enjoy it!


3 July 2008

A lesson in first impressions

First things first, Gloria is still OK and hasn't been pecked while I've been out, and I have also bought a load of chicken wire to reinforce the run as much as possible.

Also, I take back every uncharitable thought about Educational Welfare and their involvement with my client, because the meeting we have just had was polite, helpful, supportive and above all made my client feel like she's doing a good job whilst at the same time giving the Father a hefty boot up the behind. Without breaching any confidentiality I can say he needed it.

On the way there I'd already been to one meeting and also gone into town to purchase the chicken supplies. I realised I didn't have time to go home and started to worry about the impression that I would be making, my age, the jeans and low cut tshirt I'd thrown on this morning as pretty much the only things clean, my professional status as part of the voluntary sector, and how on earth I was going to manage to get my client more help without either repeating conversations that were totally private for her or possibly even getting her in more trouble.

Anyway, as I was busy taking myself seriously and worrying that either nobody else would, or I'd be asked to take on an even more active role which overstepped my madate, the heavens opened. My first thought, with considerable irony, was that it served me right for being so soppily poetic yesterday as I romanticised the storm I watched from that little bathroom window two years ago. My next thought was that any control I actually had over how I appeared to other people was utterly gone.

So I had a good laugh at myself, and stopped worrying about how it would look to arrive amongst the smartly dressed council employees, looking like a drowned rat, in casual mummy atire, and carrying a huge roll of chicken wire...

A memory from a couple of years ago

I'm going to have a tough day at work today, meetings with the charity and with my client and with the school her son attends and lots of serious stuff like that so I've got some panicking to do about whether I'm qualified to do this sort of thing lol. But before I go off and do that I have something that I just remembered that I have to write down while it's still fresh. I don't know if I've told this story before, but anyway, it deserves retelling and at least I'll remember where I wrote it down when I next feel in need of it.

I was heavily pregnant with Morgan, past my due date I think, and feeling very rested. I'd bonded with her very well already and was only slightly impatient to meet her, I was even certain that she was going to be a girl - I'd dreamt her asleep besides me in a pink sleepsuit, several nights the same dream just watching her sleep. This particular night I'd gone to have a relaxed bath after Jenna was asleep, and I was lying listening to the rain sounds on the roof besides the bathroom.

I could hear every drip and patter, and was feeling hyper-aware and alert, when a flash of white light lit up the navy blue sky. So there I stood in the bath, huge belly cradled in my hands, leaning out of the open bathroom window with the wind howling and the rain lashing down and bright trails of fire racing across the sky. The storm lasted for about half an hour before I withdrew, cold and soaked and trembling with power.

Yesterday another storm, swifter and less fierce, left me with the same breathless feeling only far less joyful. The glorious sky and the power of nature is somehow different when it's not so easy to trust that the same power is within your own body, and I'm lacking any trust right now that I will carry or birth another baby as I did Morgan. Perhaps also it's that my bathroom will always now remind me just a little more of labouring to birth a baby that I would never get to know, rather than the triumph and animal pleasure of a natural birth and the memory of the wonderful pregnancy that preceded it.

Anyway, tough chicken questions still await me, but in breif I've had them back in the same pen together this morning for a good while and they've been fine. Gloria looks to my untrained eye like she will be fine, and so hopefully we won't have worst-case-scenario chicken euthanasia to deal with. I'll be back later with more updates, hopefully all good ones. What a stressful day, I'm glad the childen are with grandparents.

2 July 2008

Really tough decisions to make after a foxy visitor

That FLIPPING fox GOT INTO THE HENHOUSE this afternoon!!! :O I have no idea what to do next. The fox has gone, the henhouse is secure as we can make it (we've put bricks on top of the roof section the fox lifted up) and the chickens are roosting - seperately because Gloria had some feathers pulled out.

She seems OK but traumatised, there is some blood but I don't think she's seriously hurt. She was walking fine (and doing some flapping) but was really quiet when I took her and shut her in the seperate area, earlier she was all feisty and noisy when I picked her up because she's so scared of me! At least Annabelle was fine...

I don't know if we can keep chickens any more though, the garden is rambling and the boundries are totally insecure. The henhouse is OK but a bit flimsy and we can't afford to do anything to make it better. Basically this fox (in full daylight) had no fear of us at all and only ran off a little way when we shouted and threw stuff. I don't think it's going to let up until it gets in somehow and kills both birds. Not to mention that having a fox like that around makes me worry about the kids playing out safely! Morgan was outside on her own only an hour before the attack.

Emma and Chris can take both of them, but Gloria will have to be seperate for a while because she's injured. I don't want her to be bullied to death by Annabelle, and Gloria *is* the smaller one. If Emma has them she can't keep Gloria seperate so either the poorly bird will have to stay here alone until healed up or she'll have to be necked (that is if her injuries don't mean she's necked in the morning anyway, I'm hoping to be able to tell tomorrow if she's actually hurt or just missing some feathers). But keeping either of them here seems cruel too as this fox WILL come back.

Oh I don't know what to do. I'm so upset!

Mostly about chickens

There was indeed a foxy visitor last night, but it went away hungry! No eggs yet, but Emma and Chris report that they already had their first one this morning. And they're still eating SO much more food than Delia and Pippin ever did. This morning I've had some more time to observe them, and I can definately tell the difference between them better now.

Annabelle is stocky and complacent. She is always first to the food and last away from it, although she doesn't push Gloria around or anything like that. She is the darker of the two, really deep glossy red with almost black shiny feathers where the rain has damped her a bit this morning. A few little lighter streaks in her feathers make her look a bit scruffy around the edges. Gloria is small and light sandy-orange with a narrower head and smaller lighter comb. She was obviously more stressed by the travelling of yesterday and won't come near me yet. She even runs away from the sound of the food box shaking! She seems to like being indoors more than Annabelle and is in and out of the henhouse all the time.

I've been meaning to talk about some discipline stuff I've been finding hard, but like anything I'm struggling with it's much easier to talk about once you think you've dealt with it or started to. It's been bothering me how adversarial my relationship with Jenna has been (on and off but still noticeably different to when she was smaller). I guess it's partly that my expectations of her keep being revised, somehow you think "oh this won't happen when they are 2/3/7 etc" and then if they can't be as grown up as we want or expect, it's easier to get mad.

I've been reminded lately by some wisdom from friends that I need to look less at fixing her and more at making sure MY reactions and MY behaviour are in line with what I want. I'm also re-reading How Would Jesus Vote (yes I know, not directly applicable lol) and thinking about being Christlike and what that means, not just in the sense of looking for politicians that care but in the sense of being that person myself. Hmm tangled logic and tangled grammar from me this morning... Anyway, that's my main discipline challenge at the moment, but the main way it is being worked out is in not making moral judgements of the things that Jenna does.

Would Jesus tell her that the noise she was making was stupid? Is is appropiate for me to teach her by bullying (which is really really hard to avoid doing, overriding her with disrespect and anger when I could disciple her with patience and love)? If I'm meant to be a follower of this man who historically taught with gentle humour, opening up the issues rather than closing them down by giving a simple answer, expected people to use their minds to learn and grow... I'm such a bad example to my children!

This week is getting better, anyway, and that's the main thing I wanted to share lol. I'm stopping and thinking again where I was struggling not to lash out, or losing it and screaming at her. So my last point, as it often is, is that Grace is for adults too. Can I let go of yesterday (well, last week), forgive myself for the lapses and unthinking small cruelties, and move on?

PS - Anyone planning a birth MUST MUST MUST read this site I found this morning. http://www.unhinderedliving.com/childbirth.html It's relevant most of all to those planning a natural birth but there is something for everyone and it's absolutely wonderfully uplifting and encouraging. The section on variations of normal childbirth was astonishingly useful!

1 July 2008

Busy stuff and... CHICKENS!

We've had another lovely weekend, mostly fairly quiet apart from Livy's birthday party which was great. The children of course behaved impeccably (lol) or rather they behaved predictably like small children and were really lovely and sharing and kind coupled with moments of selfish hysteria and mayhem. Jenna got a bit posessive about a pink buggy but some calm validation helped her to cope with being made to take turns and generally a compromise was made.

The library and museum yesterday was one of the best days we've had all week, and things really are back on a very even keel. I'm still getting frustrated with some behaviours (mostly mine) and I'm still feeling a bit stressed about my cycle but I'm willing to accept that God has a plan and that things will work out in time. The children included. ;) Anyhow, the trip into town was so calm and uneventful there isn't anything to write about it apart from that we all came home having done everything we intended to and crucially still friends with each other.

Everyone decided to go to the park today instead of soft play but we had to stick to routine really because we had to be back by 2pm for my Dad. On the plus side, lots of other people had given soft play a miss too so it was really peaceful! Although Jenna didn't have any of her really close friends there, she also didn't have to deal with another big crowd being-left-out situation like last week. She mostly played with the dolls again with some forays into building rocket ships with Ben.

Morgan is still trying to talk much more and spent a while trying to find a little boy who had just thrown his bottle at her. She was walking around doing her all gone sign and shouting, "INK!! INK!!" Once his drink was returned to him she settled back to playing. She also got really upset when she couldn't find Jenna (who had gone down to the toilets on her own) and was shouting for Nenna and crying and again signing all gone. When Jenna came back upstairs she was waiting by the door and yelled NENNA with such a tone of joy and outrage I had to laugh.

Again, getting distracted into all the lovely things that happen in a perfectly normal day. Today was NOT a normal day. It was... CHICKEN DAY!! Two more lovely fat ginger ladies are duly installed and have been (after some debate with Jenna about whether "Spiderman" is a good name for a chicken) named Gloria and Annabelle. We dropped off some hens for Emma and Chris too and I think we got the quieter of the bunch! They are all of them eating really well and recovering fine from the journey in a cardboard box in my Dad's car.