Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The sanctity of medicine

I feel as though I'm slowly waking up to the world around me. (I know this is supposed to be the role of education, especially post-secondary education, but, well, you all know how I feel about that.) I'm realizing that I do not have to be a little lemming, running around in my little life while others seemingly more powerful, more educated and more wealthy dictate how my world should be created and lived. I am realizing there are not as many laws of society as I thought there were - there are simply a lot of codes. Codes that are passed off as laws to us "little guys".

I believe the only way to "fix" the education system is a complete dismantling. I also believe the only way that will happen is if our society is plunged into something so destructive life as we know it is altered permanently. And yet there is the expectation of enrollment, as though that were the only viable option to produce an adult of any societal worth.

But that isn't what's bugging me today. Today, it's medicine. I was engaged in a conversation today that began about vaccination and ended in a consideration of the unquestioned authority the medical world holds. Likely this is a result of a subject so vast and detailed, which requires so many years of in depth study. The conclusion is that since the average person likely has no further knowledge than grade eleven biology, that we must simply yield to the important and definite answers of medicine.

Then I consider the history of medicine - the terrible gaffes, the horrific experiments, the evolving understanding. Remember when doctors recommended brands of cigarettes? I can just imagine 200 years down the road, students in a medical class joking about the "gall of those doctors, treating x with y. What ignorance!"

I always feel as though I'm reaching beyond my knowledge when it comes to medicine. But I'm also discovering that in fact I do know a fair amount. That which I lack, I can often discover through the various (credible) portals of information available to me. One of the best gifts I ever received is the CMA Home Medical guide. From the forward: "Using clearly written text and abundant illustration, the guide explains how the body works, provides tools for interpreting symptoms, describes how and why diseases occur, and outlines the details of modern diagnostic tests and treatments." The "assessing your symptoms" charts are my favourite part of the book - a flow chart of questions that helps diagnose your symptoms.

I am not suggesting that the medical profession is obsolete - far from it. My own knowledge is fine for the small stuff - but it's nice to have a professional standing by when needed. But I think North American medicine lags far behind where we really need help: promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing people from needing doctors and medication.

I try to take medicine as little as possible. I so rarely take it that I always check the expiration date before I even open a bottle. Everything we have, which includes Tylenol to vitamins to Tums, fits in a little box 8" x 8" x 6". I took a strict personal policy while pregnant and breastfeeding not to take any kind of medication. What I have discovered is that I have not only survived, but also thrived, these past 4 years. Yes, I think it's actually been that long since I've taken any type of medication.

I heard a radio interview today with Dr. David Sackett, who believes in evidence-based medicine. His lecture is called "helping smart doctors stop prescribing dumb treatments". If you get a chance, listen to the CBC interview called "Stop dumb treatments" on Metro Morning, or follow his links on Wikipedia - he perfectly articulates my feelings about current medicine.

I am an intelligent person. I have been given my own brain that is capable of unbelievable things, should I choose to use it to its maximum capacity. I am enjoying stretching myself lately, realizing all that I am truly capable of.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Losing Control

I feel like we're losing control of Caleb and his temper. Once we combine his temper with his young age, inability to communicate, unusual strength and his inkling for hurting himself...things are getting dangerous.

He is often such a happy kid - very affectionate and full of smiles. But when he doesn't have things exactly his way he explodes in a fit of rage. He usually resorts first to throwing something within reach: his soother, a toy, a book, his plate. He has even thrown a laptop computer and small chairs. It then escalates to finding a pile somewhere and tossing each thing one by one. All the while he glares defiantly at me. He is completely aware he is not allowed to throw things. He is firmly and sternly told to stop throwing or he will go to his crib. You can guess from his defiant nature that it only eggs him on further. Here he usually looks for something that will be more destructive - something heavy or large or glass. Having continued, I follow through with my threat and put him in his crib. Then he explodes in a fit of screaming tears. That wouldn't be bad - I could handle hearing him vocally express his anger. But he starts to bang his head. He bangs it against the wooden crib over and over and over.

In fact, the head banging is not limited to the crib. If I ignore the throwing, or am occupied, he head bangs wherever he is. Or, sometimes when his fit of rage begins he opts against throwing something and erupts immediately into the screaming tears. He looks at me and bangs his head on the floor. We have mostly carpets, which wouldn't be so bad. But this behaviour also escalates. He knows that the carpet doesn't do much, and so he moves himself to something harder: first a piece of furniture, then the wall, then our appliances. If I ignore him, he just goes on banging, harder and harder. If I pick him up or try to restrain him, he bangs his head on me. I've had bloody lips and noses, he's had bloody lips and is constantly bruised on his forehead.

He doesn't seem to have the ability to calm himself down on his own, and any attempt I make to help only makes things worse. I dissolved into tears at church yesterday after he spent an hour screaming and banging his head. We came home halfway through the meeting, as his behaviour was simply too disruptive. Once we arrived at home, everything abruptly turned off and he was all smiles.

I'm aware of the manipulation he is using, but feel totally at a loss. Any form of discipline or intervention only results in him harming himself. I know (hope) he could never do any serious damage, but I'm terrified would just take an odd angle or an extra hard crack and I could lose him. It's a scary place to be as a mother. My baby isn't even 18 months yet and I feel as though I'm losing control of him already.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sincerity and Humility

This evening I was surprised by an apology from 15 years past.

Sitting alone at a musical performance at a church in Brampton, I glimpsed out of the the corner of my eye a man I knew from my school days. Growing up we attended church together, and also the same middle school. He had strayed from the path of faith and religion before high school, and I hadn't heard anything about him since.

When the performance ended I smiled at him, intending to make a dash out the door (as I generally do - to avoid the terrifying act of small talk) He returned my smile and made his way over to me. "It's good to see you," I spoke, genuinely, wondering if I could muster anything else. But the conversation took a quick, unexpected turn:

"I want to apologize for the way I treated you in grade eight."

My mind raced, and yet I could remember no offense from this man. I have been blessed with a terrible memory and an quick to forgive manner, and so although I could not recall anything specific, I knew that very likely I could have been the object of his taunting. Middle school was not very enjoyable for me overall. I thanked him honestly for the apology. I noted how just this afternoon I had been contemplating my own actions and behaviours as a teenager, struck by the intense selfishness of that age. I myself had been wondering who I might have hurt or offended by my thoughtless (though unintentional) ways. But although I had been wondering, I had not considered seeking out those I may have hurt and offering the sincere apology I now feel. No, that was left for me to learn as a lesson this evening, through the actions of a man, humbling himself to realize that though the sting is more than a decade in the past, his repentant nature brought him to offer an apology to me anyway.

And so, this evening I am also humbled, praying that I, too, will take the opportunity in hand, should it be presented to me, to offer my own sincere regret for selfish actions of long ago.

Saturday, 28 March 2009


Last night James and I headed down to Toronto for a Comedy show put on by some of my friends from high school. I haven't seen them in years, maybe even since graduation. We were all in a performing arts theatre program in high school, which meant we spent one class (drama) together every day for four years. The result being good friendships, built on trust, laughter, a passion for the arts, and many indelible experiences.

They didn't know I was coming, and I know I will remember the surprised smile on their faces as they registered I was there. The years melted away in an instant. Sadly, the venue and event didn't allow for too much time to chat, but even to have been granted the time we were was a blessing.

Beyond comedy, both of my friends are departing next week to teach with MEI Academy. Two of our high school teachers (husband and wife) left our school when I was in grade 12 to start this small academy. Joe Mei was a history teacher, and he started a program whereby senior high school students could take a semester abroad: 3 credits, 3 months, 3 European countries. How inspiring would it be to learn about the Romans while sitting in the Colosseum, or to read a Shakespearean play aloud in the Rose Theatre. To be surrounded by others passionate about literature and history and travel and to be immersed in education in such a way. My friends were part of that first class all those years ago, and next week leave as teachers (both have participated as teachers numerous times in past years). The program has now grown to include students from across Canada and the US, and offers a whole host of countries, courses and experiences.

I admit my heart leapt and then fell hard - here is an opportunity that combines my very deepest loves into one brilliant experience. Even now I feel some tears welling that I cannot jet off with these old friends and be a part of this Academy. I have never felt the loss of working in film or theatre, but this one leaves my heart a little broken.

I have been re-inspired in my love for these things: literature, history, travel and education. I hope one day down the road I may indeed be able to participate in something of the like. Today I am reminded that our lives today are not set up by age 20, a continued pattern followed for 40 years. Each portion of life, each 10 or 5 or even 1 year can bring exciting change. My passions are stirred again, perhaps this time not to be settled until I'm living out my dreams.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Visions of Spring

I am having a lovely day today. Even though the sky outside is grey, and I've just donned a sweater to keep out the chill, I am having the type of day that reminds me beautiful days of summer sunshine and languid afternoons and homemade projects are just around the corner.

My day began with my morning toilette. A small occurrence for some, but a rare half hour of enjoyment for me. A shower, a chance to comb my hair and dress at my leisure; I always feel ready to tackle the day when I can take that time for myself before getting going.

A yummy breakfast spread of scrambled eggs wraps and a juicy cantelope. Humming away while I do the dishes. An applesauce loaf baking in the oven. The boys playing with their Dad.

A visit from a friend and her children. Our kids all playing nicely together (albeit loudly and with much romping), with no reminders needed from mothers. A chat about an array of things: our loves, our triumphs, our frustrations, our trials, our passions, our excitements. A much needed verbal hug from another mom.

An easy snacking lunch and a nap for all. The boys, still napping, allow me to first read a bit of the Letters of C.S. Lewis, and then peruse a local magazine highlighting the history and landscape of our county. It was this that has put me in this romantic spring mood. Mention of the farmer's market opening day, gardening tips, picnics for all types of groups. I'm hurrying spring in my mind as fast as I can.

Still more to come for me: searching for the perfect song for a musical performance coming up, and composing flute and violin parts to accompany the vocals and piano. A game or two with the boys. Humming through the kitchen as I create a favourite dish for dinner. A few hours alone this evening while James is out to curl up again with C.S. Lewis, or penning a few more lines for my book, or picking out the melodies for the song, or planning my first little garden.

The only thing missing from my lovely day is the ability to do all these activities outside. My spacious deck beckons, and I see myself in a month or two set up on the table or in my lounge chair while the boys zip around the yard. I eagerly await the time to kneel in soft earth and coax my plants to fruition.

But for what today has to offer, it has been a lovely day.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


We have a first word from Caleb!

He's been working really hard at talking for a while. His babbling is so clear you'd swear that if you just listened a little harder you could make out what he was saying. Up to now he would say "Mama", but not always exclusively for me (milk and more also got "ma"). He would also repeat a word (sound) if you said it to him. But today, completely on his own, he spoke his first word:


What a boy. But we knew that. The two of us were out for a walk this morning, and we hardly got anywhere, because every time a truck went by Caleb stopped, pointed and shouted "Flshruck!" (He had a soother in, and "tr" is hard to pronounce.) His excitement bubbled over at every truck. Transport trucks, pickup trucks, even buses and one tractor were also deemed "trucks". If six or seven small cars passed in a row, a minivan was then called "truck". Basically if it was big and impressive, it was a truck. But he's definitely got the idea. Playing with his toys later was like finding a goldmine - we have a lot of toy trucks.

Of course, it's just the first word. He so desperately wants to communicate and is easily frustrated that I don't seem to understand. Case and point: on our walk this morning he all of a sudden start to cry. It was a definite cry - meaning that he wanted or needed something. I put him in the stroller; I took him out. I took off his mitts and hat; I put them on. I carried him; I put him down. Nothing was working. He was rooted to the spot on the sidewalk, trying to walk circles around me. I kept turning to him, showing I was interested and really trying to understand. A little dizzy from spinning, I paused and stood still. He zipped around me and tugged at my back. Then it hit me - he had seen his water bottle in my knapsack - he had been trying to circle around to get it, and every time I kept turning to face him the bottle disappeared!

As I listen to how "eloquently" (for a 3-year old) Colin speaks, I realize that the time from first word to full paragraphs of conversation is but a moment in time. This is the last element of "babyhood" for Caleb, and it's quickly fading away.

Children's music

I recall an afternoon last year when I sat pondering on just what type of person it takes to be a children's entertainer. To be constantly writing and singing those songs. I think I was looking at a picture of Barney or the Wiggles or something of the like (neither of which I am a fan).

And then something occurred to me: I am that type of person!

The pitch of Barney's voice drives me nuts. Singing "The Wheels on the Bus" makes me crazy. But I admittedly love to get up and dance to Raffi, or Sharon, Lois and Bram. More than that, I love spending time at the piano, a kid on each lap, playing away and singing to our hearts content the entire "Reader's Digest Children Songbook". Many of the songs that flood the children's music market today I steer completely away from. But I especially love children's songs that have been around for years, and finding ditties that haven't been popular in decades.

A few of my favourites:

Chickery Chick
The Dwarfs' Yodel Song
Father's Old Grey Whiskers
A Frog Went A-Courtin'
I've Been Workin' On the Railroad
The Little White Duck
Mairzy Doats
Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow
On Top of Spaghetti
How Much is That Doggie in the Window
Waltzing Matilda
When I See an Elephant Fly

There's something about these old favourites that has really made them stand the test of time. Many of them are simultaneously nonsensical and lyrical: my favourite combination for children's entertainment. The melodies range from simple to complex. And none of them dumb themselves down to a ridiculous level of simplicity. There is nothing I can't stand more than literature that speaks down to children. I have learned how much my boys love to hear songs, stories and poetry that sing themselves along. For me, good writing expands a child's vocabulary instead of catering to an already established one. And above all: fantasy and imagination.

This collection of songs is my absolute favourite. I remember, during a course I took through the Royal Conservatory of Music about teaching music to children, learning that all children are born with a love of music; as they age, they learn to caress that love or leave it behind. If you're ever looking for a fun collection of music of all types, this is it.

(Oh yes, and I certainly cannot forget to mention "Tom the Toad", not found in this book. It is a parody of "O Christmas Tree" that encourages improvisation. An old favourite from my camp days, it sends Colin into fits of laughter. He loves to try and come up with his own rhymes. For your enjoyment, here it is, in all it's glory and grossness (always a hit with the boys):

O Tom the Toad, O Tom the Toad
Why did you jump into the road?
O Tom the Toad, O Tom the Toad
Why did you jump into the road?

You did not see that coming _______ (car; train; boat)
And now _____________________ (you're flattened on the tar; your head is oozing brain; your body is afloat)

O Tom the Toad, O Tom the Toad
Why did you jump into the road?


After an encounter with a wet carpet, our old vacuum decided to end the abuse and call it quits. Thus began my venture to buying a new vacuum.

There are a lot of vacuums out there - a lot of brands, but not a lot of variety in features and prices. Which made the decision extra hard - I really felt like I could just blindly pick up anything and it would be just as good as the next. For me, that is not how I like to make a decision! There are lists to write and research to do and reports to read...

Finally I just sent out an email: "Write me if you're in love with your vacuum." Only one name came up, and more than once: Dyson. But it was always followed with this disclaimer: if you can afford it.

My research renewed and I discovered that Dyson vacuum cleaners run between two and three times the price of all others. Can it really be worth all that? Apparently, yes. So after talking with a good friend who budgets her money, vacuums daily, and has three boys and a baby running around her house, I was persuaded to maybe fork out the money.

First I looked into a second hand one - they were still going for twice what a regular new one would cost. But in my browsing I managed to find a site for refurbished Dyson vacuums, right from the manufacturer. 60% off, free delivery right to your door. That's it - I was sold.

Three days later I clapped my hands and shouted with glee as my beautiful new appliance was delivered. By this time James was having a field day poking fun at me and my obsession with vacuums, that had now gone on for more than two weeks. I pulled it out and we all gave it a run around the living room. True to the reports, I filled the cannister after vacuuming one room - all the stuff my old vacuum wasn't getting. Yes, I was in love, with its beautiful yellow and grey shades, its long, slender wand that reaches all the way up my stairs, its transparent cannister that boasts a day's work.

I hadn't realized just how caught up in it all I had become until my in-laws were over on the weekend. In jest, James had Colin make an announcement: "Can I have your attention please?" Colin declared to all in the room. "Introducing...Dyson!" James wheeled in my vacuum. Colin applauded and danced around it. Caleb broke out into smiles and laughter, clapping and dancing as well. Pure excitement exuded from both boys. Five minutes later the performance was repeated for my mother-in-law who had been upstairs. Same introduction, same vacuum, same elation from the boys. Everyone laughed at how excited a simple vacuum made them.

Ah well. Some may look down their noses at these occasions with which my life is now filled. But it makes another story for the books, another memory for the bank, another laugh shared with my family (which now, apparently, includes Dyson).

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Big boy

Today my "little" boy got dressed all by himself - without me even in the room. And he wanted to surprise me by doing it (he asked me to take Caleb into the nursery and to close his door. Not knowing what he was up to, you can bet I listened hard through the walls!) When I finally went in, there he was with his shirt (on the right way), underwear (thank goodness!) and jeans (on backwards). I casually mentioned the "drawstring in the back of the jeans" and he said that was the way he wanted them on. Not wanting to spoil the moment, I left it at that. He wore them backwards all day.

I don't know why this feels like such a huge step to independence for me, even more than toilet training, but it does. I have a yearning to keep dressing him myself, but I know this is only the first of a hundred ways I have to let go.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Two sides of parenting

"Earlier this week, OPP charged seven other drivers with stunt driving, or street racing. The suspects were driving at speeds ranging from 155 km/h to 183 km/h. One of the drivers had no license and had two children in the car who were not wearing seatbelts."
I felt absolutely ill when I read this in a Toronto Star article. I think it idiotic that people still choose to put themselves at risk in their cars. But speeding with two kids not wearing seatbelts?

I am close to several people who, unable to have biological children, have chosen adoption. I have seen them go through endless evaluations, raise large sums of money, and wait indefinitely to be chosen as parents. And then I see parents who seem to have no regard for the safety and well-being of their own kids. How is it possible that two loving, devoted people who are desperate to care for a child are deprived, while these others "end up" with unwanted children from a string of selfish sexual escapades?

I know society tries to take responsibility for children who are the innocents in terrible situations, but what does it say about humanity that there is anyone who can't rise above a desire to please only themselves, when they have been entrusted with the care of a child?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Family night - the sequel

This week's family night:

A little more interactive, this week James decided to first recount the story of David and Goliath, and then show a short film clip about it. You see how we are trying to reach out in various methods of teaching/learning (audio and visual). He also included an interactive portion, where he talked with Colin about something difficult he had to master (learning to use the toilet). The message he was trying to convey was that when you have something hard to do, you can always pray and ask God to help you.

After using all three methods of relaying the lesson, James decided to check out how well the lesson had been received:

James: So Colin, what do you do when you've got something very hard you need to do?
Colin: Throw a rock.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Family night

Last week's family night:

Mommy: Okay, time for Family Home Evening. Everyone into the living room.
Daddy: Really, boys, into the living room. Time for Family Home Evening.
Mommy: Colin! Caleb! Living room now!
Daddy: Come on, let's go.

(Mommy and Daddy each pick up one child and physically place them in the living room.)

Colin: I'm going to say prayer.
Mommy: We're going to start with a song.
Mommy: Let's sing "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus."

(Mommy and Daddy start to sing. Colin starts to scream a prayer overtop of us. Caleb collapses on floor crying. We finish the song.)

Mommy: Okay, Colin, would you like to say the prayer?
Colin: Yes. Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for our family - Mommy, Daddy, Caleb and Colin. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Mommy: Okay, tonight we're going to talk about the sacrament. I'm going to read from this storybook, with the pictures.

(Mommy starts to read about how Jesus is our friend and how at church we can think about all the things he has given us and done for us. Colin is screaming and running from couch to couch, throwing his body at the furniture and bouncing off it. Caleb is still on the floor, tears streaming, and pointing at the television for a movie. He oscillates between the floor and the movie rack, which he may bring down at any moment. Mommy reads quietly beneath all the noise. Daddy is trying not to laugh at the craziness of it all. Mommy fast-tracks the story into four pages.)

Mommy: So what can we remember on Sundays about Jesus?
Caleb: (incessant crying)
Daddy: I'm going to say a closing prayer now.

(Daddy closes with prayer. Mommy and Daddy exchange a look, trying to keep in mind all those stories about other families' similar experiences on family night, and wondering if behind the closed doors and pulled shades there really are other families like ours...)

Friday, 13 March 2009

Economy, Politics, etc

Ah, how these words echo across kitchen tables throughout the world now. I have always been mildly interested in politics (not as much in economy), but I, too, am on the bandwagon. Many a conversation or debate has been started in our home, mulling over the different points of view and courses of action.

As a fiscal conservative, it is hard to taste the word "bailout" or "spending" and not choke on it as I swallow. There is a harsh voice that creeps out from me: you made your bed, now lie in it. But my emerging understanding of economics is slowly teaching me that it is not that simple. I heard an interesting concept about hard times like these, known as the Paradox Shift: what is good for the individual (saving) is ruinous for the country. The tighter people hold to their money, the more jobs are lost, which causes people to hold on tighter to their money...an endless cycle that spirals us into an atmosphere of fear. The only security people will trust these days is to see security in their jobs. Hence the government bailouts (to keep private companies providing jobs) and infrastructure spending (to create public jobs).

I don't like it. I don't like that we got ourselves in this mess to begin with. I don't like that my children and grandchildren will also pay for our mistakes, when they inherit our enormous debt. But the "take-action" part of myself reminds me that hindsight is 20/20. We should never have gotten to this point, but here we are. So let's just deal with it the best way we can.

Our market had been set up to be self-regulating - that people would spend when they had excess, and save when things were tight. It is obvious now that we as a collective did not have that kind of restraint. We didn't save for a rainy day. We didn't spend within our means. We didn't practice conservative spending. Rather we jumped for joy at the incredible boom and through money into the air, dancing and reveling in the streets as it rained down on us. The entire scene plays out like an indulgent, excessive Greek tragedy. Gaudy baubles and sparkling gems and chains of gold draped around our bodies, we ate and drank ourselves into oblivion. But now the morning has come, and with heads thumping and minds a blur, we stumble into the sun as it sheds light on the irresponsibility of the evening before.

The question that has now been answered: humanity does not have the ability to self-regulate. We do not understand restraint. We spend lavishly when we have, which creates a false economy and chasms of debt. We feverishly grip a few wads of bills when we realize we do not have, which spirals the economy into a fearful state of job loss. Human beings appear to have no centre, no balance. We have failed the test of self-regulation.

What is most disheartening is that this has all happened before, and it will all happen again. our generation may have learned a lesson that will stick with us for years to come. Certainly our ancestors of the Great Depression era remember the hardships they endured. But the cycle of upswings and downturns keeps spinning, and some time down the road our descendants will enjoy another boom and another bust.

I feel a little wiser, now. Thankfully this whole mess hasn't had it's fingers on my life, and hopefully because of the balance I was taught I won't find myself in the plight of the hundreds of thousands of other. I am grateful for the increase of understanding that has bloomed in me, in an area that is important to be knowledgeable of, but has held zero interest to me in the past. I have no doubt things will get much worse before they get better, and the optimism we hear so much of is nothing more than a painted smile. I wonder why we humans can't ever seem to really get ahead - 'history doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme.' (Mark Twain).

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Motherhood - a career

I came across this quote at "Focus on the Family" today. Completely incensed, I could write pages and pages of discourse on my feelings of disbelief at this statement. Here is the statement:
"...not everyone is singing the praises of women who trade their careers for motherhood. Philosopher and author Linda Hirshman says, “Women who quit their jobs to stay home with children are making a mistake. . . . The tasks of housekeeping and child rearing are not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings.”
Curious, and always wanting to verify my sources, I looked up Linda Hirshman and found myself first on her website, and then linked to her original article for "The American Prospect" titled "Homeward Bound." Although masked in a seemingly convincing argument and the cloak of equality for women, she undercuts her writing with derisive remarks about the inferiority and waste of those who choose to stay home to raise children. For your reading pleasure, here are some direct quotes from her about her opinions on those of us women who waste our time, talents and intelligence raising children:

On her website, about her book:
"[Her book] traces the history of a movement that failed to address the most important question of the family and how the unchanged family prevents women from gaining access to social and economic power."

Most importantly, Get to Work shows why getting to work matters in a full, flourishing life, according to any standard of flourishing Western philosophy has produced so far."

"[Hirshman] advised young women to find jobs that show them the money, to marry "down" or to marry feminist men, and to have no more than one child."

From her article:
"The 2000 census showed a decline in the percentage of mothers of infants working full time, part time, or seeking employment. Starting at 31 percent in 1976, the percentage had gone up almost every year to 1992, hit a high of 58.7 percent in 1998, and then began to drop -- to 55.2 percent in 2000, to 54.6 percent in 2002, to 53.7 percent in 2003. Statistics just released showed further decline to 52.9 percent in 2004. Even the percentage of working mothers with children who were not infants declined between 2000 and 2003, from 62.8 percent to 59.8 percent. This represents not a loss of present value but a loss of hope for the future -- a loss of hope that the role of women in society will continue to increase."

"Conservatives contend that the dropouts prove that feminism “failed” because it was too radical, because women didn't want what feminism had to offer. In fact, if half or more of feminism's heirs (85 percent of the women in my Times sample), are not working seriously, it's because feminism wasn't radical enough: It changed the workplace but it didn't change men, and, more importantly, it didn't fundamentally change how women related to men."

"The best way to treat work seriously is to find the money. Money is the marker of success in a market economy; it usually accompanies power, and it enables the bearer to wield power, including within the family."

"Why do we care? [Mothers who stay at home] seem happy...We care because what they do is bad for them, is certainly bad for society."
"Finally, these choices are bad for women individually. A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one's capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one's own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world."

Are you as shocked as I am? Feminism and choice issues aside, I think what Hirshman really missed is the true power of motherhood. Mothers are the greatest influence on their children. We provide them with their moral foundation and their value system. We teach them what is important in the world, and how we can change it. We may not be "society's leaders" ourselves, but if not, there is certainly a mother somewhere who is raising the next President or Prime Minister or Nobel Prize winner. These great men and women are (most often) direct results of the upbringing of wise mothers. Go ahead and search online about a "mother's influence". You will find a fountain of quotes from "great leaders" who dedicate their success to their mothers.

In the end, I think this quote encapsulates all that I want to express about motherhood. And when someone has already done it so well, why try to best it?:
"The noblest calling in the world is that of mother. True motherhood is the most beautiful of all arts, the greatest of all professions. She who can paint a masterpiece or who can write a book that will influence millions deserves the plaudits and admiration of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters whose immortal souls will be exerting an influence throughout the ages long after painting shall have faded, and books and statues shall have been destroyed, deserves the highest honor that man can give."
- David O. McKay

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Learning videos

Right now Colin is watching one of those baby/toddler learning videos (like baby Einstein) - the ones where they have classical music and video of toys. This one also has foreign languages. Today, for the first time, Colin is repeating the words spoken. So my little buy is sitting on the couch speaking French, Spanish and Japanese, and singing a song in all three languages also. I guess this thing is actually working!

We also have one of the Baby Einstein videos (Baby Bach) I'd love to have more, but those things are expensive! Colin adored it as a toddler, and Caleb has just come into it, too. I don't know what it is about it, but the music combined with those toys is such a hit. Caleb has zero interest in the TV otherwise, but this one he would watch all day. Note - actually, he still doesn't really sit and watch this one. He sort of wanders in and out while it's on. But he loves to request it, and hear Bach's music and catch some of the visuals while he's on the go.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Feeling Good

Learning the flute is going really well, and best of all, I'm loving this new instrument. I'm also really enjoying playing in the community band. I've made new friends, have some time away from home, and really delve into the world of music I love so much. A band playing together really is like a little family, where everyone is working really hard toward the goal of unity.

Last week we had a small flute sectional - an extra practice outside of the band rehearsal with the conductor to work on trouble spots specific to the flutes. So eight of us drove out to our conductor's (John) house. It was fun to have a relaxed setting to get to know everyone a little better, and to see the obvious passion John has for what he does. He really enjoyed having us all out there.

After the work was done, we sat and chatted over some delectable treats. As got to know each other, someone raised the subject of the "Tuesday Beginner's Band". A beginner band? I recalled back when I started in January how frustrated and worried I had been about not being able to keep up with the music and skill level of those around me. When I spoke on the phone with John before my first rehearsal, he had never even hinted at another option when I expressed my concern about playing a brand new instrument. I certainly would have signed up for the beginner band instead of struggling through in the community group. My head whipped around to John, a smile on my lips:

"You never told me there was a beginner band when I called!"
"That's because I knew you could do it."

I was really touched by this compliment. John had spent about 10 minutes on the phone with me, listening as I spoke about my music background, my fervent desire to learn the flute, and my search for a good opportunity to help me pick up this new instrument. Somehow he had an instinct that although I might struggle at the outset, I was up to the challenge of the repertoire of the full band. And you know what? He was right. I can play at least 80% of the music now; I only struggle with sections requiring speed. I have made good friends and feel right at home. I am not the best in my section - in fact I'm probably very near the bottom (which I'm not used to). But I have seen the value of learning from others, and taking the opportunity to learn from those around me who are proficient. I'm right where I'm supposed to be - and I am grateful that John could see that even before I could.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Sense of Humour

Anyone else experience God's sense of humour in their life?

This morning, before 9am:

Colin was being aggressive and angry, and so he was sent to spend time alone in his room. Suddenly I heard through the vent: "I have to go pee!" Well, whether this was a tactic to get out of his room or not, I couldn't ignore it since he's just learning to toilet train. I headed upstairs, opened the door and found: pee on the floor, the cold air return grill wrenched from the floor, and Colin heading into the hole. This hole drops through to the living room, 10 feet below.

While trying to tackle the pee on the floor and the child hanging through the ceiling, Caleb zipped by the open bedroom doorway. I vaguely glimpsed him sucking on something I knew wasn't food.

I was right. He had unscrewed the lid of a facial cleanser and was sucking at the pump, ingesting who knows how much soap.

Sigh. Before 9am I'd nearly had one kid plunge through the floor and called poison control for the other.

And here is the kicker: our mail is usually delivered in the afternoon. Today, however the mailman cam early. Before 9am early. He delivered a package for me. I was excited because I'd ordered three books. Only one had arrived. The title: "The Strong-Willed Child". The humour of the whole situation was not lost on me.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Valleys and Mountains

Bumps and bruises and scrapes and cuts and wounds.
Stumbling along, head bent, chest heavy.
My eyes trace the uneven ground, see the dips,
witness the deep gulfs in the earth.
The ground slopes away, pushing me quick.
One toe crossing the other faster than I can manage.
In the distance I only know that the ground keeps on dipping.

Head bent, eyes down,
I see the ground and the wounds;
the blood and its cause.
I stumble on.

There might be someone near, I'm not sure.
Eyes cast down, I fear to lift me head.
Swallowed in fear and sadness,
wanting to be alone, despising the loneliness.

The ground changes; I am vaguely aware.
There are still the stones and rocks and uneven patches
and roots and pits and dips and bumps.
But the floor beneath no longer pushes me on
but rather pulls me back, not wanting me to continue forward.
Every step is a battle I'm not sure I want to fight.

My foot teeters.
There is no ground on the other side of my step.
I focus my eyes just long enough to see:
yes, there is.
There is ground, it slopes away again.
Defeatist thoughts rush over me,
memories of when the ground pushed me deeper
and deeper into the valleys.

But there is a breeze that catches my breath
and slows my thoughts long enough to see,
really see.
There is ground on the other side,
but it is not another valley.
I am perched high on a mountain,
a standard unto the world.
Feet firmly planted, I unfurl myself in the wind
and proudly display my colours.

Somehow my journey has paused here in victory,
to let me see, know, my triumphs.
I hold it only a moment
and, revived, I plunge down the other side,
my wounds healed,
or simply forgotten.

The ground is still uneven and full of snares.
The earth still pushes and pulls.
The valleys still sink.
The mountains still rise.
I still go.

Monday, 2 March 2009

The REAL cry factor

Thinking about my earlier entry about crying, I realized how distant and removed it was. I'm really good at analyzing in writing, making sense of everything, and as a result, playing down the emotional aspect of the event.

Today was terrible. It was a 'terrible, no good, really bad day. (I think I'll move to Australia.)'

If I wasn't physically holding Caleb in my arms, he cried. Each time I did the dishes today, he hung off my legs and cried. When I had to go to the bathroom, he mashed his face into my knees and cried. When I made lunch and dinner, he cried. During his nap, he woke every 20 minutes and cried. By the time I was giving him his bottle, in the nursery, in the dark, I was crying.

Colin was what I term "silly naughty" today. He wouldn't listen, he was disobedient, he was deliberately mean. And he did it all with this smirking smile that drove me nuts. He skipped nap, which made it worse. If I hadn't been the one feeding him today, my guess is that he was sleep-deprived and sugar-high. But no - he was just having one of those days.

Then both of them got me good in the gut after dinner. Caleb threw a fit, jumped in the air and landed full force on my stomach. Colin threw a fit, ran at me and head-butted me in the stomach. It aches terribly and I feel about to throw up.

I remembered (a little too fondly) a friend's remark last year, about wanting to throw her kids into snowbanks. It's a good thing our snow is melting fast.

I had absolutely no desire to be at home with my children today. I yearned for conversation with an adult. I longed to escape these four walls. I needed to just be somewhere my children weren't. No such luck.

They are in bed now and I'm decompressing. I'm trying hard to keep in mind what I told Colin before sending him off to bed: "Today was a hard day. But we can try again tomorrow."

I am grateful for tomorrows. I am grateful that the sun goes down and the world is blanketed in darkness. I am grateful that my body is designed to take time each day to sleep and recharge. I pray fervently for strength and peace for my tomorrows, and also for my todays.

Soothers postscript

Caleb now carries around two soothers (and screams if you take either away). He spends all day swapping the one in his mouth for the other, and back again. It's like he knows I want to throw them away for good...

The cry factor

I'm starting to wonder at what point you really need to be putting your foot down with your kid. I know Caleb has a terrible temper. When he doesn't get what he wants, he immediately starts to cry. Not just whimper cry, but a deafening-splitting-headache cry. I've seen him cry and yell and throw things and hit his head against things and kick and push. After a minute or two he doesn't even remember what he wanted in the beginning. This morning I had to take him off my lap for a minute, and then when I picked him back up he wanted down. So I put him down and he wanted up. So I picked him up and he wanted down. Etc. etc. etc - all the while crying. I couldn't give him what he wanted because he simply didn't want whatever he had.

There is a permanent ringing in my ears. You can imagine a typical 1-year-old and the amount of things he comes up during the day that he can't have or can't do. And he seems to have a knack for wanting to do things he's not allowed: playing with the stove, putting things in the toilet, hitting Colin with toys...

There are also things that aren't necessarily dangerous, but that I'm trying to wean him from - most notably the soother, being held by me all day, and wanting something IMMEDIATELY. But I'm starting to wonder if it's really worth trying to cure him of these things yet. These are the three things that cause the most screaming and crying during the day. The soother: well, I'd just rather he not be sucking it all day - I just think he's getting a bit old for it. Being held by me: makes getting things done around the house (like cooking and cleaning and going to the bathroom and showering) really difficult. Plus he's getting heavy. Plus being attached to another person all day is really wearing me out. Wanting things immediately: not always possible. I do have another child (his brother) I'm caring for also. Plus I'm worried about fostering the idea that if he screams he can have whatever he wants.

This age is so tough. There are valid arguments to both sides of the camp about whether or not a 16 month old can manipulate a parent. But ignoring the crying, as I've been doing up to now, doesn't seem to be teaching him anything. He just cries louder and longer, until he eventually gets distracted. I'm feeling now like giving up and giving in. I'm not sure I can take the incessant crying much longer! Can you feel the frustration???!!!