Category Archives: Medical Stuff

An odd testament to love

My stepdad, Joe, passed away last Thursday.

It was a shock.

I visited him with Audrey and Fiala the night previous, as we’d gotten word that he had taken a turn for the worse.  He was mostly out of it, on pain meds, but we had some now-memorable exchanges… One was me asking him if he wanted music in his room — he LOVED music — and he did.  I made a mental plan to follow up on that the next day.  A sick man should have music.  He taught my children all sorts of silly songs over the years — he and my mom started dating when my 16 year-old was an infant;  they were married days after he turned one — and I asked him if he might have a silly song for my girls.  He replied, “Not at the moment.”  When the girls and I were about to leave, I told him I needed to go back home to nurse baby Jean.  “Do you remember baby Jean?” I asked, not sure how connected he was with what I was saying.  “Oh, yes!” he said, and his face lit up.  The girls and I prayed for him, I told him that I loved him, and he said he loved me, too, and we left.

We got back home, and I told my husband, “He looks bad, but he doesn’t look like he’s on death’s door.”

I was wrong.

He died early the next morning.

Perhaps this seems odd, but I think his passing might be a testament to how much he loved my mother, and that makes me feel a little bit better.

It had been a hard, hard year with Joe.  Well, hard ten months.  My mother passed on October 18, 2012, and for the month or so following, things were good with Joe, although he was terribly — understandably — heartbroken.

And then things deteriorated.

Much of the deterioration revolved around my mom’s will and the way estate law works in Arizona.

The short version is that he didn’t think that myself or my three siblings should inherit anything from my mother.  He genuinely felt entitled to everything she owned and saved, and felt that we weren’t taking care of him by signing our inheritances over to him.

My sibs and I couldn’t agree to his desires.  My mom appropriated some things to her children…  The bulk of the estate went to Joe.  There was much that estate law would allow us to keep, or claim — property which wasn’t exactly specified in the will — which we didn’t.  We siblings were trying our best to err on the side of generosity, to keep all fighting to an absolute minimum, to find common ground…  We simply were not successful, and Joe remained upset at us.  Angry, really.  He was angry with us.

So.

It had been a very, very hard time, a difficult year.

—————–

I had long said that Joe was the most involved grandparent that my children had.

And, it was true for 15 years.

And then, not true for 10 months.

There were a few, encouraging steps forward… and those would invariably be followed by some giant sliding backward.

I’m not angry at Joe.  The issue of inheritance was a very difficult thing that was only resolved about a month ago.  But, even when estate matters were resolved, things were still not good, relationship-wise, with Joe.  While he was in the hospital, my brother-in-law suggested to Joe, “Can we call a truce?  And then, when you’re feeling better, you can be angry again.”  Joe thought that was hilarious — my brother-in-law is quite witty, and I think it was the perfect thing to say.  And, Joe agreed, at least in spirit…

While my family was on vacation earlier this month, Joe — who had for months been complaining of an ‘upset stomach’ — was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  And, less than two weeks after his diagnosis, he was gone.

I wrote to some friends:

Everyone handles grief so differently. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking, “He just could NOT move on,” and that fits with something else I was going to say: he has always tended towards bitterness and suspicion and hoarding… and we didn’t realize how much my mom kept that in check. In so many ways, she must have compelled him to move on, to get past “it”, whatever “it” was. And with her gone, there was no one who could speak that into him, and he just spiraled out of control. I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but it seems like a testament to how much he loved my mom, how much influence she had in his life, what a difference she made in his outlook and approach to life… it makes me feel better. And even with his cancer diagnosis. I think he just might have given up. I think if she had been alive, he would have fought.

When my mom was hospitalized, my siblings and I frequently discussed how much my mom loved Joe, but how foreign to us were his ways of expressing love to her.  I found myself rather desperately hoping that my mom was loved as deeply as she…  well, I hate the word “deserve”…  Needed?  Should have had?  I’m not sure of the right word there.  I just wanted her to be loved by her husband.  That was really, really, really important to me.  And there were times when I found myself wondering.

Yet, this last week, I have been, indeed, struck with just how much he much have loved her… She made his life worth living.  She compelled him to go on.  She called out in him the things that were noble, and helped the ignoble to be manageable, far less noticeable.

I’m a mishmash of thoughts and emotions.

Such regret that relationship wasn’t restored by the time of Joe’s passing.

So sad…  Sad for my children.  Sad for Joe.  Sad for myself.

But, strangely comforted about my mother, whose absence is a deepening hole in my life.

I’m comforted that he loved her.

Mom and Joe

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Tongue-tie update and a couple of other things, including ice cream…

Darling Fiala, a couple of hours post-birth, holding her new baby sister.

Darling Fiala, a couple of hours post-birth, holding her new baby sister.

So, the above pic has nothing to do with this post, really.  I just wanted to publish it.

I saw baby Jean’s nurse practitioner again today, since the pediatrician is visiting his parents in India until next week.  I really like the CNP, Penny.  We did a weight check and a few other things.  Baby Jean had only gained three ounces since last Tuesday, which is just below the normal threshold of 0.5 – 1.0 oz daily at this point in development.  And that is with her nursing for a good hour at a time every 2-3 hours.  Little Jean now weighs 10 lbs 6 oz, still not quite her birth weight.

We confirmed that, yes, she does have a fairly significant tongue tie and a very significant upper-lip tie.  And, since it is affecting both her ability to nurse efficiently and is still causing me pain during nursing, we are going to have at least her tongue clipped.  However, today counted as the “consult”, rather than the actual event.  So, we talked about it pretty extensively, and I watched a (quite informative) 15 minute Power Point about the procedure… And scheduled the frenectomy for Monday.

The plan is to give that a week to heal and to see if it results in a decrease of pain for me and an increase of weight for Jean.  If both of those happen, we’ll leave the lip-tie alone.  But, if one or the other (or both) are still happening, we’ll schedule the upper lip to be done as well.

Personally, I think the lip is more of a problem, since she can’t flange it out.  But, since correcting the tongue tie is less invasive, that’s what the pediatrician wants to start with.  I’m OK with that.

I’m NOT OK with him requiring a Vitamin K injection for infants to receive the frenectomy.  The nurse practitioner is e-mailing the pediatrician to see if we can waive that requirement.  If not, there is a local midwife who is certified in the procedure, and we may pay her the $50 cash (rather than the $30 co-pay) to have it done.  My own midwife suggested that I request a blood test to confirm adequate blood levels of Vitamin K, rather than just giving her an injection.  I think that is a good idea, but that certainly seems like it would take longer… yet one more week…  I’d just as soon have this over and done.

In unrelated news…

About a week ago, I joked on my personal Facebook page about still looking five months pregnant.  I think I caused concern in some, who gently cautioned me about trying to “get my figure back” too quickly.  HONESTLY, this is the LEAST I have ever been concerned about that.  I have been devoted to really taking it easy on myself, physically.  For the first week, I did virtually nothing, and my family waited on me hand and foot.  This last week, I haven’t done much more.  It is now my goal to, every day:

  1. Do some laundry:  Start the load and hang it on the line.
  2. Make dinner:  This is made easier by the fact that I have a number of dinners half- or three quarters-made in the freezer.
  3. Take care of baby Jean Marjorie Joy.

That’s it.

I remember being horrified by my mushy tummy after my firstborn and starting ridiculously early on a sit-up regimen.  I am absolutely NOT doing that.

I have worn a… slimming undergarment a couple of times but that tends to make my ankles swell, as well as just being uncomfortable.  I find myself less motivated by my appearance and more motivated by comfort these days…  However, I tend to feel better when I feel like I look better, even if I don’t actually look better (follow that?).  I guess what I’d prefer is to look effortlessly put-together, but I guess that is not going to happen.  At the age of 40, after having six children, I actually have to put some effort into looking nice.  🙂

I have also been alternately horrified and amused by what has been the Lots o’ Carbs Festival at our home these last couple of weeks.  Part of that is because a number of kind friends gave us gift cards to “safe” restaurants (we’re hard to cook for), post-birth, and there are always more carbs in a store-bought meal.  (One friend homemade us an AMAZING dinner — totally gluten-free and dairy-free — including brownies.)  On top of that, not only did I have the pint of Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra that I’d been saving for after the birth, but a dear friend remembered that that ice cream was my favorite and brought by THREE pints.  Those, I shared with my husband, Martin.  And then my hubby bought another pint for me a few days ago…  That one, I ate by myself.  Ice cream begets ice cream.  Once the floodgates are open, it’s hard to say no!!  However, in spite of the fact that I’ve eaten more carbs in the last two weeks than I have in any one span in probably the last 3-4 YEARS, I am still losing weight.  In fact, I’ve lost 23 of the 35 I gained, six of those in the last week, as I’ve been feasting on ice cream.  Only 12 pounds to go.  And obviously, I’m not even trying to lose weight!!

I know I will return to eating more healthily…  But right now, pass me another pint.  🙂

Pain, apprehension, and joy

This isn't her birth story... but I love this picture.  Baby Jean is so peaceful, and well-attended.  Pictured are the hands of 4.5 year old daughter, Fiala;  my midwife, Pam; my sister, Robin;  my husband, Martin; and my 7yo daughter, Audrey.

This isn’t her birth story… but I love this picture. Baby Jean is so peaceful, and well-attended. Pictured are the hands of 4.5 year old daughter, Fiala; my midwife, Pam; my sister, Robin; my husband, Martin; and my 7yo daughter, Audrey.  Jean’s chest, by the way, was 15 1/8″.

Tomorrow, baby Jean Marjorie Joy will be two weeks old.  I am somewhat anxious about tomorrow;  she has a follow-up visit with a pediatrician to do a weight-check and assess the possible need for clipping a tongue-tie and upper lip-tie.

It has been almost three years since my children have been to a pediatrician.  Longer, in fact…  We were in the care of a family doctor, a DO, but after we stopped vaxing, she dropped us.  I was not eager to re-establish care with a medical doctor.  I’m still a bit apprehensive about it…  But, the particular pediatrician comes highly recommended by my midwife — which means a lot to me.  As long as the parent is educated about vaccination choices, they do not give any guff about not vaccinating;  if they were concerned about me declining Vitamin K or Hep B, it wasn’t apparent.  They didn’t blink an eye about my baby being born at home.  Or that she is my sixth child;  the woman who did the initial assessment had five children, in fact.

Giving it some thought just now, I just realized that how I feel about pediatricians is the same way I feel about hospital birth, and why I chose to birth at home:  I know my rights as a patient in a hospital.  I’m well-educated as to the pitfalls of birthing the standard American way.  I know what I want for my birth.  I am confident in my ability to birth.  While I truly try to be kind to those caring for me in a hospital, I am not afraid to put my foot down and refuse a certain kind of treatment, or sign AMA waivers, or what have you.  But, with this birth, I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want to be put in a position (perhaps literally!) where I had to endlessly justify my decisions and where I had to advocate for myself.  I just wanted to relax and birth a baby in peace, without having to weather confrontation.

I felt the same about finding a new pediatrician, especially after the DO dropped us.

So, last week, going into baby Jean’s “72 hour” first check-up, which was really at one week, I was quite apprehensive about how the staff would treat my baby and me, especially since the actual doctor, the one recommended to me, was on vacation, and I’d be seeing the nurse practitioner.

However, it was an altogether successful visit.  The only thing that made it difficult was that I was in physical pain…

I had some concerns (Lordy, this post is filled with apprehension and concerns!) about birthing a baby at 40, and the recovery from that.  I am happy to say that the actual recovery has been amazing.  Now thirteen days postpartum, I actually feel about 95% recovered.  I think much of that is due to careful following of my midwife’s instructions — which has a heavy emphasis on chilling out — and the tender care of my husband, who took a week off of work, and served and fed me better than I would have for myself.

Despite baby Jean’s enormous size — 10 lb, 7 oz;  22″ long, 14.5″ head — and the fact that she had a nuchal hand (she was born with her hand next to her face… and since the midwife couldn’t push the hand back down, she pulled it out, so that baby was born arm-first), I sustained only a superficial 1st degree tear.

I have, however, had weird and painful OTHER things happen since her birth.  First, I had to go to the emergency room when Jean was only three days.  I have varicose veins — which I knew about — and one on the back of my leg had become puffy, red, hot to touch, and very painful.  My midwife was concerned that, even though she couldn’t feel a thrombosis, that there might be a clot deeper in the tissue of my leg.  After a phone call to her consulting physician, they both felt like I should go in, immediately, to the ER for an ultrasound of my leg.  That was stressful.  I think the most difficult part was actually bringing my baby to the germ-filled emergency room.  My husband Martin came with me, and even though it was about 110° out, we decided that it was better to use the outside as a “waiting room”.  The staff at the hospital was all unfailingly accommodating of me having a brand-new infant, and found us a private room almost immediately.  Everyone was kind and attentive, and fairly rushed us through.  We were in and out in just about two hours, and the better news was that a) no clot was found, and b) Jean doesn’t seem to have suffered any ill effects from our trip.  The tentative diagnosis was “phlebitis” — irritated veins.  Sitting for three days in bed is great for recovery from birth, but the staying stationary is less than helpful for varicose veins.  In any case, the phlebitis, or whatever it was, seems to have resolved itself.

Then… from about day 2 until day 7, we were treating what we thought was a clogged milk duct.  The protocol for that is soaking in hot water, using a heating pad, massage, and nursing on the clogged side as much as possible, using a variety of odd nursing positions, all to help clear out the clog and to ensure that it doesn’t turn into mastitis:  a breast infection.  Well, nothing seemed to help.  I cannot describe the pain.  It was, I do believe, the worst in my life, and I include birth in that list.

On Tuesday early morning, a week ago, I was massaging my “clogged duct” and to my absolute horror, saw the side of my nipple gape open.  Hidden at the base of the nipple in the wrinkly and folded skin, what had presented as a clogged duct was actually my nipple, detaching.  It was entirely sliced through, from about 6:30 – 11:00, a good 3/8 of my nipple, completely cut through.  It looked like someone had actually sliced it.  Someone had, in fact:  my darling newborn, with her powerful but inefficient, tongue- and lip-tied suck.

My salvation was a Medela nipple shield.  I am old-fashioned.  There just seems to be something wrong with putting a piece of silicone between baby and mama.  Historically, I haven’t been a fan of nipple shields.  However, it was about my only hope for nursing on that side…  With literal shaking and tears from fear of pain, I put it on and attached little Jean Marjorie.  Not only did she latch on with no difficulty, but the pain was reduced a good 97%.  The pain was still present, but completely tolerable.

So, for five days, I nursed using the shield.  It was an annoyance but a blessing.

This morning, she nursed successfully without the shield, and there was virtually no pain and no further damage.

I can tell that she is still not latching on quite correctly.  Also, she nurses for a good hour at a time, yet doesn’t seem to ever fully empty the milk from my breasts.  She is perpetually hungry.  She is wetting an adequate number of diapers;  I don’t think her life is in danger from malnutrition.  However, for all that I am spending 1/3 to 1/2 of my time nursing my baby, I don’t think she is gaining any weight, and may, in fact, be losing weight.  We’ll find out tomorrow.

So… we may end up having to get her frenulum clipped.  Her upper lip is tied, as well.

Theoretically, I don’t mind spending so much time nursing my baby.  It is a precious, precious time.  But logistically, at some point, I need to be more available to my family, and my baby would benefit from being able to adequately get the milk she needs in a much shorter amount of time.  She is spending so much time nursing that I don’t think she’s getting quite enough sleep.  Her need for sleep and her need for mama’s milk are in conflict with each other…  I can tell she is both exhausted and hungry.  Poor sweetie.

So, while I don’t relish the thought of anything getting clipped on her — for all everyone’s assurances that it barely hurts and that she’ll heal very quickly with no disruption of nursing — it does seem that it would be best for both her and me to get the procedure(s) done.

Other worries that were a waste of time:

  • Homebirth itself.  It was, despite some challenges in the birth itself, absolutely perfect.  My husband is a new convert to the benefits of homebirth.  Better late than never.  🙂
  • Too many people in the room.  We had my midwife, the midwife’s assistant (who is nearly a licensed midwife herself), a student midwife, and a friend who was acting as doula… No one was intrusive, everyone cared for me magnificently, everyone had their place.
  • The children.  My husband was more concerned about this than I was.  Our boys just kind of checked on me periodically, and the girls were present for most of the birth — exiting on their own when things got too intense — and it was just right.
  • Our family adapting to #8 in the home.  This has been so smooth.  So very smooth.  My husband is abundantly smitten with baby Jean.  The girls are wonderfully gentle and attentive big sisters.  The boys slightly less so, but no less loving, and what they lack for in personal attentiveness, they make up for in their general service to our family and to me and baby in particular:  they are definitely picking up the slack.

Anyway… now that I’m no longer in continual pain and that there is hope on the horizon, I’m much… happier.  Not that having a baby is all about my personal happiness.  But, with the difficulty of the birth (difficult for me, that is), I felt more relief than joy at her birth.  Then, when the nursing issues started on the second day, the leg vein issues on the third day, etc., I feel like I’ve been somewhat on edge and not able to fully participate in the JOY of a newborn.  There have been moments I relish, and my heart is absolutely filled with love and ZERO regrets;  I can’t imagine life without Jean Marjorie Joy.  But, I’m looking forward to the coming weeks even more.

THIS, only moments after birth.  So perfect.

THIS, only moments after birth. So perfect.

 

Update on my pregnant, celiac, low-ish carb, almost-Paleo “diet”

I hate to call any food endeavor on which I embark a “diet”.

But, I guess how I’ve been eating for the last 3+ weeks qualifies, since I’m counting carbs.

It took me a bit, but I figured out that I need at least 80 net carbs daily to NOT lose weight.  My goal is NOT to lose weight;  it’s to maintain or to gain weight more slowly.   By 21 weeks, I had gained 22 lbs.  Once my morning sickness was over (bless God) I was packing on two pounds a week, all while eating GOOD FOOD.  Now, I’m eating MORE good food, but fewer carbs.

Here’s my history:

  • I have veinous problems.  I have varicose veins including up into my lower abdomen.  More weight gain is even harder on weak veins.  And my particular kind of veins increase my risk (moderately) of hemorrhaging during birth.  Not good.
  • I also want to limit the stress on my heart during pregnancy by limiting weight gain.  (I have Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, which is fairly benign, but worrying symptoms ramp up during pregnancy.)
  • I have a history of macrosomic babies.  My smallest was 8 lbs 13 oz.  My largest?  10 lbs even.  Large babies increase one’s risk of hemorrhage.
  • This is my 6th baby.  For every baby >5, a mother’s risk for hemorrhage increases quite dramatically.
  • I am planning a home birth and want to maximize my chances for success — to actually BIRTH in our home, not have to transfer due to blood loss.
  • I did a similar diet under an OB for my last birth — I gained zero weight from weeks 28 onward — and the baby was STILL 8 lbs 13 oz.
  • I have never had gestational diabetes but for baby #5, my oral glucose test (the nasty syrup) was “borderline-borderline” for GD, and I figured that a lower carb, no-sugar, high-protein diet wouldn’t hurt anything.  It didn’t.  🙂
  • In pregnancies #1-4, I gained 37-50 lbs each, ALL WHILE EATING A HEALTHY, WHOLE-FOODS DIET.  My first OB told me that, for some women, their bodies go into “starvation mode” and operate with extreme efficiency, grabbing onto everything it possibly can and storing it as fat.  He was pretty certain that that is what my body does.  I did a food diary for him for a month (as I recall — it was 16 years ago!) and he was impressed with my diet.  The only thing he recommended was taking out fruit.  I didn’t, which is why I probably gained those 50 lbs.
  • With pregnancy #5, on the lower-carb diet, I gained a total of 17 lbs, produced that 8 lb 13 oz baby, and recovery was immeasurably smoother for me, post-pregnancy.  It was fairly easy to lose that extra 10 lbs, as opposed to being faced with a whopping 40 lbs to lose.  I didn’t even have to try to lose those 10 lbs.  They just melted off with a return to my regular metabolism, plus nursing.

For this pregnancy, in a couple of weeks, my midwife — who does offer the syrup-based oral glucose test, which I declined — is going to test how my body handles a “normal”/high amount of carbs via a large meal.  I’ll go into her office at 7:30 a.m., and we’ll do a blood draw and test my blood-sugar levels.  (She’s also going to re-test a couple of other things that were abnormal in an earlier blood test.)  Then, I’ll go home and eat a “regular” breakfast — not one that contains 100 grams of glucose like the oral glucose test though it will be higher in carbs than I would normally eat for breakfast;  I’ll probably eat eggs and a homemade muffin or two and shoot for 50 g carbs or so.  Then, she’ll re-test my blood at 10:30.

We’re testing mostly out of curiosity.  No matter what the results are, I’ll still maintain my current diet.

So, what am I doing in this “current diet”?

I am:

  • Eating about 75-100 grams of protein daily, which is very similar to the Brewer/Blue Ribbon Baby Diet.  (However, I’m not tracking my protein consumption down to the gram.)  I eat 3-4 eggs every breakfast.  I eat meat at lunch and dinner.  My snacks tend to be high-protein, as well — nut-based or plain yogurt.
  • Limiting myself to about 80 grams non-fiber carbs daily.  (I have discovered that with fewer than 80g, I lose weight, which is not the goal.)
  • Eating an additional 30+ grams of dietary fiber carbs daily.
  • Eating at least NINE servings of veggies daily.
  • NOT tracking fat consumption.  At all.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that this is a high-fat diet.
  • Sticking to foods that are MOSTLY Paleo:  veggies and meats.  However, I do eat some dairy and some legumes, which most people eating a strict Paleo diet, don’t.  Many Paleo adherents don’t eat any nightshades, either:  tomatoes, potatoes, etc.  I eat virtually no potatoes, but I often eat tomatoes.  I’m not avoiding nightshades.  (In a Paleo diet, the goal is to train your body to burn FAT for energy, and for it to NOT rely on sugar-carbs for energy.  That is how one can eat a high-fat diet and not gain weight.  A Paleo diet is also healthy, long-term, for one’s pancreas as it profoundly limits blood-sugar.)
  • NOT counting calories.
  • Keeping my sugar-intake extremely limited.  This is all sugars, including honey and naturally-occurring sugars in fruit.
  • Drinking 80-100 ounces of water daily.  This is in ADDITION to other liquids I may drink.  I actually shoot for a gallon of water daily (128 ounces) but rarely hit that goal.
  • Taking supplements in addition to the foods I eat:  6400 IU vitamin D, 1000 mg cod liver oil, 1200 mg calcium, 600 mg magnesium, 250 mg Horse Chestnut extract, a multivitamin, and 500 mg vitamin C.  Some of them are chewables, which accounts for the 3g carbs for my vitamins if you view my sample daily diet PDF.  If I take an extra vitamin C chewable, that adds another 2g carbs.

Plain, whole milk yogurt with blueberries: My frequent sub for ice cream at the end of the day.

Here is a sample of what I eat, daily (click for PDF).  A few notes:

  • Yes, I drink coffee.  Two mugs of half-caff.  I put organic half & half in it, along with stevia.
  • I do use a kitchen scale for many foods.
  • I use this website:  Self NutritionData to calculate the content of most of my foods.
  • I usually don’t include ingredients in my daily tally, but on the opposite page of my spiral notebook, I do some serious figuring to many recipes in order to figure out the carb and fiber grams per serving.  Yes, this does require some math.  No, I don’t mind.
  • Some things I have to estimate.  For instance, we go out to eat about twice a month.  I made a rough estimate of 60 grams carbs plus 10 grams fiber for a recent (splurge!) lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  This was for beans, corn tortillas, and some tortilla chips that went along with my shredded beef tacos.  But…  some restaurants — chains, especially — publish their nutrition data online.  For instance, I ate a Double-Double Protein Style Animal Style (with “wheat allergy” noted) at In ‘N’ Out Burger.  No fries.  I drank water.  That felt like a splurge, but I found out online that it as only 8g carbs plus 3g fiber.
  • My go-to snacks:
    • Organic celery sticks with sunflower butter (I get sunflower butter from Trader Joe’s.  Yes, it has a small amount of sugar in it).
    • A half, large avocado
    • A handful (two ounces) of raw almonds
    • There are a few gluten-free, low-sugar, high-fiber snack or protein bars — like ProMax LS or ThinkThin Or Kit’s Raw Organic — and I do buy a few of these to eat in a pinch.  But, I tend to shy from packaged snacks.
    • At the end of the day, especially if I need more carbs, I will sit down with a bowl of plain yogurt with blueberries or — if my carb count has been REALLY low for the day — 1/2 cup of g.f. granola.  It’s odd to consider, but if you truly stick with virtually all veggies, nuts, and meat during the  day, by the end of the day, you will have to eat a relatively carb-heavy snack or meal to KEEP yourself from losing weight.
    • I will admit that, once this month, I splurged at Yogurtini.  I eat frozen yogurt about once a month from the store.  Yogurtini’s no-sugar-added flavors do NOT contain aspartame (they are sweetened with maltodextrin, sucralose, or other “non-sugar” sweeteners) but they DO contain artificial colors.  This is not a choice that anyone should make on a regular basis, but I’m just keepin’ it real and honest here and admitting to my yogurt consumption.  One five ounce serving (including a scoop of fresh blueberries) ran me about 22 g carbs and 7 g fiber.

 

Simple No-Cough Tea (herbal tisane, actually…) and other natural cough remedies.

The bad news is that I was up with my four-year-old in the middle of the night.  We tried a number of things to stop her incessant cough, ending in the tea.  I didn’t start with tea because she doesn’t really like it, and there were a couple other things I could try first.  They didn’t work this time, but the good news is that the tea did.

My husband had a childhood full of asthma and tends to somewhat panic when our children cough, as he immediately correlates coughing with, “MY CHILD CAN’T BREATHE AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE NOW.”  I appreciate his sympathy, and frankly, his urgency regarding coughing has kicked my rear end into gear a number of times when I would be content to just let my kids cough it out.

For everyone’s benefit, I now try to identify coughs better:

  • Is this asthma and my child really can’t breathe?
  • Is this a “wet” cough because my child is on the recovery-end of an illness and s/he is coughing up mucus (which is a good thing)?
  • Or are they just coughing incessantly and it’s disrupting their sleep, spreading germs, and not having any productive effect?

Fi’s was the third.  She miserable, unable to sleep, had been coughing for several hours to the point where her stomach muscles were aching from coughing so badly.  And weakened stomach muscles often = puking in our home, and I determined that for her peace, to keep food in her stomach, and to reduce the chance of the cough spreading to the other six in our family, we needed to address the cough.

First, we tried an oregano oil breathing treatment.  “My” oregano oil breathing treatment works AMAZING WONDERS on my 11 year-old son’s asthma.  It is also fabulous for deep-down lung pain and infection.  Fiala’s cough seemed more upper-respiratory, so I didn’t have much hope that it would work for her, but I thought I’d try.

Oregano Oil Breathing Treatment

This requires a nebulizer, typically used for albuterol breathing treatments.

Into the medicine receptacle of the nebulizer, place:

  1. Turn the nebulizer on and breathe deeply.  Inhale and hold for a few seconds.  Repeat for 3-10 deep breaths.  This DOES put a little tickle at the back of one’s throat, and breathing oregano oil is kind of a learned skill.  However, if my young children can do it, you can, too!
  2. Alternately, you can put 2-3 drops into a large mug, fill it with boiling water, and breathe the steam deeply for as long as possible.

Oregano oil is an amazing product that is virucidal, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal.  It is also anti-parasitic.  I’m uncertain WHY it works on asthma, and there is less research on oregano oil’s effectiveness on asthma (unlike various funguses, bacteria, and viruses, which has been studied and proven effective numerous times).

Colloidal silver has effectiveness against a variety of viruses, bacteria, and funguses, as well.

Secondly, we tried:

Simplest Cough Remedy

  • Honey

Available in many health food stores for about $9, or online for $7-8.

Studies have shown that up to 10 ml (two tsp) of honey is as effective as dextromethorphan for relieving the coughs of colds in children with upper respiratory tract infections.

My daughter Fiala, in particular, is super-suceptible to yeast/candida overgrowth, so I limit her sugar intake, including honey.  And even though honey is good for just about anyone for a wide variety of reasons, I’m still leery of sugar, even natural sugars.  So, I would never give a whole 2 tsp to anyone.

Our favorite “medicinal” honey is from Y.S. Organic Bee Farms and is called Super-Enriched Honey.  It is raw and unpasteurized and contains pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.  It is really thick and has an unusual taste.  I find it pleasant, but if you’re expecting a honey-taste found akin to that found in the McDonald’s honey packet, you’ll probably be startled.

I simply scoop up a small spoonful of honey and let the child slowly lick it.  Consequently, when anyone coughs even a tiny bit in our home, they tend to come running with a certain proclamation of, “I need a honey spoon!”

When neither the herbal breathing treatment nor honey was doing any good, I brewed up a batch of my no-cough tea.

No-Cough Tea

Into a wire mesh tea ball, place:

  • Fennel seed — and, YES, I’m thrilled if your medicine cabinet and your spice rack are one and the same.

    2 tsp loose chamomile flowers

  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/8 tsp licorice root powder
  • optional:  1/2 tsp dried peppermint leaves
  • optional:  1 tsp dried mullein flower (verbascum thapsis)
  1. Place tea ball in a very large mug and pour boiling water over the top.  Let steep 10-15 minutes, then stir well.
  2. Sweeten with honey (especially if you didn’t use a “honey spoon” to stop the cough) or stevia, or simply don’t sweeten at all, as the licorice root lends a sweet taste.
  3. Put 1/4 cup of the brewed tea in a smaller mug and let child sip slowly for 10-20 minutes.
  4. If cough hasn’t stopped, repeat with 1/4 cup doses.
  5. This may take up to ONE HOUR for effectiveness — in other words, 3-6 doses of 1/4 cup each over the course of an hour, until coughs subside.
  6. Extremely effective for stopping coughs for 3-4 hours.  So, repeat throughout the day as necessary, trying to re-dose before your child returns to violent coughing.

(For readers local to the Phoenix area, all of the tea ingredients can be found at Sprouts.  All of the herbs — except the mullein — can be found in the bulk spice area.  Mullein flower can be found, packaged, hanging close to the “regular” tea and herb area, God’s Garden Pharmacy brand.)

What the ingredients are and why they work:

  • Chamomile (matricaria recutita) flowers have antianxiety, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-spasmodic properties, mainly due to chamomile’s natural phytonutrient, chamazulene.  The “anti-inflammatory” and “anti-spasmodic” characteristics especially important for calming coughs.
  • Beautiful, fragrant thyme.

    Thyme (thymus vulgaris) is a strong antiseptic.  Its natural phytonutrient, thymol, is actually the active ingredient in classic Listerine.  Thymol is also an active ingredient in most naturally-based antiseptic cleaners.  For coughs, thyme is effective not only in destroying germs, but it is a powerful anti-spasmodic and has bronchial-clearing properties.  (Thyme oil is extremely strong and should be used with caution.  However, using a pinch of the dried herb itself is safe for just about everyone, pregnant women and small children included.)  Thyme does have somewhat of an unpleasant “green/herbal” taste in tea;  however, do not omit it!!

  • Fennel, in general, is truly a miracle plant.  It is by far one of the most nutritious and helpful plants one can consume — from bulb to stem to feathery top to seed.  I personally cannot understand why it is not at the top of “Superfood” lists!  Fennel, as well as being anti-spasmodic, is also a pain-reducer, fever-reducer, and has antimicrobial activity.  It soothes upset stomachs and speeds healing of muscle strains (including muscles sore from incessant coughing!).  Fennel’s “magic” properties are largely due to the phytonutrients creosol (also found in chaparral and creosote) and alpha-pinene.  (Again, use the whole herb — fennel seed, not fennel oil, which is extremely strong and dangerous, if used incorrectly.)
  • If you have ever had Throat Coat tea by Traditional Medicinals, licorice root is the main ingredient, followed by mullein.  Licorice is extensively used, world-wide, as a remedy for an astounding number of ailments, from lupus, to cancer, to diabetes, to chronic fatigue syndrome, to HIV/AIDS and more.  Its effectiveness is primarily from the naturally-occurring phytonutrient glycyrrhizinic acid which, among other properties, acts as an incredibly effective immune stimulant.  For our purposes here, licorice root relieves the dry, tickly feeling associated with hacking coughs — as well as shortens the healing time needed to recover from illness.
  • Peppermint has properties helpful to those with coughs and colds — however, the flavor rather clashes with the flavors found both in thyme, fennel, and licorice root.  Peppermint contains the phytonutrient menthol, long known for relieving coughs and other respiratory disorders.  An alternate tea, especially if your child enjoys the mint flavor, would be simply chamomile and peppermint.
  • Mullein (verbascum thapsus) has soothing, emollient effects via its plentiful, naturally-occurring mucilages.  It also reduces inflammation via natural tannins.  Mullein promotes expectoration, meaning it loosens phlegm in the respiratory tract, causing coughs to be more effective.

I dearly hope that some readers find this useful.  If you do, post a comment and let me know!!

From this past week…

After a flurry of almost daily blog posts, this last week, I’ve ground nearly to a halt.

This week…

  • A friend's pic of this week's produce, in her kitchen. And you can't even see everything!! LOVELY. YUMMY!

    A friend’s pic of this week’s CSA produce, in her kitchen. And you can’t even see everything!! LOVELY. YUMMY!

    …has been consumed by the CSA — the farm share I’m coordinating for Crooked Sky Farms.  It is wonderful, and I’m glad I’m participating.  I’m certainly not regretting agreeing to be the coordinator — largely because I got two HUGE crates of produce out of it.  Literally:  Nine heads of Romanesco; four bags of baby lettuces; four huge (probably 2 lb each) bunches of carrots;  two bunches of Swiss chard;  about four lbs of red potatoes; 13 tangelos; three bunches of baby Hakurei turnips; and four bunches of “grilling” onions (onions with small white bulbs and very large but tender green tops).  Part of this was my share, and part of it was — I think — people just not taking all eight of the bunches of produce allotted to them… Or something.  I think the farm threw in some extra produce, just in case.  And all those leftovers were even with me finding buyers for the produce that should have gone to two people who didn’t show!  Anyway, that’s a good probably 40 lbs of fresh, organic, local produce, all for me — for my family.  Ah-MAY-zing.  Some of it we’ve eaten, some is in the fridge, and some is now in the freezer.  However, it has been a lot of work, especially when one person canceled beforehand, and then the aforementioned two people didn’t show…  I was supposed to have a minimum of 20 paying customers in order for the farm to deliver to me.  I ended up with 16.  Ack!  But my contact at the farm has been very gracious and they haven’t dropped us or anything.  But I am being encouraged to try to drum up more business.  I’M TRYING!!  I really am.  Since Wednesday, I actually found two more full-time members (one is an airman from Luke AFB who calls me “ma’am”), and then another guy who wants to sign up for only the 2nd half, and two or three more week-to-week people, and at least a couple more potential CSA members…  Plus the eggs.  So many people wanted eggs, and I’ve found two people within a mile and a half who have eggs that I’m selling.  Again, that’s GOOD, but it’s more work.  More bookkeeping.  More keeping track of this and that…

  • And the seed giveaway.  That took a lot of time, just regulating!!  Especially on the second day, I had a lot of comments…  I was trying to respond to everyone who asked questions, send e-mails to folks who hadn’t followed the instructions…  Um, I gave that up after a while.  But, the seed giveaway was fun!!
  • My heart has been worrying me.  I have Wolfe Parkinson White syndrome, where there is an extra nerve connecting the left (I think) atrium and ventricle, which produces a wonky feedback loop.  It is benign — though I just can’t help but thinking it CAN’T be good, long-term, for one’s heart to beat wrong — and normally, I have 5-10 episodes (weird/hard/thumpy heart beat, heart stops for a few seconds, or it races for 10 seconds or so, etc.) while my heart resets itself.  But, while I’m pregnant, it happens… I don’t know… 30?  50? times a day, sometimes for multiple minutes on end, especially when I’m just sitting down (after standing) or just lying down.  At my midwife’s insistence, I saw my cardiologist (whom I really love — he’s my favorite doctor for anything, ever), and I wore a 24 hour Holter monitor a few weeks ago.  I finally got the results this week.  And they essentially said, “Why, yes, you are having quite a few PACs, but it’s OK.  See you again in April.”  And that made me feel a lot better.
  • My pregnancy is going well.  I am now 21 weeks along.  All-day “morning” sickness finally ended about three weeks ago, to my great relief.  I’ve gained 20 lbs already, which is not good… That’s more than I gained with my whole pregnancy with Fiala.  In what is a recurring theme in any weight gain I typically incur, I do eat good food — not junk;  I just eat too much of it.  Even if my midwife doesn’t suggest it, I think I’m going to do a counted-reduced-carb diet — herder-gatherer Paleo — which is almost how I eat anyway… just that from weeks 28 – 40 (or whenever), I’ll be extremely careful.  After about week 28, nothing new develops in the baby;  she will simply put on weight and whatever is already there matures.  So, it’s less critical that a mother gain weight.  In case it sounds worrisome that I’m planning on “dieting” while pregnant, I did this with my last pregnancy (Fiala):  I gained a total of 17 lbs and she STILL came out at 8 lbs 13 oz.  I would have felt badly if she was scrawny…  But she wasn’t.  And I became a bigger believer than ever in eating high-protein and low-carb in the last trimester.  With my first two pregnancies, I gained nearly 50 lbs, so I know that, left unchecked, that’s probably where I’d end up.  I just feel better and recover faster when I’m not toting an extra 20-30 lbs, postpartum.

Can’t we all just get along?

I love NPR.

In one of my favorite YouTube videos ever, Blimey Cow posted the hilarious “You Might Be a Homeschooler If…” video last year that went viral, at least among the homeschool community.

In it is a line that says something like, “You might be a homeschooler if your mom listens to NPR and votes Republican.”

HA!  That’s so me.  The radio in my truck is almost always tuned to 91.5 FM, KJZZ, which has acoustic jazz in the evenings and NPR programming in the daytime.  I appreciate the in-depth reporting and the broader perspective than the snippets of typical radio or TV news provides.

Anyway.

In my Facebook feed this morning was a story I was really pleased and surprised to see from NPR:

Study:  Diet May Help ADHD Kids More Than Drugs

The story was pretty basic, and referred listeners to their doctor for further help, which is kind of a laugh, as virtually all MD programs in the United States are woefully inadequate on the connection between diet and behavior — or even diet and basic physical health!

However, it makes me pleased that this topic is receiving national press and attention:  What you eat can affect your body and mind.

The link for this story has been shared on a number of different health-and-diet related pages to which I subscribe, on Facebook.

What has been interesting to me — and a bit distressing — is that I have read a fair amount of argument about WHERE to start with dietary changes for children, and WHAT diet is the best.  Everyone has an opinion and many are strident about it and have rude, unkind words for those who don’t agree with their particular beliefs.

I understand that.  I really do.  After seeing the monumental changes that came about in my young son’s behavior and health after being diagnosed with celiac disease more than ten years ago, and seeing the positive effects that have come about in our family’s lives as a result of my ongoing search for ways for us to eat and live more healthily, I UNDERSTAND.

If you see dramatic improvements firsthand, it alters your perspective.  And, in a way, you can’t help but think that EVERYONE should do what you’re doing, because you begin to think that EVERYONE would benefit.  And, you think philanthropic thoughts about it.  You think, “It would be BETTER for everyone.  It would be BETTER for the environment!  It would be BETTER for our nation’s health.  It would be BETTER for our farmers.  It would be BETTER for our economy.”

And, you might even be right!!

But, at a certain point, it becomes divisive.

And repulsive.

Literally, repulsive.  It repels me when someone tries to proselytize me to Nourishing Traditions and insists that there IS NO OTHER WAY.  I’ve un-liked certain Facebook pages and un-followed a number of blogs which routinely state that I’m a fool if I’m not eating/doing/making/following their way.

That’s the part that bothers me:  The insistence that one person/method/diet is THE ONLY WAY and that I’m clearly an uneducated rube who is throwing away the health of myself and my family if I eat even one thing outside of that method.

That really bothers me.

I was thinking of it, just a bit ago, along the lines of Christianity.

I go to the Vineyard — Vineyard Church Phoenix, which is a kind-of non-denominational, Holy Spirit-filled, fairly casual, high-involvement church which prioritizes worship (“contemporary” worship with a full band — guitars, drums, et al) and healing ministry.  I really love my church.  I ADORE my church.  I love the “DNA” of my church.  I love my pastor.  I love the people with whom I serve and learn.  I could bore you (or perhaps scare you) with how passionately I enjoy my church.  I wish more people would attend it.  I wish more people would experience the benefit I’ve received by participating in the Vineyard for the last 23 years.

However, I’m aware that my church is not the ONLY way to worship.

I have a dear cousin, an amazing woman — younger than me — who is a Benedictine nun in the Catholic church.  We couldn’t possibly be on more divergent Christian paths, but there is a kinship, a core identity, we share.   Everything I hear from her — her comments, our rare conversations, stories I read about her, makes my spirit soar.

But, again, how we practice our Christianity is extremely different.  In fact, if we sat down and compared fact sheets regarding our respective Christian practices, I’m sure we’d find much over which we disagree.

I have observed, in my advanced years 😉 , that one’s practice of Christianity, what speaks to one’s own heart, will vary greatly depending on history, personal preference, personal priorities, personal convictions, personality, and more.

I mean… I WANT more people to join my church and share my experiences;  I want others to benefit like I have.

But on the other hand, I cannot say, “My church is the only way to worship.”

There is more than one viable, healthy way to practice Christianity.

There is also more than one way to eat healthily!  There is more than one way to live healthily!

I don’t necessarily have to be a card-carrying member of the gluten-free, GFCF, Feingold, Nourishing Traditions, WAPF, Paleo, GAPS, organic, WHATEVER to be healthy.

And, honestly, it really turns me off when anyone — who is not Jesus Christ Himself — says, “My way or the highway.”

But… on the other hand…

I do believe that there are basic truths.  I do believe in the God of the Bible.  I do believe that there are basic tenets, basic laws established by God that exist.  There is truth.  Not all roads are equal.  It does matter what one thinks and believes and how one lives one’s life.  I don’t believe that everything is relative.

So… it sometimes feels like a hard balance to find:  Having beliefs with conviction which express themselves in practice, in daily living, and knowing in my heart that it is WORTH the effort and WORTH telling others about.  Yet, not being the guy on the corner with a megaphone screaming, “Follow my way or DIE!!”

And not thinking ugly thoughts about those dogmatic folks on the corner with their megaphones…

Ugh.

Unique, powerful, profound, painstakingly researched: My FAVORITE book on birthing

My midwife (who, by the way, is having her website revamped — the current one is sorely incomplete!) has, unsurprisingly, shelves full of books on birthing and mothering.  I noticed one omission, and I think I’m going to purchase it for her for Christmas.

The book has been on my mind a lot, lately.  Partly because, yes, I’m pregnant.  But partly, as well, because I find the reviews for it on Amazon so indicative of our polarized culture.  When we find someone saying something we cannot support, we automatically throw out everything they’ve ever said, put them on our personal equivalent of Santa’s Naughty List, and vilify them.

The book, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, is written, as best as I can surmise, by a practicing Zen Buddhist, Dr. Sarah J. Buckley, MD.  The three two-star reviews this book has received generally have this criticism:  The book is too far “out there.”  The doctor has sections where she describes her personal beliefs and experiences, and I must say that the Dr. Buckley and I have little in common, and many of the things she has chosen to do, I would not.  HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean the books is useless.  It just means that our personal beliefs aren’t aligned.

After reading (not for the first time) the Amazon reviews on this book, I decided to write my own:

I felt the need to chime in my support for this book. I’m a semi-crunchy mother of five — many things I have learned and chosen in my mothering would be highly supported by the attachment parenting camp, and quite a few simply would not. I am also a committed, practicing Christian. I’ve had five, all-natural, unmedicated hospital births, and am planning a home birth for my sixth — not because I’ve had rotten hospital experiences, but rather because I have learned a bit more with each birth and am convinced that the best way to ensure that this, likely my last birth, is absolutely peaceful and perfect is to have my child at home. It is becoming increasingly difficult within hospital culture, even with a fabulous, naturally-minded care provider to have a truly natural hospital birth.

I particularly appreciate Dr. Buckley’s book because she, like myself, is both fully spiritual AND fully science-minded. I respect the fact that Dr. Buckley lays out her spiritually-based opinion and experience and then BACKS IT UP with hard science. There are a solid SIXTY PAGES of end notes. One chapter alone has 294 end notes!! This is, by far, the best-researched birthing book I’ve ever read, and I have read dozens.

In fact, of those dozens of books I’ve read, many start to sound the same after a very short while. Many other books on birthing rely heavily on the same stories, the same research, and similar experiences. This was the first book I’ve read on birthing in a very long time that had NEW, PROFOUND, and RELEVANT information about birthing and mothering. It is a unique and powerful book on many levels.

Instead of being a how-to on birthing, it’s more of a “why” book. Why choose one practice over another? Why are ultrasounds possibly harmful? Why are narcotics during birth so potentially harmful, both in the short-term and long-term health of mother and baby? Why is the use of Pitocin so destructive to the natural hormonal processes of birth? Dr. Buckley doesn’t just tell readers what to do, she tells us, very clearly, why one choice is helpful (even necessary!) and why another choice is likely harmful. In addition to that, she gives personal anecdotes about her own experiences with birthing and mothering that further support her empirical research, and show a mother how those scientific facts can play out in a very spiritually profound way.

It’s pretty clear that the author is a practicing Zen Buddhist. I’m not. However, I find that my discoveries have matched the doctor’s experience: The radical experience of a natural birth is the perfect marriage of mind/body/science WITH our spiritual/deep/intangible side. I found it pretty easy to make the shift, mentally, when the author talks about the soul of her child flying down from the stars into me visualizing, instead, the soul of my child being lovingly created by God my Father, and being deposited into the growing life of my baby, in utero. And so on. If the “language” of Dr. Buckley’s spiritual voice doesn’t fit with your own, feel free to substitute your own beliefs in the places where yours doesn’t match up with hers!

There is no ONE perfect book on any topic. Like any book, you chew the meat, and throw out the bones. If there is a story in the book that doesn’t click with you, it doesn’t negate the hundreds — or even thousands — of other bits of useful, profound information. It’s the mark of a strong mind that can consider something, hold it in one’s thoughts, sift it, and then say, “That particular part is not for me,” without throwing out the rest of the book or giving it only two stars. So, if that’s what you need to do when reading this book, please do so, but still PLEASE READ THE BOOK.

So, to sum up, my stance is that you don’t have to be completely aligned with Dr. Buckley’s spiritual beliefs, birthing practices, or mothering practices in order to benefit mightily from this unique and powerful book.

If that sounds intriguing, consider purchasing this excellent book for either yourself, a mother-to-be, or your favorite doula or midwife!!

A different kind of birth (and “proof” of God)

A few weeks ago, I sort of got into it with a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook.  I’m still not sure it was wise;  I mostly got involved as a defense to my friend;  it bothered me to see his Christianity under attack.  I learned long ago, that one cannot debate anyone into the Kingdom of God.

John 6:44 (Amplified Version) “No one is able to come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me attracts and draws him and gives him the desire to come to Me…”

My encouragement to him was that if he wanted to see God, to know God, to have some understanding of God, to ask Him.  He’s always willing to show Himself to those who seek Him.

Yesterday, my pastor was teaching from I Corinthians chapter 1.  As he spoke, I perused the verses above where he was camped, drawn to this:

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,

20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.

And here’s why I was so attracted by these verses:  The friend-of-a-friend was searching for proof — undeniable, scientific, irrefutable, tangible proof — of God’s existence, and stated that he could not trust anything less reliable that that.

Strangely enough, I was thinking about this exchange while my mother was dying.

As she drew closer to death, the kindness, sweetness, and presence of God increased on her, and in her room.  It was remarked upon, countless times, by hospital staff and visitors.  It was not “scientific, irrefutable, tangible proof,” but to me, it was truly evidence of God being in her life, working through her, expressing Himself through the weakest, most vulnerable person imaginable.

It just seems to me that this is God’s way.

27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

It’s His way to express Himself through the powerless.

It’s also His way, I believe, having experienced it, to make lovely the very things that would seem to be the most tragic.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Romans 8:28 (NLT) 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

And this is incommunicable to those who require book-proof of God.

Another beautiful intangible I experienced during my mother’s last hours was this:

One of my favorite aspects of natural birth is the “community” aspect of it:  During the most difficult hours of labor, everyone present is ultra-attentive to the birthing mother in a minute-by-minute way, in almost a prescience — alert to the point of foreknowledge to what the mother might need.  The attention of everyone is fixed on her.  Birth becomes an effort of not just the mother, but of those who love her;  everyone does whatever they can to help the birth come about.  Her preferences, her loves, her comfort becomes the shared goal of all present.

It was that exact same way with my mother.

We sang songs she had sung to us as children, as well as her favorite choruses from church.  We reminisced.  We took turns snuggling with her in her bed.  She smiled contentedly, head tipped back, eyes closed, soaking it in…

And, as things became more difficult — labored —  my mother wanted to sit up, with her legs over the side of her bed.  Nevermind that this was virtually impossible, and nevermind that it wasn’t rational.  Just like a natural birth, when a mother just feels like she needs to be in a certain position, all who assist her swing into action to accommodate.  So it was with my mother, near the end of her life:  One behind her, supporting her back.  One on her side, arm surrounding her waist or shoulders, keeping her upright.  At times, someone else in front of her, keeping her from slumping too far forward.

I had the thought, multiple times, “We’re birthing her into the Kingdom of God.”

My mom had been in the hospital for three weeks.  At one point, several days earlier, I unexpectedly ran into an acquaintance in the halls, and glanced at his wrist., seeing a familiar, handwritten band.  “Are you a new father??” I asked.  He affirmed that he was, only an hour or so into the mind-bending experience.

I internally marveled at the circle of life, come to bear, right in front of me.

Perhaps that sounds cliche:  “circle of life.”  But at that moment, it was profound.

The day of my mother’s death, I was talking with a friend…  She is a hospice volunteer, and mentioned how — on countless occasions — on one evening, she would spend time with the dying, and the next day, she would hear news of a brand-new birth.  She has been struck, too, by the same notion of life coming full circle, and how right it seems.

And then, with some excitement, I shared with her — this friend who is not a mother — that sense I had had, comparing a natural birth to a spiritual birth, and how, though it was in many ways difficult, how full of God it was, how much it felt like that was His plan.

She completely understood.

I can’t express how important her understanding was to me.  Just by her being completely on the same page, tracking right along with my thoughts and feelings, I felt like God was providing His love and comfort directly to my heart.

Yesterday, at church, she gave to me what might be the most unusual — yet apt — condolence card, ever.  It was a wedding card, embellished and lovely.  Inside, she had pasted her own sentiment:  “Remembering our conversation… She’s with the Prince of Peace in her white gown;  beautiful Jean.  He sings a song only for her.  She is free of pain and sings with Him her savior.”

Words of “wisdom” on homeschooling an autistic child

Grant and me on a recent, early-morning hike. He’s my best hiker, always willing to go further, faster, higher.

Some days, I almost forget — ALMOST — that I have an autistic child.  My son Grant will be 13 in August, and was diagnosed more than nine years ago with Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which many consider to be on the autistic spectrum.  It is very akin to Asperger Syndrome, but with fewer of Aspies’ fixations, and with added fine and gross motor skill problems.  (An EXCELLENT article, differentiating between NLD, ADHD, and Bipolar Disorder, concentrating on NLD can be found here — it’s a PDF.)

From the bottom of my heart, even though we have ongoing difficulties with Grant (see below), I believe he is so, so, so, so, so, so, so much better than he could be, as a 13-year-old*, and the biggest reasons for that are:

  1. The presence of God in Grant’s life, and
  2. We homeschool.

A reader just asked me a question on an old post.  I don’t know if anyone really tracks comments via the sidebar on the right, so I thought I’d turn it into a full-on post.  I’ll quote her first, then quote my response.  What I replied is kind of sloppy;  not as carefully-written as if it were a “real” post… But I thought it merited its own blog entry.

From reader Canadian Mom:

I am in Canada and stopped hs’ling my son after 3 months of grade 1, before that Kindergarten. I found a sweet country school to place him in with just over 100 students and he is just finishing grade 2. He has NLD, ADHD and DCD (developmental coordination disorder). I love him dearly but he is a handful, he’s not diagnosed with but I think he is ODD. He fights me and resists me on nearly everything. It’s very challenging, I’ve had to do a lot of personal growth just to handle him.

I did put him on med’s and his teacher thinks he is doing great at school in reading and related subjects, however math is his great weakness. In grade 4 they do the PsychEd tests so I am thinking of keeping him in until that test is done and we have a really clear picture of what we are dealing with. Ideally I would hs and if I have the guts to eventually I will take him out to hs again but I’m kind of waiting for him to “hit the wall”. He gets a lot of support at school and seems to enjoy it. However, because of his DCD he stays away from sports so is alienated from other boys at recess and lunch and plays with another girl who has some learning disabilities. I would love to know more about your methods for hs’ling your NLD boy. I want to hs my boy but am afraid of all the resistance I get and it effecting our learning outcomes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thx

My really long response:

CM ~ I’m not sure I have any amazing words of wisdom. I will confess that with my five children, aged 3 – 15 (my NLD boy is almost 13), he is my most challenging on just about every issue. Things are so much more peaceful, and everything — I mean EVERYTHING — goes so much more smoothly when he is not here. So, I’m not saying, “It’s SO EASY to homeschool your NLD child!!” I do maintain, though, that it is most often better for the child. This past school year, I came VERY close to putting my son in a special, advanced program, like a school-within-a-school, very hands-on, very science-oriented, low teacher-to-student ratio. I gathered all the info, talked with admin at the school, and they were VERY supportive of me sending in our app. In fact, when we didn’t, they called often to ask why we hadn’t. But, my husband said, “We’re not going to throw him to the wolves.” Meaning, for all his brilliance, and for all the difficulty he causes at home, and all the literal heartbreak and distress I go through…. he’s still so vulnerable. I finally had to agree with my husband’s statement. It would be throwing him to the wolves. Socially, he’s just not adapted to a school atmosphere. I could see the huge likelihood of us sifting through issues with children, teachers, admin, just the “system” of school, and coming up bloodied in every way. Know what I mean? For all that it would be a huge relief for me NOT to have to homeschool him (and I’m being really honest here), I just couldn’t, for his emotional and physical health, do it.

Grant isn’t diagnosed with ODD, but I’m sure I could obtain such a dx. His operational outlook is, “I’m right, you’re wrong,” and it doesn’t matter who the other person is — parent, pastor, friend’s parent, policeman, whomever. He — deep in his heart — thinks that he is the most brilliant, best person in the whole world, and that his outlook is the only one right, and the only one valid. He’s certain that his ideas trump mine, and has no value, respect, or even acknowledgement of authority.

He’s not dx’ed with DCD, but he was in OT for YEARS due to fine and gross motor skill problems, and he is very uncoordinated. We’re more likely to call it PDD, here in the States, although I think that name was changed recently… But, same thing: He can’t do team anything. He’s eager and willing, but a liability to teams.

So. With that bleak picture, why do I homeschool? I still think it is his best chance to learn from someone who truly loves him and is FOR him. I can let him study ahead in some areas, and supplement him in areas where he lags. I can provide the structure and discipline he needs. I can help bring out his BEST and weed the garden of his heart to help his character develop, something that schools don’t really do; they just want kids to be functional within a classroom setting. I want him to be much better than “functional”. I want him to flourish. AND, while I will say that we still very often struggle with his lack of respect and his preschool-like behavior, we have had LOADS of break-throughs this past year, and he’s doing better in many areas in which I had previously nearly despaired. He is *healthy*, emotionally. He has lots of friends. Most of them are younger than him, but still, lots of friends. He truly loves God. He is eager and willing in so many areas, and is so often an encouragement to me. He TRIES in many areas. For instance, he’ll often ask me, “How are you doing Mom?” with a rub on my shoulder, and a soft face, and cocked head. Now, he’s asking that because I’ve taught him that people like others to care for them, and he needs to take time to be attentive to others. I can see him mentally go down the check list: Ask Mom how she’s doing; give her a soft smile; rub her shoulder; look into her eyes. Check, check, check. IOW, it doesn’t come naturally to him. But, in many ways, that makes it MORE valuable, because the things we’ve taught him — often repeating it THOUSANDS of times, to no effect — are finally bearing fruit. I can actually look at his future, and see some hope and if we can keep his shoulders pointed in the right direction, he’s not going to self-destruct; he’s going to be a tremendous asset to his future family, to his community, to the Body of Christ, and to the world in general.

Please don’t wait for your child to “hit the wall”. It’s so much easier (not that it’s easy) to practice “preventative medicine” than to rehab hearts and behaviors.

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*Nonverbal Learning Disorder has the highest rate of suicide of all learning disorders, and it spikes radically higher in the teen and young adult years.  I can’t find numbers on it right now, but I’ve read that the rate is as high as 60%.  By the grace of God, and with the wisdom He has given to my husband and me, and through love and understanding, that WILL NOT be my child.

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