Friday, September 26, 2008


Inspired by a few friends, we have tried elimination communication with baby V. She has used the potty pretty much every day since she was about 11 weeks old. It's not a big deal, as she just goes when we put her on it, which we do with each diaper change. I have a little potty at the diaper changing table and I let her sit on it when her bottom is bare between diapers. It's apparently a natural thing. I say that because it's been sort of effortless on our part. We probably save a diaper or two a day by doing it this way. I am certain that if we put more effort into getting her to the potty - giving her pottytunities as the EC folks would say - she would go there more frequently and would hold it for those pottytunities.

And this routine has been very comfortable for us. Yet, as we all know, what becomes a comfortable routine must change.

Lately, she is a bit reluctant to use the potty for me. She wants to stand instead of sit. But more importantly, she is loathe to let me diaper her. She rolls and crawls away, like a little bucking bronco trying to avoid lasso of a diaper.

After a few of these diaper wars, a dim bulb starts to glow in my tired brain. Hm....maybe she wants to go without diapers. Sure enough, when I put her down on the floor with her bare bum, she is delighted. She crawls around and laughs and claps, showing her approval. Mommy finally figured me out.

Being diaper free is another step in the regulation of elimination needs, and so I am comfortable with the concept. But I have only bothered with this as a potty training method with walking, talking children in the past. I will give the EC folks another nod on this one because I think that my other kids were probably trying to tell me the same things when they were her age. I called it the diaper rodeo and I remember their disdain of getting diapered. They eventually caved to the forcible diapering. Oh, my. I feel badly about that now. It just never occured to me that there were other options.

Putting aside this particular load of guilt, and moving back to the present, little nakey butt V was just the other day crawling around the house while I clean up after dinner. Suddenly, she started crying and crawling to me, grabbing my legs and pulling herself up as she is wont to do when she needs to be picked up. Of course, this happens at the same time that I was trying to help her older sisters resolve some sort of conflict, which is a common experience in our house - baby needs something and is expected to wait a few minutes while the older sisters demands are met. All because she doesn't have the words to argue!

As I reached down to pick up suddenly hysterical baby, I notice that she pooped just as she reached me. She stood up in it just before I picked her up. After a quick wash in the sink, with baby still hysterical, I remembered the advice from EC parents. A "miss" (failure to get products of elimination into the potty) is the perfect time to put the baby on the potty because there may be more where that came from.

So, I took her to the toilet, put her on the potty seat, and sat on a stool facing her to hang on to her. And our little 11 month old baby sat and pooped in the big toilet for the first time. Hooray!

Being a seasoned parent, I know that this is by no means the end of diapers. The road to bladder and bowel control is a long and winding one. But it is a reminder that I need to be more agile.

Frankly, it's very easy to put a diaper on a baby and call it a day. It's easy to do a lot of things that become routine to us. Unfortunately, it's incumbent upon us to change the routines regularly and often without notice while we adjust to the growing child's changing needs. So, now I need to think about ways to work diaper free time into our overfull fall schedule.

I must think of a way to put this on my resume to show the intuition and mental agility I have gained as a parent. Unfortunately, these skills are currently dulled by sleep deprivation and mild anxieties. But someday when I can sleep and not worry about failing to meet the needs of my children in some unknown and as yet undiscovered way, I will be sharp as a razor.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Why do I not have
A tidy, organized home
Even with more space?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Time Together

There are two typical reactions that I receive when people find out that we homeschool.

Reaction #1: Obvious, but not overt, disapproval. Pursed lips. Strange questions. Quizzing my kids as if to determine whether they are embiciles because they are not exposed to classrooms that seem more familiar to the disapprover.

Reaction #2: Generous, almost adoring, praise. Followed by, "I could never do that!" The implication quickly turns to, "I am so happy to send my kids off to school so that someone else can deal with them because they make me a little crazy!" People often go on to explain that they don't think they could have a harmonious home if they had to be teacher and parent.

Clearly I prefer the latter reaction to the former! But I do find reaction #2 to be sort of funny, and maybe not completely informed. It's not that I expect everyone to homeschool. I completely respect the fact that many people have no interest in what I do, and I can't blame them. Sometimes I wonder why I am doing it!

But the fact is that I am not doing anything too amazing when it comes to getting along with my kids. There is no magic anti-conflict formula that we use in our house to maintain the harmony. I don't have particularly docile kids - on the contrary! We have plenty of disagreements and discord. Yet, we are together most of every day. Day in and day out, we spend a tremendous amount of time together. We have classes and play opportunities and such, but we still have to come back and spend most of our time together.

Because we are together so much, we have a great deal of incentive to work things out. We must deal with our conflicts the same way that adults have to work out conflicts with close coworkers or spouses. We cannot live in misery, so we must find a way to get along. Necessity, is after all, the mother of invention.

This is actually one of the reasons I love homeschooling. It forces us to be the best people we can be to the people we love most. It brings us closer, and helps us to work on our problem solving and interpersonal skills in an intense way that school kids (and their parents!) rarely get to learn. The lessons I have learned from muddling through conflict with my kids could fill a graduate level management course on corporate conflict resolution.

When I finally get enough sleep, I bet I will actually be able to use these skills consistently and successfully. Wish me luck.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shakespeare Explained

“Mommy, can we get Shakespeare down off the shelf?” D asked.

“Not right now,” I replied. “We are about to go to the park.”

“What’s Shakespeare?” asked 4 year-old E, our friend who is joining us for a trip to the park. This is, of course, a typical reaction from most 4 year-olds.

“Shakespeare writes stories,” explains 3 year-old G.

“What kind of stories? Stories like Thomas?” asks E, referring to his favorite Thomas the Train character.

My kids pause. Who the hell is Thomas, they wonder. D tries again. “Do you know the one called A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”


“How about The Tempest?” D continues.

It’s time for the parents to explain. “Shakespeare was a man who wrote a whole bunch of famous plays that actors perform on stage at the theater. He did it a long, long time ago.”

“He wrote poems, too, Mom. Don’t forget that.” D does not let anything slip by.

G then tells E the story of The Tempest, which we saw a few weeks ago at a local theater. I forget that not all 3 and 6 year-old who both have Shakespeare action figures and know his plays. “There is a ship and a storm and everyone falls out of the boat. Then there are is Ariel and the people on the island and the monster, only he didn’t look like a monster….”

I spent the better part of the week feeling inadequate because I wasn’t getting to all that I wanted to get to academically with the kids. So, the fact that my 3 year-old knows Shakespeare’s plays well enough to share some plot boosted my lagging spirits.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In Defense of Career Mothers

I am in the awkward position of feeling defensive on behalf of someone I really don't like. While I am a strong supporter of the democratic party, and I believe that the Presidency must go to Obama if we are to have a happy future, I find myself feeling irritated about the media coverage of Sarah Palin.

Yes, I think her a hypocrite (who does not support women's reprodutive choice or medically accurate sex ed, but who has a teenage daughter who is pregnant and who made the choice to keep her baby). Yes, I think her a conservative menace. But I am so disappointed to hear so many people questioning her ability to do the job of Vice President based on the fact that she is the mother of small children. And I have argued with some of my best friends (who I both love and respect) about it.

I think that for those of us who both (1) make the choice and (2) have the privilege of staying home with children, it’s easy to ask the questions about Palin’s ability to juggle her career and her children because we live a life where we can’t really imagine taking on the awesome responsibility that Palin seeks to take on without somehow screwing up our lives and the lives of our families. But the fact is that there are oodles of woman out there with powerful professional careers and small children. They use their resources and communities to care for their children, either with nannies or extended families. There are just as many women who have no choice but to work hard – two or more jobs – to support their families and they use professional childcare or extended family in the same fashion. I do not question their choices or obligations to their careers. These are their choices and/or burdens to bear.

I do wish that every woman (and man) with children at home had the ability to choose whether to have a professional career or not. And that's one reason I support women in positions of power. I think that women who have lived through the often difficult balancing act that happens with motherhood and career are more likely to create policies that support families. And that is change I support.

But to ask the question of a woman who is up for any job of this nature, we are already questioning whether she can do the job because of her gender. And that is something I cannot support. There is no reason to assume that Palin cannot use the same resources that other parents use to care for children (i.e., another respected family member or professional childcare provider).

One dear friend shared the comment that it devalues what we do as mothers to not ask how Palin will juggle mothering and national politics. But I don’t think that it devalues anything I do to assume that she can hire someone to do the same for her own kids.

By way of comparison, as a homeschooling parent, I don’t feel devalued when people send their kids to school. I love the choices I make, and I feel privileged to make them. I don’t believe that everyone should make my choices and I don’t begrudge others who turn the care of their children (educationally or otherwise) to paid professionals. I fully support those parents in making those choices because I trust that they know their families best and themselves best. I trust that they will make the decisions that are best under the totality of the circumstances.

Yes, there is a biological connection that women have with their children that makes a nanny or other care provider a different ball of wax. However, there are plenty of mothers who do not feel the biological pull of that connection very deeply and feel the pull of their careers more deeply. If they were home carting kids around all day, they would not only be unhappy but would most likely not serve their kids as well as a nanny who loves the job. Just as a multitude of women do not find it a joy to sit down and give a reading lesson to a 5 year-old, there are many who do not have any interest in breastfeeding, diapering, dirty fingers all over their clothes, and Raffi recordings.

I often find myself feeling differently than I think most of my “stay at home” peers feel because I feel like I am letting my kids down sometimes by not having a more prominent career, for which I am trained. I worry about the example that I set by having a law degree, a license to practice, a really good track record as a lawyer, and abandoning it because I couldn’t manage both it and parenting as well as I wanted to. I say, “Rock on!” to those women who do maintain their professional careers and raise children. I say the same to women (and men) who put careers aside or on hold to care for families.

Still, I deeply respect those who lead the way for my daughters to be able to do whatever their hearts desire when they are adults. And I wring my hands continually about the fact that I am not one of those women leading the way, despite my qualifications to do so.

I simply believe that until we ask men the same question as a matter of course - how will you balance career and family? - it makes me angry when we ask it of women. It devalues father’s roles in their children’s lives to assume that a mother at home with the kids is sufficient to balance out an absent father. And it devalues the professional accomplishments and professional talents of women to assume that they will not be able to meet the obligations of their jobs because they have children.

Women ought to be able to choose so many things for which their choices are limited, and one of those is whether or not they can handle a powerful professional position.

Since Palin does not support a woman’s right to choose, I don’t support her. But I do despise the media coverage that questions her qualifications as a politician because she is a mother.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Good Sign

I am all up in arms about politics and gender discrimination and gender roles in society. I want to write something about it, but it's just too much to say and I am drowning right now with other things. However, I hope to get it down soon.

While I am boiling with my irritation over these things and hand-wringing about the example I set for my kids by opting out of my very professional career track, I have one small light.

The other day G said, "Doctors are always women, right?"

Bless her little heart. Yes, all of our primary care physicians that she has ever know have been women. And so she extrapolated her personal experience to the world at large, as little kids are wont to do (which reminds me of the value of having a diverse group of people to expose children to even in the earliest years).

When I explained that even men could be doctors because gender is not a job qualification, I think she believed me, but was a little skeptical that men could actually do the work of being doctors because in her opinion women are much better at caring for others.