Silje’s New Hobby

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Silje is a bookworm.  Her nose has been stuck in books since she was about 3 years old.  When she attended her first day of kindergarten, and I told her to pick a book to read on the bus, she picked up Charlotte’s Web, sighed and said  “I haven’t read this one in months.”

Plus…she inherited my athletic ability.  So, so sorry honey.

Knut was a varsity football type of athlete.  He was on the cross country ski team in high school.  Now he does a regular cross country ski marathon in the winter.  Me?  I did track for fun…once.  I enjoyed running with my friends.  I got a ribbon once.  It was 3rd place for a relay I was in where 3 teams competed.  I was always the last back from our team’s daily run.  I was also a cheerleader, and became a cheerleading captain.  We weren’t a competitive group at all, though.  Many of us just enjoyed going to the games, couldn’t be in any other sports, and didn’t mind yelling.

Silje’s more like me in this regard.  David is a freakish athlete like his dad.

I’ve alluded to the fact I have been lost in the area of knowing what to do with Silje the last year or so.  Just when things started getting better for David, she started falling apart, with several triggers playing into the mix.

It’s like she couldn’t hold herself together anymore, and all the stuff she’d been stuffing while David needed our full attention just came tumbling out.  Living with special needs is hard.  Living with a sibling with special needs is its own set of hard.  Being the oldest is hard.  Living through the middle school years, homeschooled or not, is just hard.

And I’m actually not that good at giving sympathy.  I would look at how good she had it, compared to what I had to deal with at her age, and I felt like she was the furthest thing from a victim I could imagine.  Comparison is a nasty thing.

As the oldest, she consistently takes on too much responsibility.  She feels guilty for things that are not in her control.  After the car accident, she took on too much as I was flailing in my pain, and once I started getting better, and tried to lighten the load that was obviously too heavy for her, she felt like she failed.

What ended up happening was this mix of shy/cowering and avoiding everyone when it wasn’t necessary, mixed in with loud outbursts of her not taking it anymore over the tiniest things.  I wanted her to speak up and talk to me.  I would spend hours every week having long conversations with her which she adored and opened up.  But then she would clam up again a few hours later.  Then she would open her mouth and say all sorts of disrespectful, untrue things, and when we stopped her, she would stop opening up…again, and I had to start all over trying to reach her heart.  I got her a mentor.  I cleared my schedule more.  I was debating about getting her in some counseling for just all the stuff our family has been through the last few years.

Then she asked if she could join Tae Kwon Do with her brothers, something I had been begging her to try, and then dropped the conversation for a year or so, and now she has a sudden interest.

Now the 3 older kids just go to class twice a week together.  But I’ve already seen a huge difference in her.  She works on it at home.  She goes to class, and comes out sweating from all the work.  She says she’s never done anything so hard in her whole life and her lungs burn for air.  It’s been an enormous stress-reliever for her.

Best of all, she’s learning to find her voice.

I overheard her instructor, encouraging her to yell with her kicks.  Don’t be shy.  Declare it.  Find that voice.  Make it heard.  She feels so weird yelling, when she’s not mad.  Her teacher in the class is female, and Silje just looks at awe of her.  She told this Master Amanda her goals to catch up to her brothers and surpass them.  Master Amanda is so supportive of her, just like she has been with my boys.

It’s just been a few months, but I have seen her treat me with more respect, treat our house rules with more respect, hold her chin high and not cower or have that look of uncertain fear in her, and she speaks like she’s thought about what she said first.

She’s finding her voice.

She’s letting off steam twice a week in a very physical way, and it’s changing her.  It’s messing with our hold-it-in-then-explode routine we’ve been stuck in.  It’s like her emotional volcano now has a pressure vent to it.  I’m just loving this.  I see the relief, all over her face.  All her frustrations, all her stress, all her feeling invisible, gets let out as she kicks, punches, yells, and does so while gaining self-control.  Seriously, I’m beginning to wonder if this is the best sport ever.

I wish I could be there, years down the road when Silje arrives at a college campus, elegant as she always is, sitting on a park bench reading a book, and a young man will come up and try to start a conversation with her.  “So what are you into?”

“I love reading.  I love music.  I love Tae Kwon Do.  I’m a blackbelt.  You?”

When Your Husband Gets in the Way

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My life is my kids.  I am with them all day long.  I am the master of researching.  I read parenting books like they’re candy.  I know what mothering camps I belong in, and I am passionate.  I’m the one who goes to the doctors appointments, drives the kids to tae kwon do, and knows what they should be doing for school.  We have routines to our days, and conducting my brood of 6 oftentimes feels like I’m conducting an orchestra that is constantly in tuning mode.

My husband is self-employed, and will often come home for an hour if he has the time.  I can get my highly distractible kid finally down and working on writing his report, when my husband will pop his head in and ask if he can borrow him to mow the lawn for a little bit, to which my son will enthusiastically jump up and run out of the house.  He will sneak them food that he’s snacking on before supper.  It can completely mess up the flow as a child drops their chore and runs to his lap for a story.  We are not always on the same page on a lot of issues, from discipline, bedtimes, or even chores.  He works hard to support our family, writes me love notes, is a godly man, and he is a loving and involved Dad.

But he’s not the “professional” parent.  He has another job.  Oftentimes I discount his opinion because I know he doesn’t understand the “why,” hasn’t done the research, or I assume his opinion isn’t as well thought out or agonized over as mine is.  He’s not with the kids day in and day out like I am.  He doesn’t always see the consequences.

And in the messy, stressed out, rushed moments, I erupt and treat him like he’s stupid.  He’s far from stupid.

Read the rest of the (Knut approved) post over at The Better Mom.

6 Weeks After Baby – The Real Story

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Excuse the bathroom selfie.  I just want you to see my belly.  This was taken at 5 1/2 weeks after giving birth.  Guess what?  I still have a belly.

Dear friends, this is normal.

There are some questions that people ask that invoke doubt right around this time.

Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?

Nope, and in fact, they aren’t supposed to sleep through the night yet.

You’re feeding him again?

Yep.  (Babies actually  go through a big growth spurt around 5 weeks, at least all of mine have, and the constant rooting and hunger is known as “cluster feeding.”  Seriously, you aren’t imagining it.  It’s a thing.)

Do you think your belly will ever go away? 

Sigh.  I do get asked this one.  In fact, I usually get asked this around a week after birth.  That’s the way our culture works.  By 6 weeks, well…people think that I’m just comfortable with looking this way forever.

Yes.  I do think my belly will go away.  Mostly because it always has before, and this is my 6th time around the block. I’ve always bounced back, though each time it seems I bounce back slower.  Oh well.   Granted, I gained much more weight this time, and I got so much bigger and more stretched out this time.  Honestly, though?  Whatever dude.  I just gave birth to a baby.

Most women don’t go back to normal after 2 weeks.  In fact, it’s not healthy to work these muscles for a full 6 weeks, and you can do damage by pushing yourself too much too fast.  I know women who have had to have surgeries 20 years after giving birth on muscles that they damaged by going back to exercising too soon.  Your muscles need to heal before they can grow.

Ladies: of all the times in the world that we need to rest, this is the most important time.  Don’t give that away.  Keep asking for help at 5 weeks.  Let your house be messy if that’s what it takes to rest.  Seriously, it will effect your health for years to come.  Rest.  This is not the time for diet and exercise.  This is the time for rest.

This postpartum time is so ambiguous and not understood by our culture.  As someone who has gone through postpartum depression after some pregnancies, and suffered from hemorrhaging in other births, and have made the mistake of taking on too much too fast, here are some things that others have taught me along the way that are more important than you think.

This is the friend-version of this advice.  I’m no doctor.  But sometimes it’s good to know what questions to ask your doctor/midwife, when appointments get rushed.

1) Keep taking your prenatal.  At the very least take a B complex vitamin.  I remember talking with a friend of mine with 10 kids, and telling her that I wasn’t feeling sad or depressed.  I was just foggy all the time.  She suggested taking a B complex vitamin, as women are often really low on this nutrient after birth.  Within 24 hours I felt significantly better.  I love this prenatal because it has folate instead of folic acid, which for me absorbs so much better, and all the B vitamins I need to stay sane.

2) Be kind to your thyroid.  Your thyroid monitors your hormones.  Pregnancy is a hormonal roller coaster.  It’s common for your thyroid to be tired, so feed it things that make it strong.  Check with your doctor on this one especially, but iodine is something that helps my thyroid settle down, but different people need different approaches.  Keep in mind that so much is currently being learned about our thyroid that you will get vastly different answers from different doctors.  So do a bit of research on your own too.  Iodine (what I take) is found in kelp.  You can take kelp pills, or even eat a sheet of sushi wrap every day.  (You can buy a stack of it at Costco.)  Signs of your thyroid asking for help: the hair shed,  (It’s common for your hair to shed a ton after birth.  It freaked me out the first time that happened to me) mood swings, depression, insomnia, and the inability to lose weight.

3) Ask about belly wrapping.  This is something that my midwife suggested this time, because my stomach muscles got so stretched.  I wore a wrap for much of this postpartum period, and it has been so comfortable, and my muscles feel so much better for it.

4) Eat a lot.  I say this from a perspective of someone who breastfeeds.  I eat so much more now than I did when I was pregnant.  Am I worried about not losing the weight?  Not a bit.  This is not the time to diet if you are breastfeeding.  I lose my milk supply if I’m not eating constantly.  I’m too sleep deprived to count calories.  Seriously.  Eat.

5) Make friends with a chiropractor.  I didn’t know this until my 5th pregnancy, but I remember having some pain in my upper back after Ingrid was born.  People said it was just because I was nursing, but it was getting so bad that I went to a chiropractor for the first time in my life.  After examining me, he said that sometimes the hips twist when they go back into place after birth, causing an uneven foundation for the rest of the back.  This can cause a little “pooch” in the lower belly as the muscles can’t return to their proper place, and it can cause back pain.  I got adjusted, and wouldn’t you know it: my pain disappeared and my belly got significantly smaller, and my exercise felt like it was actually doing something.  With this pregnancy I just planned on going in to make sure everything was fine from the beginning.  Did you know that many chiropractors will adjust your newborn for free when you go in?  They can help with colic, constipation, and fussiness with your baby, and baby adjustments are silent, and a piece of cake.  Bjorn enjoys his like getting a massage.  (Just a fair warning…when any of my babies get adjusted, I’m changing poopy diapers pretty much non-stop for a day or two.)

6) Make a plan that motivates you, for when your rest is over.  I’m actually excited, because I miss the mental boost I would get from exercise.  As someone who deals with anxiety, I’ve realized my brain needs my body to exercise at least as much as the rest of my body needs it.

Remember the end goal is to be healthy.  When you focus on your looks, numbers on a scale, or the size of your waist, you will be tempted to cut corners on your health.  Know that when the goal is health, the journey may take longer.  But doing things the right way, especially with your health, makes all the difference.

All that said, I am really looking forward to getting back in shape.  I can’t wait to feel strong again, and get some energy back.  My usual exercise is working on the elliptical machine at our YMCA, and doing some physical therapy exercises for my back on some equipment there as well.  However, I don’t feel ready for much cardio like that yet, so I’m going to start off with my Wholly Fit DVD.  I’ve used that for a few years, and I find it calming and encouraging, and flexible enough to use when I am in shape and when I’m not.  As a bonus, I feel like I’ve been in a worship service afterwards.  It’s full of so much Scripture that I feel spiritually fed as well.  That’s probably why it’s my favorite.

I’d love to hear what others have learned about taking care of your health after baby?  What helped you?

Confessions of a Homeschool Convert

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Confession

Walking hand in hand on our way to meet our pastor for premarital counseling, my guy and I each carried a little marriage workbook. We had each written under the question: “If you plan on having children, where do you intend to send them to school? Public, private, or homeschool?” the answer:

1st choice: Public school, because we want our kids to not live in a bubble, but help them learn how to live their faith in the real world. 2nd choice: Private Christian school, but only if necessary and our child wasn’t thriving in the public schools. 3rd choice: We are against homeschooling.

3 years earlier, I was in a freshman speech class at Moody Bible Institute, where I gave my first speech: “Why Christians Shouldn’t Homeschool.”