15 August 2013

Slightly uncomfortable credit claiming

I have recently had a very cool quote appear on my Facebook feed a number of times. Various parenting sites are reposting the picture and it always gets a number of shares and "likes," thus helping it spread more.
Everytime I see it, I smile, but I am every so slightly unnerved, too. Why? Because this is my work, uncredited, and appearing in a number of places. I cannot lay claim to the words - I read this quote and loved it somewhere else. However, I did choose the colors, design, and layout that appear on my facebook feed with some regularity. I worked on it for a while before I was satisfied with the look. I love it. The picture I posted above is the one I pinned of the finished product -- printed, framed, and hanging in my home.
Where I guess I went wrong is posting the original artwork to a "share" site on Shutterfly. I gave the link to a few people and it was shared and, about 18 months later, it seems to be everywhere.
Mostly, I think it's pretty awesome that people like the design. A teeny part of me wishes I had included a statement of credit on the bottom of the original art, just so people know that I made this. After another friend shared that this was on her feed tonight, I decided to blog about it so there's at least some record somewhere, even if I am the only one who knows or cares.
(And, I guess since it's already been shared in so many places by so many people, there is no harm in sharing the original link to the artwork with my Readers.

07 August 2013

By the by...

While I've been very remiss in keeping up with reviews as of late, I have been writing snapshot reviews of titles I have read this past year. I have been posting these on a Pinterest Board and have included all books except books for the very young. While I've read far less this past year than usual, perhaps you'll see a title that looks good to you.

Nature Counts!

Max loves nature, a propensity I am doing my best to encourage. We try to spend some time outside every day, rain or shine. We visit our local Nature Center for playdates and programs, as well as just to hike and explore on our own. I recently watched him spend a happy half hour following an ant around the deck, giggling as he watched it navigate the jungle of his toys.
His delight with the natural world made this trio of books a special treat for us to share. These Bees Count, These Seas Count, and This Tree Counts are all written by Alison Formento and charmingly illustrated by Sarah Snow. The illustrations in each are bright papercut collage, depicting the natural world in a realistic and cheerful manner.
In These Bees Count, Mr Tate's class takes a field trip to a farm. Farmer Ellen explains to the children that her farm doesn't grow flowers or trees and does't house traditional farm animals. Instead, she farms bees and honey. Some of the children are nervous about being stung, though their fears dispel as Farmer Ellen provides them with protective suits and shows them around. As lhey all take the time to listen to the bees, they discover more about the relationship bees have with the plants on the farm and that bee pollen is neccessary for the success of our food crops. The final page is meant to provide more information to a parent or caregiver to share with their child.
Mr Tate's class volunteers to help Captain Ned out on Beach Clean Up Day in These Seas Count. Captain Ned tells them that the sea is sad by all the garbage littering the beach. He invites the children to listen to the sea and to really hear what it holds. What follows is a litany of some of the many animals the sea provides a home for - marlin, jellyfish, harbor seals. The Captain explains that, "If the oceans and seas aren't clean, that hurts fish and people." The children work hard to help clean up and Mr Tate reminds them of the recent lesson they had about the water cycle, helping them make the connection between the classroom and the real world. Again, a final informational page is included, this time accompanied by a bibliography of sources and web links.
Mr Tate is clearly a dedicated teacher who wants his students to pay attention to the nature in their own backyards, not just what they encounter on class trips. Accordingly, This Tree Counts sees the students preparing to plant more trees behind their school. They listen to what the tree has to tell them and discover that one tree teems with life - owls, spiders, robins, ants, and more. He tells the children that the tree "washes" the air they breathe and asks them what other kinds of trees they know. A discussion about the other benefits of trees follows. In the ends, ten baby trees are planted and the class understands that trees do more than just provide a shady place to play. This book doesn't include additional information at the end, but an interested child or adult could easily find more to further an exploration of the world of trees.
Any one of these titles would be a fantastic addition to a classroom or storytime setting, as well as being the perfect stories to share with your own budding naturalist. I look forward to seeing more areas explored in future books - perhaps the forest or desert (although perhaps Mr Tate's field trip funds don't extend quite that far). We have already shared these books and will undoubtedly pull them out again as Max gets older and we begin to learn about the natural world in earnest.
disclaimer: The books reviewed in this post were sent to me by Albert Whitman & Company to review for this blog. I read all the books and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie and other delights

"This is my cow, she's called Daisy.
She should eat grass but she's too lazy."

Even before the first lines of Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie by Mary Ellen Jordan and Andrew Weldon, children are treated to a peek of the singular farm they'll be visiting. The end papers show an orderly place sparsely populated with animals. Everything looks as it should be. The next page, though, features a hyper, slightly off chicken alone in the corner of a white page. He wouldn't be out of place in a Gary Larson cartoon. By the time we are introduced to the titular Daisy, it's apparent that this is not Old McDonald's place. In bouncy rhyme that reads aloud brilliantly, we're introduced to a jelly-eating cow, a vain pig, a dancing chicken, and others. The story is simple and fun, the artwork colorful and friendly. This is a story your toddler or preschooler will ask for over and over - and one you won't mind re-reading.

Baby Parade by Rebecca O'Connell and illustrated by Susie Poole is another picture book that will be appreciated by your youngest audience. A diverse group of cheerful babies - some in wagons or strollers, some being worn - parade by, before coming together to practice crawling, standing and walking at a baby party. The text is simple and appealing. The illustrations are adorable - chubby, round-headed babies occupy these pages. It would have been nice to see a child of obvious Hispanic or Asian descent included in the art, but the babies who are included will delight your child.

For the slightly older child, The Three Bears ABC: An Alphabet Book by Grace Maccarone and illustrated by Hollie Hibbert is a clever retelling of the classic tale. "A is for alphabet, And here it is... B is for bears. There were three bears..." Deftly employing each letter in the alphabet, Maccarone relays the well-known tale of breaking and entering in a manner that will have preschoolers giggling. The artwork is bright and rather cartoony - I don't love it, but I think it definitely does have kid appeal. This would be a great book to use in a storytime or even as part of a classroom exercise. Children could use this as a starting point to create their own alphabet books, retelling the tale of their choice. 

Thanks for being patient, Dear Readers, while I got back on track. I have a stack of books here, so more reviews will be up soon! 

disclaimer: The books reviewed in this post were sent to me by Albert Whitman & Company to review for this blog. I read all the books and all opinions expressed here are my own.

01 August 2013

I support you

I don't think I have written publically about my breastfeeding journey before, but the time feels right...
I knew I wanted to nurse my child as soon as I saw the double line on the pregnancy test. It seemed like the only logical choice to me. Nothing against formula feeding - I, myself, was formula fed as a child - but I wanted a nursing relationship with my child. I read lots of books, talked to an auntie who had nursed four children, took a breastfeeding class... I was ready.
The nurses at the hospital knew my plan and were amazing. Even though I ended up with a C-section, they made sure Max was with me within 30 minutes to nurse. He was a champ. He knew just what to do and everything was amazing. He was a Rock Star. For a day.
The second day, he refused to latch. I tried and tried to get him to eat and he cried and pulled away and refused. Nurses came in to help, but nothing worked. Finally, after hours, a nurse came and forcibly held his little head in place as he screamed and cried and I sat helpless, tears streaming down my own face, until he finally latched on and began to eat.
When we got home, I thought it was going great. I kept a journal, noting every time he ate, which side he started on, how long he nursed on each side. He had jaundice, so it was recommended that we supplement with 2oz of formula a day. He enjoyed those bottles, being held by Daddy for feeding, but he still loved to nurse. I coslept with him and he nursed throughout the night, so I was getting plenty of sleep. Everything seemed great.
Until it wasn't. After 2 weeks, his jaundice was gone and we were told we could discontinue the formula, which we gladly did. He continued to want to nurse around the clock and at his two-month checkup, he were measuring less than the fifth percentile for  weight. He had teeny little chicken legs and he nursed All. The. Time. I quickly lost any shyness I had about nursing in public or I would have been stuck in the house. He also started to pull away and cry while nursing. I began to take 9 Fenugreek pills a day and drinking 2 cups of Mother's Milk tea, "just in case."
I found a local La Leche League group to attend. The women were friendly, but when I voiced my concerns with his weight and behavior, they told me everything was fine. This was "normal." There was "nothing wrong." I should never, ever supplement. I should nurse whenever he wanted. I shouldn't worry that I didn't get much from the pump, some women just didn't. I should ignore the nagging feeling that something wasn't right and keep nursing.
Luckily, after the meeting, one woman came up to me and told me that what I was experiencing wasn't normal. She gave me the card for a Lactation Consultant and suggested I give her a call. I called from the parking lot and made an appointment for the next morning.
The LC did a weighted feeding the next morning and determined that I may have low milk supply. She helped me come up with a plan. I was to nurse on demand while doing breast compressions. After each feeding, I would pump for 5 minutes to stimulate production. I was to offer a small amount of formula after each feeding to make sure the baby's hunger was satisfied but that he still had the motivation to do the hard work of nursing first. My intake of Fenugreek was increased and we added Blessed Thistle to the mix.
My LC was an absolute angel. She supported me throughout my struggle and reassured me that I was not a bad mother when I cried that I hadn't realized my little boy had been hungry, not just cranky. She called me at home to check on me and made sure I had both her office and cell phone numbers.
Our pediatrician was amazing, too. He freely admitted that he didn't fully understand the deep desire to exclusively breastfeed, but he respected it. His number one rule was "Feed the Baby," however we made that happen. He wrote me a prescription for Domperidone and helped me find a compounding pharmacy that would make the drug for me when I explained that my research had left me uneasy with the side effects of Reglan (another drug that can increase milk) but that I was also uncomfortable ordering Domperidone from an online pharmacy.
I stopped going to the La Leche League meetings where I had been advised to ignore my instinct that something was wrong and found another group. The women there were kinder and had less of a "Mean Girls" feel than the first group had. I told my story and, even though I felt deeply uncomfortable when I had to pull out a bottle to supplement Max's feeding, but no one gave me too noticeable a side-eye. Still, I noticed that many of the meetings turned into discussions of how breastfeeding was best to the exclusion of any other parenting choice and I was uncomfortable with that. The low point for me was when a woman I had hoped to befriend (she had a son just a month younger than Max) went on a tirade about how all formula should be marked "poison" because that's what it was. I was flabbergasted. I couldn't even respond. The leader gently pointed out that I used formula to supplement and this young mother condescended that it was okay in my case because I "had no choice." It was okay for me to give my baby "poison?" How dare she!
So, that was the end of my LLL days. I met with the LC regularly until we had determined that none of the efforts I was putting forth, including Domperidone, were going to help me produce enough milk. I found peace with supplementing an ounce or two at each feeding. Max began to gain weight and to be a happier baby in general. I continued to nurse him whenever he asked. My intended one year of nursing turned into two (with formula supplements ending just before one year).
Last week, my sweet boy peacefully weaned himself. I am four months pregnant and I know my supply had been dropping. Two nights after he weaned, we were having a rough time and he started to lift my shirt. I said, "You can try, big boy, but I think it's all gone, remember?" He put my shirt back down and looked sadly at my chest. "Bye, bye," he said, waving, before snuggling in for hugs.
I'm telling my story now because I have been deeply moved by the "I Support You" campaign begun by Mama bloggers, Kim Simon, of Mama by the Bay (she both formula and breast fed), Suzanne Barston of Fearless Formula Feeder, and Jamie-Lynne Grumet, who blogs at I Am Not The Babysitter (and who caused a media frenzy after being pictured on the cover of Time, nursing her preschooler). This campaign aims to spread compassion and support among ALL parents, regardless of different parenting choices.

Here's the thing. I am a passionate advocate of breastfeeding. I am very hopeful that I will be able to exclusively nurse the child we are now expecting. However, I am even more of an advocate of parents loving their children and caring for them in the way that is best for each individual family. It's none of my business why someone else might choose to formula feed or supplement. No one owes me an explanation or has to convince me that their reason is "good enough" to let them off the hook for not nursing. Tearing down someone else does not build me up. Are you loving your child and feeding your baby? Good. Done. You're a rock star, Mama!

So, whatever choices you make in regards to feeding your child, I SUPPORT YOU.

Note: I am pretty sure this is the first time I have told this story so publically. Typing it all out is making me feel very vulnerable, which seems silly to me. It shouldn't matter how I fed my child, yet I still somehow expect to be judged. Let's change that culture of judging one another. Being a parent is HARD. Let's extend a hand of support to one another instead of knocking each other down.