Thursday, December 31, 2009

Birth and Babies, Birth and Babies

We were sitting at the table discussing birth pools (aka Kiddie Pools) when my brother-in-law called. On my I end I heard, "Well actually it's a common topic at our house..."

So true.

I just completed the January issue of the eNews for Birth Works, which means articles, websites and information on pregnancy, birthing, babies and breastfeeding are still swirling around in my head. Hopefully they come out coherently in the eNews! (If you want one let me know)

I currently have no less than 6 open boxes and bags of baby gear in my living room, my first attempts to see what we actually have for the new little one arriving soon. And to see what we might still need. I'm kind of surprised I waited this long to start baby planning but on the other hand there are WAY more distractions while expecting a third rather than a first baby.
When the new little guy is born sometime in February he'll have a car seat if he kicks his older brother out into a booster, a few furniture pieces and a small package of newborn diapers, courtesy of Santa! Lucky for him the clothes and blankets from his older brothers are still in good shape along with the cloth diapers that should fit in a few months.

A friend of mine called today needing more advice about birth pools and we ended up talking about care providers, home births, doulas and the local hospital.

Work on my Childbirth Educator Certification has picked up since the Student's been on break. More books and reports and brain swirls about birthing and babies. My favorite book so far has been Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth. I agree with the the 271 5-star reviews on Amazon, that she has done a great service to childbearing women in sharing positive birth stories and practical advice.

Birth is a hot topic around the Franklin house these days, and I'm thrilled!

Did you count? 13 including the title and book title, see what a I mean?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

two more signs the world is coming to an end sooner rather than later...

At Walmart...

The QB was checking out with some groceries and the clerk held up a head of cabbage and said, "Uh...what's this? Lettuce?"

When the QB said cabbage, the clerk said, "Oh, right. Sorry. I'm not very good with vegetables."

On the Phone with a record store:

I asked the clerk if they had any recordings of "Swan Lake." The clerks response:
"Uh.. Who's the band?"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Need a Break from Christmas?

How about some Halloween Pictures! (We're still catching up)

I For costumes I bought two gray sweatsuits and sewed on fins, eye and teeth to turn the little guys into sharks! They're not in time out, just showing off their fins!

The sharks needed a surfer to chase after of course, so the Student took that job. And for me, well we couldn't think of anything that fit well for a preggo lady.
Pregnant Hula Girl? Nope
Whale? Feeling like that anyway, don't want to make Halloween emotional!

Anyway, I decided just to go as a pregnant witch! And if the pic looks a little funny it's because it's from the point of view of a 6 yr old.

Get him boys!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another existential moment....

Last night, I found myself sitting on my living room floor in the dark, watching this ambitious, if not terribly unpredictable version of Pride and Prejudice, all by myself. Okay, I wasn't alone, really. My very pregnant wife was asleep on the couch above me, her foot resting on my shoulder, and our recently-neutered dog lay on the floor beside me, snoring and twitching occasionally, but in terms of conscious participants, it was just me and the movie on the laptop. I don't know what this moment means, except that maybe sometimes proximity is all that people (and dogs) need--proximity to some other living, breathing, thinking thing.

The QB and the dog had me. I had them. and we had the movie.

It could have been a better movie.

We all could have been awake for it.

And the dog could have refrained from sitting up every five minutes to lick its fresh wound, but you can't have everything, right?

Snow...snow...never eat...what was that again? Never eat...

The QB made sugar cookies tonight for Family Home Evening. She was planning on just making stars with yellow frosting, but then the Monkey insisted they use the snowman cookie cutter too. We didn't realize it until after we'd decorated all the cookies, but thanks to the Monkey's insistence, tonight we ate:

"Yellow snow"-man cookies.

oh well. They were delicious.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The new dog

This is Copper, our new dog. He's a boy, at least until tomorrow morning. This is a picture of him just after finding out about our trip to the vet tomorrow.
"You're taking me where?" he said.

And, as you can see from this photograph below, he is very well trained. Notice how expertly he has plopped himself down BESIDE his new bed, instead of on it. We think this may represent some measure of artistic predilection on his part--very avant garde, very "thinking outside the bed, err--box."
Interesting note. He and Mr. Baseball both react the same way to discipline. They both get really excited, as if the embarrassment/shame/frustration/whatever of failing to live up to expectations generates a lot of energy that has to be released in some way. Mr. Baseball usually gets wiggly and starts talking in goofy voices. The dog usually runs laps around the couch and rolls on his back at my feet, as if to say, "I'm sorry, really, I am. I know I'm bad, but look, I'm on my back now, totally exposed. That's got to count for something, right? Please don't hate me, please."

He's not bad. just new to all of this "living with bipeds" stuff. He's been a backyard dog most of his life and hasn't had a lot of rules. He couldn't sit or stay when we got him (still can't really) and his on-leash etiquette made going for a walk like trying to play with a thirty pound yo-yo. But he's getting better. five days of morning walks and he's right along side me most of the way without much tugging or getting distracted by the neighborhood smells.

Can you imagine having a nose like a dog's that takes in smells like we take in the visual world around us. What a smellscape! Rain gutters and stale garbage and burning chimneys and rotting leaves and cigarette smoke and that old chewing gum on the concrete and the stale urine on the fire hydrant and the cotton seed on the wind and ketchup packet smashed into the asphalt and the broken beer bottle and the McDonald's bag in the field and maybe even the cockroach droppings and a stray bit of exhaust carried in on the breeze--all picked up by the dog's nose, all registered and cataloged and labeled with at least two questions? "What's that smell?" and "Should I follow it?" I SEE most of this on our walks, but he smells it. It's got to be an entirely new dimension, a lens on the world that gives him what I imagine language gives us, a unique view on his surroundings specially adapted to his needs as a dog--a view we can neither appreciate nor ever hope to appropriate any more than he'll ever really appreciate or be capable of using language to the extent that we do.

I've read that some autistic savants associate specific emotions, colors, energies, and feelings with numbers--I wonder if a dog can tell the difference between an angry smell and a happy smell, a safe smell and a dangerous smell, a clam smell and an energetic one. who knows. We bought some old chicken at Walmart the other day that smelled pretty angry.

He's learning...I'm learning...we're learning...

Why Mr. Baseball is going to be a good husband...

So in primary today (the children's class at church) a teacher asked the group about their favorite restaurant and called on Mr. Baseball. His answer:

"My house, because my mom makes really good food."

Well done, Mr. Baseball, well done.

The nice thing is, we're pretty sure he meant it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Behind a Few Months on Pictures

September was a crazy month, we did a lot of swimming in the pool at our temporary apartment in between house shopping, starting school and adjusting to Lubbock. One of the most fun things was celebrating Mr. Baseball's 6th Birthday! He loved the Pirate Legos and his Pirate Hat cake (even though it was a little floppy).

Mr. Baseball you are so smart and caring and thoughtful. Sometimes I'm amazed at all the things you know about and want to learn. Just last night on our Mom and Son date you told me you wanted to be a Architect and a Baseball player! That's ambitious but I have no doubt you'll be able to do and be just about anything you want to. We love you and your bright spirit!
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Working Backwards: October Pics

In mid-October we took our first road trip to Utah. Our main reason for going was Joey's brother's wedding (Welcome to the Franklin Family Sarah!). We spent nearly 10 days there visiting with both sides of the family.

Cousin Olivia's Baptism!

Nearly all the Franklin cousins together in the same place; a rare treat

Go Monkey!
Probably the closest I'll ever get to really skiing. We visited the 2002 Olympic Winter Games museum in Park City. It brought back good memories since I was in school and dating the Student. The kids had fun sitting in bobsled and trying the virtual skiing!

Oldies, it's about time

Our cute little Monkey's birthday was a month ago but I just found these pictures, all ready to post!

The dinosaurs were a big hit with both boys!

The Birthday boy requested crepes for dinner!

A "Dinosaur Dig" cake, those are fossils on the dirt cake if you can't tell.

Monkey, we're so glad you've been part of our family these last three years! It's fun to watch you grow and learn and be so silly! We love it when you say funny things and ask all sorts of questions and follow your brother around incessantly. One of my favorite things is when you sing primary songs with us or when you sing I Am a Child of God on your own. It's very sweet and I know you are His child! We love you!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Parent training dog training kid training parent.

I am of two minds at the moment--a psychological limbo wherein I find my tired brain over-saturated and confused by two very important, yet very different philosophies. Both promise to stretch my mental muscle, my patience, and my capacity for love and forgiveness, both promise to increase my well-being and happiness, and both promise to improve my family life if applied correctly, but the two philosophies could not be more different. I am speaking, of course, of two books: Cesar's Way, a dog training book by Cable TV's "dog Whisperer", Cesar Millan, that I got a few years back and guiltily skimmed as we prepared to give our old dog, Shelby, away before moving to Ohio, and Raising Cain, a book about the emotional lives of boys written by two child psychologists who've spent their entire careers working with troubled boys.

Cesar's Way
constitutes a gentle rebuke to all dog owners who anthropomorphize their pets to the point showering them with misplaced sympathy and coddling or bludgeoning them anger and aggression:

"Feeling sorry” for a dog is not doing that dog a favor. It is actually hurting her chances of becoming balanced in the future. Imagine if someone “felt sorry” for you all the time. How would that make you feel about yourself? Dogs need leadership before they need love" (153).

Raising Cain is a gentle rebuke of parents who buy into the "Boys are supposed to be tough," mentality that discourages boys from expressing, understanding, and reacting in a healthy manner to their own emotions.
“Parents can model emotional connectedness and empathy. They can listen to boys’ feelings without judging them, hear their problems without dictating solutions. We have to come to grips with the fact that every boy has an inner life, that their hearts are full. Every boy is sensitive, and every boy suffers. This is a scary idea for many adults, who consciously or unconsciously, don’t want to acknowledge a boy’s emotional vulnerability…If we teach our sons to honor and value their emotional lives, if we can give boys an emotional vocabulary and the encouragement to use it, they will unclench their hearts” (20).

Since we just got a dog, and since we're having our third boy in February, these two books and their very different philosophies have been churning around in my head. It seems that some dog owners have been treating their dogs like little boys, and too many people have been treating their little boys like dogs. The result: dogs that pee on the wall of your living room and kids that throw toys across the room when you ask them to help with the dishes.

In fact, the behavior that Raising Cain warns against is not far off from the alpha male firmness combined with rewards and carefully planned affection that Cesar wants for dogs, and the unconditional love, emotional space, and nonjudgmental support Raising Cain advocates
is not too far from the behavior that Cesar suggests is tipping some dogs off balance.

So what is "natural" for the dog is not "natural" for the little boy. That seems obvious enough. But with a head full of pop psychology and no real easy answer to dealing with the daily changes in the emotional and physical needs of a little boy like Mr. Baseball, I get a little lost. Especially when, in his book about dogs, Cesar writes something like this:

"Those parents on Nanny 911—of course they love their children!—But love’s the only thing they’re giving. They’re not giving their kids exercise. They’re not giving them psychological stimulation. There are no rules."

I'm not confused by what Cesar is saying--that in some ways the needs of children (structure, consistency, a stable understanding of expectations, emotional, psychological, and intellectual stimulation) are the same as the needs of Dogs. What gets me is how easy it is, as a parent, to want to apply the rest of Cesar's philosophy to the kids--to treat them like dogs. You know--ply them with treats, put them on a proverbial "leash" in public (particularly at the grocery store when they're chasing each other down the cereal aisle screaming "fireman to the rescue!" so loud that people in the checkout lines can hear them), draw out clear and strict boundaries about where they can and cannot go, establish myself as the "Alpha male."

No matter how much I read, and pray, and think about being a good dad, there is a threshold I reach as a parent, where Mr. Baseball's daily fight about putting on clothes or his tantrum about having to help set the table or his kicking furniture and toys when he gets frustrated leave me saying things like

"Either choose to be okay with doing BLANK (insert undesirable but important activity that takes him away from whatever it is he'd rather be doing) or we'll BLANK (insert a variety of privileges that we could take away, everything from listening to books on tape to skipping story time to not having dessert)"

and that only makes him more upset and makes me feel like I'm trying to train a dog instead of raise a child. Mentally I know I should give him a little room to vent his frustration and then decide on his own that complying with the rules and order of the house is in his best interest, but the alpha male in me wants immediate results--I want him to sit when I say sit, to fetch when I say fetch--and I know that it is both unreasonable and ineffective.

But I still do it.

Not all the time. Just when that threshold gets breached, when I feel like I've been the calm and patient and active-listening parent that I need to be, or it's week 11 of the school year and putting on school clothes in the morning should, in my mind, be well-established routine, or when I call Mr. Baseball inside after playing in the backyard for an hour to come in and help clean up and complains that he "never gets time to play"--that's when this irrational alpha male part of me wants to break out and say, "Just do it!" and sometimes it does.

Those are the moments that I feel smallest, that I wish I could take back, that I wonder at this parenting thing and how God can trust me with his children. I feel bad that Mr. Baseball is the guinea pig--that every change in his emotional and physical needs is new to us--a fast moving blip on the radar that we barely have time to react to before it has completely overtaken us, knocked us off course, and left us spinning, scrambling to right the controls, to steady the ship, and to regroup enough to react in a way that is helpful and encouraging to him and maintains the order and stability in our family.

I called him this morning from work after leaving in a huff, grumpy that this parenting thing isn't easier, upset at myself for being so demanding, disappointed at the dissonance between how I know I should interact and communicate and negotiate with Mr. Baseball and how I often end up leveling him with warnings and lectures and sermons and platitudes about "being part of the team." I called him to tell him I love him, to let him know that I'm not as frustrated and disappointed by his actions as I sometimes appear, and to see if he'd managed to get out of his own chore-induced bad mood. he was laughing when he picked up the phone--all the frustration and defensiveness of early this morning washed away. He was sitting at the table doing some writing practice, getting ready to go out with Mom and his little brother. I told him I loved him. and we talked for a moment. Then he said, "I love you Daddy," and hung up the phone.

As nice as it was to hear his happy voice on the other end of the line, and for him to say that to me without any prompting, I can't help but wonder at what point my short comings as a father will no longer be so easy to forgive and forget.