Pregnancy Update

I’m still pregnant. I have a little over 3 months left, yay, but so far I’m feeling fine. We learned a while back that it’s going to be a boy, news which threw my daughter into a tizzy and it took her a few days and trying to steal the ultrasound pictures to come to terms with. Alpha was happy. Originally he wanted another sister, but after we had some friends over who have 4 boys and a girl, he changed his tune and told me how much fun it they must have all the time with so many brothers. So that’s clearly his goal: MOAR FRIENDS!!!
Beta has accepted things since then and enjoys cuddling with the baby (my belly) and keeps telling me what the baby likes or what the baby wants to do.

She is really into the baby. We’ll see if she’s as into when it’s born.

As far as the baby is concerned, he’s doing really well. He’s very active and enjoys kicking me all over. Everything came up normal on the ultrasounds, aside from the fact he refused to turn so the tech could get one specific measurement on the heart. Stubborn, I guess, or overly comfortable.

Things are definitely getting more difficult as things progress. Now once I hit 11,000 steps in a day I can tell without looking because my belly starts to ache and complain. Going to the gym is no longer enjoyable because I”m not increasing the weights I lift. To the contrary, I’m decreasing them in many cases. But I’m trying to keep going and usually make it there 2 times a week. Things keep getting in the way and I ended up taking two weeks off due to a horrible cold. I’m pretty sure it turned into bronchitis after a while because I ended up with a cough I couldn’t shake. Thank goodness for my asthma medication.

Weight gain front: I’m doing well. From my lowest weight in the pregnancy, I’ve gained 10 lbs. From my starting weight, 6. This is fantastic and I’m quite happy about it. I hope I don’t go too crazy in the last 3 months and ruin it all since my goal is not to gain more than 20 lbs. so that I lose the weight I gained pretty immediately after giving birth.

Annoyingly, I keep running into the the notion that since I’m pregnant, I shouldn’t be doing anything. One of my friends is the worst offender and hanging out with her gives me a huge headache because of it. She spends her time urging me to eat up because I’m pregnant, asking me if I need to rest or sit down and offering to pick up my daughter for me because, hey, pregnant people shouldn’t be doing heavy lifting, right? Gaaah. She’s probably just trying to be nice, but she should know by now that my daughter is one of the lighter things I lift. When I told her how I was trying to pull the creeping ground ivy out my yard because it’s taking over, she called me a crazy pregnant lady because obviously I shouldn’t be doing that. It drives me nuts. When my belly aches, I take it as a sign to sit down and rest because physical discomfort is generally a sign of needing to take a break, pregnant or not. But I don’t view pregnancy as a 9 month break from real life, especially not with two older kids running around.

In some ways, I’ve grown positively manic. I feel like I have a long list in my head of Things We Need to Get Done Before the Baby is Born…and I started this list when I was about 3 months pregnant. But this time I know the baby is going to be born in winter. I know that it’s important to get shit done outside so that when spring comes, things are ready and we don’t have to be stressed. I know it’s important to get our kitchen done and to have things  organized and ready so I’m not all stressed trying to figure out where things are.

The fact that we’re homeschooling makes me feel this pressure anymore. I’ve got to keep the balls in the air as best as I can and prepare as much in advance so the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

Fingers crossed, anyway.


I’m getting dumber

It’s time to face facts: I’m getting stupider.

When I was in college, I would read a lot of blogs on economics because I was an economics major. A lot of the posts discussed things I was learning in class and tied them to current events or current debate, which made them interesting. Then there were the posts that just discussed markets in everything or different cities, which are always interesting. I still read these blogs, but more and more I find myself skipping posts discussing actual economics in exchange for the ones about other topics–parenting, food in Singapore, books, whatever. You know: the ones that are always interesting if you’re not interested in economics.

It’s not that I don’t want to read the economics-heavy posts; it’s that I can’t concentrate on them. I try. But my mind wanders. I get up and do something else and when I come back, I just scroll past. My brain no longer has the time or energy to devote to topics that are now only marginal to my every day existence.

When Brian Caplan–hands down one of my favorite economists–wrote his book about parenting, I lapped it up. I even pre-ordered that book and it stands as my number 1 parenting book to this day. It’s the economics of parenting–but written in such a way that a sleep deprived new mom can still understand it. In other words, no math.

Maybe I’m just out of practice. It takes a lot of effort to concentrate on something boring. If you have to do it for a grade, that gives you motivation. But I have no external motivation to concentrate on blog posts that deal with the ‘difficult aspects’ of economics, even if it came to me fairly easily before. In my Money and Banking class, I was the only one who understood how the interest rate works to control money supply and I tried explaining it to my friend (a mom returning to college to get her degree). My teacher overheard and told me, “You’re good at school. You should do more of it.”

But I was sick of school. I’d been doing it since I was 4 years old. I wanted to get my degree, get out and do something else. I briefly considered getting a masters degree in economics, but the expense and econometrics (something I wasn’t sure I’d do well in) hung over me. Why take out tons of debt without any guarantee that I can pay off?

But all the same, I feel sad I’m getting stupider, that my brain no longer has the energy to read something more challenging than Jane Austen. I started reading the Gulag Archipelago, but stopped because Solzhenitsyn’s writing style bothered me. Too conversational in some ways. I figure if I’m ever stuck in an elevator for a long time, I’ll finish it then.

My Kids Believe in Santa

Apparently telling your kids about Santa is controversial these days. I do it. Why? Because it’s fun. And sometimes, I like to have fun. People who are against telling kids about Santa raise the argument that telling kids some dude goes into their house and gives them presents while flying in a magical sleigh pulled by reindeer is not only creepy, but also lying to them. My response to this is: considering all the other ways you’re invariably going to lie to your kids while raising them, you’re picking this one to make a stand? Really?

In the long run, it doesn’t matter one bit if you tell your kids there is a Santa or not. If you want to tell them there’s a Santa, DO IT! If you don’t want to waste your time (and give all the credit to an imaginary person), then DON’T! Either way, it’s not going to turn them into a serial killer or make them cynical. Growing up and realize that their parents aren’t perfect is going to make them cynical. Not learning there is no Santa.

My parents told me about Santa when I was little. I believed it until I was 5. Then I started noticing my older sister and brother kept accurately telling me what I was going to get for Christmas so I finally asked my mom if there was a Santa Claus. She said no. I wasn’t upset at all. At least not until I tried to tell my friend down the street. She refused to believe me and kept insisting that there was a Santa Claus. I kept insisting that there wasn’t. Eventually they moved away, but I now have the satisfaction of knowing that eventually she found out that I really was right. Since then, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to just shut up and not be right.

My husband also grew up believing in Santa Claus. Or more specifically, Joulupukki. Joulupukki lives in Finland in Lapland. Every year on Christmas Eve they have Joulupukki reading letters and taking phone calls from kids on the television. You can even fill out a form online somewhere (I’d look it up, but I’m lazy) and give Santaland an address and name and they will send you a letter from Joulupukki. In other words, Santa is a big fricking deal in Finland.

Onko täällä kilttejä lapsia?

Telling our kids about Santa/Weihnachtsmann/Joulupukki gives Finland that extra edge of cool in the language and culture race in our household. When Alpha went to Finnish preschool while we were visiting over Christmas last year, they discussed Joulupukki and that was the only word he ever actually said while at Finnish preschool. Other than that, he was completely mute. But JOULUPUKKI IS BRINGING HIM PRESENTS, MAN! That has to be acknowledged. Then Joulupukki showed up at his grandparents house on Christmas Eve (presumably while on his way to hand out presents to all the other kids out there) and personally delivered presents to everyone. Alpha was beside himself with excitement. Beta was confused.

This year, they’re both excited. They know about Joulupukki and they know about getting presents. This is actually the first year it has firmly registered with Alpha that he can request presents and get them. He’s asked for a scooter, which we bought (one for each child). Then he changed his request and asked for a fire scooter. I have no idea what it is, but he gave me a long monologue about how he could ride it in the street because he would be “sehr sehr sehr sehr sehr vorsichtig” and if a car came, he would be able to go REALLY FAST. I told him I didn’t think there were such things as fire scooters. He insists that there are. I think he’s going to be disappointed tomorrow.

But he’s convinced there’s a Santa. The crazy thing is that we haven’t even put forth a lot of effort to convince him of this. Society has done most of the work for us. And it’s not a “be good or Santa won’t bring you any presents on Christmas” thing either because unless you’re actually planning on NOT giving your kid anything for Christmas when you say that, that’s a really ineffective way to discipline. They’ll learn that either a) you don’t mean a damn thing you say or b) that Santa is on their side. As far as my kids are concerned, Santa just comes and brings them presents because he’s cool like that. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected their behavior. Today my son decided he needed to clean up all his toys so that Santa wouldn’t step on them and hurt himself or break his toys. I told him that was a really good idea.

So whether or not you tell your kids about Santa or believe yourself, have a Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten, hyvää joulua!

In Search of ‘Normal’ Homeschoolers

I need to find some normal homeschooling friends. Desperately. I’m sure they’re out there. I’m in a homeschooling “network” of about 400 hundred people, so you’d think some of them would be more on the normal side. The problem is sorting having the tenacity to go through of the weirdo ones and still be around for the normal ones.

What do I mean by normal?

Well…one homeschooling mom decided to start a group to help her 8 year old daughter find some friends her age. So she sent out a message saying “Although Sally [not her real name] adores her younger brothers [being about 4] and loves playing with them, some times she also likes to play with kids her own age….” What the hell. Of course she wants to play with kids her own age! What kid doesn’t? I’d be concerned if she only wanted to play with boys half her age. Why so defensive in the beginning? Would anyone actually read an email saying, “My daughter wants to make more friends in her age group. Let’s get together!” and conclude that Sally hates her brothers and wants them to die painful slow deaths?

This kind of pro-active defensiveness seems to be common in homeschooling groups. Mention Halloween or Easter or any holiday that traditionally revolves  around candy and you get a chorus of “Although I hate the candy part of it…” Sigh. Yes. We know.

Along with this are the little reminders tacked on to group events or celebrations to bring a “healthy snack to share with all allergens labelled!” I’m fine with labeling the allergies bit; I’d be pissed I was chowing down on something only for it to turn out to have lobster in it and end up covered in hives. But why do they feel the need to tell us to bring a healthy snack? Are we adults or not? Can we not decide for ourselves what is healthy? One mom brought cookies to an Easter Egg Hunt (oh, sorry, Not Easter Egg Hunt. I referred to it as an Easter Egg Hunt when RSVP-ing and got promptly corrected by the leader that it was strictly secular and had nothing to do with any religious holiday whatsoever. I resisted the urge to immediately schedule a random egg hunt in September), but I guess that was okay because they were gluten free and, as everyone knows, gluten free makes it healthy. I spend most of these events resisting the urge to bring Doritos and a can of cheez whiz. Non-organic, of course.

OMG, that’s pasteurized? Don’t you know how bad that is?

Lately they’ve changed the rules and decided that if people don’t want to do potluck (probably because all the rules make it too much of a pain in the ass), you can also just bring food for you and yours. Uh, thanks?

It’s not so much that people do these sorts of things, it’s the way they go about it: completely pompous. It’s not about what they do so much as it is about how they present themselves to other people. The last thing any of these women want is to be revealed as the only mom there who let’s there kids eat sugar and who things pizza pockets are a healthy entree. And it annoys me.

I’m not sure if meeting normal homeschooling parents would help in this regard since this behavior is common to all women. We had one of DH’s co-workers over and grilled food. I commented to his co-worker’s wife that Beta could eat 4 hot dogs in one go and didn’t even care if they were cooked. She replied, awkwardly, “I bet Billy could too, but I usually don’t let him because of all the preservatives and nitrates in hot dogs.” She must have seen this meme going around Facebook, I guess:


I base 99.9% of my parenting decisions on facebook memes. Fact.

Uh, thanks for insinuating that I basically want my kids to get cancer, Mom Lady. Sheesh. Way to suck all the fun out of grilling.

So while most of the mommy population seems to have this problem of covering their mommy-asses whenever they say anything, ever, it seems like it’s more common among the homeschooling population. This is probably due to the fact that the homeschooling population is self-selecting. Of all parents, which ones do you think are going to be most likely to decide that public school is inadequate for their children’s needs? Ones who feed their kids 12 hot dogs a month, cancer be damned, or those whose kids would be hard pressed to recognize a hot dog? So I’ve decided to try and recruit my less militant friends who are on the fence about homeschooling. This is going to make me super annoying, I know it. It probably won’t work, either. But I want my kids to have friends. Preferably friends where I don’t feel like the other mothers are constantly outraged at how I raise my children and therefore will never let their kids play at my house and would really prefer it if they didn’t hang out with my kids at all, but they can’t actually say that because that would lack the appropriate passive-aggressiveness they’ve become accustom to. They could always stick a smiley face at the end of the email they eventually write to break the news; everyone knows no one can get mad at you if you put a smiley in there :).

Maybe I’ll start a Meet Up Group: “Normal Homeschoolers.” After all, everyone knows that if you want to get the really militant homeschoolers, you label your group “Gifted Homeschoolers” because everyone who homeschools has gifted children. Homeschoolers have one hell of a bell curve.

(As a post script, I’m basically trying to summon up the courage to keep going to homeschooling things in the hopes I will meet some kindred spirits without getting too discouraged and quitting all together)


While visiting my sister, we went out and had dinner with one of our old friends, A. Like, way back from when we were kids friends.  Her mom killed herself when she was 12 and she went through some really hard times because of that. My sister told her how it was crazy the things that I remembered about our childhood that she didn’t and my sister’s friend piped up with a memory she had. My sister was 12, she was 8 and I was 4, so obviously I didn’t remember it at all.

My mom had told A’s mom that she would watch her and that she was going to take us to the pool. But after A’s mom left, my mom had my sister take the two of us to the pool. This was a common occurrence when we were kids. We would walk from our house a couple blocks over to the pedestrian bridge over the freeway, then through the park to the pool. “I was scared!” A said. “Walking over the freeway like that? And only with you, lugging your little sister along, it was crazy!” She told her mom what had happened and A’s mom was not happy that my mom had lied to her about taking them to the pool and had had them go by themselves with only my 12 year old sister to look after an 8-year old and a 4-year old at the pool. She called my mom and let her know exactly how she felt about that.

I don’t know how my mom reacted– neither did A–but it was a really disheartening thing to hear. When discussing my mom and numerous problems, we tend to have a specific narrative set up: Mom wasn’t always this bad. She was once pretty normal. But this story shoots a few holes into that premise. My mom always had narcissistic tendencies. She didn’t mind lying to A’s mom and telling her she would take us to the pool when she wasn’t going to. What was important was what she wanted. She probably even had an excuse ready when A’s mom called her, upset that she hadn’t taken us.

Even worse was the fact that even when I was just 4, my mom was doing all she could to get out of parenting me. My sister was there, she could do it. My mom had things she’d rather do. As a parent myself, I couldn’t imagine feeling comfortable having a 12 year old watch two other younger kids at a pool. It’s another part of a pervasive pattern of neglect and unimportance that spans the lives of my sister, my brother and myself. We try to minimalize it and to put it in perspective– “It wasn’t as bad as it could have been!”–but it was there none-the-less and for much longer than either one of us can remember.

“I do have good memories of my mom,” I mentioned after we had discussed her a while longer.

“I think most of your good memories of your mom were actually your sister,” A cut in and I’ve thought about that a lot, ever since. The problem is, I don’t have a whole lot of specifically good memories of my mother and the few I do have are pretty limited.  Whenever I tell old friends that I’ve completely cut my mother out of my life and, with any luck, will never see or speak to her again, none of them can quite comprehend it. “I couldn’t imagine not talking to my mom ever again,” one told me sadly. I wish I could imagine wanting to without dreading the possibility.

Teaching Kids to Write

I recently met up with two of my friends from high school and we started discussing how much we benefited from the education we got in the IB Program, especially the writing skills. All of us, at one point or another in our careers have realized that we have the ability to write and structure essays that most of our peers simply lack. For me, team projects in college consisted of everyone doing their parts and then me taking them and massively editing them so that they sounded good and used proper grammar. My first friend ended up taking a college English course, where she found out that the way she learned to write in high school was too complicated and she needed to dumb it down a bit. My second friend is currently getting her Masters degree and ended up writing a ten page paper at the last minute the same week her mother died and her teacher praised her writing, saying it was uncommonly good.

This discussion made me think about teaching writing in homeschooling and the many arguments I’ve read about how you don’t need to teach your kids how to write, period, because the kind of writing you need in the workplace is completely different from the kind of writing you’re taught at school. I think that line of thinking is missing the point. The point is not that you don’t need to teach your kids how to write, it’s that you need to teach them how to write properly, or at least to develop their writing skills so they can express themselves fluently on paper.

This reminds me of all the arguments I’ve read about homeschooling vs. unschooling. Unschoolers argue that kids are natural learners and do not need formal instruction because they will naturally pick up things that they want to learn and learn it. They will naturally specialize. The problem I see with this argument is that this seems to say that some people are just naturally good writers while others are naturally bad and there’s not much you can do about it, but i know for a fact this isn’t true. Both of my friends were told by the IB Administrator in their interview that he was concerned about their writing and they were going to have to work hard to improve on it if they got into IB and both of them did. The first friend I mentioned went from getting Ds on her first IB essays to getting As in her Senior year. The second friend was in IB gifted English in spite of any writing weaknesses she or anyone else may see in her whereas I was not. They’re both very good writers because of the instruction they received and both of them are extremely grateful for it (although they may have been less grateful at the time).

And isn’t that the point of learning? To get better at things we suck at? My son sucks at talking although his brain works fine, so we spend 15 minutes every day practicing his speech. He may never grow up to be a great orator, but that’s no reason not to make sure he can speak as well as possible. Alpha seems to be chugging along well enough in  math, though, so I could theoretically not teach him in anything in that subject. If left alone, maybe he would come up with the Pythagorean Theorem eventually, but he’d probably get their a lot quicker if I just told him about it. Because the point of teaching is to show us what other people have discovered, what they’ve done and what best practices we can use to get there ourselves. Maybe this is why American schools are so bad. I tried helping my 11 year-old nephew with his math homework and he kept protesting that yes, he could solve the problems the way I showed him, but that wasn’t how his teacher wanted him to do it and so he wouldn’t get full points. Screw that. That’s bad teaching and it results in bad learning. Similarly, teaching kids that a paragraph is four sentences long and a good essay consists of an introduction, three supporting paragraphs and a conclusion, all of which support your thesis which should definitely have the individual topics of the three body paragraphs is a boring way to write, but at least it does teach kids how to organize their thoughts, which is important. It’s a good starting place. But you should start there and work your way up instead of just staying there or never getting to that point in the first place.

So, we will definitely be teaching writing. I’m not entirely sure how, but we’ll probably start by just telling narratives, which I’ll write down and improve upon so the kids can get used to the differences between talking and writing. Then hopefully they will be capable writers when they’re grown.

Beta Update

I don’t talk about Beta much on my blog, maybe because she’s still so young and has yet to develop any interesting problems like Alpha has, but since I’m not actually keeping a baby book, I figure I should put forth some sort of effort to record what she’s up to.

She talks. A lot.

I think it must be because she’s a girl, but sometimes I feel like she is never quiet. A few nights ago, she woke up when I got home around 9pm and was awake until past 11, talking. I recorded some of it. She sang songs, she talked to me, she talked to her stuffed broccoli. “No, broccoli, go home broccoli. Broccoli, come here. Go home, broccoli.”

She has recently become really into Dora. I’m beginning to think this is a mistake because her English is exploding and she seems to prefer using it to other things. She has a long list of Dora-specific English vocabulary she now uses all the time and has started calling me ‘mommy.’

“Mommy, say backpack! Say BACKPACK!”

“You’re too late!”

“We did it!”

She’s also started referring to her ‘squeaky,’ but she can’t say that work right so it always takes me a long time to figure out what she’s talking about. Since she’s pretending, it doesn’t make things easier.

Both she and Alpha are terrified of Swiper. As soon as he hears the Swiper rattle, Alpha runs out of the room. If he’s there when Swiper triumphantly swipes something, he screams. But today I gave him a Swiper sticker and he was thrilled. He started running around, throwing stuff in the other direction and then saying, “Ha ha ha! You’re too late! You’ll never find it now!”

Then Beta caught on and started doing the same thing.

I’m beginning to wonder if I should get some Dora shows in German or something.

The interesting thing about Dora is that one of its “educational purposes” is to expose kids to Spanish. But so far, I haven’t noticed my kids picking up one lick of Spanish. Alpha might repeat some of the words, but he doesn’t seem to be using them in everyday life. This is because until age 3, kids only learn language from a physically present adult. They don’t learn from TV shows. So while Beta appears to be learning English from the show, the reality is she’s mostly picking up vocabulary or it’s reinforcing English she has already heard from real life. She is also convinced that the map’s name is I’mthemap.

Other than that, she is very cuddly and has started kissing me on the cheek at bedtime and saying, “Gute Nacht, Äiti! Schlaf schön!” (good night, mom! Sleep well!”), which is what I tell her.

I discussed the possibility of Alpha being dyslexic with my host mom on the phone last weekend and she predictably asked, “But it isn’t due to the many languages is it?” I assured her it wasn’t. “Well, it doesn’t seem like Beta is the same way, does it? She seems different.” And in a lot of ways she does. She mispronounces things (she currently says “kee-ka-poo” instead of peek-a-boo) but I understand so much more of what she says than I understood from Alpha when he was the same age. It really makes me wonder how much of what he said I missed out on and makes me feel quite sad.

As it is, Alpha and Beta are good interpreters for each other. If one says something I don’t understand, the other will usually let us know what s/he means. Beta has quickly grasped that Alpha is more capable than she is as well. If no parent is available to help her, she will turn to him and say, “Alpha, hilfe!” or her current favorite, “Help you!”

She loves babies. Whenever we go out, she yells loudly, “Äiti! EIN BABY!” whenever she sees one, even if said Baby is about the same age as her. I’ve asked her if she is a baby and she says no. I ask her what she is and she says “Beta.” It would definitely seem that girls are different than boys.

We Have a Speech Pathologist

After 4 months of calling people, waiting, calling more people, waiting more and not having people call us back, we finally have a speech therapist and it’s right close to home.

As some of you might remember, we originally went to the The Local Public School’s speech therapist to get Alpha’s speech evaluated. We had our first evaluation in February and our second one a month later, during which she told she’d like us to find someone who could evaluate his speech in German before moving forward. I called her twice since then and the second time, she never called back. Now it’s summer and I don’t know that she’s actually still available, so I don’t know if I’ll even bother.

However, when we took Alpha to be evaluated for motor skill weeknesses, I discussed our difficulties finding a speech pathologist with the occupational therapist and she said she’d talk to their speech therapist. Lo and behold, she called us back and said that their speech therapist had had German in high school and was willing to see Alpha and see what she could do.

At the end of his evaluation, she used the iPad to occupy him and talked to me about his speech. “Even without being fluent in German, I can tell that he qualifies for speech therapy in the public school system as he definitely has developmental speech delays.” Her evaluation showed that he has difficulties with the following sounds: N, H, D, G, V, th, TH, L, Er, S, Z, Sh, Z, Sh, Zh, Ch, and Dj. Furthermore, all blends are reduced. Sl becomes a mispronounced L, sp becomes p and gr become a rough g. “Looking at all the sounds he has difficulties with, it’s no wonder he’s hard to understand.” Her opinion was that the speech therapist in our town simply didn’t want to deal with a complicated case and was basically hoping we’d find someone else.

I’m a bit annoyed about that because, first of all, as property owners, a significant amount of our taxes directly pay for the schools. Secondly, since we have children, we are entitled to send our children there for special needs services, even if we don’t send our children to that school. When she asked us what our educational plans were, I told her honestly that we planned on homeschooling because we disagreed paedegogically with the way schools were run. I don’t know if that counted against me, I know of other homeschooling families in the area who use special services from the school. Lastly, throughout all of our contact, she spoke very politely about us raising our son multilingually and couched her statements with things like, “I want to deal with this politely, I don’t want to offend,” and so on and so forth. Now I feel like she was using these statements to express her dislike of the situation instead of honestly expressing herself because nowadays the vast majority of speech pathologists should be aware that raising a child multilingually is not a problem and there is no evidence suggesting multilingual children exhibiting speech disorders do better with one language.

Plus, she always spoke in this high-pitched baby voice that was seriously annoying.

Our current speech therapist is much more up front and direct with us, which I like.  This past week, DH took Alpha there to get a vocabulary test done because she wanted to see where his vocabulary was in all of his languages. She told DH afterwards that based on his performance in the speech evaluation, she would have pegged him at being about 16 months behind in both enunciation and vocabulary. But his performance in the vocabulary test suggested this is not true. Since my husband took him, they were able to do vocabulary tests in all three languages. The speech therapist did English, then my husband translated the words into Finnish and German. German was a bit tricky since DH didn’t know all the words and was incapable of pronouncing some of them so that Alpha could understand.  At any rate, with 100 being normal for a child of his age, he scored 99 in German, 98 in Finnish and 92 in English. A standard deviation was 15 points away from 100 in either direction. His results place him firmly in the normal range for vocabulary. It’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily a kosher method of measuring vocabulary in multilingual children, but it’s the best we could do. She also tested active vocabulary and he scored much lower: 84, which puts him at one standard deviation below the norm. However, she commented that she didn’t count this as a valid score as Alpha was visibly tired when they started this test, failed to answer many of the questions and a lot of his responses were incomprehensible as a result. They also ended before they reached the minimum number of questions necessary to calculate an accurate result. So she recommends retesting in 6 months when his pronunciation has improved.

Overall, I’m very happy with how she’s handling Alpha’s case. She notes that it is a unique situation and has said multiple times that while she is fluent in disordered 4 year old speech, she isn’t fluent in German or Finnish but is willing to give it her best shot. Unfortunately, she’s moving. Why does this always happen to us?

The good news is that she has faith in her replacement. She has also recommended we not start therapy until the end of July when her replacement takes over since it would be easier on Alpha to have one therapist to stick with instead of getting used to two. Once the replacement is working, Alpha should be in speech therapy one to two times a week in the beginning along with exercises at home.

I’m glad we’re finally making progress, it’s refreshing and I look forward to being able to understand the long garbled sentences that come out of Alpha’s mouth.

Polygamy and Other Fun Things to Do

I sprained my foot last weekend and since then, I’ve been spending so much time sitting on my butt that I’ve basically exhausted the internet. One of my particular interests of late has been religious fundamentalists and lately, polygamists.

I read both books by Carolyn Jessop, Escape and Triumph and bought the series Polygamy USA. I watched a couple seasons of Sister Wives ages ago and wasn’t too impressed and Polygamy USA left me with that same ‘why is everyone lying?’ feeling.

[If you haven’t watched the series, read the reviews from the Sister Wives Blog, which are really funny and apt (though I think she’s still missing a few episodes).]

“We’re happy!” They insist. “It’s not always easy, but nothing worth having is!” “Being polygamous is an expression of our religious freedom! It’s a tenet of our beliefs!”

When I hear them talk, I think of how I felt when I practiced attachment parenting. I was deeply unhappy. But if you had asked me then if I was happy, I would have said I was because the exhaustion and lack of time to myself were exactly how I thought motherhood was supposed to be. Since I didn’t expect anything else, I had no idea that I could feel any different.

When I started seeing a therapist to deal with my postpartum depression, she told me that in one session when I was trying to defend my AP practices that she has treated Jehovah’s Witnesses before and she always has to tell them that she can help them, but only if they’re willing to question some of their beliefs. If they aren’t, then there is nothing she can do. Later, she told me that a lot of the things I was experiencing were similar to what people who have left their religion experienced.

I really, firmly believed that attachment parenting was the one true way to raise children and the only way I could ensure my kids would grow up healthy, well-adjusted adults. For that, I was willing to sacrifice my happiness.

How lucky for me that I came to realize sacrificing my happiness is not necessary to achieve that goal! I can, in fact, have my cake and eat it, too. Since undergoing therapy and changing my parenting to create more room for me, I am literally the happiest I’ve been since before Alpha was born. And I know my kids will be better off for it, too. As my therapist said, they don’t need the perfect mother, they just need a mother–preferably a happy one.

I wish the women in Polygamy USA would realize the same. They do not need a man to enter heaven–they can get there on their own. If living polygamy is so hard and challenging, wouldn’t they rather have one happy life here, on Earth (which is, by the way 100% guaranteed to actually exist. I know of no such guarantees attached to the afterlife, YMMV).

The sad thing is that Polygamy USA and the earlier documentary by Lisa Ling (which is also linked to on the Sister Wives blog) are meant to show religious polygamy in its best light. And, at best, it comes across as a system that results in women having a ton of children, which they raise basically as single mothers. This is caused by the fact that one man simply cannot support 3 adult women who have at least 5 kids each–it’s impossible. In the Cawley Family, both the husband, two of the wives and the oldest daughter work. This leaves the first wife, Rose, at home by herself with 9 kids under 5.

The “Thomsons”–real last name Timson, I believe, portray themselves as the Model Polygamist Family. They’re young! They’re hip! They wear really high heels and make up! And they disturb me. Marlene is about my age, 28. She states emphatically that she and her husband are not from Centennial Park, but moved there. This is not a lie, but it does not appear to be the entire truth either. I don’t get the feeling that they converted to polygamist mormonism. Instead, I get the feeling that they moved from the Salt Lake area–where a good number of polygamists live–to live in Centennial Park. In fact, until the late 80s, “The Third Ward” was part of “The Second Ward” (as the Centennial Park group is also known), which in turn split from “The First Ward,” which would be the FLDS right down the road from Centennial Park in Colorado City, AZ. The fact that Timson is the last name of one of the founders of Centennial Park supports this and my belief that changing their last name was meant to be intentionally misleading.

At anyrate, Marlene has become a spokeswoman for polygamy and their goal of getting polygamy decriminalized. Note that they want it decriminalized, not legalized. She’s been popping up all over the internet lately and even had a reddit thread where she answered questions about her faith. She asserts that people in Centennial Park aren’t getting government benefits or using food stamps, but I find this to be highly suspect. If they aren’t, then why don’t they want it legalized? It is defacto decriminalized considering the fact no one has been arrested for polygamy in ages and Utah has stated they won’t go after polygamist, just abuses arising from polygamy. I find exactly nothing she says about it not being abusive convincing. Just because there’s no physical abuse, doesn’t mean there isn’t emotional abuse or spiritual abuse going on. “It’s not always easy, jealousy are human emotions I have to overcome, but I chose this life!” She and her sister wife keep saying. What they don’t realize is that they can also unchoose it, but just like me choosing to AP, it’s hard to un-choose something you firmly believe is The Best Way to Live, even if it really makes you miserable.

Also rather inaccurate appear to be all the claims by Tiffany, girlfriend to Ezra. She talks about how her parents are not polygamous and she’d never really been religious before. This gives the appearance of wow! A non-mormon girl who’s not particularly religious is willing to consider and accept polygamy! Except she’s not. From the comments on the Sister Wives blog, it appears she moved to Centennial Park 2 years ago and while her parents may not be polygamist, plenty of her relatives are. She certainly didn’t grow up without religion the same way I grew up without religion. Since Tiffany is 17, I have little doubt her parents had to give their approval for her to be in this show and that she receives no small amount of support in her decision to enter into a relationship with a polygamous man.

[Before I was born, my family was Mormon, but they left the church for various reasons. Thus my religious exposure consisted of my mom buying me a bible coloring book and telling me that it’s important for me to know about the bible stories and other kids trying to convert me on the playground.]

Even worse is Rosemarie, oldest daughter of the first wife and Michael Cawley (who has become known as the Applesauce Tyrant. Heh.). She has just turned 18 and has been praying for two years for God to find her a husband so she can get married. But since no name comes to her, she ‘turns herself in’ to the Brethren–the men who are in charge of Centennial Park and are responsible for approving all marriages in the community–to allow them to pick a name for her. I can’t help but wonder several things: 1) Why is she so damn eager to get married? I get the dim feeling that life at home isn’t so smooth at all–maybe her mothers don’t along well. Her father certainly seems creepy enough on TV. Maybe she’s tired of taking care of everyone’s kids. Whatever the reason is…it seems odd. 2) If she hasn’t gotten a name yet, maybe she should take that as a sign that god wants her to go to college and do something else with her life instead of getting married and popping out babies. Except for the fact that they’ve been told everyday of their lives that being in a polygamous relationship and having babies is woman’s only purpose and the only way for them to enter the highest level of heaven. She and her sister discuss not being able to have babies in the kitchen and her sister– who is only 15!–breaks down crying at the thought!

Lastly, there’s the one telling line that National Geographic left in where Hyrum asks a girl to dance and he jokes to her that he was afraid she would say no and she replies, “We’re not allowed to say no.” He quickly covers by saying, “you’re allowed to say no. Women have all the choice! It’s us guys who don’t have a choice!” This line rang tons of bells from Carolyn Jessop’s book, Escape, in which she describes community dances she attended as a teenager. These dances had rules and one of those rules were that girls were not allowed to say ‘no’ to any man who asked them to dance–largely because they were likely to say no to older men and favor the younger men. But they were allowed to stampede. Whenever an older man would approach the single girl’s, a girl would give a signal and they would all bolt out of the gym and come back only when the coast was clear, or if one of their numbers missed the signal and ended up dancing with the old man. These dances she described took place before the FLDS split into FLDS and “The Work,” as Centennial Park is also known. I have a very strong feeling that the same rules Carolyn Jessop described are still in place in Centennial Park. Women aren’t allowed to say no.

This rather blows a hole into all their protests that women have the choice! Yes, women can pray for inspiration, but the Brethren make the final decision on who they marry. And according to Rosemarie’s mom, Rose, if the brethren pick a man and you don’t like the name, you cannot say no. You do nothing. You have to accept that choice.

As a libertarian, I’m totally cool with consenting adults doing whatever they want. I don’t think government should be involved in deciding who can and cannot be married–whether the marriage be between one man and one women, two men, two women, or 15. However, I do believe government needs to be involved in making sure that these marriages are entered into with informed consent. Both parties consent to the marriage and both parties enter the marriage knowing what they are getting into–having a good idea of who the other person is and being reasonably sure they can live with them. I don’t see either of this in Centennial Park. The one couple who does get married in the course of this show has two weeks to get to know each other before they are married and they admit in the beginning they don’t know each other at all. Not a good sign. If Hyrum doesn’t like his bride, he can’t say no. He just has to hope that eventually, the Brethren hook him up with a wife he does like. If Rosemarie doesn’t like her husband, she doesn’t have a choice. She’s stuck. She doesn’t get to hope for a second husband, a second chance at happiness. And that goes for here and the hereafter.

Birth without an Agenda

I’ve been thinking a lot about birth lately. Not that I’m pregnant, but since leaving the attachment parenting movement, I’ve started questioning a lot of the decisions I made under the heading ‘libertarian natural parenting.’ You may be surprised how much the two overlap (or not so much, if you find yourself in the same group), but a lot of libertarians  practice alternative and natural medicines as an outgrowth of their mistrust in conventional (government-approved) medicines.

I decided I would use midwives for childbirth and well-woman care in college, after reading an essay in “Liberty for Women” by Wendy McElroy, which discussed the plot by OB-GYNs to marginalize midwives. I didn’t follow up on any of the sources, but it was enough to convince me. OBs were money grubbers and pushed midwives out in order to make their field more professional for men and so they could charge more. Unlike Europe, American midwives did not move into hospitals when their patients did. I decided I wanted natural births and I had two of them.

It’s embarrassing now to think about how radicalized I when I was pregnant with my first child. I thought it was ridiculous that breech babies had to be automatic c-sections. Indeed, I viewed a c-section as something I wanted to avoid at all costs. My son was born after 12 hours of normal labor with the cord wrapped around his neck, screaming his head off. He was blue, but he quickly pinked up.

When my daughter was born, I was less radical. Having experienced the pain of childbirth, I decided if my baby was anything other than headdown, I wouldn’t mind a c-section. I wanted to tear less, too. But I also was beginning to feel bits of doubt regarding the quality of care I was receiving. The certified nurse midwife who had delivered Alpha had retired, leaving two lay midwives, one of whom was working on getting her nursing degree to become a CNM. The difference between a CNM and a laymidwife is huge. CNMs have masters degrees in nursing and midwifery. Lay midwives in my sate have to be present at 10 births and there may be some other training required, but I’m not sure about that. In other words, it’s a world of difference as far as training and ability is concerned. During my appointments with the lay midwife, she would often leave and go do office work, leaving my prenatal care in the hands of an apprentice midwife, which made me rather uncomfortable. How would they be able to tell if anything unusual came up if the midwife with experience wasn’t even around during appointments?

Later in my pregnancy, I started bleeding a lot. It turned out to be mainly stress due to buying our house, my son being sick and me generally not getting enough rest and being on my feet too much. My sister urged me to call the midwives since it could be premature labor. Since she’s a nurse, I listened and called the midwife on call. She told me to wait a while and call her back if it didn’t stop. It didn’t stop, I called her back. She told me to wait some more and try to get some rest. But I was so worried something was seriously wrong I couldn’t rest. I don’t think she really wanted to come in on her day off, but eventually she agreed to meet at the birth center where she examined me, told me everything was fine and sent me home. Hearing this actually managed to make me relax to where I could get some rest and if I had heard it 3 hours sooner, it would have let me relax that much earlier. When I talked to the lay midwife about that at my next appointment, her only comment was “sounds like your uterus was unhappy and telling you to slowdown!”

The great thing I’ve learned about midwives is that they really trust the process. Since they accept that birth is a normal condition, they can be very calm and help calm the patient down when the when the patient thinks things are not normal. The bad things about midwives is that since they view births as normal, they can be rather slow in recognizing when situations stop being normal. In birth that can happen extremely fast. In those situations, the more information you have, the quicker and easier it is to figure out that something abnormal is happening and get the baby out of there before permanent damage or death occurs. This would be the main benefit of fetal monitoring during labor and other practices that the natural birth community dislikes. Fortunately for my family, my  births went smoothly. But since then I’ve learned that:

* Homebirths and birth center births have three times the mortality of hospital births

*the difference between CNMs and lay midwives

*why constant fetal monitoring is important

* much of the information from the Business of Being Born is factually incorrect

* the only difference between a natural birth and having an epidural is the amount of pain you feel.

You can disagree with these points, there’s nothing wrong about that. But now, having looked at both sides of the issue, I’m beginning to think that the non-natural birth—should I call it mainstream birth?–side has more evidence. NCBers tend to rely on feelings and blow things out of proportion that don’t really matter. Take of example the ‘fact’ that vaginal births are better than c-sections because they expose babies to vaginal flora which helps the baby’s gut. If it really mattered, couldn’t c-sectioned babies just get a swab of their mothers’ vaginal flora in their mouths? It’s not like it’s hard to do. But that’s not the point. Their main goal is to encourage women to give birth vaginally and they are willing to distort data if need be.

Interestingly enough I came across a site called “sisters in chains,” which is all about midwives who are being persecuted for helping women give birth the way they want to give birth. They support letting women have control of their bodies and choose for themselves how they want to be handled and make decisions for themselves and birth how they want to birth. I also support these things. However, birth is one of those situations where you experience asymmetrical information. Just like when you take your car to the mechanics and have no idea if what the mechanic says is wrong with your care is actually wrong with your car or if he’s just making things up to get more money, you have no idea if your care provider is actually telling you accurate information in regards to your birth or pregnancy. In the end, it all comes down to trust. Women, especially women in labor, have to trust that their care providers have their best interests at heart. That they are not working for some larger objective, but specifically to provide the best outcomes for that woman and that baby.

But this is not the case with many midwives. Many of them say that their main objective is to empower women to birth the way they choose, but what if the way I choose isn’t the way they think I should choose? I’ve had two natural births. I’ve been there, done that. What if the next time I give birth, I want to have an epidural? What if I want to experience the other side? People who have had both natural and drugged births have said that the only difference between them was that the latter was painless.

Will women’s advocates support me in this decision? My guess is no, because their vision is one where every woman gives birth naturally, a world in which women are united by the pain of childbirth.