Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"I made a mistake!"

The infamous Terrible Twos are so commonly talked about and dreaded, I never expected to enjoy this age so much; I had no idea that 2 would be one of my favorite stages. Sure, I did a lot of babysitting as a teenager and I remember loving this age in other kids. But I figured that I was only seeing the best of these kids, kind of like a tv personality...anybody can look cheerful and nice for a limited number of hours each week, it's what 2 year olds did "off camera," or when the company went home, that I was a little leery about as we approached toddlerhood with Claire.

Of course we have our challenges, and it's not all fun and games at our house. I do agree that this can be a difficult age because toddlers want to be more independent, and their mental capacity may not always match up with their physical capabilities. It can also be difficult for adults to understand their words and behaviors at times, which is really frustrating for both sides and can lead to meltdowns (possibly on both sides, as well).

But what about all of the fun things about this age? Why is it such a secret that the Twos are also Terrific and Triumphant and Thrilling? I spend a good part of each day laughing at something Claire is doing or saying, or marveling over how quickly kids this age learn new things. Yes, it's annoying when Claire draws on the walls with black and red crayons, or on the tan leather couches with blue ink, or all over herself with every color marker within reach. But it's a rare occurrence, so far it's all been easily removed, and when she witnesses me noticing a new work of art for the first time she gets a concerned look on her face and points at the offending marks while saying dramatically, "Oh, no no!" Sometimes she'll even give me a "lecture" and explain to me that we only draw on paper.

Today in the car we were listening to a cd we're borrowing from the library, a compilation of jazzy kids' songs, when Claire started singing along. Her favorite track is Ella Fitzgerald's lively version of Old MacDonald. When I first caught a glimpse of her in the rear view mirror she was casually reclined with her hands clasped behind her head, elbows out. A few minutes later I looked back again to see her really getting into it, bopping along to the beat and waving her arms around. I couldn't help cracking up, and wishing I had a video camera permanently aimed at her. Even something as mundane as potty training has turned out to be amusing, with her joyful proclamations of "I did it!" or her know-it-all lectures explaining to us that everybody poops (after which she proceeds to list off all of our relatives and friends by name. If only they knew we were roping them into this!)

One of my favorite things about this age is Claire's ability to form strong bonds and relationships with people other than me and Mark. She even has inside jokes with my parents. For example, as their most recent visit with us came to a close, Claire was upstairs "helping" them pack when she got sidetracked and plopped down on the bed with a notebook and some markers. Mark and I were downstairs in the kitchen, but this is how my mom explained it to me: Claire would pick up a marker, take off the cap and place it to the side, and draw for a bit before replacing the cap and choosing another one. Then, again, she would take off the cap, set it aside, and draw for a bit. One time she took off the cap, set the marker down to the side, and almost started drawing with the cap before she noticed and exclaimed, "I made a mistake!" She dissolved into laughter, and to this day she can't say that phrase without laughing. Even while my mom was here over this last weekend, Claire would get a silly look on her face as she would look at my mom and repeat the phrase so they could laugh and relive the memory together.

I guess I don't know what I was expecting from this age, but clearly it was nothing near what we've been experiencing with her. It's so fun watching her personality and sense of humor develop along with all of the other milestones. All of this to say that I think the Terrible Twos have a bad rap. It's a misnomer. I hereby declare this age the Terrific Twos, and I hope that by renaming them I will inspire parents who are struggling with this age to step back and see things from another angle. If we go into something with a cloud like the word "terrible" hanging over us, we're bound to turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I will continue to enjoy the Terrific Twos, and look forward to the Thrilling Threes and Fabulous Fours. I can't even imagine the fun we have yet to come.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Taking care of business

Nesting + spring cleaning + hosting company + having a really awesome mom who enjoys helping out = lots of progress

I've been nesting for months - and our house, the basement especially, has never looked better - so it's no surprise that this is continuing as the birth approaches. And this time of year always motivates me to take on certain projects to get ready for warmer weather, like packing away winter gear. Even Mark was hit with a touch of spring cleaning fever (and maybe even nesting fever, too!) because when I returned from dropping my mom off at the airport yesterday I barely recognized the garage...Claire's wagon and the bike trailer had been taken down from the rafters, the deck furniture that had previously been stacked in a corner were gone, and I couldn't put my finger on what else was missing, but the garage was a lot more spacious than usual. The whole house, inside and out, has been going through quite the transformation these last few months. We've even done some fine-tuning because we had people coming over for my blessingway and our first home prenatal visit...instead of simply relocating piles of clutter, they've been divided and conquered and sent to the appropriate places of rest (mostly the garbage can and recycling bin.) Ahhh...order and space...

The blessingway was absolutely beautiful, and so incredibly uplifting. It was kind of a spring cleaning for my soul in a way, a much-needed boost in emotional preparation for labor. For anybody who is wondering what a blessingway is, it's a ceremony based on the Navajo tradition of providing good tidings for anybody facing another stage in life (mothers about to give birth, men/women headed for war, etc.) This modern version for mothers-to-be is similar to a baby shower, only the focus is shifted from material gifts and funny games to empowering and supporting the mother. That's not to say that gifts aren't allowed; in my case, everybody was asked to bring a bead that will be strung into a necklace for me to wear during labor. After enjoying a potluck of delicious food, we sat in a circle and everybody took turns explaining why they chose their bead for me, and then offered a blessing and some kind words. It was funny to be sitting in a room full of strong women who I respect and look up to, and to hear them saying that they admire and are inspired by me! It was so heartwarming, and I wish I'd had a chance to tell each and every one of them what I love about them, too. Every mama-to-be deserves such treatment as they approach birth!

The home prenatal visit went really well, too. My mom got to hear the baby's heartbeat with the fetoscope, something I really wanted her to experience (the look on her face brought tears to my eyes), and we showed everybody where we'll be putting the birth tub and where my stash of supplies will be. Everything on my supply list is checked off and neatly stored in one of 3 big plastic tubs. It's been so much fun gathering everything and preparing for the big day, and it feels great to be done and ready to go.

In the not-so-fun department, I've also been dealing with the aftermath of the car accident. Claire, the baby and I are doing well, considering, and I am so thankful it wasn't more serious than it was. Our chiropractor has been taking excellent care of us, and it's a good thing we really like her because we're going twice a week now. I only wish getting to and from the appointments wasn't such a hassle...I can't lift Claire into her carseat, so she crawls up into it by herself (I'm sure you can imagine how long that would take a distractable 2 year old) and now we have to plan everything around these new circumstances. Plus, I already have so much to do, it's not very convenient having to clear my schedule for this stuff. And dealing with the insurance companies has been an annoying hassle. I know the guy didn't try to rear end us, but I sure wish HE could be dealing with the phone calls and reams of paperwork for me. In addition, I don't think I'll be able to fully relax until this baby is born so I know it is ok. Yes, the baby is protected within the womb, but the kind of impact we were hit with can cause issues with the placenta that may not be detectable until after delivery. Everything appears to be ok, but there is that small chance that a small detachment is compromising his/her health and safety. I'm doing my best not to worry.

So we're taking care of business, enjoying our last weeks of being a family of 3, and getting more excited by the day. Life is good :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Nearly two weeks ago Claire and I took the car in to the dealership for an oil change (we had a decent coupon; normally I'm too cheap to pay dealership prices.) As with any outing including Claire, it was a fun adventure: watching the fish in the huge tank in the waiting area, coloring and drawing in the life-saving notebook we always keep in the diaper bag, spelunking underneath end tables with the mini flashlight which was also in the diaper bag, and pointing out letters on random signs. Oh, and let's not forget the trip to the bathroom, where Claire successfully went potty on the adult-sized toilet! I love how independent she is, pushing my hands away once I set her down on the seat - "all by myself!"

On our way out after paying, one of the employees pointed to a bucket full of flowers and asked if we wanted to pick one out. I let Claire choose, and this is the one we got. I can't believe it's still going strong almost 2 weeks later! I've changed the water a few times, but haven't cut the stem or anything else. It's been a cheerful addition to the kitchen this month.

Today we had a fun lunch - Mark came home with two co-workers who are visiting from Mexico. Claire was a little shy at first, but still greeted them with a quiet "hola!" and "como estas?" They were so nice, it was a really pleasant lunch. One of them brought a gift for Claire, this little turtle (pictured next to a lime to illustrate size...typical Nerdy Alyssa picture :)
I asked Claire if she could say "tortuga" and she said it perfectly in her sweet little voice. And then she proceeded to offer it a raisin, pausing a moment before responding with "No? Ok!" and then popped it in her mouth. She makes life so much fun...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Milk Freedom

This morning Claire and I headed to Wisconsin in support of real milk. I had been reading about the upcoming legislative hearing for weeks and really wanted to attend, but didn't think I'd be able to; at the last minute (8am) my schedule unexpectedly opened up and we were on the road by 9. The turnout at Chippewa Community College was great and by the time we arrived, about 15 minutes after it started, the auditorium was already packed and didn't even have standing room left. We didn't have to wait long before several classrooms were opened up for overflow where we watched the proceedings on tv. We met up with some friends who arrived shortly after we did, and I had the privilege of sitting between a farmer and an RN/health educator, both very knowledgeable and strong supporters of raw milk. This is our version of "the big game"...we spent almost 3 hours glued to the action, cheering at some points and rolling our eyes in disgust at others. "Seriously, you're going to compare the sale of raw milk to the sale of melamine-tainted baby formula?! Come on!"

One issue here is freedom of choice; if I want to drink unpasteurized milk, then I should be able to legally do so. It makes no sense that foods containing trans fats and other health-damaging toxins are legal to buy and consume, yet raw milk - which has proven health benefits - is such a problem. Raw milk is a living food with good bacteria (probiotics) and enzymes necessary for digestion. In milk from healthy, grass-fed cows, the good bacteria help to regulate the bad bacteria. The pasteurization process kills all of these benefits, rendering it a dead, nutrition-less food. My family of 2 adults and 1 toddler consumes 3 gallons of raw milk every week, and we have only seen our health improve in the 1.5 years we've been drinking it. And the same goes for the dozens of people we know who also favor unadulterated dairy. In fact, I know of more cases of food poisoning caused by pasteurized products than raw...when I was a kid in the '80s my mom became seriously ill and was hospitalized after eating Kemp's ice cream, thanks to an outbreak of Listeria. A quick Google search turns up numerous recent recalls for Kemp's ice cream alone. But that's not too surprising, considering where their milk and cream come from, and how it's handled. I won't get into the whole "cows weren't born to eat grain" argument right now, but the reality is that grain-fed cows are unhealthy and therefore produce unhealthy milk that justifies pasteurization (but still doesn't have health benefits). Milk from grass-fed cows is a completely different story, and should be treated as such.

Another issue is access - imposing strict regulations and requiring large amounts of paperwork is not going to change the safety. It is only going to hurt the small farmers - the very farmers we raw milk drinkers want to do business with. I love the fact that my farmers drink the raw milk their cows produce, too. They are a small operation committed to raising a healthy herd while improving the environment. I love the level of trust one is afforded when dealing directly with a farmer, as opposed to the national companies who see customers as nameless numbers. Who is going to strive for better quality, the farmer who knows the customers personally and invites them to the farm for a BBQ each summer, or the farmer who never sees customers but knows that his milk will be pasteurized?

I'm reminded of the recent peanut recall in 2009. I got a letter in the mail one day from Sam's Club, notifying me that a product I had purchased was included in this recall and they were offering me a full refund. I went in, confused, because I hadn't bought food from Sam's Club in over a year. "Which product was it?" I asked, thinking they must have me confused with another Nelson. "Let's see..." the employee scrolled through computer screen after computer screen until she located the offending product: Kashi granola bars that I had purchased just before I got pregnant with Claire. I think it was around January 2007. The same granola bars that I ate throughout my pregnancy. Lovely! Because of a negligent company who knowingly failed health inspections but chose to send products out anyways, my baby and I could have become seriously ill or died. And it took them nearly 2 years to trace the product to me to let me know! It's about accountability, and the large companies don't always have it. I put my trust in the farmers and producers I can meet face-to-face, and who have ways of contacting me within hours of detecting a problem, rather than 2 years later. Here's another great article about this issue.

These are some of the reasons it was so important for me to attend this hearing today. As a consumer I had to show my support for the small farmers who would be most affected by this bill. I'm so grateful that everything fell into place so I could go, and so thankful that Claire was content to tag along. She enjoyed the hour-plus drive to Eau Claire, loved the long walk from the student parking lot to the auditorium, and made lots of new friends throughout the day; all it took to keep her happy was some homemade granola, a notebook, a pen, and a baggie of crayons. Oh, and one of the hats pictured in this article. I should have gotten a picture of her wearing it!

Here's Claire in the walkway that ran over the busy street between the parking lot and auditorium - she's obsessed with tunnels, and loved how her voice echoed inside this one. She also loved the crowds of cool college kids, and was quite a hit with them, too :)