Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On Birth Plans #1

Here's what SHOULD be on your birth plan from day one:

"I do not consent to any vaginal exams, either during pregnancy or at any point during labor, up to and including delivery. This includes checking for dilation/effacement during labor. I understand that unless I have shown signs of a potential cervical problems during pregnancy, have been diagnosed with an incompetent cervix, or have some other medical condition OTHER THAN PREGNANCY necessitating vaginal exams that they are not necessary and will not speed up my pregnancy. I understand that especially after my water has broken, vaginal exams can introduce foreign bacteria and matter into my vagina, which is otherwise a pH balanced and sterile environment with the exact right amount of good bacteria. I understand that, while gauging dilation and effacement can be useful, it can also be completely meaningless. I will not have my labor and delivery experience overwhelmed by a 'ticking clock' that insists that I must dilate a specific amount within a specific time period, lest my body has somehow decided it suddenly does not understand how to birth a child that it has otherwise created and grown without significant problems. I understand that if, at any point in time, I have changed my mind, I will inform the staff appropriately. I understand that any violation of my expectations for non-life threatening reasons will be a gross infraction of my rights as a patient and as a person." (See: Mama Birth: Obstetric Lie #93)

Monday, September 12, 2011

On No Poo

So although I didn't mention it at all before, a couple of weeks ago I made a rather random and drastic change in my life: I stopped using shampoo. I do mean entirely; I had been only using it sporadically as it was because using it less often made showering easier and faster, and once we moved here, it became more normal for me because a lack of water pressure means that rinsing shampoo from my hair can take a good five or six minutes all on its own - precious time a mom of two rambunctious boys often doesn't have. So I already wasn't using it daily, as was my previous routine, but it has been about two weeks since I completely cut shampoo out of my lifestyle.

I had some idea of what it was to go "no poo" before this; I've heard the term slung around in various granola groups I'm a part of online, but the whole concept always seemed so disgusting and difficult. People washed their hair with baking soda combinations one day and vinegar the next and complained of going through weeks of adjustment where their hair was so greasy they left stains on their pillowcases. It seemed like the rule for "no poo" was "anything goes," and it reflected in the variety of homebrew products used to keep hair smelling fresh and scrubbed of dirt while maintaining its natural level of healthy oils. But let's face it: I'm not a "let's make a bunch of complicated things and try to store them in someone else's house" kind of person, and I'm probably not about to change that. I wasn't going to follow the No Poo movement if doing so meant still routinely using random products on my hair, especially when it seemed like there was no clear, concise agreement on what of those random products were best, and what actually worked without causing further damage to hair.

Then, about two weeks ago (maybe more like two and a half now), it just sort of struck me, and I stopped using shampoo. It wasn't entirely purposeful, as at first I just went my typical two or three days without - but the next day I didn't have time. And the day after that I didn't feel like it. The excuses to not shampoo my hair snowballed until I was so thrilled that my showers were short that I opted to avoid it completely. I made the mistake, one day, of putting in store-bought name brand conditioner but will not do that again - it upped the grease level tenfold and didn't really help my hair feel any better or softer afterwards.

I will be painfully honest: My hair is INCREDIBLY greasy. I've seen it said that sometimes the greasiness remains for between two and five weeks, and since I'm past two and naturally have slightly greasy skin and difficult to manage hair, I'm going to guess that my "grease period" is going to last closer to five weeks than two. After I've hit a point where my hair is beginning to regulate itself, I'm going to try a baking soda scrub (I may do this sooner, to help release some of the excess sebum naturally and to get rid of any excess dirt). I do rinse my hair fully every day, including parting and sectioning it, and massaging my scalp with my fingers every shower. Afterwards, I give my head a good scratch (not because it itches, but man, doesn't it feel good sometimes to just have your head scratched all over?) and then comb out all of my hair with a relatively fine-toothed comb. I can't use a traditional fine-tooth comb because my hair is simply too thick and too unruly still, and it tends to knot up. If I touch my hair, my hands do become noticeably more greasy, but it isn't a disgusting "stick with you for the rest of eternity" grease; it's natural and my body reacts accordingly and reabsorbs whatever gets on my hands without any irritation or lingering icky feeling. I am already seeing fewer flyaways and it is slowly beginning to behave better. It doesn't smell and doesn't look gross in the least, nor does it really "look" greasy.

All in all, I'm actually pretty happy with my experience so far. I'm not bothered by the effects of going without shampoo, and I'm looking forward to the benefits and positive sides of not using traditional shampoos anymore. We'll see how this keeps up - for now, though, I think I might be a convert.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On 9/11

They don't teach you how to cope with tragedy in school.

On September 11, 2001 I was sitting in my Spanish class, learning how to conjugate some verb that has been long since forgotten. I had just begun high school, I was a sophomore, and quite frankly, I could not have cared less at the moment about the rest of the world - my world was high school, that classroom, and my individual life.

Then the phone call came.

It was a little after 8AM Central Time, and though she said nothing to us, she silently turned on the TV in the room to one of the local news stations. And we sat, quietly, and watched in confusion as a grainy picture of a burning tower in New York City came up on the screen.

We didn't understand what was happening. The room sort of went silent and we stared blankly at the TV, unable to understand how, or why, this affected us personally. A tower was burning in a city in a state half a country away. What did that mean? But as we watched, events unfolded, and the whole thing began to make a bit more sense. Another plane hit. The other tower seemed to explode. We watched the whole thing from the point we started, to the point, half an hour later, when the principal finally put an announcement over the PA system that all of the TVs in the building were to be shut off.

And that was the rest of our day. Nobody knew what was going on, our communication to the outside world was limited, and we honestly knew little from that short half-hour snippet of news. We understood that something awful had happened, but we had no more information. During the day, occasionally a student would disappear - pulled out of classes by a terrified parent, taken home to likely understand more about the event than the rest of us. We sat and waited and went about our day otherwise quite normally, because we didn't know any differently. It wasn't until most of us went home that afternoon that we saw the rest of the reports, heard the rumors and the facts, and got to see the full footage of what had unfolded that day.

It was sobering, but to be honest, I didn't understand.

In my defense, I was 15 - too young, I think, to get my head out of my own rear long enough to sit back and really look at what happened. It took years for me to become at all interested or concerned about what had occurred; I was 20 or so by the time I looked everything back up and looked at the footage again. And again. And again.

It wasn't until I grew up and had kids that I watched it and CRIED, really sat back and realized that this is the kind of place I was raising my children in, a world where people could take over airplanes and fly them into huge buildings and into government buildings and be overcome by passengers and driven into the ground, where thousands could die in an instant, all in the name of God. It disgusted me, it terrified me, and most of all it made me question my beliefs. What kind of loving god would allow this to happen? What sort of deity could kill off thousands without a second glance?

Now, ten years later, I have two beautiful children. And once a year I go back and I look at the footage and pictures and watch the videos and remind myself of what happened. I mourn and I understand a little better every single year.

Where were you on September 11, 2001? What were you doing? Who were you with? How old were you? How have you changed the world in the 3,652 days that have passed since then?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

On Crazy Kids and Creativity

"Don't pee in the shower! A is peeing in the shower!" I can hear G shout from the bathroom. I made the mistake of walking away for two seconds to grab something - and that's the first thing I hear. "Mom!" I toss a load of laundry in the washer and start the water; by the time I walk back into the bathroom, A is crying and G is still screaming his head off.

Of course, that isn't what I'm here to talk about - well, okay, it is. To a degree. I started this off by wanting to rant about a couple of new ideas I had about things to sell in my store (look me up on Facebook, or on Etsy), and a new design I'm using, but just about everything I want to talk about invariably comes back to the kids. They're ever-present in my life, and I love them, but sometimes they make me want to scream.

This month has started out as a month that will obviously be full of more adjustments. With a solid awareness that G has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, sometimes referred to as Sensory Integration Disorder, or SID), we find ourselves taking baby steps. More things have begun to set him off, despite an "all clear" from the specialists. A ringing phone, a loud car, the sound of the air conditioner in the Kobold. Sounds he makes are fine; sounds from others drive him insane. He's adjusting well enough to school, but the stress of moving, of Hubby being gone almost all day constantly, of me occasionally being gone, of living with my mother, of starting school - it's wearing on the poor kid. He's developing a series of unpleasant digestive issues; during the day and evening it's often diarrhea, and at night he'll often wake up out of a dead sleep and begin throwing up violently - even though he might have eaten a good eight hours before, he'll still somehow have things in there to vomit. It's wearing on his little body, though he doesn't seem dehydrated or otherwise ill, so I try to give him some leeway, excuse the roughhousing, read to him more, and let him draw as often as he pleases. He eats pretty well otherwise during the day, so we're pushing back dinner time, ending late snacks, and generally trying to encourage him to have an empty tummy once he's in bed. A more set schedule during the day would be nice, but school changed what little schedule we had in the first place, so it's back to square one. I'm hoping that this week we can start establishing a better schedule and routine; once we work through those worst first few days, I think it'll be better for everybody in the long run.

Meanwhile, A is doing well. He's imitating G's reactions to sounds, which is more than a little irritating, but we're fairly sure that he doesn't have the same problems as G does. He tries desperately to be helpful, but usually isn't - and, curiously enough, he's actually far more violent than G ever was at his age. We think it has something to do with the fact that unlike G at two years old, he has an older brother to compete and fight with. It's sometimes unpleasant, but we manage more or less. A is a good kid, a real sweetheart and totally a Mama's boy, and when he snuggles up with me at night I'm reminded of just how short a time our kids are young enough to want and need us - and how little time we have left before they may decide they don't like to be in public with us, or that they might not want hugs and kisses before they head off to do whatever they're off doing. They remind me daily about how lucky and blessed I am to see their shining - okay, well, not so much - faces, and I love them for it.

So, on to what I wanted to talk about: my business! I don't have a business plan because, quite frankly, at this point I'm really not sure what kind of plan I should have. Happy Zombie Studios was born from a joke at a game night four years ago; the idea of a positively thrilled zombie was hilarious to the group at the time, and I swore that night I would someday start a business, and I'd call it Happy Zombie Studios. Why? Because I could. I filed the name away, and last year I finally brought HZS to life through some cutesy items that I figured out how to replicate. I sold a few - so technically I have established myself as an actual business entity - but it keeps flopping because of random life events. Things I can't easily see coming, things I  usually can't work around. Anyway, I've refocused and rethought some of my options, found a low-cost, high-profit item or four that I can make relatively easily, and have begun the difficult task of reestablishing myself. I've found it hard because I've had a couple of small but legitimately negative experiences, and have thus far spent far more than I've brought in on trying to make prototypes and "cheap offerings" to friends in exchange for them letting everybody know where they got them. I know this has to change soon, and I've done my research and have concluded that I can easily put my price point exactly where I estimated and have it be "about right" - that is to say, a good middle ground that allows me to make money without overcharging and alienating my target audience. The downside, as always, is that too many other people have already stepped into this world, and my crafting intentions are becoming somewhat useless in light of others who have already established themselves as trustworthy businesswomen, creative crafters, and generally good people that everybody likes working with. Their businesses have names with the words "boutique" and "couture", their photographs are professional and often taken by volunteer business photographers, their designs are new and intricate and elaborate while still remaining tasteful and beautiful. They possess an ability to match and mix colors that I have always lacked, the connections and funding to wholesale shop effectively, and an incredibly deadly combination of word-of-mouth advertising and targeted sales that seem to draw in a crowd and keep it. They are, to be quite frank, more talented than I am, and it shows in every way. It's a frightening thing to consider when I'd previously thought this might be a relevant, sincere way to provide income to my family without having to be constantly gone and always arranging childcare (which is also something we can't afford right now).

So I'm kind of at an impasse. I'm working hard on my creations still, offering up new ones once I see an Idea I think I can make come to life without having to purchase more or commit myself to the impossible. I scout other shops, look at what they've done, and always ask how I could take that Idea and make it my own without straining myself or our budget. The fact that I have no current profit to work with is always lingering in the back of my head, a sore spot that's hard to ignore and is always there, staring me down, challenging me to find something else to try.

Friday, September 2, 2011

On Making Progress

After waiting an excruciatingly long time to hear back, I've been informed that I'm a pretty normal, if not large, woman - that my hormone levels are normal, my body is (relatively) normal, and the only thing I "suffer" from is high cholesterol (and it isn't even that high). The general consensus is that nobody seems to know why my body cannot seem to regulate itself, so despite my past bad experiences, I'm now on hormonal birth control - Necon 7/7/7 which is a combination pill and the generic version of Ortho-Novum - and am actually pretty happy with it so far. I've had a lot of really negative, painful, uncomfortable experiences with other things I've tried, and though I'm only a week into this experience, I'm still doing better than I was last time. By now, with everything else I'd tried, I had already begun to experience a hint of the pain and discomfort I was due for. I think my biggest complaint is some occasional, light nausea - nothing I can't deal with, and a huge improvement over the horrible headaches I got with the NuvaRing, or the insane cramps and continual bleeding I had with the Mirena or Paragard IUDs. I feel no moodiness, no obvious increase in blood pressure, no irregular bleeding - nothing. I feel pretty good, all things considered, and I'm hoping that the trend continues.

Meanwhile, I'm working my way through some holistic living and AP parenting books I bought at Waldenbooks before they closed. I'm hoping that the AP-style books will help us figure out some more positive, less emotionally-driven responses to inappropriate behavior and acting out, and allow us to reason better with the boys during difficult times. We've been making some remote progress without them, especially by offering G more autonomy (which seems to have come along with him starting pre-school).

Yeah, that's my baby getting on his bus for the first time the other day. He's such a big boy now, and it's hard to reconcile sometimes, because he always seemed so tiny when he was born. But starting school, having time away from us and to spend with other kids in a different environment, providing him some opportunity to make choices for himself, seems to have done a lot of good for him. He still throws tantrums and has fits, but we can reason with him to a degree by asking if that's how he behaves at school. It doesn't always work, but that's part of the reason we're working on it - it's something we can use right now, which at the moment is all that counts for us.