Monday, March 22, 2010

In which I change my blog name, and move it to another site

So please, if you have me bookmarked, change me to this

Friday, March 19, 2010

In which I consider changing my blog name

Dear Three Blog Followers,

Thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate it. Even if you never leave comments, it's good to know that my writing amuses more than just my parents, who think a blog is the least I can do after they paid for my degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan.

That said, I am changing my blog name. (Those of you reading this on Facebook may be shocked to know that I have an blogger account. And that the internet does exist outside the parameters of FB.)

Here are some names I'm thinking about: (Improving the flavor of motherhood!) (The perfect side dish!) (Not crying over it since 2009!) (Just add water!) (Just like the commercial!) (Even though I'm not Italian)

What do you (four) think?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

In which I make my own condiments

Oh, how I love cooking! 

Even though Mineral doesn't eat anything I make -- My Masterpiece does, and Animal and The Informant will nibble. My Chemical Romance likes my food. But forget about them; I love my cooking. Despite eating out a lot as a kid -- I had two working parents and who likes to come home from a hard day to the kitchen? -- at this point I'd rather stay home.

Introducing: Dressing! 

(This was a picture that came up when I googled 'dressing')


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk = 1/2 tbsp white vinegar (or lemon juice) + milk to make 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

Whisk together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

  • 2 1/2 ounces blue cheese
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mash blue cheese and buttermilk together with a fork until mixture resembles large-curd cottage cheese. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt

In a small bowl, mix together the garlic salt, onion powder, sugar, oregano, pepper, thyme, basil, parsley, celery salt and regular salt. Store in a tightly sealed container.

To prepare dressing, whisk together 1/4 white vinegar, 2/3 cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons of the dry mix.

Meanwhile, if I have one piece of advice about cooking, one thing that has revolutionized my life, it is this: always always ALWAYS marinade your chicken overnight before cooking it. Chicken has a tendency toward dryness, and marinading (I use Italian dressing) makes it so juicy! 

This does require forethought. I usually have to plan chicken meals at least a day in advance. Still, it's worthwhile. I notice a difference in my Garlic Cheese Chicken Roll Ups (my favorite meal) when I don't marinade. 

Meanwhile, I'm going to attempt over the next few weeks to introduce a few vegetarian meals into my repertoire. Vegetarian meals are healthier than meat-based meals; they are also better for the environment. I've found a few on that are supposed to be very tasty. 

Today I had an abdominal and pelvic CT scan at the hospital. I've been having some tummy troubles, and I'm hoping there is some explanation better than my GI doctor throwing up his hands and blaming my weight-loss surgery. Which is what he normally does. Yes, having my guts re-arranged has caused me some issues. So did weighing nearly 300lbs. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In which I describe my family

First we have Animal and Mineral. They are twin boys. They have been fighting since they were in utero, when Animal was supposed to be born first. I was told by my doctor that they could not change places. Late in my pregnancy, two weeks before they were born, they did. (Thus began my skepticism of mainstream health care practices.) Mineral was born first. Here is a picture of them at about a month old.

Aren't they precious?-- Note Animal is eating Mineral's head. That picture was taken nearly 7 years ago. Not much has changed.  

Next is The Informant. She will be 5 soon. She has never met a human being with whom she didn't long to share her entire life story. Along with anything else you've ever made the mistake of saying in her presence. She will happily describe my TTT in detail, along with information about Mineral's eczema, Animal's love of tomatoes, and the plot of The Sixth Sense. "Rosebud was his sled!" she gleefully exclaimed to a playmate. "I knew from the beginning that Kevin Spacey was Keyser Soze," she once whispered to me conspiratorially.

Keeping track of the world is often quite useful; she lets me know when the house is about to burn down or when My Materpiece is awake from a nap. On the other hand, another word for informant is tattletale. 

Finally, we have My Masterpiece. It took me four tries to get a child who nursed for a year, loves to cuddle, sucks her thumb charmingly (meaning: when she's tired; not all the time) and has a sunny disposition. She's two-and-a-half and has never climbed out of her crib. She loves laying on her tummy and rolling a matchbox car along the carpet, doesn't complain when her routine changes, and recently started replacing Ts with Ns ("I want to go DOWNSNARES!") 

She giggled when I posted that picture. My Masterpiece.

The other players in my house are my husband, also known as My Chemical Romance; the fish; and Maizey, also known as the Dog Without A Downside

Upside only. 

That's my family. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In which I explain why I now WILL take Opium!

But first, let me explain why I was offered Opium. (Leigh pointed out to me that I had such an intriguing title yesterday, and didn't even bother to work it into the blog!)

Tincture of Opium -- which is much more potent than Paregoric -- can help with Toilet Time Trips. So, after trying many different medications to, um, stop the daily TTT my GI doc suggested it. With the following caveats:

Filling this RX at your pharmacy will get you red-flagged with the FDA; I will get flagged for prescribing it. You'll have to document appointments with me every two weeks. It is a potent narcotic and you will have to find the lowest dose that helps and then try to get off it as quickly as possible.

I left the appointment and threw the RX in the trash. It sounded too complicated. Plus, I just can't get on board with being on narcotics -- although it sounds like fun! -- while homeschooling four children every day.

I had began to think of my daily TTT is just another part of my life, like cooking or brushing my teeth or watching The Real Housewives of New York.

But, alas, daily TTT is becoming multi-daily TTT which is accompanied by pain and bloating, and I think it's time to do something about it. I saw the GI yesterday (GI Joe) and he said that I'm not a complainer about pain--


My mom: Boy, do you have him fooled!

Leigh: Did you send in a doppelganger or something?!?!?!?!?

--but I think he just said that because he went to Ohio State and therefore is clearly a moron (Go Blue!). Or a sadist in his spare time.

Really, daily TTT is somewhat a part of life post-BPD/DS, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try medication to stop it. Right???

Friday, March 5, 2010

In which I will not take Opium -- sorry!

But first let me talk about my surgery, a Biliopancreatic Diversion with a Duodenal Switch. ("You had gastric bypass surgery?" "NO. I had weight-loss surgery that involves a lot of malabsorption.")

What on earth is a Biliopancreatic Diversion with a Duodenal Switch? 


Approximately 70% of the stomach is removed along the greater curvature, also called a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG). The remaining stomach is fully functioning, banana shaped and about 3 - 5 oz in size which restricts the amount you can consume. The pylorus continues to control the stomach emptying into the small intestine; as a result patients do not experience "dumping". The upper portion of the duodenum remains in use; food digests to an absorbable consistency in the stomach before moving into the small intestine.

A benefit of removing a portion of the stomach is that it also greatly reduces the amount of ghrelin producing tissue and amount of acid in the stomach. Ghrelin is the "hunger hormone" and by reducing the amount of the hormone produced the appetite is suppressed.

The intestines are switched so that food from the stomach and the digestive juices travel separate paths and don't mix until they meet up towards the end of the small intestine.

The alimentary limb carries the food.

The biliopancreatic limb carries the bile and digestive juices.

The common channel, also known as the common tract or common limb, is the point from where the alimentary and biliopancreatic limbs meet in the small intestine to where they move into the large intestine. The common channel is where a DS patient's food, bile and digestive juices mix and nutrients are absorbed. Since the common channel makes up such a small portion of the small intestine dietary starches, fats and complex carbohydrates are not fully absorbed.

So, why'd you choose a BPD/DS rather than a more common Roux-N-Y gastric bypass? 

It came down to this: I could never willingly submit to surgery that might cause me to vomit after I eat sugar. A life without sugar isn't for me (see "The Health Project" and "MAJOR FAIL"). Also, I enjoy my pylorus. Because I have a functioning pylorus I do not have "dumping" syndrome; I can take NSAIDS; and my entire stomach can be scoped if need be. Plus, the long-term weight loss results of BPD/DS are simply the best of any bariatric surgery (see here, here, and here).

And you went to Miami to have it done, and paid for it out-of-pocket?

Yes and yes. It actually reminded me of paying for a homebirth rather than going to the hospital for a "free" birth. I could have had a RNY. My insurance would have covered it. (My insurance would not cover a BPD/DS because I wasn't morbidly obese "enough.") Instead, I paid for it, so I got to call the shots. I chose a surgeon in Miami who is one of the best; he's taught most of the BPD/DS surgeons in this country how to do it. I chose my date (election day 2008. When I came out of anesthesia, I kept asking, Did Obama win? Did he REALLY win? Really? Seriously?) I stayed at my parent's house after the surgery.

What was it like?

There aren't words to describe how sucktastic the first few [-]weeks[/-] months were. I was in so much pain. I cried. I missed my family, as I was away from them for almost two weeks. I could barely walk. My mom had to wipe my ass. She washed me in the shower. Every part of my body hurt. Food tasted weird. Drinking water gave me heartburn so bad I thought I would spit fire. It was the most physically painful experience of my life -- and I've been pregnant with twins, I've given birth without any painkillers, I've had my gallbladder out after an attack of gallstones, I've had dental surgery. My BPD/DS surgery knocked it all out of the ballpark.

But eventually, it got better. Yet it was over six months before I ever said, "I'm GLAD I did this." I lost a remarkable amount of weight, and for the most part, I can eat "whatever I want." 

That said, there are downsides. 

First and foremost, I spend a LOT of time in the bathroom. Lots. 

I've read a LOT of books since this surgery. I've been hospitalized because I spent so much time on the toilet; nothing was staying inside my body. 

Secondary to my Toilet Time was a problem with an external thrombosed hemorrhoid also known as "the second most physically painful experience of my life." 

There's another downside that Dustin could talk about:

It has to do with not having enough good bacteria in my intestines and yada yada yada -- if I skip a dose of probiotics, or don't eat good whole-milk plain yogurt daily, do NOT stand behind me! 

Right now I'm having some issues with bloating. There's nothing like weighing 135lbs at 5'6" and being asked REGULARLY if I'm pregnant. By strangers. To me, it means (1) people are RUDE (2) clearly, I look pregnant enough that strangers feel comfortable asking me when I'm due. 

Anyway, over the last nearly-18 months, I've come to the realization that no weight-loss surgery is perfect; everything has it's downsides -- and I'm currently taking Cipro and waiting on a full-abdomenal/pelvic CT scan to rule out anything else. 

Having this surgery was really another chapter in my life; I think about it the way I think about my kids. There was life before my BPD/DS. It was good, it was bad -- it was different. There's life after my BPD/DS. It's also good, sometimes bad, but mostly full of positives.  I have no regrets about having this surgery. None. I'm so glad that I had it done. I'm so glad that I've lost weight, that I'm healthier than I was, that I extended my life expectancy. I would go back and do it a million times again -- despite the Toilet Time, despite the 'roid rage, despite the gas, despite the bloating. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

In which I do not bake cookies for crazy neighbor

I have a neighbor I hate. He's so annoying. I'm trying -- not as part of any project, just in general -- to feel neutral toward him, because it's a waste of emotion to hate, but really I just can't stand him.

He's also a total wackadoo, as the kids are calling it these days. Here's why:

1. The "hidden" cameras. Crazy neighbor has two: one in his front window, the other in his above-garage window. I can only assume it's to track the comings and goings of everyone in our neighborhood.

2. The incident with a former neighbor. He pulled a gun on a former neighbor during an argument. This was before my time on the street, and the former neighbor moved away -- actually lost his home in a foreclosure -- but the police were called and crazy neighbor was arrested.

3. The wife nobody sees. Really. I've lived here for two years and have seen her once, in her car. I waved. She gave me a dirty look. A nice neighbor once saw her in the cafeteria at her (nice neighbor's) work -- she (crazy neighbor's wife) was temping at nice neighbor's office. Nice neighbor waved. Crazy neighbor's wife dumped her food tray and left.

4. The dogs who aren't allowed on the grass. Crazy neighbor takes great pride in his grass. He has two dogs. They are not allowed on the grass. Naturally, whenever my former dogs would escape, they ran straight for his grass.

5. The Animal Control on speed-dial. Yes, my neighbor calls Animal Control every time my dog barks more than twice in a row. Unfortunately for me, my dog is a herding breed who uses her voice to move the (imaginary) sheep all over our backyard.

When Animal Control is called for a "noise nuisance" they sit in front of the house that has been complained about, and listen for 15 minutes. The first... three?... times this happened, I freaked out. However, each time the Animal Control officer has knocked on my door and said that he didn't actually hear anything -- because, I don't leave my dog outside to bark! -- but by law he has to give me a copy of the law -- which states that 15 minutes in a row or more of continuous barking is considered a nuisance. Sigh.

The good news is that crazy neighbor has actually helped me bond with less-than crazy neighbors; he calls Animal Control on his adjacent neighbors practically daily, and once when Maizey escaped during a torrential downpour, they grabbed her and brought her back to me. They are actually suing crazy neighbor for harassment.

What have I learned from this? Well, prior to this move, I've always enjoyed living in a neighborhood. You know, the kind with HOA and lots of neighbors and a pool. I've never longed for some huge piece of land that Dustin would spend all weekend mowing. Until now.

Since we average living someplace for 2-3 years, I sometimes think about our next stop. And I hope it will not be in a confined neighborhood; if it is, I want a lot of distance between houses. I bemoan the lack of a community pool -- that was the best thing about living in Arizona, we had a pool in our backyard! -- but I can deal if we join a Y or a Carowinds-type place or something.

Friday, February 26, 2010

In which I spend a week on the Health Project and mostly FAIL

But at least I've learned. Let me begin.


1. Taking Lactase before I drink milk or eat milk-based foods. No-brainer, right? It helps. I take it every morning, before I eat the remainder of the kids' breakfast -- a little oatmeal, a bite of Cheerios, a banana. My own breakfast is usually yogurt with a banana and some dry oatmeal, all mixed together.

2. Going to bed at 9PM. Not as bad as I thought and the bonus is I spend time with My Chemical Romance who generally goes to bed pretty early.

3. Jumping on the tramp once a week. I would be a sucktastic mom if I couldn't find one day per week to spend bouncing around with my kids.  


1. No sugar-based foods. 

Are you surprised? Not only that, I totally coveted sugar and actually made brownies from scratch last night -- and I'm a cook, not a baker. However, I will note that I felt better when I didn't eat sugar. I felt less bloated and my stomach felt better than usual. Sigh. Life is a series of trade-offs, no? 

2. Walking 5x per week. I'm kind of bummed that I failed this, because it made me realize that I do enjoy moving, that I am woefully out of shape, and that I would like to firm up a bit. 

3. If we're going to be technical, I did not go to bed at exactly 9:00PM every night. Tuesday night I went to bed at 11:00PM and this picture describes me on Wednesday 

What I've learned from this:

1. With regards to eating, less is definitely more. Again, another no-brainer. Michael Pollan sums up his book Food Rules in six words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I'm not sure how he feels about brownies. Calorie restriction has its benefits in the general population -- mostly that it is linked to reversing the aging process in primates and mice -- but for me, not over-eating reverses any stomach problems. And that makes life much more enjoyable!  

2. I can make myself go to bed early, and the world will not stop spinning on its axis, and if I get that "important" email at 8am instead of 1am, that's okay too. And I'll get to sleep next to the non-snoring My Chemical Romance! (Not snoring is one of his best qualities.)

3. Walking is boring, but I do want to exercise. I want to join the Fort Mill YMCA, which has an awesome outdoor pool area for kids with tons of slides and water fun. It also has step aerobics on Tuesday evenings, a kids' fitness class on Wednesdays, homeschool PE on Thursdays -- basically, I think I can make it work with the kids where they wouldn't hate going. 

I'm going to work on my Health Project for next week. I may change it to Weekly Health Goals. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

In which I survive my first weekend on the Health Project

By the way, did I mention for how long I intend to keep it up? Three weeks, as that's how long it takes to make or break a habit -- although that "fact" is probably just some kind of mythic conjecture.

I'm on day four. I've learned a few things already.

1. Going to bed at 9:00PM is not as bad as I thought.

I imagined I'd lay there for hours, tossing and turning, feeling anxious. Nope. I go to sleep. Extremely surprising.

2. Walking is more work than I thought!

I thought walking for 20 minutes, five times a week, would be nothing. And yet, after four days, I have shin/ankle pain. Just like when I was in college, I'd have pain for the first few weeks every September as I walked all over campus. Then it would go away as my legs got accustomed to Ann Arbor.

However, I am thinking about getting a pair of MBT shoes.

I am selling my Dansko clogs -- which were my Christmas gift from Dustin after pining for months. I even tried them on at a Nordstrom. Apparently 12 minutes in a Nordstrom wasn't enough to tell that my feet are too fat for them. Yeah, my feet are thinner than they were 130lbs ago, but still wider than average. Sigh. So now I'm thinking about MBT shoes, but I want to make sure they don't also run narrow.

BTW, I walk barefoot when I use the treadmill because barefoot exercise has health benefits!

3. I can't compensate for the lack of sugar. I've tried to compensate by eating every non-sugar item in my house that isn't nailed to the ground -- and it only gives me stomach pain.

For a minute I thought honey was the answer to my sugar-free prayers, but it's just not that good. We have a vat of honey from Costco that I'm working on, slowly; I'm sure fresh local honey would be a different story.

4. There was a trampoline debacle, and I'm staying off until I fix it.

The ground near the entrance was getting muddy from so many kids (and adults) climbing in, as well as a lot of rain in early February. I thought about how to fix it -- maybe straw? or hay? -- but Dustin thought that sand was the answer. Sand + mud = thicker, grittier, more hearty mud that covers not only the surface of the tramp, but also the soles of shoes and therefore the floor of my house. UGH. I'm safe for today, because it's raining outside (although this means even MORE mud), but tomorrow I'm getting some wood chips or cedar chips or straw -- or a combination -- to put down near the tramp entrance. Hopefully, problem solved. I'm not a huge fan of mud all over my house, and I also like to be barefoot on the tramp without jumping on nasty pieces of dirt.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In which I do a "Six Word Saturday" for Feb 20 2010

Life without sugar hurts my brain.

Friday, February 19, 2010

In which I describe the Health Project

I'm reading The Happiness Project, which was written by a woman who decided to take a year to improve her happiness. She wasn't depressed. Her life was good. But she wanted to be happier, so she thought about what would help her, and she read books and blogs and suggestions, and made a plan for herself. Then she wrote a book about it. She also keeps a blog.

I am not ready for a complete happiness project -- I haven't finished the book yet! -- but I'm ready for a Health Project. To that end, I thought last night about things relating to my health that would make me happier, healthier, and more pleasant to those I love. Here's what I've got

1. Take lactase enzyme before I drink milk. Seriously, I own it. It works. Why not take it before I drink milk? 

2. Go to bed at 9. Yes, this means PM. 

3. No sugar-based foods for 21 days. Supposedly it takes 21 days to break a habit. We'll see. I'm not cutting out carbs, or flour, but I need to stop eating things where 'sugar' or some variant of it is in the top three ingredients.

4. Walk for 20 minutes, five times per week. I actually dusted off the treadmill. Goodbye, towel hanger!

5. Jump on the trampoline once per week. Because I have as much fun as the kids when I do it! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In which I slack on the cooking posts!

Foolish me, I thought when I stopped apprenticing -- and by the way, everyone, I did not quit; I am taking a break! -- I'd have more free time. According to my weeknight schedule, the joke is on me:

MONDAY: Cub scouts. Early dinner then my three scouts rush off (Dustin's a den leader).
TUESDAY: Erika's parenting class. Yes, even the most perfect parents need help sometimes with their litter of children.
WEDNESDAY: Maizey's Dog Class, then a late date with Leigh.
THURSDAY: I see Dustin and the kids for more than 4 minutes consecutively before bedtime. Hooray!
FRIDAY: Dustin's Nerd Night/Erika's night to put the kids to bed early and cuddle up in bed with People . (And, oh, when my People doesn't arrive in Friday's mail, there is hell to pay!)

This schedule does not take into account the postpartum work I'm doing for the next three weeks. Postpartum work involves going to someone's house and helping them adjust to life with a new baby. My twist is that I cook and bring them food, including some freezer meals.

I love cooking. (Phrase #2241515 I thought I'd never say, along with #131241, Please stop licking the dog and #42546 Stop trying to pee on your brother in the shower.) Specifically I love casserole-type meals. This is a real issue for my children, who do not want their food touching anything else, and want to scrape the cheese off the lasagna noodles -- or, alternately, want to scrape the noodles out of the meat/cheese sauce. But I love the idea that with a casserole you can get the perfect bite that includes protein, vegetables, starch, and carbs. Chicken pot pie. Spinach and beef lasagna. Enchiladas.

Sorry, kids, Cheerios with cut-up banana on top does not count. This does not count either, in case you were wondering. Because putting anything with Cheerios -- other than whole milk -- is sacrilege.

So, I'm at a new mom's house, cooking and cleaning -- I actually washed a few dishes by hand recently; like, hello, why have a dishwasher if you're not going to use it?!?!? -- and doing laundry and snuggling new babies. It's fun, but I wish I were home, sticking everything in my dishwasher and ignoring my own piles of laundry and snuggling my own children for the ten seconds they'll still let me snuggle. 

Since my break from apprenticing, I've let go of a bit of the whole SuperMom thing. For a while, I felt like because I was doing so much, I should be SuperWife and SuperMom. Kept house immaculate. Cooked homemade every night. Even stayed on top of laundry and linens. Then, for a week or two, I was totally off the wagon and barely looked at the washing machine or fridge. Now I'm finding a balance.

I seem to have a lot invested in what others think of me. I was really worried that my decision to take a break from apprenticing would come at the expense of my reputation in the birth world. Turns out (1) nobody really cares -- and I mean that in a good way (2) everyone seems understanding (3) nobody ever figured out how or why I did it in the first place. It's not like I needed more things to do. Even without doing postpartum work, my life is full. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In which I have a new camera and a hope for a new teacher.

I love my Maizer, but life with her has been nothing if not dramatic since I got her, on my 30th birthday last year.

First she got "strangles" which I put in quotes because there's some discrepancy over whether or not it was actually strangles, a very serious condition. Next came demodectic mange which a few of her brothers and sisters also got. There was also the incidence of the Evil Vet Who Doesn't Believe Dogs Should Be Raised With Children Or At Least Not My Particular Children -- but still wanted me to continue at the vet practice. Thank you, but no. I'll go to a vet that doesn't accuse me of benign neglect when I bring in my puppy for hundreds of dollars worth of care. I switched to another vet who was comfortable with raw-feeding -- which I had done with Deuce and Tex for years -- but that didn't last very long because I inadvertently got involved with some drama at the local kennel club over Maizey being skeleton-esque, and ended up seeing a vet an hour away who does performance with her dog (agility) and pronounced Maizey perfect and un-skeletal.

(Picture taken with my new camera! Thank you, Dustin! It was my Valentine's Day Gift.)

But now, I'm concerned about her obedience class. After I got her, I took her to Puppy School at PetSmart, which was mostly just a chance for her to be around other dogs. Then I took her to Puppy K at my local kennel club, and I had an awesome teacher. Her name is Tina and she was so enthusiastic about teaching, and so helpful. You know the type -- the teacher who loves what she's doing and inspires you to learn. She was very down-to-earth and personable, she always gave the students a chance to ask questions and discuss specific concerns, she had a great sense of humor. She was awesome -- okay she still is awesome, but she's not my teacher since Maizey graduated from Puppy K to Dog Beginner, in January.

And right away, I realized that my new teacher was Debby Downer and would not inspire much -- except a thorough evaluation of the class and her as a teacher, which I've been composing in my head since about week two, because I want to make sure it's free of vitriol and full of suggestions.

Dear Class Evaluator,

I have taken both Puppy Beginner and Pet Beginner at this club. I noticed several areas of concern. First, the discrepancy between what is taught in Puppy Beginner and what is expected in Pet Beginner is enormous. I feel both classes would benefit from some curriculum coordination. I felt at a huge disadvantage when I began Pet Beginner, after just finishing Puppy Beginner. Further, I believe Pet Beginner is too stringent, and much closer to an Advance Beginner class. Not all who take the class plan to do performance with their dog, and I feel it is geared toward that instead of the average dog owner who simply wants a better-behaved dog. 

The instructor could use improvement in her teaching skills. Although her knowledge and experience with dogs is impressive, she seems ill-at-ease with their human companions. 

Specifically, she does not answer questions until after class. She seems to believe that whatever issues one person is experiencing with his or her dog is not indicative of the rest of the class  -- despite the fact that everyone in the class has dogs approximately one year old and came from the same Puppy K class. She does not offer real-world suggestions for dealing with dog behavior, except to say what she would NOT do. 

She singles out the "best" two or three students in the class to use as examples, leaving everyone else ignored. She demands all attention on her for the entire class, getting angry if the students exchange pleasantries with each other. Again, this is a class full of adults who have been together weekly for four months. She does not inspire positive feelings about dog training or attending her class. She insists that everyone tell her we've practiced, even if we haven't, rather than address why those who aren't practicing are having problems finding the time. She again showed favoritism by announcing what students would pass CGC/TDI testing and who wouldn't, which was somewhat embarrassing for those whose dogs wouldn't pass. 

She suggested that my dog would not pass CGC/TDI testing, and that I should repeat Pet Beginner. Although I take responsibility for my dog, I will not be repeating the class with her as an instructor. 


Definitely NOT One of the Best Three Students 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In which I quote a midwife I know

Lots of midwives follow Navelgazing Midwife's blog, which has a lot of information on it, and is extremely well-written. She has been a midwife for many years, and a writer for longer. I knew her when I lived on the Left Coast, and she has quite a presence in San Diego.

As you all know, recently I quit (although I hate calling it quitting; I'm not a quitter) apprenticing. I feel really good about the decision. Yes, I regret that I may not become a midwife until I'm 40 -- or older! -- but I'd rather spend the next ten years with my family, preparing for when I enter another apprenticeship or school, than drive us further apart by continuing.

My guilt mostly comes in that I chose to apprentice without really thinking about the details of how and when and WHY I was choosing to do it. It was a few months before I realized, Damn, I'm spending most of my time doing prenatals, and very little time on births. Also, when I did births, I realized, Damn, midwives have a LOT of responsibility.

Can you overestimate the responsibility in being a pregnant woman's care provider? Midwives value autonomy, and they have it, but the other side of that is a huge amount of responsibility.

At this point I could also veer into midwife's responsibilities versus client's responsibilities, and walking that line, but instead I'll delve further into the apprentice thing.

Many women want to do what I did; they want to become a midwife. They want to go to midwifery school and apprentice. Leigh will have no trouble finding another apprentice, if she wants one. However, most people don't get the reality of what midwives do -- and what apprentices do -- and so I want to copy this post from Navelgazing midwife because I think she really gets it. All credit goes to her. I just want to spread this message because I think if I'd really really REALLY thought about it before I started with Leigh, I might not have started and might have saved some stress on myself and my family.

Sweet women come to me, starry-eyed and their heads tilted sideways, looking at me with respect and (sometimes) awe. It's an honor to help women on their paths towards birthwork, but it is also a responsibility. I've listened to midwives wax poetic about being a midwife, pulling the potential apprentice along, muchly because the midwife needs some free help with her work. I think this is unfair and, as happens too often, the women end up leaving the "apprenticeship" once the realities of birthwork tarnish the dream. While I might be seen as a wet blanket with these dreamy women who come asking questions, I know it does no one any good if they begin and quit, one "apprentice" after another; it's just easier to get the whole picture out in the open from the get go.

"I want to hold babies" is a common refrain from the women who sit across from me. I smile and say, "Listen, we only hold babies from here (the vagina/vulva) to here (the abdomen)." Taken aback, I'm assuming they just hadn't thought of that since their faces goes blank. I then begin listing the things a midwife does hold: sweaty hair, the barf bowl as the woman throws up in it, the laboring woman as she dangles and the mother's hand as she squeezes it white and bloodless. We hold placentas as we demonstrate their amazing beauty. We hold scrub brushes as we wash blood off our instruments. We hold needle holders as we suture vulvas. It's important to me to make sure the woman knows the unglamorous parts of the "calling"/"job", just as much as she knows about the good parts.
She needs to know - the most important thing we hold is two lives in our hands.

If, after telling her all those realities, she is still drooling and her eyes light up more with every description, then it is obvious the woman is pretty darned birth-obsessed and a good candidate for apprenticeship.

But there's more. I let Donna (my apprentice) tell these parts of the apprentice story. She speaks about missing birthdays, telling them how many she missed in the first year along. She tells them about missing her kids' school awards... how we've had births on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve (which requires us to make a home visit on Christmas Day) and wedding anniversaries. How we are called at all stages of the pregnancy, sitting with a woman with a UTI in the hospital at 30 weeks, going to a woman having a miscarriage at 13 weeks or driving 60 miles for a look-see if the woman's membranes have ruptured (nope!). She tells the woman how she can be gone sometimes for 3 days at a time, pumping her breasts so she can keep nursing her one-year old.
We both share the reality of putting 60,000 miles on your car a year, not having an income, paying for gas and child care, food outside the house, buying birth clothes or shoes, all kinds of incedentals that are easy to forget about.
As I said, this might sound all dramatic and tragic, but really, really, women need to know the realities of being a midwife's apprentice. And none of this includes the prenatals, the office work, the making of charts, the answering of emails, calling women back with lab results and all the other nuances in the life of a woman wanting to be a student midwife.

I imagine women's spirits sagging by this point, those sitting in front of me and those reading this, but there are AMAZING parts of being a midwife, too. But if you don't want... no, CRAVE... all that I said above, then reconsideration of this career is called for.

Being at a birth is glorious, but it is a blip in the life of a client's pregnancy. We become part of the family's life, we become part of the birth story forever, even if they can't remember our names 30 years later. We are invited in to see the wondrous joy a new baby can bring, but we also become counselors as the pregnancy brings out the warts and hoptoads lurking beneath the marriage's fascade or their relationship with the in-laws. As midwives (and students), we are privy to things most regular folks never hear from their neighbors, co-workers - and even closest friends. We become connections for women and their families to find food, help them see parts of themselves they'd hidden for decades and stand by them as their world is forever changed by the new soul coming to them.

Some clients become friends, but most slowly disappear over time, coming around again when the midwife holds an anniversary picnic or when they are again pregnant. It's important to keep a boundary between friend and care provider because care providers sometimes have to make serious decisions a friend would never even think of. It doesn't mean you can't empathize with your client... heck, if I don't cry with a client at least once during the pregnancy it's because she's changed care providers! Women become their own type of midwives, creating their style as they walk through their apprenticeship. A good mentor/preceptor doesn't want a clone, but fosters her apprentice's individuality. While I am a motherly type of midwife, other clients want a more business-like provider; there is a midwife for every type of client (in some areas like here in San Diego). Midwives are responsible for being perceptive as to how close or far her clients want to be. It can be a fine line and is crossed sometimes, but realizing it and correcting it quickly brings the relationship back into balance.

It's pretty clear, without even saying it, that a midwife musthave worked through a great deal of her own issues... fear, abuse history, pregnancy, family dynamics, child-rearing and more. It's crucial not to bring one's own issues into the prenatal, laboring, birthing and postpartum periods. We talk about that with new doulas, to see each birth as an individual experience, not thinking, "Oh! My last lady had pitocin and a cesarean, so this woman will, too." But allowing the birth the unfold in its own way. Sure, there are themes and generalizations, but when WITH a woman, BE with her, see her as herself and see her birth as her own. With midwifery, this admonition is even more important because there can be a tendency to think her clients' births will be/should be just like her own midwifery birth. Midwives, too, must allow the woman to have her own walk, even if that walk includes a cesarean. We have to BE with her, not drag her along, but to stand by her side (or even a tiny step behind) as she feels her way through her birth experience.

Birthing women are extremely vulnerable. They (often) take advice literally. They(often) are easily swayed. I am not saying that they don't have a mind of their own or that they can't feel very strongly about certain things, but I have seen women bend to the will of her midwife simply because the midwife is The Expert. Midwives canNOT exploit this. Can NOT. When offering options and giving informed consent, it is imperative to keep one's feelings about the coming choice out of the equation. It doesn't mean you can't share how you feel about a test or a procedure, but not being married to the outcome is vital. I really can't stress enough how important it is to not exploit a client's vulnerability. I believe it takes a great deal of self-discipline not to. Midwives, please don't. Please.

This has gone on longer than I expected, but I felt led this morning to write this out. These are thoughts that come out in small spurts when I speak about what being a midwife is about. Of course, midwifery is different for every woman; these are MY experiences and they seem pretty universal, but others certainly have their own story to tell. I am honored... that word seems so small... so honored to be called to be a midwife. I hold the honor close to my heart and work so hard to do the blessing justice. I always have room to grow (who doesn't?!) and I welcome the ways my midwifery practice will continue to change, evolve, as I learn more and more with every client (and inbetween).

I hope this resonates with some of you. I write this for those birth addicts who know in their very soul they are destined to be midwives. I'm waiting to bring you into the fold.