Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Exposé on Annie's Mac and Cheese

I have been feeling shame every time I've cooked up a box or Kraft Mac and Cheese for my daughter because I was too lazy too go to the healthy grocery store to get Annie's or just fed up with paying three times as much for the "healthier" stuff. Now I don't have to feel so bad.

Check out this article from Salon that shows that Annie's isn't really any better than the old blue and white box.

Baby Blues or Full-Blown Depression?

A few weeks ago, I was scanning through posts at Parent Hacks and found a review of The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling with Depression by Tracey Thompson. I got a copy of the book from the library and devoured it in a a few sittings. I struggled with feelings of depression after my first daugther was born in 2003, but I never sought professional help. I would read lists of symptoms that were supposed to detect whether you just have "baby blues" or "postpartum depression". I could never decide if what I was feeling was "worse" than what I was "supposed" to feel. But in retrospect whatever diagnosis might have been appropriate for my feelings, I should have seen a counselor.

Unlike so many of the OBs described in the book, my midwives, did ask questions about how I was feeling and try to detect if I needed help. But I told them I was fine, because I was convinced that I just needed to tough it out. When I read the narratives in the book by women who had suffered from depression, both postpartum and as a mother of older kids, many of their feelings resonated with what I had experienced and occasionally experience now. But these symptoms were not things I would normally have associated with depression - intense anxiety and feeling of rage where you want to throw things, pound your fists, pull out your hair, etc.

The thing that I credit with pulling me out of the worst of my new mom depression was connecting with an amazing group of women who also had newborns. We met at a Mommy and Me group which we quickly altered from a planned series of formal discussions and presentations to a time to gripe and bitch and get advice from each other. Three and a half years later there are eight of us who still get together for playdates or drink nights or the now famously controversial drinking playdate.

I am due with my second baby in April, and I cannot say how thankful I am for these friends, one of whom is due with her second child the same day as me. I know they will be literally sanity-saving help again. But this time, I've also asked my midwives for names of counselors so I can establish a relationship with a professional before I have the baby and thus have yet another type of support in place in case I need it.

I highly recommend The Ghost in the House to any mom who has experienced depression at any stage in her journey. The book is an interesting mix of narratives from the author and woman she interviewed and scientific information about depression and the options for treatment. Most important of all, it encourages women to get help despite the cultural stigma around mental illness and the pressure for moms to pretend to be happy no matter how miserable they are.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Great Post On Teaching Science

Life Without School is one of my favorite homeschool blogs, and there is a great post up now about teaching science. Check it out here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Obsessing Over Educational Choices

I've spent far too much time over the last three years agonizing/obsessing over what we are going to do about schooling for M: homeschool, public school, part time private school (only one option for this in our area and it's expensive). I tell myself I don't need to worry so much about it but I feel like it's such an important decision and I truly enjoying checking out curricula and reading about educational theories so I doubt I'll listen to the voice telling me to slow down.

Our local public schools have a magnet school system where you decide your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice schools and students are chosen my a lottery. There are also two charter schools that get good reviews from both parents and students. So we are fortunate to have some good choices school wise, but I'm just not sure I want to send M to school full time.

I first became attracted to homeschooling over ten years ago when I had the opportunity to meet a few wonderful homeschooling families whose kids I admired. Since then I've done oodles of research on the subject and while my daughter is currently in preschool we are also doing some homeschooling activities as well. For me, two of the biggest attractions of homeschooling are the freedom to make our own schedule, allowing more time for enrichment activities without sacrificing playtime and the opportunity to tailor a curriculum to fit a student who may be at different levels in different subjects and who may benefit from a wide variety of educational approaches.

The downside is that to stay sane I'm fairly sure I would have to reduce the hours I work or stop working altogether. I'd planned to be a full time stay-at-home mom but when I got the chance to write professionally, I didn't want to turn it down. My work is something that fulfills me, and I don't want to give it up. I'm also someone who needs a lot of time alone to be happy, and while I would certainly involve our family in activities with other homeschoolers, I'm not sure I could get enough of this if we were homeschooling full time.

For now, I'm planning to look at schools when the time comes next year and to also continue to investigate the opportunities in our area for homeschoolers. I'm also experimenting with some homeschool activities now. My daughter loves doing workbook pages, and she's very interested in learning to read and learning more about numbers. So I got Modern Curriculum Press's K Level Phonics book and the first year of Singapore Math's 2 year kindergarten program. We spend about 10 minutes a day on each on the days when she's interested and so far we having a lot of fun. We also do a lot of informal art and science activities together and as you can see from the last post we read a lot.

As I explore more and learn more about our choices, I'll keep sharing my thoughts.

January Reading

These are some of the books we've been enjoying this month:

A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban - This one launched us on a re-read of all the Frances books, there's a Frances craze at our house right now with us singing little bits of the great quirky songs in the books constantly.

Penny and Patch from the Breyer Stablemates series. M has a large collection of horses that include everything from realistic Safari Farm models to the purplest, glitteriest My Little Pony's you can imagine and they are one of the toys she plays with consistency, typically daily. Horsey school (where the horses go to preschool) and horse doctor a lot.

Big Green Pocketbook by Candace Ramsom - this has been a library favorite for over a year and we're thrilled to have our own copy now

Time for Ballet - another library favorite. M has been taking ballet since August and she typically adores it although she's been less entusiastic about class lately.

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems - M had this one memorized in a matter of days. The pigeons excuses for not going to bed sound so much like her that we've all been thoroughly amused. We have a copy of Willem's Knuffle Bunny and it is a frequent read at our house. We'd never read any of the pigeon books, but we went to the library days after she received this one and checked out The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. They are also hits.

Mama Coming and Going by Judith Caseley - M loves to laugh at the mom in the book who feels like she's loosing her mind after having a second child. She keeps asking me if I'm going to be crazy after our baby is born and I tell her I probably will.

Henry and Mudge and the Big Sleepover by Cynthia Rylant - This is one I would never have predicted M would like since all the characters are boys and she is generally anti-boy right now, but she loves it.. She picked it off the shelf because it had pictures of kids having a sleep over, something she keeps asking to do and my already sleep-deprived self resists.

The Pea Patch Jig by Thatcher Hurd - A group of mice have a party in the garden where they live but the baby keeps causing trouble.

Sugar Snow - a Laura Ingalls Wilder picture book adaptation

Math for all Seasons by Greg Tang - This book has great counting and simple addition exercises. I wasn't sure what she'd think but M keeps asking for it again and again.

Little Rabbit Goes to School by Harry Horse - We love all the Little Rabbit books!

I'm A Big Sister by Joanna Cole - This is a positive take on being a big sister. So many of the big sister books I've found were just the older siblings complaints. I'm trying to be realistic with about how much time the baby will take, but I don't want to set M up to be resentful.

More Adventures of Amanda Pig - We discovered Amanda and Oliver last summer and we've had fun reading through their adventures. This was one we hadn't read yet.

Welcome to my blog!

I am a mom, a wife, a potential homeschooler, a writer, a baker, and a woman keenly interested in the difficulties facing mothers in our culture today. I describe myself as a stay-at-home mom when someone asks what I do, but in fact I work from home (or more realistically from coffee shops) about fifteen hours per week as a writer. I choose how many hours I want to work, and I'm constantly debating the trade offs. More time to have fun with my daughter and my husband or more sense of personal accomplishment? More sleep or more money for luxuries?

I am strongly considering homeschooling my 3 year old daughter when she reaches kindergarten age (she's in preschool now and I work during those hours). I'm expecting a second daughter in April, and I know my feelings about school may change as our family grows. I'm going to let this blog develop as I go, but for now, I'm planning to post about my homeschooling explorations, parenting ups and downs, and book lists of what I'm reading with my daughter.