Finishing up the Manuscript for my First Children’s Book

initial sketch of a photo to put on the first page or two of my children's book on love.

initial sketch of a photo to put on the first page or two of my children’s book on love.

I thought I was done with the illustrations for my first children’s book How to Love Like Jesus: A Guide for Children and Their Parents, but as I was formatting the manuscript to send off to self-publishing company that designs layouts, I realized I still had a few extra that I added in last minute in order to keep consistent with having an illustration for each section of the book.

This process takes a while! First I draw the pictures in black ink, then I have to scan them, then I need to import them into Adobe Photoshop. From there I have to color them and add necessary changes.

what the scan looks like at first in Photoshop

what the scan looks like at first in Photoshop

Once I get my groove going, I can get a few done in a day. I was able to scan and digitally color almost all of the illustrations for this first book in two working days. But now I’ve got these 4 extra. Whaaaa!

No really, I enjoy coloring them. Its just that I’m so excited about getting a quote and a dummy copy out to have my friends’ kids preview, I don’t want to wait.

But patience. I need patience. Which is actually a form of love according to the bible and of which I talk about in the book. If I am going to love this book, I need to love it. Not rush through just to get it done. And I imagine if I want my readers to love the book, they’d appreciate the details.

What it begins to look like as I color them.

What it begins to look like as I color them.

With just 2 weeks left of summer vacation, I am realizing, I should have allocated the entire summer to working on these books, not just the month of July. Looks like I will be continuing to work on them through the school year. But hey–if I can get just one children’s book out there and test it out on Amazon and work on developing my marketing skills through that one, maybe by the time I get the other 4 finished, I will be a pro with a big enough following. 🙂 We shall see what God has planned. 🙂

Exciting Times!

25 weeks along here carrying #4

25 weeks along here carrying #4

Alas, I blog again, having wished I have been better at blogging since I used to be and loved it. Will this be it? Will I finally get back into it? I sure am hoping so. A lot is happening and I want to share so much.

1. I am pregnant with our 4th child. Its a girl. A vasectomy baby. God is good though—he will have his way and he knows how to give good gifts to his children. This will be our only daughter and a sweet little refreshment in our testosterone-filled house. We are naming her Scotland Amalia-Leme. I’m 26 weeks as of tomorrow. She is due November 1st.

2. We bought our first house!!!! Built in 1965. Great starter home. Lots of property. Lots of fun project opportunities. 🙂 The kids love it. 🙂 Thank you Lord!

3. I started a resume writing business last year right around Thanksgiving and it has taken off. It is helping provide us a little extra cash to help pay for Owen’s teeth (lost two of them in a crazy golfing accident), a bigger car for our growing family, and house needs.

4. I was recently hired by Sound of Your Voice Memoirs to be an interviewer and writer. I have my first client and am really loving the process. Sure hoping this job can grow and eventually open the doors to allow me to work from home full-time.

5. I have taken the plunge and am writing the first drafts of a few christian children’s books! 3 I am doing on my own. 2 I am co-writing with a friend of mine. And I’ve already come up with another book I want to write, but will put that one on the backburner for the next set of books. In the mean time, I’ve got the first drafts complete, and the illustrations starting. Once those are finished, I’ll venture into learning how to use InDesign and designing the layouts. Then market market market! Marketing is half the job. Writing is the easy part. So we have a long way to go. But I am very excited about this. I’ve been praying that God really use me in these books to speak to kids about real ways they can apply Jesus to their lives. I’ll share more in a different blog.

With all this, I’d like to write more about all the transitions and emotions and thoughts as I go a long this exciting journey. I will be changing the name of this blog and planning to write in it more and work at actually building a following. So for those of you who are reading this, please follow this blog. I’m pretty sure there is an icon at the top right area where you can sign up. I promise, I can be funny, insightful, and honest. And if you have a blog, please comment with a link so I can check yours out too. I love mommy blogs and of course, love blogs that inspire! 🙂

Going to be attempting to find a blog address similar to theentrepreneurialwife.com. We shall see!

Wisdom from Grandma on Life

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My Grandma Barbara and Grandpa Lowell

My Grandma’s birthday was this Thursday. I wasn’t able to visit her for the day, but wanted to call her to wish her a Happy Birthday and catch up. She lives in a nursing home with my Grandpa, who needs a lot of help due to his health issues. Grandma on the other hand is there simply because she is his wife and she goes where he goes. She is still healthy as ever, vibrant, and joyous. I admire her so much and her steadfast love she has for my Grandfather. So I asked her the question I have asked myself lately and others when we talk about age: how old do you feel? I find the question interesting because I know my answer and I love hearing the answer of others. I find that each one of us emotionally feels younger, typically finding ourselves surprised when looking in the mirror and seeing this person with more wrinkles and less hair than the one we feel. The body ages much faster than the spirit I think. I myself feel 25 when I am actually 34. When I talk to my other family or friends who are older than me, I hear answers that are often 10 to 20 years younger than where they really are. So I don’t always expect to feel 25. At some point, my spirit will age and I’ll be 50 saying that I feel 35. I like this. I find it beautiful and fascinating. My grandma’s answer caught me by surprise. But it blessed me more than anything else I expected her to say.  In her thick, Colombian accent she said to me these words:

“I don’t feel like an age anymore. I feel more like a place.  I’m at the top of a mountain looking at my life and my family’s life as they really are, no longer the way I used to. Up here, it is clear. There is no more stress or bitterness or worry. It is like I can see for the first time. I look down and see my whole life and yours and our family’s. And what I see is how blessed I am and how blessed you are. It is a very free feeling, darling. I tell you, my biggest regret is rushing through life so much and not stopping to enjoy each moment.  I know this time in your life is very busy with work and all the kids. But experience it. Be there in the moment. There will be a time in the future where you remember this busy time and miss it. And you can believe me because my blinders have been taken off. I know. I can see at the top of the mountain what you may not see. You are very blessed. I am very blessed. I am happy to be 75. It is easy to see everything here.”

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The Hills with their some of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her words. I felt it was true wisdom. I came home and told Owen what she told me. He told me I should blog about it and I agreed. I don’t want to forget her words and I believe others should hear it too. Today, in the midst of the sick, crying baby and the 2-year-old who dumped the fish food all over the carpet, and the 6-year-old running around like a crazy man around the house with the neighbor kid, Owen and I walked up to each other in the kitchen, gave each other that knowing smile that  said, without words—oh look at us and our crazy little life right now, and we hugged a long time, and kissed each other. It is a beautiful Christmas season, this year. And while I look forward to 2014 and all that God will bring, I will enjoy each day of this December. And I pray you do as well.

Blessed Summer Moments week 4 and 5

Birthday Party on the beach for our one-year-old friend, Gianni

Birthday Party on the beach for our one-year-old friend, Gianni

As always, summer is just flying by. I had planned a schedule that I was going to follow. I had lofty goals of home-school-like morning sessions, and personal goals like working out daily, reading a novel, blogging once a week….nope. But, it is not because I am at home sitting around and being mopey. I mean sure, keeping up a house with two babies and a very active 6-year-old, and a hubby who likes to eat and then leave his dishes can sure add up and take time, but we have been doing stuff. Sea World trips, a day trip to Corona Del Mar (amazingly beautiful beach! Wow!), the Orange County Swap Meet, day trips to our own beaches in Oceanside, swimming in the inflatable pool in our back yard, family trips to the park, pizza dinners at Wings, Pizza and Things, a family reunion in Mission Viejo, fellowship group once a week, barbeques at friend’s houses, birthday parties on the beach, and even a “Gender Reveal” party (My very first one. Great idea!).

My babies had a play date with baby Kloe

My babies had a play date with baby Kloe

Today I actually had planned a down day to hang out the house because I’m just exhausted being out all the time. Of course, given we were home and so that made time to get the oil changed and squeeze in a trip to the grocery store so again, no down time.

But throughout these busy days, there have been some little treasurable moments I must record.

recreation of the pyramid we did in 1995 with all the cousins. We are missing a few here.

recreation of the pyramid we did in 1995 with all the cousins. We are missing a few here.

Jameson– He learned the word “people” one day and the next day “lost”…..While at the family reunion, I changed his diaper in the bathroom and he told me all out the “Pepo” outside and how much he likes his cousin Peyton. Then he said, “Peyton is my people. He is MY Peyton.” Then on the way home, he dropped his flip-flop on the floor of the car and cried out, “I lost it. Oh no my flip-flop! I lost it!”

Now for the new generations of cousins to do a pyramid. The third cousins (the chidren of the cousins).

Now for the new generations of cousins to do a pyramid. The third cousins (the children of the cousins).

Benjamin– He learned how to walk finally. He took his first steps on the 4th of July at the Davis’s barbecue. My friend, Carmen Gonzales got to witness it with me. Since then, he has gradually increased his steps. I’ve seen him now take as much as 9 steps before falling. And he is so proud of himself. He gets this adorable look on his face when he makes eye contact with me while he is walking. His eyes twinkle and his little lips purse with a hint of a smirk.

Kanan and Jameson, snuggling on the couch.

Kanan and Jameson, snuggling on the couch.

Kanan—He has grown up so much. He has become so much more helpful. I have been working hard at pouring into him scripture that teaches him how to love like Jesus. It actually inspired me to write a children’s book on it which has also taken up some of my nights as I am both writing and illustrating it. But with those talks, we talk about helping his brothers, helping me, using positive, encouraging words with his siblings, and showing compassion when they cry. Today—while frustrated at Walmart, waiting for our car to get its oil changed, I watched Kanan doing something to  Benjamin and there was water on his hands. I immediately suspected trouble. “What are you doing, Kanan?” I asked in a tone that suggested, he was in trouble. “I’m washing the boogers off his face,” he said with a genuine, loving smile. Ugh! I was so moved. A year ago, that would have never happened. Kanan would never care to touch something as icky as boogers.

Jameson and Benjamin, playing with Dad (My Owen)

Jameson and Benjamin, playing with Dad (My Owen)

Owen– Even though he has been working like crazy, I’ve been able to have some blessed moments with him. When we got back from Utah, I got to watch him win an award from the Mayor of Oceanside for best business of the month. The man who introduced him, spoke so highly of Owen and the business–basically saying that Owen and his business, was the future. It was so awesome to see my husband valued and praised in front of so many because I know that he deserves it. That man works hard! I also have been able to hang out with him in his office while he worked and I worked on my book. The day before yesterday, he even washed my car for me.

So now I have four weeks left, counting this week. I will continue to try to soak up every minute with joy before I return to work on August 9th. We start with tomorrow–little Benjamin’s first birthday. We will celebrate this weekend. Can’t wait to put a little party hat on his chubby head.

Blessed Moments: week one of summer vacation

Family minus K in Big Bear

Family minus K in Big Bear

This summer, I’m going to blog about the blessed moments I  enjoy week by week.It often feels like summer just flys on by and I often wonder where the time went and whether I experienced all that I wanted to experience while there. This summer I have eight blessed weeks to spend with my husband, my boys, my friends, and my family. Those eight weeks have to charge me up for Fall before I can get recharged during winter break for round two in the spring. I want to savor every blessed moment. What’s a better way than blogging about it, right?So my summer kind of started this last weekend because I did have to report to work on Monday, but was allowed to use that time how I wanted and so I used it to organize my classroom for the Fall (something I usually do at the end of my summer break, but still during break.) So this first week of Summer’s blessed moments will start the weekend of June 8/9.

Big Bear Crew

Big Bear Crew

Friday, June 7th- Sunday, June 9th: Drove up to Big Bear with my hubby and two of our sons (Kanan stayed with his dad for this week’s rotation) and met up with my brother, his wife, and their friends for a relaxing weekend in a huge cabin in Big Bear. We cooked dinners together, played pool and pingpong, went shopping (I got a gorgeous yellow infinity scarf and a cute creme colored summer top), the boys went fishing, took naps, chatted…it was awesome. A wonderful way to kick off my break by forcing me to just be still. At home on a usual weekend, I’m running around trying to get everything I can’t get done in the work week done—ie laundry, house work, meal prep,etc. I felt like I really grew closer to my brother and his wife, and fell absolutelyl in love with their friends. Just good people.

Buddies---Jameson and Peyton

Buddies—Jameson and Peyton

And as an added blessing, our son Jameson, who is 2, and my brother’s son Peyton, who is almost 3, had an absolute blast together! They were two peas. It was so sweet. I grew up close with my cousins and really want that same experience for my kids and their cousins. This was such a moment. 🙂 I also got to take a break from my coffee boycott and enjoy coffee all weekend, with that yummy vanilla cremer.

Oh and bittersweet moment here, but needs to be noted–Benjamin decided this weekend in Big Bear that he didn’t care for breastfeeding anymore. He decided to tell me by biting me in a final session before absolutely refusing any other session thereafter! The rest of this week will be marked with my own withdrawals from the special moments as well as physically havign to adjust (He cut me off cold turkey! My body is freaking out!) And third–feeling excited about the multivitamin I have been wanting to take but haven’t been able to because it has all these herbs in it that could affect Benny Boo, the juice detox now in my near future, and the DHEA I have been wanting to take to get my adrenals back in gear (I’ve been depleted for too long and have blood work to prove it. Can’t wait to see the results–energy, better mood, and a whole bunch of other positive effects that I have missed because they are so shot (Thanks to career, coffee, and kids…haha).

Monday, June 10th— Got to spend the whole day organizing my classroom for the Fall. Last year, I didn’t get a chance because I had just had Benjamin, so I started the Fall late and completely unorganized. This followed me the rest of the year. Not this Fall. I am organized, baby! And in a new room, which will be installed with a Smartboard and a class set of Chromebooks! See ya later, paper!

Loving Captain Underpants---Kanan and I

Loving Captain Underpants—Kanan and I

Tuesday, June 11th—1)Took a three hour nap on the couch in the afternoon while the babies napped. 2)Took both babies individually out for a bikeride. They loved sitting in the Weeride seat (sits in front, between rider’s legs) and were all smiles for the ride. 3)Went shopping with my hubbies and the babies—groceries, a fishing pole for owen, a tricycle for JJ, and a helmet for Benjamin (who looked adorable in it, btw).

Wednesday, June 12th— 1)Went to Kanan’s last day of school family picnic and watched him run around with his friends as Jameson followed, while I chatted with another mom named Amery, who moved her from South Africa. 2)Filmed a commercial for a local Party Supplier with my hubby at the studio. 3) Read the first 2 chapters of Captain Underpants (the first book) with Kanan as the babies napped.

JJ and Kanan stopping their skooter session so Mom could take a picture. JJ was so excited!

JJ and Kanan stopping their skooter session so Mom could take a picture. JJ was so excited!

Thursday, June 13th— 1) Went to the Oceanside Farmer’s market and sampled yummy foods with the boys. Then watched them skooter around together. Jameson was so happy and excited. It was the first time I really saw Jameson as a little boy and not a baby. So precious. He is so good on his skooter too for just getting it–a real natural. Who would think he is just barely two years old? Kanan of course, is a natural. 2) played with Benjamin while JJ napped and witnesed Benjamin get the wooden rings onto the stick for the first time (What is that toy called?). 3)Enjoyed great fellowship and bible study with our fellowship group that night–heard awesome news too. Our friends, the Davis’s, finally sold their business.

Friday, June 14th–Took the boys to Grandma Linda’s to go swimming and visit a little. I love being able to see them on a whim. JJ loved the water but was afraid to go past the steps with just his life jacket on. But he had a blast on the steps and Kanan had a good time dog paddling around the pool. Today, Benjamin also said “Dada” AND “Mama” for the first time! He said “Dada” when excited to be home with Owen in the living room. And he said “Mama” when he was upset about being put down and wanted me to pick him back up.

The Life and Accomplishments of Poet, Sherman Alexie; a brutally honesty, funny, and poignant writer


I first got introduced to Sherman Alexie in a Literature Arts and Discourse class at California State University, San Marcos by an eccentric and passionate professor, Brandon Cesmat. He wanted us to read the novel Reservation Blues because of the writer’s unique ability to blend music, pop culture, and fiction into one. I read the book and was instantly hooked. I went on to read everything else the author ever wrote and researched his life. I had to know how it all began.

Who would have thought that a poor American Indian from a small reservation in Washington, born with water on the brain, and suffering multiple childhood seizures, would grow up to become one of the most inspiring and influential voices in American literature? When it comes to his own place as a Native American writer, he says, “Sixty percent of all Indians live in urban areas, but nobody’s writing about them. They’re really an underrepresented population, and the ironic thing is very, very few of those we call Native American writers actually grew up on reservations, and yet most of their work is about reservations” (qtd in “Sherman Alexie Quotes,”). Indeed, poet and fiction author, Sherman Alexie has transcended the obstacles of his early-life circumstances, to write many award winning pieces of literature that inspire the multicultural generation today with an authentic, poignant and brutally honest voice of a modern American Indian living in two worlds.

Life

On October 7th, 1966 Sherman Alexie was born to his Coeur d’alene Indian father, Sherman Joseph Alexie  and his half white, half Spokane Indian mother, Lillian Agnes Cox with hydrocephalus—water on the brain. Told he would become mentally retarded if even survived the necessary surgery on his brain at 6 months of age, his parents took the chance. While Alexie did suffer multiple seizures in his youth due to his condition, he shocked his doctors and parents by not only not exhibiting signs of brain damage post operation, but instead, phenomenal intelligence. Sherman Alexie speaks of his seizures in his early years, “The lights would pop, then I’d rise out of my body and be able to fly off anywhere I wanted,” he recalls. “There’s a surreal euphoria; the synapses are misfiring, so the memory banks are flooding your head. I’d get to feel like a superhero for a couple of minutes” (qtd in Maya Jaggi). He became an avid reader, even reportedly reading books like Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck at the age of 5 (Donovan and Lewis 21).

Living on a reservation in Wellpenit, Washington, he got to see the beauty and spirituality in Native American culture as well as the pain and the suffering. His father was an alcoholic and even his older sister and her husband died in a house fire due to drunkenness. To add to the suffering, the school system on the reservation was terrible. And his Indian peers seemed to find a desire to learn and succeed in the outside world as a sign of dismissing his heritage, of being a sell-out. Yet, because of his intelligence and love of reading, he was not satisfied with the education on the reservation and did not become influenced by his Indian peers. In 7th grade he opened up his textbook in school to find his mother’s name written in it. No new textbooks in how many years? At that moment he knew he needed something more. He needed to leave the reservation if he wanted to succeed in his life. He talked his parents into allowing him to go to school off the “rez” and in 8th grade, began attending an all white school on the outskirts of his reservation. He was the only Native American child there (Donovan and Lewis 20-27). But he learned and eventually he began going to college. This is where he would discover his love for writing, and find his place in the world. When talking about his leaving the reservation for education in the white world, he says, “”Plenty of people saw my leaving as a betrayal,” he says.”I felt guilty, but I’ve forgiven myself, and most of my reservation has” (qtd in Jaggi).

It was at Washington State University where Sherman Alexie initially pursued a degree in Medicine, but due to his inability to emotionally handle the gore of anatomy, began to pursue his writing. He ended up getting a degree in American Studies while at the university. His love of writing really started when one of his professors gave him an anthology of creative writing by Native Americans. This inspired his own writing. And before he even graduated college with his BA, he had already published a score of poems in a couple of journals. Then after winning a 5,000 dollar grant to pursue his writing more, he realized he was going to be successful and decided to stop his alcohol abuse (Donovan and Lewis 25). He has been sober since, claiming that he didn’t want to become another “disappointing Indian” (qtd in “Sherman Alexie Quotes.”) And so his career began—people paying him to write and his writing winning hearts and inspiring readers. What made his writing so captivating? He says. “I was always the depressed guy in the basement. But I’ve borrowed their sense of humor and made it darker and more deadly – a weapon of self-defense. Being funny you win hearts quicker; people laughing are more apt to listen” (qtd in Jaggi). His writing deals with the pains and pleasures of the Native American experience. He often draws from personal experiences but adds fiction to create dynamically alive complex speakers in his poetry. This is something he loves and does not consider work. His fiction both in short stories and in novels came later to make money. Something he considers work, but is still filled with the poignant poetry that started his career. He has been successfully writing since and continues now in his 40’s. Sherman Alexie resides today in Seattle Washington, with his wife Dianne and his two sons, Joseph and David. He continues to write and has even begun to do comedy in the form of standup. He would like to pursue film some more as well (“Chronology”2).  

Works and Accomplishments

Aside from being published in multiple respected journals like the New Yorker, Sherman Alexie has published multiple collections of poetry like The Business of Fancy Dancing and First Indian on the Moon as well as Summer of Black Widows, short fiction like The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and The Toughest Indian in the World, and novels like Reservation Blues and Indian Killer and has won many respectable awards. Some of his works, he even adapted into indie screenplays—such as Smoke Signals which was a huge success and The Business of Fancy Dancing, which did not succeed due most likely to its dealing with homosexuality (“Chronology” 2). In “A New York Times Book Review essay on Native American literature […] Alexie [is called] ‘one of the major lyric voices of our time”’ (“Chronology” 2). He also won the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, was interviewed by Oprah herself on the Oprah Winfrey Show, has won the World Heavyweight Poetry Championship, has been labeled The New Yorker’s “Future of American Fiction “and most recently has won Circle of the Americas 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award for his most recent 2011 short fiction piece—War Dances,(“Chronology” 2).

Impact

In an interview with Identity Theory’s Rob Capriccioso, Sherman Alexie writes about his impact more so on the college-educated white women and the gay community than any else. He claims to be too white for Indians and too Indian for most whites. But it is the educated white women and the educated gay community who understand him more. And he doesn’t seem to have any qualms about that. He writes what he wants, only adding margin to his own writing when he began to pursue young adult fiction, even having his work appear in high school textbooks, which also drew him much success and certainly opened young readers up to the world of reading, but he has found more freedom and less writer’s block in his latter years of writing now that he has ventured back into the adult genres (Capriccioso). Perhaps it is the poignant emotion he so honestly expresses that captures the hearts of his female, gay, or teen readers—as the pangs of life are so often celebrated and explored in these areas more so than any other. Perhaps it is his honest analysis of prejudice in his life–a topic often discussed in depth in these communities, especially in education. Regardless of who loves him, he has a huge heart to help Native American youth rise above their circumstances and so speaks often in high schools, as well as being a founding board member of a program to help Native American youths develop film writing and filming skills, called Longhouse Media (“About Us”). No doubt he wants to show them that to be educated and creative does not mean they have to lose their heritage. Media could certainly help the youth of today find a way to express themselves–and shed the old skin and the filth from their lives. Becoming someone better inspite of it all.

Sherman Alexie says, “If I couldn’t write poetry, I would have to wash my hands all the time” (qtd in” Sherman Alexie Quotes”). Yes, his poetry does appearing purging in its honest confession of the conflicts in this life. But his honesty is refreshing, his figurative language is breathtaking, and his idealism is truly inspiring .If you have not had a chance to read some of the funny, sad, and beautiful literature of Sherman Alexie, you must. Alexie’s creative blending of poetry, fiction, and memoir truly exemplifies the complexities of being human in a postmodern multicultural generation, with all its good and bad—something this generation has desperately needed.

Some of My Favorite Works by Sherman Alexie

What I Can’t Wait to Read Next

Works Cited

“About Us.” Longhouse Media. Web. 19 March 2013.

Capriccioso, Rob. “Sherman Alexie.” Identity Theory. 23 March 2003. Web. 18 March 2013.

“Chronology of Sherman Alexie’s Life.” Critical Insights: Sherman Alexie (2011): 407-409. Literary Reference Center. Web. 19 March. 2013.

Donovan, Georgie L. and Leon Lewis. “Biography of Sherman Alexie.” Critical Insights: Sherman Alexie (2011): 20-29. Literary Reference Center. Web. 19 March 2013.

Jaggi, Maya. “All Rage and Heart.” The Guardian. 2013. Web. 18 March 2013.

“Sherman Alexie Quotes.” Brainyquotes. Book Rags Media. 2001-2013. Web. 18 March 2013.

Benjamin’s Birth–My Third C-Section–Looking Back 7 Months After

7607382182_aea34748ce_mI can’t believe it has been 7 months and I still have not written about my experience giving birth to Benjamin. All the little details and fresh emotion from the experience is gone now—but I will zero in on some key moments.

I went into the operating room for my third c-section rather fearful. I barely remember my first c-section—because it was an emergency and I was in so much pain from labor and my uterine infection that it was all really a blur. With Jameson, my second c-section, the epidural they gave me before the surgery spread so strongly that I had a hard time breathing and felt a lot of stress and weight on my chest. It was a bit scary. But then I got through it with some oxygen and I was pretty high….the video Owen took of me shows my flicking my tongue and talking so quietly and jumbled that I was not even understandable. So with the third c-section, I was fearful of two things—one, would be that the epidural would make it difficult to breathe and weigh on my chest again. And second—that a crazy complication would happen and I’d bleed to death on the table. Yep….I thought that this could very well be the way God was going to take me out of this world.

But I survived.

They gave me a spinal block instead of an epidural this third time, but just like the epidural, it worked too strongly and sure enough, the weight spread across my chest and made it difficult for me to breathe. The oxygen mask helped as I told the anesthesiologist about my prior experience so he knew what to expect. I writhed and moaned and he gave me the mask. After what seemed like a few terribly uncomfortable minutes, the effects subsided and I could breathe again.

The pressure and movement then came from down below  and I heard the doctors talk excitedly about the baby they were pulling out.  But Benjamin didn’t really cry. And I heard voices of concern. They brought him to Owen and me without tears and then took him to be cleaned up and monitored to see if anything was wrong.

During the hour in post-op, I knew they were going to send him to NICU. Just like they took Kanan, my first to NICU. And I was right. The doctor came in and gave us the news.

Benjamin’s blood sugar was a bit low. That was their first concern. The second concern was Benjamin’s lack of tears and lethargy. They figured it might be due to the sugar. So they said they wanted to get him into NICU until his blood sugar got back to normal.

It did. But they didn’t let him out. They hooked him up to IV’s.

Then their concern was that he was not eating enough. When he did, they would take him off of IV’s and look to releasing him. He did. They took him off the IV’s but didn’t release him.

Their next concern was to get him to eat even more. Eat more than even a perfectly healthy baby downstairs would eat. And until then, they refused to release him.

I was pissed. But what was my alternative? Take my baby against the doctor’s orders?

On the second morning, I called to see if I could come up and nurse the baby. The nurse on the phone said yes. So I went upstairs to nurse him but the nurse who answered wouldn’t let me in because they were in transition of shifts. I shared my frustration, calmly but firmly—saying that I wish they had told me this over the phone or else I would not have walked all the way over there. Next thing I knew, the nurse was telling me to calm down and that no matter what I felt, I couldn’t take my baby that morning. Now I was really pissed. Calm down? I was calm. Now I was not. Take my baby? I just wanted to nurse him. I knew I couldn’t take him right then. They’d made that clear. Then the worst happened—the nurse attempted to hug me and tell me that she knew I was frustrated and what could she do to make me happy. Uh, how about you don’t touch me? Then she grabbed her manager. The manager then came out and told me that I couldn’t take my baby home right then and I needed to calm down. Now I’m yelling. I’m not here to take my friggen baby! I just came up to feed him! What the heck! I seriously had to put my hands up in the air and back away in calm surrender after this explosion because I recognized it was heading in a bad direction. Just leave me alone ladies. I’ll walk back to my room and will come back later.

That was the most frustrating and looking back, funniest experience I ever had with NICU.

Baby Benjamin finally came downstairs to stay with me after noon on the second or third day. I don’t remember now. We had one night together before going home the following day. His cheeks were so chubby, they sagged! And they were scratched up from his nails. He was precious. I was so happy to have him with me. And I’m so happy God chose to give him to us.

Here are some good reads on c-sections, NICU experiences, and raising boys

Do Prizes Motivate Children or Does Praise?

What circumstances encourage people to become “effective, competent, and independent” learners? According to a passage by psychologist Margaret Donaldson in her book, Children’s Minds—a learning environment where children are praised for their work is the most effective. Donaldson explains the traditional way of encouraging children to learn has been to give “extrinsic” rewards to the students for their work—these include “Prizes, privileges, or gold stars” for example. She then walked the reader through a series of studies conducted on preschoolers in which they compared various environments with control groups. Numerous studies studied preschoolers desire to and time spent in drawing within various environments and compared them to a follow up study where those environments were changed to a natural setting to see if they would independently seek and spend time drawing again. All the studies showed that the preschoolers who were offered and given prizes for their work spent less time independently seeking and even enjoying drawing in the followup study than those students who were not offered or given prizes. In one study, these two groups were also compared with two other groups and demonstrated that students who were praised for their drawings at the end instead of given prizes spent the most time independently seeking and spending time drawing in the follow up study and that a final group of students were actually ignored once they finished drawing and not given any attention whatsoever sought drawing the least in the follow up. Donaldson suggested that the results showed a need for “recognition” in children and to have their achievement communicated but that using material reward or prize instead made them feel controlled, something that children do not want. She believes children view prizes as a form of control and so while it will encourage work it will not encourage the free and natural engagement in that activity again when the prize is removed. So how do we get our children to be independent learners that are effective and competent? According to Donaldson’s —Don’t give them prizes but instead, praise them for their work.

While I do find her views on the reasons the praise worked and the prizes did not work to be plausible, I do have a few questions and need more information and studies for me to whole-heartedly agree or to even apply this knowledge to my own students and children: My first issue deals with the conditions in which the prizes and praise were given to the children and the variables that may not have been ruled out. My second issue deals with how the results could change with older children who are closer to going out into the working world.

First, who exactly were given prizes in the prize group? Did every child earn a prize regardless of the efficiency and competency in his or her work? Or were the children in the prize group offered prizes if their work met a certain standard? Were all the children in the praise group told ahead of time, like the prize group that they would receive praise when they finished? The passage seems to suggest that all students were told in the prize group that they would be given a prize and that they all got one while the praise group was not told ahead of time that they would receive praise afterward and no information indicating that all received praise or only some. And even if all received praise, if they were not told ahead of time they would all get praise, they may have given the praise more value because it came as a surprise to them. Even more so if they didn’t know that all the other students received praise as well (again a variable that is not communicated). My concern is that the differences between the prize and praise group could have affected the results, giving us a false appearance that prizes were less effective but praise was more effective. Perhaps if the prize was given at the end as a surprise, it would have been just as effective as the praise. And students were told ahead of time that they would receive praise for their work, it would have been just as ineffective at fostering a desire to learn independently as the prize group. To me if I were told that I would be given a prize or even praise regardless of what I produced, I would indeed feel controlled, but if it were offered for good work, it would motivate me to want to do well and give me a sense of pride if I accomplished the activity and earned the prize or the praise, especially if the prize was something I liked or the praise seemed authentic and not contrived. Praise would not appear authentic to me if I were told ahead of time that I would receive praise in the same way that a prize would not feel as valuable under the same conditions. When we know after the fact or ahead of time or that everyone received an extrinsic reward no matter how well they did, it diminishes our appreciation for the skill or creativity in a learning situation and lessens our desire to want to do well—there is no motivation because we know the prize doesn’t actually determine the value of our work and in the case of universal praise, that the praise itself is not trustworthy. Secondly, if we find little value in the prize or praise we were given, that too can lessen our recognition of a work’s value. I think as humans we do find a natural enjoyment for learning something or doing a good job at something if we find value in it yet we also won’t do it if the environment hints to us that there is no value. In the cartoon movie “The Incredibles” when Dash’s mom told him that everyone was special, he replied with something to the effect as “that means no one is.” But when he was actually given the opportunity to do his best at running in an attempt to win the race and show off his special talent, he did well. Now of course, it doesn’t show hypothetical future races where a prize was not offered but again, my example is only to clarify a situation when prizes are given for a job well done rather than a prize for all regardless of skill. Perhaps after winning a prize for a job well done, he would have recognized that he had a gift and therefore enjoyed the activity later or even without the prize because he learned there was value to it.

Secondly, even if all the variables ruled that praise was still more effective than praise, how might these same scenarios affect teenage children rather than preschoolers? While learning may still be the key here—do teenagers see prizes as a form of control as well? Or have they been conditioned by the educational system and by capitalism to find enjoyment and independence in learning environments without feeling controlled in order to prepare them for the real world? When I was in high school for example, praise was not enough for me to earn good grades—I cared about going out with friends and with making money at my job more than praise. And after my year in 9th grade, my father discovered that despite his praise, I had earned a couple of C’s and even one D (on account of a boy I enjoyed chatting with in 6th period Health). So the following three years of high school, my father offered me money for my grades. I earned 20 dollars for every A I earned each semester and 10 dollars for every B. But I would earn no money for C’s or lower. Not only did I earn the A’s and B’s but when I moved on to college and was no longer given money for my grades, I still maintained a strong desire to succeed. Could I have viewed the grades in college as my prize? Does that negate Donaldson’s interpretation that prizes produce results but no longer produce them when they are taken away? My answer to that would be even if that is so, what does it matter? We live in a world where people are rewarded often for learning and working well. Students earn good grades; creativity and talent can often earn money, prizes, as well as praise (professional athletes, writers, artists); and hard work is also rewarded with compensation like money (workers) . While it might feel good to believe we want people to learn for learning’s sake, we don’t live in a world where that really matters anyway.

Donaldson believes that learners find prizes as a form of control and therefore while they will work for their prizes, will not independently seek to learn in a similar activity when the prize is removed. I say, this may be true if prizes are given to everyone, but perhaps if prizes were only given for a job well done, the results could be different. Similarly the results could be different with older children who may need the rewards to motivate them and instill them with a recognition that they can do well at something and find pleasure in that alone. I believe while we should most certainly praise students for their work, but if we only motivate our children with praise instead of prizes, we don’t prepare them for a world in capitalism, but instead, a world of communism. And while theoretically, working for praise might seem nice, it does not produce good work if everyone is praised—praise for all work can reduce a desire to improve the quality of the work. This produces mediocrity and in the working world, it certainly doesn’t help an economy.

My Thoughts on Mary Sarton’s Views of Solitude

Many people often associate solitude with loneliness, but not Mary Sarton, author of the book, Journal of a Solitude. In her book she argues that in fact, “Solitude is the salt of personhood.” After telling a story about a friend of hers who was surprised to discover that he actually enjoyed doing something by himself, she explains that contrary to the fears people have about solitude, the discovery of oneself actually is quite rewarding. She argues that we tend to not notice our own perception in activities when we involve ourselves with others because we are so focused on the other person. She explains her metaphor by saying that just like salt brings out the flavor of food, so does doing things alone “bring out the authentic flavor of every experience”(1). Salt enhances the natural flavor of an item, but perhaps we don’t notice the natural flavor of an experience or of ourselves because we are always with other people who by their very presence add additional and unnatural elements, tainting the flavor of the experience or changing it completely. She further argues that because “solitude is the salt of personhood,” we are not actually alone; we are involved with ourselves and our experience and are able to enjoy those experiences without anyone else tainting our perception of them. Further demonstrating the point for example, she shows how if music is heard with others, then we are experiencing both—not the music by itself.

She gives examples of the further rewards of solitude by elaborating with her own life; she can do what she wants when she wants and not have anyone else disrupt her plans or lack thereof. She is quick to defend her argument that solitude is not loneliness, however—arguing instead that “alone is never lonely,” but instead loneliness actually comes from being around other people, which she says at some point leads to a disconnect or conflict which hurts us, drains us, or perhaps just over works and makes us feel vulnerable and so we “lose” ourselves (1-2). She explains that when this happens to her, she has a momentary period of loneliness when she leaves those people or job because she lost herself when around them, so when she returns home, she has to slowly find herself again through experiencing the pleasures of her home and setting while alone where she can privately reflect on and learn from the experience she had with others. While I believe she does a fantastic job at explaining the beautiful and rewarding experience we can have when alone without loneliness, I also believe that she over-criticizes companionship and neglects the rewards that come from expressing our thoughts to others and learning from them as well—experiences that also help loneliness.

Her arguments about the rewards of solitude definitely resonate truth in my life. I have often found myself reenergized and ready to face the world again by spending time by myself, listening to melancholy or nostalgic music, and reflecting on the circumstances in my life—both good and bad, while writing out my thoughts through blogging or through poetry. Sometimes I never even share these writings because they are often not meant for anyone else to read. They are for me. I feel purged of the impurities that come from the stresses in and excitement in life, and I am able to just think without others comments or suggestions or ideas to muddy up my own thoughts. I have even had moments when someone has walked in or called, and I have felt frustrated by the interruption. I don’t think I could enjoy my life without these special moments with just me and my music.

Still, that does not mean that companionship is all-together tainting as Sarton suggests. To me, sometimes having someone there to talk to and to listen to can be very rewarding and can make me feel just as fulfilled and not lonely as I would by myself—but in a different way. I recall one of the happiest moment with my husband and truly appreciating the rewards that came from our relationship. One night, we sat on the couch drinking wine and taking turns playing our favorite songs from our past. Rock ballads from Dashboard Confessional, Pearl Jam, Alanis Morisette, Sublime, Green Day, The Cure saturated the air that night and intoxicated us with memories from our lives. We’d play the song for each other and then tell stories about what we were going through in our lives when that song was the song we put on repeat in our stereos. We laughed, we cried. We learned about each other through the soundtracks of our youth. And we were able to share thoughts and feelings freely, without condemnation or criticism from the other. It felt good to be so understood. And so loved. Not only did I not feel lonely in those moments, I felt fulfilled in knowing that I was understood by my husband and loved.

Sure, companionship can also lead to conflict and loneliness as Sarton suggests, but there are benefits to that as well. We can learn from those with whom we have conflicts and in turn, become better people ourselves from those lessons. My husband and I have had our fair share of conflicts, but it is through them that I have learned that I can be selfish and I can be disrespectful. If I did most activities alone and avoided getting married to live a life of solitude, sure I might be happy doing what I want when I want, but in those moments when I was with others I would not realize that I also hurt others. Close relationships with others bring honesty. And sometimes the truth can hurt. But it can also heal. My close friend once gave a great metaphor to explain the benefits of conflict with marriage—she said that marriage is like rubbing two rough and jagged rocks together over and over again. Overtime, the rocks become as smooth and round as river rock. My husband teaches me to put a little more thought into my words before I speak. He teaches me the love that comes through self-sacrifice. And to me that not only makes me a better person, but it makes this world a better place.

I think to be a well-rounded person, we need do need to embark on adventures alone and discover the unchartered territory of ourselves and of the experiences in our lives as we alone see it–as Sarton argues. But at the same time, to express ourselves and learn from others through the times we feel understood and even the times we feel lonely. To avoid that, strikes me as either selfish or terribly timid.

Time for a change

You don’t know how often I have wanted to blog, but have found myself too busy with the responsibilites of this world to find the time or the energy. I can’t believe I didn’t even write down Benjamin’s birth story—he is already 6 months old.

I’m done with this.

My biggest conflict is the belief that I just don’t have the time. But I do know that I can atleast devote 5-10 minutes a day. No the blog won’t be extremely detailed. No, it may not go through a few drafts. But I could write. I could get out what needs to be released.

So someone needs to hold me accountable. Write me on Facebook and tell me to blog if I haven’t. Make a comment here that says, “hey!”