Monday, July 30, 2012

Mercedes' 2nd Birthday Letter

My Dear Mercedes,

Today you are two. Affectionate, adorable, absolutely beautiful. I love your hugs, kisses and cuddles. I love rubbing your back and watching your tiny eyelashes flutter as you fall asleep. I love running my fingers through your silky blond curls. I love making you laugh your wonderful laugh and enjoying your sweet smile.

You are full of energy, seeking to explore your universe. You are amazing. I love to watch you learn. You are always full of your own ideas. It's so much fun playing with you and doing projects with you and seeing what creative ideas you come up with.

You are such a great big sister. You touch your baby sister so gently, you look at her so sweetly, you show her all your toys and we talk and dream about the day she'll be big enough to play with you. When I'm busy, you tell Emerald that it's okay, that mommy is hurrying and that I'll be back in just a minute. You are so wonderful to your baby sister.

You crave independence, wishing you could do everything all by yourself. You get so frustrated when I don't understand. You hate it when I try to help you. Sometimes you need some space and time to yourself. This is so hard for me because when you are sad, all I want to do is hold you in my arms and tell you how much I love you. But sometimes what you need most is for me to leave you alone. To let you curl up in your bed under your covers where you find comfort until you are ready to talk about what's wrong.

You are bursting with emotions. Intense, passionate emotions. Sometimes your emotions overwhelm you and all you know to do is scream. I try to teach you to use your words and tell me what's bothering you. I try to help you breathe the sad air out. We take deep breaths together until your heart stops beating so fast. I hold you and we rock back and forth until you feel better. Sometimes I get frustrated with you because whatever you are upset about doesn't seem like a big deal to me. But I know it's a big deal to you, so I try to understand. Someday you will be able to harness your emotions and deal with them in a positive way. Someday you'll be able to tell me how you're feeling or write your feelings down. Someday you'll be able to tell God how you are feeling and He'll help you work through them. Someday you'll come up with your own calming techniques. You'll go jogging or take up kickboxing or lock yourself in your room and blast your music while you dance it out. But until then, when your emotions are too much for you to handle, you can scream. It's okay. I'll be right there with you. I'll try not to get frustrated. I'll try to understand.

I love being your mom. I cherish every sweet smile, every happy laugh, every fun moment we spend together. I drink in every hug, every kiss, every cuddle. I know that one day, way too soon, you'll be grown and all of these precious things I share with you will be just a memory.

Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes to be your mom. Being your mom means using up all of my energy every day just to keep you happy and entertained. Sometimes it means staying up all night since you still don't like to sleep. It means using all of my resources and brain power to be creative enough to challenge your brilliant mind and come up with creative parenting techniques to help you through your moods and problems. It means putting aside all of my emotions to help you deal with yours. Sometimes I'm drained. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed. Sometimes I'm completely exhausted. But you are worth it. You deserve the best from me, so I will give you 100% of me and then some. I will do whatever it takes to be the mom you need me to be.

I love you, my sweet baby girl. Happy birthday!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Decision to Stop Vaccinating

Yep, I am an anti-vax parent. Whenever I mention to someone that my children are not up-to-date on their vaccines, or post an anti-vax article on facebook, people always respond the same. They politely (or not so politely) suggest that I do more research before coming to my decision. Or they will kindly (or not so kindly) remind me that whooping cough is a really bad disease, or that I really don't want my kids getting the flu. Parents who vaccinate their children assume that parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are ignorant and uneducated, have not thought it through, are insane, lazy or are somehow purposefully trying to cause their children to develop harmful diseases. I've even seen people accuse anti-vax parents of being "unfit parents" and "neglectful parents". All of these judgements are completely untrue. In fact, as far as anti-vax parents being less educated about vaccines than parents who vaccinate, I personally have found the opposite to be true. I have yet to speak with an anti-vax parent who has not researched extensively before coming to their decision. Yet the majority of parents who vaccinate their children have no reason for it other than their doctor told them to.

It is a nice thought that every doctor who sees your child is looking out for your child's best interest. An even nicer thought is that every doctor who sees your child is all-knowing and will absolutely do what is best for your child in any and all situations. But the truth is, doctors do not know everything and they do not have a clue what is best for your specific child. As a mom, it is my job to research, pray and use my God-given mom instincts to decide for myself what is best for my specific children. Nobody knows what is best for my kids better than me. If you research, pray and use your God-given instincts in every single area of your child's life, then no one will know what's best for your child better than you. Sometimes this means questioning doctors, professionals, and whatever is the most popular thing to do at the time.

Thank God for parental instincts. I strongly believe that they are the best gift God gave parents to aid us in becoming the best parents possible for our specific children. For me, it started during pregnancy with my first daughter, magnified after her birth and continues to grow as my confidence as a mom grows. Using my instincts means first being informed when it comes to every area of my kids' lives. There are opinions flying around everywhere about the best way to raise our kids. Doctors, books, friends and family are always giving parents "the best way" to do things yet all of them tell us different things. To decide what is best for my kids, I first research extensively. Then I pray. Then I go with whatever my gut instinct is telling me. If I ever have a weird or funny feeling about anything that I am doing or that a doctor tells me to do or that my friends or family tell me to do, I don't stop researching and praying until I figure out the reason behind my feeling. So far I have never been wrong trusting my God-given instincts.

This decision-making technique is what led me to my decision to stop vaccinating. My mom instincts radar first went off during childbirth class, when the teacher explained that a Hep B vaccine was given to newborns at the hospital. Injecting anything into a baby who is 24 hours old just seemed ridiculous to me. When Mercedes was born, I refused the vaccine at the hospital and felt very good about my decision. I figured I'd just give it to her when she was a little bit older.

When it came time to give Mercedes her two month vaccines, the doctor gave me a hand out with a list of diseases, descriptions of the diseases, the vaccine that is suppose to protect from each disease and the possible side effects of the vaccines. Reading about the side effects of the vaccines scared me as much as reading about the diseases themselves. Seizures? Convulsions? Which could cause permanent neurological damage to my perfectly healthy (and very intelligent) baby? My instincts were screaming WHY WOULD I DO THAT TO MY CHILD???? I read the hand out the doctor gave me over and over again, prayed about it, tried to decide which vaccines I felt were most important for my daughter to have and which ones could wait until her immune system was a bit stronger. I ended up giving her about half of the vaccines and refusing the ones with serious side effects that could cause permanent damage or the ones to protect diseases which are typically not life threatening. That was the best I could do with the information I had at the time.

I never felt good about vaccinating. It was more than just that I didn't like seeing my baby get shots and hearing her cry. I never felt comfortable with the idea of injecting her with poisonous toxins to protect her from diseases she may or may not ever come into contact with. Through facebook groups, I "met" several moms with vaccine damaged children. One of them invited me to join an anti-vax facebook group which posted tons and tons of informative articles, blogs of moms with vaccine damaged (or dead) children, and videos by doctors. This led me to research even further on my own. The more I read and prayed, the more I realized that this was why my mom instincts kept sounding alarms at every doctor's visit. I learned that vaccines are not as safe or as effective as doctors would like us to think.

Every time I questioned a doctor, they would tell me, "vaccines are safe and effective". Or tell me that there are "almost never any serious side effects" or that "serious side effects and death are rare". But none of them could absolutely guarantee that if I vaccinated my baby she would be safe. If I asked a doctor to sign a paper saying "I guarantee that the vaccines your child receives today will not kill her", no doctor would be able to sign that paper. Because the truth is, vaccines are not as safe as doctors say. If I asked a doctor to sign a paper saying "I guarantee that with this vaccine also comes complete protection from (fill in the blank with disease)" no doctor would sign it either. Because the truth is, vaccines are not as effective as doctors say. For me, even if there is a one in a million chance that giving my babies a shot might kill them, or might permanently damage their body or brain, I am not willing to take that risk.

I stopped vaccinating Mercedes after her 15 month check up. Emerald and all of my future children will never receive a single vaccine until they are old enough to research and decide for themselves if they want to be vaccinated or not. As a parent, I have two options. I could either do my best to boost my children's immune systems with healthy food and vitamin supplements, make sure they wash their hands after going to the grocery store and other public places, teach them not to chew on other kids' toys or share food or drink with other kids, etc. and then trust God to protect them from harmful diseases. Or I could put their health in my own hands by injecting them with harmful toxins that may or may not protect them from diseases and also may or may not kill them. To me, it's a no brainer. This is my conclusion after research, prayer, and trusting my mom instincts.

I strongly believe in the research, prayer, and go-with-the-gut decision making process when it comes to doing what is best for our children. If a parent has researched extensively and prayed hard and come to the conclusion that yes, it is definitely the best thing for their children to be vaccinated to protect them from harmful diseases, then by all means they should vaccinate! God has obviously given them those instincts for a reason and maybe by following their instincts they are saving their child's life. But any parent who has not researched extensively and prayed about it very hard before choosing to vaccinate their child is not doing what is best for them. Every child deserves parents who are willing to educate themselves about every aspect of the child's life and make their decision based on what they discovered in their research and what they believe God is leading them to do because of what their instincts are telling them. "I vaccinate because my doctor told me to" is NOT a good enough reason. "I vaccinate because diseases are bad" is also not a good enough reason. Our children deserve better than that from us.

Below is a collection of my favorite articles, videos and websites I have stumbled upon during my research which led me to the decision to stop vaccinating. This is a small handful of articles out of hundreds that I have read but these are just a few I felt worth saving for future references. If any of this has sparked your interest or caused your parental instincts to flare, please click on a few of these links below. Research. Educate yourself. Think. Pray. See what decision you come to. If you still feel that vaccinating is the best option for your children, then definitely continue to vaccinate. But if by reading and researching and praying you find your parental instincts sounding alarms, trust them. Believe in them. God has given you these instincts so you can do the absolute best thing for your children.

Informative and Helpful Websites

Facts. Stats and charts

Personal Stories from Parents with Vaccine Damaged Children
Videos

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Glitter Bottle

Me and Mercedes made a simple glitter bottle today. We dumped glitter into a plastic bottle, added distilled water, shook it up and watched the glitter "swim".





"Hug-in-the-Mail" and "Cuddle-In-The-Mail"

My dad was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer and started his chemo and radiation treatment this week. He has been incredibly encouraged by people sending him cards in the mail. I had Mercedes and Emerald make these for him.

Mercedes made him a "hug-in-the-mail". I traced her hands on a piece of card stock and she colored them with marker. I cut them out and taped a piece of yarn in between them that is the length of her wingspan.





Emerald made him a "cuddle-in-the-mail". I just laid her on a piece of 12"x12" scrapbook paper and traced the top half of her body. Her little hands are always up by her face so it was easy to trace her arms too.



As much as I can, I try to let Mercedes and Emerald (his only grandchildren) be a little bit of sunshine in my dad's life.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Condensed Milk Paint

It turns out that condensed milk makes AMAZING paint! Just mix it with food coloring and you get a thick, shiny, bright, beautiful paint.



 While we were working on painting #2, we discovered that condensed milk paint is perfect for drizzling!




When Mercedes was finished, she watched me do a drizzle painting. I had as much fun as she did with this project. So fun!

Teething Pain Relief

Poor Mercedes is having a rough teething day. It's been nearly two years of watching her struggle with those nasty teething pains and helping her through the sleepless nights, rashes, swollen gums, meltdowns, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fevers, and all the other rotten symptoms that go along with teething. I wish I could do it for her. I wish I could take her pain away. I can't, but over the past two years I have learned a few tricks to ease the pain.

1. Ice cube in a wet wash cloth. The cold plus the pressure relieves the pain

2. Teething toys. There are a million different ones to choose from, but Mercedes does best with the ones that vibrate or the ones with water inside that you put in the refrigerator.

3. Homeopathic pain relievers. I am not a fan of baby orajel or baby tylenol, but there are many other pain relievers with natural ingredients that are gentler and safer for babies. We use a brand called "Kids Relief". They have a medicine specifically for teething and a medicine for pain and fever relief. They work wonders for Mercedes. We also use Hyland's teething gel which is also made with natural ingredients.


4. Chamomile tea. It is a mild sedative to help Mercedes sleep and it's also a pain reliever. We let her drink it warm or freeze it into popsicles.




5. Distractions. On rough teething days, playing is hard and frustrating for Mercedes. She likes to be distracted by calm activities, like watching movies or reading stories.


6. Extra love. I try to remember that she is feeling truly miserable. I ignore the tempter tantrums and disobedience and try to give her extra love, kisses and cuddle and have a little extra patience.

7. Baltic Amber Teething Necklaces. Make sure you have a legit Baltic Amber necklace, not a pretty necklace with fake stones. The babies/toddlers wear them around their necks during the day and around their ankles at night. The stones need to be touching their skin at all times so the natural healing oils have a chance to rub into their skin. This helps them sleep at night and relieves the teething pain. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Milk and Dish Soap Experiment

We filled an 8x8 cake pan with milk and added a few drops of food coloring. Mercedes dipped the end of a spoon in liquid dish soap and then in the milk. Instantly the food coloring started swirling around like crazy! To read about the scientific reason behind this, go to: http://www.coolscience.org/CoolScience/KidScientists/tiedyemilk.htm
At age 23 months, we are mostly just interested in making the pretty colors swirl around. =-)






Mercedes also dumped some of the milk into the bowl of dish soap. That was fun to watch too!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"Paint Soup"

This project started out with me attempting to make "flour paint", simply flour mixed with paint to create a thick finger paint and a good sensory material. Mercedes had a different plan in mind.


As soon as she saw me dumping the paint and flour, she asked for water to make "soup". Realizing that her idea was better than mine, of course I gave her some. =-) She went to work creating some beautiful paint soup.





I also gave her some baby oil, which made the "soup" even prettier.





I gave her some paper to see if she wanted to paint with her "soup". She did for a minute, then quickly lost interest because, of course, soup is for mixing, not for painting. Silly Mommy.


The secret to a successful toddler activity is to be okay with whatever happens. Chances are your toddler has a better idea than the one you originally had planned. That's part of encouraging creativity. Also, expect a big mess. Better yet, ENJOY a big mess. Yes, my kitchen floor still smells like baby oil. But baby oil smells delicious, so it's okay. =-)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

4th of July (2012)

We spent the 4th of July at my parents' house.


Gramma painted Mercedes' nails red, white and blue "to match the American flag".


Mercedes and I made yummy 4th of July strawberries by dipping the strawberries in white chocolate and then in blue sprinkles.

Mercedes did quite a bit of tasting while she worked.


 When Mercedes was ready for her next snack, we cut watermelon with cookie cutters. She probably would have done this all afternoon if we'd had enough watermelon.








 We ended up watching the city fireworks in our car because both girls were scared of the noise.

I got a few shots of the fireworks through the car window but we ended up leaving before the really big ones started because Mercedes was still scared.






Both babies fell asleep on the way home.

Besides a little drama during family pictures and the fireworks, it was a good day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bead Sensory

Our newest sensory material: beads! I went through a phase as a pre-teen when I loved making beaded jewelry. I still have all of my beads from then and they made a wonderful sensory activity for Mercedes. Most of the beads are made of glass and are really pretty so Mercedes thought this activity was extra special.



 We spent a good 45 minutes sorting through them and deciding which ones were our favorites and which ones were the prettiest.



Construction Paper Flag

We ripped a bunch of pieces of red and blue construction paper and glued them to a piece of white paper. We hung the flag on the wall and finished it with a couple strips of black paper for the flag pole. Our house is nicely decorated for the 4th of July!


Handprint Fireworks

These fireworks were made with Mercedes' hands dipped in red, white and blue paint. I cut them out and let her hang them wherever she wanted.



 I think it's cute that she matched the colors of construction paper and put each color together on the wall.


Idea from: http://www.bobbicamacho.com/2010/06/handprint-fireworks.html