Saturday, September 29, 2007

One Tough Mother

These little people in my house are hard to be tough with sometimes. But they know those moments when mama ain't got no backbone. And they wiggle right into those moments with the strongest wills they can muster. They find the Achille's heal with swiftness and precision. Do you relate to this at all?

That's why I was inspired by a session at the MOPS convention lead by Julie Barnhill, the author of ONE TOUGH MOTHER.

Just for the record, Julie Barnhill is hilarious. I was laughing so hard my side ached. She is "raucous and refreshingly real and relevant" and honest about the challenges of being a mother.In her talk, she outlined ten non-negotiables for how to stand firm and be the mom with confidence, love and firmness.

1) Be the boss without apology.*Do not delegate, abdicate or relegate your responsibilities as mom. Be consistent, firm and fair. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

2)Delight in your perfectly ordinary child. *Don't give into the stress to always have an extraordinary child. Delight in the ordinary moments. Don't pressure your child toward unattainable ideals.

3)Stop tinkering with the inane.* Decide on what really matters. Focus on TO BE rather than TO DO.

4) Say no like you mean it.* "I understand you would like that, but no.""Thank you for asking, but the final answer is no."

5) Get a hobby other than your children.

6) Love them like crazy. (truly, madly, deeply)* Develop a family "always". For example: "Our family always shares with one another."

7) Remember that it is all worth it.

8) Leave nothing unspoken.* "I am so glad I had you." "I will always be your mom."

9) Face your own Giants.* Step up and own it when they've been wronged. Step up and own it when they are wrong.

10) Never give up.* You are only a failure if you give up forever. :)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Alternative Pathway

In light of my recent post, I thought I would spend some time reflecting on a few available alternatives to Hormonal Birth Control. My husband and I have used all 4 methods to varying degrees and have settled on 1 that we find appropriate for us. Some are more precise and effective than others, but all 4 honour a woman's body by working with her natural rhythms. And there is great potential for self-education in each charting method. The umbrella term is "Natural Family Planning" and I will break it down into four types of NFP.

Some folks confuse the term "NFP" with "The Rhythm Method" or "The Calendar Method" which I find misleading and inaccurate. The "rhythm" and "calendar" methods are typically hit and miss and revolve around a woman approximating her windows of infertility and fertility based on the numbers on a calendar, rather than on evidence obtained from personal signs and symptoms.


My husband and I started out with this method. I learned a great deal about my body and cycle and found it a good place to start. The book that supports this method is called
Taking Charge Of Your Fertility. The author, Toni Weschler, has a Master's degree in Public Health, and does a great job of highlighting the basic elements of NFP. She goes into detail about the harmful effects of hormonal birth control and educates the reader about ways to use FAM with or without barrier contaceptives (condoms, foams, gels, diaphragms etc). It is widely used by people who are making the decision toward NFP for health, rather than religious, reasons.

I do have one main concern about this method. Charting revolves around three physical signs: basal body tempature, cervical fluid changes, and cervical position changes. FAM encourages the use of all three signs. Personally, as a nurse doing night shifts, and as a newlywed on my honeymoon, I found the tempature very hard to monitor consistently. Basal Body Tempature needs to be measured at approximately the same time each morning for it to be accurate. Also, it is a more concrete sign than cervical fluid changes, and many couples rely on the tempature aspect of the chart above cervical fluid. Cervical fluid changes are always more accurate than tempature alone.

Some users really like having all three signs to check against, but they must use all three consistently, with no sign taken above another. And if the signs are in conflict, accurate cervical fluid changes should always take precedence.


When we were first learning the ropes of FAM and engaged to be married, we took a course on the Sympto-Thermal Method with a Serena-using couple. It is similiar to FAM in that it incorporates all three physical signs. The terminology is different. For example, they use "cervical mucous" instead of "cervical fluid". Personally, I feel more comfortable with the FAM terminology. The Serena charts are slightly different, but overall, we found it is very similiar to FAM.


The book that supports this method is called The Billings Method - using the body's natural signal of fertility to achieve or avoid pregnancy by Dr. Evelyn Billings & Ann Westmore.

This method is based around cervical fluid changes and awareness of physical sensation changes at different times during a woman's monthly cycle. It is a more simple method and very user- friendly. As with any method, it is important to buy the book and learn from an instructor in your local area who can give clear, specific information and guidance in the early months of learning NFP.

I have been very impressed with the effectiveness of the Billings Ovulation Method in third world countries. Mother Theresa taught women in India with great success. And Billings has been used in China (with a 99% success rate!) to educate women about their bodies and to empower them to have more control against the forced abortion laws.

Here's a little blurb from their site:

"The Billings Method is the most modern natural way to achieve or avoid becoming pregnant. Once four commonsense guidelines are learned it is applicable whether a woman has short or long cycles. It can be used by a woman who is breastfeeding, approaching menopause, recovering from stress or coming off contraceptive medication.
It teaches women to recognise their own individual pattern of fertility and infertility and to understand that they are infertile more often than fertile throughout their reproductive years.
They learn to recognise the fertile phase of their menstrual cycles, when conception may occur. It also gives valuable information to the couple so that they can make decisions about their joint fertility. "

This method includes biomarkers (cervical fluid and sensation changes) similiar to the Billings Ovulation Method but is more scientific, thorough and slightly more complicated. It doesn't use basal body tempature at all. The observation and charting system is very precise and thorough, which takes some getting used to. But it is the most accurate approach to observation and provides users with a sense of security in knowing no sign is missed.

We have chosen it as our method of choice. It requires dedication, but is very effective and satisfying once you get the hang of it. Learning the method is costly at first. But once you have learned with the help of a practitioner, you are prepared for the rest of your child-bearing life. And the initial fee is good for years of support from a qualified instructor.

Here's a little blurb from their site:

"The CrMS is not a contraceptive system. It is a system of true family planning The information obtained for monitoring the phases of fertility and infertility can be used to either achieve or avoid pregnancy. Users of the CrMS know their fertility status on any particular day and are given the freedom to utilize that information as they so choose."

Those are some of my thoughts about what is out there. I welcome any comments or questions, or personal stories about what has worked for you

Monday, September 24, 2007


A couple of years ago while working a night shift on the maternity ward, I picked up a Macleans Magazine and began to read. The front cover displayed a young girl, maybe around age 14, dressed in a loose T-shirt and looking gaunt and troubled. Inside was an article that disturbed me. It revolved around a variety of new birth control pills that would be made available within the year. One claimed to provide ultimate freedom for young girls "suffering" with menstuation and fear of unwanted pregnancy. Advertisements stated they would only have to "deal" with a period three times a year, on a seasonal, rather than monthly, cycle.

I have been an advocate for women's health for years. And this has often included taking every opportunity I can to educate friends and fellow women about the dangers and health risks of using hormonal birth control: pills, shots and rings. So, I was extremely interested in the article and mulled over the potential health effects this new pill might have.

I kept the magazine in my file drawer, and have thought about it often over the last two years. I have wondered what ever became of the new, upcoming pills. Regretfully, I got busy researching other things that felt more desperate and immediately applicable to my life (like how to discipline a strong-willed two year old!) And up until now, I hadn't heard anything new.

But today, I received a disturbing email from a friend. And it has made me want to take a look at these new "luxuries" that are availble for women of child-bearing age.

Recently this past week, my cousin Nicole Dishuk
(age 31...newly graduated student with a doctoral degree about to start her new career as a Doctor...) was flown into a nearby hospital, because she passed out.
They found a blot clot in her neck, and immediately took her by helicopter to the ER to operate.
By the time they removed the right half of her skull torelieve the pressure on her brain, the clot had spread to her brain causing severe damage.
Since last Wednesday night, she was battling.. they induced her into a coma to stop the blood flow, they operated 3 times.
Finally, they said there was nothing left that they could do. They found multipleclots in the left side of her brain. The swelling wouldn't stop, and she was on life support..
She died at 4:30 yesterday. She leaves behind a husband, and a 2yr old Brandon and a 4yr old Justin.
The CAUSE of DEATH -they found was a birth control she was taking that allows you to only have your period 3 X's a year... They said it interrupts life's menstrual cycle, and although it is FDA approved... shouldn't be - So to the women in myaddress book - I ask you to boycott this product & deal with your period once a month - so you can live the rest of the months that your life has in store for you. Remember, you have a CYCLE for a reason!
The name of this new birth control pill is Lybrel. If you go to , you will find at least 26 pages of information regarding this drug. The second birth control pill is, Seasonique. If you go to the website of, , you will find 43 pages of information regarding this drug. The warnings and side effects regarding both pills are horrible. "

Now, I am skeptical of forwarded emails like this one. So I did a little research. It turns out that quite a bit about this email is true. Nicole did die of a stroke. And she was on Librel. However, "snopes" and other "urban-legend-debunking" websites are not able to access confidential medical information to verify ALL the claims of this email. All that to say, this email might not be 100% correct. Regardless, I am extremely concerned about the growing number of women in their 30's on the pill, who, with no other medical conditions or concerning histories, die of sudden strokes. And it concerns me that one of the major side effects of the pill is : death by stroke.

So, if you can, take a minute to check out the websites. And please make an informed decision in regard to hormonal birth control!

I would value any comments from lurkers and readers. I think this is a major issue for women in our era. And it concerns us on many levels.

Friday, September 21, 2007

MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers)

I am writing from a beautiful resort hotel in Orlando, Florida. I arrived at the Gaylord Palms yesterday just after lunch. I am here until Sunday with a group of four other MOPS International Leaders for the Annual Convention. There are 5000 women here! It feels unbelievable to be in a place with so many WOMEN! Salvador, Go Fish and a group of "Stomp-like" performers entertained us last night. Matt Redman lead worship and a variety of gifted speakers shared their vision with us.

Today is packed with seminars that we have signed up for. And tonight at 5:30, there is an opportunity to sing with Sara Groves, in a back-up choir. I'm not sure if I'll be the first 100 out of 5000, but I'm going to try.

I am starting a MOPS group at our church this year, starting on October 16th. And let me just say: I am incredibly glad to be here for encouragement as I start! I am learning a great deal from the talented women around me who have been involved with MOPS for years.

My first experience with MOPS was last year when I attended a local group as a participant. My friend Mary invited me and it seriously opened my heart and forced me to breathe and relax. The first meeting felt like a hot bath and massage and I realized how stressed I had been, how much tension I carried on my shoulders. As the coordinator shared her heart and validated our experieces as young moms, I felt like my heart was literally melting, stretching, and yawning inside.

The slogan is "MOPS: Because Mothering Matters. Better Moms Make a Better World." The focus this year is "Dwell Well from the Space You Call Home." The topics and curriculum for the year revolve around "Heart, Home and Planet." They encourage us as women that when our hearts are filled up with God's love and vision, our home is affected. And when we build and nurture loving, God-desiring home environments, we affect the world.

After the talks, 6 of us came back to our room and we talked and shared until 3 am. Karumba! We are insane, but it was incredible. Two women shared their life story up to this point. We listened and hugged and cried in solidarity of their journeys, of the winding roads that have eventually lead them to a place of love and hope, a place where they know they are Queens.

I am so thankful for this gift of being here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Four Going on Fourteen

Our big girl is a whoppin four! Her big request was to have her first pony ride. We arranged for an hour-long ride on Angie, one of the ponies at Matsqui Stables. Alley loved it! She wanted to trot the entire time. It was a family effort as mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and auntie took turns leading (RUNNING!) Angie by the rope, around and around the corral.

"Mommy, on my next birthday, will I be fourteen?" I chuckled at the irony of such a question. My husband and I frequently joke that we already have a teenager. Our girl is emotional and witty and full of sass and sometimes we slap our heads in amazement, wondering how we will weather her true teenage years.

Alethea has been talking about getting married. She wants to marry me, somedays she's happy to marry her brother. Other times she asks her dad when they can get married. We try to explain the natural order of things, that sisters don't marry brothers, and that mommy and daddy are already married to eachother, which means we won't marry anyone else.

So, the other night at dinner, my husband asked "Alley? Do you want to fall in love and get married someday?" Without hesitation, she answered, "Yes, Please! Who?"

And so it goes! Needless to say, we have our work cut out for us. I suppose now we should work on an arranged marriage!

We are delighted with our girl. She is full of love and spunk and vinegar and we treasure these days when we still have her in our home. She's like a year-round fireworks display, bringing lots and lots of spark.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Thursday, August 30, was my 28th birthday.

Over the last couple of months, I have been on a path toward knowing myself and my loved ones more honestly and wholly. It has been excruciating at times. But as I step into another year of life, another year older, my prayer is to continue even further forward into the light and darkness that is me, that is we, that is us. As I am more open to myself, I see that God is strong enough to carry all that is ME. And I am freed up to be more open to others. There is more space in my own soul to carry and truly SEE the souls of dear ones in my life.

On my birthday, I learned more nuances about myself that I didn't know as deeply before. I realized that I am sensitive when it comes to how I celebrate/am celebrated on the day itself. I've discovered since getting married that an important part of my identity is to be a "low maintenance", "go with the flow" kinda woman. And I suppose in some areas I am pretty flexible and laid back. But sometimes this expectation causes me to stuff my emotions and to be out of touch with how I really feel, who I really am.

Over the last 5 years of marriage, I have seen my "princess-self" come out in my expectations for my birthday. I love to celebrate in general and do so any chance I get. And I am happy to be the one to create celebratory festivities. But there's just something about the day of my birth. I have grand expectations that don't involve ME lifting a finger. Ya know the old saying: "queen for a day"? Well, you get the idea.

All that to say, I had high expectations for my birthday. At the end of the day, looking back, I was able to see that it turned out just fine. I enjoyed many calls, emails, cheerful messages on facebook, a dinner at my in-laws home, marshmallow roasting and a thoughtful card from my husband in the evening. It was a full day. But for some reason, I felt lonely and overlooked, and I figuratively held my breath all day, waiting to be dissapointed.

The next morning when I awoke, I was perplexed by how expectation-tinged the day before had been. It seemed in my mind, that every acknowledgement was simply a trailer to the main event. But what is the main event? I don't even know. And I'm not sure why I wait for it, whatever it is. And though I wanted to have different emotions and perspective, it was hard to shake how I was REALLY feeling and it seemed important to take a look at and listen to the responses bubbling up in me.

Shadowed Perspective. Unrealistic Expectation. Discontentment. These are mindsets I am struggling through right now. This is part of my path of discovery: letting the real stuff emerge so I can keep what is healthy and redirect what is unhealthy, with lots of Divine intervention.

That night (last night) my dear friend Mary organized a party for me with 9 girlfriends at a local Pub/Microbrewery called Mission Springs. Because it wasn't the day itself, I felt so freed up to enjoy and have no expectations and we had a blast! I must say that even if I had maintained lofty expectations, her and everyone's thoughtfulness would have exceeded them! We stayed from 8- midnight, talked easily over pitchers of margaritas and yummy food, and enjoyed a night out without children underfoot. It was a wonderful time.

And here I am tonight, 28, and feeling full and content with my life. It's funny (and downright unnerving, irritating, disconcerting) to ride the waves of emotions some days. And yes, sometimes I am a princess. Sometimes I am a "high maintenance" woman. And ya know what? I am okay with that. And I think my husband is too. As long as I don't deny it. It's all about not denying it.

"Fundamental change is not a casual occurrence. We cannot casually commit to the process of spiritual transformation...Our entire being is called to the task, for the journey from density to light involves every aspect of who we are." Marianne Williamson