Baby Dust Diaries

A Life Less Ordinary

Month: September 2012

Big Fat Myths About Fat Part I


Recently, my post 15 Tips for Raising Kids With a Positive Body Image, has received a lot of comments.  I’m so glad people are finding the post and discussing this important topic!

I’ve been reluctant to talk about some of the naysayers because I’m not primarily a size-acceptance blogger and there are so many great bloggers out there already doing the work.  However, I haven’t been able to reply to every comment so I figured it was time for a clarifying post.

First, the post in question was a revisit of a previous post “I Don’t Think of You As Fat!” Raising Size-Accepting Children where I provided a little more background on why shaming doesn’t work and how close most kids skate to an eating disorder.

  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives[1. Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat!. New York: The Guilford Press. pp. 5.]
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner[2. Collins, M.E. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 199-208.]
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat[3. Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E. (1991). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27-37.
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets[4. Gustafson-Larson, A.M., & Terry, R.D. (1992). Weight-related behaviors and concerns of fourth-grade children. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 818-822.]

Several comments left are completely off base and lacking in a factual basis.  For example,

Fat = Unhealthy

 the fact that you refute fat=unhealthy is completely off base. This is not just some beauty myth. Being overweight truly is unhealthy. It taxes our joints, our organs and every part of our body.

It’s absurd to think being overweight is as healthy as being ideal or average weight.

Uh, no. Sorry.  Not true.  This is an idea promoted by the diet industry not science.  Researchers at Case Western Reserve studied the idea that “fat” taxes our organs when in fact “the idea that fat strains the heart has no scientific basis“.  I recommend this series of articles from Junkfood Science for more information: 

Fat – aka adipose tissue – is not a disease.  It doesn’t cause disease.  It has even been shown to be healthy.  I love this quote from Kate Harding at Shapely Prose;

In fact, fat people live longer than thin people and are more likely to survive cardiac events, and some studies have shown that fat can protect against “infections, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.” Yeah, you read that right: even the goddamned diabetes.

Losing Weight is Easy

 Weight control is pretty simple – eat less and exercise more if you want to lose weight. Maybe they would do it if told/shown how…If I had an overweight child I would help them lose weight and it WOULD happen.

The hubris here defies logic.  Three words: Minnesota. Starvation. Study.  You can read about it here or here.  Of course scores of other researchers have found the same thing like this for example which has a fascinating follow-up where they tried to get thin people to gain weight;

subjects were prisoners at a nearby state prison who volunteered to gain weight. With great difficulty, they succeeded, increasing their weight by 20 percent to 25 percent. But it took them four to six months, eating as much as they could every day. Some consumed 10,000 calories a day, an amount so incredible that it would be hard to believe, were it not for the fact that there were attendants present at each meal who dutifully recorded everything the men ate.

Once the men were fat, their metabolisms increased by 50 percent.

They needed more than 2,700 calories per square meter of their body surface to stay fat but needed just 1,800 calories per square meter to maintain their normal weight.

Within months, they were back to normal and effortlessly stayed there.

So, no.  Losing weight is not easy, simple, or even beneficial in some cases.  Everyone’s body has a healthy size and trying to alter it is nearly impossible and a bad idea.

But I know a fat person that got skinny!  No, you probably know an out of shape person that got in shape.

Stay tuned for part II where I”ll look at the myths of Good vs. Bad Food and the myth of Nutritionism.

How to Not Potty Train in 3 Easy Phases


I’m deep in walk training right now.  Yesterday my kid got 3 stickers for walking across the kitchen but today he’s been crawling all day!  I keep admonishing him that we don’t crawl anymore and I make him get up and walk for 10 minutes every hour.  This is exhausting!  I can’t wait till he’s walk trained!

Sounds funny, huh?  We don’t walk train or talk train our kids so why do we potty train?  Kids learn to walk and talk because we walk and talk and they become ready to imitate us.  Why isn’t the same true for learning to potty?

Now, I acknowledge that outside influences might force you to “train” your child to use the potty (daycare).  If you do need to potty train check out Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry Potty Training Solution.  But, let’s admit that any potty training we do is for our (or another adult’s) convenience.  Using bribes or threats to get your kid to use the toilet benefits YOU in that you don’t have to buy diapers (or wash diapers) or spend time changing them.  I don’t believe there is any benefit to the child of potty training.  

Bodily Autonomy

In fact, I think there is great benefit in letting them lead the way.  Why?  To teach bodily autonomy.  Bodily autonomy means knowing that you are in charge of your own body.  The concept of bodily autonomy is so important to raising kids that respect their bodies and do not allow others to abuse it.  There are several ways to teach bodily autonomy but I think the biggest way is to LET THEM HAVE BODILY AUTONOMY.  That means they are in charge of what they wear, eat, and do with their bodies within safety guidelines.

What does this look like?  Well, my kids are naked a lot because what they wear in the house is not worth my trying to control.  Of course they have to be dressed to go outside but they can wear what they want.  My kids are not perfect little cuties in perfect little clothes (well, to me they are.)  It means I don’t force my daughter to have pigtails if she says no (although I do insist on a daily brushing).  It means they have access to food when they want and aren’t forced to eat something when I want them to.  It means I make bedtime enjoyable but they can go to sleep when they’re ready.  And it means that I am willing to change diapers until they don’t want me to anymore.

By 12 months old people (cough, Mom) started asking me about potty training.  Because Aellyn was “smart” she was clearly “ready”.  What they meant by that is she clearly had the communication skills and understanding for me to use behavioral conditioning to make her use the potty.  Behavioral conditioning (also called Operant conditioning – think Pavlov’s dog) is training someone to do something based on a consequence.  For example, use the potty and get a sticker or have an “accident” and get punished.  At this point, parents begin putting baby on the toilet often, asking if they have to go often, and giving rewards if they use the potty.

Since I had decided to not train we tried hard to ignore the naysayers.  This is hard!  I was often worried that she WOULD be the 18 year old in diapers!  But, I calmed down, trusted my instincts, and waited for Aellyn to be ready.  Here’s how it went.

Phase 1: Observation

Aellyn sees mommy and daddy use the potty often.  Some people are very private but I don’t think that serves well with kids.  My kids see me naked, see me shower and get dressed.  It isn’t like “now I”m going to show you how to sit on the potty” but just casual observation of how people do things normally.  Like walking and talking, kids want to do it because you are.

By 2.5 years old she was often saying “When I grow up I’ll go on the potty like mommy and daddy.”  She would also tell me BEFORE she went poop.  So, I’d ask calmly if she’d like to go on the potty.  She’d say “no” and go off to poo in her diaper and then come to me to change it.  She clearly had knowledge and control of her urges (the pressure to “train her, train her!” became stronger) but she said no and I respected that.

Phase 2: Responsibility (and Waiting)

I don’t know if this contributed to her finally going on the potty but I”ll put it in here in case you want to try it.  By 3 she could dress herself so we bought pull ups and she became responsible for changing her own pee diapers.  She was excited about this and I wouldn’t have done it if she had shown resistance.  She took off her own wet diaper, threw it away, got a new diaper and put it on.  When she had poops she came to me to change her.  During this time, since she’s often naked, she would run around “accident free” naked and then go get a diaper when she wanted to pee.  I would again ask her if she wanted to use the potty and she said no.  (I can literally hear my Mom saying “OMG TRAIN HER!”)

Phase 3: Click!

One day, when Aellyn was 39 months (3 yr. 3 mo.) her friend Caelan was visiting and she went potty on the toilet.  Aellyn watched.  After Caelan left Aellyn wanted to pee on the potty.  She did.  A few hours later she pooped on the potty.  I put a diaper on her that night and the next morning let her put on panties.  That was it.  She never wore another diaper.  Day or night.  She’s had 3 accidents.  She pooped once in her underpants and cried!  That was after we moved to the new house so I think she was holding it.  And twice she’s woken up wet; and really just a little wet and then she goes potty.  Better yet, she doesn’t need me at all.  She goes potty on her own and I never ask her if she needs to go.  She wipes herself and I decided not to intervene or “check” and a few times she had an itchy butt and we talked about wiping good and once she had an ouchy vagina and we talked about front to back and getting dry.  I’ve just been completely hands off about it.

Honestly, I’m not exaggerating!  It was in her time so when she was ready there was no training, or transition, or anything.  It was like walking – one day she did it and then she always did it.

I’m so glad we trusted her timing.  I had promised myself not to get worried until 4.5 years old (and I had to remind myself again and again).  Clearly, seeing a peer use the potty was her catalyst but I’m sure something would have eventually played that role if not Caelan (Thanks Caelan!).

(note: this post refers to traditional diapered kids and potty training.  I don’t consider Elimination Communication to be the same as potty training.  To learn more about EC check out these great posts.)

Welfare and Infertility

I’m so excited that Everyday Feminism is cross posting my article on being a Welfare Mom.  This new feminism site is great because it focuses on practical issues in feminism and personal stories of living as a feminist.  Like them on Facebook too!

Here’s the thing.  Of course I immediately got a comment on my blog post from last week about Extra Embryo Options that said: “How can you spend thousands of dollars on IVF when you’re on welfare? Shame on you.”


Way to completely miss the point of the article (both of them)!  I use my personal life experiences to start exploring social issues – it’s called writing.  If you can read my article about welfare and come away with only the realization that “she’s on welfare” then you are probably a lost cause.  I don’t think I need to make my blog a play-by-play of my life, and I’m probably feeding the trolls by even responding, but here goes.  Nice and slow so everyone can keep up.

I’m no longer on “welfare”.  My husband got a great job in April and our healthcare started in June.  We moved to my hometown into a beautiful old house that I used to sell Girl Scout cookies to as a kid.  It has all be very exciting!  I was on welfare for 5 months.


I left a life-draining and horrible situation at NASA in October and social programs kept my family fed and healthy (Aellyn was hospitalized in February – having medicaid saved my family from health-related bankruptcy!) while my husband found a decent job (note: at no point were we a zero-employment household as Pete got a job immediately before I quit).  In a social programs-free society I wouldn’t have been free.  I would have been a slave to a bad situation.  I would have been trapped between horrible and hungry.  Welfare helped me get my family into a healthier place.


Your contributions to our social contract helped my family immensely.  I hope, one day, if you ever need a safety net that I can help you with that.  It doesn’t matter if I deem your situation “acceptable” or if you make decisions the way I would.  It doesn’t matter if you need help for 5 months or 5 years.  You are a valuable member of this society.  You are a valuable person. Your value is in no way diminished by your circumstances.

Even if you are an assumption-jumping, judgmental douchebag.


‘Extra’ Embryo Options

When I had my oocyte (egg) retrieval back in 2008 they harvested 29 eggs.  Of those 17 fertilized.  Of those 12 arrested by day 3 or 5 (stopped growing).  That left me with 5.  We transferred 2 fresh on day 3 – one was Aellyn.  Asher and Boston were both frozen on that same day as 3-day embryos.  They grew the remaining embryos to day 5 to see if we had any strong ones.  We had one make it to blastocyst which was then frozen on day 5.  In 2010 we thawed Asher and Boston, grew them to blastocyst (day 5) and transferred them.  We have one remaining embryo in cryopreservation.

Having extra embryos is common in IVF.  What does “extra” mean?  Any embryos left over at the end of your family building are extra.  Some women have zero left to freeze, some women have few (like me), and other women have a dozen or more frozen embryos.  Remember a “fresh” (egg retrieval) cycle is expensive and very hard on a woman’s body.  Clinics want to get enough good embryos to freeze some.  A frozen embryo transfer (like with my twins) is much easier and much cheaper than going through a full, fresh cycle again.  I’ve mentioned before that some countries make it illegal to freeze embryos.  I am personally offended by this as my beautiful boys were frozen for 2 years and 2 months.  In some cases frozen cycles are getting better outcomes than fresh – because the woman’s body is less stressed (see citation in the link in the proceeding sentence).  My point: freezing isn’t a bad thing.  It can be a very life-giving technology.

The problem? There are often left over embryos.  Couples have 4 choices when it comes to these extra embryos.

1.  Have a bigger family than you planned and transfer them anyway.

I’ll talk about this below.

2.  Destroy the embryos – they are thawed and discarded as biowaste.

I include in this category a bizarre practice of some “pro-life” people where they intentionally transfer embryos in a non-fertile stage of a woman’s cycle.  This is somehow seen as providing more “dignity” than discarding as biowaste.  I feel this is absurd.  And embryo implanted in a uterus without a lining has no chance of life.  Yes, God creates life but he does it through the reproductive cycle he created.  DUH.  Using a uterus as a garbage can is just all kinds of stupid.  Sorry.  I call ’em like I see ’em.

3.  Donate them to science.

Here they are also destroyed (they aren’t grown into some science fiction lab experiment) during use.  Uses include training new embryologists and geneticists and stem cell research done to cure diseases like cancer and Parkinsons and injuries like spinal column regeneration.

4.  Donate them to another couple.

Sometimes this is called Embryo Adoption because it can be open or closed but it is not legally an adoption but a tissue transfer like sperm or egg donation.  The embryos are thawed and transferred to another couple hoping to achieve pregnancy.  It is illegal in the US to pay for an embryo (or a live child) but sometimes donors are compensated for 1 year of storage costs.  There are for-profit donor/recipient matching sites, private arrangements, and most clinics have a donation program.

Most couples choose what their plans are BEFORE their first IVF, however, you can change your mind and nothing happens without your express consent.  I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that cryopreservation costs the couple money each year.  My clinic is under $500 but some are as high as $2000 per year.

Making the Decision

[box type=”warning”] Trigger Warning: If you are currently struggling through infertility you may want to stop here. I’m going to “complain” about the “agonizing” decision of what to do with my “extra” embryos after having 3 live children. Yeah. I would have wanted to stab myself for saying that just a few short years ago too.[/box]

Our original plan was embryo donation/adoptions.  We liked the idea of helping another couple struggling as we were through infertility.  We imagined having  6 or more extra embryos which would be impossible for us to continue family building with that many.  Donation seemed like a wonderful option for us.

We never imagined two things: One, that we’d be 3 for 4 with IVF!  I’ve transferred 4 embryos and had 3 children.  That’s just…beyond luck.  An embarrassment of riches.  I was in tears when we only had 3 frozen because I thought it drastically limited the chance we’d have siblings.  Oh to have my problems, right?  Secondly, we now have only one frozen embryo.

How is that a problem?  Well, first off, if you are looking for embryo donors you want at least two embryos.  The cost alone makes adopting one embryo kind of silly.  I’ve found that the general consensus is that people would not want my one embryo.

More importantly is how I feel about embryos.  I think this is personal but, for me, those embryos are my children.  I believe life starts at conception.  That’s my baby girl in there (no, we don’t know the gender but I hate “it”) and I could never just destroy her, even for science.  It feels like a part of my family.  I guess if I had 15 embryos I’d feel less specifically attached but I don’t.  I have one.  One little potential-baby.  One brother or sister to Aellyn, Asher, and Boston.  I don’t know if God intends us to have a fourth child (and let’s face it to be 4 for 5 is just beyond imagining) but if he does I’m not going to turn away and not try to bring her home.

My biggest issue is the cost.  We are on a tight budget now and the embryo transfer would cost $2000.  If we don’t get pregnant I can think of lots of other uses for that money!  Using it for the kids I have now.  But I have to give her a chance at life.  If it’s not meant to be then ok but I can’t not try.

So there you have it.  We are going to do another FET.  Not now.  But soon.  I’m 37 now and I like having my kids close in age so probably in 2013 sometime.  I’m sure if I don’t get pregnant I’ll be able to deal with it because I’m so, so blessed with three beautiful kids.  But, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t mourn the loss.  I mourn the loss of Aellyn’s transfer “brother” and my 12 embryos that didn’t make it.

Do you have snowflake babies? What do you plan to do with your “extras”?

Five Steps to Get You Started in Unschooling

If you haven’t already done so you might want to read my previous series on my Homeschool Philosophy.  It is a three part series that looks at holistic education, pedagogy, and most importantly, the 4 tenants of unschooling which are;

  1. Child-led
  2. Delayed Academics
  3. Interest based
  4. No Universal Knowledge

In all honesty there is only one unschooling tenant: Child-led.  Delayed academics and Interest based both stem from being child-led and if you are taking the child’s lead then all learning will be different, hence No Universal Knowledge.

So, let’s say these ideas intrigue you.  Maybe you were an avid breastfeeder that did child-led weaning and it seems natural to let you child lead in other areas.  Or, perhaps you were bored in school and felt you did your most important learning outside of school.  Regardless of how you came to think unschooling might be for you the next step is omgwhatdoidoknow?

It can be intimidating launching yourself into the unknown of unschooling.  After all it is way outside the norm and probably very foreign to your own upbringing.  If you are going the more traditional route the next steps are more defined: pick a curriculum, find a co-op, set a schedule, etc.

Unschooling is different.  Since it is led by the child many people think the next step is to eat bon-bons on the couch and watch soap operas while the kids raise themselves.  I’ve often had people say to me “if I let my kids decide they’d just play video games all day.”  That’s probably true.  Being an unschooling family is not very structured but it is intentional and planned.

So you want to be an unschooler?

Five Steps to Get You Started in Unschooling

 1.  Limit screen time.

Unschool families use TV judiciously.  Yes, Dora can teach your preschooler a lot but you can’t be “learning from life” if you are never out living life.  Uncontrolled TV time is the enemy of creativity, exploration, and motivation.  When the TV tells you what is next to learn you might as well be in a classroom letting a teacher dictate what you do next.

How much TV is too much?  This is highly individual.  I’ll be honest that TV is a big deal in my house.  My husband is a huge movie buff and I like cooking shows.  It is so much easier to clean when the kids are lulled by Blue’s Clues and it is easy to think “but they’re learning!”  Yes, they are learning just like the kids doing multiplication drills are learning.  Unschooling is about so much more than learning – it is about growing the mind.  Remember my article about pedagogy?  Where all learning falls into 3 categories: transfer, transact, and transform?  TV is purely transfer.  It is completely unidirectional (and your kid yelling “MAP!” doesn’t count as a transaction).

To get to transactional and transformational learning you have to turn off the TV!

2. Read.

Kids will be voracious readers if their parents are voracious readers.  I don’t know any other way, luckily.  If reading isn’t your thing then make it your thing.  Start with newspapers or magazines.  Find your favorite thing and I’m sure there are books about it.  They don’t have to be hoity-toity “educational” books – read comedy (I love Dave Barry), read romance, read cookbooks.  Anything counts.  Let them see that books are a gateway drug to learning.

Read to your kids.  Have books everywhere.  If you don’t want to buy go get a library card and make weekly visits routine.  You can’t walk two steps in my house without tripping over a book.  It is like heaven. 😉

3. Have Hobbies.

Like reading, doing is very important.  Being a working mom it is hard to have hobbies.  I get that.  You work all day and crashing on the couch is about the only thing you have energy for.  We develop a habit of this so that even when we have a week off or become SAHM’s it is hard to get motivated to do stuff.  But living is doing stuff and learning through living requires a passion for living!

Did you used to have a hobby that you gave up in adulthood?  Can you make a hobby out of something you have to do like cook?  If you had all the time in the world what would you do?  (If reading is your answer, as it is mine, then what is the second thing you’d do?)  Do something productive like sew or something completely eosteric like paint.  Knit, crochet, do yoga or kickboxing, compost, collect coins, sing, garden, write, cook, twirl a batton, do ballet, ride bikes, attend lectures at your community college. Drop one hobby and start something completely different!

Model a passion for having passions and your kids will too.

4. Encourage alone time.

Kids are overscheduled.  Creativity and finding your passions happen when you have enough quiet time to know yourself.  It is not your job as a parent (let alone a homeschooler) to plan every moment of the day.  The most difficult part of unschooling is letting go.  Letting go of the idea that every activity has to be “educational” or constantly steering your kids toward something you want them to do.  Of course, nudging is an important skill of unschooling but you can’t do it all the time and you can’t do it out of fear that they aren’t learning.

If your coming off a mom-tells-us-what-to-do addiction learning to play alone can be difficult.  Here are some great suggestions on Encouraging Independent Play.  You might have to provide some structure at first and build up to longer times but the ultimate goal is that the kids won’t need your structure at all because their creativity will be a well honed muscle.

Note: if you have more than one kid then having them play without you is good but be on the look out for a kid needing their own – truly alone – time.  My daughter has times where her little brothers are annoying her and if I set her up in the dinning room with her doll house she will really dive into imagination in ways she can’t with two one-year-olds stomping about.

5. Talk

Have discussions with your kids.  Reflecting on an experience is one of the most powerful learning tools.  My daughter and I talk about what we did today before bed.  We’ve been doing this since before she could talk.  Now she tells me what she did and it is amazing what was important to her and her perspective on things.

Make a habit of saying “what did you think about ____.”  For every book, TV show, zoo outing, etc. there is an opportunity to share in your child’s inner life.  You will learn what interests them (was he most mesmerized by the guy mopping the floor at the zoo?) and they will learn what interests you that they might not have thought of.  It will give you a launching point for discussion.

Mom: what was your favorite animal at the zoo?

Kid: I liked the giraffes

Mom: what was your favorite thing about the giraffes?

Kid: They have spots.

Mom: I wonder why they have spots?

Kid: Hmmmm, because they’re pretty?

Mom: Maybe we can get a book on giraffes at the library and learn some more.

The great thing is your kids will catch on to the routine.  Aellyn asks me “what was your favorite part mommy?” (notice that Dora and Diego do this in their shows too.)

Unschooling is not lazy or neglectful.  Unschooling is much harder than giving your kids to the “experts” for 8 hours a day.  It requires you to pay attention and be vigilant to what interests your kids and modeling lifelong learning in yourself.  Here’s a quote from Pam Sorooshian on

“Unschooling is really impossible to confuse with being lazy. It takes a lot of time and energy and thought on the part of the parent… The parent needs to bring interesting things and ideas and experiences to the child and this means being always on the lookout for what the child might enjoy. It means becoming super aware of your child—not only getting a good sense of what might interest him or her, but how does h/she express that interest and what is the best way for you to offer new and potentially interesting ideas, experiences, and things.”

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